The 4 Hour Body Review – Can This Book Help you Gain Muscle and Lose Fat?

If you’ve not heard of Tim Ferris before then check yo’self.

This dude got famous from his first book ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, in which he basically tells you how you can move to a desert island and earn a healthy income by doing a few hours work a week on your laptop. Sounds like a pipe dream but a lot of the stuff in there is genuinely actionable if you’ve got the gumption.

 

Tim Feriss

The man himself. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ferriss

 

Imagine what kind of ideas he throws up then when he applies the same methodology to getting your dream physique. Can you really achieve your goals by putting in just four hours work per week? I haven’t followed his plan down to a tee, but all the advice is entirely plausible.

The most exciting thing about this book is that Tim’s theories are totally original - you won’t have read diet or workout plans like this before in Men’s Fitness. This means even seasoned trainers will at least learn a couple of new tricks which they can incorporate into their current routine, even if they don’t want to go balls deep with the Four Hour Body plan.

4 Hour Body Cover

Also available on Kindle

 

Overview

In essence, Tim is talking about turning your gym and diet into a semi-automated process, meaning you get maximum return on investment – that means there’s no overkill – no wasted time in the gym, no wasted time coming up with fancy diet plans, just the quickest, easiest route to your goals that frees up a load of time to do other stuff.

Tim’s theory is, most people spend way to long in the gym, and that once you’re passed a certain point, anything else you do is essentially useless – it’s all about the 80/20 rule. This rule dictates that 80% of your gains from 20% of your input - if we apply this building muscle, we can say that most of your gains will be the result of the TOP 20% of your work rate, i.e. your final reps in each of your sets which initiate muscular failure.

Think about your own training objectively and you’ll probably agree that you waste time in the gym. Could you be training more intensely, resting less between sets? Probably. Most of us could realistically slash the amount of time we spend in the gym on a weekly basis by 80% and still get great results.

Many people apply the 80/20 rule to dieting and fat loss – eat clean 80% of the time and allow yourself the odd cheat meal, and you’ll get pretty good results. Setting a goal of eating clean 100% of the time is unrealistic, and is it really worth the sacrifice (to your sanity, social life, taste buds) for the extra 20% of possible gains (loses)?

This is a pretty bold claim, and Ferris doesn’t just say ‘spend less time in the gym’ or ‘train harder’. The book gives you a fully laid-out training program to follow.

The book is split into a few different sections – there’s one on gaining strength, one on sleep but the two chapters we’re really interested in are the ones on muscle gain and fat loss.

 

Fat loss

Ferris takes a predominantly diet-based approach to fat loss, after all, this fits perfectly into the 80/20 rule theory – you spend a lot more time prepping/cooking/eating food than you do in the gym – it might not be a 80/20 ratio, but you get the gist.

Tim’s fat loss principles center around what he calls the slow carb diet.

This isn’t anything revolutionary, and is probably pretty close to how most of you are already eating – basically prioritise fresh meat and vegetables, and avoid ‘white foods’ – i.e. bread, pasta, etc. The one carb he encourages is beans or lentils (if you have a Heinz can in your head, give yourself a slap). Pretty standard really, but there are a few aspects you may not have come across before;

  • Have one cheat DAY a week – eat whatever you want
  • Eat the same foods everyday (especially breakfast and lunch) to make the diet easier to follow
  • Don’t drink calories
  • Don’t eat fruit

Easy.

Fat loss isn’t all about diet however according to Tim. He touts a few other tips or ‘hacks’ that won’t make much difference on their own, but do help to get the best possible results. One such tip is taking ice cold showers which stimulates thermogenisis – a process that involves energy, and therefore calories.

All sound advice, most of which I follow anyway- and most which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve read anything about low carb or paleo diets before.

 

Muscle Building

Are there really any new ways to build muscle? Hasn’t the process been the same since the dawn of time – life heavy stuff, frequently?

Well the biological process by which muscle is built hasn’t changed, but Ferris is confident he’s found a training loop hole that hardly anyone is exploiting, and it involves a workout plan that priorities intensity, at the expense of frequency.

Like the slow carb diet the plan is incredibly simple – I won’t tell you what it is – you’re better off reading the book, but it involves just two different workouts, and LOTS of rest days in between – this means training a maximum of three times per week.

Ferriss workout plan

Ferriss’ plan is on the right

 

Even in the gym, each workout takes about 30 minutes. Sound to good to be true? Don’t get too excited, each workout involves an incredible level of discipline and dedication, so when you are in the gym, you’ll work.

So what sets these workouts apart from your everyday body-part split? Time under tension.

Each rep, you’ll spend a LOT of time on the eccentric portion, which means using much less weight than you’re used to, but actually working the muscle a lot harder because you’re under tension for so long. Be prepared to ache the next day.

Summary

Even if you don’t plan to radically change your your program, this is an interesting read.

Some of Tim’s philosophies are pretty ‘out there’ compared to the approach most people are used to when it comes to training and nutrition, but the core principles for sculpting a great physique remain the same.

If you’re looking to give your training a real shake up, give this program a go. I’d also recommend it for people that are really short on time and looking to streamline their training and nutrition as much as possible – everything in this book is geared toward efficiency and freeing up as much time as possible.

I’d even encourage you to get this for the minor tweaks or ‘body hacks’ Tim talks about – e.g. cold showers for fat loss.

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Gluten Free!

What the Fuck is Gluten, and Why is Everyone Scared of it?

Being ‘on a diet’ is cool, if you’re not dieting then what exactly are you doing with your life? How can you possibly expect to get thin if you’re not on some ridiculous, temporary plan that demonizes one type of food, which has obviously been the root of all your problems, all this time?

The latest trend in nutrition isn’t a diet as such, but rather, a total avoidance of something called Gluten. Suddenly, it’s fashionable to be Gluten intolerant, and even more so to tell everyone about this intolerance, like it’s some kind of trophy, in fact for women, a Gluten allergy seems to be this season’s must-have accessory, alongside a Micheal Kors handbag.

Now, when people talk about avoiding Gluten, do they know why, or even know what gluten is? According to this hilarious video, apparently not.

 

LOL! The thing is, I’m no scientist, so I can’t be aloof and scoff at these people for not being clued up on the moclecular structure of Gluten, but if you’re going to suddenly decide you’re intolerant, you should probably at least have some idea what Gluten actually is

 

What is Gluten?

All we need to know is that Gluten is protein found in wheat – therefore it’s present in stuff like bread, pasta, anything containing dough, cereal, oats, processed meat (think of all the stuff in sausages that isn’t meat), beer, as well as whole load of other stuff that you should be eating very infrequently anyway like cakes, biscuits, sweets, full sugar fizzy drinks and all the usual shit that makes you fat, sick, and look like Paul Potts.

It is true that some people actually are Gluten intolerant – i.e. they have what is essentially an allergic reaction to it when they eat it, and that a lot more people are Gluten sensitive – which means they experience light bloating and discomfort after they’ve eaten it.

 

List of foods containing Gluten

Imge credit http://lactosesintolerances.blogspot.co.uk/

 

It’s hardly surprising when you consider that the human body was never designed to eat all that man-made stuff, and that it makes up such a large part of so many people’s diets (how many people do you know that have cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch and pasta for dinner – coincidentally I bet a large percentage of those people have some kind of health problem or really need to lose some weight).

The point is, people focus on this word – ‘Gluten’ and think that avoiding it might be the answer to their problems – I’m not going to dispute that for one second, I think that cutting Gluten completely, or almost completely would be no bad thing for most people, but Gluten isn’t necessarily the thing that’s making you fat.

Generally speaking, foods that contain Gluten aren’t particularly nutritionally dense, and that’s a better reason to avoid them rather than simply because they contain a wheat protein that the whole world is suddenly;y terrified of. Although foods like bread, pasta and oats are energy dense, they won’t do much else for you, so wherever you can, I’d favour protein, fiberous carbohydrates and non-processed fats as a source of energy and nutrients over any Gluten foods.

 

Why Does the ‘Gluten free’ diet have such a cult following?

Because like many other ineffective diets, it focuses on one food group, and promotes the idea that avoiding it completely is the answer to all life’s problems.

It offers an easy solution, but unfortunately it seldom delivers.

Gluten Free dating site spoof

I don’t know if this is a thing. I really hope not.
Image credit: http://www.finedininglovers.com/

It’s also slightly easier to stomach for most people than a low or no-carb diet because you can still eat pizza, pasta and bread, albeit Gluten free versions. The other thing is, people think it’s cool to avoid Gluten, it’s almost become an exclusive club, and more and more people are claiming to be Gluten intolerant/insensitive even when they’re not.

It’s also easy to wrongly self-diagnose. If you’ve just eaten a large Dominos with all the trimmings and you feel shit and bloated, that’s not because of the Gluten, it’s because you ate too much in one sitting. You pig.

 

Ok, ok, but will Gluten make me fat?

It depends what you mean by fat. If you mean ‘will it make me heavier?’, then the answer is no, excess calories will make you heavier – Gluten is not the culprit. However, if you are chasing optimum body composition, which for 99.9% of people is as much muscle mass and as little body fat as possible, then eating lots of Gluten contain products probably won’t do you any favours.

1000 calories worth of Steak and vegetables will propels you toward your goals a lot quicker than a vat of pasta – which most people seem to think is ‘healthy’. Why? It’s not just about the protein, red meat also contains saturated fat (which, by the way has been proven in recent studies NOT to increase the risk of heart disease), and coupled with all the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals in the veg, makes for a highly nutritious meal.

Will eating Gluten now and again make you fat? No. If you have sound knowledge of good nutrition and practice the 80/20 rule at the very least, then the odd Gluten containing product now and again won’t do you any harm.

 

Would I recommend Gluten Free products?

If you’ve never eaten a Gluten free product, you should try one. Imagine eating a Jacob’s Cream Cracker Sanwich, made with two hearty slices of MDF, all washed down with a refreshing pint of sawdust. That’s what eating Gluten Free Oats is like. In fact, eating a Gluten free product will make you realise what a difference this compound makes.

I wouldn’t particularaly recommend Gluten Free products, for the same reason I wouldn’t encourage eating Gluten, they’re not particularly nutrient dense. If you absolutely can’t live without pasta, bread or oats, and have an intolerance or sensitivity to Gluten, then go for it. Just make sure you have a good few spare hours for chewing time, and a few gallons of water on hand.

If you DON’T have an intolerance or sensitivity to Gluten, then substituting your Gluten containing foods for non Gluten containing foods will be unlikely to change things.

Gluten Free!

This means nothing, really
Image credit: http://glutenfreejeni.blogspot.co.uk/

 

How do I know if I’m Intolerant or Sensitive to Gluten?

You don’t. Well, not for sure anyway, there’s no standardized test for it.

If you feel like crap after eating Gluten foods, then you probably have an intolerance or sensitivity, so stop eating them.

Get it out your head that bread and pasta are staple foods, because they’re not.

 

So What Can I eat Instead?

The reason giving up Gluten can be so tough for many people is, as I mentioned previously, Gluten foods make up such a large part of their diets.

It’s not really surprising; Gluten, and high carb foods in general are cheap, easy to prep and eat, portable, and last for a long time. The trade off is that they’re not very nutritious, and don’t have that many benefits for your body other than providing a source of energy. There are many other foods out there that will provide you with energy, as well as making you look and feel good.

Look to shift the balance of your diet away from nutrient poor, Gluten-containing (or Gluten-free) carbs  and towards protein, veg and fats. Instead of having cereal for breakfast, have eggs, or even steak.

It might sound alien to you, but there is NO reason why you can’t do it. Your body will thank you.

 

 

 

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Brosceince

The Step-by-Step BroScience Guide to Muscle Building and Fat Loss

Who wants to wait around for their gainz?

Getting as big as possible as quickly as possible for that week in Marbs this summer is the absolute be all and end all, so with that in mind, you have a lot of important questions to answer, like ‘is MaxiMuscle Cyclone better than Promax’, ‘are 21s the great exercise in the history of bodybuilding’, and ‘what brand of t-shirts have the tightest sleeves?’

This comprehensive step by step guide will provide you with all the answers you need to get jacked so you can stand out this summer when you’re drinking watered down lager and looking pensive on the beach. Here goes.

Step 1. Tattoo

Get a shit sleeve tattoo. This is incredibly important, because everyone else has one and you need to blend in, but it will also mean that when you do eventually reach 15 stone at 3% body fat (because that will definitely happen) your arms will look even better. Be sure to wear vests or very short sleeved t-shirts so everyone can see it in its full glory at all times.

shit sleeve tattoo

You won’t get anywhere without one of these
Credit: https://www.facebook.com/MDSBroScience/

Step 2. Supplementation

We all know that supplements are the most important part of getting massive, it’s just not possible to achieve unless you spend at least £200 on magic powders and pills every month.

You need to chug down at least one weight gain shake everyday – they’re not called weight gainers for nothing you know. Also take shit loads of creatine because it will help you bench more than you mate, which is crucially important. Whey protein is a must, everyone knows that whey digests in about 3 seconds and is therefore really important to drink immediately after your workout, or the whole thing will be wasted. In terms of what brands to use, just go with the one with the best marketing campaign. If Ronnie Coleman says he takes it then he obviously does, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for you.

Ridculous Supplement stack

You’ll definitely need all this
Credit: http://uk.bodybuilding.com/store/

Taste is also really important so go for a nice flavour like Cookies n’ Cream or Chocolate Orange. Too help you burn fat, take loads of fat burning pills. Completely disregard the fact that that they contain ingredients which can be easily obtained from real food, the fact that these pills come in multicoloured bottles plastered with loads of scientific-sounding words mean they’ll work much better.

Step 3. Training

Train as much a possible. The more you train the quicker you will get massive, so it’s really important to go seven times a week if you can. Make sure you do weights to get big, and cardio to lose fat, both in the same session if you can. No one really ever sees your legs, so don’t worry about training them – if you are doing lots of running that’s basically like training your legs anyway. Ensure you have a strong focus on your upper body and do three sets of 10 on every exercise – getting that pump is essential.

curls in the squat rack meme

The foundation of every great workout
Credit: http://www.roypumphrey.com/

Make sure you focus on your chest and biceps with plenty of presses and curls, because that’s what everyone’s going to be looking at, and don’t forget, it will make that sleeve tattoo look even better. Get your mate to spot you on every single exercise, because it will allow you lift more weight (so you look cool in the gym), make sure you do 2-3 reps on your own at the start of each set, he can help your with the rest, or even do the last couple for you if needs be.

Step 4. Nutrition

It’s all about protein, obvioulsy you should get the majority of it through all the shakes and supplements you afford, but you need plenty of chicken too. Pick the leanest sources of protein such as chicken breast, turkey breast and egg whites, you need to keep fat as low as possible, how will you get a sixpack otherwise?

If you want to gain muscle you need to eat all that, and plenty of cheat meals on top. All you need is a fuck ton of calories so don’t feel guilty about having a footlong Subway for lunch and large Dominos for dinner most days. You’ll be training really hard so all those calories will definitely be put to good use.

Its cool bro I'm bulking meme

It’s cool
Credit: http://www.quickmeme.com/

Try to eat small meals regularly – about ten per day should do it, this will keep your metabolism constantly stoked – the majority of those meals should be chicken, broccoli and brown rice. Just because.

If you don’t have loads of carbs before you train, then you will probably faint in the middle of your 2nd set of bicep curls, or leave the gym having lost muscle mass, so make sure you have a huge bowl of oats before you train, and don’t be shy about jazzing it up with something sweet to make it taste better.

5. Sleep

You’ll probably want to stay up late most nights so you can have a ceasin protein shake before bed – you want to make sure your muscles are fed 24/7. If you don’t then you risk waking up and seeing your precious gainz gone.

 

If you heed the advice in this article, you’ll either end up fat, bloated and slightly more muscular, or skinny fat, tired and weaker than a kitten. Even worse you’ll have a shit sleeve tattoo. That’s right, this was a shameless April Fool’s joke. You probably didn’t find it funny, but I sure had fun writing it. The point is, you can actually extract something useful out of this article – by doing the complete opposite.

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Protein Pancake with Toppings

How to Make Protein Pancakes for Pancake Day

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Shrove Tuesday. Excellent, another day when you’re encouraged, nay, virtually forced to eat yet more shitty food. And you’d only just got rid of that layer of Christmas fat.

Well, as with most bad food choices, there is another way. You can join the droves of comfort eaters without slipping into a dark underworld of sugar and trans fat.

Pancakes are traditionally made with flour, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs and milk (not to mention sugar heavy toppings like, well sugar). There’s are two passable ingredients in there, and they are eggs and milk, but pancakes can be made much more suited to your muscle building and fat loss goals with a couple of simple alterations.

Protein Pancake with Toppings

To make protein pancakes that taste exactly the same as regular ones, but with a much more favourable nutritional profile, you just need a few ingredients;

Oats

Eggs

Milk

Vanilla Protein Powder

Coconut Oil

To make the pancakes;

1. Blend the oats to make them really fine

2. Mix with all the other ingredients until you get the desired thickness

3. Pour the mixture into a frying pan on a medium heat with plenty of cocnut oil so it doesn’t stick

4. Fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until firm

5. For some decent toppings, try Agave Nectar, Blueberries and Cinnamon

OR if you’re feeling lazy, you can use Myprotein Protein Pancake Mix, this is basically protein (obviously) and fine oats, meaning you can just mix with milk and whack it in the pan. Works like a treat.

This is a pretty decent breakfast that tastes great all year round – I definitely wouldn’t replace eggs/meat and veg with protein pancakes long term, but once a week for a bit of variety won’t do any harm.

My Protein protein pancake mix

 

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Single ingredient foods

10 Food Preparation Tips For Muscle Gain and Fat Loss

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A lot is of people ask what I eat everyday, so I tell them. The most common follow up question is ‘how do you get time to make all that? The answer is not very long at all. The most time consuming part of consistently eating a diet that optimised for muscle building, fat loss and overall health is the prep time. Here’s what I eat every day and how long each meal takes to prepare;

Meal 1: Eggs + Kale – less than 5 minutes to scramble

Meal 2: Tuna + Spinach + Avocado – less than 5 minutes to open the Tuna and cut the Avocado

Meal 3: Chicken + Sweet Potato + Broccoli – difficult to say, Sweet Potato takes about 8 minutes total to microwave and cut, Broccoli is eaten raw, Chicken is cooked in advance

Meal 4: Protein shake/Protein Bar/Beef Jerky – 0 minutes

Meal 5: Varies – roughly 15 minutes to cook meat and vegetables from fresh, carbs usually microwaved for 2 minutes

Meal 6: Protein shake + oats – 2 minutes

Extras: Almonds/Peanut Butter/cold cuts/tinned mackerel – 0 minutes

 

So roughly half an hour each day of food, discounting the grilling of the chicken which is done in advance. This doesn’t sound like a lot to me, but it it does to you, then maybe you need to reevaluate your priorities and allocate the time you spend playing Candy Crush/watching Eastenders/scratching your nuts to something that’s going to help you achieve your goal.

So here are ten tips for getting your food prep done as quickly and efficiently as possible

1. Eat the same thing over and over

Sounds boring right? Maybe. But what do most people eat everyday? Cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch; sound familiar? A bodybuilding/fat loss diet is not that different variety-wise than the average person’s. With that in mind, you might as well eat stuff that’s going to make you look, feel and perform better.

Eating the same thing over and over also means you don’t even need to think about what to prepare, you just do it on auto pilot. You don’t even need to weigh your food forever because, after a while you’ll instinctively know what 100g of rice looks like.

Also, it needn’t be all the same, as you can see one of my six daily meals changes all the time (though it is just a variation on a theme: usually red meat or fish with rice or lentils/beans and mixed veg).

Of course if you have the patience there is plenty of room for variety and creativity while still remaining within the confines of a diet that will help you build muscle and burn fat, it just takes a lot more time.

Eat the same food everyday

2 meals I eat pretty much everyday

2. Cook in batches

Do you want to be cooking chicken every night? Course you don’t, then cook it in batches. If you know you’re going to eat 1Kg of chicken per day, then cook 7Kg in one go to last you all week. Put it in the fridge and heat in the microwave or eat cold when you need it. Simple.

Cook chicken in batches

Cook food all at once to last you a few days, shove it in the fridge and use when you need it

3. Use the Microwave

Baking and boiling is great for Sweet Potatoes, but it’s much easier to stick them in the microwave for 5-10 minutes (depending on the size).

4. Eat Veg Raw

Any veg I eat during the day (Broccoli and Spinach) is simply eaten raw. This means absolutely no cooking time, and you can be confident that the veg retains all its nutrients. Coating Broccoli in Olive Oil actually makes it a lot easier to eat raw.

5. Use Your Hands

Cutting you Chicken and Broccoli into equal bite-size pieces might look great, but it’s an unnecessary drain on your precious time. Just use your hands to tear/rip. Same outcome, less time.

6. Shop in Bulk

Everyone hates food shopping, and it can seem easier and cheaper to do it weekly rather than for several weeks (or even a month). Make the effort to do a bulk shop. If you’re trying to gain muscle, you’ll need to eat a lot, which means you’ll run out of food quickly, which’ll get on your nerves if you’ve only brought enough for a few days.

On another note, the cheapest place to buy protein (the most expensive macronutrient by far) is at a Butchers, independant supermarket, or wholesaler, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those close to home, well screw you, If not, you’ll save petrol and time by buying in bulk every so often (plus you may get a discount). Keep the fridge stocked.

Fully stocked Fridge

Slightly embarrassed that this makes me look like a vegetarian

7. Bake meat Instead of Grilling

Grilling meat takes quite a long time, and requires attentiveness as it needs turning every so often. If you bake chicken in the oven you can leave it for 30-40 minutes while you do something else. I personally like the flavour of grilled meat so I take a bit more time to grill, so this comes down to preference.

8. Utiilise Whey Protein Effectively

Take this one with a pinch of salt, because I think there’s an epidemic of over-reliance of protein shakes among gym-goers. The problem is they’re seen as some kind of miracle formula for building muscle. A lot of people seem to think there’s some secret ingredient over and above protein that magically packs on slabs of muscle.

This simply isn’t the case, whey protein is basically a quick, easy, cost-effective method of getting extra protein in your diet. For me, and I’m sure many others would agree, it’s nutritionally inferior to a ‘real’ foodstuff containing an equivalent amount of protein, but that’s by-the-by, we’re looking for convenience here, and whey provides that. As long as the majority of your daily intake comes from ‘real’ foods, a extra helping hand from some whey isn’t a huge issue.

Use it when you’re most time-restricted, e.g. after you leave work for the gym

Reflex Instant Whey

Reflex Instant Whey

9. Be smart post-workout

I used to have a protein shake post-workout. Then I waited until I was hungry again before I ate my evening meal (which totals around 800 calories, so it’s a pretty important one). In hindsight, this was stupid, I was just wasting time waiting around between getting home from the gym, and cooking my evening meal.

After the gym, get home as quick as possible and have your biggest meal of the day, because that’s when you’ll benefit most from it.

10. Minimise Ingredients

For an optimal diet, you don’t need a larder full of herbs spices and other useless shit, stick to the basics. Meat, eggs, nuts, complex carbs, and veg. This lot will provide 99% of your nutritional needs. I probably have a maximum of six ingredients in any given meal. Most have just 3-4.

 

Single ingredient foods

5 Single ingredient foods that can be used to make a great tasting muscle building meal

Cooking, prepping and eating will have a huge influence on your body composition, but it needn’t take up a lot of time, plan ahead, cook in batches and sticking to the  basics will help you keep your nutrition in check 24/7 without having to think twice about what you’re eating and when.

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Myfibrillar vs Sarcoplasmic Hypetrophy

Does More Strength Mean More Size?

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You often hear the words ‘big‘ and ‘strong‘ mentioned in the same breath, to the average person these two qualities may seem inextricably linked, but are they mutually exclusive, or does one depend on the other?

It’s true that there is some correlation between size and strength, after all, when was the last time you saw a 60Kg ectomorph squat three times their body weight? Of course there are occasions when an individual may be superhumanly strong relative to their weight (Olympic weightlifters), but whether or not performing Olympic lifts to achieve optimal muscle growth is certainly up for debate.

Petite Female Olympic Lifter

Small packages and all that…

Muscle growth may not be top of your agenda, but since that’s what this blog is about, that’s what I’m going to focus on. This is a hotly debated topic which many have some strong views on, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make some statements which I believe to be true;

1. Gaining strength DOES help with gaining size

Why? 

Because strength facilitates the use of heavier poundages, allowing the trainer to utilise the progressive overload principle to force the body into adaptation (a calorie surplus is also required). In addition to this, gaining strength with compound exercises such as the squat and deadlift will result in a more stable posterior chain and core, resulting in the ability to handle more weight in exercises such as the military press.

Performing strength exercises also hits muscle fibers that light weights can’t.

However…

 

2. You can get stronger without getting bigger

Why?

Because there are two different types of muscle fiber, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic. Sarcopalmic fibers are in effect the substance that fills the inside of the fibers, these are stimulated with more time under tension (and, generally ‘higher reps’) and has the potential to expand in volume, ultimately resulting in bigger muscles volume-wise. Myofibrillar hypertrophy occurs when the tiny fibers within the muscle belly are strengthened and become ‘denser’ resulting in the ability handle heavier weights – think along the lines of the thick, dense metal cables that hold up suspension bridges.

So, although strength and size gains can occur in isolation, unless you’re training to specifically increase one and not the other, they’ll both increase in unison.

Myfibrillar vs Sarcoplasmic Hypetrophy

Ignore the ‘useless’ bit

Using Size to Gain Strength

As I mentioned above you might have seen Olympic lifters hoisting some serious weight above their heads – pound for pound they’re extremely strong, but it’s not just pure strength that they have in their arsenal, using perfect technique is key to succeeding in this sport. There’s no doubt that size aids strength, even when it’s not all muscle – just look at strongman competitors, most, if not all of them (with the possible exception if Pudzianowski) are carrying relative high levels of muscle and AND fat.

Pudzianowski Ripped

So what role does fat play? Firstly, if you’re trying to gain the maximum amount of muscle possible, in the quickest time possible, regardless of fat gain, well, you’ll gain a lot of fat. Hitting the right amounts of calories to ensure you’re in a surplus, so if quick muscle at any cost is your goal, then overeating, which leads to fat gain, makes sense.

Additionally, more fat around the joints provides crushing and stability to help with big lifts

 

Using Strength to Gain Size

All else being equal, you’d expect a guy who can deadlift 200Kg to be bigger than a guy who can only deadlift 100Kg, but this isn’t necessarily just because he can deadlift more. Overall strength facilitates muscle growth because it allows for the pursuit of the progressive overload principle. Compound lifts like squats and deadlifts shore up the posterior chain, meaning more overall stability, a more solid foundation, and the ability to handle heavier weights for isolation exercises that are better able to target pure hypertrophy.

So you can certainly get stronger without getting bigger (up to a point), but can you get bigger without out getting stronger? There are bound to be conflicting views on this within the fitness community, but I’d argue that, when ultimately aiming for size, strength gains need to be a primary concern on the road to your ultimate goal. You’ll struggle to add size unless you’re constantly pushing the boundaries, but to be able to do that (in the optimal hypertrophy rep range) you’ll need to gain strength.

Bodybuilder Deadlift

For example, if your 10 rep max on the barbell shoulder press is 30Kg, you won’t increase this by simply pressing 30Kg every week, you’ll gain endurance, but not size. If you want to up the weight you use for your 10 rep max, the best course of action would be to increase the weight and drop the reps. Work on gradually increasing the amount of reps you can do with this increased weight (and eat a calorie surplus), and you should be able to handle more weight for 10 reps. There’s your progressive overload. If you have been in a calorie surplus throughout this process, chances are you will have gained some size.

Final thoughts

Throughout this article I’ve talked in terms of ‘absolutes’

- Do this for ultimate strength gains

- Do this for ultimate size gains

You might think you just want to be strong, or you just want to be big, but unless you;re going to be earning big money for being one of the best few people in the world at strength competitions or bodybuilding, what you think you want and what you actually want are probably two different things.

Do you really want to be able to deadlift 3x bodyweight but look like you don’t even train wearing clothes? On the other hand, do you want really big arms, chest and shoulders that are covered with so so much fat that no one will really notice? Probably not.

This is why you need a BALANCE between size and strength training. 99% of people want (whether they realise it or not) a balanced physique – i.e. an appreciable and symmetrical level of muscle mass, and a low enough level of body fat to effectively display that muscle mass – and this is achieved by mixing up your training methods.

Hypertrophy training helps with muscle size, short rest periods and powerful, explosive movements like clean and presses elevate the heart rate and stimulate the metabolism, encouraging fat loss, and strength training allows for more stability, and facilitates the progressive overload principle. More strength means more muscle – if you train right, more size means more strength – if you train right, and more muscle means elevated metabolism and lower body fat.

Everything works together in harmony. Work on size and strength, see the bigger picture.

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4 Essential Fats - Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Butter

Fantastic Four: The Fats You Need in Your Life

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Fat, as most people understandably assume, makes you fat. Well, they’re wrong. The amount of fat you consume doesn’t have to correlate with the amount subcutaneous or visceral fat in and on your body, so long as you play your cards right. In fact, large amounts of fat in your diet can be an extremely useful tool in your arsenal for building muscle and burn body fat.

So, if you take one thing away from this post, let it be this;

Consuming lots of dietary fat does in equal an increase in body fat

Without wanting to get too scientific (partly because you’ll get bored, but mainly because I’m not a scientist), fat is a key nutrient for muscle building for three reasons;

1. It helps create a hormonal environment that’s optimal for muscle building – animla fat can help maintain or boost testosterone levels because it contains cholesterol

2. It contains vitamins and minerals which aid with the absorption of other muscle-building nutrients, including protein

3. Because fat is so calorie dense, it can provide provide a welcome boost to your daily calorie intake if you’re trying to gain mass

Of course you’ve all heard everyone from Phil Learney to Maude from accounts talk about ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats’, but what does that actually mean? Most of us know ‘good fats’ are derived from sources like fatty fish Salmon, Mackerel), nuts and seeds, Avocados and olive oil, but even those that understand this still perceive ‘saturated fat’ to be a dirty word and the sole cause of heart disease and obesity. This simply isn’t the case, and has been disproved by countless studies – for more on this, do yourself a favour and pick up Nourishing Traditions, the most eye-opening nutrition book I’ve ever read.

Saturated fat is NOT your enemy in the constant battle against fat gain (the real nemesis, as has always been the case, is excess calories). As mentioned above, fat is an incredibly useful dietary tool for those looking to build muscle, lose fat, and most importantly, improve health. Is that a green light to pick up the phone and use those Dominos vouchers that have been kicking around for a while? No, but it does  mean introducing a few new elements* to your diet that make your goals easier to achieve AND make your food taste better.

*Be aware that fat contains over double the amount of calories per gram than fat and carbohydrates, so if you are counting calories (not that you necessarily need to) don’t use the following too liberally 

 

Olive Oil

The health benefits of Olive Oil have long been touted, and for that reason it’s probably the least surprising fat source on this list. Weighing in at 100% fat, this is a true ‘pure fat’ in every sense of the word. One tablespoon of this packs around 125 calories, making it a very simple and relatively cost effective way of bumping up the calories in your diet – you only need 4 tablespoons over the course of a day splashed over meat, rice or veg to add a very respectable 500 calories to your daily intake.

Sainsburys Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Go for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) over the standard version. EVOO has been cold pressed (the oil mechanically squeezed out of the oils) rather than treated with heat or chemicals to extract the product. On that note, there some debate around cooking with (heating) olive oil and whether it’s safe or not.

If cooking with low temperatures, there shouldn’t be a problem with using it, but Olive Oil is prone to oxidation and degradation to the nutrients when used with high heats for long periods of time. Simply put, there are better fats to cook with. Best to pour it cold over salad, rice and meat.

 

Coconut Oil

There’s a massive buzz around Coconut Oil in nutrition circles at the moment, so much so that the news is even filtering down to the calorie-counting masses, it’s even available to buy in major supermarkets. Coconut Oil is the people nutrition hero of 2014, but why?

Traditional nutrition dogma dictates that saturated fat is ‘bad for you’, so it;s surprising that Coconut Oil is so popular when it boasts almost 100% saturated fat (it is one of the few plant fats with such a profile). Where it differs from most other saturated fats is that it contains Medium Chain Triglycerides which are metabolised much like carbohydrates, i.e. very quickly, meaning it’s a great alternative to simple carbohydrates as a pre-workout energy boost.

Sainsburys Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is also great for cooking (partly because it is a predominantly saturated fat), it isn’t sensitive to heat and therefore its nutritional profile isn’t degraded when using it for cooking. It also makes vegetables and meat taste great. Unless you hate Coconuts, in which case it makes them taste disgusting.

 

Flax Seed Oil

Before you go out there and start glugging gallons of this stuff, a warning – tastes like a tramps boot soaked in dog piss. Yep, it’s vile. That said, the taste is pretty much masked when compared with other strong flavours (I can’t taste it if it’s poured on seasoned chicken). So why eat it?

Flax Seed Oil

Flax seed oil is one of the very few food sources rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s have tonnes of general health benefits (heart health being the most widely reported) as well as indirectly aiding muscle gain, for this reason they are highly sought-after. Salmon is one of the best animal sources, but plant-based sources like Flax seed and Walnuts provide a slightly cheaper way of obtaining this essential fatty acid.

Like olive oil be careful when heating Flax Seed Oil, it can degrade the nutrients.

 

Butter

Possibly the most surprising addition to this list, butter as long been maligned as the harbinger of heart disease and obesity, in fact if you believe all the bad press around this innocent form of fat, you’ll probably not go within a 5 meter radius of it for fear of instant death. Grow up.

Sainsburys Organic Butter

Butter probably warrants its own article, but in the name of brevity, here is some of the good shit it contains;

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K2 (high in butter from grass-fed cows)
  • CLA (some of you have probably taken this in pill form as a metabolism aid)

Butter is also great for cooking because the vitamins it contains are fat soluble (i.e. they aren’t destroyed when exposed to heat). If you’re currently using margarine in the belief that it’s ‘healthier’ than butter then throw it in the bin now, it contains artificially produced trans fats.

Shove some butter in with your eggs from now on.

 

Another important point to note about all these types of fats is that in populations where they are consumed frequently and in high quantities, there are very few instances of obesity or other weight-related diseases. Fat is NOT your enemy, in fact I’d guess that most people aren’t eating enough of the right types of fat.

For those looking to to gain muscle, upping fat intake is a no brainer – it’s an easy way to add more calories that will benefit your general health to boot. For anyone looking to lose fat consider this: fat is less likely to be turned into body fat because it actually has a function in the body (unlike carbs, which just provide energy), also, if you consume fat in place of carbs in the hours leading up to your workout, your body is more likely to acclimatise to using fat as an energy source – meaning you’ll burn more body fat fat.

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Does Crossfit fit your Goals

The Answer to Every Question About Muscle Building and Fat Loss

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The answer to Every Question About Muscle Building and Fat Loss is:

‘It depends on your goal(s)’

Everything you do in the gym, everything you eat, and any change you make to your routine should be accountable to this question. The fitness industry is becoming increasing lucrative, and brands are making  it a commodity, with this comes choice, ambiguity and confusion.

Just look at;

  • The different workouts listed in Men’s Health or Muscle and Fitness each week
  • New supplement crazes that come and go quicker than Katie Price’s husbands (hello Raspberry Ketones)
  • The plethora of ‘diets’ out there – carb cycling, carb back-loading, IIFYM, this list goes on

How is the inexperienced trainer meant to pick through these trends and brightly colored tubs of powered chemicals in order to find what they need? By asking themselves constantly ‘does it fit my goal(s)’.

Let’s Take  a Few Examples;

Crossfit

Crossfit is first and foremost, a sport. Granted a sport which very closley mimics what most people do in the gym, but still a sport. People that compete in Crossfit are trying to complete as many reps as possible across a set number of exercises, people do Crossfit for the sake of doing Crossfit – because they enjoy it, it is not a ‘means to an end’ like bodybuilding.

So with that in mind, if you are trying to add as much muscle as quickly as possible, should you do Crossfit? No. Why? Because Crossfit moves like Olympic lifts aren’t ideal for building muscle – there’s not enough time under tension. Take the ‘kipping pull-up’ – a Crossfit staple – there is some considerable thrust used from the legs and hips in the interest of simply completing each rep, there is not a strong focus on the lats for a long period of time, which would better facilitate muscle growth.

If you want a balanced physique with low bodyfat and some muscle, by all means do Crossfit. If you’re trying to build the maximum amount of muscle possible, don’t. It depends on your goal.

Does Crossfit fit your Goals

 

BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids are the building blocks of protein, BCAA power or pills are essentially protein in a pre-digested form that assimilate into the bloodstraem very quickly (at least compared to the digestion rate of whey or solid protein), they’re one of the most popular supplements for gym rats along with whey and creatine.

BCAAs are an easy way to protect against catabolism (muscle breakdown) when calories are restricted for long periods of time, which makes me wonder why so many people pop BCAA pills during their not-particularly-intense workouts when their last protein meal (which won’t have even fully digested yet) was less than an hour.

For competing bodybuilders, BCAAs might be useful for dialling in that extra 0.5%, but for you and me, there are far better things to spend our time and money on.

BCAAs

 

Carb-Backloading

I recently did a post on why I think carb-backloading is great for people like me that have a sedinatry job and are looking to build muscle while minimising fat gain. It may not be the BEST opinion for people that have a sedinatary job and are looking to build muscle at all costs (i.e. with a disregard to any fat gain), and it certainly wouldn’t be a great option for ectomorphs with active jobs.

My point is that people hear about a new nutritional method and immediately jump on the bandwagon regardless of whether or not it suits their goals. Why would you deprive yourself of carbs in the morning if you’re working on a building site, or training in the morning.

Carb backloading

 If you blindly follow what everyone else is doing, or what you read on the internet, you’ll never reach your full potential…

Every time you consider making a change to your diet or training regime, ask yourself what your goals are.

If you want to build no-compromise muscle

  • Concentrate on eating a adequate amount of calories
  • Train intensely, with a focus on strong contractions and enough time-under-tension
  • Make rest a priority

If you want to drop a significant amount of fat, but don’t mind losing some muscle

  • Train frequently, prioritising aerobic energy systems
  • Carefully monitor calories and macros, ensuring adequate protein
  • Keep metabolism revved throughout the day

 

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Jodie Marsh on Steroids

What Did Jodie Marsh Teach us About Steroids?

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I like Jodie Marsh.

I think the public perception of her is totally warped, she seems pretty intelligent and I’d like to see the overweight comfort-eating women that criticise her win a figure competition in the U.S.

But this programme on TLC (Sky Channel 125) wasn’t about Jodie Marsh at all, it was about some gym users’ darkest secret, steroids – something we’ve no doubt all been tempted to try at some point in our lifting careers. Jodie shed the light on the lives of current and ex-steroid users, weighing up the pros and cons.

Jodie Marsh on Steroids

In all honesty, while the programme did present a balanced view, the over-arching message was that steroids are bad (m’kay) and, in the end not worth the plethora of risks associated with their continued use.

In males, steroids aid muscle growth and fat loss, but also can potentially cause;

  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Gynecomastia
  • Liver and Kidney disease

But we all knew that, right? So what else did we learn?

Well, steroids can potentially be used safely, without undesirable side effects. We saw a guy from Northern Island using them in preparation for a competition, and he certainly wasn’t bald and spotty with bitch tits.

Of course there are hundreds of different types of steroids, all which alter the body’s chemical balance in a slightly different ways, add to that the complication that each person has different chemical make-up, and there are endless possibilities for what effect each type of steroid has on each body. It’s one big lottery.

On the flipside, drinking excessively and eating shit on a regular basis also enters you into liver disease lottery, so are steroid users really any worse than junk food lovers or binge drinkers? The jury’s out.

Steroid Vial

 

So should you take steroids?

I’ve never taken steroids, so I can’t comment with conviction about their effects 1st hand. I’m not going to condone or condemn the use of steroids, but the question you need to ask yourself is is;

‘Do the benefits outweigh the potential risks?’

If you plan to compete in a show where there’s money at stake, possibly, but even then, is £100,000 prize money worth the risk of your heart exploding?

The answer to that might be ‘that kind of thing only happens in cases of extreme abuse‘.

The main point Jodie hammered home (for me anyway) was that’s it’s very difficult to stop once you’ve started, the dose you take initially may be safe, and although steroids aren’t technically addictive, it’s a slippery slide from dabbling to abuse, particularly if you have an addictive personality.

Make the right choice.

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Booost O2

Booost Oxygen Review

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Ok, I was skeptical too, Oxygen in a canister; what the hell right? How can they sell bottled air?

This is a pretty typical, and in fairness, a pretty rational response when I tell people I’m trying an Oxygen-based workout supplement, why would you pay for something you can inhale 24/7 absolutely free?!

Well, I have two responses to that;

  • If you paid any attention at school, you’d know Oxygen only makes up about 20% of the air we breath, it’s mostly Nitrogen. This supplement contains pure Oxygen
  • If you think bottled Oxygen is a stupid idea, yet you’re prepared to spend hundreds on pre-workout supplements or energy drinks (both of which contain a lot of crap) to give you a ‘boost’, then I’m afraid you’re an idiot

Booost O2 is a new Oxygen supplement that, unlike pre-workouts, which give you a mental stimulus and an ‘insane pump’, can actually increase your performance in the gym, and help you build muscle and burn fat more efficiently.

Booost O2

 

Here’s the (not very) sciency bit;

Your muscles need Oxygen, as well as some other stuff, to function optimally, once Oxygen is in short supply, your muscles will soon give up. Our muscles use Oxygen quicker than we can inhale it, this is why we get out of breath particularly when do heavy sets of squats or deadlifts for example (bigger muscles are being used and require more oxygen), this is called Oxygen debt. With this in mind, wouldn’t it be cool if you could somehow get access to some supplemental Oxygen. Hello Booost.

Booost comes in a silver canister (different sizes are available) with a push-to-spray button (like deodorant), if your only experience of ingesting pure oxygen is out of balloon in a fetid street in Malia, then this will be quite a shock. To dispense the product, simply place in the mouth and spray while inhaling sharply, repeat 2-4 times to get an adequate dose.

So what  are the benefits of spending your hard earned dollar on something that’s infinitely abundant and free, and makes you look like you’ve nicked the BFGs asthma inhaler?

Well, for a start, it makes your workouts much more efficient. How long do you spend recovering after a gruelling set of squats or deadlifts, not from a muscular fatigue point of view, but in terms of oxygen debt? If you’re anything like me, probably a good couple of minutes. I trialed Booost during my last leg workout and it drastically cut down my rest periods.

Because of this, I was able to pack more lifting into a shorter time period and despite doing slightly less volume than usual, I’ve had pretty severe Hamstring DOMS for several days after. Ok this isn’t the best barometer of a successful workout but it’ll do for this very unscientific test.

 

Booost #gttw

 

So how does using Booost actually feel? Well, you know when you’re gasping for breath  after being crushed by a loaded barbell for nigh on one minute? (if you don’t you probably need to take a long hard look at your training programme), using Booost right after greatly reduces the the time you’re in Oxygen debt, or in laymens terms ‘helps you get your breath back quicker’. It also has a minty fresh taste.

This is a good thing because it means reduced rest periods, allowing you to pack more lifting into less time, stressing the target muscle(s) to a greater degree, and ensuring heart rate stays elevated, which of course is great if you’re looking to burn fat.

If you have the money to spent on workout supplements, ditch the flourescent green, sugar and chemical-ladden pre-workout concoction  (if you need mental stimulation before your workout you need more sleep) and invest in some Booost; use it as an intra-workout supplement and slash your rest time (and your time in the gym, if you so wish).

If you read this blog regularly, you’re probably aware of my view on supplements, but I’d really stress that Booost is a genuinely useful addition to your stack.

 

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