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  • Writer's pictureMarc Lalonde

Placebo effect, sunshine, or coincidence? Let’s talk about 5-HTP

So, I’ve been fighting depression on and off basically since I began this bodybuilding thing; some weeks were OK, while other weeks were absolutely nightmarish. Thanks to my family, my dogs and a few good friends, I made it through and climbed out of the pit of despair a new man on the other side.

I’ve managed do that with a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and a new supplement called 5-HTP that’s available over the counter at most health food stores. I won’t divulge where I got mine publicly because they don’t yet pay me for the privilege, but if you send me an e-mail or a Facebook message, I’ll let you know.

A good friend and colleague turned me on to the supplement after I told him I was struggling with occasional bouts of depression and it’s worked wonders. When I stop to consider the supplement's effects, I rarely actually notice any. It’s what I don’t notice that makes all the difference. I don’t notice a crushing feeling on my chest. I don’t feel the need to cry for the entire length of my walks with the dogs anymore and I don’t experience any bouts of guilt, shame, grief or pain.

In hindsight, which is the only thing I can only apply because I don’t actually notice anything as I go about my day, it’s pretty great. And I feel like a new person, frankly. I’m not being ruled by my emotions and that’s a wonderful thing, because when your brain is sending your body the wrong messages, or vice versa, it’s pretty tough to go on with your day -- especially when your day is as physically fatiguing as mine can be.

So, my progress continues as I build toward my Nov. 10 Coupe Espoir bodybuilding competition. My training weeks have stabilized after the holidays and I continue working hard in the weight room daily. The weekends are the days that present the biggest challenge, both in terms of the kids’ sports schedule (which is…onerous, to say the least) and my own energy level. For instance, last Friday saw me out late to go axe-throwing (OMG you have to try it), knowing full well I had to get up early on Saturday because my son had an 8 a.m. flag-football game, a 9:55 a.m. basketball game and an 11 a.m. hockey game. He made all three, even though the league had accidentally sent us the wrong dates and our flag football game was actually Sunday instead. I also had to get up and feed him a solid breakfast, because there was no time to stop in the middle. So, by the time we had gotten to all three (and I coach two of the sports, including an emotional basketball victory. Fist pump) and gotten some food in my son, I was already tired and in no mood to go train. But, by 4 p.m., I had gathered my energy and headed off to the Club Dome West Island to get my abdominals-biceps workout in. It was really taxing mentally because my focus was all over the place, my mind was wandering and concentration came hard if it came at all.

On Sunday, I had a client to the house and proceeded to punish her with my own workout (and to her credit, she answered with brio and energy. Great job, Laurel!), and we got through it despite turning up the world’s worst workout mix on YouTube. (Worst. Mix. Ever.) I even enjoyed the Super Bowl, even if the team I bet on lost and I allowed myself some small indulgences, including a couple of awesome bowls of chili (Thanks, Matt and family) and the halftime show, which was punctuated by many, many bouts of butt shaking. One friend thought it was scandalous; I was conflicted by the fact on the one hand the oversexualization of the female body has corrupted beauty standards to the point the biggest show in the world reduced two very talented female recording artists to a collection of body parts gyrating for the male gaze and, on the other hand, hey, Shakira! And she's playing the guitar!

You can see my conflict.

But those are the days where I’m not in a routine of any kind, where I’m not up before dawn to work out in my client’s garage and where I can occasionally sleep in -- which never turns out well. The longer I sleep these days, the longer it takes me to unfurl my muscles and go about my business. Still, though, I feel infinitely better after I train than if I hadn't.

But in terms of fitness and mindset, healthy habits – getting to bed early and getting up early, daily exercise, clean and mindful eating – are all things you have to get used to. But when you are, oh boy, are the benefits ever fun.

OK, you’re saying, I don’t want to be a bodybuilder. Why should I work out every day?

Cause it makes everything better. Food tastes better. Life feels better. Clorhes hang better. Emotionas regulate better. Stress dissipates better. Relaxation time feels more relaxed. Sleep is better. Your libido will improve and sex is better, and you’ll want to have more. Just those last two items alone are worth daily training, to my mind.

Make your life better. Make it better today. Just move and sweat. How you do that, my friends, is up to you.

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