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Archive for August, 2013

When you study the body transformation stories contained on M&S, you will find the two keys to great results: precision eating and consistent progression overload.

2 Body Transformation Tips For Immediate ResultsI have read hundreds of body transformation stories over the years. From these articles I have noticed 2 important and consistent trends:

  1. Workouts – Most of these individuals used what we would consider to be somewhat unconventional workouts and structures.
  2. Eating Plans – Nearly every individual used an extremely precise eating plan, and knew what they were putting into their bodies, and when.

The second point might not be a shocker, but there is no doubt you are probably confused by the first point. Let’s explore both of these issues and what they can teach us about building a better body.

Precision Eating, Precision Results

There is a saying that goes around the world of bodybuilding. To paraphrase:

The more precise the eating plan, the more precise the results.

If you want to get extremely shredded then you’ll need to run an extremely tight and precise diet. If you just want to lose weight, and aren’t going to obsess about maximizing muscle gains while reducing fat, then your diet plan can be a lot looser.

Think about it like this. If you want to drive from California to the East Coast, but aren’t concerned with precision, then you can just following east bound highways. If you want to drive from California to 123 Anywhere Street, Baltimore, Maryland (I assume this isn’t a real street), then you will need precise directions. Make sense? Of course.

What Are You Eating? Um, Um, Um

All of the body transformation stories I have read featured a very precise eating plan. The individual ate at certain times of the day, and knew exactly how many calories and grams of macronutrients they were eating each day. Now let’s look at the other side of the fence – someone who is in trouble and not seeing the results they want. 90% of the time my conversation with these individuals goes like this:

Me: What does your eating plan look like.

Them: Um, well, I eating healthier.

Me: Do you know how many calories you are taking in each day?

Them: Um, well, um, no. (Or I think…)

Tip #1 – So, the first take home tip here should be obvious. If you want to change your appearance, meaning losing fat while maintaining or building muscle, you must know exactly what you are putting into your body. No ifs, ands or buts.

How can you possibly dial in your diet and induce the proper rate of fat loss if you have no clue what you are putting in your mouth? You can’t.

Bench Press

The Search For The Perfect Workout System

Now let’s look at the first trend: most of those who made successful body transformations were using sub-par (or even crazy looking) workouts. This doesn’t seem to make sense, but if you think about it for a minute some truth starts to float to the top.

It quickly becomes apparent that consistency is perhaps the most important part of the workout equation. Without any weight training there can be no results. This isn’t to say that consistency is a guarantee that results will come. Far from it. It simply means that you can’t be missing workouts if you expect to transform your body.

The Power Of Progressive Resistance

You’ve probably heard many times: to build muscle mass you need to get stronger. To show you just how powerful progressive resistance is, consider it’s ability to transform the body even when the workout system being used is inefficient. The average workout created by a transformee usually contains one or more of the following structural flaws:

  • Too much volume
  • Poor exercise selection
  • Overworking chest, biceps and/or abs
  • Overcomplication (overuse of tools like drop sets, rest pause, slow negatives when they simply aren’t needed)
  • Too many workouts per week

Despite these workout flaws, the trainee’s strength additions, combined with a precision eating plan, are creating quality gains.

Tip #2 – Consistency and progressive resistance are the most important factors when it comes to the muscle building process. They can overcome the flaws of some of the most inefficient workout plans, still allowing you to look better.

Take Home Body Transformation Truths

If you want to lose fat, build muscle and transform your physique, you had best:

  1. Develop a precise eating plan – know exactly what you are putting into your body.
  2. Train consistently – don’t miss workouts.
  3. Get stronger – push for progressive resistance on every set.

With these pillars in place, you will be well on your way towards reaching your body transformation goals.

 

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Varying Protein Sources & Muscle Building

 

Proteins are often put upon a pedestal by gym-goers and for good reason. Aside from the myriad of functions proteins play in vivo, they’re also a key regulator/substrate for muscular (and other tissue) hypertrophy. Obviously if you’re putting in endless hours training and beating your body to a pulp you’re going to want to maximize your output with proper nutrition, and specifically, proper protein intake.

Not surprisingly, the health and fitness industry has a propensity to dichotomize subtopics into polar extremes. Many bodybuilders/physique competitors search tirelessly for the optimal way of doing things and with this comes tendency to adhere rigidly to extreme measures. It’s only natural then that the topic of protein sources would fall victim to this trend.

