Muscle Building: How it’s done

Muscle growth key points

  • Be aware of how many calories your consuming
  • Create a 300-600 calorie surplus through diet (approx 20cals/lb body weight)
  • Eat every 2-4hours
  • Daily protein intake should be at least 2g/kg of body weight (eg 90kg = 180g protein a day)
  • Pre/post workout and breakfast are important opportunities to build muscle so make these meals >700cals
  • Women and men should eat around 400-700 calories in each meal which should  include a complete protein with a decent amount of complex carbohydrate
  • Use a programme that reflects you natural genetic ability
  • Train progressively heavier each week
  • Sleep for at least 8 hours each night, you grow when you are not training so learn to relax outside of the gym
  • Water! being well hydrated means hydrated cells = hydrated muscles = more muscle growth

Proper nutrition + Correct training principles + Adequate rest = Muscle growth

For muscle-building to occur certain physical stresses and dietary requirements needs to be adhered to. Our bodies aren’t really designed to be as muscular as some men are or want to be and to maintain that kind of physique it requires a lot of discipline from the dietary side and plenty of hard work from the physical side on a consistent and regular basis to continue to maintain or build that muscle. The correct blend of nutrients alongside the correct training for your genetic build, coupled with enough R&R, will equate to gains in muscle mass as far as your genetics will allow.

Muscle fuel

First of all, lets start with the diet! Calorie intake for muscular hypertrophy is kind of a reversed fat loss diet. For fat loss, you consume fewer calories than what you expend each day to lose fat. For muscle to grow, however, there needs to be a calorie surplus, more calories than you expend daily. These extra calories are what provides your body with the energy to grow new lean muscle tissue. Make no mistake, if you aren’t consuming enough calories, you won’t grow, plain and simple. Even if you are consuming enough calories you will at some point need to increase them to keep new gains coming. I kid you not when I say building serious muscle naturally can require some serious eating. For me, 4000 calories a day is standard if I’m sitting at around 205lbs in total body weight. On the other hand, more calories doesn’t necessarily mean more muscle, only unnecessary fat gain. With possibly the exception of a typical hard gainer, a true “ectomorph”, anything over around 400-500 calories above what it takes to maintain your weight will likely pose a risk of new unwanted fat gain.

Uh-oh, so what does this mean…calorie counting? what!? seriously?

If you want to be accurate and want to minimise fat gain, whilst maximising muscle gain, I think it’s a necessity unfortunately. As a general rule, for fat gain susceptible “endomorphs”, a modest 300 calorie surplus is all that is needed to provide enough calories to grow on, while an ectomorph may need a 600 calorie surplus (or more) while the mesomorph could gorge on a 600 calorie surplus and will probably still get crazy shredded gains (bastards). So if your currently eating 2600 calories and have been for a couple weeks and you haven’t even gained half a pound, then its safe to say you need more calories. Therefore, increase your calories by roughly 300 (ie, 2 protein shakes and a banana or a handful of nuts and an apple or a peanut butter sandwich) until you can gain around 1-2lb in 2 weeks. Maintain this caloric intake until you no longer gain 1lb every 2 weeks. This is the trial and error method. Another simple way to eat for muscle gains is to simply start by eating 18 calories per lb of body weight and adjust from there depending on whether or not you’re gaining or losing weight each week.

Drip fed protein

When you lift heavy weights you break the muscle down and cause micro trauma, tiny tears in the fibers that when combined with enough sleep, calories and protein equates to new thicker stronger muscle fibers. To save you an essay eat 2g of protein per kg of body weight throughout the whole day, you weigh 90kg = 180g protein. Regular eating patterns should be incorporated to maximise protein synthesis, eating every 3 hours works well for me and that feeding time interval has some good research behind it too, 30-40g of protein for women and men is more than enough per meal.

