Happy Almost-Halloween! I must regretfully admit that I will not be making a trip up to Salem this year (at least it’s not in the works, yet). However, I am planning on dressing up as a grill and posting up on my deck in order to frighten trick-or-treaters.
I haven’t posted in a while and honestly, haven’t been doing much training either. (Which is probably contributing to my lack of ideas for posts.) But I do have some random thoughts that I’d like to put down on paper.
Intermittent Fasting, Carbs, and Workouts
Intermittent fasting is awesome. In fact, Jason Ferruggia just blasted out an email about the benefits of IF, including the fact that it promotes maximum fat loss. By doing something as simple as skipping breakfast, we’re able to take that fasted state we’re in (because we’ve been sleeping for the past 8ish hours) and extend that for 12, 14, or even 16 hours.
So while IF doesn’t create a larger caloric deficit (unless you have an incredibly tiny stomach and need that 12-16 hour window of consumption to get your calories in), it does create an environment where more of our total calories are being burned through fat oxidation. Makes sense, right?
By consuming carbohydrates first thing in the morning, we inhibit fat oxidation in favor of acquiring our energy from food.
Like I said, fasting doesn’t change our caloric deficit, it just shifts our daily energy substrates.
So anyway, I wanted to talk about fasting and carbohydrates and workouts. It can be really tough to fast for 12-16 hours and then attempt a hard workout. It’s definitely do-able. But I would argue that it isn’t ideal.
Some recommendations for post-fast/pre-workout foods include branched-chain amino acids or light protein shakes in some cases.
And if you’re doing some light cardio or an easy movement/GPP-style workout, this might be perfect. But if you’re actually trying to move some weight, I would recommend getting some carbs in before your workout. You aren’t lifting weights to burn fat, you’re lifting weights to get strong, so eat some food beforehand!
Easy solutions include some fruit or oatmeal. I wouldn’t recommend anything overly sugary as you might crash mid-workout or anything real heavy, like a piece of lasagna, as it will sit in your stomach like a troll waiting to ruin your day.
In all fairness, some oatmeal before your workout might end up cutting your fast short by an hour or so, but I’d rather have good workouts then burn those extra few grams of fat. If you workout early in the morning, you might not feel like you need carbs to workout. If you do, maybe you’ll need to fast through dinner instead of fasting through breakfast, making lunch your big meal. Personally, I’d ditch the fasting or move toward a single, 24-hour fast on a non-workout day. If you workout midday, a few carbs is perfect pre-workout and you can eat lunch right after your workout. If you workout at night, keep your lunch light (protein, fat, and maybe some vegetables) and then have a few carbs/fruit before you lift.
And if you really need a jump before your workout, try some coffee or green tea.
Pull-Ups vs. Rows
I touched on pull-ups and rows in my post on indicator exercises and assessments. My main argument was that pull-ups are bad-ass because A) your scaps move through complete downward and upward rotation and B) you can’t have a high bodyfat percentage and still be good at pull-ups.
This is compared to rows where the scaps move through a smaller range-of-motion and bodyfat percentage is certainly not a factor.
And both exercises require solid grip strength.
I’d just like to make a quick couple of points regarding pull-ups and rows.
First off, I believe that pull-ups are a better overall test of pulling strength because of the larger range of motion. While they don’t necessarily adduct the scaps very well, they do provide lots of rotation.
However, rows so have their place in a program, because the ability to fully abd- and adduct the scaps is important.
Neither exercise seems to work very well with singles, doubles, or even triples. If I were to pick one for max effort work, it would probably be pull-ups or some bilateral row, like a Pendlay row.
My main thought for the day is this: I believe that much of the benefit of rowing comes from holding a heavy dumbbell/barbell in your hands. In the case of a barbell row, your thoracic erectors will receive quite a stimulus, just from holding the torso horizontal while you move the weight. And in the case of a dumbbell row, your traps must work to support your arm while you hold onto a heavy dumbbell.
So while “pulling” could be generalized into one category and you could theoretically pick any of the exercises, I believe a little bit of thought can go a long way. If you need to build the lats, do pull-ups. The ROM is better than in a row. If you’re looking to build scapular adduction and horizontal pulling strength, try Pendlay, inverted, or chest-supported rowing variations. These will give you pulling strength without your grip/erectors limiting the weight. And if you need to build the upper back/traps, try some longer time-under-tension/high-rep dumbbell rowing variations. Single-arm will allow for slightly higher weight to be used and a higher-rep set will provide the scap musculature with more stimulus.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Intermittent fasting is cool, but eat some carbs before you lift. We lift to get stronger, not to burn fat. If you’re looking for pulling strength, either do pull-ups or rowing variations that don’t limit the weight. Save things like dumbbell rows for mass building, they don’t seem to lend themselves well to low-rep training.
On a side note, as a part of my new job, I’ll probably be testing out some classes/programs that are a little out of my powerlifting/hockey-playing/beer-loving comfort zone, so I’ll report back if possible. The first one is tomorrow and it’s all Tabata. May the odds be ever in my favor.