Archive for May, 2012

Pancreas…Insulin…Body Fat! Ohh My!!.

Insulin can be a double edge sword, it’s arguably the most anabolic hormone in the body.  At the same time, insulin also has the ability to become the body’s “fat storage hormone” so to speak.  Insulin is a peptide hormone released by the pancreas in response to an increase in blood sugar upon ingesting carbohydrates.  Most of the cells in the body have insulin receptor sites which bind to circulating insulin as it travels throughout the body.  Once attached to the binding receptor on the surface of a cell(s), the cells then activate other receptors designed to absorb glucose (as well as other macro/micro nutrients) from the blood stream into the cell itself.
    With a cliff-note explanation of insulin, the next critical factor is to understand why and how controlling it applies to a trained athlete.  Carbohydrates are measured by the Glycemic Index or GI(link to pull up chart).  The Glycemic Index is a numerical index that ranks carbs based on the conversion to glucose within the body.  For example, straight glucose which is sugar in it’s simplest form has a glycemic value of 100.  Where as an apple has a glycemic value of 38.  Therefore a food item with a lower GI number is going to breakdown at a slower rate than an item with a higher GI number (Note: I mention the glycemic index because it’s commonly known about, what’s less known about and in my opinion a far more important factor when discussing carbohydrate intake is the “Glycemic Load!”  This refers to the quantity of insulin released vs. the rate at which carbohydrate breakdown into glucose or shorter starch chains…an article about the glycemic index vs the glycemic load is in the works).  Choosing carbohydrates with a lower GI number requires less insulin to be released by the pancreas at one time allowing for more sustained energy.  This is important to know as an athlete for maintaining optimal energy levels throughout the entire game or training session.  It’s imperative as an elite athlete to learn and understand how certain foods, particularly carbohydrates affect your body in terms of energy, energy crash, digestibility, and performance to harness the mind and body to achieve peak performance levels each time stepping in the gym or on the field of play.
    Here’s a scenario… remember Thanksgiving dinner?  Afterwards, everyone becomes tired and lethargic while Uncle Larry snores away in the old recliner.  Chances are we’ve all heard or been told this happens because high amounts of the amino acid L-Tryptophan is contained in the turkey meat.  Well… more likely it’s due to the mass amount of carbohydrates and the drastic spike in insulin coupled with the amount of blood that rushes to the gut to start the digestion process.   As I said before it’s important for athletes to know how foods affect them as individuals, as there are a variety of factors that come into play, such as insulin resistance, the sport, body type, basal metabolic rate, food combinations etc.  This is why I feel it necessary for all athletes to keep a food journal with specific attention and note taking as to how the body feels day to day, and meal to meal.  In regards to insulin, it’s proven that a high fiber diet will have a positive effect on insulin control.  I also believe that combining a protein and green vegetable with a starchy carbohydrate will give an individual much better sustained energy levels over a longer time even under intense training conditions and games.  Now that’s not to say that glucose-fructose drinks like Gatorade don’t have their place during strenuous activities.  Remember how important hydration and electrolyte replenishment is.  I prefer to use Pedialyte in a performance based activity because it’s lower in sugar and higher in sodium than typical sports drinks.  Keep in mind that sodium is the most abundant electrolyte in the  human body and is excreted in large quantities during perspiration as well as respiration.  Consider this information when selecting foods, it can be especially important in planning meals that fall prior to a workout or game!

My Story….in a nutshell! (originally written in early 2011).

**Note:  I wrote this in early 2011 while working out of Just Add Muscle inc.  Due to relocating, I am no longer there on a day to day basis…however, I still remain in close contact with the guys their and do meet with individuals for nutrition consultations when I’m in the area (I currently live about 2 hrs. away, which makes it very reasonable for me to get there as needed to meet clients).  I would be providing a disservice to everyone if I didn’t encourage you to check out Just Add Muscle inc. online, on Facebook, or in person!  Also, their long awaited elite supplement line XPS is now available!!!  You’re all in for a treat…I’d like to give a special thanks to Rene G. and his team over there, always there for a friend when needed and a great mind in the supplement industry!!   

