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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Some People Can Drink Alcohol Without Getting Fat


Alcohol has been implicated as a factor that may hurt your efforts to lose body fat. Whether alcohol is "fattening" has been a very controversial subject because technically speaking, alcohol is NOT stored as fat; it is oxidized ahead of other fuels.

Whether moderate drinking is healthy has also been a subject of controversy. Many studies show that cardiovascular health benefits are associated with moderate beer or wine drinking (which has been of particular interest lately with reservatrol in the news so much), while other studies show improved insulin sensitivity. Some experts however, say that alcohol has no place in a fitness lifestyle.

A recent study published in the journal Obesity adds new findings to our knowledge about alcohol, insulin resistance and abdominal obesity. Analysis of the results as compared to other studies also gives us some insights into why some people seem to drink and get fat while others seem to drink and get thin!

The truth about the beer belly phenomenon

This new study, by Ulf Riserus and Erik Inglesson, was based on the Swedish Uppsala Longitudinal cohort. The researchers found that alcohol intake in older men did not improve insulin sensitivity, which contradicted their own hypothesis and numerous previous studies.

They also said there was a very "robust" association between alcohol intake, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio. They pointed out that a high alcohol intake, especially hard liquor, was closely associated with abdominal body fat, not just overall body mass.

Abdominal fat accumulation is not just a cosmetic problem, it can be a serious health risk. Abdominal fat, also known as "android" or "central" obesity, increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, glucose intolerance and elevated insulin levels.

Many other studies have also found a link between alcohol intake and abdominal fat, but this too has been controversial. A study that was widely publicized by the BBC in 2003 dismissed the concept of the "beer belly."

Nevertheless, it looks like there's some scientific support to it after all (or at least a "liquor belly" according to this newer study).

Hormones may be strongly involved because high alcohol intake has been shown to decrease blood testosterone in men, and also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to visceral fat accumulation.

Why is there so much controversy? Why the discrepancy in research findings about alcohol's influence on obesity, abdominal fat, and insulin sensitivity?

Well, here's the real story of why some people don't get fat when they drink:

A lot of the confusion is because epidemiological research cannot show cause and effect relationships and mistakes can easily be made when drawing associations based on limited data.

With the nature of these longitudinal studies, you have to look at the lifestyle and nature of drinkers in general (or in this study, hard liquor drinkers). Also, the Swedish study focused on older men, so age may have been a factor. You may be more likely to deposit alcohol right on your belly as you get older.

When you hear that alcohol increases belly fat, you also have to look at what else is going on in the life of the drinker, particularly what the rest of a person's diet looks like, and how alcohol intake affects appetite and eating habits.

Research says that alcohol can mess up your body's perception of hunger, satiety and fullness. If drinking stimulates additional eating, or adds additional calories that aren't compensated for and which lead to positive energy balance, then you get fat. You may also get fat in the belly, no thanks to what booze does to hormones.

Another thing that confounds the reports on whether alcohol contributes to weight gain is the fact that the game changes in heavy drinkers. We know that alcohol contains 7.1 calories per gram and these calories always count as part of the energy balance equation… or do they? With chronic excessive alcohol consumption, it's possible that not all of these calories are available for energy. Due to changes in liver function and something called the microsomal ethanol oxidizing system (MEOS), alcoholism may be a real case of where some calories don't count. Many alcoholics also skip meals and eat less with increasing alcohol consumption.

 

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Alcohol metabolizing pathways notwithstanding, even if binge drinkers, daily drinkers or heavy drinkers consume most of their calories from alcohol, if they eat very little, and remain in a calorie deficit, they will not get fat. Compound this with the hormonal effects and you witness the skinny, but under-nourished, unhealthy and atrophied alcoholic (the person you'd think would be most likely to have a beer belly).

It's the calories that count

The bottom line is, the idea that alcohol just automatically turns into fat or gives you a beer belly is mistaken. It's true that alcohol suppresses fat oxidation, but mainly, alcohol adds calories into your diet, messes with your hormones and can stimulate appetite, leading to even more calories consumed. That's where the fat gain comes from.

If you drink in moderation, if you're aware of the calories in the alcohol, if you're aware of the calories from additional food intake consumed during or after drinking, and if you compensate for all of the above accordingly, you won't get fat.

Now, with that said, you might be wondering: "You mean I can drink and still lose fat? I just need to keep in a calorie deficit?"

Yes, that's exactly what I mean. But before you rush off to the pub for a cold one, hold that thought for a minute while you consider this first: The empty alcohol calories displace the nutrient dense calories!

When you're on a fat loss program you have a fairly small "calorie budget", so you need to give some careful thought to how those calories should be "spent." For example, if a female is on a 1500 calorie per day diet, does she really want to "spend" 500 of those calories – one third of her intake - for a few alcoholic drinks, and leave only 1000 for health-promoting food, fiber and lean muscle building protein?

I realize some people may answer "yes" to that question, but then again, if some people spent their money as frivolously as they spent their calories, they would be in deep trouble!

To summarize this into some practical, take-home advice, here are 7 of my personal tips for alcohol consumption in the fitness lifestyle:

(1) Don't drink on a fat loss program. Although you could certainly drink and "get away with it" if you diligently maintained your calorie deficit as noted above, it certainly does not help your fat loss cause or your nutritional status.

(2) Drink in moderation during maintenance. For lifelong weight maintenance and a healthy lifestyle, if you drink, do so in moderation and only occasionally, such as on weekends or when you go out to dine in restaurants. Binge drinking and getting drunk has no place in a fitness lifestyle (not to mention hangovers aren't very conducive to good workouts).

(3) Don't drink daily. Moderate drinking, including daily drinking, has been associated with cardiovascular health benefits. However, I don't recommend daily drinking because behaviors repeated daily become habits. Behaviors repeated multiple times daily become strong habits. Habitual drinking may lead to heavier drinking or full-blown addictions and can be hard to stop if you ever need to cut back.

(4) Count the calories. If you decide to have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine or two (or whatever moderation is for you), be sure to account for the alcohol in your daily calorie budget.

 

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(5) Watch your appetite. Don't let the "munchies" get control of you during or after you drink (Note to chicken wing and nacho-eating men: The correlation to alcohol and body fat is higher in men in almost all the studies. One possible explanation is that men tend to drink and eat, while women may tend to drink instead of eating).

(6) Watch the fatty foods. When drinking, watch the fatty foods in particular. A study by Angelo Tremblay back in 1995 suggested that alcohol and a high fat diet are a combination that favors overfeeding.

(7) Enjoy without guilt. If you choose to drink (moderately and sensibly), then don't feel guilty about it or beat yourself up afterwards, just enjoy the darn stuff, will you!

 

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Steady State Cardio 5 X More Effective Than HIIT


High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, has been promoted as one of the most effective training methods ever to come down the pike, both for fat loss and for cardiovascular fitness. One of the most popular claims for HIIT is that it burns "9 times more fat" than conventional (steady state) cardio. This figure was extracted from a study performed by Angelo Tremblay at Laval University in 1994. But what if I told you that HIIT has never been proven to be 9 times more effective than regular cardio… What if I told you that the same study actually shows that HIIT is 5 times less effective than steady state cardio??? Read on and see the proof for yourself.

"There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics."

