Monday, August 26, 2013

On Programming - An Introduction

I want you guys to know something. It's one of the best kept secrets of strength training and fitness in general. Everyone's got the perfect program and the best training split and they've got mountains of reasons why you, too, should be taking advantage of what they're offering. Well, here's the truth.

Programming is BULLSHIT.

Why you ask? Well, it's really pretty simple. To explain, I'm going to hand the mic over to my boy Bruce for a minute. Tell em', Bruce. (We've even got subtitles for our spanish speaking friends!)

So you got that right? No need for further explanation? Ok. Good. See you guys next time.

All jokes aside I hope you see where I'm going with this. "I don't make a plan for fighting, thats a good way to lose your teeth." In our case it would be more like this: I don't make a plan for lifting, that would be a good way to lose your gains.

Before everyone starts losing their heads we need to consider what Mr. Lee is really saying. Bruce Lee is credited as being one of the best martial artists to ever have existed. He fathered a training philosophy that opened the eyes of people in the martial arts world and in my opinion can be applied to quite a bit more than just your kicking technique or your exercise routines. I'm going to use another of Bruce's quotes to elucidate.

"Use no form as form, use no way as way."

Or...something like that. Not sure that's the exact quote but it gets the point across. Eastern philosophy is rife with these kinds of phrases, zen koans that seem to be distinctly contradictory. They're meant to push us to examine them more deeply; to examine ourselves more deeply. Lucky for you, I'm just going to tell you what he meant. 

While these days the training methods employed in martial arts classes are quite diverse, for a long time the most prevalent training style involved having the student perform a series of choreographed motions meant to mimic a fight, called "forms." The problem with this is that the purpose of martial arts is to learn how to fight and fights are not static; they are alive. They move and change and transform. They do not stay the same. As such, repeating the same exact movement thousands of times is not terribly good practice.
Bruce's feeling was that forms "paralyze" the fighter. Examined through the lens of motor control and motor patterning you can see he's right on the money. If you condition yourself to move a certain, predictable way at the exact same speed when you go to utilize that motor program, that's the one you're gonna get. When you're in a fight you need to throw a quick jab that's lightning fast and hits with the force of a ball-peen hammer. Unfortunately, day in day out you've been training those pretty but slow and repetitive punches. When your central operating system (read: nervous system) goes to access the punching program for you, you don't get the fast jab you need; you get the slow one you've developed. This is bad. 

Bruce saw this and said hell to the nah. We're not doing that anymore. We're not going to train "forms," we're going to train different kinds of strikes, as many as we can learn. We're not going to train "styles," we're going to improve our general fitness and flexibility in all areas. We are not going to adhere to only one program or plan, because that stunts our development as a martial artist, as an athlete and as an individual. You can not decide what the solution is before you even have personal knowledge of the problem. This is precisely what training forms is: telling your body you will only ever need to move in these specific patterns because the necessity will never arise for anything else. It shouldn't be too hard to see how silly this is. When Bruce said "use no form as form," he wasn't saying don't use any form, he was saying your form should be adaptable, transferrable and ever changing; just like water. 
The same principle applies to programming. How you feel and how well you can perform is subject to a long list of variables. The idea that you can sit down and write a program for several months that you are going to follow to the T, every weight, every rep, every set; is laughable at best. Eventually you're going to miss a lift. Eventually you're going to fail on a set. What then?

You need to be able to listen to your body. If you can't understand the signals your body's throwing at you then you're never going to Become Invincible. Real fitness is about maintaining a running internal dialogue with your physiology; being able to interpret the signals it's giving you and utilize them efficiently. Maybe today your program had you lifting heavy but your CNS just isn't up to it. You don't need a super strict program that forces you to grit and bear it every time something doesn't feel right. What you need is an adaptable plan that you can apply every day you go into the gym so that you're always going hard and always making progress. Being flexible is not about giving yourself an easy out, "oh well I'll just try again tomorrow." That's just being weak. 
Do you really think that when Bruce Lee said "use no form as form," he meant don't bother with training, forego all discipline and forget about ever mastering martial arts? No. He was saying learn enough that your knowledge and your practice transcends easy categorization. Don't plan for a specific situation and only prepare for that. Plan for every situation and learn to recognize when to do what. Be the cup. Be the glass. Flow. Crash. Be still. Be water, my friends.

So, how do you do that with strength training? It's actually pretty simple once you understand the basics. Coming up in the next entry. Stay tuned.

