Monday, February 6, 2012

Why you can't build muscle and lose fat at the same time!

First of all, this post was sparked by all the bodybuilding comments that you can't gain muscle without a calorie surplus and you can't lose fat without a calorie deficit.  Their definition of a calorie surplus or deficit is the amount of calories consumed in a day versus the number of calories spent which is completely useless in determining whether or not muscle was built or fat was lost.  Your body's internal systems aren't on that kind of cycle.

So today, I decided to forget everything I knew about how the body used energy from food and how it drew it from fat and I did some research.  Here's my conclusion. Your body has several layers of stored energy.  The first is blood sugar. This is readily consumable by muscles/the brain/organs/whatever. The next layer is glycogen stores in the liver.  When blood sugar is too high, the liver will store the excess sugar in glycogen.  And when blood sugar is too low, the liver will use it's glycogen stores to boost blood sugar. Your liver should have enough glycogen to last for a few hours after digestion is complete.  Remember that digestion can take up to 3 hours. The next layer is muscle glycogen stores. I call this the next layer, because this is the next layer that gets used in the case of fasting.  When there is no longer enough glycogen in the liver, it will turn to glycogen in muscles. Here's the bad part: this is the same energy store used to fuel the rebuilding of muscles. So here's where fat loss and muscle grow become contradictory goals.  We haven't gotten to fat loss yet and we're already stealing energy from our muscle regrow.  Strength trainers have know of this negative effect for decades, but unfortunately, most of these published trainers don't back up this knowledge with the science behind it.  Once the muscle's glycogen stores are depleted which can take several more hours, the body begins to seriously break down fat for energy.  This is explains the success of intermittent fasting diets that dictate eating for 8 hours after a workout then fasting for the next 16 hours.  Muscle glycogen is easily replenished once a person starts eating normally again so for 8 hours plus the time it takes for the liver's glycogen store to run out, their muscles don't have to compete for glycogen. Then there is short period of time when the muscles' glycogen stores run out and the body pulls directly from fat.  This will last for a few hours before the 16 hour fast is up and muscles have another good period for growth.  That is how intermittent fasting accomplishes fat loss and muscle gain "at the same time". I put "at the same time" in quotes, because you can see that intermittent fasting doesn't actually accomplish both at the same time. It focuses on one at a time, but switches focus repeatedly so that over the course of a week or month, it would look like both happened in the same time period.  If you were to have a consistent calorie deficit this whole period, your muscles would spent most of their time competing for their own glycogen stores.

In conclusion, your muscles won't grow to their fullest potential when you are restricting your calories everyday.  A calorie surplus everyday is great for muscle growth though.  If you want both effects of fat lose and muscle growth at the same time, you need to create a large calories deficit very quickly (fasting) and then eat a surplus for 8 hours after working out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jan 19, 2012 Workout

For all of these exercises I did 3 sets of 5 except for deadlift which I did 1 set of 5. In order to move up in weight, I must complete all reps with a fast speed. By fast speed, I mean a controlled eccentric motion, but a concentric motion that lasts no longer than "one mississippi". Failure should not be part of this workout. If I do fail, it should be both an accident and a surprise. If I do fail on a lift, I will immediate

Squat: 135 lbs - slow
Overhead Press: 95 lbs - fail
Deadlift: 135 lbs - fast
Benchpress: 115 lbs - moderate
Pullups: Bodyweight x 3

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The New Plan

So I mentioned overtraining in my last post as the cause for my plateau.  Here's a little math. StrongLifts was pushing my squats at 5 pounds 3 times a week when I was squatting 200 lbs. That's 7.5% increase per week, which is crazy.  I've created a workout program that works each muscle twice a week with a 2.5% increase each workout. That's only a 5% increase a week which should be sufficiently small for now.


Workout A (Push day):
Squat, Push press, DB Bench, Calf Raises, Tricep Pushdowns, Crunch machine

Workout B (Pull day):
Deadlift, BB Rows, Lateral Pulldowns, BB Curls, Smith Shrugs

The goal rep range is 9-12 reps.  Each workout, I'm going to do 1 more rep than last workout.  This is a 2.5% increase in my 1 rep max.  Once I complete 12 reps, I will increase the weight by 10% for the next workout. I only do 1 working set of each exercise. 

Workout A is done Monday and Thursday. Workout B is done Tuesday and Friday. When I start plateauing again from overtraining, I will start cutting exercises down to once a week.

I will be eating as close to 3900 calories a day as I can get. For 3 weeks, I ate an average of 3400 calories and did not gain any weight. Everyone's answer to not gaining weight is "EAT MORE!!!", so I increased that by 500 calories. I'm 6'3, so 3900 kcal isn't crazy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I really got burnt out on the StrongLifts program. After breaking 200 lbs on squat, I just wasn't going anywhere. It was deload after deload and I felt like I was actually getting weaker. I skipped a couple workouts, and then started looking for another workout program. I thought that there was a problem with the program not sufficiently tearing down my muscles.  Basically, I thought because I wasn't sore after the workouts, they weren't overcoming the repeated bout effect.  I looked for ways to increase workout intensity. However, in the process, I found a bodybuilder on that I think really knows what he's talking about and has had the kind of bodybuilding success that I want.  He follows a lot of the same principles as StrongLifts including the big one: size = strength.  But he said something that was really new to me. He said that if you're not going up in weight or reps every single time you hit the gym, you're not resting long enough. He said that over-training was the number one problem that natural bodybuilders faced.  In his workout, he trains body parts 2 weeks apart with bi/triceps being 3 weeks apart because that is how long it takes for his body to overcompensate.  He only does 1 working set of each exercise to failure, and only does a couple exercises for each body part.

He says that he started out training each body part twice a week, but quickly cut back to once a week, then eventually every other week.  I'm going to try to apply this resting principle to my workouts and see if I can increase my estimated 1 RM each workout by either doing more weight or more reps. I'm also going to do 1 set of 8-12 reps on all my exercises and try to choose just one or 2 exercises for each muscle. I'm going to start with 1 week of rest between exercises and increase the rest by 2 days whenever I don't think that my muscles did any overcompensation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Diet Goals

I haven't updated in a while, but I've still been keeping up with the workout. After breaking 165 lbs,  I got carried away and tried to eat 4000 kcals a day. The problem was that I was focused on other things in my life, so I got burnt out in a few days. I let my diet go, and I've basically stayed the same.  I'm thinking that I'm around 163 lbs, but I haven't weighed myself in a while.

Anyway, I stalled at 205 lbs on squat and then again on 215.  I'm dropping down to 195 today and also dropping down to 3 sets. I feel like I should have made it further than 215, and I'm sure that my diet is to blame.  So going up in weight has motivated me to start dieting again.  But what really motivated me is that is that I don't feel like I've ever really done a solid bulking/cutting cycle. I want to bulk for the next month and a half (until Oct 15). Then I want to cut for 2 weeks or until I have a legit six-pack.

This should accomplish 2 things for me. 1) I've never felt like I was big.  A month and a half of 4000 kcals a day should make me big one way or another. 2) I've never had a solid six-pack. I've always been just on the verge of one.

Anyway, I'm on track for today with 2000 kcals at 2 pm. I know that I got burnt out before at 4000 kcals, but this time, I have a set date that I can stop.  Before, it was just 4000 kcals indefinitely with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27, 2011 Workout Summary

My 23nd StrongLifts 5x5 workout.

I completed 5x5 at 200 lbs. I was pretty surprised that I just blew through this.  I really just focused on pushing down with my legs as hard as I could and tried not to focus on the pain or the fatigue. I think it's really counter-productive to guess what rep I'm going to fail on, and when I think about it, I psych myself out. When I just push my hardest, it takes care of the mental part of the game.

I completed 5x5 at 165 lbs. I lifted my ass off the bench a little bit on the last rep, but I was really pushing. So I counted it.

I completed 5x5 at 115 lbs. My form is still pretty bad, but I'm going to wait for 135 lbs to get really picky. It's just too hard to keep the form perfect when I have to set the weights down on other plates.  When I can start setting the weights down on the floor, I'll care more.

I completed 5/5/4/3/3 at 35 lbs.  I can really feel myself working which is a nice feeling.

I weighed 167 lbs. I'm trying to push up to 170 lbs and I'm getting really close. It seems like my weight is sitting still over the past week, but I think it's just inconsistencies in the measurements. Usually a week of stagnation is followed by a jump in weight on the scale. I'll be looking for that next week :-).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 25, 2011 Workout Summary

My 22nd StrongLifts 5x5 workout.

I completed 5x5 at 195 lbs.  I stalled on this lift last workout so it felt good to blow through these like they were nothing.

Overhead Press
I completed 5x5 at 95 lbs.

I dropped all the way down to 185 lbs.  I feel like my form was just not at all what it should have been, so I took the weight all the way down to where I felt comfortable.  I'm going to only go up by 5 lbs each workout so that my form doesn't suffer again. I know that my deadlift should be higher than my squat, but I think that if deadlift is really an easier lift than squat, then it will eventually catch up.

I completed 5x5 at 140 lbs.  I feel like I'm going up really well on these.  They aren't exactly easy, but they don't seem to be getting too much harder either even though my weight has gone up alot.

I completed 5x5 at 30 lbs.  I skipped 27.5, because I couldn't hold the plates.  This weight actually felt easier than 25 lbs.  I'm having a hard time determining what counts as a full rep, because when my abs are fully contracted, I'm not completely up to my knees. I think these reps were pretty solid though. I can feel a difference in my abs when I fail on reps.

I weighed 165.4 lbs.  This was a disappointing drop from 166.6 lbs, but I'm eating plenty so I know that I didn't lose any real weight.

I've upped my calorie intake to 3900-4000 kcals a day.  When I look in the mirror, my abs are becoming more visible.  That says one thing to me: I can and should eat more.  I want to make sure that I'm gaining muscle as fast as possible.  If I'm not gaining fat then all my excess calories are all going to muscle, my body could probably take more.  When I start gaining fat then I'll know that I'm eating enough.

I saw the guy that I thought was doing StrongLifts again on Saturday.  He actually spoke up and asked if we were doing StrongLifts.  So that was pretty cool.

I went a few workouts without drinking whey protein, and I think it really reduced my recovery. I noticed a big difference when I drink whey after my workout Saturday and then nailed my squats on Monday. I tried to do some more research on WHEN you should take protein.  I read that the original study that everyone uses as gossip on "you should take protein within 30 mins after a workout" was done on fasting.  A new study suggests that the best time you should take protein is before a workout so that's what I'm going to try to stick to.