What is the first pose that people generally strike when they want to show strength? Most people put both arms in the air and flex their biceps. Having massive arms is usually one of the first goals for guys when they start working out. But it’s not just the guys - women also want those toned, well-developed arms. Your arms are often the least covered part of your body below your shoulders, which make them a really quick indicator of someone’s overall level of fitness. Everyone can appreciate well developed arms, but not many people know the most effective ways to get them. In this article, I’ll break down everything that you need to know to develop those massive guns.
I’m going to start with the triceps, then talk about the biceps. People tend to focus too much on their biceps when building their arms. The triceps are a muscle made up of three heads (“tri” means three and “ceps” originates from caput, meaning head) and take up two-thirds of your arm. The biceps, on the other hand, consist of a two-headed muscle that only takes up one third of your arm. So, if you want bigger arms, you’ll want to spend more time developing your triceps since it makes up the majority of your upper arm muscles.
The triceps, also known as tricep brachii, are a three-headed muscle located on the back of your arm. The three heads are known as the long head, lateral head, and medial head.
They look like this:
Here you can see that the long head, lateral head, and medial head come together to form a horseshoe shape. If you look at the triceps of a muscular lean person, you’ll see this familiar horseshoe shape around the back of the arm. The lateral head is the largest of the tricep muscles and will usually develop the quickest. However, it’s important to make sure to target all three heads of the tricep in order to develop full “3-D” muscles and really grow your arms.
The biceps, also known as biceps brachii, are a two-headed muscle located on the front of your arm.
They look like this:
The short head is usually the largest of the bicep muscles and forms the bicep “peak” when you’re flexing your biceps. However, you shouldn’t neglect the long head of the biceps. It helps push up the short head and creates more definition and separation between the muscles in your arm. Incorporating exercises like barbell curls and dumbbell hammer curls into your workout will help ensure that you hit both heads of the biceps.
The arm muscles are probably more frequently overtrained than any other muscle in the body. Not only are they used in chest, back, and shoulder exercises, but some people even devote an entire workout to their arms. While you don’t need to devote an entire workout to your arms in order for them to grow, there are a few key points that will help ensure that you are training your arms effectively:
I recommend that you train your triceps and biceps on the same day that you train chest and back. Since you’re already indirectly training your triceps on chest day, you should just add in some direct tricep training on the same day. You’re already indirectly training biceps on back day, so go ahead and add some direct bicep training on the same day. This also helps prevent overtraining. If you devote an entire day to directly training your arms, then you risk overtraining since they’re also getting trained on other days.
Some tricep exercises are more effective than others. When training your tricep, you should make sure that you hit all three heads during your workout for proper development. You won’t be able to directly hit all three heads of the triceps with one exercise, so you should incorporate several exercises that emphasize different areas of the triceps. Here are some of the most effective exercises that you can incorporate into your workout to ensure you’re hitting all three heads of your triceps:
There are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure you are effectively training your biceps. First, supinate your wrists to make the contraction more difficult. That means you should rotate your wrists so that your thumb is slightly lower than your pinky as you curl the weight upwards. Second, make sure that you’re hitting the biceps brachialis in your bicep workouts. The biceps brachialis is a small muscle next to the biceps on the outside of your arm. Developing this muscle will help provide separation between the biceps and triceps as well as help “push up” the biceps, adding to their size and circumference. Here are some effective exercises that you can incorporate into your workout to ensure that you’re hitting both heads of the biceps:
The biceps and triceps are just like any other muscle in the body. They need to be challenged and stressed in order to grow. So make sure that you are constantly challenging them by lifting heavy weights. You should also make sure that your workouts target all heads of each muscle. If you do all of that, you’ll have massive arms in no time!
Do you have any tips for bigger arms? Comment below and add them.
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Life can definitely throw you some unexpected curve balls. Instead of feeling down or wondering why certain things happened to you, take on the unexpected as a new challenge. Embrace the difficult because you know that it will make you stronger. You will get through it and be fine in the end, but instead of just surviving through it, use it as an opportunity for growth.
About a month ago, I was thrown an unexpected curve ball. I tripped and fell and slammed my jaw into concrete, breaking it on both sides. I had to have my jaw wired shut for a full month! I knew that I was about to be facing a lot of new challenges. Would I be able to talk? How was I going to survive on an all-liquid diet? Would I be able to work out? Am I going to lose all of the progress that I’ve made on my physique over the past year? I decided to write this article for anyone who:
Usually when you’re weight training, taking a test, or doing anything challenging, you start easy and build up to the most challenging part at the end. However, when your jaw is wired shut and you are forced to go on an all liquid diet, the most challenging part comes right at the beginning. The first week will definitely be the most challenging week of the entire process.
My advice during this first week is to just focus on the basics. Don’t worry about trying to go to the gym. You aren’t going to lose any muscle or get out of shape in a week, so don’t even worry about that right now. Just make sure that you are able to get some nutrients in your body, plenty of rest, and let your body start to recover. Don’t worry about your macros, nutrient intake, etc. As a matter of fact, you’re probably going to go through periods of depression and anger, so I’d suggest having some ice cream and any other indulgences that you can blend up that will help you to feel better. One of the best things I had during the first week was a slice of red velvet cake blended with vanilla ice cream and a splash of milk. It helps boost your mood, and you’ll definitely need that during the first week.