Until then, good luck and good lifting.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Listen to Your Physical Therapist

Physical therapy is a great field and ever-evolving. It's filled with practitioners who are intelligent, highly educated and frequently just want to help people. These are all good things. Unfortunately physical therapy in it's current form has some severe limitations. As with most things, the issue is not the field itself. The field is moving in the right direction. The problem is the individual clinicians.

The main issue with the average therapist is not one of capability or education. You can't be what they are or do what they do if you lack either. No, the problem actually happens to be the place from where they precede; in other words, the motivation that drives their practice. My initial foray into human physiology came through the window of human performance. Most of my education and research was driven by the pursuit of lifting massive amounts of weight, running absurdly fast and being able to hit things with the force of a sun-drunk Superman. As such, the paradigms that I developed in my mind on how to deal with and improve human movement dysfunctions all had their basis in performance enhancement. On the flip side, most therapists' educations begins deeply embedded in the hippocratic oath: the desire to do no harm.

This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It's situational. If you are elderly and your body is all jacked up from years and years of misuse, you have a low pain tolerance and all you really want to be able to do is go up and down your stairs then the therapist who's main goal is not to hurt you may be entirely capable. This is a fairly hyperbolic example but there are plenty of cases where the desire to fix as much as you can while never hurting your patient is entirely useful. Not everyone is trying to become a monster athlete. Physical therapists are incredibly effective at getting you back to baseline because it is exactly what they are taught to do.

The system breaks down when you're dealing with people like me, or, chances are if you're reading this blog, someone like you. If you are always trying to push yourself to be bigger, faster and stronger then taking "do no harm," approach is like driving with the parking brake on. No matter how much you floor the pedal it's still going to hold you back.

As long as we have therapists telling athletes not to lift heavy and to keep their arms below overhead if it hurts their shoulder we're going to have a damaged field. These are simply not acceptable responses. Yes, of course there are going to be situations where the damage to the patient is so severe that there are activities they will no be capable of, but if you are willing to clear a patient to go play college football yet you still advise them to not lift heavy weights then, simply put, you're a f*cking idiot. So, you think this person's body is capable of performing dynamic, multi-planar movements at explosive speeds and possesses the physical integrity to take hits that are thousands of pounds of force and they're going to be okay... but performing repetitive exercises in a controlled environment is dangerous because the load is too high? Seriously guys?

The problem, once again, comes from the initiation of the advice. Most physical therapists don't care how much you can squat or bench press. All they care about is that you are pain free and you don't have inflammation. Therefore all of their recommendations and modifications have this goal in mind: don't go past parallel on a squat, don't deadlift heavy weight, don't do overhead presses and for the love of god don't ever lift more than your bodyweight because all of that stuff might hurt you. If that's all I ever cared about I would never get out of bed in the morning and as a clinician if these are the goals for your patients you're f*ckin' up.

That being said both Grey Cook and Kelly Starrett are DPTs and not only are they brilliant clinicians but they are spearheading the movement in the field to integrate strength and conditioning into clinical practice. I am a huge fan of their philosophies and practices because they believe what I believe: whether you're rehabbing a post surgical joint or improving the efficiency of a power clean it's all the same thing. Healthy is healthy, disordered is disordered and no matter how you slice it movement is movement.

So that's my rant for today but it raises an important question I think. You all know how I feel about the average personal trainer and now I'm telling you you can't trust DPTs either? But then whoever shall I trust for all of my exercise science needs?!?! Who?!?!

RELEVANT. Really. Batman is always relevant. 
My goal was not tell you that PTs are bad. They're not. Nor was it to tell you that they don't know what they're doing. They do. This post, like a few others, was more aimed at broadening your horizons and helping you guys see the big picture a little bit better. If you are an athlete you need a PT who understands and respects that. You need a PT who can show you how to do what you want to do better and prevent you from re-injuring yourself, not a PT who tries to prevent re-injury through avoidance. Becoming Invincible is about confronting your weaknesses head on and beating the sh*t out of them until they become strengths. Next time your PT tells you not to do something ask them why. If their response is anything other than "your joint is so compromised that doing this movement in any way will absolutely lead to injury," then it might be time to start looking for a new clinician. 

Do me a favor though? Don't use this post as an excuse to talk to them like they're dumb. They may not be perfect for athletes yet, but that same therapist who told you not to break parallel with your knees might have just helped a little boy walk for his first time. It's all relative, kids. 

Good luck and good lifting.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Self Soft-tissue Mobilization (How to Use a Foam Roller)

So you've probably seen these things. They're all over the place nowadays, in gyms and sporting goods stores. You might even see them at a chiropractor or  a physical therapy clinic. Many of us are familiar with the bitter sweet combination of pain and relief they bring to sore, battered muscles. Others of us are probably asking themselves a very simple and totally reasonable question:

"What the hell are these weird looking foam tubes?"

Well, my post-workout recovery challenged friends, this weird looking foam tube might just be your new best friend. I covered this subject briefly in a previous post but I only really addressed what it's good for, not how to use it. The foam roller is one of the cheapest and most versatile tools for self soft-tissue mobilization (SSTM). Sounds fancy and science-y (and frankly I'm not sure it's a real term) but what it means is that this simple foam cylinder can help unglue immobile tissue, increase joint mobility and range of motion and ultimately help make you bigger, more bad-ass and a bit closer to becoming invincible.

So, how does it work and how do you use one? First, a quick anatomy lesson.
Our muscles and our musculoskeletal system is not one single, contiguous unit. Just like an engine in a car it is a large, functioning system made up of a number of smaller pieces. First and foremost (because this is a Strength blog, damn it) are your muscles:

As you can see your muscles are made up of several smaller units that are all wrapped into bundle and each bundle is made up of similarly smaller units wrapped in similar bundles. Uhm, right. I think that made sense. Anyway, each one of these "bundles" is surrounded by fascia, a type of woven connective tissue that holds everything together. At any point in any of these units a number of things can happen. 

You know how when you go to get a massage they work out all those nasty "knots" in your muscles? This is one of the ways that tissue gets glued down. A "knot" is a group of fibers that at some point contracted and then failed to relax all of the way. In addition to this, all of your tissues need to be be able to slide over one another well enough to allow motion. If some of your muscle tissue is tied down because of some type of scar tissue (frequently referred to as an "adhesion") then the tissues can't move properly which means you can't move properly.

In addition to our muscles we also have tendons and ligaments. Our tendons attach muscles to bone and our ligaments attach bones to each other. Similar to muscles, ligaments and tendons can also become victim to some type of adhesion or get locked down and become immobile due to local inflammation or muscle stiffness. What I mean is this, your tendons attach your muscles to your bones so if the muscle being attached is tonic (partially contracted) the tendon may be pulled tighter than it should at all times which will reduce the motion of the antagonist muscles (the muscles that move the joint in the opposite direction i.e. bicep-tricep, quad-hamstring etc.) and may lead to joint stiffness, pain and lost range of motion. Honestly, you're probably not going to be doing a whole lot of tendon or ligament mobilization with a foam roller. This is usually pretty specific soft tissue work that a trained clinician performs with their hands but I figured it was worth mentioning. 

Ligaments! (That's a foot, in case you weren't sure.)
Tendons! (And this is an elbow. Really. Swear.)

Finally, we can't forget about our big beautiful epidermis. That's a fancy word for skin. Get your mind out of the gutter. While skin isn't a contractile tissue nor is it truly structural, it can still get tacked down the way your muscles, ligaments and tendons do to an extent which can ultimately lead to the same problems. If you're movement's not good then you can't Right. 
Skin! Totally how it looks in your body. Same colors and everything. Come on, would I lie to you?
So we've got a few different types of tissue that love to get all up in each others business and cause more physiological drama than a Mean Girl with a Facebook app. So what do we do? Enter your White Knight: Sir Foam Roller of Mobilization.

Sigh. Sometimes even I realize how bad my jokes are. Anyway, these things come in all sorts of shapes and sizes some as simple as a round piece of foam like those pictured above and then theres some crazier ones. Like these. 

If you're new to foam rolling I would recommend starting with the simple, basic foam roller. The more complex variations like the two pictured above tend to be made of a harder material (PVC pipe or something similar on the inside as opposed to foam) and are therefore more painful. They are also ridged or pointed so that you can apply more direct, focused pressure to certain tissues; something that you'll need a little experience with SSTM before you can realistically or effectively approach.

Now that you understand the anatomy and you've acquired your weapon of choice, let's talk about how to use it. It would be wonderful if simple laying down and rolling back and forth on it was effective and I think a lot of personal trainers and fitness publications out there would have you believe this. Hell, I've seen DPTs prescribe this kind of activity to patients. It might feel better for a little while but if you're just fumbling around you're hardly going to effect any kind of significant or long lasting change. In order to do that, you need to have a purpose and a plan. 

Foam Rolling Techniques

1. Intermittent Pressure - This is basically rolling back and forth on a knot. I know, I know. I just told you absently rolling around is pointless and I'm not retracting that statement. The purpose of intermittent pressure is to locate a knot or a location of tied down tissue (these are indicated by a sharp increase in pain when you pass over them. Trust me, you'll know.) Now, using the foam roller as your divining rod and the sensation of pain as your indicator, locate the limits of the knot. Once you've found them, stay inside them and roll back and forth while deliberately attempting to relax your muscles. Continue doing this until you feel a change in the tissue. You can keep doing it for as long as you can stand it but once you've gone a minute or two and feel like nothing's changed, you're probably done with that location for the moment. There's only so much you can fix in a single application.

2. Constant Pressure with Contraction/Relaxation - This is the method that I personally think sucks the most in terms of pain. You begin initially with a similar technique as Intermittent Pressure to locate immobile tissue.  Now, instead of finding the outer limits of the pain, find the central, most painful location. Apply constant pressure and then contract your muscle fully and hold for a few seconds. Once you start to relax do it slowly and consciously, don't just let your muscle go slack in a second. You should be able to relax further than you did when you initially placed the pressure over the muscle. Once again, repeat the technique until you feel that you've effected enough of a change or you feel like nothing significant is happening anymore.

3. Constant pressure with joint motion - Again, begin by locating what feels like tacked down tissue. Now, while maintaining pressure on the tissue, begin moving the joint that muscle controls through it's range of motion. Attempt to move it as much as possible in as many directions without significantly hurting yourself. This type of mobilization is great for breaking up adhesions or scar tissue. You know how sometimes when you have a loose thread on a shirt, if you try to pull it off it just pulls out more thread and keeps unraveling? Well, what do you do in that situation? You hold down the end of it and try to pull off the thread without unraveling more. This functions under the same principle. You pin down one end of the adhesion and try to remove it by moving the adhered tissue underneath it. As above, continue the technique until you feel you're no longer getting anything out of it.

Now that you understand the techniques, a few precautions to pay attention to:
-These mobilizations can take anywhere from 1-10 minutes, in some severe cases maybe even more. If you're spending 30 seconds on the foam roller you're not trying hard enough.
-while a simple foam-core roller may be effective initially, eventually you'll probably need something harder to get deep into your tissues particularly if you're muscular. More muscle is great, but it means more tissue that can get knotted and tacked down and the denser the muscle the harder it becomes to create deep enough pressure to effect change. 
-these mobilizations are uncomfortable. They should not be painful. While some people would claim semantics the truth is that there is a significant difference. In the words of Dr. Kelly Starrett, "don't go into the pain cave." His point is that we are capable of doing some terrible things to ourselves if we go hide in our mental caves and we can shut out an immense amount of pain. Do not do this. If you need to go into the pain cave to deal with your mobilization you are most likely doing it too hard and damaging something.

Or you might be a wimp. But it's probably the first thing. Probably. 

So there you have it, go grab a foam roller and get rolling. You can apply these techniques to just about any muscle in your body. Don't let the floor restrict you, you can put a foam roller up against the wall or on top of a table and lean on it if you have to. Be creative but reasonable. You can also use a tennis ball, a lacrosse ball or even a rolling pin. Anything that will give you consistent, constant pressure. I used a barbell to roll out my quads the other day. It was fan-frigging-tastic. Really.

You can find foam rollers pretty much anywhere these days but my favorite equipment company is Rogue. You can also find a pretty wide selection at Perform Better (which is where the therapy company I worked for purchased theirs) but they can be a little overpriced at times. 

Well, I'm off to go watch my friends boyfriend do something absurdly badass and a little insane. Maybe if you guys are lucky I'll even tell you about it when I get back. Have a nice weekend kids. Good luck and good lifting.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On the Subject of Substances - How Alcohol Makes You Fat and Why Caffeine is Magic

So did you guys hear about A-Rod? Yea...the pro baseball slugger who got caught using performance enhancing drugs? Gasp. Conspiracy!! Deception!! RAGE!!

For real people?

First of all, none of us should be surprised. We say we aren't but that's bullsh*t. Inevitably there's always someone who says what we're all thinking, at least in part: "How could someone with so much be so stupid and risk it?" 

 Tell me something. If there was a substance out there that had negligible health risks, was easily accessible and would likely guarantee to double if not triple or quadruple your yearly salary wouldn't you take it? Yes, I'm sure plenty of us would hold true to our principles and refuse to cheat but don't be an a$$hole and try to act like you can't understand the draw. Quick side note, I'm sure there are plenty of you reading this going "but...but...steroids are bad for you! they cause cancer and death and...stuff." All I would say is that's....well researched.

The subject of steroids in sports is simple and should come down to only one thing. They cheated. There are rules against using steroids and they broke the rules. Whenever people try to spark a moral quandary into whether or not the use of steroids is wrong it's laughable if not outright hysterical. Come on guys, really? Can't we at least have enough perspective to see what's happening? You're caught up in the stigma.  

People ask me about supplements a lot. Some of the things that they say boggle my mind. Is creatine a steroid? (no), will caffeine help me burn fat? (yes), do they make glutamine from insects? (no...wait...what?) Some of it's simple - they just don't know. I have an education in this subject and they don't. Reasonable. What cracks me up is the people who blatantly think that all sports supplements are suspect and potentially evil, as if all supplement companies are in fact the machinations of some lab coat wearing mad scientist who wants to simultaneously poison our bodies and empty our bank accounts. 

Personally I believe much of this is related to our view of steroids. "it's not natural!" Yea, well neither is deadlifting 495. NEXT. "It has stuff in it that was chemically engineered so it must be bad for me." Right, just like all of those life saving medications the pharmaceutical industry provides us (at ludicrous cost) which are also chemically engineered. Not natural must mean infectious and evil, right? Wrong, now put the hemp seed smoothie down. NEXT. I just don't want to put that kind of stuff into my body, you know? <-- this? this right here? This is the one that cracks me up the most. Oh you don't want to put a powerful ergogenic aid that may significantly alter your functional biochemistry into your body? Meanwhile they're nursing a hangover with a Starbucks latte and four Advil.

Some of you may already know this but if you don't, listen up (or read...whatever). Alcohol and caffeine likely have a more significant impact on your cognitive, metabolic and musculoskeletal functions than anything you can buy at GNC or Vitamin Shoppe. For example:

and all the bad stuff it does to your body
disclaimer: I love alcohol. Big fan. Not saying stay away, just saying be aware. 

1. Alcohol makes you fat. Legitimately, and it's not simple due to the excess of calories in a beer. Even that skinny martini you're drinking could be short circuiting your weight loss attempts. We're all familiar with the main macronutrients, right? CHO, Fat and protein. They are differentiated by their functions in our body but ultimately what they are truly identified by (and what determines their function) is their chemical structure. Protein has amine groups, carbohydrate is composed entirely of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen and triglycerides (fat) are three long(ish) chain fatty acids attached to a glycerol. Now, interestingly enough glycerol is actually an alcohol which is a compound of a different chemical structure (it has a hydroxyl (OH) functional group attached). Generally speaking alcohols are either ethyl (drinkable) or methyl (poisonous). 

Our body has different ways of processing each compound and different preferences. In addition, the type of activity you prefer alters which substance you will preferentially burn for fuel; endurance athletes burn fat more readily than a powerlifter for example.  Generally speaking however, your body burns carbohydrate --> fat --> protein, in that order. Alcohol unfortunately rolls in and shoves everyone else out of the way like the drunk bastard it is. If you have alcohol in your system your body will burn it preferentially for energy over anything else. In other words consuming alcohol with a meal, while frequently fantastic, pretty much ensures that your metabolism is going to store those other nutrients. This is why simply observing the caloric content of a beverage may not spare your waistline. It makes all the other calories you consume stick to your ribs that much more. 

2. Decreased quality of sleep - Heavy drinkers (more than 3 drinks most days of the week) get less REM sleep and all of the benefits that come along with it. Refer to my post on sleep for more details. The reason for this is that alcohol consumption overstimulates production of GABA in your brain, a chemical compound that aids relaxation and helps us fall asleep faster but concurrently makes it more difficult for us to get deep, restful sleep. Go figure. 

3. Decreased testosterone production -  Not examining any other factors, if you drink 3 drinks a night your testosterone production may go down by as much as 7%. Considering the fact that testosterone helps build muscle, burn fat and increases awareness and cognitive function, this is clearly not the most positive thing. 

4. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - The myriad negative effects that consuming alcohol can have on your baby if you are expecting. I really have no patience for this sh*t. You can drink a glass of wine from time to time but if you've got a baby on the way and you're hitting the jack like a sorority girl during rush you need to be slapped. Hard. 

5. The obvious stuff - everyone knows that alcoholism is bad and that alcoholics are riddled with heart disease, liver problems and other health issues not to mention the indirect consequences on your life and livelihood. I don't think I should have to go into detail about the stuff you guys probably already know. This includes avoiding high calorie, super sugary alcoholic cocktails if you're trying to lose weight but again, I really shouldn't have to tell you that. 

Now for some good news. You know that part where i mentioned testosterone production? Well the thing is a 7% decrease really isn't that much. You can actually increase your production by up to 200% just by altering your diet. That means that if you did so, even if you drank, you could still be up by 193%. Seems good to me. On top of that, while alcohol does suppress fatty acid oxidation it actually increases insulin sensitivity and action. I think it's also worth mentioning that as long as your alcohol consumption remains reasonable (1-3 drinks/ day some days of the week) you can moderate ALL of the negative effects of alcohol consumption through diet and exercise.

So we've discussed alcohol, one of the omnipresent substances of the day. Let's move on to coffee or more specifically, caffeine. 

and all the awesome stuff it does to your body
or: Why Coffee is Magic

Caffeine is a powerful hormone stimulator. Yep, hormones, the group of biological compounds to which all popular PEDs belong. That macchiato you're drinking actual does some of the same things. Caffeine has a whole bunch of effects on our body but many of those that we understand can be attributed to the production of the following compounds:

1. Glucagon - This pancreatic hormone is the counterpart to insulin. Where insulin signals for storage, glucagon signals for usage. Glucagon activates an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) which catalyzes the reaction that cleaves stored fats into free fatty acids (FFAs) that your body can then use as a fuel source for beta oxidation. In other words, increased glucagon leads to increased fat loss not solely by increasing metabolic rate, but by also increasing your bodies ability to use FFAs as a fuel source. 

2. Adrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine) - Caffeine stimulates the production of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine which are synthesized in the adrenal gland of our brain. These hormones have a vast array of effects including but not limited to:

-increased awareness
-increased energy levels
-increased cognitive performance
-increased muscular force production
-increased rate of nervous system transmission
-bronchodilation (opening of the passageways of your lungs)
-increased capacity and function of long term memory

Adrenal hormones were designed by evolution to turn us into superhuman badasses in a time of need. They essentially supercharge all of our physiological systems that are directly related to physical/athletic performance. They also up-regulate HSL (just like glucagon) which leads to increased fat burning.

Now despite the fact that I love caffeine second only to my dog Cody and my man Bats, it does have some significantly negative aspects. For one it's a highly addictive substance with risks of chemical dependency. Secondly it can lead to increased blood pressure as it seems to have it's own vasoconstrictive properties in addition to those of epinephrine, which it increases. It may also decrease insulin sensitivity because it appears to have a negative effect on removal of glucose from the bloodstream but I can't remember where exactly I read that at the moment. It can also lead to anxiety, tremors, and impaired motor function when consumed in high amounts or by high-risk individuals.

It's probably worth mentioning that sometimes people confuse the effects of caffeine and the effects of coffee because for many of us they are one and the same. As far as this post goes, the effects that I've listed are SPECIFICALLY referring to the consumption of caffeine. Coffee beans contain a number of antioxidants and other compounds in addition to the stimulant. Here's a graphic I found that lists some of the extraneous effects of coffee both negative and positive.

Alcohol and Caffeine are powerful compounds that are also culturally omnipresent. The purpose of this post was not to tell you they're bad for you because they aren't. In fact both compounds actually offer a myriad of health benefits when consumed in a reasonable, moderate manner. Do you have to take them? No, of course not, although it is worth mentioning that in general people who consume a moderate amount of alcohol and caffeine are healthier than those who consume an excessive amount of either or none at all. Granted, this could be entirely based on the fact that the moderate consumption is due to the moderate and balanced lifestyles of the consumers but that would probably make entirely too much sense. I can't be a real fitness guru using calm, sound logic like that. No way. 

So next time someone tells you they're on a cycle of creatine and something in your brain says, "tell them they're going to die!!!" just remind yourself that you probably took a more dangerous and potent substance to wake up this morning, if not to relax last night. Stay tuned this week for another post delineating what supplements are actually useful, what they do and how to use 'em.

As always, good luck and good lifting.