Basic Nutrition Concepts:
Nutrition is an extremely essential part of any regimen in order to gain muscle or lose fat. And whether you want to gain or lose is determined by a simple formula. Every day your body expends a certain amount of energy for basic functions; this is called your metabolism. If you eat more than this amount of energy in the form of food, you will be in a calorie surplus and you will gain weight. If you are eating less than you are expending, you are in a calorie deficit and will lose weight.
It is nearly impossible to lose fat while building muscle, since one only occurs in a calorie surplus and the other occurs in a calorie deficit. The only exceptions to this rule are people who are new to serious training and nutrition, are overweight, and who use anabolic drugs.
Nutrition is broken down into macronutrients which consist of: Protein, Carbohydrates, and fats. In order to put on weight an adequate amount of nutrients must be supplied daily to the body in order for the body to build lean tissue. The rules for nutrition on a bulking cycle are as follows: 1 -1.5 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, 2-2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, and one gram fat for every three pounds of bodyweight.
For a 200 lb person this would look something like this
Protein: 230 grams
Carbs: 350 grams
Fats: 65 grams
Now a cutting diet operates on different principles than a bulking diet. The biggest issue with cutting weight is holding onto muscle tissue while dropping weight, and the best way to do this is a long conservative diet without too deep of a calorie deficit or excess cardio. The best way to prevent muscle wasting is by having a high protein, low carb, low fat diet. Thus the numbers change now. Protein goes to around 1.75 grams per pound of bodyweight, carbs go to one gram for 1.5-2.5 pounds of body weight and fats about 1 gram for every 5-8 pounds of bodyweight.
For a 200 lb person
Important Note to be made
These numbers and diets are subject to change with the variance of metabolisms. A fast, ectomorphic metabolism will easily lose weight but have difficulty putting on weight. Thus in order to cut weight they may not need to cut as many calories but in order to gain will need to eat more than the average person. On the flip side, an endomorphic or slow metabolism has an easy time putting on weight but has a hard time losing. Thus an ectomorph’s numbers will tend to have much lower carbs than ectomorphs in a cutting diet.
How to discover your own metabolism?
The only way to know is by trial and error. People who say they can eat anything and everything and maintain a certain body type or weight are obviously ectomorphs and have fast metabolisms. Those who say that nearly anything causes them to gain weight have slow metabolisms. Thus what to do is go on a measured diet counting grams of nutrients and calories and measure your weight, but the key is to make the diet represent what your average intake was beforehand, not a deliberate cutting or bulking diet. The most effective to measure weight is in the morning, clothes off. Clothes distort weight measurements and in the morning your stomach is empty, creating a consistent set of conditions to accurately measure weight. As you eat and consume fluids your weight goes up throughout the day and as you sleep your weight drops back down. If your weight goes up at the end of this diet across the period of a week, your metabolism is slow and if it goes down it is fast.
The Roles of Certain Macronutrients
Protein: Protein is the building blocks of tissue in the body. A common misconception is that the more protein you can put in your diet the more muscle that can be built, but as earlier mentioned a high protein diet is used to preserve muscle in a cutting diet. The only instance where a high protein diet would yield muscular gains is in an individual who is a beginner and whose diet is in a relative calories surplus. Such gains would be short lived and plateau as their body would adjust.
Sources of Protein: Red meat, poultry, eggs, egg whites, fish.
Carbohydrates: The preferred energy source of the body, carbs are extremely important in any diet in the role they play. Carbs are the highest macronutrient in a cutting diet because they do something called the protein sparing effect, where the more carbs that are taken in the more protein that will be spared for actually building muscle. Otherwise the body would utilize protein for energy rather than constructing lean mass, and carbs cannot be used to perform the same building block functions of protein. In a cutting diet, the lower the carbs the harder the diet is and the more fat that will be burned but also the more potential for muscle to be wasted away as the body strips the protein away for energy. The key is to drop weight slowly and not drastically cut carbs.
