Think you know how
to train to build muscle?
Think you know how
to eat to build muscle?
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Remember that forum post you read that told you all you have to do is eat big, lift big and get big? Maybe you already figured out for yourself that it was a bunch of baloney. That stuff only works for a few genetic freaks, which I’m betting, you’re not. So stop beating your head against the wall – you can’t force your muscles to grow.
Force-feeding yourself won’t build muscles – you just end up looking bloated and puffy. You need to learn how your body works, and work with it! That’s the way to get predictable and sustainable results from your muscle-building campaign.
Here are some pro tips to help you add that lean mass you want.
Pro Tip #1: Break big goals into small mini-goals
A lot of novice muscle-builders get an image in their mind of what they want to look like, and as time goes on, and they haven’t hit the mark yet, they get discouraged and either give up or start hopping from one method to another.
That “after” picture takes time to achieve and the changes are often so gradual that you can’t really see them from day to day. On top of that, muscle growth isn’t slow and steady – it comes in spurts. Some people think that as long as they stick with their program, working out for a few months, then cutting for a few months, they’ll achieve what they want. And some will. But do you have any idea how many opportunities they miss in the process, to speed things up considerably? A LOT!
You’re much better off setting some short term goals and deadlines. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to “bulk up”… that’s not a goal. Telling yourself you’re going to add 80 pounds of lean mass is a goal. But an even better goal is to break that into mini-goals of adding 10 pounds of lean muscle each month. That’s easier to deal with and shows you definite progress toward your main goal.
And by the way, don’t think for a minute that 10 pounds of muscle per month is impossible – it’s not. My 21-Day Mass-Building System will show you how to strategize your workout routines and diet to achieve it.
Pro Tip #2: More muscle gain with smaller training cycles
Just as you break your goals down into smaller goals, you should break your training cycles down into smaller cycles. The first few weeks of a new program will often yield great progress, but as your body gets accustomed to the program, progress slows and you finally plateau. The human body adjusts very quickly to a new environment, and that quick progress demonstrates that your body is responding to the change with growth.
There’s an old saying among muscle-builders: Almost everything works, but nothing works forever. In other words, don’t expect to make continuous progress with the same training program – sooner or later, you’ll plateau. You need to keep your body stimulated with new activities in order to see sustainable progress.
That doesn’t mean to keep changing things up all the time, though. That will just confuse your muscles, because they need to have time to adapt to new activity before the real results start kicking in. Ideally, you shouldn’t change until your progress begins to flatten, signaling a plateau.
In short, change is a good thing, but it needs to be planned and it needs to occur at the right time. Let each phase of your program deliver before changing up. This will usually happen in about three weeks, for most people.
Pro Tip #3: Calorie Cycling Delivers Maximum Muscle Growth
Bodybuilding competitors normally go through calorie cycling in order to gain lean muscle mass. They diet like crazy to get ripped for a competition, then afterwards, they cram to regain the lost weight, creating several pounds of new muscle in the process. That’s why they manage to get larger and leaner with every competition.
Where this becomes a problem is when they pay no attention to the nutritional aspects of their diet. You see, just like your body gets accustomed to the same exercise routine day after day, it can also get accustomed to the same nutritional intake over time.
Several research articles have been published on the topic of calorie cycling for fat loss. For instance, Forbes et all conducted a study with a group of adult females that converted from a standard maintenance diet to 21 days of 1200-1600 surplus calories per day. Their blood tests displayed a progressive increase of IGF-1, insulin and testosterone, the three most powerful anabolic hormones. But those gains were also accompanied by impressive gains of solid muscle mass.
Sure, they picked up a few pounds of fat, as well. But then, they weren’t working out at all, and they weren’t getting a lot of extra protein in their diet. Just think what kind of results they might have gotten if they had.
The bottom line is, your body will release more anabolic hormones when you greatly increase your caloric intake, which results in shifting those calories to muscle growth. This effect will last around two weeks before the body gets accustomed to the higher calorie content and muscle growth plateaus. That’s the time to back off the high intake and get primed for another phase of rapid growth.
