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Archive for the ‘Fat Loss’ Category

Set down your fruit juice, fat free milk and all those “fake” healthy foods. In this feature Nick Ludlow tells you why 6 popular food choices might not be all that healthy.

Let me preface this article with the following disclaimer: You may disagree with me because your body can tolerate the foods discussed below without issue. Additionally, you may have successfully incorporated these foods in to a “healthy” diet.

With this in mind, you should know that the purpose of this article isn’t to persuade you to eliminate these foods from your diet. Rather, it is to examine common “health” foods that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’ve been eating some of these foods and wondering why you haven’t been feeling so good after trying to “clean up” your diet, then consider this article food for thought.

Along with the title of “not so good for you”, the foods discussed here encapsulate certain characteristics including, but not limited to;

a.) Lack of nutritional value.

b.) Gastrointestinal (GI) tract issues.

c.) Interference with vitamin and mineral absorption.

For each food I will discuss these “not so good” properties and provide alternative food options that mitigate the drawbacks of the food items under examination.

Whole Milk

It’s safe to say that if you consume dairy, consider full-fat dairy or at the very least moderate-fat dairy to optimize vitamin absorption.

Fat Free Dairy Hinders Vitamin Absorption

You can’t turn a corner these days without nutritionists, fitness enthusiasts, and your mother touting the benefits of dairy. Dairy is an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D (if it’s added), and protein. Liquid dairy products such as milk are also a convenient way to increase your caloric intake and provide hydration.

However, fat free dairy is not always your best dairy option. Firstly, fat free dairy lacks…wait for it… Fat! The presence of fat, a 9 calorie per gram macronutrient, is crucial for absorbing key fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K.

Fat Free Milk

Although the fat quantity required for optimal absorption of Vitamin E is unknown, α-tocopherol concentration (aka vitamin E absorption) was significantly greater with higher fat meal (17.5g fat) compared to the low fat meal (2.7g fat) and water-only meal (0g fat). [1] Vitamin K levels, measured by menaquinone-4 concentrations, were higher when study participants consumed supplements with a fat source (e.g. butter) compared to consumption with no fat source. [2]

Based on the two studies mentioned above, one can safely extrapolate that the overall absorption of vitamin A and K improves with the presence of a fat source. However, the minimum fat quantity required to optimally absorb these key vitamins does not appear to follow an known formula or trend.

Following this logic, it’s safe to say that if you consume dairy, consider full-fat dairy or at the very least moderate-fat dairy to optimize vitamin absorption. If you absolutely refuse to consume full- or moderate-fat dairy, consume your fat free dairy with a fat source such as nuts, olive oil, fatty fish, or avocado.

I’m sure we’ve all had one too many scoops of whey protein only to find ourselves with farts that could clear out a room. Through firsthand accounts, chatting with fitness enthusiasts, and accidentally reading forum stories with way too much detail on this topic, a majority of the population finds dairy to be hard on the gastrointestinal tract (GI), especially as consumption increases.

According to the National Institute of Health’s Genetics Home Reference website, “Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, affecting more than 90 percent of adults in some of these communities. Lactose intolerance is also very common in people of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent”. [3]

A reduced ability to digest lactose may result in issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and acne. If you find yourself encountering any of those issues, consider slowly reducing dairy consumption until these symptoms disappear or completely eliminating dairy consumption for a week and then slowly re-introducing dairy until you find the point just before these symptoms occur. You won’t know the point just-before the symptoms appear until you slightly overshoot it, but once you find that point, just dial back so you’re behind that line.

Dangers of Legumes

If legumes are still giving you troubles from the gastrointestinal and bloodwork standpoint, I would use meat and full-fat dairy as primary protein sources.

Legumes Inhibit Mineral Aborption

Legumes are a popular option for fitness enthusiasts to increase their protein, fiber, and iron consumption. For vegetarian fitness enthusiasts, legumes are a crucial element of their diet as they’re often paired with rice to create a “complete” protein source. Before your consume boatloads of legumes during your next meal, let’s discuss their phytates and phytic acid content.

Phytic acid has antioxidant properties but also binds to vital minerals. Phytic acid inhibits iron absorption of both native-iron and fortified-iron foods, which can cause iron deficiencies over time if large amounts of legumes are consumed. [4] Although study in question failed to provide a formula on what constitutes a “large amount” of legumes, one can generally classify one can of legumes per day for 6-12 months to be a large amount.

Minerals whose absorption are hindered by the presence of phytates, in order of most to decreasing impact, are zinc, calcium, iron, copper, and magnesium. [5] It is worth reiterating that for the absorption of those minerals to be negatively affected you must be consuming large quantities of legumes over a period of time – simply consuming legumes with zinc rich foods like oysters will not completely negate zinc absorption.

In addition to their phytates and phytic acid content, legumes have such a notorious impact on your gastrointestinal tract that children sing the tune, “Beans, beans they’re good for your heart; beans, beans they make you fart; the more your fart, the better you feel; so beans, Beans, for every meal!” Needless to say, overconsumption of legumes equates to a high fiber intake in a very short period of time, which puts your GI tract on high-alert.

I’m not going to cite some study claiming that the fiber in legumes is dangerous, but c’mon folks, please be mindful if you’re eating large quantities of legumes and intend to be in a public and/or confined space. No one wants to hear or smell what you ate earlier in the day. If you’re not looking to completely remove legumes from your diet, there are a few methods to decrease phytate quantities, phytic acid levels, and gastrointestinal side effects – cooking, germination, fermentation, soaking, and autolysis/self-digestion. [6]

If legumes are still giving you troubles from the gastrointestinal and bloodwork standpoint, I would use meat and full-fat dairy as primary protein sources (with soy in moderation) and fruits, vegetables, and cereals (e.g. oats, quinoa, wheat germ) for as primary fiber sources.

Rice Cakes(Most) Rice Cakes Are Highly Processed

Ah rice cakes – the “clean” carbohydrate choice for bro-bodybuilders everywhere. Over the years, many bros have touted rice cakes as an excellent way to “spike the insulin” levels. Many articles claim that the main reason for avoiding rice cakes is due to their relatively high glycemic index value (82 +/- 11) and insulin index (73 +/- 12). [7]

Let me introduce a different perspective for why you should avoid rice cakes – they’re overly-processed and nutritionally lacking. Yes, I understand they’re portion controlled, but why not just eat the real thing? One cup of cooked long grain brown rice contains 88% of your daily value of manganese, 34.7% of selenium, 23.1% of phosphorus, 21.1% of copper, 20.9% of magnesium, and 3.5 grams of fiber. [8] Sure, you might be able to obtain those nutrients from rice cakes, but I’m willing to bet it won’t be as concentrated or kind to your wallet.

For example, Quaker® lightly salted rice cakes only contain two ingredients – whole grain brown rice and salt, but let’s be honest; most people select the flavored varieties. The caramel corn variety contains 8 ingredients, the chocolate crunch variety contains 14 ingredients, and the white cheddar variety contains a whopping 20 ingredients! [9]

If you’re looking to cut down on processed foods, consume the rice in its original form or select another minimally processed carbohydrate such as potatoes, oatmeal, or quinoa. If you refuse to eliminate rice cakes from your diet, consider switching to the salt-free or lightly salted variety and adding your toppings such as peanut butter or parmesan cheese or a cinnamon/cocoa powder mixture.

“Health Halo” Snack Foods Are Not Really Healthy

It’s amazing how marketing can completely alter the general public’s opinion of what makes a food healthy. Apparently, someone decided that an unhealthy food could become healthy if the new product (e.g. crisps instead of cookies) could deliver the same flavor in fewer calories.

Common perpetrators include 100 calorie packs, snacks that have a “light” version via fat removal, and foods that advertise being made with 100% real fruit. These foods are almost always low in fiber, protein, and healthy fats but high in processed carbohydrates, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. These foods provide little satiety and increase the consumers’ potentially to overeat because of the “health halo” associated with the snack.

I always laugh when someone feels less guilty about eating five packs of 100 calorie pack Oreo® crisps than actually eating one serving of the real deal. For those with a higher level of self-control and the ability to only consume one pack, I ask, “why bother”? For another 70 calories you can have a full serving of the Oreos® you’re probably going to eat later that day anyways and at least you won’t be trying to fool yourself.

In addition to the processed and unsatisfying nature of these snack foods, I also urge you to consider the implication of consuming the large amount of artificial ingredients contained within these foods over time. Sure, one or two packs every week or so won’t kill you, but if I have researched half of the ingredients to determine what they are, then it’s probably not the best food to consume on a regular basis.

My top three snack foods that don’t fall under the “health halo” snack food category are almonds, beef jerky and whole fruits. Almonds and beef jerky are great sources of healthy fats and protein. Fruit is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. All three snack options do not contain added or processed carbohydrates, fiber, and contain no processed carbohydrates. However, you’ll rarely see these products in flashy packaging as they don’t need marketing gimmicks and buzzwords to prove that they’re healthy snack options.

Fruit Juice

Fruit Juice Is Concentrated Sugar That Lacks Nutrition

It should come as no surprise that fruit juice made this list – fruit juice is unnecessarily processed, lacks nutrition, and ruins the integrity of the perfect delivery system nature provides when fruit grows naturally. Fruit juice lacks the natural fiber content of fruit but contains the natural fruit sugars in concentrated form which can cause blood sugar swings that may otherwise be stabilized by the fruit fiber.

The liquid delivery system of fruit juice also doesn’t provide as much satiety as solid foods and, as a result, one may quickly over consume this calorie dense product which could hinder fat loss on a calorie-restricted diet or lead to unnecessary fat gain on a mass-gaining diet.

Fruits such as oranges and grapes provide significantly more satiety immediately, 60 minutes, and 120 minutes post consumption compared to their fruit juice counterparts. [10][11] One can likely attribute to this difference in satiety to the presence of dietary fiber and the fruit being in solid rather than liquid form. Consuming the fruit in its solid form delays the speed at which the fruit can be digested and lowers the overall energy density – it’s much easier to blend an apple, banana, mango, and blueberries and consume in one sitting than it is to eat a serving of all those fruits in their solid form in one sitting.

If you refuse to eliminate fruit from your diet, which is understandable, consider consuming whole fruits a majority of the time with the occasion substitution of dehydrated fruits. If you’re still worried that you might over consume fruit, I’ve found that vegetables provide similar if not higher quantities of the same crucial vitamins and minerals for fewer calories and higher levels of satiety.

Heavy Seaweed Consumption Can Mess With Your Thyroid

WakameSeaweeds such as kelp, chlorella, spirulina, and wakame are touted as popular “superfoods” as the general population increases its collective knowledge on exercise and nutrition. Seaweeds contain high levels of iodine, a crucial element for growth, development, and metabolism.

If iodine intake is too low, then metabolism may decrease due to an underactive thyroid, but more isn’t always better – excessive seaweed consumption can cause serious side effects in some individuals. “In the normal, healthy thyroid, high levels of iodine intake have little lasting effect even when in large doses (1,000-2,000 µg/day).” [12]

When iodine consumption is high, the body’s production of the thyroid hormone is down-regulated or temporarily shut off to compensate. “Excessive iodine intake has also been associated with the increased incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the primary cause of hypothyroidism”. [12] Hypothyroidism can vastly diminish quality of life and is difficult to reverse without medication.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include, but not be limited to – fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, unexplained weight gain, puffy face, hoarseness, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol level, muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints, heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression, impaired memory. [13]

Please understand that I’m not trying to scare away from seaweed. I simply encourage you to avoid mega-loading seaweed in an effort to increase your metabolism via thyroid activity. If you are an otherwise healthy individual, simply using iodized table salt and occasionally consuming seaweed should have your thyroid functioning within the normal range.

Although this list is by no means comprehensive and absolute, if you’ve been struggling to reach your fitness goals and have been liberally consuming these foods and food products, consider decreasing or eliminating them from your diet until you feel that you can safely incorporate them without derailing your progress.

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The 3 Week Diet
Are you sick of feeling overweight and unattractive? Do you hate the way your body looks in the mirror? Do you feel exposed when you take off your shirt at the beach? If any of these things apply to you, then I have the solution you are looking for. You see, I was just like you once. Overweight and unhappy. I hated the way my body looked. I felt fat and ugly but deep down inside, I knew that I wasn’t meant to be this way forever. I knew that if I could lose the weight, my life would improve dramatically.

I started my mission to improve myself by searching for diets to lose weight quickly. I read hundreds of articles about all sorts of diets – from low carb diets, to high protein, to soup diets, and even an “ice” diet (where you were supposed to fill yourself up by eating ice!). None of them really appealed to me or even had any proof that they worked. After all, I had tried variations of them before like Atkins and Weight Watchers, but they all failed me and didn’t allow me to shed the pounds that I so desperately wanted to lose. I haven’t always been the most athletic person, so strenuous exercise and hours in the gym didn’t appeal to me at all. I knew I had to find something else.

One day I was reading an article about a professional UFC fighter. In it, he described how before each fight, he would lose rapid amounts of fat so he could qualify for the lighter weight fights. He even said he was able to lose up to 20 pounds using his method. I couldn’t believe it. If I could lose 20 pounds in just a few weeks, all my problems would be solved. So, I did some digging and I found out who this UFC fighter’s personal trainer was. He was based in Los Angeles, so I called the trainer up and pretended that I was interested in being his client. He obviously charged a lot of money and I couldn’t exactly afford to pay huge amounts of money for training, but to my surprise, he invited me to come to a free personal introductory training session.

So, I turned up at this fancy LA gym and met with the trainer. He was this good looking, handsome kind of guy that was in perfect shape. He certainly was practicing what he preached. Anyway, we talked about my weight loss goals and what I wanted to achieve and he explained that he would definitely be able to help me. He said he knew a secret diet that he’d be teaching celebrities and professional athletes for years where they can lose over 10 pounds a week on it. The bad news was though, if I wanted to learn it from him, I would have to enroll in his 10-session course, which would cost me $500 a session. That’s $5000 all up. There was no way I could afford that.

Just as I was getting up to leave, I noticed a business card sticking out of the personal trainer’s workout logbook. It had three words on it, and those three words would change my life forever. They were ‘3 Week Diet’. I said my goodbyes to the trainer and let him know that I could not afford his classes. As soon as I was out of the gym, I pulled up Google on my phone and typed in ‘3 Week Diet’. The first result popped up was a website called ‘The 3 Week Diet’. I knew I had hit gold. The website, created by this nutritionist and scientist explained how it was possible to lose mass amounts of body fat in as little as 3 weeks. This was the exact same diet the UFC fighter I read about was on. And it was the same diet the personal trainer was trying to sell me for thousands of dollars! There it was. Revealed in all its glory. The secret to losing weight quickly.

I started the diet immediately. It wasn’t that much of an adjustment. The diet didn’t involve starving myself or doing any sort of tiresome exercise. In fact, I barely noticed that I was even on a diet! On the first day alone, I lost 2 lbs. I knew from right then that this was going to work. I followed the diet to a T and in the first week I lost a total of 10 lbs. I couldn’t believe it. Never in my whole life had I lost that much weight so rapidly. My jeans felt slimmer and I had so much more energy and vibrancy to my personality. I continued The 3 Week Diet until the end of the 21 days, and when I stepped on the scales for the last day, I nearly had a heart attack. 25 pounds. 25 FREAKIN’ POUNDS! I had lost that much weight in only 3 weeks. I could barely believe it. I looked in the mirror, and sure enough my face was slimmer, my jaw was more prominent, my stomach was flatter, my arms didn’t have saggy skin. I was actually somewhat good-looking!

I had found the holy grail of weight loss – The 3 Week Diet. I called up Brian (the creator of the diet) and thanked him personally. He was glad to hear my success story and asked for me to email him some before and after photos so he could put them on the site. He did, and you can still see them there to this day! So there you have it. That is my story on how I lost 25 pounds in only 20 days. Before starting The 3 Week Diet, I wouldn’t have thought that it was possible. But now, seeing how I look in the mirror, seeing how I can now wear any clothing item I want, and how people treat me so much better, I know it is possible! If you are in the same situation as I was in before I started the diet, take action now! Don’t waste your time with stupid diets that just don’t work, and even if they do – they take months and even years. I stopped the 3 Week Diet over a month ago; I haven’t put on any weight since. I’ve been able to keep the weight off for good. You can do it too! CLICK HERE FOR MORE  ON 3 WEEK DIET

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The scale says skinny but the mirror says “lose weight.” What should you do? This article helps skinny fat trainees explore the pros and cons of bulking and cutting cycles.

Skinny Fat Body Dilemma: Should You Bulk Or Cut?So you want to build the perfect body but you don’t know where to start. You dream of adding insane amounts of muscle mass, but when you look in the mirror your current body fat levels haunt you.

All you see is flab, despite the scale telling you that you aren’t overweight. The question haunts you: should I bulk or cut first? I will try to help answer that question for you the best I can in this article.

Let’s take a look at a real world example of a skinny fat lifter, and see how the various bulking and cutting strategies impact the time it takes to reach your muscle building and fat loss goals.

The skinny fat dilemma

Note: This section will look at the example of a younger lifter who weighs 150 pounds. The weight itself is arbitrary. If you are thin but skinny fat, this entire article will apply to you.

Let’s say you want to build muscle, but right now you look like a flabby 150 pounds. Should you cut the extra fat first, or add muscle then do a cutting diet? Here are some factors to consider.

First off, you have no history of building muscle. If you attempt to cut fat at such a low weight without knowing what it takes to achieve results in the gym, it is highly unlikely that you will look any better after your cutting diet is over. Let me explain…

Ripped PhysiqueWhen you know how to build muscle during a bulk, you will be capable of holding on to as much muscle tissue as possible during a cut. This will help improve your body composition and body fat levels. The bottom line is that you will look your best, maximizing the appearance of your existing level of muscularity.

With all this in mind, here are your 3 possible options:

  1. Cutting Diet. Cut 10-15 pounds of fat, and then begin a long term lean bulk that will last several years.
  2. Long Term Lean Bulk, Then Cut. Undergo a long term lean bulk that lasts several years, then attempt a cutting diet to get rid of any extra fat.
  3. Short Term Bulk, Then Cut. Bulk for several months, cut for several months, rinse and repeat.

Let’s pretend that our hypothetical male lifter has 18% bodyfat. He’s not fat by any means, but because his physique lacks any appreciable amount of muscle mass he looks fairly sloppy, soft and skinny fat. Here is what our lifter’s current body composition numbers look like:

  • Weight – 150lbs
  • Bodyfat – 18%
  • Fat Mass – 27lbs
  • Lean Body Mass – 123lbs

Cutting Diet Scenario

In this scenario our lifter chooses to drop 15 pounds of fat before undertaking a long term bulk. He has no experience building muscle, and knows nothing about how to train to maintain muscle mass, so we will guess that while losing this fat he also loses 5 pounds of muscle mass. After his cut our lifter’s stats are:

  • Weight – 130lbs
  • Bodyfat – 9.2%
  • Fat Mass – 12lbs
  • Lean Body Mass – 118lbs

He managed to cut his bodyfat in half, but his physique looks – well to be brutally honest – pathetic. There is little to no muscle mass on his body and he now appears sickly and extremely underweight in clothing. Not an impressive look at all.

Now reality kicks in. Our frail lifter must undertake a long term bulk and will likely gain the fat he lost back over the course of the next year. He panics at the thought, wondering why he just wasted 10 weeks losing weight, and if he will ever look good and reach his goals. Our lifter does not understand that the addition of muscle mass makes a physique look better even if it is at 18% bodyfat.

