Tag Archives: cutting

Will Alcohol Ruin Your Gains? Common Sense Approach to Alcohol and Lifting

To live a fulfilling life, you need to be able to have a good time and relax.

Sometimes that means putting business and training aside, and letting loose out on the town. For a lot of us, letting loose means having a few drinks, sharing some laughs, and maybe even causing a little trouble.

I know when I go out, my “good time” usually involves my friends Mr. Makers Mark and Mr. Tequila Shot.

As someone who takes the fitness game seriously, what you shouldn’t do is swear off alcohol because you are afraid it ruins your gains or makes you fat. That’s a myth, a fear tactic, plain ol’ nonsense. However you want to put it. There is no reason to think alcohol and lifting can’t co-exist.

If you want to have a few drinks , especially after working your ass off for extended periods of time, by all means do it. Reward yourself. If you stay in the grind too long, you will burn out, which in my opinion leads to far more problems than nursing a hangover every now and then.

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating being a heavy drinker, nor am I saying that you need to drink to have a good time. My intention is to just shed some light that a little bit of debauchery a few nights a month will not wreck your progress if you are associating alcohol with negative effects on your strength gains and physique.

wedding_crashers

With this in mind, there are two things to consider when drinking that will allow you to have a few guilt-free adult beverages.

#1: Do Not Cave to Drunken Munchies

Alcohol does not make you fat, but a night of drinking does push the boundaries of self-discipline in your diet.

How many of you have hit up a night at the bar, and then crushed the fast food drive-thru or pizza place on the way home for a night cap of binge eating? I know I have.

Nailing down your diet during the day, but then finishing the night off with a 1000 calorie munchie-impulse meal will surely put add some thickness to your midsection. That’s the kind of shit that makes you fat, not a few drinks at the bar.

If you know you’re going to be hungry at the end of the night, have some stuff on hand at home to either make yourself a healthy meal or have something prepped and ready to go that will cure the munchies and feed your physique in a responsible way.

#2: Lay Off the Girly Drinks

Much like I’m a minimalist in my training, being a minimalist as a drinker is important as well.

Complex drinks that are loaded with sugary mixers have a ton of excess calories, plus they will give you one hell of a hangover…

Stick to the basics. Alcohol + Zero/Low Calorie Mixer. Vodka Soda is a good example.

Fancy cocktails should set off warning signs in your mind that say “Don’t Drink Me”.

A rule I give to a lot of people is to “Never drink your calories” and this applies perfectly to this scenario. 800 calorie margaritas on top of your daily allotment of food calories will put you way over surplus amounts, an even bigger problem if you are trying to shed weight and need to be in a deficit.

#3: What About Beer?bud light chick

There have been a lot of studies highlighting the estrogenic effects, carb amounts, and inherent weight gain from drinking beer. While there is some truth to those studies, beer is one of those vices where “everything in moderation” applies.

Having a few beers here and there won’t hurt you. What will hurt you is when you are drinking 5+ a night trying to maintain a buzz (which is why I like taking shots, but that’s beside the point). Do that several times a month and boom, you’ve added a couple of unwanted pounds to your frame.

Moral of the Story

Don’t obsess over whether or not you have a drink or two.

Like going out and having a good time? Then do it. I can guarantee you that the memories you make causing trouble with your buddies will far outweigh the pound or two you see on the scale or that you add to the bar.

Don’t make it an unhealthy habit, but don’t restrict yourself to the point that it has unwanted side effects on your personal life and relationships. I was that guy once in college when training consumed my life, and looking back on it now, I regret not going out with my buddies as much and creating even more memories than I have now. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and let yourself live a little…

— Tank

Primal Nutrition: The Carbs at Night Myth

When I explain to people how I eat, and how I would recommend them to eat, I always get the same response.

“But Tank, doesn’t eating a lot of carbs at night make you fat?”

This cements the fact that fitness and diet myths are deep rooted and it makes my job as a strength coach even more important to help spread some truth.

Calories at night are not bad. Carbs at night are not bad. Eating this way will not make you fat.

But you will get fat by over-eating your carb and caloric needs throughout the course of the entire day.

Stuffing your face all day and then piling a huge dinner on top of that ups your chances of overshooting your caloric needs and packing on the pounds.

This is where it’s important to look at your diet as a whole (24 hour cycle) as opposed to meal by meal.

Primal Man vs Modern Man

Not eating a lot of carbs at night goes completely against Primal instincts and history, and is the complete opposite of our psyche and social patterns.

primal diet

Primal man under-ate throughout the course of the day because he was too busy grazing, hunting, fetching water, running from saber tooth tigers, and hustling his ass off to survive. After he returned home at night, he’d lounge around and feast on his daily conquests replenishing his glycogen stores from a hard day’s work, and sleep deeply with a full stomach. That nightly feast fueled him for the following day’s activity.

Fast forward to modern society. Our DNA has barely changed from Primal man. Our lives are somewhat different as far as our activity and exertion levels, but our routines and instincts are not. Most of us work during the day (albeit it sitting on our asses much more, which is another reason to not eat big during the day). At some point, we lift heavy weights and train. After work, current norms call for happy hours, social dinners, and family feasts where eating big is a natural occurrence. Our natural psychology makes kicking back and eating big at night appealing.

How I Recommend Eating

So why go against the grain of what our minds, bodies, and social patterns tell us? Is there a better way to approach our daily eating routines?

Of course there is.

First off, I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting and under-eating during the day. And despite the potential backlash I get from the community, I’m not a big breakfast fan either. That’s a whole other story, but if you want the low-down on that, check it out here: Is Breakfast Really That Important?

Fasting allows you to burn body fat at a much higher rate naturally, and minimizes the amount of time you need to spend doing cardio. Under-eating during the day keeps your energy levels up and makes you much more productive.

(Besides, as I alluded to earlier, unless you work a manual labor job, you simply don’t need a lot of caloric intake during the day. An no, you will not go catabolic if you don’t eat every few hours. That’s another myth perpetuated by the fitness/supplement industry).

Then after a day of work and intense training, your body will be in a glycogen depleted state in the evening.

Enter the nightly feast.

Because you under-eat during the day, your body will be primed for calories and carbs, causing carbs to be much more likely stored as glycogen rather than fat. Eating big following the day’s activity will also promote recovery, muscle repair, and help put you in an enhanced anabolic state for growth.

Coinciding with our natural instincts, eating big at night will also promote deeper sleep, critical for protecting your nervous and hormonal systems. And by refueling your glycogen stores in the evening, you will be fueled for upwards of 12 hours, which will carry you well into the next day.

** Because you under-eat during the day, it is critical that you make up your caloric deficit at night and eat enough to put yourself in a caloric surplus if you are trying to gain weight **

Plus, you’ll probably be far happier eating this way and I can almost guarantee that this will be more conducive to your lifestyle and social schedule.

This is precisely how I eat, and how a lot of my clients eat as well. I’ve never strayed above 15% body fat eating this way, and if I need to gain weight, I just up my caloric intake for the day (I gained 20 pounds in 2 months this past summer maintaining this lifestyle to prep for a Strongman competition).

The Bottom Line

Look at your diet as a whole.

Eating carbs at night and increasing the caloric content of your nightly meals is just a way of shifting your eating patterns (which will align much more closely with your psyche, Primal instincts, social schedule, and your goals of fat loss and muscle growth).

This way of eating has been documented by countless studies, and I’ve been eating this way for years. Everyone I’ve ever converted to this style of eating is amazed at how quickly they see results, not only in their body, but in their mindset as well.

Don’t let the “carbs at night” myth mess with your lifestyle. In fact, eat big at night and start reaping the rewards.

— Tank

How to Program Your High-Intensity Cardio

Conditioning is a vital component of being strong and able to perform.  Not only do you need it to stay lean and mean, but building up your work capacity is the only way to push yourself in the gym on a continual basis and amp up your volume.  If you are out of shape, you cannot progress.  Bottom line.

For many people, they fear conditioning will take away from their gains and they are unsure of how to fit it into their programming.  Have no fear.  If you are training the right way, and not running yourself into the ground, you will shed some fat and build some muscle at the same time.

First of all, you should know what kind of cardio to limit yourself to.  Read this: Cardio For Getting Shredded

Sprinters
Now, as far as programming goes, you have a number of options.

The main thing you need to realize is that you should treat your cardio as you would a lifting session.  What I mean is that you should base your programming around the effort you use for those conditioning sessions and the frequency and timing in which you do it.

So, to throw an example out there, you don’t want to go through a heavy squat workout and then go perform a 100% puke inducing hill sprint session the following day (or vice versa).

There are two simple ways to fit in your high-intensity cardio.

The first is to pair your conditioning sessions with your lifting.  Tack on an extra 20 minutes to your workout to get your hill sprints and sled work in.  Then give yourself a full 48 hours of rest before you tackle another conditioning session.  Some of you may have the discipline to do this. Others read this and probably say “F*ck!  The last thing I want to do after lifting my ass off is do a conditioning session.”

The remedy to this would be two-a-days.  Separate your sprinting from your lifting session by 6 hours or so.  Back in the day, I would jump and sprint at 10am, then go lift at 4pm.  For those of you really trying to cut the fat, hitting up your sprinting sessions first thing in the morning in a fasted state might help you burn more fat than you otherwise would later in the day. Just make sure you drink some coffee or caffeine to increase the thermogenic effect and take in about 10 grams of amino acids to prevent any form of muscle loss.  If you are keeping your sessions to 20 minutes or less and only a couple of times a week, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about anyway.

By doing either of the above, it ensures you are resting on your rest days instead of trying to fit a conditioning session in.

Shredded Girl 2

If you must run a day after lifting, you should tackle those sprints at 60-75% of your max effort instead of going 100% max effort.  A lot of times, these sprints may even help in your recovery after the previous day of hard lifting.  When running on off days just take into account what you did the day before and base your effort on that.

For most people, two 20 minute sessions a week will do the trick for staying lean and maintaining the ability to put on muscle mass.  If you are above 15% bodyfat, or fat loss is your main goal, you can tack on an additional session or perform a couple of high-intensity finishers at the end of your lifting workouts. Five minutes of things like battle ropes or medium height box jumps work really well here.

As a side note, I know I stress high-intensity cardio, and that should in fact be the focus of your conditioning.  But do not underestimate the power of a 30 minute walk upon waking.  Back in the golden age of bodybuilding, and even dating up to Arnold himself, walking on an empty stomach in the morning was mostly all they did to keep fat off.  Not to mention it does wonders for mental focus and your psyche to start the day.

Don’t make conditioning too complicated.  Vary your efforts and allow yourself enough rest so you don’t jeopardize what you are doing in the weight room.  Follow these rules and you will be well on the road to making gains and shredding fat.

Evolve!!

— Tank

How Intermittent Fasting Gets You Shredded

If you follow my diet advice, you know I’m a big advocate of intermittent fasting.  I sort of stumbled into this lifestyle because I have never been a big breakfast eater.

Despite all of the rah-rah cheerleading and publications you read telling you that breakfast is the most important meal ofShredded Girl 3 the day, it just simply isn’t true.  Does breakfast have its benefits?  Sure.  But it’s not going to make the difference between you making gains or going catabolic.  For the low-down, check this out:

Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Traditional fasting can be anywhere between 12-72 hours.  With my diet, I don’t consume much of anything from 9pm until noon the following day.

My intermittent fasting lasts about 12-15 hours.  They are geared towards using my natural metabolic functioning to maximize fat loss, allowing me to still eat big and gain muscle mass, but eliminate the need for a lot of high-intensity cardio.

So how does intermittent fasting kick your fat burning ability into overdrive?

#1: Increases Fat Burning Hormones

One of the main reasons that intermittent fasting is effective is that it uses your natural hormonal cycles to help burn fat.

Growth hormone is the most important fat burning hormone in your body and fasting actually promotes growth hormone production.  Fasting also decreases your insulin levels, which ensures that you burn body fat instead of storing it.

This is part of the reason that skipping breakfast is beneficial.  Your insulin levels are at one of their lowest levels upon waking, meaning your body is in prime fat burning mode.  By eating, you are killing this advantage.  But if you don’t “break-fast”, you ensure that you keep your insulin levels low and prolong your natural fat burning state.

#2: Increases Fat Burning Enzymes

Your hormones need the help of fat burning enzymes to get their job done.  Intermittent fasting will boost the activity of two of the most important fat burning enzymes in your body. Adipose tissue Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) is responsible for allowing your fat cells to release fat so it can be burned as energy.  Muscle tissue Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL) is responsible for allowing your muscle cells to take up fat so it can be burnt as a fuel.  By having elevated levels of both of these during intermittent fasting, you are naturally optimizing your ability to burn fat.

#3: Burn More Calories

Intermittent fasting increases your metabolism and adrenaline levels causing you to burn more calories during your fast.  The more calories you burn, obviously the more fat you will burn. Plus, you will see a boost in your energy levels that will fuel your productivity throughout the day.  Most people are surprised at this, but just think for a second about how you feel after a big meal.  I bet you feel like sh*t and need a nap…

#4. Burn Fat Instead of Sugar

Your body naturally burns carbs first and then fat.  Any extra food that your body can’t burn in the few hours after you eat gets stored as body fat.  But when you fast your body has no choice but to burn stored body fat because your blood sugar levels are depleted.  By the end of an intermittent fasting period your body is burning way more fat than it would eating every couple of hours.

Serge Nubret Intermittent Fasting
Serge Nubret is one of the best examples of how intermittent fasting can help you burn fat and still allow you to build muscle. He often ate only 1-2 meals a day.

Alright Primal Nation.  Go “starve” yourself for a few hours.  I promise you won’t go catabolic, and you may just burn some fat in the process.  I’d take that over slaving away on a damn stair climber any day…

Evolve!!

— Tank

Is Breakfast Really The Most Important Meal of the Day?

By now, you’ve heard it a million times.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

But is it really?

