Archive for December, 2015

Are Essential Vitamins Lacking In Your Diet?

Vitamins A and D are crucial for optimal health and performance. Meet the recommended amounts of these fat-soluble vitamins each day with these nutrient-packed foods!

For optimal health and athletic performance, you need to fill your belly with foods that provide not only calories from macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates, but also adequate amounts of certain must-have micronutrients and vitamins.

Sadly, the so-called “standard American diet” (indeed, it is SAD) is replete with processed foods that don’t do a very good job of providing the most important vitamins in optimal amounts. Sure, some vitamins are pumped back into refined foods like white bread, but this is hardly the best way to get what you need. If you buck the trend and focus on consuming nutrient-rich foods, you’ll be supplying your body with many of the raw goods it needs to perform at its best.

Part 1 of this six-part nutrient blast focuses on two of the fat-soluble vitamins, A and D, which provide an abundance of health and performance benefits. Not coincidentally, all of these foods also jive with a macro-focused eating approach, so dig in without reservation!

Vitamin A Why you need it, and how much you need

Humans require vitamin A for proper cell growth, which in turn plays a role in forming and maintaining organs such as the heart, skin, and lungs. Vitamin A is also necessary for vision, immune health, and bone health.

There are two main sources of vitamin A: animal sources, which contain preformed vitamin A in the form of retinol, and plant sources, which contain provitamin A carotenoids that the body converts to retinol. The most important carotenoid is beta-carotene which provides the bright orange color in vegetables like carrots and orange bell peppers.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is provided as micrograms (mcg) of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) to account for the different bioactivities of preformed vitamin A and vitamin-A precursors. Yeah, its confusing stuff. Just eat a bunch of the foods below and you’re good to go. Adult men need 900 micrograms RAE daily, while women should obtain 700 micrograms RAE.

Beef Liver

3 ounces = 444% RDA

Perhaps it’s time to start serving liver and onions for dinner more often. Since vitamin A is stored in the liver, it should come as no surprise that this organ meat from beef and other animals is a top-notch source. In fact, liver is more concentrated in a variety of nutrients like vitamin B12 and copper than standard cuts of steak. And not to be overlooked are the 21 grams of muscle-sculpting protein in a small 3 oz. serving.

Since vitamin A is stored in the liver, it should come as no surprise that this organ meat from beef and other animals is a top-notch source.

Nobody craves eating liver with a texture akin to shoe leather, so cook it quickly in a smoking hot skillet so that the outside sears while the interior remains tender and still slightly pink. This usually takes about 3 minutes per side. Soaking liver for up to 8 hours in water spiked with salt and lemon juice before cooking can help reduce its notorious strong flavor as well as tenderize the meat.

Sweet Potato

1 medium potato = 438% RDA

Here’s another good reason to be sweet on this tuber. The vitamin A you’ll obtain from a sweet potato hails from the plethora of beta-carotene it contains. On top of being a source of vitamin A, beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant in the body which has been linked with a lower risk of developing diabetes.1 Other nutritional perks include ample fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium.

Kale

1 cup = 206% RDA

Here’s more proof that this hipster green is worthy of its superfood label. Like sweet potato, the vitamin A in kale is mainly in the form of the orange pigment beta-carotene. The high amount of chlorophyll in the leafy green is why it’s not orange in color. Other nutritional highlights include plenty of vitamin C and vitamin K.

Like sweet potato, the vitamin A in kale is mainly in the form of the orange pigment beta-carotene. Other nutritional highlights include plenty of vitamin C and vitamin K.

If you’re not a fan of kale’s bitter side, a quick steaming or sautéing can mellow its flavor. Also consider stripping the leaves from the stem, which is far more bitter. If that’s too much work, buy frozen kale, which is flash-frozen soon after harvest to lock in the beta-carotene and other nutrients.

Of course, the list doesn’t end there. Other good sources of vitamin A include pumpkin, carrots, butternut squash, milk, cod liver oil, broccoli leaves, Swiss chard, spinach, goat cheese, turkey and chicken giblets, eel, Bluefin tuna, egg yolk.

Vitamin D Why you need it, and how much you need

To maintain bones of steel, it’s essential to get enough vitamin D. This nutrient is necessary for proper calcium absorption, and also impacts the function of compounds called osteoblasts, which are involved in bone formation.

But in recent years, research has shown that vitamin D’s role in the body goes well beyond strengthening your skeleton. Adequate vitamin-D status has been linked to everything from improved heart health and brain function to lowered risks of diabetes and obesity.2,3

Many genes in the body are impacted by vitamin D, which is why it has such a varied resumé. Those who like to spend time working up a sweat should take heed of recent data suggesting that vitamin D may help improve athletic performance and muscular strength, reduce inflammation, and even bolster testosterone production.4 This is most pronounced if you’re vitamin D-deficient, which well over half of the population is.

Similar to vitamin A, there are 2 forms of vitamin D. Vitamin D derived from sunlight is in the form of vitamin D-3, also known as cholecalciferol. When ultraviolet (UV) rays strike the skin, a molecule in the epidermis—7-dehydrocholesterol—is triggered to initiate vitamin-D synthesis. Vitamin D-3 is also found in animal sources, such as egg yolks and fish.

Vitamin D-2, on the other hand, is derived from mold and yeast. D-2, also known as ergocalciferol, can also be found in plant sources such as mushrooms.

Vitamin D-3 has been shown to be the more potent of the two, and most the likely to exert effects within the body.5 It is also the form used most extensively in clinical trials.

Adults who get minimal sun exposure should aim for at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.

Herring

1 ounce = 115% RDA

No fish provides more vitamin D than herring; it’s one of the best sandwich meats for building muscle, providing plenty of muscle-friendly protein and vitamin B-12 as well.

No fish provides more vitamin D than herring; it’s one of the best sandwich meats for building muscle, providing plenty of muscle-friendly protein and vitamin B-12 as well.

The availability of fresh herring can be hit or miss, so keep an eye out for pickled or smoked versions, which can instantly up the nutritional ante of your lunch sandwiches.

Canned sockeye salmon

3 ounce = 162% RDA

Here’s more proof that the canned-food aisle is somewhere you should spin your wheels. Canned salmon is a convenient way to load up on vitamin D. Other nutritional perks include protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and even calcium if you eat the softened bones. Less expensive canned pink salmon also supplies notable amounts of vitamin D, just not as much as the richer-tasting sockeye. For the sake of the environment, seek out a brand such as Wild Planet that uses only sustainable wild Alaskan salmon.

Other good sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, sardines, mackerel, fresh sockeye salmon, shrimp, milk, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as yogurt, nondairy milks, orange juice, and cereals.

Salmon is a convenient way to load up on vitamin D. Other nutritional perks include protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and even calcium if you eat the softened bones.

Very few foods are really packed with vitamin D. Your vitamin-D status is primarily influenced by sun exposure, your location relative to the equator, the amount of time you spend outside, your skin pigmentation, and your use of sunscreen. Have your vitamin-D levels checked by your physician via a simple blood test. If you are deficient, or have suboptimal levels, consult your doctor about supplementing with 2,000-5,000 IU daily of vitamin D-3.

Is there such a thing as too much vitamin A or D?

It’s possible to overconsume vitamin A, but you’d have to make a consistent, prolonged effort to do so. Eating copious amounts of liver, guzzling cod liver oil, or overdoing other high-level animal-based sources may lead to hypervitaminosis A (toxic levels of vitamin A). Consuming large amounts of beta-carotene (from orange and yellow fruits and veggies), however, will not make you sick.6

With vitamin D, the ceiling is far higher, and far less clear. Plenty of individuals deficient in vitamin D take upwards of 5,000 IU daily safely, and there’s been a lot of clamoring in nutritional circles in recent years to raise the RDA from the current piddling 600-800 IU up to around 4000 IU.

References
  1. Sluijs, I., Cadier, E., Beulens, J.W.J., van der A., D.J., Spijkerman, A.M.W. & van der Schouw, Y.T. (2015). Dietary intake of carotenoids and risk of type 2 diabetes. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 25(4), 376-381.
  2. Gonzalez-Molero, I., Rojo-Martinez, G., Morcillo, S., Gutierrez, C., Rubio, E., Perez-Valero, V., Esteva, I., Ruiz de Adana, M.S., Almaraz, M.C., Colomo, N., Olveira, G. & Soriguer, F. (2013). Hypovitaminosis D and incidence of obesity: a prospective study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(6), 680-682.
  3. Munger, K.L., Levin, L.I., Massa, J., Horst, R., Orban, T. & Ascherio, A. (2013). Preclinical serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of type 1 diabetes in a cohort of US military personnel. American Journal of Epidemiology, 177(5), 411-419.
  4. Dahlquist, D.T., Dieter, B.P. & Koehle, M.S. (2015). Plausible ergogenic effects of vitamin D on athletic performance and recovery. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(33), 1-12.
  5. Wolpowitz, D. & Gilchrest, B.A. (2006). The vitamin D questions: how much do you need and how should you get it? Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 54(2), 301-317.
  6. Grune, T., Lietz, G., Palou, A., Ross, A.C., Stahl, W. & Tang, G. (201). Beta-carotene is an important vitamin A source for humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 140(12), 2268-2285.


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The 5 Best Cuts Of Beef You’re Not Eating

Tired of eating the same old meats? Practice nose-to-tail cooking with these 5 unique cuts of beef that support muscle growth and your sense of culinary adventure!

Our spear-wielding ancestors didn’t get their sustenance from turkey sandwiches and hot dogs. Instead, when they took down their game, they practiced nose-to-tail cookery, which meant using all parts of an animal, from brain to hoof. Alas, it’s a shame that this practice has fallen by the wayside and so many of today’s carnivores seem to think that “meat” means only sirloins, pork chops, or chicken breast—but never beef cheeks or heart.

Offal, which literally means “off fall,” or the pieces including tongue, thymus, and liver that fall off a carcass when it’s butchered, are downright nutritious and delicious! Sure, you have to be a little adventurous, but your culinary efforts will be rewarded. Plus, eating offal does the planet a good service by reducing the unnecessary waste of animal protein.

To help you take the plunge into new culinary territory and join the nose-to-tail movement, here are my top picks on how to make better use of some of the neglected parts of the cow, proving that offal ain’t so awful after all!


1

Heart

Take this to heart: Beef heart is one of the easiest organ meats to work with in the kitchen. Since it has a taste and texture similar to more common cuts of steak such as sirloin, you could easily pass it off to eaters as such without them being the wiser. The ticker of a cow also provides a larger nutritional windfall for a cost that’s friendly to your bank account—often less than a buck a pound.

Beef heart is low in saturated fat and high in muscle-friendly protein (20 grams in a 4-ounce serving), vitamin B-12, iron, and the potent antioxidant selenium. A 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that maintaining optimal selenium levels can help keep you feeling chipper by improving mood and reducing the risk of depression.1

Best of all, depending on the size of the animal the heart was gleaned from, the organ meat could weigh as much as 3-4 pounds, letting you eat your heart out for a number of meals.

Beef heart is low in saturated fat and high in muscle-friendly protein (20 grams in a 4-ounce serving), vitamin B-12, iron, and the potent antioxidant selenium.

Eat It

You want to look for a heart that’s firm, moist, and deep reddish-brown with a layer of fat around the top. Before cooking, simply slice off the fat as well as any connective tissue or silvery skin. You can then thinly slice the meat and cook it in a skillet on the stovetop or over the flames on the grill.

A word of caution: Since beef heart is very lean, it can quickly become unappetizingly tough if overcooked. So it’s best cooked fast over fairly high heat and not past medium-rare. Heart works great in stir-fry, or try adding cooked slices to salads to beef up your greens.

Cold slices of cooked heart are even a stellar addition to sandwiches. The meat also takes well to all sorts of marinades.


2

Tongue

Once you get over your understandable squeamishness, overlooked cow tongue can deliver truly seducing, tender meat with praise-worthy flavor. In fact, when poached with aromatics like onions and garlic, tongue meat tastes very reminiscent of pot roast. I kid you not! And since a whole beef tongue can weigh up to 4 pounds, you’ll get some serious nutritional bang for your buck. Among tongue’s nutritional highlights are good levels of protein, testosterone-boosting zinc, and B vitamins including vitamin B-12.

Among tongue’s nutritional highlights are good levels of protein, testosterone-boosting zinc, and B vitamins including vitamin B-12.

Eat It

The biggest hurdle to getting tongue onto your dinner table is its thick skin, which needs to be peeled off, and it’s nearly impossible to do so from the raw meat. What you want to do is gently poach tongue in some liquid, after which you can easily peel off the skin.

Place the tongue in a large saucepan. Add 1 quartered onion, 4 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 bay leaf, and enough water to cover the tongue by 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium-low heat, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently, partially covered, until the tongue is tender and easily pierced with a knife at its thickest part. This takes about an hour for each pound of tongue.

Remove the tongue from the poaching liquid and let it cool only to the point where you can handle it. Using gloves can help. If you let the tongue cool too much, the skin again becomes difficult to remove. Reserve the poaching liquid to use as a flavorful broth. To peel off the skin, start at the throat end of the tongue, and use a small knife to lift up some of the skin. Then scrape off any bumpy areas on the meat with the back of a chef’s knife.

After peeling, slice the tongue thinly against the grain. Serve with salsa, chutney, herb sauce, gravy, or even in stir-fry or tacos. Cold slices of tongue are great in sandwiches or atop salads, too. Cooked tongue can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days if stored in some of the strained cooking liquid. You can reheat slices for a couple of minutes in a skillet or the microwave.


3

Liver

While it was once a common cut of meat cooked in many households, liver has largely fallen out of favor with newer generations. That’s a shame, considering that it provides a welcome relief from more pedestrian meats—yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. Chicken Breast—and delivers a bounty of nutritional goodness.

A mere 3-ounce serving of liver contains an impressive 18 grams of protein to keep muscle growth going in full force, and it’s flush with vitamin A to help maintain your immune system in tip-top shape. Liver also blows away most other foods when it comes to vitamin B-12, a benevolent vitamin that’s required for your nervous system to function optimally.

A mere 3-ounce serving of liver contains an impressive 18 grams of protein to keep muscle growth going in full force, and it’s flush with vitamin A to help maintain your immune system in tip-top shape.

Look for liver at the butcher counter that’s firm to the touch and shiny. There should not be any odd smell, dry patches, or slimy film.

Eat It

Before cooking liver, peel away any membrane that might be present by loosening it with a sharp knife and gently pulling it away from the meat. While most liver naysayers recall being served appetite-killing meat with a texture similar to shoe leather, the key to great-tasting liver is to cook it quickly in a hot skillet (ideally, cast iron) so that the outside sears while the interior remains tender and still slightly pink—about three minutes per side for a one-pound cut.

Soaking liver for up to eight hours in water spiked with salt and lemon juice before cooking can help dampen any strong flavor and work to tenderize the meat.


4

Kidney

It might sound strange, but this organ meat is a true pleasure with a rich flavor not that different from liver. From a nutritional standpoint, kidneys can show your muscles some love by providing an excellent protein-to-fat ratio of 7:1. Kidney is also chock-full of a range of essential nutrients including vitamin B-12, vitamin A, riboflavin, and selenium. Kidneys come in pairs, and you only want to purchase those that are shiny and firm with no dry or discolored spots and free of any “off” odor.

Kidney is chock-full of a range of essential nutrients including vitamin B-12, vitamin A, riboflavin, and selenium.

Eat It

As with liver, soaking kidneys in acidulated salt water prior to cooking will help reduce the strong, tangy flavor that can be off-putting to newbies. If you buy kidneys whole—which you should, for better quality—be sure to slice them in half lengthwise and remove the gristly white center of the organ before proceeding with a recipe. Also remove any membrane if present.

Cook the kidneys fast and hot until they’re still slightly pink in the center, or long and slow in a braising liquid—anything in between will result in an unpleasantly tough meat. Cutting kidneys into bite-sized chunks makes for a quick skillet preparation.


5

Oxtail

While not technically an organ meat, inexpensive oxtail is a relatively underutilized cut of beef that you should embrace. In olden days, oxtail came from oxen, but now it hails most often from the tail of regular cattle. The tail is skinned and then cut into sections; each section has a marrow containing bone that’s surrounded by meat.

Most people find oxtail looks less, well, odd than other odd bits of beef and tastes similar to more common cuts of braising meat, both of which make it very approachable. As with other red meat, oxtail brings energy-boosting iron and even creatine to the table, to help improve your feats of strength.

As with other red meat, oxtail brings energy-boosting iron and even creatine to the table, to help improve your feats of strength.

Eat It

For ease of preparation, have your butcher cut the oxtail into several pieces, which will become progressively smaller as the tail tapers to its end. Oxtail requires a long cooking time, since it’s relatively gelatinous and fatty. This makes it a perfect, typically budget-friendly option for braises, soups, and stews.

When cooked low and slow in a liquid, oxtail meat becomes fall-of-the-bone tender. It’s also a good candidate for crockpot cooking. Before simmering, it’s best to first brown the pieces in a pan with some hot oil to help lock in the juices and bolster flavor.

References
  1. Conner, T.S., Richardson, A.C. & Miller, J.C. (2015). Optimal serum selenium concentrations are associated with lower depressive symptoms and negative mood among young adults. Journal of Nutrition, 145(1), 59-65.


