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Archive for September, 2013

You head the myths before: weight lifting stunts growth, women who lift get bulky, higher reps are better for toning. Set aside the nonsense and find out the real truth.

Resistance training (i.e. lifting weights) really should be the foundation of most any individual’s gym routine, even if their goal isn’t to be a competitive athlete or “bodybuilder”. Even endurance athletes can stand to benefit by incorporating resistance training in their workout regimen.

There seems to be a variety of misconceptions attached to lifting weights, like the typical fear many females have that they will suddenly “get bulky” if they train with weights, and the idea that weight lifting stunts the growth of teenagers. So to dispel some of these myths, I figured it would be worthwhile to focus on the reality of things and provide some insights into the myriad of benefits resistance training provides not only to overall health and longevity, but to one’s body composition.

Myth: Weight training isn’t useful for overweight individuals.

Reality: This is actually a rather odd supposition given that weight training helps increase muscle mass, which in turn increases metabolic rate since muscle is more metabolically demanding than fat tissue. Moreover, anaerobic training stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and thus increases mitochondria levels within cells; mitochondria are cell organelles responsible for large productions of oxidative energy.[1]

Myth: Weight training is bad for your bones.

Reality: Contrary to popular belief, weight training (especially at high-intensity) can actually stimulate osteogenesis and increase bone mineral density.[2] The key to keep in mind here is that the osteogenic effects appear to be most pronounced when training intensity is at or beyond the lactate threshold. In fact, this one of the reasons weight training is often recommended for elderly individuals, especially those with bone health issues.

Myth: Teenagers should not lift weights since it will stunt their growth.

Reality: This theory is derived from the idea that weight training can damage the epiphysis which would subsequently disrupt normal bone growth, but the reality is that weight training, if anything, could actually serve to prevent such damage.[3] As noted above, weight training is actually beneficial for bone health/development, and this effect is conducive to the healthy maturation of adolescents.

Also, it’s important to remember that (unfortunately) weight training is often associated with steroid and other performance-enhancing drugs, which may in fact stunt bone growth in adolescents. So don’t confuse resistance training with steroid/PED use.

Toning workout

Myth: Weight training, especially with heavy resistance, is a bad idea for women since it will make them “bulky”.

Reality: Probably one of the most annoying myths about females that train with relatively heavy weights is the idea that it will randomly turn them into the male equivalent of The Incredible Hulk. Reality is that females should train with heavy weights just like their male counterparts often do and no it won’t make you “bulky”. If a female really wanted to get “bulky” they would have to eat like a horse and commit to years of intense training just like any other person (regardless their gender) would have to.

Myth: Training with light weights and higher repetitions is better for “toning” muscles.

Reality: Well, aside from the fact that “toning” is a nonsensical term when it comes to muscle morphology, there is little rational for the idea that using light weights and doing many repetitions is superior for muscle hypertrophy over more conventional training. Reality is that muscle hypertrophy is muscle hypertrophy; muscles grow or shrink.

Also, you cannot preferentially “spot-reduce” certain body areas no matter how much you target/stimulate them. If you want that six-pack of abdominals to show, forget doing marathon sets of sit-ups, work instead on providing progressive overload to the abdominals and losing sufficient body-fat.

Myth:  Weight training is damaging to the joints.

Reality: As with the “bone health” myth, weight training, especially at high-intensity, appears to actually alleviate many arthritic symptoms in comparison to no training.[4] On the contrary, running and other forms of cardio may actually induce osteoarthritic changes.[5] Hence the rationale for doing tons of cardio (specifically running) to “save your joints” is rather baseless.

Train with weights, you’ll thank yourself later.

Wrap Up

So there you have it, a few myths about weight training that don’t have much bearing in reality. If you’ve been omitting resistance training from your regimen in favor of endurance/aerobic training, I would strongly advise you to reconsider your training routine, regardless of what your goals are; I truly think most any individual can benefit from weight training.

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Creatine is one of the most popular and reasonably-priced sport supplements in the industry. This article separates fact from fiction by looking at 10 common myths.

Creatine is arguably the most popular sports supplement available to date, and for good reason. Aside from it being a critical biomolecule, creatine is one of the safest, most effective supplements out there.

It’s only natural that with such prosperity there will come a few false accusations, so it’s time to dispel some of the myths that are attached to creatine. Read on to learn the truth about creatine and why it should be in your supplement stash.

10 Common Creatine Myths

Myth: Creatine is bad for the kidneys.

Reality: This theory is rather baseless and likely extends from the idea that the kidneys “are damaged” when blood creatinine (a byproduct of the phosphocreatine system) levels rise. However, there is little, if any, clinical validity to this supposition.[1]

In fact, one study even gave individuals a hefty 20g dose of creatine monohydrate for one week and found no significant changes in renal activity.[2] Unless you have pre-existing renal impairment there is little reason to believe that creatine supplementation will damage your kidneys.

Push UpsMyth: Creatine will stunt the growth of teenagers.

Reality: This is another rather ludicrous supposition, almost on par with the idea that creatine is a steroid (which is also dispelled herein).  I’m not even sure where the connection comes from between the premature closure of epiphyseal plates and creatine. Creatine is a biomolecule present in all humans and found in a variety of foods, it’s just as safe for teenagers as it is for anybody else.

Myth: Creatine has to be front-loaded/mega-dosed when starting use.

Reality: Not a necessity, rather just a way to expedite the process of saturating your creatine stores. Most companies purport that the front-loading protocol is necessary to reach peak creatine levels but even a nominal dose of creatine taken over a few weeks will suffice just fine. Furthermore, consider the fact that many companies post such outlandish claims on their labels to get you to use up the product quicker and thus re-purchase it.

Myth: Creatine needs to be “cycled”.

Reality: There are few supplements, especially over-the-counter, I can really think of that stand to benefit from cycling usage (on and off); creatine, however, is not one of them. In fact, I would suggest that creatine be taken rather consistently since it exerts most of its benefits once a saturation point has been established.[3]

Myth: Creatine is a steroid.

Reality: All I can really do in response to this somewhat moronic claim is shake my head. If I must elaborate, creatine isn’t even close to being chemically related to steroid molecules. Creatine is an amino acid, so this theory would be analogous to me saying that protein molecules are full of steroids…Hmmmm.

Myth:  Creatine doesn’t need to be supplemented with since it’s in certain foods.

Reality: Despite the fact that creatine is indeed found in some foods (especially beef), the amounts of these foods you would have to consume on a daily basis to achieve the benefits of a nominal dose of supplemental creatine would be exorbitantly large.

Myth: Creatine (monohydrate) needs to be taken with a large dose of sugar to be sufficiently absorbed.

Reality: Creatine is actually absorbed rather efficiently on its own and to achieve much “extra” benefit you need a rather large dose (>100g) of simple carbohydrates since the enhanced rate of creatine uptake is mediated by insulin (but only at high plasma levels).[4] It’s just more practical to avoid the need for a bunch of sugar with your creatine intake.

Myth: Creatine monohydrate is less bio-available (read: absorbable) then creatine ethyl ester and kre-alkalyn.

Reality: Ironically enough, creatine ethyl ester and kre-alkalyn may actually be even less absorbable than basic creatine monohydrate.[5,6] You don’t need to get all fancy with creatine supplements, the monohydrate form is the most researched and time-tested form of creatine for a reason.

Myth: Caffeine interferes with the absorption of creatine since it’s a diuretic.

Reality: Actually, caffeine appears to enhance the rate of uptake of creatine, you just need to be more prudent about staying hydrated.[7] Remember, creatine is anabolic in that it draws water into the muscles so keeping fluid intake nominal is key when supplementing with it.

Myth: Creatine is not safe for females.

Reality: Read the myth above myth about “creatine stunting growth of teenagers” and you should be caught up on why creatine is not a “sexist” supplement.

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Trainer James Chan helps you to maximize your testosterone levels by presenting some workout and food intake advice that will help raise your low T naturally.

When it comes to muscle building hormones, testosterone is king. All other hormones pale in comparison with regard to muscular development. Testosterone is the singular reason why men, for the most part, have more muscle and strength than women.

You can do everything else right. You can lift a lot of heavy weight. You can eat clean and organic.  You can take vitamins and supplements. You can go to the gym day in and day out. But if your testosterone level is low, then you will not grow.

Larry Scott once used the bull as an example as to why some people gain muscle easily. A bull is large and muscular, and yet all he does is eat grass all day. So what does that tell you?

Muscular size has a lot to do with biochemistry. If you have optimal anabolic biochemistry, then you’ll gain muscle, despite harsh conditions. Hence, if you have a high amount of testosterone circulating in your bloodstream, then you will gain muscle easily.

Things that Kill Testosterone

Dumbbell ExtensionsCertain things kill testosterone. Watching the Lifetime Channel or the View will certainly make your nuts shrink, but so can low calorie diets, vegetarian diets, getting old, aerobics and alcohol. If you’re a 50 year-old alcoholic vegan marathon runner, then little girls have more testosterone than you.

Vegetarian diets. The lack of animal proteins can depress T-levels, which is why monks in Asia are vegetarian: it fits their Buddhist reverence for life, but it also kills the sex drive and aggressive tendencies.

Stress! Everybody has to deal with stress, but how you react to it has an effect on your testosterone levels. The more stress you have, the more cortisol you produce and the lower your testosterone.

To illustrate this point, one study took a group of male rats and measured their testosterone levels.  Then they were dumped into freezing water where they swam until they nearly drowned. The researchers measured their T-levels again and found the rats had virtually no testosterone. The stress of nearly drowning in freezing water had chemically castrated them.

