Some like it hot! As your summer heats up, spice up your burger game with these turkey piri piri burgers. Ground turkey is a fairly neutral tasting lean meat that easily takes on the savory profile of the spices you add to it so it’s the perfect base for a spiced burger that brings the heat to your table.
This burger uses the heat of piri piri peppers in combination with cumin, coriander, and garlic to round out the taste profile. Piri piri peppers are a medium hot spiced pepper falling above a jalapeño on the heat scale and just below habanero. If you can’t find piri piri pepper or piri piri hot sauce, use Tabasco or a habanero based hot sauce for heat.
For a healthy and delicious low carb alternative to a bun, grill up some red bell pepper halves until lightly charred but still somewhat firm so they remain hand holdable. Grilling the peppers brings out a sweet smoky flavor that is the perfect complement to the piri piri pepper and spices in the burger. Other non-bun alternatives you could use include lightly grilled slices of summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potato, tomato ends, or lettuce wraps. Top these off with spicy mayo, cilantro, and red onion for a tasty turkey burger!
Turkey Piri Piri Burgers
Calories 403, Protein 23g, Total Carbs 8g, Fat 31g
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min
- 1 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
- 1 teaspoon minced piri piri peppers, piri piri hot sauce, or hot chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Spicy mayo (combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon hot piri piri pepper sauce or habanero hot sauce)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 red onion, sliced into rings
- 4-5 red bell peppers cored and cut into large burger size chunks (about half a pepper per each side of the bun) and grilled lightly
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat.
- Combine the ground turkey with the spices until well mixed.
- Form into 4-5 burgers and grill about 5 minutes per side until cooked through.
- While burgers are cooking, prepare the toppings and set aside.
- Grill the red pepper pieces until lightly charred on each side but still firm, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Assemble burger with toppings between the grilled pepper pieces.
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Humanity delights in the idea of a challenge. We are fascinated by iconoclasts like Wim Hof who push the limits of what our bodies are capable. Something deep within us yearns to test our boundaries—to enter the challenge in pursuit of becoming something greater.
That is why we all dream and scheme about the challenges we plan to take on—January’s newest 60-day extreme fitness program, daily cold showers, the RKC, or building up to conquer a triathlon. The planning is the fun part. Separated from the trial, our emotions are swept away by the glory of triumph and overcoming. We feel only the power, strength, and confidence that would be the end result, without a true accounting of the price that must be paid.
This is helpful for getting us where we need to be. We need the passion of our emotions and our deepest desires for growth to fuel us towards greater heights. Yet, emotion alone will be insufficient. As anyone who has been through these trials knows, emotion might get us there, but it is the first force to whisper “quit”—and before long it is yelling.
Emotion, Logic, and Self-Mastery
Emotions are often demonized as the great saboteur of our better angels. We’d all be toned, fit, wise, and endlessly patient if it weren’t for those pesky emotions, right? Wrong. Absent of emotion we would never strive valiantly.
We’d never have the desire to improve in the first place. We’d sit and scroll honoring the biological imperative to conserve energy. You see, emotion is irrational and extremely short-sighted, but it’s still usually in control. Our logical brain must funnel and harness our emotions so that we find ourselves in a position to rise to the occasion.
For more guidance on how to master the interplay between your logical and emotional mind to act as you’d like to act, I recommend my free e-book, The Essential Guide to Self-Mastery.
Logically, the gut check makes perfect sense. Enter temporary pain for far greater long-term health, confidence, physical vigor, and happiness. Consistently overcome temporary adversity in order to become who you want to be. It’s important to stoke those innermost desires to be more. All of us yearns for significance, competence, and greater capability.
As kids, we want to be superheroes and sports stars. We dream of valiant, ground-breaking performances. From our earliest years, we are striving to model our parents—the first superheroes in our lives. We need continual growth and we know it. That is why the prospect of a force of will—a rite of passage—is deeply attractive to our minds.
Say emotion and logic have fueled you to plan that gut check. Perhaps it is the daily micro-gut check like a cold shower or a grander gut-check like the 5-minute kettlebell snatch test, a Crossfit Fran, or a marathon. Regardless, emotion may have got you here, but it is entirely insufficient to see you through. Two factors will determine your success more than anything: progression and practice.
Progression and Practice
You can’t bite off too much to chew initially. Sure, mothers lift cars to save kids and other amazing headlines, but absent of a life or death scenario your capacity to gut yourself through a physical challenge is limited by your current level. Too much too quickly may lead you to quit. Emotions perceive only relativity.
If action is too drastic initially it will be mentally categorized along with burns, broken bones, and other stuff you never want to have happen again. Any future thoughts will be accompanied by terror. Many swimmers have been held back for years by such experiences.
