Category Archives: training

You BETTER eat your Breakfast OR maybe you should skip it?

IMG_1107Nutrient timing is for the dogs…or is it?

This article is fantastic for breaking down some of the different aspects of nutrient timing. Some of the myths and some of the things you have heard your whole life: you better eat your breakfast!!!

What the article underscores is that if you are not an endurance athlete or a body builder, but just someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight in a sensible typical manner by eating whole, unprocessed foods and getting some exercise, you *really* don’t need to worry about nutrient timing. Whew…thats a relief!! BUT the article also underscores the need for you to experiment and figure out what works for you because ultimately…everyone is different.

I’m about to use myself as an example, which is not scientifically significant as I am a data point of one, but the truth of the matter is that no volume of scientific journal articles will really tell you about YOU and how YOUR body does best with its own food timing. Journal articles can give a place to start, but ultimately if eating a certain timed way makes you feel the best, chose the best food for your body the most frequently and supports your level of activity then that is the right meal timing strategy to chose. Some people need to eat more frequently, some need to eat less frequently. There really is no wrong or right about meal timing, but what ultimate nutrient timing is best for you is whatever timing strategy that supports you choosing healthy, whole, unprocessed meals majority of the time. As far as meal timing, I may not be the best case study as a former endurance athlete and currently in training for kettlebell sport. But one thing I can provide insight into is that at any given time what your body needs may change. You need to be always adjusting and challenging what works and what doesn’t work for YOUR body because ultimately it will give you the best feedback overall of what really is working.

Here is my story of exploring meal timing:

Back in 2000 I visited my first nutritionist because I realized I had gained some weight and needed to lose about 20lbs. First thing she did…put me on a 6 meals a day plan. One thing I found helpful about eating more frequently is that for me it helped me not eat so much at my main meals. I also started food logging. So…were lots of little meals the right choice? Or was logging my food? I don’t know but the combination did work for me at that time and I lost some weight.

Then I went to grad school and meal timing became somewhat non-existant. I don’t actually recall what I did most of the time. I just remember it being stressful. The last 10 months got extremely stressful and I gained 20lbs. No bueno. What ever I was doing, didn’t work  for me…at that time. This was most likely because the last 6 months I hardly exercised. Your body can’t distinguish between ‘good’ stress like exercise and bad stress like writing a dissertation. There is a limit to the amount of cortisol load from stress that a body can handle.  I was so stressed out I remember running a mile and it just being too freakin hard to do.

Then I graduated, moved and got into endurance sports, found a new nutritionist and got a little freakish about meal timing…exercised a lot…lost 18lbs of fat…gained 10lbs of muscle while endurance training. Since I was endurance training, nutrient timing IS suggested and it definitely worked for me…at that time.


Then in 2010 my body had enough of all this high volume endurance stuff and I got mysteriously sick, which was diagnosed as possible overtraining syndrome. After I got sick, I don’t remember what I did for food at that time, but it felt like I didn’t eat much but magically gained 15lbs. Guess what ever I was doing didn’t work for me…at that time. 


July of 2010 I discovered kettlebells and the next year I spent falling in love with kettlebells, training for my RKC certification and believing I was eating appropriately, but when it came down to it after 7 months of kettlebell training all I had to show for it was 4lbs of fat loss and 2lbs of lean muscle gain. At the time I was still in ‘endurance training’ mindset and still eating 5 meals a day because that was what I was used to doing. Since I was training pretty hard for the RKC my food intake supported all of my training so I got a lot stronger, but I had wanted to drop 15lbs I gained when I got sick in 2010. For me there was nothing magical about kettlebells and fat loss (and in truth 80% of fat loss is what you eat, not what you do) so all of my fussing about nutrient timing really wasn’t working for fat loss at that time.


July 2011 I joined Lean Eating over at Precision Nutrition and discovered a lot of new habits. I discovered that I was eating out of habit and not because I was hungry and I had this idea that being hungry was a bad thing.  I discovered I was eating because my scientific brain was telling me I *should* eat but not listening to my body of when I needed to eat. This lead to me taking out my morning snack and eating only 4x a day instead of 5x.  When I started to listen to what my body needed and not the idea of I needed a certain number of meals, I started to lose weight. Which worked for me at that time.  


20120603-134028.jpgI have also experimented briefly with intermittent fasting (leangains) and what I found was that for me…chronically doing intermittent fasting was a really bad idea for me for a number of reasons.

     1) I was training in the morning before work so working out and then not eating to lunch really screwed up my system even my sleep!

     2). I couldn’t focus for the life of me in the morning.

     3). It threw me into a crazy afternoon carb craving and I started craving and eating things that didn’t support my goals.

This didn’t work for me…at that time.

