Nutrient Timing

A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a truth.

Thomas Mann

I know, I know; the idea of nutrient timing is not exactly Paleo in the most strict sense of the term, and certainly not part of the DeVany-esq, Evolutionary Fitness schema.  If you’re a performance-driven athlete, however (or just an average Joe/Jane who habituates a frequent red-lining in the ol’ workout arena), adequate and well-timed pre and post-workout nutrition is crucial.  Did Grok worry about all of this?  Of course not — or at least we can argue that it was usually not the case that he attempted to manipulate his performance via nutrition thusly.  However, Grok didn’t spend his nights peacefully slumbering on a comfy mattress either, or perform grueling rounds of power snatch/ring muscle-up supersets, avail himself to bloodwork analysis, hormone therapy, or the awesomeness of Joe Rogan podcasts…you get the idea.  It’s the difference between merely surviving, and optimally thriving, my friends; sufficient as opposed to optimal.  Anthropological evidence provides but one tool (albeit a very important tool) within the total “thriving” workshop.  It’s up to each individual then to flesh-out the remainder of  his/her own workshop’s tool cache, and acquire that craftsman’s collection of n=1-derived methods, techniques and specialty tools to be used in creating a personalized expression of phenotypical excellence.

Drs John Ivy and Robert Portman have put together what I consider to be the classic treatise on optimal nutritional timing in their aptly-titled book, Nutrient Timing.  Hat tip to Ken O’Neill, of Trans-Evolutionary Fitness, for tuning me in to John Ivy’s work.  Now my personal pre and post-workout formulations may vary somewhat from the recommendations put forth by Drs Ivy and Portman — mostly due to my belief (outdated?) that the synergy of whole foods trump the conglomeration of individual, deconstructed constituents — but I do follow the spirit of the nutrient timing argument put forth by the good doctors…

that ismost times 🙂

…and I am more than willing to consider that my gut notion of whole foods’ superiority to “scientifically” reconstituted constituent components is flawed.  It has been my experience, though, that Mother Nature’s intelligence in these matters always prevails.  Of course this simply may be a matter of degree, in which case one must ask if the miniscule gain of constituent recombination is worth the additional hassle and stress.  You can see how this argument can quickly pigtail into the dreaded paralysis-by-analysis vortex.

At any rate, the down-and-dirty on nutrient timing is this: your muscles are uber-primed for nutrient uptake immediately following a bout of strenuous exercise.  The window of opportunity for capitalizing on this phenomena is only open, though, for approximately 2 hours (and more precisely, 45-minutes) post-throwdown.  I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of why hitting this window is so important from a performance point-of-view (in a nutshell, it has everything to do with optimum recovery), as the book does an excellent job of spelling this out quite precisely.  Also, checkout this, The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on nutrient timing.  Long story short, though, what I can tell you is this: throughout my training career I have experimented with various post-workout timing schemes — sometimes of my own doing, and sometimes as a result of circumstances beyond my control.  But in all cases, it has been my experience that hitting the 45-minute post workout window with smartly pinpointed nutrition has resulted in superior recovery results.  And, in my experience, these results have been far superior to the recovery benefits of, for example, post-workout contrast showers/ice baths and the like.  Results, mind you, attained from a practice that is much more practical from a sustainable application standpoint; you might not have the time-luxury, or access to, a post-workout ice soak, sports massage, or what-have-you, but most have the time to put together and down a smartly concocted, post-workout drink.

This needn’t be overly complicated to be effective, either (lowfat chocolate milk anyone?).  And hey, don’t have all the ingredients on-hand every time out?  Don’t sweat it bro, neither do I most times.  I’m notoriously bad about not restocking items until I’m completely out.  Anyway, here’s my simple, post-workout mix:

The T I’m sportin’ here?  Rockin’, huh?  And just one design of many that I have from my friend Kris Murphy’s Manimal Wear.  Check ’em out, here.

