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Cambodia makes Jiu Jitsu History

Jessa Khan makes history as she is the very first athlete to put Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the map. This is a major event for sport in the country and hopefully will give some momentum to young athletes and especially women to pursue a career in sport.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with both Vivadhana Khou and Jessa Khan in their final preparation weeks in which the goals were very clear:

The icing on the cake

 

Let’s make one thing clear: Jessa was already READY when she came in to finalize the strength and conditioning

 

Finalise the strength and conditioning without the athletes getting injured. This, from my perspective is a MAJOR point and is too often overlooked. In the last 2-3 weeks of competition preparation, you won’t get significantly stronger on your squat, deadlift or bench. In other words, there is no significant GAIN in strength that can be translated into better performance on the mat. Pushing it in those weeks, especially after a long camp, will, however, increase the chances of overload and possible injury. The trick here is to work on the “icing on the cake”. Focus during training was a lot more on neuromuscular control, mobility and tensegrity. In other words, how the body and the mind work together.
With the right training dosage and exercises that are challenging without being too stressful on the body, the athletes can prepare safely and arrive on competition day with the ability to perform optimally.

 

Relax the body and the mind

 

Personal Trainer Mark Chen works with Jessa for Asian Games preparation

 

This is where I teamed up with my friend and mentee Sokvat Van. At the start of the preparation, both athletes were screened on existing injuries or risks for injuries by identifying muscles that are possibly overworked.
The talented masseur would unleash his healing hands on the muscles immediately after training and even though the athletes had to grit their teeth at times, came through with a smile and a supple body and mind.

Weight Cut

A lot of effort went into this, by means of water-flushing, sauna, running, Tabatha and all without any water or food intake.

 

Not many people understand how tricky it can be to manipulate your body weight at the right amount at the right time. This is of crucial importance though, since many athletes are on a different weight when they go through their daily life “walk around weight” compared to when they weigh in. Depending on the case, athletes can sometimes drop 5-10kg in a matter of days. This takes an extreme toll on the body and has to be done with a thought-through process.

The actual work

It’s as tempting as it is easy to toot my own horn when it comes to the performances at the Asian games and even though I’m proud, I realize my part of the journey was very small. The real credit belongs to Jessa and her team of coaches that have been able to detect this massive level of and cultivate it.
Another huge part of it is Vivadhanna Khou with his H/art Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy. Not only did he start the momentum of BJJ in Cambodia and get the first Athlete to dominate the Asian games here, no.

He put together a group of like-minded, passionate people who are not only dedicated students but also friends. While he has been “living his dream” building this all, he has dedicated so much time and energy to it that it is hard to even experience the dream.
His effort deserves to be seen and respected.

I’m happy to have been part of this and am excited for what is to come!

 

Want to try BJJ in Phnom Penh?  Here are some reasons why!

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Why you can’t trust Science

 

 

Can we trust Science?

 

I’ve been getting pulled into many discussions regarding health, exercise, and nutrition lately and the trend is clear: Everything needs to be SCIENCE BASED.

This is a good thing, or at the very least, the idea is good.

It’s good to want to support your thoughts and findings with some kind of testing to see if what you’ve seen or done is replicable or that it was just a combination of circumstances.

There are, however, some issues to the current use and limitations of science that I have problems with and I think they’re worth a share so that you are aware of it the next time you read the sentence “Scientific research shows”

1# Cherry Picking

Take an interesting topic on nutrition and it won’t take you long to find 100+ different scientific studies on it. It’s very common for people to pick a scientific study that fits their argument and use that as “proof”. If you don’t have the knowledge, or time, for that matter, to take a good look at what that article actually says, it’s an understandable result to accept that as truth.

You’ll also want to ask yourself the question: who is benefitting from this bit of research? It has happened more than once that scientific studies have been over/underplayed to favor the financer of the study.