If you’re only going on a liquid diet for weight loss and didn’t break your jaw, then you’ll have more time to plan your nutrition out and you won’t need a full week to focus on the basics. However, what you will notice in the first week is that you are hungry more often on an all-liquid diet even if you are consuming nearly the same number of calories. That’s because your body can absorb and digest liquids much faster than solids, so your body is going to be able to process everything that you drink much quicker. Make sure that you are incorporating as much slower digesting carbs and proteins into your diet as possible, like casein protein and oats blended up.
Once you’ve managed to get the basics down and your body has started to recover, you’ll have some strength to start thinking about your nutrition. Many of the websites that I found online relating to all-liquid diets emphasize getting in as many calories as possible by doing things like adding heavy cream to soups, ice cream to shakes, etc. This is an area where I knew I could do better and took on the challenge of maintaining a healthy all-liquid diet. Incorporating heavy cream and ice cream added a lot of fat to my diet and canned soups are extremely high in sodium. In addition, I wasn’t getting nearly enough protein or carbs following that advice.
I decided to take what I knew about nutrition and meal planning and create my own liquid meals that had adequate amounts of protein, carbs, fat, fiber, and nutrients. I decided to make my own soups to control the amount of sodium. You can make a huge pot of soup that will last you several days. I incorporated lots of casein protein into my shakes to increase my protein intake. Here’s how I incorporated each of my macros into my diet:
It may not be immediately obvious, but having your jaw wired shut will also affect your performance in the gym. If you lift heavy weights or do any moderately intense cardio, then you’ll probably notice that you’re taking a lot of deep breaths through your mouth as the intensity increases. When your jaw is wired shut, you can’t really take as many deep breaths as you could when you can open your mouth. Unless you want to pass out from lack of oxygen, you’re going to have to lower the intensity of your workouts so that you can catch your breath while mostly breathing through your nose. I found that I wasn’t able to lift nearly as much weight while breathing through my nose. I also had to lower the intensity of my cardio sessions to avoid hyperventilating from not being able to catch my breath.
In addition to breathing difficulties, you’re going to notice that you don’t have as much energy on an all-liquid diet. I found that my workouts were very similar to fasted training as far as my energy levels were concerned. Even though I was consuming the same number of carbs on an all-liquid diet as I was on a solid food diet, I still found that I had less energy because my body was able to process the liquid carbs so much faster. I did find that I had a little more energy if I had a substantial liquid meal about 1 hour before my workout. If you’ve ever tried fasted training, then you know that the longer you do it the easier it becomes. So, despite the lack of energy, if you continue to power through it, you’ll slowly find that you’re lifting heavier weights over time. Within a week or two, you’ll be back to lifting close to the same weights that you were on a solid food diet.
To summarize, your workouts are going to suck on an all-liquid diet. You’re going to have to lower the intensity of your workouts, you’re going to feel weaker and have less energy. However, over time you’ll start to get stronger as you get used to your energy level on an all-liquid diet.
Hopefully you found this article helpful if you were considering an all-liquid diet or if you happen to have your jaw wired shut like me. Just remember that it’s not permanent, so try to embrace the new challenges instead of just surviving through them. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and grow stronger mentally after it’s over.
If you have any other tips or comments about surviving an all-liquid diet, be sure to comment below. And, as usual, you can always email me with any questions at email@example.com.
About 10-15 years ago, "weight loss gurus" claimed that dietary fat was the enemy and that too much of it made you fat. Today, the carbohydrate has become the new enemy and low-carb diets are extremely popular. Many people now claim that carbs raise insulin levels, and that tells your body to store everything that you eat as fat. Well, the good news is that they're wrong and I'll show you the studies that prove it in this article. Only people who are very sedentary or extremely overweight may benefit from a low carb diet. But for the large majority of us, there are no good reasons to restrict your carb intake (and plenty of good reasons why you shouldn't).
Many proponents of low-carb dieting will cite several studies that seem to show that low-carb diets are better for weight loss. This study, and this one, and this one are common examples of studies that seem to support this theory at first. However, if you look into the details of the studies, you'll find something surprising. When comparing low-carb dieting to low-fat dieting, the low-carb diets all contain more protein than the low-fat diets. That's an important difference that low-carb proponents aren't considering. What these studies are really comparing is a high-protein, low-carb diet to a low-protein, low-fat diet. When that's the case, the high-protein, low-carb diet will always lead to more fat loss because of the higher level of protein. And we already know that having a higher level of protein in your diet helps maintain or build muscle. And a low-protein diet harms your weight loss by lowering your metabolic rate among other things.
In order to accurately prove the low-carb dieting helps with weight loss, we need to find studies where the protein levels were kept high in both the low-carb diet and the high-carb diet. Well, it just so happens that there are four studies where this is the case. And the results of those studies?
The studies find that when protein intake is high, a low-carb or high-carb diet has no significant effect on weight loss.