But what about the 150 pound skinny guy that knows how to maintain muscle mass during a cut? Well, he will still lose some muscle, perhaps only a couple pounds. After his cut is over that additional couple pounds of muscle really won’t make much of a difference, with or without his shirt on. He will still look small, frail and unimpressive.

Bulking Diet Scenario

In our bulking scenario, our lifter decides to run a quality lean bulk over the course of the next 3 years. He sets up an eating plan that is based primarily around 80-90% clean food intake, and rarely eats more than 300-500 calories over maintenance levels on any given day.

He proceeds to gain 25 pounds of muscle and only 15 pounds of fat during this 3 year period. At the end of the bulking period his stats are:

  • Weight – 190lbs
  • Bodyfat – 22.1%
  • Fat Mass – 42lbs
  • Lean Body Mass – 148lbs

Big Biceps

Despite an increase in bodyfat percentage, our lifter looks amazing. His body now has more surface area because of the dramatic increase in muscle size. He looks fit and strong, and his physique catches the eye of onlookers. Believe it or not, he will also generally look leaner than he did at a lower bodyfat percentage simply because of the extra muscle mass.

At this point our lifter could undertake a short 12-15 week cutting diet, lose 20 pounds of fat, and look great. Since it’s much easier to maintain muscle mass and scale weight, our trainee could simply adopt a reasonable lifestyle and enjoy the fruits of his hard work.

After this cutting diet, and assuming he loses about 3 pounds of muscle during this weight loss period, our trainee’s stats look like this:

  • Weight – 167lbs
  • Bodyfat – 13.2%
  • Fat Mass – 22lbs
  • Lean Body Mass – 145lbs

At this point a lifter could either undergo a long, very lean bulk to try and add 5-10 more pounds of muscle mass, or just focus on keeping the status quo. Since this would be a lean bulk, it is unlikely this trainee would gain any appreciable amount of body fat. Even if he did, a short one month cutting diet would likely bring him back to his goal bodyfat percentage or leanness.

Short Term Bulk Scenario

This is a very common practice. You will see trainees engage in endless (relatively) short cycles of bulking and cutting. They never give themselves an extended period of time to build muscle, and typically pinball back and forth between a few pounds of muscle gain and then losing it again during a cut.

Let’s pretend that our trainee spends 6 months bulking and gains 16 pounds during this time. Part of this weight is simply additional water gain caused by eating more food, and it can be easily lost, but our trainee panics. He has seen some muscle gains, but the extra couple of pounds of fat he has gained, along with the additional water weight, sends him head first into a cutting diet.

Here is the likely breakdown of the 16 pound weight gain:

  • Muscle Gain – 8 pounds
  • Fat Gain – 4 pounds
  • Water Gain – 4 pounds

His current states look like this:

  • Weight – 166lbs
  • Bodyfat – 21.1%
  • Lean Body Mass – 131lbs

Deadlift

Because this lifter is still on the thin side, the 8 pounds of fat and water weight gained look noticeable despite the additional muscle mass. Given another 12-18 months on a lean bulk, and the addition of another 12-15 pounds of muscle, these small fat gains would look less and less bothersome.

So the cutting process begins. Our example trainee decides to try a cutting diet. He loses 12 pounds of fat, 4 pounds of muscle and the 4 pounds of water he gained during a bulk. The result is the following:

  • Weight – 146lbs
  • Bodyfat – 13.1%
  • Lean Body Mass – 127lbs

He is now 4 pounds lighter than when he started building muscle, and does have 4 more pounds of muscle mass, but it took him 9 months to get to this point. (6 month bulk, 3 month cut)

This is certainly progress in the right direction. There is no doubt about it. But it is slow – very slow – progress, given our trainee’s goals of adding as much muscle mass as possible.

If our trainee continues to stay in bulk-cut-bulk-cut mode, it will take him longer to build muscle during each additional bulk because he now has to take time to regain muscle lost during each cut. Though this muscle mass typically comes back rather quickly, it’s still 6-8 weeks of time lost on each bulk.

The next 6 month bulking period will result in another 4 pounds of fat gain, a return of the 4 pounds of water lost during the cut, and a 8 pound muscle gain. Keep in mind that half of this muscle mass is simply the regaining of muscle lost during the cutting period.

So after the trainee’s second bulk, he has the following stats:

  • Weight – 162lbs
  • Bodyfat – 16.7%
  • Lean Body Mass – 135lbs

15 months into his muscle building journey, our trainee has made the following body composition changes:

  • Weight Gain: +12 pounds
  • Muscle Gain: + 8 pounds
  • Fat Gain: +4 pounds
  • Bodyfat Percentage: -1.3%

Dumbbell CurlsSo is this good progress? No. It is “ok” progress, but at his rate it will take our trainee a much longer period of time to reach his muscle mass goals. If he continues to engage in cycles of bulking and cutting, net muscle gains will likely remain around 4 pounds every 9 months.

It should be noted that this rate will not last forever. Gains slow over time. So the longer this natural lifter engages in short term bulking and cutting cycles, the less muscle he will gain during each bulking period.

A straight lean bulk would have landed our lifter about an 18-20 pound muscle gain during this 15 month time, and perhaps a 9-10 pound fat gain. How long will it take our “bulking and cutting cycle guy” to gain 18-20 total pounds of muscle mass? My best guess is about 36 to 42 months.

So the verdict is?

You came here to answer the question: should I bulk or cut? Given that everyone’s situation and goals are different, you can understand that this is a hard question to answer.

Ultimately the route you go is up to you. With that said, here are the facts you should consider.

Cutting diet first. Cutting fat before you have experience building muscle is a slippery slope. You are likely to lose even more muscle, and there’s a good chance that when the cutting diet is done you will still look skinny fat.

The main problem for skinny fat trainees is that they simply need more muscle mass. Existing fat stores look horrible upon an unmuscular physique. When you add 20 pounds of muscle to this frame you will look much better at the same body fat percentage.

Too many skinny fat lifters think they can simply lose a few pounds, get six pack abs, and finally be happy with the way they look. This is rarely the case. Getting “ripped” is an art form. Most experienced bodybuilders and fitness models learned to master their body composition through years of trial and error.

A huge factor in this equation is learning to build and maintain muscle tissue. If you do cut first, understand that unless you are genetically lucky, it’s unlikely that your appearance will look better.

  • Pros – You knock off a few pounds of fat, you learn a little bit about cutting which may help you down the road after you build muscle, and you enter your lean bulk not worrying about existing body fat levels.
  • Cons – Potential muscle tissue loss, physique may remain skinny fat, lost fat will come back after a cut.

EZ Bar Curls

Short Term Bulk & Cut Cycles. In my opinion this is a trainee’s worst option. Because you are trying to master both muscle building and fat loss, and because you are constantly ping-ponging back and forth adding muscle tissue you’ve lost on cutting diets and losing water and fat gains you gained on bulk, it takes a much longer period of time to reach your end goals.

Remember that your end goal was to be as huge and lean as possible. There is a strong likelihood that you will extend the time needed to reach this goal two-fold if you don’t commit to an extended lean bulk.

Far too many lifters use this bulking and cutting pattern. I’ve seen hundreds of men try to reach their goals this way over the years. To be frank, I’ve yet to see one develop a decent physique. It’s not that they can’t – anything is possible with time, obviously – it’s more a case that they either quit lifting, lose motivation, or have never taken the time to master the muscle building process in the first place.

  • Pros – You gain experience learning how to cut, rarely let yourself get above 18-20% bodyfat, gain an opportunity to master your diet under any circumstances.
  • Cons – Takes much longer to get huge, constantly worrying if you are “too fat”, spend too much time regaining muscle you lose from cuts.

Long Term Lean Bulk. This approach is a straight line path to a great body. You can spend 3 years building muscle, then embark on a 4 month cut and be done.

Your body will continue to look better and better with each additional pound of muscle gained. You will not have to deal with the frustration that comes from slow gains, and your body will look better overall at a higher bodyfat percentage.

You have the potential to build 25-30 pounds of muscle over the course of 3-4 years. The tradeoff is that you’ll also likely accrue about 15 pounds of fat, give or take.

Most successful bodybuilders or muscleheads I know followed this plan. They went after muscle gains voraciously, and then cut as needed once they had plenty of muscle size. They have learned that a long term lean bulk doesn’t have to result in an unpleasant degree of fat gains.

  • Pros – Fast track to muscle mass goals, body looks better even with a little more body fat, once the building process is done you get to put everything into cruise control and enjoy the rewards of your hard work.
  • Cons – You will have to trust the process and go through that early beginner stage where you may feel like you are gaining too much fat.

A final note of body fat

Over the years I have been asked the following question probably a thousand times: “I have a little extra body fat. It’s really bothering me. Should I cut?” My response is always the same:

If the extra fat bothers you, then cut first.

There is no sense trying to run a long term lean bulk if you are going to obsess about extra body fat each day. I’ve seen far too many trainees jump ship on a bulk because they simply are unsatisfied with the 20-30 extra pounds of fat they are carrying around.

My only concern is this…if you are underweight to begin with you shouldn’t be trying to lose more weight. This isn’t healthy. Build first, then lose. On the other hand, if you are a skinny fat 170-190 pounds and can’t stop thinking about that extra 15-20 pounds of fat you are carrying around, go lose it.

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Modern Men Lack TestosteroneEvery man has worried about their testosterone levels at one point or another. It’s only natural, considering how common low levels seem to have become in modern society. Some studies have actually shown that one out of every four men suffers from low T (low testosterone). Based on that information alone, you can say that modern men lack testosterone. But why is this the case? The truth is that there are actually several things that can cause low testosterone levels and while some can be serious issues. Others are just simple lifestyle choices and let’s face it, today’s men aren’t living the healthiest lifestyle!

 

Think you suffer from low testosterone? Find out here>>

 

Increasing Numbers

 

If you want proof of the increase in low testosterone, you only have to look at the numbers. Between 2001 and 2011 the number of men (40 and older) who were on prescription testosterone therapy increased drastically. It actually went form 0.81 percent to a whopping 3 percent in just one decade! While some of this is over-medication (admittedly more men are on treatment than need it) the increase in treatment does correspond to an increase in cases of low T.

 

Why the increase in low testosterone levels in men? Find out more>>

 

What Causes Low Testosterone?

 

Common causes include hormonal disorders, infections, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even overtraining. Even injury to your testicles can cause a decrease in level. Looking at those reasons it seems that many of them are out of your control but what about obesity? The average weight seems to keep increasing and with that, testosterone levels keep lowering. Some medications and treatments (such as radiation and chemotherapy) can also cause problems.

 

Why Is Fat A Problem?

 

So we know that obesity can lower your testosterone levels but how does it do that? The fat is always a health problem but it is more of a concern when it is located in the belly area as it will then surround the organs. This increases the body’s production of aromatase which can be problematic as this substance converts testosterone to estrogen. That means that not only will it decrease your testosterone levels, but it can also cause additional problems by increasing the estrogen levels.

 

Boost testosterone for more muscle and less fat! Here’s how>>

 

What Does Overtraining Do?

 

When you first think about it you would think that training is a great way to fight low T. After all it will decrease your fat levels and risk for obesity as well as type 2 diabetes. In reality, however, this is not the case. The problem comes from the fact that when you train too much, you will be increasing your body’s production of cortisol. This is an issue because cortisol and testosterone are both made from DHEA so if your body is making more cortisol, it will have less DHEA available to produce testosterone. If you work out a lot, it is important to take time to check yourself and make sure you don’t over-train; otherwise you may find yourself suffering from low T.

 

Boost Testosterone for unstoppable energy. Find out how>>

 

What Can You Do?

 

Start by trying to work out. You also want to watch your diet. Specifically you should eat plenty of vegetables and healthy fats while avoiding carbs and alcohol. If you still have low levels, your doctor can offer other suggestions, both prescription and lifestyle changes. If you think you have low testosterone levels, the first thing to do is to get tested. If you do have low levels, the good news is that you don’t have to resort to prescription therapy (although you should always ask your doctor first). Follow simple lifestyle changes you can make to help get your levels back to normal. This, combined with the use of safe supplements will help you increase and maintain your testosterone levels.

 

For more information on why modern men lack testosterone and how to increase your testosterone levels safely, CLICK HERE!

 

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If you’ve been struggling to get flat, sexy abs and burn belly fat with traditional workouts, then you are going to love these 5 weird abdominal exercise and diet tips.

 

5 Weird Abdominal Exercise & Diet Tips

 

 

Over the last 13 years as a trainer and athlete, I’ve been studying every expert and research study I can find about the best way to get flat abs. Today, you’ll discover 5 weird tips you might not know when it comes to getting a flat stomach and firm abs.

 


#1 – The best interval training work-to-rest ratio for losing belly fat might be 1-to-1.5

 

In an Australian study, researchers found that doing intervals for 8 seconds followed by 12 seconds of rest resulted in significantly more belly fat burning than long slow cardio. Now I know that 8 seconds on and 12 seconds off sounds a little annoying (just try doing that on a machine), but the good news is that these researchers found that going for 24 seconds followed by a 36 second rest works just as well for boosting fat burning hormones.

 

#2 – Dr. Chris Mohr’s #1 weird diet tip is…

 

I just finished up a fat loss nutrition interview with Dr. Mohr and he told me that his simple, yet slightly weird #1 diet tip for fat loss is…

 

“Get almost all of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.”

 

I really liked that tip because I’ve been telling people this for years, and it’s part of the Fat Loss Foundation you’ll discover in a Simple Nutrition plan.

 

#3 – You need to be able to do a Plank exercise for 2 minutes.

 

Dr. Stuart McGill, the world’s leading expert on low back health, says in his book that a person with fit abs should be able to do a plank exercise for 2 minutes straight. If you can’t do the plank for 2 minutes, then you need to lose belly fat and you need to get an abdominal workout DVD program that works your abs properly.

 

#4 – New research shows that supersets training burns more calories than traditional straight set resistance training.

 

And that’s exactly what you’ll get in every short, burst exercise workout. The short, burst superset programs save you time (getting you done in half the time of a traditional resistance workout) while helping you burn more fat.

 

#5 – To see your abs, a man will need to be close to 10% fat and a woman will need to be at about 16% fat.

 

Of course, the more muscle you have, the easier it will be too see your abs, so you’ll still be able to see a 4-pack on muscular guys when they have 12-13% fat. But the bottom line is that you need to use the Simple Nutrition plan combined with the short, burst exercise workouts to burn belly fat to see your sexy abs.

 
BONUS Tip – A great way to work your abs harder than normal planks is the Stability Ball Plank.

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This Strange New Weight Loss Secret Works Like Crazy

No wonder we can’t lose weight.

There are so many lies passing for truth these days,it’s a miracle if we ever lose a couple pounds.

Keep reading to steer clear of these filthy lies and to discover the‘ anti-diet’ thousands of men like you have used to drop 35-75 pounds in just months.

Lie #1: Aerobic Exercise Leads To Weight Loss –Not only is aerobic exercise boring, but a number of recent studies have exposed‘aerobic weight loss’ as a total fraud.With aerobic exercise, you might lose a little weight at the start, but you’ll rarely keep it off.Resistance training is much more powerful and makes your muscles burn calories as you rest.

Lie #2: You’ll Lose Weight With A Low-Fat Diet–Just the opposite my friend – your body ‘rebels’ against low-fat, low-calorie diets by storing more calories as fat. What’s more, a 2006 Harvard Study confirmed that low-fat diets didn’t result in weight loss, prevent disease or deliver any of the other benefits promised.

Lie #3: You’ll Lose Weight With Generic Fad Diets –Modern fad diets say we can all lose weight the same way, regardless of our metabolism, genetics or body type. This is a bald-faced lie (and you’ll find out why in a moment) – you simply need a strategy proven to work for your unique body type:

You’re about to see how one man lost 75 pounds in under 5 months with a strange new system called Customized Fat Loss. Customized Fat Loss will:

kyle leon

  • Explode your fat-burning hormones up to 250%
  • Ignite your metabolism and nuke unwanted fat
  • Swell your 24-7 fat-burning lean muscle in weeks
  • Sculpt you a powerful beach body that women love

How does Customized Fat Loss vaporize ugly body fat almost overnight? Simple: by using your unique body type to obliterate unwanted pounds FAST: Click now to lose weight quickly and easily.

Customized Fat Loss’s creator is a board-certified nutritionist and personal trainer, and he’s going to melt your fat like butter, regardless of your genetics or weightloss history. Customized Fat Loss is the sensible weight loss solution you’ve been waiting for. You’re about to start shedding unwanted pounds and discover:

  • How you’ll lose weight quickly while eating your favorite foods
  • The super-simple rule for a flat stomach that drives women crazy
  • Three weight-loss secrets the diet industry has been hiding from you
  • Three disappointing reasons diets always fail you – and what really works

You’ll see before-and-after photos o fmen who’ve torched 35-75 pounds in only months, and hear a respected nutritionist’s take on Kyle’s system.So if you want to look 10-20 pounds more muscular and 10-20 pounds leaner in seven days, click here now for your lean, healthy body.

It’s time to grow muscle that women love, feel great and chase your dreams with newfound energy and passion. It’stime you took control of your weight, your health and your life. Get Customized Fat Loss right now.

 

P.S. How would it feel to create a lifelong fat-burning metabolism and catapult your body into a 24-7 fat-melting machine? How would it feel to start living your best life today?

Want to know what to eat and when –and access a jealously guarded secret of the pros for looking more ripped than you actually are? Then start harnessing the power of age-defying professional weight loss right now …click now to lose weight and feel great TODAY.

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This article provides specific advice on how to approach the fat loss and muscle building process for individuals currently carrying around some unwanted body fat.

How To Optimize Fat Loss & Muscle Building

Preamble on improving body composition

The goal of most any individual in the gym is to improve their body composition. The conundrum is that improving body composition is a give and take process. For years people have argued over the idea that you cannot simultaneously lose fat and build muscle since that would essentially require mutually exclusive energy intakes (i.e. you can’t ingest a surplus of calories and be in an energetic deficit and vice versa).

This is why the “traditional” approach for many gym-goers looking to improve their body composition is to alternate between periods of building muscle mass and losing fat; colloquially, people usually refer to these timeframes as “bulking” and “cutting”, respectively.

So one way to think of the overall process is like it’s a see-saw between building muscle and losing fat—if you want to increase one then the other will have to decrease. This is probably the greatest conundrum physique competitors have dabbled over ever since they set foot in the iron asylum; alas, without the use of pharmacological doses of PEDs (and even then), it is an exercise in futility to try and concurrently optimize both muscle hypertrophy and fat loss (unless you intend to overcome thermodynamic laws, which I invite you to refute). The other option is to be in a “maintaining” phase (neither building/losing muscle nor losing/gaining fat).

Now when we apply the above predicament to individuals who are already in a state of being overweight, it seems intuitive to work on losing fat first and foremost. While this may be proper in some circumstances, it’s not always the ideal way to go about it and some overweight individuals can actually stand to benefit from working on building muscle before trying to shed the extra flab.

Given this, this guide will cover the possible approaches to improving body composition and apply these protocols to overweight (or even obese) individuals. We will also talk briefly about what exactly body composition is, some of the physiology behind losing fat and building muscle, and the necessity of things like cardiovascular training, weight training, and proper nutrition.

Build Muscle

What is body composition and how does one improve it?

In the fitness/bodybuilding sense, body composition is the percentage of fat tissue (in percentage) that accounts for one’s overall body mass (hence some people may just interchange the terms “composition” and “fat”). Seems pretty simple, but to improve one’s composition is where it gets a bit trickier.

One thing most people seem to skip right over when they set a new physique/fitness goal is the fact that bodyweight alone is not a sufficient measurement for progress. There are few scenarios where someone’s only goal should be to lose or gain weight just for the sake of seeing a quantitative change on the scale. It is rather more pertinent to focus on improving one’s body composition, regardless of what your overall body mass is.

In an ideal world, we would to concomitantly optimize fat burning and muscle building. Unfortunately, as noted before, these two goals are theoretically mutually exclusive at any given moment. However, this does not mean you can’t improve your body composition at any given time.

Improving your body composition simply entails increasing your ratio of muscle to fat tissue, respectively (i.e. lowering your body fat percentage). So for example, if we take Mr. Shredded and add 5lbs of muscle to his frame while only adding, say, 2lbs of fat, we have just improved his body composition. Likewise, if Mr. Shredded was able to shed off 5lbs of fat and only lose 1lb of muscle mass he again has improved his body composition.

So to reiterate, we either want to maximize muscle hypertrophy (while limiting fat gain) or maximize fat burning (while limiting muscle catabolism/loss). Hopefully these examples make the concept of improving body composition more perceptible.

Optimizing muscle building

When we consider the goal of building muscle tissue, it is useful to understand what comprises a state of muscle anabolism/hypertophication. Fundamentally, it breaks down to what is called the net protein turnover ratio, which is a quantitative measurement of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) versus muscle protein breakdown (MPB).

When MPS is greater than MPB, this is indicative of muscular hypertrophy (e.g. a state of anabolism) and vice versa. A plethora of factors cause this ratio to fluctuate, such as exercise, nutrition, disease/immune conditions, gene expression, pharmaceutical agents (e.g. PEDs), over-the-counter supplements, etc.

So in order to optimize/maximize muscle building, we ideally want to maintain a higher rate of MPS than MPB (thus the muscle protein turnover ratio is in favor of anabolism). Easy enough, right? Well, not too fast there Mr. Muscles, for muscle protein synthesis is tightly regulated via a protein encoded by the FRAP1 gene in humans called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). (1)

The mTOR protein itself acts as the backbone to mTOR protein complexes (e.g. mTORC1 and mTORC2) that activate protein synthesis when necessary cellular conditions are met (and ultimately induces cellular growth and proliferation). (2) As noted earlier, regulation of protein synthesis pathways is highly complex (and extends beyond the premise of this guide), but it’s still worthwhile to have this rudimentary knowledge of how muscle cells actually grow.

The activity of mTOR protein complexes is dependent upon the cell’s energetic state, circulating growth factors and hormones (especially insulin), nutrient availability, and oxidative stress. Given this, the goal for maximizing/optimizing muscle building is to augment these factors so as to up-regulate MPS.

Muscle Building

Optimizing fat loss

On the fat loss side of things, the mechanisms conducive to increasing fat burning are more or less directly antagonistic to those mechanisms involved in muscle building (and vice versa). Fat loss is largely regulated by the enzyme adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPk), a trimeric protein expressed throughout many tissues in the body.

You’re likely aware that adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy currency of the cell and the breakdown of ATP forms adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and free energy. Physiology lingo aside, AMPk is activated when the cell is in a state of energy deprivation (e.g. the ATP: ADP ratio drops). This occurs during times of nutrient (specifically glucose) deprivation, ischemia (lack of blood supply to an organ), exercise,  and /or use of certain chemicals/drugs.

Conversely, things such as eating and excessive glycogen levels inhibit AMPk activity (since the ATP: ADP ratio is elevated).

Why does this all matter in the grand scheme of fat loss? Well, frankly, AMPk increases lipolysis, enhances fatty acid oxidation, improves glucose uptake into muscle tissue, and inhibits lipogenesis. (3) In essence, it is the “metabolic switch” for burning fat.

AMPk and mTOR: A give-and-take relationship

So now we understand the importance of mTOR and AMPk when it comes to improving body composition, but the issue is that they are operated by antagonistic mechanisms. Thus, while AMPk is great for “turning on” fat burning, it is also an inhibitor of mTOR (and thus, muscle protein synthesis). (4) Conversely, mTOR reciprocates by inhibiting AMPk, so when MPS is activated fat burning is inhibited.

If you think about it rationally, this shouldn’t come as a surprise since cellular energy levels can only be sufficient or depleted, with regards to the ATP: ADP ratio, at any given moment. While this is a simplistic way of describing these pathways, it still provides an idea of why you can’t have your cake and it eat it too, so to speak, when it comes to fat burning and muscle building.

However, this is not to say you can’t alternate between these two cell conditions, and in fact that’s what certain things like intermittent fasting, re-feeding protocols and yo-yo dieting are based upon. Theoretically, for improving body composition, it would be best to give each of these pathways (AMPk/mTOR) sufficient stimulation/activation, even if it’s only intermittently. Thus we use the analogy of these two pathways having a give-and-take relationship and acting like a see-saw.

So where should an overweight (over-fat) individual start?

While there will always be individualistic variables at play when it comes to the “perfect plan” for overweight individuals, there are still some general tips to consider when improving body composition is the primary goal. “Overweight” is a somewhat misleading term since it doesn’t necessarily mean someone is “over-fat”, so this is more directed towards individuals with a high body-fat percentage (especially those in the 20+% tier).

You will need to assess yourself honestly/objectively and decide whether or not you have a decent base of muscle mass to work with or if you need to develop that base first. Some larger people may possess an appreciable amount of muscle mass but are also over-fat (think of the “traditional” heavyweight powerlifter), while others may be over-fat and lack significant muscle mass.

Concentration Curl

Creating metabolic “wiggle room”

The main prerequisite when it comes to improving one’s body composition is to elevate metabolic rate as much as possible. One way to think of this is that you want to first “expand” your metabolism so you have room to work with and reduce calorie intake from. There are several factors that help “expand” your metabolism, but the main one we will focus on is building more muscle (since muscle tissue is more metabolically demanding than adipose tissue).

Intuitively, the greater your “starting” metabolic rate is, the more efficient the process of improving body composition becomes. The main reason we want to expand your metabolic capacity early on is because long-term energy restriction will slowly lower metabolic rate and eventually you will reach a plateau where fat loss just won’t budge anymore.

Therefore, it is imperative to get your metabolism “healthy” (so to speak) before you try shedding off extra flab. This is not to say you absolutely can’t lose fat without first working on building muscle mass, but just that it will be much more efficient in the long run and make the process much more bearable physically and psychologically.

How to approach body recomposition when you are overweight

Case 1: over-fat but has decent amount of muscle mass

In the case of the over-fat but musclebound individual, it may be more appropriate to focus on shedding the extra flab first and mix in intermittent periods of maintaining and/or bulking. Since these individuals have a decent amount of muscle mass they have a greater metabolic capacity to taper down from; essentially, these individuals have more “wiggle room” to work with when it comes to cutting calories.

As noted before, metabolic rate slows as one remains in an energetic deficit, so by interspersing brief periods of caloric surplus you can avoid fat-loss plateaus (and enjoy the extra nourishment for a while). This is where you will need to assess your progress and adapt as you go on.

Some people may be able to achieve consistent fat loss for months before ever needing a “re-feeding” period, while others may stall within a few weeks. Since I can’t provide a one-size-fits-all protocol, here’s just a sample diet scheme for someone in this category looking to improve body composition:

  • Phase 1—“Cut” with a goal of roughly 5% bodyweight loss per month or until your weight loss stalls. A good starting point to achieve this is by cutting 500 calories from your maintenance energy expenditure (which can be calculated here: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-and-daily-calorie-calculator….)
  • Phase 2—once fat/weight loss stalls, increase calories back to maintenance or possibly a slight surplus for 1-2 weeks. You may notice some weight increases during this period but don’t panic.
  • Phase 3—Resume “cutting” again as you were in phase 1. Repeat phases 1 and 2 until you have reached your goal body-fat percentage/body composition.

Cable Front Laterals

Case 2: over-fat and lacks significant muscle mass

On the contrary, if someone lacks muscle mass and is over-fat, they are in a bind metabolically since their energy expenditure is already likely rather low and they will have to severely cut calories just to lose a slight amount of weight. Moreover, when calorie content is severely limited in these instances, most of the weight loss will just be muscle mass anyway, essentially lowering your bodyweight but not your body-fat. This generally manifests itself into the dreaded “skinny-fat” syndrome, which is quite the predicament to get out of.

Therefore, if you are in this category it is generally wise to consider eating either at maintenance calorie levels or in a “slight” deficit and focusing on resistance training. Most people probably think this is inane to recommend an obese/over-fat individual to not focus on weight loss and doing tons of cardio, but I would argue that by focusing on building and maintaining some decent muscle mass/strength at this point the individual will be setup for much more efficient fat loss in the long run. Again, don’t be blinded by short-term results.

Also bear in mind, I’m not saying these individuals need to go full blown “cutting” mode, starve themselves and pretend it’s for the best. If you give yourself time, remain consistent, and focus on resistance training, even a slight calorie deficit (or eating at maintenance) will be conducive to improving body composition since you will slowly lose fat and maintain strength and muscle.

This is not to say that cardio shouldn’t be implemented either, just that it is not necessary (nor useful) to be doing hours of daily cardio unless you just want to sacrifice mostly muscle mass (which you already have very little of if you’re in this category).

As noted above, there is no one-size-fits-all scheme for individuals in this category, so here is a sample (this is not all too different from that of Case 1 individuals):

  • Phase 1—“Cut/Maintain” with a goal of slight reduction in weight each week (e.g. .5-1lb week). A good starting point to achieve this is by eating around maintenance energy expenditure (use calculator provided earlier) and making sure you are active (and focusing on resistance training). You may also opt to cut a few hundred calories from your maintenance intake if you’re not seeing much weight loss each week.
  • Phase 2—Same as Case 1; once fat/weight loss stalls (or you experience notable decreases in strength), increase calories back to maintenance or possibly a slight surplus for 1-2 weeks. You may notice some weight increases during this period but don’t panic.
  • Phase 3—Same as Case 1; resume “cutting” again as you were in phase 1. Repeat phases 1 and 2 until you have reached your goal body-fat percentage/body composition.

The case for overweight teens

The predicament of being over-fat as a teenager can be quite a tough spot. These individuals usually do more harm than good to their body by focusing on extreme calorie restriction and cardio. If you’re a teenager and over-fat, here’s the reality: you need to understand what made you obese and change those habits.

The issue with extreme weight loss during crucial developmental periods is the havoc that can be wreaked on your endocrine/metabolic health. Many over-fat teens take things too far and set themselves up for a myriad of health complications just for the sake of lowering the number on the scale.

So as above, teens that are over-fat would likely benefit more from the recommendations for “Case 2” and really emphasize correcting unhealthy habits and focusing on resistance training/building strength.

What about macronutrient ratios?

While there may be some merit to micromanaging your macronutrient intake down to the last gram, over-fat individuals need to first and foremost just focus on eating less, period. That being said, it is probably best in the long-run for most over-fat individuals to focus on balancing their intake of fats, proteins and carbohydrates rather than adhering to extreme measures like keto dieting.

Reason being is that a focus on moderation of all macronutrients and calorie control not only gives the individual more freedom while dieting, but it doesn’t “restrict” them either or engrain the idea in their head that certain nutrients/foods are “off limits”.

Final word

Many people don’t stick with a plan because they get upset with the short-term results (or lack thereof) and completely forget that improving health/fitness and body composition is a lifelong endeavor. You can’t rush the process; it will take a concerted effort and consistency on your behalf to achieve the body and level of fitness you desire. If at any point you feel like you’re not making progress, take a step back, assess your long-term goals, and make any necessary changes to your current habits to continue your journey.

Again, you need to understand what made you obese/over-fat and change those habits. Just doing that and implementing a sound diet and exercise regimen will ameliorate many of the health maladies that come with the territory of being obese. Don’t make this more complicated than it has to be.

 

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Can cardio hinder muscle mass gains? What type of cardio is best for your experience level? Find out how to best incorporate cardio while building muscle.

How To Approach Cardio While Building MuscleThere is much debate and controversy on the subject of doing cardio while building muscle. Once and for all I am going to set the record straight. So without further adieu, here’s the real deal on doing cardio while trying to gain size and strength…

If you are a beginner who also happens to be a ripped ectomorph who has to fight for every ounce he gains (e.g. a classic hardgainer), I suggest that you lay off cardio almost entirely for at least 8-12 weeks. Get your training and diet down and pack on some size.

In that time you should be able to gain at least 15lbs of muscle if not 20+. After you have done that you can add in some cardio. I would start with three weekly sessions of twenty minutes of moderate intensity cardio; no intervals. Use a bike to limit the amount of eccentric stress or pounding on the joints.

And remember there are actually things known as real bikes that go outside, not just stationary bikes that people park themselves on to watch Oprah. Although, if you choose that route, get one with a well padded seat that will not lead to the death of your sex life.

If you are beyond the beginner level you should always be doing some kind of cardio on a regular basis, be it intervals, moderate intensity steady state, or low intensity, long duration steady state. Again, don’t limit yourself to machines indoors; get outside and drag a sled, run sprints, jump rope or play a sport. That’s a lot more fun anyway.

I think everyone should be doing something like this at least three days per week for at least 30 minutes. It’s healthy and prevents a host of health problems, not to mention that it keeps you in shape and looking good.

Contrary to what many people believe, cardio can actually be of great benefit to those looking to get bigger and stronger. Not only does it improve the cardiovascular system and thus improve the quality of your weight training workouts but it allows you to eat more muscle building calories while staying lean. To pack on 20-30 pounds of muscle you have to eat an inordinate amount of food. Doing some cardio will help ensure that you don’t get fat from all the excessive eating.

Bodybuilder Doing CardioThe bottom line is that everyone but absolute beginners should be doing some kind of cardio type activity at least three times per week for thirty minutes. This will not inhibit size or strength gains in the least but may actually enhance them. You should vary your activities and intensities as much as possible.

You can do cardio immediately after you train, although I prefer to do it on non weight training days or later in the day after training because I am usually too spent after lifting to give it my all on the cardio. Doing it on off days is usually a better option anyway because it serves as an active recovery activity and also gets you burning some calories on those days.

The purpose of doing cardio when trying to get bigger and stronger is to keep you lean, improve your insulin sensitivity and allow you to eat more calories. What kind of cardio will have the least negative effect on your size and strength gains? That’s a no brainer; walking.

The great thing about walking is it will not impede your progress in the least, the bad thing is that you have to walk for a bare minimum of 45 minutes to really burn a decent amount of calories and you will not elevate your metabolism much after walking. That is the great thing about interval training; it elevates your metabolism dramatically for long after you have finished your workout.

With that being said, I would still choose a good fast paced hour long walk on the beach over sitting on a stationary bike inside while pounding away on some brutal intervals. I despise intervals on a bike with a passion.

My ass goes numb, my balls go numb and I get a splitting headache. Not to mention that I am bored to tears within three minutes. Plus, I think we all do more than enough sitting and the last thing I want to do is sit some more while I’m supposedly “working out;” my hip flexors are tight enough already, thanks.

If you love to ride a bike then that is fine and you should do what you love. But for God’s sake, go outside and do it. People will actually get in their cars and drive ten minutes across town to walk inside a gym and sit on a stationary bike and ride it for twenty minutes and then drive home. Why not just ride your bike across town? I don’t get it.

So we have established that low intensity, long duration cardio (walking) is the best option for those who are concerned with any losses in size and strength whatsoever. This method was a favorite of many great bodybuilders such as Dorian Yates. Another option here, is to just go for a long slow/low intensity bike ride. Either one works great; but again I warn you to protect your nuts, aka get a good seat.

Next on the list is medium/moderate/high intensity steady state cardio. This kind of cardio is a little tricky because it can elevate cortisol and lead to losses in size and strength. To prevent this you need to be sure to limit the time spent doing this to 30 minutes, max.

Two days a week should be safe and three days would probably be ok for most people as well. It’s when you get into the 4-7 day per week, 45-60 minute marathon sessions that you see people at the gym doing (whose bodies never change in the least from one year to the next)all the time, that you get into trouble. If you limit your use of this method you should be ok.

Intervals

The good – intervals allow you to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time and keep your metabolism elevated long after you finish doing them.

The bad – if you are training legs two or even three times per week, you can not do intervals more than once a week without overtraining. Let me rephrase that; you can but eventually it will lead to overtraining or at the very least slow down your strength gains.

You can negate this slightly by keeping your leg training volume extremely low and doing your intervals on the same day as your weight training. You can’t do five to eight sets of legs two or three days a week and 30 minutes of intervals on top of it. That’s a dead end road.

You also have to remember to do your intervals on your training days and not on off days like you might do with other forms of cardio because that will lead to overtraining much quicker.

Cardio and Muscle Building

The ugly – if you choose sprinting as your form of interval training you could get hurt; it’s an ugly truth that has to be faced. The thing that will lead to even more injuries is following faulty interval protocol advice.

Normally it is recommended to do 30-60 second intervals when they are being performed on a stationary bike. A lot of people take these recommendations and apply them to sprinting. This is a huge mistake! Nobody can sprint for 30-60 seconds. Ok, not nobody; but most average people can’t do it. World class athletes can sprint for that long, but not everyone else.

Don’t believe me?

Go try it. Warm up thoroughly and try to sprint for 60 seconds straight. Let me know what happens. We have all seen the Olympics and how winded guys are after sprinting the 100 which happens to last all of ten seconds. Most of us have seen guys run the 40 and not be able to catch their breath for at least a few minutes afterwards. And that takes five seconds or less. Not only is sprinting for 30-60 seconds impossible for most people but it also greatly increases the risk of injury.

When you keep your sprint distances and times very short, you decrease the risk for injury because you never hit top speed and instead spend most of your time in the acceleration phase. This phase has the least potential for injury.

For that reason, most people should be running 20-50 yard sprints. This keeps you at top speed for a very short period of time; usually little enough time to maintain form and not suffer an injury. When you run at top speed for too long the chance for a break down in form and thus an injury is greatly increased.

I would never recommend that a non athlete ever try to sprint for 30-60 seconds straight and you should never take that advice from anyone. It is faulty and dangerous. To further reduce your injury while sprinting, use adequate rest periods between sets. Also, running with a sled slows you down enough to avoid top speeds and makes sprinting much safer.

Bottom Line – Intervals are a great tool for getting ripped, however when your main goal is to get big and strong and just keep fat gain to a minimum, they should be used sparingly if at all. I would recommend sprints above intervals on a bike and even then I wouldn’t do them in true interval fashion but more of a traditional speed workout with short sprints and adequate rest periods.

This will still elevate your metabolism greatly and keep you lean. Just look at the physiques of Olympic sprinters for proof of this; that his how they train. Sprint, rest… no intervals.

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Saturated fats are a necessary part of a well-rounded eating plan, yet most of us are unsure about how much we can safely eat. Learn about proper saturated fat intake.

Fats play a variety of essential processes in humans including but not limited to: adipokine secretion, cell membrane formation, protection/insulation of organs, and storing and releasing energy.

 

Many health and fitness enthusiasts seem to have an irrational fear of saturated fats and seek to greatly limit their intake of them. This generally manifests itself into complete avoidance of foods like full-fat dairy products, egg yolks, butter, fatty meats, coconut, etc. While it is indeed not a good idea to over eat saturated fats, there is still a place for them in everyone’s diet.

 

What are saturated fatty acids?

 

Fatty acids are comprised of hydrocarbon chains that may or may not contain double bonds. Saturated fatty acids differ from unsaturated fatty acids in that each carbon in the fatty acid chain is saturated with hydrogen atoms (i.e. no double bonds exist in the hydrocarbon chain).

 

Why fatty acid chain length matters

 

Further chemical classification of saturated fatty acids takes into account how many carbons are in the hydrocarbon chain; less than 6 carbons denotes short-chain fatty acids, 6-11 carbons denotes medium-chain fatty acids, more than 11 carbons denotes long-chain fatty acids, and more than 22 carbons denotes very long-chain fatty acids.

 

One of the reasons certain fat sources like butter stay solid at room temperature is because the melting point of saturated fatty acids increases as the carbon chain lengthens. On the contrary, foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids, like olive oil, are usually liquid at room temperature (e.g. melting point is lower).

 

In the case of short and medium-chain fatty acids, digestion entails passive absorption into the blood by way of the intestinal capillaries. This differs from long-chain fatty acid metabolism, which are absorbed by villi in the walls of the intestine and subject to further modification. For this reason, SCTs/MCTs serve as excellent energy sources due to their simple metabolism.

 

SCTs are primarily found in the milk fats from cows, goats, and sheep. Coconut is a rich source of MCTs, but if you’re looking for an alternative you can buy MCT oils from various sources as well.

 

How trans fatty acids are made

 

Despite being unsaturated fatty acids, it’s worthwhile to quickly cover the topic of trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids are found in some food products naturally, albeit in minute amounts. Most foods with a significant amount of trans fatty acids are the result of a process known as hydrogenation. Essentially, hydrogenation is the chemical modification of a fatty acid so that a “trans” double bond is created in the hydrocarbon chain; these trans double bonds cause the fatty acid tail to maintain a linear configuration and behave differently then normal unsaturated fats, which are primarily composed of “cis” double bonds.

 

Research continues to grow on the deleterious effects of too much trans fatty acid intake in the human body. It is generally advised to greatly limit, if not completely omit, your intake of foods high in trans fatty acids. Risks of significant trans fat intake include: lower HDL, elevated LDL and other cardiovascular maladies.[1]

 

So how much saturated fat should we eat?

 

Saturated fats appear to be correlated with sex hormone (androgen) production in males, so it is generally not a good idea to greatly limit your saturated fat intake.[2] On the flipside, chronic superfluous saturated fat intake may induce insulin resistance and other metabolic maladies, so we don’t want too much either.[3]

 

Given that the calorie needs and goals of individuals vary from person to person there is no preset, unanimous amount of saturated fat that everyone should eat. However, as a general starting point, active individuals should aim to get roughly 25% of their total fat intake in the form of saturated fats. As an example, if you’re ingesting 80g of fat per day, roughly 20g or so of that should be saturated fats.

 

Exceptions to this rule are people who follow strict keto/low-carb diets may have to since their fat intake tends to be exorbitantly high. Contrarily, if someone is on a low fat diet (<30-40g of fat), they may need to eat more like 30-40% of those in the form of saturated fats just to support nominal hormone production, among other things.

As with most diet recommendations, be prepared to do some trial and error with your plan. There is no lone cookie-cutter optimal diet plan out there. Be willing to try different approaches and find what works for you.

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Does caffeine really help your fat burning efforts, and if so, when and how much should be taken? Fine tune your caffeine intake and bolster your fat loss efforts.

You’re likely familiar with the popularity of the stimulant drug caffeine given most people habitually use it in some capacity. Caffeine has been used for decades as an ergogenic aid/performance-enhancing supplement due to its ability to “excite” the central nervous system.  Naturally, the use of caffeine specifically for fat loss is a popular area of research in the health/fitness industry.

Does caffeine really hold potential to enhance your fat burning efforts, and if so, when should one take it to maximize their fat loss? Moreover, what is the proper dosage to take in and what are the pros/cons to continual use of caffeine. These are all questions to be examined in this article, so without further ado let’s move onto the next sections.

Ripped Fitness Trainer

What is caffeine?

It’s pertinent to briefly cover the chemical nature of caffeine and what it actually is. The chemical nomenclature for caffeine is “1,3,7-trimethylxanthine” (don’t worry if you’re not a chem whiz, I’ll try and keep this in layman’s terms). Methylxanthines are alkaline, organic (i.e. carbon-based) substances that stimulate the CNS and heart, and they are naturally abundant in tea leaves, coffee beans, some fruits and other foods/plants.

Physiologically speaking, the ingestion of methylxanthines postpone the breakdown of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) via inhibition of phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzymes; thus caffeine is considered a PDE inhibitor. Since cAMP and cGMP are crucial messengers in cell signal transduction, the metabolic processes in the cell are sent into “overdrive” after the ingestion of PDE inhibitors.

Does caffeine help fat loss efforts, and if so, how?

There is some speculation that caffeine may enhance fatty acid oxidation through increases in catecholamines (such as adrenaline).[2] While research on caffeine’s ergogenic effects in athletic performance is abundant, there remains to be conclusive evidence that caffeine ingestion significantly alters substrate metabolism in muscles during exercise.[1] That being said, there are other possible mechanisms for caffeine to enhance fat loss, so we can’t write it off as useless just yet.

One of the proposed mechanisms for caffeine enhancing fat loss is through an increase in 24-hour energy expenditure (via increased metabolic rate). Moreover, the thermic effect of meals ingested with caffeine are more pronounced than meals ingested without caffeine. [3]

Despite the relatively short half-life of caffeine, the duration of its effects may last for several hours after ingestion. It appears that caffeine, when coingested with carbohydrates, does enhance carbohydrate oxidation during endurance training, but this likely mediated through enhanced intestinal absorption as opposed to increased catecholamine levels.[4]

The most compelling evidence, in my opinion, for caffeine use enhancing fat loss is actually through its effects on exercise performance. What I would argue, based on the research, is that since caffeine has been shown to augment both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, as well as lower the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), that the “extra” fat loss achieved is a secondary effect due to the increased exercise output.[5,6] Essentially, after taking caffeine, you generally have an increased athletic performance capacity, thus you can work harder and longer than those who workout without caffeine use beforehand; this in turn would likely increase caloric burn from exercise.

When should caffeine be taken for fat loss and at what dosage?

Most studies examining caffeine’s effect on athletic performance are carried out roughly 1-2 hours after ingestion caffeine. It’s impossible to give all-inclusive dose timings for trainees since different individuals may metabolize caffeine at different rates. Furthermore, caffeine absorption may be slowed with concomitant ingestion of nutrients.

As a starting point (and to assess your tolerance), try taking caffeine on an empty stomach about an hour before training. If you prefer to take caffeine with a meal, give yourself a bit more time before hitting the gym. If you find your performance in the gym is indeed bolstered after caffeine ingestion, than there is little reason to alter your approach. On the contrary, if you notice no change or a decrease in performance, you will either want to adjust your dose and/or manipulate the dose timing.

Dosage wise, it is generally recommended to take 1-3mg per kg of bodyweight (remember: 2.2lb=1kg).[7] If you’re a 180lb (~81kg) athlete, your dose range will land around 80 to 240mg. Do not go too crazy with caffeine dosing since there isn’t much extra benefit to superfluous amounts and it can in fact be lethal/toxic at high enough doses (>5g). Be safe and methodical with caffeine; it is a drug, so treat it as such.

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Everyone in the bodybuilding and figure world is talking about metabolic damage and how it is a diet killer. This article explores the current “epidemic” of this condition.

One of the big buzz terms in health and fitness subculture as of late is “metabolic damage”. It seems like quite a few “nutritional coaches” have come out and taken a firm stance on one side of the fence or the other, insisting that it’s either a valid phenomenon or a myth. While the literature on the topic of metabolic damage is still relatively scarce, the next few years should prove interesting since more and more research is being focused towards this concern.

In a nutshell, metabolic damage is terminology used to denote a state where the body doesn’t respond proportionally and appropriately as one would expect with respect to energy input and output. For example, someone may put their body through hours upon hours of cardio and restrict their calorie intake yet notice little to no weight/fat loss, which seems theoretically impossible, but as many people know, this can indeed happen. When a person has reached such a critical point, they are generally believed to have “metabolic damage”, to some arbitrary degree.

Measuring metabolic damage

However, therein lays the main conundrum with classifying metabolic damage, since it’s rather ambiguous to just say, “I have metabolic damage.” Ideally, we would want to put a tangible/measurable amount on the severity of the “damage” and seek to reverse it, but the trouble is that there is no real accurate/precise way to track such a quantity at this point.

The next best medically plausible way to verify that metabolic damage has occurred is probably various hormonal assays such as thyroid hormone levels/function, leptin, and others. The reasoning for this is that one of the key regulators of metabolic rate is the thyroid gland. Generally, individuals who exhibit hypothyroidism are noticeably heavier (and/or tend to put weight on easily) and have a tough time losing fat.

This isn’t to say that metabolic damage is entirely relegated to thyroid issues, nor other endocrine maladies, but from a physiological standpoint it is safe to assert that such issues do indeed influence one’s metabolic health.

What convolutes the issue of metabolic damage is that there is no foolproof way (yet) to pinpoint what exactly has gone awry and started the vicious cycle of having a lowered metabolic rate. Some people may have metabolic damage despite their blood work showing nominal values, in which case there has to be some other factor(s) influencing the individual’s metabolic rate.

An example of this would be someone with normal thyroid levels and functioning, but yet can’t lose weight to save their soul and has already gone to extreme measures as far as calorie restricting and cardiovascular exercise goes. It’s at this point that we know metabolic damage is occurring due to other physiological factors. Uncovering those factors is what much of the research will likely be focused on in the coming years.

