202 episodes

Tune into the audio version of my written articles found at tomnikkola.com, read by yours truly. I candidly cover nutrition, fitness, health, manhood, critical thinking, and bringing back traditional values.



After 20 years as a fitness professional, I've seen a lot of nonsense. In each article, I attempt to simplify confusing topics, bring truth to myths, and help you learn how to build strength and resilience in an environment and culture that glorifies weakness and victimhood.



Disclaimer on nutrition, supplement, and fitness content: The content is not intended to suggest or recommend the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease, nor to substitute for medical treatment, nor to be an alternative to medical advice. The use of the suggestions and recommendations on this website is at the choice and risk of the listener.

Tom Nikkola Strength & Conditioning Tom Nikkola | VIGOR Training

    • Health & Fitness
    • 4.9 • 36 Ratings

Tune into the audio version of my written articles found at tomnikkola.com, read by yours truly. I candidly cover nutrition, fitness, health, manhood, critical thinking, and bringing back traditional values.



After 20 years as a fitness professional, I've seen a lot of nonsense. In each article, I attempt to simplify confusing topics, bring truth to myths, and help you learn how to build strength and resilience in an environment and culture that glorifies weakness and victimhood.



Disclaimer on nutrition, supplement, and fitness content: The content is not intended to suggest or recommend the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease, nor to substitute for medical treatment, nor to be an alternative to medical advice. The use of the suggestions and recommendations on this website is at the choice and risk of the listener.

    Of God and Man: Making the most with what you have.

    Of God and Man: Making the most with what you have.

    Like last week's essay, the following comes from a draft of a book I'm working on. In the event it doesn't make it into the final copy, I thought I'd share my ramblings on my blog. I hope this one reminds you of your power to change yourself for the better.



    A Long Walk Home



    One afternoon during the spring of 2008, I decided to head outside and do some sprint intervals. I’d sprint for about 100 yards, walk for a block or two, sprint 100 yards, and so on.



    I was out for about 45 minutes and was about two blocks from home. The sun was shining, the Rocky IV Training Montage started playing on my iPod, and I thought, “One last all-out sprint.” 



    Instead of rolling into a sprint by simply speeding up from my walk, like I had the rest of my workout, I stopped and planted my foot flat on the ground. I was determined to make this my best sprint yet. I launched myself from my starting position with my foot still flat on the ground for maximum power.



    Think about my stupidity for a moment here. If you crouch down into a starting position for a sprint, with your knees bent and your back foot flat on the ground, and then extend your knees and hips forward as fast as possible, what happens?



    Try it in slow motion on your floor. Really slow. You’ll get a great calf stretch when you do it slowly. 



    When you do it as fast and hard as possible, your calf can only stretch so much before your Achilles tendon pops right out of your ankle. That’s exactly what happened to me.



    I launched myself from the starting position, and as soon as my left leg straightened out, I felt a pop in my ankle. It was one of those moments where time slowed down.



    In the short span of time transitioning my weight from my left to my right leg, I thought, “That was a weird feeling. I think I just tore my Achilles. I need to stop my forward momentum with my right leg.” I tried to slow myself with the weight on my right foot, hopping on that leg a few times to do so.



    Keeping the weight on my right leg, I looked at my left and saw an indentation above my ankle, where my Achilles tendon had previously been attached.



    I sat down on the grass next to the sidewalk and called Vanessa, hoping she could pick me up. Unfortunately, she was at work, and our sons were too young to drive.



    I limped the two blocks home and drove to the orthopedic clinic. I had it reattached a couple of days later. This was my first serious rehab. Other than working out two days after surgery, using my three good limbs for my strength training sessions, I didn’t do a lot to enhance the recovery process. I even went to a few standard physical therapy sessions, which were a total waste of money, as I basically did calf stretches for $150 an hour.



    I pretty much took the surgeon’s word for how long it would take to recover and what my calf would look and function like once it healed. It’s got a ton of scar tissue and is considerably smaller and weaker than the uninjured one, my right calf. 



    This became my lesson about taking your rehab and recovery into your own hands rather than relying only on what a surgeon or other healthcare practitioner tells you to do. 



    Disarmed



    Six years later, I was working out at the Chanhassen, Minnesota Life Time, just before going to work at the Life Time corporate office across the campus.



    I felt extra strong that morning. My third exercise was deadlifts. On my third set, I got to the top of the movement, standing tall with 405 pounds clenched comfortably in my hands. 



