Tag Archives: nutrition

5 Habits For A Stronger You

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. — Aristotle

True story, Aristotle must’ve been a smart guy. He was also a big believer in physical fitness and getting stronger, both in mind and in body.

The quote above speaks volumes and encompasses a huge aspect of success and excellence. The problem is, we as humans aren’t the best at maintaining positive habits. The most successful people are not necessarily the ones with the most talent, but the ones with the most consistency. The act of getting stronger is no different.

So what do the strongest people on the planet do on a consistent basis that separates them from the weak?

Continue reading 5 Habits For A Stronger You

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 Optimize Training Recovery

Training recovery is an often overlooked process in the strength game.

It’s tough for people to pry themselves away from the gym. Trust me, I get it. Back when I first started lifting, I was in the gym every single day, even if it was just to train my abs and stretch. But in hindsight there were far better things I could have been doing with my time to boost my training recovery and make bigger gains.

Truth be told, a lack of training recovery can lead to a laundry list of problems:

  • Injury
  • Poor sleep
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Decreases in training performance
  • Lack of progress

I could go on, but you get the point. Nobody wants to get injured or halt their progress. So your best course of action is to learn how to recover from training.

#1: Post Training Nutrition

Immediately after training, you need to be focused on getting protein, and more importantly, carbohydrates into your system. My go-to nutrition bomb here is a protein shake. It’s an easy way to get quick digesting nutrition into your body. Depending on your bodyweight, your shake would have about 30 grams of protein and between 60-100 grams of carbs. If you can’t get that many carbs into your shake, have some fruit on hand in addition to your shake.

If you are eating Primal style, you will feast at night, so after your post-training shake you will have a huge dinner with even more carbs and protein. This meal carries you over into your next day, where you will graze until your workout, and then the cycle begins.

#2: Contrast Showers

This idea seems to be gaining popularity in the fitness industry lately, but it was originally made “popular” decades ago by the Soviets in Eastern Europe. Elite athletes would immerse themselves in a bath of ice water, then follow it up with an immersion into warm water. This process was repeated multiple times, and the process helps stimulate the recovery process. More specifically, the hot/cold alternation improves blood flow, aids in the inflammation process, and reduces lactate in the muscles.

ice bath for recovery

Since most of us don’t have access to two baths in the same room, I’m calling these contrast showers for practicality. Turn the water on as cold as you can stand it, immerse yourself for up to one minute, then reverse the process with hot water for a minute. Alternate hot/cold 4-5 times.

#3: Sleep For at Least 8 Hours

This one doesn’t require much explaining. Your body is in repair mode while you sleep, so if you don’t sleep, you won’t grow. Most of us need at least 8 hours a sleep at night. Turn off the t.v. at least 30 minutes prior to bed, no computer, or electronics of any kind. Read a book. Make your sleep preparation a nightly ritual and get on a schedule. 8 hours. No excuses.

#4: Stretch and Foam Roll

Both of these are great ways to relieve muscle soreness and increase blood flow. Old-school static stretching will also help with your mobility and lifting technique.

Foam rolling should be done every day, but for only limited periods of time. Foam rolling in particular is extremely effective at removing inflammation and knots in your muscles. Overdoing it however, can irritate your muscles just as easily as it can help. Use the roller during your warm-ups, but for tender and trouble spots, limit your rolling to only a few minutes and do not focus on the same area multiple days in a row.

lacrosse ball foam rolling
If you don’t have access to a foam roller, hit up your local sporting goods store and spend the $2.50 on a lacross ball.

#5: Active Recovery

Recovery doesn’t necessarily have to mean sitting on your ass. On your “off-days”, go for a walk, stretch, play recreational sports (within reason), or even do light workouts. Light workouts on off-days are perfect opportunities to work on your bodyweight training. A short duration session of 100 pushups after a big bench press day can actually help shuttle blood flow and nutrients into your upper body and speed up the recovery process.

