Category Archives: Charles Poliquin

Top 10 Pitfalls to Weight Loss: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes

By Charles Poliquin

A lack of discipline may be the most harmful trait if you are trying to lose weight. But, even if you are motivated and disciplined, you need to ensure you aren’t getting sidetracked by making common errors that will halt your progress and are easy to avoid.

There are hundreds of lists on the internet of common errors people make when trying to lose weight. They are all similar, most include ten things to avoid, and you might be surprised to find out that they are mostly right on. These lists provide a useful basic guide to use when trying to lose weight, but what they don’t do is get at the harder to solve mistakes that keep you from seeing results in improving your body composition.

For example, did you know that for weight loss and health it’s much better to choose the “whole fat” version of dairy products than the “fat free” option? Almost all foods that have had the fat removed from them and are labeled “fat free” are going to be more contaminated, contain fewer nutrients, and discourage fat loss to a much greater degree than the whole fat option. This is especially true with dairy products because the whole milk version of yogurt or milk will naturally provide conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which protects against prostate and breast cancer. In contrast, fat free dairy products have what I often call a “cancer inducing” effect.

I’ve had many a client with the best of intentions for weight loss make critical but common errors, that when solved, allow them to achieve amazing results. This is my top ten list of things you can do to avoid common pitfalls that get in the way of you achieving a lean body composition. This list assumes that you aren’t doing any of the following things that are obviously going to impede weight loss and cause poor health: smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol, taking diet pills, drinking your calories (soda, juice, sports drinks), or trying to lose weight without exercising. If you are doing any of these things, stop now, and then start making the changes on this list.

Tip 1:  Don’t Eliminate Fat
Eliminating fat or eating a very low fat diet is a common error that people are encouraged to make by food marketing. Eliminating fat intake to get rid of fat from the body may seem like a good idea at first glance, but when you understand the role of fat in the body, you realize getting too little of it is a bad idea. Of course, removing “very bad” fats, also known as  trans fats, from the diet is essential because they will make you fat and then they will kill you.

You need a decent amount of good fat in the diet because all the cells in the body are made up of two layers of lipids or fats, which will be composed of good fats or bad fats depending on the type you eat. If the cell lipid layers are made up of healthy fats, it will make them more sensitive to insulin and allow the receptors to bind more easily, which is necessary for good metabolism and energy production.

Increasing the sensitivity of your cells to insulin is important because it will allow the glucose to enter the cell and get burned as fuel. But, if you eat large amounts of trans-fats or have a severe imbalance between the omega-6 and -3 fats in your diet, your cell lipid layers will be made up of those fats. Lipid layers made of unhealthy fats lead to unhealthy cells and greater insulin resistance, which produces fat gain and puts you at risk for diabetes.

Tip 2: Do Get A Balanced Fat Intake
To get a balanced fat intake you want to get a large quantity of omega-3 fats that are balanced with omega-6 fats. Ideally, you’ll get a near equal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. Most people get way to many omega-6 fats because they are abundantly found in our diets in the form of the most commonly used vegetable oils (corn, sesame, safflower, peanut, etc.). Omega-3 fatty acids are those that commonly come from fish oil (often referred to as DHA, EPA and ALA), but they also can be gotten from grass-fed beef and wild meats. This is why I suggest two things you can do for better insulin health and body composition are to take a high dose of omega-3s and eat meats and fish that have a high concentration of these fats.

Tip 3: Get Rid of Stress and Lower Cortisol Levels
To lose fat, it’s essential that you minimize stress to lower your cortisol levels. It is well established that chronically high cortisol results in fat gain, particularly around the middle. This means that no matter how much you exercise or eat healthy, you won’t lose weight if your cortisol is elevated because of how cortisol makes the body insensitive to insulin.

One recent study looked at the relationship between cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity, and visceral belly fat in men. Men with more belly fat produced far more cortisol throughout the day and had decreased insulin sensitivity than those with less belly fat. Interestingly, subcutaneous fat—the jiggly kind that’s right below the skin—was not related to insulin or cortisol levels. Researchers suggest both external stress and internal physiological stress (in the form of chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract) are the cause of the elevated cortisol.

Problems with the gastrointestinal tract result in altered neurotransmitter production, which makes you feel tired, unmotivated, and depressed. It can also elevate anxiety, making you over-responsive to stress. At the same time, poor gut health will produce chronic inflammation in the intestines, putting stress on them and raising cortisol. The combination means chronically high cortisol and persistent strain on the body from multiple sources. If you have any experience with fat loss, you know that the body is most agreeable about giving up its fat stores when it is calm and not stressed or overly stimulated.

Tip 4: Fix Your Gut With a Probiotic 
Fix your gut health and support digestion by taking a probiotic to lose fat, have more energy, and feel better. Probiotics are the tiny bacteria that naturally occur in the gastrointestinal tract and are commonly found in dairy products such as yogurt.

It’s very difficult to lose weight if you don’t have a healthy gut for two interrelated reasons. First, more than half of the neurotransmitters that send messages from the brain to cells and hormone receptors throughout the body are made in the gastrointestinal lining. If your gut is not healthy, it will negatively affect the production of the neurotransmitters, leading to poor cognitive function, low mood, feelings of depression, and low motivation. A bad outlook and lack of drive will make you less motivated to exercise and take the action necessary for you to make progress toward reaching your goals.

The second reason gut health is essential is that it will improve digestion and help you feel better. You will actually feel more energetic because your neurotransmitters will be firing at optimal levels, and your metabolism will be supported so that nutrients and energy sources are getting broken down, absorbed, and used by the body in the most effective manner. Additionally, research shows probiotic supplementation helps lower anxiety and stress levels, which leads to less secretion of cortisol.

Several studies have shown that poor gut health makes the body produce more cortisol, directly affecting insulin health and resulting in visceral belly fat gain. For example, in the study mentioned in Tip #3, the overweight men in the study were put on a high-protein diet with a probiotic supplement for six months, and then had their body fat, cortisol levels, and insulin sensitivity retested. The men significantly lost belly fat, improved insulin sensitivity, and had lower cortisol levels. Researchers suggest that poor gut health had caused chronic inflammation in the intestines, which led to the elevated cortisol and the belly fat gain. The probiotic supplement treated the inflammation in the intestines, helped to lower cortisol, and in conjunction with the high-protein diet, helped induce weight loss.

Tip 5: Support Digestion With HCL: Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies
Another trick for supporting digestion and fat loss is to make sure you have adequate stomach acid to break down food. Take a hydrochloric acid (HCL) supplement to improve acid levels in the stomach and allow your body to completely break down food. The increased acid levels in the stomach will improve the absorption of protein, calcium, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, iron, and other basic nutrients.

Better digestion and absorption of protein and nutrients will support protein synthesis and the development of lean body mass, while helping you avoid deficiencies that can cause poor health and hinder weight loss attempts. For example, one study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that low stomach acid hindered the digestion of codfish protein in mice. Along with less protein absorption, there was evidence of the development of protein allergies in the mice population over time.
Researchers suggest that the Western population’s overuse of antacid medications—to counter acid reflux, which is typically produced by a poor diet—results in chronically low stomach acid, which in turn hampers digestion, and the absorption of protein. They caution against the use of antacids and encourage the population to modify diet and raise stomach acid levels for better protein absorption.

I use an HCL supplement in which the HCL comes from betaine because betaine is  known to stimulate protein synthesis and support athletic performance. Additionally, my DigestForce 2.0 has pancreatic enzymes for elevated nutrient absorption.

Tip 6: Eat Breakfast With Protein In It: No Cereal Allowed
Skipping breakfast and missing meals will set you up to fail to lose weight. Eating breakfast is one of the simplest, healthiest things you can do to feel better and have more energy, but there’s one catch. You have to eat protein at breakfast. Eating cereal for breakfast is a common pitfall that is often not addressed by the media or mainstream health professionals.

Cereal is bad for breakfast because it’s typically packed with sugar and additives. In the rare case that you can find a cereal that doesn’t have added sugar, cereal tends to be low in protein. Even if you find an organic cereal that appears to contain a nice dose of protein, these high-protein cereals contain natural preservatives that wreck havoc on neurotransmitter production.

Remember, in Tip #4, I mentioned the importance of gut health and the neurotransmitters for brain function. Setting the neurotransmitters up for the day is the reason a high-quality protein breakfast is essential. The macronutrient content of the food you eat for breakfast will prime the chemicals that send messages from the brain to all your muscles and tissue throughout the whole day.

If you set your neurotransmitters up with a high-carb cereal, orange juice, and a banana, you’ll trigger a big insulin response, elevate serotonin and end up feeling low energy and foggy in the brain soon after. It’s very difficult to reverse the poor brain function and sluggishness that goes with a high-carb breakfast, and people tend to counter these feelings of tiredness and with caffeine, which raises cortisol and causes a new round of problems such as anxiety, an excited sympathetic nervous system, and poor energy production.

The answer is to get a high-quality protein that is slowly digested. A breakfast that includes meat and nuts is my favorite because it will provide a nice dose of protein and “good” fats to start the engine and keep you going throughout the day. Plus, the nuts contain almost no carbs, meaning that with the meat, you will have a very moderate insulin response, which will allow for a constant blood sugar level.

Tip #7: Take A Very Cautious Approach To The Science and Health Media
Be very cautious about what you learn from the science and health media. Health, fitness, and diet information from the media is commonly misrepresented with the facts being presented in a way that feed on our desire for intrigue and quick, easy solutions. Equally concerning, media is fueled by business interests, meaning that the information presented is influenced by those interests.

If you look back over how a number of important scientific studies were presented by the media in 2011, it becomes apparent that you have to be very cautious about what you believe. For example, in November a study about vitamin D was presented at the annual conference of the American Heart Association that showed that taking too much vitamin D produced risk of atrial fibrillation. The study provided useful information about how to achieve the ideal vitamin D status for health as well as how to avoid overdosing and reaching a possibly toxic level.

For example, you want to ensure your vitamin D levels are between 41 and 80 ng/ml and avoid going over 100 ng/ml. The only cases of individuals achieving levels over 100 ng/ml are when there has been a dispensing error such that they were taking more than ten times the recommended dose of 5,000 IUs a day.

This study was reported by many mainstream news companies including MSN, USA Today, and NBC. In the vast majority of the stories about the study, no context for the information was provided, such as details about what “excess vitamin D” means, or how an individual might achieve such levels. Rather, they tended to alarm readers with insufficient information and suggest that individuals should discontinue vitamin D supplements, or that they should only use a very low dose of vitamin D (a common recommendation is 400 IUs a day).

Another example of media misrepresentation is the issue of whether aerobic or strength training is preferred for fat loss. One study this year compared the effects of aerobic training with strength training on visceral belly fat loss. It was widely reported in the media with headlines such as “Jogging Beats Strength Training for Losing Belly Fat,” or “Aerobic Exercise the Most Effective Way to Lose Belly Fat.”

The problem is that the study design had a major flaw—the amount of volume of exercise was not equivalent or even comparable between the aerobic and strength training programs tested. Not one article that I read reported the fact that the aerobic training was performed at 80 percent of maximal for 45 minutes, while the strength training program consisted of exercises on Cybex machines and did not include a 1RM. This means the study design did not account for the amount of weight lifted in the program—a major error that makes it impossible to compare programs that are not matched for the amount of work performed.

Additionally, the media reports failed to differentiate between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is the fat that resides deep inside the body in the abdominal trunk and surrounds the organs. It is a primary indicator of diabetes and heart disease risk. Subcutaneous fat is the jiggly fat that is right below the skin, which you can pinch with your fingers. This difference is an important element that the public should understand if they want to gain information about how to improve their health, fitness, and body composition.

To avoid having the media hamper your weight loss progress, find a source of information that you trust. It’s not that you should ignore science and health reporting, but it’s necessary to be skeptical, and occasionally you will have to do your own research, or find a source you trust that will review the research for you!

Tip 8: Do Not Trust The U.S. RDV or Nutrition Labels
The U.S. Recommended Daily Value, or what is now called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), is the amount of a given nutrient that the U.S. Department of Agriculture thinks you need each day. If you want to lose weight, the value is useless.

Even if you don’t want to lose weight, it is not ideal for health, and the new DRI is confusing because it gives no suggestion for fat intake, aside from suggesting that adults consume between 12 and 17 grams of omega-6 fats and 1.1 to 1.6 grams of omega-3s a day. This is an example of the skewed ratio I referred to in Tip #2. A number of research studies have shown that the skewed ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s is linked to higher rates of obesity, cancer, inflammatory and immune disorders, and cardiovascular disease. Apparently the USDA wasn’t aware of this data.

One positive thing about the new U.S. DRI is that it has lowered the carb recommendations from 300 grams per day for adults to 130 grams per day. That’s a vast amount, but it is more in line with what I would suggest for weight loss. The problem is that the DRI only increased protein recommendations by three grams a day from 53 to 56, which will likely leave most people hungry and confused.

Take note that in the U.S., nutrition labels include nutrition suggestions based on old recommendations from the USDA that assume the average American needs either 2,000 or 2,500 calories a day. Within the calorie-based framework, macronutrient suggestions are made such that for the 2,000 calorie diet, you are supposed to get 300 grams of carbs, 53 grams of protein, and 65 grams of fat. This is a whopping amount of carbs for the average person, even if they are doing large amounts of endurance or high-intensity exercise daily. The point is that nutrition labels can tell you the macronutrient content of foods, but don’t become more confused by the dietary suggestions included on the label.

Naturally, you do need a plan for what you are going to eat if you intend to lose weight. The key is to identify the macronutrient content that supports your body and does not include foods that you are intolerant of. An intolerance is a food that you are allergic to and your body is not able to digest completely. There are severe allergic reactions such as in the case of a nut allergy that is very dangerous, and there are less severe allergies that cause fat gain and poor insulin health.

For example, some people are allergic to gluten and need to avoid it, whereas others are intolerant of gluten and will feel much better and have a leaner body composition if they avoid it. Similarly, most people will be healthier and leaner if they limit carbs and avoid all wheat-based carbs, but this does not mean that everyone is intolerant to wheat-based carbs.

The best way I can suggest to identify food intolerances is to get a BioSignature Modulation. This is the method I have developed to identify the best foods for each person and determine individual detoxification and supplement needs. If you are unable to have BioSignature done, the key is to identify a dietary lifestyle that will support your weight loss goals. Research shows that generally, a high-protein, low-carb diet that is gluten and wheat free will produce the best fat loss results.

Tip 9: Focus On Detoxification
Detoxification is critical for weight loss because there are so many pollutants and endocrine-altering substances in our food and water. By detoxifying, I do not mean fasting or doing a onetime detox. Rather, you want to focus on detoxifying your body on a regular basis because you are exposed to dangerous substances daily.

The two simplest things you can do to detoxify the body are to drink a lot water daily (at the very least two liters a day) and to eat an adequate amount of fiber. In addition, there are many nutrients you can take to help the body continually eliminate heavy metals and toxins that cause oxidative stress and alter hormones. For example, green tea can help detoxify liver and it is known for preventing liver damage from alcohol. Carnitine is a powerful brain nutrient that not only supports fat burning by helping fat enter the cell to be burned for energy, but also helps detoxify the brain of heavy metals.
A little gem I’ll throw out there for you is that if you pair carnitine with adequate omega-3 fat intake, you’ll raise levels of the hormone dopamine, which will make you feel more motivated and have more self-initiative—essential for trying to lose weight.

The ginkgo plant is another excellent detoxifier and it has a great track record, having been used in traditional medicine for over 4,000 years. Ginkgo resists pollution, meaning that it will help you to detoxify contaminants from the body and resist the stress that is caused by toxins. Other potent detoxifiers include omega-3 fish oils, probiotics, and performing high levels of physical activity and exercise. The key is to focus on flushing the body regularly by doing the little things such as drinking lots of water, eating fiber and supplementing with nutrients that provide multiple benefits including detoxification. 

Tip #10 Don’t Forget To Strength Train. Be As Active As Possible
There’s no reason you should not be doing some sort of strength training if you are trying to lose weight. In fact, there’s no reason that anyone should not be doing strength training. Even people who are confined to a bed in a nursing home can perform some form of resistance training. There’s nothing bad about training as long as you learn proper form and have a reasonable plan of progression.

Strength training is essential for weight loss because it will burn fat, burn calories, improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, and make you stronger. Strength training is preferred over aerobic training that is done on cardio machines such as a treadmill because it will produce a more favorable muscle building response and burn more fat.

Additionally, there’s evidence that aerobic training done on cardio machines blunts insulin sensitivity and glucose delivery into the cell, meaning that if you perform it, you may actually be putting yourself at greater risk of diabetes and inducing less fat burning. This is because the electromagnetic frequency that is produced by electrical power, as in the case of with an electrical treadmill or bike, has been found to increase plasma glucose and decrease insulin sensitivity, causing fat gain, poor metabolism, and accelerating nerve damage and cellular aging. Actually, any time you are exposed to dirty electricity or the electromagnetic field from electrical power (from TVs, appliances, cell and cordless phones, wireless routers, cell phone towers), you put yourself at risk for decreased insulin health. The point is to minimize exposure, particularly when you are exercising and need to maximize energy production.

Another reason to perform strength training instead of aerobic exercise is that research shows “the effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible,” according to one research review. Even though aerobic exercise doesn’t cause much fat loss, anaerobic interval training at a higher intensity than steady-state aerobic training is well proven to induce significant fat loss. Similarly, strength training targets the anaerobic energy system and will help you lose fat. Plus, strength training improves lean mass and builds muscle, which in turn raises your metabolism to support a leaner body composition.

For best results, perform a periodized strength training program that changes regularly so you are not doing the same thing for longer than two months. Include anaerobic intervals and you’ll improve your conditioning, burn fat, lose weight, and improve cardiovascular and pulmonary health. Try to be as active as possible throughout the day because regular physical activity is shown to maintain insulin health, while being sedentary even if you workout once a day, causes “robust negative changes” in post-meal glucose uptake, according to one study. Less glucose uptake means that glucose or sugar that is in your blood is not getting into the cell to be used for energy. Rather, the glucose is hanging out in the blood and will be turned into fat in the body. In the meantime it will cause nerve damage and aging

Top Five Training Tips For Optimal Body Composition

By Charles Poliquin

Lose fat fast with a training program that will help you maintain body composition results for the long run. You will lose the most fat by training with a protocol that focuses on building muscle, burning fat and calories, and achieving the greatest hormone response from exercise. This article will give you my top five tips for incorporating those three strategies into a training program for fat loss.

Be aware that correct nutrition is necessary in order to achieve significant fat loss. It’s near impossible to out-train a bad diet. If were able to do so, you would undoubtedly compromise your health in the short- and long-term. Over the next two weeks, I will post my five supplement tips for fat loss followed by five nutrition tips—stay tuned!

The Run Down on Training for Fat Loss
The first goal of training for fat loss is to elevate your resting metabolic rate (RMR) by increasing muscle mass because this means you will burn more energy every day. The RMR makes up the bulk of energy you burn. Burning energy in addition to the RMR when working out is great, but the impact on total energy burned is fairly small compared to the total RMR.

Your workout time needs to include both strength training and anaerobic conditioning because both contribute to muscle building and they burn energy. The magic of strength and anaerobic training is that they boost your overall metabolic rate, burn a lot of energy in a short period of time, and elevate the RMR by increasing the amount of lean mass you have. Strength training and anaerobic conditioning affect the body differently than aerobic training, regardless of the intensity of that aerobic exercise, which means they will always be the priority for fat loss and body composition.

Tip #1: Train A High Volume, Short Rest Periods & Moderate Loads
Strength train with a high volume of work, short rest periods, and moderate to heavy loads using multi-joint exercises. Squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, bench press, lunges, and rows should make up the core of your training. A hypertrophy-type program that generally includes 8 to 12 reps of more than 3 sets is ideal, but can be manipulated for a greater muscle building effect. More sets will accelerate results, but the 8 to 12 rep, 3 set scheme is a good place to start training for fat loss.

Use weights in the 70 to 85 percent of maximum range with short rest periods of 60 seconds or shorter. This will provide a significant anabolic response by elevating testosterone and growth hormone (more on this below). High reps and short rest intervals will make your body a high-powered energy burning machine.

Circuit training and super set schemes are ideal, as are descending sets in which you finish with very high reps (25 reps of squats or 2 minutes of leg presses, for example) for an extra fat burning burst. Supersets with 10 seconds rest when switching from the agonist to the antagonist exercise and 60 seconds between sets is one option. Or a “death circuit” of heavy, high volume deadlifts followed by split squats followed by lighter high volume squats with 10 seconds rest between exercises is another.

Tip #2: Strength Train to Build Muscle and Create an Anabolic Response 
Strength train to build muscle and create an anabolic response to accelerate fat burning. Aside from the obvious benefit of burning a massive amount of energy quickly, working every muscle group hard, frequently, and at a very high intensity will elevate anabolic hormones that increase protein synthesis and fat burning.

Growth hormone (GH) is lipolytic, meaning it increases fat breakdown and the metabolism of glucose and amino acids. It increases protein synthesis, which is essential because you do not want to create a catabolic state that causes lean tissue loss when you are trying to lose weight. GH is released by the body in greater quantities in response to physical stress above the lactate threshold, which is the reason heavy, high volume total body training with short rest periods (30 to 60 seconds) is necessary.

GH is produced in bursts by the pituitary gland at night during rest, and women get the body comp benefit by elevating GH just as much as men. In contrast, the effect of exercise on testosterone for women is much, much smaller. GH is also involved in the release of another anabolic hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is important for protein synthesis. Manipulating time under tension with a varied lifting tempo or inter-repetition pauses is one of the best ways to boost IGF-1.

Testosterone (T) is the number one anabolic hormone. You will get the greatest elevations in T with slightly longer rest periods than the 30 to 60 seconds suggested for GH and weights on the heavier end of the range. Research suggests that T is elevated more with rest periods in the 2 to 3 minute range with very heavy lifts and a fairly large number of sets. You will still boost T with a very intense fat burning, GH-type protocol, making a variety of training protocols best.

Scientists are not yet clear on the perfect number of sets to elevate T, which is partly due to the fact that individual T response varies greatly, even among elite athletes who have similar training experience and background. More than 3 sets and as many as 8 have been found to significantly elevate T.

Tip #3: Perform Strength Training Instead of Aerobic Exercise
Strength training that is anaerobic, uses a high volume and intensity, and is made up primarily by traditional multi-joint lifts is always superior to aerobic exercise for fat loss. The evidence is clear on this, but because some studies have used inadequate resistance training protocols (single-joint exercises at a low intensity) to compare resistance and aerobic training, the fat loss outcome has not always favored strength training.

Plus, for some unfathomable reason, the media and many public health professionals suggest aerobic training, especially continuous, slow exercise, will help you lose fat, which is one of the most drastic misconceptions about weight loss and exercise. Strength training is anaerobic by nature—the opposite of aerobic—meaning it elevates fat burning hormones and burns energy, as mentioned above.

For example, a study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise compared fat loss in three groups of overweight subjects. All groups were on a fat-loss diet and one group only did the diet with no exercise, whereas a second group did the diet with aerobic training, and a third group was on the diet and did strength training. The diet group lost 14 pounds of fat, while the aerobic group lost 15 pounds of fat—only one pound more, which was not statistically significant. The strength training group lost 21 pounds of fat, which was 34 percent more than the aerobic group!

Consider the amount of time spent on aerobic exercise (36 sessions of up to 50 minutes each) for only oneextra pound of fat loss! The six extra pounds lost in the strength training group is worth it, but one pound?!

Tip #4 Do High Intensity Anaerobic Training to Burn Fat—Avoid Continuous Low-Intensity Aerobics
Perform high-intensity anaerobic training (HIAT) to burn fat and avoid aerobics. There’s a mountain of evidence that anaerobic conditioning is effective for fat loss. HIAT is much more effective than aerobic training, whether it be steady-state aerobic activity or higher intensity aerobic exercise. HIAT works on the same principle as strength training for fat loss. It increases protein synthesis and can build muscle, although not as much as strength training.

A study in the International Journal of Obesity demonstrates this by comparing the effect of 15 weeks of HIAT (60 cycle sprints of 8 seconds each, 12 seconds rest) with aerobic exercise (60 percent of maximal oxygen uptake for 40 minutes). The HIAT resulted in significant decreases in overall fat mass of 1.5 kg, while the aerobic exercise group had a fat gain of 0.44 kg on average. The HIAT group also had a significant 9.5 percent decrease in belly fat, whereas the aerobic group increased belly fat by 10.5 percent at the end of the study. Of related interest is that the HIAT group decreased fasting insulin significantly more than the aerobic group (31 versus 9 percent), indicating better metabolism.

A second study in the journal Metabolism is indicative of the research supporting the superiority of HIAT over aerobics for fat loss. This study compared 20 weeks of aerobic training with only 15 weeks of HIAT in which participants did 15 sprints for 30 seconds and lost nine times more body fat than the aerobic group. They also lost 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.

What is so interesting about this study is that the energy cost of the aerobic program over the whole study period was 28,661 calories, whereas for HIAT it was less than half, at 13,614 calories. In less time, the HIAT group lost much more weight—nine times more weight. How do researchers explain it?
HIAT also boosts GH and T much more than aerobic training, which we’ve already seen helps create an anabolic environment and burn fat. HIAT results in something called post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), in which metabolism is elevated to a significant degree after training—the body is using more energy even though you’re not working out anymore. EPOC is elevated more when anaerobic training is involved—strength training and HIAT can elevate EPOC for as much as 38 hours post-workout.

Emerging research provides additional insight into why HIAT works and steady-state aerobic exercise doesn’t. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that a HIAT program elevates the expression of gene activity by nearly 75 percent over aerobic exercise. A 15-minute HIAT protocol enhanced the activity of 69 genes that were not activated by a 30-minute aerobic trial. The genes that were upregulated were involved in energy metabolism and hormone growth factors such as GH and IGF-1. Basically, greater gene activity from anaerobic training explains what is going on “behind the scenes” in the body to build muscle and burn fat.

The one possible drawback to HIAT is that it is mentally challenging to push through an all-out workout even if it is short. There is an upside: research shows that near-maximal intensity sprints (greater than 90 percent of max oxygen uptake) can be completed in 10 to 20 minutes depending on the number of sprints and interval lengths.

Tip #5: Be Active in Daily Life to Improve Metabolism and Lose Fat
A sedentary lifestyle, even if you are already training at a high volume and intensity, will compromise metabolism and may lead to fat gain. Long periods of inactivity, even a few hours during the day, will lower the body’s glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. This puts you at risk for diabetes and poor body comp.

Desk jobs are the primary culprit for fat gain and inactivity during the day in people who train hard. Studies have shown that in people who have a lean body composition and perform regular intense exercise suffer from a significant drop in metabolism if they are inactive for even a short period of time, as measured by glucose tolerance and insulin health.

For example, a recent study tested the effect of decreasing daily activity for three days in a group of lean, active individual with training experience. They normally averaged 12,956 steps a day and reduced their activity to 4,319 steps a day (they were told to take less than 5,000 day as measured by a pedometer and confirmed with an accelerometer), which resulted in a 30 percent drop in insulin sensitivity.

Blood sugar imbalances are another side effect of long periods in which you don’t move. The result is a slower metabolism, a lower resting metabolic rate (remember RMR from the beginning of this article?), and ultimately fat gain.
Take away a commitment to being more active and inspiring your loved ones and kids to do the same. Make sure you have incorporated tips 1 to 4 into your lifestyle and are strength training and performing high intensity intervals. Don’t forget, you can’t out-train a bad diet or overeating.

Take regular brisk walks—even a five to ten minute vigorous walk will make a difference. Shoot for 10,000 steps a day. Avoid plopping down in front of the TV or computer for hours after work. Extra physical activity can take the form of recreational sports participation, playing ball games, martial arts practice, bike riding, or whatever you enjoy.
If you have a sedentary job, always take the stairs and park farther away in the parking lot. Break the work day up with relatively brief spurts of physical movement, whether it is walking, body weight exercises, or more strenuous training. Even stretching, fidgeting, and getting an adjustable desk so you can stand as well as sit will help.

Six Incredibly Simple Nutrition Rules To Be Lean & Muscular For Life

Six Incredibly Simple Nutrition Rules To Be Lean & Muscular For Life

The year 2013 was marked by new heights of nutrition insanity. You’re not alone if you found yourself more confused than ever about what to eat in light of the obscure nutrition recommendations from the government and outrageous claims from food marketers.
What’s the solution to all this nutrition madness?
You need an individualized nutrition approach that speaks to your energy needs and genetics, but that is based on science. This article will give you six nutrition rules for a sane and simple way of eating.
Before we get to the rules, let’s look a bit closer at why good nutrition has become such a demanding endeavor. In fact, nutrition never has been especially simple.
We often get nostalgic, thinking that nutrition was easier in another era. For example, a lot of people are turning to the Paleo diet for leanness and health as seen with the fact that it was the most searched nutrition term on Google in 2013.
The Paleo diet can provide a practical, simpler approach to eating. Yet, a lot of people make the mistake of idealizing the way our ancestors ate or assuming that all cavemen had access to pure, abundant food. Not so.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent the vast majority of their days searching for food to survive. Not only was finding food a huge time investment, chewing took hours because they subsisted partly on raw and extremely fibrous foods, such as uncooked root vegetables, such as potatoes.
With present-day understanding of how our genes are affected by diet and a “paleo-template,” here are six nutrition rules to be lean and muscular life.
#1: Understand Why High-Protein Diets Promote Leanness
Do you have to eat a high-protein diet to lose fat?
There are other fat-reducing methods, but high-protein, lower carb whole food diets consistently work well for the majority of people who try them. You should be familiar with the four primary reasons higher protein diets improve body composition:
•    If your goal is fat loss, preserving lean muscle mass should be a primary focus of nutrition because it is critical for maintaining your metabolism. If you lose muscle, your body burns fewer calories daily, which is a main contributor to rebound weight gain on the typical calorie-restricted diet.
For example, a recent study that compared the effect of three different protein intakes (the RDA of 0.8 g/kg, double the RDA of 1.6 g/kg, and triple the RDA of 2.4 g/kg for protein) as part of a calorie-restricted diet illustrates this.
All groups lost about the same amount of weight. The double the RDA dose of 1.6 g/kg of protein effectively protected lean muscle mass. The higher triple RDA dose of 2.4 kg didn’t have any additive effect, whereas the RDA dose of 0.8 kg led to muscle loss over the 3 week study.
•    It costs the body more calories to process protein than carbs or fat, which is referred to as thermogenesis. Quality is paramount here: A study showed that when subjects ate animal protein (meat) they had 17 percent higher increase in resting energy expenditure than a group who ate vegetable protein (beans and plant sources).
•    Protein is filling. When people eat a greater percentage of their diet from protein, they feel more satisfied and eat fewer calories overall. A review of the issue found that for every 1 percent increase in protein intake, people naturally decrease calorie intake by between 32 and 51 calories daily.
•    High-quality protein helps manage blood sugar and insulin, decreasing cravings for sugar.
The easiest way to lose fat is to eat a fairly high-protein diet. The ratios of protein, carbs, and fat are variable and based on all those unique traits that make you different from your peers: genetics, current body composition, fitness, goals, stress level, preferences, and so on.
Take Away: Increasing your protein intake is the best place to start if your goal is leanness because it protects muscle muss, increases energy use, and is sustainable because it reduces hunger.
#2: Focus On Protein Quality For Fat Loss: Get 10 Grams of EAAs Per Meal
High-quality protein is defined as a protein source that provides at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) at every meal. The EAAs must be present in the body for muscle tissue repair to occur, and they can’t be stored in the body, which is the reason you need a steady supply of these building blocks.
Research shows that eating the 10-gram-threshold of EAAs per meal is associated with having less body fat and more muscle mass in people of all ages. For example, over the course of a 5-year study, individuals who had higher quality protein intake had the greatest reductions in waist circumference.
In another study, scientists found that those who ate the EAA “threshold” of 10 grams per meal in a 24-hour period had significantly less visceral belly fat.
In another approach, a German study identified metabolic markers that were associated with body fat percentage and found that the higher the serum level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), the less body fat subjects had. BCAAs include three of the most important EAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The association between higher BCAA levels and less body fat was consistent for both men and women and was independent of exercise participation. BCAA levels were also associated with greater lean muscle mass.
Eating high-quality protein is so effective at optimizing body composition because providing a consistent stream of 10 grams of EAAs will maximally stimulates protein synthesis to keep you body repairing tissue and building muscle.
Of interest, researchers believe that overweight, sedentary people have dysfunctional BCAA metabolism and an inability to stimulate fat burning. They experience a “derangement in muscle metabolism that favor the development of obesity and metabolic diseases.”
This is one reason that, although we often say “fat loss starts in the kitchen,” exercise is absolutely essential to achieve it because it optimizes metabolism for protein synthesis and the burning of fat for energy.
Take Away: For leanness, plan your diet so that you achieve the threshold 10 grams of EAAs per meal. Eggs, fish, beef, milk, and whey protein are the highest EAA containing foods.
#3: Enhance Fat Metabolism With Balanced Macros & Whole Food
In order to lose fat or simply maintain your body composition, your body must be capable of metabolizing the dietary fat you eat and the fat you’ve got stored.
First, you need your body to effectively metabolize the fat you eat so that it can be used to make hormones, optimize brain health, and absorb essential vitamins. Something as simple as a stressed out liver or chronically poor sleep will impede metabolism of dietary fat.
Second, your body must be “metabolically flexible” so that it is able to readily mobilize and burn stored body fat as well as glucose (carbs). A failure in metabolic flexibility leads to fat gain and insulin resistance.
How do you ensure healthy metabolism of the fat you eat and the ability to burn the fat you’ve got stored?
Two methods of improving fat metabolism are exercise and replacing carb intake with fat. When you reduce the percentage of your calories that come from carbs, you decrease insulin and shift the body to burn fat rather than blood sugar. However, obese people don’t respond to this strategy as effectively as lean people.
In one study, 12 lean and 10 obese men were given a high-fat diet (70 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 15 percent carb) for three days. The lean subjects increased the amount of fat their bodies burned for energy, whereas the obese subjects did not. Researchers think that over the longer term, obese people would respond to the shift in macronutrients, but the process is uncomfortable because energy levels are compromised.
Using exercise to teach the body to burn fat is more effective for obese people. In the study just mentioned, the same two groups of men went through a washout period, then did 10 days of aerobic exercise (1 hour a day at 70 percent of maximal). This time, both the lean and obese subjects increased fat burning, indicating that exercise is a catalyst for the overweight to become more metabolically flexible.
A contributing factor to optimal fat metabolism is the amino acid carnitine. Carnitine is a potent fat burner because it is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy in the body.
In the German study mentioned in #1, along with BCAAs, subjects with higher free carnitine levels had significantly less body fat. The researchers interpret this link between carnitine and lower body fat to be evidence that people with more muscle mass will have an enhanced ability to burn fat.
Take Away: If you’re overweight, you must exercise because this is the most effective tool you have to improve their body’s ability to burn fat for energy. Eat a higher fat, lower carb diet with high-quality protein to supply carnitine and EAAs.
#4: Don’t Get Confused By Protein Backlash
In a high-carb culture, protein backlash is understandable. Nutrition, medical professionals and the media incorrectly warn us that a high-protein diet will tax kidney function, cause kidney stones, and leech bones of calcium, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
In fact, protein intake up to 2 g/kg/body weight a day is completely safe for healthy kidneys and appears to improve bone health. A study of competitive athletes concluded that daily protein intake, as high 2.8 g/kg won’t damage the kidneys in healthy athletes. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that the one group that should not eat a high-protein diet is those who have clinical kidney dysfunction or who are on dialysis.
Meanwhile, a large-scale analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of 31 studies found a small but significant benefit from greater protein intake on bone strength at several skeletal sites including the lumbar spine in every category of the population, from children to elderly men and women.
In addition to observational evidence that higher dietary protein benefits bone strength, we know that bone building requires a steady pool of amino acids in the body and over 50 percent of bone is made of protein. Eating more protein increases levels of insulin-like growth factor-I, which is a major regulator of bone building.
So you fully understand how it works, higher protein diets do tend to increase acid formation in the body, which leads to a loss of calcium (this is calcium that’s already been absorbed). However, calcium absorption during digestion is increased with diets higher in animal protein, which may offset that loss.
In addition, there’s a wealth of evidence that other factors such as lean mass percentage and muscle strength are more important for bone health than the calcium issue.
For example, sports scientists are well aware that the most effective way to strengthen bone is with activities that load the spine with heavy weights. Weight-bearing exercises that produce a large ground reaction force such as jumping also build bone.
Take Away: Don’t get confused by the misinformation about protein intake in a high-carb culture. Higher protein diets are safe for healthy people and they convey benefits for bone strength, muscle maintenance, and fat loss.
#5: Improve Gut Health to Optimize Protein’s Benefits For Muscularity
Do you remember the media storm that reported that carnitine and red meat were associated with heart disease? Although these reports completely missed the boat, there are some dangers to a high-protein intake that have to do with gut health.
Gut bacteria will live off of what you eat. People who eat more animal protein tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume less fiber, though this tendency may not be typical in people who follow a Paleo-type diet. Low-fiber, higher animal protein diets have been found to increase inflammatory gut bacteria.
For example, a recent study from Tufts University of young (ages 18-35), normal-weight healthy people found that those who had more lean muscle mass had higher levels of biomarkers of inflammatory gut metabolism. These markers are considered metabolic toxins that have been linked with adverse health conditions, including gastric cancer, obesity, and type II diabetes.
The Tufts researchers suggest that although a high dietary protein intake is important for the optimization of muscle mass, an overconsumption of dietary protein that leads to the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria is dangerous.
A possible solution is to support the growth of beneficial anti-inflammatory gut bacteria with a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and something called resistant starch, which is found in foods such as bananas, oats, peas, maize, and potatoes. According to Mark Sisson, one of the easiest ways to improve gut flora is to consume raw unmodified potato starch.
This approach is supported by what we know about present day hunger-gatherers such as the Kitavan Islanders in Oceania who eat an ancestral diet that is high in resistant starch and other fibers that stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut. The Kitavans eat no Western foods (grains, flour, sugar, oil) and are lean and virtually free of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Take Away: Don’t let a blind spot such as lack of fiber in your higher protein diet compromise health. Support gut health with a variety of vegetables, fruit, probiotic foods, and resistant starches.