This may come as a shocker, but breakfast may be doing you more harm than good.  Plenty of people (Dan John being one) would like to slap me silly for saying that, but stick with me…

Insulin levels are at their lowest point of the day when you first wake.  Couple this with high cortisol levels (cortisol peaks between 7 and 9am), and your body is in prime fat burning mode.  By eating a big meal when you first wake up, you are spiking your insulin levels and robbing yourself of the opportunity to burn more fat at rest.  Insulin sensitivity in your fat cells is also highest in the morning, so waking up with a big bowl of oatmeal for instance actually promotes fat storage.

Eating a big breakfast may leave you feeling tired and groggy too.  How many of you have felt like you need a nap by 10am?  I don’t know about you, but I hate that feeling.  I want my energy levels to remain high throughout the day when I need to be the most productive.

For me, the far more important meal of the day is your post training meal, and following that up with more nutrition even beyond that.  Ingesting protein and carbs after a training session is huge.  You need to replenish glycogen stores and get yourself in an anabolic state.  From there, you can add more food to meet your caloric and macronutrient (carbs and protein) needs.

strength training breakfast

So am I telling you to skip breakfast?

Not necessarily.  It depends on who you are and what your goals are.

For me, and guys like me (which I’d venture to guess are a lot of you), it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

I want to be big and lean, train 4 days a week and minimize the amount of time I spend doing high-intensity cardio for fat loss.  I train in the afternoon then eat big at night, allowing myself to replenish my body after intense training.  So when I go to bed, I’m in a highly anabolic state.  This is how our ancestors ate for the most part, where they fasted during the day to hunt and gather and then they ate big at night.

I may have a protein shake upon waking here and there, but for the most part, won’t eat anything until lunch.  This means I’ve technically fasted for 12-14 hours, which means for half the day I’ve been in a natural fat burning state.  (I’m a big fan of intermittent fasting, I’ll tackle that with another post.)

Eating this way, lifting 4 days, and only doing 2 conditioning sessions a week that may last 20 minutes apiece, I maintain single digit body fat and still can put on muscle.

So knowing all of this, do you still breakfast is that important?

For more guidance on meal planning, check out this post below.

How Many Meals Per Day Should I Eat to Build Muscle

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

Cardio For Getting Shredded

It kills me every time I walk into a gym and see 50% of the real estate covered in cardio machines.cardio

People churning away, reading magazines on a stationary bike, watching tv on the elliptical, chatting with their friends on the treadmill.  They are totally crushing the ‘fat burn program’ on that $3,000 heap of metal. They will be doing that for hours multiple times a week.

The problem is that there are far better ways to get shredded in much shorter amounts of time…

Steady State Cardio and the Fat Burn Zone Confusion

First, let’s clear up a misconception.  Word on the street is that you burn more fat during low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or jogging.  Totally false.

While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

Confusing?  Let me put it this way.  If I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

Pretty eye opening right?

Get off the treadmill, crank up the intensity, and do work!

cardio

So what exactly do you do?

You have a number of options.

Hill Sprints or Sprint Intervals

Sprint hill.  Jog back down.  Repeat.

Sprint intervals are the same concept.  Sprint 20 seconds, rest for 20.  As you get better, increase the duration of the sprint and decrease your rest time.

Sled or Prowler Work

Load up the sled or prowler, strap yourself in and get to work.  Pull or push for distance.

Lately, I have been loading up a prowler with about 60% of my bodyweight and sprinting 40’s while pushing it. About 4 sprints with this is enough and a great finisher to heavy weight lifting.

MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning)

MetCon is really just a fancy word for interval training.  It is a short duration, fast paced workout designed to kick your metabolism into high gear and turn you into a fat burning machine for long after you have left the gym.  Under the MetCon realm, there are a number of options:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  1. You could lump hill sprints and sprint intervals into this, but when I think of HIIT, I use it with weights and different exercises.
  2. Weight circuits, where you pick 5 or so exercises, and perform them all consecutively for specified reps, with no rest in between.  That is one set.  Do several sets.
  3. Intervals, where you pick one exercise (say bodyweight squats), perform for a timed duration, then rest, and repeat is another.  Plyos work well here too.

Random Guidelines for High Intensity Training

women's cardio

  • Coupled with a 4 day a week weight lifting routine, 2 sessions a week should be enough.  Anything more and you are jeopardizing your recovery times.
  • Sessions should last roughly 20 minutes or so.  Anything more is overkill.
  • This is not meant for everyone.  If you cannot perform high intensity training initially, start with steady state cardio until you are capable.
  • High intensity is not an excuse for poor form.  Form trumps all.
  • Train outside when possible.
  • Metabolism is a function of muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, and the more effective your training will be.

All the best!!

— Tank