    Allow me a moment to introduce myself and tell you a little about my story…. My name is Jason Croce, I am a certified sports nutritionist/ bodybuilder/ strength and conditioning as well as a contest prep coach!  At the age of 5 or 6 I started lifting those dumbbells that you can adjust by adding water, sand, or rocks as you get stronger…hey, I just wanted to look like He-Man, what can I say!….I continued on to have quite a bit of success in a wide range of sports thru high school, all the while continuing my dedication to the love of training!  After high school and suffering a couple of serious injuries I was almost relieved that I was now able to focus solely on building my physique!  I won every teenage contest I entered culminating with the lightweight class and Overall Championship at the NPC Teenage Nationals in 2002 (I was recently told, I was, and still am the only lightweight to ever win the overall title, but I have not yet confirmed it myself w/ the NPC).  The very next year I immediately through my hat into the NPC National Championships (before there was a welterweight class)…although I placed out of the top 15 and was not happy, I did feel like I was bigger and better than the year prior and I knew I could hold my own on a Mens National stage so I wasn’t devastated….yet!  Without a doubt in hindsight I would have done the Jr. National’s or Jr. USA’s if given the chance to do it over.  The next year while vacationing I had a freak accident which caused massive internal bleeding, which required a 5 pint blood transfusion (the human body holds about 8) and a week stint in the hospital…needless to say my training suffered some serious setbacks!  Then, in November of 2006 I competed in the NPC All South Bodybuilding Championships in St. Augustine, FL….I won the middleweight class as well as the Overall Championship! Now I was back on my game, right?  I thought so anyway (which was all that really mattered in my mind)….so I concluded it was time to try out the West Coast and enter the 2007 NPC USA Championships in Las Vegas!  This is where the story takes a turn….5 weeks out I caught an upper respiratory infection and even though I took 6th in the welterweight’s (which I still think was a gift if I’m being honest), I took it really hard!!  I felt like I had let everyone down, and that I was a failure…honestly, I still can’t bring myself to look at those photos to this day!  Knowing how disappointed I was not being at my best, the gym that I worked and trained at in Ft. Myers, FL took up a collection to pay for my expenses so I could redeem myself at that years National Championships being held in Dallas, TX!  Hesitant at first, the sore loser in me took over and I decided to go for it!….after an intense prep I left the airport feeling confident, arrived a few days before the contest, weighed in, no sweat….Thursday night, looking freaky!  Friday afternoon prejudge, what happened?  I still can’t really answer that question, chalk it up to mistiming, or nerves, or whatever you want but the bottom line is I choked!  This is when things really started to take a toll on me!!!  I was absolutely crushed, until then I had never felt anything like it….I thought the post USA’s depression was bad, that was nothing!  I continued to beat myself up for a couple years and became almost bitter toward the sport, not that bodybuilding ever did anything to me but I needed something to blame for why I felt so low!….Thank goodness there are great people in my life who saw this decline in me as a person and told me the things I knew but didn’t want to hear or admit….I gave in and went to a Therapist who was amazing at helping me see life from a new perspective, one that I had lost to depression and my own self pity!  Which brings us to the present…got my priorities in order, I’m back in the gym training harder than ever and have a wonderful group of athletes that I work with from nearly every walk of life from the quintessential “soccer mom” to elite NFL & MLB athletes!….I’m also proud to announce that I have recently teamed up with the supplement superstore Just Add Muscle w/ 2 locations in Cape Coral, FL, where I am available at in person Monday thru Saturday.  If you don’t live near bye, no problem, I provided virtually the same services and nutritional guidance via email and/or phone calls….my goal is simpily to share as much REAL science and information as possible, while teaching each client how to systematically apply those principles to themselves in order to acheive their desired results….health and fitness is a lifestyle not a fad!  All it takes is discipline, consistent training, and someone to hold you accountable and push you in the right direction!  If I positively influence only 1 person….thats a check in the win column as far as I’m concerned!…..stay tuned to the website as we (myself and Just Add Muscle) have some really cool things planned in 2011.  I plan to share videos and pictures as well as interviews w/ many of the athlete we sponsor and work with on a regular basis!…..Oh, and to answer the question I’m asked most often….I never say never when it comes to getting back on stage!  Guess you’ll have to wait and see!!  

