The Power of Food
These 12 power foods make up a large part of your diet. The more of these foods you eat, the better your body will be able to increase lean muscle mass and avoid storing fat. They have been proven to do one or more of the following:
Builds muscle Helps promote weight loss Strengthens bone Lowers blood pressure Fights cancer Improves immune function Fights heart disease
Though you can base entire meals and snacks around these foods, you don’t have to. But do follow these guidelines.
Incorporate two or three of these foods into each of your three major meals and at least one of them into each of your three snacks.
Diversify your food at every meal to get a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Make sure you sneak a little bit of protein into each snack.
Here’s an easy way to remember what’s good for you. The first letter of each food group spells: A.B.S.D.I.E.T.P.O.W.E.R 12
1) Almonds and Other Nuts
Eat them with skins intact.
Superpowers: Building muscle, fighting food cravings
Secret weapons: Protein, monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, folate (in peanuts), fiber, magnesium, phosphorus
Fight against: Obesity, heart disease, muscle loss, cancer
Impostors: Salted or smoked nuts. High sodium spikes blood pressure.
Why you should eat this?
These days, you hear about good fats and bad fats the way you hear about good cops and bad cops. One’s on your side, and one’s going to beat you silly. Oreos fall into the latter category, but nuts are clearly out to help you. They contain the monounsaturated fats that clear your arteries and help you feel full. All nuts are high in protein and monounsaturated fat. But almonds are like Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: They’re the king of the nuts. Eat as much as two handfuls a day. If you eat 2 ounces of almonds (about 24 of them), it can suppress your appetite–especially if you wash them down with 8 ounces of water. For a quick popcorn alternative, spray a handful of almonds with nonstick cooking spray and bake them at 400 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle them with either a brown sugar and cinnamon mix or cayenne pepper and thyme.
2) Beans and Other Legumes
Including soybeans, chickpeas, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lima beans. Superpowers: Building muscle, helping burn fat, regulating digestion Secret weapons: Fiber, protein, iron, folate Fight against: Obesity, colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure Sidekicks: Lentils, peas, bean dips, hummus, edamame Impostors: Refried beans, which are high in saturated fats; baked beans, which are high in sugar.
Why you should eat this?
Most of us can trace our resistance to beans to some unfortunately timed intestinal upheaval (third-grade math class, a first date gone awry). But beans are, as the famous rhyme says, good for your heart; the more you eat them, the more you’ll be able to control your hunger. Black, lima, pinto, navy — you pick it. They’re all low in fat, and they’re packed with protein, fiber, and iron–nutrients crucial for building muscle and losing weight. Gastrointestinal disadvantages notwithstanding, they serve as one of the key members of the Abs Diet cabinet because of all their nutritional power. In fact, if you can replace a meat-heavy dish with a bean-heavy dish a couple of times a week, you’ll be lopping a lot of saturated fat out of your diet and replacing it with higher amounts of fiber.
3) Spinach and Other Green Vegetables
Superpowers: Neutralizing free radicals (molecules that accelerate the aging process) Secret weapons: Vitamins including A, C, and K; folate; beta-carotene; minerals including calcium and magnesium; fiber Fight against: Cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, osteoporosis Sidekicks: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts; green, yellow, red, and orange vegetables such as asparagus, peppers, and yellow beans Impostors: None, as long as you don’t fry them or smother them in fatty cheese sauces.
Why you should eat this?
You know vegetables are packed with important nutrients, but they’re also a critical part of your body-changing diet. I like spinach in particular because one serving supplies nearly a full day’s vitamin A and half of your vitamin C. It’s also loaded with folate — a vitamin that protects against heart disease, stroke, and colon cancer. Dress a sandwich with the stuff, or stir-fry it with fresh garlic and olive oil. Broccoli is high in fiber and more densely packed with vitamins and minerals than almost any other food. If you hate vegetables, hide them. Puree them and add them to marinara sauce or chili. The more you chop, the less you taste, and the easier it is for your body to absorb nutrients. With broccoli, sauté it in garlic and olive oil, and douse it with hot sauce.
4) Dairy Products
Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese. Superpowers: Building strong bones, firing up weight loss Secret weapons: Calcium, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium Fight against: Osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer Sidekicks: None Impostors: Whole milk, frozen yogurt
Why you should eat this?
Dairy is nutrition’s version of a typecast actor. It gets so much good press for strengthening bones that it garners little attention for all the other stuff it does well. Just take a look at the mounting evidence that calcium is a prime belly-buster. A University of Tennessee study found that dieters who consumed between 1,200 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day lost nearly twice as much weight as those taking in less calcium. Researchers think the mineral probably prevents weight gain by increasing the breakdown of body fat and hampering its formation. Low-fat yogurt, cheeses, and other dairy products can play a key role in your diet. But I recommend milk as your major source of calcium. Liquids take up lots of room in your stomach, so your brain gets the signal that you’re full. Sprinkling in chocolate whey powder can help curb sweet cravings.
