Overcoming Sadness, Lonliness, & Depression

“What the hell does this have to do with lifting and performance”? You’re probably asking yourself. Well, more than you might think.

It’s Not Just About the Physical

It’s not all about just what’s on the outside. It’s not all about your performance on the field. It’s about what’s going up on in there; in that noggin of yours.

In the world of performance and physique enhancement, it can be too easy to get all caught up in the vanity and aesthetics. We do everything we can to improve in every which way physically, but what’s all that for if you’re all fucked up mentally and emotionally?

Side Note For the Bros

Guys, I need you to listen here especially. There’s NOTHING wrong with wanting to talk about your mental and emotional health. It’s a serious matter.

Don’t ever think that it’s “unmanly” or “gay” to have the need to talk about these things (plus, there’s nothing wrong with being gay anyway). It can be quite debilitating at times. Dealing with things like anxiety, depression, and loneliness is no easy feat. However, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

It’s Gonna Happen At Some Point

Something will happen in your life; whether it be the death of a family member, breaking up with your significant other, getting fired from your job, or some other major life event, that will cause you to lose sight. It’ll cause you pain. It’ll cause you to suffer. Hell, it might not even be due to a singular event. It could be a condition you’ve been suffering from for quite a while now.

No, it’s not pretty. It’s not easy. Some people may not even understand or be there for you. But I promise you there is always somebody that is. There’s always ways to make it better.

How Can I Feel Better Now?

I’m here to tell you the ways in which you can do that. Let’s dive right in:

Exercise

Ah-hah! You knew I was gonna slap this one right in there. In terms of depression, unfortunately, the data on resistance training and its effects on its treatment are lacking. However, what we do know is that the most effective exercise intervention for the treatment of depression in the literature is aerobic training [1]. The best programs consisted of the following variables:

  1. 3-4x/week
  2. 30-40 minutes per session
  3. Low-moderate intensity (ranging from a brisk walk to jogging at about 50-60% intensity)
  4. Perform for at least 9 weeks

So as you can see, it doesn’t take much. Simply taking the time to walk a few times a week can pay dividends to your mental health. Especially after a traumatic event, every little bit helps.

However, if you feel like resistance training suits you better (I feel like that personally), then go for it! I find the concentration it takes to focus on the task I’m about to perform (especially on compound lifts) is especially helpful for me to put my brain power into something else entirely, even if it’s just for a few moment.

Whatever works for you, just go do it!

Talk Therapy

No, you don’t have to go beg your insurance provider to have them cover a psychiatrist for you. When I say “talk therapy”, I mean talk to anybody you feel most comfortable with. This could be your family, significant other, best friend, hell, even one of your professors if that’s the kind of relationship you have with them. A lot more people care about you than you might think.

Think about how lucky we are to live in the day and age that we do. With all this modern technology, there are more options than ever to be able to connect with others. You can find forums dedicated to your specific condition or feeling, you can find private Facebook groups, even apps!

For instance, there is an app currently in development called Psychologist in a Pocket (PiaP), that utilizes the technology of lexicon synthesis (human vocabulary and speech) in order to detect symptoms of possible clinical conditions and connect you with the right provider who can help you to feel better [2].

Side Note: Didn’t get paid to mention that app, I just think it’s really freakin’ cool.

So don’t rule out any of these options until you’ve tried them for yourself. The results just may surprise you.

Supplements

Yeah, yeah, I know. Many of you will write this one off right away. How can a freakin’ supplement help me feel happier?

However, there have been some supplements that have shown in the literature to either work in isolation or with anti-depressive drugs to help cope with depressive symptoms. Those are:

SAMe (Pronounced “Sammy”)

S-adenosyl Methionine, also known as SAMe, has been shown to improve depressive symptoms over placebo after 12 weeks of treatment [3]. This was measured by a validated scale called the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, which is used as a standard of measure for depression in various depression treatment studies.

How Much To Take?

1600-3200mg/day

Kava

This herb is becoming a popular anxiety reducer, as well as even a mood-booster. In fact, 300mg per day was shown to elevate mood and cheerfulness in healthy individuals without any existing depression or anxiety disorders [4].

Also, it seems to benefit those with anxiety disorders as well, as supplementation significantly improved their conditions after 8 weeks of daily use [5].

How Much To Take

300mg/day

Saffron

This spice is quite fascinating. In fact, it has been touted as being as powerful as the depressive drugs fluoxetine and imipramine. A meta-analysis revealed this, as it looked at 5 randomized controlled trials of saffron [6]. They discovered that saffron was much better than placebo at treating depression and that it was equal to the previously mentioned depressive drugs. For a supplement, this is quite powerful stuff.

How Much To Take?

30mg/day

Psychiatrist

If all else fails, go see a professional. There’s only so much you can do before you have to eventually call in the experts. They’ll be able to prescribe you drugs that may help you in conjunction with supplemental therapy, as well as other treatment options such as cognitive behavior therapy in conjunction with medication.

DON’T Force Yourself to Feel Happy

I know it can be tempting, but don’t try to make yourself feel happy when you really can’t. The energy it takes to “fake it till you make it” can be really draining, plus, it won’t solve the true problem. Basically, forcing yourself to be happy is like placing a small butterfly bandage over a 2nd degree burn; it ain’t doing much.

Instead, realize that the sooner you realize something’s wrong and that you need help, the sooner you’ll feel better. There’s no scientific data to back this one up. Sorry guys, there’s nothing I can do about that. However, trust me on this one; I’ve been through it as I’m sure you guys have as well. Get help. Don’t wait.

References

  1. Stanton, R., & Reaburn, P. (2014). Exercise and the treatment of depression: A review of the exercise program variables. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(2), 177-182. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2013.03.010
  2. Cheng, P. G., Ramos, R. M., Bitsch, J. Á, Jonas, S. M., Ix, T., See, P. L., & Wehrle, K. (2016). Psychologist in a Pocket: Lexicon Development and Content Validation of a Mobile-Based App for Depression Screening. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 4(3). doi:10.2196/mhealth.5284
  3. Sarris, J., Papakostas, G. I., Vitolo, O., Fava, M., & Mischoulon, D. (2014). S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus escitalopram and placebo in major depression RCT: Efficacy and effects of histamine and carnitine as moderators of response. Journal of Affective Disorders, 164, 76-81. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.03.041
  4. Thompson, R., Ruch, W., & Hasenöhrl, R. U. (2004). Enhanced cognitive performance and cheerful mood by standardized extracts ofPiper methysticum(Kava-kava). Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 19(4), 243-250. doi:10.1002/hup.581
  5. Volz, H., & Kieser, M. (1997). Kava-kava Extract WS 1490 versus Placebo in Anxiety Disorders – A Randomized Placebo-controlled 25-week Outpatient Trial. Pharmacopsychiatry, 30(01), 1-5. doi:10.1055/s-2007-979474
  6. Hausenblas, H. A., Saha, D., Dubyak, P. J., & Anton, S. D. (2013). Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Integrative Medicine,11(6), 377-383. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056

Tart Cherry: The New Ibuprofen?!

Today, we will be looking primarily at this article:

Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males.

To examine the potential significance of the supplement Tart Cherry and its anti-inflammatory effects!

When we perform high-intensity strength training exercises, damage occurs in the form of inflammation and microtears to the structure of the muscle, just to name a couple. For athletes especially, one of the most common ways to remedy this is through the use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (more commonly known as NSAIDs). These include commonly known over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, there has been some controversy associated with its use in this regard, as it has been shown to inhibit the processes of muscle protein synthesis, which is the primary driver for muscle growth, strength, and repair after intense exercise.

It was because of this very controversy that researchers began delving into alternative ways to remedy this damage. One of these alternatives include fruits that contain high amounts of phytochemicals, which has shown in some of the scientific literature to provide a significant anti-inflammatory effect. More specifically, the study we will examine today looks at Montmorency cherries, which have been used in general health studies to analyze its effects on the aforementioned anti-inflammatory effects associated with particular diseases such as cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis.     


After the touted positive effects of cherry supplementation in these studies were published, two resistance exercise-based studies came to the forefront. One study examined 8 days of supplementation with tart cherry while performing 2 sets of 20 repetitions of maximal elbow flexion, in other words, the maximum amount of weight the subject could handle on the lowering portion of a bicep curl. Compared to placebo, muscle pain and strength losses were reduced in the tart cherry group.

In the other study, it was shown that isometric (muscle contraction with no movement, such as a plank) muscle strength recovery was improved with tart cherry supplementation when compared to no supplementation whatsoever. The current study aims to utilize these previously used tart cherry supplementation protocols to determine if they were to receive similar results in the attenuation of muscle soreness, strength loss, and markers of muscle damage.

The Primary Study We’re Looking At…

The study took 23 healthy,resistance-trained males in a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study design. The term “resistance-trained” when referring to subjects can be quite ambiguous. The researchers’ in this study used this term to refer to the fact that the individuals had the ability to barbell back squat 1.5x their body weight on a Smith Machine and have performed regular, consistent squat exercise training for at least 6 months prior to the study.


All subjects completed a had blood drawn after a 10 hour fast both at 5-time points during the study. These blood draws measured markers of muscle damage, oxidative stress, and inflammation. After the first fasting blood draw, subjects were matched on several characteristics such as squat strength and body weight and were then placed into either the placebo group (rice flour) or the tart cherry (powdered tart cherry supplement) group. The individuals were told to take the supplement for a total of 10 days.

As for the subjects’ diets, they were instructed to record their food and fluid intake for 4 out of the first 7 days of the study. The researchers’ goal in this was to reflect the person’s normal dietary intake. Body composition measures were analyzed via DEXA (Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry) which included the analysis of fat-free mass and fat mass. As for the exercise protocol itself, subjects performed 10 sets of 10 repetitions at 70% of their 1-repetition maximum (1RM).

Findings

The researchers found that the perception of soreness from the subjects in the tart cherry (TC) tended to be significantly lower than the placebo group (P). This was noted in the vastus lateralis and medialis, which are more commonly known as the “outer and inner quad” muscles, respectively. This was noted 48 hours after the exercise session. Another interesting find by the researchers was that serum levels of cortisol (more commonly known as the “stress hormone”) were significantly lower in the TC group compared to the P group; increasing by 13% in the placebo group but only 8% in the tart cherry group after the exercise bout.

What is this study really telling us?

This study was the first of its kind to investigate the effects of Montmorency tart cherry on acute resistance training performance and recovery. Although this was the first of its kind to do this, this study did have some notable flaws that inhibited its ability to fully demonstrate the effects of tart cherry on resistance training performance.

The study only utilized one strength training session throughout the entire 10 days of supplementation. Research studies are conducted for various reasons, but one of them is so that the results can be practically applied to real life scenarios. From recreational exercisers to the Olympic athlete, any of these populations rarely train only once in a 10-day cycle. Future research on this topic should utilize multiple sessions per week, with 3 sessions being the absolute minimum.

The limitation that really stands out here is of the dietary tracking. Food and fluid intake were tracked for 3 weekdays and 1 weekend day throughout the first week of the supplementation protocol. Usually, studies with a higher amount of subjects will implement this type of protocol due to a lack of resources for more in-depth dietary adherence tracking or simply for simplicity due to the high amount of individuals participating. But in a study such as this one, with its low subject number of 23, a more through dietary strategy could have been implemented, with, at the very least, dietary tracking being required for all 10 days of the supplementation protocol. This would have provided us with a better understanding of how (if even) the subjects’ nutrition affected the outcome(s) of this study.

However, despite the study’s weaknesses, it does utilize various strengths in its protocol that other similar studies did not. The vast amount of markers of muscle soreness, performance, damage, and inflammation captured during the blood draws was quite immense compared to other studies on this topic. The blood panel conducted on each subject was able to provide more in-depth results and answers (although many were not significant) to the question of “What effects does tart cherry supplementation have on acute performance and recovery during high-intensity resistance training?”

The Grand Scheme of Things

The benefits of tart cherry supplementation on perceived muscle soreness falls in line with previously published literature, with one study reporting consumption of tart cherry juice was able to significantly reduce pain in the flexors of the elbow using a subjective visual analog scale to assess pain. However, not all of the literature agrees, as another study reported no significant difference in pain reduction after a vigorous single leg knee extension protocol.


The trend of reduced markers of muscle damage is supported in other studies as well, with one, in particular, showing significant reductions in a common muscle damage biomarker known as creatine kinase (CK), when compared to placebo.

Along with muscle damage, an inflammatory marker known as Interleukin 6 (IL-6) was notably reduced after a marathon running event. This was illustrated by a quicker recovery of knee extensor (quads) maximal strength as compared to placebo. However, when this marker was examined in a protocol that utilized a resistance training regime, the results were not so positive. There was absolutely no significant difference in the levels of IL-6 before and after the initiation of the supplementation protocol with tart cherry.

The Final Verdict

So at this very moment, it is unclear what effects that tart cherry supplementation has on resistance training, despite the number of studies that are available on it. Fortunately, however, the current literature provides a solid basis for future research in terms of methodologies and standardizations to use.