#6: Take Time Off

This is by far the hardest thing for hardcore athletes to fathom, but it can be one of the best things you could ever do for yourself. If you are training every day and not taking care of yourself, inertia will inevitably catch up to you and you will suffer. Maybe you will get lucky and not get injured, but your performance will dip, or you will get burnt out. This is not a scare tactic. It’s a fact.

Taking a week off is not only crucial for your body to recuperate from the demands you are placing on it, but it is also an opportunity to rest your mind and self-reflect. Reflect on your training, discover what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, make adjustments, and come back stronger than before. A fully recuperated body both physically and mentally is key to making sure you make continual progress in the strength game, and that you set yourself up for sustainability over the long-term.

— Tank

7 Primal Principles of Strength and Muscle Building

There are certain principles that you must follow in order to build strength and muscle. Consider these principles as the foundation for your training.

Hopefully this all sounds familiar because I’ve mentioned these before in other posts, but now I’m making it easy on you by putting them all together in one place. These are all actionable principles that you can incorporate into your training and lifestyle immediately.

The burden is on you, so spare yourself with the excuses, take action, and get it done. If you do, I can guarantee you that you will get results. I give you the knowledge, but you have to put in the work! squats for muscle building

#1:  Focus on Compound Exercises

Ditch the isolation work and swap it out for more compound exercises like squats, bench and overhead presses, deadlifts, row variations, pull-ups, and farmers carries. To build more muscle, you need to recruit more muscle, and by doing isolation work you are reducing the amount of muscle you could be stimulating.

#2:  Lift Heavy

For me, lifting heavy always trumps volume. Keep your intensity within the 70-85% of your 1 rep max at a minimum. I’d take heavier sets of 6-8 over medium sets of 10-20 any day. Muscle is built best in —> this range <—. By lifting in this rep and intensity range, you will ensure that you are building both strength and muscle.

#3: Deadlift

It’s the number 1 muscle building exercise of all-time. You should be deadlifting at least once a week. This is the one exercise where your reps may stay relatively low most of the time. Sets of 5 or less will do the trick, and keep stacking weight on the bar.

#4:  Train Full-Body or With an Upper-Lower Split

Body-part splits are the most mimicked thing in the gym, but are a nightmare for the normal dude that just wants to get jacked. If you are a competitive bodybuilder, have at it, but if you aren’t, you need to be training full-body or with an upper-lower split. Not only will you hit your muscles with much more frequency this way, it forces you to plan your workouts carefully and eliminate sh*tty, worthless exercises.

#5:  Train Like A Strongman

Gym strength doesn’t necessarily translate to the real world. Once a week throw in some odd-object lifts like kegs, stones, sandbags, or even a yoke. Strongman training is stressful on your central nervous system, so don’t overdo it, but this will help bridge the gap between gym strength and being ‘functional’.

Strongman training for muscle building #6:  Train Movements, Not Muscles

Not balancing your movement patterns leads to muscle imbalances, poor coordination and degraded muscular efficiency. Primal Strength Camp was based on using the “7 Primal Movement Patterns” to train the body and not focusing on muscle groups. Don’t look at things through the lens of biceps and pecs all the time, but rather how efficiently you function as a whole unit.

#7:  Dial In Your Diet

The old saying goes “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. You can be a total-ass kicker in the gym but if your diet sucks, you will not build muscle. Count your calories and macro-nutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) and make sure you are getting what you need to make all that hard work in the gym pay off.

— 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

I Used to Weigh 400 Pounds

Primal Nation,

Not everyday are you privileged to be a part of a story like this.  But a few weeks ago, my new friend Robert reached out to me on Primal’s Facebook page and brought my attention to his weight loss journey.  After seeing some of his before and after pictures, I asked him to put his story in writing because I thought his accomplishments were remarkable and needed to be shared with the world.

