How to get in shape – 3 styles to consider: Muscle and weight gain

Body builder

Last time, I wrote about the 3 styles people should consider when deciding how to get in shape. This article is part 2 in a 4 part series. In this article, I will be going into greater detail about what it means to completely focus on muscle and weight gain. I will talk about the pros, cons, and what you should focus on instead.

Quick Disclaimer: If this style of getting in shape is your true passion, then that’s awesome. I have nothing against it. I simply believe there’s a much healthier and sustainable way to get and stay in shape.

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Research is the first step people typically take when deciding how to get in shape. Whether the internet or magazines are used for research, seeing pictures of huge body builders is inevitable.

It’s easy to see pictures of these people and conclude that’s the ideal physique to shoot for. The reality is that rarely is a physique like that healthy or sustainable. Many body builders put their bodies through an immense amount of strain that can have long-lasting effects.

 The only 2 instances where it makes to focus on muscle and weight gain

There are really only two instances where it’s beneficial to put complete focus on muscle and weight gain.

  1. Training for a sport or competition that requires it.

    Example 1: Football coach tells linemen they need to put on significant muscle and weight to be competitive.
    Example 2: Some variation of a body building competition where size and “bigness” of muscles matter.

  2. Muscle and weight needs to be put on to get healthy. In this case, the person may have been told by a health professional that they’re extremely underweight and are risking permanent damage as a result.

That’s it.

I wish I was the guy to tell you how to safely and effectively accomplish those 2 things. The truth is, I’m not. I’m not that guy partly because I believe there’s not much point in living solely for muscle and weight gain, and partly because I’ve never had a need to.

Risks unique to this style

There’s risks with everything in life. Even if you lock yourself in a padded room so you never get hurt, you run the risk of mental illness. However, focusing completely on muscle and weight gain has a few unique risks to be aware of

The Risks

  • The first and most obvious risk is any performance enhancing supplement that does lasting damage to the body. The pressures of always trying to gain more muscle sometimes pushes people to use supplements that aren’t the best for them long-term.

  • The second risk is the eating aspect of this style. Focusing on muscle and weight gain requires eating a lot of food. There’s no way to avoid that. The risk isn’t eating a lot of food. The risk here is that many people use this as an excuse to eat a lot of bad food. All that bad food does more damage internally than simply adding a few pounds.

  • The last risk is the strain that extra weight puts on the body. The body doesn’t care that the extra weight is muscle. All the body knows is that it’s joints are now experiencing more stress.

What should I focus on instead?

I will be posting an article about this in a week, but the short answer is that you should focus on a mix between muscle gain and weight loss. Complete focus on muscle and weight gain is one extreme. The other extreme is losing weight at all costs, which will be talked about next. Somewhere between those two is where the ideal style of getting in shape is

Stick around for the next article about losing weight at all costs!

-Adam

Lose Stomach Fat Easily

measuretape

Being able to lose fat from specific body parts sounds intuitive, right? Doing a curl should cause me to lose fat on my arm, while exercising my stomach should torch stomach fat, right?

In a perfect world, losing fat in all the right places (also known as targeted fat loss or spot reduction) would be the norm. 50 crunches a day for a month would reveal our abs, while 50 sets with that one pound dumbbell would tone our arms right up. Unfortunately for all of us, losing fat in the place of your choosing is a myth. This myth needs to die and It’s death needs to be swift.

To find the solution the quick way, skip right down to the section labeled “The Solution.”

The Problem

Sadly, losing fat doesn’t work the same way as gaining muscle. Here are the distinct differences between gaining muscle and losing fat:

  • When it comes to gaining muscle, you gain muscle when you use it. Working out the lower body doesn’t increase muscle in the upper body, and visa versa. You can’t do bicep curls with the hope that your calves will get stronger.
  • Fat loss, on the other hand, gets decided by uncontrollable factors such as genetics, hormones, and age. When you use more calories  then you eat in a day, your body uses stored fat to cover that imbalance. The difference here is that the body chooses. We don’t get to decide where it pulls that fat from by working out specific areas.

Summary of those two bullets: You get to choose which muscles to work out, You don’t get to choose where you lose fat from.

For some people, fat gets stored easier in the stomach, while others store fat easier in the hips and thighs. The result of this is that those areas are the last to get lean.

The irony in believing in this myth, is that if you’re not focused on the right thing, you may end up achieving the opposite of what you’re aiming to accomplish. Building up muscle underneath the fat without getting rid of the fat, only makes your stomach bigger.

[note: Getting rid of stomach fat seems to be widely sought after, so that’s why I’m focusing on it. This same principle can be applied to any other part of the body though.]

The Science

The subject of targeted fat loss has been tested through scientific studies many times since it was first unveiled. Both of these were found at Yalescientific.org:

  • Back in 1971, UC Irvine did a study on tennis players that have been playing for a while. Those that play tennis hold the racquet with one arm, and therefore use that arm much more often. In a nutshell, they found there was no difference at all between the left and right arms of these tennis players. This was regardless of whether they were right or left handed. You would think if targeted fat loss was real, there would be at least some difference in amounts of fat between the arms.
  • In 2007, the University of Connecticut conducted a little more involved study. They put over 100 people through a 12 week-long weight lifting program. In the program, the participant’s non-dominant arm was focused on. After the program was over, the people were put through the MRI machine. The scientists in charge of the study found that fat loss was generalized and not focused on the arm worked out.

Targeted fat loss simply doesn’t work.

