Friday, January 29, 2016

Exogenous ketones, how the hell did I get here, and who are these people?

This article is about seven months in the making.  So if I don't bore you, which I do my best not to (like writing 6,000 word articles on something as trivial as butt wink), then I hope you'll hang in there long enough to get through this one.  As it took me months of arguing, seeing both anecdotal results and reading a metric ass load of studies, and hearing about a hundred overwhelming testimonials to finally sit down and write this.

Rewind about seven months ago to one day in the gym.  I was just about to finish up my training session when this woman I sorta-kinda knew approached me.

Mind out of the gutter guys...not in that way.

She asked me what I thought of ketogenic diets.

"Not really a big fan.  Good for fat loss, but outside of that I'm not a fan."

"What if I told you I was involved with a company making exogenous ketones?"

"Ok, and?" I shrugged.

"Do you know much about ketones?"  she asked, in a rather smart ass way.

"Yes I know about ketones."

"Well" she smirked "this is a supplement you can take, pee on a stick and it shows you are using ketones for energy."

"Ok." I said, in about the most lukewarm manner you could reply to someone with.

"You don't find that fascinating?"

"Oh yes, peeing my pants over here."

I can't remember if that's what I said, but it was something to that effect.  Either way, I wasn't impressed nor enthralled by her information.  Who the fuck cares about ketones?

A few weeks later a friend of mine she was working with that was preparing for a men's bikini competition asked me the same series of questions.  Once again, my response was a lukewarm "I don't give a shit" kind of one.

"Dude, they are awesome." he said.

"How so?" I asked.

"Just the focus and energy you get from them.  I'm pretty depleted from dieting, and when I take them I have plenty of energy to train, feel really focused...not like a preworkout but just, really focused."

I looked down at my temperature gauge again to check the reading.

"Lukewarm" it read.

I yawned.

Still, somehow he convinced me to at least come have a sit down with the two of them later in the week to learn about this product.  I relented to be a decent friend and agreed to the meeting.  I also am a social creature by nature, and I never bypass and opportunity make someone exceptionally uncomfortable if I have the chance to do so.

Once there, I believe I remember being about as repulsive as possible in order to turn her off in regards to my interest in said product.

Then I basically ignored the information about the product and talked about banging hookers in the Caribbean, or something like that, in order to make her think I was a total pig and not worth working with.

Let me be clear, I've never ever ever banged a hooker in the Caribbean.  Only in Vegas.

I'm joking.  Yes, I'm f'ing joking.  My point was, at that time, to come across as an asshole (you know this isn't hard for me) in order to make her leave me alone.

What I did not know was that she was quite used to dealing with a variety of people....including assholes...and that my 11 scale asshole meter didn't have as much of an effect on her as I wanted it to.  In other words, she kept bothering me to at least try this stupid product out or read about it.

You have no idea how annoying she was.  I'm not being facetious here.   Remember being a kid, and your sibling would keep touching you or hitting you, and mom or pops would tell them to stop "touching you"?  Then they would get as close to you as possible, without actually touching you.

That annoying.

I have no idea how this happened but she managed to get me on a call with another guy in the company and we chatted about this thing, and then he mentioned a name to me that changed everything.

"Patrick Arnold is involved...."

At that point, they had my full attention.

You see, Patrick is a god damn genius.  And he's not going to be involved with anything that isn't legit as fuck.

Now I was listening.

The major component to this product was BHB, beta-hydroxybutyrate, with some MCT oil added in to slow down the digestion rate as they had found in testing, without something to slow the digestive rate, well, people's stomachs didn't feel so great.  We will just leave it at that.

Just to science-wiki you real quickly.......

In humans, beta-hydroxybutyrate is synthesized in the liver from acetoacetate, the first ketone produced in the fasting state. The biosynthesis is catalyzed by the enzyme beta-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase.

Although not a ketone itself, the concentration of beta-hydroxybutyrate, like that of other ketone bodies, is raised in ketosis. This elevated beta-hydroxybutyrate level seen in ketosis is naturally expected due to the fact that, as mentioned above, it is formed from acetoacetate. The compound can be used as an energy source by the brain when blood glucose is low.[1] Diabetic patients can have their ketone levels tested via urine or blood to indicate diabetic ketoacidosis. In alcoholic ketoacidosis, this ketone body is produced in greatest concentration. Both types of ketoacidosis result in an increase beta-hydroxybutyrate to oxaloacetate ratio, resulting in TCA cycle stalling and shifting of glucose towards ketone body production.

I also learned on the call that Toney Freeman was involved and was raving about the product as well.  Basically saying all the same stuff my friend was.  The focus, the added energy, appetite suppression, a more balanced mood, and just a more overall feeling of "well being."

My initial thoughts were actually, that if this was an energy source that could be used then competitors in depletion stages might see a benefit from it.  The last few weeks before a bodybuilding competition, most people are zombies from the severe starvation, and the excessive training load.  If it didn't have any kind of negative impact on their conditioning, it was at least worth looking into.

Seeing as how I really wanted to prove this annoying chick wrong, I decided I'd buy some, and send samples out to people I knew who were in such a state.  I was certain I would be able to report back to her that she was full of horse manure, and this will make her leave me alone.

So I bought some of this stuff, sent it off to several competitors I knew, and I awaited their responses about how this stuff did nothing.

I couldn't wait to rub this chick's nose in it.  To let her know how wrong she was.  I couldn't wait to copy and paste the responses back to her and let her know she could go sell this crap to some other gullible schmuck.  I've been around this field for over two decades.  And anyone that has followed me for anything length of time, knows what a skeptic I am about supplements.  In fact, despite the fact that I am sponsored by True Nutrition, the only supplement I have raved about with them is Muscle Intrusion.  Not that I don't love their products, because I do.  The only reason went on with them to be sponsored is because I believe that TN actually produces products of the highest quality in everything they do.  Let me also add, that in no way, do these two companies compete with each other.  

So I waited.  And then I got my responses back.

First IFBB pro physique competitor hit me back.

"Paul...what the fuck is this shit?  It's amazing!"

Me - "I knew it was garbag.....wait, what?"

"I have barely been able to move to get cardio and training done.  I took a pack this morning and within 30 minutes or so I was energized and motivated and knocked out my cardio with no problem."

Me - "But wait, no.  No.  Wait.  No.  But..."

Her - "Where do I get more of it?"

Me - "......................................"

The other person I sent it to, had actually been going hypoglycemic during her training.  She had actually come to me for help because she was so frustrated that she couldn't make it through a single leg day without going hypo, and having to cut her workouts short.

She confided in me that she had worked every type of pre and peri nutrition protocol you could think of.  And nothing helped.

So just on a hunch, I sent her some packs of this stuff.

A few days later, her response was the same as the other chicks.

"Paul...what the fuck is this shit?!?!?  It's amazing!"

ME - "....................................ok"

Her - "I took a pack about 30 or 45 minutes before training.  Did legs.  Didn't go hypo.  Do you know how long it's been since that happened?  I haven't been able to make it through a leg workout in forever without that happening."

Me - "Well, try it again.  Could just be by chance."

