About Cody Miller

Strength and conditioning coach out of St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science as well as various certifications through the NSCA, USAW, NASM, and Crossfit. Obsessed with performance, his unique understanding of the human body and the biomechanics involved have resulted in numerous performance, health, and body composition accomplishments.

The Food Traveler

Ok, this weekend, I visited Tampa, Florida to watch my younger brother play his last “home” college baseball games. I got to see him crush the ball a few times, including a bomb to left-center field. (When I say “crush”, I mean “hoooooooly crap, did the short-stop just lose an ear?”.) The timing was great, as a scout for the Los Angeles Angels was there to watch him play. In a few weeks we hope to hear his name announced on ESPN during the 2012 MLB Draft.

Zach is a perfect example of someone who uses strength training to elevate more than just his physical appearance and overall fitness. Zach trains HARD to improve his game and in response, his body composition and health are top-notch because of it. This is why we encourage you all to compete every once in awhile. Having something to train for will only increase your motivation, commitment, and determination. You will locate a “broader picture” and navigate your way to success much more efficiently with a focus, knowing that each relatively insignificant “wrong-turn” will not deflate your tires, halting your progress.

Me?

I plan on competing in a powerlifting competition at the end of the year. From now, until then, my training and nutrition/lifestyle is focused on improving my strength while maintaining my health and currently lean body composition. Luckily, the nutrition formula for strength training is very similar to the formula for a lean, attractive body composition… M (meat) +F (fat) = results.

It really is that simple. Wish to lean out? Each day, eat at least a gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight from primarily meat sources, be generous with your vegetable intake, keep fruit and nut consumption to a minimum, and eat starchier carbohydrates at appropriate times (including post-workout and re-feed days; see ”4 weeks to Fabulous” post below). The meat intake should take care of most of your fat needs.

Would you like to increase your strength and join the Avengers as they fight all that is evil in this wretched world? (Anyone else excited to see this?) Congratulations, eat the same way, just more of it. We can get all nerdy with calorie intake and macronutrient ratios, but why not keep it simple until you have to? Keep your protein intake up, consume more fats in the form of coconut oil/milk, olive oil, and nuts, make sure you have a large sum of starchier carbohydrates both pre- and post- workout and you are set. Every 2 weeks increase your food intake by 300 calories or so if your numbers aren’t going up.

So how does one stay on track when out of town?

K.I.S.S. (Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.)

Meat, meat, meat, vegetables, and oh yeah… MEAT.

Let’s be real..You aren’t going to have the luxury of eating EXACTLY the way you would eat with a kitchen at your disposal, but I’m not pulling your string (and certainly not your finger) when I tell you that “it is EASY” to eat healthy on the road. It really comes down to your dedication and will to succeed. That’s the only obstacle. Yourself.

Is it impossible or are you just not willing to do what it takes?

Sticking with meat and vegetables will keep your protein intake high, thus preserving muscle mass and promoting thermogenesis, while also maintaining balanced blood sugar.

Before I scat, I included what I ate this past weekend in hopes of helping you all make the best out of your situation during your next trip. Again, the following is not perfect, but if you K.I.S.S. and stick to meat and vegetables, you will arrive home in the same condition that you left.

Remember, I’m all for “living it up” when the time is right, just choose your battles wisely and infrequently. For example, while visiting Chicago, you and your family are looking over the menu at the infamous Giordano’s Pizza. Do you pass on the pizza with the delicious, one-of-a-kind, buttery crust and opt for the dinner salad with chicken breast instead? Hell to the naw. Cheat and retreat. Do your thing and get right back on track the rest of the weekend.

-THURSDAY-

4am wakeup. 2 scoops of whey mixed with 1 cup yogurt + 4 tbs. almond butter

630-930am (1030 Tampa time)- Flight.

1230pm-Smoked quarter chicken, large serving of brisket and pulled pork, mom’s left-over pork, a bite of collard greens (gross), a few sweet potato fries

7pm-A few hot wings, large cobb salad with balsamic and olive oil (chicken, avocado, bacon, lettuce, spinach, etc.)

