Pretty soon, it’s going to be 98 Degrees, and everyone is going to want to be Spiced, Lit, and Nsync, out on the beaches, or for parties or cookouts. They might want to turn Boyz II Men, or hit the clubs on the Backstreets near S Club 7. Don’t Blink182 though, because summer will be here before you can get around to Smashing Pumpkins or growing Nine Inch Nails.

Yes, you read that right, I could probably have fit more references in there, but that seemed lengthy enough as is, so let’s move on, yeah? Each year the fitness world gains a multitude of additional members, and ImgurFit is typically no exception. People range from all sorts of shapes and sizes, heights, and experience levels, and the general idea and concept of the page is to aid and educate people, into creating healthy lifestyles that they can follow and balance, hopefully for the rest of their lives. That being said, there’s always a few basic things that bear repeating.

No, eating Red Hot Chili Peppers will not help you lose weight. HUZZAH! I managed to squeeze another one in! Eating capsaicin, drinking straight lemon juice, drinking green tea, cleanses, detoxes, foot pads (oh man, anyone remember the onions on the feet thing?), insane crash dieting, as well as people like Dr Oz, the Food Babe, Keely the Banana Girl (edit: apparently its “FreeLee” the banana girl. Whatever, it still sounds like porn. Moving on.), and others have all stomped their way onto the scene trying to peddle their often insane wares. So let’s tackle some of the stuff I’ve mentioned, in the hopes of getting a few things cleared up.

 

Magical Items of Magicky Magickness, or alternatively “Everybody Poops! Though some people who follow these may poop WAY HOLY SHITDAMN MORE than others”

FreeLee, Oz, and Food Babe, (among others) all make their livings pushing a certain brand of healthy suggestion. Dr Oz has a tendency to push things for their “amazing, almost magical properties” (read it like an infomercial, and it makes more sense) including things like Acai, and his most recent one, Garcinia Cambogia HCA Extract, which Oz calls “The Holy Grail of Weight Loss.” The studies that tested it’s effectiveness however, found that it typically only nets an additional 2 lbs of weight loss when compared against a placebo. Does that mean it works? Yes, it would appear to have some effect, but 2 lbs doesn’t warrant calling it the Holy Grail. Garcinia also tends to come with side effects, which are often mild, but still can be present none the less. It can give the user dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, stomach nausea, and diarrhea, as well as “interact poorly” with allergy medications, diabetes medications, iron supplements, pain meds, psychiatric meds, cholesterol meds, blood thinners, as well as advisement to avoid using if you have kidney or liver problems, or have contracted the pregnancy. FreeLee on the other hand, suggests eating a lot of raw food, and fruits. Her dietary advice includes, but isn’t limited to, eating 6 “large mangoes” for lunch, as well as consuming up to 30 bananas a day. Now, fruit isn’t bad for you, but if you’re concerned about an overall abundance of carbs, or potentially shitting yourself for most of the day, then this probably isn’t a great option either. The entire day’s breakdown looks like this:

“DAY 1:

Before breakfast exercise:
❥ 30mins – 1hr easy bike ride/power walk/jog low to moderate intensity.

Breakfast:

Creamy RT4 Milkshake (no milk):

❥ 7+ banana smoothie with lots of water

❥ 700 mls of water

❥ 800mls of coconut water

❥ a few TBS of coconut sugar and vanilla stevia drops.

Lunch:

A mono meal of your favourite fruit, maybe 6 or more big mangoes

Snack:

As much fresh fruit as desired.

Dinner:

A bag of organic spuds cut into chip form and baked till crispy in the oven with low sodium sweet chilli sauce and wrapped in lettuce leaves. It may sound plain but it is very tasty, healthy and slimming.”

Now, I am not a registered dietician, nor a nutritionist, but this entire process seems like a potentially awful idea, and I’m struggling to see how it might be sustainable for anyone who doesn’t spend 3/4 of their day sitting on a couch, or in a chair, within a 30 foot sprint of a toilet. So, let’s move on, as I’m tired of talking about poop. (edit: Skipping Food Babe for sake of post length)

 

Metabolism (aka My body is a wonderland, just kidding John Mayer please stop sitting in a car outside my house):

Next up we have things like lemon ice water, or lemon juice water, or adding cayenne pepper to all your food, or following certain “jump start” diets to increase your metabolic rate. Some of which, when Googled, come from Dr Oz! AGAIN! Sonofabitch I cannot get away from this madman. This is an excerpt from his page, “you may also turn the tide on chronic health problems including type 2 diabetes, asthma, joint pain, digestive problems, autoimmune disease, headaches, brain fog, allergies, acne, eczema and even sexual dysfunction… You know when your computer freezes up? What do you do? You reboot. Well, the 10-Day Detox can do the same thing for your metabolism – by following my diet and lifestyle practices, we can reset your metabolism to factory settings. You can lose weight without going hungry, and possibly even clear up a whole list of health symptoms. And all it takes is 10 days.” This is fundamentally not how your metabolism works, and most of these programs owe their success to the fact that most people that start them are coming from the holy land of Coca Cola and Pizza. By eliminating most of these food and volume issues from their diets, they see success, which they falsely attribute to the product at hand. The other issue is that SOME of these items, like digestive issues, headaches, brain fog, etc, can be adjusted by changing what you eat as a whole, in general. It’s not specifically attributed to a “detox” so much as it is, “you can shit now because you’re not eating 3 lbs of cheese every day any more.” I mean, cheese is fucking delicious, but let’s have some restraint people, please? Now, other websites suggest options like “ramping up your intensity level” or “lift more weights, THEN do cardio after” which aren’t inherently bad ideas, and they DO help increase your metabolism, but the problem in this case lies in the wording. You can’t jump start your metabolism like a car, it changes in increments over a period of time. Some bodybuilders spend years (yes, years) slowly adapting their metabolism to a point where (in one’s case , who i know personally) they end up at a point where 4500 calories is a diet for someone who competes on stage at 220 lbs. Alternatively, you can accidentally do the opposite to your body. You can accidentally shift your metabolism, over a period of time, so that your body acclimates to you underfeeding it, at least to a certain degree, which also can take months, or years to recover from.

 

Detoxification! (aka that stuff that your liver and kidneys do when they are functioning properly) 

de·tox
informal
noun
plural noun: detoxes
ˈdētäks/
  1. 1.
    a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification.
    “he ended up in detox for three months”

Now, I’m not a rocket surgery or a brain scientist either, hell I’m not even a regular sorcerientist or whatever they do with their crazy magic machines, but the standard definition for detox sort of implies “going through withdrawl from addictive stubstances” and not so much what Dr Oz, or Oprah (for all her many glorious contributions to the world, as well as “BEES!” https://i.imgur.com/R1raYh.jpg ) would have you believe. Detoxes, as far as the dietary word is concerned, means “using dietary means (or just lack of food in general) to clean the blood, promote liver stimulation to drive toxins from the  body, and help the intestines digest more efficiently. Folks, I say this with the utmost care, but if any one of these systems within your body needs that to happen, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, MY ANUS IS BLEE- err, wait… “PLEASE, go to a doctor.” Going through a detox diet or extended fasting period is not going to fix a glaring issue with the organs that handle most of the poisons that exist in your body. In addition to that, one gem from the MayoClinic website provides this, “some detox diets advocate using herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing (enemas) to empty the intestines.” Hope you like stuff getting put in your butt, guys! Man, I seriously cannot get away from poop on this subject, can I?