But without fail, she would take the ketone product, go train, and never go hypo.

I was getting desperate.  I had no bad news to report back.  I had nothing to rub this chicks nose in.  I was desperate.  So I sent it to a buddy who is an IFBB pro to try, and he said he saw no difference.

Finally!  Redemption.

"But" he said.  "I'm eating like, 800 grams of carbs a day.  So it's kinda hard to tell."


Reluctantly, I reported back to her on my very small bit of anecdotal evidence that it did look like it really was pretty legit.  At least for someone in depletion stages of a contest diet, or someone whose blood sugar was dropping during training.  I mean, that's not covering a huge demographic, but still.  It did do "something."

She asked me if I would be interested in reading about some studies in relation to it.  I wasn't.  But I told her I would, because believe it or not, I actually try to be good to people and respect the things they are passionate about.  Especially if I think they are genuinely decent people.   The product did look interesting.  So I started researching BHB more, and what it might actually be good for in regards to athletes.

My initial findings led me to inflammation.  And to put it mildly, I was quite overwhelmed.  And by overwhelmed I mean, there's a metric assload of studies that show over and over and over and over and over again that BHB reduces chronic inflammation, and has a very positive effect on restoring healthy levels of inflammation to the body.

I'm not writing another article about inflammation, and I'm going to make you not be lazy so this is what I'm going to do here.  I'm going to link a bunch of studies that show that BHB has a tremendous impact on reducing chronic inflammation in the body.  Now why is this important?  Because chronic inflammation is related to just about every nasty ass disease or something that causes a severe reduction in health in some way, shape, or form.

Here, you know what, I will be nice enough to provide the studies and some high level overviews....

The ketone metabolite β-hydroxybutyrate blocks NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated inflammatory disease.

BHB reduces NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18 production in human monocytes. In vivo, BHB or a ketogenic diet attenuates caspase-1 activation and IL-1β secretion in mouse models of NLRP3-mediated diseases such as Muckle-Wells syndrome, familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome and urate crystal-induced peritonitis. Our findings suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of caloric restriction or ketogenic diets may be linked to BHB-mediated inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

In their study, published in the Feb. 16 online issue of Nature Medicine, the researchers described how the compound β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) directly inhibits NLRP3, which is part of a complex set of proteins called the inflammasome. The inflammasome drives the inflammatory response in several disorders including autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and autoinflammatory disorders.

“These findings are important because endogenous metabolites like BHB that block the NLRP3 inflammasome could be relevant against many inflammatory diseases, including those where there are mutations in the NLRP3 genes,” said Vishwa Deep Dixit, professor in the Section of Comparative Medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

How awesome is that one bit above?  Someone actually named their kid, Vishwa Deep Dixit!  If that's not a porn name in the making I don't know what is.  

Ok fine, back to inflammation......

Basically, BHB works to block inflammasomes, therefore reducing chronic levels of inflammation in the body.  And once again, inflammation is related to well everything from diabeetus, to heart disease, migraines, chronic fatigue, immune system problems, and well, just about every negative aspect of your overall health.  

Hey it's all there in science.  I wanted to be wrong.  I really did.  But the more I dug, the more interested I became.  

I ended up researching a lot about the positive effects of BHB on inflammation and eventually was part of a panel that would speak about the positive effects of keto-os along with two doctors, and my friend Brandon Lilly, who got on board with this as well.  

Fact was, because I had only researched the inflammation side of things, the two doctors blew me away at all the research related to the positive effects keto-os has on everything from epigenetics to balancing out neurotransmitters (GABA, serotonin, dopamine) to increased levels of ATP.  Which was another part that really piqued my interest.  If you know anything about increasing strength, then you know that increasing ATP is a big friend of yours.

If you eat a calorie-restricted diet for several days, you will increase the breakdown of your fat stores. However, many of your tissues cannot convert these fatty acid products directly into ATP, or cellular energy. In addition, glucose is in limited supply and must be reserved for red blood cells -- which can only use glucose for energy -- and brain tissues, which prefer to use glucose. Therefore, your liver converts many of these fatty acids into ketone bodies, which circulate in the blood and provide a fuel source for your muscles, kidneys and brain.
Synthesis and Breakdown of Ketone Bodies

Low fuel levels in your body, such as during an overnight fast or while you are dieting, cause hormones to increase the breakdown of fatty acids from your stored fat tissue. These fatty acids travel to the liver, where enzymes break the fatty acids into ketone bodies. The ketone bodies are released into the bloodstream, where they travel to tissues that have the enzymes to metabolize ketone bodies, such as your muscle, brain, kidney and in
testinal cells. The breakdown product of ketone bodies goes through a series of steps to form ATP.

The interesting part I ended up finding about here was that, the breakdowns of ketones to ATP is actually a far cleaner process than the breakdown of glucose to ATP.  

We're about to get super fucking sciencey so hang on here.  I'm make it a bit easier after this link, but the reason I'm using all of this research is to be thorough.

Oh and by the way, this article was about researching brain tumors....but we're stealing the ATP portion for strength athletes.  That makes me feel horrible inside in some sort of way, but I think science can indeed make us feel yucky inside at times........

Ketone bodies are more energetically efficient than either pyruvate or fatty acids because they are more reduced (greater hydrogen/carbon ratio) than pyruvate and do not uncouple the mitochondrial proton gradient as occurs with fatty acid metabolism [14]. In contrast to glucose, ketone bodies by-pass cytoplasmic glycolysis and directly enter the mitochondria where they are oxidized to acetyl-CoA [44,49]. The amount of acetyl-CoA formed from ketone body metabolism is also greater than that formed from glucose metabolism [50]. This increases TCA cycle metabolites (from citrate to α-ketoglutarate) while reducing the mitochondrial NAD couple, [NAD+]/[NADH], and increasing the mitochondrial Q couple [Q]/[QH2] [14,50]. The difference between these couples increases the redox span between the NADH dehydrogenase complex (site I), and the CoQH2-cytochrome C reductase (site III) thus enhancing the mitochondrial proton gradient [14]. This enhances the energy available from the hydrolysis of ATP, ΔG'ATP, the cell's key energy reserve generated through the mitochondrial Fl ATPase [14,16]. Remarkably, the ketone body-induced increase in the ΔG'ATP is also accomplished using less oxygen [48,50]. These and other findings led Veech to designate ketone bodies as a "super fuel" [14].

In addition to increasing ATP production while reducing oxygen consumption, ketone body metabolism can also reduce production of damaging free radicals [14,16,48]. The semiquinone of Q, the half reduced form, spontaneously reacts with oxygen and is the major source of mitochondrial free radical generation [14,51]. Oxidation of the Q couple reduces the amount of the semiquinone form thus decreasing superoxide production [14].

Annnnd to add..........

These data indicate that the infusion of beta-hydroxybutyrate may alter the balance from ATP degradation toward ATP resynthesis in muscle and liver by providing an immediate source of fuel and reducing equivalents under under specific metabolic conditions. This activity in combination with other metabolic interventions may have therapeutic value by restoring ATP pools in ATP-depleted tissues.