The utility of the gut check is actually to slowly inoculate yourself to such fears so you can be in control of your actions. Thus, for some just showing up and doing a short, simple bodyweight routine each day is the ideal practice for their current level of willpower.
You want to start with some frequent, attainable yet challenging gut checks. When I was training for the RKC 5-minute kettlebell snatch test, I made every Saturday a test day. Week one I did as many snatches as possible in two minutes. Week two was two and a half minutes. Week three was three minutes, and I continued in this fashion until I got to five minutes.
Once I was doing five-minute snatch tests, the goal was to improve how fast I could do 100 snatches each week. I would never say it became easy and I never looked forward to this challenge, but by progressing I ensured that my body and mind were capable. Quitting in the middle of a test, therefore, was never an option.
There are experiences exempt from the progression rule. Anyone can take a cold shower. You just step in. Still, many people have to work up to this by chasing other disciplines first and time in the shower could be progressed.
We should also be wary of setting the bar too low for too long. While progressing intensity makes sense, it is easy to limit ourselves with low expectations particularly in the absence of social pressure. For example, I was stalled in the upper 140’s and lower 150’s for my five-minute kettlebell swings test for months. I’d conceded 155 was my limit. Then one day my wife jumped in and did 157 at the women’s test size. I now never put the bell down and always hit above 190.
The Tabata protocol is a perfect place to start progressing towards a gut check. A Tabata is eight rounds of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off. You could pick a simple exercise like lunges, glute bridges, or bear walks, or make it more challenging as bear crawls, push-ups, or even front squats.
It all depends on your level, but the point is to do one or two a week so you build experience facing the strong emotions that accompany physical discomfort. Slowly, you build the habit of entering discomfort every time it is planned.
This is the point. The gut check is a vital life practice. We improve through practice. Willpower is an unbelievably powerful quality. It can and should be trained like any muscle and skill. In fact, I don’t know anything more important to train. Of all the benefits of exercise, this is the most important: to consistently confront adversity and grow from that process.
When Your Mind Turns on You
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
Regardless of how impressive your planning and progression, there is no escaping one reality of the gut check: it is going to suck. Progression will help you build up to that suck, but it’s important to know going in. No level of experience softens the pain.
However, by analyzing the stages of this suck and learning a bit more about how your emotions work, you can be far better able to thrive despite your pain. Below, I’ll detail what you can expect to encounter, followed by a mental approach that you can practice to become stronger in the face of pain.
The Stages of the Gut Check
- Planning: We tend to delight in the prospect of planning where we are focused only on who we are becoming. It’s as if our craving for growth knows it must bring exaggerated enthusiasm in order to reach the treachery that is to follow. Somehow we imagine ourselves like a Clydesdale, executing with inhuman stamina and grace. This stage, unfortunately, only occurs once. For repeated gut checks it is replaced by a longer, more intense second phase.
- Dread: The realization of the pain that is to come. The first time you do a gut check this is likely short and mild, buffered by sweet naivety. For repeat customers, this dread can become obsessive in the minutes leading up to the challenge. Through time and exposure, however, dread recedes.
- Beginning: You start the challenge. Immediately upon submersion into my challenge, I am usually flooded with thoughts:
“Steady and smooth just like this.”
“Control your breath.”
“Wedgie. Dang it! I knew I shouldn’t have worn these shorts.”
“My grip feels a little weak today.”
“I slept well. Thought I’d be fresher.”
“Maybe if I breathe with my mouth open it will feel better.”
“There is phlegm in my throat. I need to cough”
“Damn, I’m not even a quarter of the way there.”
“Oh crap. What did I get myself into?”
- Survival Mode: It now officially sucks. As the philosopher, Mike Tyson observed, “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.” At this point, self-talk can get even more rapid and extreme as the mind desperately looks for distractions and tricks to make things better. Every ounce of wimp within you will surface, trying to replace your resolve with a docile victimized passivity. You may even strongly consider quitting. There are intermittent bursts of encouragement when you realize you are close to finishing, but these are quickly clouded by the intensity of the experience.
- It Ends: You catch your breath, often too dramatically.
“Observation and perception are two different things. The observing eye is stronger. The perceiving eye is weaker.”
While these are typical responses, there are many breakthroughs that come over time. By frequently revisiting gut checks and practicing a meditative approach, we can learn to change our mental dialogue. Meditation teaches you to be present letting your judgments and ruminations about bad and good go as you observe the moment.
You learn to take each moment as it is and let go of the need to fight pain away. I always think of meditation as a state of non-dialogue. Thoughts will come and go, but rather than entertain them I remain in the moment. Rather than trying to distract from the moment, you lean into experience.
The goal in all performance is what is referred to in Zen as Mushin, or mind without mind. Mushin is flow—complete immersion with the moment. There is no wishing or wanting for the future. Objectives are internalized to such a degree that the conscious mind is completely lost as the unconscious navigates the practiced details and adapts as necessary.
The default response is to fight the pain away. The objective is to lean into the pain and embrace it. This is not done with self-talk but practice. Jump into a cold shower and release the mind. Swing a bell to exhaustion and watch the fatigue build. Most of our pain is in the future.
You certainly notice sensations in the present, but they don’t become painful or deeply unsettling without the mental conjecture about what is left to come. At a certain point, you realize the experience isn’t getting more painful. It is similar to hunger. Pain doesn’t just continue to grow at a steady rate, it plateaus. You just have to endure, moment by moment.
Endure the Discomfort
This all sounds great, but it is much easier said than done. I’ve been a pretty consistent meditator for five years and I’m only marginally better at applying these principles. In part, that is because I’ve only recently realized the obvious connection between meditation practice and physical adversity.
Mindfulness is hard to apply in the middle of intense emotion. The mind clings to thoughts like life rafts. I’ve noticed when I let them go and try to remain present in the middle of a gut check, I start to notice the markers of anxiety—itchiness in the back of my neck and an odd tingling on my head. These subside, however, and I grow stronger from the presence. Of course, I slip back and forth from presence to mental dialogue, often without realizing, but overall there has been great progress.
One fine gut-check, while in the middle of my 5-minute swings test it finally occurred to me that I was completely fine. I had stayed far more present this morning. Rather than constantly ruminating about where I was in the process—about how much more was left and how uncomfortable it was already—I was just swinging.
Then a funny thought hit me. This really isn’t so bad. I started to notice how easy I was breathing—far easier than normal when I’d created anxiety with speculation. I let that easy breath anchor me home and somehow seemed to gain strength as I went along. This new mental plane has not become the norm, but I am working in that direction.
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This is one of many interviews that you can binge-listen on the Six Pack of Knowledge podcast page. Our guest for this episode is Michael Goulden. Michael is a personal trainer and he founded his training facility, Integra way back in 1997.
Since then he has been integrating exercise mechanics with neuromuscular preparation to create a uniquely sustainable approach to health, fitness, and performance. On top of this, he has gone on to become one of the leading fitness educators in the UK.
In this episode, we take a deep dive into all things exercise mechanics. Within the conversation, we discuss the importance of exercise mechanics on training efficiency. We look at considerations for individualizing the process, especially active versus passive training modalities. This leads to matching exercises and programs to goals and providing a full contractile range challenge to muscles.
If you enjoyed this podcast and took value from it, please rate and review to help us spread the word to motivate and inspire others to take their performance to the next level. Again, for more podcasts like this, visit the Six Pack of Knowledge page.
If you are interested in being on the podcast or want to suggest future guests, feel free to DM me on Instagram @tommaccormick or send an email to info at breakingmuscle.com. If you want to work with me directly on applying the knowledge you gain here in your personal training, visit the Tom MacCormick website.
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The supplement industry isn’t regulated by the FDA. Unfortunately, it leaves very little to be trusted because the supplement industry as a whole isn’t exactly forthcoming with information. Having had a frightening discussion with my gastroenterologist about the use of pre-workout and certain protein powders, I swore to stay off of anything remotely close to what I was taking before. After reading a plethora of books such as The Zane Body, Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Bernardot, and many research articles, I produced what I believe is a trustworthy list to live by. Summer is fast approaching and everyone has goals they want to reach safely while maintaining health for the long-term.
Supplementation isn’t a replacement for hard work. Supplementation is something you need to trust yourself with and utilize to its maximal potential in conjunction with nutrition that supports your goals. As I prepped for a contest, the following supplements proved to help me in ways that I cannot imagine. These supplements are all derived from animals and/or plants and thus synthetic production isn’t a worry here.
Beneficial Supplementation: Caffeine
Caffeine is one of the most researched supplements to date. Caffeine proves to be useful in boosting energy, and its thermogenic properties assist like a great pre-workout supplement option. Instead of taking a proprietary blend, this is a great alternative. Many may be concerned about kidney fatigue or adrenal fatigue with the regular use of caffeine, but that is an unfounded claim. The origin of this claim is derived from a misnomer regarding sympathetic stimulation for prolonged periods of time and spikes in cortisol.
The adrenal glands produce epinephrine which is responsible for the fight or flight response. A synthetic drug called ephedrine (in high doses/prolonged use) can cause the adrenal glands to reduce in size because the body recognizes this as the same hormone, thus creating a negative feedback loop. Where caffeine’s “wired” effect comes into play is related to dose dependency. Earlier research explained that 250mg doses are responsible for “…elation, pleasantness, and peacefulness,” whereas supramaximal doses, such as doses over 500mg, may be responsible for “…tension, nervousness, irritability, palpitations (caffeine increases blood pressure), and restlessness.”
