Activity, and the Biochemical/Hormonal Milieu

Just a little something to chew on here, folks; another from the “this I believe, but cannot prove” files.  As always, I’m open to fresh takes and opposing views.  Questions, comments, complaints?  The floor is yours, so by all means let me hear what you think!

Ok, so here’s an interesting bit: now, once again we must keep in mind that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, however, this study (and this supporting NYT article) seem to support the idea of engaging in low-intensity “play” (or such activities as walking, for example) in addition to intermittent, high-intensity workouts as being a positive lifestyle approach.  My (albeit, purely empirical) observations of myself and of others totally align with this notion, and I structure my own lifestyle according to this underpinning.

The ideal, I believe, is not the alternating between two extremes (either red-line/balls-to-the-wall, or complete engine shutdown), but a fractal, long-tail distribution mix of (including, but certainly not limited to) intensity and volume.  We require a good bit of low-idle time, some active “putter about” time as well, to compliment our sporadic bouts of high intensity effort.   What exactly is the proper distribution for you – in other words, what should your “fat-tail” look like?  That’s a question only intelligent n=1 investigation and observation can answer.  However, I would suggest that this is another instance where learning to listen to your body becomes an extremely valuable commodity indeed.

Dr.  Robert Lustig tells of how the obese kids that he treats in his practice — once he manages to normalize their biochemical/hormonal milieu, as a result of proper dietary intervention — “spontaneously” become much more active.  They haven’t yet lost any appreciable weight, yet they suddenly turn from indolent to active.  The moral of the story here is that these kids aren’t obese because they are inactive, they are inactive due the biochemical/hormonal milieu that, in turn, drives their obesity.  And this is not just some fancy, verbal slight-of-hand either.  These kids are, in fact, malnourished; obese, yes – but in fact, starving for adequate nutrition.  Their biochemical/hormonal milieu is FUBAR to the point that their bodies receive the same “signal” as that of a starving man; “we’re in metabolic shutdown here, buddy – park that ass and conserve energy until the storm passes.”

So how does this relate to approximating, via n=1 experimentation, the trainee’s ratio of workout volume and intensity, and with the amount, duration and volume of low-intensity activity?  Well, it’s my belief that not only is this biochemical/hormonal “urge to activity” milieu driven in a positive way by proper nutrition, but that it’s also positively effected by present conditioning level and recuperative abilities and present-case standings (i.e., is the trainee, at this point-in-time, supercompensated, at baseline, or still wallowing around somewhere down in the ol’ “in-road” hole?).  It is also my belief that these two broad categories (present conditioning level and present recuperative standing) form a positive-feedback loop.  In other words, the better one’s conditioning and the better one’s recuperative ability/current standing, the more one is “urged” – in a biochemical and hormonal sense — to activity.  This is the “itch” that healthy, fit people have to “get out and do something”.   Could it also be that these people are simply adrenalin and/or endorphin junkies?  I have no doubt that this is part of the mix as well; if I’ve learned anything in 30+ years of navigating the Physical Culture scene it’s that very little to do with human physiology or psychology can be answered in a simple yes or no.  But then again, I suppose that all of life is this way.

Shifting gears a bit: so I’m packin’-up to leave town (here I come, Austin and Hunt, Texas!) and I’ll be away the better part of next week and rolling right on into the week following.   That said, my plan is to hit two, tough-ass, full-body workouts before I hit the road on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, a Wednesday workout prior to traveling won’t be a viable option (due to work and travel itinerary), so my plan is to hit the first of these two workouts on Sunday, with the follow-up workout to fall on Tuesday.  I’m looking to create some serious in-road with these two workouts – enough, possibly, to blunt any serious “intensity itch” for a week or so.

Here’s Sunday’s full-body blitz:

clean-grip power snatch: 95 x 5; 115 x 3; 135 x 7 singles

Then a superset of the following:

weighted dips: 45 x 6; 70 x 3(3); 80 x 3(3); 90 x 3(3) x 4 sets

clean-grip low pull (from the floor): 185 x 3; 205 x 3; 225 x 3; 250 x 3(3) x 4 sets

*the 3(3) annotation denotes a compound set.  In other words, I performed three reps, paused for approximately 5 seconds, then hit another 3 reps.  No hoo-doo magic implied, just a different flavor of the rest-pause method.

I put a premium on rep speed in the dips and low pulls.  And of course the power snatches were done explosively, though they were light enough to be not too terribly taxing.

Now I know from past experience that no matter the in-road hole that I dig for myself — and my aim is to dig a pretty deep one before I head out – that by Saturday I will be itchy as all hell to do something much more aggressive than, for example, a long, fast-paced walk.  This gets back to what I was discussing earlier – the biochemical/hormonal milieu being optimized via fitness level and health status providing an impetus to “perform”.  Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity for plenty of physical recreation, and that that will help keep me in check.  I’m notorious (Meesus TTP can testify!) for not handling “itchy” very well at all  🙂

13 responses to “Activity, and the Biochemical/Hormonal Milieu

  1. You triggered a lot of thoughts about motivation to work out with this. The mention of Lustig’s observation is interesting. However, I have observed that fit ppl find a way to get er done even though they might be not be getting sleep, great nutrition, partying all the night or access to decent facilities. Just saw a bunch of people from high school for a mini reunion and you would think that dieting and exercise is a HUGE secret based on what I saw for the most part!