So basically, just as far as I've gotten - 

Keto-OS is completely f'n legit in regards to - 

1.  Increasing ATP, or at minimum reduces the degradation of ATP.  This means more contractile power for training, through a process that does it in a far cleaner state than the oxidation of glucose does.

2.  Has an exceptionally positive effect on neurotransmitters.  In essence, I use it now as a pre-workout and I can't lie.  It's amazing.  It's sort of hard to explain.  If you've ever had a workout where you just felt awesome, and totally focused, and had a steady stream of energy, it's like that.  I DO still use Intrusion with my training for this reason.  And because it takes about 30-45 minutes for them to kick in, I sort of stack these two.  I use the keto-os about 30-45 before training, then about halfway through training I start drinking the Intrusion from True Nutrtion.  From what I can tell and have learned from the doctors and scientists involved in this, the ketones have a muscle glycogen sparing effect.  Which is why the one girl I had using them stopped going hypo.  

3.  Reduces chronic inflammation and fatigue - This has been a major reason why I have been able to train longer, harder, more often, and not feel as run down.  It used to be that on leg days, about two or three hours post leg training I was just done for the day.  Now, I take half a pack about two or three hours post workout, and I feel fine.  No more feeling like I'm going to pass out, and am worthless for the day.

In fact, I have a great anecdotal story to provide about this as well.  

When we did the conference, I told Brandon before we left "I could use the strongest cup of coffee in the world right now.  I'm dead."  At the conference they were actually serving the keto-os.  So I drank two, and within 30 minutes, I was wide awake, and my fatigue was gone.  Brandon absolutely can verify he felt the same way.  

Since then I've talked to Charles Poliquin about it, and he had already been involved with a guy who was doing research on this very product a few years before.  Unfortunately, the dude passed away and the research died with him.  So he was pretty excited to learn about this, and wanted in on it as well.  So he and I will be doing some work together in regards to promoting the product, and researching all the ways it can benefit people from training, to neurological issues, to health and even concussions.

So the product itself has a myriad of positive effects on people.  I just returned from a huge conference in Vegas, and the number of testimonials about what this product had done for people mirrored the other ones I had heard before.

1.  Sense of well being
2.  More energy
3.  Improved mood
4.  Decreased pain
5.  Improved sleep

There were literally people who had been able to come off of anti-depressants, and even seen huge pain reduction in things like rheumatoid arthritis.  

Oh and lastly, no, you don't have to be on a ketogenic diet in order to use it at all!  You just get the benefits of BHB without having to actually go on an awful ketogenic diet.  I'm going to catch hell for that last sentence because the ketogenic diet is absolutely the crowd this product attracts.  But I eat like, almost 400 grams of carbs a day and still get great results from using it.  

So there you go. 

I've tried to be as open and honest as I can be about this whole thing.  This was a big deal for me because anyone who has followed me knows that I am no fraud, scammer, or snake oil salesman.  I took over six months to try and prove that this product was bunk and at every turn I was proven wrong either through anecdotal evidence, or the science behind it.  So I finally had to admit defeat. 

How I generally use it is like this.  

30-45 minutes before training - 

2-3 hours after training to reduce fatigue from training, or on non-training days to reduce "workout hangover".

Honestly, from those perspectives alone, it's been money and has made a huge difference in how I feel.  I actually kept this info out of my body recomp post a while back because I still wasn't totally convinced (yes I'm hard headed) of how legit it was.  But this is what would happen.

I'd use it for 4 weeks or so.  Run out.  Not pay attention.  Then, because my training frequency and volume was so high, I'd notice I wasn't recovering from training as well as before.  Then I would order some more, add it back in, and sure enough, my recovery ability would increase.

I wanted to be irritated because my initial response was that this product was junk.  But there's just too much science and anecdotal evidence behind it to label it that.  

You don't have to believe a word I say.  In fact, I implore you not to.

Go out and learn, read, and research yourself.  I urge everyone to question anything and everything in regards to training and diet BUT only if you're willing to experiment yourself.  No one ever learned if something worked for them by just arguing about it on the internet.  And I have no interest in arguing about this.  I've seen it work for others, and it works for me.  The science is there, the results and testimonials are there.

And that's the bottom line.  

I was wrong.  And admit defeat.

If you're interesting in grabbing some, here's a link to do so (below).

Friday, January 22, 2016

The physical mind fucking of social media

Long before the interwebs and social media ever existed, I went into the gym daily, and trained.

Yeah, we wore fanny packs.  Mainly to hold our giant cassette or CD player so we could listen to the tunes we wanted to instead of shitty gym music (some things truly haven't changed in gyms in 30 plus years).  We wore clown pants and the gym was packed with mullets (which has now been replaced by the every bit as hideous and shitty "undercut" hairstyle that is currently popular).

We did what the "bros" from the magazines said we should do (ghost written or not) and didn't argue with them about the scientific validity of a program or diet.  Mainly because we couldn't.  We had to try something to see if it worked, and were left to nothing but trial and error.  Which in turn, actually gave us something called "experience".  

Thankfully, the net has taken all of that away and made both training and diet the springboard for making things as complicated as possible, and become the playground for what should be intellectual debate and turned it into proverbial pissing matches over who is "right" or "wrong".  There's a whole sect of people who talk a lot about training and diet on the net, and a whole lot of them that do very little of both.  But that's really an entirely different article.

But even worse than that, it has completely distorted reality in regards to what people are seeking to achieve, or what they believe is even achievable at all.  To add, it has even changed how people train.

Trust me when I say that it was hard enough coming up through the 90's, being a teen and looking at the physiques of pros and believing that building such a physique was attainable on some protein powder and pills from GNC.  Steroid talk was pretty much non-existent back then in magazines and even Lee Haney himself made his own training video saying all he took was fucking Weider "Anabolic Mega-Packs".

I really can't imagine what the hell goes through the mind of a teen who finds himself looking up to guys who not only boost synthol, but then even photoshop their IG and other social media pics to make themselves look even more cartoonish, and make Youtube videos that for the life of me, I can't figure out how it pertains to training or dieting in a way that is conducive to helping them.  Entertainment value perhaps?  I'd like to think so, until I read the comments below said videos where I see lots of young lifters actually defending their "champion".

But I feel the women have it even worse.

Social media is now filled with women looking for "fame" through nothing more than booty pics, and the lengths they will go to in order to get "likes" is borderline psychotic.

From ass implants to pics photoshopped so hard that the doorframe near her ass appears to bend space and time, there's no length some of these women won't go to in order to find social and sexual affirmation....for their ass.

Men of course, drive this market.  Wait, let me rephrase; thirsty men drive this market.  I can't scroll through my newsfeed or IG without seeing a pic of some chick sticking her ass into a camera lense so close that would make any gynecologist scream "I'm not studying atoms in your vagina!" followed by men begging to wife said women.

Other women see this, of course, and want the same attention.  Let's be real here (which is also impossible on social media because no one ever admits to this shit), the women do this for attention from men.  Men give said attention - for reasons I am unaware of as it is not going to get you laid - and the cycle continues.

This is all fine, actually.  People are free to run their social media any way they please, just as I'm free to write on this blog and poke fun about it.  My point in all of this is that this is how the social media market gets driven.  Literally, by asses.  Women want them because they desire attention from men who are the poster boys for sexual desperation, and those men believe by giving that attention will somehow translate into some action in the sack.  Which of course is never going to happen, no matter how many roses pictures you post under her picture or how many times you incorrectly use the phase "god your so beautiful".  It's "God, you're so beautiful" in case you missed that.  There should be a comma after "God" and it's "you're" and not "your".  Your means.....fuck, nevermind.

Since the fitness industry is driven by judgement (whether you like that or not, it's a fact) based on some criteria, I can tell you first hand that most of the women that get propped up as having these perfect bodies rarely impress in person.  I remember the first big expo I went to years and years ago, and remember feeling quite confused after half the day had passed, and the great majority of "asses" I observed were exceptionally underwhelming.  I'm not even saying that to be an asshole.  I remember being exceptionally disappointed because as a man who does himself appreciate a great set of glutes, or in fact a well developed physique in general, I was left quite sad at the end of the day.

One particular female who I knew of from social media, that prides herself on posting pics of her ass, actually looked quite like 10 pounds of shit stuffed into a 5 pound bag in person.  I say this not to be an asshole, even though it is an asshole thing to write, I say this because I remember it being the first thing I thought when I saw her in person.  I couldn't tell she had ever trained, and remember thinking she was actually quite....fat.  But I have another reason I write that which I will get to later.

None of this has stopped the same women from shopping their pics or posting video after video of them taken from the ass side over and over again.  That's what gets attention.  And that's what women want.

Fuck, let me not be quite so sexist here.  Most of us want or desire attention from the opposite sex (or the same sex, fuck, I don't want to appear homophobic either).  God damn, now I feel as though I have to rewrite that whole bit.  But I won't.  Let's just say, in the industry people do indeed crave attention.  There.  That'll work.

But this is a normal human trait and not something I am not shitting on.  Most of us have something we use social media for, to attract attention to ourselves for either personal or professional reasons (people use social media to make a living too), or both.  Guys that post videos of themselves lifting weights often make fun of guys who post half naked pics, when in fact, both are doing different things for the same reasons.  Affirmation and accolades from peers or attention.  Again, nothing wrong with this.

Gotta write that a few times so that it's perfectly clear.

To deny a degree of attention seeking is to deny a very basic human condition.  The condition of desirability.  Some don't need this through social media, it's true.  But many do.  And that's the basic foundation of which all of this is built.

My point in all of this is that this drives the "average" fitness, or "fitfam" hashtagging female who is unaware that many and most of these "perfect body" females have their shit shopped all to hell and back, get ass implants, or generally look nothing like in person what is presented to them via social media - and it warps their perception of what is a "perfect" body, and the perception of their own.

Yes that was a hell of a run on sentence but you'll have to deal with it as I couldn't figure out any other way to write it.

In other words, that they are somehow not quite as "perfect" or will ever be as perfect as these women with 7 gagillion followers.

I truly feel for women who are in the gym daily that feel as though they have to meet some social media goddess standard in order to feel sexy or fit or attractive.  And every few months, something new pops up for women to achieve in order to appear attractive through fitness.

"Don't have a thigh gap?  No man's penis will ever become erect for you!  Want some erect penis?  Do this thigh gap training!"  

/women start posting thigh gap pics or doing thigh gap "training"/

"Don't have a big apple bottom ass?  Do my training program!  It took me from pancake ass to donkey ass in 12 weeks!"

/never reveals surgeon's name/

Women have it tough.  They really do.  As guys, we really don't have it quite as bad as women do because the fact is, women know that men tend to be more visually driven from a sexual aspect.  I mean, there's a reason why strip clubs are in business.  There's a reason why some chick who has never competed in anything at all has a million followers on IG, and there's a reason why certain women get put on the cover of magazines.  Men's magazines I mean.  Like Playboy.  Women aren't as visually driven as men, and often date dudes who are ugly AF because they fulfill other needs women tend to be attracted to.  Like intelligence, confidence, and a big bank account.

annnnndd there was nothing wrong with the "before" pic

I mean, dudes deal with this too, but I honestly think it's quite different.  Men who strive to become overly muscular tend to do so at some point for their own narcissistic reasons or personal goals.  I say that willingly throwing myself under the bus as one of said males.  I could really give two shits about attention from women at THIS point in my life in regards to training goals.  However, of course there was a time when I did enjoy the fact that improving how I looked brought me that.  So I'm trying to stay "real" here and not present myself as someone who is some emotional outlier who never needed affirmation and attention from women.  Hell, even Ed Coan said to me "we all want affirmation that we are highly regarded and looked up to by our competitors and peers."

And there's nothing wrong with that.  Positive affirmation is something most of us crave.  It makes us feel good about ourselves, and often times is the driver for us wanting to obtain harder to achieve goals.  Again, all good things.

What I don't like is how discouraged or disheartened a lot of women get about their own bodies because they don't realize that most of these women either don't look like that in person, or have had work done or had pics altered to look like something they are not.  Or that every few months there is some new "standard" set in place for them in regards to what they are supposed to look like.

It can do everything from creating eating disorders to terrible self body image in women, who look damn good already and worked hard to get there.  Then said female can often find herself in a place where she rarely gets a single moment of happiness from her training or dieting because she never feels like she "measures up" to what she sees online or is told is currently "attractive".

For a while, the "strong is the new skinny" phase became the rage.  And it really put more of an emphasis on women performing well, and becoming "secure" in their body image through lifting and self acceptance.  I actually liked this phrase because I thought it could transcend more than just "abs" or "asses" or how you looked.  That women no longer needed to be a size zero in order to find a place of strength in both their body and mind.

But of course, this motto too got trashed by other females because somehow trashing one body image to uphold another is not good either.  In other words "don't tell someone how to look!"

I think the bottom line is that striving for a healthy body should be the one most PEOPLE aspire to. But that's just my opinion.  There will be some 380 pound powerlifter who is on the verge of a daily heart attack that will disagree, and will say that a 600 pound bench is more important, but I digress.

Yes, I've written many times that I am against obesity acceptance because it is the physical manifestation of leading an unhealthy life, and even wrote several SCIENCE BASED piece supporting the fact that there is no such thing as "good health at any bodyweight".  But the flip side to that, are the women who have transformed their bodies through lifting, formed new eating habits that are conducive to good health, and still feel like shit about themselves because they believe that they aren't "enough" due to a lack of "likes" or "followers" on social media.

And that this obviously is because they don't have a thigh gap, big enough ass, big enough tits, full enough lips, whatever.

Let's make no mistake here, the industry has always been full of liars.  But the impact social media has now on training, dieting, and self perception has become quite tremendous.

While it's true that exceptionally beautiful people are always going to be put on a pedestal because being hot AF sells magazines, supplements, lipstick, and clothes, I truly detest the propping up of fakeness across social media and the ripple effect I see it having into the lives of others.

