The Case Against Intermittent Fasting

So, yeah, I know it’s not cool or trendy to suggest you eat more than a couple meals per day, but I’m not cool or trendy so let’s have at it. There’s more than just “broscience” behind the bodybuilding mantra of six small meals daily.

For decades and beyond, this diet strategy has been a successful approach to optimizing muscle gain and fat loss. Sure, there’s been legitimate reports of late that have shown the mechanism behind it is not due to an inherent metabolism boost. That’s been refuted. You get no additional metabolic boost from six meals as opposed to three… or two… or 16. With that aside, eating six meals per day has been repeatedly shown to work – anecdotal evidence from millions of alpha dudes before you and through evidence-based research. It’s not just broscience, bro.

Do you even science, bitch?

The latest study I’ll reference for this purpose was recently published in the Journal of Nutrition. They split the study participants into two groups. Each group was fed different quantities of protein in each meal, and protein synthesis (*light bulb* this is integral to growing muscle!) was measured throughout the day. One group ate the majority of its protein at dinner (63 grams of 90 grams total) while Group 2 spread its day’s allotment over three meals equally – more so emulating the typical bodybuilding approach. Yes, it was three meals, but who eats 90 grams of protein? If you’re an aspiring strength athlete or bodybuilder, the general rule of thumb is 1 gram per lb of bodyweight (i.e. 200 lb male = 200g of protein, which will likely need to be spread over more than three meals).

THE RESULTS: Which should come as no surprise, protein synthesis was greater in Group 2 by as much as 25% over the course of 24 hours. Essentially, then, Group 2 participants built 25% more muscle over 24 hours than Group 1.

What this all means for you is simple – space your meals out and consume protein evenly throughout the day, rather than trying to scarf down a 16 oz. steak at dinner after starving yourself beforehand.

Now that we’ve got the science out of the way, a word of caution. If you want to get better at something (in your career, sport or otherwise) do you not look to those who have come before you – and achieved what you want to achieve – for guidance? A mentor, so to speak? Why don’t the same rules apply to your bodybuilding pursuits? Don’t ignore what’s worked for millions of men before you, just because it’s no longer trendy to spend a little time in the kitchen and prep meals. There is a large body of evidence through individual responses AND scientific research that shows small meals spaced throughout the day increase protein synthesis, recovery, and muscle gain.

IF Stands for “Intermittent Feasts” For Me

I don’t know about all of you, but I tend to over-eat if I don’t structure my meals appropriately and weigh out my portions. Not eating for 16+ hours a day lends itself to binge eating later on (in my experience) and, quite frankly, those in search of optimal muscle gains should look at that model and question it. If food is my fuel, why would I run on empty 2/3rds of every 24 hour period? You surely can’t think that’s the optimal environment for muscle gains, do you?

There’s always the case of the guy who can look amazing, regardless the diet or training strategies he employs. But that’s not you! You wouldn’t be searching the internet for diet and fitness tips if you had Ronnie Coleman genetics. Even some guys with average genetics can look good on IF, but they seem to forget the decade-plus of work in the gym AND kitchen they put in to build the muscle they have in the first place. I doubt they’re growing at the same pace they were before – but IF allows them to maintain and even drop a little fat, so they look good and are content. You aren’t likely in that category yet, so put in the work first.

Too often guys are looking for shortcuts nowadays. We go to the gym and let our online networks know we’re there, but are we really putting in the work that results in, well, results? With apologies to Woody Allen, 80% of success in the gym isn’t just showing up, as Bryan Krahn alludes to in his strongly-worded piece on the pussification of today’s gym goer. Read it and get inspired – it just might help you unclench your balls hidden within your undercarriage. Training hard enough to elicit results is a whole ‘nother rant, but thankfully Krahn covered that off for me in his piece.

I know for me, if I eat the IF way, I look like someone who’s been eating sporadically, whereas when I eat frequent, clean meals (with designated cheats here and there), boosting protein synthesis as often as possible, I look more like a bodybuilder…well, sort of, lol.

If you’re simply too strapped for time and can’t be bothered to throw a pile of chicken breasts in the oven once a week, that’s why God created protein powder. You can easily insert shakes into the diet while you’re busy working throughout the day and get protein synthesis going that way.

Frequent feedings may not stoke the metabolic fire as it once claimed to do, but it has a host of benefits for the bodybuilder or athlete looking to optimally grow muscle. Don’t jump on the latest diet trend because some guru told you. Assess your goals first and then determine if it’s the best option for you.

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Get Inflammation Under Control

Arterial Inflammation is thought to be the greatest factor contributing to Atherosclerosis and Coronary Arterial Disease (CAD). Translation: Inflammation is bad for your health, yo!

The typical American diet just aggravates things, as high in refined sugars and high glycemic index carbohydrates have been linked directly to increased inflammation. Eating complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, rice etc.) and combining macronutrients in one sitting (protein, carbs and fat) to slow digestion is an important piece to the puzzle.

You can improve matters further by limiting stress, sleeping more and training smarter (this one is really an individual thing, but listen to your body).

Without doing the above, supplements are just a band-aid solution, but if you’ve got the above on blast, here’s a supplement suggestion to aid in your pursuit of minimal inflammation:

Fish Oil Capsules

Fish Oil supplements contain the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These are essential for reducing inflammation, as most western diets are very high in omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory. Balancing this intake with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids is very important. Although we recommend you calculate how much omega-6 and omega-3 you are consuming in your diet, and supplementing appropriately, as a general rule of thumb you should supplement between 2 and 3 grams of omega-3 EFAs per day according to most research out there right now.

I pity the fool who neglects inflammation (sorry, mandatory Mr. T reference). If you want to progress – whether it’s with weight loss or muscle gain – you need to take care of yourself. From the Department of Captain Obvious, a less-than-optimal environment will not yield optimal results. Take care of the details now so they don’t become a larger problem later.

Happy fitnessin’ y’all.

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Spinning your wheels in the gym? Time to get cortisol under control!

Do you religiously go to the gym and hammer out one hard workout after the other without seeing the results?

Train smarter, not harder! Seriously. Hard training without the nutrition and rest to compensate will not do you any good!

The heavier you train, and/or the more work you do in a given amount of time, the greater the cortisol release. If you don’t manage that cortisol release, you’ll literally be spinning your wheels and wasting hours of your time in the gym.

By definition, cortisol is a glucocorticoid, a steroid hormone released to ensure the brain has ample supply of glucose (sugar), its preferred fuel source in situations where simple survival  is paramount. Cortisol can promote glycogen breakdown in skeletal muscle (i.e. muscle wasting) when preferable energy supply isn’t present. That’s bad news if you’re a bodybuilder or strength athlete.

The Cortisol Solution

So, how then, do you train with the necessary intensity to illicit the training results you want while keeping cortisol at bay? A simple, no frills drink during your workout is the answer. Let me explain…

One particular study found 50 grams of pure carbohydrate (Gatorade) in a workout drink consumed during a resistance training (lifting weights) session completely eliminated cortisol elevations compared to a control flavored drink (1). The carbohydrates had a direct influence on the amount of cortisol released during and after the workout. Subjects within this particular study with the lowest cortisol (i.e. those who drank the Gatorade) made the greatest muscle gains.

Spinning your wheels?

Spinning your wheels?

This is not to say you need to buy one of those “cutting edge” intra-workout supplements that are all the rage right now. No matter how the marketers spin the benefits of “high molecular weight” carbs etc., they all break down to glucose in the end. Some like to add amino acids (protein to the workout shake) but I’ve it with them and without and noticed little difference either way. If you have the cash, by all means go for it, but a little Gatorade powder mixed in water will do the trick all the same if you’re on a budget. If the carbs upset your stomach while working out, dillute them in a litre or more of water. That solved the issue for me and I haven’t looked back.

Then follow it up with a quality whole foods meal an hour or so after you’re done exercising. You’ll recover faster and see more results than you would from that $200 stack the dude at GNC told you to buy. Don’t forget to manage outside stressors (life’s a B sometimes) and get your sleep – that’s important too.

Train smarter and reap the benefits.

SOURCE:

1. Tarpenning, K.M.Influence of weight training exercise and modification of hormonal response on skeletal muscle growth. 1997, University of Southern California: Ann Arbor.

 

 

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Gluten may be totally innocent

I’ve advocated for cutting grains from your diet (and subsequently gluten by osmosis) in this space before, and I stand by those statements. Simply by wheat-bellycutting grains you’re eliminating a lot of processed foods, and that’s obviously a good thing. Too many foods come in boxes with fancy labels nowadays. That’s not the way our ancestors ate.

But too often gluten is labelled as the sole proprietor of health/weight problems, and it may not be entirely fair. If you make the switch to a gluten free lifestyle, and largely eat the same foods that are just re-labelled “gluten free” (they swap one poor ingredient for a similar one sans gluten) you won’t be much better off.