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4 Leg Routines You Won’t Soon Forget

Feel like your lower body is lacking? These 4 pro-level workouts from the athletes of Team MuscleTech will change that in a hurry!

You’ve heard the saying that friends don’t let friends skip leg day. Here’s one that’s just as true: Friends don’t let friends design their own leg day. When they do, the result often ends up being a time-consuming lower-body session that takes forever, always seems to skimp on the hard lifts (the ones you need most), and doesn’t produce the growth it should.

So, what does get results? Timeless techniques like descending pyramids, 20-rep sets, and prefatigue movements, all of which you’ll find in these four routines from top MuscleTech athletes.

Get your favorite leg-day memes locked and loaded, because you’ll be staggering after completing these four pro-level protocols!

Shawn Russell Heavy volume

To build his lower body, fitness model and coach Shawn Russell turns to two things: heavy weight and plenty of reps. “I like to include a variety of rep ranges, devoting one day to my heavy core lifts, and then performing higher reps and work like leg extensions, leg curls, single-leg movements, along with adduction or abduction movements on another day entirely.”

A photo posted by Shawn Michael Russell (@shawnrussell3) on

By dividing up his leg sessions like this, Russell can best focus on the core lifts—compound movements that deliver the biggest bang for your buck—without having to worry about saving energy for accessory exercises. But make no mistake—Russell’s heavy day is no low-rep affair. He starts off with one of the classics, a 20-rep set of squats, and only then starts adding weight and dropping reps.

He’s also quick to note that a mass-building routine like this one only works if you eat like you mean it. “If you want to gain more muscle mass, you’ll have to eat more protein, carbs, and fat—yes, all three,” he says. Russell structures his nutrient intake around his workouts to encourage lean mass gains, but also to make sure he has a full tank for a gut-busting workout like the one below.

Heavy Volume Workout />
1

Barbell Squat

1 set of 20 reps (warm-up), 5 sets of 15, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps, increasing weight with each set

Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

2

Leg Press

1 set of 20 reps (warm-up), 5 of 15, 12, 12, 10, 8 reps, increasing weight with each set

Leg Press Leg Press

3

Walking Lunge

4 sets of 20 reps per leg

Barbell Walking Lunge Barbell Walking Lunge

4

Stiff-Legged Deadlift

1 set of 15 reps (warm-up), 4 sets of 12, 12, 10, 10 reps

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

Jimmy Everett Four Twenties

When asked about his secret weapon to building a head-turning physique, physique athlete and male fitness model Jimmy Everett’s answer is simple: squat.

A photo posted by Jimmy Everett (@jeverett14) on

Who can argue with him? The so-called “king of lifts” hits every muscle group in the lower body including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but also gives an unmistakable body-wide message to grow—or else. Everett takes up the volume when really focusing in on his leg training by adding more reps to his routine.

“I’d also strongly recommend putting a high-carb day on your leg day, and adding more calories than you normally take in, to help promote growth and development,” he advises. It’s a great idea to add a few more carbs right before your workout and then really load them up after your workout is finished.

Four Twenties Workout />
1

Barbell Squat

4 sets of 20 reps

Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

2

Dumbbell Walking Lunge

4 sets of 20 reps per leg

Dumbbell Lunges Dumbbell Lunges

3

Leg Extension

4 sets of 20 reps

Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

4

Seated Leg Curl

4 sets of 20 reps

Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl

5

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

4 sets of 20 reps

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

6

Seated Calf Raise

4 sets of 20 reps

Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise

7

Standing Calf Raise

4 sets of 20 reps

Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises

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Eiren Gauley Pyramids and Partials

MuscleTech athlete Eiren Gauley doesn’t mess around when he hits the gym for a lower-body lifting session. From the moment he walks in, he’s getting ready, because he’ll need every bit of strength he can generate simply to make it through this workout.

First, he makes sure to prepare his body by doing a thorough warm-up. “I perform 12 minutes of moderate-intensity biking to get my blood moving and get in the right frame of mind,” he says. “After that, I do a couple minutes of light stretching of my leg muscles before getting into it.”

A photo posted by Eiren Gauley (@eirengauley) on

From there, Gauley moves on to 4 warm-up sets of barbell squats, doing 10-20 reps for each set, and then slowly adding more weight as he goes.

But optimizing the squat for Gauley is more than just a question of reps and loading: It also extends to technique. “I’d recommend that you place 10-pound plates under your heels when squatting, and keep your feet placed together in a narrow squat,” he says of how to get more from this main lift. “I’ll often use a tempo of a three-second negative with a one-second pause at the bottom of each squat, making sure to come up as explosively as possible.”

Gauley’s tips don’t end in the squat rack. This sought-after coach recommends keeping your toes pointed straight when doing the leg extension, and standing on 25-pound plates under the front of the feet when performing straight-leg barbell deadlifts to maximize your stretch on the hamstrings.

Here’s Gauley’s protocol putting his knowledge into action.

Pyramids and Partials Workout />
1

Narrow-Stance Barbell Squat

6 sets of 6-10 reps, increasing the weight each set, 31X0 tempo

Narrow Stance Squats Narrow Stance Squats

2

Hack Squat

5 sets of 8-20 reps, increasing weight and decreasing reps with each set

Hack Squat Hack Squat

3

Leg Press

4 sets of 10-12 reps, feet high and wide

Leg Press Leg Press

4

Leg Extension

3 sets of 10 reps, followed by partials to failure

Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

5

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

2 warm-ups sets, then 4 sets of 6-12 reps

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

6

Lying Leg Curls

6 sets of 6-12 reps, followed by partials to failure

Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

Jesse Hobbs The Leg-Extension Sandwich

NPC bodybuilder Jesse Hobbs starts off his leg day with a few sets of leg extensions before anything else, a classic prefatigue technique that ensures his monster quads don’t keep his hamstrings and glutes from getting an equal stimulus to grow. After that, it’s time to get under the bar.

A photo posted by Jesse Hobbs TeamMuscleTech (@jessehobbsbodybuilding) on

“When I’m trying to build mass in my legs, I always squat as heavy as possible for a few sets of 6-8 reps, not including warm-up sets,” Hobbs says. After that, he hits his lower body from a variety of angles before heading back to where it all started—the leg extension—which he stays on until he can’t manage a single additional rep.

Leg-Extension Sandwich Workout />
1

Leg Extension

2-3 prefatigue sets

Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

2

Squat

4 sets of 8 reps

Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

3

Single-leg Leg Press

4 sets of 12 reps

Leg Press Leg Press

4

Hack Squat

4 sets of 10 reps

Hack Squat Hack Squat

5

Standing Leg Curl

4 sets of 12 reps

Standing Leg Curl Standing Leg Curl

6

Lying Leg Curl

4 sets of 10 reps

Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

7

Stiff-Legged Deadlift

4 sets of 10 reps

Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

8

Leg Extension

to failure

Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

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9 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Fat Loss

Weight loss is never easy, but stalled progress could mean you’re standing in your own way. Find out what to look for, and how to remedy things, with these tips!

Wondering why your weight loss has plateaued? If you’ve been hitting the gym hard and sticking to your diet, but the scale still isn’t budging, you’re likely feeling fed up and defeated. Before you throw in the towel, take a moment to reassess your process. If your efforts to get lean have been met with nothing but frustration and disappointment, there’s a chance you could be self-sabotaging without even knowing it.

Don’t give up just yet! Remedy the situation, and find out where you might have misstepped, with a little help from two of NLA’s super-fit athletes, IFBB figure pro Jessie Hilgenberg and fitness model Lais DeLeon. Together, they’ll share their experience and help you steer clear of some of the most common mistakes they see people make on their weight-loss journey.


1

Going crazy with cardio

There’s no question that getting sufficient cardio is key to looking great and burning fat, but it’s important to be mindful of how you perform cardio in terms of type and duration. Grinding on the treadmill for 30 minutes is going to have limited effectiveness in the long term. Yes, it burns calories during the session, but the aftereffect is quite minimal, and it can get stale fast.

“It’s important to mix it up in the gym and make sure you have a well-rounded fitness regimen,” says Hilgenberg, who often sees women doing too much steady-state cardio, spending hours on the StepMill to no avail. “Being a cardio-machine bunny can jeopardize your muscle gains and burn you out.”

There’s no question that getting sufficient cardio is key to looking great and burning fat, but it’s important to be mindful of how you perform cardio in terms of type and duration.

Instead, Hilgenberg recommends a healthy mix of 1-3 steady-state sessions per week alongside two high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions. Not only is HIIT more efficient, allowing you to get in a heart-racing, sweat-pouring training session in a mere 15 minutes, but it also burns more calories post-workout and lessens the chance of tapping into your hard-earned muscle along with fat.

Just make sure to wind down after your intense cardio sessions by walking and stretching. Hilgenberg suggests you attend a yoga class to help your muscles relax and your body unwind. Remember, recovery is a two-way street. “Taking care of your body will allow it to work hard for you which, in turn, will help keep you motivated,” she says.


2

Not Building a Muscle Base

A focus on weight loss rather than muscle gain could also be the reason your progress has stalled. “The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest,” Hilgenberg says.

But this doesn’t mean you have to skip cardio for weights. “If time constraints have you feeling stuck to choose between cardio and lifting, try combining them both!” Hilgenberg says. “An intense HIIT session that incorporates a lot of muscle power can burn fat and build muscle like you’ve never known before.”

Two of Jessie’s favorite exercises are pushing a weighted sled and sweating it out with the battle ropes. Looking to cut down on time even further? Take notes from this fitness pro. “Try adding your cardio between weight lifting sets,” Hilgenberg says.

Two of Jessie’s favorite exercises are pushing a weighted sled and sweating it out with the battle ropes. Looking to cut down on time even further? Take notes from this fitness pro. “Try adding your cardio between weight lifting sets,” Hilgenberg says. “Jump squats, jumping rope, and plyometric training are prefect for that.”

If you’re going to try this technique, just make sure you swap your rest periods for bodyweight exercises that don’t task the same muscle groups with which you’re lifting. For example, throwing jump squats between sets of heavy squats may fatigue your legs too quickly, so try push-ups or something less lower-body intensive on days you train legs.


3

Failing to Dial in Your Macros

When it comes to your diet, you have to realize it’s about more than just total calories—although that’s definitely the place to start. Once you know your target daily calorie intake, break things down further into percentages—or even rough gram estimations—of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, with a special emphasis on protein.

“Make sure you’re getting enough protein,” Hilgenberg advises. “If you’re not going to calculate it exactly, make sure that, at the very minimum, you’re getting one gram per pound of lean body weight [daily].”

A photo posted by Jessie Hilgenberg (@jesshilgenberg) on

Protein is critical for muscle growth and repair, and it’s especially important for preserving your hard-earned lean mass during a diet. “Getting enough protein will also help you feel full longer, making it easier to stick to your calorie targets,” Hilgenberg adds.

If you don’t know where to start, she recommends using an online calculator to help you as needed.

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4

Fearing Fats

Protein’s not the only macronutrient that can leave you feeling fuller longer. Incorporating the proper types of fat into your diet can play a role in keeping you satiated, as well. “Foods such as meat and dairy have saturated fat that you may only want to eat in moderation, but olive oil and avocados provide healthy unsaturated fats that you want to take in,” Hilgenberg explains.

Jesse also recommends turning to a product such as NLA For Her Omegas if you aren’t getting enough essential fatty acids (EFAs). “While you can get EFAs from some nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, supplementing with an omega-3 product can help you achieve the optimal amount,” Hilgenberg says.

Adults should aim to consume about 2 grams of omega-3 EPA/DHA per day.


5

Eating Too Much Processed Food

In addition to your total calories and macronutrient breakdown, you should also pay attention to food quality. “Try and stay away from processed foods if you want optimal results,” Hilgenberg says.

A photo posted by Jessie Hilgenberg (@jesshilgenberg) on

“Practice shopping just the perimeters of the grocery store instead of going up and down the aisles,” she adds. “That’s where you’ll find the whole foods—think vegetables, meats, whole grains, and more—that your body will thank you for. Remember, filling your cart with healthier items means prepping yourself for quality gains!

Then, when you do have a cheat meal, make sure that it doesn’t replace that day’s healthy eats entirely. “If you eat food high in sugar or simple carbs, make sure to pair it with a food high in fiber,” Hilgenberg says. “You’ll do less damage that way.”


6

Slathering Everything in Sauce

One of the biggest problems pro fitness model Lais DeLeon sees people making is neglecting to track the add-ons they use when preparing their meals. Long story short, condiments count!

A photo posted by @laisdeleon on

“Dressings and sauces are full of hidden sugars and fats, so be sure to check them carefully,” she says. “You may have the best of intentions eating that salad and chicken breast, but if you slather it in a heaping of heavy dressing, it changes the nutritional value of the meal entirely.”

DeLeon recommends that you always ask for the sauces or dressing on the side and pick a lighter or sugar-free version whenever possible. “Try mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, or dry spices for added flavor without the calories,” she says.


7

Undereating

Cutting calories isn’t always equivalent to cutting fat, especially if you cut too drastically from the very beginning. While you need to expend more calories than you consume in order to lose weight, if you go too far, dieting can work against you. You may begin to lose muscle, and your metabolism may eventually adapt to your new low levels of caloric intake.

“Not eating enough can cause the body to store or hold on to more fat,” DeLeon explains. “Plus, the fatigue and bad mood associated with crash dieting will undoubtedly make it much harder to work out and stay positive about your goals and progress.”

A photo posted by @laisdeleon on

The take-home message here is that, when you do alter your caloric intake, do it incrementally and progressively. If you’ve hit a plateau and want to adjust your diet, start by trimming 100-150 calories a day from your calorie total, not 500. And give yourself at least 1-2 weeks at this new daily level for the changes to actualize.

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8

Missing key micronutrients

If you don’t cut smart, a reduced-calorie diet could leave you short on the vitamins and minerals your body needs. “Being in a caloric deficit may mean you aren’t getting enough of the necessary vitamins, minerals, and amino acids needed to keep your body running at an optimal level,” DeLeon says.

In order to make sure you’re fueling your body to optimal levels, she recommends you supplement with an omega-3 product, a multivitamin, and branched chain amino acids.


9

Relying on Sports Drinks

Finally, one last way that you might be sabotaging your progress is through an over-reliance on sports drinks, especially those with lots of sugar in them. Sure, you want that extra edge, but drinking down added sugar and empty calories isn’t the best way to go.

“While some sports drinks provide great benefits during intense training and can improve your athletic performance, they are not necessarily intended for weight loss,” DeLeon says. They’re also not a substitute for whole foods, so don’t think you can power through your day on liquids alone!

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3 Delicious Protein-Rich Treats!

Next time you get the hankering for something sweet, sink your teeth into these macro-friendly protein treats!

A sweet tooth doesn’t have to sabotage your progress. Instead of eating clean all day just to cave when the cravings hit, whip up these protein-rich recipes from Team Grenade! They’ll help you stick to your diet, fuel your muscles, and please your palate.


1

Banana and Cinnamon Protein Milkshake

This winter, give yourself the gift of post-workout gains. When you’re looking for a shake with a little bit of edge, reach for this dessert-like option that’s a favorite of NPC physique competitor Melih F. Cologlu.

Not only is it a great way to make the most of overripe fruit, but the classic combination of sweetness and spice is sure to hit your taste buds with delightful, protein-rich goodness. Channel the flavors of the season—without packing on the pounds—with this muscle-building shake!

Ingredients

Skim milk: 4 oz.


Low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt: 1/2 cup


Hydra 6 (Killa Vanilla): 1 scoop


Banana: 1/3


Ice cubes: 6


Cinnamon: to taste


Directions
  1. Blend all ingredients.
  2. Top with more cinnamon to taste. Drink and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1 shake

Recipe yields: 1 serving
Amount per serving
Calories 168
Fat3.5 g
Carbs18.5 g
Protein15.5 g

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2

Protein Frosting

NPC Physique competitor Preston Noble is a fan of having his protein—frosted! Forget store-bought icing that’s full of fat and added sugar. This recipe for protein icing can be added to any baked good for that extra bit of gains-friendly sweetness.

The topping can even be used to add a little clean to your favorite cheat meal. Hint: Preston’s personal favorite is protein-glazed monkey bread!

Ingredients for frosting

Hydra 6 (Killa Vanilla): 1/4 scoop


Vanilla greek yogurt: 1 tbsp


Almond milk: 1/4-1/2 cup (depending on desired consistency)


Coconut oil: 1 tsp


Cinnamon: 1 tsp


Vanilla extract: to taste (a few drops)


Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients together. Apply directly to baked treat. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1 batch

Recipe yields: 1 serving
Amount per serving
Calories 111
Fat7 g
Carbs4 g
Protein7 g


3

Protein Flower Pastry

Who knew that vegetable you tried to push off your dinner plate as a child could actually form the base of a delicious protein dessert? This pastry combines vitamin-rich cauliflower with protein for a surprisingly yummy combination.

It’s a favorite of physique competitor Vinny Russo and helps satisfy his sweet tooth without breaking his daily calories.

Ingredients

Raw blended cauliflower: 1 tbsp


Hydra 6 (Strawberry Siege): 3/4 scoop


Whole egg: 1


Egg white: 1


Water: 1 tbsp


Directions
  1. Add blended raw cauliflower to a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Mix in protein, egg, egg white, and water. Stir until blended.
  3. Microwave for three minutes.
  4. Top with your favorite Walden Farms syrup or peanut or almond butter.

