Before getting to the Q&A’s, let me say that I hope everyone had a safe and healthy holiday season. If you were in a mass phase, hopefully you gained the 7-10 lbs. that the average person gains during the holidays (I didn’t). If you were dieting well, it’s time for a new Year’s resolution anyhow.
Ok, gotta get some things out of the way for the new year before I get to the questions.
First I apologize for taking so long to get to some of them. I generally answer questions in the order they come (occasional exceptions are made of course, for particularly interesting questions) and I answer 15 questions per month. I have quite a backlog of questions however so be patient. Also, I’m getting a lot of repeat and/or similar questions and I’m trying to avoid answering the same questions over and over. Even if you’re specific question isn’t answered, one similar enough to it should be. Hopefully, this will allow me to address some other topics.
Before submitting a question, please check out the fat loss in general) and supplements have already been addressed and you’ll save yourself a lot of time if you check the archives first, instead of waiting for me to answer your question (which may take 3 months at this point).. Many topics regarding the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (and
Third, I don’t (and can’t) generally set up diets in terms of what specific foods you should eat and stuff like that. Sorry, but I can’t know what kinds of foods you like, or have access to. The best I can do is give general information in a forum like this, but you have to take the ball and run with it from there. Most foods have nutritional labels and I highly recommend that trainees get in the habit of reading them. Alternately, get a basic food-counter book (Corinne T. Netzer’s “” is my current favorite). For those in college, most places will give you a nutritional breakdown of the foods available in the cafeteria or food service outlets since we all know how college students typically eat. With a little practice, you can set up your own diet based around your food preferences and on the general guidelines I can provide.
Finally, so people can quit askingwent to the publishers 2 weeks before Christmas and I should have them back by the end of January or so. They will be .
And with all of that said, let’s kick off a new year of Q&A’s.
Correction to last month: MCT Fuel by Twinlab
Last month I received a question regarding the nutrient breakdown of Twinlab MCT fuel and stated that it contained 14 grams of fat per tablespoon. Unfortunately, I was incorrect. A reader was kind enough to send me this:
“I noticed your answer regarding fat content of MCT Fuel and I believe it needs to be corrected. MCT Fuel is not a pure oil; it is an emulsion and contains eight (8) grams of MCT oil in each serving of two (2) tablespoons. I verified this via a call to Twinlab who said that there were approximately 68 calories per serving.”
I made the ASSumption that MCT fuel was 100% oil, not realizing that it contained other stuff in it. Maybe that will teach me to answer something without checking for sure before I do. I apologize for any inconvenience my mistake has caused.
GNC Profile Protein
since reading your article on protein, I thought I’d ask you what you thought of GNC’s Profile Protein. supposedly they did a study showing its superiority to whey/carbs for post workout protein synthesis. Their theory behind Profile is to simply provide the body with the aminos that are needed after a workout, instead of having the body take an hour digesting whey. what do you think?
I haven’t seen GNC profile protein so I can’t say for sure. But if they are claiming what you say, I’m am very dubious. I don’t honestly see how protein alone could have a greater impact on protein synthesis than protein and carbs. Maybe the same amount of an impact but no greater.
Also, the entire theory behind post-workout protein is to provide the body with aminos for recovery, so that is nothing new. And as I stated in my article, considering the *relatively* long time for ingested protein to start hitting the bloodstream (even whey as a ‘fast’ protein still takes an hour to peak blood amino acid levels), it makes more sense to me to consume protein *before* training so that blood AA level are peaking right as the workout is ending.
This means that, assuming it didn’t make you puke during your workout, I’d expect a protein drink consumed right as your workout is starting (assuming workout is about an hour long) to have a greater impact *immediately* after training. Of course, I still think post-workout protein is a good idea since you want to keep aminos flowing to your muscles at that time period.
What I’m saying is this:
3-4 hours before training: normal mixed meal of protein, carbs, fat and fiber 1 hour before end of workout: protein drink immediately after training: protein and carbs (glycogen resynthesis and such) 2-3 hours after training: normal mixed meal
Something along those lines.
Hormones in Foods
I eat a lot of tofu and am now hearing that it contains many plant estrogens in it. Will these plant hormones have any effect on my hormonal status. If so, what are some foods that promote anabolic hormones, and which promote “bad” hormones.
Thanks for your time,
This is an interesting question. I had a discussion a few years ago with a friend (MD who knows his stuff about nutrition) of mine about this. Although I forget the name of his home-country (I remember that it was Hispanic), he commented that girls in his country had started to mature earlier, most likely from the presence of hormones in the food supply (esp. meats). While it’s hard to show direct correlation, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case.
I farmed this question out to my friend Elzi Volk and she, who has read more endocrinological stuff than I have had this to say. Take it away Elzi:
“Researchers were able to show that in developed countries, where the residue in food/meat is closely monitored, this is unlikely. They actually sampled food/meat from the US and other countries for hormone residue and it was very low (poultry tested with the highest residue). Rather, the earlier onset of menarche (the first menstrual period in pubertal girls) is more likely due to healthier diet and weight gain. In many animals, body weight is an important determinant signal for reproduction cycling (both in females and in males). This is a mechanism of reproduction control in livestock management. It has been shown to be a factor in humans as well. There are some third (second :) world countries where the meat residue content is higher, but still within tolerance to not be a direct stimulator of earlier menarche (i.e. most of the people can’t afford the commercially raised meat, etc.).
Although soy products are abundant in phytoestrogens, research has shown that their content in soy products vary substantially. And bioavailability varies considerably depending on absorption and intestinal degradation, and possible gender differences in metabolism. One would have to be eating enormous amounts of soy products to have any substantial impact on hormone levels. Research on diets in Asian countries has been inconclusive and conflicting.
Actually, there are plants which contain sterols, but most are not active as androgens. Unless you were eating pine bark (source of androstenedione).
So there you have it. All we need now is a transdermal pine bark supplement (BARKoderm). Or maybe Syntrax will make an injectable (oh, I’m sorry, it’s not an injectable, it’s just a sterile liquid packaged in a multi-use vial that *could* be injected).
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Bodyopus
You have made a couple of references lately regarding Alpha Lipoic Acid as being the most potent glucose disposal agent while on Bodyopus. I had previously looked into the stuff myself and was quite impressed. Since Alpha Lipoic Acid “to some extent” mimics insulin (and not wanting to take the risk of injecting it), I was wondering if there is any way to find out if it is powerful enough to be taken after Monday and Tuesday’s workouts with a specified amount and type of carbohydrates to where they could be driven into the muscles, and the body would reach ketosis on schedule. It would be nice if this is possible. Thanks!
I think in theory, yes this could work. A couple of years ago, I heard about bodybuilders on the Bodyopus diet who were taking in lots of post-workout carbs with insulin. The idea was to push lots of carbs into the muscle AND re-establish ketosis at the same time. Of course, the key is to find the right amount of carbs and insulin to accomplish this goal. I’d imagine it would help to limit post-workout catabolism, by lowering cortisol and raising insulin. Then you get whatever anti-catabolic effects of ketosis by re-establishing ketosis.
If you look back in the archives, someone asked me about using lipoic acid to help establish ketosis on Mon-Tue and commented that they were going hypoglycemic. My guess as to the reason was that the lipoic acid was *too potent* to use without carbs and I still feel that way. However, you might be able to take some lipoic acid with carbs right after workout and mimic the effects of using insulin that I described above. The only thing to work out (and this will simply be a trial and error issue) is dosages of each. Depending on training volume, I’d think 50-100 grams of carbs with some protein right after workout to be about right. So what you’d need to do is this:
- Right after workout check your level of ketosis with Ketostix
- Consume your carbs/protein and lipoic acid
- Check for levels of ketosis every couple of hours afterwards to see if you are kicked out and, if you are kicked out, when you drop back into ketosis
Your best bet I think is to keep carbs/protein constant and experiment with different doses of lipoic acid, starting low and working up, until you find the amount of lipoic acid, that gets you back into ketosis quickly *without* making you go hypoglycemic (you’ll get really fatigued, you might sweat and get the shakes, those are the most common symptoms of true hypoglycemia).
What’s your opinion on DNP nowadays? I remember reading about your experience somewhere on the web and I was just curious as to what you think of it now.
My basic feeling is that DNP should be used only for very specific situations such as:
- A bodybuilder getting ready for a contest, where *maintenance* of a given level of bodyfat isn’t necessarily the goal
- Extreme, extreme obesity where (where the risk of remaining obese is higher than the risk of the treatment) one has to take off as much fat as possible in a minimum amount of time. In the situation of extreme obesity, exercise is usually out of the question, and even extreme dieting only works so well.
