As of writing, I’m recovering from a shoulder injury, my first in over 10 months of body-weight HIT strength training! It’s annoying because a) I’ve been out of action for nearly 3 weeks now and b) I obviously did not respect muscle failure when it occurred and went beyond my personal limits. Being injured brings with it an inflammation and hence longevity penalty, something that is to be avoided at all cost! Time to examine what went wrong and perhaps learn some lessons..
The When & The How
The injury occurred during a pull-up session, about 2-3 weeks into my new Zero Carb (ZC) lifestyle. I was feeling awesome before the workout and thought that maybe this time I’ll be able to break the 10 pull-up PB barrier for the first time. Sure enough, I managed 11 and duly fired up, continued with the rest of the session to “fine tune” muscle failure with the resistance band, something I have always done. As usual, at the end of the session I finished off with a couple of “opposite” moves i.e. handstands to relieve some of the muscle stress from the pull-ups. I felt good. It wasn’t until the following day however that I started to really feel that I’d pulled a muscle and knew by the fact that raising my arm was painful that this was going to prevent me from working out for a while!
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago i.e.one week AFTER the injury (approx 4 weeks ZC) that I decided to check my weight. To my surprise, I’d lost 1.5kg. Further and as of writing i.e. nearly 3 weeks post injury, my weight is down a total of 2kg since going ZC! Anyone who regularly does pull-ups knows that it’s not just about your strength but also your weight and a couple of kg’s either way can make a huge difference to your performance. So my theory is that by the time I did the pull-ups I had already lost 1kg+ in weight, allowing me to achieve that PB. However, my muscles weren’t yet quite up to it and hence the injury. If I’d stopped at say 10 pull-ups instead of going for 11 which was a REAL struggle, the injury probably wouldn’t have occurred at all but in a way I’m very grateful because it’s given me time to think & contemplate and come up with some new theories/ ideas!
Diet Limitation Theory
It is true that prior to the injury & going ZC, I was experiencing a solid performance “plateau” that had lasted for more than several weeks. I felt that I had reached my personal limit. However, now that since both my weight & systemic inflammation are coming down on ZC, I’m expecting to see an improvement in performance, as depicted on the RH graph, above.The red line is where we are right now i.e. just after going ZC and the dashed lines are projections. Hence, if we take this one step further, we can assume that this is true of all diet “step changes”, consistent with an equivalent reduction in inflammation. For example, you will see a similar RH graph when moving from say “High Carb” to “Vegan” and from “Vegan” to “Liberal Low Carb” and so on, until you end up at the far RH end of the x-axis on the LH graph, above. This is what I have termed “Diet Limitation Theory (DLT)”. (Note: if you were to plot inflammation on the RH graph, above, it would just be the inverse of the performance line & an equivalent longevity line would match the performance one)
Finally, we can take this one step further, using the above LH graph which I first introduced in this post. The different diets discussed above will have differing levels of systemic inflammation. The higher the inflammation, the worse the performance and hence the higher overall levels of systemic inflammation will remain, even when “Red Lining” with your strength training, as shown on the above RH graph. (Note: if you were to plot equivalent longevity curves on the RH graph, above, they would just be the inverse of the diet curves, similar to the LH graph)
- If your performance is plateauing for any reason look at your diet & consider a step change down in inflammation according to DLT, above.
- Respect the Red Line at all times! Learn to fail muscles consistently, properly & fully. If unsure, remain to the left of the Red Line until your experience grows. Avoid injury at all costs!
- For minimum inflammation and max longevity consider a ZC diet.