 

THINGS TO DO, THINGS NOT TO DO, GENERAL LIFE ADVICE: 

So, you’ve decided not to detox, enema, magic pill, or make an effort to consume 4 metric tonnes of mangoes and bananas in the next 6 months, what can you do instead? For starters, you can find something active that you enjoy. Lifting weights, grunting, living in fear of sharting in the squat rack, are not everyone’s pride and joy, and not everyone in the world thinks that there’s no reason to be alive if you cant do deadlift. Stars may have lived and died to produce the iron that we lift, but hey, not everyone is in to that. Some just enjoy walking, hiking, swimming, climbing (Hi Sean!) , running, or even playing sports, silk yoga, pole dancing, gymnastics, fighting, grappling, and an entire host of other stuff that I’m frankly not bright enough to think of. So get out there, say “Hi!” to Super Nintendo Chalmers, and get learnding! Then you have the diet alterations, which can be things like IIFYM, or other certain options and restrictions based on your moral values, medical needs, or other factors. Sleep, and stress are another set of factors, which a lot of people simply may not be aware of. You might sleep like crap, but be unaware of it for years, and it may be a huge hindrance to your progress. Do what you can, and even just dick around on the internet, or even our own blog page, and you might find answers that surprise you. We all have a journey to experience guys, so lets rock out with our cocks out, jam out with our clams out, and make life fucking magical.

 

Here’s some handy dandy reading material, if you do so fancy ^_^

 

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/detox-diets/faq-20058040

http://www.iifym.com/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/23/dr-oz-products_n_7120654.html

http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/17/health/senate-grills-dr-oz/

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/05/detox-myth-health-diet-science-ignorance

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-detox-scam-how-to-spot-it-and-how-to-avoid-it/

https://imfitcast.wordpress.com/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/weight-management/bgp-20056166

http://www.livescience.com/39243-garcinia-cambogia-supplement-facts.html

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Go the F___ to Sleep, by Samuel L Jac- Just Kidding. Really Though, Lets Talk Sleep.

So your diet is on point, your weight programming, and form/structural ingraining is on point, and you’ve even convinced yourself to do semi-regular cardio ( *gasp* ). You’re training to beat Goku, yet you still stall out though, you wonder what is going on, and change programs, or diet tactics, which all displays the same results. You get to a point where you are just absolutely sick of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane… Wait, okay, maybe not that specifically, but you get the idea.

The amount, and more specifically the quality of your sleep, plays a huge factor in the body’s ability to repair and recover from the abuse you put it through attempting to gather the Dragon Balls, or whatever it is you do in your free time. A great sleeping pattern, as well as the proper amount of sleep, and REM sleep, can do quite a bit to ensure your recovery. In men, the difference comparing 4 hours of sleep to 8 hours can in some cases double your body’s testosterone output (1, 2). You can also experience complications (not limited to men) involving oxygen desaturation and sleep apnea in some cases, depending on your size, weight, mobility level, and various sleeping positions. It’s harder for you to breathe if you sleep on your stomach, because your head needs to be turned in order to breathe, but that position can restrict your airways, as well as prevent you from fully inhaling. Sleeping on your side can cause people to be restless, I personally (Hi! Im Nich! Your friendly neighborhood admin!) have problems with my limbs going to sleep if I lie too vertically on my side (think traps/shoulders forming a vertical line) which causes me to be restless, and move around quite a bit.

 

Beyond these things, people might consider getting a sleep study done, if they’ve tried (and exhausted) the other options, to get a clearer picture of whats going on. Primarily the study monitors the two things I mentioned previously, and measures the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) and oxygen desaturation levels that doctors use to indicate the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. The AHI is the number of apnea of hypoapnea events that the system records per hour of sleep, with a scale ranging from “None/Minimal” at being less than 5 events per hour, to “Severe” being more than 30 events per hour. Doctors can also use the Respiratory Disturbance Index (RDI) because the RDI includes not only apneas and hypopneas, but this index can also include other, more subtle, breathing irregularities. This means a person’s RDI can be higher than his or her AHI.

This brings us to Oxygen Desaturation. These are recorded via polysomnography or limited channel monitoring. A normal blood oxygen level (saturation) is usually 96 – 97%. Although there are no generally accepted classifications for severity of oxygen desaturation, reductions to not less than 90% usually are considered mild. Dips into the 80 – 89% range can be considered moderate, and those below 80% are severe. The doctor I saw specifically, mentioned that in the state of Indiana, by law, if a patient undergoing a sleep study drops below 85% saturation, the doctor is required to alert the patient, and place them on a cpap machine. Polysomnography is the simultaneous recording of multiple physiologic signals during sleep. The signals generally included are: brain waves; eye movements; chin muscle activity; air flow from the nose and mouth; chest and abdominal movement; blood oxygen levels; heart rate and rhythm; and leg movements. The signals are necessary to determine whether a person is awake or asleep, and also to determine whether their pattern of sleep is normal. Polysomnography is usually performed in a sleep laboratory with monitoring by a sleep technician. In people with OSA, polysomnography recordings demonstrate repetitive episodes of breathing pauses despite efforts to breathe. It’s considered the “gold standard” for diagnosis.

The polysomnography can tell help diagnose sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, sleep-related seizure disorders, sleep-related movement disorders, such as periodic limb movement disordes, and sleep disorders that cause extreme daytime tiredness, such as narcolepsy. Not everyone is this extreme however, and though expensive (mine was about 3,800$ before insurance) they can provide insight into why you may not be sleeping properly, as well as give you some options and discussion points to discuss with the doctors you are in contact with. A fairly in depth review of the process can be found here: http://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/diagnosis/sleep-study-details.html In some cases, apnea or desaturation can be solved, over time, simply by weight loss on a general scale. This isn’t exclusively for the overweight, however, and a fair amount of powerlifters and bodybuilders use CPAP machines, rather than maintain a healthy weight. In my case, my apnea wasn’t so severe that a few extra hours of sleep couldn’t make a difference. I get *good* sleep roughly 1/2 of the hours I actually spend asleep, so whenever I get 6 hours of sleep, it’s actually more similar to experiencing 3 hours. So the recommendation for the time being, was to attempt to get more than 7 hours of sleep, per night. If I can manage 9, for a fairly consistent basis, the difference is astounding, but we’re still tracking the ins and outs of why I have trouble with the things I do.

So now, you’ve gotten yourself studied, checked, re-checked, trained, prepared and ready, read through this whole gosh-darn’t blog post, probably stopped to masturbate twice, watched at least 3 episodes of Doctor Who, fed your cat (or your dog), punched a hobo, bought Subway, punched a hobo with your Subway, and ran up and down the steps to most of the buildings in Philadelphia in a grey track suit because you watched Rocky but never actually REALLY watched Rocky, but who cares because now you’re pumped and “Eye of the Tiger” is playing, we’ve covered everything but the sleeping portion. Guess what, now you get to create another list to follow! Minor (or possibly major) things that can help with sleep quality can be things like the following:

  • Sleep in total darkness. Turn off cell phones, LED Lights, TV’s, lamps, computers etc
  • Close all the mobile-networks and wi-fi hotspots. This Saudi-Arabian study (3) found out that the electromagnetic frequencies can decrease sleep quality.
  • Exercise during the day, as research has shown (4) that just a simple exercise session incorporated in your daily life, can dramatically improve sleep quality.
  • Sleep in a cold room and be naked if you can. Firstly because cold room will mimic the natural sleeping habitat of the human body (we were meant to sleep outside), and secondly because the testicles need to be a tad bit colder than the basal body temperature is, for optimal functioning (that’s why they hang in a pouch outside the body and that’s also why cold showers and loose boxers increase testosterone). **Besides, who doesn’t want to be naked?** 😀
  • Don’t watch bright electronic displays before you hit the sack, as the “blue light” in most electronic screens will impair pineal gland’s ability to produce melatonin
  • Consume some high quality protein before hitting the bed, as certain amino acid’s such as L-tryptophan will increase melatonin production in the brain, thus also improves sleep quality.
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17520786
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19684340
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15195201
  4. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=412611

How I Royally Screwed Myself Up – A Tale of Contest Prep

BEFORE!

TWAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Actually no it wasn’t, it was the July 4th weekend, 2012. Visiting a long time training partner, and close friend who lives in Illinois, eating pizza and watching bad kung fu movies, when we started discussing bodybuilding. He told me, “You’ve been strength training for about 7-8 years with no real direction or purpose,” which frankly was a fairly assessment of the entirety of my lifting career. I wasn’t pulling 700 lbs at the age of 18, or doing body building shows at 19, and I even got my start by fumbling around like an idiot in a gym because I felt pudgy and was self conscious about it. So we decided then and there, to begin prepping for a show in the OCB federation (they test your wee), that was at the end of November, roughly 4.5 or so months away. I weighed in at 242 when we started, and I’d end up stepping on stage in the mid-170’s. The OCB we did is not, for the record, a weight class show, the classes are arranged by height, which put me in the tallest class at 5’10 and up. The first month was met with vigor and eagerness, with no real issues or hiccups, moving down at a steady 2.5 lbs per week, while maintaining the majority of my usual lifting weights.

DURING! (Lets say beginning to halfway)

Then about the end of the second month, things started to go downhill. I’d start stalling at certain weights, which would lead to panicked revisions in my dietary intake, revamping what I was eating again and again, or removing certain foods entirely (I’ll always love you, bread! Wait for me!) in the hopes of hurriedly busting through the plateau and continuing onward. Thus far I’ve been trying to keep this on the more light and hearty side of things, but honestly it gets sort of grim. The problem that often shows up is that nobody ever really thinks to consider your mental fortitude, and much like a lot of other things in life, and a lot of the time the only way to find out is by making a go at it. So the foods started disappearing, and my carb intake started dropping, which would have been (more) acceptable had my fat intake been on point, but that was a raging dumpster fire as well. Typically speaking probably less than 15-20 g per day of fats, and as we got closer and closer to competition, the more pressure was on to not hit plateaus. My carb intake dropped well below 80g a day, which led to things like me sleeping restlessly, being constantly exhausted, falling asleep at work, having a shorter fuse, and to some degree impairing my motor skills and hand-eye coordination. My (then) girlfriend and I were both prepping, and both experiencing some of the same issues, her to a lesser degree than I, but it still caused issues and tension, late nights, sleepless nights, and a smattering host of problems.

DURING, Part 2! (Probably middle to end)

Slowly but surely, my weight kept going down, but other issues kept coming up, where I’d plateau, or I’d need to add more cardio, or I’d forget things, or forget how do do things. Towards the middle to end of the prep (last 6-8 weeks) the decision was made to attempt to try to move all of my carb intake into veggies primarily, with maybe 1 cup of steel cut oats in the morning. The most broccoli I ever ate in a day was 6 cups, and it was a terrible, terrible experience. So the carbs are down, but so is my weight, which was the point, but then I started getting memory gaps. I forgot that my girlfriend had already bought her suit, and to make matters worse, for some reason I was *convinced* that her suit was blue. It was pink, I wasn’t even close, and we spent roughly the next 4 days arguing over it, in one form or another. At one point I don’t really know how to describe it, but I stopped doing dishes one night, water running and all, to lie down on the floor of our apartment and have a breakdown about what the fuck exactly I was doing with my life.

Closer and closer to show date meant more and more cardio, which people also tell you (as it happens) that if the show is in the colder time of year to not run, and to dress properly, because the accelerated and aggressive weight loss makes your joints more susceptible to injury (Super!). I was doing a minimum of an hour of cardio, on top of my workouts, at least 5 days a week. 30-45 minutes at 5 or 530 am, despite being up till 1130 or even 1 am sometimes, followed by another similar amount following my workout later in the day. The only real saving grace was feeling better about my physical appearance, which I was happy about seeing, but not “Im going to kill it on stage” happy. The problems I experienced were getting worse, and at this point in my life, a full 3 years later, a lot of the entire process is still a fuzzy blur in my mind. The last two weeks before the show I took a posing video that, to my knowledge, is the only one that exists of me at a semi-healthy weight. 14 days from the show I was 185-187 lbs, but the aggressive cut had me attempting to lose roughly 1 lb per day. So in the last 14 days, I went from the mid 180’s, to showing up on competition day weighing about 178.