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1 pastry

Recipe yields: 1 serving
Amount per serving
Calories 119
Fat7.8 g
Carbs14.6 g
Protein29.9 g

Try More Great Recipes From Grenade!

6 Stellar Protein Smoothie Recipes!

Whether you’re looking for a post-workout recovery shake or simply want to top off your meal with a protein-rich treat, each of these recipes offers up a healthy option to fuel your gains!

6 Protein-Rich Morning Meals

Kiss that boring breakfast goodbye! These protein-filled morning meals are sure to make the most important meal of the day even more special.

6 Sweet Nighttime Protein Treats

Make sure your last meal of the day is a tasty, muscle-building one with these sweet recipes.

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Alice Got Back Into Fighting Shape At Age 36!

Alice’s athletic lifestyle was derailed by an injury. Then she committed to becoming a professional fighter in her 30s and found a new reason to get fit!

Growing up, Alice Yauger was a fighter—literally. She was a professional boxer as a young woman, even participating in the first all-women National Golden Gloves tournament in 1999, at the tender age of 21. She went on to become a pro, battling through five tightly contested bouts before she got pregnant and hung up her gloves.

Many athletes struggle to maintain their fitness once they are out of the limelight, but Alice continued to hit the gym regularly. Or at least, she did until she suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in a judo bout. “It was kind of all downhill from there,” Alice remembers.

Unable to fight or train intensely for several years, Alice turned to food for comfort. “I’m an emotional eater, so I would drive down the road, stop at Sonic, and grab a double cheeseburger,” she says. “I just ate a lot.” Her busy schedule, packed with work, travel, and her kids’ activities, made getting back into a healthy lifestyle seem all the more daunting. “I like healthy food, but because of the way my schedule was—with my husband working nights and me off work late and caring for the kids—I needed fast and easy,” she remarks. “We ate a lot of fast food. I didn’t have the time to prep.”

Alice topped 200 pounds before she made the decision to get back into the gym and ultimately, back into the ring. With steadfast support from her family, she was able to do it.

How did you get your start as a boxer?

I started training in muay thai—the Thai version of kickboxing—and taekwondo as a junior in high school in 1995. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough tournaments for me to easily compete in either sport. Boxing was much more common than martial arts in Texas, so I took that up and gave it my all until I got pregnant.

I started training in judo in 2006 because my husband and children were learning. I tore my ACL and meniscus in my second competition, which put me out of training for several years.

However, I always had the idea that I wanted to somehow get in the ring again, whether it be boxing or MMA. When I finally got serious about it, my husband and I just decided that he was going to stay home so I could pursue that. It was kind of tough at first. We paid a few things off and then said, “Let’s do it.”

Before 205 lbs.

After 135 lbs.
Age: 35
Height: 5’5″
Weight: 205 lbs.
Body Fat: 30-35%
Age: 36
Height: 5’5″
Weight: 135 lbs.
Body Fat: 12-14%

My husband manages the kids, my training schedule, and my food. I still work full-time, but he takes care of all of the other stuff so I don’t have to worry about it. Every morning, I leave with a lunch that he’s already prepared for me. It’s kind of sweet.

It was a quick transition. One day he was working, and the next day he was home. Financially, we can’t do the things that dual-income families get to do, like vacations, but we have quality time together, and that’s more important to us than the money.

Your busy schedule was an excuse for you before. How do you fit your training in with work, kids, and other responsibilities?

I wake up at about 5:30 a.m. and hit the treadmill. Then, I get ready and go to work, where I occasionally work out at my desk during lunch, doing push-ups and triceps dips. After I’m done at work, I either go to my MMA gym or cross train at another gym.

Some nights, I coach until about 7 p.m. and train in MMA until around 8. On those nights, the kids are usually at their sports practices. When we get home, we do homework, dinner, showers, and then it’s bedtime.

How did MMA help you get fit?

It’s not a traditional bodybuilding workout, but MMA fighting works all of the muscle groups in the body. For instance, hitting the heavy bag is equivalent to lifting weights. When your back is against the cage and you’re working to get your opponent off you, that’s equivalent to doing weighted squats and bench presses. You do training camps to prepare for fights, and that means sticking to your diet religiously and working out hard. It’s not an easy lifestyle, but it keeps you fit.

By deciding I wanted to fight again and training hard, I went from 200 pounds to weighing in at 135 pounds for my debut.

I reached my goal of becoming a fighter 5-6 months after starting my transformation—and 12 years after my last fight. By deciding I wanted to fight again and training hard, I went from 200 pounds to weighing in at 135 pounds for my debut.

I lost my first fight, but it didn’t feel like losing. Even if I lose every single fight, the fact that I’m able to do this again—at a lighter weight than before I had kids—is such an accomplishment.

Have there been any other milestone goals you’ve hit?

Having abs! Even when I was boxing in my early 20s, I didn’t have a six-pack. To be in my late 30s and have abs is so awesome.

After losing your husband’s income, how did you make healthy eating affordable?

It was very bland. I ate a lot of frozen vegetables, canned tuna, canned chicken, protein shakes, raw nuts, and oatmeal. That’s basically it. Those are the things we could afford.

It sucked, but I got to the point where I just looked at food as my fuel. I was—and am—especially strict during a training camp, which is 6-8 weeks before a fight. When I have to make weight, things really kick in, and I don’t stray from my diet at all.

I’ve learned what foods work for me, and those are the foods I stick with.

Even when I was boxing in my early 20s, I didn’t have a six-pack. To be in my late 30s and have abs is so awesome.

How do you fight cravings on such a bland diet?

I crave the other foods, but it’s not like a nuclear bomb is going to take out all of my favorite restaurants while I’m in training. I know that food will still be there for me if I want it after I fight. My favorite is Vietnamese food, so if I have cravings, I find ways to reward myself by eating things I can have, like spring rolls. You have to live a little. The key is not to overindulge. You have to know where to stop, which just comes with practicing self-control.

A food journal helped keep me on track and accountable during the early part of my transformation. If I went over my calorie intake, I’d feel guilty and work out harder the next day to make sure I burned off those calories.

A big problem for me before was not knowing where to stop. Having goals keeps me on track now. My goal is to win the fight, but my first goal to achieve is to make weight. When cravings hit, I keep the goal in mind.

What was the diet you started on?

Meal 1: Breakfast

Oatmeal: 1 cup


Apple: 1


Protein bar: 1


Boiled eggs: 2


Meal 2: Snack

Tuna: 1 can


Unsalted cashews: 2 oz.


Meal 3: Lunch

Green salad


Canned chicken: 1 can


Protein shake


Meal 4: Snack

Tuna: 1 can


Protein bar: 1


Meal 5: Dinner

Green salad


Lean protein: 4 oz.


Meal 6: Before bed

Unsalted cashews: 2 oz.


Did you use any supplements?

On one income we could only afford protein, a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium.

What does your training schedule look like?

Day 1: MMA class and treadmill />
1

Treadmill (inclined between 5-10%)

30 min.

Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill

Day 2: Cardio />
1

Treadmill intervals

Alternate 5 mph one minute; Then 3.5 mph one minute for 5 minutes straight; Then 2.5 mph one minute. Repeat 5 sets.
Walk on 5-10% incline 20 minutes.
Increase speeds up to 7 mph when able.

Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill

Day 3: MMA class and treadmill />
1

Treadmill (inclined between 5-10%)

30 min.

Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill

Day 4: Cardio />
1

Treadmill intervals

Alternate 5 mph one minute; Then 3.5 mph one minute for 5 minutes straight; Then 2.5 mph one minute. Repeat 5 sets.
Walk on 5-10% incline 20 minutes.
Increase speeds up to 7 mph when able.

Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill

Day 5: MMA class and treadmill />
1

Treadmill (inclined between 5-10%)

30 min.

Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill

Day 6: MMA class and walk />
1

Walking, Treadmill

30-45 min.

Walking, Treadmill Walking, Treadmill

Day 7: Outdoors family activity />

When did you discover Bodybuilding.com?

My husband and I discovered Bodybuilding.com about a year ago. We followed the Facebook page first. It’s so helpful because I get to see other people complete their transformations. I get to see their journeys. Whenever I get really down, when I gain weight or something, friends who aren’t on a fitness journey don’t understand.

When you go to the site, you see other people who are going through the same things. It’s such a huge motivator. Going to the site and seeing other people overcome the same challenges I have really motivates me.

In addition to being motivated by transformations, I loved seeing comments on my photos. You don’t see any negativity in BodySpace like you do on other social media, where people claim that your pictures are manipulated using Photoshop; you just don’t see it.