Sources of Carbohydrates: Bread, pasta, bagels, cereal, rice, tortillas, rice cakes, and fruits.
Fats: The most underrated macronutrient, fats are essential to any diet because every cell in the body has something called a phospholipid bilayer which is constructed from fats. Without an adequate supply of fats, your body will not have an adequate supply of building materials.
Sources of Fats: Peanut butter, almonds, nuts, olive oil, and vegetable oil.
It has been consistently scientifically proven that eating between 4-6 meals a day keeps the body at a perpetual peak level of protein synthesis throughout the day. When your macro totals are calculated for your diet, these numbers should be distributed evenly throughout the day save for the pre workout and post workout meals, with 25% of the total carbs being ingested before and after the workout.
Pre-workout/post-workout meals: The idea behind a pre workout meal is to give the body fuel for the workout and prevent a slouch in energy output midway through. A typical pre-workout meal consists of 25% of the total daily carbs, a protein source, and this is where certain pre-workout supplements (Nitric Oxide, arginine, stimulants) are ingested. A pre-workout meal is often ingested 1 hour to 90 minutes before a workout.
The post workout meal is the perhaps the most important meal of the day. It is the meal right after a workout, where your body is in the highest demand for nutrients. A post workout meal consists of 25% of carbs but in the form of a High GI (Glycemic index) carb, a protein source, and this is where post workout supplements are taken (protein shake, creatine). A post workout meal is consumed as soon as possible after the workout is over.
Glycemic Index: The glycemic index is a measure of how fast carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream from the digestive system. The way to know the GI of a carb source is simple. All white carb: White bread, white bagels, white rice are all high GI, and all brown sources: Brown bread, brown bagels, brown rice are low GI. Low GI carbs have been proven to be the healthier between the two sorts of carbs and High GI carbs are only ingested after a workout because they can reach the exhausted muscle tissue faster.
There is an incredible amount in the variety of supplements that can be bought and what exactly they do for you. But nutrition science and the role supplementation plays in a diet is an ever changing science. Thus, the most important concept is rather than buy into hype and marketing, stick with tried and true products. The top four tried and true products in my opinion are Whey Protein, Creatine Monohydrate, Nitric Oxide, and BCAA’s (Branch chain amino acids).
The most important thing to know about supplementation is to understand the role they play in your diet. Supplements will not make or break your gains. I have seen dozens and dozens of guys who are content with having their post workout protein shake and eat horrible diets that do nothing for their gains. Protein shakes or creatine or anything else mentioned will NOT be the magical solution to anyone’s lack of gains. Organic nutrition is vastly superior to artificial nutrition. There is a biological difference between 20 grams of protein found in a protein shake powder and 20 grams found from red meat. Your body is a biological machine which was designed by nature to process organic matter, not artificial matter. If anyone disagrees with what I have to say here, go on a diet where your only protein sources are from protein powders, and then go on a diet from only natural sources. And I promise you will feel like crap on the protein powder diet and you will feel full and satisfied on the natural diet.
That being said, supplements do provide a benefit to a diet. Creatine supplementation can bring resting creatine levels to a level higher than naturally possible, and protein powder can be used in instances where there is too little time to cook or prepare a normal meal. Nitric Oxide supplements provide an energy boost and help promote blood flow to muscles during workouts, and BCAA’s are one of the best investments a person can make for bulking and cutting, and have been proven to reduce muscle wasting in a cutting diet. What need to be understood is that supplements are not the mainstay or secret advantage of any diet, but when used properly and effectively can provide an edge.
On how to use certain supplements research online on the various types and find what best suits your needs and how to best use them. Remember; do not solely rely on supplements for making gains.
