Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Systema for Real-Life Martial Arts

I've been taking an interest in a Russian martial art called Systema. It is apparently growing in popularity in the U.S. since the Iron Curtain came down over a decade ago. What I like about it is that, as the martial art of of Russian special forces, it's a no-B.S. art that equips a person to be prepared for real-life encounters and it prepares you quickly. While I have great respect for the discipline and training required to master the traditional martial arts of the orient, I think military martial arts offer an individual accelerated training to be able to handle a situtation on the street--a skill that every honest Joe should have. To get started in your systema training, there are lots of videos on YouTube. Here's one of my favorites, dealing with getting the bad guy before he gets you:

BTW, for those of you into martial arts, Pavel has a great set of training videos geared to ramp up your martial power and really put a hurt on your opponents:

Martial Power: Hard-Hitting Combat Secrets from the Russian Special Ops

Here's what one reviewer said about the videos:
"This is one badass intensive martial arts power training video. I would recommand this video to anyone who is discipline enough to handle this explosive lantern of power." Onebadhero - North Carolina, NC USA

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Does Low-Carb Stress You Out?

I came across an interesting book recently that I thought I would share with you all, because it provokes some interesting thought on how food affects our moods and why some people may have trouble maintaining certain kinds of diets.

The book is Peak Performance Living: Easy, Drug-Free Ways to Alter Your Own Brain Chemistry for Improved Productivity, Greater Energy, Sharper Thinking, Optimal Health. It's writen by Dr. Joel Robertson. Published in 1996, it's a bit of an older book, but contains some intriguing ideas.

What I really like about this book is that it doesn't treat everybody as being the same. Robertson recognizes that people respond differently to environments, food, and activity differently, depending on their personality and what they are mentally, emotionally and physically accustomed to. Robertson's theory is that people have different neurochemical persnoalities. That is, they are most comfortable when their seratonin, dopamine and other neurochemicals that slow or speed up neurotransmission are at certain levels. Some people like high levels of dopamine that make them energetic and don't like high levels of seratonin, which makes them feel sluggish. On the other hand, some people get agitated and stressed out when dopamine levels are high and prefer the ability to concentrate that high seratonin levels afford them. Robertson identifies nine neurochemical personality types and their preferred balance of neurochemicals.

Why am I talking about this in a health and fitness blog? Because, according to Robertson, the easiest way to achieve your most comfortable level of neurochemistry is through food and exercise. Here's the jist of it: proteins boost dopamine and similar chemicals, thus giving you a boost of energy and accelerating performance; meanwhile, carbohydrates boost seratonin and provide a satiated feeling and improving concentration. Moderate exercise, Robertson says, will boost dopamine and energize you, while exhaustive exercise boosts dopamine temporarily, but then exhausts it and boosts seratonin. Bottom line is if you need an energy boost, eat protein and exercise lightly, but if you want to relax or concentrate, eat carbs and exercise until you can't stand upright (my translation).

Since we live in a performance-based society and getting more things done and having more energy always seems like a good idea, it would seem that Robertson's theories would support a low-carbohydrate/hgh-protein diet. But hang on a minute. If some people actually get stressed out from high dopamine levels--and Robertson indicates this stress can get pretty severe, then a low-carb diet is likely to be unproductive for personalities that have a preference for feeling satiated and comfortable. For these people, a high-protein/low-carb diet would just put them on edge and the resulting stress would eventually impair their ability to function at an optimum level. Also, if high dopamine levels can make it hard to concentrate, then there are obviously times when having high seratonin levels and eating a few carbs are beneficial to the performance factor.

Now, I'm neither a proponent nor opponent of healthy low-carb diets. But I think that it's well worth considering that some people will have more trouble than other adapting to a low-carb/high-protein diet because of their neurochemical personality. A person who gets stressed out by high dopamine levels is going to have a difficult time with such a diet compared to somebody who loves the adrenaline rush and likes to go-go-go. Although Robertson doesn't specifically address low-carb diets, his theories seem to suggest that high-seratonin-type people, which he calls "satiation personalities", who want to lose weight should focus more and reducing fat intake and refrain from consuming excessive carbs rather than eliminating grain-based carbs altogether. And while these folks may not find exercise enjoyable, they're likely to prefer the end result of exhaustive-type exercise more than the energy boost from light exercise.

I don't mean to vouch for Robertson's credibility or suggest that his theories are the be-all end-all of neurochemistry and diet. But the individuality of a person plays a siginificant role in their ability to lose weight, build muscle and perform. So I think this idea is worth taking a look at. Robertson's book is available at Amazon.com if you want to take a look.