Humans react the same way to both physical and mental stress. The more stress you have, the lower your testosterone. Avoid stressful situations when you can, and learn to react more calmly under stress.

Steady state cardio. The more aerobic exercise you do, the lower your testosterone.  A number of studies show a 30% decline in testosterone when you do steady state cardio activities such as cycling and long distance running.

This is why steroid use is rampant in the cycling. Cyclists need an endogenous form of testosterone to replace the natural T they’ve lost.

Amongst long distance runners it is not uncommon to find men with T-levels at 300 ng/dl (the average range for men age 85-100 is 300-400 ng/dl). Go below 260 ng/dl, and you start having problems getting it up.

How to Boost Your T-Levels

What raises testosterone is brief but heavy training, along with a high protein, moderate fat and low carb diet.

Cycle your training. We know that heavy compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, power cleans, etc.) induce a major dump of testosterone into your bloodstream. Heavy lifting on the compound lifts primes your body’s biochemistry and nervous system to grow muscle.

The problem is that you cannot train with heavy compound movements for a long time, every time and all the time. This would rapidly deplete your body’s testosterone and lead to overtraining.

The way to get around this it is to cycle your training intensity. By cycling between high and low reps throughout the week, you avoid depleting your testosterone. Cycling between heavy and light weight prevents you hitting a plateau in muscle growth.

Keep your workout under an hour. Training longer than an hour depletes your testosterone and lowers your immunity. You’re more likely to overtrain if you consistently workout longer than an hour.

Eat saturated fat. If you want a healthy dose of T coursing through your veins, then you need to eat lots of red meat and eggs. Stick with organic eggs and grass-fed beef. The cholesterol found in these foods will help your body manufacture a constant supply of muscle-building testosterone.

Far from being unhealthy for you, saturated fat has a number of health benefits:

  1. Improved cardiovascular risk factors (partly by raising HDL, the good cholesterol)
  2. Strong bones
  3. Improved liver health
  4. Healthy lungs
  5. Healthy brain (your brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol)
  6. Proper nerve signaling
  7. Strong immune system

Concentration Curls

Eating saturated fat from sources such as red meat, eggs, butter and coconut oil helps you gain muscle. If you didn’t have saturated fat in your diet, then your body would have a hard time manufacturing hormones such as testosterone.

BUT… before you go out scarfing down bacon cheeseburgers, you have to understand that eating saturated fat is only half the story.

1) Eating saturated fat by itself doesn’t give you a heart attack. But eating saturated fat with a lot of carbs will put in the triple bypass zone. So cut out white and brown carbs such as breads, pastas, rice, sugars, etc.

2) Although a high fat/high protein diet sounds great, without vegetables you’re headed for constipation city. A meat only diet will get you ripped, but you’ll burst a blood vessel in the eye from straining on the toilet if you don’t eat your green leafy vegetables.

3) Eating meat and eggs all the time with few carbs is very healthy, and you’ll look great because of the ripped abs and tight skin. But you have to eat organic. Organic eggs and grass fed beef have a higher omega-3 profile.

Get some sun. Exposure to sunlight causes your body produce vitamin D, and vitamin D helps you produce more testosterone.

Bonus Tip – Practice Power Posing

Sergio OlivaWhat if I told you that you could naturally elevate your testosterone by 20%? And what if I told that you didn’t need to take a special herb or get a prescription from a doctor to boost your T level?

In fact this method of boosting your testosterone is absolutely free and legal. The method is called “power posing,” and it has been shown to increase testosterone by up to 20% and decrease cortisol by up to 25%.

Power posing is body language which expresses alpha male traits: power, confidence and dominance. Power poses are open and expansive expressions of the body.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy conducted studies on power posing and how body language affects the neuroendocrine system. These studies found that simply holding one’s body in a “high-power” pose for as little as two minutes stimulated higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

What’s a high power pose look like? Many bodybuilding poses would be considered power poses, since many of them display the body in an open and expansive fashion.

The universal power pose, however, is the “V for Victory” pose. The Victory pose is typically displayed when athletes and other competitors win. In this pose you spread your arms out in a “V,” chin slightly lifted.

Taking a powerful pose such as the Victory pose can increase your testosterone and reduce cortisol, which can have profound effects on your mood. Research subjects who had undergone the 2-minute power pose reported feeling more powerful and in-charge. Hence, you can use body language to optimize your biochemistry not just for muscular growth but for mood enhancement as well.

Applying Power Posing in the Gym

If you’re a competing bodybuilder, then you should already be practicing your power poses. But if you’re not a bodybuilder, then you can still practice a power pose to increase your testosterone before or during a workout.

The Victory pose is already incorporated in a number of overhead pressing exercises. So if you want to boost your T-levels, include exercises such as the snatch, the standing military press and the clean and jerk.

Give the Victory pose a try. It’s a simple way to boost your testosterone.

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Two sides are at war in bodybuilding: intermittent fasting and frequent feeding. In this article LJ Walker discusses some of the possible downsides to restrictive eating.

Extremism, extremism, extremism; the wonders of the fitness industry. It never ceases to amaze me how there apparently cannot be a middle-ground when it comes to bodybuilding.

It’s either high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or low-intensity, steady-state (LISS) cardio; it’s either high-carb dieting or no-carb dieting; it’s either over-training or under-training; last but not least, it’s either 9 small meals per day or 1 gluttonous feast per day.

For now, I’d like to zone in specifically on the extreme patterns of intermittent fasting, like alternate-day fasts, and why they really aren’t ideal for people looking to improve body composition, especially those looking to build muscle.

Intermittent fasting taken a bit too far

While intermittent fasting, at it’s core, is certainly an intriguing feeding pattern for human health and longevity, there is a point where one can take this approach a bit too far. People will argue that meal frequency is completely “irrelevant” and believe that essentially starving their body for 24+ hours and then pigging out (e.g. alternate-day fasting) is somehow beneficial.

While acute phases (generally between 8-12 hours) of fasting do have physiological benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity,blood glucose regulation, growth hormone output, increased adiponectin levels, and others, extreme periods of food abstinence (such as fasting one day and eating ad libitum the next day) may actually induce negative metabolic effects. [1,2,3,4]

Not to mention long-term dietary compliance and applicability don’t really seem feasible for most humans on such extreme feeding patterns; who really wants to go through cycles of starving themselves for a day or two and then bingeing the next? The thing that’s important to keep in mind here is that alternate-day fasting diets “work” for weight loss mainly because they inherently reduce total calorie intake.

It’s not likely that an individual will be able to “make up” the extra day of not eating by pigging out on feeding days, unless they are eating some very calorie-dense foods. But again, this pattern of feeding may in fact have negative ramifications on glucose metabolism, not to mention you are greatly limiting your capacity to build muscle.

Bodybuilder

Building muscle while intermittent fasting

On that same note, the rational for alternate-day fasting while trying to build muscle seems somewhat inane given that you are essentially cutting off muscle-building pathways for an entire day and trying to make up for it the next day. This fashion of starving your body one day and then overloading it the next doesn’t necessarily mean all those calories are being put to good use; in fact, your body will probably just store most of the excess energy in preparation for the next “fasting” day as opposed to using it for muscle building.

When you consider that there does indeed appear to be a “cap” to muscle protein synthesis at each feeding, it doesn’t make much sense to essentially limit yourself by eating every other day. [5] A more pragmatic approach would be either pulsing your protein intake throughout the day and then eating somewhat larger, complete meals to finish off your calorie demand, or being more abbreviated with your fast/feed pattern.[6]

What I would suggest, if you plan to follow a fast-the-feed eating pattern, is to consider keeping the fasting period short enough to get the benefits of fasting, around 8-12 hours, and yet not limit your capacity to build muscle. If your goal is to build muscle, it should seem rather intuitive that extreme periods of food abstinence are probably not conducive to that process.

Just because something “works” doesn’t mean it’s optimal

A last thought to consider before wrapping up this article is that while many things in the health and fitness industry have some sort of merit, this doesn’t entail that such methods are ideal/optimal for your goal(s). This article is not making the claim that you absolutely can’t build muscle by following alternate-day fasting, but rather that it’s probably not as efficient as a less restrictive feeding pattern.

The body is adaptable and can make do with what you give it, but sometimes we can push it a bit too far for our own good. Also, to reiterate, extreme patterns of feeding behavior often lack long-term compliance for a myriad of reasons. So just keep in these things in mind if you plan to follow intermittent fasting eating patterns while building some appreciable muscle.

 

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Not sure if the training system you created is good to go or horrible? The following four steps will help you build a quality muscle building workout from the ground up.

What follows is simple method of structuring workouts. This is the only way to set up a muscle and strength building program, but I do believe it to be a sound way.

Before we begin it should be noted that all workouts are merely starting points. What looks good on paper rarely works perfectly in the real world.

Once you build a workout on paper, be prepared to make minor adjustments after hitting the gym. You may find that a certain lift taxes your shoulders unless you raise the amount of reps per set. It’s also likely that a certain training day might run longer than expected.

Don’t get frustrated if your new workout isn’t perfect. Make a few adjustments and give it another week. Continue to refine your program until it fits your needs.

How to Build a Workout Routine

Step #1 – Determine Your Training Split

I suggest training 3 to 4 days per week. This is the best place to start.

Many lifters live by the belief that more is better. More might be better for you, but how will you know unless you construct a 3 to 4 day protocol and run it for 6+ months? You don’t.

Tricep ExtensionsSpend time learning how to maximize your training using 3 to 4 workouts per week. You will learn a lot, and likely realize that training 5 days per week really isn’t needed. This is not to say you can’t lift 5 days per week if you want to; you can. It’s simply better to learn how to maximize workouts and evolve your training before you jump into more training days.