- Mark Twain

In 1994, a study was published in the scientific journal Metabolism by Angelo Tremblay and his team from the Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory at Laval University in Quebec, Canada. Based on the results of this study, you hear personal trainers across the globe claiming that "HIIT burns 9 times more fat than steady state cardio."
This claim has often been interpreted by the not so scientifically literate public as meaning something like this: If you burned 3 pounds of fat in 15 weeks on steady state cardio, you would now burn 27 pounds of fat in 15 weeks (3 lbs X 9 times better = 27 lbs).
Although it's usually not stated as such, frankly, I think this is what some trainers want you to believe, because the programs that some trainers promote are based on convincing you of the vast superiority of HIIT and the "uselessness" of low intensity exercise.
Indeed, higher intensity exercise is more effective and time efficient than lower intensity exercise. The question is, how much more effective? There's no evidence that the "9 times more fat loss" claim is true outside the specific context in which it was mentioned in this study.
In order to get to the bottom of this, you have to read the full text of the research paper and you have to look very closely at the results.
13 men and 14 women age 18 to 32 started the study. They were broken into two groups, a high intensity intermittent training program (HIIT) and a steady state training program which they referred to as endurance training (ET).
The ET group completed a 20 week steady state aerobic training program on a cycle ergometer 4 times a week for 30 minutes, later progressing to 5 times per week for 45 minutes. The initial intensity was 60% of maximal heart rate reserve, later increasing to 85%.
The HIIT group performed 25-30 minutes of continuous exercise at 70% of maximal heart rate reserve and they also progressively added 35 long and short interval training sessions over a period of 15 weeks. Short work intervals started at 10 then 15 bouts of 15 seconds, increasing to 30 seconds. Long intervals started at 5 bouts of 60 seconds, increasing to 90 seconds. Intensity and duration were progressively increased over the 15 week period.

 

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The results: 3 times greater fat loss in the HIIT group

Even though the energy cost of the exercise performed in the ET group was twice as high as the HIIT group, the sum of the skinfolds (which reflects subcutaneous body fat) in the HIIT group was three times lower than the ET group.
So where did the "9 times greater fat loss" claim come from?
Well, there was a difference in energy cost between groups, so in order to show a comparison of fat loss relative to energy cost, Tremblay wrote,
 

"It appeared reasonable to correct changes in subcutaneous fat for the total cost of training. This was performed by expressing changes in subcutaneous skinfolds per megajoule of energy expended in each program."

Translation: The subjects did not lose 9 times more body fat, in absolute terms. But hey, 3 times more fat loss? You'll gladly take that, right?
Well hold on, because there's more. Did you know that in this oft-quoted study, neither group lost much weight? In fact, if you look at the charts, you can see that the HIIT group lost 0.1 kg (63.9 kg before, 63.8 kg after). Yes, the HIIT group lost a whopping 100 grams of weight in 15 weeks!
 

The ET group lost 0.5 kilograms (60.6 kg before, 60.1 kg after).

Naturally, lack of weight loss while skinfolds decrease could simply mean that body composition improved (lean mass increased), but I think it's important to highlight the fact that the research study from which the "9 times more fat" claim was derived did not result in ANY significant weight loss after 15 weeks.

Based on these results, if I wanted to manipulate statistics to promote steady state cardio, I could go around telling people, "Research study says steady state cardio (endurance training) results in 5 times more weight loss than high intensity interval training!" Or the reverse, "Clinical trial proves that high intensity interval training is 5 times less effective than steady state cardio!"
Mind you, THIS IS THE SAME STUDY THAT IS MOST OFTEN QUOTED TO SUPPORT HIIT!
 

If I said 5 X greater weight loss with steady state, I would be telling the truth, wouldn't I? (100 grams of weight loss vs 500 grams?) Of course, that would be misleading because the weight loss was hardly significant in either group and because interval training IS highly effective. I'm simply being a little facetious in order to make a point: Be careful with statistics. I have seen statistical manipulation used many times in other contexts to deceive unsuspecting consumers.

For example, advertisements for a popular fat burner claim that use of their supplement resulted in twice as much fat loss, based on scientific research. The claim was true. Of course, in the ad, they forget to tell you that after six months, the control group lost no weight, while the supplement group lost only 1.0 kilo. Whoop de doo! ONE KILO of weight loss after going through a six month supply of this "miracle fat burner!"
But I digress…

Back to the HIIT story – there's even more to it.

 

In the ET group, there were some funky skinfold and circumference measurements. ALL of the skinfold measurements in the ET group either stayed the same or went down except the calf measurement, which went up.

The girths and skinfold measurements in the limbs went down in the HIIT group, but there wasn't much difference between HIIT and ET in the trunk skinfolds. These facts are all very easy to miss. I didn't even notice it myself until exercise physiologist Christian Finn pointed it out to me. Christian said,

"When you look at the changes in the three skinfold measurements taken from the trunk, there wasn't that much difference between the steady state group (-6.3mm) and the HIIT group (-8.7 mm). So, much of the difference in subcutaneous fat loss between the groups wasn't because the HIIT group lost more fat, but because the steady state group actually gained fat around the calf muscles. We shouldn't discount simple measurement error as an explanation for these rather odd results."

Christian also pointed out that the two test groups were not evenly matched for body composition at the beginning of the study. At the beginning of the study, the starting body fat based on skinfolds in the HIIT group was nearly 20% higher than the ET group. He concluded:
 

"So while this study is interesting, weaknesses in the methods used to track changes in body composition mean that we should treat the results and conclusions with some caution."

One beneficial aspect of HIIT that most trainers forget to mention is that HIIT may actually suppress your appetite, while steady state cardio might increase appetite. In a study such as this, however, that can skew the results. If energy intake were not controlled, then some of the greater fat loss in the HIIT group could be due to lowered caloric intake.
Last but not least, I'd like to highlight the words of the researchers themselves in the conclusion of the paper, which confirms the effectiveness of HIIT, but also helps put it in perspective a bit:
 

"For a given level of energy expenditure, a high intensity training program induces a greater loss of subcutaneous fat compared with a training program of moderate intensity."

"It is obvious that high intensity exercise cannot be prescribed for individuals at risk for health problems or for obese people who are not used to exercise. In these cases, the most prudent course remains a low intensity exercise program with a progressive increase in duration and frequency of sessions."
In conclusion, my intention in writing this article wasn't to be controversial, to be a smart-alec or to criticize HIIT. To the contrary, additional research has continued to support the efficacy of HIIT for fat loss and fitness, not to mention that it is one of the most time efficient ways to do cardiovascular training.
I have recommended HIIT for years in my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle program, using a 1:1 long interval approach, which, while only one of many ways to do HIIT, is probably my personal favorite method. However, I also recommend steady state cardio and even low intensity cardio like walking, when it is appropriate.
 

My intentions for writing this article were four-fold:

 

1. To encourage you to question where claims come from, especially if they sound too good to be true.
2. To alert you to how advertisers might use research such as this to exaggerate with statistics.
3. To encourage the fitness community to swing the pendulum back to center a bit, by not over-selling the benefits of HIIT beyond what can be supported by the scientific research.
4. To encourage the fitness community, that even as they praise HIIT, not to condemn lower and moderate intensity forms of cardio.

As the original author of the 1994 HIIT study himself pointed out, HIIT is not for everyone, and cardio should be prescribed with progression. Also, mountains of other research has proven that walking (GASP! - low intensity cardio!) has always been one of the most successful exercise methods for overweight men and women.
There is ample evidence which says that obesity may be the result of a very slight daily energy imbalance, which adds up over time. Therefore, even a small amount of casual exercise or activity, if done consistently, and not compensated for with increased food intake, could reverse the obesity trend. HIIT gets the job done fast, but that doesn't mean low intensity cardio is useless or that you should abandon your walking program, if you have the time and if that is what you enjoy and if that is what's working for you in your personal situation.

 

The mechanisms and reasons why HIIT works so well are numerous. It goes way beyond more calories burned during the workout.

 

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Speed Eating and Fat Loss: Diet Advice Your Mom Was Right About All Along


A new study just published in a recent issue of the journal Obesity has revealed that thin people eat very differently than heavy people at all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants.

Researcher Brian Wansink and his team from the Cornell University Food and Brand Laboratory observed diners at 11 different Chinese buffet restaurants across the United States.

