Thursday, August 25, 2016

6 Ways Exercise Boosts Productivity In Your Career



When you are trying to lose weight or focusing on another health goal that generally involves exercise, finding time to show up for your workouts can turn out to be challenging enough. So if you have a career (or a business) that you have been working with in order to build this; it can turn out to be double whammy, as it is common that you put your work time ahead of your exercise time. Given here are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider.


Exercise keeps you alert and focused

Here is a quick lesson; exercise helps to increase the blood flow in the brain. And that sharpens the awareness. According to a study conducted by Jim McKenna from the University of Bristol, once an individual finishes exercising, the work performance is consistently seen to be higher when compared by the better time management and improved mental sharpness. A client of mine recently came across this experience during a long week leadership development program. And as a part of the program participants including the client started the day to day exercise, yoga, walking, or strength training.

Increased energy

The more and more you move, the more energized you feel. Regular physical activity helps in improving your muscle strength, boosting up your endurance, giving you the energy you need to think clearer and come up with new and different ideas. A good 15 minutes of moving around even just around the living room makes your body produce more and more energy on a cellular level.


Exercise improves mood

Need an emotional lift? Or need to blow of some steam after a stressful day? Having a work out at the gym or a brisk thirty minutes' walk can help you deal with it at ease. Physical activity helps you stimulate various brain chemicals that may help you feel happier and relaxed. You also continue to feel better in terms of your appearance when you continue to exercise on a regular basis, boosting up your confidence and improving your self-esteem.

Tracking and limiting how much time you have been spending on tasks

You might think like all others that you are pretty good at engaging how much time you have been spending on various tasks. However, research studies conducted suggests that only 17% of the people around are actually able to accurately estimate the passage of time. A tool like Rescue Time can help the employees and the other individuals by letting them know exactly and how much time you will wish to spend on daily tasks, including social, email, word processing and apps.

Stress management

Regular exercise has generally been shown to decrease the overall levels of tension, improving sleep and boosting self-esteem in an individual. It is thought that even five minutes of an aerobic exercise can stimulate the anti – anxiety effects. If you feel that you do not have enough time to put in a full cardio work out each day then even incorporating short bursts of activity in your daily life can turn out to be beneficial. You can even try out a 15 minute walk during the lunch time, or just take the stairs rather than the lift. If you don’t want to exercise alone then you can also join a fitness centre with your friend or colleague.

Just say no to meetings

Meetings are generally considered to be one of the biggest time sucks around, and yet somehow we continue to book them without asking any questions, attend them and invite others. Everybody inevitably continues to complain about them. According to Atlassian, the average office worker generally spends more than 31 hours each month during unproductive meetings. Before booking your next meeting, do ask yourself if you can accomplish the same goal or tasks via email, phone or web based meetings, and whether they will be slightly more productive enough in the long run.

About the Author


Michael is the Marketing Manager at Ampliz, specializing in email and marketing database management software, editing blogs, case studies, and guides. Beside work he is a fitness freak and a Marathon runner. He tries to make the world just a bit more pleasant enough by working on strategies that would help them prevent and eliminate spam in terms of email marketing.

So what are your best work productivity related tips? What other tips have you come across in order to maximize your own productivity at work or in the office. Do leave your thoughts and comments below. STAY STRONG!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fasted Cardio Myth Debunked

Maybe it's time Bodybuilders start training like Cyclists

Fasted Cardio Myth Debunked

By Clint Latham – www.BikeALatteCO.com 

 Wiping the sleep from my eyes, fumbling blindly in my closet for my bibs and asking myself time and time again; “Why am I doing this........why am I doing this”. I would slowly make my way downstairs carrying my bike; just thinking that this won't even last an hour, as I try to find some way to grip any bit of motivation left from the depths of my soul. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times; especially if you are involved in the body building community. If you want to maximize fat loss, you need to wake up early and hit the cardio before a single calorie hits the pit of your stomach. But the science would actually indicate otherwise. If you lived during the late 1990’s you have likely heard of the health craze sweeping the nation: Body for Life. It was a health and fitness challenge put on by sports supplement company guru Bill Phillips. I was especially fascinated by this challenge as it was based out of my home town of Golden, CO. In Bill’s chapter on cardio he had two basic principles.
1) Hit the cardio early before eating your 1st meal
2) Perform short high intensity interval cardio or High Intensity Interval Training

The idea was that the body had been fasting all night while you slept; reducing blood sugar levels, decreasing muscle glycogen stores and further decreasing insulin levels. Thus if you hit the cardio before your first meal the body would have no choice but to use fat as its primary fuel source. Sending the body's fat burning potential into high gear. Ever sense countless cyclists, bodybuilders and anyone else has been looking to cut weight; they have been clawing their way, tired and hungry, through high intensity cardio in the hopes of shedding a few extra pounds. As I traveled the country to the world's biggest bodybuilding events - The NY Pro, the Arnold and the Olympia - I would hear this time and time again. You've got to do your cardio fasted if you want to burn fat. It is as if it had been inscribed into the 10 commandments. As I would head down to the hotel gym in the morning for a spin, I would see countless bodybuilders knuckling the cardio equipment in the hopes of shedding a few extra ounces of fat, being so tired and hungry that they could barely keep a steady pace, let alone reach the intensities required for High Intensity Interval Training. Could this really be the best way to burn fat? They looked absolutely miserable. As I started to get back into the racing scene, a friend and training partner (Gareth Thomas - the national triathlon coach for the UK) used to always harp on me before our rides. "How many grams of carbs have you eaten?" But I always brushed him off. Here I was working with some of the fittest people on the planet, who can get to 3% & 4% body fat and your telling me to eat!? Yeah right! But that's when I got curious. We have bodybuilders performing fasted cardio and we have cyclists cramming as many carbs as possible. Yet both are extremely lean. What's the truth? How does the body oxidize fat?

The human body does not operate within a vacuum

The body is constantly adjusting its use of fat or carbohydrate depending upon a variety of factors. Kent Hansen, in his study, The Effects of Exercise on the Storage and Oxidation of Dietary Fat, found, "Generally if you burn more carbohydrates during your workout you will burn more fat post workout". While research does show that fasted cardio can increase the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue, this only occurs at very low levels of intensity. In the study Regulation of plasma fatty acid oxidation during low- and high- intensity exercise, "Our data suggests that, in addition to sub-optimal FFA availability, fatty acid oxidation is likely limited during high-intensity exercise because of direct inhibition of long-chain fatty acid entry into mitochondria." If a bodybuilder performs HIIT, they may see an increase in fat mobilization but that does not mean an increase in fat oxidation. This results in all those fatty acids being re-packaged and stored back into the adipose tissue. After all that suffering you put it right back where it came from! Furthermore Jeffery F Horowitz in his article in the American Journal of Physiology, found that; “When trained subjects exercised at 50% of the their maximum heart rate, an intensity that equates a slow walk, there was no difference in the amount of fat burned - regardless of whether the subjects had eaten or not.” These results continued to be the same until the subjects, that were fasted, exceeded the 90 minute mark. Only then did the fasted cardio begin to show favorable results. Thus what are we left with? The body will burn more fat cells when fasted at a lower intensity, but the volume has to be longer than 90 minutes. Anything shorter and it's a wash. And if we try to increase the intensity there is an inhibition of fatty acids being able to enter the mitochondria.  

Why Bodybuilders should think like an Endurance Athlete

As a competitive cyclist my goal for each workout was to make my engine bigger, stronger & faster. The way to do this is to increase the size and density of your mitochondria. Mitochondria are what produce ATP and is the only place in the cell where fat can be oxidized. It is the cell's fat-burning furnace. The more mitochondria my body has, the bigger my engine and the faster I can ride. Think about it like a car. If you have a V12 and a 4 cylinder engine both sitting at idle, which one is going to use more gas? The V12, right! Thus we would be better suited to turn our bodies into a V12 mitochondria machine so that we are constantly burning more fat cells. The study: An acute bout of high-intensity interval training increases the nuclear abundance of PGC-1α and activates mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle found that low volume, high intensity interval training increases mitochondrial biogenesis. Within 24 hours of maximal intensity exercise, new mitochondria were being formed. I preach to any new cyclist I work with to always eat before their rides. Why? Because without the fuel to fuel your muscles, you can't reach the intensity levels required to produce the enzymes that lead to mitochondria growth. I know countless bodybuilders that will preach, “You got to eat before you lift bro! You need to fuel those muscles.” Then why doesn't the same principle apply to high intensity cardio? You need to fuel the muscles to perform at a high level in order to induce growth. In this case, increase mitochondrial growth and fat burning potential. In the same study they found that a combination of both endurance and resistance exercise causes a significantly higher degree of mitochondrial biogenesis then endurance exercise alone. Bodybuilders have the resistance training part down but what about the endurance? Most bodybuilders I know cannot wait for their cardio sessions to be over. In fact most of them dread cardio. Enter the popularity of the high intensity interval training workout. It's short and sweet. We also know that one of the best ways to cut fat is calories in vs calories out. As bodybuilders get closer to show prep they begin cutting calories drastically to start leaning out. Now it is even more important that our mitochondrial engine is huge; we want to run the fat tank on empty. When performing an HIIT workout at the correct intensities, the body uses roughly 75% carbohydrate and 25% fat. The body, fully stocked full of glycogen stores, has roughly 90 mins worth of fuel for a moderately intense workout. In order to maintain optimal levels of glycogen, a daily carbohydrate intake of approximately 3 to 5 grams per pound of lean body mass is recommended when accumulating between 1 to 5 hours of training daily. If a bodybuilder has been cutting and especially limited their carbohydrate intake, they are already running on empty before they hit the gym.

The Bodybuilder's Worst Nightmare

Muscle tissue is made up mostly of protein which, in turn, is made up of amino acids. Normally, your body does not use protein to produce energy. If you run out of glycogen stores and no glucose is available, however, your body will then break down its own muscle tissue to release amino acids. These amino acids are sent to your liver, where they are converted to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. When your body starts to use muscle tissue for energy, you lose muscle mass. Starving without any glycogen left in the muscles to fuel their cardio efforts, bodybuilders still hit the treadmill in the hopes of shedding more fat. What's really going to happen is your body is now going to use the protein in that hard earned muscle to fuel your HIIT session. Think about a Tour De France rider. (If you're asking what the TDF is, it's like the super bowl of bike racing) Why are they so dang skinny? They burn so many calories during the race that they cannot eat enough to restore glycogen stores. What happens? The body starts eating the muscle. A bodybuilder is doing the same thing to a lesser degree during the cutting phase. The question becomes, why not have 20-40 grams of carbohydrates pre-cardio, to be able to hit the intensity requirements needed to build more mitochondria and save that precious muscle mass? You will be a constant fat burning machine and not have to sacrifice any muscle mass! In my Ride to 75 programs for new cyclists, one of the key principles is fuel. We want to ride to lose weight. Cycling for Weight loss requires that we build a big mitochondrial engine to be 24/7 fat burning machines. Now it is never a good idea to make a major change before a big show. However, you can start focusing on building your engine between shows by fueling your HIIT workouts which will burn more fat cells. You will also have to suffer less in cutting. If you or someone you know who is interested in achieving happiness and health on two wheels please share with them, Cycling for Weight Loss, the FREE resource guide here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stop giving children sugar


There has been a culture in society that dictates that it is okay to give children sugar, because they like it. Is it really all in the name of innocent fun or are we actually causing more harm than good?

Sugar addiction

Sugar addiction is a worldwide epidemic that affects every country in the world. It has been called the world's deadliest addiction, killing more people than illegal drugs and other diseases. Some believe that more than half of the western world's population may have an unhealthy addiction to sugar. By allowing children to eat sugar-filled sweets; laden with other harmful colorants, artificial flavors and toxins, are we subconsciously teaching them how to become sugar addicts?

Some people probably think that I am going too far in this post. If we lived in a world where unhealthy foods were not the norm for those who can't even make decisions for themselves yet; would obesity, diabetes, heart failure and other related diseases are as prevalent as they are in adults?

Imagine two children who were born exactly the same: identical genetics, lifestyles, social groups and disciplines. Now imagine that one of them follows the same typical diet as what is considered normal. Imagine that the other child is raised on a diet that consists of nothing but healthy, wholesome food 99% of the time like fruit, vegetables, diary, meats and grains in balanced proportions. Which child do you think would get the best marks in school? Which one would be the healthiest and get sick less often? Which one would do better at whatever hobbies and sports they chose? Which one would get the least pimples in puberty and which one would turn out to be the best looking? Ultimately, which one is most likely to make the healthiest life choices in adulthood and which one would be the happiest in life? Which one of these two children got the best chance at the best possible life?

I'm not saying that parents don't care for their children. I'm saying that they don't know how badly a sugar filled diet will actually affect them. The problem is that we raise our children according to the way everybody else does. It has become the norm to have cake and sweets at birthday parties and other events, for children to be rewarded with sugar and for children to drink carbonated drinks when they are thirsty. I can remember all the different kinds of sweets I used to have regularly at school and at home. Whenever I visited my grandparents' house, I got to choose 3 sweets out of the 'sweetie bowl'. I remember all the sweets we used to buy from the shop at my school, and my sports teams were given nice sugary treats every time we played against other schools. It was the norm.

Perhaps now would be a good time for you to pause for a moment and do a quick search on the negative effects of sugar and the other additives commonly found in sweets on childhood development. 

Health has become a choice

Here is one of the biggest problems in the world: health has become a choice, not the norm. Those who follow healthy diets have chosen to do so. Eating healthy is not a standard. You either eat a healthy diet, or eat like a 'normal' person. Has this got anything to do with the way we were raised? If eating healthy was the standard, wouldn't everybody be doing it because that is what they know, instead of mainly for other reasons like weight loss or disease control? Then again, is eating healthy was the standard; would anyone need to 'diet' for weight loss? And how much disease would actually trouble the western world?

Spotting the 'crazy' in the 'normal'

  • Ask a parent what their child's favorite sweet is, then ask what their child's favorite vegetable is. 
  • Vegetables are the things we need to finish quickly on the plate, but sweets are the things we can have fun with.
  • Have you ever seen a parent say 'hmm, yummy!' when giving their baby their first taste of cake? They are saying that because they expect their child to like the taste, not realizing that they are actually suggesting that their baby should like the taste.
  • Children are told to finish their greens, and then have a choice of desert afterwards. The healthy stuff becomes the work; the unhealthy stuff becomes the reward.
  • Look at cafeterias in schools. What kind of food is offered to children there?
  • How often are sugars present at fun childhood events, and which foods have the most interesting colors and shapes?
  • A child runs to a parent and says, 'I'm hungry'. How often will the parent say, 'there is an apple in the food bowl'?
  • At the age of 7, compare the number of different sweets a child has tasted to the number of different fruits they have ever tried.
At the risk of sounding negative, if this article has made you think twice or given you a new perspective, it was well worth the write! STAY STRONG!

Supplement Basics


This article is intended for the beginner who wants to amplify their bodybuilding efforts by starting to add supplements to their bodybuilding routines. The information contained here is very basic and therefore won't be of much value to most bodybuilders who already know what supplements are working best for them.

First things first: supplements are not essential

Supplements are not essential. It is possible to get all the nutrients you need for muscle growth from food. Supplements, as per the name, were originally made to supplement the diet to make up for any shortfalls in nutrition a person might not be getting from their current diets. They are also convenient. It is easier to drink a protein shake to give your muscles what they need straight after a workout than to eat a chicken and a loaf of bread on your way home from the gym. They also help to achieve a person's caloric goals. For example, a person needing to increase caloric intake can do this much easier by adding a mass gainer (high in calories) to their diets and a person looking to decrease calories (for fat loss) can take a low calorie (and low carbohydrate) protein shake instead of a meal which would typically be high in carbohydrates and fats. They are also cheaper regarding macro nutrient content. Gram for gram, it is cheaper to consume protein from certain nutrition shakes then other sources like meat. 

Do not depend on supplements only

It is not healthy to leave food altogether and use supplements only. Firstly, a lot of nutrients can only be found in real food. An apple, for example, has a great variety of minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and other micro nutrients that are not found in supplements. Supplements are mostly made to be easily absorbed by the body. When you stop eating normal foods regularly, your digestive system gets used to easily digested, powdered foods and will (after a period of time when it has only been using powdered nutrition) struggle to digest normal food.

Supplements are not steroids

There is a big difference between supplements and steroids. Do not expect them to do the same thing. Supplements sold in stores are not as potent, but do not have the same risks and side effects as steroids.

Can you take supplements if you are under the age of 18?

Yes you can, but not all supplements are considered safe for people under the age of 18. It is not recommended for people under the age of 18 to use creatine, testosterone boosters or high levels of caffeine and other stimulants. Meal replacements, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are fine for younger people to take, as long as they don't have the other stuff. Some argue that under 18's should not take a supplement at all because they don't need to, though. As with all age groups, supplements cannot replace a healthy diet, but add to it.

Supplement timing

Here are the most common times for people to use supplements.

Pre workout

Pre-workouts are usually mixed with water and used half an hour before exercise. They are usually high in stimulants like caffeine and are used for energy, to increase endurance and strength during exercise, to increase muscle pumps and to amplify a workout's ability to grow muscle. Ingredients often include creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine, HMB, nitric oxide boosters, testosterone boosters and vaso-dilators.

Intra-workout

These supplements are used during a workout. This is also usually in a juice-like form, mixed with water. They are used to re-hydrate, give energy, and keep the body in an anabolic (muscle building) state, reduce muscle break down and increase endurance. Common ingredients for these include electrolytes, amino acids, carbohydrates, sugars, creatine and beta-alanine.

Post workout

Post workout supplements are the most common, supplying immediate nutrients that a muscle needs to recover and grow straight after exercise. People trying to lose weight will mostly opt for high protein and low carbohydrate shakes; and people looking to gain mass will mostly opt for high carbohydrate and moderate protein shakes. These shakes are similar to hick milkshakes and are usually mixed with water or milk, depending on caloric goals. Common ingredients for these are protein, carbohydrates, creatine, testosterone boosters, amino acids and fats.

Before bed

Supplements used before bed are usually slow release proteins like casein, so that the body has a steady inflow of protein to feed muscles during a long period where nothing will be consumed for the body to use. They can also include testosterone boosters, glutamine and growth hormone boosters to speed up recovery.

Meal replacements

Meal replacements, as per the name, are supplements used in the place of a meal. These are used due to costs, convenience or better management of macro nutrient balances like decrease carbohydrate or increased protein intake. These are often in the form of shakes and bars. They are also taken as snacks (between breakfast and lunch; or between lunch and dinner).

Remember to keep whole foods in your diets, especially foods that are rich in fiber and micro nutrients. Supplements can also be costly, so choose wisely and try a few brands and products out to see what works the best for you. STAY STRONG!

Monday, August 15, 2016

High Fat Diets: Just Another Fad


Are high fat diets really the best way to lose weight that the world has seemingly just discussed? The answer is a resounding NO! Trends come and go. There was a big anti-fat movement years ago. Now it has changed to the anti-carbohydrate movement. Both movements (or trends, rather) promised better health and weight loss. Before you jump on the anti-carbohydrate bandwagon, consider a few of the points below/

Carbohydrates are macro nutrients

There are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat, 4 calories in one gram of carbohydrates and 4 calories in one gram of protein. For those of you who would like to know, there are 7 calories in 1 gram of alcohol (and no, this is NOT a macro nutrient, wink wink).

Carbohydrates are good for you

Carbohydrates are good for you and should not be banned from our diets. This excludes sugar (the simplest carbohydrate), which should be brought to an absolute minimum except for fruits and vegetables or used to spike blood sugar before or after exercise. Our bodies break carbohydrates down for energy faster than fats and proteins. They are a great way to fuel up before exercise and refuel straight afterwards to put the body in recovery (muscle building) mode as soon as possible. Carbohydrates are also broken down into glycogen which is stored (along with other places like the liver) in the muscle, which attributes to their size. The more glycogen a muscle contains, the larger it is. Carbohydrates are not bad, but western diets almost always contain too much of them. The problem is therefore not carbohydrates, but the proportion in which they are consumed.

Fats are good for you

Fats are not bad for you either, except for plant oils used in extreme heat like deep frying. When plant oils are super-heated (like they are when they are used to fry things), they become very unhealthy for the human body. They contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels, create unhealthy heart environments, increase risk of diabetes and can lead to obesity. Fats are more calorie-dense than carbohydrates but take longer to be broken down in the body for energy. Fats also keep you fuller for longer than carbohydrates. Fats are great in the morning because they take longer to break down so that you feel fuller and it therefore takes longer before the body starts to hunger for more calories. Because the body craves less for longer as a result of a fatty breakfast, it learns to break down its own fat for energy instead of relying on the quicker energy release from carbohydrates.

Protein is good for you

At the risk of being doctor obvious; protein is good for you, too. It cannot be stored in the body (except for in muscle mass, a storage we do NOT want to tuck into) and therefore should be accompanied by fats in the morning, when your body has not had any protein for hours of sleep. Your body needs protein to grow and build your body and muscles. Protein is also beneficial straight after your workout so that your body can recover and start the recovery/rebuilding process. High protein, low fat and low carbohydrate diets are okay for short periods of time to drop fat quickly, but can't be sustained for long periods of time because your body will start to break down muscle for energy.

Proportion

As you should be able to see from the three points above, the key to a healthy diet which supports your goals is proportion. There should be a healthy balance between all three macro nutrients. Focus on eating fats and protein in the morning, protein and carbohydrates around (before and after) exercise and a balance of all throughout the day, depending on your goals.

Price

This is my personal guess as to why trends are often swaying between high carbohydrate and high fat diets. Unfortunately, protein is more expensive than both carbohydrates and fats. Furthermore, the healthier foods are more expensive than the less healthy foods. This makes sense when you look at how well carbohydrates that trick the body into thinking that it is a protein are sold. Examples of these are beef and chicken flavored chips and noodles. People might be satisfying their cravings for more protein with cheaper versions which are actually carbohydrates or fats.

Calories

The best way to drop weight is to drop total calories consumed to levels below expenditure (the bodybuilding industry has been saying this for years). You can do this by increasing caloric expenditure, decreasing calories consumed (through diet) or a combination of both. It is important for optimum health to keep a good balance between carbohydrates, fats and proteins without completely avoiding any of them.

The real culprits to avoid are sugars, super-heated plant oils, additives and processed foods; not entire macro nutrients like carbohydrates or fats. Keep everything in balance and focus on having fewer calories than what is expended instead of excluding a food group that your body needs. STAY STRONG!

The Central Nervous System


The central nervous system is like the electrical circuit system that runs your body. It controls all muscle movements and is responsible for neurological messages that get passed from the brain to the rest of the body. The central nervous system is important to bodybuilders because it determines the amount of stimulus a muscle can take, plays key role of muscle recovery and growth and sets the physical bar as to how much a person can train before reaching a level of over training. The more you train, the greater your mind-to-muscle control becomes. This means that you can consciously force your muscle to perform at a higher percentage of its maximum output than before. The most common risk for bodybuilders regarding the central nervous system is over training.

Over training the central nervous system

Every time you exercise, you overload your central nervous system. It will grow stronger as a response to this, just like how a muscle grows as a response when being stimulated. However, the central nervous system does not get enough rest, unlike muscle groups, because it is 'trained' every time we work out. For example, in a 5 day split you might only work the chest muscles once a week, but you are working the central nervous system 5 times a week. The rate of which the central nervous system recovers is often (almost always) at a slower rate than it is stimulated through intense training like weight lifting. This means that over time, the central nervous system will have a cumulative stress that it needs to recover from. This is one of the main reasons why it is recommended to take a rest week every two months.

Signs of an over trained central nervous system

If you have the following symptoms, there is a high probability that your central nervous system is being over trained.

Decreased immune strength

You immune system and your central nervous system are two totally different systems, but they are very closely interlinked regarding the extent to which they affect each other. It is common for you to notice that your immune system is low before noticing that you central nervous system is causing the weaker immune response. A stronger central nervous system (because it stimulated to improve via exercise) supports better immunity, which is one of the reasons why people who exercise get sick less often. If you are getting sick more often than usual, it could be that your central nervous system is the one that needs a break.

Decreased physical performance

If you simply can't do what you usually can in the gym, even though you have been doing the exact same thing, it could be the central nervous system as it gets weaker from more stimulus than rest. Of course, the central nervous system is not always the cause of this symptom alone. It could also be a lack of sleep, poor diet and supplementation, stress etc.

Longer recovery time

The central nervous system has such a great role in muscle growth and recovery that when it gets weaker, it impacts your muscle directly. If it is taking your body longer to recover from the same exercise, the central nervous system probably needs a break. This symptom is not always present in cases of central nervous system over training though, as muscle often get more time to recover than the nervous system does.

Muscle twitches

Muscle twitches are common and occur with almost everybody; even people who don't exercise at all. It is also hard to figure out what they are caused by because it could be a variety of things like stress, muscle damage, hypertrophy (muscle growth), atrophy (muscle breakdown), a lack of minerals or a whole host of other possible reasons. It is, however, a common symptom associated with over training or stress of the central nervous system.

Energy levels

Energy levels are very largely determined by your central nervous system. Stimulants like caffeine actually stimulate the central nervous system in order to provide your body with more energy. Decreased energy levels are a good indicator that your central nervous system needs to recover.

Mood

Because energy levels are closely affected by your central nervous system, your mood will be affected as well. Symptoms of mood changes from a weakened central nervous system can be anger or frustration, depression or sadness, lack of motivation or will power and decreased 'zest for life'.

Sleep

The central nervous system requires sleep to recover. If you find that you need more sleep or are more tired during the day, it could be a symptom of central nervous system over training. Some people also experience trouble falling asleep as a result of central nervous system over training.

Boosters and hampers

Other things can also affect your central nervous system. Stimulants like caffeine will temporarily boost it, but too many stimulants over long periods of time can negatively impact your central nervous system as it is forced into a roller coaster of up-down-up-down motions without being able to naturally regulate itself. Minerals and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are needed by the central nervous system to function properly. Glutamine can also help support and speed up recovery of the central nervous system.

Look after your central nervous system and it will look after you. STAY STRONG!

Isometrics


Isometrics refers to working a muscle without moving it. Tensing your muscles is an example. We've all heard some of the big boys at the gym tell us that flexing the muscle group you have just worked in the mirror at the change rooms afterwards helps the muscles to grow even bigger. This is actually true because it further stimulates the muscle to grow and increase your pump. The pump in itself is beneficial because it causes the blood vessels to widen, increasing the amount of nutrients that can enter the muscle and increases the amount of waste products (like lactic acid) that can leave the muscle.

Isometric training already incorporated into your training session

Here are a few ways that you are probably already using isometric training:

Isometric exercises

Planks, which work out the core (abdominal, oblique and low back) muscles, are an isometric exercise because they work the muscles while they stay in the same position.

Stabilizing muscles

Muscles are also worked in an isometric fashion in lifts that require movement, but the stabilizing muscles aren't moved during the lift. For example, the core during push-ups, deadlifts, pull ups and squats does not move but is stimulated. Another example is the biceps, forearms, trapeziums and shoulders during dead lifts.

Isometric holds

You perform an isometric hold when you pause at the peak of your lift, like holding for one or two beats at the top of your bicep curl. Isometric holds have been touted as a great way to increase total time under tension and squeeze maximum muscle stimulus out of every rep.

Benefits of doing isometric training on its own

Here are a few reasons why doing isometric training in addition to your usual weight training routine can be beneficial:

Prevent and recover from injury

Isometric training is a great way to recover from joint injury because it does not require movement of the joint but still stimulates the muscle. For example, squeezing your hands together as hard as you can in front of your chest will still stimulate your chest muscles put will put less strain on your shoulders if you are recovering from shoulder injury.

Increase muscle strength during a specific range of motion

For example, if your chest muscles are at their weakest during the lowest part of the bench press (when the barbell is closest to your chest); you can increase the strength of your chest at this range of motion. You can do this by holding heavy dumbbells for as long as you can in this specific position for a few sets without moving them. This will increase your chest strength at this point, helping the outcome of your overall lift.

Shaping the muscle

Isometric lifts can shape muscles in order to achieve their best aesthetic look. For example, holding a dumbbell curl when the bicep is fully lengthened will develop the bicep in such a way that I will look longer. By performing an isometric hold when the bicep is fully contracted (shortened), it will make the bicep 'pop out' more.



Some people argue that you can develop the same amount of muscle mass through isometric contraction as normal weight lifting and there are numerous stories online of people who claim to have developed muscle this way. This is, however, a debated topic and we cannot verify whether this is true or just hype.

Well now you know what 'Isometrics' is all about, you know why the guys are posing so hard in the mirror and you have a few more options when it comes to injury and muscle shaping. Keep in mind that intense isometric holds do momentarily increase blood pressure as you tense your muscles as hard as you can. Keep pushing and be the best you can. STAY STRONG!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Rest time between sets

The truth is that different rest times can all build muscle. The best time between sets is probably the rest time you haven't been doing, because changing something as simple as rest times can shock your muscle into further growth.


The benefits of longer rest times between sets

If you typically rest for shorter periods (less than a minute) between sets, here is a list of reasons why resting a little longer might increase muscle growth.

Increased strength

Longer rest periods give your muscles more time to rest and recover, immediately increasing the amount of weight they can move and decreasing the rate at which they fail from set to set. Since more weight is moved and total time under tension (the total time the muscle is contracted against a weight) is increased, the muscle will receive more stimuli.

Less energy tax, more muscle tax

By resting more, your energy production systems are used less. This gives the body more resources and more energy to spend on building muscle tissue. More energy can be spent on generating power and building muscle, with less calories being spent on restoring cardio-vascular channels and refilling glycogen systems.

Great for bulking

As in the point above, more calories can be spent on muscle tissue instead of energy recovery. Also, glycogen levels within the muscle won't be drained as quickly as they are during shorter rest periods.

Less stress on the central nervous system

Since greater resting times will stress energy systems less and focus more on muscle tissue, the central nervous system will receive less stress. This means that you will be able to train more and be at less risk of over training. 

Keeping clear of a catabolic state

When the body is put under physical stress it releases cortisol, a stress hormone that holds onto fat cells and breaks down muscle tissue as a survival mechanism. The body does this because when it is stressed it thinks that its survival is at stake so it will rather break down muscle (which is more easily broken down than fat) to get quicker energy to get out of the alleged situation of danger as quick as possible. This is called a catabolic state, when the body breaks down muscle to feed itself. It is often advised not to train for longer than 90 minutes because longer training periods can put the body into this state. Since resting for longer periods does not stress the energy and central nervous systems as much as shorter periods, you will be able to train for much longer periods of time before the body will start breaking down muscle.

I like to take longer resting periods when I have more time I can spend in the gym and want to focus more on increasing the amount of weight my muscles can handle.

The benefits of shorter rest times between sets 

Having shorter rest periods have their benefits too. Here is a list of reasons why you should balance your programs out with shorter rest times as well:

Burns more calories

By taking shorter rest breaks, you are involving the cardio-vascular and energy systems during your weight training session as well. This means that more calories are burnt. This makes shorter rest periods a great strategy for a fat burning session (and therefore, a cutting routine).

Greater glycogen stores equal greater size

Shorter rest periods drain glycogen stores quicker than longer rest periods. The body will adapt to this by increasing the amount of glycogen stored in muscle fibers. The more glycogen stored in a muscle, the greater its size.

Increased metabolic rate

Since your energy systems are stimulated more, the body will adapt by increasing its metabolic rate. This will increase the rate at which the body burns fat for energy naturally, but also increase the rate at which muscle recovery takes place.

More damage, less time

Shorter rest times allow you to destroy your muscle in a quicker amount of time than longer repetitions. When you have limited time in the gym, this will make you more efficient at fully stimulating muscle growth in the shortest possible time.

So there you have it: both longer AND shorter resting times between sets can be beneficial to muscle growth. If you typically train using the one style, try mixing it up to shock your muscle into further growth. STAY STRONG!

Could you be drinking too much water?

Can you drink too much water? We are often told that we don't drink enough water and need at least two liters per day for optimum health. Well, it turns out that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, even when it comes to drinking water. While it is absolutely necessary to make sure you drink enough water daily, here are a few points to take into consideration to make sure that you aren't overdoing it.


Loss of micro nutrients

Water helps to detox your body by removing toxins that are built up from the air we breathe, the food we eat and other toxins that are built up in the body (like lactic acid from muscle fatigue). Water is also used by the body to regulate micro nutrients (such as water soluble vitamins and minerals). Sodium, potassium, and magnesium; for example; are lost through sweat and urination. Every time you urinate, you are losing some sodium. Most people living western lifestyles and eating typical western diets have sodium levels that are too high because they consume too much sodium (from salt) and drink too little water, but drinking too much water can drop sodium levels too low (especially if you have naturally low blood pressure or already follow a diet low in sodium). Sodium is needed in the body for many functions like muscle contraction, blood volume and blood pressure regulation. Some people advise that you should not drink so much water that your urine is completely clear, but aim for a balance where the urine is slightly colored. This, according to some, ensures for a balance where the body is hydrated yet not losing too many essential nutrients.

Too much water and your kidneys

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering water levels in your body. Drinking too much water all at once can put strain on the kidneys. This is usually not of much concern or something that most people should worry about, but keep this in mind when you try to get all of your entire 'daily water requirement' in at one shot. People with kidney malfunction are often given limited fluids to avoid extra strain on the kidneys. An average adult's healthy kidney system can handle up to around 15 liters of water a day (more than almost anybody would ever drink), so the effect of over hydration over a longer period of time on the kidneys is generally not of great concern.

Too much water and the brain

When lots of water enters the blood from drinking too much water, cells in other organs and muscles can stretch to accommodate this. This is not possible with the brain, because cells are more tightly packed. Over hydration can hurt the brain because of this. Headaches from over hydration can occur when too much water is drunk at once, but headaches from under hydration are more common within the western community.

The thirst argument

We have all heard that thirst is an indication that your body has already entered into a dehydrated state. Some doctors, researches and sports specialists argue that thirst is not as bad as it is often made out to be and that it is instead a good indicator, or regulator, of when to drink more water and when not to. Who is right? Decide for yourself.

This does not mean that you should not drink water!

Water is vital to human survival. Drinking too little water is more common than drinking too much. It is also more dangerous to consume less water than necessary than too much. Do not avoid drinking water when you are thirsty, in hot or humid conditions, exercising with a high intensity, sweating a lot or feel like you need it. Water is not only released from urination and the skin when we sweat, but also from the lungs as we breathe as well (see that water vapor when we breathe in cold surroundings?)

So there you have it: too much of anything can turn into a bad thing, including plain old water. Never push your body past what it can handle. Make sure you replace nutrients that are lost through water like electrolytes after strenuous activity or anything that causes major water loss. Your body will thank you. STAY STRONG!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Do or Don't: Separate Shoulder days?


Should you have a separate shoulder day dedicated to training shoulders, since they are already being trained on chest and back days? This is often debated among weight lifters, trainers, physiologists and sportsmen alike. Here are the most common arguments raised for both sides. Read on about the benefits and downsides and decide what is best for you.

You should have a separate shoulder day

This is why some say that you should have a separate shoulder day dedicated to training shoulders:

By neglecting shoulders, you are limiting your other lifts

By neglecting to do shoulders on their own, they are dependent on other lifts to be stimulated to grow. An example would be the front shoulders (anterior deltoids) that work with the chest muscles (pectorals) during a bench press, primarily used as a chest exercise. Since shoulders are not trained on their own to be stronger, they might grow at a slower rate than the chest. This means that your bench press will be limited to the amount of weight and volume that your shoulders can handle instead of the weight and volume that your chest can handle, limiting their growth. This can be so for other muscle groups as well like triceps, biceps and back.

Not having a shoulder day could cause injury

Similar to the point above, by not training shoulders on their own they won't be as strong as the other muscles. This means that they will probably get injured during lifts where other muscles are capable of handling weight that the shoulders aren't able to. Using the bench press example again, when the chest muscles can lift a heavy weight but the shoulder muscles can't stabilize the movement properly, injury can occur within the shoulder joint.

Shoulder size won't be in proportion

Just like calves that need to be worked separately to have legs that look in proportion, shoulders need to be worked separately to have the best looking upper body. By ignoring this muscle group (or by stimulating it indirectly only), it is not given the chance it deserves to grow in proportion to the rest of the body.

You should not have a separate shoulder day

Already convinced you should have a separate shoulder day? Take a look at the other side of the argument before you decide for yourself:

Overuse: Working the shoulder too much can cause injury

Overuse is one of the most common causes of shoulder injury. They are already used during almost all compound exercises like the bench press, dumbbell fly, dip, pull up and the dead lift; and during many isolated exercises like elbow extension and contraction exercises. Overuse can not only damage the shoulder joint directly, but indirectly as well because constant, strenuous use of the shoulder muscle will make it weaker. Weaker shoulder joints will therefore not be able to support their joint counterparts, leading to further injury.

When are shoulders supposed to rest?