*handfuls of almonds and water throughout the day

-FRIDAY-

1030am-3 scrambled eggs, steak, 4 slices bacon, 1/2 cup grits

2pm-2 scoops whey protein+water and almonds (bought small bag of regular ol’ whey at GNC nearby along with a shaker cup)

7pm-fillet of cod, broccoli, loaded baked potato

11pm- 2 scoops whey + water, almonds

*almonds and water throughout the day

-SATURDAY-

8am-2 scoops whey+ water, almonds

10am-6 eggs, 2 sausage patties, 4 strawberries

1230pm- salad with chicken, grapes

5pm- 1/2 smoked chicken, large serving of brisket, a few raw carrots, a few strawberries

9pm-2 scoops whey+water, almonds

*almonds and water throughout the day

-SUNDAY-

1030am-3 scrambled eggs, 4 slices bacon, sausage, tomato, 1/2 cup grits

1pm- chicken salad w/ olive oil and balsamic

430pm- 4 bun-less burgers, almonds

8pm- 11oz steak, broccoli, side salad w/ balsamic and olive oil

11pm-2 scoops whey+ water, almonds

*almonds and water throughout the day

-MONDAY-

930am-3 eggs, steak, green tea

12pm-steak, peppers, onion, and rice bowl

4pm-cobb salad (chicken, avocado, bacon, spinach, lettuce, etc.), banana

7pm-(arrived home) apple

8pm-workout

930pm-whey+maltodextrin+dextrose blend

1030pm-2 scoops whey mixed with 1 cup greek yogurt and 3 tablespoons almond butter

*arrived late, so no whole food in the house until after shopping tuesday

Advertisements

Espresso and Dance-punk

Over the past 20 weeks or so I have been dabbling with the mysterious “Westside Barbell”. I will be writing a full article on my experience with this method of training in the future, but for now, just know that two training days are dedicated to the upper body and two days to the lower body. There are two “maximal effort” lifting days (heaviest single to triple that you have that day working at 90%1RM or above) and two “dynamic effort” lifting days (moderate weight lifted for speed). After the main lifts, “the repetition method” (bodybuilding-esque) is used to improve individual weaknesses. For example, on the bench press, I am weakest getting the bar off my chest. My chest and shoulders are likely the weak-link in the chain, so I have focused on various dumbbell variations to bring them up to par (incline db press, seated military press, etc.)

Besides having a genuine interest in the science behind the Westside methods, I began experimenting with it due to a nagging injury that has been the byproduct of a “pelvic tilt”. Moderately heavy squats for multiple reps weren’t helping my situation so I hypothesized that the reduced volume (sets x reps) could help. Although I am lifting maximal weights with the westside template, I feel that focusing on only 1-3 reps at a time reduces the likelihood of losing technique late in a set, which could cause more aggravation to the injury. Most importantly, less time under tension equals less time in discomfort. Although, bothersome at times, the nagging pain certainly improved and I look forward to getting my lifts back up.

I share this all to provide some background before explaining yesterday’s “epic training day”.

On the way to DFM’s infamous “Functional Center” (a.k.a. “The F.C., a.k.a. “the warehouse”), I grabbed a small Americano at a local coffee house. I had to train a few clients prior, so needless to say, I was a little ran down.

Once I arrived, I turned on the lights, and set the iPod up. I was about to warm-up when a storm blew over and shut down all of the power. I thought “Jiminy Crickets! Just my luck!”… Ok, my original choice of words were a bit different, but you get the idea.

I decided that I’d start warming up in the dark with my headphones in and surely the power would come back on by time I was ready to box squat. (I throw these in every once in a while for 2 week cycles.)

I blasted some LCD Soundsystem as I rowed 3 minutes, mobilized, and performed my usual lower body dynamic warm-up. I’ll share the warm-up sometime.

Once I was ready to begin working up to a heavy single of low box squats, the power was still out… I decided that training in the dark must be SUPER functional… I mean, we all need to be prepared for the unknown. One day, I JUST MIGHT have to squat a tree trunk or something late at night in the middle of the woods…

Doubtful, but skipping my workout WAS NOT an option. I was already warm and prepared, so I wasn’t going to drive 15 minutes to another location. My mind was set.

I ended up opening the “garage door” to let in the minimal sunlight that was fighting off the rain. It allowed me to at least see the bar I was about to put on my back.

In sets of three, I went through my warm-up sets at a brisk pace (135,165,195,225,265,295Ib.). I estimated that I’d hit around 330 for a single. I was wrong.

I felt a bit more like my old-self again. I mobilized my hips differently than the past and I was feeling pretty darn good. Usually, the injury is always in the back of my head as I work the weight heavier and heavier. Friday, I didn’t even think about it. I guess you could say I was “in the zone”. I usually dissect every minute movement in my head, but today my focus was solely on lifting the heaviest weight I possibly could. I’m not sure if it was the caffeine or the mesmerizing beats soaring through my head, but mentally, I was at a level that I hadn’t been since competing at junior hockey.