Pro Tip #4: Your Diet and you Workouts Must Match
This is short and sweet – great workouts won’t compensate for a lousy diet. If you want to train to build mass, you need to eat to build mass, too. That means boosting your caloric intake and getting plenty of healthy carbs like vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains. The synergy this creates is what delivers the awesome results we all want.
Pro Tip #5: Shoot for Constant Progress
Don’t try to be perfect in your training – nobody is. You may backslide on your diet now and then or miss an occasional workout, but the world won’t end. If you berate yourself for it, you’ll just end up discouraged, possibly giving up.
Instead, focus on maintaining steady progress toward your goal. Dr. John Berardi said that there’s virtually no difference between sticking with a program 90% and 100%, and I’ve seen that to be very true in my fitness experience.
Having that 10% margin of error in your program allows you to forgive those slight deviations from your plan and keep making progress. In more than ten years in bodybuilding, believe me, I’ve given into my cravings for some junk food or skipped a workout now and then. But I’m able to keep moving toward my goals because I’m always at least 90% on track.
So my advice is to just stay focused on maintaining steady progress. Don’t beat yourself up over a couple of little stumbles. That’s the way you’ll be able to see your ultimate physique transformation and muscle building goals getting closer and closer.
When you’re looking for high protein meals to eat before or after your work out, you might find yourself discouraged at the sheer cost of proteins. Add to this the fact that most books that talk about healthy eating on a budget will also say the same thing about protein foods – they are pricey. What can you do?
The good news is that this truth is only a partial truth. When most people think of proteins they think of meats. Meats are pricey, and getting pricier every day, but there are many alternative protein sources that work quite well.
So, how can you have a high protein diet without killing your budget? In order to do this, you need to be strategic in your shopping. Avoid packaged protein sources, and select meat alternatives to put more in your diet. Once you know what you need, you can find the best deals by price matching at your local stores. When you see a deal, stock up so you will always have a supply of proteins on hand.
Thinking Outside the Meat Counter
During the Great Depression, meat was hard to come by. The sheer cost sent many of your grandparents seeking an alternative protein source. Since few of them wasted away to nothing in spite of the economic hardships they faced, we can assume that affordable proteins are out there. If you are looking to add protein on a budget, the key is going to be finding the right staples. Here are the ones you need to consider.
First, take a good, hard look at quinoa. Although it is often used as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. You can use it in place of grains like rice, oatmeal and pasta. A half-cup serving has 10 grams of protein. While it is still considered a carb, this is a higher protein number than in most carbohydrate-based foods.
Quinoa is a very popular right now, and yet it’s still very affordable. You can pick up a pound of it for about $5. A one-pound bag of organic quinoa will make five half-cup servings. Imagine the cost of five servings of organic meat, and you will see just how quickly your savings will add up.
Quinoa is also very versatile. You can add it to your salad for a little added texture, or you can sweeten it with some fruit for a dessert or breakfast cereal. Top it with sauce as a savory dish. It can even be used in healthy baking.
Another protein staple you should have in your home is Greek yogurt. A one-cup serving has up to 14 grams of protein, which is about double that of other yogurts. It also typically has less sugar, as long as you’re choosy and read the label. To ensure that you’re not eating too much sugar, choose vanilla or plain and add your own fruit.
As long as we’re thinking about affordable protein sources, don’t forget about the egg. An egg costs about 10 cents and has four to six grams of protein. If you need to skip the yolk, two whites have seven to ten grams of protein. This is one of the best protein sources available for those shopping on a budget.
If you know someone who has their own chickens, consider asking them if you can buy eggs. You might get a better price, and you will definitely get a better tasting egg.
Use Meat, but Stretch It
Meat alternatives are a great way to stretch your dollar, but you’ll want to use meat as well. Maximize your use of it by stretching the meat you eat. One way to do this is to use meat recipes that make the veggies the star, instead of the meat. For example, a stir-fry or soup that uses meat as a flavor, but not the central part of the meal, gives you a way to use up produce before it goes bad. while stretching your protein.
You can also save by shopping sales. Instead of planning your menu, then going shopping, check the flyers to see what meat is on sale. Then, plan your meals accordingly. If you can, get a small freezer, so you can stock up on meat when it’s on sale.