So let me tell you this ladies - I've seen about every "perfect body" you can imagine that you've seen on social media and as I've covered, most of the time I was very underwhelmed.  I think if you got out to some of these events you'd probably see for yourself that well, you're not as bad off as you think you are.  In fact, I've seen plenty of women in "regular gyms" whose physiques impressed me more, who did not compete, didn't have big social media followers, and really didn't give a fuck.

And despite the fact that I've written several times about how you need to give a fuck, you need to learn what to give a fuck about.  Giving too much of a fuck about the acceptance of people across social media for attention can eventually detract from your own happiness.  Giving too much of a fuck about having the perfect ass or a thigh gap can detract from you just finding happiness in your training and body image.

Everyday you're going to wake up and go to bed with what mom and pops gave you to work with.  If you want to give a fuck about something, and being in the best shape you can be in is one of those things, then worry about what you can do with that, and that alone.  And do the best you can with that; and quit giving a fuck about thigh gaps and "perfect asses" and set goals that are meaningful to what YOU aspire to be.

I told a friend the other night that I was finally in a place where I felt physically "content" with myself.  But upon reflection, I'm not sure if it's because I have actually achieved some physical form that I am actually happy with, or because I finally arrived at a place where I was just happy with who I am as a man.  Maybe it's a bit of both.  Either way, it only took me 26 years (training wise) to arrive here.  Or maybe it was just the last year, when I found myself making decisions to get "healthy" in other aspects of my life, my thoughts, and my mental and emotional well being, that led me here.

Waking up content doesn't remove your ambition to improve unless you allow it to.  It just removes the self loathing and perception that somehow you aren't "perfect" enough because you don't measure up to some photoshopped ass on social media.

And to close, whether you know it or not, a lot of these "perfect bodied" women struggle with a lot of demons and self confidence as well.  How would you like it, if everyday you woke up you felt like the only thing about you worth "liking" was what your ass or body looked like?  And that not a single person gave two shits about your interests, passions, or things outside of fitness or your body that was important to you?  I'm sure at first you'd love the attention, but I can tell you from the words of women that have been in this position, after a while being seen as nothing more than an "ass" can become pretty crippling to how they feel about themselves and their self confidence.

Life is going to be full of struggles and suffering as is.  Try not creating more than you already have by trying to meet some "perfect standard" you think will give you fulfillment.  If you base your self worth on what you lift, look like, and your bodyfat percentage compared to someone else, you're going to very unhappy most of the time.  There's always someone bigger, leaner, and stronger.  I can tell you even from a male's perspective, that is an empty well.  And one I can say I happily no longer travel back to anymore.

Finding self worth has nothing to do with how much weight you can load onto a bar, what your ass looks like, or what your bodyfat percentage is.  It is something you have to eventually recognize that sets you apart from everyone else, makes you unique, and is what attracts the people in your life who truly love you, and are there for reasons beyond your physical appearance.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

The complexities of advancement in regards to training and dietary practices

It’s very difficult to have discussion on the net about training or nutrition these days without it turning into a complete shitfest between the groups of people involved in having these discussions. 

The root of most internet arguments or discussions about diet and training come from, what I believe is, the huge disconnect between the qualifications of the lifters/athletes involved in said discussions, and their opinions about what training and/or nutritional strategies "works" and "doesn't work."

I have no idea why this is never taken into account, when it should always be accounted for when discussing ideas. 

The second disconnect, is that these arguments often pit one side of the group, that only relies on science or studies only, and the other side of the group that looks at anecdotal evidence and/or both. 

As I've often had to repeat on many occasions, I love studies.  I read tons of them.  And I appreciate the people who put an enormous amount of time and effort into really trying to find out the reasons why something does, or does not work.  It's incredibly helpful from an "understanding" point of view in regards to application of how and what we should or should not be applying in order to achieve certain results.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a fan of people who rely ONLY on scientific based models or studies as the basis for “fact”, then refuse to accept that even the guys doing the research understand that there is something called "evidence based practice".  

Evidence based practice is made up of a tier of principles that include several variables that are used to arrive at the most efficient manner as possible in order to sustain progress.  There is no overriding or "most important" principle in regards to priorities of ideologies.  

In NO particular order...

1.  Scientific research
2.  Individual needs, and preferences 
3.  Personal expertise and field observations 

All three of these things play a role in developing a completeness in regards to creating training modalities and paradigms in training and nutrition. Excluding any of these three principles is going to leave the person doing so, with a very incomplete process in regards to developing what is best for them, or their clients.

All three of these things overlap in order to create a trinity, if you will, in order to manipulate one's training needs and priorities so that they are efficient and optimal.  

The other disconnect in training and nutritional methodologies between people arguing on the net often arise because of personal experiences only, or that they read a study and believe that it has application across the board regardless of others needs, experience, or level of development.  

This is often most severely the case discussing dietary strategies or practices.  

The war between IIFYM and "clean eating" is probably the best example of this.  

The IIFYM crowd clings to both studies and anecdotal evidence that says you can lose bodyfat while instituting the IIFYM approach, and has research and anecdotal evidence that proves that it can.

And they are right.  But only to a degree.  

The people who say IIFYM misses the mark and is not the most efficient way to approach lean also have research that backs up their stance, both scientifically and anecdotally. And they are also correct. To a degree.

So how is this possible?  That two camps with opposing opinions can both be correct.  

Because number 2 and number 3 in the evidence based practices says so.  Not only that, but there are studies that "prove" one theory correct (for example eating more frequently does increase increase fat oxidation), and studies that say it makes no difference (eating all of your calories for the day in just two or three meals).  

To add to the confusion, there are people who have implemented all the various strategies with different degrees of success or failure.  So one guy says "my body composition got worse eating only 3 times a day compared to 6 times a day", then gets countered by another guy saying "I noticed no difference" and/or says "my body composition improved on just eating 3 times a day compared to six."

The layers of complexity get even deeper as each individual pushes closer to either his or her genetic ceiling in terms of potential fulfillment, or is trying to obtain a very extreme degree of body composition (like bodybuilding stage condition) or elite level strength ability. 

What I mean by that is, going from 20% bodyfat to 15% bodyfat most likely would not require a very complex change in one's dietary practices.  Simply eliminating excess calories, while adhering to a sound and/or ideal practice of macronutrient intake could easily accomplish this, regardless of food choices/food composition.  So someone could do something as easy as get into a calorie/energy deficit by simply reducing portion sizes of the foods they are currently eating, and actualize fat loss from that alone.  Food composition may never have played a factor here.  

Getting from 15% to 10% might add a bit more complexity to the issue, depending on the individual, however.  And from there, getting from 10% to say, 6% would most likely indeed require infinitely more complex strategies to achieve such a goal.  

During each transition, certain principles may become more or less important in that time.  

Going from 10% bodyfat to bodybuilding stage ready bodyfat percentage (let's say 3-4%) is indeed going to be far more complex and require far more exactness in regards to things like nutrient timing and food composition than it would in going from 20% to 15%.  Especially if the person who was at 20% had previously been eating a lot of overly processed food with low nutritional value.  

And this is how arguments start.  