MOTHAFUGGIN’ COMP-DAAAAAY (And post-comp)

I spent the morning of the competition day nervous, nauseous, and feeling like I didn’t deserve to be there, because everyone looked a lot better than I did. It’s a process that, all physical issues aside, can carry some pretty heavy psychological side effects. So how did I handle it? Did I nut up and rock it? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if that was the case. I panicked. I spent the day occasionally taking Cellucor N03 or whatever the fuck it’s called (the blood flow one or whatever) , generally trying to avoid food for fear of a food-stomach, and being afraid to sweat, or pee, or shit, in fear of fucking up my tan (wee turns your tan green, TMYK!) . So I just ate, as little as I physically could, just enough to keep me… I don’t know… conscious? The posing itself, as a group went better than I expected, and I got at least a little reprieve being up there with other people, safe in my anonymity at the time. Until the night show, where each competitor has 60 seconds to do a posing routine to music of their choice (or random because the DJ fucked up), which as a typically anxiety ridden and anxious person, is goddamn fucking terrifying. I’ve never felt as uncomfortable and nauseous as I did prior to, and immediately after, except for the few times I’ve slid a car off the road and presumably expecting to die. It was suggested I take off my glasses as well, something to do with the stage lights reflecting off them, so I had to do my posing routine with no real sense of spacial awareness.

It was a flop. Not one clap, no cheers, just dead silence. To add to the flavor of the experience, without my glasses, I almost fell of the stage. I went back to the basement and don’t remember much after that. I’m fairly certain I was still awake, but I may have been lying on the floor for a while, tucked away in a corner. I tried to work out the next day, but was too exhausted to do anything useful, which was a trend that continued for about the next week. Not long after the show I decided to try intentionally bulking for the first time ever, moving from 178 at the end of November, to about 215 by February. Roughly the end of March or beginning of April I felt like I had gained too much weight, so I stopped eating as much. 3,000 calories became 2,500, and then 2,200, eventually settling around 1,900 per day, with me still going up in weight. The end of April saw myself and my ex’s relationship end, with my psychological image issues largely being too much for her to tolerate. Towards the end of 2013 we tried to get things back up, and as 2013 rolled into 2014, the attempts we made at repairing stuff led to more weight gain.

POST COMP, FOR REAL THIS TIME! 

In roughly the middle of 2014, I decided to finally try to start looking in to fixing all the little problems that had begun to plague me since the competition. I got a full metabolic panel done, and  was slapped on anti-depressants, and a vitamin D supplement, while the first doctor ignored the fact that my hormonal production indicated that I was about 85-90 years old. The anti-depressants, to their credit, helped me quit smoking again, which I had picked up the year before. When 6 months had gone by, with still no change in my lacking sex drive, I went to another doctor for another opinion, and they determined to start me on Hormone Therapy, as well as having a sleep study performed that determined that I have sleep apnea (from the 100+ lb weight gain in under a year). So I’ve since been trying to fix my hormonal issues, metabolic issues, weight issues, and sleep issues, all simultaneously.

