3) Mansformation Custom Coaching – A 1-1 VIP coaching experience to get you to your best ever physique in 60 days. Currently closed to applications, but by applying at the link above you’ll be near the top of the wait list for next intake.
For men who are looking for ways to add lean muscle instead of fat, what you eat, when you eat, and what you do after eating is of the utmost importance.
When you were a teenager, you could probably get away with eating two pizzas and an order of cheesy breadsticks before heading out to gym for a two-hour weightlifting session. The speed of your metabolism made up for your poor diet.
As you grow older and your metabolism slows, however, you will need to fundamentally change your eating habits.
If you are interested in staying in shape and building a sculpted, muscular body, staying faithful to a workout regimen is important.
To help your body build muscle faster, however, a quality, nutritious diet is also essential.
Below we look at three different eating tips to help you help your body add lean muscle instead of fat.
Find the Right Balance of Carbohydrates
Traditional nutritional wisdom for bodybuilders used to urge them to eat as many carbohydrates as possible. It was thought that by having enough calories in your body through high carbohydrate intake, your body would have sufficient energy reserves to prevent muscle protein breakdown and avoid using dietary protein for energy. Both bad if building muscle is your goal.
While there is still truth to that (your body will break down muscle for amino acids that it can turn into glucose, a type of energy), many men use this as an excuse to “bulk” and add on too much fat in the process. One study written by Dustin Elliot states that the average body can store about 400 calories at a time. Any more than that and you run the risk of having those excess calories slowly turn into fat.
Another important aspect regarding your carbohydrate intake is when you eat them. Foods that are high in carbohydrates are best consumed early in the morning after waking up (think whole grain granola and wheat bread for breakfast) since this is the best time to take advantage of the protein sparing properties of carbohydrates. After an intense workout, you can also take in carbohydrates to recover from the workout.
Do Not Be Afraid to Pack on the Protein
You know that protein helps grow muscle. You will want to add some protein to every meal throughout the day. A general rule of thumb is a palm-sized serving or two. However, make sure to prioritize lean meats such as fish, olive oils, and unprocessed peanut butter.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for lean muscle growth and they also help to regulate your blood pressure which usually shoots through the roof every time you are in the gym. If you cook for yourself, get rid of the butter and margarine and purchase a huge bottle of virgin extra olive oil to help your body get the good fats and proteins it needs.
One recent study done by McMaster University found that overweight men who were introduced to an intense weight lifting regime while eating large amounts of protein lost more weight and built more muscle mass than the other group that only ate regular amounts of protein.
Leave Behind Processed Foods
Fast food joints and most of the boxed and canned stuff on your grocery store shelves should be left behind if you want to put on lean muscle without the fat.
Highly processed foods are loaded with empty calories. Sorry, you know this, but it needs to be said.
While you will get more than enough calories, you will also notice a loss of energy and a growing amount of body fat. In addition, for men who care about taking care of their appearance and have high standards for grooming, these processed foods are notorious for leading to acne, oily skin, and other skin and hair problems.
Eat Well, Hit the Gym Hard, and Cultivate Good Habits
Unless you are still a sophomore in high school with a fast metabolism, eating right is an essential part of building lean muscle.
By finding a balance in your carbohydrate intake, consuming healthy fats and proteins, and avoiding highly processed foods, you can build a muscular, toned physique that will help you lose weight and feel stronger and healthier.
Aron James is the founder of StubblePatrol.com. Stubble Patrol is a site on male grooming. He loves to write about his personal experiences.
He was always known as a ‘natural goal scorer’ and resented the label.
“When you arrive, you’ll be known as a natural goal scorer. There’s nothing natural about it, actually. That’s something that will bother you for the rest of your life — whenever people ask you, “Why was scoring so easy for you, Mike?”
“It was never easy. Your mother loves to tell people the story about how you scored 21 goals in your first mite hockey game. But even if that story is true, the goals only tell part of the story.
“Because your mom always leaves out the part about how much time you spent all by yourself out in the backyard rink, shooting at a wooden board.
“You don’t have a real net, so you practice by aiming for the black puck-marks on the board over and over and over until your feet are frozen.”
The Players Tribune via Getty Images
Why doesn’t anyone tell the truth about what it takes to be successful?
According to Ramit Sethi, there are 2 very simple reasons.
Everyone would hate you. We love to celebrate “effortless” success, so if you talk about the exact way you’re successful — the backlash comes quickly. People like to think they may stumble into effortless success eventually, so it keeps the dream alive living vicariously.
These secret habits are so unconscious, successful people don’t even realize they do them.
Celebrities who get fit are always touting some bogus product because there’s money to be made.
Or they give some lame tip that’s surface level and doesn’t reveal all the work that preceded it.
Sure, they may have a trainer who gives them a leg up, but they still have to do the bloody work!
What if these celebrities told you the truth?
They would tell you…
“I count calories” “I work out 5-10 times/week” “I have rules of thumb I use when I eat out, like: ‘No bread. Only a small portion of dessert. A 2 drink limit.’”
The secret habits are actually quite simple. But boring. And repetitive. But, damn, do they ever work.
They’re not as sexy as saying “I lost 50 lbs with this magic pill” or “this hack helped me lose my belly” but unlike those quick fixes that don’t work, these DO work.
Some people would call these daily habits obsessive – or a bit OCD.
But those people saying that are the ones who stop and start over and over again, only ever achieving surface level success.
Although subtle, and though they might pay off after YEARS, they work.
Are you prepared to do the work?
The bounty awaits.. if you’re willing to grind.
P.S. If you want my help instilling these habits and achieving the success usually reserved for the 1% who make it, drop me an email.
What is about chocolate, pizza and sweets that make it so hard to stop at “just one”?
You know these foods aren’t good for you in excess, so why do you indulge?
Is it the forbidden fruit mentality? You want what you can’t have?
For starters, your brain loves junk food.
Junk foods are energy dense (i.e. high in calories). Good news if you’re a hunter-gatherer and nutrients are scarce, but bad news in today’s society of endless food at your fingertips.
But what’s happening inside your brain that drive this response?
Stephan Guyenet referenced several studies in an article on Examine.com, which show your mouth and small intestine detect the base materials in sugar, fat, and protein and send a signal to the brain that releases dopamine.
And the more concentrated the nutrients (think junk food) the greater the surge in dopamine.
Essentially, your brain is doing its job by encouraging you to pursue calorie dense foods that would help your distant ancestors stay alive or survive periods of famine. But your brain chemistry simply wasn’t built for the world you live in today.
You need simply take a passing glance at that timely pizza promotion in your mailbox and crave it because the sensory cues are so innate. Then, with a few clicks on your smartphone, that cheesy delight arrives at your doorstep.
How can you avoid these temptations? Plan ahead. Prepare wholesome meals to bring to work with you so you aren’t starving and accidently on purpose reach for that donut in the lunchroom. Download this handy “Mansformation Cheat Sheet” to set yourself up with a nutrition plan for success. I.E. Opt for a filling quinoa salad with a variety of nutrients over a Unicorn Frap from Starbucks.
Further still, some junk foods combine calories with drug-like effects.
Guyenet writes about chocolate’s mix of calories and a drug called theobromine. Much like its cousin caffeine, theobromine is a mild stimulant. This drug accentuates fat and sugar’s natural ability to spike dopamine signaling, which in many people results in powerful cravings and addictive-like behaviour.
Do you remember the first time you drank coffee or beer? You likely didn’t love the taste.
But coffee has caffeine and beer has alcohol, two drugs that your brain gets a reward from.
So, in turn, your sensory cues tell you to pay $6 for that Frappuccino and elbow your way through a crowd to get to the bar.
Our society also associates eating with pleasure at every turn.
At the movies, you’re expected to get a big popcorn and coke.
You can’t watch that ball game without a big bratwurst.
Poker with the guys? Round of drinks and wings for all.
Those are powerful social cues to overcome. But it’ll take replacing old habits with new, healthy ones to buck those trends.
Bring a protein bar in your pocket to the theatre.
Eat a filling, healthy dinner before you head to the game.
Set some ground rules for that poker night (like a drink limit).
And, yes, you may have to overcome peer pressure and stick to your guns.
So is it futile to try to attempt another diet?
How to re-program your brain:
Eat more whole, fresh, minimally processed foods with a balance of macronutrients, protein, carbs and fats so you aren’t “shortchanging” your brain from much-needed nutrients (i.e. limit cravings)
Eat slowly and mindfully. No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your digestive system do its job and also help your brain get the signal from your gut that it’s full
Keep temptations out of sight. Easier said than done, but work to control your home environment. Don’t buy Costco-sized ice cream or sweets – only indulge in controlled amounts. I.E. Opt for a kid sized McFlurry on the way home instead of buying a two-gallon pail of ice cream at the store. If tempting, unhealthy foods aren’t within arm’s reach, not only will they be harder to eat, but you’ll be less likely to crave them.
If you spent your formative years growing up in the 90s like I did, you know what I’m talking about.
A fighter can perform a special move when the message “FINISH HIM!” appears on the screen, destroying his dazed opponent.
Damn, did I hate when someone got me in that prone position.
But it was extra satisfying when I was doing the finishing. Pun intended. (Hey, I was a teenage boy…)
With that covered, let’s address the real reason for this article: Finishers.
Simply put, a “Finisher” is a series of exercises performed at the end of your workout specifically to make you puke all over the unsuspecting girl on the elliptical.
They aren’t fun or easy, but it’s a great way to combine conditioning and strength training in one quick burst of activity.
Here’s a couple quick rules to follow before we give you some actual workouts to try.
Rule 1. Don’t do them all the time.
When do you do them?
Assess yourself at the end of your planned workout. Do you have a few beads of sweat on your forehead and feel like you could handle more work? Spent most of the workout on your phone? Or are you crawling away from the squat rack after a grueling leg beatdown?
If it’s the former, not the latter, toughen up and get after it.
Rule 2.Make it quick.
Get it done in 5 minutes. Maybe 10 if you’re stubborn. This isn’t some marathon “Murph” Crossfit challenge where you die of heatstroke halfway through.
Here are three ‘finisher’ options to choose from
Studies have confirmed that pressing strength increases dramatically by working or even statically stretching the antagonist muscles between sets of benching.
The antagonist to chest is your back.
The antagonist to your quads is your hamstrings.
The antagonist to your biceps is your triceps.
You get the idea, right?
Anyway, for chest and back, you might use something like this:
A1) Bench Press
A2) Barbell Rows
Perform for 4 rounds of 8 reps using the same weight. In this particular instance, you want to rest a bit between exercises as strength is still a focus here at a lower rep range with heavier weights.
These can be performed with weight (which I prefer) or bodyweight in a pinch. Hell, you could use a chair in your hotel room and get a good sweat going doing these.
In this instance, we’ll setup in the gym and hammer out 4 exercises in succession.
Perform as many reps as possible of A1, then move on to A2, then A3, then A4. Perform a total of 4 rounds, resting just long enough to catch your breath between rounds (maybe 2 minutes).
Another option, especially if your gym is a crowded mess, is to simply use the same piece of equipment or dumbbells for all of the exercises.
Let’s say, for example, you pair dumbbell flyes with dumbbell stiff legged deadlifts and dumbbell split squats. Use the same weight, cycle through the exercises, and sweat your ball bag off.
Another option, which I do a lot with my clients, is set a timer for 5 minutes. Perform the exercises in order for 10 reps of each exercise, one after the other, as shown above. But perform as many rounds as possible in 5 minutes with as minimal rest as humanly possible.
Again, nothing revolutionary here, but the tried and tested work, so why get funky with it?
A barbell complex is nothing more than a circuit of compound movements using a single barbell. You use the same weight throughout the circuit and never take your hands off of the bar.
In the video example, you’ll be doing five exercises in sequence without putting the bar down. For a full-body routine to try: floor deadlifts, overhead presses, barbell rows, stiff-legged deadlifts, and floor barbell bench presses with the same weight.
Of course, stick to the plan and focus on your core training program first. But finishers can add a challenging calorie burn to finish things off.
Sometimes, you may only have time for a finisher. Ideal? No. But if you’ve had a tough day at the office and the couch is calling your name, convince yourself to do a finisher before you sit down for a binge session of Game of Thrones. It can be done in your living room with a little creativity.
But if you’re feeling fresh and prepared to run through a wall that particular day, tack on finishers at the end of your regular workout.
Do you require a half gallon of Lakota cream on your aching knees before a set of squats?
Do you need to jump in an ice bath after every set of presses?
There just comes a time in a lifter’s life where you may have to make provisions to your training for safety and longevity.
But this doesn’t mean you have to retire your weight belt and take up an aquafit class.
Train smarter, not harder.
When most think of progress, they think of continuously adding weight to the bar week after week.
But there are many ways to go about it.
The progressive overload principle basically states: In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.
Here are 11 ways to increase progressive overload without loading up the barbell and trying to get stronger every workout.
1. Increase Rep Ranges
Move your rep ranges northward.
Instead of trying to routinely go for 1RM or sets of 6 reps or less, aim for sets in the 15-plus rep range.
