AMPed

They’re attacking Patrick Arnold again. Admittedly, it’s easy to do. Arnold has admitted being the supplier of THG — "the clear" — to BALCO as part of a plea agreement, so he’s a criminal. Fine. His place in baseball infamy is secure, but now Amy Shipley of the Washington Post is going after his legal and unbanned products.

Including one that I use.

That’s right, I’ve been using Ergopharm’s AMP in a "stack" with Avant’s HEAT as part of my weight-loss program. I used Cellucor’s thermogenic originally, but my coffee and energy drink intake made taking most thermogenics redundant. Because HEAT and AMP don’t use the normal thermogenic pathways, they have more of an effect for me. I don’t think it’s significant; it helps, but exercise and eating right are far more important. To put  it simply, I’ll keep taking them — as long as they’re legal.

What I don’t get from AMP is any sort of "amphetamine" effect. I’m not wired, not jittery, and certainly not more awake. I don’t get the ephedrine-like sweats or flush. So why is Don Catlin, the scientist and MLB consultant that ‘discovered’ THG, going after this drug? Patrick Arnold makes it.

Arnold has always been something of a pariah outside the insular world of performance-enhancement. Inside it, he’s a rock star. That bothers a lot of people and the climate of chemical McCarthyism makes it easy to target Arnold or others. In my conversation with "Dr. X", one of the makers of THG, in "The Juice", I got at the attitude that these "body hackers" have. They’re not in it for money or glory, but merely because they can. AMP probably wouldn’t give it’s creator the rush of something like THG or DMT, but it’s not bad either, to find something that actually works and isn’t on the governments extensive controlled list.

Then again, AMP and its active ingredients are bound to make the next revision. There’s no good reason, but they don’t need one. Saying something is bad is enough in our faith-based drug testing system. Forget tests, results, and science when it’s easier to grandstand and draw an ethical line in the sand (all while shaking the grant cup for another government handout.)

Like andro, ephedrine, and prohormones, the government is going to act quickly to take our AMP and with it, a small but untrivial piece of our freedom. I take AMP and while it’s still within the original rules of my experiment, I’ll continue to do so. Then again, there’s always something coming next. Arnold has a little vacation coming up, but like the others in the BALCO case, we’ll hear more from him in the future.

***

For those wondering why I’ve been silent for the most part over the last couple weeks, it’s not because I quit the project. I did have a physical setback (shoulder injury) that limited my workouts, but I’ll be back in the gym soon. I also bought a bike now that it’s warm enough and look forward to adding a bit of Lance Armstrong to the program (ha!). My blog/silence has mostly been due to a rethinking of the spirit of blogging. The attention economy that underlies blogging is in a state of flux, so I’ve taken a step back both here and at my blog at Baseball Toaster to figure out how it fits in the Will Carroll Media Empire. (Yes, that’s a joke.) I’m sure I’ll write more about this later, but I’m trying to re-focus my energies and the great early season baseball has helped me do it.

Of course, blogging here at MLBlogs is easy – so easy that it’s hard to resist. Expect more soon as I continue my experiment.

Birthdays

First, I want to congratulate MLBlogs on a great first year. I’ve read hundreds of blogs and blog posts here and am constantly intrigued by the takes. It wasn’t that long ago that I was "just" a fan, the guy who thought about calling in to talk radio and wish his voice could be heard. Now, with MLBlogs, anyone can and as with most things, the cream rises to the top. Blogging isn’t easy — everyone has an opinion, but not everyone can express it and fewer still can hold things together long enough to build up to the feedback we all want, whether that’s comments, kudos, or a job sitting in the pressbox.

Second, I want to wish my grandmother a happy birthday. Almost all of what I do, here or anywhere, is because of her love and support.

Finally, I’ll be back with more frequent updates soon. The hardest part about blogging is also the hardest part about my current project. It’s hard to do day in and day out. Travel, illness, and the vagaries of life have gotten in the way, but things are looking to normalize soon. I promise, I’ll have more for you to read about and discuss soon.

Where’s my Tivo for Life?

Those of you that have Tivo know that when you watch TV without one, it just seems wrong. Your thumb twitches, you pine for rewind and pause, and you just generally realize that TV is broken without Tivo.

Don’t you wish you had one for life?

Life goes on, no pause feature, and while that’s a good thing, it does make us prioritize things. I’m certainly not going to complain — my dog is doing well after a scare, I got to head out to the World Baseball Classic last week, and the Team Health Reports are done at BP. What isn’t done is my plan, but it hasn’t gone by the wayside.

While I haven’t been in the gym as heavy as I like, putting me slightly behind plan on that, the diet is still in effect and I only had one small conscious lapse — In-N-Out Burger. Hey, I was in Anaheim, I had to do it. It’s okay to blow out a diet now and again, you just have to pay for it later. Right now, I’m still down 22 lbs, WAY ahead of where I thought/hoped I’d be. I even had to buy new jeans and even those are loose (the next size down was a bit tight and I’m not a fiscal optimist.)

One of the neatest side effects of the workout came up in Anaheim. While waiting on the van to the airport, I literally ran back inside to use the restroom, then ran back. As I sat down — of course the van came while I was gone — I realized I wasn’t out of breath, my knees didn’t ache, and a smile came to my face.

I’ll get my measurements up for next month — doesn’t make sense to do it now. Life intervenes, but staying on plan means that not only is the plan working, it’s becoming life itself.

(Next time – more on supplements, pink drinks, Jamba Juice, and cardio.)

Maximum

Forgive the break. Lots happening on the field and off, pushing this project back. The dog is doing much better, but the last week spent focused on it, Mark Prior, and Barry Bonds has slightly pushed me back. I’ve adjusted, not able to make time for the heavy weights, so picking up the frequency of the core work and watching the diet closely.

Alex, a great reader with a job nearly as cool as mine, had a great question. I’ll share as today’s post.

Alex asks — "I trust that everything is going well for you.  Between the Cubs  incident, the Barry Bonds scandal (can it be called a scandal at  this point?), and what I?m guessing is the busiest time of the year  for you, I hope you’re holding up okay.

"I’ve had a thought skirting around the back of my mind for awhile  now.  You’re doing an exercise/dieting/supplement regiment to make  huge fitness gains.  But isn?t it possible that the gains a world- class athlete (a Bonds, say) needs to become a better world-class  athlete is so difficult impossibly difficult to achieve that  chemical intervention is necessary for such improvement to take  place?  Or to put it another way, exercise/dieting/supplements have  a massive impact upon your fitness level, and can bring you from a  poor level of fitness to a superior level of fitness.  But can they  take you from a superior level of fitness to a superhuman level of  fitness?"

I’ve looked at your blog and haven’t really seen an answer, so I
thought I’d ask.  I’m sorry if this question’s been answered
elsewhere- like, say, in The Juice (which I’ll be picking up next
week). I don?t doubt that I?m wrong about this.  I’m just curious
about the reasons why I’m wrong.

Will: Great question! The answer is that  percentage gains are harder as someone nears a genetic maximum —  except no one’s ever hit that genetic maximum. Look at body  builders, or sprinters, people we would say are much closer to that  maximum than Bonds. He certainly didn’t look or perform like them; he  performed like a baseball player. Now, the flip side to percentage gains is that 1%  of Bonds is much larger than 1% of Armando Rios (who tested positive in 2003 and has been implicated in the ongoing BALCO saga), so he actually  doesn’t have to do as much to make those type of gains performance wise.

As Jay Jaffe showed in "The Juice" and Nate Silver showed in "Baseball Between The Numbers," there’s no statistical evidence that performance-enhancing drugs of any type show up in the numbers. I’m not saying there’s not an effect, just that people smarter than me can’t find it statistically. If Bonds and others risked their health and reputations for a gain that could be seen as statistical noise, that’s not an advantage, that’s stupidity.

Off to the World Baseball Classic. Save me a seat, Mr. DuPuy!

Quick update

Things are still going well — between the Mark Prior controversy, the World Baseball Classic startup, and the Team Health Reports over at BP, I’ve been busy. I’m scheduled for my first month’s re-measurements on Monday and will have a full update then.

For those linking over from Fitness Buff Radio, welcome! Catch up, then take a look around MLBlogs. There’s always something worth reading around here.

Combine

I spent the weekend at the NFL Combine, watching coaches, players, and agents go through the interesting process. Guys incessantly talked about losing weight, gaining weight, or even holding weight, reminding me that my quest to watch my weight was hardly singular. Weight is a major component of sport. I heard a tale from a former NFL center about summer practice where he went from 260 to 237! That’s insane (and it’s small comfort that this was pre-Stringer NFL.)

Tests, MRIs, interviews, sprints, weights, and measurements are all just a small part of what goes into figuring out if this player is going to become an NFL player. It’s an interesting process, one I was happy to hang out and see with my colleage Aaron Schatz. I also got to have coffee with Peter King, a highlight. People would be surprised to know just what a big baseball fan he is!

I also got to meet up with Pete Williams for the first time. Pete is a co-author of Core Performance and at his book signing, a couple guys from Athletes Performance stopped by. They mentioned that some of the guys at API were following my quest, so it was interesting to hear that the very people that help me do this are watching the process. I’m hoping to get out to API in Tempe or LA sometime this winter to put the "finishing touches" on this transformation.

The weekend and the week’s media attention kept pushing workouts back. I missed Friday’s workout and will be forced to "double up" tomorrow morning, but I’ve done my core work. What I need is a set of dumbbells … anyone at Bowflex or Powerblocks want to set me up with those sweet quick-switch weights?

Nearing the end of the month when we’ll remeasure and reweigh, but the results so far are good. The first month of living chemically will likely be a big success.

You Can Even Skip a Day!

I forget what deodorant it was the purported to be so strong that you could skip a day. Please, don’t. But sometimes life gets in the way of a workout. This week, while getting flamed by the Chicago media, I dealt with a bit too much to make it in on Monday. The diet didn’t change, I didn’t backslide, and I was doing my core workouts including some extra ab work.

That left me with Wednesday’s double workout. Yes, double. Doug let me know that it was reasonable to double the workout since I wasn’t working the same muscle group – one was pushing, one was pulling – but that it would hurt. I can deal with some pain and I certainly had some aggression to get out. The workout went well, up to the point of the dumbbell curls, where I was simply out of gas. The double had robbed me, so it’s something I’ll revisit when I head in on Friday. Biceps are going to be a big challenge.

The key has been sensible eating, consistent workouts, and smart supplementation. I’m not losing a significant amount of weight — still dealing with some creatine bloat and increased water intake — but the jeans that had gotten slightly tight around the hips slid off last night without unbuttoning or unzipping.

It’s not advisable to skip a day, but it’s not the end either. Too many people get defeatist if they’re not following their program to the letter, if their results slide behind their goals, or if they get discouraged or distracted. Something’s better than nothing in almost every case. It’s not time to get defeatest or desperate in the first month of a year of living chemically.

Fighting Genes and Water

It’s a bit of a shock to step on the scale and see the numbers go from 225 to 230 literally overnight. Even thought I know the cause, it’s still disconcerting and even disheartening. It’s water weight, caused by the addition of a new supplement. I’m taking a creatine supplement, which does cause cells to take on more water, so very literally, I’m bloated. It’s a "good bloat" and will regulate.

The form I’m using, an esterized version, is very quick acting. Creatine is one of the most widely used supplements in sports and is very misunderstood. It helps with both muscle fueling and recovery, working in ways that are better described elsewhere. The danger is that the very action of creatine forces the person to "superhydrate." Combining dehydration with overheating can be deadly; creatine’s been implicated in several deaths among wrestlers.

The supplement, CE-XL from iSatori, works very quickly, as I’ve said and kept my legs from being quite as sore as my arms. Still some slow onset soreness from a very heavy leg workout yesterday, but nothing like the "oh my god" soreness in my arms. Friday, I had a hard time straightening my arms, so it looked like I was running anytime I moved!

The other thing I’m fighting is genetics. My parents are both athletic, with my dad still a good tennis player and my mom a national level swimmer back in the day. Brian Giles, however, has a brother who’s as physically gifted as him. I’m still trying to find out more about Giles’ parents — Geoff Young of Ducksnorts pointed me to a bio of Giles that said his father coached in Little League, but I’ll bet one or both parents were athletes. There’s a genetic proclivity we all have for certain things, be it running, baseball, bodybuilding, math or music. I can ride a bike all day and I’m never going to be Lance Armstrong.

What we all have to do is get to our "genetic maximum" right? I’m not so sure. Genetics contribute and certainly everyone can’t do everything, but the human body is a pretty amazing thing. The genetic maximum is likely so high that no one reaches it. Heck, we’re just a few years away from altering the genes themselves.

One week down and I can say my energy level is SIGNIFICANTLY higher. Some of that is simply feeling better about myself; I’ve set a goal and am working diligently towards it. The rest is probably endorphins. The next couple weeks will be interesting — will the new supplements help (more on this soon)? Will I get past the muscle soreness that would prevent some people from continuing? At what point will there be visible results? How will the two workouts (heavy weights plus core) synergize? How will I maintain flexibility? How can I increase the cardio I’ll need to burn more fat? (This is the big weakness I have going so far … the thirty minutes of cardio isn’t enough.)

All interesting questions, I hope, and interesting answers in the coming weeks. As pitchers and catchers report, we’ll find out more about how baseball players are answering questions about conditioning and supplementation under the new drug policy (and what’s up with Mark Prior’s shoulder!)

Learn Something New

As I rest my arms on the desk to type — yes, I’m powerfully sore from two heavy workouts this week — I wanted to share something with you that I learned. Justin Alexander, the editor of Mind & Muscle (where I’ve written in the past), kindly answered a question I have.

"Can I mix my various supplement powders together?"

The answer from Justin is yes. So the four separate things that I drink (Amino Vital, whey protein isolate, and two new ones — Creatine ester and Leptigen) could be mixed together. The problem is that the tastes might not go well together. Vanilla, two fruit punch, and lemon doesn’t sound like a tasty treat.

Honestly, the powders and pills are one of the hardest parts of this. I hate chalky powder drinks and some of these have a decent taste and others have a tinge of dried vomit to them. It’s the results I want, not the taste. If I want taste, I’ll try a nice cup of Starbucks Gold Coast.

A quick update on weight: I’m actually up a pound. I wish I could say it was lean muscle being added, but it’s water weight. I’m drinking FAR more water than I normally do, which is probably a good thing in the long run.

A Sensible Dinner

Several have emailed me asking about my diet, worried that I was relying completely on supplements to lose fat and gain muscle. No, this may have "chemical" in the title, but I didn’t check my common sense at the door either. As with any realistic and sustainable weight loss plan, there’s a simple math: Burn more than you bring in.

There are some great systems out there, such as Weight Watchers, that simply the math and make sure that the diet is sensible. Others, like GI or Nutri/System’s GI based plan, take more involvement. I have a caloric cap and use common sense to make sure everything else stays reasonable. 1600 calories of bacon or ice cream is 1600 calories, but it’s hardly healthy.

Here’s today’s plan. I’m at a 1600 calorie a day cap right now as I’m "shocking" my body into using fat as energy.

For breakfast, a large bowl of Total vanilla yogurt cereal with light soy milk (450c).
Snack: 10 cups of coffee. (Cups in this sense is the physical measure. I have big mugs.) (0c).
(There’s some debate on the actual caloric count of coffee. Some have 0, some have 10. I think there’s some assumption of sugar and cream. I take mine black.)
Snack: 2 cans of Monster Lo-Carb (20c)
Lunch: Powerbar and water with Amino Vital (240c).
Post-workout: Powerade Advance (130c).
Snack: 2 glasses of protein shake (200c).
Dinner: Penne with chicken and broccoli (290c)
(This is from the Kraft South Beach prepared meal series. Surprisingly  tasty and not bland as I expected. I didn’t even need to salt it.)
Snack: 1 glass of protein shake (100c).

Total: 1430 calories. Never hungry. Lots of protein, some green vegetable, low fat. I’m actually a bit down on veggies from where I’d like to  be, but I was crunched for time at lunch and went for the Powerbar instead of rice, broccoli, or salad.

(Edit: I forgot to add in here that I’m drinking copious amounts of water in addition to what’s listed. Water is key, so I’m embarrassed I forgot to list it, despite it’s zero calorie contribution.)

 

As always, looking for comments and suggestions.

** Ok, this is a baseball blog site, so I have to make a baseball comment. Barry Bloom thinks Barry Bonds will play in 110 games or less. No one in the media is closer to Bonds than Bloom, so I can’t tell if this is a real concern, over and above anything we already had or if this is a means to lower expectations. We started the Team Health Reports over at Baseball Prospectus and this is the kind of thing that vexes me. How can we tell what the real story is? I personally figured Bonds for around 500 plate appearances with a lot of early exits since Steve Finley’s a solid fourth outfielder who would be better than Bonds defensively. Batting Bonds in the 2 slot would be a nice way to add some ABs and still getting him out early. I’m glad we scheduled the Giants THR as one of the later ones!

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