A recent article published on T-Nation examines the topic a little further than most, looking beyond gluten to other commonly-found ingredients in gluttonous foods, including certain preservatives, lactose and poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates known as FODMAPS (fermentable oligosccharides, disaccarides, monosaccharides and polyols.) If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, that’s a telling sign in itself. They may actually be more to blame than gluten itself.

Anyway, it does an excellent job sifting through the science – certainly better than I could be bothered to do – and gives you a fair and balanced look at gluten. Is the gluten free movement a fad? Maybe. But the take home message is still the same: foods containing gluten and by association FODMAPS are best avoided (or at least limited to 1 or 2 servings per day).

Read it here

 

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Testosterone Booster in Bed

Looking for a testosterone booster? The answer isn’t found in the supplement store, but instead your bed.

Watch the video explain…

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NSNG Diet: Not for Everyone

You may have heard of the world’s angriest trainer, Vinnie Tortorich. He’s trained celebrities – and is responsible for Howie Mandel’s girlish figure (not sure why Howie is his testimonial.. maybe he should’ve got an action star?). He markets himself well online and presumably makes a good living from it. His No Sugar, No Grain (NSNG) diet strategy is good in theory – though nothing new – with a focus on whole foods comprised largely of meat and vegetables.

Sugar has a place in the athlete's diet

Sugar has a place in the athlete’s diet

But I’d caution against implementing it if you’re a high level athlete or bodybuilder. Meeting the carbohydrate requirements of a 160 lb celebrity trainer takes far smaller volumes than that of a 240 lb bodybuilding male. Muscles are made of glycogen! I don’t care how well your body can perform on proteins and fats, you aren’t going to grow muscle optimally without carbohydrates, no matter how much broccoli you force down.

If you train like an animal in the gym and play sports on a regular basis (golf doesn’t count), you absolutely require carbohydrates. I’m talking the performance kind, such as rice and pasta to name a few. And believe it or not, sugar has a place at times too.

For Athletes

If you’re a strength athlete – let’s say you play hockey or football to name a few – a pre-workout meal containing carbohydrates should be in your daily routine. Higher levels of activity are going to require proper fuel. Sure, you could become “fat adapted” like Vinnie preaches and may not see too large of a performance dip eating fats instead of carbohydrates, but without the insulin from the carbs your workout is increasing muscle protein breakdown (bad) and cortisol levels (very bad). It’s as important to recover for the next training session as it is to perform well in the current session. The insulin response from ingesting carbs helps to manage that. They have a place for the athlete! Note: For the sedentary guy 50 lbs overweight, the game is different. He should try to limit carbohydrates and keep insulin at bay as much as possible, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

A recent paper on pre-exercise nutrition for endurance via Mike Ormsbee, Chris Bach, & Dan Baur makes the point clear:

Research accumulated over the last half-century has shown that the most beneficial nutritional intervention is
one that can augment and preserve carbohydrate (CHO) fuel stores (muscle and liver glycogen) for
late-race, high-intensity exercise

Ultimately, consuming a carbohydrate rich meal (ideally in combination with a bit of protein and fat) can enhance performance. And whether you’re an athlete or just a gym rat looking to have beach muscles to show off, that’s ultimately what you’re after each training session or game.

You can take it a step further and introduce carbs WITHIN your training session (ideally sugars that can quickly digested) for an additional performance boost, and I discuss that here

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Break Your Fitness Routine

Do you know the definition of insanity? Something about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You’ve surely heard this infamous Einstein quote used in a number of contexts, and may even tune it out at this point, but it truly applies to our fitness routine choices as well.

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You see it happening every day in the gym. People will tirelessly dedicate time to workout every week of their life – consisting largely of the same routine and exercise sequence – at more or less the same pace. After awhile the results wear off, but they continue to bash their head against the wall expecting it to change. Elliptical Lady’s body can do that 30 minute routine on the elliptical in its sleep, so expecting to improve conditioning or drop fat from it is wishful thinking now. She’s gotten all the benefits out of that. Sure, she may be able to come back to it months later and the results might start again, but it’s time to move on for now.

We are all creatures of habit. I get that. But why dedicate an hour to the gym every day if it’s not going to physically change you or improve conditioning, muscle gains etc. (whatever your goal is)?

In the health industry especially, we get behind a popular fitness routine and close ourselves off to other options. But I advise switching it up every 12-16 weeks. Find a new routine to latch onto and give it an honest effort to accurately gauge results. It may reinvigorate you mentally for one, but it also may lead to new benchmarks in your fitness pursuits.

Break the routine.

Start fresh.