Types of Exercises: There are two types of exercises compound and isolation. Compound exercises consist of one primary moving muscle group being assisted by secondary muscle groups, for example in bench press the chest is the primary muscle being utilized being assisted by the triceps and shoulders. An important note should be made here about primary and secondary muscle groups within an exercise. Although a compound exercise uses multiple muscle groups, only ONE of those is effectively being worked. The ONLY instance that a compound exercise would serve to build multiple muscle groups are for beginners fresh to lifting seriously, and eventually their gains will plateau rapidly if they rely on compound exercises to work multiple muscle groups.
Isolation exercises work a certain muscle without using secondary assisting muscle groups. Examples of these are shoulder laterals, dumbbell flies for chest, and leg extensions for quads.
A good training program includes a mixture of compound and isolation movements, usually with compound movements earlier in the workout and isolation later in the workout. When a compound exercise is preceded by an isolation exercise, this is an intensity technique called pre exhaustion.
The idea of a training split is based on the concepts of compound/ isolation exercises and recovery. Basically because certain important compound exercises require the use of secondary assistor muscle groups, these larger muscle groups should be trained before the smaller ones since they are dependent. A training split is broken down into what days what body part or parts are trained and which days are rest or off days.
Here is mine-
Wednesday- Shoulders, abs
Thursday- Back, traps
An error in a training split would be training shoulders or triceps the day before chest, which would severely hinder your ability for maximum effort and stimulation on chest day. So the idea is either to train these larger muscle groups first or to space out the training days so the secondary muscle groups have adequate time to recover and not be sore by the day you train a larger muscle group. There are plenty of various training splits, find one that suits you well and if you find yourself training through uncomfortable pain or soreness, make the necessary adjustments.
Warming up is a must. The purpose of warming up is to draw blood into the muscle and literally warming it up as well as loosen the joints for exercise. If you go into a set of an exercise and your joints are popping and making noises similar to cracking knuckles, your joints are not properly warmed up.
How to warm up? Use extremely light weight. And I mean ridiculously light weight. There should be no ego lifting in the first place but the last place to do it is in the warm up sets. Use light weight and do three sets of at least 10 reps of the first exercise in your workout program. I prefer to do the first set controlled and slowly, and the next two sets explosively, exactly how I would do the exercise with real weight. After these three sets are done, you can move onto the real weight.
*For training legs, always warm up with leg extensions even if they are not the first exercise of your program because they will loosen up your knees which are vulnerable to injury and strain during leg workouts.
Technique: What exactly defines the technique of an exercise? Technique is the manner in which a weight is moved by the musculature that maximizes muscular stimulation and minimizes the potential for injury. Good technique is absolutely essential to making muscular gains. Technique consists of several things: Range of Motion ( ROM), rep speed, and angle.
Range of Motion is how low the weight is lowered during the eccentric part of the rep (negative) and how high the weight is moved during the concentric part of the rep (positive). Range of motion is a massive issue for most beginners. Countless people while performing an exercise for example bench press, will lower the weight only half way down and press it back up from there. Another infamous example is the squat. The vast majority of gym goers who squat go only halfway down or less. Now most would think that proper ROM would consist of going all the way down and all the way up, but this is also incorrect. Going all the way down in an exercise will put you in a position called “the hole” which is uncomfortable for the joints to work and is a depth of ROM that should be avoided. The “hole” pertains to squats, leg press, shoulder presses, overhead triceps exercises, and chest flys and dumbbell presses. On the other half of the equation, a ROM that goes completely to the top is also incorrect. At the top of nearly every body part’s exercise (save for biceps) the working muscle is actually relaxed due to the secondary muscle groups taking over the top portion of the exercise. Thus the most effective range of motion tends to be something called a partial, where the rep goes sufficiently down but not into the hole, and nearly all the way up but not up to full extension. This is a principle called constant tension. Range of Motion is absolutely essential for maximum development.
