Archive for Body Composition
It’s a loaded question…I don’t know your goals. The supplements you take and the food you eat should obviously go hand-in-hand with the workouts you are doing to help fulfill your goals. Period.
With that being said, there is a good chance that these supplements will cover most people’s goals and should therefore be included your daily routine/regimen.
The biggest thing to understand about supplements is that a very large part of the industry is built on deception, not a good thing for the consumer who cares. There are so many companies offering a wide variety of products, that all claim to have made a BETTER VERSION. Why would any logically thinking human being think that this is reasonable?!?!?!
So here is the gameplan…find a company that is trustworthy and stick with them. You may pay a little bit more than your friends, but you know it works. There is a lot of value in that. Some companies with great products include Cytosport, Rivalus, MusclePharm (for the most part), AllMax, Dymatize. I’m sure many of you have a bigger list than that, but I like to make sure the products are clean and effective, so I don’t need more options than this…
Now onto the products that work. This is by no-means an exhaustive list, but will provide plenty of options for a well-rounded supplement protocol.
This is a no-brainer for a few reasons. Firstly, protein ingested immediately post-workout is very important for increasing muscle-protein synthesis; that is the creation of new muscle mass. Secondly, anyone looking to improve their body composition must understand that they need a steady dose of protein throughout the day. This can come from a variety of sources, but a good protein powder is a great weapon to ensure that you can get your servings even when your outside of your routine. Whey Protein, Whey Protein Isolate, Casein Protein, and a vegetarion source like Brown Rice Protein are all good choices for purchase.
If you have been trying to get huge, then you probably already get your fair share of creatine. If not, you probably think it is somehow illegal, or makes you bloated. The term ‘water weight’ gets thrown around quite a bit, without much evidence to support it. The truth is creatine is very beneficial for increasing high-intensity work capacity, for muscle hypertrophy, and lately has been shown to be extremely beneficial for your cognitive health (YOUR BRAIN!!). All the while, myths about cramping, bloating, or water retention have been refuted in the research. It is cheap and flavourless, so just drop 10g a day in one of your workout beverages and you are good to go!
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
BCAAs might have to be the favourite supplement out there for most people who train regularly. It has a long list of benefits, including decreasing ratings of perceived exertion (difficulty/fatigue of the workout), increased muscle protein synthesis, decreased muscle breakdown, preservation of glutamine levels, and symptoms of DOMS. It has been shown effective before the workout, during the workout, and after the workout as well. While I don’t suggest replacing a protein shake after your workout, the consumption of BCAAs around your workout could make the post-workout shake redundant. If you aren’t looking to ADD a significant amount of lean mass, the BCAAs may be your top priority.
This is the general blanket pick. There are so many factors that affect the level of your micronutrients, and the last thing you want is to have your progress stunted because of a deficiency. Take a vitamin-mineral complex that ensures you have a good variety of nutrients regardless of your diet, but don’t believe that you can eat garbage because of a convenient once-a-day.
A similar concept as creatine, beta-alanine just uses a slightly different mechanism to have its main effect. When ingested, beta-alanine is converted to carnosine, which is a compound that is used by your body to protect against a drop in pH. Specifically, carnosine buffers hydrogen ions, keeping the environment in your muscles from becoming acidic and function being impaired. This means when you are operating anaerobically (typically between 30 seconds and 3 minutes of strenuous exercise) taking beta-alanine will help delay fatigue and increase work capacity. Beta-alanine has also been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, so again provides the double whammy. Combining beta-alanine and creatine does not cause a conflict of any sorts so it should be encouraged! It’s a little bit harder to find beta-alanine alone but it is found in many pre-workout mixes.
Should you drink coffee? Should you avoid it? Here is the deal. Get some caffeine in you and reap the benefits. Tea, coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout cocktails, and anhydrous caffeine pills are all great ways to get some juice in your system. The truth is, it is one of the best supplements out there for improving performance. Increases in performance of endurance exercises, as well as strength-power work, repeat sprint performance, agility, reactive times, and game day performance are all found in the literature. Don’t avoid caffeine because you think it’s wrong. It might be wrong if you need a constant supply to get through your day, but using it to enhance your workouts is just a great idea! Anywhere from 200mg to 400mg should provide a great jolt to your lifts, and allow you to complete a few extra sets or reps.
The moral of the story is that as long as you become educated, you can use nutritional supplements to your advantage to help your performance and reach your goals. There are many products designed to maximize your physiology or mentality, so don’t be afraid to try some out!
It’s About Getting Better!