 

#2 Science has been wrong more times than it’s been right

Take this example of cholesterol and the drastic dangers of it on your cardiovascular system. It’s a funny explaining video on how Science was wrong on it many times. It’s not that scientific studies are badly done necessarily, there are many other factors in play.
We could have been asking the wrong questions, doing the wrong tests, or didn’t quite have the right instruments to do proper testing -and who says we do now? –

 

#3 Human Errors

Science may sound bulletproof, but it’s still executed by humans. And we make mistakes.  When we have problems that can’t be explained easily we tend to blame stress for pretty much everything but stress is never factored in when it comes to scientific research. Not for the scientists, and not for the participants. But we do make mistakes. Constantly. We make them when remembering facts, with what we are supposed to write down, and sometimes, well, it helps to get paid $50.000 to say something that goes against everything you know is true

#4 Research is not Research

Anecdotal evidence, expert opinions, cross sectional studies, they’re often presented as evidence but the actual value of them in terms of the hierarchy of scientific studies is not very high. There’s a pretty serious change that there are another couple of studies of the same level of reliability that prove the conclusions of yours, wrong. And otherwise, there will probably be one very soon.

 

 

#5 Research can be slow to catch on

 

Sometimes we practice certain principles that are based on scientific research for years, only to find out that it was the wrong approach all along. I touched on that with my 2nd point but here’s another great example on how we’ve overplayed the importance of calories in weight loss. It’s still the most practiced approach (and it does have value) but the point is that only now we are finding that it’s most likely hormones that play a crucial part in weight loss, and not just energy balance. This video is a long one but has very valuable information that might change the way you think about weight loss.

 

As always, I’d love your thoughts about these things. Because I need any insights I can get 🙂

 

Mark

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Burn&Learn III : Fitness Food (Butter Coffee)

 

In this video, you’ll learn why I put butter in my coffee every morning.  You’ll learn if butter is really that bad for you (spoiler alert, it’s not) and why this treat is not only good for your body, but for your brain as well.

Here are some key notes:

  • Bulletproof coffee is a mix of MCT oil, Grassfed Butter and Coffee
  • Brings down appetite, clears brain fog
  • The idea of chewing on coffee beans and animal fat is actually very old
  • Saturated fat is not the enemy it’s made out to be
  • It’s great for Ketosis
  • Ketones are a great fuel for the brain
  • Represses oxidative stress
  • Caffeine boosts ketone production
  • Having carbs with BP coffee is not advisable
  • There’s way more in the Video 🙂

Credit: What I’ve Learned 

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Kettlebell workout: Tabatha I (Difficulty 3/10)

Warmup:

1K Run
10 prison squats
10 backstep lunges
10 Yoga Pushups
3 sets

Workout:

Tabatha 1: KB Deadlift  paired with Plank

Tabatha 2: KB Swing  paired with Pushup

Tabatha 3: Clean and Press paired with KB Row

Tabatha 4: Alternate between normal plank/ side plank

Workout duration : 30-45 minutes

Kettlebell :16/20kg  (Dumbbell optional , change clean and press to Thrusters)

 

 

 

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BJJ: What I’ve learned

Mark Chen
Physiotherapist, Personal trainer, Sports Nutritionist.

 

 

I’ve only been into BJJ for a short time and consider myself an absolute newbie. However, even in the short amount of hours I’ve spent on the mat, there are some interested things I’ve learned from it.

 

 

1. Let go of your ego

I’ve always been pretty good at sports. There’s upsides to this (obviously) which is that I tend to pick up quite fast whenever I undertake some kind of new activity. There’s a downside to it as well ; I expect myself to be good at it.
Now here’s a tricky part because I consider myself above average strong, healthy, flexible and reasonably smart, And that’s the mindset I had when I went into my first training sessions.
Ready to go and more importantly, show these other people how strong I am.
How wrong I was.

