Kefir, HIT and a Touch More Volume

I thought I would post a quick fitness update. I may have stumbled upon the secret sauce for ectomorphs trying to gain muscle. Well at least for me. Last August, I posted Is High Intensity Training Best for Ectomorphs? where I revisited the great book Body By Science and how ectomorphs might respond better to increase volume.

Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week

In order to increase the volume, I needed to decrease intensity. This turned out not to be a hard decision to make. My Glitter Gym keeps the temperature too damn high, so I’m unable to generate the intensity I am capable of doing the cool outdoors or in a real HIT gym. So I dropped the intensity and added some volume. Not too much, usually I’d just spread the intensity across 2 sets instead of one. Those looking for precise numbers, won’t get them from me. See the post Reps, Sets and the Weight Aren’t that Important for why I no longer track any metrics and just focus on intensity.

Although the volume is greater and intensity is decreased, I am still doing the same exercises. Machines based movements such as the leg press, chest press, row and pull down performed slowly with static holds. I also do chin-ups and a shoulder press. I don’t do any bench presses, squats, dead lifts or other compound movements. Machines allow me to really slow down the movement and take out the momentum in a safe manner.

A typical week will have 1 or 2 workouts of about 20 minutes each, with 2-3 minutes of rest of between exercises. No rest between 2 set exercises.

The Magic of Kefir

In January I started to believe that dairy kefir was anabolic. Now I am more convinced. On most days I drink a pint. On workout days, I might drink more. Sometimes I blend in frozen blueberries or I might drink it plain. I don’t know what is going on, but I estimate that I’ve gained 10 pounds of muscle in the past year. I started the quest using ice cream, but switched over to kefir in December. For an ectomorph that has been lifting since 1994, that is an impressive number.

Fellow experimenter Richard at FreeTheAnimal is using dairy kefir to both lean out and gain muscle. If it possible to both gain muscle and lean out on kefir, then maybe a calorie isn’t a calorie? :o Perhaps an anabolic score could be established? Kefir and ice cream at the top. Beer and tofu at the bottom. :)

The Secret Sauce So Far

Here are the elements that I think provide the greatest bang for muscle gain for ectomorphs.

  1. HIT with a slight increase in volume and decrease in intensity.
  2. Drink dairy kefir or eat ice cream. You need a caloric surplus to gain muscle. These foods are ideal. Those that don’t like dairy can use coconut milk or cream.
  3. Machine based movements done slowly with static holds. Those without a gym can do my Outdoor HIT or the HillFit workout.
  4. Slow walks are fine, however excess cardio will make it harder to gain size.
  5. Avoid injury at all costs. This means don’t engage in skill based fatiguing movements (bench, squat). Especially those performed quickly (CrossFit).
  6. Be patient.

Making Dairy Kefir is Super Easy

I started making dairy kefir again in December and I’m loving it. Not only do I like the taste, but I’m no longer buying containers of yogurt, which means I’m saving money. And unlike the crap kefir products sold at Whole Fools and other grocery stores, I don’t use low-fat milk. Full fat dairy for me! Just be sure NOT to buy ultra-pasteurized. Regular pasteurized or raw is what the kefir grains want.

Once you’ve acquired some kefir grains, you’ll need a jar and a non-metal strainer. Unlike yogurt which requires a temperature range of 105°F to 112°F, kefir ferments just fine at room temperature.

Making dairy kefir is super easy if you have good grains. Here are the basic instructions on how it is done.

#1 Add Grains To Empty Jar

I don’t measure anything. I’ve used between 50 grams and 100 grams. It all works.

Milk kefir

#2 Add Milk, Cover and Wait

Fill jar with milk. Don’t use ultra-pasteurized. Cover with lid, but not too tight and then wait 1-3 days. The ferment is finished when the kefir is as thick is you like. Ferments will go faster in a warm kitchen and slower when it is cold. If your kitchen is too cold, then sitting the jar on a heating pad set on low might jump start the ferment.

milk kefir ferment

#3 Filter and Jar

Once the kefir is ready, grab your non-metal filter and separate. Jar the kefir and place in the refrigerator. As for the grains, start your next ferment. If you don’t need to start the next ferment, place the grains in a jar with a small amount of milk, cover and place in the frig.

filter kefir

kefir grains

#4 Drink

I like drinking kefir plain or as a smoothie with blended blueberries.

Troubleshooting and Sourcing

If you are having trouble with your kefir, check out this FAQ. The basic rule I use for ferments that are slow is to increase the temperature. A heating pad can kick start ferments in cold kitchens.

As for sourcing, I got my most recent grains locally. These grains are growing about 10% in size with every ferment, which means I’ve been able to give grains away to friends here in Seattle. If you aren’t a Seattle friend, have no fear, it looks like Amazon is selling grains. The link below is a from Lifetime Kefir, which has good reviews

Kefir Grains – Living Probiotic Enriched

Kefir, Caffeine and Trigger Point Therapy

I’ve got three health items on my mind today.

Is Dairy Kefir Anabolic?

