Home 2013 May (Page 2)

This Week Only: Save Big on Show and Go

For only the second time since its release (and first time since 2011), I'm putting Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better on sale. It's my birthday a week from today, so I figure I can use the proceeds to buy myself some hair plugs or a few rounds of Bingo, now that I'm getting old.

Joking aside, though, through this Saturday (5/18) at midnight, you can get this resource for just $77 (48% off the normal price).

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With me working on a new project that'll be due out later this year, now is the perfect time to give the Show and Go program a test-drive, as it'd be a great option for setting you up to give the next generation of "Cressey Madness" a go in the fall.  Don't take that to mean that the Show and Go program is outdated, though, as I still get great feedback on the program every single day of the week.

For more information, head here.

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Sleep: What the Research Actually Says

As a complete workaholic, I have a tremendous interest in the acute and chronic effects of sleep deprivation on both performance and health.  And, as a performance coach to many athletes who generally go to "work" from 1pm-1am each afternoon/evening and often consume far too much caffeine, I'm always looking for good material to pass along their way in hopes of helping them to realize how important sleep really is.  In this great guest post, Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank provide just that.  It's a long read, but 100% worth it.  Enjoy! - EC
 

Sleep is a fun topic. Every few months or so, someone will put up a post talking about how important sleep is, how you need it, how if you don’t get enough of it you will get fat and disgusting and huge, yadda yadda yadda.

We’re not here to dispute that. What we are here to do is take an investigative look; sleep is entering the realm of “say something enough times, and it has to be true.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find any recent articles that have actually looked at the evidence surrounding sleep quality and quantity and how they affect your body. Mostly, the evidence we have is purposely restricting sleep in people and seeing what happens.

Prepare for some truthiness (we’ve also inserted some blockquotes to help guide you through).

Sleep Deprivation and its Effects on Hormones

The hormones that are most frequently stated to be affected by sleep are:

  • Insulin - one of the most misunderstood hormone there is (see James Krieger’s fantastic analysis on insulin)
  • Androgens - the muscle-building hormones
  • Growth Hormone
  • Cortisol, the “stress” hormone

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Insulin

Sleep deprivation doesn’t seem to affect insulin levels much, but there is definitely a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the fat cells and liver1,2. This decrease in sensitivity can happen as easily as getting half your normal amount of sleep for less than a week3,4 or even losing 90 minutes over a few weeks5. This lack of sleep, coupled with decreased sensitivity, is a risk factor for the development of type II diabetes.

Thankfully, these effects are quickly normalized upon recompensatory sleep.

The implications of reduced insulin sensitivity, beyond an increase in diabetes risk, are not too clear for an otherwise healthy person, as the decrease in insulin sensitivity affects all measured tissue (adipose, muscle, and liver) and is just due to impaired signalling through the insulin receptor.

Sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. This happens even after mild deprivation, but normalizes quickly once you’ve had enough rest.

Androgens and Testosterone

Testosterone is known for being affected by poor sleep (on a related note, you tend to sleep worse as you age, and this exacerbates sleep deprivation problems)6,7. Studies have shown that getting three fewer hours of sleep for five days reduced testosterone by over 10%8, whereas another study showed a 30.4%9 decrease! These reductions all happened within 24 hours of sleep deprivation10,11. Similar to insulin, getting enough rest quickly reverses this decline.

Sleep deprivation is associated with reduced testosterone. Akin to insulin, it normalizes once you get enough rest.

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is actually a surprise in regards to sleep deprivation. For starters, we know that a large pulse of growth hormone occurs shortly after sleep begins, and in otherwise healthy young men, this accounts for roughly 50% of daily secretion. So would missing out on sleep impair growth hormone?

It depends on the duration of sleep.

Absolute deprivation of sleep for multiple nights can effectively suppress growth hormone. But neither an irregular sleep cycle (like a shift worker’s)12 nor only sleeping for four hours a night13 will adversely affect whole-day exposure to GH. It seems that the body compensates during daylight hours, and what is missed out on at night is adequately replaced during waking hours in those that are sleep-deprived.