If it makes you feel any better, most of the advanced lifters I know train 4 days per week. Not all, but the majority of them. On off days they do cardio, conditioning work or simply rest.

Here are some sample 3 to 4 day training splits you might want to consider:

  • 3 day fullbody workout.
  • 3 day push, pull, legs split.
  • 3 day upper/lower split. ABA workouts one week, BAB the next.
  • 4 day upper/lower split.
  • 4 day body part split.

It is beyond the scope of this article to detail what each of these splits looks like. There are numerous split examples on the Muscle & Strength site. Take some time and poke around. Find a training split that appeals to you.

Step #2 – Plug In Compound Movements

Each training day requires a base of meat and potatoes movements, also know as heavy compound exercises. I suggest no more than 2 to 3 heavy compound movements per day. Intermediate lifters may also opt for 1-2 heavy compounds per day.

These movements should be the best of the best; the cream of the crop. Examples of top compound movements include:

  • Posterior Chain – Squats, Deadlifts, Heavy Good Mornings, Low Rack Pulls, Romanian Deadlifts, Zercher squats, Front Squats.
  • Pressing Movements – Bench Press, Military Press, Dumbbell Bench Press, Push Press, Dips.
  • Pulling Movements – Barbell Rows, Dumbbell Rows, Pull Ups, Power Cleans.

Other quality compound exercises include (based on primary focus):

  • Legs – Leg Press, Hack Squats, Walking Lunges.
  • Chest – Incline Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, Decline Bench Press.
  • Back – T-Bar Rows, Yates Row.
  • Shoulders – Arnold Dumbbell Press, One Arm Overhead Dumbbell Press.
  • Triceps – Close Grip Bench Press, Bench Dips.
  • Biceps – Chin Ups.
  • Traps – Low Rack Pull and Power Shrug Combo

Let’s look at an example.

Chest and Triceps Day. So you decide to run a 4 day workout split that features a training day dedicated to chest and triceps. After thinking things through, you decide to utilize 3 heavy pound movements:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Close Grip Bench Press

Fleshing this out into a complete workout, your training day might look something like this:

  • Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets x 6-10 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Pec Dec – 4 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Cable Tricep Extensions – 4 sets x 10-12 reps

Seated Press

Step #3 – Flesh Out Your Training Day Exercises

Now that you have 2-3 compound lifts plugged into your training days, it’s time to flesh out your workouts with other exercises. I recommend no more than 5 to 6 movements total per session.

Now that the big compound movements are programmed in, feel free to add in the following lifts (as appropriate):

Exercises should not be randomly chosen. You want a program that makes sense. Use the following guidelines for each body part:

  • Major Body Parts – 3 to 4 exercises
  • Minor Body Parts – 1 to 2 exercises

How many exercises you use may depend on how many sets per exercise you prefer. At the end of the day, set total is also as important as the amount of exercises used. Use the following guidelines for set total per bodypart:

  • Major Body Parts – 9 to 16 sets
  • Minor Body Parts – 6 to 9 sets

Major Body Parts. Major body parts include chest, shoulders, back, quads and hamstrings.

Minor Body Parts. Minor body parts include traps, forearms, triceps, biceps, abs, and calves.

You can go as high as 20 to 25 sets per training day. I recommend you choose your exercises first, start with 3 sets per exercise, and then add sets if needed.

So to make this a bit more clear, let’s return to our chest and triceps day example. Your compound exercise selection was:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Close Grip Bench Press

You decide to use 6 total exercises on this training day: 4 for chest and 2 for triceps. You add in 3 quality movements and your training day now looks like this:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Chest Dips
  • Pec Dec
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Cable Tricep Extensions

Now, set the baseline at 3 sets per exercise:

  • Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 sets
  • Chest Dips – 3 sets
  • Pec Dec – 3 sets
  • Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets
  • Cable Tricep Extensions – 3 sets

Concentration Curls

This is a total of 18 sets. You can add more sets to the mix if you’d like, but 18 sets per training day is plenty when after quality muscle gains.

Let’s say you decide you want to do 14 total sets for chest and 8 for triceps. This is one possible way to structure the program:

  • Barbell Bench Press – 4 sets
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 4 sets
  • Chest Dips – 3 sets
  • Pec Dec – 3 sets
  • Close Grip Bench Press – 4 sets
  • Cable Tricep Extensions – 4 sets

To reach the additional work, we simply added in more sets per exercise rather than adding exercises.

2 More Chest and Tricep Workout Examples

Here are two more examples of possible chest and tricep workouts. The first is based on a 5×5 bench press day using only 2 total heavy compound movements, and the second upon a classic old school 8 sets x 3 reps bench press protocol using two heavy compound movement.

  • Bench Press – 5×5
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 5 sets
  • Pec Dec – 4 sets
  • French Press – 4 sets
  • One Arm Dumbbell Tricep Extension – 3 sets
  • Bench Press – 8 sets x 3 reps
  • Chest Dips – 3 sets
  • Dumbbell Flyes – 3 sets
  • Skullcrushers – 3 sets
  • Rope Tricep Extensions – 3 sets

Step #4 – Structure Your Reps Per Set

Reps per set can vary depending on goals. As a general guideline, I recommend the following reps per set averages:

  • Compound Exercises – 5 to 10 reps per set.
  • Isolation Exercises – 8 to 15 reps per set.
  • Machine Exercises – 8 to 15 reps per set.
  • Leg Exercises – 5 to 20 reps per set.
  • Cable Exercises – 8 to 15 reps per set.

There is no magic rep range. Progression of weight is most important. Adjust your reps per set to fit each individual exercise, and upon your needs.

The above suggestions can really be molded into numerous variations. Let’s look at possible bench press combinations.

  • Bench Press – 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Bench Press – 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Bench Press – 3 sets x 6 to 10 reps

Note About Frequent Training

There are 2 primary type of frequent training:

  • Upper/Lower Splits. You train 4 times per week: upper body twice, and lower body twice.
  • Full Body Workouts.  You train the entire body three times per week.

Regardless of how you train a body part (once, twice, or three times a week) you will be performing about the same number of sets per week. If you prefer 15 sets of chest per week on a body part split, this would translate into:

  • 7 to 8 sets per training day on an upper/lower split.
  • 5 sets per training day on fullbody workout.

Also understand that you don’t have to use the same exercises throughout the week. On a full body workout you could perform bench press one day, pec dec the next, and chest dips on the final day.

Final Thoughts

Remember that the guidelines in this article are just that – guidelines. No workout on paper will be perfect once you hit the gym.

Be prepared to make adjustments. This is a much better option than program hopping.

Switch exercises, modify sets per exercise, or change rep schemes if needed. Do what it takes to create a training day that is effective, and that fits your individual needs.

If you have questions on this article, please leave them in the comments section below.

 

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For years the food industry preached “low fat” foods. Lately, it seems everyone is telling us to avoid carbs. Does it really matter which of these macronutrients you eat?

“A calorie is a calorie”, an adage purported for decades in the fitness/health subculture.

I think it’s fair to assume the war of “clean” and “dirty” foods is actually rooted in the postulation that all calories are indeed not created equally. Physicists and scientists alike will often shun such an inane theory given their rational approach to thermodynamics.

On the other hand however, certain dieticians and “health advisors” will argue that certain calories are more prone to cause weight gain and/or elicit different metabolic responses.  So which side of this debate is right?

Well frankly/theoretically speaking, a calorie is just that–a calorie.

What exactly is a calorie you ask? Scientifically speaking, a calorie (specifically a dietary/food calorie) is amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Energy, as most people know, remains constant in systems but may come in various forms including: chemical, heat, light, nuclear, electrical, kinetic, etc.

Thus, when we are talking about calories, we are specifically concerned with the heat energy of a particular food. As you are likely familiar, certain macronutrients contain a respective amount of calories per gram, as is readily available on food labels. Just for reference, here is the approximate amount of energy (i.e. calories) in the three primary macronutrients (on a per gram basis):

But it can’t be this simple, can it? I mean come on; nutrition is a field with decades of research focused on deciphering how the body responds to various caloric intakes, so there has to be some complexity to the issue at hand. What I would argue is that all calories are indeed the same (i.e. “created equal”), but not all macronutrients are. See the difference here? If not, I will elaborate.

Macronutrient variability

EggsWhen we look at the intricacies of the human body and the biochemical reactions that occur, it seems like an oversimplification to say that the body treats all calories the same. Again, the phrasing of this postulation needs some refining. The body does see a calorie as just a calorie, but what differs in nutrition is how the body reacts metabolically to different macronutrients.

Essentially, what this means is that while a gram of protein and a gram of carbohydrate may both contain ~4 calories, the body will elicit different responses to the ingestion of each despite the identical energy content. A simple example of this is the heightened insulin response seen with carbohydrate ingestion.

Different macronutrients, different functions

So as was alluded to above, the body exhibits specific reactions to each of the macronutrients we ingest. This is why people seem to twixt the concept of macronutrients and calories, since a diet comprised of purely carbohydrates but equivocal amount of total calories as a diet composed of, say, purely protein would have differing effects physiologically.

If you were to subsist solely on sugar, you would never really provide opportunity to activate muscle-building cell signals like the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. Rather, you would be chronically stimulating secretion of insulin from the pancreas and probably experiencing some wild blood glucose swings.

Now on the contrary, someone subsisting purely on protein would indeed be stimulating the mTOR pathway more efficiently than the carbohydrate-only dieter, but the issue is further convoluted by the fact that muscle protein synthesis (and many other biochemical pathways) has a peak rate/limit.  That’s a whole other topic in and of itself however and is beyond the scope of this article.