The bench press (which does stimulate the shoulder muscle) works the shoulder really well already. Most chest exercises work the front shoulders and most back exercises work the back shoulders (posterior deltoids). Since shoulders are already being worked twice per typical program cycle (on chest days and on back days), they are not getting enough time to rest and fully recover if they are being worked again in isolation, when the chest and back muscles are resting. If other muscle groups are only being stimulated once a week, for example, and shoulders are being worked more than once, then the rest they get to recover will be a fraction of the other muscle groups. Without sufficient rest, they will not be able to grow and strengthen the best they could and will inevitably lead to weakness and injury.

They get enough stimulation

Shoulders don't need a day dedicated to them because they get all the stimulation they need from other exercises like chest and back movements, as discussed in the previous points above.

So should you have a separate shoulder day or not?

The answer to this question varies from person to person. Some people need an extra shoulder day because their shoulders are not getting enough stimulation from other exercises that involve them. On the other hand, some people do not need to dedicate a day specifically for shoulders because they are already being stimulated enough. The genetic makeup of everybody is different. Some people are chest dominant during the bench press (meaning that their chest does most of the work), whilst others are shoulder dominant (their shoulders take on most of the work). A dedicated shoulder day will help some to get further towards their physical goals, but will limit others. It depends greatly on your body type, genetics and training style.

The best way to figure out whether or not you should have a separate shoulder day is through trial and error. Try adding a shoulder day and see how your body feels. Try subtracting it and see how that feels (you will definitely see the difference and know what is best for you). For example, I have found that not having a separate shoulder day, but isolating front shoulders after chest exercises on chest day and isolating back shoulders after back exercises on back day works best for me. STAY STRONG!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

High Intensity Interval Training


High intensity interval training is a favorite form of fat burning exercise for many bodybuilders for a few reasons. It is one of the quickest ways to shed fat, does not decrease muscle size, takes less time than standard cardio and is considered less boring than most other cardiovascular exercises.

What is high intensity interval training?

High intensity interval training is a form of cardio where you alternate between extreme bursts of exertion and less intense bouts of activity. This can be done with running, swimming, rowing, skipping and other exercises. The typical timing is 1 minute to 30 seconds of extreme exertion and 2 minutes to 1 minute of lighter exercise respectively. For example, someone who is performing high intensity interval training while using running as their method will sprint as fast as they can for 30 seconds, jog at a medium intensity for 1 minute and repeat for 10 to 40 minutes without taking a break, depending on their fitness level. The lower intensity period is almost always double the amount of time as the high intensity period, acting as the form of active rest while keeping the heart rate up. It is important to push yourself as hard as you can (running as fast as you can, for example) during the high intensity part, while you almost catch your breath during the lower intensity period.


Benefits of high intensity interval training

High fat burning capability

Pushing the body to perform at its maximum possible energy output burns more calories in a shorter period of time than any other form of exercise. The body is also put into a fat burning mode for a longer period of time after exercise as it tries to recover from the cardio at such a high intensity. More fat is metabolized (broken down and used) one to two days after this form of exercise than when it is actually performed. It is because of this extreme fat burning state that makes high intensity interval training such an effective way to burn fat.

High intensity interval training does not harm muscle mass as much as other cardio forms

Another reason why this form of exercise is loved by many is because it does not decrease muscle size as much as other cardio forms like standard steady-state cardio. Muscle is comprised of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. Slow twitch muscle fibers are used for longer periods of time and result in decreased muscle mass. This is why marathon runners have skinny bodies. Fast twitch muscle fibers are used for shorter periods of time that require a higher level of intensity, like weight lifting. These fast twitch fibers are the ones that are responsible for increased muscle size. Stimulating slow twitch muscle fibers too much will result in decreased muscle size as the body adapts to the new stimulus (yes, running a marathon will cost you some gains). High intensity interval training, on the other hand, puts the body in a fat burning zone, but stimulates the fast twitch muscle fibers instead of the competing slow twitch muscle fibers, as maximum output is reached in a shorter period of time. This means that it won't affect muscle size the same way as traditional cardio.

It takes less time

This is one of many people's favorite things about high intensity interval training. A simple 30 minute training session can burn more calories, overall, than a 2 hour standard cardio training session. For people who have limited time to train or who want to dedicate most of their training time to weight training, this form of cardio is ideal. It is also less boring than standard cardio. Some people dread the thought of idly walking on a treadmill for long periods of time.


Things to consider regarding high intensity interval training

Every form of exercise has its pro's and con's. Here are a few things to consider about this form of training.

High intensity interval training pits a lot of stress on the central nervous system

All exercise stresses the central nervous system. The central nervous system becomes stronger as a response, just like muscles get weaker during training but stronger when they have the time and nutrients needed to recover. The greater the intensity of an exercise is, the greater the stress that is placed on the central nervous system. Putting too much stress on the central nervous system leads to negative symptoms like a weaker immune system, decreased ability to recover from and perform exercise, and over training syndrome. High intensity interval training stresses the central nervous system more than most exercises because of its intensity. This is why it is recommended that high intensity interval training should not be done for more than 3 times a week for most people. If your current weight training program is already putting a lot of strain on your central nervous system, then adding high intensity interval training might not be the best idea. If your central nervous system can handle the extra stress placed on it by adding high intensity interval training to your program, this won't be a problem.

Increased nutrient need

The body will respond to this exercise by scrambling to recover, even until long after the exercise is done. It will not only burn more fat cells because of this, but will also need more nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, oxygen etc.) to recover. Make sure that your body has enough of the nutrients it needs so that the body does not end up breaking down muscle for those nutrients. 

Higher chance of injury than standard cardio

Because of the high intensity, the risk of injury is greater than most other exercises. This does not mean that high intensity interval training is particularly dangerous, but that caution must be taken to make sure that injury is avoided. Higher intensities (of any exercise) put more pressure on joints, for example, than lower intensities.

It takes a lot out of you

High intensity interval training takes a lot of energy. If you do it right, you will feel drained afterwards (and possibly for the next few days afterwards!). This needs to be taken into consideration when deciding when to perform this exercise. Doing it just before weight training, for example, will lower the amount of energy you have left for your weight training session.


High intensity interval training is a great way to burn fat, increase fitness and add a level of intensity to your program but will require extra energy, nutrients and planning. STAY STRONG!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Should you cycle creatine?

Quick answer: Yes. Read on to find out why...


Creatine is a nutrient that is naturally found in red meat. It is non-essential, which means that it is created by the body, for the body, in the body. The fact that it is already created in the body is the core reason why you should cycle creatine supplementation.

Creatine and its primary role

Creatine is required for muscle contraction. Therefore, even runners, swimmers and ordinary people use creatine daily. Our bodies use creatine as and when it is needed.

The effect of creatine supplementation

When creatine is ingested in larger doses (i.e. via consumption of creatine pills, powders and liquids bought at supplement stores), it does more than just provide energy. More creatine than usual in your system will have other effects as well. You will experience more power output and muscular endurance during your workouts because your muscles will have more of this primary energy resource to use. Additional creatine also causes water retention in muscle. When creatine is no longer consumed via supplementation, the extra water leaves the muscles. Many people reduce creatine's reputation to something that just fills the muscles with water. This is because it makes the muscles look larger when they are filled with water from the creatine and then makes the muscles look smaller in comparison when the water leaves the muscle. It is true that creatine does this, but its water retention properties are beneficial to muscle growth. This is because the extra water retention in the muscles creates more space for the muscle to grow. Additionally, extra muscle size (from water retention) means that more nutrients can enter the muscle through the blood stream, and waste products are much easier removed. As explained earlier, the extra creatine that is available to muscle because of supplementation means that muscles are able to generate more power for longer periods of time.

So creatine equals higher output, recovery and size. Are there any side effects?

Firstly, creatine causes water retention in the muscles. As discussed, this is a good thing. However, this will lead to increased hydration needs as the body scrambles for water to fill its muscles. Therefore, that you need to make sure that you are drinking enough water when using creatine so that you can have the best effect. If you don't drink enough water when using creatine, there will be a water shortfall. Your body can either account for this by taking water away from the muscles (which could lead to muscle break down) or from other organs in the body (like the brain, leading to headaches. Decreased water flow can also affect the kidneys). A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you never get thirsty when using creatine. If you are thirsty, chances are that you are already in a water shortfall (especially when using creatine).

Creatine in its pure supplement form (creatine monohydrate) can also cause water retention in the gut when it is ingested. This varies from person to person, though, which is why different people react differently to different types of creatine. Some people can experience diarrhea or nausea from creatine monohydrate when others don't have any problems at all. Also, some people have better effects with creatine HCL than with creatine ethyl ester, and for some it's the other way around.

If you want to find out more about the popular forms of creatine available and their differences, read all about creatine and its different forms.

Creatine is rumored to damage kidneys; however studies on the subject have shown conflicting findings. My personal opinion is that it will not damage your kidneys, as long as you stay optimally hydrated (that means no alcohol while using creatine, up to one week after using it), and as long as you have no pre-existing kidney complications.

If you stay well hydrated and use creatine at the right doses, creatine is beneficial to muscle growth without being dangerous. It that is the case, then why cycle creatine instead of using it continually?

The reason why creatine should be cycled is because it is non-essential. Essential nutrients like protein should not be cycled because muscle cannot grow without it. Additionally, essential nutrients need to come from external sources to be used in the body. Creatine, however, is made in the body on its own. Our bodies are efficient at adapting. When creatine is supplemented for a long period of time, the body will slow down the production of its own creatine, since it is already getting so much of it elsewhere. Secondly, the body will start to build up a resistance to the extra creatine, meaning that it will take more creatine to achieve the same effect as it did previously. Thirdly, muscle can develop a dependence on the increased use of creatine over time. This will mean they will need an ever-increasing, constant flow of new creatine to maintain output and growth. People who have supplemented with creatine for too long and then stop might find decreases in size and strength before their bodies re-adapt and are able to grow again without using it.

That last bit sounds risky. Should I supplement with creatine at all or rather not take the risk?

The potential benefits of increased size, power and recovery are great, and the risk of decreased sensitivity, increased dependence and decreased production are small in comparison, if used the right way (hydration, dosage, cycling). By using creatine for up to two months, ceasing usage for one month and continuing usage again (a 2-month-on, 1-month-off cycle), you get the benefits without the risks when done correctly. STAY STRONG!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Can High Reps Build Muscle Mass?

Short answer: yes. Working out in the higher rep range can build muscle. Read on to find out why.


The jury is out on the rep range that causes the most muscle size. Some professionals swear by the higher rep range of 15-20 reps, whilst others swear by reps as low as 3-5. The most common consensus is that a typical 8-12 rep range is ideal. However, the question remains: can a 15-20 rep range elicit great muscle growth?

Reasons why high rep ranges are great for muscle growth

1) Increasing muscle glycogen storage

High rep training is often referred to as hypertrophy-focused weight training while low rep training is often referred to as strength training. High rep training requires more glycogen, a form of energy stored in the muscles, because more energy is spent by the muscles to complete more repetitions of movement. The individual muscles will adapt by storing more glycogen in the muscle tissue. Increased glycogen storage translates to increased muscle size. This is the biggest (see the pun?) reason why high rep training increases muscle size.

2) Increased joint strength

Low rep training places a heavy burden on joints, which over time can lead to injury as sufficient rest is not given specifically for joints to recover and rebuild. Joints take longer to strengthen in response to training than muscles do. High rep training strengthens joints because the muscle can be maximally taxed without overloading the joint with weights that are too heavy for them to handle. High rep training is therefore best used to build stronger joints (or recover joint strength from a previous low rep training program) before following a low rep exercise routine.

3) High reps build muscular endurance

High reps build muscular endurance, which is important for getting bigger guns. 

4) Longer time under tension

Muscle grows as a response to stimulus. The amount of time a muscle is tensed on order to execute or hold a movement determines the amount of stimulus it gets, which determines the growth it will attempt to achieve. Higher reps naturally have a greater time under tension than lower reps, giving the muscle enough stimuli to prompt it to grow further.

Even though high reps can build bigger muscles, there are reasons why high rep training is not always the best muscle building rep range.


Reasons why high rep training is not the best muscle building rep range

1) High reps activate mid-twitch muscle fibers

High repetitions do not activate fast twitch muscle fibers as well as low repetitions do. This is a very important point because fast twitch muscle fibers have the ability to grow the largest, compared to mid twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. The type of muscle fiber that is activated depends on the duration of the exercise. Low-rep weight training activates fast twitch muscle fibers, while long-distance running activates slow twitch muscle fibers, for example. This is why the leg muscles of bodybuilders are much larger than those of marathon runners. Therefore, in order to achieve the best possible muscle size, a lower rep range (lower than 15-20 reps) is ideal as they will better target the potentially bigger, fast twitch muscle fibers.

2) High reps require more calories

High rep training uses up glycogen stores, which the body gets from carbohydrates. More calories are needed to sustain a high rep training routine, meaning that less of these calories are actually used for building muscle. This is easily avoided, though, by consuming more calories through the diet.

3) High rep training places stress on the Central Nervous System

Since muscles are placed under tension for longer periods of time, the central nervous system is also placed under stress for a longer period of time, especially if worked until failure after every set. This point is not as important as the first 2 points because ALL exercise places stress on the central nervous system, including low-rep training. The central nervous system will adapt to exercise by getting stronger and more able to cope with the stress, but this takes time and too much stress placed on the central nervous system can lead to over training.

If high rep training is great for muscle growth but not the best rep range, then what is the best rep range?

The best rep range is the one you haven't done. This is because the best thing to do is vary between rep ranges for the best muscle growth over time.

Why should you vary your rep ranges?

1) Muscle confusion

The number 1 reason why you should vary your rep ranges is because of muscle confusion. The muscle grows by being forced adapt to a stimulus. Muscle growth will plateau over time as it gets accustomed to a certain stimulus and therefore does not feel the urgent need to grow and adapt anymore. This is why people who change from a low rep range to a higher rep range (and vice versa) experience greater muscle growth. It is advised to change your workout program every 3rd month or so for the best results, altering things like your rep range, number of sets, exercise order, rest in between sets, style of training, etc. or a combination of the above.

2) Joint strength

Lower reps activate fast twitch muscle fibers the best, but can take their toll on joints over time. Higher reps strengthen joints the best but don't activate the fast twitch muscle fibers as well as lower repetitions. By alternating between rep ranges, muscle can optimally strengthened as well as joints. To read more on joint pains from exercise and recovery, click here.

3) Muscle strength and size

By alternating between different rep ranges, you can focus on building muscle strength as well as size. Some rep ranges will increase the one more than the other, even though both will increase with both rep ranges. Strength and size are very closely interlinked (strength is needed to lift heavier to grow and size is needed to house more strength), but different exercises and rep ranges affect the balance of this spectrum differently. 

Which rep range is best suited for beginners?

The higher rep range is best suited for beginners for the following reasons:

1) Form

Beginners need to focus on using the right form (executing the exercise the right way) more than anything else to stimulate muscle growth and avoid injury. After a while, lifters start to get a feel for what form is correct and what form is not. By using higher repetitions and therefore lower weights, more emphasis can be placed on learning, practicing and getting the feel for the right form. 