-It wasn’t just the fact that I ended up losing my consciousness wanting to be to tough to tap-

No, the most surprising factor to me was how little my strength and fitness could do for me on the mat. No matter what I tried, I ended up getting tied up, strangled and gassed quicker, the harder I went in.
A couple of sessions later I let go of my desire to be better than others and decided instead, to take any session as an opportunity to learn. And you know what?
This change in mindset allows me to relax more (I don’t care about “winning” or “losing” during training) and creates space in my head to actually pick up and learn rather than losing energy on trying to prove myself.

2. People that do BJJ are cool

I’ve experienced before that people practicing martial arts in general are very cool and easy going people. This was the case in Teakwondo, Thaiboxing and Krav Maga. I believe it has something to do with them being centered, at ease with their self, and being able to channel their emotions and energy in a very efficient way. At least, that’s how it works for me. But the athletes I’ve been rolling with since I started are all a level beyond this. They’re not just nice to train with, but friendly people that seem sincerely interested in helping you become better as well. It’s nice to feel welcome and at home at a place where you train.

3. Importance of breathing

More and more I look into breathing, the more I’m seeing the overlooked importance of it. But BJJ kind of “forced” me to address it. Simply put, my first training sessions were borderline panic when it came to sparring.
I felt as if I could do nothing. 

No sense of control, no use of my power, no way out.

And you know what is the absolute worst thing to do in a situation like this?

To stop breathing

Thing is, you need to be made aware of this. So something as simple as my training partner telling me to start breathing and relax instead of struggling around like I was about to be killed, makes a gigantic difference when applied,

  • The stress levels go down significantly
  • Energy management is suddenly an option
  • There is space to think and learn

It’s such an easy thing to forget about but it made a world of difference to me.

This video gives an amazing explanation of why good breathing is such a helpful tool.

4. There is so much more to learn

As I mentioned in the start of this article, I’m a complete newbie to the sport. I feel like I’m presented with an enormous encyclopedia of which I get to read just one page at the time, and need to re-read it time and time again to actually understand it.

But I like that.   I have a feeling this sport will become more and more interesting as I put more time into it and that it what I’ll try to do.

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The 4 Stages of Change

Where does change actually begin?

Does it begin with the actions I take?

Does it begin with results?

Does it begin with other people noticing I’m getting results?

If you want to change

This change begins, by the way that you communicate with yourself

There are four stages to changing

Number 1 is : I should change

And the sad reality is that 99.9% of all people are stuck in that stage

There’s literally people that will spend the rest of their life saying “I should change”

And after 80 or 90 years there are dying , thinking, “I should have changed

How can you overcome that?

You want to get to the next stage: “I can change”

Once you realize change is possible, it opens up many possibilites

Now what gets it to the next level?

” I will change “

And the only step between “I can change” and “I will change”

Is taking action.

So you realize you’re able to change, now is the time to get off your lazy ass and take action

To go out and pimp. To get rejected. To go to the gym. To read everything about finance.

Take, action.

I WILL CHANGE

And the good thing is, it feels good, it feels great taking action.

And the last stage is, I AM CHANGE

And that’s literally one of the best feelings in the world.

 

Source: RSD

 

 

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Supplements: BCAA’s (Review)

 

 

Branched Chain amino acids (BCAA’s ) are not necessarily a very popular supplement. It doesn’t promote enormous strength or muscle gains, muscle-bursting pumps or endless endurance.
It has, however, been around for a very long time and has consistently been a part of any high performance athlete’s supplement stack.

What’s the deal?

BCAA’s are known as “muscle protectors”. So if you work out hard , supplement them and you feel less destructively sore – or less long -then when you didn’t take them, they’ve pretty much done their job.

BCAA’s consist of three essential amino acids;  Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine. They’re essential because the body does not produce them on itself, so we need to get them from food or through supplementation.

The main benefits of supplementing BCAA’s can be summed up like this:

  • Enhanced muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in response to strength training and BCAA supplementation.
  • Improved body weight control and fat loss during energy restricted diets with adequate protein and BCAA.
  • Improved endurance performance via the prevention of central fatigue and/or other factors with BCAA supplementation.

 

Supplement Review: ON BCAA’S

Overall: BCAA’S are “essential amino acids”, building blocks of proteins that the body cannot produce herself. Therefore we need to get them from food or supplementation.
The strength of BCAA’S lies in their ability to protect the breakdown of muscle mass and kicks-tarting the muscle repair.

Effectiveness: I’m definitely less sore and recover quicker than I have on previous workout programs. It’s very hard to say how much of that is attributed to this supplement.

Taste: 6/10 (Raspberry Lemonade) it’s a bit too synthetic for me and a bit too weak at the same time. There’s a “chalky” aftertaste to it as well. Not bad, not good. I’ve had other BCAA’S that were far tastier than this.

Price: 28$ which comes down to about 1$ per scoop.

Would buy again: No

There’s still lots of scientific research being done on the effectiveness for these different mechanisms.

But if you’re ready to learn more take a look at the following links…

https://www.t-nation.com/supplements/bcaa-and-athletic-performance

https://examine.com/supplements/branched-chain-amino-acids/

https://labdoor.com/rankings/bcaa

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Week 2: Progress Update

 

Week 2 Progress:

Weight : 82 KG

Fat % : 14% (-2 %)

Good:

  • Missed 0 Workouts ( Weights 3x, Bjj 2x, Boxing 1x)
  • Increased Weight on all lifts
  • Getting 7+ hours sleep daily
  • No drinking

Needs work:

  • Not eating enough, need more meals
  • Practice patience
  • Fat% still a bit high

Notes:

Everything moves too slow. Which I guess, is a good thing because if my clients are anything like me, they will struggle with this as well. It really helps to keep track of objective progress ( see stat page of 5×5 app ) and imagining what that progress will look like on the broader scale of things.

 

Progress on Big Lifts

 

 

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Mindset: Positive Feedback Loops

During my session with Cheryl, she mentions right at the beginning that she might not be able to workout well.
She’s tired, her sleep quality hasn’t been good and she pulled a muscle in her during gardening work.
I make a note of it, smile at her and say “let’s just see what we can do”. During the workout session, she’s breaking records all over the place.
First, she did full sets with what her 1 rm was 4 weeks ago.
Then she completed double the work of an exercise she struggled with last week.
Last but not least, suddenly she realized that her back wasn’t hurting.

“Actually, I feel a lot better than when I came in”.

I don’t know if this will be the case at the start of the session, but clinical experience shows us that in most cases, it does.
It’s important because this realization creates a positive feedback loop which is the following:

  • I don’t feel good, might not perform well
  • Perform well, or better than expectation
  • Feel good about performance
  • Positive reference for next time when not feeling good
  • Better decision making

As opposed to a negative feedback loop like this:

  • I don’t feel good, might not perform well
  • Decide not to workout
  • Feel bad about not meeting expectations/ Lose progress
  • Lose motivation

Feedback loops

 

Mine, and Cheryl’s takeaway from this:

Especially when in the first 12 weeks of training, it’s important not to give in to expected outcomes that only give you short-term instant gratification. Make decisions based on planning, not on the emotion of the day.
Of course, if you find out that you’re actually hurting or not feeling good during the workout, you can still decide to rest. But at least at that moment you’ve made a decision based on actual feedback of your body and not a projected outcome of the brain.

I’ve been applying this mindset experiment over the last year -not just for fitness purposes- and it has given me great results. Hope it can do the same for you.

Mark



 

 

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10 easy ways to live more healthy

1. You’re not a dog

Stop rewarding yourself with comfort food every time you’ve been a good boy or girl. You are not a dog.
It’s far more productive to reward yourself with good food. Healthy food, good sleep, time to relax or a good massage. Try to establish an upward cycle with habits that increase each other’s value instead of constantly bouncing back and forth between feeling good and feeling guilty.

2. Cut the bullshit

You know how much b******* you are consuming. You know how much sugar you’re getting. How many sodas you’re drinking. How many times you order fries instead of salad on the side. You know it and therefore you know how much of that you could easily cut out to increase the quality of your diet. Take a good and honest look at the amount of stuff that doesn’t add anything of value to your diet and just cut it out.