If someone has never gotten stage ready, then they will have no association with what their body may or may not need in regards to reach such a level of conditioning.  If they lost fat, and took their bodyfat from 20% to even 10% using a particular technique, they may assume that same technique could be applied to go from 10% down to 4%.  And the truth is, it might....or it might not.  The problem is, they don't know yet.  Just because someone else did it, has zero bearing on what they may have to do.  So pointing to half a dozen other guys or gals who swim in a completely different gene pool than they do, gives no substance to their argument.  

My own experimentation with this showed that once I got stuck in regards to fat loss, changing my food composition alone did indeed get me out of a fat loss plateau (my macros never differed while instituting these changes).  However, there may be another guy that says he was able to eat ice cream the whole time while getting leaner and leaner, while simply reducing his calories the whole time.

53 weeks apart - Three different dietary strategies 

What I needed to progress was different than what he needed.  Factually, for me, I needed to make changes to continue making progress that he did not need to make.  At my age, I don't have the metabolism I did at 21 years old.  I can't get away with eating cheat meals on a weekly basis, or have too many high glycemic index carbs throughout the day and continue to lose fat.  This isn't something to be debated.  That's how it works for me.  I know this from personal experience.

Does that mean it has to be this way for every other person?  

Absolutely not.  

As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.  

Training is no different.  And ends up manifesting similar disagreements. 

"I took my deadlift from 315 to 500 in six months training it three times a week.  So training it that often can be done with great results."

I get this.  I took my deadlift from 405 to 500 using some very basic principles that one could be described as "cookie cutter progressive overload."  Getting from 500 to 600 however, was a different story.  My training had to change in a myriad of ways to accomplish this.  And getting from 600 to 700 meant yet another change in training application that looked nothing like what it took to go from 405 to 500, and 500 to 600.  

I wasn't built for deadlifting.  So I had to experiment and fine tune my training for a long time in order to break through those barriers.  Throughout each phase, I needed something very different in order to make progress again, once a plateau was reached.  And at each plateau, I had to be open to different ideas, cognizant of what my own body was telling me from each training cycle, and then manipulate all of those factors in order to move forward again.  

So as I progressed, complexity often increased dramatically.  

People who want to actualize genetic potential must realize that as they progress, what got them from point A to point B, most likely is not going to be the same thing that gets them from point B to point C, then from point C to point D.  

As one progresses, overemphasizing certain ideas at the expense of others could be the very thing that keeps you from moving forward along that path.  Nutrient timing is often an example of this.  A novice who is basically a recreational lifter probably doesn't need it the same way a very advanced guy who is training six days a week, two hours a day, that is training for a competition does.  Yet on the net, I will often see very inexperienced trainees arguing with very experienced guys that it matters very little.  This is often because the two people arguing might as well be arguing about what is applicable on Earth, and what is applicable on Mars.  The guy on Earth may be arguing completely valid concepts as to what is applicable to him.  But to the guy on Mars, such concepts may or will be completely useless, and/or false all together.  

These things should be taken into consideration during the course of discussion, but I rarely see that happen.

Even more so, they should be taken into consideration during the course of your training life.  What you need the first three years of training is probably not going to be as applicable as what you need when you're in year 15 to continue progressing.  

When I see certain guys who don't progress very much, my usual thought is that they haven't learned how to let go of the principles that got them to that particular point in time, and are willing to embrace the fact that a different sets of principles will need to now be put into place to elicit new progress.  

When I was at the NSCA conference a few months ago a speaker there made two very astute points.

1.  "Training is more art, than science."

2.  "The best coaches in the field are generally about 10 years ahead of the scientific field."

Let this not be lost on you, that this was at an NSCA conference, which prides itself on relying on science as its foundation.  

The reason these two points are so important, is that in regards to point #1....

"It is practically IMPOSSIBLE to precisely predict the individual training effect due to the heredity factor(s)".  

And in regards to point #2....

The best coaches tend to have a unique ability in regards to intuition as to what will serve their athletes to the best of those individual needs.  

And points #1 and #2 tend to cause the most disagreements because without the understanding that the things that make up an optimal training or nutritional paradigm ALL involve the inclusion of the principles of evidence based practice.  

So great coaches tend to implement all of the characteristics of EBP, understand the importance of all three, them "weigh" each accordingly in terms of importance in regards to helping people perform better.

That may mean at times, they ignore science due to the fact that something science cannot support (at this point in time) is indeed helping their athlete perform at a higher level.  Or it may mean, they implement science because THAT is what is the athlete needs to perform at a higher level.  

Due to "individual needs" (once again, another scope of EBP), or preferences, the coach or athlete manipulates their training or diet, based not only on what they need at the time, but also what "resonates" with them as an athlete.  And the mental part of performance cannot be overlooked.  After all, most people aren't going to get much out of a training program they flat out fucking hate.

Change is hard.  Because it means we have to challenge our belief systems.  Lots of people confuse this as an admittance of being "wrong" about said belief systems, when it's simply not the case.  If certain principles or modalities produced the results you were seeking, then they were indeed the right ones AT THAT TIME.  However, moving forward, those principles may need to be discarded, with a new set of principles replacing them, in order to do so.  

It's not an admittance of being wrong, it's an acceptance that change is required to grow.  And in order to “grow”, literally speaking, change in training and nutrition will eventually be required. 

And isn't that often the case in the parallels of both life and lifting?  

"Food" for thought. 

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How much do you really need to eat to grow?

Last week my friend Charles Poliquin put out a really funny and informative article from several people (including myself and Thibs) in regards to all the stupid shit we did in order to gain weight.  From a high level overview standpoint, basically all of us had stories of gorging until we could barely stand life anymore and could only do these things for short periods at a time.

The timing of it was funny because that very week I ended up in this fairly ridiculous discussion with this young kid about nutritional requirements to gain mass.

His premise in the discussion was that "4,800 calories wasn't enough for someone to get up to 275 pounds."  

This struck me as very odd as, I've been around for quite some time and am very aware of the kind of eating most very large individuals have done in order to grow, and obtain that kind of mass.  

I am not sure how he arrived at such a conclusion because eating and training to grow is a very individualistic thing based on a myriad of factors, including where someone is in regards to experience level, to genetics, to drugs, to even the type of job they have.  However, even with that said, there are some pretty standard baselines in regards to optimal calorie consumption and optimal growth rate.  Meaning, you're eating enough to grow at a steady pace without turning into White Goodman at the end of Dodgeball.  

Different people - different needs

"Calories in vs calories out" has become such a staple in the science world today in regards to what is needed, or not needed to either grow muscle or lose fat from a nutritional standpoint.   And let's be clear, it's perfectly valid at face value.  Where things become tricky, is that the amount of calories needed to be taken in, or out, in order to meet certain strength or physique goals, can be significantly different from individual to individual depending on a myriad of factors.

For example, the guy working at a desk all day who is well above 20% bodyfat, and has been sedentary for a long time, who naturally has a natural slow metabolism is going to have very different caloric needs in order to lose weight, than the very active and fit dude who sits across from him, but is in the gym 5-6 times a week, even if they weight the same.  Yes, BMR and lean body mass ratio changes all of that, I promise, I understand.  But believe it or not, not everyone does.