What macronutrients do share

It’s probably rather intuitive to most people, but the commonality among all macronutrients is that they serve the main purpose of providing the cell with energy. Yes, the hormonal and metabolic pathways that are involved in the ingestion of fats, carbs, and proteins may differ, but at the end of the day they ultimately serve as a fuel source for the body.

In fact, this is one of the reasons that “hard-gainers” are often pushed to eat calorically-dense foods, which are usually rather high in fats, because such individuals just need the extra energy to stimulate growth. Of course the inverse of this is often suggested to individuals who are trying to reduce energy (read: calorie) intake (i.e. eat foods high in volume but low in calories).

Take-home message

Many people are highly biased when it comes to the debate of calories being equal, so it’s only natural that I will likely receive some flak for this article. Again, I look at this from a rational approach and just find it odd to say a calorie is not the same as any other calorie; it’s analogous to me saying that ATP is not ATP, which just makes no sense.  However, it is safe to say that the metabolic response to proteins is not identical to carbohydrates or fats.

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Find out how to improve your gym results by learning the art of patience, properly managing your bulks, evolving your training and setting down your cell phone.

Let’s talk muscle building.

In the article 4 Big Reasons Why You’re Still Small And Weak I informed readers why their gains suck. Here is a summary:

  • Reason 1 – You obsess about your abs to the point where you undereat and restrict progress.
  • Reason 2 – You do not squat or deadlift. In and of itself this is not life or death, but it does reveal a tendency to avoid “hard” things in the gym.
  • Reason 3 – You train like you are on steroids, using advanced programs that might not be best for your recovery rates and training experience.
  • Reason 4 – You don’t obsess about progression. Instead, your gym sessions are simply fancy calorie burning workouts.

Today I want to continue this conversation by presenting you with some additional ways to improve your gym results. So without further adieu, here are another 4 reasons why you’re still weak and small.

Reason #1 – You Aren’t Consistent

Ripped LifterAnd I mean consistent, consistent.

What’s the longest period of time you’ve lifted non-stop while focusing on unrelenting progression of weight? Two Months? 4 months? 6 months? 12 months?

Gains take time. How many of you have remained consistent for 3, 4 or even 5 years? Understand, I am not saying you should never take a week off. This is not the point I am trying to make. Deloads and the occasional week away from training are ok.

What I am talking about here is taking weeks and months away from the gym at a time. This happens more than you think.

I have been around the iron for nearly 28 years now. I see people come, I see people go. But mostly, I see people go. The big “magic” that can be found when analyzing the habits of successful lifters is this: they continue to lift, despite what life deals them.

Even if you aren’t using the perfect routine (and I don’t believe in perfect routines), you will still experience quality gains over time if consistency and progression are in the mix. While many of you understand the importance of progressive overload, you can’t find the motivation to train without missing several workouts per week, or taking the summer off every year.

Commit to training 5 years without an extended layoff. Gains take years, not weeks. Build strength during this time. Then report back with a progress picture.

Reason #2 – You Jump Around From Workout to Workout

I see this all the time. A lifter becomes infatuated with finding a magic workout system. They will try something for a week, not like how it feels, and start poking around the Internet.

It’s not long before they find another workout system that tickles their motivation. Soon they rush off to start a new training log, and announce to everyone that they’ve finally “found something that will work great for me!”

After 2 weeks of journal entries, said lifter goes into hiding. Three weeks later they reappear, detailing all the things that went wrong with the new program, and why they decided to make yet another change.

Here’s the thing…you can’t expect a workout system – any workout system – to be perfect for you. Instead of program hopping, make small tweaks to the workout. If it calls for 5 rep bench press sets, but they hurt your shoulder, move to a rep range that feels better. If the program lists dumbbell flyes, but you prefer another equal, but no less effective chest isolation exercise, swap it in.

Training evolution is important. It helps you to create your own unique training system, based on your specific needs. Consider workouts a starting point. Instead of hopping to another program when things go wrong, ask yourself what you could change to make the program work.

If you don’t learn to evolve your training, you may find yourself caught up in the endless bro cycle: searching for a magic workout one, two and maybe even three years down the road.

Reason #3 – You Bulk, You Cut, You Bulk, You Cut

While related to general undereating, this reason deserves some commentary of its own.

It has become fairly commonplace to see trainees engage upon endless (short) cycles of bulking and cutting. They bulk for 4 weeks, cut for 8 weeks, bulk for 8 weeks, cut for 4 weeks. This is equivalent to trying to go on a long hike, but deciding to go in the opposite direction each time you don’t like the way the terrain looks.

Here’s a word of advice: if your bulks are so aggressive that you manage to gain 20 pounds in 4 to 8 weeks, you’re doing it wrong. Gaining weight this rapidly is foolish.

A natural lifter who is doing it right, and who doesn’t start underweight, typically gains 12 to 15 pounds of muscle during their first year. If you are gaining 20 pounds in a month of course you’re going to look bloated and fat.

Instead of gaining weight this rapidly, slow down and try to gain 20 pounds during your first year. Be patent. A slow, sustained bulk will result in minimal fat gain. The result? You won’t need to jump into cutting diets every 3 to 4 months.

Commit to a 2-3 year bulk, then trim the fat. You will have a ton of muscle, and won’t be spinning your wheels.

Gym Texter

Reason #4 – You Are the Annoying “Gym Texter”

This might ruffle a few feathers, but it might also help a few of you as well.

If you are sitting on a piece of equipment, texting back and forth to no end…you might the annoying gym guy/girl without even knowing it. While texting in and of itself isn’t a crime, lack of focus is. Here is a quote from Dave Tate that you should remember:

If you’re capable of sending a legible text message between sets, you probably aren’t working hard enough.

Consider this for a moment. Are you focused on adding reps to your next set, or are you focused on your buddy’s Facebook comment about Grand Theft Auto V? Focus counts. How you approach your workouts will impact how hard you work.

If you don’t take your training seriously, can you really expect quality results?

And going a step further: taking up space, sitting on a piece of equipment while others are trying to focus is disrespectful. Heck, even texting for 20 minutes straight while others are trying to workout is distracting.

If you have no drive and focus, ask yourself why? If texting is a distraction, commit to setting your phone down for 3 to 4 hours a day.

Bottom line…don’t let anything get in the way of progress. If you lack focus and discipline, it will catch up to you. It always does.

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Some fat loss myths never seem to die. While they might not slow down your efforts, these myths can still waste your time. Maximize fat loss by avoiding these 9 myths.

It seems that old myths never die. Despite living in an age of unparalleled information exchange, most of the same old, same old fat loss untruisms keep getting passed around.

Though most of these unfounded pieces of advice are rather harmless, they may cause you to waste time on unnecessary practices.

The following fat loss myths are still prevalent. I see them passed around on a regular basis. In fact, I recently received a spam email that contained each of the myths listed below.

9 Fat Loss Myths

Myth #1 – Frequent Eating Ramps Up Your Metabolism

It seems this notion will never die.

There is no scientific evidence that shows frequent meal consumption increases the metabolism. A review of pertinent studies found that total daily energy expenditure was the same, regardless of the meal frequency used. (1)

Frequency of meals in this meta-analysis ranged between one and seventeen feedings per day. Researchers stated: “Studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24 h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging.”

Since this 1997 study, all new research has supported this conclusion.

Hanging Leg RaiseMyth #2 – You Must Eat Protein at Every Meal

Proper daily protein intake is essential when losing fat. It helps your body hold on to valuable muscle, improving your body composition as you lose weight.

Though eating protein at every meal isn’t a bad thing, it’s not necessary. As long as you are reaching a reasonable daily protein intake level, it generally doesn’t matter when and how you eat it.

Don’t panic if you miss a protein meal. You are not going to go catabolic and lose all your gains. This obsessive compulsive belief has ruined many a day.

Myth #3 – You Shouldn’t Eat Carbs after 2 PM

This is another load of bologna, as my grandmother would say. As long as your daily calories are in check, and you aren’t overeating carbs in an unbalanced manner relative to the other macronutrients, it won’t matter much when you eat them.

There is nothing magical about late afternoon or evening carb consumption. The human body doesn’t contain a secret “off button” that suddenly turns all carbs into fat after 2 pm.

The assumption is that metabolic rate slows while sleeping. On the average, this is not true. While the human metabolism does initially decrease by 35% after zonking out (2), it later increases significantly when you achieve REM sleep.

The end result is that your metabolism while sleeping is no slower than your resting metabolic rate during the day. (3,4) Furthermore, it should be noted that daily exercise leads to an increase in your sleeping metabolic rate. (5)

Myth #4 – You Need to Perform Endless Hours of Cardio

Wrong, wrong and wrong. While 3 to 4 cardio sessions of 20 to 30 minutes each per week is great for overall health, cardio itself isn’t an efficient fat loss tool – diet is.

Let’s say you are walking 3 miles per hour. One mile of walking burns approximately 100 calories. You would need to walk 35 miles per week to burn off one pound of fat. Even if you had the time to walk this much, you wouldn’t lose fat unless your eating habits were in check.

Don’t overkill the cardio. Structure a proper diet plan and the weight will come off. Add is some cardio each week for improved health and conditioning.

Myth #5 – You Should Immediately Cut Calories

Blindly cutting calories doesn’t address your bad habits, nor does it help you forge a new lifestyle. Without addressing the eating (and drinking) habits that got you in trouble in the first place, you are likely to fail and gain any weight you do lose back.