Rep Speed: Rep speed is another common issue with beginners. The correct rep speed to LEARN an exercise is of course slow and controlled. The correct rep speed is one that is as explosive as possible while maintaining proper control of the weight. Explosive reps have been proven to provide the most stimulation to fast twitch muscle fibers, which are the muscle fibers that have the most potential for growth. Rep speed should also be maintained during the negative portion of the rep, and a common misconception is that there is no muscular stimulation from the negative but there is, and controlling the negative is just as important as controlling the positive portion of a rep.
Exercise Angle: This has to do with basic alignment of the weight and the way the muscle moves the weight. For example, placing the hands at an equally distanced and symmetrical distance from one another on a bar is important to ensure that both sides of the body are equally engaged. Another example is making sure the feet are equally distanced during squats/leg press and equally share the body’s weight. If it is asymmetrical, the center of gravity will shift during the exercise and the stress of the weight will be shifted asymmetrically across the body, not only causing one leg to be more developed than the other but also vastly increasing the potential for injury. The best way to know how to do an exercise is to research online and view video tutorials. But also view videos of the exercise being performed during an actual workout not just a tutorial, that way you can see how technique is maintained while using real working set weight.
Intensity techniques are for people with advanced lifting experience and these techniques are not necessary for beginners because their body’s’ will respond rapidly to exercise.
Rest/Pause: When a certain amount of reps are completed, a short pause of several seconds, followed by a series of more reps.
Forced Reps: When a person does a certain number of reps, and then for the following reps they have a partner assists them in getting past the sticking points. This is an intensity technique to be weary of and have an intelligent spotter. If done incorrectly it can result in injury, I recommend going no further than three forced reps.
Strip Sets/Drop sets: Perhaps the most intense technique, a drop/strip set is when an individual does a certain exercise for a certain number of reps, and then following the completion of that set lowers the weight, does another set of reps, and so on and so forth. There is no rest in between the sets save for the lowering of the weight. The best way to have the weight preloaded is say if you are doing 135 lbs for a strip set, have two ten pound plates loaded and then a 25lb plate loaded on the outside, making it easy to just strip off the weight and keep going rather than dealing with the hassle of shifting plates on and off the bar.
Super sets/ Tri sets/giant sets: The underlying principle of all these methods is that by performing certain exercises back to back the stress will increased. Super sets are two exercises performed back to back, tri sets are three, and giant sets are 4+. Now HOW to superset is a matter of importance. The idea of a supersetting is to thoroughly exhaust the muscle, so the two or more exercises that are supersetted must train the same muscle group, not different ones. Super setting is also used in another intensity technique called Pre Exhaustion, which has to do with the concept of compound and isolation exercises. For example many people have a weakness of having strong arms and shoulders but a small chest, meaning that their arms and shoulders tend to take over a compound exercise for chest. So by pre-exhausting the chest by doing an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise the chest will be thoroughly worked.
Partials- When an exercise is only done in a partial fraction of the range of motion. The proper context of this intensity technique is when full reps can no longer be completed due to fatigue in the middle of the set, so only partial reps are done only to the inability to complete full reps.
How to use Intensity techniques?
If you are considering using intensity techniques only use them for a couple sets a workout not every single set. For example, it is typical to do strip sets on the last set of a particular exercise. A workout that consisted of entirely intensity techniques would be difficult but would not exactly be effective. They are to be used only sparingly within a routine.
The concept of Overtraining
Overtraining is a concept of where TOO MUCH results in a backfire in gains. Simply put, working out five hours a day does NOT yield more results than four, which yields more than three. Overtraining is based on neuro-muscular connections. Every time a weight is lifted, the brain sends a nerve impulse to that muscle and activates the muscle fibers to perform that exercise. Over long periods of time during a workout, the brain and neuro muscular connections simply become unable to send as powerful signals to activate the muscles properly. So although you might still be training, you will feel exhausted and your ability to fully contract the muscles and maintain a level of intensity will be diminished. What exactly is the limit for overtraining? It is ambiguous. But certain extremes are obvious, for example doing 40 sets for a single muscle group or spending two hours training the same muscle group are obvious examples of not only overtraining, but wasting your time.