5) Instant Oatmeal
Unsweetened, unflavored. Superpowers: Boosting energy and sex drive, reducing cholesterol, maintaining blood-sugar levels Secret weapons: Complex carbohydrates and fiber Fights against: Heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity Sidekicks: High-fiber cereals like All-Bran and Fiber One Impostors: Sugary cereals
Why you should eat this?
Oatmeal is the Bo Derek of your pantry: It’s a perfect 10. You can eat it at breakfast to propel you through sluggish mornings, a couple of hours before a workout to feel fully energized by the time you hit the weights, or at night to avoid a late-night binge. I recommend instant oatmeal for its convenience. But I want you to buy the unsweetened, unflavored variety and use other Powerfoods such as milk and berries to enhance the taste. Preflavored oatmeal often comes loaded with sugar calories. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, meaning that it attracts fluid and stays in your stomach longer than insoluble fiber (like vegetables). Soluble fiber is thought to reduce blood cholesterol by binding with digestive acids made from cholesterol and sending them out of your body. When this happens, your liver has to pull cholesterol from your blood to make more digestive acids, and your bad cholesterol levels drop. Trust me:
You need more fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Doctors recommend we get between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day, but most of us get half that. Fiber is like a bouncer for your body, kicking out troublemakers and showing them the door. It protects you from heart disease. It protects you from colon cancer by sweeping carcinogens out of the intestines quickly. Research: A Penn State study also showed that oatmeal sustains your blood sugar levels longer than many other foods, which keeps your insulin levels stable and ensures you won’t be ravenous for the few hours that follow. That’s good, because spikes in the production of insulin slow your metabolism and send a signal to the body that it’s time to start storing fat. Since oatmeal breaks down slowly in the stomach, it causes less of a spike in insulin levels than foods like bagels. Include it in a smoothie or as your breakfast. (A U.S. Navy study showed that simply eating breakfast raised metabolism by 10 percent.) Another cool fact about oatmeal:
Preliminary studies indicate that oatmeal raises the levels of free testosterone in your body, enhancing your body’s ability to build muscle and burn fat and boosting your sex drive.
Superpowers: Building muscle, burning fat Secret weapons: Protein, vitamins A and B12 Fight against: Obesity Sidekicks: Egg Beaters, which have fewer calories than eggs and no fat, but just as much of the core nutrients Impostors: None
Why you should eat this?
For a long time, eggs were considered pure evil, and doctors were more likely to recommend tossing eggs at passing cars than throwing them into omelette pans. That’s because just two eggs contain enough cholesterol to put you over your daily recommended value. Though you can cut out some of that by removing part of the yolk and using the white, more and more research shows that eating an egg or two a day will not raise your cholesterol levels. In fact, we’ve learned that most blood cholesterol is made by the body from dietary fat, not dietary cholesterol. That’s why you should take advantage of eggs and their powerful makeup of protein. The protein found in eggs has the highest “biological value” of protein — a measure of how well it supports your body’s protein need — of any food. In other words, the protein in eggs is more effective at building muscle than protein from other sources, even milk and beef. Eggs also contain vitamin B12, which is necessary for fat breakdown.
7) Turkey and Other Lean Meats
Lean steak, chicken, fish. Superpowers: Building muscle, improving the immune system Secret weapons: Protein, iron, zinc, creatine (beef), omega-3 fatty acids (fish), vitamins B6 (chicken and fish) and B12, phosphorus, potassium Fight against: Obesity, mood disorders, memory loss, heart disease Sidekicks: Shellfish, Canadian bacon, omega-3 rich flaxseed Impostors: Sausage, bacon, cured meats, ham, fatty cuts of steak like T-bone and rib eye
Why you should eat this?
A classic muscle-building nutrient, protein is the base of any solid diet plan. Turkey breast is one of the leanest meats you’ll find, and it packs nearly one-third of your daily requirements of niacin and vitamin B6. Dark meat, if you prefer, has lots of zinc and iron. One caution, though: If you’re roasting a whole turkey for a family feast, avoid self-basting birds, which have been injected wth fat. Beef is another classic muscle-building protein.
It’s the top food source for creatine — the substance your body uses when you lift weights. Beef does have a downside; it contains saturated fats, but some cuts have more than others. Look for rounds or loins (that’s code for extra-lean); sirloins and New York strips are less fatty than prime ribs and T-bones. To cut down on saturated fats even more, concentrate on fish like tuna and salmon, because they contain a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Those fatty acids lower levels of a hormone called leptin in your body. Several recent studies suggest that leptin directly influences your metabolism: The higher your leptin levels, the more readily your body stores calories as fat. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that mice with low leptin levels have faster metabolisms and are able to burn fat faster than animals with higher leptin levels. Mayo Clinic researchers studying the diets of two African tribes found that the tribe that ate fish frequently had leptin levels nearly five times lower than the tribe that primarily ate vegetables.
A bonus benefit:
Researchers in Stockholm found that men who ate no fish had three times the risk of prostate cancer of those who ate it regularly. It’s the omega-3s that inhibit prostate-cancer growth.