Carbs = bigger fuller muscles

Since we know carbs draw around 2.5 g of water in with every gram of carbohydrate you eat it becomes very easy to gain weight and create a more muscle-building environment when your carb intake is high. I personally choose to have most of my carbs in the meals after training, around a good chunk for breakfast. Having most of your carbs post workout and for breakfast is a better use of carbs as your muscles will be more sensitive to the effects of insulin meaning you can be sure your muscles will soak the carbs instead of your fat. It should go without saying that carb sources throughout the day in any meals (with the exception of post workout nutrition) should be high in fibre and as unprocessed as possible carbs of a slow release nature. A good rule of thumb when trying to gain muscle is to start at around 1.5g-2g of carbs per lb of bodyweight. For example If weighed 190lb I will go for around 380g of carbs in a day, broken up. Generally, try to get the bulk of your carbs in at breakfast, pre workout, post workout and post post workout.

Pre/Post workout

Pre and post workout are arguably the most crucial times to feed your muscles with nutrients.This really is the make or break time where nutrition really matters. Think of it like this, going to the gym and training without having a post workout shake is like giving a builder the blue-prints to build a house without providing him any raw materials. The tools are there, but without bricks, cements and materials, there is nothing to build with. You can’t build a house out of air just like you can’t build muscle out of air. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF POSTWORKOUT NUTRITION.

Men and women really want between 20-40g of protein with around 60-120g of refined, high glycemic, sugary carbs (glucose/dextrose/maltodextrin) fairly soon after your last set or straight before training. For hard-gainers I would shoot for the higher end regardless of body weight.

Genetic wall

After many years of hard lifting and big eating your bound to hit what I call the genetic wall. Everyone has genetic limitations but if you are aware of your body type and can and eat in a way that reflects your body type then you can to an extent learn to override these limitations to make gains in strength and size with time.

There are 3 basic body types, these 3 body types are referred to as somatotypes and they are Endomorphs, Ectomorphs and Mesomorphs. Each somatotype has its own physiological differences that define their natural body composition…

Endomorphs tend to be stocky with a tendency for fat gain, they usually have tree trunk legs big calves and can build muscle at an easy rate, but again their downfall being their susceptibility to fat gain

Ectomorphs tend to be skinny and sometimes lanky, they usually have a thin skeletal frame, skinny wrist and generally a thin stature, they tend to be lean but skinny and find it hard putting on weight (me!)

Mesomorphs  have the best of both worlds, great genetics, naturally lean and builds muscle easily, very athletic (so jealous)

Although somatotypes are really a truncated explanation for the genetic differences between people. It can be helpful to guide you towards a training and eating regime that fits your frame.

Train like a pro bodybuilder to look like a pro builder… No!

First of all I just want to dispel something, I’d imagine there maybe some guys reading this that would like to get as big and as freakishly muscular as Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler? Or some guys just want guns like Arnie? Or maybe you’d like to attain a more aesthetic look like that of Serge Nubret with his pleasingly muscular yet athletic look similar to most bodybuilders in the golden age?

Well, I definitely had the same wishes at one point in my life. I remember reading these magazines in my young teen years and thinking if I train like these guys and take the supplements they recommend maybe I could get like them. If you are one of them guys and your heart is set on growing until your 240lbs+ and 6% body fat you’re probably aiming a little high unless you know you have great genetics. Generally speaking, for an “average” drug-free person, that kind of build and size is not attainable. It’s a pipe dream that you’ll soon realise is limited by your natural ability. If you want arms like Arnie’s or you want to be as wide a Heath, stop dreaming it’s probably not going to happen. 

For most people, with typical jobs, with typical social lives and typical genetics, following the routine of a pro bodybuilder will most likely result in over-training. Take from them their training concepts, philosophies and adapt it to suit your own build and lifestyle by decreasing either the volume or frequency.

Now you’re aware of what’s realistic and you have a good grasp on reality, you’re now ready to achieve a decent amount of muscle in proportion to your frame and you’re ready to get the most out of your body and reach your genetic potential. Building a great physique naturally if tough and requires consistency and hard work, but the results are far more satisfying.