And boy, was I blown away.  These kind of stories are what I live for.  Seeing people fight against the odds, push through mental barriers, become stronger day by day, and persevere through great physical and emotional challenges.  Achieving the extraordinary…

Robert’s achievements are not related to Primal Strength Camp at all.  He is just a follower of the page and every now and then I hope I give him some useful information via Facebook posts and the Primal blog.  He achieved his transformation all on his own, but after meeting the man, you better believe I’m in his corner as his journey to reach 200 pounds continues.  He has a ton to offer the world with his weight loss story and we could all learn something from him.  So it is my pleasure to help him share his story here…

Start following his page here: https://www.facebook.com/OneGuysWeightLossJourney

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One Guy’s Weight Loss Story by Robert “Bear” Asche

I don’t even know where to begin or how to start this off. My weight loss journey has been one hell of a roller coaster ride filled with small victories and major fails – I could start this off with an opening cliché such as “Once upon a Time” or “It was a dark and stormy night” or one that seems more fitting for what I’ve been through, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – But I won’t, I’ll merely start off with – I used to weigh 400 lbs.

On the left me in my mid 30’s – On the right me in my mid 40’s.
On the left me in my mid 30’s – On the right me in my mid 40’s.

Now that I’ve got your attention and curiosity let me attempt to consolidate my weight loss experience and journey from the beginning so you understand where I was, and how I got there. I was always skinny growing up and never had a weight issue. In my 20’s I was a construction worker, and never had to worry about being in shape. The job was physically demanding, I was ripped, and so strong I could carry 3 bundles on roofing shingles on my shoulder which is about 240lbs up a ladder on a 2 story house – I was an animal! Ahhh, to be young again – 🙂

In my 30’s I left construction and dove head first into the web design / development field. My environment changed but my diet didn’t, consuming everything in sight, smoking, and drinking beer like it was free. My waistline started getting bigger (a lot bigger), and the muscle was disappearing. But hey who cares!! – I’m a part of the internet boom making tons of money, right?! I knew I was getting big; and within a few years I blew up to a 48 waist, and a 3x shirt. The day came when I needed a new pair of jeans so I went to the big and tall clothing store (it was the only place I could shop for clothes) tried on a pair of 48 waist jeans and they didn’t fit – They were too tight. I walked out of the store refusing to buy 50 waist jeans. That’s when reality smacked me right in the face, and I knew it was time to make some major changes in my life. I was a disaster, tired, unmotivated, sick all the time, and I fucking hated looking at myself in the mirror – I was completely disgusted with how I looked.

On the left me and my baby girl – On the right me becoming a fucking warrior!
On the left me and my baby girl – On the right me becoming a fucking warrior!

I was dedicated to lose the weight, but I did it all wrong the first time. I went from 420lbs down to 245lbs in a year and a half. My eating habits and gym habits where horrible. Diet Pepsi and fat free pretzels where my main source of food, along with chronic cardio. I had NO clue about proper nutrition; all I knew is that the weight was coming off. At 245lbs I found myself back in the construction field (while still running my own web design business part time), working hard and eating anything I could get my hands on. I remember walking in the front door of my house after work one day, looking in the mirror and seeing my belly sticking out. I weighed myself and saw that I was up to 270lbs. I decided to get back on my “diet” plan. I managed to get myself down to 209lbs. But once again I did it all wrong. I was so hell bent on reaching 200lbs I would go days without eating, consuming ex-lax like it was candy, and popping stacker2’s all day. I plateaued at 209 lbs; I eventually (and completely) gave up trying, started eating and drinking again, and ended up shooting back up to 310lbs.

On the left, me at 310 lbs. A failed “diet plan” – On the right, finally doing it right!
On the left, me at 310 lbs. A failed “diet plan” – On the right, finally doing it right!