Thermogenic properties of caffeine are, in part, due to “..triglyceride and lactate production and increased vascular smooth muscle tone.” I suggest that due to this reasoning that taking caffeine prior to a training session is best. This translates to a slight preference of the use of free fatty acid for oxidation in order to produce energy and an increased likelihood of lactate being a metabolic driving force to create hypertrophy within skeletal muscle.
Tip—caffeine should be used in training approximately 30 minutes prior in order to notice effects. Like any drug, there is a half-life, which is the amount of time for a drug to reach half its amount. For those who are caffeine sensitive (slow metabolizers of caffeine) cutting the dose to 250mg or taking earlier on in the day is recommended.
Beneficial Supplementation: Acetyl-L Carnitine and Carnitine
As Sahlin explains, carnitine has been proven to alter muscle metabolism during training by inducing glycogen sparing effect and second reducing pyruvate dehydrogenase complex activity by allowing lipid to be utilized more than carbohydrate (CHO). What may be most useful to the average consumer is its ability to increase work output by approximately 11%.
Its partner acetyl-l carnitine, in conjunction with linoleic acid, has been shown in a study to improve lipid oxidation in mitochondria and improve serum levels of lipid throughout the vasculature of the rats. As for my personal findings, I have found increased concentration, decreased fatigue, and improved working capacity pre-training. More studies need to be conducted in terms of the long-term effects of acetyl-l carnitine, however, based on labwork done and overall changes to my physique, regular use has proven to be beneficial.
Tip—this supplement can also be taken pre-workout in concert with caffeine.
Beneficial Supplementation: Racemic-Alpha Lipoic Acid
Both an antioxidant and lipid metabolizer, this supplement is a two for one special. Its brother alpha-lipoic acid is also useful but R-ALA is the most active form. Its role in fat loss is based on its ability to be a helper (co-factor) in mitochondrial oxidation processes. In addition, there are a few pilot studies that show retardation of Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis in conjunction with exercise.
The reason for supplementation (in addition to many of these options), is that the food derivative (aside from caffeine) does not produce detectable increases of free lipoic acid in human plasma or cells. In short, eating large amounts of meat and fish is not an advisable option to obtain these same values.
Tip—this supplement is best taken on an empty stomach to increase absorption.
Beneficial Supplementation: Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Safflower oil has been studied in its lipolytic properties. A few forms such as nanoemulisfied exist but the most common form is not and will provide the same effect. There are anti-obesity effects of CLA, more importantly, the increase of leptin levels post feeding. This helps to promote satiation naturally, thus during a cutting phase you are likely to remain in caloric deficit. Additional research shows that up to six months the best results of CLA are exhibited. At approximately two years of chronic use, it reaches a plateau. This indirectly suggests that it should be cycled. As far as a proper cycling schedule, it isn’t well studied. However, if your goal is to shred for the summer, I suggest starting out at least three months in advance.
Tip—3 grams (and up to 6 grams) has been proven to be most useful in obtaining a modest result. Combining this supplement with cardio has proved to increase the thermogenic properties it also carries.
Beneficial Supplementation: Chitosan
Chitosan is shellfish fiber. More specifically, the outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp. It is used in medicine to treat obesity, high cholesterol, and Crohn’s disease—as such it is safe to use. More specifically, the ability to absorb digested carbohydrates is of greater importance. Maximizing caloric intake is always a plus during a cut and formulating the right group of supplements to maintain muscle mass and reduce addition of adipose tissue is key.
Beneficial Supplementation: Curcumin
Curcumin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that is far better than NSAIDS for discomfort—and far less toxic. As you train hard the body creates micro-tears in muscle and a build of lactate occurs. This is a fairly understood concept. Beta-oxidation of free fatty acids occurs—sometimes also ketosis. This nutrient found in turmeric is highly recommended for individuals who train on a regular basis to help decrease problematic inflammation and pain associated with training and recovery. NSAIDS comparatively have been more damaging on the liver and kidneys when used for the same length of time. I have found curcumin helps my clients who complain of arthritis during squatting and deadlifting, respectively.
Dependency Is the Enemy
As to any supplement in this industry, dependency is the enemy—focused utilization is the goal. Choose a food first approach and the body will thank you. Always listen to your body and make scientific decisions by consulting with your physician for routine bloodwork as a guideline for supplementation, not the defining factor. Lift with love my friends!
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Lighten up your summer eating with this chickpea based vegetarian burger. Mixed up with a compliment of Italian seasonings, these chickpea patties bring a bit of pizzaz to your table while providing protein and fiber. One of the problems I’ve come across when making vegetarian burgers is that they tend to be more of a challenge to hold together because the legume base is a lower fat content than using meat. In order to allow this burger to be pressed together and remain moist, ground flaxseed and olive oil are added. Flax is a great emulsifier and helps to bind the chickpeas together. The olive oil also helps to keep these from feeling too crumbly and gives the burgers a pleasant texture.