Expectations

You can’t gain much more than a lb of sold muscle a month, and this probably a generous estimation. Muscle building can be a painstakingly slow process especially for those who are highly trained. Realistically I look to build 1lb of lean muscle per month if muscle-building is my goal. Fortunately, if you are relatively new to training or you have had over 6 months off training or have come off from a long dieting stint, it’s actually possible to build muscle at a much faster rate while burning off body fat at the same time.The only exception may be if you are bulking up straight after a cut and you are carb depleted or you are new to training altogether whereby it is possible to get quick noobie gains. Those are the only exceptions when it might be seen as acceptable to gain more than 4lbs a month. But remember, most of this may just be mainly be muscle water weight from an increase in carbohydrate intake. Even after that though, once your glycogen levels fill up you are looking for 0.5-1lbs of lean muscle a month couple with a lb or two of water weight. Sounds pretty disappointing right? It’s not. Over a year of consistent training this can accumulate to impressive gains. Fast forward a year later and you have packed on 15lbs of weight most of which is lean tissue. You can reassure yourself you have earned it these gains. Naturally built muscle with consistency and hard work gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement. Hold your head up high and be sure that your muscle’s won’t deflate like a balloon and do not require anything other than what you did to build it for it to be maintained.

To summarise again:

Muscle growth key points

  • Be aware of how many calories your consuming
  • Create a 300-600 calorie surplus through diet (approx 20cals/lb body weight)
  • Eat every 2-4hours
  • Daily protein intake should be at least 2g/kg of body weight (eg 90kg = 180g protein a day)
  • Pre/post workout and breakfast are important opportunities to build muscle so make these meals >700cals
  • Women and men should eat around 400-700 calories in each meal which should  include a complete protein with a decent amount of complex carbohydrate
  • Use a programme that reflects you natural genetic ability
  • Train progressively heavier each week
  • Sleep for at least 8 hours each night, you grow when you are not training so learn to relax outside of the gym
  • Water! being well hydrated means hydrated cells = hydrated muscles = more muscle growth

I hope this information helps and isn’t too overwhelming. Hopefully you can apply these tips and start making some gains! 

GMO’s: Isn’t everything genetically modified?

According to Neil deGrasse Tyson this question has already been answered he states “I’m amazed at how much objection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public…people don’t fully understand it…and therefore reject it…what most people don’t know, and they should, is that practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified”. He finishes his argument by using examples of artificial selection (ie natural breeding methods) to conclude we have genetically modified everything around us. It’s ironic that he describes the public as having a lack of understanding, yet he seemed to be completely ignorant to the fact the examples he used in his argument, the seedless water melon, the horses, cows etc, are not transgenic organisms.

Traditional breeding methods like selective breeding was a term coined by Darwin as just another form of artificial selection[1]. Selective breeding, as Tyson pointed out, is responsible for the existence of most of our domesticated animals like cows, horses, dogs and cats, as well as some vegetables like some from the Brassica species and also some fruits like bananas for example. But these methods have been used for thousands of years and requires little more than breeding skills and patience. In fact the practice has been around so long that selective breeding of wild plants began around 10,000 years ago and the first selectively bred domesticated animal is said to be a descendant from its Gray Wolf ancestor dating 12,000 years old[2], a far cry from the modern methods of bioengineering, less than 50 years old. What makes this traditional form of “genetic modification” an area of no major ethical concern is that the shuffling of genes through selective breeding are done between the same species or at least between very closely related species. The methods and results are also not at all beyond the scopes of natural possibilities. In other words selective breeding could very well occur within the realms of nature on its own.

Modern genetic modification however is different in that it involves techniques used to produce organisms with new genetic traits they could never possess without human intervention and modern biotechnology. It’s the use of biotechnology to “cross the species barrier” creating organisms that could never exist in nature[3]. It’s the transfer of genes between completely non related, sexually incompatible species. Using the concept of horizontal gene transfer they are able to splice the genes from a donor organism and insert them genes into the genome of a target organism, so that the target organism can express the desired traits of the donor that are not naturally theirs. A radical example of a transgenic organism or GMO as a result of biotechnology would be the “spider-goat”[4]. A goat that produces web proteins in its milk due to spider genes embedded into its own genome to give it this trait. Biotechnology has also laid the path for many other bizarre products of genetic engineering, some of which just seem to be examples of our ever growing curiosity of what we can genetically manipulate, like glow in the dark cats[5].

Although both traditional and modern biotechnology methods, loosely speaking, achieve similar goals it’s inaccurate to proclaim they are the same thing. More accurately comparable to artificial selection would be natural selection, as even inferred by Darwin himself[6]. But then even with their similarities they have fundamentally different driving forces behind them and are not exhaustively comparable[7]. When referring to a transgenic organism, ie a genetically modified food, it pertains to an organism be it animal or plant, that has foreign gene components inserted into its genome with modern gene splicing techniques so it can express desired traits. The world health organisation defines genetically modified foods simply as “foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism”.

In an age where transgenic foods are dominating our food chain without public regard or consent, it’s doubly crucial that only accurate information is given to the public as to not mislead people or detract from well informed food choices. Unfortunately in this context, Mr Tyson is certainly guilty of this conviction and hopefully this articles sheds some light on the confusion he may have brought the public.

[1] https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Artificial_selection.html

[2] http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/plaintexthistories.asp?historyid=ab57

[3] http://www.beep.ac.uk/content/374.0.html

[4] http://richannel.org/transgenic-spidergoat

[5] http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/photos/12-bizarre-examples-of-genetic-engineering/glow-in-the-dark

[6] https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Artificial_selection.html

[7] http://books.google.es/books?id=faNIAKXQrwQC&pg=PA171&dq=natural+selection+similar+artificial+selection&hl=es&sa=X&ei=GogkVKmoD43lap7HgdgH&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=natural%20selection%20similar%20artificial%20selection&f=false

[8] [Jump up to:6.0 6.1 USA Today, “Washington state battles over genetically modified food”, October 8, 2013]

 

Would Factory Farming Be Ethical If The Animals Were Merely Happy?

A question has often been posed, would factory-farming be ethical if the animals were happy? I find this question interesting because I believe it challenges the utilitarian idea that an action that promotes the greatest happiness or pleasure is synonymous with an action that’s ethical. Although, it does so under very abstract circumstances.

The question is based on a hypothetical instance which begins with an assumption that an animal has the capacity to be happy, but then yet assumes confinement, mistreatment and de-animalisation, which is an inherent part of factory-farming, somehow fulfils this capacity for happiness.

Even if we entertained the idea that living in depraved and abhorrently sub-standard welfare conditions somehow would make an animal happy. We still have to consider objective standards for what we deem as humane living conditions that promote health and well-being before we can consider it ethical. Even then, slaughter would certainly be no more ethical, unless we now further abstractly hypothesise by proposing the animal wishes to die too.

The fact is, we know animals aren’t happy in confined animal feeding operations. So even if the answer was, hypothetically speaking, factory-farming is ethical if the animal is happy whilst captivated under such standards, the logic must also follow that factory-farming is therefore unethical if an animal is unhappy whilst captivated under such standards. If one can concede to the fact that factory farming, in the reality in which it currently exists, results in greater suffering and pain than it does promote happiness and well-being in animals. Then one can admit to factory-farming, as it currently stands, as being unethical.

Fat loss: How it’s done

belly-2354_1920 (1)
Fat 
loss key points

  • Calorie control and awareness of your daily calorie consumption
  • Create a 300-500 calorie deficit with diet and exercise
  • Consume foods that are nutrient rich
  • Eat every 2 – 4 hours
  • Include high quality complete proteins in every meal
  • Eat only low glycemic high fibre wholesome carbohydrates or
    keep carbohydrate intake low
  • Do not exclude essential fats they are vital to your health and for metabolism
  • Drink between 30-40ml/kg of water each day ie; 80kg x 30ml = at least 2400ml

Introduction
Fat loss is the most sought after goal in the world of fitness and for a good reason too. Generally speaking, low body fat levels are a reflection of good health and this has also been the case historically too. This notion holds true today more than ever, especially when contrasted against an obesity epidemic.

Calorie control
Fat loss is something that is dictated by energy input and energy output. You need to create a calorie deficit through diet and exercise to lose body fat. Once a calorie deficit has been established your body will be forced to use any unwanted fat to meet the metabolic demands of the body. If you consume more calories than you burn off through exercise, daily activities and your body’s natural metabolic and physiological processes on a daily basis, your body stores the unneeded calories as fat. Consume less calories than you burn off, however, and you lose fat.

Every one has a certain amount of calories they will need to eat to maintain their weight. For me (at time of writing) it’s around 2900 calories. Depending on whether you eat above or under what it takes to maintain your weight is what dictates whether you burn fat or store it.

You can use any online calculator to work out your maintenance caloric intake;

My fitness pal is also a very useful app which tracks your calorie intake and sets caloric targets based on your goals;
https://www.myfitnesspal.com/

For most people 1-2lbs of fat loss per week is a realistic and ideal target. Although, you can expect to lose more weight than that each week the heavier you are, but it’s likely to be mainly water weight. Aiming for an initial daily calorie deficit of 500 calories is ideal since there are 3500 calories in a lb of fat. A daily deficit of 500 calories would therefore result in a loss of around a 1lb of fat per week.

A quality calorie
Now we’ve determined how to lose body fat through calorie control we need to make sure the quality of calorie complements your goals. Just because you have a calorie allowance, it’s not wise to spend all day eating your favourite junk foods. Although it’s true, a calorie deficit is a calorie deficit, your satiety, energy and health won’t be favoured by a diet high in refined and processed foods and low in micronutrients and fibre, which can inadvertently affect your fat loss goals.

Meal frequency
I personally am a firm believer and practitioner of frequent feeding. It does have small but positive effect on your metabolism, but the main reason for me is that by eating small meals every 3 hours it keeps my gut somewhat flatter than does eating 3 big meals a day, which seems to distend my stomach a bit more. Also whether you’re burning fat or building muscle, and particularly for performance and health, I think its very important to maintain a regular and steady intake of energy and micronutrients. 

Here I will briefly outline the importance of the types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins;

Protein – The thermic effect of protein is particularly high with approximately 25% of the calories consumed from it being burned up in the digestion process. In other words if you eat 200 calories of protein around 50 calories is burned just while your body tries to break it down and digest it. That means you burn some calories eating protein. The effect is seen in some other hard to digest low calorie foods too. Whether you’re slimming down or bulking up you should aim to eat lean low saturated fat sources of protein with every meal. Being someone who follows an almost exclusively plant based diet, my top 3 favourites are:

  • Nato (fermented tofu)
  • Vegan Quorn
  • Scallops

 

Carbohydrates – Carbs are a double edged sword because they can be stored as fat much more readily depending on amount consumed, time of consumption and source. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity has skyrocketed over the last several decades. A paragraph from the national obesity statistics encapsulates an important point; ”Obesity statistics paint an alarming picture – and one that’s getting worse. In the UK around 43% of men and 33% of women are overweight, and a further 22% of men and 23% of women fall into the obese category.” A factor in this, which is supported by research, is the increased consumption of simple sugars and sugar rich snacks. Fast digesting, almost fibre-free carbs can increase hunger, decrease energy output and encourage weight gain. Carbs provide our body with energy as we all know but too much of the wrong types at the wrong times will do you no good. Most if not all of your carb sources should be high in fibre, slow digesting (low GI) and as unprocessed as possible. Eating carbs with them qualities will keep your energy, hunger and mood stable and will ensure your metabolic furnace remains ticking over. My top 3 favourites are:

  • Oats
  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa

 

Fats – I had a look at someone’s diet at my gym once and they pulled a very confused face when I told them to replace their reduced fat peanut butter with the natural full fat version. It’s absolutely essential you include a sensible amount of healthy fat in your diet for metabolic, hormonal and immune related reasons. Mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated fats (omega 3’s & 6’s and 9’s) and small amounts of saturated fat will help you stay in good health when restricting calories. Good fats will improve fat loss and muscle building via certain hormonal and metabolic pathways and particularly whilst dieting hard it will keep your immune system functioning well at a time when your body may not be at its fighting best. My top 3 favourites are:

  • Flax seeds
  • Avocados
  • Mixed nuts

 

Water – This is last but certainly not least. As I’m sure you should know by now water is absolutely essential for good health. It really does surprise me how little water most people drink. I have seen many people complain of headaches and only when asked how much water they average a day do they realise how little they consume. Water is the first thing we look for when searching planets for life because it is the foundation for it. The average person loses around 2 litres of water a day through sweat, urine and moisture lost through respiration. If you drink less than 2 litres a day you are likely not replacing what you’ve lost naturally, you will then lose more if you exercise. The amount you need really depends on your muscle mass and exercise regime. But aiming to drink any where between 2-3 litres a day is a good idea if you exercise moderately. Proper hydration will aid the digestion of food and will help transport nutrients a lot more effectively throughout the body. Hydration also aids fat loss and will allow you to work out harder in the gym. Besides the body is afterall around 70% water.
My favourites:

  • Mineral water
  • Filtered and fluoride free

Perception, Consciousness and the Physical World

consciousness-1719998_1280

We only observe the physical world because we have senses and a collective perception that projects a model for us to observe and interpret. Our five senses; Sight (ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception) are crucial in helping us to navigate and makes sense of the physical world. But what if these senses ceased to exist? Imagine this. You lose your sight and your hearing and you can now only find your way around by touching things (somatosensation). Imagine how you would interpret the physical world. People already do interpret the physical world without these senses. It would change your conception of the world indefinitely as you’re forced to rely on your alternate senses.

But let’s go further. Eventually you lose your sense of touch on your skin and throughout your entire body and you can no longer have the ability to taste objects. You wont suddenly feel hungry because you’re completely disconnected from your body. Now you feel nothing, weightless, not too far off how one might feel in a dark floatation tank except for you can’t get out and you really are just an existing state of consciousness that can conceptualise variations in aromas. You could be walking mindlessly into a field and the only connection you have to the physical world is the nostalgic scent of fresh cut grass as reminder it still exists.

Fractal, Dream, Math, Background, Pink, ImaginationNow let’s remove your final sense so now all you see is what you can visualise in your minds eye. You feel nothing, hear nothing, see nothing, taste nothing and smell nothing, all you have are your thoughts and whatever pictures, patterns or colours your minds eye as a product of cognition. How would you know you are even alive? You could mindlessly and uncoordinatedly manoeuvre into a wall or even in front of a moving car, get hit, but you would not feel the force of the of the car hit you and send you in the air. There is nothing to ground you in the physical world. You suffer a head injury and go into a coma but you will not be able to distinguish from the point of being conscious and going into a coma when you wake because a memory is based on a visual model of the physical world which requires perception. Therefore, likewise when you wake from your coma you will not be able to determine the point at which you woke from your coma either. Like a brain in vat, existing exclusively as a state of consciousness. You can think, you exist, but, you are living in a plane of existence distinct from that of the physical one, one which is based purely in a cognitive and dare I say, spiritual realm. Furthermore, I add again how would we know whether we were alive or dead to begin with?

 

Fractal, Energy, Plasma, Science, MetaphysicalWe exist in a physical world only because we have the capacity to observe it. We know as a matter of fact there are things that exist that we do not have the capacity to observe with our 5 senses; infrared, radio-waves, UV light, antimatter, atoms etc which are all beyond our visual ability. So it’s not inconceivable, light years away or even billions of years in future, there may be organisms with all of our senses including additional senses to view the physical world and each other unimaginable ways. I have grappled with this concept in many abstract forms and have applied it to death and the possibility of an afterlife. We still don’t know what creates consciousness. We don’t know if it is even created by physical matter or if it exists without it. After death the senses, which are derived from physical matter, would cease to work, but consciousness may not. The “afterlife” could well be an eternal experience of many possible states of consciousness. To some this may not be as comforting as the thought of going to heaven, but its no less plausible and we are just as ignorant about the reality of both.

 

Space, Fractal, Energy, Artwork, Metaphysical, Science