Just from these studies alone, you can see that as long as you keep your protein intake high, you'll maximize fat loss whether you have a high-carb or low-carb diet.
It has already been shown that people on a higher-carb diet feel more full throughout the day than those on a high-fat diet. People on a low-carb diet are more likely to over eat due to hunger pangs often associated with low carb intake. Carbohydrates are very satiating which explains why we are less hungry when we're not on a low-carb diet.
Another problem with low-carb, high-fat diets is that dietary fat is so energy dense, even though it lacks the satiating ability of carbs. Dietary fat contains 9 calories per gram, compared to carbohydrate's 4 calories per gram. And research shows that it's easier to over eat on a high-fat diet because of this. Combine this with the low energy levels that come with a low-carb diet, and it's easy to see why low-carb dieting isn't a good idea.
As I mentioned earlier, a low-carb diet might be beneficial if you are very sedentary or overweight. However, many people make low-carb dieting a part of their lifestyle. What they don't realize is that low-carb dieting has a significant impact on their ability to build muscle.
A low-carb diet reduces the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles, which has an impact on your performance in the gym. You'll notice a reduction of strength and muscle endurance on a low-carb diet. Athletes on a low-carb diet have seen an increase in cortisol levels and a reduction of testosterone. So, not only does low-carb dieting impair fat loss, it also reduces your ability to get lean by weightlifting.
As a general rule, you should never drop your carb intake below about 0.8 grams per pound of body weight, even when cutting to get lean. You can go as high as 2 or 2.5 grams per pound of body weight when bulking.
Hopefully I've made a good argument as to why low-carb dieting is bad for fat loss and muscle building. However, there are 3 instances I can think of when low-carb dieting may actually be beneficial:
Those are the main 3 reasons that a low-carb diet can be beneficial to you. If you aren't obese, sedentary, or near diabetic, then a low-carb diet just isn't practical.
What do you think of low-carb dieting? Comment below if you have anything to add or have any questions!
If you liked this article, share it on social media by clicking the links on the upper left of this article. Also, check out the rest of the site for more articles, athletic apparel, online personal coaching plans, and fully customized nutrition plans. And you can always email me if you have any questions about this article or anything nutrition or fitness related.
When most people think of dieting, they think of restricting calories, staying away from certain foods, being hungry all the time, and following a very regimented eating schedule. If you read my article, Why Diets Don't Work, then you know why severely restricting your calories is a bad idea. Another point that I didn't make in that article was that most diet plans are too difficult to follow for a long time. They make you stay away from certain types of foods that you crave, or eat on a schedule that doesn't fit your lifestyle. Most people follow them for a few days or weeks, but eventually give up because they're too much work and don't fit into their busy lifestyles.
What if I could introduce you to a form of dieting that doesn't leave you hungry all the time, allows you to eat some of your favorite foods, and allows you to eat on a schedule that works best for you? Sounds like an infomercial doesn't it? Well this isn't an infomercial and I'm not selling you a product. I'm talking about flexible dieting (aka If It Fits Your Macros). In this article, I'll explain why flexible dieting works so well (and it does work), and how you can use flexible dieting year round to change your body.
First, don't think of flexible dieting as a "diet". Diets have the negative connotation as being a short, temporary weight loss solution. Flexible dieting is a lifestyle change that can be adjusted throughout your life as your goals change. Flexible dieting revolves around macros, short for macronutrients. So what is a macronutrient?
A macronutrient is any of the nutritional components of the diet that are required in relatively large amounts: protein, carbohydrate, fat, and minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.
The 3 main macronutrients that are the focus of flexible dieting are proteins, carbs, and fats (although the other macronutrients should not be ignored). The idea behind flexible dieting is to figure out how many grams of each macro your body needs in order to meet your goals. Depending on whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle, you adjust your macro intake to achieve those results.
Once you know how many grams of each macro you need in order to reach your goals, it just becomes a numbers game each day as you work toward your macro numbers. As an example, my current macro numbers are 183g of carbs, 183g of protein, and 41g of fat per day. My goal is to come as close as possible to those numbers each day through the foods that I eat. If you want to figure out your macro numbers, read my article on calculating your macronutrient needs.
Now that you understand the basics of flexible dieting, what makes it better than other diet plans like Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, or Weight Watchers? All of these diets, including flexible dieting, operate under one simple law called the law of energy balance. The law of energy balance is as follows:
If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Conversely, if you consume less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
As far as weight loss or weight gain is concerned, a calorie is a calorie. Using the law of energy balance, you can correctly conclude that it doesn't matter what you eat as long as you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. If you don't believe me, check out this article about Professor Mark Haub who lost 27 pounds by eating nothing but twinkies, nutty bars, and powdered donuts over a 2 month period.
Once you understand the law of energy balance, you'll see why it doesn't make sense to restrict certain foods from your diet or create a point system for your foods. Restricting certain foods from your diet only increases the risk of malnutrition. If you want to lose weight, just eat less than you burn. It's as simple as that.
So why does flexible dieting emphasize counting macros if calories are all that matter? Well, if you care about your body composition and general health, then calories aren't all that matter. If you're in a calorie deficit but the majority of your calories come from junk food, much of your weight loss will be muscle. You can end up severely malnourished and have a "skinny-fat" appearance to your body where you have a thin soft body with no definition or muscle tone. By counting macros, you can ensure that your body gets enough protein to preserve or build muscle. You can ensure that your body gets enough carbs to keep your energy up through those tough workouts. You can ensure that your body gets enough healthy fats to maintain proper hormone levels. These are things that those other diet plans don't do.
If you've followed along so far, you're likely to draw a common conclusion about flexible dieting that seem to make it extremely appealing: As long as I hit my macro goals, I can eat whatever I want, right? Many people make this assumption and you'll see them eating Pop-Tarts, pizza, fried chicken, and tons of other junk foods while still hitting their macro goals. Believe it or not, this is a TRUE assumption. As long as you hit your macro goals, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and still get lean or build muscle. The reason that this is a true assumption is because once the macros are broken down by your body, it doesn't matter where they came from. A gram of carb from brown rice is the same as a grab of carb from french fries. A gram of protein from a chicken breast is the same as a gram of protein from a hamburger.
However, just because you can eat anything that you want to hit your macro goals, doesn't mean that you should. While a gram of carbs from brown rice is the same as a gram of carbs from french fries, there is a big difference between those two foods that you shouldn't ignore. French fries also come with a bunch of saturated fat and high sodium and they're missing many of the micronutrients that are found in the brown rice. While micronutrients don't have a direct impact on your body composition, they do affect your overall health, immune system, mood, and well-being. You can develop serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies by eating too much junk food. Studies have shown that eating too many high-glycemic carbs can lead to increased risk of chronic disease. Too much processed meat can lead to an increased risk of cancer. And too many trans fats can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and infertility. Why risk all of that just to be able to eat junk food all day?
All of this is not to say that you can't have indulgences. That's part of what makes flexible dieting something that you can stick with for the long run. When it comes to healthy vs junk food, remember the 80/20 rule. A majority (about 80%) of your calories should come from unprocessed, nutritious foods while the other 20% can come from junk foods that you enjoy. This will help ensure that you keep your cravings at bay while still eating mostly nutritious foods that do a lot of good for your body.
So, have I convinced you that flexible dieting is a great way to get lean or build muscle while still being able to eat some of the foods that you enjoy? If you want to give flexible dieting a try, but don't know how to get started, keep reading!
First, you need to figure out your macro numbers. That is, how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat you need each day to meet your goals. For help figuring out these numbers, see my article about determining your macronutrient goals.
Now that you know your macro numbers, you just need to build a diet that allows you to meet those numbers. The easiest way to do this is to use a spreadsheet to keep track of the totals as you add various foods to it. For example, let's say that your macro numbers came to 160g carbs, 180g protein, and 70g fat. You could create a meal plan like the one below:
|1||Cup of Oatmeal||28g||6g||3g|
|2||4 oz Chicken Breast||0g||26g||1g|
|2||1 cup brown rice||45g||5g||2g|
|4||1 cup spinach||1g||1g||0g|
|4||8 oz Ground Turkey||0g||32g||14g|
|4||1 cup quinoa||39g||8g||4g|
|4||1/2 cup Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream||33g||4g||14g|
You can use websites like Calorie King to determine the macronutrient breakdown of various foods. Then put together a meal plan that meets your goals. You don't have to meet each number exactly, but you should aim to be within 50 calories of your goal. You'll also notice in this particular meal plan that I included a 1/2 cup of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream as dessert in my last meal of the day. And that's totally fine "If It Fits Your Macros". You can have a little bit of ice cream (or chocolate or whatever favorite indulgence you want) every day as long as you budget out the calories for it.
Creating a meal plan may seem a little difficult at first, but it gets easier the more that you do it, especially if you like eating the same foods every day. You can adjust your meal plan any way that you want. Maybe you aren't a breakfast person. Then remove the breakfast foods and use those calories in other meals. Maybe you don't have time to prepare a lunch every day, then look up the macros of lunch spots nearby and find a lunch that you can work into your meal plan. There's even an app for your smartphone called FindMyMacros that will help you locate restaurants nearby that have meals within your macro range.
If creating a spreadsheet to track your macros seems like too much work, I can recommend a website and app that I've used frequently called My Fitness Pal. My Fitness Pal allows you to enter your macro goals and then you enter your meals as you eat them throughout the day. It will keep a running total of your macros for each day as you enter the foods that you eat and it will tell you how close you are to reaching your goal. It has a pretty big database of foods and their macros. The app on your smartphone can even use your camera to scan the barcode of the food that you're eating and it will bring up the macros and add them to your total for the day. It's a very convenient way to keep a running total of your macros so that you can stay on track.
Or you can buy my Nutrition Plan and I'll do all the work for you. I'll figure out your macros and create a fully customized meal plan that fits them and includes the foods that you like.
The bottom line is that flexible dieting works. It allows you to eat the foods you like and have the body that you want. Flexible dieting doesn't restrict certain foods that could lead to malnourishment, or apply a point system to tell you what foods you can and can't have. It's not a short term fat loss plan, but a long term lifestyle change. It can be adjusted on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis as your goal or lifestyle changes. If you haven't tried flexible dieting, I recommend giving it a try!
If you liked this article, be sure to share it on social media by clicking the icons on the upper left of this page. Also, check out the rest of my site for more articles, reviews, athletic apparel, online personal coaching, and customizable nutrition plans. If you have any questions about this article or anything else fitness or nutrition related, don't hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you know the best exercises to get you shredded for summer? If you search Google for information on this, you'll find an overwhelming amount advice from all types of "gurus", and some of it contradicts advice from other people. So how do you know what to believe? In this article, I'm going to explain what to do in order to get lean AND I'm going to link to clinical studies that prove my statements. That way you'll know that the information that I'm giving you isn't just my opinion or broscience, but scientific fact.
First, let's define what it means to get shredded or lean. Many people are focused on the wrong goal - weight loss. If you want a lean, shredded body, then weight loss should NOT be your goal. Your goal should be fat loss. There is a big difference between weight loss and fat loss. Muscle weighs more than fat because it's more dense, so if you lose muscle you'll lose a good bit of weight. But you'll wind up with a soft, skinny-fat body. Instead, you should be focused on retaining as much muscle as possible while losing body fat. That'll give you the ripped, shredded look that you see on the cover of fitness magazines.
Many people think they have an idea of how to get shredded through bad advice that they've heard or read online. A common mistake that many people make is to attempt to spot reduce body fat. You see them working their abs to try to reduce belly fat, doing squats to reduce thigh fat, and rows to reduce back fat. Unfortunately, the body doesn't work like that and it is not possible to reduce fat from a specific area of the body. If you train the muscles underneath the fat, you will actually make that area bigger as the muscle grows, not thinner. Fat loss is a full-body process, although some areas are a bit more stubborn than others.
Whenever someone wants to get lean, the go-to exercise of choice is cardio. However, studies have shown that cardio actually does very little in terms of fat loss. It has even been shown to make some people fatter because they tend to over eat when they think that they'll just burn it off later in the gym. There are two reasons why a typical cardio workout is at best a mediocre fat loss tool:
Because of these two reasons, I don't recommend long cardio sessions when trying to lose body fat. As contrary as it may sound, you should keep cardio to a minimum for fat loss.
However, make no mistake, I'm not recommending that you cut cardio out of your fat loss plan altogether. Some cardio can definitely help you reach your goals faster, and some types of cardio are better for fat loss than others. So what types of cardio should you do?
There are two types of cardio that are best for fat loss:
Most people associate weightlifting with getting bigger, not leaner. The fact is that weightlifting isn't great for WEIGHT loss, but it is great for FAT loss. If you're only paying attention to the number on the scale, you may think that you're getting fatter if you start weight training. But in reality, if you're in a calorie deficit, you're getting leaner. This is why it's important to distinguish the difference between weight loss and fat loss.
A study at Duke University separated men and women into 3 groups: one group did resistance training only, another group did aerobic training only, and the third group did resistance and aerobic training. At the end of the study, the aerobic training only group lost the most weight. However, they also lost the most muscle. It was the resistance and aerobic training group that lost the most FAT (and even gained some muscle).
Losing fat while maintaining or even gaining muscle is referred to as a total body recomposition. This body recomposition effect has been seen in several other studies when resistance training and aerobic training were involved. So what types of weightlifting should you be doing to maximize fat loss?
In order to burn fat while weightlifting, you need to do exercises that burn a lot of energy while also overloading your muscles to stimulate muscle growth. The types of exercises that accomplish this are ones that focus on heavy compound lifting. By "heavy", I mean that the weight should be 70%-85% of your one-rep max. By "compound", I mean exercises that use multiple joints and train multiple muscle groups (squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.). Studies show that compound exercises burn more energy during and after the training than single joint movements. They also help build muscle and strength, which helps to make you even leaner faster.
Now that you know the most effective ways to lose fat and get shredded, let's put it all together to form the ultimate fat burning program. To maximize fat loss, try the following routine:
Along with the proper diet plan, this routine will guarantee maximum fat loss and get you leaner than you've ever been before. To give yourself an even better edge, check out my articles about effective pre-workout and post-workout supplements to ensure that your body is getting everything that it needs to get lean.
If you liked this article, be sure to share it on social media by clicking the links to the left. Also check out the rest of the site for more articles and reviews as well as athletic apparel, online personal coaching plans, and nutrition plans to help you reach your goals. And be sure to comment below or email me with any questions or feedback at email@example.com.
I've mentioned this before in previous articles, but the supplement industry is a shady industry. They regularly make claims that have no scientific backing and have never been proven to be true. Even if a supplement company does cite a clinical study as proof of their claims, it's possible that they misinterpreted the study, or the study was funded by the supplement company so that they could skew the findings in their favor.
Post-workout supplements are no exception. Many companies load a ton of ingredients into their post-workout supplements and charge a ton of money for them, however very few of the ingredients are actually effective. In many cases, you are better off buying the effective ingredients by themselves and making your own post-workout drink.
So, which supplements are actually effective in a post-workout supplement and which ones are a waste of money? Here is a breakdown of the most commonly used ingredients in a post-workout supplement in order of their effectiveness (most effective to least effective):
There are some other less common post-workout supplements that I won't go into too much detail in this article, but you can look them up on your own if you are interested. Those include L-Carnitine, Corosolic Acid (aka Banaba Leaf Extract), and Betaine. Hopefully this article gives you a good insight into which post-workout supplements are beneficial and which ones are overly hyped. Many people, myself included, find it more beneficial to build your own post-workout shake and include the ingredients that we know to be helpful than to buy one that could be loaded with over-hyped, useless, and expensive ingredients.
If you enjoyed this article, check out the rest of the site for more info, reviews, apparel, online personal coaching packages, and fully customized nutrition plans to help you reach your goals. Also feel free to email me with any questions about this article or anything related to fitness and nutrition and I'll be happy to answer them!
I always like to start off any talk about supplements by reminding you that you don't need supplements in order to lose weight or gain muscle. The supplement industry is huge and there are a lot of very expensive supplements on the market that are a waste of money because they don't do anything for your body. Some have even been shown to cause harm to your body. So it really pays to educate yourself before you go and spend a ton of money on supplements that you don't really need.
Unlike the protein powder supplement industry where they are selling a more clearly defined product, the pre-workout supplement industry is still very much the wild wild west. A pre-workout supplement is a supplement that you take pre-workout (obviously) that helps prepare your body for the intense workout that you're about to undergo. It's important to note that at MOST a pre-workout supplement will give you a slight edge in your workouts. However, if you haven't learned the basics of working out, like learning the proper form, learning the correct exercises, etc then the slight edge that pre-workouts give you is not going to help you much. It would be like going out to buy a professional NASCAR suit before you've even learned how to drive. Once you do have the basics down, then a good pre-workout can give your muscles a little more endurance, a little more pump, and a little more strength. Over time this leads to slightly better workouts which leads to quicker muscle growth or fat loss.
As I mentioned earlier, the pre-workout supplement industry is a very large industry and wherever there's lots of money to be made, you're going to have some devious companies that will sell you anything if it allows them to make a profit. Here are a few things to look out for:
There are some other types of scams out there that the supplement industry will try to pull on people, but if you are ever unsure, look for the scientific evidence that backs up their claims. If there is none, or if it's not tested on humans, then you may not want to buy that pre-workout supplement.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, there are some ingredients that will give you a slight performance boost in your workouts. Here are some ingredients included in a pre-workout that actually do provide some benefit:
So, to sum things up, a pre-workout supplement is definitely not necessary to gain muscle or lose weight. However, they can give you a slight edge in your performance. But make sure that you've mastered the basics before you go looking for an extra edge in performance, otherwise you could end up injuring yourself or overdoing it. Pre-workouts can help pump you up and get you excited for your workout and if you go into your workout excited, it'll be a better experience and you'll have a better workout.
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The most common supplement that everyone hears about whenever they begin a fitness program or diet plan is protein powder. Protein powder is probably the most commonly used supplement on the market. Like most supplements, protein powders aren't necessary to lose fat or gain lean muscle. Even though protein powders won't cause you to gain muscle or lose body fat by themselves, high-protein dieting can help you gain muscle and lose fat. And one of the ways that you can create a high-protein diet is by the assistance and convenience of protein powders.
If you're counting your macros, then you know that you have a protein goal to reach every day. For help calculating your macros, check out my previous article, Calculating Your Macronutrient Needs. It is recommended that you eat around 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. If you eat all of your protein through whole foods, you may find it a bit challenging to consume that much protein. This is where the convenience of protein powders can help you out. Also, a lot of whole food proteins, like red meat, chicken, or pork are going to come with some amount of fat. So, you'll need to add to your fat goal as you add to your protein goal. However if you're taking a whey protein isolate powder, then you can mostly eliminate the fat and carbs from your protein source. This makes it easier to meet your protein goals without adding to your other macronutrient counts.
There are several other types of protein powders out there like egg, hemp, etc. however in order to avoid an extremely long article, I will just cover the main 4.
The protein powder industry is huge and whenever there is a huge market for a product, there will be devious companies that are only concerned with profit and will do whatever they can to increase their margins. So, be warned that not all protein powders are created equally. In addition, the cost of manufacturing protein powder has gone up exponentially over time. Whey protein, for example, as nearly doubled in manufacturing cost. Therefore many companies saw their huge margins begin to shrink and some came up with a way to produce a cheaper, lower quality protein powder. One of the more common ways that companies can produce low quality protein powder is through a process called amino spiking.
The protein content of food is measured through a method called the Kjeldahl method. It's an internationally recognized method for estimating protein content by determining the amount of nitrogen present in the food. Higher amounts of nitrogen present indicate a higher amount of protein in the food. These devious companies decided to take advantage of this fact and they cut the amount of protein in their powder in half and replaced it with a cheap amino acid that is also nitrogen-rich. Glycine is a popular example of a cheap, nitrogen-rich amino acid that could be used to fill the place of the protein. Glycine is also naturally sweet therefore the protein powder will taste better in addition to being cheaper. Because the amino acid is nitrogen-rich, it causes the Kjedlahl method to report more protein in the food than is actually present, by as much as 200%. Now those companies can list 20g of protein on the nutrition label, when there really may only be 9g of protein with the rest being an amino acid filler. There have since been several lawsuits against some companies about the reported protein content of their protein powder.
How can you tell if a protein powder has been amino spiked? The only guaranteed way to know if your protein powder has been amino spiked is to send it to a lab and have it analyzed. However, there are some reg flags that may indicate that a protein powder has been amino spiked, although these are just possible indicators, not guaranteed indicators. One red flag for amino spiked protein powder is just that it has added amino acids, like BCAAs or glutamine. Some companies even advertise that they add BCAAs or glutamine into their protein powder because most people don't know what amino spiking means, so a company can brag about it as if it's a positive thing! Another red flag is when the serving size in grams doesn't add up to the number of fat, carbs, and protein on the nutrition label. For example, if a serving size for 1 scoop of protein powder is 42 grams, but there is only 20g of protein, 2 carbs, and 1 fat, then that should be a red flag to figure out what is taking up the rest of that serving size and whether or not you want to be putting that in your body. The macros won't always add up to be exactly the same number as the serving size, but they should be fairly close. There are other things in the powder like sweetener, flavor, additives to prevent clumping, etc. that will add to the weight of the serving size but not add to the macro count, so that's why they may not match exactly. But, again, they should be fairly close.
Besides amino spiking, another thing to watch out for is the order of ingredients listed in the protein powder. The ingredients of any product are listed in order of the most used (by weight) to the least used. So, the first ingredient is going to be the primary ingredient in the product and will likely be what most of the product is made from. So, if the first ingredient in your protein powder is something like maltodextrin (which is just a cheap sugar), then that protein powder contains a lot of maltodextrin and probably not a lot of protein. Or if the protein powder claims to have some amazing proprietary blend but it's listed 5th or 6th in the ingredient list, then there's probably a very small amount of that blend in the container and you're getting nearly nothing in each serving.
I know that there has been a lot of info in this article. To summarize things, you don't have to use protein powder in order to gain muscle or lose fat. You can achieve the same results with whole foods. However, many people prefer to supplement their diet with protein powder for the convenience factor and in order to make sure that they meet their daily protein requirements. If you do choose to supplement with protein powders, I recommend whey protein after your workouts and casein protein during the day and before bed. Not all protein powders are created equal. There are some scams that you should be aware of to ensure that you are purchasing the highest quality protein and getting the most bang for your buck.
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If you've ever read a diet program or followed a healthy recipe, you've probably heard the term macronutrients, or macros. Macros are the nutritional components of a diet that are required in relatively large amounts. The less prevalent, but not less important, components are referred to as micronutrients. There are three main macronutrients that the human body needs in order to function properly: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. How much of each of these you need on a daily basis depends on your goals and body type.
Before you figure out your macronutrient needs, you need to start at the most fundamental level of gaining or losing weight, energy balance. In my article Why Diets Don't Work, I explain that the law of energy balance dictates the only way that you will lose or gain weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Conversely, if you consume less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Decades of research have proven this fact, and no matter what diet you follow, there is no way around the law of energy balance. So, the first step is figuring out how many calories you burn each day.
Calculating Your Caloric Needs
In order to determine how many calories you burn each day, you first need to determine your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. Your BMR is the number of calories that your body burns just to do its basic bodily functions like digestion, circulation, respiration, temperature regulation, etc. There are a variety of calculators online that will tell you your BMR, but I prefer to use the Harris-Benedict equation and figure it out myself. The Harris-Benedict equation takes into account your gender, height, weight, and age and is more accurate than methods that don't take this many variables into consideration. Here is the Harris-Benedict equation:
Your BMR isn't the total number of calories that you burn each day. In addition to your body's internal functions, you also burn calories when you are walking around throughout the day, when you go grocery shopping, when you are at work, and when you are at the gym. This can be a significant amount of calories that you don't want to ignore. So, the next step in calculating your caloric needs is to multiply your BMR by your Activity Factor. Use the following to determine your Activity Factor:
A sedentary person is someone who sits at a desk all day at work and does very little if any exercise. Whereas an extremely active person does a lot of heavy lifting or other intense manual labor all day and still works out regularly.
Multiply your BMR by your Activity Factor to get your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE. Your TDEE = BMR x Activity Factor. For example, if your BMR is 1800 calories, and your Activity Level is Lightly Active, then your TDEE would be 1800 x 1.375 = 2475. Your TDEE is the number of calories that your body burns each day, also known as your maintenance level. If you were to continue to eat your TDEE in calories each day, you would stay relatively the same. If you eat more than your TDEE then you will gain weight. And of course if you eat less than your TDEE you will lose weight. That's how the law of energy balance affects you.
So, based on your goals, how much more or less than your TDEE should you eat? If you read my article on Why Diets Don't Work, then you know that you shouldn't add or cut your calories too aggressively. I recommend adding or subtracting a minimum of 250 calories per day and a maximum of 500 calories per day from your TDEE. You can always adjust your calories as time goes on, so I recommend starting conservatively.
