Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Factors Promote Peak Days For Weightlifting And Other Athletics?

I had a peak day today.  I felt surprisingly strong, like I could lift more and more…and more, and just about reached my PR with a bench press, which for me is the nirvana of pressing 1.5 times my body weight. Ever have days like that? It's been almost a month since I've had one of those days (is it "my time of the month?"), and I try to ponder the factors that promote these peak performances for the everyday athlete.

Here's what I've come up with for starters:

Vitamin D. Each morning before the peak day I took a 4000-IU vitamin D. My vitamin-D level right now is about 45 ng/ml, and I typically take 2000-4000 IU/day, or just enjoy some sun exposure (but at 57 I don't make Vitamin D naturally as well as I used to).

Vitamin D is an athletic-booster in terms of strength, reaction time, and endurance, and this notion can be found in the scientific literature. The fat-soluble vitamin is essentially a legal, seco-steroid hormone for athletes. This has been known since the East German trainers of the 1970s (and they admittedly did some really weird, illegal things to their athletes, but exposing them to UVB light to boost their vitamin D levels was not one).

I think the D supplements have contributed to my peak days. The only other supplement I take is vitamin K, but I would consider more, including magnesium. Fitness For Geeks will really inform you about vitamins and minerals!

Sleep. This is a no-brainer; I had very deep sleeps before each peak day. Possibly, the brain, where all health and athleticism begins, was more rested and focused for promoting the neurological events that must take place for a high rate of muscle contractions. Or, among other things, the adequate sleep promoted better growth hormone secretions?

Ironically, the day before was a "low" day for me. I had a poor sleep, due to stress and things happening in my life, and felt somewhat agitated with a less than perfect sense of well-being. Could the bounce-back from a low day, psychically and physiologically, help promote a peak day? It's an interesting concept, at any rate, and perhaps when you're feeling lowly, you can give yourself a kick in the pants by realizing, "tomorrow might be peak!"

Rest. Another no-brainer; I did not have heavy training days prior to the peak day. There's no way you can train day after day and expect a lot of peak performances in return. In fact, the "less is more" approach to training is one of the smart, beneficial fitness concepts that has come to the fore. I lift weights about four times per week, which for me is necessary for muscling up, but I often feel stronger when scheduling conflicts have forced me away from weightlifting for a week or more.

Fasted workout. Both peak days came during a fasted workout with coffee and vitamin D only. Caffeine is also a performance enhancer. However, virtually all my workouts are fasted this way, so I might have to discount this factor.

Night before meal. I had a healthy, home-cooked Paleo-ish kind of dinner with roasted chicken and lots of veggies, and one large glass of wine. This is the way I almost always eat, so I'll almost have to discount that factor, in terms of promoting a peak day. However, sometimes I put myself back to sleep with a glass of milk when I find myself waking up in the dark (ahh…aging…), and I didn't do that the night before, so perhaps I had very low fasting insulin and higher growth hormone at lifting time (milk, I drink whole milk, will probably elevate your fasting insulin).

Peak days are definitely not solely due to luck or coincidence; it's what you do in the 48 hours or so leading up to them that matters.


  1. Just finished your book "Fitness for Geeks", it was one of the best fitness books I have read so far. I was reading it while I studied for my personal training exam the last couple of weeks. I recommend it to everyone.

    1. I'm glad you got a lot a lot out of FFG Jack. Great fitness is still an ongoing quest for me, and it sounds like it is for you too. Good luck with your routine, and look for more books in the near future, like FFG 2.0. Cheers, Bruce

  2. There is just so much misinformation being disseminated that it was refreshing. Great sources,I wrote down several of them down to read their works as well. I was amazed to learn that some pro-footballers tend to only lift twice a week. Have you heard of The Supple Leopard? I intend to get it for Christmas.

  3. I'm checking out the supple leopard right now. It was interesting; I asked one of the football players what he would do differently, and he told me he would sleep, rest more, and eat better–all holistic, well-being oriented stuff and not training related.