Home Posts tagged "Caffeine"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/9/18

I hope you're having a great week. Stay tuned to EricCressey.com, as we started up my spring sale yesterday and will be running it for a good chunk of May. The first product featured is...

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - This presentation covers an incredibly important topic, and is now on sale for 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. This is some great continuing education material for under $9.

The Physical Preparation Podcast with John O'Neil - Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts Director of Performance John O'Neil hopped on Mike Robertson's podcast to long-term athletic development in baseball players. There are some great pearls of wisdom for anyone who works with middle and high school athletes.

Caffeine Consumption: How Much is Safe? - The crew at Examine.com pulled together some of the latest research on caffeine consumption to outline how much is considered safe for various individuals across the population.

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8 Training Tips for the New Dad

When I first started getting some noteworthy publications back in 2003, I was a green-around-the-gills 22-year-old graduate student. I had a decent foundation of knowledge in a very specific realm, but in reality, I knew very little about the real world.

In the years that followed, I learned a lot about a lot of things. I competed extensively in powerlifting, read and wrote a ton, and attended and spoke at loads of seminars. We opened Cressey Sports Performance in 2007, and went through three expansions – and trained athletes from all walks of life, including baseball players from all 30 Major League organizations.


In spite of all these experiences, it wasn’t until the fall of 2014 that I really learned about true responsibility. That September, my very pregnant wife and I moved to Jupiter, FL to open up our second Cressey Sports Performance location.


Three weeks after the new facility opened, amidst the chaos of moving to a new state and opening a new business, I awoke one morning at 5AM to my wife yelling, “Eric, my water broke!” Five hours later, we were proud parent of twin daughters – and I was in for more lessons than I’d learned in the previous 14 years of coursework, reading, seminars, training, and business.


It was at that point that I realized I’d never had any empathy for clients I’d trained who had kids at home. I’d always been selfish; I ate, slept, and trained whenever I wanted to do so – and I had assumed that they could always do the same. When you have kids, you back-burner your own needs for good.

As you can probably infer, having twins dominated me. For the first 12 weeks, I typically slept 8:30PM through midnight each night, with any other shut-eye during the day serving as bonus. The quality of my training suffered, and my nutrition slipped as my meal-prep time went by the wayside. I ate more protein bars on the fly, and consumed way too much caffeine to get through the days.

By the time the girls were six months old, I was down roughly ten pounds and a fair amount of strength in spite of the fact that I’d tried like crazy to not miss a beat with my training. It was far and away the most challenging six months of my life, but it was also remarkably rewarding on a number of fronts.

Our daughters are about 18 months old now, and the new facility is much more established – so things are a lot easier today. It’s given me some time to reflect on what I learned, and what I would have done differently in the way I took care of myself during that initial phase. Whether you’re a new father or planning/hoping to become one, I sincerely hope that you’ll take these strategies to heart.

1. Use caffeine to make up for sleep deprivation, but not for crappy diet.

Fatigue during exercise is an extremely complex topic, and we’re still somewhat unclear of all the mechanisms for it. By contrast, fatigue in your daily life is remarkably simple: outside of medical conditions that may cause it, you’re tired because you either a) aren’t sleeping enough or b) aren’t putting the right stuff in your body. The former is a normal part of parenting, but the latter doesn’t have to be.


The two biggest culprits we see with the athletes we encounter always seem to be dehydration and too many of the wrong carbs at the wrong times. If you aren’t drinking enough water, and you’re letting your blood sugar bounce all over the place, you’re going to get tired.

Having a few cups of coffee a day isn’t a problem; having 27 of them plus five energy drinks is. If your nutrition is reasonably good, you won’t have to go to this excess.

2. Clearly communicate a reasonable training schedule.

The old adage goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is as true in training with a newborn at home as it is in almost any other part of your life.

I’ll be direct with you: if you try to find time, you’ll fail miserably. If you make time, you’ll do a lot better. However, that’s easier said than done, as there are a lot more competing demands for your attention when you have a baby at home.

This is where I was very fortunate: my wife is a gym rat herself. In fact, I had to hold her back from kicking down the door to the gym to train just 7-10 days after her C-section. To that end, we had some gym schedule reciprocity going; I’d watch the kids while she trained, and she’d watch them while I trained. Sometimes, when the girls were very young, we could bring them with us while we both trained. We also had a nanny who could help out to make sure that we had time when we needed it.


Regardless of how you approach it, it only works if you schedule it. Trust me on this one, as it will endure for a long-time.

3. Pare back on frequency.

Get the delusion of training six days a week out of your head right now. I tried to do it while sleeping 3-4 hours per night, and it went over like a fart in church. You can’t just keep adding when your recovery capacity is compromised.

For most people, three full-body lifts per week is a good bet. You might be able to get away with four if you aren’t doing much, if any, metabolic conditioning. If you have to pare back to two lifts per week in the short-term, you can certainly get away with that, too. Scenarios like this are one reason I offered 4x/week, 3x/week, and 2x/week training options in my High Performance Handbook; sometimes, life gets in the way and you need a strategy to prioritize certain portions of your training while eliminating other components.

The point is that you have to be realistic with your training goals. Maintenance is an acceptable goal in this situation, as much as it might be unchartered waters for you.

4. Fluctuate intensity and volume.

One lesson I’ve learned over the years that never ceases to amaze me is that the more experienced you are, the less frequently you need to lift to maintain your strength. It’s really hard to improve your strength, but surprisingly easy to maintain it. Even just taking a few heavy singles over 90% of your max each month seems to do the trick for most intermediate and advanced lifters.

This is an especially important “phenomenon” to remember during a period of sleep deprivation. “Fatigue masks fitness,” so the chances of you feeling good enough to push huge weights aren’t very high. You just have to do “enough.”

A good general guideline I would put out there is to always work high or low, but rarely in the middle. This has two meanings:

a. With your metabolic conditioning, either do high-intensity interval training, or stick to low-key aerobic work to help with recovery. Spending a lot of time doing work at 80% of your max heart rate is like trying to ride two horses with one saddle (check out my old article, Cardio Confusion, for details on why).

b. You need to cycle sessions of higher intensity or volume in to your training program to maintain a training effect. I think a good rule of thumb at this time frame in your life is to hit the higher intensity portion once a month and higher volume once a month. The other two weeks would be lower key in a format like this:

Week 1: lower intensity and volume
Week 2: higher intensity, lower volume
Week 3: lower intensity and volume
Week 4: higher volume, lower intensity

Note: for more information on deloading strategies, check out my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

5. Condition at home.

This is one way in which you might be able to slightly up the training frequency without adding a ton of stress. If you can score a quick 20-30 minute conditioning session at home (or sprinting at a park nearby), it can definitely go a long way. I use my rowing machine at home once a week year-round. Additionally, if you’re really badass, you can throw on a 100-pound weight-vest while pushing the double stroller and walking the dog.


6. Outsource wherever possible, and welcome help.

I often tell our athletes that “stress is stress.” At the end of the day, your body doesn’t really care whether you have a big project due at work or you’re trying to squat 405 for 10 reps; both are stressful to your system.

Having a kid shifts a big chunk of your “stress allotment” to outside the gym. And, it pushes out a lot of the important stress management approaches – sleep, quality nutrition, massage – that you might normally employ to manage the stress the body encounters.

With that in mind, it’s to your advantage to deflect some of this stress here and there. I’m not encouraging you to have a nanny raise your kid for you; I’m simply saying that it’s okay to ask for help. Nobody is going to judge you as a bad parent if a babysitter or family member watches your kid for a few hours while you get a lift in. And, if you have the financial resources, outsourcing food preparation can ensure that you’ve got healthy nutrition options at your fingertips. My mother-in-law lived with us for six weeks after our daughters were born, and it was a game-changer for us.