On January 1st of this year (2013) I decided once again to lose the weight, eat healthy, and do it the right way. This time I was eating chicken, fish, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. I joined a gym and by my third visit I was ready to quit. Walking on the treadmill was painful, my shins hurt so bad I was practically in tears. For weeks I pushed myself on the treadmill in agonizing pain 5 to 6 days a week, but I absolutely refused to fucking quit! I had to put my war face on when walking into the gym because I knew the next hour of my life was going to suck. I was hoping the pain would eventually subside, and lucky enough for me it went away. No more shin pain, foot pain, or leg pains. I went from barley walking a mile in 40 minutes to running a mile in under 7 minutes in just a few short months! Sitting here thinking back, this was probably one of the hardest things I had to overcome, and it made me a stronger person all around. This part of my story is an emotional experience for me, it’s a good thing you’re not reading a paper version of this because it would probably have tear drop stains on it. Hey, even warriors cry, and it doesn’t make me any less of a man because of it. Real men aren’t afraid to show their emotions.

From barely being able walking a mile in 40 minutes to running 5k charity races!
From barely being able walking a mile in 40 minutes to running 5k charity races!

I never thought of it this way but if you go back and do my weight numbers of losing and gaining, then losing, it’s mind boggling. My actual total weight loss would be 334 lbs. Most people complain about trying to lose just 20 lbs. I can’t help but laugh at myself sometimes about how naïve I was about proper eating and rest. I recommend the book “The Primal Blue Print” by Mark Sisson – I’ve followed it religiously for the last 6 months – It works, and it makes sense. I also want to thank my new friend Tank from Primal Strength Camp for answering my questions about weight lifting, and giving me a venue to share my story. Tank is a good dude, and is VERY willing to share his knowledge of strength training. As Tank would put it… EVOLVE!!

A lot of people ask me how I eat and how much time do I spend in the gym. I spend approx: 60 to 90 minutes in the gym, 5 to 6 days a week. 90% weights, 10% high intensity cardio. My food intake is: Breakfast = 2 or 3 hard boiled eggs or Greek Yogurt, and a few handfuls of berries. Lunch = 2 cans of tuna straight out of the can along with a piece of fruit, an apple, pear or plum. Dinner = A HUGE plate of veggies (you’d laugh at the how big of a dinner I eat, it’s almost comical sometimes – LOL!) along with a big piece of grilled chicken or salmon. I graze on nuts and seeds all day – Mostly almonds and pumpkin seeds, and I drink water like it’s my full time job. I’m almost NEVER hungry!

On the left me at my heaviest – On the right are those abs I’m getting?
On the left me at my heaviest – On the right are those abs I’m getting?

Now comes the part where I’m supposed to end this somehow – But the more I think about it, it’s really a never ending story. I’m 46 years old, and as of today, I am 211 lbs, I’ve lost 99 pounds in the last 6 months, and I’m only 11 lbs. away from my goal weight of 200 lbs. – Pretty exciting for me don’t ya think? I’m doing it the right way this time, eating a lot of healthy foods, sleeping/resting, and exercise. The day I get on that scale and see 200 lbs. is going to be very emotional for me. I’ve come along way, I finally like myself again, and I like what I see in the mirror. If I can do it, so can you. Stay focused, and you will see changes, it’ll happen! Become the warrior you’ve always wanted to be. I hit the weights as hard as I can, and run sprints like I’m being chased by a pack of lions knowing that I can say – I used to weigh 400 lbs.

Join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/OneGuysWeightLossJourney

— Robert “Bear” Asche

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

How Many Meals A Day Should I Eat To Build Muscle?

To a lot of you, this may be the million dollar question.

Depending on the diet fad of the day, you might come across a hundred different answers.

Eat 6 small meals spaced 2 hours apart.  Skip breakfast.  Just eat one big dinner.  Fast for 18 hours.  I’ve heard em’ all.

Most of the answers you find may in fact offer some benefits, but they will also come with some negatives.  And sometimes we can get so strength training dietinundated with information and competing theories that we get overwhelmed and forget the basics.

So let me ground your thought process for a minute and help us get back to reality by myth busting a well known, and frighteningly accepted, extreme.

The 2 Hour Rule

Despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to constantly be feeding yourself throughout the day.  If you don’t eat for a couple hours, you will not go into “starvation mode” like some people will try and scare you to believe.