Below is the nutritional hierarchy of importance of eating according to PN that you should focus on first before you even worry about meal timing. Once those are squared away and you are doing them consistently…meal timing is a piece of the puzzle to take into consideration, but for most of us it is best to first figure out the How, Why and What we are eating and then possibly start experimenting with the When afterwards with some personal experimentation.

Your nutritional hierarchy of importance

  1. How much are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat until satisfied, instead of stuffed, follow PN’s Calorie Control Guide .)
  2. How you are eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat slowly and mindfully, without distraction.)
  3. Why are you eating?
    (Hungry, bored, stressed, following peer pressure, social cues, triggered by hyper-rewarding foods?)
  4. What are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Minimally processed proteins, veggies, fruits, healthy starches, and healthy fats.)
  5. Are you doing #1 to #4 properly, consistently?
    (Recommendation: Shoot for 80% consistency with these items before moving on.)

And only then consider…

  1. When are you eating?
    (Now you can consider breakfast, late-night, during your workout, etc.)

For me I have settled into 4 meals/day. 3 main meals and then a snack in the afternoon. The snack tides me through my evening training so I feel fueled up and not hungry. This works for me…at this time.

That being said, I am challenged by the PN article to try something different. One thing I have learned is that I can’t abandon breakfast because I saw with my ‘leangains’ experiment that it wasn’t helpful for me to skip breakfast, but I’m wondering how my hunger/eating would change if I ate a heavier breakfast? I usually only consume 300-400 calories in the form of a protein shake. I wonder if I ate solid food and ate around 600-700 calories how I might feel differently throughout the day? I know on weekends when I have a big brunch I will eat brunch and then maybe dinner. This could be an interesting experiment…

What kinds of experiments do you think you would like to try?

Eating Breakfast?

Eating more (5-6) smaller meals a day?

Eating only 3 meals a day?

Skipping breakfast?

Challenge your assumptions and see if you can figure something new about how best your body runs. Give it a try for a month and then see if you see any positive changes.

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…do it anyway

I would much rather be here!

Sigh…can’t live at the beach forever

What’s the saying? Feel the suck and do it anyway? I don’t quite recall, but that seems to be my workouts lately. After IGSF Worlds in Greece this year I decided to take about 5 weeks off and do non-kettlebell related workouts. Partly because I wanted to throw my kettlebells out the window at one point in my training, but mostly because I have either some awkward anatomy that makes where the bell hits on my left forearm hurt my wrist or I have a weird-o injury that flared up in about June of this year. My doctor has a theory involving weirdness of inner rotation of my shoulder and flared ribs due to laxity in my back that stems from some wicked tight hip flexors. (And imagine if I was still cycling and running like I used to when I was a triathlete training for a half ironman!).

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Kettlebells and Weightloss

RKC Aug 2011I’ve seen it, I’ve read it, maybe you have too…KETTLEBELLS BURN A MILLION CALORIES PER WORKOUT!!!! Maybe that’s even why you started investigating Kettlebells. So now you have decided: THIS is it! I’m really going to lose the weight and get more active and maybe kettlebells are the answer! And then you read a bit more on the internet and think…well maybe I should just start running…I mean running burns a lot of calories, right?  Or then you find yourself thinking…no wait…i’ll do a TRIATHLON…that’ll do the trick! And before long, and too many web pages later you find yourself curled up in a ball confused by all the crap on the internet and really just looking for something that makes sense and will help the weight loss really, really quickly.

So…where to start? Obviously I’m going to be a bit pro-kettlebell since I am an instructor and compete in Girevoy Sport. But I used to be an endurance athlete and can draw from some of that experience as well as a generic love of understanding what really do people mean when they say ‘research say’…bla, bla, bla. Here is a reality about science… we are learning new things every day and it does change from day to day. Here is another reality about exercise science articles that are written…many, many are done on fit 18-22year old MEN who are not in terrible shape…OR they are FIT athletes. Does that sound like majority of the population? Not really.

So where to start? I was asked about kettlebells vs. running for weight loss the other day from a client of mine. I’m not against running in any regards…I’ve run multiple half marathons, done a half ironman…even signed up for an ironman. But here is something I learned in the 7 years of endurance exercise:

  • Biomechanics matter: When you don’t have good biomechanics, you are much more prone to injury. I have bad biomechanics. That meant I ended up making the PT my friend.
  • Running can be a jarring activity. If you are a little overweight it can be jarring on your joints and bones…if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, it can really jar the joints.
  • Endurance training made me really, really hungry. I’ll get to this a bit more later. But when I switched to 6 days a week of training, 3 days of kettlebells, 2 days of HIT (high intensity training), an active recovery day and 1 day off, I actually found it was EASIER to eat less food and put myself into a calorie deficit. I was only training 3-5 hours a week compared to 8-12hours of endurance training…but I was crazy hungry all the time with endurance training. Mark Sission seems to think that you shouldn’t go above 4000 calories of exercise per week. I think he has an interesting theory and I wouldn’t be surprised in a few years if the literature catches ups and figures out what exactly that ‘sweet’ spot for exercise is.

The funny thing about exercising is it won’t promote weight loss unless you change what you eat. Period. JB is an expert in this area and explains it way better than I would over at PN.

Back to kettlebells vs. running…there is an interesting article that is out there that shows that in a 10 minute period treadmill running burns more calories in the J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1203-7. Hmmm…that’s interesting. I wasn’t able to read the whole thing, but I did find this little gem:

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 5.02.58 PMWhile in the 10 minutes the Treadmill running did burn more calories, what I found interesting was variable that was kept ‘constant’ was the RPE…or the Rate of Perceived Exertion. What this tells me is that the participants ran according to how hard they thought the kettlebell swinging was equal in difficulty to the running.

Also…something a bit confusing about this study. Does it not seem weird to anyone else that the treadmill running in ten minutes burned 500 calories? I’ve always been told that 1 mile is roughly 100 calories. Runners World seems to think the same and is supported by some data to show it. So how do these participants run equivalent to 5 miles in 10 minutes? Or even 4 miles? In truth,  without being able to read the full article on how they calculated total calorie burn, I am a bit confused on how they calculated total kcal for either exercise. I may have to dig around and re-edit as I find out more information.

My main point is to show that ‘data’ that some people like to use to say “running is better” or kettlebells RULZ sometimes need to be  investigated further. (I’ll talk about the classic ‘Kettlebells burn 400calories in 20 minutes’ study in a later post.)

For an average person looking to get fitter and lose weight…what should they do? What exercise would be best for them? Well…everyone is different but with proper nutrition, one of the biggest benefits to kettlebells or weight lifting is a funny term called EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption). What this means is whether it is kettlebell swings or a properly designed weight lifting routine…you can actually trick your body into burning calories AFTER you are done exercising! This is an interesting article on how metabolic resistance exercises increases Resting Energy Expenditure (REE or the calories you burn when you are just sitting around) over a different weight lifting protocol.

Why is this important? Endurance exercise has less EPOC than weight training does. Metabolic Resistance Exercises like kettlebell swings or a well designed weight workout will keep your body burning calories when you aren’t at the gym. Alwyn Cosgrove came up with the Hierarchy of Fat Loss over at T-Nation. Basically:

1) Your nutrition is the most important thing.

2) See #1

3) Metabolic Resistance Exercises

4) High Intensity Anerobic Intervals (Those intervals you can’t breath after you are done)

5) High Intensity Aerobic Intervals (These are closer to tempo runs, fartleks)

6)Steady State High Intensity Aerobic work (Hard Cardio)

7) Steady State Low Intensity Aerobic Training (walking, etc.)

Let’s face it…we don’t have a lot of time. Cosgrove goes into to how to prioritize each of these exercise but the BEAUTIFUL thing is with metabolic resistance exercise…you get a lot of bang for your buck and in not a ton of time at the gym. Less time in the gym, more time to do other things while still putting your body in a state that it can lose weight AND paying attention to eating good nutrition.

Overtraining Syndrome


Can you overtrain?  Some people debate it. I’ve seen a lot of strength posts and read a lot of triathlon/endurance posts related to it. I used to be a triathlete for 7 years and overtraining syndrome was actually not that uncommon (I did live in the mecca of triathlon training in San Diego and every other triathlete was training for an ironman) or at least what those of us in tri-geekery circles called overtraining syndrome.

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise

Here is the thing…some of these will show up during a hard training cycle for an event. That’s normal…and it is key to BACK OFF. But if you back off for 2-3 days or a week or two…and DON’T bounce back that’s when chronic overtraining syndrome starts to set in.

But most people don’t really talk about it. Even doctors. They don’t really know what it is or why it happens. Hormone imbalance? Cortisol too high or something like that? No one really understands it well…at least that is what my doctor told me back in 2010. Why one person is more susceptible vs. another is a bit of a mystery.  For some people, their training will put them into a state of OTS because the body has just had ENOUGH. They have been pushing really hard for a really long time without eating enough or taking in enough fluids or recovering properly to support the training. The root cause of OTS and people’s susceptibilities to it is still not fully understood.
In March of 2010…back when I was a triathlete, I came down with OTS…possibly. I had a sports med doc diagnose me as such… and to this day I’m in a bit of denial about it, but even after I recovered…I never went back to triathlons. That *might* be a good way to say ‘loss of enthusiasm for the sport’.  In my case I think it was a combination of SUPER high stress (ie cortisol) for a NUMBER of years combined with poor digestion (due to a gluten intolerance not diagnosed til 2012) which resulted in some nutritional deficiencies (folic acid, ferrtin, Vit D, magnesium…). Mix in 8-12 hours of consistent training that had my HR over 140bpm and the body will say enough at some point.
I had a holistic nutritionist think I had adrenal fatigue…which is a little too ‘woo’ and out there for me. There is no technical definition for someone who might be having trouble with their adrenals unless they have full blown Addisions Disease…and that’s when the adrenals just don’t work. And some people think that people with adreanal fatigue should take supplements with adrenal pieces in them. Ewww…sorry that thought just grosses me out. If you are going to take supplements, please research every ingredient on its list for safety AND if it actually does anything. Just because it is in the ‘natural’ food section does not mean it is fully tested or safe. I give prescription medication and over the counter medication just as much of a ‘stink eye’ as I do things in the natural food section. Don’t stop taking anything that a doctor has prescribed…but please, please, please…ask them lots of questions. I’ll talk more about supplements later. I’m not against them…but everyone should understand what they are taking and why.
I don’t know if I truly had overtraining syndrome…I just know I felt terrible for about 5 months and could barely pull myself out of bed. Exercise…hurt……the only thing that didn’t hurt was yoga…I ignored my friends…I slept a lot…I was apathetic…I quit triathlon and never went back. I did find kettlebells…so it is a part of the story of how I got here.
But my reality is that I now live in a very different body than I had prior to the OTS melt down. I’m either more hypersensitive to my training or I just can feel my body’s reactions a bit more these days. The reality is I can’t push like I used to be able to push. I fall off that training ‘cliff’ a lot more easily than I used to and easily wake up utterly exhausted if I push too hard. The reality I have to live with is that because I sorta ‘broke’ myself a few years ago…I need to be more mindful and focus MORE on my recovery and be kind to myself. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t train hard…it just means I need to be more mindful of the feedback my body tells me.
The point of this post? A new athlete really shouldn’t worry about OTS in the beginnings. It takes years of bad choices both in allowing too much life stress and too much endurance exercise to wear you to that point. Putting a large cortisol load on the body through life stress and endurance exercise can cause OTS. Generally the areas that OTS seems to pop up are endurance training (half iron distances and beyond for triathlons or marathoners and ultra marathoners) and I figure competitors. I’ve read so many posts on women’s bodies totally freaking out after a figure competition that to me personally (I am NO doctor or expert on this topic) it sounds like over training syndrome and their bodies totally rebel after competition.
So…train hard, recover well…and listen to your body.

My training sucks and it’s my fault

photo(1)Monday was my first Canada day. Maybe I feel the need to post a picture of fireworks on the 4th of July to somehow quench that nostalgic feeling of missing the festivities back in the US…although I got a lot of “Happy 4th of July” on my facebook feed that I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m not really missing much aside from crazy heat and some hot dogs I shouldn’t eat anyway.

If you have every read Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, you’d know that principle #1 is: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life

Yes, the good, the bad…all of it. My training needs to be that way. IGSF Worlds is in a 11 weeks and I’m just mentally not in the game. I have a bum left wrist that is cranky, and hurts, I’ve recently moved for a new job and I forgot that I’m the slowest person to adjust to a new city and I MISS my coach and my old gym. But…the reality is I gotta pull my big girl pants up and get on with training or decide not to go to Worlds, because Greece is an awfully long flight to go and not be 100% ready.

So…what’s going on

#1) Sleep…for whatever reason I’m not convincing myself to sleep enough.

#2) Food…I used to be awesome at prepping my food 1x a week and eating pretty clean. Now…notsomuch. One thing that Whole30 taught me is that I am SUPER sensisitve to pretty much everything. So too much wine, cheese, grains or whatever else is not permitted on Whole30…pretty much ruins me. Not a fun way to run my life all the time, but maybe I need to be a little stricter for the next 11 weeks.

#3)Water intake…Just not enough

#4)Mentally not in the game. I’ve been indulgent with thoughts of how much I miss my old training regime and such and I’m not letting myself find something that works now and embracing it as the ‘new normal’. When you fight yourself…you talk yourself out of pushing forward.

So…next steps

#1) Go to bed earlier. Let’s just start with 11:30…and by next week…11…eventually by 10. At the moment I get up around 7:30, but I need to start adding more cardio into my mornings…so here comes the FUN.

#2)Plan, prep and execute my food for the week…on the weekend. No more excuses. Period.

#3)Limit 1 cup of coffee a day…more water. I’m just going to start with “more water” and go from there.

#4) Make a plan and stick to the plan.

So until next time…