    In this position, your arms are straight, which puts a good amount of tension on your biceps, especially if you use a mixed grip, which means one palm faces forward and the other faces backward. With such a grip, the bar doesn’t slip or roll out of your hands. 



    Most people know their bicep crosses their elbow. That’s how it lifts your hand toward your mouth. But part of it also crosses your shoulder.



    So, I was standing tall,

    • 13 min
    Acceptance: Let Go of Wishing Things Were Different.

    Acceptance: Let Go of Wishing Things Were Different.

    The following is an excerpt from a draft of a book I'm working on. It's about my recovery from a broken neck and spinal cord injury, but also much more than that. As I continue to work on it, I may include other writings and ramblings here on my blog. They may or may not make it into the final draft. If you're a Nikkola Newsletter subscriber, you'll be the first to know when the book is finished.



    “I’m going over the handlebars,” I thought as my front bike tire dropped off the edge of a three-foot skinny bridge. A fraction of a second later, my front tire hit the ground, causing my bike to catapult me around the tire, throwing me head-first into the ground. My head hit the ground, and then my neck absorbed the force from the rest of my body, moving in the same direction as my head. I saw darkness and then a flash of light. And then I was lying flat on my back. My hands moved. My legs did not. I had no feeling below my waist. I instantly knew this was a bad situation.



    I told our grandson Asher to get Grandma Vanessa, who was ahead of us on the trail. She heard me, threw her bike into the woods, and ran back to where I lay. She quickly sprung to action, calling 911 and flagging down other riders to help.



    As I lay there, I knew I’d sustained a serious neck injury and that there was a good chance I’d never walk again.



    I didn’t feel sad or angry, or discouraged. I didn't panic, as I knew that would only make things worse, not to mention that it would scare our grandson.



    Once Vanessa had first responders on the way, I started to ponder what life would be like if I never walked again. I'd been injured before, but not like this.



    I wondered how I'd make the most of a life without the ability to walk. Or what if I didn't have use of my legs or arms?



    How would I rig up a way to exercise? How could I use my mind alone to contribute to the world and support our family? Could I read and write more? Could I add to my education?



    I knew that the faster I accepted that life might forever look different, the faster I’d be able to make the most of that life.



    I thought about multiple possible futures and resolved to accept whichever would become reality based on the results of my injury.



    As I've learned to do throughout my life, I jumped from the reality of an unwanted situation to acceptance of that situation. As I later found out from Vanessa, she did the same.



    Neither of us spent a moment dwelling on what happened and how we'd want it to be different. Each of us, in our own minds, decided we'd make the most of our current reality.



    We accepted things as they were.



    Accepting Illness



    I’d had a lot of practice with that throughout my life, which made acceptance of my circumstances easy the day that I crashed on my bike. I began learning the value of accepting reality as it was as a child.



    I got severely sick when I was four years old. I don't remember it, but I had aches throughout my body and was extremely fatigued. I saw doctors in my hometown of Ely, Minnesota, in Duluth, and eventually at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.



    The doctors didn’t immediately know what was wrong with me. They ran tests all over my body, even doing a biopsy of my testicles at one point. Though I was too young to appreciate the importance of my balls fully, I knew enough to get squeamish about that procedure.



    After much poking and prodding, the physicians finally figured out what was wrong.



    I had leukemia. Acute lymphocytic leukemia, to be precise.



    Most of my treatment took place through the Mayo Clinic, though our hometown doctor, Dr. Steve Park, played a crucial role in my treatment and recovery as well. We carried on our relationship with the Mayo Clinic for 15 years.



    Doctors cure this type of leukemia easily today, but when I had it, the cure was a new thing.



    At four years old, it’s pretty hard to comprehend what cancer means, though the doctors at the Mayo tried to explain it as be

    • 15 min
    How to Build the Best Home Gym For Middle-Aged Men and Women

    How to Build the Best Home Gym For Middle-Aged Men and Women

    You're ready to build a home gym, but where do you begin? Which equipment do you need? What brands should you consider? Can you even get as good of a workout at home as you would in a commercial gym? And how much should you expect it to cost?



    Vanessa and I recently turned our lower-level family room into a home gym. Even though I had a good idea of what we'd need, sorting through all the equipment options and brands proved more difficult than I thought it would be.



    If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, remember this: Home gym companies want you to buy their equipment and make it work for your workouts. It's like a contractor building the most profitable house to sell you and then trying to convince you that their house is just what your lifestyle needs.



