ENTREPRENEUR | ATHLETE _
I am going preface this by saying blatantly that this post will be a concoction of my opinion, some academic literature, some anecdotes from personal experience, some tid-bits from the observation of others, and some taken from the opinions of expert chiropractors, nutritionists, and multiple bodybuilding coaches. Use it if you want. I suggest you read it though.
A common question that I am asked is “Neal, what the heck do I eat before I workout?” Although different diets have different functions, and what you consume on a day to day/hour to hour basis must be different than the person next to you, I am going to assume that your goals during your workouts is either functional, or body composition related. In other words, you are either looking to perform better, whether it is athletically, biomechnically, or physiologically or you are aiming to looking better meaning you want that bikini to look good in June, or those abs to become washboards.
Nonetheless, the objective of your pre-workout meal should be to fuel your workout so that you can optimally meet and obliterate your goals. Recently, I have taken a relatively anti-carbohydrate stance because of the host of insulin-spiking related and various other related health issues that recent academic literature (and not-so-recent literature that has been hidden by massive food conglomerates like Kraft foods and Coca-cola) has alluded to. Particularly, higher-glycemic or insulin spiking foods, and processed carbohydrates like maltodextrin are truly the devil. However, unprocessed carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, beans, and vegetables, can and should be consumed at moderate amounts by those who don’t train (although practically everyone should workout), and ABSOLUTELY MUST be consumed by those who train.
Not only is it necessary for those who work-out to consume carbohydrates, but it would be most advantageous to consume carbohydrates in close proximity to your workouts. When you pound the weights, hit the pads, or play a sport, your body utilizes an energy source called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). To maximize your workouts, you should consume a high amount of ATP in close proximity to your workout! Guess what breaks down in ATP: You guessed it, carbohydrates.
The catabolism (break-down) of carbohydrates into useable ATP is a process that occurs every time you work out. The ideal workout meal in my opinion is a portion of oatmeal or steel-cut oats, with blueberries, bananas, and cinnamon. Here’s why:
Bananas & Blueberries
Oatmeal or Steel Cut Oats
Try this pre-workout meal for a week, and think about the following. How do you feel during your workouts? How do you muscles feel? Fuller? Flatter? Are you gaining muscle, body-fat, or neither when eating like this?
Your favorite trainer told you to eat carbohydrates so go do it without any guilt. Just make sure it is an hour or less before your workout. Otherwise, I’ll get mad. Go enjoy your oatmeal dreamers and crush your workouts on this lovely #FlexFriday!
My father is a great man, and indeed I respect a lot of the things that he said and did over the years. He has unwavering discipline, a laser-like focus, and a sense of genuine composure that I admire; it seems like nothing ever phased him.
At 21, I was entering my second to last year of college at Rutgers University pursing majors in Economics and English, with minors in Psychology and American Studies. I was an ambitious, high-energy, over confident and certainly over caffeinated bodybuilder, student, personal trainer, model, boyfriend, son, and aspiring entrepreneur. Inevitably, my thoughts were constantly racing. At times, this cognitive bedlam resultant of my irrepressible thoughts was destructive to my productivity, happiness, and overall health. I would feel stressed very often, unfocused, and even paradoxically directionless due to the many directions I wanted to go in.
It seemed like although my dad never alluded to how motivated he was, he seemed to get things done very efficiently, yet I always talked a big game and used various substances from coffee to Adderall to feel motivated and stimulated but never got anything done.
I could not stand it. I had to ask this old man what the secret was; which is exactly what I did – and he said “Meditation.”
“Ok cool buddha, now really, what’s the deal.” He simply smiled and said, “Try it, the answer is simple.” Arrogant me did not want to accept this for an answer; so I continued to live my cluttered life. My room was always a mess, my desk always unorganized, my to-do lists long and uncompleted every day, my stress levels constantly through the roof, and my life was simply unmanageable. It was not until I got into a car accident while texting and driving that I realized that something needed to be changed. I was not present anymore. My life passed me by, moment by moment, and I was getting no fulfillment because my mind was never where it needed to be: in the now. It got so bad that I put my life at risk.