8) Peanut Butter
All-natural, sugar-free. Superpowers: Boosting testosterone, building muscle, burning fat Secret weapons: Protein, monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, niacin, magnesium Fights against: Obesity, muscle loss, wrinkles, cardiovascular disease Sidekicks: Cashew and almond butters Impostors: Mass-produced sugary and trans fatty peanut butters
Why you should eat this?
Yes, PB has its disadvantages: It’s high in calories, and it doesn’t go over well when you order it in four-star restaurants. But it’s packed with those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that can increase your body’s production of testosterone, which can help your muscles grow and your fat melt. In one 18-month experiment, people who integrated peanut butter into their diet maintained weight loss better than those on low-fat plans. A recent study from the University of Illinois showed that diners who had monounsaturated fats before a meal (in this case, it was olive oil) ate 25 percent fewer calories during that meal than those who didn’t. Practically speaking, PB also works because it’s a quick and versatile snack — and it tastes good.
Since a diet that includes an indulgence like peanut butter doesn’t leave you feeling deprived, it’s easier to follow and won’t make you fall prey to other cravings. Use it on an apple, on the go, or to add flavor to potentially bland smoothies. Two caveats: You can’t gorge on it because of its fat content; limit yourself to about 3 tablespoons per day. And you should look for all-natural peanut butter, not the mass-produced brands that have added sugar.
9) Olive Oil
Superpowers: Lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system Secret weapons: Monounsaturated fat, vitamin E Fights against: Obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure Sidekicks: Canola oil, peanut oil, sesame oil Impostors: Other vegetable and hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fatty acids, margarine
Why you should include this?
No need for a long explanation here: Olive oil and its brethren will help control your food cravings; they’ll also help you burn fat and keep your cholesterol in check. Do you need any more reason to pass the bottle?
10) Whole-Grain Breads and Cereals
Superpowers: Preventing your body from storing fat Secret weapons: Fiber, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc Fight against: Obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease Sidekicks: Brown rice, whole-wheat pretzels, whole-wheat pastas Impostors: Processed bakery products like white bread, bagels, and doughnuts; breads labeled wheat instead of whole wheat
Why you should eat this?
There’s only so long a person can survive on an all-protein diet or an all-salad diet or an all-anything diet. You crave carbohydrates because your body needs them. The key is to eat the ones that have been the least processed — carbs that still have all their heart-healthy, belly-busting fiber intact. Grains like wheat, corn, oats, barley, and rye are seeds that come from grasses, and they’re broken into three parts — the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Think of a kernel of corn. The biggest part of the kernel — the part that blows up when you make popcorn — is the endosperm. Nutritionally it’s pretty much a big dud. It contains starch, a little protein, and some B vitamins. The germ is the smallest part of the grain; in the corn kernel, it’s that little white seedlike thing. But while it’s small, it packs the most nutritional power. It contains protein, oils, and the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pyridoxine. It also has vitamin E and the minerals magnesium, zinc, potassium, and iron. The bran is the third part of the grain and the part where all the fiber is stored. It’s a coating around the endosperm that contains B vitamins, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals. So what’s the point of this little biology lesson?
Well, get this: When food manufacturers process and refine grains, guess which two parts get tossed out? Yup, the bran, where all the fiber and minerals are, and the germ, where all the protein and vitamins are. And what they keep — the nutritionally bankrupt endosperm (that is, starch) — gets made into pasta, bagels, white bread, white rice, and just about every other wheat product and baked good you’ll find. Crazy, right? But if you eat products made with all the parts of the grain — whole-grain bread, pasta, long-grain rice — you get all the nutrition that food manufacturers are otherwise trying to cheat you out of. Whole-grain carbohydrates can play an important role in a healthy lifestyle.
In an 11-year study of 16,000 middle-age people, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that consuming three daily servings of whole grains can reduce a person’s mortality risk over the course of a decade by 23 percent. (Tell that to your buddy who’s eating low-carb.) Whole-grain bread keeps insulin levels low, which keeps you from storing fat. In this diet, it’s especially versatile because it’ll supplement any kind of meal with little prep time. Toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, with a dab of peanut butter for a snack. Don’t believe the hype. Carbs — the right kind of carbs — are good for you. Warning: Food manufacturers are very sneaky. Sometimes, after refining away all the vitamins, fiber, and minerals from wheat, they’ll add molasses to the bread, turning it brown, and put it on the grocery shelf with a label that says wheat bread. It’s a trick! Truly nutritious breads and other products will say whole-wheat or whole-grain. Don’t be fooled.
11) Extra-Protein (Whey) Powder
Superpowers: Building muscle, burning fat Secret weapons: Protein, cysteine, glutathione Fights against: Obesity Sidekick: Ricotta cheese Impostor: Soy protein
Why you should eat this?