If you feel you’re stuck in a rut, get out of your comfort zone. It’ll do you some good.

 

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Somatotypes: Fact or Fiction?

I’m sure you’ve heard of somatotypes (even if the word isn’t familiar), and you may even base your diet and exercise patterns on what somatotype you believe you are, but I’m here to tell you not to let that limit your physique goals!

An article by Alexander Cortes on elitefts.com suggests there’s actually no solid evidence behind somatotypes. somatotypes

Cortes says a psychologist and doctor by the name of William Herbert Sheldon developed his somatotyping system in the 1930s, and this is where the terms ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph first entered the public conscious. Those are the terms you’re probably most familiar with: Ecto (skinny), meso (muscular and lean), endo (fat). But Sheldon actually based his work on what he believed to be psychological attributes tied to each, not physical ones. They were just adopted by the fitness community later on and evolved to what they are today, but by no means does Sheldon’s work hold a ton of weight and/or evidence when it comes to muscle accumulation or fat loss.

Further still, the vast majority of those studied had varying degrees of EACH somatotype in their genes, with rarely anyone 100% endo, meso or ecto. Does that suggest you aren’t limited to the genes you were born with? Can you be a fat boy growing up and not be destined to a fat adulthood?

Absolutely, I believe you can change your genetics through smart nutrition and hard work in and out of the weight room. Heck, I don’t eat all that clean all the time anymore, my calories are way higher than I was when I was a chubby 220 lb. and sedentary, but I have muscle where fat was before and feel so much better mentally and physically.

Whether somatotypes exist or not, I firmly believe no one diet or exercise blueprint works for everyone, or every endomorph for that matter. I’ve seen enough variations in my clients to stand by that statement. What one person can get away with diet wise and maintain a six-pack, another simply cannot. That’s reality. I don’t need scientific proof of somatotypes to know some range of body types exists in the world today.

Just to wrap, Cortes doesn’t suggest you abandon the notion of somatotypes outright, but the take home point is ultimately not to let your genetic limitations hold you back. You CAN improve what you consider a sub-par metabolism through diet and exercise. Don’t let those mental barriers (“oh, but my mom and dad were like this so it’s inevitable”) stop you from getting started.

If you need help with that first push, reach out to me here and I’ll be happy to help.

 

 

 

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The Missing Mineral You Need

I often stress the importance of RECOVERY for the athlete and bodybuilder alike. It’s too often underestimated. I always get questions from folks searching for the “secret” in the gym, when they should be focusing their efforts on the other 23 hours of the day. OCD training might make you feel hardcore, but it’s not the best way to build muscle (if that’s your goal) or improve athleticism for that matter.

If you can train for 40 minutes and have better results than the guy doing 2 hour workouts every day, would you not take the path of least resistance? Train smart, people! The act of building muscle or competing in endurance sports is actually catabolic in nature (you’re tearing down muscle fibers after all), so it’s the time away from the gym or rink or field where you’ll be recovering and/or building new muscle so you can come back stronger the next time.

My recovery methods primarily consist of a quality diet with a variety of foods, going for a sauna/steam bath a few times a week and sleeping as much as possible. That’s mostly it. There are no secrets, and I have more money in my pocket – from not buying into the next great supplement being pushed by an online snake oil salesman – which is a stress reliever and recovery tool in itself!

Less is more when it comes to supplements (Photo courtesy nutritiondr.com)

Less is more when it comes to supplements (Photo courtesy nutritiondr.com)

I prefer a minimalist approach when it comes to supplements for a number of reasons, so I’m not here to link you to a bunch of products to buy. I still manage to get the odd bug, but it’s less common than it was when I was religiously popping herbal supplements and waking up at 6 am to do cardio every day. And 9/10 it has to do with sleep quality + stress catching up to me.

I do believe in a few supplements when they make sense though, and my one recommendation in this space today is magnesium, whether in the form of a supplement (ZMA) or Epsom Salt baths. Epsom Salts are a form of a magnesium salt, specifically magnesium citrate, which can be absorbed transdermally through the skin.

Epsom salt baths are relaxing for one, but while you are soaking in the bath, you’re experiencing a therapeutic effect on the muscles and your nervous system.

Get your relaxation on and come back stronger your next workout! A win-win.

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Winnipeg’s new food truck

As you may or may not recall, I’m a big believer in grass-fed beef. It tops the list of my must-eat foods here.

I believe so much in it, in fact, I started a Winnipeg food truck around the concept. Check it out at www.grassfedgrill.ca and read about us in the Winnipeg Sun: Winnipeg’s new food truck 

GFG

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