Body Composition

What metabolic damage is not

I think one of the more important things to discuss pertaining to metabolic damage is the issue of it being “over diagnosed” by people who compete in any sort of physique competition. Just because you have competed in a bodybuilding or figure (or whatever event) show doesn’t necessarily mean you’re automatically in a state of “metabolic damage”. Yes, your metabolic rate is likely reduced since it’s pretty much common knowledge that during times of decreased energy input your body naturally lowers its energy output; that being said, metabolic damage is not the same as having a reduced metabolic rate.

Given this, don’t be so hasty to jump on the metabolic damage bandwagon just because you are eating less, exercising more, but still not losing weight like you hope. Metabolic damage is an extreme condition induced by extreme behavior.

We’re talking extreme in the sense that some people can be eating <600-700 calories per day, doing 2-3 hours of cardio, and still not losing weight…It’s safe to say that at that point metabolic damage has occurred. Contrarily, just because you cut calories to, say, 1600 calories per day and are doing 45 minutes of cardio without any weight loss doesn’t exemplify a “damaged” metabolism. I think people just need to tread cautiously when putting a label on their metabolic health; reduced metabolic rate is not synonymous with metabolic damage.

Correcting metabolic damage

As much as people want to believe there is some magic formula or treatment they can find for metabolic damage, the reality of it is that in order to reverse the “damage” you pretty much just need to do the opposite of what you’ve been doing. Essentially, this means doing less cardio, eating more, resting more, and focusing on weight training.

Don’t forget that muscle is more metabolically demanding then adipose tissue, so by building more muscle, you are increasing your metabolic capacity. This is the reason that many bodybuilders can stay in such good shape with little to no cardio in their regimen, since they’ve developed such a high metabolic capacity that it becomes rather hard to “out eat” their metabolism (pretty good “problem” to have if you ask me).

I’d be leery of people who claim that some certain supplements or food will suddenly resolve your metabolic damage. This isn’t to say supplements can’t help you, but the focus should ideally be on the big factors like your diet and training regimen. Get those back on the right path and then worry about micromanaging the other less important factors.

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It’s time to improve your barbell squat form and performance. These 16 tips by mammoth raw squatter Steve Shaw will help you get your squats on track in no time.

16 Squat Tips To Improve Form, Strength And SizeThe barbell squat is the king of all exercises. This has been said a million times in a million ways for one simple reason.

It’s true.

Besides being an incredible muscle builder, the squat is also a man-maker (or woman-maker). It is brutally hard, mentally challenging and exhilarating all at the same time. Many of us love squats, but we also fear squats.

The barbell squat is also a difficult exercise to learn. A healthy portion of the Youtube squat videos I see feature blatant squat form flaws. I also notice a heavy dose of what I like to call form lock.

Form lock is a condition that results from watching too many squat videos and/or reading too many squat articles. Lifters will take in a tip and start to approach the squat in a mechanical, unnatural way.

I do not want any of the following tips to make your squat form worse. Whatever you do, concentrate on making your squats feel natural. I also recommend that if you try to tweak your squat form in any way, don’t do so with heavy weight on your back. Practice squat form changes with a moderate and safe weight.

Tip #1 – Hips move back with the squat, not before the squat

I see this quite often with less experienced lifters. Somewhere in the netherworld known as the Internet people learn about the concept of driving their hips back as they squat. Instead of this becoming a fluid part of the squat eccentric, it is turned into a clunky, good morning type of lower back killer.

What you see is this: a lifter will break up the hip drive and squat eccentric into two very distinct, separate and mechanical components. They will initiate the squat by thrusting their hips backwards. Then, from this near good morning position, they will begin the squat eccentric.

By driving the hips back before you initiate the eccentric, you put yourself in a precarious position. You are leaning forward as you descent, and will tend to remain far less upright as you sink. This places addition stress on your lower back, and reduces leverage and power.

Barbell Squat

Tip #2 – Pick up the quarter

If you are having a hard time hitting squat depth I want you to try this tip.

Stand with your feet in a natural position and place your hands near your chest. Now pretend there is a quarter 6 to 8 inches in front of your feet on the ground.

Using both arms, reach down between your legs and touch the pretend quarter (ground). Your legs will naturally flower open, and you will likely have an easy time hitting squat depth. Now replicate this with a barbell on your back.

It’s nearly impossible to pick up this imaginary quarter without opening your legs. The reason that this is important is because far too many lifters keep their legs forward when squatting. This makes it much more difficult to hit depth.

Tip #3 – Drive your shoulders into the bar

When coming up out of the hole, focus on driving your shoulders into the bar. This will help you lead with the head and assist you in staying more upright.

Standing up is also a more natural movement. It will encourage better leverages and improve your squatting power from the hole.

Tip #4 – Use a natural width and toe angle

How wide should your squat stance be? What should your toe angle be? Here is a good place to start.

Position yourself like you were about to jump vertically into the air. Now look down at your feet. You will likely find that your toes are pointed out slightly, about 15 to 30 degrees.

This width and foot angle will be the most natural place to start squatting. You can make minor needed adjusts from there.

Tip #5 – Squat to parallel, it is better for the knees

Squats above parallel are bad for the knees.

A high squat places the bulk of the strain on your anterior chain, which is basically the front of your body. The involvement of powerful muscle groups such as the hamstrings, glutes and back is minimized.

This type of anterior-dominant squat places an unwanted amount of sheer stress on the patellar tendon, making it far more dangerous for knee health than parallel squats.

Barbell Squats

Tip #6 – It’s generally ok for the knees to come in slightly during the concentric

It’s generally ok for the knees to come in slightly when coming out of the hole, as long as the knee buckling is not extreme or creating a huge risk of injury. I certainly don’t recommend trying this if it’s not already occurring, but if your knees are moving in a bit, don’t panic.

Knees coming in might be a sign of a weakness, but this is not unusual. This issue will likely fix itself over time as your lower body strength improves.

Tip #7 – Build core strength without spinal flexion

Conventional ab strengthen work focuses on exercises that involve spinal flexion, such as crunches and situps.

Set these exercises aside. Instead focus on planks, side planks, planks on a stability ball and ab wheel rollouts. These movements will build an impressive amount of core strength and stability without taxing the lower spine.

This can only help your squat.

Tip #8 – Keep that upper back tight to stay upright

Head over to Youtube and watch a few squat videos that involve 6 to 20 rep sets. Odds are you’ll start to notice a trend. After a few reps many lifters will start to lean forward, placing a far greater amount of stress on their lower back.

What’s going on here? Lack of discipline. Specifically, they are not focusing on keeping their upper backs and arms tight. Because of this, as the reps mount their elbows begin to fly up.

When your elbows fly up, your head will tend to move forward. Both of these movements will have a tendency to lean you forward while squatting, putting more weight on your toes.

You will then begin to good morning your reps.

After each rep make sure that you have a death grip on the bar, and that your back and arms are tight and locked into position. This will prevent flying elbow syndrome and make your reps more consistent. It will also save your lower back some abuse.

Tip #9 – Shoulder or bicep pain? Widen your grip

Many lifters feel pressure to keep their grip as narrow as possible. This isn’t always the best option if you are old, or have a substantial amount of girth and/or muscle mass.

I struggled with crazy shoulder strains for one year before finally taking my grip out to maximum width. This change immediately relieved the pain, and I have been squatting like this ever since.

Barbell Squats

Tip #10 – You do not need to squat wide stance

Forget what you read or see on the Internet. There are far more raw powerlifters using a conventional stance then there are wide stance squatters. This might go against what you believe to be the norm, but it’s true.

A wide stance squat is technically more difficult. Spend time with a conventional stance, building up your strength and quad power. Then, after a couple of years if you feel like you might have quality hip mobility, slowly start to move your stance out.

Tip #11 – Use proper breathing

Take a deep breathe and hold it while sinking. Exhale while exploding up from the hole.

Tip #12 – Video your squats and watch for bar over toes

Find a way to record your squats and watch the bar path. The barbell should stay over the center of your foot at all times.

If not, typically it’s due to one of the form flaws listed above: knees not out enough when descending, loose back with elbows flying, driving your hips out before you descend, etc.

Tip #13 – Don’t obsess over “ass to grass”

I’ve seen more than a few squatters complain about a lack of ankle flexibility. Most of the time when I look at their squats they are going down way beyond parallel.

Ass to grass squats are not needed. Parallel squats are. The point isn’t to show China your back side; the point is to build leg size and squat strength.

Sink to a natural depth and then stand back up.

Tip #14 – Boost your size and power with paused squats

If your squat strength or leg size is in a rut, try paused squats. Sink into the hole normally, making sure to remain tight, and make a slight pause before coming up.

This minor change will leave you in pain the next day. A good kind of pain.

Paused squats are brutal, effective, and a great tool that can help you bust out of a plateau or slump.

Tip #15 – Keep your lower back tight

While you do not want to hyperextend your lower back inward, you do want to keep it tight. This tightness will help with stability and improve the consistency of your squat reps.

Tip #16 – There is no perfect form

If I had a dollar for every lifter who told me I have great form, I could retire. This is nonsense, and dangerous.

Never assume your form is ok. Form can always be improved. You should constantly be working to improve your form and squat consistency on every rep.

If you have no idea where to turn, take a video of your squats and allow a seasoned squat veteran to critique your lifts, looking for any major errors.

Final Thoughts

This is not a comprehensive overview of the squat but it should help you to fix most major issues. Before closing this article I would like to leave you with 2 thoughts:

  1. Everyone squats differently. First and foremost you want your squat reps to feel natural, within the bounds of the tips listed above. If someone tells you there is only one way to squat (high bar, low bar, wide, or narrow), ignore them. Even if it’s me.
  2. Don’t make more than one squat change at a time. Make your adjustment, and practice it with moderate weight. It is best to tweak one thing at a time except when the multiple adjustments are simple to make.

 

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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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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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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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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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