Now, it is possible that the altered secretion patterns of GH can come with changes in its effects. However, the overall pattern is still pulsatile in nature (just biphasic rather than monophasic) and unlikely to be a huge issue.

Getting less sleep or having perturbed sleep changes the GH cycle, but does not reduce overall exposure to GH, as the body seems to compensate during waking hours.

Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone that mediates the process of waking up, and under normal rested conditions, it’s elevated in the morning (to wake you) and suppressed in the evening (so you can fall asleep). It isn’t necessarily a bad hormone (the anti-inflammatory and fat-burning properties sound nice), but elevated cortisol also tends to be somewhat catabolic to muscle tissue, as well as being an indicator of other stress-related issues.

Sleep deprivation both dysregulates and increases whole-day exposure to cortisol. Imagine a graph where a line goes from high on the left to low on the right, and label it “what cortisol should do over time.” Sleep deprivation turns that line into a straight horizontal line, and then raises it up a tad on the Y-axis.

Interestingly, past studies were misguided a bit since they were only measuring morning cortisol concentrations and they kept on noting a decrease! Most recent studies that measured 24-hour exposure noted an increase – some as high as 50% – following four hours of deprivation each night for a week in otherwise healthy men.

Cortisol normally is high in the morning and low in the evening, but sleep deprivation normalizes this difference (lowering morning levels, increasing evening levels) and increases overall exposure to cortisol over a full day.

Sleep Deprivation and Physical Activity

Sleep deprivation has been noted to impair sprint performance and cardiovascular endurance14,15. There is conflicting evidence here: tests on cycle ergometers did not note much of an effect16,17, and the one study to assess weightlifting performance also failed to find any adverse effect18.

Despite these mixed reports on sleep deprivation, acute sports performance is enhanced by caffeine and/or creatine supplementation during a state of acute sleep deprivation. The latter only seems to apply to things that require a high degree of coordination and mental processing19.

It’s important to note that these studies had participants just skip sleep for one night. Real-world application is more chronic; you tend to lose a few hours every night, and it adds up. The impracticality of these studies makes it very hard to make solid conclusions.

(Note from EC: anecdotally, I could always “get away with” one night of sleep deprivation and then still demonstrate “normal” strength the next day. If I missed out on sleep two nights in a row, though, my in-the-gym performance went down the tubes after the second night)

Missing sleep for one night may or may not have adverse effects on performance, as the literature seems pretty split. There is a lack of research on realistic situations for chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep Deprivation and Body Composition

Food Intake and Hunger

One of the more talked about effects of sleep deprivation as it pertains to body composition is that it somehow makes you eat a ton more food and then you get fat.

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The general idea (based on rat studies) is that sleep deprivation eventually (after five days or so) leads to increased food intake, but oddly this is not met with an increase in body weight; absolute sleep deprivation paradoxically causes fat loss and mild sleep deprivation just prevents weight gain.20 The increase in food intake is probably because of an exaggerated response to orexin, a wakefulness-promoting hormone that positively modulates hunger. Orexin increases as one is awake longer, causing more food intake as a side effect.21 Orexin also positively mediates energy expenditure, but it is not known if we can credit this for the observed weight-maintenance effects.

More practically speaking, studies in humans have noted an increased food intake of roughly 20-25% following a few hours of sleep deprivation for four days22,23. This is likely due to the brain’s response to food intake being enhanced, thus making food more hyperpalatable24,25.

It is unclear how sleep deprivation affects weights in humans. There is a very well-established correlation in society between obesity and sleep disturbances, but the studies currently conducted in people on weight loss programs with sleep deprivation control for food intake.

Sleep deprivation appears to increase food intake, likely due to the increased “pleasure response” to food. Paradoxically, this increased food intake might not be linked to more weight gain (rat studies confirm, human studies are somewhat unclear).