About a month ago I started making dairy kefir again. I stopped making kefir a year ago when I started getting a reaction to water kefir. Then I learned about the high level of histamines, which may have been triggering some of my headaches. I started The Low Histamine Diet last May and did it for over a month. Seems I didn’t post a follow-up. The results were that greatly reducing histamine levels did not help with my headaches. I forgot all about kefir.

Then a friend of mine started making kefir. He offered grains to me. My initial thought was the headaches I got from kefir, but that was water kefir. I never had an issue with dairy kefir, so I started making the dairy ferment once again. And I am loving it. My kefir tastes great and I’m even mixing in a little half and half to get a thicker texture.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed in the last month is that I may have gained some muscle. This was unexpected, as my workouts have not been that intense recently. I’ve often read how milk is anabolic, but I haven’t really drank much since I was a child. Kefir should be equally anabolic. Who knows? I’ll keep drinking it.

Caffeine Might Be Making Me Jittery

It appears I am going to have to really cut back on caffeine again. My plan was to survive on a lower level until spring and then do a longer detox. Even though I’m consuming half the caffeine I did prior to my October 2012 detox, I am finding myself feeling jittery. I’ve never felt jittery on caffeine before.

The good new is cutting back on caffeine should be much easier than the last time.

Unsure about Trigger Point Therapy

In the post Help Me Fix My Neck and Shoulders, one of the ideas in the comments was Trigger Point Therapy. I am new to this topic, so I got a few books from the library. The books showed me where I could apply pressure to relieve tightness in my neck and shoulders. Although my neck and shoulders weren’t in terrible shape, I had been interested in loosening up that area to provide more free movement.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition by Clair Davies

Using the books, I was able to locate the points, apply pressure and feel what felt like knots loosening up. So at first, it appears this stuff was working. The problem I experienced was the tightness kept returning and it felt like it was getting worse. The more time I spent doing Trigger Point Therapy, the better I felt in the short term, but the tighter I felt later. This is when I thought about Dr. John Sarno and and my battle with back pain.

I posted on Dr. Sarno in The Psychology of Back Pain.

Dr. John Sarno specializes in patients that deal with chronic back pain. He believes that stress is the major cause of back pain. When we go through periods of chronic stress, the brain uses a diversion tactic to protect us emotionally. That diversion is to manifest REAL PHYSICAL pain, often in the lower back region. The pain is real. It is not in our head. The roots however are psychological.

One of recommendations Dr. Sarno tells his patients is to stop all forms of treatment, because that treatment is validating the physical manifestation of the pain. It does nothing to address its roots. When I began to suspect that Trigger Point Therapy was making my neck worse in the same manner, I stopped it. Within a few days, my neck felt better on its own. Not perfect, but back where I started.

I can see where Trigger Point Therapy might help with injuries. See Foam Rolling & Trigger Point Activation on Biohacks for one example.

Last Words

So I’m loving the dairy kefir, cutting back on caffeine and stopping the Trigger Point Therapy. Love to hear your thoughts.

Nourishing Kitchen

This morning I looked around my kitchen and saw just how far down the path of nourishing food I’ve gone. Nourishing is a term I borrowed from the Sally Fallon book Nourishing Traditions. It is a cookbook that teaches you how to prepare food in the manner that cultures did prior to modern times. Our ancestors knew out how to prepare meals in a healthy manner without microwaves or even refrigeration. It is time we relearned that knowledge.

Let me take you on a mini tour of my kitchen to explain what I mean.

Soaking and Drying Almonds

Almonds and other nuts have anti-nutrient properties called enzyme inhibitors that can be tough on your digestive system. By soaking nuts overnight in water with a little sea salt, you can neutralize those enzyme inhibitors. This action leads to increase in vitamin absorption.

Source: The Nourishing Gourmet – Soaking Nuts

The almonds are drying in a food dehydrator and will be ready tomorrow morning. That is when I’ll be doing pecans!

Kombucha – Continuous Brewer

Kombucha is a fermented tea with a trace amount of alcohol. Besides being a refreshing beverage it is believed to have health benefits including probiotics.

Can you see the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)?

Kimchi

I’ve been making kimchi for months. I love it. I’m currently on the last day of my latest fermentation. I ran out of Korean dried chili flakes, so I tried some Thai chili peppers in this one.

Sprouting Garbanzo Beans

Beans are loaded with anti-nutrients. Too much for this post, but the way to prepare beans is to get the beans to lower their plant defenses so the nutrients can be absorbed. Primitive cultures have figured out that soaking and sprouting beans accomplishes this. I am going to make some hummus tomorrow. I expect these garbanzo beans will be sprouting by then.

(UPDATE 9/4/2010) Warning: kidney and soy beans are toxic when sprouted.

Waking Up My Kefir Grains

Frequent commenter DHammy recently sent me some kefir grains. My first batch was a little thin. My second batch was better. Later today I will start batch number 3. Third time is a charm, right? Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is loaded with many strains of healthy bacteria. I’ve heard of people that have had amazing health benefits after adding kefir to their diet. Kefir is the extreme version of yogurt.

Why?

Our food is too dead and too processed. Learning how to prepare foods in a traditional manner and how to restore positive gut flora will help your health. Two books that will help you on this journey are Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation.