The ‘Post Workout Shake’ Myth: Do you REALLY Need a Protein Recovery Shake After your Workout to Build Muscle?

Unless you hadn’t realised, there are dozens of sports nutrition companies making money from selling powdered milk protein to people like you.

They’re not really selling protein powder though, they’re selling a dream, the dream of your ideal physique, the dream of looking like Phil Heath, Dexter Jackson, or if you’re not that way inclined – Rob Riches or Ryan Terry. The dream of curling 25s, or sporting an 8-pack, of having bikini-clad fitness competitors hanging off your right bicep while you’re on muscle beach doing a one-armed muscle up.

Or something like that. While let me tell you a secret, that probably won’t happen. Unless of course you’re gifted with the genetics of a Greek god (Was your great great great grandad Zeus?), the time to do multiple workouts per day, the money to buy enough protein each week to feed the population of Western Samoa (for a year), and the inclination to pump yourself full of anabolic steroids. Sorry, but it’s true.

MP Recovery

Or just eat your dinner…

 

The Post-Workout Supplements Myth

I’ve gone into detail in previous posts about how you don’t need whey protein at all to build muscle, but in my latest rant, I want to scrutinise this post-workout supplement myth. If you’re already chugging back two scoops of ‘recovery shake’ no sooner than you racked up the 10s (or just left them on the gym floor, you bastard), along with some gratuitous form of sugar (Gummi Bears anyone?), you know what I’m talking about.

If you don’t, it goes a little something like this;

Post-Workout, your muscles are primed to soak up nutrients, so drinking a protein recovery shake within 30 minutes of your workout will give them the nutrients they need to rebuild, ready for your next session. Taking a form of sugar with your protein will spike your insulin levels, meaning the protein is shuttled into your bloodstream even quicker

obama seems legit

Seems legit on first inspection, I certainly fell for it for a while. This supposed theory has spawned a whole ‘sub market’ of post-workout supplements – i.e. whey protein mixed with a form of sugar (Maltodextrin, dextrose, Vitargo etc), marketed as distinct from plain old whey protein powder.

 

Do you NEED Post-workout Shake?

No. The marketing of post-workout products is misleading – if you really want this kind of post workout supplement formula, you can make it yourself at a much lower cost by buying the ingredients separately (whey protein and your preferred form of sugar). But if you’re smart enough to release this, you can probably see through all the marketing bullshit too.

Think about it this way:

A prerequisite for building muscle is being in a calorie surplus (obviously with the correct macro nutrient balance). If the post workout recovery shake was as crucial for muscle building as the supplement companies would have us believe, does that mean someone who was training intensely enough, and getting adequate calories not gain muscle simply because they DIDN’T have a shake 30 minutes after their workout?

Don’t be ridiculous.

I’m not saying nutrient timing isn’t important, but you’ll still build muscle by forgoing that post-workout shake we’re lead to believe is so important, provided everything else (training, nutrition, sleep) is on-point. Aside from cost, the real disadvantage of buying into this post workout dogma is the massive sugar intake – whether it’s in the form of dextrose, Maltodextrin or Jelly Babies.

Of course sugar isn’t a problem in small, infrequent doses, but if you’re a proponent of the ‘Post Workout Shake cult’ you’ll probably be guzzling upwards of 50 grams of pure sugar per day.

That’s potentially 250g of sugar per week, or 1000 calories worth of sugar per week if you train 5 times a week.

Look at the nutrition info for CNP Pro Recover, one of the most popular post-workout formulas.

CNP pro recover nutrition label

If you really care about your physique, and I’m guessing you do, guzzling down something that’s 55% sugar isn’t going to do you many favours

If you’re training hard enough (competitive bodybuilder hard) this might not be an issue, but I’m guessing you’re not, and therefore there are other nutrients you could be putting in your body that will do far more for you (i.e. they actually contain beneficial nutrients).

We’ve all heard the stories of competitive bodybuilders shovelling down tubs of Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s after working out, but that doesn’t mean you can. Don’t think for one second that you train as hard as competition level bodybuilders – these guys are doing an incomprehensible number of sets per workout, AND training with relentless intensity. Oh, and don’t forget the whole steroid thing. They can pretty much eat what they want and remain lean.

 

So Why do So Many People Take Them?

Well, we’ve been lead to believe that the sugar in a post-workout shake will ‘spike’ our insulin, which will shuttle the other nutrients in the shake (protein) into our bloodstreams quicker, increasing protein synthesis (the rate at which protein is absorbed).

This theory have spawned all kinds of buzzwords like ‘the post-workout window’ or the ‘anabolic window’. Impressionable gym rays (myself included, I admit) had the ‘YOU MUST HAVE A SHAKE WITHIN 30 MINS OF YOUR WORKOUT OR YOU WON’T MAKE ANY GANIZ’ mantra hammered into them for some time now. I

t seemed to make sense, but theories come and go, and if you needed any evidence to dispel the myth, don’t trust this post, trust Mr Layne Norton. Layne Norton is a natural bodybuilder, but he also has a Nutrition PhD, so he basically knows everything.     Ok maybe not, but I’d certainly encourage you to respect his opinion.

 

So What Should you do Post-Workout?

It’s going to vary from person to person, but I can tell you what I do. I don’t have any form of post-workout shake. I train late afternoon/early evening, and if I have a shake directly after working out, it fills me up for a good hour or two. After the gym I’d rather have a huge meal with plenty of protein, carbs and fat – definitely my biggest meal of the day, and I don’t want anything to interfere with that – even if it means waiting a little longer to eat after I leave the gym.

 

 

Steak and potato

Just eat a fucking meal

If my appetite requires, I’ll sometimes have a shake before bed. This works perfectly well for me, if you train a different time, you may want to do something different.

 

What Kind of Carbs Should I Have Post-Workout?

First of all, you don’t NEED to have carbs post-workout at all.

Like I said, if you’re trying to build muscle it really does come down to calories and adequate protein, and as Layne Norton points out, you won’t get the alleged spike in insulin that aids protein synthesis. So is there any point in having carbs at all?

The plus points of carbs is that they’re very cheap – 1Kg of carbs – rice for example, is a fraction of the price of 1Kg of protein or fat. The other good thing about carbns is they they efficiently replenish muscle glycogen – the primary source of fuel for muscle contractions when you train.

The thing with carbs is they’re very much an individual thing – some people can get by and train hard on very few carbs, some people simply need them to fuel an intense session. Unfortunately there’s no right or wrong answer. Generally speaking I have 100-150g of carbs post workout, and that works out pretty well for me.

Be smart about your post workout nutrition, there’s no doubt that it’s a great time to have a big meal, bit you don’t need some powdered concoction with a colourful label. Taylor your post-workout nutrition to your goals, the type of training you’re doing, and the time of day that you train.

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Why Juice Plus (and every other diet) is Bullshit

You might have seen it plastered all over social media, or heard it lauded by the recumbent bike-dwellers at the gym; Juice Plus is apparently the latest in a long line of miracle diets guaranteed to help you shed pounds. Except it’s bullshit.

Like all the other diets you’ve tried, Atkins, Dukan, Cambridge, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, Low fat, Low carb, the Juice Plus diet is counter productive to your aims, because it’s just a diet, and a temporary diet is NOT a powerful tool in helping you achieve the physique you want.

So What is Juice Plus?

Juice Plus is a brand with a range of nutritional supplements targeted at people looking to loose weight and/or improve their general health. This range consists of powders, pills, bars, capsules, and something called, hilariously, ‘Shape Booster G2′. The range is split into three segments – your good ol’ Juice Plus which encompasses all the pills and capsules, Juice Plus Shape – soups and shakes, and Juice Plus Complete, basically meal replacement shakes. The Juice Plus Shape range are the products intended to be used for the diet. Oh wait, I made a mistake, it’s not a diet, it is in fact;

Juice Plus Diet

This is comedy gold

Of course, a multimodal programme. That old chestnut. Looks like they’re not even sure themselves however, if you download the PDF, which is basically pages and pages of marketing bollocks and stock photos of smiling couples wearing all linen, you’ll see that they change their mind…

juice_plus_diet PDF

So it IS a diet

So we’ve established it is in fact, a diet. But how is the diet structured?

There are four phases, in each phase you’re supposed to consume a set number of Juice Plus products and whole food meals per day, as you progress through each phase of the diet the number of Juice Plus products decreases, and the number of whole food meals increases. Pretty much like any other diet that involves these kind of products, and just as bad.

Why is it Popular at the Moment?

The Juice Plus a line of products which seem to be gaining traction at the moment, this is specifically down to their business model, where they promote their products to individuals who can become franchisees. I haven’t looked into it but what this probably entails is franchisees earning a small amount of commission when they promote this product to their friends and family.

So it’s not just Juice Plus themselves that are promoting these products, but a large band of ill-informed franchisees who most likely know next to nothing about nutrition. You may have heard of other ‘nutrition’ brands running a similar scheme, or even been contacted via the company or another franchisee directly in an attempt to get you to help pedal their bullshit products – Herbalife is one such brand that comes to mind.

This business model is based on the fact that people are likely to trust their friends, so the advertsing is more likely to work coming from them, than from Juice Plus themselves. Except if you have more than one iota of intelligence you’ll see straight through the scheme.

 

juice plus products

Nothing like spending hundreds of pounds on synthetic, processed powers and pills

 

So, Why is it Bullshit?

Well, two reasons, one –  it’s not optimal for general health, and two – like most other diets, long term, it probably won’t help you lose weight.

1. Pseudo nutrition

The people behind Juice Plus might lead you to believe their products are highly nutritious -they use pictures of colorful fruit on their products, and have a nice video on their website, explaining how they extract all the goodness from fruit, but when the list of ingredients of ingredients for their products reads like a PhD science dissertation. Check this out, this is the ingredients list for their ‘Chocolate Shake’

Juice Plus Chocolate Shake Ingredients

Fuck this. Just eat a steak

Absurd, I’m sure you’ll agree. But why is this a problem?

I just want to loose some weight, and it’s just about reducing calories, right? Well, no.

To simplify things as much as possible – humans ate the same way for a couple of million years, it’s only over the last 100 years that processed foods have become readily available and widely consumed (by Western populations anyway), unsurprisingly,modern diet related diseases including obesity have only become prevalent in the last 100 years or so. You’re clever, so draw your own conclusions.

obesity evolution

This is you.
Image from http://www.crossfitglenmore.com/

Our bodies aren’t designed to deal with food (if you can call it that) like this. We’re designed to eat unprocessed, single ingredient foods (nothing added, nothing taken away). Make no mistake, this includes foods that many people are scared of, including butter and fatty red meat.

Think about it like this, these kind of foods, although demonised in the mass media for years, contain macro and micronutrients as well as vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for optimal health – our bodies can USE the calories in these foods.

It can’t use the silicon dioxide and sunflower lecithin in your Juice Plus shake nearly as well. Even if weight loss were JUST about calorie reduction – this can be done in a much healthier way with real, whole foods than with shitty, processed dust in a bag. Because that’s what it is. Dust.

 

DUST

Anyone?

 

2.Diets make you fat

Diets can of course help you lose weight in the short term. Problem is, most of this weight loss will be fluids and muscle tissue.

So you go on a calorie restricted diet, and you lose weight – great. Then what? You go back to the way you were eating before? If you do you’ll get fat again.

Except it’s worse than that. If you’ve lost weight rapidly on a diet, as I said, some of the weight you’ve lost will be muscle tissue, when you lose muscle tissue, your metabolic rate decreases, this means the rate at which you burn fat decreases.

In turn, this means that if you diet, lose muscle tissue, then go back to eating the way that made you fat in the first place, you’ll probably end up fatter than you were before.

 

vicious diet cycle

THIS is why all diets are bullshit
Image from http://www.why180.com/why-diets-fail/

 

Of course, you’ll tell yourself that you’ll diet then start to eat well. But if that’s the case, why not just start eating well now?

The other thing is, weight loss should not be your primary goal (unless you are dangerously overweight/obese), your primary goal should be changing your body composition, i.e. reducing your body fat and increasing your muscle mass – this will make you look better as well as helping you stave off fat long term – because more muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate.

This might even result in you gaining weight – but who cares what the scales say if you look better?

 

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT NUTRITION AND START EATING REAL FOOD NOW, AND FOREVER – YOU WILL LOOK BETTER, FEEL BETTER AND YOU’LL NEVER HAVE TO GO ON A DIET AGAIN.

 

Is There Anything Good About Diets?

Programs like Juice Plus Shape are really good at motivating people – it’s almost like a cult, so people participating in the program feel like they’re part of an exclusive club.

This alone can spark the desire to follow the diet religiously, and even lose some weight, which is great, as long as you’re then armed with the knowledge to continue on the road to optimal health and the body and lifestyle you want, the problem is, so many people aren’t.

If diets really worked, do you think there would be so many of them?

Do you think companies like Juice Plus would be able to start up and be successful?

It’s not necessarily  the individual diets that are the problem – one diet isn’t better than another, the problem is the widespread misconception that a temporary diet is all that’s needed to turn your life around.

What’s really needed is a lifestyle change.

 

So is There a Diet that Works?

If you define a diet as a temporary change in eating habits, then no. For me, a successful diet is something you stick to FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. YEP, FOREVER.

Diets should be a lifestyle, and if there’s one lifestyle that I think can spark a revolution in the way with think about food, yep, it’s Paleo.

 

Is it paleo

You can’t really go wrong
Image from http://impossiblehq.com/

There are whole sites dedicated to Paleo so I’m not going to go into it in detail, but very simply, eating Paleo style means eating as we have for millions of years, and not as we have in the past 100 years or so. The most important philosophy about this diet is the total avoidance of any processed food – i.e. processed fats, flour and sugar which are present in so much of the food most of us eat today

A simple way to follow this lifestyle, is to only eat single-ingredient foods.

It’s not just about food though, it’s also about moving around more, and going outside now and again. If you want to read more about it, check Chris Kressers ‘Your Personal Paleo Code’.

Try it.

It’s better than restricting calories and guzzling foul-tasting soups and shakes with negligible nutritional value.

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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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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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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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Proeton discount card

How to Get Cheaper Whey Protein

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I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you’re reading this, you probably use whey protein or some other kind of supplement. I’d also guess that you think these supplements are pretty expensive,  I certainly do. Well there’s an easy way to get up to 40% off some of the leading sports nutrition brands, just sign up for a card at Protein Discount Card.

Proeton discount card

This is free and gets you some amazing discounts, e.g. 40% off Optimum Nutrition products. Other brand discounts available include My Protein, USN and PhD. You can also get a discount on Muscle Food products, a company that sell a range of lean meats , so you can get  money off stuff you’d buy anyway as part of your grocery shopping. An absolute no brainer, sign up here.

Optimum Nutrition saving

There’s also a VIP card which comes at a cost, but provides even more impressive savings.

 

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Carb backloading

What is Carb Backloading and why Does it Work?

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Fad diets were once the sole preserve of frustrated overweight mother, we’ve all heard of the Atkins, the Cabbage Soup, and the starvation diet, but now serious trainers have compiled their own collection of nutrition plans, these include;

  • The Paleo Diet
  • IIFYM (If it fits your Macros)
  • Intermittent Fasting

All these different diets are grounded in solid principles, and while they won’t work for everyone, they can be utilised to achieve specific goals, and suit certain lifestyles. There is one method of eating (it’s not really a diet per se) that’s gaining traction fast in the fitness community, and that’s carb back-loading.