Metabolic Rate

It’s harder to make sense of the effects of sleep deprivation on metabolic rate. One study found that getting three fewer hours of sleep per day for two weeks resulted in a 7.6% reduction in metabolic rate26, whereas other studies showed no decrease22,27. To make it even more confusing, one study (on adolescent boys) found that less sleep resulted in more calories burned28; the participants burned more (being awake longer) and consumed less (decreased appetite).

In rats, chronic sleep deprivation is also known to greatly increase both food intake and the metabolic rate, resulting in weight loss (albeit a ton of other side effects such as lethargy, impaired cognition, and an aged visual appearance probably make sleep deprivation a bad diet strategy).29

So ultimately, it doesn’t appear that there is much evidence that poor sleep reduces the metabolic rate. More likely, being “tired” from lack of sleep tends to result in less physical activity30 and a possible increase of food intake could shift the balance of “calories in versus out” towards a surplus.

Nutrient Partitioning

There is one other interesting study that controlled for food intake and noted no differences in weight loss between groups (sleep deprived people and control both subject to intentional weight loss programs). This same study showed more lean mass lost and less fat mass lost in the sleep-deprived relative to control31.

Overall, it does not appear that a reduction in sleep directly suppresses the metabolic rate, but it may do so indirectly via reduced physical activity. Regardless of the metabolic rate, sleep deprivation during periods of fat loss may result in more lean mass lost and less fat mass lost than if one were fully rested.

Enhancing Sleep Quality

It seems that getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is quite important for those concerned with athletics and/or body composition. It would be a tad abrupt to just leave off on the importance of sleep without saying how to improve sleep, so the following are some tips that can be used to enhance sleep quality.

Timing Food Intake

Food intake can be quite effective in influencing the circadian rhythm: One way to avoid jet lag involves having a high-protein breakfast intermittently for three days (separated by low-calorie “fasting” days) at your destination’s time; the final meal is breakfast eaten after having arrived. This high-protein meal at your destination’s breakfast time should be able to reset your circadian rhythm. This is known as the Argonne Diet, and although it lacks scientific evidence to support it, the anecdotes are promising.

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It appears to play on the interactions between dietary protein and orexin, a wakefulness-promoting hormone highly involved in the circadian rhythm.31

Conversely, dietary carbohydrates may be able to promote relaxation (somewhat indirectly) secondary to an increase in serotonin synthesis, which then converts to melatonin. Since the conversion requires darkness to occur, this might mean a small serving of carbohydrate prior to sleep can promote restful sleep while focusing dietary protein earlier in the day might also work to regulate the sleep cycle.

Light Exposure or Deprivation

Both light exposure (blue/green or white lights; fluorescent or sunlight) and dark exposure (either absolute darkness, or an attenuation of white light into pink/red dim lights) can aid in sleep-cycle regulation. Both dark and light exposure have been investigated for restoring altered circadian rhythms seen with jet lag.32,33

The perception of light via the retina actively suppresses the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, and appears to have other neurological effects that promote wakefulness (in the morning) or otherwise impair sleep. Reddish lights appear to be less detrimental to sleep quality, and it is sometimes recommended to dim lights or switch to red lights in the evening to facilitate sleep quality.

For those of you at the computer frequently, this can be demonstrated with the downloadable software known as f.lux, which fades your computer screen to pink and reduces the brightness without affecting readability at a preset time every day.

Regulating your light exposure in the morning and evening may facilitate a more normal circadian rhythm and sleep quality. If light cannot be avoided outright, a transition from white light to red light at night may be helpful.

Supplementation

Supplementation to target sleep quality tends to stem from melatonin, which is a highly reliable and effective anti-insomniac agent that can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. It is unlikely to do anything if you do not have problems falling asleep, but otherwise is a quite important and cheap supplement. The above light- and meal-manipulation strategies tend to work via melatonin manipulation anyways, and supplementation is an easy way to circumvent it.

Beyond melatonin, other possible options include generally relaxing compounds (lavender and l-theanine) or other endogenous agents that seem to regulate sleep (oleamide being the latest up-and-comer supplement). Lavender is actually an interesting option since it appears to be somewhat effective as aromatherapy as a “relaxing” scent, and aromatherapy may be the only way to continuously administer a supplement throughout sleep (via putting a few drops of lavender oil on a nearby object and continuing to breathe while you sleep).