Every exercise hits a muscle differently. And to understand what exactly constitutes an exercise for a muscle group the function of that muscle group needs to be understood.
Chest- To draw the arms forward across the body
Back- To pull the arms back, any motion that pulls using the arms is considered a back exercise.
Quadriceps- To straighten the leg
Hamstrings- To curl the leg back
Biceps- To curl the arm forward
Triceps- To straighten the arm
Shoulders- To raise and lift the arm
Abs- To draw the ribcage towards the pelvis
Traps- To raise and rotate the shoulder girdle
Forearms- To curl the wrists (Extenders curl the wrist up with the back of the hand facing the forearm, forearm flexors curl the wrist with the palm facing the forearm.
Calves- To press straighten the foot relative to the ground.
What is to be learned from this is what exercise exactly trains what, a mistake many beginners make. For example some believe rows work triceps and push ups for traps, which is simply incorrect.
The following is a list of exercises for each muscle group and what is listed within the parenthesis are variations of that exercise:
Chest- Bench press (incline, flat, decline), dumbbell press (incline, flat decline), dumbbell flys, (incline, flat, decline), cable cross overs, machine presses.
Back- Barbell rows (overhand, underhand), dumbbell rows, T bar rows, pull ups (various types of grips), straight arm pull down, pullovers, cable rows, deadlifts, hyperextensions, lat pulldown ( overhand wide grip, underhand mid width grip). Various machine exercises
Legs- Squats (front, back), leg press, leg extensions, hack squats, walking lunges.
Hamstrings- Stiff legged deadlifts (can be mimicked by dumbbells as well) machine curl (lying down, standing one legged, sitting)
Biceps- Dumbbell curls ( incline, sitting standing), concentration curls, barbell curls, cable curls (two arm, one arm), preacher curl (one arm, two arm), hammer curl, reverse curl.
Triceps- Overhead extensions ( bar or dumbbell), dumbbell kickbacks, triceps push down (rope, overhand, underhand, one arm), lying extensions, dips, close grip bench press.
Shoulders- Military press ( standing, seated), overhead dumbbell press, Arnold press, front raises, lateral raises, bent over lateral raises, upright rows.
Abs- There are a multitude of various abdominal exercises to choose from, a key concept of properly developing abs is to use strict technique as well as supersetting/tri setting the exercises.
Traps- Shrugs (dumbbell, barbell, machine).
Forearms- Overhand wrist curls, underhand wrist curls, standing behind the back wrist curls.
Calves- Calf raises (seated, standing, on leg press)
Free Weight vs. Machine/Cable
Time has proven that free weight exercises are the best for developing muscle, better than machine or cable alternatives. The muscular stimulation that free weights provide is unmatchable by other means. Thus, free weights should be the core of any exercise regimen that is intending to build muscle mass. The exact function of a cable or machine is to redirect the force of gravity at a different angle in the form of a cable and pulley attached to a weight stack, thus giving flexibility in how to work the muscle. But they should only be used sparingly and typically at the end of a workout. Personally, I have only two machines and three cable exercises that are used in my entire program.
There are loads and loads of exercise programs and training routines that are available online for research. But the million dollar question is which is the best one? It depends on your goals. “New Age” programs like P90x, Insanity, and Cross Fit are good for burning fat, but I will straight up say that they are extremely inadequate for building muscle. So the program I am going to outline for you is something called volume training, which has existed for half a century and is the most tried and true and used program in the world.
Volume training breaks down as follows- Every muscle group 3-5 exercises, 3-4 sets per exercise, 6-15 reps per set, with 45-180 second breaks in between sets. The idea of using multiple exercises is that every exercise develops a certain aspect of a muscle, for example pull ups develop the width of the back and deadlifts develop the thickness of the back. By incorporating multiple exercises into a single workout can you effectively develop all aspects of a muscle group. And by doing multiple sets, they are performed by pyramiding up in weight from higher reps/lighter weight, to lower reps/ higher weight. By hitting multiple rep ranges you can develop strength and muscular size at the same time. Here is my current back workout:
Barbell rows: 1st set: 15 reps 2nd set: 12 reps 3rd set: 8 reps 4th set: 6 reps and strip set.