The lean and jacked guy has to eat an enormous amount of food just to maintain his high degree of lean muscle mass.  Of course he does.  This only makes sense.  He has a ton of muscle.  And muscle is metabolically active, and requires tons of calories just to be maintained.


Well, not so fast.

Despite what you may think, most people who have been lifting for a very long time, and have developed a great foundation of muscle mass, often don't eat as much as you would think they do.  They probably went through phases where their caloric intake was indeed fairly high, but once they reached a "set point", maintaining that degree of muscle mass doesn't require the same amount of calories or effort in regards to eating as it did in actually building it.

In fact, John Meadows and I had this conversation the other day in regards to eating and guys who have been training for a long time, and have established a foundation of muscle mass.

Most of the guys you see that are exceptionally jacked, and have been for quite some time, don't often eat as much as you think they do.  When I was over 280 pounds, I actually did not eat a lot of food.  My foundation of muscle mass was already in place.  Maintaining it was not very difficult.  If someone were to look at my caloric intake for the day, they would probably be surprised at how little I ate.

To give you a real life example of this.....

When John and I were in Aussie together, neither of us ate a whole lot.  At the time, I was around 265-270 pounds.  And John was in the upper 230's, but very lean, at only about 4 feet tall.  Breakfast was usually 3-4 eggs and a few slices of toast.  We would teach for a few hours, then have a pretty normal looking lunch.  In fact, our meals were already prepared and the serving sizes were very moderate.  We'd have a shake somewhere in there, train for two to three hours, have another normal sized prepared meal, and that was really about it.  Maybe a shake before bed.  Nothing outrageous. 

We did go out for pancakes once, of course.  

When Dorian Yates was well over 300 pounds very lean, he said his daily caloric intake was somewhere in the 5,500 calorie range (his own words from "Blood and Guts") and that this allowed him to "gain weight at a slow and steady pace."  He reduced his calories down over weeks into the 3,500-4,000 calorie range in order to get shredded for his shows.

Strangely enough, Ronnie Coleman's diet looked similar in regards to caloric intake as well.  About 5,500 calories a day.  I understand I am violating my own theory of "Coleman's law", which states that when you use Ronnie Coleman as an example of why something works you automatically lose the argument.  I'm also aware that both Dorian and Ronnie are genetic outliers, and of course are not natural.  However John and I both pretty much had the same experience.  Once a degree of muscle mass had been laid down, and once a foundation is really cemented into place, it doesn't really require that much food in order to simply maintain that degree of muscle mass.  Or let's be clear here, not as much as most people would imagine.

Something to add to this, I want you to go eat 5,500 calories a day of "clean food" (fuck you if you don't like that term, you skinny internet nerd pretend scientist), and see just how much food that is.  The whole reason so many people can't do a "clean bulk" for very long is because eating pounds and pounds of chicken breast on top of can after can of tuna along with mountains of rice, is flat out hard.  So they just resort to "dirty bulking" in order to make the calories fit.

Back in the 90's, Mike Francois was one of my favorite bodybuilders.  He had that incredible look of power and strength that I greatly admired.  He was an absolute tank.  

It was rumored at the time in the magazines that John was working with a guy by the name of John Parillo and was eating upwards of 10,000 calories a day.  However, according to Mike's own words in an interview, that simply wasn't the case.

"I always tried to eat 5 times a day. Any more than that never seemed to work for me. I would guess I was eating around 6,000 calories a day when I was in peak growing phase."

How big was Mike in the offseason in this "growing phase?"

"My off season weight topped out around 290-300 lbs. and my contest weight would be 255-265 lbs. So, taking out 15 pounds for water, I never really had a lot of fat to get rid of."

Just to set a bit of a pattern here...

Dorian was about 310 pounds, and ate 5,500 calories a day.

Ronnie was well over 300 pounds, and ate about 5,500 calories a day.

Mike Francois was in the 300 pound range, and ate about 6,000 calories a day.

You may or may not remember the exceptionally huge Gunter Schlierkamp, but via his own words his offseason food intake was "between 5,000 and 6,000 calories a day."  He was 330 pounds or so during that time.  

My own IFBB Pro client, Fred Smalls, who now pushes the scales at between 275 and 280 pounds at 5'7" told me his "clean eating offseason calories" total up between 4,500 and 6,000 a day depending on the training volume for the day.  

Both Dorian and Mike were exceptionally meticulous about their eating, and ate "clean" pretty much year round.  And despite the fact that Dorian said one time in a video that he ate a chocolate bar after a show, he was not a IIFYM guy.  Once he was competing at the Mr. Olympia level, he was so exact that he weighed his food even in the offseason, and generally ate the same foods year round.

So we're talking about guys who are indeed meticulous in regards to their food intake, and not just winging this and taking guesstimates. 

Just to be thorough here, I tried to make sure to use interviews from the actual guys about how much they ate in the offseason to grow.  

Rich Gaspari weighed in on this on back in 2014....


Well, I went from 189 as a teenage competitor to about 205-210 for the Jr. Nationals. One of the things I learned is that I was over dieting as a teenager. When I would get ready for a show, I would drop my calories down to about 1000 calories a day. That was way, way too low. I didn't really know what I was doing. I would just eat tuna, water, eggs, etc. When I looked at the calories, I was shocked at how low it was.

Actually, a guy named Bob Gruskin gave me some guidance. He didn't really help me but he looked at me as a teenager because I was beating a lot of his guys in competition. He looked at what I was eating for my diet and he told me I was really over dieting. I would normally eat between 3000-4000 calories in the off season and then drop it down to 1000 for a competition. When I started increasing the calories for my pre-contest diet, I cut out the simple sugars and less refined foods but ate low-fat proteins and complex carbs, I was now eating around 2500-3000 calories. That's when I started looking bigger for a competit

3000-4000 calories to grow.  Rich's offseason weight?  About 245 pounds.

So when some clown argues with me that "4,800 calories isn't enough to get to 275 pounds" it's one of those times when talking about training and nutrition on the internet is exceptionally frustrating.

 To get to around that weight (275 pounds), from about the 250-255 pound range I was at, my caloric total was just about exactly that.  4,500-4,800 calories a day.  Just using the basic model that I use to establish baselines for fat loss, maintenance, and growth stages (bodyweight times a certain number), on the highest end of the 255 pound weight gain scale (255 x 20), it's still only 5,100 calories.  Mind you, that's the TOP END of the scale.

So even if you're the skinny but shredded 175 pound guy, so desperately trying to reach a buck-90, the odds of you needing 5,000 calories a day to accomplish that are slim.  

Because there's these two words that have to be taken into account in just about every situation in regards to gaining muscle, losing fat, or getting stronger.

"It depends..."

If you're 17 years old, and weigh 175 pounds with 7% bodyfat, and have a hellfire and damnation metabolism, work a part time job during the week that is very labor intensive, and train 5-6 days a week, you may need 6,000 calories a day just to work your way up to 190 pounds. Yes, this is quite possible.  But that is due to age, metabolism, training frequency, and your part-time labor intensive job.  If any of these factors change, then so does the amount of calories needed to grow.