2) Joint Strength

As discussed above, high reps will be needed to strengthen joints so that heavier weights can be lifted later on.

3) Mind-to-muscle connection

Beginners need to develop a mind to muscle connection, which is the ability to force a muscle to perform at its maximal output for an extended period of time. Low rep ranges rely heavily on an already developed mind to muscle connection in order to get the most out of every rep. High reps are a great way to develop this connection.

4) Muscular Endurance

Higher reps develop muscular endurance, which is greatly needed to push the muscle to a point where it is optimally stimulated to grow. High reps develop this faster than lower reps do.

We hope that you have learned something from this article. High reps can indeed increase muscle mass, but the best way to do so is through a varied rep range. STAY STRONG!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Difference Between Organic and Inorganic, and Free Range and Standard Foods


Plant foods are classified as organic when they are grown without fertilizers, hormones and pesticides. Animal foods are classified as free range when they are farmed with space to roam around and without hormones, antibiotics and artificial feeds. Because certain methods that make food production quicker and more efficient are not used in this type of food production, organic and free range foods are more expensive. This clearly leads to a more natural and healthier food choice, but what are the more specific differences? Find out now:

Difference between organic and normal plant foods:


  • Organically grown foods cause less damage to the environment and produce less pollution, since poison and fertilizer residues aren't washed away into the rivers, air, water and soil. In some countries, it has become so bad that poisons from farming have indirectly contaminated tap water to levels where it not safe to drink. Organic farming also uses considerably less electricity than other forms of plant farming.
  • Because pesticides aren't used on organic plants, they adapt by strengthening their own immune response to insects, weeds and disease. By stimulating and using their own immune systems, they have higher micro nutrient (antioxidant, mineral and vitamin) values compared to plants that are grown with chemicals.
  • Although many experts say that the amount of residue poisons on normal plant products are at healthy and safe levels for healthy adults (note the term 'healthy' and 'adults', because young children have immune systems that are not as adept at fighting of these poisons, and current illnesses in adults can become worse with exposure to these poisons), scientists have linked residue poisons on plant products to the increases in illness like cancer in the human population.
  • Fragile produce that is more prone to pestilence need more pesticides to ward off disease and infestation. These foods are best bought organic as they can contain more poison residues when bought normally. These foods include lettuce, potatoes, apples, spinach, celery and grapes.

Difference between free range and normal animal products:


  • Antibiotics that are given to standard, commercially farmed animals are often the same antibiotics given to humans. By increasing antibiotic usage, viruses and germs are becoming stronger and more resistant to these medications. This means that people who consume these antibiotics indirectly will respond less to the effects of antibiotics, and that viruses are becoming stronger against these treatments.
  • Hormones like estrogen are used to fatten up animals on farms so that they yield more meat in a shorter period of time. Some studies show shocking facts. Some studies, in fact, allege that western females reach puberty quicker as a result of the hormones which are indirectly consumed.
  • Commercially raised animals are fed limited diets, generally comprising of waste products from plant farms. Free range animals are allowed to walk around naturally and eat surrounding plants, similar to what they would do if they were in the wild. By eating a varied, more natural diet; free range meat has a higher nutrient value for humans. For example, most people are deficient in the essential fatty acid CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA is sold in supplement stores because it helps to redirect fat to the energy cycle in humans. CLA is naturally found in grass fed meat, however. Because free range animals are able to roam around freely, there resulting exercise translates to higher meat quality such as better protein content.
  • As an example of the nutrient difference between free range and commercial foods, there is three times more Vitamin E and a third of the cholesterol in a free range egg, compared to a standard, commercially farmed egg.
Unfortunately, organic and free range foods are still a lot more expensive than regular foods. The price difference is decreasing, however, as we learn to farm both healthier and more efficiently. Increased demand for more naturally produced food is leading to a food revolution as people are becoming more conscience about the effects of eating unnaturally. Don't worry if you can't afford to eat exclusively organic and free range, eating a standard banana is better than not eating a banana at all! Stay Strong.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Egg White Versus The Whole Egg


Eggs are a great and cheap source of protein. Most people swear that you should only use the egg whites and chuck the yolks away because the yolk is bad for you. Are these people barking mad or is there some truth to this? Let's find out...

Macro Nutrients

The average sized (whole) egg has 5.6 grams of protein, 4.05 grams of fat and 65 calories.

The egg white has 3.2 grams of protein, 0.05 grams of fat and 15 calories.

The egg yolk has 2.4 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and 50 calories. 

Therefore, by excluding the yolk, you are losing 43% of the protein, 98% of the fat and 77% of the calories.


Micro Nutrients

The calcium is 2.3 milligrams in the egg white and 21.9 milligrams in the yolk
The magnesium is 3.6 milligrams in the egg white and 0.85 milligrams in the yolk
The iron is 0.03 milligrams in the egg white and 0.4 milligrams in the yolk
The phosphorus is 5 milligrams in the egg yolk and 66.3 milligrams in the yolk
The potassium is 53.8 milligrams in the egg white and 18.5 milligrams in the yolk
The sodium is 54.8 milligrams in the egg white and 8.2 milligrams in the yolk
The zinc is 0.01 milligrams in the egg white and 0.4 milligrams in the yolk
The copper is 0.008 milligrams in the egg white and 0.013 milligrams in the yolk
The manganese is 0.004 milligrams in the egg white and 0.009 milligrams in the yolk
The selenium is 6.6 micrograms in the egg white and 9.5 micrograms in the yolk
The riboflavin is 0.145 milligrams in the egg white and 0.09 milligrams in the yolk
The niacin is 0.035 milligrams in the egg white and 0.004 milligrams in the yolk
The vitamin B 6 is 0.002 milligrams in the egg white and 0.059 milligrams in the yolk
The vitamin B12 is 0.03 micrograms in the egg white and 0.331 micrograms in the yolk
The vitamin A is 0 international units (IU) and 245 international units in the yolk
The vitamin E is 0 milligrams in the egg white and 0.684 milligrams in the yolk
The vitamin D is 0 international units and 18.3 milligrams in the yolk
The vitamin K is 0 international units in the egg white and 0.119 international units in the yolk

Therefore, by excluding the yolk, you are losing 90.5% of the calcium, 19.2% of the magnesium, 93.8% of the iron, 93% of the phosphorus, 25.6% of the potassium, 13% of the sodium, 99.8% of the zinc, 62% of the copper, 69.2% of the manganese, 59% of the selenium, 48.3% of the riboflavin, 9.3% of the niacin, 96.7% of the vitamin B 6, 91.7% of the vitamin B12, 100% of the vitamin A, 100% of the vitamin E, 100% of the vitamin D, and 100% of the vitamin K, 



Cholesterol

The yolk of the egg has the cholesterol and fat of the egg. An average egg yolk has around 209 milligrams of cholesterol. 

Is the cholesterol of the egg yolk such a bad thing? New studies have shown that consuming two full eggs a day did not negatively affect cholesterol levels in the body. It is still recommended, though, that people with heart problems stay away from foods that have cholesterol. 


Final Word of the Day

Although the yolk is the part of the egg that has the fat and cholesterol, it generally as a lot more micronutrients than the egg white. People who are currently limiting their fat and calorie intake have reason to eliminate egg yolks, because they contain 98% of the fat and 77% of the calories of the egg. Having the egg whites alone still give you 57% of the protein found in the egg. However, people who are not currently trying to limit their fat or calorie intakes can have the yolks of the eggs as well since they contain so many other key nutrients. If you are consuming more than two eggs a day, have a maximum of two yolks, the rest being egg whites, per day. Stay Strong!