In both of these cases, I could see a *potential* use for DNP. Outside of that, I think it’s better to establish proper diet and exercise habits, especially considering the generally odious nature of DNP’s side effects.
I did a week of 500mg per day at a bodyweight of 235 or so and lost like 5lbs of fat, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t accomplish without an extra 2 weeks of dieting…….
Exactly. Again, if you’ve got a contest coming up and you’re way behind on your diet, that kind of fat loss might be useful. But it’s usually nothing that can’t be done with a couple extra weeks of ‘normal’ dieting.
I’m just hesitant to think that anything that will make u lose that much fat in a week could be healthy, although I have a hard time believing 3.5 grams could actually do any serious damage to you over the course of seven days…. not so sure about repeated exposure though. It doesn’t seem like something someone should use every summer when they feel like getting lean.
I agree. As with anything that extreme, long-term use is probably not gonna be terribly healthy.
Alcohol on CKD
I’m wondering what kind of effect alcohol has on a CKD. I’ve poured extensively over all your diaries, the newsgroups, etc. and haven’t been able to find ANYTHING at all. So I thought I’d go right to the source. Will having a couple beers in the middle of the week kick you out of ketosis? What about hard alcohol? I’ve heard that alcohol is like a simple sugar, so I’ve stayed away from it on my CKD’s. But what’s the real story?
I can’t remember if I answered this one already (and I’ve got a related, but more serious sitting in my queue box) so I’ll take another whack at it.
If anything, alcohol tends to deepen, not disrupt ketosis (this would of course assume there weren’t any normal sugars present in the alcohol). In fact, there is a condition called alcoholic ketoacidosis which is potentially dangerous. It typically occurs in individuals who aren’t eating any food (hence, eating no carbohydrates, hence liver glycogen becomes depleted, hence ketosis is established) but drinking heavily. Alcohol affects liver metabolism (it affects redox state and the ratio of NADH/NAD+) such that more ketones are produced when alcohol is consumed. In the case of alcoholic ketoacidosis, this causes problems with acidosis, etc. They are typically treated by feeding the person carb which de-establishes ketosis.
Also, even though alcohol is technically a carbohydrate, it is metabolized differently than other carbs, being converted to triglyceride in the liver. I would expect that alcohol conversion to TG in the liver also has an impact on ketone production.
So to answer your question, alcohol shouldn’t kick you out of ketosis (and that I’m aware of there is no distinction between beer and hard liquor in the literature on alcoholic ketoacidosis), but will make it deeper.
Two final things:
- Calories as alcohol are burned in preference to all other macronutrients, so alcohol use will tend to detract from fat loss.
- Anecdotally, several people have reported that they get drunk faster when they are in ketosis, than when they are not. So use caution.
Oh yeah, as to the question which is sitting in my queue (that IM still looking for an answer to), it has to do with whether ketosis can falsely trigger a positive test on a Breathalyzer. When I find an answer, I will post it to Mesomorphosis as well as responding to the asker personally.
Bodyopus and Duchaine’s Book
Dear Mr. McDonald,
I need help! Basically I function best ( feel mentally sharp, have great energy etc etc ) when I am on a ketogenic diet. I try and cycle about half an hour per day or slightly longer and I work at present as a painter. My LBM is 132 and I am about 5ft 11 inches. I simply want to get my body fat down to about 10-12 %. Can you point in the direction and has your book on ketogenic diets been published yet.. and if so by whom.
Well, there’s no much I can give in terms of an answer here. My basic rules for fat loss that I’ve posted in previous Q&A’s still basically apply to a keto diet. They are:
- Moderate caloric deficit: 10-20% below maintenance, or just use 12-13 cal/lb. current total bodyweight as a starting point and adjust based on changes in bodyfat level.
- Adequate dietary protein: arguably the single most critical aspect of any diet, because insufficient protein will allow muscle loss to occur. For a keto diet, anywhere from 0.8-1.0 g/lb. should be about right. For some people, too much protein kicks them out of ketosis. One person has reported that less protein allows him to lose more fat. Go figure.
- The rest of the diet is dietary fat (ok, figure 10 grams/day of carbs).