If you have a freezer, you can also take advantage of bulk meat purchases. At Costco, for instance, you can purchase a huge bag of chicken breasts for around $25. This is a healthy protein source at an affordable price. You can then freeze the bag and use the chicken as you need it.
Lean ground turkey is another affordable option. Often you can find it in bulk, and you can use this protein in a variety of ways. Add it to chili, make turkey tacos or mix it in pasta sauce to add protein to everyday meals.
Find Money Elsewhere
If you’re trying to get fit, protein is non-negotiable. If your budget is too crunched, you’ll need to find other places to compensate. Maybe you can give up your expensive coffee in favor of something you brew yourself, or you could buy uncut veggies and prep them at home. If you are careful and take a good look at your budget, you may be surprised how easily you can find places where you can redistribute your funds to free up money for protein.
No matter how you go about buying protein, remember this. If your budget is tight, you need to look at nutrition as well as quality. Don’t settle for cheap, filling food. Yes, your tummy will get full, but you’ll still be wasting your money. Your body needs nutrition, so find ways to make it happen.
Yes, adding protein on a budget means more cooking. Yes, it means more time with meal planning and shopping. But the end results – more success in your health and fitness goals – are well worth the effort, so go ahead and get started!
Gluten intolerance and gluten-free dieting seem to be the latest rage. Just a few minutes into your workout, you may find yourself talking to someone at the gym who has jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. This can leave you wondering if gluten is destroying your bodybuilding goals.
Understanding the truth behind gluten intolerance and Celiac disease can be quite challenging because of the vast amount of information out there. If you’re wondering whether or not gluten should be cut from your diet, you need to understand a bit more about this food, the sensitivity to it and what it could be doing to your health.
Gluten Problems Are Different for All People
Gluten intolerance, or Celiac disease, is the most serious of these conditions. Someone with Celiac disease can’t tolerate eating gluten at all. When they consume gluten, they can’t digest it, and it damages the microvilli lining their intestines. These become flattened and unable to absorb nutrients from the food as it passes through the intestines. People with Celiac disease often become malnourished and may experience intense stomach problems, mental fogginess and fatigue.
Someone with Celiac disease has to be very careful about all foods they consume. Gluten can hide in strange places, like the adhesive on postage stamps or in supplements. By ridding themselves of gluten for an extended period of time, these individuals can heal the microvilli in their intestines so they can start getting nutrition from their food again.
Gluten-sensitivity is another problem some people have with digesting gluten. People with gluten sensitivity may have similar stomach complaints when they eat gluten, but they don’t have damage to their intestines, so they can still absorb nutrients from their food.
A wheat allergy is something different. It actually has nothing to do with gluten, but rather, wheat. Since wheat contains gluten it is often confused with a gluten problem, but these individuals can normally consume non-wheat foods that contain gluten with no problem.
Getting a Diagnosis Is Essential for Celiac Disease
If you think you may have a medical problem caused by gluten, you need to see your doctor for testing. If you have Celiac disease, you need to be extra cautious to avoid gluten, and only a medical test looking for gluten antibodies in your blood can tell you if you have this condition.
However, if you think you might do better without gluten in your diet, then consider cutting it for a few weeks. If you see greater results in the gym and feel better overall, then it’s possible that you have a gluten sensitivity. In that case, cutting gluten may help you live a healthier, more comfortable life.
Gluten and Bodybuilding
Someone with Celiac disease who is not getting nutrients from food and supplements is going to struggle to maintain energy levels during a workout. In fact, this individual will rarely see any gains because of the fatigue caused by gluten. Also, this individual won’t be able to absorb the necessary protein to see serious gains.
If you’re struggling with chronic fatigue and malnourishment, then you need to get tested for Celiac disease. If you test positive, follow your doctor’s recommendations exactly. It’s hard to avoid gluten, but you must do so if you’re going to heal and start seeing muscle gains.
If you do have Celiac disease, you’ll notice an improvement within a few weeks of giving up gluten, and you may be back to normal within a few months. Once your microvilli are healthy, you can begin pursuing your bodybuilding goals, provided you continue to avoid gluten. Don’t forget to check your supplements for hidden gluten.