This isn’t to say that a middle-road approach is always superior to extreme protocols, because that isn’t the reality of things either (and quite frankly, more often than not people use “moderation” as a copout for laziness/lack of discipline).

So what really is best (optimal) when it comes to different protein sources (such as whey, casein, egg, animal, etc.)? Moreover, is there a necessity to vary between these sources to sort of “cover all the bases” or could we achieve optimal results subsisting on a lone, “ideal” protein source? This article will take a look at what the literature says about these queries and form some conclusions for you to draw from on your quest to improving your health and body.
The physiology of muscular hypertrophy

Many readers likely have a rudimentary understanding of what muscle hypertrophy is/means, but for those who don’t (or those who need a bit of refreshment) we will take a truncated look at the physiological basis of how muscles grow. Before we move on, be sure not to confuse the terms anabolism and hypertrophy with one another; anabolism simply refers to any process that results in synthesis of substrates and/or tissues (e.g. the formation of ATP from ADP and phosphate is an anabolic reaction).

Hypertrophy, on the other hand, is used to denote the growth of tissue. So while you could theoretically say muscle hypertrophy is an anabolic process, you wouldn’t want to say the formation of ATP from ADP and phosphate is a hypertrophic reaction because it makes no sense.

Beef and iron

Muscle hypertrophy (or atrophy) is ultimately determined by the net protein turnover ratio. The protein turnover ratio is a quantitative measurement of the rate of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB). Thus, when the MPS rate is greater than the rate of MPB, the protein turnover ratio is in favor of muscle growth. It should be noted that we are looking specifically at skeletal muscle protein turnover, not the whole-body protein turnover (e.g. hypertrophy of gut tissue, for example. isn’t indicative of muscle growth).

A plethora of factors influence the net protein turnover ratio, such as exercise, nutrient intake, disease/immune conditions, gene expression, pharmaceutical agents, over-the-counter supplements, etc. Intuitively, we want to maintain a high rate of MPS and a low rate of MPB (thus the muscle protein turnover ratio is in favor of hypertrophy/growth). But like most physiological pathways, muscle protein synthesis is tightly regulated, in this case via a protein encoded by the FRAP1 gene in humans called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). (1)

The mTOR protein is the backbone to mTOR protein complexes (such as mTORC1 and mTORC2) that activate protein synthesis when suitable cell conditions are met (and ultimately result in cellular growth and proliferation). (2) The activity of mTOR protein complexes are controlled by the cell’s energetic state, circulating growth factors and hormones (especially insulin), nutrient availability, and oxidative stress. Naturally then, our goal is to bolster these signals in a manner that is conducive to up-regulating MPS.

Alas, the entire regulation of protein synthesis pathways is highly complex (and would only convolute this article), it’s still useful to have this elementary knowledge of how muscle cells actually grow.
Do different protein sources differentially stimulate mTOR?

Naturally, those looking to get the most out of their diet are seeking for the protein sources that maximize MPS in response to feeding. Much of the research thus far has uncovered that a key substrate in the activation of mTOR is the amino acid L-leucine. Moreover, studies corroborate that the proportion of leucine in a given protein source has direct effect on the peak MPS rate attained in the postprandial state. (3,4)

What this tells us, then, is that protein source does indeed matter, but only in the sense that we are ingesting sufficient essential amino acids (and a nominal amount of leucine). Remember, essential amino acids (EAAs) are those which we must obtain from exogenous sources (e.g. diet, supplementation, etc.) since we don’t synthesize them endogenously. Lo and behold, whey protein, the acclaimed gold standard of supplementation for many gym-goers, is one of the best sources of these essential amino acids, and more importantly of L-leucine.
Getting the most out of your protein

As aforementioned, protein source matters since MPS is differentially stimulated in proportion to the EAA content (and specifically L-leucine) of each meal. A conservative estimate, based on extrapolations, is that 30+ grams of a leucine-rich protein source (such as most animal proteins and whey protein) is plenty to sufficiently elevate MPS for a good 3-4 hours. (5) Again, this is just a starting point (read: baseline) for active individuals but is by no means a strict rule.

Furthermore, you can obtain the EAAs (and l-leucine) from various sources in a single meal so long as still reach the overall quota for protein needed to maximize MPS. So for example, if you’re a vegetarian, you would likely want to supplement with whey protein since vegetable sources of protein (like soy) are lacking in leucine content. Contrarily, carnivores/omnivores may not need as much (or any) supplemental protein as animal proteins are generally rich in the necessary EAAs for maximal MPS response to a feeding.

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