#6: Balance High-Quality Protein With Fruits and Veggies

You won’t be surprised to learn that the Tufts University study also found that higher metabolic markers of BCAAs were associated with greater lean mass and insulin sensitivity. However, the news was not consistently positive for subjects who had better body compositions.
There was strong evidence that subjects with more lean mass had more oxidative stress and inflammation. Scientists were concerned with this association and suggest that people who eat diets rich in protein should increase fruits and vegetables because they are well documented to increase blood antioxidant capacity and reduce inflammation.
A related benefit of phytonutrient-rich foods is that they support mitochondrial health, which is suppressed on a high-protein diet. You may recall from elementary biology that mitochondria turn energy from food into ATP to provide energy for cells to fuel activity. The byproduct of this process is free radicals, which bounce around, damaging everything in sight, and accelerating aging.

The best way to avoid free radical production is to not eat. No joke! This is the reason calorie restriction and fasting are beneficial for longevity since they improve mitochondrial health and prevent aging.
A more practical method is to get your carbs from plants, and eat the rest of your energy from high-quality protein and beneficial fats. The nutrients in plants eliminate free radicals that cause inflammation. Favoring fat at the expense of carbs provides a “cleaner” burning energy source, generating fewer free radicals than carbs.
Take Away: Get your carbs from protective phytonutrient-rich foods such as blueberries, grapes, kiwi, tart cherries, raspberries, blackberries, leafy greens, peppers, pomegranates, and some starches. Avocado, olives, coconut oil, whey protein are other antioxidant-rich foods to include as you go high in fat and protein.

Charles Poliquin’s Blog – Fifty Fat Loss Tips

Fat loss tips.  Mary-Pier Gaudet.1.    Train using the most “bang for your buck,” multi-joint lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin-ups, and Olympic lifts.

