The Magic Formula: Is there really a secret to fitness success?
The question in the title can be taken in many different directions. I know there are people reading this right now that are looking for me to explain a short cut or an easy way for them to achieve success. Sorry, that’s not what I mean. Other people are more realistic and think there is no magic formula and it takes years of hard work to actually achieve substantial fitness goals. Unfortunately the second group is also wrong, however hard work is very important. What I am about to explain is what I refer to as “The Magic Formula”. The Magic Formula contains three pillars of fitness. Once you have each one of the pillars mastered you hold the keys to achieving your goals.
The Magic Formula
Pillar 1- Nutrition
Pillar 2- Recovery
Pillar 3- Training
This is a fool proof plan. If you have all three pillars in “The Magic Formula” mastered I can personally guarantee success will be much easier. The hard part is mastering the formula and applying it properly. Remember everyone’s body does not react the same way, therefore there are a bunch of different nutrition, recovery and training techniques to get the job done, your job is to figure out what works best for you.
Muscle Building Tips Part 1: Nutrition
Ok here is something to consider. You’re in the gym for only an hour or so each day, the rest of the day your body depends on nutrition and rest to make progress. The problem is proper nutrition and rest often gets neglected. That’s why I am covering nutrition and rest as the first two parts of my muscle building tips. If you are in the gym struggling to build muscle read on because this is part one of a miniseries on how to get big! Part two is going to be on recovery principles and part three is going to be on training. Enjoy and grow!
Tip # 1 – Eat enough calories
To build muscle it is very important to eat enough calories. It comes down to basic math, calories in versus calories out. If you are trying to build muscle it is important to consume more calories than you burn. It is basically impossible to build new muscle if your body is in a negative calorie state. To make sure you are consuming enough calories determine your Lean Body Mass (body weight lbs – body fat lbs) and multiply by 15-25 calories depending on your metabolism/body type.
Tip # 2 – Frequent Eating
Aim to eat every 2.5-3 hours. This will supply your muscle with a constant supply of nutrients they need to grow. Feeling hungry is a sign your body is going into a catabolic state. Also when your starving you are more likely to eat whatever is in the cupboards regardless if it’s on your diet or not. Remember we are trying to gain muscle not fat!
Tip # 3 – Eat before bed
Before going to bed you want to consume some slow digesting protein along with healthy fat. This is to make sure there is a slow stream of amino acids through the overnight to hold off catabolism. Casein protein is a good option at this time because casein is a slow acting protein found in milk. Milk protein is made up of 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey. Casein coagulates in the stomach causing a slow release of amino acids for an extended period of time. You can buy a casein powder or just have cottage cheese. The protein that makes up cottage cheese is mostly from casein because the whey was drained off in the processing. The addition of fat slows down digestion even more. Add some peanut butter or almonds to your before bed snack to build muscle all night long!
Tip # 4 – Do not be afraid of carbs!
It takes more to build muscle than protein. To build mass you must consume enough carbohydrates to energize and fuel your workouts. Shoot for clean low G.I sources such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and brown rice. Consume the bulk of your carbohydrates post workout and at breakfast because that is when your body needs them most.
Tip # 5 – The nutritional F-word
Fat is necessary for building mass. By now most people know that fat is not as bad for you as once thought. But what if I was to say even saturated fat is needed in a mass gaining diet? Well it is true; saturated fat has a place in a muscle building diet. For one saturated fat helps with testosterone production and it also helps protect the joints from the damages of heavy lifting. The only type of fat to avoid is Trans fat. Read the label! Even if it says “trans fat free” if there is “partially hydrogenated oil” trans fat is there. Of course the unsaturated “healthy” fats are needed as well. Make sure to get in monounsaturated fat from almonds, avocados, olive oil and your polyunsaturated fat form flaxseeds, walnuts and fatty fish. Consume anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of your daily calories from fat.
Tip # 6 – Water yourself
I have said this before but I will say it again, your body needs a lot of water to function properly. When you give your body lots of water everything runs smoothly. Water also helps with digestion so drink up!
Tip # 7 – Last but not least! Post workout meal
Ok this topic has generated a lot of discussion over the last decade and I feel there are a lot of myths that need to be mentioned. First off I believe carbs are necessary for proper recovery post workout. Following an intense workout your glycogen levels are low and your muscles are depleted. This is the perfect time for carbohydrate and protein intake. Secondly you want to consume a carbohydrate source that creates a high glycimic load. Notice I did not say anything about glycimic index. I feel too much consideration is given to the glycimic index but not enough to the glycimic load. For bodybuilders glycimic load is more important, it takes into consideration an entire meal rather than a single food. Another important point is the carbohydrate source does not need to be the fastest digested source possible. I would rather take in a source of carbohydrate that offers some nutritional density to it rather than just some dextrose that has no nutritional value what so ever. Another controversial topic is timing of this meal. Some would say immediately post workout, as soon as you put down the last weight start in with your post workout meal. Research shows that the “special window” is actually longer than originally thought. Therefore don’t stress about racing to get your post workout meal in. Actually waiting a little bit might be optimal, this gives your digestive system time to recoup some blood from the working muscle to use for digestion. Lastly I wanted to talk about how to structure your post workout meal to give you the best results. To start off I like to have a fast acting protein source like whey. Whey is perfect for post workout, fast acting, loaded with BCAAs and ect. Secondly I like to add a relatively fast acting carb to my whey shake. My carb of choice is a russet potato. I like russet potatoes post workout because they are loaded with potassium and my body fills up quite well on them. I also use oats with my whey shake post workout. I normally have a complete whole food meal 2 -2.5 hrs after my post workout meal.
Up next Tips on proper recovery for muscle building!
Live it! “one dream. one reality”
Measure out all of your food before eating it. I know this probably sounds crazy to some but it will definitely help you reach your goals. It’s very easy to over or under estimate serving sizes. I weigh all my food in grams, because I have found that to be the easiest and most accurate way to measure but you can use ounces or even just cups, tbs, and tsp. I even weigh my protein powder! Until recently I always just went by the scoop that came with the powder but then I got curious and actually weighed a scoop. I’m not going to name names but a very reputable protein powder made me rethink using the scoop for measurement. Post workout I am looking for around 40 grams of protein. This supplement contains about 20 grams of protein per scoop so I always use 2 scoops. On the nutrition facts it says a serving is 32 grams but when the scoop is weighed out it only weighed 24 grams. So in actuality I was getting 48 gram weight of protein powder when I needed 64 gram weight! So even I was fooled! Try weighing your food for a couple of weeks and see the difference it makes.
I thought it would be appropriate to write an article on fat loss as the weather begins to get nicer. After all who wouldn’t want to lose some extra fat they are carrying around? See if you can incorporate as many as these tips as possible in the upcoming months and watch the fat disappear.
Tip # 1- Frequent Eating – People sometimes act surprised when I tell them to actually eat more times a day when they are looking to lose weight, but it’s true. Now I am not recommending you visit the Old Country Buffet every hour but our bodies are programmed to burn fat and build muscle best when we consume 5-7 smaller more frequent meals. This keeps our metabolism running at full velocity and also keeps our body in a positive nitrogen balance which holds of catabolism (muscle wasting). However this doesn’t mean you need to be sitting at the table eating whole food at each meal. I recommend investing in a high quality meal replacement powder to have between whole food meals. A simple protein powder will work great.
Tip # 2 – Drink More Water – Water can be considered the most important nutrient to consume. But the fact is most people do not consume enough. Our bodies are 70 percent water and need proper hydration to function properly. I am going to leave out the dehydration factor and save that for another time but just remember if you’re thirsty you need water! The main point I am trying to make here is the metabolism requires water to function properly, when water intake is too low the metabolism slows down. Bottom line: drink more water throughout the day and keep your metabolism functioning properly. P.S that’s why I have water with me at all times!
Tip # 3 – Consume lean protein with each “Meal” – Consuming lean protein in each feeding is important for a number of reasons. First, protein is the most thermogenic of all of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) meaning it is harder for the body to process. Secondly, as I said earlier having a protein source at each meal will keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance which helps maintain muscle. Remember the key is to lose fat not muscle. Muscle takes more calories to maintain meaning it burns more calories so we want to keep what we already have and build upon it. Lastly and most importantly for fat loss, consuming protein along with carbohydrates keeps insulin levels from rising. Insulin is a signal to store fat so it is important to keep it stable. That is why I do not recommend consuming sugar because it spikes insulin which leads to fat storage. Have some chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites, cottage cheese, fish, protein powder or lean red meat at each “meal”.
Tip # 4 – Do not cut calories too fast – This tip goes back to the metabolism (reoccurring theme). When you rapidly cut calories the metabolism in turn slows down because it perceives a time of starvation. This is also a good way to lose muscle. You should not be starving while trying to get leaner. Remember you are not dieting you are making lifestyle changes to lose fat. The better approach would be to start out slowly and when progress stops then adjust you calories to maintain losing fat.
Tip # 5 – Emphasize complex carbohydrates – When selecting carbohydrates make sure you are selecting the right ones. What I mean by this is selecting slow burning complex carbs that do not spike insulin levels. Good examples of these are oatmeal (plain oats not the flavored kind), sweet potatoes, brown rice and vegetables. Bad carbohydrate selections are of the white variety, white rice, white bread, white pasta, and of course sugar.
Bonus Controversial Tip # 6 – Cut out fruit juice – Ok this is the one that causes some controversy. People always ask me “I thought fruit juice is healthy?” and I replay it is as long as you get the 100% juice variety but even then I don’t recommend it on a fat loss diet. The reason for this is simple; there is a difference between healthy eating and eating for fat loss. While fruit juice might be “healthy” for your body with loads of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants there just is not room for it on a fat loss plan. A fat loss plan is going to have a set amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat. The question I normally ask is “would you rather have that 8oz of juice or that large bowl of oatmeal with your eggs at breakfast? “ each item is around 40g of carbohydrate but the oatmeal is a much more complex, slower acting and won’t cause an insulin spike leading to fat storage.
I challenge you to use some of these tips in the next few weeks and let me know how they work for you!