Monthly Archives: September 2014

Bulking Food for Thought

When bulking to add muscle do you consider the following:

– Increasing Calories
– What foods you must eat
– What extra foods you can eat

Increasing your calories from lets say 2500 to 3000 might not seem like much, but it is. Adding an extra 500 calories per day can be quite hard for many people, when we take into account time to eat, the type of foods we eat, the result we’re aiming for and how we might struggle to achieve our current calories, adding 500 can seem a mighty challenge.

Yesterday I spoke about the nutritional density of foods, and how they can differ defending what types of foods you eat, Man Made of Whole.

I prefer people to have the majority of their diet as whole foods -80% minimum- Because this will allow them to have those cravings without a massive amount of guilt and maintain a healthy mindset.

Trying to add 500 calories or more in some cases, through whole foods alone is a challenge because as I explained yesterday, your Leptin will kick in and tell you that you cant eat anymore, now this is where the eternal contradiction becomes prevalent.

Eating man made foods is bad for health, yet they are an excellent source of carbohydrates and extra calories which is required for muscle growth.

I shall start with saying this, I’m not saying to go and eat lots of crap foods, I am saying you can add certain man made foods to your diet to help you achieve your desired results. Adding a fat free yoghurt is a great way to get in extra calories which are provided from the protein/carb content of the yoghurt for example.

Here is a list of man made foods that I would consider adding to your diet if you’re looking to bulk, this is because they are dense in terms of calories and this will help you achieve your goal.

Oats mixed with whey protein
Flavoured Milk
Fat Free Natural Yoghurt
Cottage Cheese
Nut Butter/Spreads and rice cakes
Soaked Grains (This helps combat the gluten effect.)

It’s also worth remembering that you can make protein flap jacks and other such calorie dense foods at home, there are endless recipes on the internet.



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Food Density

I trust all had a good weekend, and you all filled your bellies with good food.

I was having a chat with a young lady in Costa this morning about helping her achieve her goal of fat loss, while I explained about the density of foods I could see her eyes glaze over, this got me thinking that not everyone knows about this topic so I thought it would be a good subject to diverge in too.

Not all foods are created qual, lets say you have a doughnut that is 350 calories, this is very dense in terms of calories, this density is provided not only carbohydrates but fat too. With its high density of calories from sugar/fat it is the sort of food that you can eat by the crate load because it has very little effect on you Leptin (satiety hormone) and heavily stimulates your Insulin (storage/regulation hormone) because of the high sugar content. Because of this you can easily consume up to 1000 calories from eating only 3! I’m sure there are many of you who have done this in one sitting.

Now lets take a chicken breast, small sweet potato with feta cheese and some salad; altogether when these are combined they can hit perhaps 500 calories tops (based on an average portion size), this meal again has fat and carbohydrates along with the added benefit of protein. These foods are also dense but not in calories, they are dense in their nutritional value and content, unlike the doughnut these sorts of foods are very hard to overeat, your body can regulate the hormone Leptin more efficiently because of the added protein and fibre, meaning you will not over eat.

So with this new information can you begin to understand the difference between the two type of density?

Here are the two ways to remember what the different types of density are:

Highly processed foods are calorie dense and often high in refunded sugar and damaged fats.
Whole foods are highly nutrient dense because they are not man made for your pleasure.

It is worth keeping these points in mind when you’re making food choices.

Tomorrow I will continue this subject and explain how some calorie dense foods can help you, if your goals it to bulk and add muscle that is.


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Carbs before bed, Madness or Miricale?

Todays subject is somewhat controversial. I am sure many of you have heard that eating carbs before bed is not a good idea because they will slowly kill you by getting stored as fat, this is not entirely true.

Eating a meal filled with some high quality carbs/protein will actually help you be leaner in the long run, they will help you achieve a deeper sleep which helps with your muscular repair/growth. It will also help increase your energy levels for the next day, allowing you to have a hearty breakfast filled with protein and fat because you wont have a craving for sugar in the morning.

Carbs increase the production of Serotonin (The happy hormone.) which in turn gets converted to Melatonin (The sleep/body regulation hormone.). When your body has adequate levels of melatonin it will aid repair because of the overall affect it also has on lowering cortisol (The stress hormone.), this helps other hormones such as testosterone, Growth Hormone, IGF-1, Leptin, Ghrelin, basically all of your important hormones for maintaining optimal homeostasis.

Try and avoid highly processed sugars before bed, here is a few example of some of the best choices:

– Milk
– A High quality protein shake mixed with Blended Oats
– Greek Yoghurt

Personally I would strive for a Carb to Protein ratio of 3g-1g or 2g-1g, this is what I have found helps promote the best sleep along with the best affect on muscle repair/growth.


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Haters, Forget Them.

I have decided to change my topic today. I was going to talk about the link between fitness, the fountain of youth and ever lasting life, but instead I am going to talk about a common problem we all have: Haters.

People will hate because it’s in their nature, we are jealous creatures and want what other have. What we have is never enough, we always want more, even if we don’t need it.

There are those who work hard often has their results or achievements belittled or dismissed by the few who are jealous, greedy and envious because they haven’t done the same. These people are often the very same people we call our friends, it’s a sad sad world we live in when those who are meant to have our backs are the ones holding the knifes ready to strike when we look away.

I have known people to achieve great things, then only to stop because of the immense amount of hate they received for being successful. I have some words for those of you who receive hate for what you have achieved:

“Be proud of the fat you’ve lost, be proud of the time you’ve spent working hard, be proud that you’re now feeling better about yourself and remember this; people will hate, you can’t stop them, you can however ignore them because in the long run it doesn’t matter what they or anyone else thinks, it only matters that you’re happy in yourself.”



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Do you even Cluster?

I get lots of questions from beginners on how they can train, these questions vary in their nature, this morning I had a question from a more advance lifter who has hit a plateau in his progress. This question excited me, he asked –

“Is there any way I can increase my overall volume/overload while not spending any extra time in the gym?”

This question made my heart smile. I suggested to him using Cluster Sets, his response was one of stunned silence, it seemed he had not heard of the concept of before.

A Cluster Set is similar to a Rest Pause Set, however there is a crucial difference between the two.

When you have a rest pause set you allow yourself to break your reps – If you have 5 sets of 10 reps on bench and on the 4th set you push out 7 and just hold the bar for a few seconds and then finish your set; you might do the same for the last set too – that is a rest pause set, you will not exceed the number of desired reps.

A cluster set is similar yet very different, lets say you put your 5RM on the bar for squats, you do your 5 reps and then rack the bar for 15 seconds, after that time you immediately take the bar back out and squeeze out a few more reps (2-3 normally) then rack the bar once more, you will repeat this as many times as necessary until you have done and extra 10 reps on your 5RM (totalling 15 reps at 5RM for 1 set) you will do 3-5 sets in total.

Using this method of training will help increase your overall load lifted, therefor the total amount of stimulus received by the muscles, this means more potential grows or as many like to say “MORE GAINS!”.

I would recommend only doing this in 3 week blocks because it will eventually kill your CNS (central nervous system).


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Getting Lean to Get Big

I trust all had a good weekend, I know I did, despite being pulled over twice on the same night and each time being only 20min apart.

I digress.

Over the weekend many will have gone out and have a few drinks (equalling their body weight four fold). I am awaiting the list of new goals such as – ‘Burn off some fat starting now.’, ‘Build some muscle.’ and ‘Cut back on drinking.’ all are admiral goals, Today I am going to talk about why achieving the first goal make the second goal more achievable.

Getting lean is the secret to building some decent muscle, I know that might sound backwards but keep reading.

Excess fat – especially visceral – can lead to increased levels of what is called Aromatase.
Aromatase is responsible for the conversion of free testosterone/androgens to oestrogen, by getting as lean as you possibly can you will increase the amount of free testosterone available for use in building some good quality lean tissues. In short you want to get lean first before you get big.
Ok, now we know that we need to get lean to increase levels of testosterone there are some other factors to consider to help increase your testosterone even further.

Drinking excessive amounts will also lead to increased oestrogen levels and once again inhibit your progress to building lean muscle, cutting back on alcohol will be a good idea, however if you do feel the need for a cheeky one I would advise sticking with clear spirits.
You can also help increase your testosterone levels by eating certain foods and taking certain supplements.

Here are some of the main supplements that will help:
– Zinc
– Magnesium
– Vitamin A,D,E & K2
– Vitamin B complex
– Vitamin C
– Boron
– Copper
– Calcium
– Potassium
– Selenium

I won’t list all the foods here because I would be here forever, you will be able to find a comprehensive lift by searching the good old ‘Google Monster’.
Remember to build muscle it is best to get lean first and then add as many good whole foods as you can to your diet that contain testosterone boosting vitamins and minerals.


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Talent or Training?

Have you ever looked at someone and thought “You lucky son of a B***h, you got all the luck from the genetics pool didn’t you.”

We all know a friend who was intelligent, good looking, funny, charming, great at sport and generally awesome (I was that friend for many people), and we look upon them with envy because we will never be as good as them because they possessed natural talent, well today I’m going to tell you a secret:

So called Talent will only do what is can, Genius does what it must through hard work and sacrifice.

Achieving the heights of sport, work or even the social dynamic is something achievable for everyone, if it as a real priority to you and you have enough desire and drive to go for it.

I shall use Athletes as an example.

We all see young prodigies, or at least hear of them. A child superstar wit the skill on his peers, a natural born success; or so we think. Often these children have spent hours ‘playing’ at their sport (I call it playing because children don’t see it as practice) and accumulate thousands of hours in a short span of time.

Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule?

The 10,000 hour rule is the apparent number of hours you will need to hit the level of professional or master of your craft. Think about it some children hit this before the age of 10!

it is true that some people have a better chance in life deu to family back grounds etc, but that at the ends of the day does not mean they will amount to anything.

In short there is one thing you need to remember, everyone can achieve greatness, the only difference is the time you put in to achieving it.

You can be great, if you want it enough.


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Training long and hard for thousands of accumulated hours reaps the rewards of a better physique and stronger muscles, however, there comes a point when your body needs a rest and if you don’t your progress comes to a halt, or maybe even regresses.

Overtraining is an interesting subject, some say it is myth and it’s only under eating and under sleeping, others say they have never experienced it and the older cooler heads among us know it is very real and we have to not only periodise our training but also our rest/deload weeks.

How do you know if you’re overtraining?

-Your grip strength starts weaken: This shows your CNS (central nervous system) is fatigued.
– Your sleep becomes broken: This shows your cortisol levels are elevated and your adrenal glands are potentially becoming fatigued.
– You begin to lose muscle mass: Self explanatory really.

There are several principles you can follow for deload or back-off weeks as they are known.

-Jim Windler in his famed program 5-3-1 (I highly recommend reading his book.) suggest a deload week every 4th week, all you need do is drop the weights to 40-60% of Training Max while keeping the sets and reps the same, this gives your body some time to recover its CNS.

-Charles Poliquin recommends taking your volume back every 3rd workout (I asked him this in person at a hypertrophy course I attended, he’s much shorter in real life.) when he states every 3rd workout what he means is this: Following a 4day on 1 day off principle for example, the first 2 workouts you will increase the weights each time, when you come to the third workout for that specific day the weights stay as they did in the second workout, but, your volume decreases – 3×5 instead of 8×5 for example – He explained to me.

-Through reading various books and article a common practice it to take a full week off training every 6, 8 or 12 weeks depending on your overall training experience, this allows optimal recovery.

Time off is not only beneficial for your body, it’s also beneficial for your mind, this is because you can find a new motivation to train. I myself have felt training become laborious when I’ve skipped rest/deload weeks, trust me, time off is a good thing.

A nice simple test I like to use to check for overtraining is this – When starting a new program take a bar with half of your deadlift 1RM and hold is supinated (double underhand) for as long as you can, once you drop the bar see how long you held it for and take note of the time for reference. Lets say you have now been going at your training hard and start to feel some fatigue, perform the grip test again and if your time is slightly less then deload your weights or volume for a week and if your time is a categoric disaster treat yourself to a week off.