All I’ve seen are people who are there to promote positivity. Even though I don’t let negative comments get to me, it’s so nice to be part of a like-minded community.

Has your family’s sacrifice been worth it?

It has. My current habits are setting a good example for my kids. Now they know that if they want something, they have to earn it. Seeing me work toward my goals shows them that hard work pays off. Yeah, there have been sacrifices, but in the end, they’ve all been worth it.

What are your plans for the future?

I still have a ton of fight left in me, so I’ll be hitting the gym hard in the coming weeks. I had to take a little time off from my last fight to let my body recover and to live normally for a while. Hopefully, I will have some offers for 2016 fight cards soon.

We Want Your Story!

Have you transformed your body by burning fat or building muscle? We want to tell your story. Send your before and after photos, plus a brief paragraph about your experience, to transformations@bodybuilding.com for a chance to be featured on Bodybuilding.com!


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13 Pro Tips For Staying Fit Through The Holidays!

The holidays often herald overindulgence, but with the right strategy in place, you can enjoy the season and stick to your fitness goals. Follow these 13 tips and tricks!

It’s normal to worry about the impact the holiday season might have on your diet. You’ve been working hard and made progress over the course of the year. With each rep, set, and bite of chicken, you’ve moved one step closer to your goal. But seasonal cheer and yuletide greetings typically bring parties, pastries, and plenty of temptation. Not to mention, longer nights and shorter days make staying in a much cozier option than getting up and braving the cold to train!

This year, don’t let the holiday season sabotage your gains, lead to overindulgence, or sap your training motivation. Check out these tips from super-fit Dymatize athletes who’ve navigated every imaginable holiday pitfall and are here to share some of their best advice for staying on track over the next few weeks! They’ll help you end 2015 with a bang and hit the New Year strong.


1

Always Plan Ahead

When it comes to maintaining your diet and workout plan over Christmas and New Year’s, you simply won’t make it if you don’t plan ahead, says Mike Hildebrandt, a fitness model, NPC competitor, and director of fitness at Axiom in Boise, Idaho. Before you gorge on a breakfast of eggnog-soaked French toast, think smart: Don’t blow everything at breakfast! Instead, rearrange your calories for the day so that you have some evening leeway for a party or big feast, and opt for a whey protein shake rather than a carb-heavy meal to keep hunger at bay beforehand.

A photo posted by Mike Hildebrandt (@trainermike1) on

Hildebrandt recommends thinking about what you’ll be eating at a party or social dinner, and building your nutrition around that. “If you know you’ll be enjoying some calorie-dense foods or beverages, keep your intake light early in the day so that you don’t blow your budget,” he says. “This way, you can socialize and enjoy time with friends and loved ones while sticking to your fitness goals.”


2

Improvise Your Workouts

As holiday obligations arise, sticking to your normal workout routine can start to feel like an impossible mission, but a busy social life is no get-out-of-jail free card. “A hectic schedule doesn’t give you a pass to skip getting your sweat on,” says Hildebrandt. “You want to make your workout happen, whether or not the circumstances are ideal.”

Remember, the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do. Your workout doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re crunched on time or limited by resources, make alterations where you see fit. “Improvise using bodyweight exercises at home if you need to,” Hildebrandt says.

If you were planning to train a particular body part or skill but don’t have much time, you can turn your regular workout into a quick circuit, or switch from standard sets to supersets. Both techniques will help you maximize your time in the gym so you can get in, get out, and enjoy the holidays.


3

Avoid Sitting for Long Periods

The holidays are all about parties and visits with family and friends, but when you’re not tearing up the dance floor, you might often find yourself plopped on the sofa. Sitting around at gatherings with families and friends for an hour here and an hour there—especially when combined with a sedentary 9-5 job—can add up to hours on end with little movement.

A video posted by Mike Hildebrandt (@trainermike1) on

Add in those nights you’d rather cozy up in front of the fireplace than brave the cold, and you could be developing a pattern. “You want to make sure that you keep moving and avoid TV binges for hours at a time,” Hildebrandt says. “Something as simple as monitoring your steps and making sure you get to at least 10,000 a day can go a long way when it comes to staying on track.”

Do your best to keep moving, even if that means being active at home by doing some house cleaning, turning up the music and dancing, or doing a short bodyweight circuit in your living room.


4

Use the Cold to Your Advantage

If you’re courageous enough, venture outside to knock out your cardio in the cold. This is one case where being a snow bunny could benefit you, because you might get an extra calorie bump from cold-weather training.

A photo posted by

Danny Kavadlo’s Rules For Living As Strong As You Look

It takes patience, self-control, and a special kind of mental strength to reach the upper echelon of bodyweight training.

If you’ve read my articles on Bodybuilding.com in the past, you know I don’t choose to exercise with bodyweight because it’s easier than doing it with weights. On the contrary, if you do it right, it’s every bit as difficult as getting under a loaded barbell In fact, training with only your body is a little like living a good life or being a good person. Everybody could do it in theory, but they don’t.

These are 10 of the laws that I’ve learned in the gym but can put to use any day of the week, all straight from my new book, “Strength Rules.” Live by them and you can’t go wrong!


1

Don’t show me your moves until I see your reps.

I still do push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and dips almost every time I train. For real. It’s important to have control of the basics. Trust me, I did pull-ups for nearly 20 years before I ever even saw a muscle-up. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with showmanship. In fact, it’s a great way to train in its own right. But when strength matters, you must put in the time.

I still do push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and dips almost every time I train.

2

Don’t prioritize theory over experience.

Frank Zappa said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” This philosophy has many applications. There comes a point where all the talking in the world means nothing. Many academics, fitness writers, college kids and professors love to perpetuate knowledge when they lack experience. They’ll write a whole dissertation about something they know nothing about and never took part in.

Talk is cheap. You gotta practice what you preach!


3

Don’t waste time.

Not in your life, not with your loved ones, not day-to-day, and certainly not in the gym. Circuit training (completing a series of exercises with little to no rest in between), supersetting (alternating between two exercises, push/pull for example), active recovery (stretching or training another body part during your rest period) and performing full-body, compound movements (windshield wipers versus crunches) are excellent ways of getting more done in less time.

Strange as it sounds, getting out of the gym altogether is also probably a good idea.

Strange as it sounds, getting out of the gym altogether is also probably a good idea. In fact, many modern “big box” gyms were built specifically to cater to time wasters. Just look at all the merchandise for sale, TV screens, dining areas, and other distractions. You’re probably better off at the park!

If you have the space, build a backyard pull-up bar. You’ll get much more bang for your buck!


4

Don’t mislead people.

Say what you mean, not what you think others want to hear. If you get invited to an event and you know you won’t attend, then don’t say you will. Don’t even say you might. If you get off the phone with someone, don’t say, “I’ll call you right back” unless you’re planning on doing so. Don’t say you’ll show up somewhere at a certain time and then show up at a different time.

Always tell the truth. It’s amazing how many people provide lip service with no follow through.

Always tell the truth. It’s amazing how many people provide lip service with no follow through. Personal trainers do it all the time.

If you’re a trainer, don’t promise unrealistic results. So many fitness professionals are afraid to be honest, but the truth is, if you make unrealistic guarantees, you set up both yourself and your client for failure.


5

Don’t eat so much sugar.

Most of us could stand to reduce the amount of sugar we eat day to day. So do it! Don’t add sugar to your coffee, tea or oatmeal. Avoid sodas, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages.

Don’t add sugar to your coffee, tea or oatmeal. Avoid sodas, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages.

Americans consume an alarmingly large quantity of sugar every day. It can’t hurt to cut back. Remember, honey, agave, nectar, brown rice syrup, and cane sugar are all pure sugar, even if they are marketed as healthy alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup. It’s the same shit.


6

Don’t judge others.

No one ever said it better than Wayne Dyer: “When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.” Words to live by.


7

Don’t judge their workouts either.

I was guilty of this as a young trainer. I criticized everyone’s workout. “Why are they doing that exercise? That’s stupid!” But it was really just my own insecurities. I didn’t know the story behind the workout or the reasons for the choices they made. And it was none of my business anyway.

There are many effective modalities in which to train. You gotta do what you love.


8

Don’t believe the hype.

Keep your expectations guarded. The marketer’s job is to reel you in so I encourage you not to take the bait. I’m not just talking to about fitness fads, gym memberships, and supplements, either. I’m talking about talking heads in the media, salesmen, politicians, and gurus.

Trust your own intuition and common sense over the propaganda of others. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Yes, there are many extraordinary experiences to be had, and life is beautiful. I encourage you to have it all. But trust your own intuition and common sense over the propaganda of others. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


9

Don’t pay any mind to those who talk behind your back.

When you argue with a hater, there will be two fools in the room instead of one. Always take the high road.


10

Don’t take “no” for an answer.

There are occasions in life when failure is simply not an option. These are the times when we can’t back down. Naturally, not every experience falls into this category, and not everything will go as you intended it to 100 percent of the time. Far from it.

Still, we must recognize that there are those moments in life—and training—where the only answer is, “Yes, I’m doing this!” Then actually do it!

Still, we must recognize that there are those moments in life—and training—where the only answer is, “Yes, I’m doing this!” Then actually do it!

From Danny Kavadlo’s book, “Strength Rules: How to Get Stronger Than Almost Anyone—And the Proven Plan to Make It Real”


Q

In your new book, “Strength Rules” you talk about your seven-year quest to perform a dead-hang one-arm pull-up. You say you may not ever do it again. Why?

The one-arm pull-up is arguably the most difficult exercise in the calisthenics kingdom. To say 100,000 people will ever perform a one-arm pull-up in their lifetime is probably a stretch. Around 10 years ago, when I first saw a one-arm pull-up performed in person, I decided to make it my mission. I could already perform 20 standard pull-ups at the time, and I thought it would come easy. It did not.

One of my goals in writing “Strength Rules” was to lay out the truth clearly and succinctly. A lot of people these days watch YouTube and think that everyone in the world is doing one-arm pull-ups, muscle-ups, and back levers. They’re not.

The one-arm pull-up is arguably the most difficult exercise in the calisthenics kingdom. To say 100,000 people will ever perform a one-arm pull-up in their lifetime is probably a stretch.

These are very advanced moves. While I’m glad to be part of the club, the amount of time, obsession, and injury in training for the one-arm pull-up is greater than is often portrayed. When I wrote that passage, I sought to demystify it and be 100 percent transparent with my readers.

So here’s the deal: I started training for the one-arm pull-up in 2006. I did my first one in 2013. I did my second one in 2014. Yup, that’s enough for me. The training stopped being fun for me, and it wasn’t worth it. The fun element is part of what I love about calisthenics! I am not an athlete or a competitor by any means. I’m a guy in decent shape who likes to train. I often joke that if people knew how long it took me to achieve some of these moves, they’d be a lot less impressed by me!

You and your brother Al suggest a wide number of rep ranges. You recommend sets of 20 and even 30 before moving on to more difficult variations. What’s the power of the high-rep set?

It’s not that we don’t agree with the traditional rep ranges. It is simply that those rep ranges assume that every exercise is created equally. When training with external resistance like barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, the load can easily be adjusted by adding or subtracting poundage. This is simply not the case with bodyweight moves, where the difficulty of an exercise is altered by making changes to the exercise itself, usually by changing the leverage, points of contact, or weight-to-limb ratio. For example, how do you progress a bodyweight squat? (Granting that if we add a barbell, then it is no longer a bodyweight squat.)

So in “Strength Rules,” I compiled numerous advanced variations such as the side-to-side squat, Bulgarian split squat, pistol squat, and more. Clearly, the rep ranges will be different for each of these. Yes, I recommend 40 reps as a baseline for standard bodyweight squats, as 1-5 will not really increase your strength and 8-12 will not build muscle unless the practitioner is a deconditioned beginner. However, I suggest 5-8 reps of the shrimp squat because it is more advanced. By the same token, I recommend performing 30 standard two-arm push-ups, but only 2-6 one-arm push-ups, as the one-arm variation is more of a strength move.

Your photos show you hanging off of any number of random urban objects. But when you train, do you prefer to do it in a dedicated strength space, or do you really get around?

One of my favorite aspects of calisthenics is the street-workout component. Like I wrote in my article, “7 Signs You’re A Calisthenics Fanatic,” we see pull-up bars everywhere! It’s always fun to perform a human flag off of a random object or do a handstand on a statue. This adds a playful, improvisational element to training and life.

But when I’m officially training, I usually do it in my backyard home gym or at Tompkins Square Park. Something that I discuss in “Strength Rules” is the concept of making designated time for your workouts, which is hard to do in the middle of the street!

It’s easy to imagine calisthenics experts like you doing high-level, high-tension work every day. What do your light days look like?

I also have weeks where I do a split routine: upper body work like push-ups, pull-ups, and dip variations one day; lower body work like two-legged and single-legged squats another day; and skills like back bridges and hand balancing on a third day.

I often train intensely two days a week, working aggressively on advanced pull-ups, bar levers, pistol squats, and one-arm push-ups. On such a week, I will undoubtedly train lighter on the remaining days. There is an inverse relationship between frequency and intensity of which you can train. You can’t go balls-out every time. A light day may be one where I focus on flexibility and skill development rather than raw strength.

I also have weeks where I do a split routine: upper body work like push-ups, pull-ups, and dip variations one day; lower body work like two-legged and single-legged squats another day; and skills like back bridges and hand balancing on a third day. My template changes week to week, and my workouts are not set in stone.

As a bodyweight aficionado and personal trainer, you could spread your training across the day if you wanted to. When building strength is the goal, do you recommend this approach or the “save it for the workout” approach—or somewhere in between?

They are both viable means and are not mutually exclusive. We live in a very dogmatic society where we are often forced to choose what is “right” and what is “wrong”. But in reality, it isn’t so black and white.

If I have a particularly extensive workout one day, it’s unlikely that I will add additional training throughout the remainder of the day. I need time to recover!

On the other hand, if I have difficulty managing my time, or my day did not go as planned, then I will spread out my training throughout the day. Perhaps I’ll knock out 20 dips or 10 pull-ups, or maybe even do a quick front lever here and there. They are both different means to the same end.

Let’s face it; we all have the time to get it in. We just have to make it.

You’ve traveled the world in recent years teaching bodyweight strength. From where you stand, why are the fundamentals having such a resurgence?

People are tired of being lied to. So many so-called “experts” in the fitness biz want to blow your mind you with their “new” innovation or “secret” technique. But the truth is that the same time-tested methods have been around forever because they work!

Humankind, as a species, has the tendency to confuse “complicated” with “effective,” but they’re not usually the same thing. Keep it honest. Keep it simple. Keep it real!

Keep the dream alive!


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Huge On A Hundred: Roman Fritz’s German Precision Growth Plan

Training is an art, but eating for growth is a science. And it’s one that IFBB pro Roman “Rex” Fritz has dialed in down to the gram. Here’s his masterwork, for the price of $ 100 a week!

When we at Animal tasked IFBB pro Roman “Rex” Fritz with concocting a bodybuilding meal plan for $ 50 a week, he unleashed the whole milk-guzzling ode to the calorie that helped him make the most of his teen years.

When the challenge got upgraded to “Huge on a Hundred,” he got more scientific. This world-class competitor used his trademark German precision to craft a menu built around the classics, but with room for some color and variety, too.

Huge On A Hundred With Roman Fritz
Watch the video – 22:55

The one thing this new plan shared with his $ 50 plan? If you don’t get huge on it, that’s entirely on you and your training.

This is how the pros grow. Get out your rice cooker and open wide.

Pro-Level Protein

Put a Benjamin in some lifters’ hands, and they’ll have visions of eating like a king. Somewhere after the bacon-wrapped filet, between the cheese course and the after-dinner brandy, they’ll run out of money without having done anything to help add quality mass.

Don’t eat like a king; eat like a pro. Use your extra dough to add a little diversity—and some extra protein and nutrients—on top of what you know works for your goals. In Fritz’s case, he upgraded his six-whole-egg breakfast from “Big on a Budget” to a five-whole-egg omelet with an extra 8 ounces of egg whites poured in. That may not sound like much, but it provides a net gain of 19 grams of protein. German precision indeed.

Fritz rounded off his daily protein intake with two meals of his standby boiled chicken breasts—and you can keep your sauces, thank you very much. “I keep my chicken bland,” he says. “I’m not going to tell you to put some crazy shit on it if I don’t do it, because this is my ‘Huge on a Hundred,’ and we’re going to do it the way I do it.” A little black pepper, chili powder, and some raw ginger on the side, and he’s good to go.

Don’t eat like a king; eat like a pro. Use your extra dough to add a little diversity—and some extra protein and nutrients—on top of what you know works for your goals.

The final protein source: a can a day—the big 9-ounce one, not the puny one—of albacore tuna. That’s over 260 grams of protein per day all told, not including two protein shakes of 50 grams apiece. Seriously, growth is inevitable. Just chew and swallow.

Fritz’s Personal Meal Prep Tips

  • Use kitchen shears instead of a knife when possible. It’s faster, safer, and easier.
  • Know your textural tastes. Fritz likes his oats dry, but his rice soggy. And you?
  • Your shaker bottle doubles as an egg scrambler. Ingenious!
  • The water you use to boil chicken is perfectly safe to use for veggies, too.
  • The more colorful a pepper, the more nutrients it contains. So, choose red over green.