Before you rush out to cut calories, take an honest assessment of your diet. Try to remove 90% of the following:

  • Sugary drinks and fruit juices (fruit juice is like fruit without all the good nutrition found in the pulp and skin)
  • Processed foods (boxed meals, most frozen foods, etc.)
  • Junk snacks (cookies, crackers, chips and candy)

Once you weed out most of these trash foods, you can then insert healthier options. At this point it is time to start watching your calories.

Push Ups

Myth #6 – Rapid Weight Loss is Always a Good Thing

While losing 4 to 5 pounds (or more) per week might be necessary for very obese individuals who are trying to regain good health as quickly as possible, it is not the best way to lose weight if you want to look good when you’re done. Let’s set aside talk about extremely obese individuals and talk about you.

Most of us need to drop about 20 to 40 pounds of fat, tops. If this is the case, to look your best after the fat loss process is done you want to lose about 1.5 to 2 pounds per week.

This rate of weight loss will allow you to maintain as much muscle mass as possible while losing mostly fat. This is what you want. If you drop the pounds in a rapid manner you will lose muscle and fat, and risk ending up looking thin, but still soft and somewhat flabby.

Myth #7 – Fasted Cardio is Superior for Fat Loss

Not true. Without getting into all the debates over types of cardio, and the optimal time to do cardio, I want to bring to the table some common sense.

We have already established that diet drives fat loss, and cardio has a minimal impact (unless you have time to exercise hours and hours each day). With this understood, I highly recommend simply doing:

  1. The type of cardio you enjoy.
  2. The type of cardio that is appropriate for your age, health and conditioning levels.
  3. Cardio at a time of day that makes the most sense to you.

While HIIT cardio may be the best form of cardio on paper, it also might be risky for you. Walk, swim, or go bowling. Just get moving. Once you start to build up your fitness and conditioning levels, then you can try more challenging forms of cardio if you desire.

Also, it’s far better to perform cardio at a time of day where you are not rushed or tired. You are more likely to enjoy it and stick to it without missing cardio sessions.

Returning to the topic of fasted cardio, here is a quote from Brad Schoenfeld on the subject:

In conclusion, the literature does not support the efficacy of training early in the morning on an empty stomach as a tactic to reduce body fat. At best, the net effect on fat loss associated with such an approach will be no better than training after meal consumption, and quite possibly, it would produce inferior results. (6)

Myth #8 – Choose Low Fat Foods to Lose Fat

Eating fat does not make you fat. This is one of the prevalent, but ridiculous nutritional myths. It needs to die, and I encourage you to help with this process.

Excess calories makes you fat. Candy, cookies, chips, crackers, high calorie fast food, processed dinners and meals, sugary drinks…most people over-consume these food products while underconsuming real, whole, nutritionally dense foods.

Low fat foods often contain added sugar for taste, or are misleading to begin with. How many times have you seen this on a bag of candy or cookies: low fat! Of course these things are low fat; they’re all sugar!

A “low fat” label on a food is meaningless. It can still be very high in calories.

A high calorie diet makes you gain weight. Control your calories, you control your weight. Fat will not cause you to gain weight if your eating habits are reasonable and balanced.

Myth #9 – Avoid Fruit During The Fat Loss Process

This is another foolish fat loss myth. Yes, fruit does have some sugar, but no, fruit is far from calorie dense and hard to overeat. In addition, fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals.

We will beat the same drum here: overall calorie intake is the most important factor when it comes to weight gain. I have yet to run into a single individual that “got fat” from eating too many strawberries, apples or oranges.

The reasonable amount of natural sugars and carbs found in fruit won’t make much of a difference. They certainly won’t cause your belly to grow if your overall calories are in check.

While losing fat it’s best to eat a variety of fruits and veggies each week. This allows you to intake a broader spectrum of vitamins and minerals, and is great for overall health.

Fat Loss Recap

So to recap:

  1. Eat meals that fit your schedule and needs. There is no urgent reason to eat every 2 to 3 hours. This will not ramp up your metabolism, but it may cause you to waste a lot of time figuring out what to eat 6 to 10 times per day.
  2. It’s ok to eat a meal that is short on, or devoid of protein. This will not stunt the fat loss or muscle retention process. Aim for a minimum amount of protein per day. It won’t matter much when you eat this protein.
  3. Eating carbs after 2pm is ok as long as your overall calorie intake is in check. These carbs will not turn straight into fat.
  4. Your eating plan is your primary fat loss mechanism. Use cardio for overall health and conditioning, not as a primary source of fat loss. Cardio with a poor diet will not yield fat loss.
  5. Before you rush to cut calories, analyze your bad eating habits. Understand that if you don’t take steps to curb these habits, you risk gaining fat back when your diet is over.
  6. To maximize muscle mass while losing fat, you want to lose about 1.5 to 2 pounds per week. This will help you look your best when the weight loss process is done.
  7. When and how you do cardio won’t matter much. Pick a form of cardio you enjoy, and perform it at a time in the day when you are likely to have the most energy.
  8. Eating fat does not make you fat. Overeating calories makes you fat. Low fat founds are not inherently low in calories. They are often filled with added sugars. Buyer beware.
  9. Eat a wide variety of fruits each week. The small amount of sugar and carbs in fruit will have no impact on fat loss as long as your overall calories are reasonable.
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It’s time to become a shredded, mean, and sexy gluten-free machine. A gluten-free lifestyle can help you live leaner while reducing bloat, inflammation and more.

Unless you have been living under a rock and unplugged from the world for months, you have heard the term “gluten-free”, or someone say “I am eating gluten free”.

However, some of you might not know exactly what this means or what the benefits could possibly be. So here is a quick intro on the gluten free lifestyle, as I like to call it.

From the amazing folks over at the Mayo Clinic – “A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).”

Going gluten free is used to treat “celiac disease, gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of individuals with celiac disease.” So adhering to a nutrition plan that is gluten free helps control the symptoms and issues that come from consuming gluten.

Most of you will not have celiac disease. However, even though they don’t have a clear-cut allergy, many indidivuals may have a high intolerance. This mimics the same issues and complications.

If you have a high intolerance, consuming a moderate to high amount of gluten may be causing you more harm than good. Gluten consumption may lead to such issues as inflammation, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. All of which are not real sexy or fun to deal with.

I have been eating 100% gluten free for the last 6 months. While I don’t have an allergy, I have a rather high intolerance to products containing gluten. Since changing to the gluten free lifestyle, my overall wellbeing has improved.

I am also living leaner than I ever had before, which I love. Nothing like being shredded 24-7-365. Cutting out the gluten grains has eliminated bloating and inflammation from my body.

I have noticed several benefits since eliminating gluten from my nutrition plan. Important benefits include loss of extra body fat, my vegetable intake has increased, and I am living the leaner than ever.

Here are 5 tips to get you started on the road to living gluten free and lean.

Jeremy Scott

5 tips to help you go gluten free

1.  Ditch the Word “Diet”

The “D” word ONLY focuses on short term success. Instead of considering this to be a diet, consider gluten-free eating as a life-long change. Make it a lifestyle change for permanent results.

Diets don’t last. If you are committed to giving this at least a trail run for 6-8 weeks I can guarantee you it will be hard to go back to eating your same old way. It helped take my health and physique to a whole new level and I love it.

2.  Ditch as many grains as possible

Don’t just replace gluten-filled baked goods with gluten-free options. Store-bought gluten-free breads, crackers, muffins, and snacks are usually filled with starchy carbohydrates that will spike insulin levels and add a nice puffy layer of padding around your middle.

If you need grains in your life for either a bulking phase or an endurance event, find gluten free organic oats. Gluten free organic quinoa is also a great choice if needed.

If you are a person who loves to cook use high-protein flours such as coconut flour, almond flour, teff flour, quinoa flour, oat flour, or millet flour. These are perfect for thoise of you planning on making any baked goods.

3.  Learn how to read labels

Gluten can lurk in surprising places. Get your gluten-free cheat sheet and keep it with you so you do not end up getting glutened without knowing it.

You would be surprised how many things have added gluten in them for really no major reason. Many times it’s these hidden snipers that make you feel bloated and cause issues with your digestion.

4. Begin a love affair with the produce aisle (and the entire exterior aisles of your grocery store)

Jeremy ScottThis is the easiest way to go gluten-free and become a lean, sexy machine. Fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat and poultry are all naturally gluten-free.

A simple tip to remember is this: if it runs, it flies, it swims, or it grows from the ground eat it. If it comes in a bag or a box with a bar code forget about it.

5. Get to know the spice aisle

While you are in the middle of that love affair with the exterior aisles of your store, throw the spice aisle into the mix and make it a threesome. Getting creative with your spices and herbs can take a bland meal and turn it into a sexy, delicious masterpiece.

Variety is the spice of life. This goes for your food as well. You can make your meals as sexy and creative as you wish. Going with spaghetti squash over your traditional pasta, and choosing lettuce wrap tacos over traditional tortillas are 2 easy ways to get started.

Bonus Tip

Plan your meals out at the beginning of the week. Put together a simple clean-eating menu plan and create a shopping list. Get everything you need at the beginning of the week so it is on hand and ready to go.

I am not a huge meal prep guy as I come from the intermittent fasting world, however having all the things you need at home makes your eating life much easier. Trust me.

Wish you guys all the best on this get lean gluten free journey. Feel free to comment below and drop me a personal message or question.

 

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Ready to drop a few pounds? This article contains a 7 step process that will help set up an eating plan and cardio approach to maximize fat loss and body composition.

Before we get started I want to make something clear: this article is not aimed at the hardcore bodybuilder types who already know how to get shredded.

My goal in writing this article is to help those of you who are slightly overweight to lose an extra 20 to 50 pounds of unwanted fat. More than this, I not only want you to lose weight, but also to look good when you’re done.

