How to (Figuratively) Punch CrossFit Haters in the Face

I have never been part of a fitness community that garnered so much hate, especially from people who have never even tried it! The only reason I can think of for people to do this is that CrossFit calls the winners of its games “The fittest people on Earth,” which can supposedly be taken the wrong way by certain people. It is a little presumptuous, but may be deserved. More on that later.

Here are the most common complaints about CrossFit, and what you can say to the hater who says this to you.

1. “CrossFit is an easy way to hurt yourself.”

Well, gee, thanks for your concern, but you can get seriously injured doing pretty much anything athletic. Cheerleading? Football? Hockey? Just as dangerous as CrossFit. Exercising is always more dangerous (in the short term) than sitting on your couch.

2. “Bodybuilders have better aesthetics.”

This really depends on your taste in bodies. I like natural-looking muscles, not lumpy ones.



Look at the body builder’s arms. To me, that is gross and unnatural. His shoulder is as big as his head. And this guy is one of the smaller body builders out there. But… if that’s what you like, happy lifting.

3. “CrossFit is like a cult.”

Tell me why being a member of a fitness-oriented cult is a bad thing. Then read this article.

4. “It’s too intense for me. I would have to get in shape before going.”

This is a common misconception. Every single move done at CrossFit can be scaled to any fitness level. Can’t lift 40 lbs? Move down to an 18 lb barbell. Can’t do a pushup? Go down to your knees. Can’t jump up on that box? Step up on that box. Not difficult. Sometimes, I think people use this excuse not to try it mostly because they just aren’t ready to be worked that hard. Understandable, most people aren’t. It’s uncomfortable. It’s SUPPOSED to be.

5. “All that bleeding hands and puking is not healthy and not for me.”

I’ve puked once from a CrossFit workout, and I’ve never seen anyone else puke. I’ve torn my callouses and skinned my shins, but I’ve never BLED. Maybe this was how CrossFit started, but that’s not how it is now. You only have to push yourself as hard as you want to.

6. “It’s too easy to become a CrossFit coach.”

This is the best argument against CrossFit that there is, in my opinion. A lot of the moves and lifts done in boxes require very specific form or the risk of injury skyrockets. I have never witnessed a poor CrossFit coach at any of the four boxes that I have been to, but I’ve heard enough horror stories to know that they exist. If someone uses this against me, here is what I tell them. Take responsibility for your own fitness experience. Try out a box, evaluate (silently) your coach. Does s/he seem knowledgeable? Does s/he constantly correct your form and give you pointers? If so, they are probably a satisfactory coach. If not, try a new box. Take a little responsibility for yourself. In the meantime, hopefully requirements to become a coach are improved.

7. “CrossFit causes rhabdomyolysis.”

Ugh… I don’t even want to dignify this with a response so here is a response my CrossFit coach was nice enough to write and an article by Greg Glassman, CrossFit founder.

8. “CrossFit is not about elite fitness. Power lifters can lift way more, and 19 minutes is not an elite 5k time.”

The second part is true. Professional lifters can lift more than CrossFitters, and professional runners can run faster times. However… can professional lifters run a 19 minute 5k? Can professional runners clean and jerk 350 lbs? Nope. Elite fitness in my mind is about being able to do a lot of different things. There was a survey conducted during the last Olympic Games to discuss who the public considered to be the best athlete at the games. The winner was the decathletes because they have to be great at multiple things. I think that’s what makes CrossFit “elite.” Also, CrossFit teaches you a way to move to avoid injury every day. Lifting boxes, squatting, pulling yourself up onto things.. this is functional. This is useful. I would rather be pretty good at everything than PRO at one thing. If that is not your goal, awesome, but don’t put down those trying to improve their fitness from all angles. The word “elite” here does not apply to the best at any one thing. It applies to being someone who’s all around fitness in multiple activities is the best.


I just want to be clear… I have nothing against people who don’t do CrossFit. I have something against people who knock it without trying it, and I have something against people who try it with the wrong attitude.

Rant over. Here is a hilarious gym video


Food and Metabolism

There have been studies up studies on how eating various foods can affect how fast we burn up calories. Basically, can eating certain types of calories help you burn calories faster? I’m sure you’ve heard of “negative calorie foods.” If you google that, you will find lists and charts and articles describing this magic list of fruits and veggies. Sounds like hokum to me, but I figured I would do some investigating.


When we consume food, energy (calories) is used to break down and digest the food and store it, absorb its nutrients, and send what’s left off for other purposes. This small allotment of energy we use to do this is called the “thermic effect of food” or TEF. We all burn a certain amount of calories while we are at rest just to keep up bodily processes and functions. This is called the resting metabolic rate and is subtracted from total energy burned to come up with TEF (1, 2). The TEF magnitude depends on the food content and quantity (3, 4).

Carbs: 5-15% of intake is burned by TEF

Fats: 5-15%

Proteins: 20-35%

Get that protein.

For example, the most commonly claimed negative calorie food is celery. Celery only has an 8% TEF. A single stalk contains about 6 calories and only half a calorie is burned in the digestion process (5). The only truly negative calorie food is ice water which contained no calories and burns only a small amount to regulate the temperature (6). Other foods touted for their negative calorie nature include grapefruit, lemon, apple, lettuce, lime, broccoli, and cabbage. People who make these foods staples tend to lose weight, but not because these foods are negative calorie. It’s because they are low calorie and healthy whole foods (5).

Calories may not be created equal, however. The calories in , calories out mantra that has been preached may be wrong in one respect. Whole food sources create a larger TEF. In a 2010 study, 17 healthy male subjects were given either a processed lunch of white bread and cheese product, or whole grain sprouted bread and sharp cheddar. Both lunches had the same calorie count, and the subjects were monitored for the 6 hours following lunch consumption. For the processed food group, TEF was measured to be 10% of the energy per calories consumed, while the non-processed group burned 20% (7) I don’t approve of any of the food given to the study subjects, but it’s not my study.

Since we have discussed all of the physiological changes in our bodies that exercise brings, let’s go over how exercise can help to increase TEF. There are two components that contribute to the energy consumed in TEF. One is the obligatory component that we have already discussed. Food energy is used up by digestion and nutrient absorption. The other component is the faculative component which is determined by sensitivity to glucose (8) and activity of the sympathetic nervous system (9). The energy intake induces the sympathetic nervous system. This system up-regulates what is called the beta- adrenergic receptor (BAR). This receptor is responsible for stimulation of cellular energy metabolism, therefore, larger TEF (10, 11). In a 2007 study comparing frequent exercisers to more sedentary individuals, TEF and responsiveness of the BAR were measured. Four hours after energy intake, responsiveness and TEF were measured with the following results. (Isoproterenol activates BAR. Responsiveness was dependent on treatment.)

Increase (Δ) in energy expenditure above resting energy expenditure during β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) stimulation (intravenous isoproterenol) was greater in habitual exercisers than in sedentary adults. Values are means ± SE. FFM, fat-free mass. *Main effect of activity status (P = 0.01) and interaction (dose × activity status) (P = 0.25).

Increase (Δ) in energy expenditure above resting energy expenditure during β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) stimulation (intravenous isoproterenol) was greater in habitual exercisers than in sedentary adults. Values are means ± SE. FFM, fat-free mass. *Main effect of activity status (P = 0.01) and interaction (dose × activity status) (P = 0.25).

 This study has shown that increased TEF in habitual exercisers causes a higher responsiveness of BAR to the nervous system leading to a higher rate of cellular energy burn (12).

Exercise and eat right and your body will reward you.


1. Denzer, CM; JC Young (2003 September). “The effect of resistance exercise on the thermic effect of food.”International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 13 (3): 396–402.

2. Edward F. Goljan (2013). Rapid Review Pathology. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 174

3.  Christensen, Peter. “What is the thermic effect of food?”. Retrieved March 28, 2005.


5. Marion Nestle; Malden Nesheim (18 April 2012). Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics. University of California Press. pp. 189–190.

6. De Nileon, Gay Porter (2009). Plain Talk About Drinking Water: Answers to Your Questions About the Water You Drink. American Water Works Association. p. 4.

7.  Camastra, S.; Bonora, E.; Del Prato, S.; Rett, K.; Weck, M.; Ferrannini, E. (1999). “Effect of obesity and insulin resistance on resting and glucose-induced thermogenesis in man. EGIR (European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance)”. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 23 (12): 1307–1313.

8. Laville M, Cornu C, Normand S, Mithieux G, Beylot M, Riou JP.Decreased glucose-induced thermogenesis at the onset of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 57: 851–856, 1993.

9. Deriaz O, Nacht CA, Chiolero R, Jequier E, Acheson KJ. The parasympathetic nervous system and the thermic effect of glucose/insulin infusions in humans. Metabolism 38: 1082–1088, 1989.

10. Acheson K, Jequier E, Wahren J. Influence of β-adrenergic blockade on glucose-induced thermogenesis in man. J Clin Invest 72: 981–986,1983.

11. Acheson KJ, Ravussin E, Wahren J, Jequier E. Thermic effect of glucose in man. Obligatory and facultative thermogenesis. J Clin Invest 74:1572–1580, 1984.

12. Stob NRBell Cvan Baak MASeals DR.  Thermic effect of food and beta-adrenergic thermogenic responsiveness in habitually exercising and sedentary healthy adult humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Aug;103(2):616-22

Afterburn and Creatine Because My Boyfriend is a Curious Cat

I’m always looking for ways to make the most out of my workouts without risking anything else. For instance, I take BCAAs to help repair my muscles after a tough workout. I do not take anabolic steroids to up my performance because those are dangerous. I’m willing to try things that don’t have risks. Because I’m interested in burning the highest amount of calories with the shortest amount of time in the gym, I do short intense workouts to increase my afterburn. Afterburn and creatine are closely related, but the subject is kinda deep. Here we go.

“Afterburn” is an informal name for the science term “exercise post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC. EPOC is the process of taking in oxygen at a higher rate than normal after exercise (1).  EPOC occurs with a greater effect after anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise pathways are activated by fast-twitch muscles, which are used for anything intense (2).  Prolonged activities that require short energy bursts also activate anaerobic pathways for energy and muscle recovery between bursts (3).

I like my afterburn high. The top line (solid, with squares) represents high-intensity exercise (75%) compared with the others. On the x-axis, the measurement of EPOC starts at 0.

There are two types of anaerobic pathways: anaerobic glycolysis, and high-energy phosphates. The glycolysis pathway uses blood glucose and muscle glycogen stores, with a build-up of lactic acid. Aerobic glycolysis utilizes the same pathway more efficiently when oxygen and ATP are available. Anaerobic glycolysis has a by-product of lactic acid which is what causes the sore, tired feeling in muscles during exercise, but for extremely fast actions like a heavy lift or a jump, anaerobic high-energy phosphate pathways are used (4).

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (CP) are compounds stored in the muscles. When either is catabolized, a large amount of energy is released. ATP is the energy molecule utilized by most energy pathways, so after one phosphate group is lost by ATP making is ADP (adenosine DIphosphate), CP can donate its phosphate group to ADP becoming creatine, which is a nitrogenous organic acid that many athletes consume as a supplement. The energy released by CP is coupled with the phosphorylation of ADP (5).

Property of Samuel Tiukuvaara, used with permission

Property of Samuel Tiukuvaara, used with permission

Since only small amounts of ATP and CP can be stored in the muscles, this pathway is used up in under 30 secs (5), but that was published in 1979 before creatine supplements became too popular. Supplements of creatine have been shown to increase the amount of CP stored.  During periods of rest, excess ATP can be used to phosphorylate the creatine and supplemental creatine for future energy bursts (6). This is one of the purposes of EPOC.

Think of all that changes physically and chemically during a workout: hormones, fuel stores, cells are damaged, nerves are hyper-aware. The processes required for everything to return to normal require oxygen, hence EPOC (7). ATP and glycogen have been used up, so where does the body acquire another energy source? Fat stores (8). Quite ideal for those of us trying to lose weight. This post-workout fat-burning effect can last anywhere from 3 to 38 hours depending on the exercise intensity and duration (9).

Although aerobic exercise has been found to burn more calories during the workout, anaerobic exercise has a much greater afterburn, and takes energy from the exact place most people want it to: the subcutaneous fat (10). Some of the first studies failed to take calories and diet into account when taking this measurement, but later studies have corrected for this and found similar results (11-13).


Now to me it seems logical that creatine supplementation is somewhat useless considering the muscle cells can only store so much, but being a scientist, I set out to change my own mind.  Here are the risks and rewards of creatine supplementation now that you all know what creatine is.

The athletes and fitness gurus who take creatine are usually advised by labels to take a certain amount that contains 2-3x more creatine than would be consumed in a very high protein diet (14). There are many studies claiming risks of creatine dosage, but there is not enough evidence to convince most scientists. The risks caused by creatine supplementation that these studies have claimed are as follows: dehydration and muscle cramping (15, 16), kidney (17) and liver damage (18) in those predisposed , and increased internal production of formaldehyde which is a very damaging chemical (19). One creatine risk that is highly accepted among the scientific community is that creatine supplementation can increase asthma symptoms, even if one does not have asthma (17).  Also, many common supplements are laced with heavy metals and toxins. A study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority found that of 33 surveyed products, over 50% had toxic contaminants that exceeded regulation levels (20, 21).

However, there is no truly significant evidence to say that creatine is very dangerous at 5-20 mg/day. Also, it has been shown to increase muscular output in about 70% of studies by increasing the amount of creatine available for phosphorylation before a workout, and de-phosphorylation during a workout (22). A number of athletes have been shown to have increased performance from creatine supplementation, but it is most beneficial for short, higher intensity activities (23). For about 40% of individuals, there is no increase in output because muscles are unable to further store creatine in creatine pools in the muscles (24). Genetics? Yeah, probably the differences in the expression of the gene coding for a creatine transporter. Read more about it here.

This study (25) attempted to bypass the creatine transporter by combining creatine with combinations of other things to no avail. It seems like it will either work for you or not. There isn’t much you can do about it. (PLA = placebo, CRT and CEE are variations of creatine to try to get around the transporter. Notice the plateau for both creatine variations after Day 6)

Changes in muscle total creatine with data expressed as mean (± SD). † indicates a significant difference among groups where the PLA group was significantly less than the CRT (p = 0.026) and CEE (p = 0.041) groups. * indicates significant differences over the course of the four testing sessions where CRT increased at day 6 (p = 0.041) and 27 (p= 0.036), and CEE only increased at day 27 (p = 0.043). Spillane et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009 6:6   doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-6

Changes in muscle total creatine with data expressed as mean (± SD). † indicates a significant difference among groups where the PLA group was significantly less than the CRT (p = 0.026) and CEE (p = 0.041) groups. 
Spillane et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009 6:6 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-6


There is sound evidence here that regular creatine supplementation can increase athletic performance for some, 60-70% of people. Some studies claim that creatine increases muscle mass, but there is no sound evidence for that claim. Creatine increases energy expenditure. It does not directly affect muscle mass, in my opinion. This idea that it can is probably an indirect assumption stemming from increasing exercise which increases muscle damage which THEN increases muscle mass by incorporating protein and glycogen into healing the muscles, making them bigger.

There is also a claim that if weight loss is you goal, avoid creatine. There is no sound evidence for this, but it makes sense to me this way. I want a great big afterburn every time I work out. I want to be losing/maintaining my weight when I’ve been out of the gym for 12 hours. The purpose of creatine is to speed the recovery and avoid dipping into other energy sources like fat stores. I WANT to get into those fat stores. What I have just said has no scientific backing, but many have complained about not losing weight when supplementing with creatine.

If your goal is only performance, go for it with caution. If you want to lose weight, my gut says avoid it. I’m a fan of going as natural as possible. If it weren’t for the scary contaminants that have been found in a lot of creatine, I might have given it a try.

I welcome anyone’s opinion on this topic, as I could be totally wrong about losing the afterburn.



1. Scott CB, Kemp RB (January 2005). “Direct and indirect calorimetry of lactate oxidation: implications for whole-body energy expenditure”. Journal of Sports Sciences 23 (1): 15–9.

2. Medbo, JI; Mohn, Tabata, Bahr, Vaage, Sejersted (January 1988). “Anaerobic capacity determined by maximal accumulated O2 deficit”Journal of Applied Physiology 64 (1): 50–60. Retrieved 14 May 2011.

3. Scott, Christopher B (June 2005). “Contribution of anaerobic energy expenditure to whole body thermogenesis”Nutrition & Metabolism. 14 2doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-14. Retrieved 14 May 2011.

4. Di Prompero, PE; G. Ferretti (Dec. 1). “The energetics of anaerobic muscle metabolism”.Respiration Physiology 118 (2-3): 103–115.

5. Fox, Edward (1979). Sports Physiology. United States of America: Saunders College Publishing. pp. 9–11

6. Schlattner, U.; Tokarska-Schlattner, M., and Wallimann, T. (2006). “Mitochondrial creatine kinase in human health and disease”. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Molecular Basis of Disease 1762 (2): 164–180

7. Saladin, Kenneth (2012). Anatomy & Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function. New York: McGraw Hill. p. 425.

8. Bahr R (1992). “Excess postexercise oxygen consumption–magnitude, mechanisms and practical implications”. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica. Supplementum 605: 1–70

9.  Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM (March 2002). “Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management”. European Journal of Applied Physiology 86(5): 411–7.

10. “Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism”. Retrieved 2010-07-29.

11.  Reynolds, Jeff M; Kravitz, Len. “Resistance Training and EPOC”. Retrieved April 21, 2005.

12.  Børsheim E, Bahr R (2003). “Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption”.Sports Medicine 33 (14): 1037–60.

13.  Baker, E. J., and T. T. Gleeson. EPOC and the energetics of brief locomotor activity in Mus domesticus. J. Exp. Zool. 280: 114–120, 1998.

14. “Creatine – Sources in the Diet”. Retrieved 22 January 2013.

15. Lopez RM, Casa DJ, McDermott BP, Ganio MS, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM (2009). “Does Creatine Supplementation Hinder Exercise Heat Tolerance or Hydration Status? A Systematic Review With Meta-Analyses”. Journal of Athletic Training 44 (2): 215–23.

16.  Dalbo VJ, Roberts MD, Stout JR, Kerksick CM (July 2008). “Putting to rest the myth of creatine supplementation leading to muscle cramps and dehydration”. British Journal of Sports Medicine 42 (7): 567–73.

17. “Creatine: Safety”. Retrieved 2010-08-16.

18. Poortmans JR, Francaux M (September 2000). “Adverse effects of creatine supplementation: fact or fiction?”. Sports Medicine 30 (3): 155–70.

19.  Francaux M, Poortmans JR (December 2006). “Side effects of creatine supplementation in athletes”. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1 (4): 311–23.

20. Moreta S, Prevarin A, Tubaro F. (June 2011). “Levels of creatine, organic contaminants and heavy metals in creatine dietary supplements”Food Chemistry 126 (3): 1232–1238.

21. Pischel I, Gastner T. (2007) Creatine – its chemical synthesis, chemistry, and legal status. Subcell Biochem 46:291-307

22.  Bizzarini E, De Angelis L (December 2004). “Is the use of oral creatine supplementation safe?”. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 44 (4): 411–6.

23. Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J (2008)  International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 5:17 (Erratum in J Int Soc Sports Nutr 5:18)

24. Kreider R: Creatine supplementation: analysis of ergogenic value, medical safety, and concerns. JEPonline 1998, 1:1-6

25. Spillane, M; Schoch, R; Cooke, M; Harvey, T; Greenwood, M; Kreider, R; Willoughby, DS. “The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels”. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 6: 6

Savasana Juice Cleanse Diary – Part 1

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about juicing. Since I don’t have a whole lot of experience with juicing, I decided to go on a 7-day juice experiment to let you know how I liked it and what my experiences were. Cost is always an issue with fresh, cold-pressed juice, so I found a Living Social Deal for a small, local Pittsburgh company, Savasana Juice. With the deal, I got 15x 32oz jars of juice. Since I informed you that juice can oxidize and really doesn’t last more than three days, I’m going to go get more on Wednesday. This juice company has four flavors available. Unlike other juice cleanses, there is no specified order to how you want to drink the juice. For most juice cleanses, green juice of some kind is the first to be consumed, so that’s what I started with.

Kaleypso Cooler: a mix of kale greens, apples, cucumbers, celery, lemon and ginger

For lunch, I had portions of:

Zing!: Carrots, apples, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger


BeetleJuice: beets, carrots, cucumber, celery, apples, lemon and ginger

Melon Moonshine: watermelon, carrots, cucumber and lemon

For dinner, I’ll be eating solid, healthy, paleo food.

The directions for most juice cleanses only allow green tea and water other than their juice. Since I’m CrossFitting every day, and I burn a lot of calories, I’m going to go with 2 meals of juice and a regular paleo dinner. The only other thing I’m adding is a dose of BCAAs. If I don’t take those, CrossFit will make me too sore to get up out of a chair.

I’ve already had my “breakfast,” and most of lunch, and my BCAAs. I’m not necessarily hungry, but I am a little grouchy, and I want solid food. Good thing dinner is solid. Hopefully, a good night’s sleep will help me get over the cravings and moodiness.

Paleo Lemon Pound Cake Recipe

The following recipe has been adapted from The Civilized Caveman. This recipe is not Whole30 approved because of the “fakeness” of it, but it is completely paleo.

lemon cake


Lemon Pound Cake

  • 2 cups almond flour (185 grams)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (63 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda (3 grams)
  • 2/3 cup raw honey, melted
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons pure lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips


  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 4 tablespoons raw honey


Lemon Pound Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare a 9×9 baking pan by coating the interior lightly with coconut oil.
  3. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place it over the coconut oil.
  4. Sift dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.
  5. Place oil and honey in the bowl of a food processor for 2 minutes.
  6. Add eggs, mixing after addition of each.
  7. Add coconut milk, lemon extract, and lemon zest, until combined.
  8. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine until smooth
  9. Fold in the chocolate chips
  10. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until it passes the toothpick test,  approx. 30 mins
  11. Let cake cool in the pan for 10 mins
  1. While cake is in the oven, cut vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the beans into a small saucepan.
  2. Add the vanilla bean pod, lemon juice, zest, and honey to the pan over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Let cool to room temperature. Remove pod and discard.
  5. Using a fork, poke several holes in the top of the cake
  6. Pour glaze over the cake
  7. Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator.

I was not a big fan of the glaze. I liked this cake better without it. The chocolate chips were my brilliant addition though 🙂 This cake is great for breakfast with some strawberries or as a nice bite after dinner. Some warm it up, but I really liked it cold.

The Science of Stretching Before a Workout

When I walk into the box to warm up for my CrossFit workout, I do some various stretches, some squats, row 200 m, etc. I see other people doing a variety of things to warm up, as well. The general consensus about what kind of stretching is appropriate seems to change daily on exercise and health websites, so I dug into some science.


All scientists love review articles because they combine all of the currently accepted literature. The review article that I am going to discuss is this one by Phil Page, PT, PhD, ATC, CSCS, FACSM. “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation.” (1)

The point of stretching is to increase range of motion (ROM).  A lot of factors go into ROM. One is the shape and angles of your joints. Obviously, bone can’t be stretched out. Another factor is the geometry of the ligaments that attach muscles to bones. These also don’t really stretch. The only modifiable factor is muscle. Muscles provide two types to tension during a stretch: passive tension is caused by the physical condition of the muscle, the composition. This can be changed by exercise. Active tension by the muscle is the natural reflex reaction of the muscle to contract. Think of your fingers. You can bend them back quite far by force, but you can’t bend them back that far without the force. The muscles naturally contract. Stretching can increase the distance between the two areas that the muscle attaches.

There are three types of stretching: static, dynamic, and ballistic.


Static stretching, where you position a stretch and hold it, is the most common. Dynamic stretching is more active and mainly consists of doing the activity you are preparing for with exaggerated motions. For instance, when preparing for a run, warm up by running with knees higher than normal, or feet kicking back further than normal. Ballistic stretching is jerking on the muscle that you wish to stretch. An example: when stretching you hamstring, you kick your leg into the air. This can be dangerous to the muscles and is no longer recommended by health professionals.

There are two ways that static stretching can affect the muscles. One is actually physically lengthening the muscle. The other and more common is simply increasing the tolerance of the muscle to be stretched (2).  Most studies have determined that 10-30 seconds is long enough for a static stretch hold, but others say 15 seconds is the minimum amount of time before any muscle lengthening occurs (3). Repeating static stretches 2-4 times can yield further improvements, but any more repetitions have no effect (4).

Has anyone ever done a surprise workout and not stretched beforehand? Didn’t that workout seem easier? It did for me. I thought maybe it was all in my head, but it turns out, I was right. Static stretching before a workout has been shown to decrease muscle strength, and decrease running and jumping abilities (5, 6). This phenomenon is not well understood and varies among individuals, but it has been termed: “stretch-induced strength loss” (7). Obviously, this condition does not last, but static stretching right before a workout could very well deter performance. One way to get around this is to practice “maximal contraction” before the static stretch. So flex the muscle you’re about to stretch as hard as you can, and then stretch it. This reduces the strength loss during static stretching. No one know exactly why this helps, but it has been hypothesized that the muscle undergoes something termed “autogenic inhibition” after contraction where the nervous reflex relaxes and allows the length of the muscle to increase (8).

While both static and dynamic stretching improve ROM equally (9), dynamic stretching done right before a workout can improve muscle strength and running and jumping ability during that workout (10, 11). Another benefit of dynamic stretching is the constant movement, which keeps muscles warmer and more active. It is also more specific in that you are warming up by doing the activity you are preparing for (12).

After all of this information, many people will still claim that they aren’t very worried about performance and statically stretch to prevent injury. Some studies claim that this is a valid point (13), while others say there is no significant of risk muscle injury by not statically stretching (14). Most experts agree that more evidence is required before it can be stated as fact that static stretching alone can reduce the risk of muscle injury (7, 14).

Both types of stretching are great for after a workout, but stick to the dynamic warm-ups before a workout to maximize performance. There are exceptions to this rule. Activities like dancing and gymnastics depend a lot more on flexibility than most other activities, and could be enhanced greatly by a static warm-up as well as a dynamic one (13). Better yet, do some yoga on your day off.


1. Phil Page, PT, PhD, ATC, CSCS, FACSM. “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation.” Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 February, 7 (1): 109-119

2. Chan SP, Hong Y, Robinson PD. Flexibility and passive resistance of the hamstrings of young adults using two different static stretching protocols. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. Apr 2001;11(2):81–86

3. Bandy WD, Irion JM. The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther. Sep 1994;74(9):845–850; discussion 850–842. [PubMed]

4. Taylor DC, Dalton JD, Jr., Seaber AV, Garrett WE., Jr. Viscoelastic properties of muscle-tendon units. The biomechanical effects of stretching. Am J Sports Med. May-Jun 1990;18(3):300–309.

5. Herda TJ, Cramer JT, Ryan ED, McHugh MP, Stout JR. Acute effects of static versus dynamic stretching on isometric peak torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography of the biceps femoris muscle. J Strength Cond Res. May 2008;22(3):809–817.

6. Young W, Elias G, Power J. Effects of static stretching volume and intensity on plantar flexor explosive force production and range of motion. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. Sep 2006;46(3):403–411.

7. McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. Apr 2010;20(2):169–181.

8. Kay AD, Blazevich AJ. Concentric muscle contractions before static stretching minimize, but do not remove, stretch-induced force deficits. J Appl Physiol. Mar 2010;108(3):637–645.

9. de Weijer VC, Gorniak GC, Shamus E. The effect of static stretch and warm-up exercise on hamstring length over the course of 24 hours. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. Dec 2003;33(12):727–733.

10. Manoel ME, Harris-Love MO, Danoff JV, Miller TA. Acute effects of static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on muscle power in women. J Strength Cond Res. Sep 2008;22(5):1528–1534.

11. Hough PA, Ross EZ, Howatson G. Effects of dynamic and static stretching on vertical jump performance and electromyographic activity. J Strength Cond Res. Mar 2009;23(2):507–512

12. “Warming up: the dynamic alternative to static stretching”. Peak Performance. Retrieved 2010-07-25.

13. Behm DG, Kibele A. Effects of differing intensities of static stretching on jump performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. Nov 2007;101(5):587–594.

14. Small K, Mc Naughton L, Matthews M. A systematic review into the efficacy of static stretching as part of a warm-up for the prevention of exercise-related injury. Res Sports Med. 2008;16(3):213–231.


I’ve been to a total of four CrossFit boxes in my life. All of them contain a group of people with similar qualities. Competitiveness, determination, and good spirits. No one (seriously) whines about the workout, no one snaps at anyone else, and no one makes excuses. No one who lasts anyway.

My home box has an owner who is known for telling stories, many with underlying threats somewhat akin to “if you act like the person in this story, I will give you a gift card to join a different box, get out of my sight,” kind of stories. Yesterday, he told me one about a girl who joined CrossFit with the personal training option. So she didn’t go to group classes, she only met one-on-one with a coach. She was somewhat overweight, but seemed willing enough to try the workouts although she needed a good push most of the time. The trainer also asked her to follow a set diet and keep a food diary. After about two months, this girl began whining about working out every time she came, saying things like, “I don’t know why I come here, this isn’t working.” Now, my box is great at keeping up on Facebook, and they do plenty of weekend socials that this girl would attend. Just because people are CrossFitters does not mean they lead flawless dietary lifestyles and never kick back and enjoy. Remember my birthday post?

So this girl is whining that she’s not looking better the Monday after she had been to a weekend CrossFit social. Her trainer asks to see her food diary and notices that she has not logged any of the alcohol she drank at the social. Or any of the “Friday night nachos and margaritas!” or “Wednesday night half price wine bottle night!” that had been seen in her Facebook posts. Soon after being called out, this girl left the box.

As we talked about this anonymous girl yesterday, one of my fellow athletes kind of hung her head, and sheepishly said something about the two Yinzeritas she had the other night. (Yinzeritas are fantastic. Most places call them “Coronitas” which makes more sense, but hey, this is Pittsburgh. Margarita + Corona with a little mango is delicious.)


Before she could feel too bad about it, I jumped in and explained how I see a huge difference between the girl from above and her. No one is going to be perfect all the time, but owning your mistakes makes a huge difference. The girl from above was blaming CrossFit for her lack of progress, which is ridiculous.


Everyone slips, but anyone who is making significant progress has a generally healthy diet. The girl who felt bad about the Yinzeritas was owning her mistake, not blaming someone else. Also, her slip-up was one night, not every day.

EVERYONE slips. EVERYONE takes a day to forget their “diet/lifestyle/eating style” or whatever they call it, and enjoy life. But when you make a habit of slipping, you won’t see results, no matter how hard you work out. There is nothing more annoying to a trainer/coach/anyone trying to help you get fit, then when you blame the program instead of owning your mistakes. I know that when I eat an entire pan of paleo chocolate granola bars, I probably went over my daily allotment of calories. I own it, and I move on . I don’t start blaming CrossFit for my lack of weight loss.

I consider excuses like this a serious mental block. How are you ever going to get fit if you don’t see what you’re doing wrong? I think part of it is about priorities. You HAVE to make fitness one of them. The girl from above must have had more of a priority set on an alcoholic social life then being healthy. I’ll keep saying it: no one is perfect, but there comes a time to be honest with yourself.