Their goal was to find out whether the eating behaviors of people at all-you-can-eat buffets varied based on their body mass.

Trained observers recorded the height, weight, gender, age, and behavior of 213 patrons. The various seating, serving and eating behaviors were then compared across BMI levels.

The heavier (higher BMI) patrons:

  • ate more quickly
  • chewed more food per bite
  • used forks
  • sat facing the food buffet
The thin (lower BMI) patrons:

  • ate more slowly
  • chewed less food per bite
  • used chopsticks
  • sat facing away from the food buffet

This study confirms earlier research from the University of Rhode Island published in the journal of the American Dietetic Association which found that eating slowly leads to decreases in energy intake.

Scientists even have a name for this now:

 

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"TIME-ENERGY DISPLACEMENT"

Time-Energy Displacement means that the more time you take to eat, the less energy (calories) you are likely to consume. The faster you eat, the more energy (calories) you're likely to consume.

But wait, there's even more! A study from the University of Alabama looked at satiety (how full a food makes you feel), energy density (calories per unit of volume) and eating time of various foods. To maximize the effects of Time-Energy Displacement, it was found even more advantageous to choose foods that FORCE you to ingest calories more slowly.

This includes choosing more:

Foods that have a high satiety factor such as high fiber and high water foods (so you feel fuller more quickly):


  • Peas
  • Red beans
  • Raspberries
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Chick Peas

 

Foods with a high "chew factor" (so you can't eat them fast if you tried; you have to chew them thoroughly):


  • Lean meats such as top round, lean sirloin
  • Celery
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Peaches 
Foods with a low energy density such as salad vegetables and greens (so you'd get tired of eating before you took in a lot of calories):
  • Tomatoes
  • Artichoke
  • Cucumber
  • Salad Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Okra

These results also confirm all the studies that have been advising us not to drink our calories. Liquid calories, especially soft drinks and dessert coffees are two of the biggest sources of excess calories in the typical American's diet.

The problem: calories in liquid form can have a very high caloric density and can be consumed very quickly. Liquid calories also do not activate the satiety mechanism in your brain and gastrointestinal tract the way solid food does.

"Don't inhale your food" used to be an admonishment about proper eating etiquette you heard from your mom. It is now scientifically-proven fat loss advice.

 

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The Razor Sharp Abdominal Workout



If you could sculpt one body part to perfection for next summer, what would it be?  Let me guess – six pack abs!  I don't know anybody who does not want to shrink their waistline, lose body fat, eliminate lower back pain and develop a jaw-dropping set of rock-hard six-pack abs.   Building eye-popping abdominals is not the hardest thing to achieve in the world but it's definitely not the easiest either.

Before you can start learning how to get six-pack abs and discover the truth about what it really takes to build a beach-worthy abdominal section, you must first expose the lies, myths and rumors.  Before we talk about how to get six-pack abs, the right way, we must re-program your hard drive and empty the trash can of garbage you have been fed. 

Because of all this hyped-up and misguided information – even among so-called 'fitness experts' – you should be skeptical of all abdominal training equimpment and programs.  Let's first eliminate the top four ways not to get a six-pack:

Learning how to get a six-pack does not require expensive workout equipment promoted through obnoxious infomercials. You can't flick on the TV anymore without seeing two new abdominal exercise machines being promoted at once.  There are so many of them that if you get suckered into these 'ab workout' gimmicks, you will be broke quicker than Ben Johnson sprints the 100 meter dash!   And get this: Of the $520 million dollars a year spent on exercise equipment, abdominal machines get a $208 million dollar piece of the pie! 

Learning how to get a six-pack does not require thousands or even hundreds of crunches a day.  So much for the Brittany Spears ab workout!  Crunches are decent but totally overused and associated with more being better.  Crunches are a very general exercise, and general exercises get general results.  Excessive floor crunches shorten the abdominal wall, pull your head forward and emphasize poor posture.  They also involve a very low level of stimulation which neglects adequate muscle-fiber recruitment.  

Learning how to get a six-pack does not involve starvation diets.  Starvation diets starve the muscle when you should be feeding the muscle instead.  Guess what happens when you starve your body?  Your metabolism shuts down out of survival and causes your body to store fat.   Your body must get energy from somewhere, so guess what gets sacrificed?  That's right, your precious muscle which is, in fact, responsible for maintaining a high metabolism.  Starve your muscle - great logic!

Learning how to get a six-pack does not require fat-burning pills.  What did the last weight loss pill you bought do for you?  The same thing the next one is going to do – nothing! Except give you a thinner wallet but not a thinner waist line.  The entire concept of taking pills to 'burn fat' is built on a sandy foundation and misleading because diet pills only treat the symptoms and not the root cause.  Without focusing on the root problems of a flabby mid-section, like poor nutrition, a crazy lifestyle and improper training, you will just end up where you started – farther away from having a six-pack for summer instead of closer.

Just Because You're Skinny Does Not Mean You Will Have A Six-Pack

The volume of interest I receive from skinny guys who wish to build their mid-sections is more than enough evidence to disprove the false reality of "I should be able to 'see' my abs if I have low body fat." I'm sure you know of a friend who is completely scrawny, yet, without a shirt on he, has zero abdominal definition! To me that would be salt on an open wound.

Abdominals Are A Muscle, Too!

 

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You want your arms to be bigger, your shoulders to be broader and your chest to be fuller, correct? And what is the solution to making these muscle groups increase in size? High intensity weight training, overload, consistency and a healthy surplus of calories. Starting to sound familiar?

The same goes for your abdominals. Your abdominals are a muscle group that requires the same formula and attention and are not any different from other muscle groups. For some reason many consider abdominals to be a 'special' body part that requires a different set of rules and a completely different formula for training. Abdominals were not given a 'secret code' to crack. To get thick, dense abs – the ones that 'pop' out - you must train them with intensity and overload. Here are some practical tips you can apply to your program so that you can be the 'man' or 'gal' at your gym with a ripped and muscular six-pack. Then I will provide a sample program!

Prioritize By Sequence

If your abs are your worse body part, then why do you keep training them last, at the end of your workout? Which muscles group will receive the highest priority when you train? The ones done at the start of your workout or the ones done at the end of the workout? Of course, the exercises done at the start of the workout while you have the most energy and focus. If abdominals are the muscle group you wish to prioritize, then don't be afraid to disagree with the 'experts' who say "Never train your abdominals first because you'll weaken your core muscles for the rest of your workout…". I completely disagree with this and often reply, "Show me the evidence." The typical response is "Nobody does abdominals first…". That is pure BS. This just supports the notion that many people who work out don't ever question what they hear or do. They want to be spoon-fed answers and follow the trends of others without thinking for themselves. I ALWAYS train abdominals first in a workout if they need the highest attention.

Prioritize By Frequency

What's going to receive better results? A muscle group that is trained one time a week or two times a week (assuming you recovered prior to the second workout commencing)? Of course, the muscle that is trained 2x a week. The more stimulus on a muscle, the more growth. That is why professional athletes are professional athletes. They have conditioned their bodies to such a high amount of stress that they are able to train more frequently.

How often you train your abdominals is based on the inverse relationship of intensity and volume. The harder you train your abs, the more rest they need. The less intense you train your abs, the more frequently you can train them! If your goal is rehab or injury prevention, then you will be able to train them often with more frequent and lower loads. If your goal is to make your abs more muscular and dense, then a higher load and less frequency would be ideal. If your goal is maintenance, then a medium load and frequency would be ideal. Refer to this table:

Purpose

Frequency

Intensity

Volume

Reps

Endurance/Conditioning

5-7x a week

Moderate

1-4 sets

50-100

Hypertrophy

4x a week

High

6-12 sets

8-12

       

If building a sexy six-pack is on your 'to do' list for 2008, then start training abdominals 2-4x a week. I will teach you in a moment how to split your abdominals up into two different days based on movement.

Your Genetics and Abdominals

 

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Right now some of you can see a perfectly set of staggered abs that are wide and thick and separated by a line down the middle.  Some of you have the classic four-pack which is four big abs with a smooth lower section.  Some of you have tiny cubicle boxes sitting high on your abdominal wall.  Some of you have the picture perfect eight-pack that makes people's jaws drop. 

Like every muscle group, all you can do is train them as heavy and hard as possible and hope your genetics take care of the rest. You can't change the shape or alignment or separation of your abs.  You can't move them around and place them where you want them.  Your genetics will affect to which degree they "pop" out and to which degree they stay smoother or flatter. 

The good news is that abdominals are abdominals and when your body fat levels are around 5-7% you are guaranteed to impress people, including yourself, with a set of hot-looking abs.  Even though genetics play a huge role in how they look, it's important to know how to train them to make them look their best. 

Divide Your Abdominals into Two Separate Workouts for Best Results

To train your abdominals safely and effectively you must know the basic movement patterns of your abs and train them within all sub-categories:

• Truck Flexion (upper abs)
• Hip Flexion (lower abs)
• Rotation (obliques)
• Lateral Flexion (obliques)

The majority of books and articles you have read revolve the bulk of the ab exercises around the trunk flexion that is better known as 'upper ab' exercises. A full sit up is a perfect example of this.

Bill Starr in his 1976 classic 'The Strongest Shall Survive' wrote that the abdominals "…can be strengthened in a wide variety of ways. Sit-ups of all types, leg raises, truck rotation movements all involve the abdominal muscles to a different degree…"

I wouldn't be surprised if the abdominal program you are following right now is based on one movement - trunk flexion. I am guessing that your primary goal is actually to have a well-defined and sculpted six-pack, so I have provided a sample abdominal program to break it up into a four day program:

 

A

B

C

D

Trunk Flexion

Rotation

Trunk Flexion

Rotation

Hip Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Hip Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Even though you are training each movement twice per week, you will perform different exercises for each workout.

Use a Variety Of Functional Exercises

The Top 3 Hip Flexion Exercises:

1.   Lying Hip Raise

2.   Incline Hip Raise

3.   Hanging Hip Raise

The Top 3 Trunk Flexion Exercises:

1.   Swiss Ball Crunch

2. Weighted Swiss Ball Crunches

3. Weighted Cable Crunches

The Top 3 Rotation Exercises:

1.   Russian Twist

2.   Weighted Russian Twist

3.   Weighted Cable Crossover

The Top 3 Lateral Flexion Exercises:

1.   Lateral Flexion on back extension machine

2.   Lateral Flexion with medicine ball over head

Razor Sharp Abdominal Workout 2:

Trunk Rotation and Lateral Flexion

Perform this workout at least two times a week separated by at least 48 hours rest.  You should experience a deep muscle soreness after each one of these workouts.  Focus on using a load that causes failure within 8-12 reps and then move to the next exercise.  This is a non-stop circuit.  Rest 1-2 minutes and repeat until you reach 4 sets total.

 

Exercise    Sets   Reps  Tempo    Rest
Side Bends Dumbells Overhead 1-4 8-12 311 -
Oblique Crunch  1-4 8-12 311 -
Side Bends Dumbells Overhead 1-4 8-12 311 -
Lateral Raises on Back
Extension Machine
1-4 8-12 311 1-2 minutes
   

Conclusion

As said earlier, buiding razor sharp abs is not the easiest task in the work but nor is it the hardest.  The above abdominal exercises will help you build a deeply separated and evenly placed set of abs in little time.  The truth is that if you can't see your abs, then the best exercise for your abs will be  better diet. 

 

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Protein Supplements Vs. Protein Foods?


Are protein supplements really better than protein foods? Before attempting to answer this question, I should first preface it by mentioning that I do not sell supplements, nor am I associated with any supplement company, so you're getting an honest and unbiased opinion. Don't get me wrong; I am not anti-supplement by any means. It would simply be more accurate to say that I am "pro-food." There are a lot of good supplements on the market, and I've used many of them, including a multi vitamin, creatine and essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements such as Flaxseed oil. Protein powders and meal replacements can also be indispensable if you don't have time to eat every three hours. However, protein supplements are not the master key to your success, real food is!

Did you ever notice how articles about protein in certain bodybuilding magazines are seldom objective? Instead, they all seem to be slanted towards hyping some "revolutionary" new product. Did you ever wonder why? In my opinion, most articles on protein supplements are nothing more than thinly disguised advertisements (some very thinly). Sometimes they give you a very persuasive-sounding argument, replete with dozens of references from scientific studies (mostly done on rodents, of course). They even give you an 800 number at the end of the article to order. (How convenient!)

When protein manufacturers throw around fancy words like cross flow microfiltration, oligopeptides, ion-exchange, protein efficiency ratio, biological value, nitrogen retention and glycomacropeptides, it sure sounds convincing, especially when scores of scientific references are cited. But don't forget that the supplement industry is big business and most magazines are the supplement industry. Lyle McDonald, author of "The Ketogenic Diet," hit the nail on the head when he wrote "Unfortunately, the obsession that bodybuilders have with protein has made them susceptible to all kinds of marketing hype. Like most aspects of bodybuilding (and the supplement industry in general), the issue of protein is driven more by marketing hype than physiological reality and marketing types know how to push a bodybuilder's button when it comes to protein "

 

Many nutrition "experts" (read: people who sell supplements), state that there are distinct advantages of protein supplements (powders and amino acid tablets) over whole foods. For example, they argue that whey, a by-product of the cheese-making process, is a higher quality protein than most whole food sources. There are many different methods of determining protein quality, including biological value (BV), protein efficiency ratio (PER), Net Protein Utilization (NPU), chemical score, and protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). If you have ever seen advertisements for protein powders and supplements, you have undoubtedly heard of one or more of these measures of protein quality.

BV is one of the most commonly used and is arguably, the best measure of a protein's quality. BV is based on how much of the protein consumed is actually absorbed and utilized by the body. The higher the amount of protein (nitrogen) that is actually retained, the greater the BV. If a protein has a BV of 100, it means that all of the protein absorbed has been utilized with none lost. Whole eggs score the highest of all foods with a BV of 100, while beans have a BV of only 49.

Protein quality is certainly an important issue, but it is one that has been enormously overstated and even distorted for marketing purposes. Whey protein is truly an excellent protein with a biological value at or near 100. Many advertisements list whey as having a BV between 104 and 157, but if you look in any nutrition textbook it will tell you that it is impossible to have a BV over 100. In "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism," BV is defined as "a measure of nitrogen retained for growth and/or maintenance that is expressed as a percentage of nitrogen absorbed."

When a protein supplement is listed as having a BV over 100, the company has intentionally manipulated the number for marketing purposes or unintentionally confused BV with another method of rating protein quality. Certain whey proponents claim that whey is "superior to whole egg" so the percentage sign on BV had to be dropped and the scale extended beyond 100. It was noted by bodybuilding writer Jerry Branium in IRONMAN magazine that in a study where the BV of whey was reported to be 157, the author confused BV with chemical score. Chemical score is a comparison of the amino acid pattern in an ideal reference protein to a test protein and therefore the number can exceed 100. 157 was actually the chemical score and not the BV.

Most bodybuilders and strength athletes already consume more than enough protein (an understatement if there ever was one), so the importance of BV to these athletes who are already consuming copious amounts of protein has been overplayed. Even though whey has a higher BV than chicken breast, fish or milk protein, if the total quantity of protein you consume is sufficient, then it is not likely that substituting whey for food proteins will result in any additional muscle growth.

 

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Whether you choose a whole protein food or a protein supplement isn't as important as some would like you to believe. For the purposes of developing muscle, the only guidelines for protein that you must follow are: (1) consume a source of complete protein with every meal, (2) eat at frequent intervals approximately three hours apart (about six times per day) and (3) consume a minimum of .8 grams to 1 gram per pound of body weight. There are times when it would be beneficial to consume more than one gram per pound of body weight, but that will have to be the subject of another article.

Because whey protein does have a high BV, it probably offers the most benefits when you are dieting on very low calories. When your energy intake and correspondingly, your protein intake, are reduced, whey protein could help you get greater utilzation of the smaller amount of protein that you are taking in. In other words, choosing proteins of the highest quality is more of an issue when you are dieting than when you are focusing on mass gains when total calories and protein are being consumed in abundant amounts. Whey protein also provides a way to get high quality protein without the fat, which is also important when dieting.

It has been suggested that whey may have other advantages besides high protein quality, although they are frequently overstated. These benefits include enhanced immunity, increased antioxidant activity and quick absorption. Several studies in "Clinical and Investigative Science" by Dr. Gerard Bounous of Montreal have shown that whey protein provides anti carcinogenic properties, protection from infections, and other enhanced immune responses. Whey protein was also been shown to raise levels of Glutathione, an important antioxidant that can offer protection from free radical oxidative damage. While such findings are very promising, all these studies, which are frequently quoted in whey protein advertisements, were performed on mice, so it is unclear how well the results extrapolate to humans.

Another acknowledged benefit of whey protein is its fast absorption rate. Although there isn't any evidence that protein supplements digest more efficiently than whole foods (as is often claimed), they are definitely digested faster. This is most important after a training session when the rates of protein synthesis and glycogen re-synthesis are increased. This is the reason it is often recommended that a liquid meal containing protein and a high glycemic carbohydrate be consumed immediately post-workout and that whey is the ideal protein for this purpose. Even in considering post-workout nutrition, there is still little proof that a liquid protein-carb complex will actually produce better muscular growth than whole foods, as long as complete whole food protein foods and complex carbohydrates are consumed immediately after the training session and every three waking hours for a period of 24 hours thereafter.

Speaking of protein absorption rates, the discussion of fast acting versus slow acting proteins seems to be the latest hot topic these days in bodybuilding circles. The interest was sparked by studies in 1997 and 1998 that examined the differences between the absorption rates of whey versus casein. The researchers concluded that whey was a fast acting protein and was considered to be more "anabolic" while casein was slower acting and was considered to be more "anti-catabolic. " It was further hypothesized that consuming a combination of these two types of proteins could lead to greater muscle growth. These findings have prompted the supplement companies to market an entirely new category of protein supplements; casein and whey mixes. The problem with drawing such conclusions so quickly is that these studies looked at the speed of whey and casein absorption in subjects who had fasted for 10 hours before being fed the protein. Any suppositions drawn from this information are probably irrelevant if you are eating mixed whole food meals every three hours. Obviously, more research is needed.

This recent fascination with various rates of protein absorption could be compared to the interest in the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a scale that measures the rate at which the body converts various carbohydrate foods into blood glucose. The higher the glycemic index, the faster the food is converted to glucose and the larger the insulin response. Therefore it is said that high glycemic foods should be avoided in favor of low glycemic index foods. The error in relying solely on the glycemic index as your only criteria for choosing carbohydrates is that the index is based on consuming a carbohydrate food by itself in a fasted state.

 

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When carbohydrates are consumed in mixed meals that contain protein and a little fat, the glycemic index loses some of its significance because the protein and fat slow the absorption of the carbohydrate. That's why the glycemic index is really much ado about nothing and the same could probably be said for the casein and whey argument. It's just the latest in a long string of new angles that supplement companies use to promote their protein: free-form vs peptides, concentrate vs isolate, ion exchange vs microfiltration, soy vs whey, casein and whey mix vs pure whey and so on. Every year, you can count on some new twist on the protein story to appear. Certainly there are going to be advances in nutrition science, but all too often these "new discoveries" amount to nothing more than marketing hype.

What about amino acid pills? Amino acids pills are simply predigested protein. Proponents of amino acid supplementation claim that because the amino's are predigested, the body will absorb them better, leading to greater improvements in strength and muscle mass. It sounds logical, but this is a gross underestimation of the body's capacities and actually the reverse is true: The human digestive system was designed to efficiently process whole foods; it was not designed to digest pills and powders all day long. Amino's are absorbed more rapidly in the intestine when they are in the more complex di and tri-peptide molecules.

Your body gets better use of the aminos as protein foods are broken down and the amino's are absorbed at just the right rate for your body's needs. In "Exercise Physiology; Energy Nutrition and Human Performance," authors Katch and McArdle state that "Amino acid supplementation in any form has not been shown by adequate experimental design and methodology to increase muscle mass or significantly improve muscular strength, power, or endurance."

Furthermore, consuming predigested protein when you are seeking fat loss is not necessarily advantageous because it shortchanges you of the thermic effects of real food. Whole foods have a major advantage over protein supplements; they stimulate the metabolism more. This is known as the "thermic effect of food." Protein has the highest thermic effect of any food. Including a whole protein food with every meal can speed up your metabolic rate as much as 30% because of the energy necessary to digest, process, and absorb it. This means that out of 100 calories of a protein food such as chicken breast, the net amount of calories left over after processing it is 70. In this respect, the fact that protein foods digest slower than amino acid tablets is actually an advantage.

A final argument against amino acid supplements is the cost. Amino's are simply not cost effective. If you don't believe it, pick up a bottle and do the math yourself. One popular brand of "free form and peptide bonded amino acids" contains 150 1000mg. tablets per bottle and costs $19.95. 1000 mg. of amino acids equals 1 gram of protein, so the entire bottle contains 150 grams of protein. $19.95 divided by 150 grams is 13.3 cents per gram. Let's compare that to chicken breast. I can buy chicken breast from my local supermarket for $2.99 a pound. According to Corinne Netzer's "Complete Book of Food Counts," there are 8.8 grams of protein in each ounce of chicken, so one pound of chicken (16 oz) has about 140 grams of protein. $2.99 divided by 140 grams equals 2.1 cents per gram. The amino acids cost more than six times what the chicken breast does! I don't know about you, but I'll stick with the chicken breast.

The biggest advantage of protein supplements is not that they can build more muscle than chicken or egg whites or any other whole food protein, the biggest advantage is convenience. It is easier to drink a protein shake than it is to buy, prepare, cook and eat poultry, fish or egg whites. Consuming small, frequent meals is the optimal way to eat, regardless of whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain. To keep your body constantly in positive nitrogen balance, you must consume a complete protein every three hours. For many people, eating this often is nearly impossible. That's when a high quality protein supplement is the most helpful.

Aside from convenience, the truth about protein supplements is that they offer few advantages over protein foods. There is no scientific evidence that you can't meet all of your protein needs for muscle growth through food. As long as you eat every three hours and you eat a complete protein such as eggs, lean meat or lowfat dairy products with every meal, it is not necessary to consume any protein supplements to get outstanding results. Whey protein does have some interesting and useful properties and supplementing with a couple scoops each day is not a bad idea, especially if you are on a low calorie diet for fat loss or when you're using a post workout shake instead of a meal. Aside from that, focus on real food and don't believe the hype.

 

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Protein Powder, The Skinny Guy's Guide To Protein Powder



So what do you really need to know about protein powder? As a skinny guy or beginner to the whole bodybuilding scene you simply want to know a few answers. Is protein powder necessary? Does it really work? How much do I need? What kind should I take? What is the best? And finally, will any of these answers make a difference when it comes to getting jacked and attracting the ladies?

This article is not meant for you if you want to learn the science behind the ion-exchanged, cross-mutaed, isotopically labeled protein tracers - blah blah blah. In this article, I will strip away all the hype, science, and confusion that surrounds protein powder. By the time you are through this article and put it to memory, you will become the resident protein powder expert and amaze your friends the next time you visit the sport nutrition store. No more 2-hour shopping trips for protein powder because you don't really have a clue what to look for!

Is Protein Powder really necessary?

So, although protein supplements are not an absolute requirement for gaining mass, I have yet to meet any person able to get 400 grams of protein per day from cooking food. If your protein intake is greater than 200 grams per day I will suggest a protein powder - it will make your life a lot easier.

In addition, dollar for dollar, protein powders and meal replacement drinks tend to be more cost effective than whole food. Don't get me wrong, though. Protein powders are still supplements in my book. Supplement means an addition to the diet. I emphasize this because the focus of any diet should be food. Whole food is often preferable to powders because it can offer a whole spectrum of nutrients that powders cannot.

Most of your dietary protein should come from meat, fish, poultry and eggs. However getting all your protein from whole food is not always practical or convenient, especially if you have to eat 6 or more times a day to get your required intake. I will stress to you, for optimal muscle gains, you should limit yourself to a maximum of three shakes per day or 40 % of your meals. To some this might even sound like it's going 'overboard' and I would not disagree.

The bottom line is that both food and supplements are necessary to achieve a complete nutritional balance as well as the desired level of protein intake, especially if you're not a big fan of cooking. And I assume that over 95% of you reading this do not have a personal maid at home cooking all your meals while you sit around waiting for your next meal. Do not make the fatal mistake of thinking protein powders can take the place of a solid training and nutrition program.

 

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Does protein powder really work and are they healthy?

I get this question emailed to me almost every day. I just showed how it 'works' as a supplement to help you hit your supplemental protein mark but you are probably still wondering, 'Yeah, but is protein powder going to help me get muscular or is it a scam?" A better question would be, "Does protein really work?" and the obvious answer is 'yes.' You are fully aware that protein is composed of building blocks called amino acids, which performs a variety of functions in the body such as building and maintaining healthy muscles when combined with diet and exercise. Protein also:

  • Supports red blood cell production
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Keeps your hair, fingernails, and skin healthy

However, not all protein powder is created equal. Most protein powder contains an array of questionable ingredients such as aspartame, saccharin, fructose and artificial colors. It's interesting to note how unhealthy most of these protein powders actually are. Look for a protein powder with natural ingredients rather than products that are sweetened with chemicals and made with ingredients that are certainly not going to create an environment for muscle growth and fat burning.

Also avoid products with refined carbohydrates such as fructose, sucrose or brown rice syrup. Make sure that the product is made from a reputable company that is genuinely interested in good health. Unfortunately supplement manufacturers will continue to meet the demands of bodybuilding consumers with unknown crappy products because we buy it and it is cheaper for them to create. Do your homework by seeking out unbiased reviews, investigating the company's history, and reputation. And then make a decision and take responsibility!

In the past one of my criteria for a healthy protein product was that it was great tasting and that it should mix easily. Most protein powders mix quite easily, even with a spoon, however I was disappointed to discover that taste will inevitably be sacrificed for a safe and healthy product. I can live with this. You see, once a product is removed of all artificial chemical sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose, and simple sugars, it is left almost tasteless and sometimes even gross.

How much protein powder do I need?

A better question would be, "How much pure protein do I need to achieve my goals?"

Protein is an extremely important macro nutrient and should be eaten frequently throughout the day. I recommend at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. This means that if you are 150 pounds and 10% body fat (150 x 0.10 = 15 lbs of fat leaving 135 lbs of lean mass), you will require at least 135 to approximately 205 grams of protein per day.

I recommend that protein powder be used primarily for your pre-workout, workout and post-workout shake. This is when liquid food is more advantageous over whole food since it has a faster absorption rate.

I do not recommend protein powder do be used for meal replacements for more than two meals. Here is what a typical day might look like:

Meal 1 (breakfast) - whole food

Meal 2 (mid morning) - liquid protein meal

Meal 3 (lunch) - whole food

Meal 4 (mid afternoon) whole food

Meal 5 (pre and post workout) liquid protein meal

Meal 6 (dinner) whole food

Meal 7 (before bed) whole food

What kind of protein powder should I use?

Before deciding which protein powder is necessary, here is a short protein primer to help you make sense of the thousands of different protein powders from which to choose:

WHEY PROTEIN makes up 20% of total milk protein. Whey is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting variety of peptides. Since it is very quickly digested the best time to consume it is before your workout, during your workout or immediately after your workout. These would be considered the phase in the day where you need energy the most and when your body is in anabolic state.

CASEIN PROTEIN makes up 80% of total milk protein. Casein is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, slow digestive nature, and interesting variety of peptides. Since casein is slowly digested into your bloodstream, don't use it during workouts or after workouts - you need a fast absorbing protein at these times. Instead, use a casein protein for all other times outside the pre and post workout window.

SOY PROTEIN is the most controversial of all protein types. While the soy groupies have gone to great lengths to label soy as a super food with magical effects, there is also a good amount of research that suggests soy protein may be contraindicated in many situations. BECAUSE OF ALL THE CONFUSION, IN MY PERSONAL OPINION, I SUGGEST AVOIDING SOY PROTEIN ALTOGETHER AND STICKING TO THE OTHER TYPES LISTED.

Protein Blends are generally a combination of several types of protein blends such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, egg protein, casein protein, and soy protein.

Why would you want a blend anyway? You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein - use this kind at any time of the day but NOT before or after a workout.

Whey hydrolysates (also known as hydrolyzed whey protein, and are also called peptides), are powerful proteins that are more quickly absorbed; more so than any other form, since your body prefers peptides to whole proteins. Hydrolysates are produced through very low heat, low acid and mild enzymatic filtration processes, (those highest in the essential and the branched chain amino acids) and are potentially the most anabolic for short-term protein synthesis such as the pre and post-workout window.

 

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Whey Protein Versus Whey Isolate:

Most whey protein powders that stock the supplement shelves are made up of whey concentrate and mixed in with a small portion of whey isolate. Comparing the two, whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate because it has a higher quality (more pure) and a higher BV (biological value). Whey protein isolate contains more protein and less fat and lactose per serving. Most whey protein isolates contain 90-98% protein while whey concentrates contain 70-85% protein.

Whey protein isolate is the highest yield of protein currently available that comes from milk. Because of its chemical properties it is the easiest to absorb into your system. Obviously with its high concentration, it appears that an isolate protein would be the obvious choice instead of a concentrate. However, this is an individual decision because the isolate is more expensive, and just because it is purer does not guarantee that it will help build bigger muscles. Its extra concentration may not justify its extra cost.

SO WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE? WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

For the Pre-workout and Post-workout phases, as long as whey hydrolysate is the first or second ingredient on the supplement label then there is probably not enough in the product to influence protein synthesis to reap the optimal benefits. As stated, whey isolates are also a extremely high quality whey and for maximal anabolism isolates should be combined with whey hydrolysates for only the pre-workout and post-workout phases of your program. The inclusion of small amounts of whey concentrates will not harm you but this should not be the first ingredient on the tub of protein powder.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THE STRONGEST PROTEIN POWDER TO EXPLOIT YOUR FULL GROWTH POTENTIAL DURING THE GROWTH AND RECOVERY PHASES (ANY TIME OTHER THAN PRE AND POST WORKOUT PERIOD) THEN USE A BLEND.

You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein.

Conclusion

I hope this article familiarized you with the basics of protein powder and gave you a foundation to work from when deciding on your next order. Don't get caught up in the hype and start becoming a more educated consumer when you take your next trip to the nutrition store. Now you can tell the sales rep exactly what you are looking for instead of staring blankly at the shelves without a clue!

Oh yeah, protein powder will help you get more jacked and attract the ladies, but it's not going to do it in a 'ultra short period of time' with the simple addition to your diet.

