Early Bird or Night Owl, Does it Really Make a Difference?

FIRST THINGS FIRST

First, I would like to apologize for this post being delayed so long after the previous post. Due to changing conditions in my work life, I have had to take a sabbatical from my writing for the month of May. Through the month of May I have changed jobs, cleared my head, and gotten better muscle gains.

So now, I’m ready to get back to my writing and provide you with your weekly dose of Is This Lifting? Let’s get to it!

I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON

There it is right in the title. I am NOT a morning person. It takes well over a pot of coffee, two hours, and a complete absence of fluffy bunnies and dandelions for me to wake up on the right side of the bed in the morning.

With that being said, I have become completely accustomed to working out in the evening. In the evening I have had my coffee, I have gotten through my work day, and right after I can eat enough food to feed a small family (what can I say, I love to eat).

Morning of Afternoon Workout
I’m just like this kid. I would be grumpy while eating a pop tart.

And then things changed…

Good Morning Beautiful

I changed jobs, and now I have to be bright eyed and bushy tailed by 6AM every day (can you hear the sadness in my voice). The new job is great, and I’m getting the opportunity of a lifetime to work for this company, but now my hours have completely changed.

And did I mention that my new job requires lots of heavy lifting and constant moving? It’s like I’m exercising for 9-10 hours every day, so I definitely don’t feel like hitting up the gym at the end of my day. So now, I have to be in the gym early in the morning every day before the sun has even woken up (is that even possible?)

What is this madness!?

Is This for Better or for Worse?

Now I’m wondering if I’m going to lose muscle or plateau because of my time change. I’ve been down this road before, I’ve tried to work out in the mornings, and I was terrible at it. I was tired, groggy, and didn’t feel nearly as focused as I needed to be. I perform a lot better in the afternoons, after I’ve been awake for a few hours and have gotten through my workday.

Now I have to make the change, and I will do so accordingly if I don’t have a choice in the matter. But the big question is am I going to lose muscle mass due to changing the time I am working out?

You would think that it doesn’t have an effect, but of course it does. Let’s take a look at the differences of working out in the morning or the evening.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Morning of Afternoon Workout
Look at that worm! It has to have a lot of protein!

Working out in the morning has a lot of advantages for those of us who can actually get up early and function. For the early bird, early mornings are an opportune to put on muscle mass while your body is still benefiting from sleep. Not to mention, you get the workout out of the way early on in your day so that you can focus on other priorities through the rest of your day.

Here are some key benefits for getting your workout taken care of in the morning:

  • Morning exercise may help in fat burning and fat loss, partly due to higher than normal testosterone. It also helps that your body has not had much food to process yet, and may turn to fat for energy instead.
  • The morning has the most potential for building muscle because testosterone is critical in protein synthesis and for rebuilding muscle fiber damaged in weight training.
  • In the morning we have greaterfocus, which may allow for greater mind-muscle connection and greater efficiency of muscle work done.

The Night Owl Can Achieve Anything

Morning of Afternoon Workout
What a night owl! So majestic, so muscular, so owl-y!

For those of us that like to work out in the afternoons (*cough cough*) there are plenty of advantages for you as well! For the individual who prefers to work out in the afternoons, you have the opportunity to benefit from a higher pain tolerance, alertness, and attention. Here are some great benefits to working out in the afternoons:

  • The evening has the best potential for strongest performance. This is the time of day when the body is in peak condition for physical activity.
  • Working out at night increases ability to absorb nutrients on a cellular level. It also gets your body prepared naturally for sleep.
  • Plenty of focus after being done with the workday, so you can be less distracted.

IN CONCLUSION

So there you have it! What works best? Well that’s tough. By all the things described, it’s hard to give a definite answer, even though most people prefer to train in the evening. However, the best time to hit the gym is the time that suits you and your goals the best! Adjust your diet, training, and workout plan according to your gym time and you should be golden!

Do your research, be prepared, and get lifting!

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In Sickness and In Health: When to Give in to the Sniffles

MAN, AM I STUBBORN

I’m sure you could have guessed this just from reading a few of these blog posts. Indeed, that stubbornness extends farther than just in the gym. It’s hard for me to stay of the gym, whether it be soreness, injury, or even sickness.

When am I too sick to workout?
Yep, that’s me, stubborn to the bone!

With that being said, I truly push myself to be the best that I can be, in and out of the gym. So when I get sick, I don’t necessarily react the best way possible…

It’s Not That Big of a Deal

What am I, a sissy? It’s just a tickle in my throat. It’s not too bad.

I’m going to make this perfectly clear: I will not let sickness keep me away from my gains! Though I may have the sniffles, I’m still going to lift heavier than I’ve ever lifted before! Grow stronger than ever imaginable! Crush weights that try to stand in my way!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Now It’s a Big Deal

Okay, now I’ve  become a sissy. Call me an ugly-duckling because I feel HORRIBLE.

When am I too sick to workout?
No lie, I’m a sissy when I’m sick.

I’m not sure how I got to this point, but now I can’t get out of bed. I’m truly amazed at how the sniffles turned into the full on flu. I couldn’t eat, could barely sleep, and was doing a better job at keeping things out more than in (sorry for the TMI).

So where did I go wrong? Why am is my body become a sess-pool of nasty.

 WHEN TO REST AND WHEN TO WORK

The key to knowing when to rest and when to work is leaning and listening to your body. Sure there are some situations when it’s acceptable to work out and exercise. However, there are more frequent situations when dealing with sickness when you cannot engage in exercise at all.

You should note however that in most situations, it is not okay to exercise due to the fact that your body does not concentrate on getting better, instead it focuses on repairing muscle tissue. Although there is no clear scientific explanation sickness and working out, let’s explore some situations when it’s okay to exercise.

*Note: I am not a doctor. I know how my body operates and which situations I can lift and when I cannot. With that being said, the rest of this blog should be considered advice from personal experience(s), and not actual certified/professional recommendations.

Situations When It’s Okay

Thomas Weidner, head of athletic training at Ball State University, believes a great way to know when it’s acceptable to exercise is to perform what’s called a neck checkWhen conducting a neck check, you to whether to exercise or not if your symptoms are above the neck. Such symptoms include: sneezing, sore throat, and runny nose. This conclusion can be taken from two different controversial studies where subjects were infected with the common cold. The subjects were in a controlled environment, and their symptoms were no worse (or better) for exercising while being sick. In fact, the group that exercised, versus the group that didn’t, reported feeling slightly better after exercising (possibly from endorphins).

So, if you’ve got a simple head cold, it’s generally acceptable to workout, just try not to push yourself past your limits.

Situations When It’s Not

This isn’t going to come as a surprise, but some key moments to realize when you’re way too sick to workout is by listening to your body. Such situations include: when you can’t keep food down, you have a fever, you’re contagious, and those are just to name a few. You’re body is obviously up-in-arms with sickness, and working out is definitely not going to help anything.

In times like these, you need to “lean” into your sickness. Accept that your sick, stay home, and rest up. Your body needs to focus on healing itself from its sickness, not repairing muscle tissue.

Always consult a doctor if you have any questions.

IN CONCLUSION

Should you workout while you’re sick? No. It’s just not smart and can do more harm than good. However, if you have some serious goals that you need to achieve, the sniffles aren’t going to cause you enough issues to worry about. Listen to your body, if lifting is going to cause you significant strain, then rest up. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions.

When am I too sick to workout?
Always ask a doctor if you’re concerned about your health.

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!

 

 

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!

How am I Not Losing Weight While Working Out?

LET’S GET SHREDDED!

Working out has been great!

The first few weeks that I had been working out have been going almost perfectly. After working through the injuries and setbacks, I was losing weight and getting toned more than I had my whole life. I thought nothing could stand in my way of reaching my goals!

Absolutely Unbelievable

Are you kidding me? I’ve been working out consistently for weeks on end and have completely plateau’d. No more weight is being shed from this body, and the scale is no longer my friend (but honestly, is it anybodies friend?).

What happened to my Terminator mindset? I’ve been pushing myself to my limits and yet it seems like I’ve completely ended my weight loss.

How I'm Lifting but Not Losing Weight
Isn’t it a shame?

But I’m Getting Stronger

So I’m not losing weight, but I’m getting stronger…

What the heck?!

My strength had increased on just about every lift. I was benching more, leg pressing more, and could curl more than my puny arms had ever been able to muster (which is a shocker, I know). In fact, not only was my strength getting better, but my muscle size was increasing. Everything was going at record pace and appeared to not be slowing down.

How does that nonsense work? I can get stronger while not losing weight? None of this makes sense!

HERE’S THE ISSUE

Unbeknownst to me, weight is not necessarily the best unit of measurement when it comes to progress. The measurement you choose to go by is completely dependent upon your goals.

For instance, if you are looking to trim fat and tone up, you would be looking at losing weight. If you are wanting to put on muscle mass, then obviously you would be looking to gain weight. At the same time, if you’re putting on muscle while trying to lose weight, it could make the numbers look quite confusing (isn’t lifting great?).

My issue was that my goal was to tone up and get healthier, but I didn’t equate that to whether or not I was going to lose weight. So how could I work out without losing weight? Truth is, there are several different reasons why losing weight can be an issue, a few of them may not be even on your radar.

Eating Less Can Be Your Downfall

You read that right. Eating less could actually cause you to cease losing weight. Even though everyone wants their body to be a temple, it’s more like a fine-tuned machine. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to eat a minuscule amount to lose weight. Even though that’s true to a point, if you eat too little and workout more, your metabolism can slow down or essentially cease to exist. It’s actually smarter to keep up a consistent diet while working out to keep the metabolism running smoothly.

How I'm Lifting but Not Losing Weight
Small portions aren’t necessarily the best options.

Your Cardio Game is Weak

Listen here boy scout, cardio is great but only if you increase your intensity. If you’re still running the same intervals and intensity that you were when you first started your training, you’re body is likely not responding the way you want it to be. The body adapts to your workout just like it adapts to its environment; if you don’t change your routine then you’ll slow down your progress. The best way to keep burning calories with cardio is to increase your intensity, always keep challenging yourself!

How I'm Lifting but Not Losing Weight
Always challenge yourself on the treadmill!

IN CONCLUSION

If you’ve gotten this far in your training program, congratulations! Everyone hits a plateau at some point in their training program, absolutely everyone. The best thing you can do is take a good look at what you’ve been doing to train and how you can adjust your program to reach your goals.

Don’t get discouraged and keep up the good work! Take this as a learning experience and grow from it!

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Rest is More than Recovery: How You’re Preventing Muscle Growth

I’M SORE, REALLY SORE

My lifting program was going great. I was 4 months into my new life change and everything was going great with both my diet and training. I was working out 7 days a week, constantly running and lifting up a storm. I was a mad-man working on becoming a Terminator! There was just one problem…

…I was sore, incredibly sore and tired. Not only that, but my muscles weren’t growing as quickly as I would have hoped. But did I care? No! I pushed myself harder to fight through the fatigue and soreness. If my muscles weren’t going to grow then I was going to force them to!

Rest is More than Recovery
So sore, so tired, so smelly!

But my biggest question was:

How Could This Be?

My body is a temple and I’m building it into a fortress! So why am I so sore? I assumed that my body would get used to the amount of strain that I was putting it through. My friends and my family supported me and said that I was looking leaner and were proud of my dedication. Though it was great to hear these words of affirmation, I still wanted to grow my muscle mass.

So with more reps, more weight, and more time in the gym I should grow more muscle right?

My Mistake…Again. I Was Wrong.

I was wrong again (I’m starting to see a pattern here). In my opinion, nothing is better than trying to improve your health and lifestyle with working out. However, constantly beating your body into a pulp 7 days a week is NOT the way to do it.

Here’s the science behind it all:

Training causes the brain to release molecules and other chemical signals to help repair injured muscles after training, that’s where muscle growth comes from. Though these signals are necessary, over training can cause an excess of these signals that can cause issues with training.

Excessive inflammation from over training can result in muscle fatigue, loss in muscle protein, loss of muscle mass, and reduced muscle function. Essentially, I’m getting leaner but preventing my muscles from growing. Really?! What am I supposed to do now?

REST AND RECOVERY INCREASES GROWTH

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to lifting and muscle growth is that the more you lift the more you grow. Though that is true in some ways, if you’re lifting too often it can actually hinder the growth of your muscles groups. Contrary to popular belief muscles actually go through their growth stage when we’re resting on our recovery days.

Rest is More than Recovery
Push yourself to rest for muscle growth!

To put it simply: rest and recovery and essential to muscle growth. That’s like putting a light at the end of the tunnel, whipped cream on apple pie, gravy on biscuits (I’m sorry, I’m Southern).

How Often Should I Rest?

The length and frequency of your rest and recovery days is completely dependent upon how intensely you workout during the week. If you’re training with a high intensity program, resting 3 days may be a great idea for you. If you’re working out moderately throughout the week rather than pushing your muscles excessively, then perhaps 1 to 2 days may be the best strategy.

The best way to figure it out is to listen to your body and ask a trainer. When I was training for an obstacle course race I would rest 2 days a week, likewise when I was on a strict bulking and strength training routine I would rest 3 days. Always ask yourself and professionals if you have any questions, no one should get injured while trying to improve themselves.

IN CONCLUSION

Rest is More than Recovery
Look at the sleeping puppy! Rest like that.

Building your body into the fortress that we want it to be is a daunting task. We may want to push ourselves to the limits over and over again just to reach our goals. However, pushing ourselves too hard can cause problems with our growth. Rest and recovery are just as important as your performance through training. Always set aside a couple days just to relax, regroup, and get in the right mindset for your next training session while allowing your muscles to recuperate and grow.

So, what should you do?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why Isn’t My Running Program Putting on Muscle? Help!

I’VE BEEN WORKING OUT…WHERE’S MY MUSCLES?

If you’ve read any of my Beginner’s Journey blog series (which THANK YOU by the way if you have) you would know that I started my serious training as a New Year’s resolution. No, this isn’t my tragic story of how I really screwed up my puny arms, this is 6 months in the future when I decided to truly work hard on my training.

Problem is, I still had no idea what I was doing (big shocker there).

Sure, I knew how to watch my food intake and what foods I needed to eat over the others. However, I didn’t know the essentials to building muscles. So what did I do?

I Ran…

…I ran a lot.

What can I say? That’s all I knew how to do! You don’t have to look up a “how-to” guide on how to get on a treadmill and not fall.

why is my running not putting on muscle
Totally not me…maybe…

The apartment complex that I was living at during this time had a rinky-dink treadmill that was perfect for a paper weight (You thought I was going to say running, huh? Jokes on you!) Though it was terrifying, it did great for a beginner like me. So in my trusty shorty-shorts (I feel like I’ve mentioned them in every story so far…) and beat up off-brand shoes, I ran to my heart’s content.

It was great, I was running consistently six nights a week really pushing myself to get better times. There was only one problem…

I Wasn’t Putting on Muscle

Don’t get me wrong, I was losing fat and my legs were getting toned. However, my goal wasn’t to be a marathon runner, it was to be the next Terminator (please don’t come after me for copyright infringement!). So why wasn’t my running routine putting on muscle for me? I mean, technically it should be putting on huge amounts of muscle since it’s working out…right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, running is working out. In fact, running is perfect for your heart, legs, and lungs. At the same time, it’s not too good if you’re looking to put on pounds of lean mass and muscle. You see, when you’re running your body is utilizing its glycogen storage to help fuel your body. Too much running and you run through your storage. Sadly that means not as much muscle mass.

HOW DO I TURN THIS AROUND!

I wasn’t putting on muscle like I wanted to but I was getting leaner. All in all there were really no negative aspects of what was happening. But I wanted to get bigger by putting on muscle!

So I turned it around by hitting the weights (not with my fists, that would hurt and is counterproductive).

I started with simple circuit workouts, I was a beginner so I really just wanted to get my body used to the work rather than push it to the limits. I was doing everything from dumb bell chest workouts, to lat pulls for my back, to leg extensions for my quads.

why is my running not putting on muscle
Definitely me this time.

And How Did That Work Out For You?

It worked out great! Eventually I switched over to a better regulated workout plan instead of the circuit plan, but it was a great start to my muscle building!

I was shocked at the small amount of weight that I could lift in the beginning. For real, it was sad. At the same time, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to build upon my practices and habits to where I was lifting more weight and more reps during my workouts.

Not only that, but I was gaining muscle at a better pace than when I was running. Again it was a win-win situation, but changing my routine was definitely the right way to go.

IN CONCLUSION

Running is not meant to build muscle the way that I wanted to. Running is great for toning your legs, building on your cardiovascular health, and training your lung endurance. However, I wouldn’t trade running for a consistent amount of time before I actually switched over to a weight lifting program. From running I was able to shed a few pounds and see which parts of my muscles groups that I needed to work on the most. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t work on a running program before a lifting program.

In hindsight, it was great that I started running before lifting; it just wasn’t a part of the goals that I was looking for at the time. If you’re running into the same issues with your workout plan (no pun intended) try taking the heavy cardio out of your training, I assure you that you will see the difference.

You know what would have saved me lots of time and headache? This:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

why is my running not putting on muscle
Next step, this barbell!

Why Are My Arms Not Growing? Can They Get Any Smaller?!

OH BIG ARMS, WHERE ARE THOU?

Have I ever mentioned that my arms used to be abnormally small? It was pitiful, I had the tatas that should have required a sports bra and the arms that a butterfly could crush (Now that’s a story for another time).

Twas a sad state that my arms were in, and people didn’t mind letting me know about it. But could I blame them? Society has determined that men have to have big arms (Because let’s face it, one day you’re going to have to lift a boulder to save a family of bunnies).

So what did I do? I became determined to get the biggest arms possible no matter what the cost! If anyone was going to save a family of bunnies, it was going to be me!

Why are my arms not growing?
Look at that bunny!

Time to Get Big Arms!

In case you didn’t read my earlier blog post about how I started my lifting journey (it was tragic), I had no clue how to get bigger arms (see that tragedy here). In my mind, getting big arms required two things:

  • A heavy dumb bell.
  • Lots and lots of reps.

So what did I do? I put on my trusty shorty-shorts (don’t judge me) and grabbed my 20lb dumb bell and went to work! And man, did I work!

I was blasting through reps, using every muscle I had, and grunting like a yeti in the Himalayas (they do exist)!

What I Did Wrong

Unbeknownst to me, I was trying to build arms in the worst possible way. By the worst way, I mean in the way that was going to not only cause me pain but also prevent my arms from growing. I didn’t do any preparation ahead of the workout, or research how to perform the lift, and it cause me a lot of pain.

Boy, was it intense pain.

My puny arms couldn’t take the intense amount of reps that I was trying to pull off, even if it was only 20lbs. My form looked as if I was trying to do the funky chicken instead of a bicep curl. The horrible form resulted in me getting wicked tendinitis in both my elbows, and my puny arms weren’t able to lift anything for a substantial period of time.

Why are my arms not growing?
Not a bad representation of my arms back then…

HERE’S HOW YOU REALLY BUILD ARMS

The secret to building arms is not in a high volume of reps, but low volume of reps with fantastic form. Here’s the thing, your arm muscles are not naturally large muscles covering a large area of your body. In fact, your biceps cover one-third of your arm, while your tricep covers two-thirds. For a muscle group that is this size, a high rep count is not the way to build.

If you work out a muscle group like your arms too much, you’re only hindering your repair and growth. That’s a big no-no when you’re trying to grow.

A great example for building arms is to practice your form and practice with a smaller weight. Also, you should concentrate more on your triceps than your biceps. Why? Look above: your triceps cover two-thirds of your arm. See how that makes a difference?

Arm Building Workout Example

Dumb Bell Bicep Curl

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

French Curl

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Hammer Curls

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Tricep Kick-Backs

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

T-Curls

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Tricep Press

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Keep in mind, everybody has their own way of building arms and knowledge of exercises that work best for them. However, this is a great example of lifting a small amount of reps with a moderate amount of weight and great form.

Use this motto when building arms: less is more!

IN CONCLUSION

I made a lot of mistakes when I first started my lifting journey. In fact, I didn’t know the proper way to lift and build my arms until a significant time had passed. Here’s what could have saved me: actually reaching out and trying to gain more knowledge on how to lift properly.

When it comes to your arms, less is more! Attack the right muscle fibers with the right consistency, without over working them, and you can build great arms in no time. So, to end this blog off in the Is This Lifting? way:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why are my arms not growing?
Get to it!