Protein powder? What the heck is that? It’s the only Abs Diet Powerfood that you may not be able to find at the supermarket, but it’s the one that’s worth the trip to a health food store. I’m talking about powdered whey protein, a type of animal protein that packs a muscle-building wallop. If you add whey powder to your meal — in a smoothie, for instance — you may very well have created the most powerful fat-burning meal possible. Whey protein is a high-quality protein that contains essential amino acids that build muscle and burn fat. But it’s especially effective because it has the highest amount of protein for the fewest number of calories, making it fat’s kryptonite. Smoothies with some whey powder can be most effective before a workout. A 2001 study at the University of Texas found that lifters who drank a shake containing amino acids and carbohydrates before working out increased their protein synthesis (their ability to build muscle) more than lifters who drank the same shake after exercising. Since exercise increases bloodflow to tissues, the theory goes that having whey protein in your system when you work out may lead to a greater uptake of amino acids — the building blocks of muscle — in your muscle. But that’s not all. Whey protein can help protect your body from prostate cancer. Whey is a good source of cysteine, which your body uses to build a prostate cancer–fighting antioxidant called glutathione. Adding just a small amount may increase glutathione levels in your body by up to 60 percent. By the way, the one great source of whey protein in your supermarket is ricotta cheese. Unlike other cheeses, which are made from milk curd, ricotta is made from whey — a good reason to visit your local Italian eatery.
12) Raspberries and Other Berries
Superpowers: Protecting your heart, enhancing eyesight, improving memory, preventing cravings Secret weapons: Antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, tannins (cranberries) Fight against: Heart disease, cancer, obesity Sidekicks: Most other fruits, especially apples and grapefruit Impostors: Sugary jellies
Why you should eat this?
Depending on your taste, any berry will do (except Crunch Berries). I like raspberries as much for their power as for their taste. They carry powerful levels of antioxidants, all-purpose compounds that help your body fight heart disease and cancer; the berries’ flavonoids may also help your eyesight, balance, coordination, and short-term memory. One cup of raspberries packs 6 grams of fiber and more than half of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Blueberries are also loaded with the soluble fiber that, like oatmeal, keeps you fuller longer. In fact, they’re one of the most healthful foods you can eat. Blueberries beat out 39 other fruits and vegetables in the antioxidant power ratings. (One study also found that rats that ate blueberries were more coordinated and smarter than rats that didn’t.) Strawberries contain another valuable form of fiber called pectin (as do grapefruits, peaches, apples, and oranges). In a study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, subjects drank plain orange juice or juice spiked with pectin. The people who got the loaded juice felt fuller after drinking it than those who got the juice without the pectin. The difference lasted for an impressive 4 hours.
Fantastic Fats: Six Functional Fatty Foods You Can Eat For Fat Loss
#1 Whole Eggs
A bodybuilding 1 staple and still one of the best sources of protein, eggs are easy to digest, and they provide an excellent amino acid profile. Both the yolks and the egg whites provide protein, but the whites are more quickly digested. The yolk contains dietary fat, which slows digestion, providing a more sustained source of protein. A single egg yolk has 6 grams (g) of fat (half of it saturated), so eating six to eight yolks a day would yield too much saturated fat for many bodybuilders. The solution is to reduce, not eliminate, the number of yolks.
For every five or six egg whites you eat, add one yolk, not exceeding three daily. Six whites and one yolk yield 24 g of protein and 6 g of fat, much of it healthy.
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a special type of dietary fat that help spare the loss of glutamine, thereby supporting the immune system and, indirectly, growth. They also help fight muscle inflammation and lead to enhanced glycogen storage. There’s even some indication they promote the loss of bodyfat and retention of muscle during dieting phases. Six ounces of salmon give you approximately 34 g of protein and 12 g of fat. That may seem like a lot, but there’s no need to worry about this level of fat. Much of it will be used for the benefits previously listed before your body has the ability to store it as bodyfat. If you notice a greater increase in bodyfat than you might want, you’re better off expending more energy (via cardio) than reducing healthy fats too much.
Depending on body size and protein needs, mass seekers can include six to 12 ounces of salmon up to four times a week. Since omega-3s are so vital, dieters should also shoot for this four-times-per-week schedule, even if they have to eat smaller portions.
#3 Flaxseed Oil
This is the best source of omega 3s, aside from fish. However, some research suggests that omega-3s from fish may be superior. Still, supplementing with flaxseed oil (or adding it to salads or protein shakes) is important because the body converts it into two compounds that are responsible for muscle-building and fat-liberating properties. The conversion process has a few limitations, so opting for supplemental fish oil and fish consumption over flaxseed might be the best way to go. Still, bodybuilders can benefit by taking two tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day, yielding up to 22 g of fat, while in a mass-gaining phase. Dieters can reduce dosage to one tablespoon per day.
#4 Red Meat
Sure, you need to reduce calories to cut up, but omitting too much fat might compromise your testosterone levels. Put simply, when you cut out too much dietary fat, and especially when also cutting carbs or total calories, your testosterone levels can drop. When that occurs, you can bid farewell to muscle mass.
Red meat contains fats that support testosterone levels, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a special fat that shows real promise in allowing the body to tap into fat stores as an energy source as well as promoting protein synthesis and muscle growth. Six ounces of a leaner cut of meat provides 32 g of protein and 9-14 g of fat. Mass seekers can eat red meat twice daily and even dieters can do the same, provided they do not consume more calories than their daily target.
#5 Cold-Processed Oils
Vegetable oils contain omega-6 fatty acids, cousins to omega-3s. However, some vegetable oils are “dead” in that they have been processed to extend shelf life, and the processing appears to leave the growth-promoting and fat-burning qualities common to many oils inert. On the other hand, cold-processed oils retain the characteristics that help promote bodybuilding hormone production and blood flow to muscles, and the oils also battle inflammation. To get your requirement of omega-6 fats, simply mix your own dressing for salads and vegetables. Combine two tablespoons of cold-processed oil, 1/3 cup vinegar and two teaspoons of Mrs. Dash seasoning. You can use the entire mix daily if mass is your goal or half of the mix if your goal is shredding.
#6 Low-Fat Cheese
What a bum rap cheese has taken. Many myths seem to surround dairy products as a definitive fattening food–and they’re not true! Low-fat cheese contains small amounts of CLA, the fat-fighting muscle-building compound also found in red meat. Furthermore, dairy products contain many unique anabolism-promoting peptides, as well as calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Recent research has also shown the presence of calcitriol, a substance that may help bum fat during low-calorie diets.
Low-fat cheese is also excellent for its content (about 7 g per ounce) as well as its type (casein) of protein. You can’t go wrong with low-fat cheese as a mass-building staple or as a beneficial protein for a dieter
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Strengthening your muscles requires breaking them down, which leads to a natural yet irritating aftereffect: muscle soreness. According to Ball State’s director of strength research David Pearson, this microtrauma is a natural occurrence that results from tiny tears in your muscle fibers.
Solid nutrition habits can help rid your body of soreness and inflammation. One such habit, growing in popularity, is to incorporate cherry juice as part of a post-training recovery routine. Case in point: the University of Florida, whose director of sports nutrition, Cheryl Zonkowski, says that after intense workouts, Gator athletes down CherryPharm, a product that contains “50 tart cherries…with a little apple juice concentrate to give it some shelf life.”
According to menshealth.com, dark-red fruit can protect your muscles during intense training. The website cites a study conducted at the Oregon Health & Science University, which found that consuming tart cherry juice resulted in less pain after intense activity. Reason being, cherries, along with red grapes and pomegranates, contain an antioxidant called anthocyanins, which helps alleviate inflammation.
Keep this in mind next time you finish a hard session at the gym.
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Extremely lucky and excited today my neighbor just gave me a shit load of weights, bars etc. and there is more to come. I swear I felt like I was 10 again with my new toys. I brought all the equipment inside and went IN! for like an hour. I can’t wait to see what else he might have for me and I would like to add everything is in mint condition so yeah I’m winning today.
Diet Dangers: Here’s How To Avoid Dietary Pitfalls So You Can Keep Your Muscles & Shed Fat
When it comes to dieting, if you’re like most fit individuals, you tend to think in terms of losing bodyfat. When that’s your only focus, though, you may be overlooking one of the most important and complex elements of the dieting process: your hormone levels.
Role Of Hormones
Hormones are crucial chemicals that your body manufactures, and their levels can make or break your physique. Your body naturally produces all sorts of hormones to support muscle repair, growth and recovery. When you diet to reduce bodyfat, your growth-supporting hormones may take a nosedive, resulting in a loss of muscle mass. This month, I focus on the four biggest problems you can create by overdieting: decreased thyroid function, lower testosterone levels, immune-system compromise and lower leptin levels. Don’t despair I also detail ways to approach your dieting so you can avoid those pitfalls and keep your muscle mass while continuing to shed bodyfat.
Pitfalls Of Overdieting
Thyroid Function Decreases
Arnold Schwarzenegger governs California. He’s the chief, the director, the head honcho. In the same way, your thyroid governs your body. Specifically, thyroid hormone helps regulate how many calories your body burns each day. It also impacts muscle growth by speeding up or slowing down protein synthesis. Overly strict dieting can backfire because it may cause thyroid hormone levels to fall. The result is that your body burns fewer calories.
Even though you’re eating less, you may not burn fat as effectively as when you were eating more calories. This reduction in your metabolic rate can negatively impact your body’s ability to lose bodyfat.
Testosterone Levels Drop
When calories are cut too aggressively, testosterone (the hormone that supports muscle growth) declines, leading to a compromised ability to “hang on” to hard-earned muscle mass. It’s crucial to keep testosterone levels up to hold on to muscle mass. It’s also important to keep testosterone levels elevated because doing so helps to cut bodyfat. Testosterone does this through two processes. First, it increases the number of beta-receptors (the parts of a fat cell that help to break down stored fat) and, second, it inhibits the activity of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme that “sucks” fat from your bloodstream and stores it) near fat cells. The last thing you want as a dieter is a decline in your testosterone levels.
Immunity Is Impaired
The immune system is your body’s built-in homeland security patrol, protecting it from germs, bacteria, viruses and anything else that might break down your body. Overdieting, which decreases calories too much or for too long, may ultimately have a negative effect on your immune system. A weak immune system has a direct impact on your body’s ability to hold muscle. Impaired immune function can also cause rises in cortisol, a stress hormone that tears down muscle elevated cortisol tends to decrease testosterone.