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Don’t Fear the Carb

While the rest of the fitness world continues its on-again, off-again dalliance with low-carb eating, elite bodybuilders always have and always will eat carbs without apology. And when they want to add size, they eat more of them.

Case in point: When Fritz looked at a bag of rice on the shelf in the Thriftway, he didn’t see two weeks’ worth of half-cup servings; he doubled his grains to double his gains. “You could go higher carb and have the whole frickin’ bag in a week and go with a whole cup dry for three meals a day,” he says. “You wanna gain, yeah? You wanna get huge, right?”

At this point, someone inevitably chimes in, “But what about brown rice? Isn’t that healthier?” as if simply asking the question will get them an award. So let’s see… Double the cooking time, triple the chewing, and more need for flavoring, all to get a negligible amount of extra protein and fiber? Not for this pro.

Just watch and learn, little man. Get your fiber from vegetables and your protein from eggs and animals. Then get your carbs from white rice. It’s that simple.

Veggies? Yes, Veggies

We’ve had a few Animal shopping challenges wrap up without a single fruit or vegetable within earshot of the cart. That’s not how Fritz grows. He tends his garden along the way.

“Get your fiber, your greens, and a lot of colorful stuff in your food,” [Fritz] commands.

Yes, of course he takes his Animal Pak every morning along with his oats and eggs, but he also adheres to the unarguable philosophy of “the more vitamins you get, the better.” This is why each of his three daily epic rice-and-chicken meals comes with a heaping helping of asparagus and red peppers, all boiled in the same water he used to boil his chicken breasts. “Get your fiber, your greens, and a lot of colorful stuff in your food,” he commands.

As if that weren’t enough, he also found room in his budget for the proverbial apple a day—in other words, more fiber, more color, and more nutrients. There’s room for it in yours, too, if you look hard enough.

The Well-Rounded Weight Gainer

Four solid food meals and a post-workout shake is enough to help anyone grow. But pros aren’t just anyone, which is why Fritz saved room for one last caloric bounty, to help him build the perfect gainer shake.

In “Big on a Budget,” he wrapped up his day with 2 scoops of Universal Casein Pro with half a cup of oats added in. This time, he upgraded the same shake with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, to add calories and get plenty of healthy fats. And this peanut butter doesn’t come from one of those “use it up over the course of a month or so” jars, either. He divides the entire jar out day by day, like every other item on his list, to use it all up in seven days.

The result, he promises, is “a good well-rounded weight-gainer shake. Because that’s what we want to do here. We want to get huge.”

Breakfast />

Whole eggs: 5


Egg whites: 8 oz.


Oatmeal: 1 cup


Pre-workout meal />

Rice: 1 cup (dry weight)


Chicken breast, boiled: 8 oz.


Asparagus, chopped and boiled: 100 g


Red and yellow peppers, chopped and boiled: 6-7 oz.


Post-workout />

Animal Whey: 2 scoops


Snack />

Apple: 1


Post-workout meal />

Albacore tuna: 9 oz. can


Rice: 1 cup (dry weight)


Dinner />

Rice: 1 cup (dry weight)


Chicken breast, boiled: 8 oz.


Asparagus, chopped and boiled: 100 g


Red and yellow peppers, chopped and boiled: 6-7 oz.


Before bed />

Universal Casein Pro: 50 g


Oatmeal: 1/2 cup


Peanut butter: 2 tbsp


Daily Total

Amount per serving
Calories 4,655
Fat74 g
Carbs610 g
Protein378 g

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Is Peanut Butter Healthy?

Before you make your next sandwich, get the facts about the nutritional profile of this popular nut butter!

Peanut butter has a special place in my heart, and I’m confident I’m not the only one. Although perhaps known best for pairing beautifully with your favorite fruit jelly and two slices of bread, or being surrounded by melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, these are definitely not the only ways to use it. It’s right at home with sharp cheese, tart apple, or in a spicy sauce on chicken skewers. The crazy among us—i.e., me—have been known to use it as a condiment on a hamburger.

But peanut butter’s benefits don’t end with its pallet-pleasing power. It’s actually a healthy fat. That’s right, I said healthy.

Despite the stick-to-your-mouth goodness, too many people leave peanut butter sticking to the grocery-store shelves for fear that it will make them fat. But that’s not the whole story. Spoon yourself out of this creamy conundrum and get the scoop on this much-loved, but often misunderstood, spread.

Peanut butter’s benefits don’t end with its pallet-pleasing power. It’s actually a healthy fat.

The Unshelled Truth

The major reason peanut butter seems to be placed on dieters’ “naughty” list is because of its high calorie content. A mere two tablespoons contains 200 calories, which, depending on your daily intake, could make up as much as 10 percent of your daily calorie allotment. A few heaping spoonfuls throughout the day, and you may quickly find yourself at half of your daily calorie allotment. Well, nuts (or legumes, as it were).

Sure, peanut butter is high in calories, but that’s no reason to completely dismiss it from your diet. At the end of the day, your weight is dictated by calories in versus calories out. Whether you’ve allotted yourself 1,800, 2,400, or 3,000 calories per day, peanut butter can absolutely fit. Its high fat content might even help you feel more satiated with fewer calories. As with all things in life, moderation is key.

Here’s what not to do: boost your peanut butter intake through the roof, thinking it’s a protein source. At about 8 grams of protein per two-tablespoon serving, PB is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a better fat than a protein. Eat it for what it is.

Saturated Fat

Beyond the caloric load it brings, peanut butter’s saturated-fat content is a concern for some people. Saturated fat was once deemed the demon of heart disease and was portrayed as evil by the fat-loss community. For decades, this caused a huge hit to peanut butter’s social following, particularly the whole-fat variety. But that doesn’t mean the fear was justified. And as is often the case, the low-fat “improvement” is worse than the original.

The truth is that saturated fat is not the root of all evil. In fact, it’s actually beneficial to the production of crucial hormones and vitamins such as testosterone and vitamin D.1,2

Peanut butter also contains an abundance of “good” fats, or, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. One serving has 8 grams of monounsaturated fats and 4 grams of polyunsaturated fats. These “good” fats help lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease, and lower blood pressure.3 They’re also anti-inflammatory, which may help with recovery and reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome.4

Peanut Butter Shopping Guide

In a perfect world, the only ingredient in peanut butter would be peanuts. After all, peanut butter is just mashed up peanuts, right? Of course, that’s not how it plays out, and not all nut spreads are created equally.

When it comes to peanut butter, don’t let the “low-fat” claim on the label lure you. Most low-fat versions make up for the cut by adding in sugar and partially hydrogenated oils—or trans fats—which are detrimental to your health. Many of us grew up on these overly sweet variations, so you may have to retrain your palate, but it’s worth it. Reap the benefits of a full-fat, full-flavor nut butter!

Likewise, you may find that one of the new flavored peanut butters catches your attention, such as cinnamon raisin, white chocolate, or banana. Keep in mind that this added flavor almost always comes at the expense of added sugar and carbohydrates, as well as other shelf-stabilizing agent.

Keep in mind that this added flavor almost always comes at the expense of added sugar and carbohydrates.

Are these delicious? Of course! But they’re also a treat on par with a candy bar. Use them sparingly, and fill your sandwiches with the original whenever possible.

The Competition Almond Butter

Over the past few years, almond butter has often inched ahead of the generic peanut in terms of perceived health benefits. Some people argue that a miniscule percentage difference in key nutrients such as vitamin E and iron makes the scales fall in almond butter’s favor. Almonds offer 25 milligrams of vitamin E, while peanuts offer 10 milligrams per serving, which is still 50 percent of the recommended intake.

Almond butter has often inched ahead of the generic peanut in terms of perceived health benefits.

But what about the greater amount of selenium or vitamin B-3 in peanut butter? Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin B-3—more commonly known as niacin—plays a major role in energy production and fat metabolism in the body.

The truth is, both butters are interchangeably great and offer different healthy fats and essential nutrients. Up-and-comers like cashew butter also have a lot going for them. Try them all; each nut butter is great. But it’s also OK if, like me, peanut butter will always have your heart.

References
  1. Hamalainen, E., Adlercreutz, H., Puska, P. & Pietinen, P. (1984). Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 20(1), 459-464.
  2. McLarnon, A. (2011). Nutrition: Dietary fat might influence serum vitamin D level. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 7(10), 562-562. 562.
  3. Kris-Etherton, P. M. (1999). Monounsaturated fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 100(11), 1253-1258.
  4. Zhao, G., Etherton, T.D., Martin, K.R., Vanden Heuvel, J.P., Gillies, P.J., West, S.G. & Kris-Etherton, P.M. (2005). Anti-inflammatory effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids in THP-1 cells. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 336(3), 909-917.


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