There is a difference between weight loss and fat loss. Weight loss is usually imprecise. While the scale might be moving in the right direction, there is no guarantee that you will hold onto valuable muscle tissue as you lose fat.

In fact, most diet plans are both fat loss and muscle loss programs. They really aren’t “plans” at all, but rather guesses.

On the other hand, fat loss programs are very precise. They are structured based on specific data, and adjusted based on current results. There is no guessing involved.

This article will show you how to structure a fat loss eating plan. You will learn where to start, and how to make adjustments based on current results. This process will help you maximize fat loss while minimizing the loss of muscle tissue.

The goal: not only lose weight, but look your best after the weight loss process is done.

Shredded LifterThe magic fat loss question

“I am not seeing results. What’s going on?” This is the magic fat loss question.

Ninety-five percent of the time the answer is the same: these individuals can’t lose weight because they are only guessing. They think they are eating healthier, and have added weekly cardio, but when asked the following questions they typically can’t provide concrete answers.

  • How many calories are you eating per day? Um, er, well…no idea really I am eating healthy! Not really counting calories, but I am eating a salad for lunch and using low-fat cream in my grande cappuccino.
  • How many grams of protein are you eating per day? Ugg…you mean like protein protein? Well I have yogurt for breakfast, some egg in my salad and then half a chicken breast at night. Is that good?
  • How often do you stray from your diet? Well I don’t really do that bad. On Monday I had an entire carry out pizza with a large 48 ounce Coke, and on Thursday we went out for the Chinese buffet. Other than these 2 days I stuck to my diet.

The more precise the diet plan, the more precise your results will be. To lose weight and look your best when it’s over you need to stop guessing and start analyzing.

The following steps will help you get started.

Stop Guessing – Start Losing Fat

Step #1 – Detail Everything You Eat And Drink For One Week

Eat normally during this week. Don’t hold back or pull any punches. Detail everything you eat and drink during this week, along with the time you eat/drink it. Everything. No exceptions.

You want to list sizes as well. If you are not sure how many ounces something is, then you can list it in the following manner:

  • Fist size portion of mashed potatoes with a thumb-sized pat of butter.
  • Full plate of Hamburger Helper.

Etc.

At the end of the week it’s tally time. Head over to one of the (endless) calorie calculation sites on the Internet and figure out what your weekly calorie and protein intake are per day. It will also be helpful to understand what percentage of your diet is coming from carbs and fats.

Once you have these totals, move on to step 2.

Step 2 – Calculate Daily Averages

Using your weekly protein and calorie intake levels, divide by seven to calculate daily averages. These averages will be used as a baseline, or starting point.

So if you took in 25,000 calories last week and 700 grams of protein, your daily averages would be:

  • Calories – 25,000 divided by 7 = 3,571 calories per day
  • Protein – 700 divided by 7 = 100 grams of protein per day

Treadmill Cardio

Step 3 – Map Out Your Eating Tendencies

This might seem like a tedious and pointless step, but it’s very necessary. You need to understand when and how you typically eat. Armed with this knowledge you can set up a diet plan that matches these tendencies.

From your weekly data, add up the total number of calories and grams of protein you eat within every given hour of the day. It will look something like this:

  • 7am to 8am – 1000 calories and 50 grams of protein eating within this period during the week.
  • 8am to 9am – 500 calories and 20 grams of protein eating within this period during the week.
  • 9am to 10am – 2000 calories and 50 grams of protein eating within this period during the week.
  • 10am to 11am – 250 calories and 15 grams of protein eating within this period during the week.
  • 11am to Noon – 7000 calories and 150 grams of protein eating within this period during the week.

From this “eating map” you can now determine when you need to structure your snacks and biggest meals during the day when cutting. It is far better to work with your current eating tendencies then to adopt someone else’s eating plan and try to survive it.

Step 4 – Set Your Starting Points

Calories. Take the number of calories you are eating per day and drop it by 300. This is your diet plan starting point.

Hop on the scale first thing in the morning (after urination). Weigh yourself each day for the entire week. Ignore daily fluctuations. Instead look for any weight loss during this 7 day period.

If you aren’t losing weight, drop calories by another 200 calories per day and watch the scale for an additional week. If you find that you have lost weight, consider this your diet starting point. If not, continue to drop your calories by only 200 per day, per week, until you start to see some weight loss.

Protein. You will want to set daily minimum protein intake levels. Eating a sufficient amount of protein will help you to maximize muscle retention while cutting fat. Here are my minimum suggestions:

  • Men – Eat at least 170 to 180 grams of protein per day
  • Women – Eat at least 100 grams of protein per day

Fill in the rest of your calories with a reasonable amount of healthy carbs and fats. For most people there is no reason to micromanage either. Eat mostly healthy foods, and don’t fear healthy fat intake. You want a balanced amount of healthy fats and carbs.

Kettlebell SwingsStep 5 – Add In Cardio

Now that you have found your diet starting point, it’s time to add in cardio. I suggest 3 to 4 sessions per week of 20 to 30 minutes each.

Resist the urge to rush out and live at the gym, doing cardio. Cardio itself burns very little fat.

Don’t do more than your 3-4 sessions per week right now. You may need to add in some extra cardio later if the fat loss process stalls, so wait until then.

What type of cardio should you do? HIIT or steady state? Morning or post-workout? Walking, stairmaster, other? It doesn’t really matter to be honest. Pick something you enjoy, and do it during a time of the day when you have the most energy.

Step 6 – Wait 2 Weeks, Then Adjust

With cardio in place, wait 2 weeks. The goal is to lose about 1.5 to 2 pounds per week. This rate is generally considered optimal when trying to maximize your body composition.

Lose weight faster than this and you risk losing muscle tissue. The result: you may end up thin, but still flabby.

If after 2 weeks you are not losing weight, drop your daily calories by 200 and monitor your weight for an additional 2 weeks. If you are still not losing weight, repeat this process.

Once you reach that weekly weight loss sweet spot, ride it for as long as possible. Do not change anything. Continue on with the same eating and cardio plan until a stall occurs.

Step 7 – How to Deal with Plateaus

If you hit a 2 week plateau then it might be time to take action. I suggest trying one of the following 3 options.

  1. Diet Break – Take a week off. Bump your calories up 500 per day, and perform no cardio. Use this as a mental and physical rest week. Return to your normal diet and cardio plan the following week.
  2. Cutting Calories – Cut calories by an additional 100 per day and monitor weight loss for the next 2 weeks.
  3. Add Cardio – Add in an additional 5 minutes of cardio per session. Check the scale in 2 weeks to see if this is making a difference.

When a stall occur, it is imperative that you remain calm and don’t panic. Stay the course. Continue making very slight changes over time until your rate of weight loss returns to normal.

 

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Fear not, early morning lifters. Learn how to structure your pre, intra and post workout nutrition & supplements for better gains. Article includes sample diet plans.

The early bird gets the worm, and if you want to beat the afternoon rush of workaholics you better be up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym. For those of you who prefer to get your workout in soon after wiping last night’s sleep from your eye cracks, this guide should give you some helpful tips for how to structure your diet and supplementation in the morning hours.

Tips for Early Morning Trainees

What’s the best time to train?

Rather than dabble in the enduring debate of what time of day is most “optimal” to train at, I think it’s more worthwhile to consider the fact that consistency and applicability are far more important on the hierarchy of your fitness regimen. To answer the question about “the best time to train,” my answer is simple: train at the time you prefer and that fits your schedule. I know, shocker, eh?

Don’t get all caught up in circadian rhythms and trivial matters that have little to no significant effect on your gym performance. If you get your best workouts in when you train in the morning, then don’t change it. If you’re a night owl, then by all means hit the gym during graveyard hours. As long as you’re consistent and it fits your lifestyle than the time of day you train at is immaterial.

AM Training Nutrition & Supplementation

For simplicity’s sake, this guide will detail supplementation and nutrition suggestions for people who train within an hour or two of waking up. I do realize some folks might be “mid-morning” gym-goers and those individuals could still follow similar protocols to what is outlined this guide, but they might want to adjust things a bit.

Dumbbell CurlsDiet Tips

While it is impossible for me to provide exact diet breakdowns that fit all trainees, there are still some general guidelines to help you formulate your own nutrition plan. A breakdown of some key points to consider when structuring your morning diet plan is listed below:

Protein is key—30+ grams of a leucine-rich protein source (such as most animal proteins and whey protein) will provide a sufficient elevation in muscle protein synthesis for a good 3-4 hours post ingestion; don’t skimp on your protein intake. Moreover, high-protein breakfasts will provide plenty of satiety to keep your hunger at bay throughout the morning hours.

Fats are essential—Fats play a myriad of roles in humans and are essential for cellular processes. Unsaturated fat sources (especially the omega-3 fatty acids) are revered for their heart and metabolic health benefits. It is recommended to ingest the majority of your fat intake from mono/polyunsaturated sources, but some saturated fat is necessary as well. (1)

Carbohydrates are your muscle building ally— Gym-goers often seem to form a love-hate relationship with carbohydrates due to their inherent insulinogenic property.  Insulin has been shown to enhance the muscle protein synthesis response from a nominal dose of amino acids. (2,3) That being said, insulin also inhibits lipolysis, so you don’t want to get too carried away with carb intake. There is also no significant advantage to “spiking” insulin levels with simple carbohydrates vs. eating complex carbs after your workout.

Preferably eat your biggest meals around the time you train—This is not a huge deal, but due to the acute effect elicited by weight training, it is somewhat beneficial to take advantage of favorable metabolic adaptations by eating your largest meals around the training timeframe. Again, if this doesn’t fit your schedule, don’t fret; the highest priority is meeting your calorie and macronutrient quotas at the end of the day, not the timing of your meals.