A body with a weak immune system finds it harder to destroy free radicals, the tiny components usually associated with stress, including the stress from weight training. Increased amounts of free radicals can lead to insulin resistance, a condition that elevates insulin levels a contributor to the storage of bodyfat.
Leptin Levels Decline
Leptin is an important hormone that helps your body regulate its weight. Overdieting can cause a decline in leptin levels, which creates two dieting obstacles. First, you may experience an increased intensity in food cravings (leading you to eat more than you want). Second, decreased leptin can also slow down your metabolic rate, making it more challenging to shed bodyfat. Coupled, these problems can have a severe impact on your ability to diet effectively.
Smart Diet Strategies
Reduce Carbs By No More Than 30%
If you normally eat 500 grams (g) of carbs each day, don’t drop the amount to below 350 a day. A 30% drop in carbs is more than enough of a decline to encourage fat loss. Jumping straight into extreme low-carb dieting can backfire, flattening your muscles and triggering one or more of the four pitfalls. Longer but less severe diets are a much more effective way to burn bodyfat while maintaining muscle mass.
Don’t Cut Out Simple Carbs
In their zeal to rip up, many bodybuilders choose only slow-burning carbs, such as oats, yams, beans and red potatoes. They reason that these carbs release less insulin than others and that lower insulin levels encourage fat burning. Although that’s true, I always suggest that for two out of every 10 training days, carbs should be fast burning. For example, a bodybuilder who has cut carbs to 350 g per day stays at that number but switches to fast-digesting carbs, such as white rice mixed with raisins, bagels with jam, Cream of Wheat cereal, rice cakes and fat-free toaster pastries. In my experience, this seems to help preserve muscle tissue, most likely by increasing insulin levels.
When insulin levels rise above typical levels without higher calorie intake the result is greater muscle maintenance without the storage of bodyfat. In other words, you get the benefit of the anabolic effect of insulin without the fat-storing effect.
Eat Fewer Carbs When You Don’t Train
What about rest days? Normally, you should aspire to the recommendation of at least 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight even a little more when dieting as long as your carb intake is sufficient. After all, you need carbs to train and to help support thyroid levels. However, on rest days, you should dramatically decrease your carbs. Consume about 100 g on your days off from training, but increase your protein intake to 2 g per pound of bodyweight on those days. Temporarily increasing protein while decreasing carbs can improve the ability of muscles to uptake glucose.
When you return to a higher carb intake, say 350 g, and the gold standard 1 g or more of protein per pound of bodyweight, the carbs are more readily stored in muscles, keeping them in an anabolic state during your dieting phase. If carbs are being deposited in muscles, then they’re not headed for bodyfat storage.
Don’t Overdo Cardio
There’s no doubt that cardio is an effective part of a fat-loss strategy. It burns calories, and much of what it burns is bodyfat. Key word: much (not all). Overdieting can suppress hormones, such as thyroid and testosterone, and it can downgrade the immune system. Excess cardio, though, can be even more destructive than overdieting in reducing important hormones. In other words, if you go overboard trying to burn calories with cardio, you may lower hormone levels that help burn fat and build muscle. The result is that you end up looking terrible. Excess cardio is a dead end and can cause a severe loss in muscle mass.
I remain steadfast in my belief that four 45-minute sessions a week is the max you should do if you hope to keep your thyroid and testosterone levels up and your immune system potent.
Cheat Within Reason
Bodybuilders always ask me if cheating eating a lot more on one day a week is helpful. The premise is that greater food consumption once a week will help keep your metabolism from dropping. Cheating I generally define it as doubling up on carb intake is permissible and even helpful only after you have hit a wall in your weight loss or, more important, no longer appear to be hardening up. My experience tells me that point is not reached weekly so cheating one day a week is out. In my opinion, metabolic slowdown usually occurs 10-17 days into a diet, depending on the person.
At that point, increasing calories specifically carbs can keep leptin, thyroid and testosterone levels, as well as the immune system, from crashing. That should help your body and not hinder your bodybuilding progress.
The Logical Conclusion
Dieting involves a cascade of metabolic processes and, as a bodybuilder, you want to encourage the processes that support bodyfat reduction while discouraging those that tend to reduce muscle mass. To do this, moderate dieting over a longer period of time is a better approach than severe dieting over a short period of time.
As with all things in bodybuilding, the best way to achieve an extreme physique is through consistency and moderation.
Author: Chris Aceto
Caffeine Factor: It’s The Highly Beloved & Most Ingested Drug In The World & For A Good Reason
Ever since the ancient Chinese brewed the first cup of tea and Ethiopian herders noticed their goats jumping about after munching coffee beans, we’ve been hooked on caffeine. Each day, nine out of 10 Americans ingest some form of caffeine. Two-thirds comes from the morning coffee slam, and the rest is spread across sodas, tea, energy drinks, supplements and chocolate. We may be hyped about caffeine, but caffeine doesn’t deserve its hype as an addictive, dehydrating and dangerous drug. Far from it.