Talkin’ Physical Culture with Angelo Coppola, of Latest in Paleo

And hey, if you haven’t already, please checkout my interview with Angelo — who, by the way, is a true professional in every sense of the word.   Some of what we talked about:

  • Diet & fitness
  • getting started with a fitness routine
  • chronic cardio
  • Efficient Exercise and CrossFit; compare and contrast
  • ARX equipment
  • recoverability rates
  • bodyweight exercises
  • athletic supplementation
  • MovNat vs. HIIT

Pre-exhaust Techniques

One of the many techniques that I employ with my clients, and utilize in my own training, involves the use of pre-exhaust methods prior to moving into heavy, compound movements.  Methods of pre-exaust abound of course, but essentially (and for my purposes) fall into two broad categories — use of isolation exercises to target individual muscle(s) and/or the use of zone training techniques (Jreps, partials, ect.) which allow for significant inroading via the use of lighter weights (read, “easy on the joints”).    Here, for example, is one of my lower-body workouts from last week:

(A1) hip press, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme

(A2) Russian leg curls; again, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme

(B1) front squats , working up in load from what I could handle in the 7 rep range, on down to a 3-rep grind.

I split the hip presses and leg curls into 2 zones each (high and low), and blitzed each zone to failure using Jrep techniques (essentially employing piston-like, “pumping” repetitions with an eye toward achieving maximum pump and burn in the target musculature).   After 2 rounds of that, my legs were essentially toast.  Then, with those already blistered wheels, I dove into the first of what ended-up being a 5-set battle with front squats.  The beauty of this is that my hips, knees, ankles — along with all the soft tissue support in those areas — were already more than warm, blood-nourished, and ready to go — AND the weight necessary to elicit a full-on, ball-busting effort was, as you might well imagine, reduced.  But, surprisingly though, not by all that much (about 30 lbs off of what I would normally handle in the 3-rep range?).  The result was a total friggin’ lower body throwdown fest without, however, the joint ache (and following day stiffness) usually associated with a heavy compound movement session.   Note that this is much, much more than just effectively “warming-up” prior to delving into the heavy stuff — this is achieving significant (and isolated) muscular inroad prior to even beginning the compound (whole-body, synergistic) movement.   Combining this method of pre-exhaust prior to jumping into an ARX movement is also something I like to employ, and for the same reasons stated above.

And finally…

My Efficient Exercise brother-in-arms has written a masterful piece, here, related to the relationship between training and sport specificity, and the sometimes (oftentimes?) inadvertent, inappropriate, confusing/commingling of these two, distinct endeavors.  And this is more than just mere semantics, or word-play slight -of-hand.  For example, CrossFit is the sport of strength and conditioning, just as Olympic weightlifting is the sport side of all those cool Oly-derrivative (i.e., “power”, etc.) moves.  Know your goals, and train (and specify, if need be) as required.  A timely post, especially with this year’s CrossFit games (which I loved, BTW) fresh in everyone’s mind.

In health,


Questions? Answers! Strength & Conditining for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”

Stephen Hawking

What follows is a question from the mail bin.  I’ve reached the point now where I’m forced to choose representative questions in lieu of answering all the inquiries that I receive.  I wish that I could field each individually, but that’s just not possible with my available time.  Certain themes do emerge, though, and I’ll try to address these “themes” as they arise.  I’ll also tackle novel questions as well – something that forces all of us to stretch our understanding of health, fitness and the Paleo way beyond any bounds or borders that might begin to solidify.  The last thing we ever want is for this journey to become some kind of dogma.  I feel quite confident in saying that no one has all of the answers, least of all me.  I’m simply an n=1, m=1, “practitioner”, chronicling my own journey, reporting and advising on where I’ve been, where I’m going, and what has (and hasn’t) worked for me.   That being said, feel free to drop me a line at – your ideas, comments and questions will help me to determine what this community wants to see discussed.On to the question:

Dear Keith,

Firstly, the website and your knowledge of training and the Paleo lifestyle is both impressive and inspirational. With that said, my question revolves around incorporating jiu jitsu into my training regimen. My weight training has revolved around a speed/strength emphasis and my workouts deteriorate when I spend more time training BJJ. I would like to continue to improve upon my strength/speed emphasis while training BJJ.
Not sure if you have ever trained BJJ before however, live rolling can be taxing. How would would you recommend setting up a training week given these goals. Would you recommend completing a speed/strength workout on BJJ training days ( 45 min-2hrs roughly 3 days per week)? This would allow for more days off from exercise. Or would you suggest alternating the two? i.e. lift weights one day train BJJ the next. Which do you think would help me avoid over-training?
Thank You,


In a nutshell, this is a classic dose/recovery issue, and my first question would be not how much time do you have to workout, but how much time can you devote to full recovery?  Now, I’m going to assume here that BJJ is your primary focus, with weight training being an augmentation to your BJJ performance.  To better make my point, consider that, under ideal conditions, you could (using sensible auto-regulation techniques) train BJJ and the strength/conditioning aspect every day. The rest of your day, however, would need to be occupied by sleep, massage, feeding, recovery…you get the picture.  If you think this sounds like the lifestyle of a professional athlete, you’d be correct.  More than likely though, you’re holding down a full-time job, shop for and cook your own food and probably have family obligations to juggle as well.  This being the case, you can still train BJJ 3-times per week and weight train and/or condition 3 (even 4, if you prefer) times per week if you limit that weight room/conditioning training to only working on your weakness.  BJJ is all about (technique/skills aside, of course) maximizing the power to bodyweight ratio (P2BWR), so the first thing you’ll want to do is to asses what it is that is limiting your power output – and this must be measured, of course, against whatever time requirement (energy system) that is most important to you.  I’m sure instantaneous power is important, but you’ll also require a certain degree of “bout-length” stamina.  Are you weak compared to your cns ability (the Allyson Felix example) or the other way around?  Keep careful weightroom notes so that you can correlate per-exercise drop-off ratios ( a ballpark measure of dosing) as related to your recovery  unique abilities and BJJ performance.  I think what you’ll find is, is that your per-session time in the weight room – if you’re hitting on the proper high intensity cylinders and employing proper auto-regulation techniques – will be minimal, but extremely beneficial.

One other note – I wouldn’t train BJJ and strength/conditioning on the same day – unless you have the luxury of all-day, devoted recovery between the two sessions as described above.  Of course, the real-world being as it is, you might not have the luxury of splitting up your workouts perfectly.  My advice in this case is to monitor your sleep quality (subjective, but helpful), and, if possible your morning pulse rate and/or temperature.  I wouldn’t force a difficult training session following a night of poor or inadequate sleep.  Also, if you notice your AM pulse and/or temperature beginning to creep up, it’s a sure sign (as is continued poor-quality sleep) that you’re edging into the overtraining zone.  Remember, there’s a time and a place for “pushing through pain and discomfort” and I’m all for that notion in relatively untrained individuals.  The problem becomes carrying this mindset over into more highly trained individuals, as these athletes are able to pummel their bodies with an incredibly high exercise dose before the “cease and desist” signal ever appears.  The greater the training maturity, the more the old “train smarter, not harder” adage applies.

Also, remember not to skimp on your high quality fat intake.  Very, very important.  And if quick recovery between workout sessions is necessitated – i.e., you’re training multiple times per day, say – then be sure to ingest the greater portion of your days carbohydrate intake during the approximate 2-hr, post-workout window.  If you have at least 24 hours or so to recover between workouts, the post-workout refueling window becomes irrelevant, as this is a speed of recovery issue, and has nothing to do with the magnitude of recovery, which, at roughly the 24 hour point, equalizes.

In health,


Cumulative Stress, and the Biological Clock

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
– Albert Einstein

Excessive stress, in all of its various manifestations, can negatively affect both physical performance and weight loss progress.  Many trainees operate under the assumption that mental or emotional stress won’t affect things such as reaching performance goals, or shedding of that last few pounds of stubborn fat.  Often times folks (I’ve especially seen this in young athletes), will continually “burn the candle at both ends”, then wonder why that once steady progress has suddenly bottomed-out.  The fact of the matter is that all stress is cumulative, and all stress – whether physical or not – will negatively affect the entire organism; mental, as well as physical performance (and that includes weight loss) will inevitably suffer.

Sleep, as everyone is well-aware, is a HUGE aspect of proper recovery (in general), and a much-needed stress reducer (in particular).  And it’s not just the overall lack of sleep that can act as a sand-trap to one’s progress, but simply disrupting one’s circadian rhythms (from poor quality sleep, shift work, etc.) can adversely affect metabolism, higher level cognitive functioning, and that all-important, overall physical performance.

For more on the subject, check-out this fantastic podcast from NeuroScene – an interview with with Dr. Ilia Karatsoreos, of Rockefeller University, who recently conducted a study on circadian rhythms and their relationship to mental, emotional, and physical parameters.  Listen in as Dr. Karatsoreos discusses the science of “body clocks”, and how important is to keep them “in sync.” .

Truly, if I could bottle the restorative powers of simple, restful sleep, I’d be a rich man.  The good news for all of us, though, is that this restorative powerhouse is absolutely free for the taking.

In health,