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It should also be noted that restricting stimulants or anti-sleep agents (caffeine and modafinil mostly) should be advised if sleep quality is desired. Even if caffeine fails to neurally stimulate you anymore due to tolerance, it can still screw with sleep quality.

What You Should Have Learned

That was a lot of information and studies to throw at you all at once. We’ve summed up all the relevant points:

  • Reduced sleep for a prolonged period of time can decrease insulin sensitivity (and thus is a risk factor for diabetes); this is normalized when proper rest is attained.
  • Similar to the issue of insulin sensitivity, testosterone and other anabolic hormones are acutely suppressed with sleep deprivation and normalized shortly after proper rest is attained.
  • There is actually mixed evidence as to whether missing a night of sleep impairs workout performance. It would be safe to say that it does not help, and could potentially hinder.
  • Sleep deprivation is not adverse to weight loss per se, but it can cause you to overeat or move less.
  • Regardless of weight loss, limited evidence suggests an adverse effect on where the weight is lost (more lean mass lost, less fat lost).
  • Shifting the majority of your protein towards the morning, and perhaps having a small carbohydrate-containing meal at night, should theoretically aid in maintaining a proper circadian rhythm.
  • Manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does aid in maintaining a proper sleep cycle.
  • If needed, melatonin can be used to help with sleep latency (time required to fall asleep) and abstaining from stimulants or introducing relaxing molecules (lavender and theanine) may aid in sleep quality.

About the Authors

Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank co-founded Examine.com in early 2011. They’ve been collating scientific research on supplements and nutrition since then, and are working on a beginner’s guide to supplements.

Note: the references for this article are posted as the first comment below.

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Military Press

I'll admit it: I was far from an early adopter of kettlebells.  These great training implements were apparently first introduced in Russia in the 1700s, yet I didn't really use them much until the past 3-4 years.  So, I guess you could call me a late adopter. For the record, this wasn't just a belated protest of the Soviet Union; I was also the guy who held out on getting a cell phone until after I graduated college.

In the context of this article, though, my stubbornness is actually a good thing, as it means that I heavily scrutinize things before I adopt them.  And, of course, that means that our clients at Cressey Performance don't use new equipment or exercises - and I certainly don't write about them - until I'm sold on their efficacy.  While I was sold on their efficacy several years ago, one set of exercises that I had to put to the test myself were overhead bottoms-up kettlebell variations, and in particular, those that were actual presses and not just holds.

I am, in fact, the perfect guinea pig, too.  You see, I've got a bum shoulder that's probably going to need surgery someday.  I was supposed to have it on 2003, but learned to work around it and have a successful training career in spite of some structural limitaions that came about during my youth tennis career.  That said, one of the exercises that has always hurt - regardless of how hard I rehabilitated it - was overhead pressing.

To make a long story short, I've been able to do the 1-arm bottoms-up kettlebell military (overhead) press pain free for a year or so now.

This is likely due to one or more of three different factors...

1. The instability afforded by the kettlebell.

If you look at the research on unstable surface training, muscle EMG is generally unchanged under unstable surfaces, even though force out put is dramatically lower.  What does this mean?  More of the work you're doing is for joint stability than actually moving serious weights.  That can be a great approach for folks with old injuries like mine.  In other words, adding instability means you may be able to maintain a great training effect in spite of less external loading.  Keep in mind that this applies much more to the upper body - which functions in both open- and closed-chain movement - than the lower body, which is almost exclusively closed-chain movement. I discuss this in great detail in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.

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2. The Plane of the Scapula

You'll notice that in the video above, the path the kettlebell takes on the way to being overhead is slightly out in front of the body.  Effectively, it's right between directly out to the side (frontal plane) and directly out in front (sagittal plane), as both of these positions are rough on the wrist with kettlebell training and don't lend themselves well to an individual being overhead comfortably.  As an added bonus, the plane of the scapula is generally much more shoulder friendly position as well.