Harness the flavor of a Caprese salad by topping the chickpea burger with a slice of fresh mozzarella and pesto. Sandwich this between two ends of a tomato for a unique presentation and a healthy low carb alternative to a bun. Other non-bun alternatives you could use include lightly grilled slices of zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, sweet potato, or lettuce wraps. Any way you wrap it, this easy vegetarian burger leaves you feeling light on your feet and ready to tackle that next workout.
Caprese Chickpea Burgers
Calories 288, Protein 15g, Total Carbs 22g, Fat 17g
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 15 min
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and mashed
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ground flax)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- Pinch of oregano
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Prepared pesto sauce
- 4 tomatoes, sliced and cored to use both ends as a “bun.” Use extra slices for garnish.
- Preheat a sauté pan to medium high heat with a small amount of olive oil.
- Combine the chickpeas with flax, onion, spices, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until well mixed. You may need to use your hands to finish mashing the chickpeas completely. Check if the mixture will hold together when squeezed by hand. You may need to add 1 additional tablespoon of oil for patties to hold together properly.
- Form into 4 patties.
- Cook about 5-8 minutes per side until lightly browned on both sides.
- While burgers are cooking prepare toppings.
- Assemble burger with pesto, mozzarella, and place between the tomato “bun” to serve.
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Like clockwork, every other month when the tomato truck was in town, I used to wake up at 5 am with cramps on the cusp of becoming crippling.
If the tomato truck seems like a too-descriptive visual, then how’s shark week? It seems a little more subtle and might make you feel fierce.
Every other month only?
Yes. We have two ovaries, and each month only one releases an egg, and I guess one of my ovaries is a little angrier than the other. Apparently, this isn’t uncommon.
Right at 5 am, I knew I was in for a long day, where I’d suffer through coaching for two to three hours and then suffer even more during a half-assed, sluggish, low energy workout that felt like it was hurting me more than it was helping.
Tired of feeling this way for a day or two every two months, I decided to do some research into solutions to maximize training and energy levels and reduce cramps in natural ways.
Early Tomato Truck Days: Day 1 to Day 2-3
At this time, our progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest, meaning we feel more zapped of energy than normal, and sometimes feel bloated and definitely sluggish.
Tomato truck nutrition advice: Take more iron and vitamin B12
Foods high in iron include dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli), red meat, shellfish, and organ meats.
Vitamin B12 also plays a role in how energetic we feel. Some great foods for vitamin B12 include eggs, cheese, fish, and chicken.
Tomato truck exercise advice: Often our temptation is just to lay low and pop some Aleve every hour on the hour during this time, but research shows (and I have personally found) it’s better to do some sort of light exercise than nothing at all.
This study suggests some exercise might even help improve your cramps. That being said, be kind to your body at this time. In other words, don’t expect to PR and consider avoiding that high-intensity stuff. Just keep it light and easy and you’ll likely leave the gym feeling better than when you arrived.
That being said, this isn’t the case for the entire week. The follicular phase starts at the end of your period and moves until the end of ovulation (in case you skipped biology class in high school, this is when you’re most fertile).
This time is the time your pain tolerance and insulin sensitivity is at its peak, so your body is primed for muscle gains during this time. Toward the end of shark week, when you’re feeling more energetic again and the cramps are gone, ramp up the intensity in your workouts.
Ovulation: Day 11 to 14ish
Ovulation depends on the woman—no surprise, there are apps to find out when you’re ovulating—but it’s usually in the say 11 to 14 range. At this time, you’re most fertile because your body is releasing an egg and estrogen and progesterone levels are high, and likely so is your energy.
Ovulation nutrition advice: A lot of women tend to feel hungrier than usual during these days. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean your body needs more food than usual. I know for me, I tend to be a couple of pounds heavier during this time, probably because I tend to eat a little more than normal and many women experience water retention during this time.
Though you’re hungrier than you were the week before, your metabolism isn’t at its peak yet (that happens during the luteal phase). It’s best to stick to appropriate portion sizes of whole foods at this time, even though you might be craving more food.
Ovulation exercise advice: Ramp up the intensity. Go for a PR! (If you’re into that sort of thing.) Your body is at its physical peak, so enjoy it.
On the flip side, there’s evidence this time might also be when you’re at a higher risk of injury because as your estrogen and progesterone peak, your collagen metabolism is affected, as well as your neuromuscular control. Thus, your joints can become less stable, which often makes you more susceptible to injuries. Make sure you warm-up well and do some activation and stability drills for this.