Stay hydrated—Don’t skimp on fluid intake, especially around the training timeframe. You don’t need to carry around a gallon jug of water like most meatheads do, but just be diligent with your intake. If your urine is dark yellow, drink more; if it’s clear, you’re fine.

Supplement Recommendations

Supplementation for morning trainers is pretty much the same as what is outlined in the Peri-workout Supplementation Guide. If you haven’t had the chance to read that guide yet, don’t worry, we will cover the basic necessities here:

Pre-workout Supplementation:

Consider using a “pre-workout” product; there are a plethora of them of available on the market now days. Most pre-workouts are formulated around caffeine/stimulants, and some other worthwhile ingredients like creatine, citrulline malate, betaine, etc.

Alternatively, you can concoct your own pre-workout blend with bulk ingredients, here is a list of some popular, worthwhile supplements to consider:

  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Citrulline Malate
  • Beta-alanine
  • Betaine
  • Agmatine
  • Caffeine

Protein supplements (preferably whey) may come in handy if you don’t have time to eat a solid-food meal in the morning and/or after training.

Tricep Dips

Intra-workout Supplementation:

A branched-chain amino acid or essential amino acid supplement can be taken before, during and/or after training if you desire. This is probably a worthwhile consideration for those who train fasted and won’t be eating soon after their workout is over.

A carb-based drink (with BCAAs/EAAs added in) may be useful for endurance training or if you train for an excessive period of time (>2 hours at a time).

Post-workout Supplementation:

Some of the supplements listed in the pre-workout section of this guide may also be taken after training, such as creatine and citrulline.

Protein supplements (especially whey) may again be a useful consideration for people who want a quick, convenient source of protein after training.

Sample Diet/Supplementation Layouts for the Morning Trainer

As always, nutrition should be high on the list of priorities, especially for those who hit the gym in the morning. There are a few approaches people generally adhere to with regards to diet in the morning and there really is no single “wrong” or “right” way to go about it. I’ll lay out a few sample dietary protocols and you can adapt them to your regimen as you please.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to nutrition/supplementation; the human body is highly adaptable and you can make most anything work.  As aforementioned, consistency and applicability are of utmost importance. Be flexible and try new things if you’re not happy with your current regimen.

Sample AM Workout Nutrition Plan 1: Whole-food Breakfast

Within an hour or so post-workout eat next meal (*see diet tips above)

Sample AM Workout Nutrition Plan 2: Pre-WO/On-the-go Shake
  • 7:00 AM—Wake up
  • 7:30 AM—Pre-Workout/On-the-go Shake (*see diet tips above)
  • 8:00 AM—Pre-Workout Supplement (*if desired)
  • 8:30-10:00 AM–Train (*intra-workout supplement may be taken)
  • 10:00 AM—Post-Workout Supplement (*if desired)

Within an hour or so post-workout eat next meal (*see diet tips above)

Sample AM Workout Nutrition Plan 3: Fasted trainer
  • 7:00 AM—Wake up
  • 7:30 AM—Pre-Workout Supplement (*if desired)
  • 8:00-9:30 AM—Train (*intra-workout supplement may be taken)
  • 9:30—Post-Workout Supplement (*if desired)

Within an hour or so post-workout eat next meal/lunch (*see diet tips above)

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Present the best possible package on stage by avoiding these contest prep mistakes. Article includes information on sodium, carb and water loading.

Contest Prep Mistake #1 – Time

Maik WeidenbachYou must give yourself enough of the above. Most people underestimate how long it takes to get in competition/photoshoot shape. I was about 8 weeks out in the first photo and already pretty lean.

As a general rule, if you don’t have abs at the start of the diet, plan for 16-20 weeks. Otherwise you’ll have to crash diet, which will cause muscle loss and you’ll end up looking smooth and flat (in addition to becoming a public menace).

So, at first you must decide how many pounds you need to loose in order to get to the bodyfat level that your little heart desires. From there on, plan your diet with a reasonable caloric deficit so that you will drop about 1-2 lbs of fat a week (it won’t be all fat, but that’s another article).

Keep training as you did before. I still go as heavy as I can, in order to keep as much muscle as possible. Higher reps with lower weights do not burn more fat, but will put you at risk for muscle loss. As for cardio, start adding it gradually as you go along.

It is also preferable to be in shape 2-3 weeks before the event. This will allow you to properly taper off from training. Someone with rested muscles will simply look fuller and better than the guy who was doing two hours of cardio until a day ago. At same time, being in shape early will give you a chance to post as many Facebook updates as your friends can handle.

Contest Prep Mistake #2 – Over-Reliance on Supplements, Especially Fat Burners

Here is how the typical contest prep starts: calories are being cut, cardio added or increased and a fat burner is being thrown in the mix. Low and behold, the athlete loses weight, at least for a while. The problem with that is:

  1. You don’t know what works.
  2. Where do you go from here if you reach a plateau?

My approach is to keep some arrows in the quiver. At first you cut your calories by 500 a day. Your diet is responsible for 80+% of what you will look like, so it pays off to be meticulous in that department.

After two to three weeks of reduced calories, I start adding cardio for about 2×30 minutes per week. If you keep getting leaner while keeping your strength, stick with that approach. If not, I suggest cutting the calories further by 200/daily and adding a third cardio session. If your strength drops more than 15%, bump your calories (especially carbohydrates) by 40% for two to three days in order to upregulate the metabolism.

Finally, for the last 6 weeks you can use a fat burner to eliminate stubborn fat deposits. This will also help provide that extra boost of energy so you can make it through your workouts. I recommend to lay off the fat burner the last two or three days before your event since most of these substances can interfere with the carb load.

Maik Weidenbach

Contest Prep Mistake #3 – Last Week Changes

Here is where most people get confused and end up damaging themselves greatly by following some obscure last-minute sodium/carbohydrate/water depletion/loading scheme. The result is that they look worse than before.

Now to be clear water, salt and carbs will have an effect on your appearance but a proper loading scheme will only make a good physique look great. It will not turn a mediocre body into contest shape over 7 days. In short, athletes who win shows look great the week before already. With that being said, let’s cover the big three briefly.

Carbohydrates: most athletes consume very few carbs the week before a show in order to deplete, and start carb loading on Thursday/Friday to store more glycogen in the muscles. The idea is to take advantage of the so-called supercompensation effect, where a carb depleted muscle sucks up carbs like a sponge thus creating a fuller and drier appearance. There is nothing wrong with that approach but there are many shades of grey.

I personally only do a mild depletion from Sunday to Wednesday before the show, where my carbs drop about 25-30%. Then I do a carb load Thursday through Friday and consume about 120% of my regular carb intake. Other people go zero carb for the whole week and only do a heavy load on Friday. For me, that approach doesn’t provide enough time to fill out, but you have to experiment for yourselves to see what works. Simply take notes as to how many carb days and what kind of carbs it takes to make you look awesome.

Here is the carb-load approach I used for my last show:

  • Sunday to Wednesday – I ate 150 grams of carbs as well as chicken and white fish for 300 grams of protein, fat was kept at a minimum.
  • Thursday and Friday – 3 meals of 4 oz chicken and 8 oz white potatoes, 2 meals steak and 1 1/2 cup of rice.
  • Saturday – Was pretty much the same, but I added salt.

Maik Weidenbach

Water: That is probably one of the most misunderstood subjects there is. Very often, water is being blamed for what really is fat. “Oh I am just holding some water.”

In the picture above I was drinking 2 gallons a day. Water comes and goes, fat doesn’t, so if it is there all the time, chances are it isn’t water.

Most people shouldn’t even try to manipulate their water intake. If your training/diet got you in great shape the week before, why change it now? If you feel you should use any kind of diuretic, legal or not, keep in mind that your muscles are mostly made from water and dehydration will leave you flat. Therefore, it is critical not to cut water out too early.

So what about the opposite: the dreaded spill over? Don’t despair, if you feel you have spilled it can be fixed by doing a light whole body pump workout. This will make you sweat and force the body to transport the water from under the skin into the muscle cells. Most people actually don’t spill, they were simply not lean enough in the first place.

If you must know, I did cut my water late Friday afternoon and only sipped through pre-judging. Use what works for you. I have seen people jugging down a gallon backstage and still winning the show. Everybody is different.

Salt: salt, like water, is very much misunderstood. A sodium deloading and loading protocol will only make a very good physique even drier and crisper. But, if you are not vascular the days before a show, it’s not the salt that is holding you back. Again, you are not lean enough.

Sodium is needed to ensure that the muscle cells can contract and relax. All this is done via low electrical stimulus from the nerves. If sodium levels are inadequate for neuronal function, then a muscle cell will fail to function properly. This is why long periods of cutting sodium out don’t make any sense.

Without sodium, you cant get a pump and your body will appear flat. Cutting sodium out on Friday and re-introducing it on Saturday before pre-judging should do the trick.

Some athletes don’t bother without it at all and still look great. Again, it is all about observing and paying attention to detail.

These are the three biggest pitfalls when it comes to achieving peak condition. With your newly gained knowledge you should be able to get yourself into top shape.

 

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Frustrated by a recent photo, Michael completely turned his life around in only 10 short months using a healthy diet, running and weight training.

Lifestyle Prior To Change

What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?

Prior to the start of my transformation, I consumed way too much unhealthy food (fast food specifically) and hardly participated in any fitness-related activities. Prior to the start of my, I lived in MI. In July, 2010, I moved to Colorado.

The pivotal moment when I knew I had to change my lifestyle was when I took a picture at a water park. With one look at that picture, I instantly knew I had to become healthier.

