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Tag Archives: building muscle

  • Losing Fat Weight, Building Muscle and Decreasing Measurements

    If you're seeking to build muscle and lose fat simultaneously, then it certainly is possible. Of course, you cannot accomplish either of these goals effectively whilst trying to do both at the same time, but you can break down fat tissue and synthesise new muscle tissue.

    Many of my clients have this goal and choose to opt for a balance in fat loss and muscle development, rather than focusing too heavily on either extreme. A common question that I am asked is regarding decreasing girth measurements, particularly around the arms and chest; "Why are my measurements decreasing if I'm building muscle?".

    This is a common situation for anyone who is just initiating a new exercise routine. If you are trying to tone-up, by losing fat weight and building muscle mass, then you can expect a decrease in your girth measurements. The chest and arms are no exception.

    A typical chest girth measurement will be taken around the entire horizontal circumference of your chest at nipple level. This measurement is greatly affected by:

    1. Pectoral muscle mass
    2. Latissimus dorsi muscle mass
    3. Fat tissue stored around the chest, arm pit and back

    A typical arm girth measurement will be taken half way between the shoulder and elbow. The measurement is greatly affected by:

    1. Bicep muscle mass
    2. Tricep muscle mass
    3. Fat tissue stored around the bicep and tricep muscles

    Fat loss occurs far more readily than muscle gain in the typical person. Whilst a typical person who has been training for a few months can expect to build somewhere within the vicinity of 3-6kg per year with a bulking emphasis, the same typical person could expect to safely lose 0.5-1kg a week in fat mass. Based on these rough figures, you could expect to lose nearly 9 times the amount of weight you carry in fat, relative to the amount of muscle you could expect to gain.

    Note that these are very rough figures for illustration purposes and I am not citing any studies in this post. The point is that you can lose a lot more fat weight than you can expect to gain in muscle weight.

    Because your potential for fat loss is generally far greater than your potential for muscle gain, you can expect your measurements to decrease if you are chasing after both goals simultaneously, with a fairly even balance. It is not realistic to expect to lose 20kg of fat mass and gain 20kg in muscle mass within a short period of time, for example. Rather, a 20kg weight loss and 4kg muscle gain would be far more realistic to achieve for the typical male.

    As you are moving toward your health and fitness goals, it is very important to measure your progress along the way. That is why we offer a number of workout accessories to assist you in analysing your body composition. A few that may be of particular interest include:

  • Losing Weight or Building Muscle is Not a Short Term Project

    This morning as I was driving to and from clients, I was listening to the amazing Dr Stephen Covey who was speaking on his very insightful book, "First Things First". (I highly recommend this book!). He discusses a number of vital concepts that must be understood in order to achieve goals in almost any aspect of life. Fortunately for all of us, health and fitness is no exception.

    Achieving a particular health and fitness goal requires consistency, discipline, knowledge and commitment. I have selected two of the more common goals as examples in the title - losing weight and building muscle - however these fundamental principles reign true for all fitness goals, whether that is to prevent injury, treat injury, get in shape for a wedding or prepare for a marathon.

    Coincidentally, Covey uses an example of marathon preparation in his programme. He suggests that for someone planning on running a marathon, years of lazing around, eating chocolate and chips is not going to be undone by exercising vigorously the day before the big race. The reason why this ludicrous example is not viable is commonsensical.

    Also ludicrous are the following examples:

    1. A farmer who didn't bother planting the seeds ready for harvesting later in the year. Instead, he plants the seeds a week before prime harvesting season, whilst watering and fertilising like crazy.
    2. A student who has a big exam coming up that doesn't begin studying the night before and crams everything in like crazy.
    3. An overweight individual who undertakes an extreme diet to lose a lot of weight really quickly, without having to worry about "healthy eating" or "exercise".

    Consider all three examples above:

    The first is obvious. It is impossible under our natural laws to expect an entire field of crops to grow to their potential in such a short period of time. The farmer didn't plan ahead and thus he will not reap the rewards of his investment.

    The second is something that many of us are guilty of at one time or another. There are the select few of us who may practice information cramming on a regular basis as a student and score respectively in exams. But the question is - did you really get an education? Covey, on his audio programme, admits that he was guilty of this bad habit and whilst he obtained his undergraduate degree, spent many years re-learning much of the content.

    The third is a common practice that is exhibited by many people desperate to lose weight. Quick and easy weight loss is highly desirable relative to slow, sustainable, safe, effective and planned weight loss. After all - it's the result that you're after right?

    Well, think about the desired result in detail. Do you wish to achieve your particular health and fitness goal temporarily and then return back to your normal state? If so, short-term approaches (fad diets, skipping meals, heavy reliance on a particular supplement or other unhealthy practices) could be the answer.

    But, if your goal is to accomplish this weight loss, muscle gain, or other health and fitness goal permanently, then a long-term approach must, and I repeat MUST be taken. You do need to invest the time and effort into yourself in order to develop new lifestyle habits that can be continued indefinitely.