Calculating Your Macros
If the law of energy balance is all that matters in terms of losing or gaining weight, why do you need to be concerned with your macros? The law of energy balance only determines if you will gain or lose weight. You should also be concerned about your body composition, and that's where macros come into play.
If all that you are concerned about is calories in vs calories out, then you could eat anything that you want as long as you stayed under your TDEE and still lose weight. And while this is true, your body composition will not be ideal if you are not calculating your macros. Eating too many carbs and not enough protein can lead to malnutrition or becoming 'skinny fat'. Skinny fat people are thin but have no muscle tone or definition and have a soft doughy look, despite being thin. If you want a toned body with muscle definition, or a thin-skinned hard body look, then you will need to ensure that you are getting the right amounts of nutrients that your body needs to achieve this look.
If you're looking to maintain or grow your muscle mass while getting lean, you'll want to aim for around 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For a person weighing 150lbs, that's anywhere from 150 to 225 grams of protein, or from 30% to 45% of a 2000 calorie diet. 20% is a good starting point ratio for your healthy fats. The rest of your calories will come from carbs. You'll want to start with your protein and carb ratio being fairly close. If only 30% of your calories are protein, and 20% are fat, then that leaves 50% of your diet coming from carbs. Adjusting to 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat is a better ratio. Keep the following conversions in mind:
Here's an example:
Now you should have a good starting point for knowing how much of each macronutrient you need per day to reach your goals. Continue to use the same numbers for several weeks, up to a month, before making any adjustments. If you are moving in the right direction according to your goals, then there's no need to make any adjustments. However, if you aren't seeing much progress, you may want to make adjustments. If you're looking to gain more muscle, try increasing your protein ratio. If you're looking to get lean, try lowering your carb ratio. Remember that when you lower or raise one ratio, it will also affect the other ratios since they have to add up to 100%.
There are also many apps that will help you keep track and meet your daily macro needs. A great app is called My Fitness Pal. It allows you to easily keep track of your macros with each meal with a large database of foods as well as a barcode scanner, you can easily log your meals and see where you are in your macro count at any time. If you need to eat out, but want to ensure that you still meet your macros, try an app called Find My Macros to figure out which restaurant to eat at and what to order. You give the app your range of protein, carbs, and fat, and it'll tell you which restaurants have items that fit within that range, and what those items are. Very useful for busy days when you need to grab a fast lunch!
If you have any questions or need any help figuring out your macros, making adjustments, or anything else, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the site for athletic apparel, online personal coaching, and fully customized nutrition plans to help you meet your goals.
I'm going to sum up all of the diet and nutrition books in existence into one sentence. Ready? Here it is:
In order to lose weight, you must consume less calories than you burn.
That's it! That's the law of energy balance and that's the only way that you will lose weight. If it's that simple, then why is the diet industry a multi-billion dollar industry? Why are there so many types of diets out there and why don't they work? Well, as they say, the devil is in the details.
I'm going to walk you through the typical dieting experience and show you why they don't work and why you'll end up more overweight at the end of the diet than you were when you started!
Let's say that the graph above represents the typical dieter. They're consuming around 2500 calories per day while their metabolism is burning a little less than that, therefore they're steadily gaining weight and decide to go on a diet. Let's say that they decide to cut their calories drastically and only consume 1500 calories per day.
Because they lowered the number of calories consumed and they are now burning more calories than they consume, they will see some initial weight loss. That's the law of energy balance that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. However there's something that you should know about your body. It loves homeostasis and will try to do everything it can to maintain that consistency. When you drastically cut your calories, your body will start to notice that you're losing calories too fast and fear that you may starve soon if you continue losing calories at this rate. So as a way to counteract this cut in calories, you body will lower your metabolism so that you aren't burning so many calories.
If you've ever dieted, you've probably noticed that you will lose some weight initially, but even though your consistently eating fewer calories than you burn, you're not consistently losing weight. Eventually your weight loss will slow down and even stop. This is because your metabolism has adjusted to the new lower calorie diet that you're on. Out of desperation, our dieter decides to once again lower their calories to 1000 calories per day.
Once again, they will see a little initial weight loss. However, the body will soon catch up and lower your metabolism once again.
At this point the dieter is starving from consuming so few calories each day, they're angry that they're not losing weight, and they decide to throw in the towel. They give up on their diet and go back to eating what they were eating before the diet and increase their calories consumed back up to 2500.
But, now look at the graph above. Their metabolism is still very low from their dieting, however their calories consumed is much higher. So, even though they're eating the same number of calories that they were before the diet, they gain back all of the weight that they lost and then some! They end up heavier than they were before they went on the diet! This is why diets are a bad idea and don't work.
But, don't give up! There are ways to safely lose weight without lowering your metabolism. I'll explore some of these in detail in future articles, but here are a few ways that you can safely lose weight without "dieting":
There are many other ways to safely lose weight without lowering your metabolism, but these are just a few examples.
Hopefully you now understand why diets don't work and you know some correct ways to lose weight. If you'd like more information about anything in this article, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Also be sure to check out the rest of the Uproar Athletics website for athletic apparel, online personal coaching, and nutrition plans customized specifically for you.