    In this guide, we start with your workouts first. Then, I'll walk you through the right equipment to buy to get the best workouts with the least equipment.



    One other point I need to stress: If your home gym equipment isn't good enough to replace your commercial gym workouts, you'll end up still going to the gym. If that's the case, then the investment in your home gym won't be worth it. Your home gym setup has to be good enough to replace the commercial gym.



    That's where I'll begin with this guide.



    What exercises are essential in a good strength and conditioning program?



    If you're going to make the significant investment in home gym equipment, especially if you're middle-aged or older, you need equipment that allows you to do at least the following:



    Free weight movements (Barbells and Dumbbells)




    Squats



    Lunges



    Chest Press - Flat, Incline



    Shoulder Press



    Pullup / Chinup



    Dips



    Rows



    Deadlifts




    Machine movements




    Leg Press



    Leg Extension



    Leg Curl



    Pulldown



    Row




    Why do you need free weights and machines? My Crossfit buddy said you only need free weights...I can imagine some who read the list above thinking something along those lines.



    First, as you get older, you will develop aches and pains and end up with injured joints. That's just part of being an active adult. If your only option for hitting your legs hard is to do squats, you won't have much to do when you hurt your back, helping a friend move some furniture. Having the leg press available ensures you keep up with your lower body training.



    Second, movements like extensions and curls have a place in a good strength and conditioning program. They're often dismissed amongst the free weight purists, but if you want to maximize muscle as you age, as well as ensure your joints have the most protection, you'll include leg curls and extensions for your legs just as you'd include bicep curls and triceps pressdowns for your arms.



    Third, not everyone can do pull-ups, and even if they can, they might not be able to do very many reps. Also, over time, relying only on pull-ups for your back can lead to issues with your elbows and forearms. Don't get me wrong, pull-ups are a crucial part of a good program, but they're not the only way you should work your lats. Having a pulldown and row machine available allows you to train your back with a little more variety and less stress on your joints.



    You might also wonder, "Why wouldn't you just get a universal gym?" If you're 80 or older, a single, multi-exercise piece of equipment could suffice. But machines do not replace the balance and stability benefits of free weights, nor do they allow you to move through a more natural range of motion, which is important for developing posture and joint integrity. On the flip side, there are some things machines can do that free weights can't. Including both in your home gym, within a reasonable space and cost, is best.



    In Search of the Ideal Equipment Setup



    With the above in mind, I started searching for just the right solution.



    I looked at a Rogue Monster Cave and got pretty close to ordering it. It would have covered all the bases above except the leg press

    • 19 min
    How does berberine affect cardiovascular health and body weight?

    How does berberine affect cardiovascular health and body weight?

    Over the 20+ years of my fitness career, I’ve seen countless supplements rise and fall in popularity. Few have proven to be effective long-term and in both animals and humans. Berberine is among the few.



    Each year, more and more research shows how effective berberine supplementation is in supporting various metabolic health issues.



    I even found a study a couple of months ago suggesting berberine may help reduce noise-induced hearing loss. That study was done in rats, so it’s hard to say whether it’ll work in humans, but I thought that was pretty interesting nonetheless.



    Here, though, I want to focus on berberine’s impact on cardiovascular health, one of the main causes of reduced quality of life and death in middle-aged and older adults.



    What is berberine?



    Berberine is a compound found in goldenseal, goldenthread, Oregon grape, barberry, prickly and Californian poppy, and Amur cork tree.



    Though you can take it today as an isolated, standardized compound, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have prescribed the plants above as treatments for thousands of years.



    Berberine is a bright, yellow powder with an extremely bitter taste. It’s usually taken in capsule form so you don’t have to taste it.



    Preventing Cardiovascular Disease



    Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer, with almost one-third of annual deaths coming from it. 



    A just-published meta-analysis of 49 studies analyzed the effects of berberine on cardiovascular health. While the findings are impressive, if you’re serious about preventing, slowing, or even reversing cardiovascular disease, your diet and lifestyle choices will always make a bigger difference than a supplement or medication.



    If any of the following apply to you, you’re causing yourself to develop cardiovascular disease. Get the following fixed first, then consider using berberine.



    You might be giving yourself cardiovascular disease if you:




    Live with chronically high, unmanaged stress



    Are an endurance athlete or do excessive amounts of cardio



    Eat a high-carb / low-protein diet (most people eat way more carbs and way less protein than they think)



    Lack muscle mass because you don’t strength train (this is especially important for women)



    Are a man (someone born with XY chromosomes) with low testosterone



    Are a woman (someone born with XX chromosomes) with high testosterone, such as a woman with PCOS



    Have hypothyroidism (low thyroid)



    Have micronutrient deficiencies



    Live in consistent sleep debt




    Will berberine help reduce the damage of the above choices and issues? 



    It could help. Just like a group of firefighters could quell a fire while you keep pouring gasoline on it. But it would be foolish to pour the gasoline on the fire, and it’s foolish not to resolve the above issues, which are almost completely within your control.



    I've linked to several of my articles above if you'd like more information on dealing with one of the above issues.



    Findings of the Meta-Analysis



    According to the meta-analysis, berberine supplementation significantly lowers:




    Total cholesterol



    Triglycerides



    LDL cholesterol



    Fasting blood glucose



    Insulin



    HbA1c



    Insulin resistance



    Bodyweight and BMI



    Waist circumference




    At doses above 1 gram daily, berberine supplementation also raises HDL cholesterol (protective cholesterol).



    According to the reviewed studies, it’s most effective at reducing cardiovascular risk factors in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), type II diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. For lipids and glucose, it’s most effective for people with HDL below 40 mg/dL, LDL above 100 mg/dL, and fasting blood glucose above 100 mg/dL. 



    Doses and Durations



    To improve insulin sensitivity and lower fasting blood glucose and HbA1c, research shows people need about 1.8 grams per day and need to take it for at least two months before they start seeing improvemen

    • 7 min
    I Broke My Neck Part 4: Our Experiences With and Insights About the Healthcare System

    I Broke My Neck Part 4: Our Experiences With and Insights About the Healthcare System

    It's been three months since I broke my neck and sustained a spinal cord injury. I was planning to write an open letter to Regions Hospital about my experience, but after talking it through with Vanessa, decided it wouldn't be the best use of time or mental energy.



    Instead, I decided that covering the insights I've gained would add more value to others than outlining the disappointments from the hospital's post-op process. The former would empower others. The latter would only lead to unnecessary complaining.



    If you don't feel like reading any further, please just take this point to heart:



    You should expect a hospital system to fix what's broken, but it's on you as an individual to make yourself whole and well.



    I couldn't have fixed the mess I made of my neck on July 30. Only a well-trained surgeon could have done that. But from the day after surgery, going forward, I couldn't expect that the medical system would have the knowledge or experience to help me get back to my previous "normal" in the short time it was possible to do so.



    In case you missed the first three parts of this story, here they are:




    I Broke My Neck, Part 1: Injuries, Surgery, and Recovery Challenges



    I Broke My Neck Part 2: What I’m Doing to Recover And Why



    I Broke My Neck Part 3: The Mental Game of Rehab and Recovery




    A Quick Rehab & Recovery Update



    At the time of this writing, I'm 13 1/2 weeks post-injury.



    In terms of muscular strength, my chest, triceps, and serratus, used for movements like dips, bench presses, and pushups, are at about 60% of where they were pre-injury. The rest of my body is at about 80%. The weakness in my upper body pressing movements is typical of the spinal cord injury I sustained, though the expectations were that it would take much longer to regain strength. I'm sure it would have if I had followed the recommendations from the medical group.



    As for my sensory nerves, when cold water splashes on my lower body, I still feel pain instead of cold, like the water is pushing on a bruise. In my upper body, I feel cold more than pain right now, so it seems the sensory nerves are starting to respond appropriately. I also have frequent burning on the sides and palm of my index and middle fingers, though it's nowhere near the level it once was. If the sensory nerves didn't improve beyond what they have, it wouldn't disrupt normal life.



    And as for my neck itself, most mornings it's pretty stiff, but once I get up, apply some Young Living Cool Azul Pain Relief Cream or other oils and move around, the stiffness and soreness go away.



    The following are some of the milestones from the past few months. Though every spinal cord injury is unique, I thought this might give people in a similar situation a little hope. Early on, I couldn't find any examples of how people recovered from broken necks or spinal cord injuries, so I didn't have anything to compare my progress against.




    Day 1: Walked the morning after surgery, with a physical therapist by my side in case I fell. I believe it was later that afternoon that I also walked up the stairs at the end of the hall.



    Day 3: Was discharged and walked out of the hospital.



    Day 5: Stopped taking oxycodone. I had plenty of pills left, but will not take pain killers unless it's absolutely necessary. It wasn't absolutely necessary.