 

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Once an Endomorph Always an Endomorph

Once an Endomorph Always an Endomorph? (Can Your Body Type Change?)

Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph body type? To maximize your results, regardless of whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain, it's helpful to know your body type and adjust your approach according to your type. But a big question that almost no one has ever answered is, "Does your body type change over time?" If so, then what? Do you have to totally change your nutrition and training again? And if your body type doesn't change, does this mean you are stuck being a fat endomorph for the rest of your life, doomed because of genetics? Read on to find out.

Somatotype is a 3-part, 7-point body type rating scale developed by a guy named Sheldon back around 1940 or so. Ectomorphs are the linear, bony, lean types, mesomorphs are the naturally muscular body types (yeah, the ones we hate!), and endormorphs are the ones with the round body shapes and the genetic tendency toward storing more body fat.

Generally, you have a combination body type, which is why you are scored with 3 numbers (Arnold Schwarzenneger in his bodybuilding prime: think pure mesomorph with the highest score of 7).

The question is, Does somatotype change? this is a very interesting question that has been asked and debated before both by the layperson (often bodybuilding and fitness enthusiasts) and by scientists.

Two of those scientists were JE Lindsay Carter, a physical education professor from San Diego State University and Barbara Heath, and Anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania.

There was initially a lot of debate and antagonism provoked by the classic Sheldon system of classifying human body types ("somatotyping"), because initially, Sheldon was very rigid in his insistence that body types were permanent and did not change.

However, Heath and Carter proposed that it was plain to see that body types DID change due to normal growth, aging, physical training and dietary deprivation (they cited the Minnesota starvation study, where subjects started out looking somewhat mesomorphic and ended up looking like ectomorphs (like POW camp victims, literally).

Heath and Carter weren't trying to dismiss somatotpying, they supported it and wanted to validate it.

However, they wanted to address the shortcomings of the somatotyping method and one of those was the fact that the Sheldon system didn't accommodate for changes in physique as a result of training and nutrition.

In their voluminous 1990 textbook on the subject, Heath and Carter define somatotype as:

"A quantitative description of the present shape and composition of the human body. It is expressed in a 3 number rating, representing three components of physique: (1) endomorphy, (2) mesomorphy and (3) ectomorphy. The somatotype can be used to record changes in physique and to estimate gross biological differences and similarities among human beings. This method of somatotyping is sensitive to changes in physique over time and is used for rating both sexes at all ages."

john_bartlett.jpg

Look at a guy like John Bartlett for example, one of our inner circle contributing authors and an outstanding natural competitive bodybuilder. When you see him today and you ask what is his body type, you would say, "MESOMORPH all the way!"

That's because today he is ripped and muscular

But if you look at his before picture and ask "what is this guy's body type" you would say, "Endomorph" all the way or at least "endo-mesomorph" because he did have a solid and stocky build before, but also a high body fat percentage.

Well, which is it? Or did his body type change? Clearly, John gained a lot of muscle and lost a lot of fat and looks totally different today. So could we say his body type changed? If we go by current outward appearance, then yes, absolutely.

But does this mean his body type really changed or did he overcome an inherent endomorph body type to achieve where he is now?

 

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Or, to play devil's advocate here, was he always a mesomorph inherently and he just really let himself go for a while and he was just returning to his normal body type of mesomorph?

These are interesting questions. The Heath-Carter method simply includes body composition as part of the rating scale of a person's body type and says that you can rate someone based on how they look now. That includes bone structure (which changes little or not at all after adulthood) AND body composition (which can change throughout life). So you could say John was an Endomorph and is now a Mesomorph. Predominantly Mesomorph is his present classification.

However, at the same time, we could say that a person DOES have an inherent body type or set point - a physique that they will gravitate towards in the absence of circumstances or concerted efforts to change it.

I addressed this issue of changing body types versus an inherent (or "permanent" body type) in Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM). The way I explained it is that I said your true body type is what you will gravitate to naturally when you are not in a highly trained state. It's your inherent tendency. In that respect, you could say somatotype does not change, while body composition does.

In chapter 5 of BFFM, I said there were three additional ways to know your inherent body type beyond Sheldon's scale, which takes into account changes in physique due to training and nutrition:

  1. How you looked before you took up training (your "natural" body shape)
  2. How you respond to training and nutrition (ease of muscle gain or fat loss)
  3. How you respond to de-training (how well you retain lean mass and low body fat or how quickly you lose lean mass and gain fat on cessation of training)

If you wanted to make this even MORE complex, we could look at somatotyping by considering not just the outward bone structure and body composition of an individual, but also the metabolic (interior) characteristics.

My "Burn The Fat" system of body typing is like a combination of:

(1) Metabolic typing (internal metabolic characteristics like carb tolerance)
(2) Somatotyping (external body shape - linearity or roundness, fatness or leanness)
(3) Miscellaneous other genetic factors.

That would be a pretty good three-part body typing system that covers the concerns about changing body types, individual metabolic types ("carb intolerant types" or protein types, etc), and genetics (which is especially relevant since obesity genes have been identified fairly recently).

I hear criticisms of the somatotyping system all the time, where people say it is not useful. I disagree. Yes, it's perhaps too crude of a system to base your entire training and nutrition plan upon, but I believe it's very helpful as a general tool to "KNOW THYSELF".

In other words, if you are inherently an endomorph and you KNOW IT, then you know darn well what happens when you don't do any cardio. You know what happens when you cheat four or five times in a week. You know what happens when you slack off. You gravitate towards gaining fat, because that is your body type's tendency! So you can adjust your training, nutrition and lifestyle accordingly.

If you are an ectomorph, then you know what happens when you skip meals… you don't gain any muscle! You know what happens when you do too much cardio… you don't gain any muscle, or you lose some!, etc. etc.

And if you're a mesomorph…. did I mention…. we hate you!

If you'd like to learn more, chapter 5 in Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is about body typing. It's full of some really valuable and motivating lessons about knowing yourself, your body and your genetics and understanding the importance of taking personal responsibility, regardless of your hereditary predispositions. If you already have the book, it's worth re-reading periodically.

 

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Cook portable foods and bring meal replacements

6. Cook portable foods and bring meal replacements or healthy snacks for drives, flights and day trips

I love to drive, so for my trip last month I packed everything up in my car and hit the road. Naturally, I cooked for the road trip and my food came with me! I've learned how to make a variety of portable foods including several different types of oatmeal pancakes, tuna burgers and healthy sandwiches. Some of these "portable foods" can be even eaten with your hands while you are in a car, on a plane or sitting in a seminar room.

On my recent trip, I knew I had a long drive, so I calculated the number of hours on the road and the number of meals I would need and simply brought them all with me. For two of my on-the-road meals I had oatmeal-egg white-apple-cinnamon pancakes and one of my "meals" was simply a high protein meal replacement shake and fresh fruit. It's not difficult at all when you plan and pack food in advance.

7. Choose your gym or check your hotel fitness facilities in advance

Many people work out right in their hotel rooms with a body weight exercise program or even portable equipment. Since I'm a bodybuilder, I refuse to go without a fully equipped gym. Unfortunately, on-site Hotel gyms are notorious for sounding great in the advertisements and then when you arrive, you find that the "gym" is a room about the size of a walk in closet, with a few pieces of (mostly broken) archaic equipment from the 1970's. There are a few exceptions, but having learned my lesson a couple times, I now use the Internet to locate a gym prior to my trip. Call in advance and ask if there are daily or weekly rates.

You can also ask if your hotel has an affiliation with a local health club. During my last trip, the hotel was affiliated with a Bally Total Fitness Center that was just a 10 minute drive away and use of the Bally's was included with the price of my room. It turned out to be an excellent club, so I was a happy camper.