I mean, really think about that one.  Our bodies were made to go a few weeks without food, so you are trying to tell me that you will go catabolic after a few hours?  Give me a freakin’ break.  Save the drama…

First off, if you ate like this, you’d be keeping your insulin levels spiked all day, taking your body out of its natural prime fat burning mode.  You’d probably be feeling a little tired too…

Plus eating constantly like that could be straining your digestive system, never giving it a chance to relax because you are always making it work.  Trust me, you will be spending less time on the toilet, prepping meals, and washing Tupperware if you aren’t obsessing over the famed “2 hour rule.”

Who the hell wants to live like that anyway?  Sounds like torture.

So then what is the better way?

When trying to plan your meals out for the day, you need to get back to the basics.  You should be counting calories and macros (protein, fat, carbs), not meals.

If you want to build muscle, you should eat as many meals as you need to fulfill a calorie surplus (taking in more calories than you need to function).  For most of us, this surplus should be a few hundred calories a day in order to pack on the pounds.  Couple this surplus with the correct amount of macros, and you will be well on your way to muscle gain.  If you aren’t sure where your macros should be, click here and here.

So for most of us, we could accomplish this with 3 meals per day and a few snacks along the way.  This will make your life a lot easier and is better for your body overall.  If you need more meals to fulfill your caloric needs, so be it, but don’t feel that it is absolutely necessary, especially if you are able to get what you need with less meals and hassles…

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

 

10 Reasons You Aren’t Building Muscle

Building muscle isn’t easy.  If it were, you’d be seeing a hell of a lot more impressive people out there and I wouldn’t be kicking my own ass 5 days a week to keep getting bigger and stronger.

The problem is, there could be a myriad of causes for you to not be making the progress you are looking for.  Good news is, a lot of these are fixable, and it doesn’t take rocket science to fix them in a hurry.

Now don’t get disillusioned…easy fixes don’t lead to easy muscle; there is no such thing.  It takes one thing and one thing only to pack on the pounds.

But using this list to identify shortcomings in your training will help you make progress, and by keeping all of these in check, I’d be willing to bet that you make more progress than you ever have before.

#1 You Aren’t Lifting Heavy Enough

building muscle

You will not get any training effect from lifting anything less than 70% of your 1 rep max (1RM).  Stay below this threshold for your warmup sets, but when it is time to work, you need to be working with weights in between 70-85% of your 1RM.  Stick with reps in the 6-20 range per set, depending on the exercise.

You can stray above this if you want to gain some strength, but keep your reps and frequency low.  With my current program, in a given week I’ll hit 90-95% of my 1RM only twice per big lift (squat, bench, overhead press, deadlift) and my reps are usually never more than 3 for those sets.

When it comes time to do assistance work, I’m always in the 70-85% range.  Anything less, and you are wasting your time.

#2 You Are Resting Too Long

This is a huge problem for a lot of people, especially in a commercial gym scene.  If you are really trying to pack on the size, your rest periods should not be any longer than 2 minutes.  Be honest with yourself and carry a stopwatch.  Time your rest intervals and make sure you aren’t slacking.  Generally, by the time I add more weight for my next set, my rest period is just about up and it is time for me to bang out another set.

If you are training for pure strength gains, you can rest 3-5 minutes in between sets, but if you are training for hypertrophy, you better be in the 90-120 second time range.

building muscle women

#3 You Aren’t Training Frequently Enough

The less you train, the less muscle you build.  Bottom line.  This especially goes for people doing body-part splits, which is why you should ditch that style immediately and do full body or upper/lower training sessions.

You need to train frequently to trigger muscle growth and induce your body to grow and adapt.  For most of you, that means 4 days of lifting, with 1-2 days of high intensity cardio like hill sprints, or sled work.

#4 You Are Training Too Much

There is a fine line between training enough and training too much.  I’m really not a believer in overtraining, but you need to get your rest.  Your rest days are the days you actually grow, and if you don’t give yourself time to recover, your body will never catch up.