Specifically, warm-up your core well. It will help keep you stable. Here are two great movements to get the core firing that you can do in your warm-up.
Deadbug variations—make sure you’re squeezing everything as hard as possible during these.
Shoulder taps and/or KB or DB plank drags. Again, build tension in your body as you’re doing this and try to stop your hips from shifting as much as you can.
End of Luteal Phase: Day 25 to 28ish
This is when your hormone levels start dropping again. Some of us even feel some pre-menstrual cramping, headaches, and bloating, as well as mood swings and fatigue at this time. Oh, the joys of being a woman!
Oddly, this is also the time your body peaks metabolically. I always find the few days leading up to my period I tend to be a couple of pounds lighter than normal, so that makes a whole lot of sense.
Because of this metabolic peak, we often have cravings for high carbohydrate and high-fat foods. So yeah, it’s not all in your head.
End of Cycle Nutrition Advice
Up your protein intake to stop the carb cravings and make you more satiated.
Some even suggest supplementing with tryptophan as it helps increase serotonin, which helps regulate mood, appetite, and digestion. If this is a particularly moody time for you, it might be worth considering. Also, if you tend to feel bloated at this time, try limiting salty foods.
End of Cycle Exercise Advice
During this time your body temperature tends to be higher than normal, which sometimes makes you feel more tired during intense workouts (especially conditioning workouts).
The important thing here is to stick to your workout routine and go as hard as your body seems to want to let you go. You know cramps are just around the corner, and then you’ll really need to back off, so keep training as hard as you can during this time.
One Final Tip
It works wonders for reducing cramps because it helps to relax your smooth muscles. A traditional muscle relaxant will also work, but if you’re into the more natural thing, go for a magnesium pill instead.
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The debate about stretching—dynamic versus static, when and how long, and so on—may never be solved.
Regardless of the conflicting, and constantly changing science about stretching, I’m personally a big believer that it’s useful both to make you more flexible and will help to make you less sore the next day. At least this has been my experience.
I was a national level gymnast as a kid. We stretched and stretched and stretched to the point of being able to do what we called the “oversplits”—meaning the splits beyond 180 degrees—and when I quit gymnastics I stopped stretching. And guess what? After a handful of years, I could no longer do the splits.
In my adulthood, I have found static stretching after a big lifting session does make me considerably less sore the next day.
And while I often see people taking the time to do couch stretches for their quads, pigeon stretches for their glutes, and various seated hamstring stretches after a training session, there are many parts of the body we often neglect to give love, like our wrists, lats, and calves.
Here are seven stretches to do after lifting sessions for the areas of the body we often forget about.
1. Half Kneeling Lat Stretch
Position yourself close to a post and get into a lunge—or a half kneeling position. With your outside arm, reach over your head and grab the post. Place your inside hand below that. Then lean away from the post and into your outside lat.
Hold for 1 minute per side. I find this stretch particularly useful after a big pulling session.
2. Bottom of the Feet Massage
The bottom of our feet take a beating, and we often pay no attention to them. It’s time we do.
I like massaging them by rolling them out on a lacrosse ball. Spend a minute or two on each foot, putting as much pressure into the ball as you feel comfortable with. This should feel good as opposed to painful.
3. Simple Wrist Stretches
It’s especially important to give your wrists some attention after a training session where you spent a lot of time in the rack position—cleans, jerks, strict presses, front squats, front rack lunges, etc—or after doing handstand holds, handstand push-ups, or even push-ups. These stretches can also be done before your training session to help warm your wrists up.
Spend a good 30 seconds in each of these two positions and make sure you keep your elbows straight on both of these.
4. Frog Stretch
Though I often see people stretching their glutes, hamstrings, and quads, I rarely see people stretching their inner thighs and groin. This is what the frog stretch is great for. Don’t stretch until the point of pain, though, as you can aggravate your groin if you overstretch.
Hang out for at least a minute after a big squat day.
5. Shoulder Extension Stretch
While we often do shoulder flexion stretching, shoulder extension stretching is often forgotten about. I like this dowel shoulder extension stretch. The narrower your hands are on the dowel and the higher you can raise your hands, the deeper the stretch will be.
Spend 1 minute in this position.
6. Dowel Sit
Grab a dowel and place it behind your knees and then sit down on your shins. Every 20 seconds, roll the dowel one revolution until you’re eventually down at your Achilles. This one will be slightly painful but in a good pain sort of way. Put as much bodyweight on the dowel as you’re able to handle without it being too painful.
Spend a solid 2 to 3 minutes working your way down your calves. If you do a lot of running or jumping, this one is particularly useful for your calves.