    Initially, a long-term approach to weight loss or other goal may seem expensive and require too much effort. However the irony is that short-term, "quick-fix", "band-aid" and "fad" approaches are undoubtedly the number one cause of wasted time and money in the health and fitness industry. This is because they are only temporary measures, without treating the actual core issue at hand. Invest into yourself and you will reap the rewards in the long-term.

    For further reading on this topic, I recommend you read my article entitled "How to Lose Weight".

  • Is full range of motion (ROM) and less weight, or limited range of motion and more weight better when building muscle?

    Generally speaking, it is accepted that it is more effective to move through the full range of motion and get less reps using less weight, than to limit your ROM and move more weight and/or more reps. This is the general premise behind most standardised resistance training. Having said that, there are many effective training techniques that employ methods that limit the range of motion (ROM).

    The rationale behind this form of resistance training is to bring the muscles being worked from a full stretch to a full contraction (or, as much as is allowed in a particular motion). A good example is a bicep curl. When your arm is straight, your bicep is fully stretched. When you reduce the angle at the elbow as much as possible, the bicep is fully contracted. Therefore, you should go from a straight arm to a full contraction. Basically, this is full range of motion (ROM). The same can be demonstrated with any weight training exercise.

    Of course, there are many, many exceptions to the rule particularly if you:

    • Are training for a specific reason
    • Have an injury
    • Have a goal that is more strength focussed
    • Are trying to break through a plateau
    • etc.
  • Building Muscle with Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein

    Well over three years ago, I conducted a survey for the general public where one of the questions was "What is the most important nutrient when trying to build muscle?". The options were:

    • Protein
    • Carbohydrate
    • Fat
    • A combination of the above

    It may come as little surprise to know that the most common answer was protein. My hat goes off to the supplement companies who have marketed their protein products exceptionally well. No, I'm not being sarcastic, they have actually done a phenomenal job in convincing the "Average Joe" that protein is so superior to fats and carbohydrates that protein alone can do a better job at building muscle than a combination of all three!

    But the objective and proven science paints a completely different picture. Upon reading the "actual" research, it becomes very obvious that protein in isolation is useless at building muscle. Carbohydrates and fats in isolation are also useless in building muscle. It is well established, with all other considerations being disregarded, that without doubt (among the scientific community at least) that a combination of carbohydrate, fat and protein is essential to even consider building muscle mass.

    Let's return to the misconception that protein is the most important nutrient. Yes, it is an important nutrient, but it is equally important as fats and carbohydrates. Proteins are the main consituents of muscle cells when considering these three nutrients. So it comes as no surprise that is it easily assumed that protein is the most important because it is the most abundant. Not true at all. Proteins do not just get absorbed into the blood stream and into the muscle which therefore increases in size. There are many chemical reactions that happen in the process.

    Carbohydrates have a major role in building muscle. Protein synthesis (or muscle building) cannot occur without the presence of insulin. Insulin is secreted in response to an increase in blood glucose. Guess how blood glucose typically rises? Through the ingestion of carbohydrate. Of course, carbs are vitally important for many other processes including energy production, assisting the breakdown of fatty acids, promoting good health etc.

    Fats are responsible for a miriad of processes. One process that is particularly important for building muscle is hormone production. In particular testosterone, which is required for muscle sythesis, is significantly hindered by a super-low fat diet. Other important functions of fats include energy production, maintaining healthy cholesterol, nutrient transport and maintaining healthy skin.

    Building muscle is like a jigsaw. You need all the pieces in their correct places in order to stimulate an optimal degree of muscle growth. The elimination of carbohydrate or fat from your diet will have highly undesirable effects.

    If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, I highly recommend that you sign up to our free course which discusses nutrition in far more detail. The course is called Conquering Your Body.

  • When building muscle, should I do weights and cardio together, or in the morning and evening?

    Well there are pro's and con's to doing cardio and resistance training together.

    The major advantage is only doing the one session per day...so that's a convenience factor. Another advantage is, if you limit the total workout duration, the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) produced can be limited. Cortisol inhibits protein synthesis, or, the muscle building process. I have read that performing 2 high intensity workouts a day can increase cortisol production by 4x, relative to a single high intensity workout.

    Disadvantage wise, upon the completion of your resistance workout, if you choose to perform cardio, you will be "starving" your muscles for a longer period of time. For example, if you perform heavy sets on back day and then spend 15 minutes performing HIIT cardio, that's an additional 15 minutes of increased catabolism (muscle breakdown) in your back muscles.

    The other major problem with combining the two forms of training is the different stimuli. If you are training for muscle mass, then your weight training would be relatively heavy and thus stimulate protein synthesis. Conversely, HIIT cardio is primed at improving muscular lactate threshold, VO2 max, anaerobic fitness, fat metabolism and so on. The two don't work optimally together. It's like telling someone to multi-task: you cannot focus 100% on either task and therefore not receive 100% results.

    In addition to all of the above, combining cardio (for fat/fitness) and resistance training (for muscle) will have a much more significant negative impact on males than females due to hormonal differences between the sexes.

    Weighing up everything, ideally, you would want to separate your cardio and resistance training by 8 hours. Many athletes train this way. However you do need to take other factors into consideration, such as your lifestyle, energy levels, level of fitness etc.

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