Used the right way, caffeine can provide a healthy stimulating effect for both brawn and brain.
Before & After
Mounting evidence shows that preworkout caffeine can increase endurance, which means more reps, more sets and longer sessions, which translates into bigger muscles. “Next to creatine, caffeine is probably the most effective performance-enhancer,” says Jose Antonio, PhD, CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Caffeine doesn’t directly affect muscles; instead, it influences the central nervous system [CNS] to increase your pain threshold, so it’s easier to push through those final reps, extra sets and last treadmill interval.
Research also confirms that caffeine can immediately increase muscle strength. Scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported that weight-trained men who took a caffeine supplement one hour preworkout increased the number of reps they could complete on the bench press using 80% of their one-rep maxes.
In a follow-up study, the same lab reported that weight-trained subjects who took one dose of caffeine preworkout increased their max bench-press weights by about 5 pounds. A 2008 study by Indian researchers also found that when subjects consumed 2, 4 or 6 mg of caffeine an hour before training, their muscle strength and endurance increased with larger doses. This CNS effect also increases lipolysis, the breakdown of fat. This becomes an additional workout fuel source and triggers a thermogenic response to raise body temperature and promote calorie-burning. “So in effect, caffeine increases your fat-burning ability while it improves your workout performance,” Antonio points out. If you want to jump-start muscle refueling, make sure to add caffeine to your postworkout meal. Australian scientists found that endurance cyclists who ingested a beverage of carbohydrates and caffeine equal to 8 mg per kilogram of bodyweight about 5-6 cups of coffee had 66% higher glycogen levels four hours after exercise compared to those who drank a carb-only beverage. Caffeine increases glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles, and faster glycogen recovery means shorter recovery time and more energy for your next workout.
Caffeine is also believed to enhance the activity of several signaling enzymes, including protein kinase and protein kinase B, both of which enhance muscle glucose uptake. Higher glycogen levels also increase muscle size, since glycogen pulls water into muscle cells.
Use, Don’t Abuse
More isn’t always better. Gulping cans of Red Bull won’t automatically produce a bull-like physique. You have to consume the right amount based on your weight, and at the right time, for caffeine to work. Everyone reacts to caffeine differently, but most studies suggest the ideal zone is from 100-200 mg to 600 mg. “Less than that doesn’t appear to help and any more doesn’t provide additional benefits,” Antonio explains. A good formula to follow is 3-6 mg per kilogram or 1.4-2.7 mg per pound of bodyweight; a 180-pound guy needs about 250-490 mg. (In comparison, the average person’s daily intake is about 300 mg.)
Caffeine is absorbed by the stomach and small intestine, and takes 45-60 minutes to reach maximum concentration in the blood. Yet you can often feel the kick within 10 minutes when levels reach one-half its concentration, according to a 2008 University of Barcelona (Spain) study. The full effect can last 2-3 hours and diminishes within 12 hours.
Make sure not to overdo it; you need to find your ideal tolerance level. Overindulging can trigger symptoms of caffeine intoxication such as insomnia, overexcitement, restlessness and, in severe cases, muscle twitching, and rambling thoughts and speech. These reactions often strike soon after consumption but wane as caffeine levels fall. Take a trial-and-error approach: If you experience any symptoms, reduce your pre-and postworkout amounts. In this case, less can actually be more.
“You can still benefit from caffeine by consuming it in smaller amounts,” says caffeine researcher Daniel P. Evatt, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Baltimore).
Caffeine pills like NoDoz maximum strength may have higher amounts than most beverages [200 mg in one tablet] but take longer to digest. “Caffeine in liquid form is absorbed and takes effect more quickly,” Antonio says. The best liquid jolts: coffee and energy drinks. A regular 8-ounce home-brewed java boasts an average 133 mg of caffeine, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Washington, D.C.).
But if you need a stronger shot, a regular Starbucks coffee contains more than 300 mg per 16-ounce serving.
If coffee isn’t your idea of a preworkout beverage, pop open an energy drink. The top jolts are Spike Shooter (300 mg per 8.4 ounces), Monster Energy (160 mg per 16 ounces) and Full Throttle (144 mg per 16 ounces). Popular brands Amp, Red Bull and Rockstar vary from 74-80 mg. Additives like sugar and extras such as ginkgo biloba, ginseng and vitamin B won’t interfere with absorption or diminish the effect, Antonio points out. When it comes to soda, stick with trusted brands. A 2007 study in the Journal of Food Science found that recognized names have more caffeine than store brands such as Kroger, Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie.
For the biggest buzz, try citrus-flavored Mountain Dew MDX or Vault Zero, each with 118 mg of caffeine per 20 ounces. Your standard 12-ounce Coke, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi offer a puny 58-68 mg.
Works For Everyone
Another advantage of caffeine is it works the same whether you’re a caffeine junkie or teetotaler. Research published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism in 2009 compared pain tolerance of 25 college-age men who were split into two groups: high caffeine users (400 mg per day, or 3-4 cups of coffee) and low consumers (100 mg or less). Subjects took 5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight (2-3 8-ounce cups of coffee) and cycled for 30 minutes at a nearly 80% [VO.sub.2] max.
Afterward, both groups reported less quadriceps pain compared to a placebo team, ”What’s interesting is the body doesn’t seem to become resistant to caffeine’s effect,” says co-author Steven Broglio, PhD, ATC, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Caffeine can pump up your gray matter, too and you don’t need as much. Scientists at the Innsbruck Medical University (Austria) discovered that just 100 mg of caffeine (1 cup of coffee) increases activity in the part of the frontal lobe that influences short-term memory and the anterior cingulum, the part of the brain that controls attention. Why does caffeine give you that slap-in-the-face brain boost? Basically, it’s a case of mistaken identity, Antonio says. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain, which when adenosine is involved makes you tired but with caffeine speeds up brain-cell activity. To maintain that caffeine high, don’t bother slamming an extra double espresso. Instead, down small amounts of caffeine about 2 ounces of coffee, for example every hour, suggests James Wyatt, PhD, a sleep researcher at Rush University Medical Center [Chicago].
“Caffeine blocks the steady buildup of chemical messengers that induce sleep, but you need to maintain levels in the brain,” he notes. “A few morning cups will still cause caffeine levels to fall as the day progresses.”
Take A Breather
Do you huff and puff on cardio day? Ingesting caffeine within an hour of exercise can reduce symptoms of exercise-induced asthma (EIA) such as chest tightness, cough and shortness of breath, reports a 2009 Indiana University (Bloomington) study. EIA affects 7%-20% of adults; many don’t suffer from regular asthma but feel its effects during cardio. Researchers found that 9 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight (about 720 mg for a 180-pound guy) was just as effective as an albuterol inhaler, which is commonly used to treat EIA.
Caffeine is believed to reduce airway constriction by blocking inflammatory pathways, says study co-author Timothy VanHaitsma, MS, of the University of Utah (Salt Lake City). Nonasthmatics won’t get the same airway benefit, but 5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight was shown to increase cardio power output during cycling and running.
Myth: Caffeine Can Sober You Up
Slugging caffeine won’t offset a drinking binge, says a 2009 report in Behavioral Neuroscience. It’ll make you a more alert drunk, but researchers suggest this could have a negative effect because it skews your rational thinking. This means you’re more likely to engage in risky behavior such as driving or picking a fight with the bouncer, suggests co-author Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University [Philadelphia].
Myth: Caffeine Makes You Dehydrated
A review of 41 human studies found that caffeine intakes up to 400 mg daily (4 cups of coffee) don’t produce dehydration, even when exercising. “Your more frequent bathroom breaks after downing, say, a 64-ounce Big Gulp are due to the extra fluid, not caffeine,” says Steven Broglio, PhD, ATC.
Myth: Caffeine Is Addictive
People hooked on daily java are more addicted to the morning routine than uncontrollable caffeine cravings, says Jose Antonio, PhD. Still, kicking a caffeine habit can trigger minor, temporary withdrawal symptoms.
“If you’re a daily caffeine drinker and you suddenly quit, you may feel like crap for about 48 hours with drowsiness, headaches and irritability, but then your body will adapt,” he explains.
Body fat measurements and the measuring tape are recognized as superior methods for measuring “weight loss”. When one declares that they want to “lose weight”, what they often mean is that they want to lose fat. So, now that you’ve had your body fat percentage measured, what does the number really mean?
First, your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat your body contains. If you are 150 pounds and 10% fat, it means that your body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else).
A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues and is the main form of the body’s energy storage. The following table describes body fat ranges and their associated categories:
*General Body Fat Percentage Categories
Let’s say you’re a 130# woman with 23% body fat, and you goal is to “lose 20 pounds”:Knowing your body fat percentage can also help you determine if your weight loss goals are realistic. Remember, weight loss doesn’t always mean fat loss. For example:
Initial body fat: 130# x 0.23 fat = 30 # body fat
Lean body mass: 130# total - 30# fat = 100# lean body mass (bones, organs and all else)
Goal: 130# - 20# = 110 pounds
As you can see, the goal of losing 20 pounds is not realistic or healthy. At 110 pounds, this woman still requires 100# of lean body mass (bones, organs, etc.), but would only be carrying 10#, or only 9% body fat. From the chart above, you can see that this is a dangerously low percentage.
A better goal might be for the woman to reduce her body fat from 23% to 18%. In this case:
130# x 0.18 = 23 # body fat
100# lean body mass + 23 # = 123# goal weight
So, for this individual to achieve a lean, but healthy 18% fat, she would need to lose only 7 pounds of fat, reducing her weight from her current 130 pounds to 123 pounds. Losing more than 7 pounds means losing lean body mass (usually metabolically-active muscle tissue), which is clearly not desirable.
So before you decide that you need to “lose weight”, remember to consider that “weight” consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to keep your weight loss goals realistic, and remember, keep the calorie-burning muscle, and lose only the fat.