7. Low Back
This is just a dead-hang hold from a bar, but you keep your feet on the ground or place them on a box if the bar is too high. Keep your feet flat and bend your knees and let your entire bodyweight sink into your hips and ultimately into the ground. You should feel a release in your lower back.
Spend 1 minute or so in this position. This is particularly useful after a big hamstring and glute lifting session.
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Take a summer food vacation to Greece by combining all of the signature flavors in a tasty, grilled burger! These burgers can easily be made with beef, bison, or even lamb for a truly authentic experience. Ground meat is combined with the salty tang of feta cheese and pimientos, which are simply small pieces of red cherry pepper cured in brine. If you can’t find pimientos, you can use roasted red peppers either made fresh or from a jar that are diced into small bits.
Tzatziki sauce is a condiment used often in Greek cuisine. I’ve used many of the same components in the traditional sauce to make a complimentary cucumber yogurt sauce for these burgers that provides a burst of extra creamy deliciousness to highlight the cultural tasting experience.
Zucchini slices are lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled for a healthy low carb alternative to a bun. Other non-bun alternatives you could use include lightly grilled slices of summer squash, eggplant, sweet potato, tomato ends, or lettuce wraps. Finish topping these burgers with the cucumber yogurt sauce, spinach, tomato, and Kalamata olives for a uniquely Greek inspired grill burger.
Greek Pimiento Burgers
Calories 191, Protein 18g, Total Carbs 5g, Fat 11g
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 15 min
Serves: 6 as burgers, 12 as sliders
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons pimiento, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:
- 1/2 cup plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup shredded cucumber
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- Pinch of salt
- Kalamata olives, chopped
- Baby spinach
- Tomato slices
- Zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick and grilled lightly to use as a “bun”
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
- Combine the ground beef, feta, pimiento, salt, pepper, and coriander until well mixed.
- Form into 6 patties or 12 sliders depending on the size of your “buns.”
- Grill about 4-5 minutes per side until desired doneness.
- While burgers are cooking, stir together the yogurt sauce ingredients and prepare additional toppings.
- Grill zucchini about 2-3 minutes per side so they are still firm.
- Assemble burger with toppings and cucumber yogurt sauce to serve.
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A simple squat is one of the most effective exercises for building muscle, and also incredibly functional in how it translates to our daily living. Despite its relevance, it definitely takes detailed work on form, and sometimes instruction, to perfect it.
Correct squatting keeps us from getting injured and is the first step in a number of complex weight lifting exercises like thrusters. Let’s take a look at the common squat problems followed by easy fixes you can use to start correcting these problems.
Squat Problem 1: Your Knees Cave to the Inside
First things first—letting your knees cave in towards each other during a squat is a no-no.
This is probably the most common problem for beginners but persists in those that ignore it and continue to progress their load and frequency of squatting.
If you find one or both of your knees caves in right away, or midway through your squat, you need to fix this movement. If you continue your knee caving ways you’re risking MCL and meniscus damage to your knees as well as hip issues.
The Fix: Use a loop band around your knees and focus on keeping your knees out during your squat. Work on squatting with no weight until you build enough strength in your outside hip muscles to keep your knees from caving in.
Squat Problem 2: Your Arches Cave In
This may be something you notice during other exercises, or even when you’re just standing or walking. The hollow arch space on the insides of your feet may be shallow or nonexistent. This leaves your feet flush with the ground and shifts your weight towards the inside of your ankles.
If you notice this during other exercises, squatting is likely to accentuate this problem. In fact, you’re probably going to have problem 1 if you have problem 2. Your feet are your base and if you’re caving inside with your feet, your knees will typically follow suit and cave as well.
The Fix: Do some banded foot inversion exercises to keep the inside of your foot from dropping. Strengthening the muscles that invert the ankle will help build some ankle muscle endurance to keep your feet in the right spot.
Squat Problem 3: Your Weight Is On Your Toes
Squats are primarily for building your glutes and hamstrings, not your quadriceps. If you’re shifting your weight toward the front of your foot you’re going to feel squats more in your quads. What else? Your heels are going to come off the ground, uh oh.
You’ll never increase your capacity if you’re lifting your heels off the ground, and this needs to be fixed as soon as possible. When squatting you want to have the majority of weight in your heels, this keeps your knees behind your feet and saves your knees as well.
The Fix: Unload, again, and work on sitting back into your heels, like you’re putting your butt into a chair. In fact, use a chair and do some chair taps. When you’re squatting down, tap your butt on a chair then rise up. The chair will keep you from falling down onto your butt. Get comfortable putting weight in your heels and sitting back in your squat.
Squat Problem 4: Leaning Before Hip Hinging
The moment you lean forward, you’re immediately burdening your low back. That’s not its job. For goodness sake save your back, or your squatting days will be over before they started. If you’re leaning forward first, you’re missing step one, the hip hinge.