“Dad, I want to learn to meditate,” I said the day after the accident. I researched various forms of meditation, and remembered an old boss mentioned TM, which stands for Transcendental Meditation. I signed up for a course, learned how to meditate, and my life was changed forever.
Fast forward about three years later.. In the past three years I have probably skipped about 35 days total. I have meditated a minimum of 5 minutes, and up to an hour and a half on rare occasions. The recommendation is to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes; my average is a little short of that, where I only engage in one meditation session a day for about 20 minutes as part of my extensive morning ritual.
Here are the benefits that I believe to have received from this magical practice. Of course, we cannot fall victim to the correlation = causation paradigm, but there are a lot of studies that confirm the wide range of benefits that meditation provides; some of these benefits are found in the studies while others are purely anecdotal. Regardless, it does not hurt to try!
1) More presence in the moment; I am not thinking about extraneous things whilst immersed in a task.
2) An increased sense of focus along with mental endurance especially when reading
3) An improved ability to shift attention away from a current task, and then back to it
4) A better control of my internal dialogue; I am able to catch cynical thoughts and prevent them from spiraling downwards.
5) Improved willpower when engaging in all forms of physical exercise and strenuous mental tasks.
6) The ability to fall asleep within minutes of putting my head on the pillow, no matter how much coffee, pre-workout powder, or other stimulants I have consumed.
7) Lower blood pressure upon completion of meditation.
8) A lower resting heart rate.
9) Less impulsiveness (Also could be a factor of age-related neuroplasticity and the full development of my prefrontal cortex)
10) Heightened sensory perception; improvements in my olfactory sense, and auditory perception. My vision, ever since I started meditating has actually drastically improved ever since I started as indicated by tests from the eye doctor.
11) 3.8, 3.8, 3.7, 3.5 GPAs my last 4 semesters of college which were improvements from my 3.0 GPA that I had earned during my previous years of college.
12) Improved intuition; my ability to sense unhealthy environments, negative people, and all forms of toxicity.
13) Improved pain tolerance
These are just a few of the most striking benefits that I have observed, but there are many more that I can name.
Meditation is not as rare of a practice as one may think; there are many high profile, successful, happy, wealthy, and fit people that meditate regularly, such as:
1) Jennifer Anniston (Actress)
2) Russell Brand (Comedian)
3) Gisele Bundchen (Fashion model & Producer)
4) Sheryl Crow (Singer)
5) Ray Dalio (Investment Banker)
6) Ellen DeGeneres (Talk-show Host)
7) Yukio Hatoyama (Former Prime Minister of Japan)
8) Paul McCartney (Singer)
9) Katy Perry (Singer)
10) Martin Scorsese (Director)
11) Russell Simmons (Music Producer & Entrepreneur)
12) John Stamos (Actor & Musician)
13) Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum (Cardiologist)
14) Howard Stern (DJ & Talk-Show Host)
15) Ivanka Trump (Real Estate)
16) Oprah Winfrey (Talk Show Host & Producer)
17) Barry Zito (MLB Player)
All I am saying is try it, it's simple. It does not hurt. How to meditate? Ah. Check out my YouTube video coming out in the next few weeks :)
Cold shower therapy is a metaphor for every-day reality. For us to be successful at anything that we do, we must be able to control our inner dialogue and fight the forces of resistance that prevent us from doing those things that we know we need to do.
Let’s play out this scenario and keep in mind how similar this is to your internal dialogue in your day-to-day reality.
Prior to entering the cold shower for the first time, our internal dialogue will be something along the lines of:
“Ok so in my head, I said I would do this but, honestly, it is so painfully uncomfortable, no one is watching, and I really don’t see how this is going to help me.” We will call this voice resistance.
Another voice will come into the picture and say, “No, you’ve committed to this, now do it.” We will call this second voice catalyst.
Many times, it’s as simple as choosing the voice catalyst over resistance. As human beings experiencing internal turmoil, the scenario is usually not that simple. A third voice of course needs to come into the picture – we will call this voice, prolong.