You have years to achieve your goals, why rush?


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Change is Good.

Progress is the key to growth. Do you come in and do the same program day after day after day?

Are you still progressing on your current training program?

If the answer is yes then keep going, why fix what isn’t broken. But, if your answer was no then it might be time to make some tweaks or even change your entire program.

With all the options for tweaking your program it can become confusing, I am going to give you various suggestions on what you can change to help your program once again give you steady progress without actually changing your program. If that makes sense.

Here are ways you can tweak your current program, you won’t need to change the exercises at all.

– Increasing Training Volume: More overall sets
– Increasing Training Intensity: Increasing the total amount time your muscles spend under tension, or shortening the amount of rest you take between sets.
– Increasing Frequency: This is as simple as working out the same muscle group one every 3 days instead of every 4, and so on.
– Changing the order of the Exercises: As it sounds, place isolation first and compound last for example.
– Changing the Days you Workout on: Again fairly self explanatory.

And Finally – Getting a new program written for you.

Those are some simple ways of helping you progress without changing your current workout.

Don’t fear change, change is good.


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Sets, Reps & Percentages Explained

“How many sets & reps should I do?” or “How much weight should I use?” are common questions I am asked regarding training for Hypertrophy and Strength, unfortunately the answer is not a simple one, It will change according to your own base strength and specific goals.

Actually, before I go in to details I would like to make one point clear:

Know your absolute goal.

I know a lot of people who will want to train for size but also get strong without getting too bulky and hold only 3% body fat while also having a sub 5min mile, sounds achievable, right?

If you are one of these people I and going to be harsh, you don’t need to know about sets, reps or what weight you need to be using because you do not have a clear goal, simple. Go away and write down what is a priority to you and what you really want to achieve, because, if it’s muscle size your cardio fitness will suffer slightly, maybe you’re after strength – in that case you may inadvertently put on some body fat to optimise your performance; can you see my point?

Goals will always come with sacrifice, you need to establish what it is YOU really want.

Right, back to the topic at hand – working out how many sets & reps to do and how much weight to lift – To know what you need to lift you will first need to know your 1Rep Max (1RM) from this you will be able to workout what percentage is optimal ‘according to various research articles’.

Once you have your 1RM you will us a percentage of that number for your required sets and reps, here is a brief guide to what type of results you can expect from what percentage you may choose to use. This is based on what I learnt from a young man named Charles Poliquin.

100% – 85% Relative strength increases through enhanced neural adaptation, you get stronger but not necessarily any bigger. The rep ranges are often 1-5 and the sets vary from 12 – 5.

83% – 78% This percentage range offers the ‘optimal’ compromise of strength gains and hypertrophy. The reps are 6-8 and as for the sets using 4-8 is the best option in my eyes.

76% – 70% Training in this percentage area is said to be the most recommended for Hypertrophy gains with a secondary affect on strength. 9-12 reps are what you will be looking for, and your sets will be 3-6.

68% and lower % These are the realms of strength endurance, unfortunately you will not yield such impressive gains in hypertrophy or relative strength from training in this percentage zone. It could help your Zumba?

*A useful rule to remember is the lower the reps the higher the sets and the higher the reps the lower the sets.

It is also worth mentioning that the tempo of which you lift the weights is equally as important, for strength you will want an eccentric of 2-4 seconds with a 1 seconds pause, then accelerate the bar as fast as possible (You might take a few seconds to get weight back up but thats because you’re training heavy, remember focus on moving that bar fast!).
For Hypertrophy a 4-8 second eccentric is great (depending on the weight/reps) a 1 second pause and a 1 second squeeze at the maximum point of contraction will help force more blood into the muscle too.

There you have it. I haven’t reinvented the wheel, these stats have been around for some time, why? Because they work. Take some time to establish you goal and then plan your workouts accordingly, and remember, pick one goal and stick with it.


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