Information on carb-up stuff can be found inon Mesomorphosis.
As to the book, I sent the final proof to the printer Jan 7th (with 45 corrected pages, aarrrgggghhhh!!!) and should get the books back in 3-4 weeks. They will beon Mesomorphosis and one of these days I’ll get some ad copy written up.
Advice on Fat Loss
My name is Rick and I would like to first thank you for having a great web site with plenty of useful and “needed” information. My dilemma. I am about 250 at 5’11, with about 38% body fat. I need to drop at least 60 pounds because I am going to Naval Officer Candidate School next Summer. needless to say I am in trouble. I was told to try the Bodyopus diet, and to work on cardio (running) Monday through Friday. What do you think? Is it a lost cause? What fat burning supplement are out there that really do work?
Ok, let’s do some math. As I’m sitting here writing this, it is Jan 11th (sorry for the delay) and you’ve got 6 months to lose 60 lbs. (assuming you haven’t lost any already). that’s 10 lbs./month or roughly 2.5 lbs./week. As a general rule, I’d say it’s a lost cause but individuals carrying more bodyfat tend to lose more quickly than leaner individuals so you might be able to pull this off. If you worked at fat loss the last 2 months of 1998, you should be in an even better place.
Basically, the same rules that I suggested to the last question are what I’d recommend, a moderate caloric deficit, sufficient protein, the rest fat. While cardio is good, too much can hinder, not help fat loss. 5 days/week might be pushing it but you can try it at first.
Some other strategies to consider are:
- Carb-up only other weekend: Anecdotally, people lose more fat when they do this than when they carb every weekend.
- Weight train: of course, this is important to avoid losing muscle mass
- Interval training: basically, sprint training. A couple of studies have shown profoundly greater fat loss with intervals compared to normal cardio. They’ll also improve your fitness level for Naval Officer Candidate School as well. What I’d probably suggest is normal cardio 2-3 days per week and intervals 3-2 days per week (meaning that if you do intervals 3 times/week, do normal cardio twice per week and vice versa). You should always warm-up for 3-5′ at a low intensity prior to interval training. Then, you should alternate periods (anywhere from 30-90 seconds) of very high-intensity activity (start at a moderate level and gradually increase intensity until you are working near your maximum) with periods (again, 30-90 seconds) of low-intensity activity to recovery. Anywhere from 5-10 intervals can be done and I’d suggest you start with 2-3 and increase gradually.
AS far as fat loss supplements, probably the best is the ECA stack of ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin. There should be tons of questions in the archives (also see Bryan Haycock’s ) about ECA but typical dose is 20 mg ephedrine, 200 mg caffeine and 81 mg aspirin taken three times per day. ECA is a stimulant and most people start with one dose for a few days before adding the second and third dose.
Clenbuterol versus Ripped Fuel
I am an 18 year old student, and have been working out pretty hard for a year and a half. My body has become pretty solid, but is lacking definition. I have used both ripped fuel, and creatine. I have heard that clenbuterol would be an ideal supplement for me to use. I was hoping that you would be able to tell me the pro’s and con’s of it’s use, and in what manner it should be taken if I had the supplement in pill form. Thanks for your time.
The pros of clenbuterol:
- Less side effects than ECA
- Appears to cause greater fat loss than ECA in the same time period
- May be anabolic (muscle building) but this is highly debatable in humans, may only occur in animals
The cons of clenbuterol:
- Harder to get than ECA
- Stops working in 2 weeks
The second con of clenbuterol is the biggest reason I’m not a big fan. Even if it works stunningly with less side effects than ECA, it typically only works for a couple of weeks at a time (this has to do with downregulation of the beta-2 receptor, seehere on Mesomorphosis). I think clenbuterol is best for bodybuilders getting ready for a show since it’s use will be relatively shorter term. For someone looking at longer term dieting, I think ECA is the better choice.
Thermogenics While on the CKD
I was just wondering about the addition of thermogenics like the ECA stack or Yohimbine while on the CKD. Will they help increase fat loss or are they unnecessary?
I think they will be beneficial. Outside of possible fatty acid mobilizing effects of ECA, they most definitely increase thermogenesis, meaning that more calories are burned per unit time. Additionally, some research suggests that they prevent the drop in metabolic rate that occurs on a diet. Of course, most ECA studies have been done with very-low-calorie diets (800 cal/day or below) so they may have limited applicability to a more moderate caloric deficit. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that ECA certainly helps on a CKD.
Since Yohimbine helps with fat mobilization I figure that it will improve fat reduction in some of those trouble spots. Are there any dangers with adding these compounds to this type of diet.
Only one that I can think of. Low carb diets tend to increase levels of the catecholamine hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline, the fight or flight hormones) in and of themselves. ECA and yohimbe work through similar mechanisms. This means that the *potential* impact of both might be greater, especially in terms of side effects (heart rate and blood pressure). Speaking from experience, I tend to get edgy (even edgier than normal) on a CKD, but ECA makes it that much worse. I’m a downright asshole to be around (people on the lowcarb-l list can vouch). So if you’re sensitive to the effects of a keto diet in terms of mood (or heart rate/blood pressure), the addition of ECA or yohimbe can tend to make it worse.
I have used these substances before but never on the CKD. I am also curious about alcohol consumption. I am not talking about beer or mixed drinks but a distilled alcohol. I know alcohol can cause drops in testosterone and catabolism but how it is metabolized? Is it converted into glycogen or not? Any information would be appreciated.
I answered this in another question in this update. Alcohol will tend to deepen ketosis by affecting liver metabolism. I don’t see any reason why distilled alcohol would be different than beer or mixed drinks.
First I would like to say you’re doing a great job. I enjoy Mesomorphosis site and enjoy reading your Q & A. My question is, there’s this supplement I bought from GNC, its called: Optibolic. Its a “Water Pill”. On the Label, it says: “Indication: Traditional Herbal Medicine to help increase the flow of Urine.”
Each capsule contains:
Uva Ursi Leaf 200mg
Buchu Leaf 100mg
does this product work to remove water from under the skin? is it like the drug Lasix? could you please tell me whether it is a good diuretic or not.
Uva ursi and buchu leaves are both herbal diuretics (another that has good effects is dandelion root). Most diuretics (and this includes the hardcore stuff like Lasix, Aldactone, etc) work by stimulating the kidney to produce more urine, causing water to be lost. This simply causes an overall shift in water metabolism to maintain body water balance.
The unfortunate reality is that while water may be pulled from under the skin (good for appearance), water can also be pulled out of the muscle (bad for appearance since it makes you look flat). However, the herbal diuretics are nowhere near as potent as Lasix or any of the drug diuretics. So I’d be surprised if someone had similar negative effects. And, yes, they do work.
CKD and Thyroid Disassociation
I’ve heard it mentioned a few times that thyroid levels and metabolism seem to disassociate on a ketogenic eating plan. Do you know if this is accurate or not? If so, do you have any idea what the mechanism is for the eventual downgrade in metabolism on a CKD.
In the world of bodybuilding (and a lot of dieting literature), it has become common to blame the drop in metabolic rate on levels of circulating thyroid hormone and nothing else (see for example the current rash of thyroid supporting products, containing stuff like soy protein and brown guggul, both of which affect T4, thyroxine, but probably have little impact on T3, triiodothyronine which is the more active hormone).
This is a very reductive way of looking at metabolic rate. At the very least, I can think of three major factors which govern metabolic rate (and I’m sure there are others): thryoid hormone, catecholamine levels, and possibly leptin (which I haven’t read much on at this point in time, which is why I said ‘possibly’).
I’m aware of at least two or three studies on keto diets showing no change in oxygen uptake (an indicator) of metabolic rate despite a large drop in thyroid hormones. In one of those, individuals were studied for a period of 4 weeks on a maintenance calorie keto diet (no carb-ups of course). Over that timer period, thyroid dropped considerably, with no change in oxygen uptake, suggesting the dissociation between thyroid and metabolic rate that you have seen discussed.
Here’s something to consider, several studies of very-low-calorie-diets (800 cal/day or less) have noted a drop in metabolic rate within ONE-day of starting the diet. Of course, this is far before thyroid hormones start to drop, suggesting that the thyroid explanation of metabolic rate is incomplete.