Prolong decides that it is not ok to give up, but it is also ok to delay. “You know what,” prolong inquires. “Let’s do this, but not today. I am running late and it’s freezing out so getting out may make me sick. Tomorrow is a Monday which is a good day to start anyway.”
Prolong, is arguably even more insidious than resistance, because prolong gives an open-ended offer that may not make one feel as guilty. Resistance we blatantly know is wrong. A true test of character is choosing catalyst in this scenario. And guess what - choosing catalyst in any scenario where you face resistance is the right choice. When you are about to do something beneficial but uncomfortable, BE MINDFUL of justifications that occur in your head, whether it is going to the gym, pushing through a set, working on a proposal, going above and beyond on an assignment, practicing your instrument an extra hour, or stepping your naked self into the cold shower, Cold shower therapy is a great way to train the mind to not justify and to face your fear of discomfort.
How does it work? The brain is a neuroplastic organ, meaning that is malleable; this malleability is a function of its external influences. By embarking in an activity that tests our character and fortitude, our brain is responding to this. Our brains will start to behave the same way in similar contexts. When we are able to fight the voice of resistance, and able to force ourselves to side with catalyst, our brains will be more inclined to do so in other situations. The more we fight resistance, the easier it gets, and the neurological pathways in our brain will actually physically change in response to this. For any of my research junkies who are interested in the neurobiology of this, check out the book “The Brain That Changes Itself,” by Norman Doige.
So what are the benefits?
So who are some notables who have benefited from this unorthodox method?
Protein is for bodybuilders only. Oily, shiny, tan, hairless, bodybuilders. That’s a myth.
Everyone has an opinion on protein, so naturally I had to research for the facts. If there is one supplement to take as an athlete or any high-performing professional – it’s branched chain amino acids.
Twenty percent of the human body is made up of protein. Yes, everyone’s body, not just a shiny man in a thong has protein within them. In fact, protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
A large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, meaning they carry out many important bodily functions:
What they do : What does it mean
Improves cognitive function by regulating neurotransmitters : You will be happy, healthy, relaxed, and non-spastic
Healing wounds and repairing tissue : You won’t fall down your stairs after leg day
Maintenance of nitrogen : Increase blood flow to transport nutrients
Regulates blood sugar : Maintains mental and physical energy, prevents insulin spikes
Makes you a savage : You’ll be a savage, duh
As humans, we have 9 essential amino acids, and we have 11 non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that are absolutely essential for us to have in our diet because our bodies cannot produce them on its own. Non-essential amino acids are the exact opposite. Our body can produce non-essential amino acids on it’s own and does not need to acquire them through diet, hence they are not essential to our diet.
Because being big, full, shredded, and juicy is everyone’s priority in life, I want to discuss 3 essential amino acids called branched chain amino acids that will aid the transformation of your dad bod to a beach bod. You can find information on all the rest of the amino acids on my YouTube Channel, but for now, let’s elaborate on these 3 bad boys known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Anyone that engages in any sort of physical activity could benefit from consuming a branched chain amino acid supplement. Quite frankly, BCAA’s are necessary for optimal physical performance, but most diets are deficient in the appropriate amount of BCAAs. These specific amino acids have the functions of preventing muscle-break down, aiding in protein synthesis which is the process responsible for building muscle, enhancing immunity, and resisting nutrient loss.
Valine, Isoleucine, and Leucine are the three branched chain amino acids found in a ratio of 1:1:2, respectively, in your muscles. To clarify, for every one unit of valine in your muscles, there will be one unit of isoleucine, and 2 units of leucine in those swollen biceps and pumped up booties. Although all three work in synergy and are all important to have in your supplement, the most important BCAA is leucine, and your BCAA supplement should have anywhere from 3 – 10 grams of it. If you’re looking for some high quality amino acids with the listed ratios along with other essential nutrients, head on over to the shop.
Although I do not think that any supplement is absolutely necessary, (although I do think a great many provide phenomenal value), Branched Chain Amino Acids are the closest thing to necessary in my opinion. If anyone has anymore questions, check out my YouTube video series that not only elaborates on BCAA’s, but also talks about the BCAA supplements that I carry and discusses the functions of the rest of the amino acids mentioned in this blog post.