The heavier the weight got, the more comfortable I got…295-light weight, 315-baby weight… I ended up SMOKING my estimated max for the day of 330Ib. My final attempt for the day was 365Ib., and although I had to fight for it, I surprised myself a little bit when I locked it out.

I finished up deadlifting 405Ib. for a relatively easy triple along with some front-racked reverse lunges and abs.

It’s workouts like these that really drive your confidence and motivation through the roof. Waiting until monday might kill me. I plan on competing in some powerlifting competitions with some fellow trainees in the future to push myself more than ever. Maybe you should too?

Currently unhappy with the way things are going? Change. Push out of your cozy, shielded comfort zone. Take a bullet or two.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

Did anyone else have an “epic training day” this week? If so, we’d love to hear about it.

If not, what’s holding you back?

Espresso and dance-punk seemed to work for me…

Mommy.. It’s Bedtime, Dangit.

Encouraging someone to change their eating habits is one thing, but sleep?

I’ve had better luck teaching my dog, Socks, to clean my room… (Socks is a miniature schnauzer with seemingly, no brain.)

Why is it so hard to relax and enjoy this vital natural cycle?

In high school, it was our favorite pastime…

I'm sure that one worked...

Stress.

I can sit all day and list the culprits; responsibility, providing for others, too much work/not enough play, technology, time management shortcomings, yadi yadi molina…

Poor sleep = stubborn body-fat accumulation, impaired recovery, suboptimal hormonal regulation, decreased motivation, productivity, lifespan, etc.

Improving one’s quality of sleep is the first step.

Crazy schedule and you are only getting 5 hours each night? Well let’s make those the best 5 hours you’ve slept since diapers…

1.) ZERO caffeine after 3pm. No brainer.

2.) When the sky is black, avoid excessive lighting around the house. Your body will increase the production of the “sleep hormone”, Melatonin, when the sun goes down. Artificial lighting makes this difficult.

3.) AT LEAST one hour before bed, lay the phone, TV, and computer to rest. Blue light from  these are just as disruptive as light bulbs. In addition, zombies, vampires, American Idol, and grenade launchers don’t exactly ease your mind and senses. Sorry, but this includes Facebook. Read a real book.

4.) Avoid consuming a large meal immediately before bed. Low carb-ing? A starchier meal (sweet potatoes, squash, potatoes) a couple hours before might be helpful due to the restored levels of the hormone, leptin.

5.) Wind down an hour before with dim lighting, a book (chemistry always put me right to sleep), calming music (Explosions in the Sky works well) and possibly some light stretching/meditating (ohm!).

6.) Can’t get something off your mind? Jot it down on paper. Even the simplest, most ridiculous stuff can keep you up at night. I’ve had trouble falling asleep because I was involuntarily organizing workouts in my head. Write it all down and handle it the next day.

7.) Make sure your sleeping destination is COMPLETELY blacked out. If you’re still afraid of the dark, then hop into bed with mommy and she’ll rub your tummy until you fall asleep (every mom does this, right?). Purchase some blackout shades for the windows and turn the alarm clock upside down. No tiny flashes of light from the computer, phone, or night light is acceptable.

8.) Stop being cheap and keep your room cool! There’s nothing worse than waking up laminated to the bed sheets, wondering if you urinated or perspired this mess…

9.) Magnesium can provide a calming effect. Natural Calm is a great supplement recommended by Robb Wolf. You can sip it like a warm tea just before bed. ZMA is another option for those who workout intensely multiple times per week. Along with magnesium, zinc is provided as it is reduced through perspiration during intense exercise and can negatively impact recovery if not replenished.

10.) Melatonin supplementation. I consider this the “last-case scenario resort”. We wreak havoc on our endocrine system enough, so I’m not big on exogenous hormone supplementation. All in all, you might need to use this for a few days to help reset your circadian clock, so to speak.

What other suggestions might you all have? Please post to the comments.

Lions, Tigers, and Grains! Oh my!

Over the past few years, you have been instructed to eat like dirty, savage cavemen. An engraved, stone menu consisting of only meat, vegetables, nuts, tubers, and some fruit. No bread, pasta, cereal, or any other grain, PERIOD. If it isn’t green or doesn’t run, swim, or fly.. don’t even think about it. (I hope no cannibals read this.)

In your case, please stick to fava beans..

It’s true, eliminating grains from your diet is a pretty darn’ good idea if you seek stabilized energy levels, improved digestion, elimination, and nutrient absorption, less frequent illness and inflammation, as well as desirable body composition changes.