Just as Bill Gates doesn’t waste his precious time mowing his own lawn, you shouldn’t try to handle absolutely everything. It’s okay to ask for help.

7. Embrace simplicity – and do the simple things savagely well.

In my early days as a father, I had a habit of trying to take complex solutions to simple problems. The babies would cry, so I’d try to change the setting on their swing, turn on some music, give them an elaborate toy, or make a bunch of silly faces. Usually, the solution was just to feed them, change a diaper, or simply hold them.

A simple approach has merit for your training – especially during this crazy time of your life. When you have a newborn at home, it’s not the time for an elaborate squat specialization program, loads of direct arm work, or a 45-minute feel-good foam rolling session. Stick to the meat and potatoes: squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, lunges, chin-ups, etc.


I’d even argue that if you were ever going to embark on a one-set-to-failure machine based training block, this would be the time to do it. There’s quick adjustments on most selectorized equipment and the prospects of doing 6-8 sets in a training session will sound pretty appealing with you are working on three hours sleep and only have 30 minutes to get a training session in. Simplicity works.

It also works on the nutrition front. Make sure drink plenty of water and eat protein and veggies at every meal. Nobody is going to judge you if you have eggs for dinner because you didn’t have time to prepare something elaborate.

8. Remember that someone always has it harder than you do.

Strategies are all well and good, but perspective is invaluable.

Very simply, your significant other has it as lot worse than you. Pregnancy and childbirth are tremendously hard on women.

First, a lot of women deal with nausea (“morning sickness”) early in pregnancy. Constantly wanting to vomit isn’t exactly good for consistent, high-quality training. The truth is that this is the tip of the iceberg, though; they may experience heartburn, constipation, or any of the other fun symptoms elevated progesterone can deliver.

Second, as the baby grows during pregnancy, the woman’s center of mass is displaced forward relative to the base of support. This effectively rewires a long-term, engrained pattern of stabilization – and explains why many pregnant women wind up with back pain.


Third, remember that the baby grows under the rectus abdominus. So, the muscles of the anterior core are heavily overstretched and in a tough position to provide much support. I can remember when my wife – who can normally bang out 10-12 chin-ups – tried to do one when she was about six months pregnant. She did a half a rep, told me that it didn’t feel good at all – and she didn’t attempt another one for the rest of her pregnancy. Just putting the arms overhead can really stretch and already-lengthened anterior core significantly.


Fourth, during pregnancy, concentrations of the hormone relaxin increase dramatically to prepare the “lower quarters” for the stretching that takes place during childbirth. This hormone also works on ligaments at other joints, so women – who are normally more loose-jointed than man, anyway – become even more hypermobile. Less passive stability – combined with the anterior weight shift and lengthened core musculature – is a recipe for pain.

Just when you think things can’t get any physically harder for women, though, they have to go through the trauma of childbirth – or have a hole cut in their abdomen for a C-section. And, instead of the rehabilitation they deserve at this point, they get to start breastfeeding – and encountering sleep deprivation that’s far worse than yours.

Sorry, dude; someone has it rougher than you.

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Why Do We Give Caffeine a Free Pass?

Today, I've got a somewhat personal story to share with you - and there are several great lessons at the end, so be patient as you read through!

As many of you know, the fall/winter of 2014-15 was a crazy time period for the Cressey family. First, in early September, my wife and I moved to Florida to prepare for the opening of our new Cressey Sports Performance facility in Jupiter, FL. After months of planning, the facility finally opened up in early November.

It wasn't very easy to just open up shop in another state without regular trips back to Massachusetts to check in on the facility and our house. This took place on top of my normal responsibilities both in the gym and in managing my online presence and consulting business. And, I continued to train hard in the gym myself.