    Day 5: Got my first gym workout in, with the help of my friend Victor Straw. At this point, I needed straps to hold onto anything as my hands weren't yet working.



    Day 15: First push-up, after trying to complete one for the previous seven days.



    Day 39: Completed first (and second) pull-up.



    Week 5: Weaned off of Gabapentin and extra-strength Tylenol completely. Unfortunately, the Physician's Assistant at Regions Hospital wouldn't discuss weaning off of Gabapentin, so we researched how to do it and followed a specific timeline and process. This is not a drug that you stop cold turkey,

    • 15 min
    Instead of trying to eat less, eat less often.

    Instead of trying to eat less, eat less often.

    Unless you’re an athlete who trains for hours every day or one of the few people in the population with an extreme metabolic rate, eating more than three meals per day will likely cause massive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, low energy levels, and poor gut health.



    Does that mean I’m anti-sweets or anti-dessert? Not at all. Just last night, I ate three servings of apple crisp. But I ate it as part of my dinner, not as a late-night snack.



    With the holidays upon us, I thought it was a good time to remind you of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.



    What is intermittent fasting?



    Intermittent fasting is the habitaul practice of food avoidance during part of your daily or weekly schedule.



    In some forms of intermittent fasting, people avoid food for 24 hours on one or two days of each week.



    More popular, and in my opinion, easier to follow, you have time-restricted eating. In this form of intermittent fasting, you eat within a defined time window each day. 



    Studies have been done using 4, 8, 10, or 12-hour eating windows, which means that study participants fast for 20, 16, 14, or 12-hour periods each day.



    From experience and experimentation, an 8-hour eating / 16-hour fasting schedule is most practical, where you eat from lunch through dinner each day. This is especially the case for men. 



    I recommend some female clients, such as those dealing with adrenal fatigue, shorten their fasting period to 14 hours and eat during a 10-hour window.



    Benefits of Intermittent Fasting



    The list of intermittent fasting health benefits is long and continues to grow as more research emerges. Benefits include:



    Higher levels of sustainability because it doesn’t feel like you’re on a restrictive dietImproved body composition or lower body fat levelsReduced blood sugar and lipid levelsImproved mental energy and cognitive functionLower insulin and higher growth hormone levelsReduced blood pressureLower systemic inflammationBetter balance of healthy gut bacteria



    The following images are found in the paper Time-restricted Eating for the Prevention and Management of Metabolic Diseases, published in Endocrine Reviews. They offer a compelling visual case for time-restricted eating.








    Conditions that benefit from time-restricted eating




    The Problems with Snacking



    I’ve come to realize that showcasing the health benefits of something like intermittent fasting doesn’t always motivate someone to change. 



    But consider the opposite. If eating less often does all of the good stuff above, then eating too often:



    Makes you fatterRaises blood sugar and lipid levelsExacerbates conditions like PCOS and metabolic syndromeIncreases inflammation and blood pressureMakes you sluggish and foggy-headedIncreases your risk of developing a variety of health conditions and diseases



    Why would you knowingly do that to yourself?



    A Few Final Thoughts



    As you’ve probably seen from previous writings, the first step I take with clients is not to get them on an intermittent fasting schedule. It is to get them on a high-protein diet.



    If you eat enough protein, it’ll be easier first to stop snacking and then skip breakfast. The higher protein diet will help keep your appetite under control.



    Also, by eating less often, it allows your digestive tract to completely empty. That takes about four hours following a meal. After your digestive tract is empty, growth hormone levels rise, increasing fat metabolism, enhancing tissue repair, and supporting muscle growth. That’s an often underappreciated benefit of eating less often.



    Oh, and if you were wondering how you can still eat your sweets and treats, especially with the holidays upon us, you eat them right after your meals. 



    Just last night, I ate three servings of apple crisp after dinner. The idea is that once you get up from the table, mealtime is over. You don’t start again just before bedtime.



    Eat two or three big meals each day and

    • 7 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
36 Ratings

36 Ratings

StacyBug67456 ,

Interesting and Knowledgeable

Tom does an amazing job explaining an array of subjects! Love listening to him!

amps48 ,

Vigor Training

Tom is a wealth of info. Truly a real deal when it comes to health, wellness, strength and “Manning Up”

Sobioneknobi ,

Good content with variety

I have listened to almost a dozen episodes and so far I have really enjoyed the variety of content. Tom discusses the things I am passionate about. Essential oils, fitness, nutrition, supplements and Faith. If you are looking for a good podcast, look no further!

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