Tips for Trying Gluten-Free Dieting
If you suspect you’re gluten sensitive and have ruled out Celiac disease, you might want to consider going gluten free for a month or so. To begin, cut all major sources of gluten and wheat. Eliminate breads, cookies, cereals and other things made out of flour. If you notice an improvement, then you might have a gluten sensitivity. You may feel even better if you cut other sources of gluten as well.
If you think your problem may just be wheat, then consider cutting wheat and adding in oats, barley and rye instead. These still contain gluten, but they don’t contain wheat, so you can see if wheat is your culprit.
There’s no danger in cutting wheat, grains or gluten for a period of time. Everyone’s body will respond differently to foods and diet changes, and you might find that yours does better without these foods. You certainly will find that you have more energy when you are giving your body more nutritious foods than the breads, bagels, cookies and crackers that tend to be filled with gluten and empty calories. Always replace these with nutrition-packed foods, like vegetables and fruits, that will give your body some carbs, and you should be able to maintain your workouts without a problem.
Bread Is Not the Enemy, but You Might Be Happier Without It
It’s important to realize that bread isn’t your enemy. Many people don’t have any issues with wheat or gluten, and when eaten in moderation, bread does these individuals no harm at all. If your body tolerates gluten and you enjoy these foods, then go ahead and eat them. Do what’s right for your body, not your workout buddy’s body, and you’ll see the gains you want.
It’s easy to get motivated – the difficulty is in staying motivated. Here are five principles to use to keep yourself motivated for the long term.
Few people have trouble getting motivated. You know you need to shed some body fat and add muscle mass – you may even have a deadline in mind. After several weeks, when you realize how much work is involved in reaching your goal, you start to lose your motivation. The problem is not in getting motivated, but in staying that way. Here are five key principles you can use to stay motivated until you achieve your goal.
You need to carefully define your goals in measurable terms. Simply saying you want to lose fat or increase muscle is not sufficient. Tell yourself that you want to lose five pounds of body fat around your middle, or that you want to increase your muscle mass by a set percent. If you can measure your goal, you can attain it. If you can’t, then you never know how much harder you have to work to get to the finish line.
A measurable goal that will take six months to reach is not motivating. Instead, break down that big goal into smaller goals that will eventually get you there. Here’s an example: if you need to lose 8 percent of your body fat in two months, then redefine the goal to aim for a loss of 1 percent each week. You’ll be able to stay motivated to push for a goal for one week, but waiting eight weeks to be able to attain your goal may kill your motivation.
Training and nutrition journals help you track and monitor your progress. This also helps you see what you have been doing wrong or right to help you meet your goal. It’s greatly motivating to see how far you’ve come in your efforts, and this will fuel your desire to stick with it. Looking back over your progress can also help push you to keep going when you start seeing slower results. If you need to make adjustments, it will be easier.
Setbacks can be de-motivating. However, if you learn to strive for excellence instead of perfection, then a slip up won’t cause you to give up. Everyone makes mistakes, but as long as you are continually driving towards your goals, you’ll end up getting there in spite of any stumbles along the way. If you insist on perfection, you’ll quickly sabotage your results, and at the same time, your motivation.
Working yourself to death is not going to improve your results. You have to give yourself breaks. Maybe your break will be taking one day off per week. Maybe you will stop working on your training journal after a set time at night. You decide when your break is, but work a break into your plan. Rest and time away from your goals will renew your motivation to continue reaching for them with greater energy and strength.
Keeping yourself motivated is the key to success with any fitness plan. Whether you’re trying to lose fat, bulk up or simply get healthier, you need to follow these five principles. Once you do, then you’ll find that your motivation stays higher and you’re able to keep pushing to reach your goals.
Probiotics are one of the latest trends among the health and wellness-conscious. It’s no wonder, when you realize that diseases stemming from a compromised immune system or damaged digestive system are growing at a tremendous rate. You probably know someone with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Celiac disease or irritable bowel conditions. You also probably know at least one person with a serious, even life-threatening allergy.
These problems often track back to a compromised immune system. Scientists have found that the things we consume are causing this problem, but the good news is that there may be a solution.