But what’s so damn unhealthy about grains and why are we such food nazis all of the time? The answer lies behind the understanding of four components; insulin, gluten, phytates, and lectins.

The most important requirement for acquiring and maintaining an attractive body composition is normalizing and balancing the amount of insulin your body produces.

Insulin is the hormone released when blood glucose levels are elevated.

Glucose is a simple sugar used to create energy for your body (ATP). The amount of glucose in your body is determined by what you consume. Although glucose can be created from protein and fat, carbohydrates are the most efficient source.

You can think of insulin as a “messenger” who delivers nutrients to cells for storage while also picking up and shipping toxic, excess glucose out of the bloodstream. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more glucose, and thus the more insulin you produce to transport it. Once all liver and muscle cells are completely full, excess glucose is rushed to fat cells where it is stored essentially as fat.  Abusing carbohydrates (grains are loaded with carbs) can also lead to insulin resistance, in which the cells refuse to answer the doorbell being rung by insulin as they have “had enough” so to speak. This can develop into diabetes mellitus, heart disease, accelerated aging (ladies, can you say “wrinkles”?), fatigue, lack of focus, mood swings, and decreased motivation.

Gluten is a protein found in most grains that resembles the proteins found in bacteria and viruses. Once ingested, the body attacks the protein with an immune response much like it would if you came down with the flu or common cold. Allergic reactions can also occur; all of this resulting in inflammation that leads to many digestive conditions, joint pain and autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease.

Phytates are basically “antinutrients” that attach to essential minerals in the digestive tract and make them difficult to absorb effectively. This leads to mineral deficiencies most commonly seen in third-world countries who ironically depend on cheap, accessible grains for the majority of their calories. Be it known, “whole-grains’’ contain more phytates than processed grains such as plain, white, bunny bread.

"Oh no you di'int!"

Lectins are toxins that growing plants use to ward off insect predators. Once ingested, lectins damage the small intestine (organ where digestion is completed and nutrients are absorbed) and create tiny holes that allow incompletely digested food particles to leak into the bloodstream. The body then begins an immune response to attack the “foreign invaders”. Unfortunately many of the “intruders” resemble proteins of our own body tissue, tricking the immune system into attacking it’s own soldiers, our body. This is essentially self-destruction.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable going out because of your “unusual” eating habits?

Do your sick, overweight friends and/or family give you grief and make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself? (shame on you, peer pressure)

Have you ever had the urge to spank them with the science behind the “what”?

Read this. Study this. Implement this.

The next time you go out with your buddies for dinner and they act like a shotgun went off when you order a burger wrapped in lettuce, drop a bomb.

The “Flossing’’ of Fitness

Muscle mass is the number ONE biomarker of longevity. Simply developing and maintaining muscle will increase one’s likelihood of living ninety years more-so than any other given factor. Along with the obvious, sufficient muscle mass is positively correlated with the function of the body’s vital organs. You are capable of teaching the finer points of exercise and nutrition to your great-grandchildren! As Art De Vany once said, “you don’t lose muscle mass from age, you age from losing muscle mass”.

Old Man Strength

With increased muscle, usually comes increased strength. The potential is there, but what’s the use if you can’t lift your arms overhead or scratch your own back? Forget squatting, wouldn’t want to strain a hammy… Up to this point, you are basically all show and no go. Why live longer than Jack LaLanne if you aren’t capable of performing basic daily activity through full range of motion without pain or restriction?

Survive?

I’d rather thrive.

You don’t have to sacrifice muscle, but you DO have to wear velcro sneakers.

So, Why are you skimping out on one of the most vital components of life and physical fitness?

“It hurts.”

Give me a break, you’ve all cried to Jesus during heavy squats or conditioning from the underworld and you STILL show up the following workout. Next…

“It’s boring.”

Agreed, but so is brushing your teeth… (I hope you all brush your teeth.)

“It takes too long.”

There are over 600 muscles in the human body. Do you really think you have the time?Each one of us are restricted through specific ranges of motion, so focus on your “pain in the bum” (which could be taken both figuratively and literally). 10-20 minutes each day will make a difference. Prioritize it.

Not sure where to start? Check out Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD if you haven’t.

Being an adult is hard. I get it. But you are solely responsible for taking care of yourself. Basic maintenance and rehabilitation of the very tissue that makes this life possible is no exception. Don’t be that guy or gal…

This topic will receive a lot more attention in the near future, so hang around.