In the first installment of this article found here, I discussed how difficult it can be to admit that we are wrong about something, especially when we are someone that many people turn to for advice. We are afraid of looking dumb or weak, when in fact, admitting that you are wrong is one of the most admirable things a person can do, in my opinion. It shows that you are open to receiving new information and you are interested in giving the absolute best advice you can with the knowledge you have at any given time. It actually makes me MORE confident in what someone says and the advice that they give when they can admit that they have been wrong in the past. Without further ado, here is Part 2 of, “9 Things I Have Changed My Mind About.” Enjoy.
4. What I used to think: You absolutely have to have a protein shake within 30-60 minutes of your workout or the world will end and you’ll never build any muscle, and in fact, all your muscle will waste away.
Having a protein shake immediately post-workout was one of the first “nutrition commandments” that I learned when I started working out with a trainer 8 years ago. After every workout I would grab my shaker cup, go straight to the water fountain and chug my post-workout shake. My current goals (fat loss, muscle gain, etc.) would determine whether I had just protein, or protein and carbs… but one thing was for certain, my protein shake was in my belly before I left the gym! Fast forward a couple of years and I started getting very sick of protein shakes and the only way I would drink them is if they were “gourmet”… you know, made in a blender with crushed ice, and a bit of heavy cream and cinnamon… the works! (P.S. speaking of gourmet protein shakes, check out over a dozen tasty recipes here). Anyway, so for a couple of years, I started waiting until I got home to make my “must-have” post-workout protein shakes with no adverse effects to my performance or body composition. Then 2 years ago I started experimenting with intermittent fasting. I typically fast until about 3pm or so, and then maybe have a small “under-feeding” meal like a small protein shake or some Greek Yogurt with a bit of fruit and nuts. A couple of days a week I go to the gym around 5:30 or and by the time I get home I am starving (as you can imagine) and all I want is REAL FOOD. Other days I have my small “under-feeding” meal at 3pm, go to the gym around 3:30, and then train clients from 5-8, so I may not have anything for 3 or more hours post-workout (gasp!). As you can see I have shriveled away to nothing in the past 2 years and lost all of my muscle.
But seriously, I haven’t noticed any ill effects from skipping my post-workout nutrition. And not only have I maintained my lean muscle mass, I have even gained a little bit of lean mass (even though that has NOT been my goal whatsoever). I have also gotten leaner and stronger. Now I don’t think that I have gotten these results BECAUSE I skip my post workout shake, but I am trying to make the point that your strength and your physique won’t go to hell if you miss a post workout shake or choose to eat real food instead.
What I think now: Consuming a post-workout protein shake within 30-60 minutes of your workout is most important for people trying to add as much muscle mass as possible, or for those people carrying unnaturally large amounts of muscle on their frame, or for those people who are trying to retain the maximum amount of muscle possible while trying to aggressively lean out.
Like I mentioned before, muscle gain is not my main goal and hasn’t been my main goal for a long time and I don’t carry an unnatural amount of muscle for my size and I am not aggressively trying to lean out so I can get away with forgoing a post-workout shake in favor of real food, or even going several hours without eating after my workout. So if you are looking for maximum muscle growth/retention and/or you struggle to add/keep muscle, then by all means, a protein shake immediately post-workout is probably a really good idea for you. It is also a good idea for people who can’t eat anything immediately post-workout, or for people who don’t get enough protein in their diets from food. Other than that, if you don’t want to consume a protein shake post-workout, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Just make sure you are getting plenty of quality nutrition the rest of the day, and you should be just fine.
5. What I used to think: Getting sun on a regular basis will cause skin cancer and you should avoid the sun at all costs, including wearing SPF 50 in the winter.
For years I was an avid sun-worshipper despite my Irish/Scottish heritage (I have a little French, Italian and American Indian in there… but you could never tell based on my freckles and fair skin!). I was a pool rat as a child and when I got to high school I would tan whenever I could in the summer and hit the tanning bed in the winter. When I was around 18, I was in the car with my sister and she was smoking a cigarette. I looked at her and said, “How can you smoke when you know how bad it is for you?” She looked back at me and said, “How can you tan so much when you know how bad it is for YOU?” :::crickets crickets:::
I had nothing to say.
At that point I became a spray tan fanatic! I was not about to give up my tan skin… I would just switch my method of getting tan. From the time I was 18 until I was 25, you could catch me getting a spray tan 2, if not 3 times a week! It wasn’t always the most natural looking… but I didn’t care. I would rather be oopma-loompa orange than see-through bluish-white. In the back of my mind I knew putting those chemicals on my skin wasn’t a good thing. I mean, I sure as heck wouldn’t drink the stuff, even in relatively small doses, so why would I put it on my skin?!? It gets in my bloodstream either way!! (And don’t even get me started on conventional sunscreens! They are chemical-laden disasters!!) So what’s a girl to do?
Shortly after I was diagnosed with my health problems in 2009, I realized I was super deficient in Vitamin D. The more research I did about Vitamin D, the more I realized how vital it is to our overall health, which you can read more about here. Since there are very few foods that contain Vitamin D, you must get it from the sun or through supplementation. I continued researching and reading what the Integrative Medicine community was saying about natural sunlight. I started noticing that everyone was recommending getting a consistent, moderate amount of natural sunlight on a regular basis. At that point I decided to try it. I started back very slowly, sometimes only spending 5-10 minutes in the sun. Slowly but surely I got a little bit of color and being in the sun again felt amazing! It improved my mood, it relaxed me, it gave my skin a nice glow, and it gave me my daily dose of Vitamin D! The more I thought about it, the more sense it made…not to get all hippy-dippy on you, but the sun is a natural life-giving force, and without it, none of us could exist. Doesn’t it make sense then that a little sun exposure would be life-giving and health-giving for humans?
What I think now: Consistent, moderate sunshine is one of the absolute best things you can do for your skin and for your health.
So what about skin cancer? Is that a risk? Of course it is. Which is why I get sunshine in moderation, always avoid getting burned, and never tan long enough or often enough to get super dark. And to be honest, I don’t really know very many people who get consistent, moderate sun exposure… so I would bet that there isn’t a lot of data out there in regards to the skin cancer risks of people who get 20 minutes of sunlight 4-5 days a week, who also eat a diet rich in healthy fats, pastured meats, and fruits and vegetables, and who also exercise regularly and intelligently. When it comes to sun exposure, most people I know fall into one of three categories:
1) Complete Over-exposers: people who tan for hours each day, use conventional tanning beds often, and are an unnatural shade of chocolate brown, red or orange. If they ever become a more natural shade that is normally found in human beings, they freak out and think they are “pale.” See: Snooki or George Hamilton or ME in the picture below.
2) Erratic Over-exposers: people who try to “be good” and avoid the sun for fear of skin cancer, wrinkles, etc. However, on occasion they can’t resist being in the sun for a vacation, reunion, or wedding, and end up getting burned. So they are either getting no sun, or too much sun.
3) Complete Under-exposers: people who never, ever go out in the sun for fear of skin cancer, wrinkles, etc. They typically use SPF 30-50 year round and never go out between 10 and 4, and always wear long sleeves and a hat when they do go out. See: Nicole Kidman.
Again, I am just speaking from personal experience. I might know one or two people besides myself who are very intelligent and treat sun exposure like any other medicine or supplement. They take the correct dose on a regular basis, and reap the positive benefits.
All that being said, what’s a person to do in the wintertime? What if I told you that there was a safe tanning bed? Yes, a safe tanning bed. OK… so I can’t guarantee that it’s 100% safe, but I will tell you that I trust it enough to use it on a weekly basis. Instead of re-hashing all of its positive benefits, I will let you read about it here. I will also tell you that I have been using it 2-4x a week for 2 years and my skin has never looked or felt better. I do take regular trips to the dermatologist, as I am not naïve enough to think I can’t get skin cancer. I abused my skin for almost a decade and there is no telling what the long-term consequences of that will be.
Side note: Please take the time to read the WHOLE write-up about the tanning system before bashing or commenting.
So, 20-30 minutes of sun most days of the week in the summertime, 10-12 minutes in my tanning system 2-4 days a week in the wintertime and my skin has never looked better and I feel amazing. Remember, if you do decide to start exposing your skin to the sun, PLEASE slowly work up to it and avoid getting burned at all costs. Like I said, I started with 5-10 minutes in the real sun, and 2-3 minutes in my tanning system.
Last thing, I also want to note that since I started tanning and using my tanning system over 2 years ago, I have only been sick one time, and I used to be at the Doctor 3-6 times a year. Sure, I have made other changes in my diet and supplementation in my journey towards optimal health, but I honestly believe that moderate sun exposure if part of that equation. So, do your research and decide what’s right for you, making sure you weigh all the benefits and potential consequences of conventional sunscreens, self-tanner, and real sun exposure.
6. What I used to think: Training my abs with lots of lumbar spinal flexion and rotation is awesome and will get me strong abs and therefore, a healthy back. Decline sit-ups, crunches, kneeling rope crunches, med ball twists and sprinter sit-ups are some of the best ab exercises ever!
Ahhh…the elusive six-pack…Sure abs are made in the kitchen, but you have to actually HAVE abs underneath the flab to be able to really see them, right? Good thing that I learned all the right moves early on… from decline sit-ups to medicine balls twists to kneeling rope crunches. I did them, my clients did them, and my athletes did them… crunches for everyone! So why then, when I went to see Mike Robertson in January of 2010 for an assessment…did he crush my ego and tell me that I had NO anterior core. :::insert super sad-face here::: (he also said I had no glutes, no hamstrings, and no low traps…but that’s a story for another day). At that point, he introduced me to the REAL function of the core, which is (for the most part) anti-movement and not movement. You see, this really smart dude named Stuart McGill has done just a leeeetle bit of research on the spine, and he has determined that there are much better and safer ways to train the abdominals than sit-ups and crunches. To read more about what Stuart McGill thinks straight from him, read here and here. (There is no point in me trying to regurgitate what you could just read for yourself). Back to the topic, fast forward 2 years and I am setting PR’s all over the place and I haven’t done a sit-up or a crunch in ages! So what does that mean?
What I think now: The core is actually designed for ANTI-movement… anti-extension, anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion, and hip flexion with a neutral spine.
After reading a lot of really cool stuff by McGill and by my Coach, Mike Robertson, and after seeing the results I have gotten with myself, and seeing how much better my client’s lower backs feel after removing loaded flexion and loaded flexion+rotation exercises, I have to agree that training the core for anti-movement seems to bring better results. Does that mean that no one ever got really strong doing sit-ups and crunches and medicine ball twists? Of course not! Plenty of people have done those exercises for a long time and gotten great results with minimal repercussions, I am sure. All I know, is that I have one spine, and only one spine, and if I can get great results by doing exercises that err on the side of caution in regards to the safety of my spine, then that’s what I am going to do. For a more in-depth explanation of the function, of the core, read Mike Robertson’s 21st Century Core Training.