Respect the Recovery Process

Training is only the initial stimulus for your body to undergo physical change. You build muscle, burn fat, and alter your physical appearance via all of the metabolic, hormonal, and physiological processes that take place in between training sessions. If you train too frequently and short circuit the recovery process, you will not see visual improvements no matter how hard you train.

Inadequate recovery equals no adaptive response. This equals no muscle growth, no metabolic boost, no burning off body fat, and no change in physical appearance. In the worst-case scenario, it can actually make you more prone to storing body fat, due to chronically elevated levels of the hormone cortisol. You might as well just sit at home eating (insert your favorite junk food), and watching (insert your favorite junk TV show). At least that is a fun way to get fat; trust me I've done it.

Here are just a few of the physiological processes that happen in the recovery phase from a weight training session:

Satellite cells are activated when muscle fibers receive trauma or damage.
Satellite cells fuse to existing muscle fibers and help to repair/regenerate the damage by increasing the size and number of contractile proteins (called actin & myosin) within those fibers.
The body restores cell fluids, electrolytes, and minerals lost during training.
The body must refill muscle glycogen stores as glycogen is the primary fuel used during high intensity training. Contrary to supplement marketing, this doesn't just happen with a single high-carb post-workout shake. It takes multiple balanced meals to adequately restore glycogen levels.
The immune system responds with a sequence of actions leading to inflammation. This inflammation is what causes muscle soreness. The purpose of this inflammation is to contain the damage within the muscle cells, increase blood flow and nutrient delivery to the damaged area, repair the damage, and clean up the injured area of waste products.
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and repair oxidative stress caused by the increased rate of oxygen consumption during the training session.
Growth factors (such as IGF-1) regulate insulin metabolism and stimulate protein synthesis.
Testosterone, cortisol, and growth hormone levels rise, fall, and return to baseline levels in their own respective patterns (assuming you are training naturally without performance enhancing drugs).
All of the above processes can take up to 48 hours under normal circumstances but can be delayed by many factors including poor dietary decisions, lack of sleep, and high stress levels just to name a few.
On a side note, all of the above actions require energy (calories). This is why we say that strength training boosts the metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories on a daily basis) and is so crucial to the body composition change process.

Here is the take home message: Recovery is a complex process, and the advanced trainee trying to maximize their results must balance intense training with recovery. Of course if you train like a wimp, you can train every day, because you have nothing to recover from. I'm really just speaking to the athletes who make a sincere effort to bust their butts in the gym in order to change their bodies.

Overtraining Syndrome
The frequency recommendations at the beginning of this article were set for a reason. They were not just blindly pulled out of a hat. And remember, these recommendations are for people training primarily for physique development. I understand that participation in competitive sports may require more frequent and longer training sessions to maximize sport performance and/or adhere to competitive schedules. But that's also why competitive sports have off-seasons.

What happens if you train more often than you can recover from? There is an actual technical term for the physiological state that results from training too long or too frequently on a regular basis: Overtraining Syndrome. According to the NSCA Overtraining Syndrome is "Excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training that results in extreme fatigue, illness, or injury which is often due to a lack of sufficient rest, recovery, and perhaps nutrient intake."

And what are some of the effects of this overtraining syndrome? Here you go:

Emotional and mood disturbances including increased irritability, anxiety, and even depression-like symptoms.
Sleep disturbances.
Altered immune system functioning including increased rates and duration of illnesses and infections.
Decreased desire to train and decreased joy from training—that is if you even like training to begin with.
Altered hormonal patterns including a reduction in anabolic, muscle building/fat burning hormones (testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1) and an increase in catabolic, muscle destroying/fat storing hormones (cortisol).

This last one is the worst side effect for those concerned with body composition change. Physique development is way more complicated than just the simple calories in vs. calories out theory. It really comes down to properly managing and manipulating natural hormone levels and metabolic rate through diet and exercise. Do this the right way and getting into shape is a smooth process. Do it the wrong way, and dropping body fat will be impossible no matter how many calories you cut or how much you exercise.

Negative hormonal alterations (such as reduced testosterone/growth hormone and increased cortisol production) are the primary reason why many who overtrain struggle with fat around their midsection DESPITE their high levels of exercise. Abdominal-specific body fat often has a lot to do with abnormally high cortisol levels. These people tend to be fine everywhere else on their bodies, but tend to hold a lot of flab around the midsection.

I see this most often with endurance athletes. Research has shown that this group of athletes has the most compromised hormonal profiles—meaning lower than normal amounts of testosterone and higher than normal amounts of cortisol. People who engage in frequent and excessive amounts of aerobic activity are shooting themselves in the foot in terms of physique development. They may be improving performance (as in the ability to run farther or at a faster pace) but they are not optimizing hormones, metabolism, and thus, physique development results.

But it’s important to note that overtraining can happen in any form of exercise, including strength training. So don't think because you stay away from the treadmills and sling the weights around that you are immune to the overtraining syndrome. Every athlete needs to balance training with recovery.

Rich Fit / 10 Fit tips

I have a very important question I want to ask you. Ready? Why are you working out? Seriously. What is your primary health or fitness-related reason for exercising? Are you being honest with yourself about why you’re at the gym? There are many reasons to engage in a regular exercise program. The most common—though often the least discussed—is to look good naked. Hey what ever it takes to get your ass in the gym. with the summer nearing it's end I have some great training tips to carry you looking better than ever into the fall season.

1) Cut out (or at least limit) long distance endurance training, a.k.a. traditional cardio. Instead, make anaerobic activity—strength training, and to a lesser extent interval-based cardio—the foundation of your exercise program.

2)Strength train three to five days a week. Give yourself two to three days off from training to optimize recovery (although outdoor walking is cool).

3) Keep workouts to about 30-60 minutes. Intensity is more important than duration.

4) Train each body part once every five to seven days. Use body part splits over full body/total body training.

5) Train one to three muscle groups per session.

6) Perform three to five exercises for large muscle groups, two to three exercises for small muscle groups. Perform two to four sets per exercise. Perform six to 15 reps per set. Rest 45 to 120 seconds per set.

7) Focus on basic exercises—squats, deadlifts, various presses and rows. Save the fluff for the weekend warriors. Focus mostly on free weights, using machines to supplement.

8) Keep the rep tempos around two seconds up, two seconds down. Lower weight under control, lift under control, and don’t pause or lockout to rest in between reps. Don’t cheat by swinging or using rebound/momentum. Keep constant tension on the muscle.

9) Focus on stimulating and overloading the muscle, not just how much weight you lift. Think about feeling the muscle work during the set, not just on moving a weight from point A to point B.

10) Switch training variables. Vary—within the confines of the overall parameters—regularly (exercises, order of exercises, reps, etc.) in order to change the training stimulus.

Try to enjoy the process. Results are a by product of consistent training & proper eating.

These principles are based not just on the physical, anecdotal evidence of the fittest “looking” people in the world ( athletes and fitness models), but also on the scientific principles of human physiology, exercise physiology, and kinesiology. It’s not “meathead bodybuilding,” it is scientific-based body composition training. The goal is to combine the best of both worlds, the scientific and the practical. This prevents us from getting caught up in the fitness trends or health club hype that are more geared towards selling the consumer a product, service, or "system" rather than giving them real-world results.

Hmmm..... What Can I Accomplish Today?

Part of the beauty of living a fitness lifestyle and challenging yourself to build muscle or lose fat is that quality physiques have been built using all different styles of techniques. There is no “one right way” that everyone should follow.

Things like rep range, rep tempo, frequency of training, machines vs. cables, and volume are just a few of the things that have been argued over, but one thing that no one argues is the fact that progression is the key to growth. I will say it again, In order to grow you need to keep progressing! That can mean increasing weight or increasing the number of reps.

It’s this overload that stresses the muscle and causes the body to repair the micro tears thus making a muscle stronger. Personally I like to train between 6-20 reps with the majority being between 8-12. One thing I always do is keep my body from adapting by manipulating rest time, volume, and exercises.

Through the use of different shocking principals (forced reps, drop sets, supersets, rest pause etc) I keep progressing. After a couple of weeks I change everything up again and shock the body in a new way.

Being able to listen to your body is huge. After training for years you learn to listen to signals that your body is sending. Sometimes it’s as easy as resting or adding calories, so when I plateau the first thing I evaluate is my diet and recovery. Other times I change up the split or throw in a new exercise. bottom line keep the body guessing and force it to adapt to new stresses. Live Fit, be Fit!

Does My Fat Ass Make Me Look Like A Fat Ass?

Coming from a military background, I’m a firm believer in the creed, “a good leader leads from the front.” In a fitness and conditioning context, that means a good trainer’s physique should always reflect the benefits of what he or she teaches. In my mind, to do otherwise is both disrespectful to the client and a huge knock on the trainer’s credibility. I feel pretty alone in that regard.

The world of professional boxing as well as the fitness industry is overrun with armchair coaches preaching bro science who can’t get their clients, much less themselves, in even fairly decent shape. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I know an out-of-shape fat dude when I see one. OK enough with the name calling and finger-pointing; this article entails how to drop some serious body fat in less than six weeks. I am not saying it's gonna be easy, just worth it.

Bulking-up will not improve your physique; it will make you bulky. If that’s what you want, great — just don’t delude yourself that you need to do that to add size, and please, don’t try to convince me, either. So what do I consider ideal body fat standards for athletes? Male athletes should maintain less than 8% body-fat and females less than 11%, at least from spring to fall; winter is the only time you have the right to look a little more “normal” and enjoy holiday food and festivities without turning every turkey dinner into an infomercial for Tupperware and OCD medications.

Which brings me back to six weeks: It’s plenty of time for an athlete with 8% or 11% body fat to get under 5% or 9% body fat. For many, 8% and 11% body fat may be their ultimate goal, but for a true physique competitor or trainer, that’s your job. They should never allow their body-fat to rise above 10% and 13%, respectively.

Gimme Five

According to Dr. Mauro DePasquale, the five targets for fat loss are as follows (DePasquale, 2008):

Increase lipolysis (fat breakdown)
Decrease lipogenesis (fat accumulation)
Burn free fatty acids with correct exercise
Maintain muscle tissue
Maintain metabolic rate (T3, thyroid) and optimal hormone function

If you hit all the targets, accelerated fat-loss will occur; if you miss a target your progress will hit a wall.

What to Eat

The following nutrition program is nothing new. It’s my variation of a phase-shift diet that combines the protocols, research, and teachings of Dr. Mauro DePasquale, Gary Taubes, Loren Cordain, PhD, and the late Dan Duchaine; nutritional giants who’s broad shoulders we have the luxury to stand upon.

My diet plan is based on the following principles:

1) Eliminate breads, flour, and gluten grains including wheat, barley, and rye.
2) Eliminate grain and vegetable extracted cooking oils; instead cook with butter, animal fats, and coconut oil.
3) Eat more healthy animal fats, butter, cream, and coconut milk to replace calories that formerly came from carbohydrates.
4) Eat more animal protein (beef, chicken, bison, eggs, fish, etc.).
5) Eat when hungry, don’t graze. Livestock and prey eat constantly; the King of the jungle eats sporadically. Continually stuffing yourself with food is counter productive to hormone function and digestive health. For athletes: eat no more than 4 meals, and 1-2 snacks (post-workout) depending on training schedule.

“Our ancestors consumed food much less frequently and often had to subsist on one large meal per day, and thus from an evolutionary perspective, human beings were adapted to intermittent feeding rather than to grazing.” (Mattson, M.P., PhD, Lancet 2005; 365:1978-80)

5) Build muscle with a structured resistance-training program.
6) Ensure adequate Vitamin D intake through midday sun exposure or supplementing with Vitamin D3.
7) Ensure adequate intake of Omega-3 fats and oils from pharmaceutical grade fish oils.
8) Schedule your menu so there’s a 2-hour fast before bedtime. Don’t consume any food, supplements, calorie containing, alcoholic, or caffeinated beverages 2 hours before bed; water is okay. You want to get blood sugar levels down before going to sleep; this will facilitate GH release.
9) Only consume simple sugars, fruits, and carbohydrates at specific times to enhance muscle hypertrophy and thyroid function.

Sample 3 Days Low/1 Day High Carb Rotation Diet

The following menu is based on my training and work schedule. I followed a low carbohydrate diet for 3 days, followed by a high carbohydrate, high-calorie day.

Days 1-3:

Low Carbohydrate, Moderate Protein, High Fat

5:15 AM: wake up

1 tall glass of water
Acetyl-L-Carnitine 3 grams

8 AM: Breakfast

4-5 Whole eggs scrambled with organic cheddar cheese and bacon
Coffee, black w/cream
Fish Oil 3 grams EPA+DHA
Vitamin D3
Vitamin C

10 AM: Pre-Workout (30 minutes prior)

BCAAs 5 grams
Beta-Alanine 2 grams
L-Arginine 3 grams
L-Citrulline 1.5 grams
Caffeine 300mg

12 Noon: Post-Workout

Whey Protein 25 grams
Mixed with 2 Tbsp. organic cream and 6 oz. water
Essential amino acids (free-form) 6 grams
L-Carnitine 2 grams
Vitamin C 1 gram

1 PM: Lunch

8-10 oz. Organic chicken, dark meat, grilled
Large romaine lettuce salad
Extra-virgin olive oil and lemon dressing (homemade)
Cod Liver Oil 1 tbsp.

4 PM: Snack (optional)

King Oscar sardines in extra-virgin olive oil
Or Tongol tuna in organic mayo
BCAAs 3 grams
Essential Amino Acids (free form), 6 grams

7 PM: Dinner

10-12 oz. of beef or bison
Cod liver oil, 1 tbsp
Magnesium 300 mg.
Psyllium husk 1 Tbsp powder in 10 oz water

7:30 PM: Low Intensity Cardio

Walk dog at a brisk pace for 30 minutes or walk on the treadmill and watch TV at the gym.

9:30 PM: (30 minutes before bedtime)

Melatonin, 3-6mcg.
L-Arginine 4 grams
L-Citrulline 2 grams

Day 4:

High Carbohydrate, Frequent Feedings

6:00 AM: Breakfast #1

1 scoop plain Whey Protein
1 tbsp honey
Creatine 5 grams
Mix in 8 oz. water

8:15 AM: Breakfast #2

Protein pancakes (gluten free) cooked in coconut oil
Knudsen organic apple butter spread over pancakes
Chicken tenderloin, 3-4 oz.
Digestive enzyme
Vitamin C

10:30 AM: Pre-Workout (15 minutes)

Essential amino acids (free-form), 6 grams
Creatine 5 grams
BCAAs 5 grams

12 Noon: Post-Workout

Whey protein mixed in 8 oz water
Simply fruit juice 16 oz.
Essential amino acids (free-form) 6 grams
Creatine 5 grams
L-Carnitine 2 grams
Vitamin C 1 gram

12:30 PM: Lunch

Chicken breast, baked, 6-8 oz
Sweet potato, baked, w/brown sugar
Tea w/honey and lemon
Digestive enzyme 1 tablet

3:00 PM: Snack

Trail Mix: 1.25 cups nuts: walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and almonds
2/3-cup dried fruit: cherries, raisins, cranberries, and dark chocolate M&Ms

7:00 PM: Dinner

New York strip, broiled
Large romaine lettuce salad with olive oil dressing
Digestive enzyme 1 tablet
Magnesium 300 mg.

9:00 PM: Snack

Plain, nonfat Icelandic or Greek yogurt mixed with 1 scoop of plain whey protein, 2 tbsp honey, and 1/4 cup blueberries
Cod liver oil 1 tsp
Digestive enzyme

Some people say good things come to those who wait. Truth is, good things come to those who work.

What Nutrition Plan Has Worked Best For Me!

Regardless of your fitness goals, it's critical to take the time to educate yourself on proper nutrition. Nutrition is a major part of every human beings life. Anything done as frequently as consuming food should be understood on a higher level. Take a bit of time to learn what you are eating; after all, you are what you eat. I would recommend checking out one of the many documentaries on the current food industry and its future. I personally like to stick to natural, non-processed foods. After making the switch to high quality foods, I have yet to find a person who has had regret other than wishing they had made the switch sooner.

Don't get me wrong, creating a quality nutrition plan that works for you is no easy task. However, it's an essential part to any successful exercise program.

I eat 6-8 small meals spaced between 2.5-3.5 hours throughout the day. Each meal contains a protein, carbohydrate and fat source. The ratios of each are determined by body weight and goals at that time. There is plenty of debate on the correct ratios for each. I keep protein between 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight. Carbohydrates are typically between 0.8-1.8 grams per pound of body weight. Fats are roughly between 0.2-0.35 grams per pound of body weight. I like to incorporate carbohydrate cycling in my nutrition plan.

If I'm in a muscle-building phase I lower my protein and fat amounts and increase my carbohydrate amounts. I then do five high carbohydrate days and two reduced carbohydrate days. Ideally keeping reduced carbohydrate days on non-training days. When I am in a dieting or cutting phase, I increase my protein and fat sources and lower my carbohydrate sources. I then do five low carbohydrate days and two high carbohydrate days.

There is one way to determine what ratio works best for you and that is by using trial and error. Determine your goal, track your nutrients and adjust them based upon the results. Yes, it can be mind boggling at first, but like anything the more you do it the easier it becomes.

Carbohydrate sources:

Oatmeal, yams, bananas, fruit juice, fruit, vegetables, whole wheat flour, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat breads

Protein sources:

Chicken, venison, fish, turkey, beef, eggs, cottage cheese

Fat sources:

Fish oil, flax oil, olive oil, almonds

I like to eat whole foods as much as possible. I still use supplements when I need to, but I use them as a supplement not a replacement.

Meal 1:

1 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup fat free cottage cheese
1.5 scoops whey protein
20 oz green tea

Meal 2:

1/2 cup oatmeal
3 oz chicken
20 oz green tea

Meal 3:

6 oz chicken
5 oz yam
20 oz green tea

Meal 4: (Pre-Workout)

1 scoop whey protein
1 cup grape juice

Meal: 5 (Post-Workout)

1.5 scoop whey protein
1 scoop waxy maize

Meal: 6

6 oz chicken
5 oz yam
20 oz green tea

Meal 7:

3 oz chicken
20 oz green tea

Meal 8:

1 scoop casein protein
1/2 cup fat free cottage cheese

For supplementation I stick to the basics and proven supplements. I use the following:

Whey Protein
Casein Protein
Flax Seed (whole)
Fish Oil
GlycoMaize or Dextrose
Green Tea
HMB ( protects muscle from being used as fuel during training )

Maximize Your Fat Burning Potential With These Nutritional Need To Know's

Losing fat isn’t rocket science, quantum physics, or brain surgery. In fact, losing fat is really pretty easy…. IF you learn how to control your blood sugar! So let me give you 3 simple strategies that will help you control your blood sugar AND help you lose fat as a result.
Controlling Blood Sugar is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

1. Eat the right TYPE of Carbs

You want to consume carbs that are going to be time-released. This helps prevents high blood sugar spikes followed by low blood sugar crashes. Foods that are going to be more time-released tend to have certain characteristics: they are low in sugar and high in fiber. Consequently it’s natural foods that are the best carbs sources.

2. Eat the right AMOUNT of Carbs

Even if you eat the right type of carbs, you can still raise your blood sugar too much (which blunts fat burning) by eating too many grams of carbs at once. Therefore you must control your carb portion sizes if you want to lose fat.

3. Eat Protein and Fiber with Carbs

As alluded to in step #1, fiber and fat loss are BFF! Eating fiber (i.e. veggies) slows the digestion of other carbs you eat, which is just what you want cause this makes the carbs more time-released. This results in stable, as opposed to erratic, blood sugar levels.

Same goes for eating protein with carbs… it makes the carbs essentially become more time-released. Oh, I forgot to mention that both protein and fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer – HUGE benefit to following step #3!

Fat Loss comes with Right Habits

People that lose the fat they want and then stay lean inevitably follow these three steps, but they have made them HABIT! They don’t even consciously think about it. I always say fitness & your health is a lifestyle, a daily way of living. Not something you do for a few weeks at the start of a new year. Remember your fitness has two points, begin and continue.

Start now by implementing the above three steps for just one month. After that you’ll find you naturally select the right type and amount of carbs and eat them with the right things. Then you’ll one major step closer to having the body you want. Remember nutritional timing is key, know what when and why you are eating & supplementing. Good luck.