There are no absolute solutions here.  There are no absolute rules because the law of individuality will always be in effect.  There are baselines.  And the baselines get manipulated in regards to your age, training, job, metabolism, and genetic potential.  Different diets work differently for different people, for a whole host of reasons we can't always identify.  Some of which, are as simple as what people prefer.

I saw this happen with my own eyes many years ago with a client.  I gave her two options for dieting for fat loss.  A low carb one, and a high carb one.  Protein was relatively the same for both diets, but obviously the fat and carbohydrate intake was quite difference.  After three weeks on the low carb diet, she came to me and said "I flat out cannot do this.  I hate not being able to eat carbs.  I want to switch to the other diet." 

We switched her over to the higher carbohydrate diet, dropped her fats, and she literally showed up at my doorstep a few months later, and had lost so much weight and changer her body composition so much I barely recognized her at first.  

A big part of that of course, is finding what training and diet "styles" resonate with you, then manipulating things from there.  

However, not to get off track, these kinds of exchanges get frustrating to have with people because so many of them have very little experience to draw from.  Mainly, the only experience they have to draw from, is their own.  And of course, since the world revolves around how things work for them, it has to be gospel.  That's a heavy dose of sarcasm in case you missed it.

A client I have that had been stuck at around 260-262 pounds for quite some time came on with me and we found his baseline for maintenance caloric intake.  To make sure this was his baseline, I kept his calories at that total for quite a few weeks.  


Because understanding your maintenance level of calories is a huge part of understanding how to manipulate your diet in order to get leaner, or to grow, at an optimal pace.  Optimal being, you're not gaining fat at an exponential pace compared to lean tissue gain.

After a few weeks, I made one minor change to his diet, adding in just half a cup of one food (that was already in his diet) in one meal, and within a month, he was between 268 and 270 pounds.  

"That's impossible!"

No, it really fucking happened.  

Adjusting calories up or down in small amounts can have tremendous impact on muscle gain, fat loss, or fat gain.  It really all is just very individualistic.  And making small changes at a time is the best way to obtain an understanding of how your body reacts and responds to certain foods, and caloric intake levels.  

Then of course, if your training frequency changes, or the volume of your workouts change, depending on goals, your eating has to change along with it in order to obtain said goals.

All of these things becomes moving targets based on your age, metabolism, frequency of training, your degree of experience and foundation of muscle mass.

Yes, it is true that there are some good general guidelines to start with.  But from there, individual manipulation becomes the most important aspect in creating a design nutritionally that works optimally for YOU based on those factors.

So how much do you really need to eat in order to grow?

The first thing to do, is establish  your baseline for maintenance level calories.  Again, just as a generic solution that works pretty well with most people, it's usually in the bodyweight x 15 range for overall calories.  Seeing as how 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is the standard, you start there, fill in 20% of the diet with fats, and the remainder of calories left over with carbs.  

Hold your baseline for at least two weeks, then increase your calories by a measly 200 per day.  Do this via carbohydrates.  You do NOT want to be gaining more than 1 to 1.5 pounds a week.  I understand that lots of guys get really excited when they see the scale moving at an astronomical clip, but if that's the case, I'm telling you that you're just getting fatter.  New muscle, even chemically enhanced, can only be synthesized so fast.  And for natural guys, after the first two or three years of training, it's at a snail's pace.  So if you are natural, let me spell this out for you.

Bulking should never be an option.  And by bulking I mean, allowing your bodyfat levels to climb over 15%.  Even more bad news, the fact is, as a natural guy you are going to be pretty "maxed out" in terms of muscle mass after about 7-10 years of consistently hard training and eating.  Before you proceed to pound your keyboard with fists of fury in disagreement, I said 7-10 years of CONSISTENT hard training, and eating.  Not "well I've been on and off for...".  Yeah, not that guy.

And lastly, if you're actually eating what I consider "clean" food like chicken breast, tuna, rice, potatoes, etc then you have no idea just how much 5,500 calories worth of food a day is.  It is A LOT.

How much?  

Well, at 6 meals a day that's an average of 916 calories per meal.  Let's say you're 275 pounds, and meeting the gram of protein per pound of bodyweight ratio.  

That's 275 grams of protein.  Only about 1,100 calories.  If we did a diet split where 20% of the 5,500 calories came from fats, that's another 1,100 calories.  Between fats and proteins we now have 2,200 calories.  Which means we need to make up 3,300 calories from carbs.  Which is 825 grams of carbs.

Let that sink in for a bit.

One large baked potato is around 63 grams of carbs.  1 cup of jasmine rice (cooked) is around 45 grams of carps.

So even if you ate 4 large baked potatoes, and had 6 cups of jasmine rice, you're still at only 522 grams of carbs a day.  So we've still got 303 grams of carbs to go.

So hey, let's throw in 2 cups of uncooked oatmeal, which is 4 cups cooked.  Which is well, a metric fuck ton.  Now we've added a measly 108 more carbs to the diet.  Fuck, we're only at 630 grams of carbs.  195 left to go.

Let's add 4 bananas.  Which is 108 grams of carbs.  Now we've got 87 grams of carbs to go.  No big deal. We'll add 4 ounces of raisins to that whopping 4 cups of Oatmeal for 88 more grams of carbs.  

Boom, now we are there.

So on carbs alone here is what we ended up with - 

4 cups of cooked oatmeal
4 ounces of raisins 
4 large baked potatoes
6 cups of jasmine rice.
4 bananas.  

We haven't even talked about the fact that all of this comes with 275 grams of protein.  

Which is like 20 egg whites (72 grams), 20 mother fucking ounces of chicken breast (130 grams), along with 12 ounces of tuna (59 grams)....and we're still just a little short on the 275 grams.

So you're telling me, that you can't grow on that amount of food?  In what world is this not possible?

Dieting rules to grow- 

The only "rules" in place are the rules that work for YOU, as an individual, based on what goals it is you are trying to reach.  What the other guy doing may or may not pertain to what you need in any way, shape, or form.  Once you understand that, you'll be able to make better choices in regards to deciding in how to create a plan that is efficient for your needs.  Not based on someone else's.

The gene pool is a big place.  One man's mass gaining plan is another man's fat loss diet.  However the fact is, we're not special snowflakes.  And regardless of the myths you've read on the net about caloric consumption and growing. the majority of the most muscular, chemically enhanced men ate very similar amounts of calories to obtain or maintain that degree of muscularity.  More than likely, if you looked at the truly natural guys, you're going to find they probably had similar levels of caloric intake.  

Setting some realistic goals in regards to growing is a great place to start.  The problem is, no one wants to work their ass off for "5 pounds of lean muscle in a year."  When in all reality, you may indeed have to work your ass off for that "measly" 5 pounds of muscle for that year.  

Dial your calories in so that weight gain comes at a slow and steady clip, and don't increase them until you've plateaued for a while.  Once you do make an increase, make one small increase and note the results from there.  

And to close, if you're well over 15% bodyfat, you have literally no reason to bulk.  Unless White Goodman is indeed your ideal bodytype.  

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