A good rule is 48 hours in between body parts/sections.  If I train upper body on Monday, I won’t hit it again until Thursday.  If you have a light workout, 24 hours of rest may work.  Just remember to take days off (and in some cases weeks), eat like a beast, and let your body recuperate from the pounding it takes.

building muscle women

#5 You Are Doing the Wrong Exercises

If you want a list of the best muscle building exercises, check it out here.

Pick exercises that recruit the most muscle by focusing on compound lifts and avoiding isolation work.  The more muscle you can recruit during a training session, the more growth you will trigger.  Plain and simple.

That means squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts are king.  Bicep curls, rope tricep extensions, and leg curls suck.  Don’t sabotage yourself by spending time on a bunch of junk work and wasting valuable training time.

#6 You Are Program Hopping

Far too often, someone will try a new program for a few weeks, feel like they aren’t getting results, and switch to something else.

Give it a chance!  Programs could take months to yield results and all it takes is persistence on your part to stick with it.  This goes especially for intermediate lifters; guys will have tremendous early success from lifting a few weights and think that is the norm.  After they plateau they may switch it up and not see the same results, but the problem lies not in the program.  They have progressed in their bodies beyond the point where results come so quickly.

Pick a program and give it a good honest 2-3 months, and then re-assess where you are.  The key here is being honest.  A lot of the time, people don’t perform the program as prescribed, tweaking things here and there, and wonder why they aren’t getting jacked…

#7 You Are Doing the Same Program For Too Long

Quite the opposite of the previous problem, but still just as common.  It is easy for us to get trapped in stale gym routines, doing the same exercises to death, and not switching things up.  Your body adapts to everything you subject it to; time of your workouts, exercises, resistance, movements, everything!

If you have been doing the same program for years, I’m no genius but it may be time to switch things up a little.

#8 Your Diet is Out of Whack

building muscle women

Your diet may be the most important component to getting the body you want, far more important than your training itself.  Want six pack abs?  Hate to break it to you but that is all diet…

Want to gain muscle?  You gotta eat.  Not only making sure you are consuming calories above your daily maintenance levels, but also counting your macro-nutrients (protein, carbs, fats) to make sure they are sufficient to meeting your goals.

If you aren’t consuming enough protein and carbs, or consuming more calories than your body requires to fuel itself, you will not gain muscle or weight.  Period.

Record a daily food log if you have to.  Without a proper diet tailored to your needs and goals, you will not succeed.  Guaranteed.

#9 You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

Not really much to say about this.  You need to be getting 8 hours of sleep.  This is when most of your tissue is repaired from ripping it all up in the weight room.  Lack of sleep increases your stress and cortisol levels, and can really f**k with your psyche.  Turn off the t.v., get your ass in bed, and get some z’s.

#10 You Haven’t Found the Mind Body Connection

If you’ve ever seen Pumping Iron with Arnold, he talks about this some.  He recalls how he can actually feel his muscles growing in that very moment and how his mind – body connection helps him get better results.

As touchy feely as this sounds, the man is right.  If you’ve ever felt this, you know what I’m talking about.  It is more than feeling “the pump”.  It is really focusing on your muscles as you complete a movement or do an exercise in the gym.  Feeling how your muscles contract and expand, how they work harmoniously together to make your body perform.

Work to establish this.  Meditate and concentrate.  If you can focus on your muscle building goal, and truly immerse yourself in the steps to get there and “feel the process”, your mind and body will be connected in such a way that you can’t help but improve.  You will be “in the zone”.

Wrapping Up…

Think about these problems and reflect on your own training habits.  Give yourself an honest evaluation and identify where you are falling short.  Use the guidelines I have given you to help rectify the problems, and re-evaluate your progress after a few months.

I will guarantee you that you will have put on more muscle if you follow my advice.  You can thank me later…

Evolve!!

— Tank