Michael LeeWhat was your low point or turning point?

My lowest point was looking at that picture from the water park. As a Army veteran, I knew the importance of good health, how to get there and how to stay there. I was disappointed that I let myself drift that far from good health. From September 2, 2010 and beyond, I was determined to transform my body into an image of health and fitness.

Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?

Yes, I had several challenges and circumstances that I had to overcome. In September 2010, I had just moved to a new state, CO, started a new job, was attending college courses and was maintaining family life (I am a Husband and the Father of three small children). I also had a few health issues that I was/still am battling (asthma & a surgically repaired knee). I was able to manage all of these issues and still reach my transformation goals.

What was your transformation timeline?

  • Transformation Start: September 2, 2010, Weighed 232 lbs.
  • Milestone: October 2, 2010 – Weighed 212 lbs.
  • Milestone: November 2, 2010, Weighed 206 lbs.
  • Milestone: January 2, 2011, Weighed 200 lbs.
  • Milestone: June 13, 2011, Weighed 185 lbs.
  • Transformation End: June 20, 2011.

Michael’s Training And Cardio Approach

What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?

Initially I wanted to lose 30 lbs of fat through running. After I lost my first 30lbs, I then began to incorporate weight lifting into my workout plan, which helped to tone my body rather quickly. I primarily ran several times per week from Sept 2010 – Dec 2010.  I started lifting weights (while still running) from Jan 2011 – Jun 2011.

Michael Lee

Monday – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps & Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 4 10
Military Press 3 10
Captain’s Chair 4 12
Tricep Dip 4 15
Tuesday – Back and Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Curl 4 10
Bent Over Dumbbell Reverse Flye 4 10
Thursday – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps & Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Bench Press 4 10
Machine Shoulder Press 4 510, 8, 6, 4
French Press 4 15
Planks 4 15
Friday – Back and Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Rope Cable Curl 4 10
Lat Pull Down 4 15

Michael LeePlease detail your cardio approach during your transformation?

Since my Army days, I’ve always enjoyed running. I believe that running is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise one can participate in.  When I run, I mix slow-long-distance, spiriting and hill runs.

Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. There’s no need to go on a crash diet. Slowly change your eating habits from unhealthy to healthy.
  2. Resist the temptation of overworking your body. Take incremental steps in order to reach your fitness goals.
  3. Document your progress. This includes documenting your weight, body measurements, how much you can lift, running times/distances. As you consistently work at it, you’ll find yourself reaching all of your fitness goals.

How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?

My approach has not changed. I still try to run at least 10-15 miles per week, eat around 2000 calories per day, and lift weights 4 times per week.

Michael’s Diet And Nutrition Approach

Can you provide us with a sample eating plan (please be specific):

I was easily consuming over 3000 calories per day prior to the beginning of my transformation. Instead of totally abandoning my eating habits, I instead opted to consume more fiber-based foods and less high fat food. I did not totally change my way of eating, I just incrementally started to cut back on food that I knew was unhealthy for me. Months later, I was eating healthy salads, protein shakes, fresh fruit, fiber bars and similar healthy foods.

Here are two samples of my daily meal plan:

  • Breakfast – 2 Boiled Eggs/Bowl of Oatmeal
  • Lunch – Chicken Salad/Protein Shake
  • Snack – Fiber Bar/Nuts or Trail Mix
  • Dinner – Baked Chicken, Mixed Vegetables, Brown Rice
  • Breakfast – Whole Wheat Toast/Scrabbled Eggs
  • Lunch – Fresh Fruit/Chicken Wrap
  • Snack – Banana/Fiber Bar
  • Dinner – Black Beans, Tuna, Steam Veggies/Protein Shake

Michael Lee

Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?

For a couple of weeks, near the beginning of my transformation, I completely cut out nearly all carbs (both good and bad carbs) and consumed 85% protein. That factor zapped my energy, and I quickly found  that eating healthy, whole-grained based carbs/food gave me a more balanced approach to my nutrition, plus more energy.

Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:

  1. Consume at least 60+ ounces of water each day.
  2. If you must eat at a restaurant, eat half of the meal there and save the rest for lunch or dinner.
  3. Prepare your meals on the weekend and pack your lunch for the week. Have a balanced mix protein and carb-based foods (fruits, veggies, whole grain).

Did you allow yourself cheat meals?

Although I did cheat (by continuing to consume the snacks that I liked), I consumed them in moderation. I slowly cut back on unhealthy foods and replaced unhealthy snacks with fruit, veggies and nuts.

What supplements did you use during your transformation?

During my transformation, I used whey protein, protein bars, multivitamins and caffeine-based energy supplements.

Advice For Others

Michael LeeWhat are your best tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?

  1. Go to the doctor, get a annual checkup, and make sure you get a good idea your current picture of health.
  2. Start slow. No need to kill yourself in the beginning of your fitness journey.
  3. Watch your caloric intake. Unless you’re Michael Phelps or you have time to exercise all day, it’s extremely hard to overcome a poor diet/overeating. I used a free app on my phone to track my calories, food intake and exercise.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?

I stay motivated because I continually monitored my fitness stats (weight, waistline, muscle tone) and was able to continually see results.  I was blessed to reach my total fitness goals in 10 months. I pushed my body to the limit and I found great enjoyment in seeing results.

More From Michael Lee

What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?

My life is wonderful. I am an avid 5k-10k runner (I have participated in several races in this year). Running is so liberating to me.

I also am helping many of my family and friends become healthier though sharing my fitness journey and helpful tips.

What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?

Reading stories of other people who turned their health and fitness around keeps me motivated. My family keeps me motivated as well. They have attended all of my races, and they also go with me to the gym. I plan to be at all the great moments in their lives of my family and what better way to ensure that than to be physically fit.

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Move beyond counting calories. Learn how to better reach your fitness, health and body composition goals by calculating daily intake of carbohydrates, protein and fats.

Let’s start from the beginning.  What is a macronutrient?  It sounds much more complicated than it really is.

Macronutrients are simply substances required by your body in large amounts.  They are nutrients that provide calories or energy.

Ripped PhysiqueThere are three macronutrients: carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and fats.  Carbohydrate and protein both provide 4 calories per gram, fat provides 9 calories per gram.  Our bodies need certain amounts of all three macronutrients (as well as micronutrients and water) to keep it functioning at an optimal level.

It’s not as simple as how many calories you consume in a day.  The source of the calorie counts.

For example, let’s say you stay within your recommended amount of calories per day, but you are consuming the majority of your calories from fats, yet are deficient in your carbs and/or protein intake.  You may struggle to reach your health and fitness goals- even if you are exercising regularly – unless you adjust your macronutrient intake.

Where to start?  How many grams of carbs, proteins and fats should you be consuming?  There are numerous macronutrient calculators out there.  They gives you an ideal range for your macronutrient intake, based on your current weight.

This gives you a great starting point.  If you have more specific goals like building muscle, or need a nutrition plan to support endurance training, etc.  you may want to consult a personal trainer or specialist to give you more specific numbers to hit.

Once you know the macro range you should be eating within, it’s time to figure out a way to track them.  This is the part most people assume is too tedious, but today, there are numerous tools available that make this task so much easier than the old pen and paper method.

I use My Fitness Pal to track my macros.  They make it super simple.  All you have to do is enter in what you ate, and it pulls up all the nutritional information for that food item.

It even has an option to “add a food”, so you can enter in the nutritional content of a food item not listed, in order to be as accurate as possible.  It tells you how many calories you’ve had for the day as well as how many you have left according to your target goal.  It also breaks down your macros for the day, letting you know how many grams of carbs, proteins, and fats you have consumed.

Tracking your macros also makes you aware of what and how much you are truly eating.  If you ask people how their diet is, most people will tell you they eat “pretty healthy”.  But if you asked them to write down everything they eat,  you can usually pinpoint why they may be struggling with their health and fitness goals.

Nutrition is so important.  You can’t expect your body to perform a specific task (lose weight, build muscle, etc.) if you don’t provide it with the tools needed (nutrition and exercise) to complete the task.

Weight Loss

Give it a try!  Once you get a feel for what and how much you should be eating, it’s no longer necessary to track your macros unless you want to.

To be honest, unless I am training for a competition, I don’t track my macros anymore.  I’ve done it enough in the past that I can eyeball all my meals and stay within my ideal macro range.  However, if I find that I’m feeling extra tired or there is a sudden weight fluctuation, I will go right back to tracking them for a few days until things return back to normal.

One final benefit of tracking your macros – you may notice that by focusing on what you ARE supposed to eat, you may spend less time thinking about what you shouldn’t eat.  When I track my macros for a competition, I’m always thinking about the nutrients in the food, rather than the actual food.  I don’t have time to think “mmm I want cake” because I’m too busy thinking “I need another 20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs (to fuel my body to do what I want it to do), what are my choices that fit those nutritional requirements?

Give it a try, but don’t get too hung up on it.  You’re not going to hit your numbers perfectly every day.  I don’t.  It’s a trial and error process.

But you know what’s great about tracking your macros?  Instead of sitting around feeling guilty for eating a brownie, you can do something about it instead – make room for it in your diet that day.

Enter that brownie into your fitness tracker.  Take a look at how many calories, sugar and carbs it’ll put into your system and make the necessary adjustments so that you’re still within (or at least close to) your targeted macros for the day.  Bam!  Brownie.  No guilt.

It’s a valuable tool that is free and always available.  Even the resources I listed above (the macro calculator and nutritional tracker) are both FREE!

You’d be a fool not to utilize it.  Go on!  Track your macros and knock some goals out of the park! See more here.

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