To make things a bit more complex, this move took place while my wife was pregnant...with twins. Their original due date was December 17, but they decided to arrive about three weeks early on November 28. They're both doing great, but early on, there was some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for supplemental oxygen and feeding tubes. 


Needless to say, there were a lot of long hours over the fall and winter. While I'm accustomed to long hours, I was not accustomed to doing these long hours with only 2-3 hours of sleep per night thanks to newborn twins.

I often tell our athletes that with programming and training, you can't just keep adding. If you put something new in, you usually have to take something else away. And, if you absolutely insist on adding without taking something away, then you better be ready to really dedicate yourself to recovery modalities, whether it's massage, naps, or a host of other options. There was no time for any of that stuff, though. What was there time for?

Caffeine - and a lot of it.

Each morning, I'd drink a pot of coffee. As I recall, the half-life of caffeine is about eight hours if you don't exercise - and it held pretty true, in my case. My morning caffeine would usually wear off in the early afternoon after I was done training our pro crowd. Stubbornly, I refused to pare back on my training volume, so 4-5 days a week, I'd also crush an energy drink around 3pm to get ready to lift. The pick-me-up would often work. I'd have a good training session here and there that would remind me that I "still had it."

Not surprisingly, I'd crash and burn and have a horrible 4-5 days of training after a session like this. The "ups" were still pretty "up," but the "downs" were a lot longer and harder to bounce back from. You can't display your work capacity if you can't leverage your recovery capacity, and I had none.

Early in the spring, things started catching up to me. I was down about 10 pounds since the girls had been born, and wasn't any leaner. My strength had started to fall off pretty quickly, and I wasn feeling pretty banged up in the gym. Most significantly, I was starting to get sick pretty regularly - and I almost NEVER get sick.

In early May, I gave a weekend seminar that also included a 5-6 hour Friday presentation, so I was on my feet talking for about 30 hours over the course of three days. On the way home, my flight was delayed, and I didn't get back to my house until about 3am. I woke up the next morning feeling horrible, and actually wound up going home sick from work the next day. It was right then that I knew I needed to fix things.

The next morning, I went to 50/50 regular/decaf coffee, and cut out all caffeine for the rest of the day. What happened next absolutely stunned me.

For about 3-4 weeks, I felt absolutely horrendous. I've heard of caffeine withdrawals coming in the form of a headache (and I certainly had one), but that was just the tip of the iceberg for me. Every joint in my body hurt. I was waking up with cold sweats - and going through 2-3 shirts - every single night. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I was going to bed by 8pm on 2-3 days per week. It was literally like I had the flu for an entire month. As a final kicker, I was waking up every morning around 4am with a raging headache that would only go away 10-15 minutes after my first sip of coffee - so it wasn't possible to just "sleep it off."

Not surprisingly, my training was terrible during this month. I pared back to 3x/week lifting, and my only "off-day" activity was walking with my wife and daughters.

         Caffeine might not be heroin, cocaine, or even
          nicotine, but it is absolutely, positively a drug.

I can only imagine what serious, long-term drug abusers go through when they try to kick a habit - because I've got a high pain tolerance and a lot of patience, and those four weeks sucked!

Fortunately for you, though, there are some invaluable lessons to be learned from my story.

1. Short-term gain often equates to long-term pain.

I mustered up "fake energy" to have average training sessions for 2-3 months - and in the process, put myself in a position where I had terrible sessions for a month on the tail end. It's better to be "consistently good" throughout the year.

2. This is what a lot of young athletes do!

I see a lot of diet logs from teenage athletes, and they usually leave a lot to be desired. Most kids drink too many sports drinks and sodas, and consume too little water. Fruits and vegetables are sorely lacking, and there are enough processed carbs to sink a battleship - and certainly no healthy fats to keep things afloat.

In spite of all these shortcomings, a lot of young athletes are on a constant search to find a "better pre-workout." Maybe, just maybe, the pre-workout wouldn't be necessary if these athletes were eating right and sleeping sufficiently.