3. More of a grip emphasis.

Anecdotally, you'll see a lot of the brighter minds in the business talk about how increasing grip challenges also helps to better turn on the rotator cuff, which fires reflexively.  We know that your cuff fires automatically when you pick up a suitcase or deadlift, so it makes sense that it would fire more "potently" when the grip challenge is more significant.  While this process, known as irradiation, hasn't been clearly defined or researched, it definitely seems to hold some water.  And, it goes without saying that you'll get more of a grip challenge with a kettlebell than you ever will with a dumbbell.

With these three factors in mind, I've made this my first overhead progression back with clients who are trying to get back to overhead pressing following a shoulder injury.  We have to do a lot of other stuff to get to this point in the progression, but I definitely see this as one of the initial "tests" of how good that shoulder is doing.

Keep in mind, too, that we're just talking about what goes on at the shoulder.  There are also a lot of core stability benefits, too.  By pressing with only one arm at a time, there's a greater rotary stability challenge.  Plus, all overhead pressing are great anterior core exercises, as you must effectively position the core and rib cage to ensure that the scapula and humerus do what they are supposed to do; you're resisting excessive extension the entire time.

With that in mind, you might be interested in checking out my new resource, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core.  This 47-minute presentation covers everything from functional anatomy, to the impact of breathing, to exercise progressions/regressions, and programming recommendations.  You can check it out HERE, where it's on sale at an introductory discount this week only.

AnteriorCore

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Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

I'm pleased to announce Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core is available for sale. This 47-minute video was taken at a seminar I gave, and it's available for immediate download and online viewing for an introductory price of just $14.99 this week only.

AnteriorCore

Like many of you, I’ve grown tired of seeing core presentation after core presentation all saying the same thing.  That’s why I opted to attack this considerably differently, discussing:

  • Functional anatomy
  • The interaction of breathing and core stability
  • What implications the anterior core has with respect to “new age” injuries/conditions like femoroacetabular impingement, sports hernias, SLAP lesions, thoracic outlet syndrome, and lat strains
  • Why no two spines are created equal
  • Why two individuals might need the same exercise, but different coaching cues
  • Progressions and regressions to build your anterior core stability exercise library
  • A model for effectively prioritizing anterior core stability exercises throughout the training week

There’s no travel necessary; you can view this presentation right now without leaving your house.

Click to purchase “Understanding & Coaching the Anterior Core” on our 100% secure server.


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5 Ways to Avoid Boredom in Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

On Wednesday, my business partners and I surprised our staff and interns by blocking off a few hours of training sessions at Cressey Sports Performance - so that we could take them out to see the new movie, Pain and Gain. While the movie has a strength training theme to it, it doesn't even come close to qualifying as "continuing education" for our crew.

Rather, we had two reasons for taking the crew to the movies for a few hours.  First, we wanted to reward them for all their hard work during a long and busy baseball off-season. Second, we wanted to mix things up a bit for them, as things slow down a bit at the CSP during the month of April, and we still want to make coming to work fun even when the days might feel a bit longer.

It's easy to draw a parallel from this experience to what many people encounter with their strength training programs.  Good programs change before people adapt to them physiologically, but rarely do you consider that some people may have adapted to those programs psychologically much earlier.  In other words, some people get bored quickly and need to shake things up to keep training fun.  To that end, here are five strategies you can employ to make sure that you don't find going to the gym monotonous.

1. Get a new strength and conditioning program.

At Cressey Sports Performance, we generally change programs with our athletes and clients every four weeks.  With all of them on their own individualized programs, this obviously makes for a lot of program design responsibilities for our staff.  However, an individual gets excited when he or she receive a programs that isn't only new, but uniquely his or hers.

I often see people do the same programs for months and months upon end. There might be a small percentage of the strength training population who can tolerate it, but based on my interaction with thousands of the clients over the years, long-term results are far better when people are having fun.  So, if you've been doing the same program since 1994, you might want to consider shuffling things up a bit.