2.    Avoid isolation, single-joint lifts 
such as bicep or leg curls unless you have unlimited training time.

3.    Use very short rest periods (10 to 60 seconds) 
to trigger the greatest growth hormone response.

4.     Vary the tempo of lifting phases and rest periods 
to provide new stimulus for the body to adapt.

5.    To get lean fast, use a hypertrophy-type protocol 
(8 to 12 reps, more than 3 sets, 70 to 85 percent 1RM load).

6.    Use a longer time under tension to burn more energy and increase postexercise oxygen consumption
—try a 4-second eccentric and 1-second concentric phase.

7.    Train to create an anabolic response. 
Increasing growth hormone is the priority because of its significant lipolytic (fat burning) effects.

8.    Perform circuit training with little rest between sets
 for maximal growth hormone response.

9.    For gradual fat loss over a longer period, include strength cycles that favor testosterone release with heavier loads 
(up to 95 percent 1RM), slightly longer rest (2 to 3 minutes), and lots of sets.

10.    Work harder. 
If you’re not getting results, you’re not working hard enough.

11.    Give priority to training the anaerobic energy system 
over the aerobic system when strength training and conditioning.

12.    Do high-intensity sprint intervals for conditioning. 
Two examples are 60 cycle sprints of 8 seconds each, 12 seconds rest; or 6 all-out 30-second running sprints on a track, 4 minutes rest.

13.    Be as active as possible in daily life. 
Move more: Take regular brisk walks during the day, always take the stairs, park far away in any parking lot, or do your own yard work.

14.    Do relaxing physical activity 
instead of sitting in front of a screen: yoga, stretching, foam rolling, martial arts, or walking mediation.

15.    Eliminate all processed foods from your diet
—don’t eat them ever.

16.    Eliminate all trans-fats from your diet 
such as margarine and shortening—they MUST be removed from the diet.

17.    Don’t avoid fat. 
Research shows that people with diets with 30 to 50 percent coming from smart fats have higher androgens and lower body fat.

18.     Eat smart fat, 
favoring the omega-3 fats that come from fish and wild meats.

19.    Take fish oil to boost omega-3 fat intake 
and ensure your omega-3 to omega-6 fat intake is balanced.

20.    Eat a diet with high-quality protein
organic meats will provide the largest “bang for your buck” protein.

21.    Eliminate wheat and avoid grains 
in favor of vegetables.

22.    Raise resting metabolic rate 
(the amount of calories the body burns at rest) by eating a higher protein diet with 15 to 25 percent of the diet coming from high-quality protein.

23.    Eliminate all high-glycemic carbs
 and eat only low-glycemic vegetables and berries.

24.    Eat an antioxidant-rich diet to prevent inflammation, 
which leads to fat gain. Try kale, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, berries, pomegranates, and cherries.

25.    Non-green veggies that help you lose fat 
are colored peppers, eggplant, garlic, onions, mushrooms, hearts of palm, spaghetti squash, and water chestnuts.

26.    Drink a lot of water 
(at LEAST 3 liters a day) to stay hydrated and help detox the body.

27.    Avoid alcohol, juice, soda, and sports drinks. 
Stick to water, tea, and coffee.

28.    For a radical approach, eliminate all alcohol. 
If alcohol can’t be eliminated, Sardinian and Spanish red wines are the best worst option.

29.    Try acupuncture—
studies have shown it can aid in treating obesity.

30.    Make sure your vitamin D level is over 40 ng/ml.
 Take vitamin D if not.

31.    Take a probiotic 
to improve your gut health.

32.    Make sure your magnesium level is up to par. 
Scientists suggest 500 mg of magnesium a day.

33.    Take a liquid zinc test to see if you can taste zinc. 
If not, you are deficient and should take zinc to speed fat loss.

34.    Don’t buy cheap, poor quality supplements 
because they will do more harm than good if they are tainted with heavy metals or pollutants.

35.    Take B vitamins, especially if you eat a high-protein diet or take BCAAs 
because the extra amino acids take away from the pool of available B vitamins need for detox.

36.    Drink coffee or take caffeine before workouts to increase fat burning 
and work capacity—research shows we will self-select heavier loads if we take caffeine before training.

37.    Drink organic green tea 
to elevate fat burning and aid in detoxifying the body.

38.    Take carnitine 
to help the body use fat for fuel and increase time to exhaustion when training hard.

39.    Take the amino acid taurine 
because it lowers the stress hormone cortisol and helps the body digest fat.

40.    Take R-form alpha lipoic acid 
because it supports detox and recovery from training.

41.    Use the herb fenugreek with meals 
to improve insulin sensitivity and energy use.

42.    Remove body piercings to lose fat fast
especially belly piercings.

43.    Limit fructose in the diet 
because it gets in the way of losing belly fat.

44.    Never eat fructose before workouts 
because it blunts fat burning and lowers metabolic rate.

45.    Avoid milk before workouts 
because it is very “insulinotropic,” meaning it causes persistently high insulin levels that make you burn less energy.

46.    Don’t drink caffeine after workouts 
because it may raise cortisol at the point where you need to clear it for the best fat-burning and recovery effect.

47.    Eat high-quality protein for breakfast
Avoid cereal and all processed foods.

48.    Eliminate all sugar from your diet.
 It’s way more trouble than it’s worth if you want to lose fat.

49.    Make an effort to get enough sleep.
 An early-to-bed, early-to-rise sleep pattern has been shown to improve body composition.

50.    Know that you have complete control over what you put in your mouth. 
No one ever ate anything by accident. 

Stretching for Strength and Muscle Mass

Practical advice on getting the most out of this effective training method

by Charles Poliquin
2/24/2012 4:08:34 PM

You can use the timing and the nature of stretching to maximize gains in strength and flexibility.

The timing of stretching is critical to maximize the training response, meaning that a great method of stretching used at the wrong time can be disastrous. The regular practice of stretching will accelerate maximal gains in strength and hypertrophy. However, restrictions in fascial structures slow down hypertrophy gains and make it difficult to improve flexibility. Hence, the popularity of our FAT tool courses to remove limiting adhesions – especially when combined with a NO2 increasing cream such as Zanagen Ignite.

If you stretch with the wrong method, such as doing static stretching before strength training, you make the muscle temporarily weak and increase the risk of injury. This has been proven in multiple studies of various stretching activities, ranging from strength training to warming up for rugby and football. In most studies the decreases in maximal strength and power range from 7 to 20 percent. Who wants to train or compete at 80 to 93 percent of their best?

PNF stretching and ballistic stretching increase strength levels for workouts and competition. The key is to perform until you feel your nervous system being activated. Using bands to stretch the joint capsules also potentiates strength and flexibility gains.

To maximize your flexibility gains, four to six hours after strength training do a combination of stretching methods in this order: PNF, then ballistic, then static; following this protocol will accelerate your progress in the weightroom and on the athletic field. With PNF stretching make sure to gradually increase the tension to about 66 percent of maximal strength for 6-8 seconds for the highest return on your time investment.

When using the ballistic method, use the pendulum approach, by gradually increasing both range and velocity of the stretch. Although many physical therapists frown upon this method and argue that it increases the risk of injury, this is no more than the talk of glorified bartenders with their bags of ice. Successful kicks and throws are ballistic, so you can and should train the same way you compete! It’s all about the progressions. Weightlifters lift world records after progressive warm-ups. They get there by lifting heavy weights in a progressive manner. Why not apply the same principles to stretching?


Sleep Enough: Get More Sleep and Make It A Habit for Optimal Body Composition

Make it a habit to go to bed at the same time nightly and you’ll have a better body composition. Adequate sleep duration is linked to less belly fat (both visceral and subcutaneous) and a leaner body overall. It’s also essential not to vary the amount of sleep you get from day to day. Catching up on sleep on the weekends or other days after you’ve burned the candle at both ends puts you at greater risk for weight gain.
The reason is that sleep deprivation, even for a night or too, will get in the way of the body’s natural ability to maintain homeostasis. This leads to altered stress hormone levels that hinder rest and recovery. Longer periods of sleep deprivation or a very unbalanced sleep schedule will further hamper the body’s ability to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of glands that help us deal with stress. This can lead to elevated cortisol, which is linked to fat gain and a poor body composition.
A new study in the journal Sleep Breath looked at the sleep habits of a large group of over 20,000 participants. Participants who had radically varied sleep patterns, sleeping for a few hours some nights and more than 8 hours other nights, had the greatest increase in body mass index over the 3-year study period.  Participants who got the same amount of sleep every night, generally at least 6.5 hours, had the least increase in body mass index. The key is to go to bed at the same time, preferably following an early-to-bed, early-to-rise pattern, and sleep the same amount every night.
Varying your sleep patterns will not only stress the body, putting you at risk for fat gain, but it will also lead to poor brain function. Although, it’s reasonable to suggest that varied sleep patterns may be associated with poorer lifestyle and health choices, the association between weight gain and varied sleep in the Sleep Breath study was independent of all other risk factors.
Another new study using a Japanese population in the International Journal of Obesity found that men who slept less had much greater waist circumference and greater belly fat than those who got adequate sleep. Among women in the study, there was no direct correlation between sleep duration and body composition, although the women who got less than 5 hours of sleep a night (the least amount measured) had significantly greater visceral belly fat than women who got more than 5 hours a night.

Five things you can do to ensure you get adequate sleep include the following: 

1)    Go to bed at the same time every night. Set a schedule that is regular and you can follow during the week and on the weekend. Make it a priority and stick to it even if you don’t feel tired. Your body will adjust.
2)    Do things in the hour or half-hour before your set bedtime to help you relax. For example, reading, meditating, and filling out a log of what you are grateful for can all be helpful to calm your mind and get your body ready to sleep.
3)    Turn off all screens during the hour or half-hour before bedtime. Really, it will make a huge difference in your ability to go to sleep and get good rest. Turn off computers, TVs, phones, and any other screens  for at least the final 30 minutes before you hit the sack.
4)    Have a very small snack with carbs about an hour before bedtime. Carbs can help elevate serotonin—the neurotransmitter that helps you feel good, calm, tired.
5)    Ensure you are taking adequate magnesium. The tip from yesterday talked about the critical importance of magnesium for health and highlighted the fact that the average American gets less than 25 percent of the magnesium they need a day from the diet. Magnesium calms the nervous system and will help you get adequate rest and achieve a lean body composition.

Yi, s., Nakagawa, T., et al. Short Sleep Duration in Association with CT-Scanned Abdominal Fat areas: The Hitachi Health Study. International Journal of Obesity . February 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Kobayashi, D., Takahashi, O., et al. High Sleep Duration Variability is an Independent Risk Factor For Weight Gain. Sleep Breath


Do The Hard Stuff

by Charles Poliquin

The most common training mistake is choosing the easy way out: choosing the exercises that don’t recruit the most muscle. Leg extensions vs. squats, back extension vs. deadlifts, etc.
Basically, hypertrophy is a function of load time under tension within a certain limit. It’s always a matter of how many motor units you can recruit. Bench pressing with chains is going to do more for you than the same number of reps with a plate-loaded chest machine. You need to choose the exercises that give you the most bang for your buck.
Let’s say you have ten sets of twins and divide them into two groups. One group does squats with chains, deadlifts with bands, bench press with chains, and chin-ups. The other group does the leg extension, leg curl, machine bench press, and lat pulldown. The difference in hypertrophy would be monstrous between the free-weight accommodating resistance group verses the machine group.
The problem with plate-loaded machines is that the leverage is often too good. Every kid in high school can do five plates a side, but they can’t do five plates a side with any barbell exercise. And when in real life would you have to overcome resistance in a seated position? Never.
One more problem with machines is the fixed pattern of movement. For that same reason, I think dumbbells are a better choice for most exercises than barbells, particularly if you’re dealing with an athletic population.
Now, machines can sometimes be a good source of variation for the “beach body” lifter. In bodybuilding, the muscles don’t have to have any other function. They just have to look pretty. It doesn’t matter if you use rocks or selectorized weight machines, as long as you have enough load and you last long enough (time under tension), you can hypertrophy.
I’m not dogmatic enough to say that machines are “evil.” It depends on the population. The executive doesn’t care how heavy he can go on the incline dumbbell press; he just wants to look good in a bathing suit at the five-star resort. Whether he used machines or dumbbells doesn’t really matter.


High Reps or Heavy Weight? by Charles Poliquin

The best studies on hypertrophy have been done in Finland, and they found that wrestlers, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and weightlifters all hypertrophy… but for different reasons. The most important thing for hypertrophy training is to actually do varied training. Look at Ronnie Coleman. He used to train as a powerlifter then he trained as a bodybuilder: varied training.

Look at pre-1980s bodybuilders, back when steroid usage was fairly light compared to today. Back then, they trained as part of a subculture with weightlifters and powerlifters. By society’s standards, people who lifted weights were weirdoes. So all these people lifted in the same gyms and shared training methodologies.

The forgotten element of hypertrophy training today is the principle of overload. People don’t try to lift heavier, they just double their drug dosage.

So, “going for the burn” and getting a pump with higher reps is one way to hypertrophy, but not the only way. For example, if I make you do eccentric squats and eccentric chins, you’re going to put some weight on, but you don’t have a burn.

Hypertrophy is a function of load vs. time under tension. Since it’s a product, you can work at one end or the other, or both. Let’s say you can squat 135 pounds for 10. Well, if you go on to squat 135 for 30, your legs will grow. But if, instead, you go on to squat 225 for 10, your legs will grow too, only for a different reason. And if you can eventually do 225 for 50, then your legs will really get big!

Both systems work.


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