3. Eat close to nature

The current paleo diet has a lot of things good about it. Most of the things that you’ll be eating and that diet are close to Nature.
So that means you’re either eating something that “had parents” or something that comes pretty directly from the ground. Think meats, fish, eggs, nuts, vegetables.. pretty much all types of a food with a high nutrient density.
Try to stay away of processed foods because usually with the processing comes a lot of addition that you don’t really need. Think about additives for scent, taste enhancers, preservatives, sugars or transfats. The closer you eat to nature the more you remove these unwanted additions from your diet.

4. Watch your calories

Calories in vs. Calories out remains one of the biggest parameters to take control of your diet. The basic Science is quite simple; As long as you consume more than you burn, you gain weight. The moment you consume less then you burn, you lose weight. The challenge is to find the sweet spot between what your body needs for maintenance and for activity.  Though this may seem like a challenge, it is actually quite easy to figure this out. Just download a calorie tracker and use it to note down everything you eat for a week or two and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you’re doing. Measure and make changes from there.

5. Rev up

Ramp up your engine.  Your metabolism has a very big impact on your health and your body composition. You need to try to rev up metabolism of the body to make sure all the body-building processes take place in the right amount, at the right time. When you’re sitting down for a couple of hours, everything slows down inside the body as well.  There’s a lot of ways you can rev up your metabolism but a good first thing to just start moving more.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take the bicycle instead of the motorbike. Go for a walk instead  instead of bingeing on Netflix. This is not rocket science guys.

6. Short shelf life

Next time you’re out for groceries, try to make sure you aim a for food that doesn’t hold for longer than 2 weeks. This brings us back to the point I made before on eating closer to nature. As long as you make sure you only buy products that have a short shelf life, you’ll make sure that you take a lot of the processed b******* out of your diet. So pay attention next time you go shopping and only take products with a short shelf life. A good diet starts with good shopping.

7. Cut down the toxins

 

Toxins are the opposite of micro-nutrients. Instead of building the body and supporting the immune system they basically sabotage the entire system. They mess with your hormone system , immunesystem and with your mood. These toxins include the more obvious ones like alcohol, tobacco and sugar but also think about additives in food like BPA and phtalates.
Check this T-nation article for more info https://www.t-nation.com/living/fight-the-t-killing-toxins

8. Pull out the sweet tooth

Try to watch your brain and see how dependent you actually are on the nice feeling you get from getting a sugary rush. A lot of people don’t know this, but they’re actually addicted to sugar. Sugar has a comparable effect on the brain as cocaine does. It triggers a strong response in the reward system and the more often you trigger this reward system, the more often you get a “call” for more this good feeling. Long term, this means that usually you won’t even actually need or want the food that you suddenly crave. It’s more that your brain is being hard-wired to tell you that it wants the reward. So it’s your job to start to recognize these signals and start to ignore them to make sure the addictive signals start to wear thin and eventually disappear.

9. More veggies

Double or triple the amount of veggies that you eat. Truth is, it’s very difficult to get too many vegetables – or even enough – in your daily diet and there’s many reasons to put more into your diet.  Think about the enormous nutrient density, the amount of minerals and vitamins that you’re getting and the amount of fiber. It also makes you feel  full you up so that you don’t get trapped into eating junk. The more vegetables you eat, the more nutrients, the less likely you’ll eat crap.

10. Water

Drink water. Lots and lots of water.  Don’t forget, roughly 80% of the body is made up out of water.  I don’t understand how so many people fail to get enough water. There’s plenty and you can get it everywhere. And every little bit extra makes sure that all the processes in your body run more efficiently. You’ll feel better, you’ll move better, you’ll recover better, you’ll sleep better. Plus. because the stomach is more full you won’t be as hungry and  tempted to make bad food choices. Check your water intake and if you don’t get enough, up it. Get a glass of water right now.