    • “…However, I have observed that fit ppl find a way to get er done even though they might be not be getting sleep, great nutrition, partying all the night or access to decent facilities. …”

      Most definitely. Maybe this is when the effects of adrenalin/endorphin “junkidrom” are more readily identifiable? An n=1 observation of myself, under similar circumstances, would seem to indicate so. Of course, Meesus TTP would say that I’m simply a lunatic, and leave it at that. And she’s right, of course 🙂 Guilty as charged!

  2. Sleep is huge for me. I can get into a sleep deficit through out the week with my work schedule (up at 4:30am and to sleep at 11:00pm some nights) and my motivation and training suffer. I push myself through some not-so-productive workouts later in the week. So, I decided to do one of my training sessions on Sunday morning (after getting 8-10 hours of sleep two days in a row). Those Sunday morning workouts feel great! I am motivated, strong, and have been busting some PR’s. I just wish I could balance my sleep through out the week.

    • Here’s an interesting read, related to our recuperative abilities as we age. Continue to fight the good fight, though — all is not lost. We just have to get better at identifying and limiting/mitigating those things that hamper our recuperative abilities as we get older. Older and wiser, that is!

    • What usually gets left out of the HIT/SS vs Explosive (Oly, Oly-derivatives, plos, etc.) training debates is a definition of just what training demographic we’re talking about. If we’re talking about the vast majority of everyday trainees, then I agree with Fred — there is no real need to train explosively; the risk/reward ratio for this demographic utilizing this manner of training simply isn’t there. The most bang-for-the-buck for this population is related to strength and hypertrophy gains that can be more than adequately achieved via HIT/SS protocols (for example). Now, if we’re talking about the small subset of trainees who are in fact athletes, however, then I have to respectfully disagree with Fred’s stance. Now, this of course leads into the age-old debate of “does explosive training make great athletes, or do great athletes make for impressive explosive training?” And my answer is yes…to both sides. To put it another way, it is my belief that good athletes are born, but better athletes can most certainly be made. So yes, it takes an innate athletic gift to pull this type of training off to begin with, but in a self-perpetuating, positive-feedback loop kind of a way, performing these lifts does make one a better athlete. Explosiveness, RFD, CNS efficiency — all of this can be trained for aside from actual sport participation. Deriving benefit from explosive lifting is kinda like hovering around the blackjack table — if ya wanna chance at winning, ya gotta ante up; the problem is, with this table you’re only admitted by legacy/birthright to even have the option of laying down an ante. At this table, though, the real odds-buster just getting the chance to play; if you’re at the point were you’re being dealt to, you’ll win more than you’ll lose. Does an athlete need to build a solid base of strength before engaging in explosive training? Oh hell yes absolutely! But once that is achieved, there’s no sense, in my mind, of pulling the plug there. Is there greater risk involved with this manner of training? To be sure, which is why every athlete’s needs to be weighed against the risk/reward ratio of the pending training method.

      Let me just say, though, that this is a debate that could fill volumes, and that this is simply my personal opinion gleaned from what I’ve seen over the years.

  3. Keith, this is completely off-topic but I just realized I’ve never come across any posts concerning supplements here on TTP. Do you have any staples other than a sound diet? I’m guessing as a paleo-purist you stick with D3, fish oil and maybe a sprinkle of probiotics.

    • My supplements are limited to fish oil (~2 TBS/day), vitamin D (~5k IUs/day) and ZMA most every night…unless I forget 🙂
      Seriously, though, I’m not really big on supplements, other than those that I’ve listed. My diet, though, is mostly grass-fed/pastured and organic; if it wasn’t, I’d certainly be open to a little more “insurance” in the way of supplementation. I just feel that, in my situation, supplementation isn’t really warranted. The fish oil and ZMA helps balance the fact that I do push the envelope physically quite often.

  4. I definitely fall short of the mostly grass-fed/pastured and organic ideal. What, pray tell, would you consider to be sound insurance for that case?

    • Additional fish oil and maybe a multi vitamin. Mark Sission sells a quality multi — that I do take, btw, during periods of extended travel, when I know my diet is likely to be sub-par. My rule of thumb is to chase every sub-par meal (grainfed beef, for example) with 2 TBS of quality (I prefer Carlson’s brand) fish oil. If I remain “clean”, I do fine on 1 TBS/day. As always, use this as a reference to your own n=1 experimentation.

  5. that point about obesity causing inactivity, and not the other way around, is very interesting. ive read a few other studies supporting that theory as well. could you possibly provide a link to the source where lustig talks about it? it sounds like something worth delving into a bit further

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