Another obvious factor in the drop in metabolic rate is a loss of lean body mass as well as total body mass. What people sometimes forget is that basal metabolic rate is higher for heavier individuals (not all studies show this of course). As well, heavier individuals burn more calories during exercise (especially stuff like walking where you’re supporting your body weight). So simply losing bodyweight causes a drop in metabolic rate. In fact, the drop in metabolic rate on very low calorie diets typically shows a pattern of a rapid drop (see above paragraph, from a drop in thermogenesis) than a more-gradual decrease (which correlates with the loss of lean body mass).
This is where we have to get into a discussion of thermogenesis and catecholamines. Thermogenesis refers generally to the burning of calories to make heat. The ECA stack stimulates thermogenesis, eating typically raises metabolic rate via thermogenesis, shivering when you’re cold is another type of thermogenesis.
In any event, studies show that extreme calorie deficits cause a rapid drop in thermogenesis (and I think a decrease in calories burned during exercise although I won’t swear by it, have to go dig through my research piles), far before thyroid hormone is affected. This is most likely mediated via changes in catecholamine levels (studies usually measure something like noradrenaline excretion, which typically goes down during a diet, signifying that less is being produced). I think this is a big part of why the ECA stack works so well on a diet, since some studies show that it prevents the drop in thermogenesis that normally occurs. Additionally, as I mentioned in the last question, levels of catecholamines go *up* on a keto diet. I might speculate that the increase in catecholamine levels stimulates thermogenesis and makes up for any drop in metabolic rate from decreased thyroid.
So, to finally answer your question, while thyroid may play a small role in metabolic rate on a keto diet (or any diet for that matter), I’m more inclined to think that changes in thermogenesis (mediated by the catecholamines) and changes in body weight.
Weight Loss and Toning Up
Over the last three years I have been quite serious about losing weight and have managed to lose around eighty pounds. Right now I weight one-hundred seventy-five and cannot seem to tone up no matter what I do, or what kind of supplements I take. I have discussed this with a couple doctors and I try what they say but not much works. Right now I am running forty-five minutes (three miles) almost daily, also lifting full time. If you could give me any hints as to what I am doing wrong, or what I should be doing I would appreciate it greatly.
When most people use the term ‘tone up’, they mean a situation where the following conditions exist:
- There is sufficient muscle mass to make the area in question look firm
- There is not so much bodyfat to obscure what the muscle looks like
To better understand what I’m mumbling about, let’s look at two major extremes:
- Marathon runners: these athletes are typically extremely lean (an elite runner may maintain a bodyfat of 4-5%) yet don’t look particularly ‘toned’ by most people’s definition. This has to do with a lack of muscle mass.
- Super heavy weight Olympic or Powerlifters: this should get me some hate mail but, on average, athletes in the super heavy weight category of any athlete carry a fair amount of fat. So even though this athletes have a *ton* of muscle, they still don’t look ‘toned’ by most people’s standards because the muscle is obscured by fat
So we’re ultimately looking at a goal of adequate muscle mass AND sufficiently low bodyfat to show off that muscle. You didn’t state your current bodyfat level but that is one place to look. For men to appear ‘toned’, they’d probably have to get their bodyfat level to the low teens. Abs generally won’t start to come in until they reach below 10% bodyfat (my abs don’t show up even at 8% bodyfat). For women to appear ‘toned’, I’d guess bodyfat would need to be in the mid-high teens or so. For legs to get particularly defined generally requires lower bodyfat levels.
The second thing to look at is whether you’ve put on much muscle mass while you dieted down. After the initial stages, it’s generally rare to gain a lot of muscle while dieting. So you may simply need to put on some muscle. I’m not sure what you mean by lifting weights ‘full-time’ but I’ll assume a daily, or nearly-so weight training program.
In my opinion, this is more of a problem than a boon. That is, I’ve watched lots of people train every day and make very little progress. They invariably do better if they cut back their weight training program (in terms of muscle gain). IMO, if you can’t gain muscle on 3-4 days/week in the gym (an hour max weight training), you’re not gonna gain by doing more, and you’ll probably gain doing less. Try cutting your weight training back to 3-4 days/week maximum (each bodypart hit no more than once every 4-7 days), no more than 4-6 sets/bodypart (and less is better for some people), moderate reps (6-12 is the usual recommendation but you can experiment with lower and higher reps).
Your focus should be on increasing the weight on the bar. When you can get your goal reps (say 12) in perfect form, add a few pounds to the bar. The key to adding muscle mass, despite the confusing crap that is written in most magazines, is progressive overload. So if you want to put on muscle mass, you have to add weight to the bar to continue to challenge the muscle and make it get bigger.