Pull ups on machine- 1st set: 15 reps 2nd set 12 reps 3rd set 10 reps 4th set 8 reps
Deadlifts: 1st set 12 reps 2nd set 8 reps 3rd set 6 reps
Dumbbell rows- same as barbell rows
Straight arm pulldown- same as pull ups.
Genetics. If there is anything that has predetermined your fate in the gym and how you will progress it is your genetics. Some of us are extremely gifted and can get away with doing light exercise and bare nutrition and make incredible gains, but those are few and rare. The majority of us will have to work hard for what we wish to achieve, some more than others. Genetics can be a blessing or a curse. It can determine your metabolism, your natural athleticism, your body’s response to exercise and nutrition. It is hard exactly how to measure genetic advantages or disadvantages but the underlying message is that even though they play a massive role in your ability to gain, you are well within your ability to achieve your goals if you persist.
On the Use of Anabolic Drugs
* The statements contained herein are not intended to promote, advocate, or condone the use of pharmaceutical drugs in illegal manners inconsistent with their intended use.
I have no personal experience with using anabolic drugs but what knowledge I do have is by my association with the competitive bodybuilding community and what I have heard of and learned from peers. There are several extremely important rules to consider when deciding to use anabolic drugs or not:
1) What are you taking and why- Knowledge is key. Understanding the various properties of what drugs you are taking and their effects on the body is crucial to maximizing their use and maintaining good health. Research extensively, read testimonials, and maximize your knowledge prior to use.
2) Age and Experience- A rule of thumb is not use drugs without at least five years of serious commitment to proper nutrition and exercise, and to maximize natural gains prior to using drugs. Another rule of thumb is not to use them before the age 25, prior to this age male testosterone levels are at their natural highest level and this is the best time period to maximize natural gains.
3) Cost- Anabolic drugs can be dirt cheap or extremely expensive depending on how you want to invest. The best method is to design various cycles and then calculate the costs associated with whatever drugs are involved.
4) Dosage- Always, always start on low doses. In your research you will learn what is considered high or low for a certain drug to be effective, but the bottom line is to start low in order to keep track of health and to gauge your response to the drugs. Not everyone will respond to the same doses of the same drugs or cycles, your response to drugs is entirely in the hands of your genetics, some people respond amazingly well, and some make only marginal improvements. To know which one you are the best way is to start low.
5) Health- Let me get rid of a ridiculous “mainstream” misconception about anabolic drugs. THEY CAN BE USED SAFELY. How? By continuously monitoring vital organ function every few months, and the two biggest things to watch are blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Genetic conditions such as heart enlargement and naturally high bloody pressure can increase the risk for complications regarding the use of anabolic drugs, but if you have done your research on the drugs, start on low doses, and monitor your health, there is no excuse to suffer severe health consequences. That being said, anabolic drugs if used without proper knowledge can thrash your vital organ functions in the matter of only a few months. This is why research is so important. If you know what you are doing it and why, you should be healthy and safe.
6) Motivation- Why are you considering taking anabolic drugs? They are not something to be dealt with lightly and a serious motivation and commitment has to be a key aspect of the final decision to follow through the decision to use them. I have heard of plenty of reasons to use and some are just plain stupid. For example, if your friend goes on anabolic drugs and start performing better in the gym than you, and you consider starting anabolic drugs not to be left behind, that is a ridiculous reason. The decision to use or not to use should be entirely individual.
If you have questions regarding anything that has or has not been mentioned in this post feel free to post them and I will gladly answer anything to the best of my ability or refer you to sources and information to your benefit.
Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever
Last edited by OTIS on Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.