Razor’s Edge Performance
Training can be a tricky thing. Most people will tell you it’s just about effort, and for the most part that is where it starts. If you put in lots of work, good things will happen. If you don’t, it becomes hard to make change. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s talk specifics…
If you are looking to improve body composition, sometimes it doesn’t matter WHAT you do, as long as you are doing enough work in general. If you have plenty of room for improvement, then almost anything works, as long as you are doing SOMETHING. However, when your goals are more specific, you need more specific ways of structuring your training and I’ll outline some of these.
You can learn more about this from THIS ARTICLE.
In general, training needs to be focused on a specific characteristic. The one’s we’ll discuss here are Strength, Hypertrophy, Power/Speed, Body Composition, and Conditioning.
NOTE: These categories overlap, and improvements will generally be seen in multiple areas, but the biggest improvements should be seen in the area of FOCUS.
Typically this is where you will see a lot of the focus for athletes and powerlifters. The average gym goer will opt more for hypertrophy or fat loss due to the aesthetic effects rather than the performance gained from a strength-focused block of training.
When training for strength, a large portion of the adaptation comes from the nervous system and its ability to coordinate the use of your muscle tissue. Synchronization of motor units, inhibition of antagonist muscle groups, and increased recruitment of motor units all contribute to lifting heavy weight on top of some increases in muscle mass.
Here are a few examples of strength work. This is typically compound movements (lots of muscles used) for high load and low repetitions.
This is definitely the most popular category for young men, because your biceps can never get big enough. Truthfully, having a decent amount of muscle mass is important for self-confidence and filling out half your wardrobe, so I definitely don’t know it. I think almost every guy has thought about putting on 10lbs of muscle, and every woman has thought about seeing a nice flat stomach. There is nothing wrong with being sexy.
There are a lot of different programs and approaches that are used for hypertrophy but there is definitely a best-way and all the rest. The catch is whether you want muscle mass and strength and power to all improve together. This goes back to the concept of specificity. You can accomplish all 3, but much slower.
Ideal hypertrophy training involves a high amount of volume per body part along with reaching that dreaded fatigue mark (1). In strength and power training this is discouraged, but with hypertrophy training this is the way to go…
Here are a few examples of the kind of volume you want to get for hypertrophy gains!
If you think about the Crossfit approach, that is definitely the path to go for the best in conditioning and fat loss training. You want to work in a high-intensity heart rate zone with low amounts of rest. The key here is to build circuits with a strong resistance training component so that you are either building muscle mass or maintaining what you have, while shedding body fat. That will ultimately make for the best body composition (Think Percent Body FAT!). If you could do a 30-40 minute mixed workout while avoiding going over the 40 second rest mark you will probably build quite a body composition workout. If you take this version of a Hypertrophy program, cut some of the volume down and make it full-body, you’d have a great workout.
This is the bread and butter for athletes, but should not be the primary focus year round. The key to power/speed is that you need a sufficient base of strength in order to express high levels of power. Power involves moving high amounts of force quickly. Moving a tiny weight quickly is just annoying, not powerful. There are a few different approaches for working on speed and power. First, are the weightlifting exercises, clean and jerk, and snatch. These are difficult to master so if you want to do them well, find a coach who knows how to teach them. If you are weak, go figure out the strength part first! The second method is complexing a strength and speed movement to maximize power in the second movement. This is also an advanced technique that works best in experienced strong lifters, so feel free to try it out, but don’t make it a staple of your program if you aren’t strong (think 2x bodyweight squat for STRONG). Finally, strictly plyometric (jumping) or sprinting workouts are great ways to improve speed/power. These can be box jumps, bounding, broad jumps, sprints, hill sprints, etc.
Here are a few variations of speed and power work..
The key to getting the most out of your training is knowing WHAT you want to accomplish, then executing properly on the HOW. Think about sticking in one category for 4-6 weeks in order to see some adaptations!!
It’s About Getting Better!
Razor’s Edge Performance
1. Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM, Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, and Phillips SM. Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PLoS One 5: e12033, 2010.
I know we always talk about the importance of eating well for improvements in body composition, plus an overall health profile boost, the problem though, is that most clients will say it’s too hard to handle, or just not do it because of convenience. We know who you are. We can tell when you’ve reached the training threshold of ‘big results’, so if nothing is happening, it’s probably because you are putting poison in your body.
I just wanted to send out a quick reminder that eating well doesn’t have to be hard or tedious. The other night I was cooking for my fiancee and I, preparing food for the next day’s feedings. Here is what I put together in 15 minutes or less.