Thank you & God Bless,
Jason Croce

Micronutrients…Make a Mega Difference!!.

Micronutrients are nutrients required by humans and other living things throughout life in small quantities to orchestrate a whole range of physiological functions, but which the organism itself cannot produce.  (Canadian UNICEF Committee, Global Child Survival and Health, 2006, p.67)

I tend to find that many athletes underestimate the importance of vitamins and minerals, that’s why I found it appropriate to start this blog with the acronym, CHOPKINS Cafe MG.  This acronym stands for the bio elements that make up the fundamental structures of all living things; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, iodine, nitrogen, calcium, iron, and magnesium.  Quite simply, these are the “bare necessities” needed for mammalian existence.  Vitamins are organic compounds that a living organism requires in trace quantities for good health, but which the organism can not synthesize and therefore must be obtain through it’s diet.  Vitamins are not an energy source but play a vital role in releasing the energy that is stored in foods consumed for sustenance.  Vitamins play a key role in the control and regulation of enzymes, as well as, the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.  Minerals in contrast to vitamins are inorganic compounds.  Minerals require no digestion, and some may even be stored in the liver.  Minerals are vital in the formation of strong bones and teeth, they also help control the nervous system, fluid balance, muscular contractions, as well as, some hormone functions and enzyme secretion.  Electrolytes provide the proper electrical charge within bodily fluids for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscular contraction, proper acid-base balance for ideal ph and overall fluid levels.  Without getting into specific detail of each particular vitamin, mineral, or electrolyte… The key take home message here is the importance of a balanced nutrition program, a quality vitamin/mineral supplement, and the significants of proper hydration and electrolyte replenishment.  As an athlete, the aforementioned elements are lost through sweat, respiration, physical, and mental stress to the body.  In order to perform at optimal levels at all times, I can’t stress enough the importance of proper nutrition and supplementation.  Intensely trained athletes don’t necessarily have a difference in micronutrient requirements than that of the average person… However, the requirement is typically far greater.

Many studies have been done on athletes using vitamin and mineral supplements.  The outcome is consistently the same,  supplemented athletes show greater performance, for longer periods of time then non-supplemented athletes.  It’s nice to think that it’s a possible to ingest the required amount of vitamins and minerals from one’s diet, but in today’s day and age of pesticides, preservatives, and poor soil quality it’s nearly impossible (I hate to be negative, but let’s be honest here).  I personally believe, as an elite athlete being spot on with one’s nutrition program AND giving an equal amount of attention to micronutrient supplementation based on vitamin/mineral testing is essential to performance.  This simple process will eliminate the guess work involved, ensuring each athlete knows exactly what he or she as an individual is lacking in order to attain… Ultimate Human Performance!

The Forbidden (timing of) Fruit!.

    Okay…so without being hyper-redundant I’d like to edify the truth about fruit.  As I insinuated (w/ the redundancy remark), I’ve written about fruit in the past, yet it’s always one of the first inquisitions people make when the word “diet” is mentioned.  Before I begin, I’d like to clarify upfront…I am NOT against fruit!!!  I’m only against the discordant effects to overall health when an individual’s consumption of fruit is incorrect.  How’s it possible to consume fruit incorrectly??  Glad you asked….
    Fruits are what I personally refer to as “performance carbohydrates” which I differentiate from “cosmetic carbohydrate” in a previous article (performance nutrition vs. cosmetic nutrition).  If after reading this article you learn nothing else, remember this…Fruit MUST be consumed on an EMPTY stomach (at least 2-3hrs after previous meal or before meal 1), otherwise the nutrient value is not only greatly diminished, the fruit becomes rancid and ultimately toxic to the body.  Fruit requires immediate gastric emptying, this is obviously a problem if there is already food in the gut blocking the fruits path directly into the small intestines.  The fragility of fruit, coupled with the highly acidic environment of the stomach are the two glaring factors from a physiological standpoint that illustrate why fruit MUST exit the stomach and enter the intestines (where nutrient uptake occurs anyway) upon consumption.  When considering the notion of fruit becoming rancid in the gut, you can draw a parallel by imagining (better yet do this as an experiment) what happens if you set a glass of orange juice in the sun for the day.  
    Another aspect in the misunderstanding of fruit worth mentioning is that skeletal muscle tissues lack an enzyme to convert fructose (the type of sugar that accounts for approx. 40+ percent of carbohydrates in fruit) into “storable” glycogen, fruit can only be “stored” in the Liver (Hepatic), which unless you’ve been in a carbohydrate depleted state for days or even wks, it’s (the liver) fully loaded, aka NO VACANCY at the inn.  The ideal times to consume fruit in order to maximize all the great vitamins and nutrients they do contain, are upon wake about 30 minutes prior to meal 1, intra-workout or game w/ whey protein, or immediately following the workout or game, also w/ whey protein.  Not to say there aren’t other times of day that fruit may be consumed without problems, I simply find the information more applicable when it’s narrowed down to the most IDEAL times to OPTIMIZE the value fruits provide to the body!….Hopefully this sheds some light on the myths and misunderstandings surrounding one of natures oldest delicacies….Fruit!!  