Because of our diets, most Americans don’t have healthy gut flora. In your gut, you have good flora that creates a barrier between the gut and the blood stream. This blocks the bacteria and other harmful elements that you eat from entering your blood and the rest of your body. In fact, about 80 percent of the body’s immune function occurs in the gut-associated lymph tissue in the walls of the intestines. Gut flora is the first line of defense in this immune tissue, and if it’s out of balance, your immune system won’t be able to function properly.
Why is this imbalance a problem for Americans? The problem lies in the modern diet. The processed foods Americans eat, many of which contain genetically modified ingredients or antibiotics, damage the gut flora. The antibiotics that people take for their health also kill the good bacteria in the gut’s lymph tissue. Sadly, modern doctors prescribe antibiotics very easily, often when they’re not even needed, adding to this problem.
With this combination of diet problems and antibiotics, your gut flora is likely quite imbalanced. The only way to correct this problem is to give yourself a dose of that healthy bacteria, and then to let it thrive.
Probiotics Offer Hope
Probiotics are living, beneficial bacteria. When consumed, they enter the gut and start to multiply and help improve the immune system.
Probiotics come from a variety of sources. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, and cultured yogurt, all add probiotics to your system. However, when you eat foods with probiotics in them, most of the bacteria are destroyed by your stomach acids. Also, no food can contain all of the strains of beneficial bacteria you need. That’s why many people are turning to probiotic supplements.
Probiotic Supplements Offer Several Benefits
Research into probiotics is still in its infancy. Some research has shown that probiotics can actually delay or prevent cancer. Bad bacteria in your gut produces nitrosamines, a carcinogen, but good bacteria will go to work to destroy these nitrosamines, and thus help slow or stop the growth of the cancer they can cause. Some probiotics can also stop the return of cancer once it has been successfully treated.
Yet cancer fighting is not the only benefit of probiotics. For bodybuilders, probiotics and their impact on antioxidant levels is of particular interest. When you push yourself through a hard physical workout, you put your body under oxidative stress. This lowers the number of antioxidants in your body. Probiotics can increase these levels and limit the amount of oxidative stress you suffer after a workout.
There has also been some research into the way probiotics can help limit belly fat storage. In 2010, one study gave a group of overweight men a probiotic or a placebo. Those who were given the probiotic reported a 5 percent belly fat loss in a period of 12 weeks.
These are just some of the probiotic benefits you can experience. Probiotics have also helped limit allergy problems, improve digestion and reduce inflammation.
However, not all probiotics are created equal. Yes, yogurt contains live cultures, but most will be killed by your stomach acids. Many supplements don’t contain a full range of probiotics. If you want to benefit from probiotics, you need to find the right product.
Spotting a Good Probiotic
So how can you tell if your probiotic is a good one? First, find one that contains many different strains of good bacteria. Then, list the ones you see so you can research them. Here are some worth looking for:
Next, look at the number of live colony forming units (CFUs) in the product, and the various dates connected with the CFU numbers. You want one that will keep all the bacteria alive at least until the expiration date.
Also, find one that protects the bacteria from stomach acid. Microencapsulation is the best option, as it gives each bacteria cell a small protective layer of lipids that will stand up to stomach acid. This means that your digestive system will get more of the bacteria it needs for better health.
The Right Amount of Probiotics
Once you find a good probiotic, you need the right amount. Now, this gets tricky, because there is no cut-and-dried dosage for probiotics. Everyone’s gut flora needs a different level. Take some time to research the probiotics you are considering and your overall health conditions to find the right amount. In general, researchers advocate a minimum of 10 billion CFUs of regular probiotics or 4 billion CFUs if the probiotic is microencapsulated.
I recommend Pro X-10 from BioTrust. This probiotic is microencapsulated, so you will get more surviving probiotic in your gut. Also, it contains all seven of the most helpful strains of bacteria listed above. Finally, it’s one of the more affordable quality probiotics on the market. This makes it a product I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Regardless of the one you choose, you need to get on a probiotic quickly to maximize your immune health. You’re working hard to maintain a nutritious diet. Don’t let a damaged immune system get in the way. A probiotic can put it in top shape. This means you’ll look and feel good at the same time. That, in the end, is worth any price.