The first move of a squat is pushing your butt back and hinging at the hips. This does a couple of important things for your squats. It keeps your weight centered and balanced and it builds your glutes and not your low back.
The Fix: Use a resistance band around your waist and tied behind you to a rig or something sturdy. With tension on the band, practice sticking your butt back like you’re starting a Romanian deadlift, the resistance band should basically pull your butt back for you.
Then, use your hips and thrust your pelvis forward against the resistance of the band. This activates your glute muscles and gets you familiar with initiating a hip hinge first.
Squat Problem 5: Shallow Squat Depth
How low can you go? Nobody wants to be shallow, in any way. If you’re squatting and you’re not hitting 90 degrees so your thighs are parallel, you’re cheating yourself. Depth in a squat is what builds functional strength.
Do know that squat depth comes with mobility, repetition, and time. If you’re a beginner you may not have great depth initially, but you will eventually. Don’t even think about increasing load until you’re getting good depth. If you can’t perform a deep and full squat, that should be your first goal.
The Fix: Spend some time in a low squat without weight, some call it squat therapy. You can also use easy, or no weight, and do pause squats—pausing at the bottom for 1-2 seconds before you start your ascent. It’s “oh, so painful, but oh, so good.”
Fix Your Issues Now
One of these problems may resonate with you, or you may even find a few of these problems in your squat now that you’re aware of them. If you do recognize these problems, take the time and start fixing them now.
You’ll be surprised how incorporating these little fixes to correct your squat will allow you to increase your weight and squatting frequency.
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Humans are anti-fragile by nature. The concept of anti-fragility is not that we deflect attacks like a Gore-tex repels water, but that we, in fact, need resistance to grow stronger. Humanity is not totally activated, empowered, or fulfilled without challenge. Resistance activates us and breeds human flourishing. This is the backbone of all training. Resistance and adaptation.
We are now witnessing a human spiritual crisis. Across modern society depression, obesity, suicide, and drug overdoses have skyrocketed. We experience the highest standard of living in human history, yet few are fulfilled amid the affluence.
In the modern environment, necessary pain and challenges are no longer baked into the experience of being a human. We don’t sacrifice and toil for a larger group purpose. We don’t experience the self-actualization, satisfaction, and authenticity endeared through raw, vulnerable experience. We isolate, flee resistance, chase pleasure and remain a shell of our potential.
For self-development, you could stand in the mirror repeating mantras for 10 minutes but that won’t amount to a hill of beans without actual action. Inspiration follows action—it doesn’t precede it. Spend that 10-minutes doing a brutal 5-minutes of non-stop kettlebell swings, a 4-minute cold shower, and then a max set of push-ups and you’ll feel real confidence-real badassitude.
The most important thing we can do to flourish in this environment is to enter the challenge each day and train the capacity to enter temporary discomfort on behalf of a larger purpose. This is the process of training greater willpower. That is the point of the next four weeks. This challenge will offer clear daily adversity that stokes your capacity to act while introducing you to a variety of training methods.
The challenge will stretch 28 days. Every Saturday I’ll update this page with the entire following week of challenges until all 4 weeks are done. I encourage you to bring friends and family in on this challenge. In this way, you can utilize positive peer pressure to build a habit of entering purposeful discomfort for 5-minutes or less each day.
Just bookmark this page and keep coming back to it.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Sunday
- 30 Jumping Jacks
- 10 Supermans
Now test yourself. How many push-ups, to a baseball, can you do without stopping. Record this number.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Monday
You will feel funny doing this, but allowing yourself to be awkward is another useful discomfort to overcome. Go through Dan John’s entire get-back-up series. Press play and join along.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Tuesday
The Tabata protocol is one of the best ways to jam a ton of fitness benefits in just four minutes. Tabatas are eight rounds alternating between 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
For this first one, we’ll alternate between frogger hip thrusters and push-ups. Set the timer and go, or if you want more guidance, you can just do them along with the video below.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Wednesday
Get in the shower with the water as cold as it can go and stay in for 3-minutes. Try to clear the chatter and simply experience this challenge.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Thursday
Today you’ll do another Tabata, but this time you only get one exercise. It will be more fatiguing.
Tabata bear crawls. Feel free to crawl forward, back, and side to side. If you want to make it easier, do a bear walk. If you need to make it easier still, do a baby crawl on all fours.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Friday
For today’s challenge, you will do 5-minute nonstop planks and Superman holds. Whenever you can’t go any longer on one, go right into the next. Set your timer and go.
Anti-Fragile Human Challenge Week 1: Saturday
Being fit is great, but to stay healthy and recover well we need to be mobile. Set a timer and do each of these stretches for one minute per side.
- Rear-foot-elevated hip flexor stretch (aka Couch Stretch)
- Figure Four
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