It's one thing for a stressed-out 34-year-old entrepreneur with newborn twins at home to go down this path. It's another thing altogether for a resilient, untrained 16-year-old to think that he needs stimulants to be able to perform in the weight room or on the field.

3. Coffee is a slippery slope.

Ever have that friend who set out with good dietary intentions, but found ways to justify bad food choices?

"Well, you said sweet potatoes were a good carb source for me. So, I figured regular potatoes were just as good. And, if potatoes are okay, then I can make homemade french fries. And, if homemade french fries are okay, then the ones I have at my favorite fast food restaurant have to be okay, too, right?"

You can justify absolutely anything you want. With coffee, we know there are potential health benefits with respect to type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular health, certain types of cancer, and many other facets of health. Of course, this assumes moderation. Drinking a gallon of caffeinated coffee per day isn't going to give you extra protection against problems in these areas. Furthermore, don't expect the same health benefits of coffee to extend to crushing an energy drink or Mountain Dew to get a quick pick-me-up.

Source: https://coffee-channel.com/

4. We need to be very careful about glorifying caffeine, regardless of form.

For some reason, in the fitness industry, caffeine gets a lot of love because it's been proven to improve performance in a number of physical challenges, from strength and power events to endurance sports. Some of those benefits can be reduced when an athlete has become desensitized to caffeine from habitual use, though.

Not surprisingly, though, we're seeing more and more athletes - and fitness professionals, too - who are crushing energy drinks throughout the day. They're always firing up their sympathetic nervous systems and staying in perpetual "perform" mode when they should be able to tone it down and switch to recovery mode. 

I find it interesting that a simple cup of coffee can be viewed as a morning routine, ergogenic aid, and social beverage - and that probably explains why so many people consume caffeine to excess. They want it for all three of these things every single day.

Keep in mind that I'm preaching moderation in caffeine consumption, not complete abstinence. I'm still drinking coffee every morning and have no plans to eliminate it.

5. Stress is stress, whether you "feel" it or not.

If you'd asked me how I felt in December and January, I would have said "surprisingly good." I'm a guy who never gets too up or down, so in spite of my Type A personality, I rarely actually feel "stressed." Interestingly, in what was one of the most physiologically stressful times of my life, I pretty much powered through it (with the help of way too much caffeine) without feeling too awful. Obviously, eventually it caught up to me. With our athletes, we need to recognize high levels of stress sooner so that we can tone down training and add in more recovery modalities.

6. It's very easy to forget what it's like to actually feel good.

I've been taking my training very seriously for about 15 years now, so I like to think that I'm pretty in tune with how my body is feeling.

Additionally, I work with a lot of high-level athletes, particularly baseball players. Most elite athletes have incredible kinesthetic awareness and can sense when little things are "off."

Interestingly, though, it's not uncommon for athletes to get into "funks." We see MLB pitchers struggle with repeating their mechanics in spite of the fact that they're in the top 0.001% of people who play the game of baseball worldwide. We also see athletes who have annoying injuries that linger for extended periods of time and really change the way that they move. Small hinges can swing big doors - and sometimes you don't even recognize when the door is wide open.

I felt pretty darn bad for 4-5 months, but was able to tune it out because there were parenting and work responsibilities that had to get done. And, there was no way I was missing training. So, I effectively convinced myself that I felt fine. What can I say? Otherwise intelligent people often make really bad decisions when it comes to managing their own health, as it's hard to emotionally separate yourself from the situation like you would with a client or friend.

It took a few days of feeling really awful to snap me out of it. Two months later, I'm feeling a heck of a lot better and am back to have great training sessions. It was a great learning experience - and something that will definitely impact the way I interact with our athletes - but certainly not an ordeal I'd wish on anyone! 

Hopefully, next time you reach for that third cup of coffee or mid-afternoon energy drink, you'll think twice - and recognize that you're probably only doing so to mask a short-sighted decision in another aspect of your life.

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