Of course, this assumes you’ve been throwing iron around for decades and have a solid base of strength.
I’m not suggesting you go down to 135×20 when your max is over 400 pounds. It’s simply changing course from sets of 405 x 6 to 315 x 12, working at 60-70% of your 1RM rather than pushing maximal loads.
2. Slowing The Negative
Increased the amount of eccentric work your muscles are required to perform in a given lift.
Emphasizing the eccentric or negative phase of your lifts can ramp up protein synthesis and trigger muscle growth, without having to go really heavy.
As reported at T-Nation, scientists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, say “slow speed” reps can help you build muscle up to 3 times faster than “fast speed” lifting.
After 12 weeks, the men in the slow speed group built three times as much muscle as the fast speed lifters. Interestingly, they also showed nearly five times the progression of strength than that shown by the fast speed lifters.
Here’s an example using the preacher curl bench for biceps.
3. Drop Sets
Use the weight of your heaviest set for 6, drop the weight by 20-30%, do another set right away for 8 reps, drop the weight by another 20-30% and finish with as many reps as possible.
4. Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets
You’re modifying the movement with each subsequent set as the muscle starts to fatigue, without reducing the weight used.
Take dumbbell chest presses. Set the adjustable incline bench to 45 degrees. Pick a weight you can complete for 8-10 repetitions. Complete one set. Upon failure, immediately lower the incline bench to 25 degrees and press the dumbbells to failure at this position. When you fail there, lower the bench to a flat position and rep out as many as you can.
5. Rest Pause Sets
Do a set of 8-10 reps. Take 5-6 deep breaths. Rep out the same weight for as many as you can (it’ll be less than the first set). Take 5-6 deep breaths. Rep out the same weight for a few more. /End set.
6. Partial Reps
Why partial reps? You can go beyond failure and increase time under tension (i.e. get yoked!) without going for max lifts.
Basically, when you get to a point where you can no longer perform a rep fully, just involve the bottom few inches of a rep (1/4 reps) to extend the set and push past failure.
*Use a safe machine (in this case Smith) or competent spotter**
7. Myo Reps
Perform an activation set of 15 reps. Rest for 5 seconds. Each set afterward is referred to as a myo-rep set, where your goal is to hit 5 reps for as many sets as you can. When you can no longer hit that target rep range, the exercise is complete.
8. Density Training
In the simplest terms, density training involves increasing the amount of work you do in a given amount of time, increasing total volume. As you know, volume is king when it comes to building muscle.
You’ll perform a weighted stretch or an intense static stretch following a movement).
Animal studies have shown that weighted stretches can lead to size increases of 300%. A study reported on T-Nation that I wrote about has shown humans get a similar effect.
To emulate the study’s protocol, use a weight you can lift for 12 or more reps and then let the weight stretch the targeted muscle for at least 30 seconds.
Follow the stretch with 2-3 drop sets, repeating the weighted stretch at the end of the set each time.
Take incline dumbbell curls. Between sets, let the weight pull you into controlled hyperextension at the shoulder for at least 30 seconds. Be sure to flex your triceps at full extension to maximize stretch and tension. Drop the weight and repeat the process 2 or 3 more times.
10. Accommodating Resistance with bands
Bands allow for accommodating resistance through the entire range of motion, matching your strength curve. In other words, the bands are most resistant when you’re at your strongest (i.e. band is fully lengthened at the peak of a dumbbell press when you’re near full extension), challenging you equally throughout the entire distance that your targeted muscle group travels.
This adds a whole other level of difficulty to any exercise, without having to go too heavy and sacrifice form.
There’s also the benefit of eccentric overload, which is a fancy word for putting added tension on a movement during the eccentric/negative portion.
Here’s one example in the video. Double up on heavy bands on the incline hammer strength press. This is a good warm-up exercise to pump blood into the chest and shoulders before getting into your heavier work for the day.
11. Alternating Static Holds
Best done with dumbbells or cables, holding a weight in the contracted or starting position (while performing reps with the opposite arm)
Some Rules Of Thumb For Longevity (i.e. Avoid injury as you get old as F)
1. Always hydrate before lifitng.
2. Warm up appropriately. Don’t walk into the gym cold and go for your heaviest set of squats. Dynamic warmups and pyramiding up and weight is key as you age.
3. Use supportive gear. Don’t be “too tough” to use a belt or wrist wraps. This can make a measurable difference on joint health.