Carb backloading

As the name suggests, carb back-loading refers to the practice of weighting your carbohydrate intake towards the end of the day, or after your workout, the theory being that at this point, your body is in a much better state to absorb the carbs and put them to good use in the repair and growth process due to increased insulin sensitivity.

Carb back-loading is also ideal for minimising fat gain, particularly for those with sedentary jobs, because the body is encouraged to use fat as fuel source in the absence of carbs at the beginning of the day. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, if you get up at 7am and don’t hit the gym ’til 7pm, why take on several hundred grams of carbs if if you’re only going to be sitting on your arse?

If, like most of the population, you spread your carb intake evenly throughout the day, it may seem odd not to have any until the late afternoon or evening, but trust me, stick with it and you’ll feel much better eating less food when you really don’t need it. But how do you pack your entire carb intake into one meal? You don’t.

Try spreading it over 2-3 meals, so if your daily carb intake is 300g, try going for 50g-150g-100g in your final three meals. For a greater fat burning effect, only eat carbs after the gym (I like to have a small amount of sweet potato about an hour before I work out). So, carb back-loading is ideal for;

  • People looking to loose fat, or minimise fat gain while adding muscle (probably most of us)
  • People with a sedentary job
  • People who can eat a shit ton of carbs in a couple of sittings

But isn’t carb back-loading the same as carb cycling? No, not in my book. Carb cycling for me refers to the practice of a planned fluctuation of carbohydrates over a period of days, for example, over the course of three days you might have a high carb day, a medium carb day, and a low carb day, but throughout the course of a day, carbs may be evenly spread across all meals.

Carb back-loading is something that can be incorporated with carb-cycling, but I’d recommend changing one thing at a time so you can see what effect it has – always leave a spare tool which you can utilise at a later date to ramp up results if necessary.

Does carb back-loading work? It definitely helped me to lose several Kg of body fat in preparation for a holiday, and now I use it as a framework for my everyday nutrition. It’s convenient, it makes perfect sense and it works. If you want to know the specific diet I used (and still do) let me know in the comments.

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Chicken

Where to get Cheap Chicken, Salmon and Eggs

A lot of people say eating well is expensive. Bullshit.

The only reason they say that is is so they have a seemingly good excuse for eating crap.

Good food doesn’t come in rustco-looking cardboard boxes, or have a green ‘Organic’ sticker on it.

Good food has just one ingredient, and a short sell-by date. It can also be very inexpensive.

Let’s take three body-building staples; chicken, eggs and salmon.

Chances are if you’re serious about building muscle you’ll eat these things daily, and as a result, have probably complained about their price.

Here’s how you can get these three important staples for less than you’re paying now;

 

Chicken 

Lidl do 1Kg of chicken breast for £6.99.

This is pretty much the cheapest supermarket price you’ll find, unless you can get a decent offer in Tesco or Morrisons, where you can sometimes get 500g for £3.

A wholesale place or butcher might be cheaper, useful if you have one of these nearby, and a HUGE freezer.

Chicken

 

Eggs

I’ve had eggs for breakfast nearly everyday for the past 5 years or so.

At most, when I’m not in a fat loss phase I’ll have 5 every morning. This means I need to buy in bulk in order to get the best price.

Tesco do 30 eggs for £2.60.

Eggs

 

 

Salmon

For some reason people tend to think of salmon as a luxury item, and while it is a little more expensive than chicken, the omega 3 essential fatty acids it contains makes it, well, essential.

Go for Sainsbury’s (I know the image is Asda Salmon, smartass) smoked salmon trimmings, which are 98p for 120 grams.

The fat in salmon means its more calorie dense, so you need to use less of it, which goes some way to offsetting the cost (which, in the grand scheme of things, is still relatively low).

salmon trimmings asda

 

 

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