Hi, I am 16 and work out. I use a belt for support but I’m not sure which exercises to use with it. Please tell me. Thank you.
Wow, a non-nutrition question. I am flush and heady.
That main reason that most people in the gym wear a belt is as a fashion statement (makes the waist look narrower for men, just looks damn cute for a woman to be wearing a little pink Valeo belt while she’s doing lateral raises with the 5-lb dumbbells).
Sarcasm aside, from a practical standpoint, there aren’t any exercises which you truly *need* to wear a belt on although there are some where it can be helpful. The belt’s main purpose (at least it’s ostensible purpose) is to support the low back. In this regard, it raises something called intra-abdominal pressurer (IAP) which represents the amount of pressure built up in the abdominal cavity. IAP supports the spine and helps to prevent the low back from rounding or being otherwise moved out of it’s normal anatomical position. The times that this might occur are when direct compressive stress is applied to the spine (as in overhead lifting or squats and deadlifts). While some powerlifters like to wear belts for a bench press, I can’t honestly see the point, since there is no direct stress on the low back during this movement.
But, let’s look at what else can accomplish this vital role. The two major muscles (and there are others) which help to generate IAP are the abdominals and the low-back muscles. By properly strengthening the low back and abs, a belt becomes generally unnecessary. I personally prefer that individuals don’t use a belt for the most part, I would rather them strengthen the abs and low back.
For what it’s worth, I’ve watched my training partner squat 400+ lbs. without a belt and Olympic lifters regularly squat this much and more without a belt. So when I see Joe Gym-rat belting up for a set at 135 lbs., I’m not terribly impressed. I think the best times to use a belt are:
- For truly near limit lifts. That is, if you’re doing a maximal single, or are lifting *huge* weights in the squat, deadlift or overhead press, I can see the purpose of a belt. Other than that, you don’t really need one.
- As a cue to keep your back tight. A loosely worn belt can signal some lifters to keep their abs tight and low back flat (really, slightly arched) during a lift to maintain spinal safety. Special thanks to Dr. Mel Siff for this idea.
Dieting for the Long Term
Great work on the Mesomorphosis page, and from the oldstuff too.
I am not sure if you are answering this type of question, but I am having trouble controlling my bodyfat percentage, and I am getting kind of desperate. I am a hobby weightlifter who at 25 years and 195 lbs., has resigned myself to stay under 200 lbs., for purposes of overall long-term health. I have been training heavy for the last three years (I recently got a 1200 lbs. three lift total in a gym meet), and I consider myself to be in good cardiovascular shape. My problem is that my family is almost all obese, and I have really struggled to get my bodyfat down to 15%.
In the past, I have eaten like I trained: instinctively. But as I have crept close to that 200 mark, I have tried to force a change in body composition, 1st by a low-fat diet, and more recently by cutting extra carbs. But, I have discovered that after about 2 weeks of reduced calories, I sustain a muscle injury. This has happened on four occasions in the last eighteen months (rhomboid, low-back, shoulder, hamstring) , and I have become hesitant to do any more dieting, because if I have to quit lifting, I will lose my sanity.
I find this odd, that you’d get injured during your diet. I can’t really see any specific reason that this would occur but obviously it is to you. One thing that comes to mind is that insufficient mineral intake might be causing muscle cramps or pulls while you’re dieting. Other than that, I can’t see any reason for this to occur. It might also signal that you need to back off your lifting intensity a bit while you’re dieting to avoid injuring yourself again.
I am assuming that a big part of my problem is that I am a hack at this, and probably need some help. Would you recommend a particular book for long-term diet strategies (i.e. not a short-term diet like CKD or Bodyopus) or would you recommend that I see a nutritionist or diet counselor to help me achieve my goals?
That I can think of, there aren’t a lot of books on long-term dietary strategies out there (although gets into maintenance a little bit). most are either explicitly aimed at fat loss or at muscle gain, not maintenance.
Ultimately, I think a good maintenance diet should achieve several things.
First and foremost, caloric intake has to match caloric expenditure. This is ultimately sort of the key to maintaining bodyfat/bodyweight levels at a stable place, by matching calories. Within this context, there is a lot of leeway in terms of dietary choices.
I would say that in general, most people (and there are some genetic defects in this regard) tend to maintain bodyweight at a more or less stable level for the most part with changes in bodyfat/weight occurring over a long period of time. To a great degree, the body will regulate appetite in this regard (again, there are some defects in this). However, this is predicated on eating when hungry, and not for other reasons (i.e. psychological or social reasons). If you pay attention to little children, they tend to eat when hungry and not eat when not-hungry. But as we get older, we tend to eat for reasons other than true hunger, because it’s ‘lunch-time’, or because we are sad, or at party, etc. So a big part of maintaining current bodyfat/weight levels is to ‘listen to your hunger’. When a hunger pang hits, wait 5-10′, if it goes away it wasn’t true physiological hunger, if it doesn’t, it’s your body telling you that it needs food. An alternate strategy is to eat lots of small meals throughout the day (called a grazing diet in some literature) as that tends to keep hunger on an even keel and maintain blood glucose levels more stable.
The second component of a maintenance diet is that it should be nutritionally adequate. The food pyramid is roughly ok for this. As a lifter, you’ll need more protein (and probably less carbs) than the pyramid recommends but it’s a good starting point. Fruits and vegetables are probably the most overlooked facet of a good diet (I’ll admit I’m not as good as I should be).
One of the best strategies I’ve found to help regulate food intake is to get a mix of nutrients (fat, protein, carbs, fiber at each meal). Although this goes against the common dogma to reduce dietary fat, I’ve found that many individuals are hungrier if fat intake is too low, then with a more moderate fat intake. Even if the increased fat intake means more calories, it may mean less total calories in the long run if it keeps appetite at bay. There aren’t any hard and fast rules but I’d consider a good maintenance diet to be about 50-55% carbs, 25% protein and 25% fat or so. You may need to play with the ratios a bit, but as long as you ensure sufficient dietary fat, protein and carbs (don’t forget fibrous stuff like veggies as fiber slows digestion and helps blunt hunger) at each meal, your appetite should more or less regulate itself.
Also, is it reasonable to expect that a person can maintain a Bodyfat percentage long-term that is significantly lower than what the genetic pre-disposition might direct? In the end, how much control can a person have in the long-term if they have a poor genetic make-up for staying both lean and strong/fit.
Ah, now we get into the set-point theory of bodyweight/bodyfat. In it’s simplest term, this theory states that individuals have a genetic set-point that their bodyweight/bodyfat will attempt to achieve. Invariably studies are cited which show that post-obese (a term referring to previously obese individuals who have lost fat) have a lowered metabolic rate both relative to their previous weight as well as to a non-previously obese individual at the same weight (that is, if you dieted from 200 lbs. to 170 lbs., you’d have a lower metabolic rate than someone who normally weighed 170 lbs.). Thus, post-obese individuals are more prone to regain bodyweight, usually to their previous bodyweight/bodyfat level.
And this is true if you look at studies which use diet only as the main method of weight loss (i.e. no exercise). When you look at exercise studies, as long as the caloric deficit isn’t too severe, metabolic rate is generally not decreased (except due to a lowering of bodyweight, see the question about thyroid and CKD in this update).
My feeling is that the body gets used to it’s ‘habitual’ level of bodyfat, but that there isn’t much of a ‘set-point’. If this were the case, then NO-ONE could ever lose fat and keep it off, because the body would fight back to it’s previous weight level. Yet, individuals do it. And how, you ask, do they do it? Generally, it is with some combination of dietary changes and exercise.
However, the key to maintaining a given level of bodyfat/bodyweight is that the strategies that you got you there in the first place be maintained in the long term. This is why I generally dislike rapid weight-loss approaches (starvation diets, excessive amounts of exercise). Because, by definition, they can’t be maintained in the long-term. However, if someone makes dietary changes and adds 3-4 days of exercise to their regimen, they are more likely to maintain that level of activity/dietary change in the long-term. And they will be more-likely to maintain that fat loss.
So to summarize a bunch of boring paragraphs, I do think it’s reasonable to maintain a given level of bodyfat, but with the caveat that you keep doing whatever it was that got you to that bodyfat level in the first place. So, if you wanna do 10 hours/week of aerobics to lose fat, you had better be prepared to continue doing 10 hours/week of aerobics to maintain that bodyfat level.
Hope that helps, good luck.