500g of Ground Chicken – $3.53
500g of Frozen “Summer Blend” vegetables – $2.50
500g (a can) of Red Kidney Beans – $0.99
Variety of spices ….negligible
I browned the chicken in a pot, while steaming the entire bag of vetetables at the same time (Fresh vegetables are probably better, but frozen vegetables are still a decent substitute!)…Then I poured the beans in with the chicken and began seasoning it and let it simmer together for 5 minutes. Then I added all of the vegetables and mixed it all together. Voila!
This meal fed 2 people for lunch and a bit of snack the next day on $7.00 and 15 minutes of preparation.
It was all chicken, vegetables, and kidney beans…cheap carbs or dressings.
If I had to add one more thing to it, it would be avocado or nuts for some added healthy fats.
Unfortunately we ate it all before I thought to take a picture. I thought it would be a good reminder though that eating healthy doesn’t always have to be expensive, or time consuming. I find these mixes or stirfrys are the best way to say ‘Let’s just put all these healthy things into a pot or pan and see what happens!’…
NOW GO MAKE A GOOD MEAL!
It’s About Getting Better!
This article is going to have relevance for every reader, be it athlete or not. We all want a leaner body because it makes us move more efficiently and look the way we want. The thing is, there are so many different tips out there for decreasing body fat that it’s hard to tell which ones are actually worthwhile and which ones aren’t. This one will touch on something I’m sure everyone struggles with: carbohydrates. Carbs are not the devil, in fact they’re extremely important. After reading a great article recently I decided I would help our readers understand how to utilize carbohydrates in their diet to help achieve their ideal physique. Now bear with me for a paragraph or two because I want to set up a theoretical background so you understand the recommendations at the end.
John Kiefer does a great job in that article describing the way your workout affects carb usage by your body, but I’m going to delve into the science a little bit here. When discussing carbohydrates and their effects on the body, the important terms to know are insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is a physiological condition whereby insulin becomes less effective at reducing blood sugars. Basically, for our intents and purposes, you need to know that insulin is a hormone which facilitates glucose uptake by fat cells and muscle cells. If you become insulin resistant, this means that your fat cells and muscle cells aren’t utilizing insulin as well and your blood sugar levels will stay high which could eventually turn into type 2 diabetes. That’s bad. Insulin resistance is common with those suffering from obesity but it’s difficult to point to a specific dietary cause. However, it is known that a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle does contribute to insulin resistance. For this article, we’re not really touching on the diabetes portion, but it’s very important to keep in mind nonetheless. So insulin resistance is your body becoming less effective at using carbohydrates for muscle and fat; insulin sensitivity is just a reference to how your body is using insulin (insulin resistance = low insulin sensitivity). So we’re still on the same page right??
So where does exercise come in?? One of the effects of exercise is GLUT4 stimulation and increased insulin sensitivity. GLUT4 is a glucose transporter which binds with the muscle membrane to bring glucose into the muscle cell. So if GLUT4 is stimulated, it means more glucose is going into your muscles instead of your fat stores. Recent studies have shown that improving insulin sensitivity has positive effects for both obesity and Type 2 diabetes. “Exercise can restore mitochondrial function and insulin sensitivity, which may be crucial for a better prognosis in treating or preventing obesity” [Coelho, Pereira-Lancha. Effect of high-fat diets on body composition, lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and the role of exercise on these parameters.Metabolism. August 2011.]. Furthermore, “After a single bout of exercise, the ability of insulin to stimulate glucose uptake is markedly improved locally in the previously active muscles. This makes exercise a potent stimulus counteracting insulin resistance characterizing type 2 diabetes (T2D)” [Frosig, Richter. Improved insulin sensitivity after exercise: focus on insulin signaling. Obesity(silver Spring). Decmber 2009.].
How does this translate??
So now you’re wondering what all this means for your diet. Anywhere in the article that you read glucose, it’s referring to carbohydrates. One of the biggest things that you should note from this article is that your carbohydrate intake should be directly related to your exercise levels and times. For your diet, it’s not about going high carb or low carb overall but WHEN to do so. You should be breaking your day up in to pre workout and post workout time periods as Kiefer suggests, since your body will respond to foods differently at each time period. Before exercise, without GLUT4 stimulation, the glucose in your blood is not being shuttled predominantly to your muscles. So if your muscles are already full of glycogen, the glucose has nowhere to go but fat stores or to stay in the blood and raise blood sugar levels – both BAD. After exercise, your body and more specifically your muscles are extremely insulin sensitive and glucose is being shuttled directly to your muscles by GLUT4 to refill glycogen stores. This is important because you will not be able to build more muscle until glycogen is refilled (this is why your post workout shake MUST contain carbs).
So Pre Workout meals should consist primarily of protein and fats and very little or no carbohydrates. If you’re eating vegetables, this shouldn’t be a problem. Then Post Workout you should be having any meals with a higher carbohydrate content, whether it be sugars or complex carbohydrates. The closer you are to your workout, the more carbohydrates you should be consuming. So if you’re really looking at improving your body composition, you need to start focusing on a dynamic diet rather than a static diet. What I mean is, if you are working out today, that will change what you eat based on when you workout. If you’re not working out, you should probably focus more on fats and protein throughout the entire day. It doesn’t mean that small amounts of carbohydrates will hurt, it just means that carb rich meals (breads, rice, potatoes, PASTA) should be saved for Post Workout time periods.
If your workout schedule changes, your diet should change. Think about it this way, is your body doing the same thing on days you train on and days you don’t? If not, then why should you give it the same food/fuel?? It just doesn’t make sense.
So here’s the final take home challenge, and this is especially important for those with primarily fat loss goals: make a schedule for your day of your eating times and add in your exercise blocks. Plan the meals you plan to eat for the day, if your meals are high in carbohydrates, move them into the post exercise time slots with the highest carb meals directly after the exercise. For the meals pre exercise, cut down on the amount of carbohydrates in the meals if they seem very high (try 50g or less).
This information is a game changer, so go out there and change the game!
It’s About Getting Better!
The supplement industry gets a lot of buzz…and why wouldn’t it? Millions of athletes and recreational lifters are doing what they can everyday to get their best body and best performance. For most, there are definitely some things they could do better with their nutrition and things they could do better with their workouts. For some, the blueprint is right, but patience is hard to come by. Either way, the supplement industry is finding its way into billions of dollars annually. I am not opposed to the use of supplements, I just think that most of the time it is not done effectively to get the results people are looking for.
I am NOT going to list all of the supplements that I think work and what they do, I am only going to discuss the importance, and simple protocols of peri-workout nutrition. Many people maintain that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you have some serious performance goals, I don’t think this is true. Breakfast is important, as are all the other meals of the day. However, what is often overlooked is the time before, during, and after your workout, when your body is most receptive to many nutrients.
The most important thing here is to eat something about 1 hour before your workout. Avoid fibre, as it will just slow down digestion. If you don’t have food, a meal-replacement type shake is a good idea here. You want a little bit of everything for your workout. Add in a scoop of creatine monohydrate here.
If you are training for more than an hour, it is important to hydrate regularly, and add a carbohydrate/electrolyte mix to your water. This goes a long way toward enhancing endurance, blunting the release of cortisol, and maintaining strength and power. Adding branched-chain amino acids to this mix, or essential amino acids, will decrease the catabolism of muscle and turn on the mechanisms for protein synthesis as soon as possible. The research is mixed as to whether supplementing during your workout or after your workout is more important.
Since a lot of people either are unprepared to take in all of their nutrients during the workout, or just don’t like it, post-workout is the most common time for the main shake. The important thing to realize here is that a scoop or two of whey protein isn’t the most ideal post-workout shake. Drinking a shake with carbohydrates in it is extremely important for replenishing muscle glycogen, improving rehydration, and adding lean body mass. A combination of carbohydrate and protein is more effective than either on their own for almost all measures of recovery and performance. Add in some creatine monohydrate and you can ensure that you are increasing lean body mass/improving body composition. For protein requirements, you want either 30g of protein or roughly 10g of BCAA or EAAs, both are effective at these doses. More may help, but taking 5 times as much is probably a waste. As for carbohydrates, if you are looking to build muscle or just recover optimally, you want about 3x or 4x as much carbohydrate as protein. So if you have 30g of protein you are going to want to be around 100g of carbohydrate. If your primary goal is fat loss, there is no need to eliminate the carbs around your workout, but instead just lower them. Bring the ratio down to about 2:1.
Personally, I am a big fan of Cytosport’s line of products, so I like to mix about 60g of Cytomax and 15g of Monster Amino post-workout with about 5-10g of creatine monohydrate. I also sip on some Cytomax just before, or during the start of my workouts.
To finish this up…proper workout nutrition is absolutely HUGE for reaching any aesthetic or performance goals, and it starts with a properly formulated post-workout shake. Depending on your last meal, look at adding something before or during to maintain energy and performance levels. Having a mixed beverage is way more effective than a high dose of protein only.
Drink up that post-workout shake!!
It’s About Getting Better!
I thought people were becoming more educated about food and their diets…turns out I was wrong. With new clients one of the first questions I ask is always, what are you eating? Or How’s your diet? Most people are pretty confident about their diet or say something like, “I eat pretty well”. Sometimes that’s the case but mostly you’re wrong. There’s always two things missing, not enough vegetables, not enough protein.
For some strange reason people still think protein is for bodybuilders or just for people looking to get huge.
1) Muscle Building – In order to build muscle, once you’ve provided the stimulus in the gym, you need to get adequate protein in your diet in order to keep your nitrogen levels positive. This is done through protein intake. If your nitrogen levels for a day are negative, you go catabolic (lose muscle); if your nitrogen levels are positive for the day, you go anabolic (gain muscle). There are very few people who need to lose muscle, pretty much everyone would benefit from gaining more. It makes you leaner and makes your body perform better. If you’re working out for body composition, you need to add muscle mass.
2) Fat Burning – Protein plays two roles in the fat burning process. For one thing, protein takes the most energy to break down in your body, thus it increases your metabolism on a daily basis. Secondly, it keeps your muscles from breaking down in a fat burning phase. If you’re exercising, there will be a point where your body will look to break down your muscle for fuel. The truth is, amino acids (what protein is made up of) are a very good energy source and your body will try to use them. If you want to burn fat and avoid losing more muscle, then we need to get adequate amounts of protein – both for fuel and to save your muscles. Whats the point of losing fat if you’re going to lose your muscle as well? The only way to improve body composition is to gain or maintain muscle mass while losing fat, not losing both.
Let’s not overlook the fact that amino acids are used for some of the most basic bodily functions. Women, where do you think the protein that’s in your hair comes from? Small things like that are overlooked when it comes to ones diet. So how much should you get? Where should you get it?
Ignore the Canadian Food Guide. If you want to increase the amount of muscle you have on your body, you need to get 1g/lb of body weight. It’s very simple. If you’re an elite athlete or bodybuilder, you may want to go even higher. This is a reasonable number. If you’re eating 4 or 5 times per day, there’s plenty of opportunity to get it. The trick is making protein a priority and putting it on a pedestal. Everytime you eat a meal, you should know where you’re getting your protein from. It can be from any meat, fish, bird, dairy, lentils, nuts or protein powder. Think of snacks like beef jerky, cottage cheese or hard boiled eggs. There is no shortage of protein (unless you’re a vegan, which takes more work). Bottom line, whether you want to put on muscle or lose fat, start getting in more precious protein! All your hard work will start paying off!!
I’m here to blow your mind.
All that time you’ve spent in the gym was awesome. Job well done. Unfortunately, that’s not where the good stuff comes from. The truth is, all the important results of your hard work are reaped while you’re resting. That’s the biggest secret to training.
Obviously you cannot make positive changes to your body or performance without the hard work. There must be a stimulus in order to change your body. You can’t get big biceps without ever working them, and you can’t reshape your body without doing some killer exercises. The real issue is related to priorities. We all seem to get caught up too much with the stimulus. With a little bit of trial and error, we figure out which exercises are good and which ones aren’t. The ones that are worth your time, and the ones that aren’t. So we put these into a program. All of them. Each workout involves super-setting and tri-setting and all sorts of tricks to cram tons of volume into a 1-hour workout. Afterward, you’re exhausted, but you think “wow, I did a great job today!”.
When I see this happen, I cringe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s such a relief to see people working hard, doing all they can to reach their goals. My problem is about how often we are emptying the tank. This is an analogy I think about often when it comes to programming for my clients. If your body is like a car, everytime you train you are using up fuel, like our sweet sweet gasoline. After the workout, you need to fill that tank all the way up again before your body can start making the adaptations you are looking for (for simplicity, we’ll say muscle building, fat burning, and increased neuromuscular efficiency for strength gains). Now at a gas station, the time to fill up is relatively quick, so it’s not that big of a deal. Yet with oil prices as they are, the cost can be great! You don’t want to have to pay 80$ to fill your tank everytime you drive your car do you? Seems excessive. The same can be said about your body. The truth is, most athletes spend way too much time emptying their tank and way less time filling it back up. So overall, they impair their own ability to build and grow. The same can be said for non-athletes looking to build more muscle or burn more fat.
It requires quality reps at an appropriate intensity to signal your body to improve in a specific capacity. For every exercise, goal, and person this might be different. Generally speaking though, we believe that there is a lot of work being done that is so far above and beyond this threshold, that people are actually putting in a lot of effort to slow down their body’s progress. The bottom line is this: if your results have been minimal or non-existent, increase your focus and time on the time spent outside the gym. Basically, get more food and get more rest!
An expert is not just somebody that makes you tired, but somebody that makes you better. After all, it’s about getting better!