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2. Tinker with an existing strength and conditioning program.

It's not mandatory that you overhaul the program; you might just need to tinker with things.  Maybe you increase volume significantly in one training session or week to really challenge someone before deloading in the subsequent week.  Perhaps you modify exercise selection or the sets/reps scheme from week to week. The variations you can add are limited only by your creativity, but the important thing is that there is some variation in there, particularly if the individual doing the program is someone who gets bored easily.

3. Meet up with a new training partner.

I speak a lot about the importance of having good training partners and camaraderie in the gym. With this in mind, I'm convinced that the fact that people meet and train alongside new people every time they come to Cressey Sports Performance has a lot to do with our success.  While consistency is certainly a valuable qualify to have in a training partner, the truth is that people seem to work harder when they're surrounded by new people.  It may kick-start a little competitive fire or even just be a matter of people not wanting to be perceived as "non-hard-working."  Whatever it is, sometimes the people surrounded you during a training session can have a big impact on the effort you put in - and the excitement you take away from the session.

4. Try some new training equipment.

A lot of fitness enthusiasts complain when they go on vacation and check out the hotel gym for the first time - only to discover less than stellar equipment selections. I'm not sure how people got the idea that a vacation resort would make a power rack, glute ham raise, and 2,000 pounds of free weights a priority when designing a resort for the masses, but some people do have this expectation nonetheless.

I'm much more of a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, so I view vacation training as an opportunity to shuffle my training up with some equipment access.  It's not going to kill you to use some machines for a week, and you won't waste away if you do more body weight exercises for a few days.  Chances are that you'll make yourself really sore and - when you're hitting the dessert bar for the fifth time - you'll feel a little better about yourself knowing that you still worked hard and have the physical reminder of it.

Even if you're not on vacation, you can change things up very easily.  It could be as simple as throwing a pair of Fat Gripz on the bar or dumbbell, or using a specialty bar for some squats or lunges.

5. Compete with yourself.

One of the biggest mistakes I see among gym-goers is that they rarely track their progress.  It only takes a few seconds to write down what you did in a given session, but for some reason, most people don't log their training sessions.  If you can't remember what you've done, how can you determine if you're making progress in the direction of your goals?  This is one reason why I love Fitocracy; it's a quantifiable means of tracking exercise progress, and it also offers ways for you to compete with not only yourself, but others, too.

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There's something wildly motivating about seeing improvements from week to week - even if they're only represented by a few numbers on a sheet of paper.  If you find yourself getting bored in the gym easily, then I'd suggest that you start tracking things a bit more closely so that you can head off that boredom before it sets in.  Plus, you might actually find that there's a reason to celebrate progress instead of just loathing the trips to the gym!

These are just five strategies to help you keep your strength and conditioning programs and sessions from getting boring, and there are surely many more.  What have you done to keep the monotony at bay and keep things interesting?

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Metabolic Cooking Recipe: Asian Turkey Burger

As I've written in previous blog posts, I'm a big fan of Metabolic Cooking, a healthy cookbook that offers recipes for 249 healthy food options, many of which my wife and I cook on a regular basis.  This week, the authors, Dave Ruel and Karine Losier, have put the resource on sale for more than 50% off.  And, more specific to today's post, they told me it'd be cool to post a sample recipe for those who may be interested in learning more about what to expect from this cookbook.

Recipe: Asian Turkey Burger

Makes 3 Servings (3 Burgers)

Ingredients:

• 1 pound ground turkey
• ¼ cup minced onion
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon water
• 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
• Salt and pepper
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl.
2. With clean hands, squeeze it together until it’s very well combined.
3. Divide into three equal portions and form into burgers about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick.
4. Spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Place over medium-high heat.
6. Cook the burgers for about 5 minutes per side until cooked through.

Nutritional Facts (per serving):

Calories: 184
Protein: 33g
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 4g

turkey burgers

For more great recipes like this, check out Metabolic Cooking and take advantage of this week's great discount.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series