Forgotten Exercise: Vacuums….

The Vacuum Pose (as an exercise)- The single greatest, most complete abdominal movement ever!! Why on earth isn’t everybody at the gym doing these on a regular basis?? That’s a question I have yet to find an answer to…other then people simply not being aware of this phenomenal “core” exercise! The term “core” is completely misused in my opinion. Misused as far as trendy fitness terminology goes, and further butchered by it’s misuse in the gym as purely a sales gimmick. Yes, I said gimmick, I’ll never understand why a “personal trainer” finds it necessary to take clients who can barely balance themselves with both feet on solid ground and give’m some weights to hold and have them get on giant bouncy ball or even a bosu ball and expect it to benefit the person that should matter, the client!? I challenge someone to find me a legit study proving there is more “core” activation when using a physio-ball then there is when throwing a couple plates on a bar, put it on your back, plant feet fimly on the ground, then squat up and down 10-15x’s! If that doesn’t engage the core muscles, you’re lying to yourself, Period! Anyhow, that’s a whole other topic in itself, unfortunately I’m sure I’ve already offended those devote functional/core trainers…and trainees! I simply believe in what works, and at the end of the day what works for you and I may not work for somebody else! Don’t be afraid to question things, if you’re ever told “this is what you HAVE to do” or “the ONLY way to do x,y, or z is…” you’ve been lied to! I have a little saying I tell clients, as well as remind myself regularly “never say never, never say always!” This saying applies to training and training philosophies, so try them all, figure out what’s best for your body. I’m not saying that doing vacuums is the ONLY way to train ab’s but I am confident when I state…Vacuums are the BEST movement for targeting the entire scope of abdominal musculature!
The true core of the torso is a paper thin cylindrical muscle, called the transverse abdominis (TVA). Everyone seems to be familiar with the rectus abdominis muscles AKA the “six-pack,” yet have limited, if any awareness of the TVA or it’s benefits; maintaining spinal alinement, greater control of the midsection, preventing distention, engaging the TVA actives the six-pack muscles by default, reduction in the circumference of the waist (creating a greater illusion of contrast in ones shoulder to waist ratio), the list could continue on for pages if I were to really delve into the ancillary benefits of the Vacuum Pose! The most important thing besides actually giving them a test run for yourself, is to known how to properly perform the movement. Here’s the cool thing about vacuums…they’re simple and can be done almost anywhere. Ideally, lay on your back, feet flat on the floor which requires a bend at the knees, arms by your sides…I recommend a few deep breathes to focus on opening the ribcage to give the organs space for better circulation. Now, to begin the exercise simple pull the belly button to the spine and hold…continue breathing, visualize a corset being pulled tighter n tighter…I’ve had people tell me they do them for a minute or more…I do not believe them! When these are performed correctly, if a person can hold the pose for over 30-45sec the movement isn’t being done correctly…I say this bc after that amount of time if the muscles aren’t cramping or locking up, the full “vacuuming” effect is not being maximized! Like anything it takes practice to get better at it, not to mention results. If anyone questions the validity of The Vacuum Pose….please Google or YouTube (however you go about doesn’t matter lol) Frank Zane!!! Enuff said!