Getting rid of fat has much more to do with calories in versus calories out. It’s a numbers game, and when it comes to numbers, these exercises that promise to “melt love handles” or “torch stomach fat” just don’t add up. 50 crunches don’t burn that many calories compared to running.

To illustrate the fact that certain exercises are better for losing fat, take a look at some interesting comparisons I found using a table at nutristrategy.com:

  • A light weight lifting session burns exactly the same amount of calories as….drum roll please….walking the dog. Please, if you’re looking to lose fat, just go walk the dog and enjoy yourself more.
  • Conversely, doing a vigorous, body building workout (how many of us can actually describe our workouts like that?) burns less calories than….walking at a 4.5 mph pace. Yeah, that’s over a 13 minute mile. If you’re looking to lose fat, just go for a walk at a decent pace.

The Solution

This solution is pretty easy and key to getting into shape. I kept it nice and short so it’s easy to digest.

There’s really only one efficient solution to getting rid of fat: diet. Eat a clean and healthy diet and you will start to see results. Period.

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This will be talked about and explained further pretty often as diet is one of the things I’m most passionate about. Till next time!

-Adam Conway

Feel free to comment with your thoughts about targeted fat loss!

Simple Guide to Calories

The feared nutrition facts label (a.k.a. gibberish)

The feared nutrition facts label (a.k.a. gibberish)

Learning about nutrition is a tricky thing that people tend to sweep under the rug. It’s confusing, complicated, and impossible to master 100%. In an effort to educate people by starting simply, this is an intro to the absolute basics of nutrition. There is much, much more to learn and will be covered in more detail later on. Here are the questions that will be answered today.

The Questions
What exactly are calories and what do they do?
What determines how many calories I need per day?
How many calories do I actually need per day?
Where are calories actually found?

 

What exactly are calories and what do they do?

Calories are energy. They provide our body with the fuel it needs to keep running. As our body uses calories to perform actions, it gives off heat, much like a car. When a car is started, gas is used to run the engine, and in turn, heat is created. Giving off heat is what’s commonly referred to as “burning calories.” The body at rest burns a certain number of calories specific to each individual, while exercise burns off even more of them. Similarly to a car using gas to power the engine, our body uses fuel (a.k.a. calories) to do everything from powering our heart, to running a marathon, and everything else in between.

While calories are needed to sustain life, more calories doesn’t equal more life unfortunately. Knowing the relationship between calories and a healthy body is the first step in getting healthier.

Simply put, when the body gets exactly the amount of calories used in a day, it neither gains nor loses any fat. When the body gets more calories than it uses in a day, the excess is stored as fat. When the body gets less calories than it uses in a day, it uses the fat that was stored earlier to make up for that deficit.

The relationship between calories and fat is a tricky one, but the easiest explanation to understand is that a pound of fat in the human body is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Based off this number, when someone consumes 3,500 more calories than is used through any number of days, the body stores a pound of fat. Visa versa, when someone consumes 3,500 less calories than is used through any number of days, the body loses a pound of fat.

 

What determines how many calories are needed per day?

How many calories are needed in a day is completely different for each person, but at it’s simplest level, it’s made up of two different parts:

  1. The first part is the basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the absolute minimum amount of calories needed. We’re talking how many calories would be used when lying in bed for 24 hours without moving a muscle. BMR is the minimum amount of calories it would take to run all organs necessary for survival in that situation. BMR is influenced by factors such as age, weight, gender, and genetics.
  2. The second part of the equation is any action done in addition to simply lying in bed for 24 hours. This action can be anything from watching TV, to vigorous exercise. This part is more easily controlled and is where we have the biggest opportunity to improve our health.

Example: Spending all day watching TV while making frequent trips to the fridge and bathroom will increase the amount of calories you burn over your BMR but it’s a tiny increase compared to other things you could do. In this example, the use of your legs while walking around in addition to using your arm and fingers to use the remote slightly increases the amount of calories your body uses. In contrast, exercising and being active greatly increases the amount of calories one burns on top of your BMR

 

How many calories do I actually need per day?

Figuring out the exact number of calories needed per day can cause a headache. There are multiple formulas, equations, and tables to help figure it out. Constant research and debating over which one is the most correct can lead to an overwhelming feeling followed by giving up altogether. In an effort to avoid that pitfall, I found a calculator I liked and simply went with it.

Here’s the one I use: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm
If you don’t like using this calculator, that’s fine by me. Just find a different one and go with it!

The only way to get an exact number of how many calories needed per day requires visits to medical professionals specializing in the field. In addition to the enormous cost of that, caloric need changes quite often which makes those professional consultations time consuming and expenses. Using any online calorie calculator is going to give a rough estimate of what you should be consuming, which is good enough to get started.

The best way to determine if the numbers the calorie calculator are giving you is correct is by listening to your body. Are you putting on more weight or are you losing it? Do you feel so deprived all day that you have no energy or are you so stuffed you can barely move?

Paying attention to signals your body gives you is the key to succeeding.

 

Where are calories actually found?

Calories are a sort of nebulous idea but where are they actually found?
While calories are found in other a few other sources, the most common source of calories is found in Fats, Carbohydrates, and Protein. There’s a vast amount of different options within each of the three categories, but at its most basic level, we get the majority of our calories from fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

These three categories make up what is known as macronutrients. I will be doing a follow-up post on each of these macronutrients, but to wrap up this post, here is how each one relates to calories:

  • Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories
  • Each gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories
  • Each gram of protein is equal to 4 calories

This information is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nutrition. I will be going into more detail on every aspect of nutrition in the future so check back!

Thanks for reading!
-Adam Conway

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References: