How Long Before I Turn to Mush?

TIME TO GET BUFF

It was bulking season, I was working out two times a day, and putting every ounce of effort that I had into getting bigger and stronger.

How Long Before I Lose Muscle?
Look at that transformation!

With my hunger and determination, I couldn’t be stopped. I was constantly researching new ways to build up on my knowledge and strength. Eating wasn’t an issue, soreness wasn’t an issue, and time was on my side.

However, all of this changed after a routine health checkup.

Well That’s Gonna Slow Me Down

Turns out, the Big Man Upstairs had other plans when it came to my weightlifting. During a routine visit with my doctor, I found out that I would be needing surgery on my back. The procedure itself would be simplistic; however the recovery time was going to put me out of commission for a month.

How Long Before I Lose Muscle?
That’s not my back, that’s a knee. Anatomy is great!

My first thought was: “Are you kidding me?!”

My second thought was: “I’m going to be turning to mush!”

How Long Do I Have?

That’s the real question; how long do I have before I lose my muscle mass and lose all of my hard work? It’s a serious issue!

Anger and surprise swelled up within me. It’s not fair! I worked my butt off to gain this muscle, nursed myself through injuries, and constantly try to alter my plan so that I can have the most benefit from a workout. Now, I’m lying in bed in agony trying to figure out a creative way to work out without injuring myself more.

The thing is, there is no way to work out if you’re injured (especially after a surgery). So how long does the human body really have before you start to lose your muscle gains and have to start from square one?

TIME IS A FACTOR, BUT DON’T PANIC!

Although time is definitely a factor, don’t panic! This is one of the most often asked questions when it comes to working out. It’s understandable that you want to ask this question and are wondering about the future, you’ve worked hard!

There are two key reasons why you shouldn’t be too worried when it comes muscle loss. One key topic is muscle memory and atrophy, a huge key to keeping your muscle gains. Another aspect that will keep you solid is cutting back on all the food you’ve been eating.

Let’s dive into these topics more below:

Your Work Will Pay Off

Trust me, your hard work will pay off. Muscles are resilient and it takes time for them to decrease in size. In fact muscles get stronger during times of recovery so a little time off from the gym doesn’t hurt necessarily.

Also, if you’re taking a significant time out of the gym, say 2 or 3 weeks, don’t stress out too much about the timeout. Your muscles may get smaller and decrease in size and you may not be able to lift as much, but muscle memory will ensure once you hit the gym your muscles will adjust quickly.

So say it with me: put in the work now, don’t stress the healing time later.

Cut Back on the Din-Din

It’s sad but true. Though we all love the amount of eating we get to do while training, if you’re injured your body doesn’t require nearly as much fuel as it used to. Don’t get  me wrong, on rest days it’s a common fact that you should keep up your eating, but if you’re injured and going to be out of commission for a significant amount of time you just don’t need to be eating as much.

How Long Before I Lose Muscle?
Cut back on the din-din!

That’s the issue where most weightlifters run into problems, they keep eating extra food and even junk food when they’re taking a break from lifting. Do yourself and your training a favor and cut back on the din-din, you should be golden.

 IN CONCLUSION

So should you be worried about your muscles when taking a substantial break from the gym? Yes, but don’t stress too much. The hard work and dedication that you put in to your training will pay off in your down-time. Work hard before and after your break, cut down on your food intake, and focus on healing.

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why Are Their Arms Bigger Than Mine?

YOU CAN’T BAN THESE GUNS!

Check out these bad boys! I’ve been putting some serious work into my arms over the past few months, and it shows!

How to get bigger arms
Look at those guns!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cocky or arrogant person, you just have to understand what I came from. My arms were absolutely tiny when I first started working out. Finally I had started to put on some serious mass.

So there I am, minding my own business, admiring my handy-work in the free weight section of my gym, when I hear gigantic footsteps creep up behind me…

Those Things Are Monsters

BOOM! What are those!?

Standing next to me in the free weight area of the gym was a 6’ 4” monster with arms bigger than my head. He obviously knows something I don’t, because this is insane! While I’m trying to calmly curl my thirty pound dumb bells, this freak of nature grabs two 50 pounders and heaves them with ease.

How to get bigger arms
Are you kidding me?

After seeing what could only be described as a strong man competition right beside me, I had only one thought on my mind…

Wow, I Really Am Puny

Indeed, my arms did look really puny.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Debbie-Downer, but seeing this guy’s monstrous arms was definitely an eye opener for me. It didn’t just make me question the size of my arms, but my workout, diet, genetics, life, luck, you name it.

I had truly put a lot of work into my arms and really couldn’t understand why they weren’t growing into the muscular-atrocities that I always wanted.

HERE’S THE TRUTH

There are many different variables that go into someone’s arm size. So many in fact, that it becomes very difficult to try and pin point what makes them grow or not grow (per individual).

In this blog post I want to go over two aspects that I believe cause the most success and frustration when growing arms. The first will be over-working of the arms. For some people, it works great, and it seems like the obvious answer to growing arms because it generally has a success rate in other muscle groups.

The other aspect I want to talk about is genetics. That’s right, the cellular map of how an individual is wired together holds another key component to how your arms grow.

Let’s get started.

Over-Working Doesn’t Help

You may be thinking, “Hey! I’ve never worked out before and I’ve worked on my arms five days a week for the past 2 months and they’ve grown like crazy!”

Well, to sum up my response: DUH!

If you’ve never worked out before, especially if you’ve never worked on your arms, of course they’re going to respond to the stress by growing. Your arm muscles aren’t used to being put under that constant pressure and strain so naturally they grow to accommodate.

However, this is just a phase and won’t last long. Your arms are a smaller muscle group that doesn’t require an extreme amount of work to grow. Yes, you should work out your arms on a weekly basis, but working them out several times a week is going to do more harm than good.

Unless you have the genes of a Greek God, your arms aren’t going to respond well to constant-extreme-strain. Check out my previous blog post about growing your arms here.

Speaking of God-Like Genes

I know it doesn’t sound fair, but some people are genetically built to grow muscle better than other people.

Your genes play a HUGE role in how your muscles grow. Some people barely have to try to put on an ounce of muscle, while others can put their whole heart and soul into training and still and won’t gain anything. A big reason why body builders are so big is because genetics in their DNA are specifically coded to build muscle. Like it or not, it’s just genetics.

How to get bigger arms
God-like genes, more like Zeus-like genes.

The best way to overcome this issue is to identify which body type you are and then adjust your training and diet accordingly. If you would like more help, check out my previous blog on body types here.

IN CONCLUSION

SO, why are their arms bigger than mine? As you can see, there are many different reasons (I tried to cover two of the biggest). Another thing to remember is that someone who has bigger arms is most likely at a point in their training when they have worked hard for their arms. The key to growing your arms and getting to your goals is to not get discouraged and to keep training.

What is another way to reach your monstrous-arm goals?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Sleeping Through Muscle Gains

THERE AIN’T NO REST FOR THE WICKED

Is Sleep Important for Muscle Gain?
Ain’t no rest for the wicked!

Let me first start out by asking not to sue me for copyright infringement, the lyrics are great but I don’t have money to pay for that lawsuit (indeed).

Secondly, there is indeed no rest for the wicked (not that I’m a wicked person).

Imagine a college-aged me, back in the beginning days of my training. I was going to school, working two jobs, and working out 5 days a week. I was truly pushing myself to my limits, and I felt great in doing so! While I was pushing myself so hard, sacrifices had to be made. Since I was doing dark magic with my math homework, and making money frying fast food chicken, sleep had to be sacrificed.

That’s no biggie to me. I’m a macho man, I can handle it. However, my workout buddy started to notice that I was showing up later and later to our morning workout (which began promptly at 6:30AM). He noticed how slow and bogged down I had become. From there, he gave me some of the most shocking news I had ever heard…

What Do You Mean I Have to Sleep?

Wait, what?! Didn’t you just read the beginning of this post? I’m going to school, working two jobs, and working out five times a week! In between all the homework I was completing and fried chicken I was cooking, I didn’t have time to sleep!

On top of all that, how important is sleep? It’s sleep for goodness sakes! I’m in my early 20’s so sleep should definitely not be a priority. But on top of that, how is dreaming of dandelions and butterflies truly important to my muscle gains*?

*Don’t judge me, sometimes you need a little dandelion and butterfly in your life.

SLEEP IS VITAL

Here’s the deal, Sonny Jim (wouldn’t it be funny if a Jim were actually reading this post right now?) Sleep is vital, I repeat, vital to muscle gains. Not only does sleeping help your body and mind rejuvenate, but it also helps give you a chance to shut down and distress.

Is Sleep Important for Muscle Gain?
Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

During sleep, it has actually been proven that your body repairs and replenishes the cells and muscles that have been breaking down through training. In other terms, during rest and sleep our muscles are growing.

But don’t take my word for it, let’s take a look at the science behind sleep and muscle gains.

The Science Behind Sleep and Muscle Gain

Sleeping is very important for muscle gains for several different reasons. First, sleeping rests the brain, which for bodybuilders means they have vital mental alertness during the day, and training. Studies show that during REM sleep, proper functioning of the brain and alertness is assisted.

Also, human growth hormone is also released under the conditions of sleep, 60%-70% for men during their deepest sleep cycles. These deep sleep cycles are extremely important to gaining muscle and the growth of muscle tissue, poor quality of sleep can prevent the amount of growth hormones released.

Taking a look at the sleep cycle, we can observe that we actually hit several key cycles while we sleep. Most people go through at least 5 cycles per night, each ranging between 90-100 minutes. A lack of these stages could cause: memory loss, lack of rest, and slowed brain activity.

Lastly, research has consistently shown that REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), actually allows the body to rejuvenate and repair: organs, bones, tissue, immune cells, etc. So to say that sleep isn’t vital to a workout plan is to blatantly disregard a key proponent of any regimen.

 How Much Sleep Do I Need

That’s a tricky question. Everybody is different and everyone goes through different tasks throughout the day. Between 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play, and 8 hours of sleep, the 24 hours of the day are pretty much set in stone. In fact some people work more, or have more tasks than play, and can’t sleep for 8 hours. To keep it simple, research shows that the average person requires between 7-9 hours of sleep daily.

Is Sleep Important for Muscle Gain?
Yep, sleep is important.

How do we ensure this amount of sleep? Here are some helpful tips!

  • Do your best not to over sleep, even on the weekends. Sleeping in is good, but sleeping 12 hours isn’t.
  • Exercise consistently (which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this blog). This naturally makes you want to sleep more.
  • Try to avoid caffeine, sugary foods, or alcohol (God forbid) at night.
  • Avoid pills or medication that help you sleep. It sounds good at first, but it causes issues with your sleep cycle(s) in the long run.
  • Relax before going to bed. Keeping the mind at ease before sleep helps your body fall into a place of rest.

IN CONCLUSION

Sleep is vital to any training regimen, and should be considered as such. Trust me, I didn’t necessarily know sleep was truly detrimental until researching for this post, but science doesn’t lie. Sleep helps you body rejuvenate, repair, relax, and get ready for the next day of training you have ahead. Let’s keep it simple, don’t stay out all night, instead stay home every now and then and get some much needed shut eye.

What else can you do to help you training?

Do your research, be prepared, and get lifting!

 

 

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

WELL I AM STUFFED

If eating were a sport, which it is, I would be the King. Not to brag, but I can put it away when it comes to food. Where does it all go? Nobody knows.

My workouts were giving me a perfectly good excuse to eat tons of food. That’s what you’re supposed to do right? You workout hard, you eat lots of food to make up for it. So that’s what I was doing!

How Many Calories Should I Eat?
Although I am a man, this is an accurate representation of my eating.

Pounds of chicken, cups of rice, and don’t get me started on the protein shakes. My stomach was definitely happy and content; there was just one problem…

The Scale Is a Jack Wagon!

This scale is obviously defective (that’s what I get for getting a scale from the bargain bin!). There is no way that I way this much after altering my diet for my fitness goals. How in the holy-Chuck-Norris did I gain 10 pounds in one week?

I’ve always read about how body builders will eat between 5,000-8,000 calories in one day. I’m barely eating about 4,000 and I’m about to have panic attack staring at this off-brand scale of mine. Someone’s playing a joke on me. It’s always been said that when you workout hard, you eat hard, right?

So Then How Did I Put on So Much Weight?

It’s hard for me to move upstairs, I get winded bringing in the groceries, and I’m looking a little rounder around the edges. That’s not supposed to happen! I’ve been pushing myself in the gym relentlessly. I mean honestly, I don’t spend a day without feeling sore. My lifts are getting heavier, my form is getting  better, but my body is getting thicker.

As stated above: it’s always been a known consensus that when you work out hard, you’re supposed to eat more. That’s what I did! Where did I go wrong?

How Many Calories Should I Eat?
This is a bunch of b-o-l-o-g-n-a!

THE SCALE ISN’T WRONG

My biggest mistake was blaming the scale instead of accepting that I had made a mistake on my own free will. The scale doesn’t lie, people. That’s just a cold hard fact. The scale can either be your best friend or a cruel mistress, but she doesn’t lie.

My mistake, and maybe yours since you’re reading this, is that I didn’t research anything in regards to how much I should actually be eating. I had always assumed from body building magazines that I was supposed to eat as much food as I could get my hands on, but that simple wasn’t the case.

You Can’t Just Eat What You Want

Read that title again, “You can’t just eat what you want.” Eating what you want can land you into some serious trouble when it comes to your health.

If you’re eating too much protein, you would be seriously damaging your heart or your liver. If you’ve eating too many fats, you could be causing problems to your heart while also adding on a few extra pounds in the process. Add these two issues together, and you could cause serious issues like heart disease and diabetes to your body with constant abuse.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? It could be easily avoidable.

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

Well, that’s sort of hard to answer when I don’t know you personally, dear reader. That question can only be answered through research, trial and error.

Everybody is different, and everybody reacts differently to their training session. With that being said, research should definitely be completed before anybody takes on a diet plan. When researching, check out how much the average person with your gender, height, and age requires in calorie consumption to function. From there you should be able to calculate in respect to both your workout and daily activities to accurately create an appropriate calorie count.

IN CONCLUSION

Eating the appropriate amount of food and calories is essential in reaching your workout goals. A body that is not used to working out or doesn’t have a lot of muscle does not require an extreme amount of calories in the beginning phases of a workout program. In retrospect, someone who already has a decent amount of muscle on their body and trains regularly could eat a high concentration of calories more consistently.

How Many Calories Should I Eat?
Eating smarter means eating happier!

You know what you should do to avoid all of this nonsense, and start your workout and diet training the right way?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Running Away from Gains

JUST CALL ME SPEED!

Not to brag, but I’m pretty fast. Didn’t you see the title?

Can Running Cause Muscle Loss
Just call me speed!

You may have heard me mention several times that in my beginning days I was pretty into my running. Running wasn’t necessarily my goal, but it’s what I had always done when it came to working out. So I directly translated all of my previous experience of gym class and magazine articles into my workout regimen

I was running, sprinting, walking, and anything else I could do to get some extra cardio in. Late one night after a long run, I just happened to stroll upon an article on a weight lifting site. I didn’t see anything besides a clustered group of words, “Running Causes Muscle Loss”.

Running is Bad for Gains?

Now just wait one moment. Ever since gym class back in school we were told that running is a great way to stay in shape. Why else would they make us run just about every day (besides being cruel). And now you want to tell me that running is hindering my gains?

I’m so angry I could scream! Not to mention the fact that I had been running every single day since I started lifting. Back at that time, beginning-lifter-me was completely confused and shocked at this revelation. What now?

Where Do I go from Here?

No seriously, where do I go from here? If what I was doing was causing me issues since day 1, what should I do now?

I stopped running right then and there. I didn’t complete a fast paced walk, I didn’t run, I didn’t even sprint. In my mind, it definitely wasn’t worth losing muscle mass over sprinting. Turns out, that’s a bad idea when it comes to fat loss. They second I took out my cardio was the second I started putting on more fat than usual.

So what should I do?

DON’T PANIC

Can Running Cause Muscle Loss
Read the sign.

The key is to not panic and keep saying everything is going to be okay (because it is). Running isn’t a hindrance on any workout when performed correctly.

Can you put on muscle mass while running? Yes.

Can you lose muscle mass while running? Definitely yes.

First things first, you need to decide what your goal is going to be. Either A) to put on mass, or B) lean out fat (for this sake, we’re going to consider fat-loss and endurance running the same).

In regards to both, there are two key options to consider in regards to fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Here are some great options:

For Muscle Gains

Take a look at a professional sprinter. These guys and gals are jacked to the core. They have legs of steel and big muscles even though they run as a professional. So how do they do it?

It has been proven that sprinting intensely actually increases muscle mass. The key to running and retaining muscle mass it to keep it at high intensity for a short amount of time. It takes time to be successful, but try spring “all-out” for 4-10 reps. You are going to feel tired at the end of each spring, but you can’t beat fats, all-out short sprints are the best for preserving/building muscle. Just do your best to spread out your cardio between your lifting, and you’re golden.

Can Running Cause Muscle Loss
Sprinters not only maintain, but gain muscle.

For Fat Loss

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, for fat loss you should be running more. However, if you’re looking to lose fat while maintaining muscle mass, you shouldn’t even be on the treadmill. In fact, you should be on the stationary bike.

Why the stationary bike? It’s been scientifically proven that running causes far more muscle loss than cycling. Due to the range of motion when it comes to cycling, a wide range of motion utilizing the knees and hips, strength and gains aren’t as easily impaired. So for fat loss while maintaining muscle, try to ride the cycle bike intensely for 20 minutes. This will help fat loss while maintaining muscle.

IN CONCLUSION

Running can be detrimental for gains. However, running can also be beneficial for muscle gains. The best way to go about running or cardio is to decide upon your goals and adjust your workouts accordingly. Add your cardio into your training regimen; just be sure to give yourself ample time between workouts to maximize benefits. What’s the best way to gain muscle and lose fat?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain?

CHICKEN, CHICKEN, AND MORE CHICKEN

Look at all that meat!

No literally, it’s a sight to behold. I had heard over and over again how protein was essential for growing muscles. Not only that, but images of body builders and professional athletes chowing down on steaks and chicken right after an intense gym session was the norm.

So what did I do? I bought pounds and pounds of chicken, ground beef, steaks, rice, and went to town!

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain
Look at this little guy!

More Protein Means More Muscle, Right?

I mean, that’s been the consensus since the dawn of weight lifting. The more protein you eat, the more fuel your muscles have to grow. With the amount of protein I was eating, I should have looked like the Hulk’s older brother, Bulk (don’t laugh, I worked hard on that name).

Chickens feared me, beef ran to hide when I walked in the room, and don’t get me started on fish (jokes on you, I’m not a big fish eater).

Then Where are My Gains?

Oh where, oh where, have my massive-gains gone? Oh where, oh where could they be? (See what I did there).

But on a serious note, I was eating tons of protein and not turning into this muscular monster that I thought I would become. I was seriously cleaning out the local supermarket and wrecking shop on calories and my body. Why wasn’t I seeing any increased gains?

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain
Totally not me, but isn’t that sad?

MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

You read that right. Chow down all you want, but more protein isn’t always better. There are a lot of components that go into muscle and strength gains when it comes to diet and exercise. Macro-nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates and proteins are highly important. Micro-nutrients that come into the picture.

So unfortunately, it isn’t just as simple as eating more protein to get more muscle gains. In fact, someone who is eating way more protein than their body need could actually be doing more harm than good.

Here’s how:

Top 3 Issues of Excess Protein

One problem is weight gain. Your body can only use so much protein, so when you eat it in excess then your body obviously can’t use it all. For example: If a person eats 100 grams of protein, the average human body can only utilize 50 grams out of that 100. That means your body will store around 200 extra calories as fat. Doing this on a daily basis can cause a lot of problems in the future.

Also, eating too much protein can cause reduced function in both the liver and brain. When someone takes in protein, their body produces ammonia. Normally the liver makes ammonia harmless. However, eating too much protein over a period of time can cause the liver to become overworked.

Lastly, many foods containing large amounts of protein, like meat, have lots of cholesterol. This means hardened arteries, which can turn into heart attack and stroke. Don’t get freaked out, this doesn’t mean eating too much protein is going to be serious, however proteins containing large amounts of cholesterol can definitely put you at risk.

So What’s the Proper Amount?

Good question, there are a lot of different opinions when it comes to protein. To grow effectively, the proper amount of protein needs to be in the minimalistic range of 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Note, that’s just for the average male or female who is trying to maintain form.

If someone is performing some form of exercises on a regular basis, or is trying to lose fat/build muscle/become a Terminator (that’s me!), then the proper number is more around the 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight. But again, that’s just a minimum number.

If you’re truly trying to push yourself, to put on significant muscle mass the proper amount is between 1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight. That seems like a lot, and that’s because it is. It’s high, but that’s what the body needs to grow at the rate that you’re forcing it to. Honestly, anything above 1.3 grams per body weight the body can’t truly process.

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain
That’s a lot of protein in one picture.

IN CONCLUSION

Do we need more protein to grow more muscles? Yes.

Is eating an excess amount of protein on a daily basis going to ensure us growth? Not necessarily.

The truth is, this blog is written based on an observation on an average human body and how it should react when pushed to stress and growth. In reality everybody is different and finding the proper number for anyone should be part of their workout process. Find the number that works best for you and go with it, however anything in excess can cause issues, so be careful!

And what do we say will always increase success?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!