If you are already a member of a gym in your local area, check to see if your gym has an affiliation with other clubs around the country or if they belong to an organization such as IHRSA (international Health, Racque & Sportsclub Association). Some clubs are part of a network which allows you to train at other clubs when youre traveling - all you have to do is show your membership card and you will get access to train at other clubs that are part of the network. IHRSA has more than 6,500 clubs in 67 countries in its network.

 

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8. Pack your workout gear and plenty of workout clothes

When you pack hastily at the last minute, things can easily be forgotten and left behind, so be sure to pack plenty of workout clothes with you and bring any other gym gear you might need (belt, lifting straps, etc). For extended trips, inquire with your hotel to see if they have laundry facilities. (The hotel where I recently stayed had an onsite laundry room, which came in handy with my 2.5 week stay).

9. Change up your workouts as you change up your gym

Some people get accustomed to their hometown gym and they're upset or disappointed when they don't have access to the same equipment when they travel. They feel that it cramps their style or hinders their results. However, this can really be a blessing in disguise. Your body adapts to any workout, often in just a matter of weeks. We tend to be victims of our own habit patterns in life and that includes our workouts. You might want to take advantage of it when you have new and different equipment at your disposal.

After "scoping out" the gym's facilities, design an entirely new workout program for a change. Do something 100% different. Sometimes a simple change of exercises is enough to stimulate new progress. The club I trained at during my last trip had a full line of "Strive" machines which are not available at my hometown gym. These machines allow you to choose three different resistance curves on each exercise. Very cool. Since I had access to this equipment, I did a totally new routine and used more machines than usual. Although most fitness experts these days generally advise you to use more free weights than machines (and I agree for the most part), using these machines was a great change up and I could feel and see the difference.

10. Walk, bike or make physical recreation part of your travel plans

Personally, as I am already in very good shape, I usually don't count casual walking as part of my "formal" workout (cardio) program, although it certainly might count for other people. However, it never hurts to get some extra activity and all physical activity burns calories and provides some health benefits. I've found that more often than not, when I am on the road, whether for business or pleasure, there are plenty of opportunities to get some physical recreation and see the sights by foot.

On a trip last year, I spent an entire afternoon hiking in the hills of a beautiful national park. On another trip, I rented a bike and rode for miles along a beachside bike path. On my recent trip, I spent an entire day walking through museums and then sightseeing. I walked for hours. I also couldn't help but notice other people (mostly conspicuously unfit people), tooling around outside on those stand-up scooters. Funny thing too, because right next door to the motorized scooter rental was a bike rental. Which would you choose – foot, bike, or "lazy-person's chariot?"

 

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The Incredible Shrinking Fat Cell

"The Incredible Shrinking Fat Cell"...
What Really Happens When Body Fat is Burned?

Earlier this week someone in our discussion forum wrote, "I haven't "LOST" any fat... I know EXACTLY where it went! I got a chuckle out of that because I "got" the joke, but truth is, most people really don't know how fat cells work, how the fat burning process takes place or where the fat goes when it's burned. It's actually quite a complex biochemical process, but I'll explain it as simply as possible, so by the end of this article, you'll be a "fat burning" expert!

When you "lose" body fat, the fat cell (also called an adipocyte) does not go anywhere or "move into the muscle cell to be burned. The fat cell itself, (unfortunately) stays right where it was - under the skin in your thighs, stomach, hips, arms, etc., and on top of the muscles - which is why you can't see muscle "definition" when your body fat is high.

Fat is stored inside the fat cell in the form of triaglycerol. The fat is not burned right there in the fat cell, it must be liberated from the fat cell through somewhat complex hormonal/enzymatic pathways. When stimulated to do so, the fat cell simply releases its contents (triaglycerol) into the bloodstream as free fatty acids (FFA's), and they are transported through the blood to the tissues where the energy is needed.

A typical young male adult stores about 60,000 to 100,000 calories of energy in body fat cells. What triggers the release of all these stored fatty acids from the fat cell? Simple: When your body needs energy because you're consuming fewer calories than you are burning (an energy deficit), then your body releases hormones and enzymes that signal your fat cells to release your fat reserves instead of keeping them in storage.

For stored fat to be liberated from the fat cell, hydrolysis (lipolysis or fat breakdown), splits the molecule of triaglycerol into glycerol and three fatty acids. An important enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) is the catalyst for this reaction. The stored fat (energy) gets released into the bloodstream as FFA's and they are shuttled off to the muscles where the energy is needed. As blood flow increases to the active muscles, more FFA's are delivered to the muscles that need them.

An important enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), then helps the FFA's get inside the mitochondria of the muscle cell, where the FFA's can be burned for energy. If you've ever taken a biology class, then you've probably heard of the mitochondria. This is the "cellular powerhouse" where energy production takes place and this is where the FFA's go to be burned for energy.

When the FFA's are released from the fat cell, the fat cell shrinks and that's why you look leaner when you lose body fat - because the fat cell is now smaller. A small or "empty" fat cell is what you're after if you want the lean, defined look.

It was once believed that the number of fat cells could not increase after adulthood, only the size of the fat cells could increase (or decrease). We now know that fat cells can indeed increase both in size (hypertrophy) and in number (hyperplasia) and that they are more likely to increase in number at certain times and under certain circumstances, such as 1) during late childhood and early puberty, 2) During pregnancy, and 3) During adulthood when extreme amounts of weight are gained

Some people are genetically predisposed to have more fat cells than others and women have more fat cells than men. An infant usually has about 5 - 6 billion fat cells. This number increases during early childhood and puberty, and a healthy adult with normal body composition has about 25 to 30 billion fat cells. A typical overweight adult has around 75 billion fat cells. But in the case of severe obesity, this number can be as high as 250 to 300 billion!

The average size (weight) of an adult fat cell is about 0.6 micrograms, but they can vary in size from 0.2 micograms to 0.9 micrograms. An overweight person's fat cells can be up to three times larger than a person with ideal body composition.

Remember, body fat is basically just a reserve source of energy and fat cells are the like the storage tanks. Unlike a gas tank in your car which is fixed in size, however, fat cells can expand or shrink in size depending on how "filled" they are.

Picture a balloon that is not inflated: It's tiny when not filled with air - maybe the size of your thumb. When you blow it up with air, it can expand 10 or 12 times it's normal size, because it simply fills up. That's what happens to fat cells: They start as nearly empty fat storage "tanks" (when you are lean), and when energy intake exceeds your needs, your fat cells "fill up" and "stretch out" like balloons filling up with jelly (not a pretty picture, is it?)

 

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So you don't actually "lose" fat cells, you "shrink" or "empty out" fat cells.

Take-home lessons:

1. Calories count!The signal that triggers your body to release adipose from fat cells is an energy deficit... you have to burn more than you eat.

2. Cut calories conservatively. Starving yourself may cause quick weightloss at first, but never works long term because it actually decreases the activity of fat burning enzymes that release fat from the cells. to avoid this "starvation mode" use exercise to BURN THE FAT, not very low calorie crash diets.

3. Get control of your weight now. If you are gaining weight, and especially if your weight is climbing upwards out of control, make a decision to STOP RIGHT NOW. Your fat cells might be multiplying, making it more difficult to burn fat in the future. NOW is the time!

4. If you've already lost weight, you must be forever diligent. Your fat cells are not gone, they have merely "shrunk" or "emptied out." Fitness is not a 12 week program, its a lifestyle. To stay lean you have to eat clean and stay active

5. Genetics are only a minor factor. You may not have control over how many fat cells you were born with, but you do control the major factors that determine how much fat you store: lifestyle, exercise, nutrition, mental attitude.

Genetics are not an excuse. The past is not an excuse. Your present condition is not an excuse. You can either make excuses or get results, but you can't do both.

So keep educating yourself about the science, read these newsletters, take action every day and go out there and make it happen!

 

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