For the first time in a long time, these days, I’m not completely unhappy with what’s in front of me in the mirror. I can see a fairly large difference between pictures that are a year apart, despite there only being about a 20 lb change. The hormone therapy is going successfully, despite occasional hiccups, like when your estrogen control makes your connective tissue feel more brittle and you dislocate a few ribs here and there, but things generally seem to be improving finally. It’s taken 3 years and a lot of money, but the goal is to keep moving forward. Now, the reason I put this together isn’t to show people how horrible bodybuilding is. Bodybuilding, power-lifting, Olympic weight lifting, crossfit, triathalons, marathons, iron-mans (Iron-men? Fuck if i know), and all sorts of activities performed by people from all walks of life are awesome and amazing things, but the fact just simply remains that working through a process with no information, or worse, can have some dire consequences. None of these are a quick decision process, and the decision to compete or perform them tends to carry a lot of weight. So please, if anyone takes anything away from this, just do your homework. We all hated it in school, and in college, but in these cases you don’t necessarily have a school or university teacher guiding us. We have friends, family, or coaches who mean well, and they will do their best to help, but as Coop likes to say, “Not everyone is the same.” Prepping goes a lot differently for a lot of people, and there’s hundreds if not thousands of different opinions about each little aspect of how to prepare.

Quick Fitness Glossary

Grammar and Lingo

This post contains a rundown of common terms and abbreviations you see pop up in regards to fitness.

 

Dieting
The term skinnyfat was originally coined to describe people in the normal BMI range <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_mass_index>  (healthy weight) but who had blood markers showing an increased risk for many diseases and health conditions similar to those people in the obese BMI range. So, while they appeared healthy on the outside, upon closer inspection they were not. The technical term is metabolically obese, normal-weight individuals <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9588440> . In recent years this term has been co-opted to become a euphemism among people with fat in the wrong places and not enough muscle in the right places. In this instance, it’s a fairly meaningless term and does not change the applicability of any information or section in this FAQ.

Cutting or going on ‘a cut’. Short for ‘cutting fat’. It’s a term used when one’s goal is to diet down to reveal the underlying muscle and obtain more definition. It requires a caloric deficit.

Bulking or going on ‘a bulk’ is a term used when gaining weight, particularly muscle. In this instance, a caloric surplus is used in conjuntion with lifting to add muscle (and often some unavoidable fat) to the body.

 

General

Sets and Reps:
A ‘rep‘ is a repetition: one complete movement of the exercise you are performing

A ‘set‘ is a number of reps performed in a row, with little or no rest in between

Sets of repetitions are typically recorded as sets x reps. For example, “3×10 pull-ups” means 3 sets of 10 reps.

When recording or posting your sets and repetitions, make sure to include the weight of the bar (typically 45lbs / 20kg). The weight of the bar is always included.

Regimen or Protocol – A systematic plan or regular course of action

 

Abbreviations
1RM: One Rep Max — The maximum amount of weight that can be lifted one time.
5K: A running race which covers 5 kilometers
5RM: Five Rep Max — The maximum amount of weight that can be lifted five reps.
ATG: Ass-To-Grass/Ground — A squat performed low enough that the trainee is nearly sitting on the ground
BB: Barbell
BCAA: Branched-chain Amino Acid — BCAA’s are a supplement combination of three amino acids (building blocks of protein): leucine, isoleucine and valine. Generally taken to promote the increase in lean mass and reduce recovery time.
BF%: Bodyfat Percentage — The amount of a person’s body weight that is due to body fat. This is the preferable metric compared to Body Mass Index (BMI) but is more difficult to determine.
BP: Bench press / blood pressure
BW: Body Weight
C25K: Couch To 5K — A nine week beginner’s running program that is designed to help an untrained enthusiast gradually become capable of running a 5K.
CC: Convict Conditioning — A popular bodyweight strength training program.
DB: Dumbbell
DL: Deadlift — A movement that entails bending over and picking up a weight from the floor using the legs and back.
DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness — The muscular aches felt in the 1-3 days that follow a strenuous workout.
EC Stack: Ephedrine and Caffeine — A combination of these two stimulants used to increase the rate at which body fat is burned.
ECA Stack: Ephedrine, Caffeine, and Aspirin — The addition of Aspirin to an EC Stack is thought to reduce some of the cons of the stimulants
GHR: Glute Ham Raise — An exercise used to strength the hamstrings.
KB: Kettlebell. See /r/kettlebell <http://www.reddit.com/r/kettlebell> .
Keto: Ketogenic diet — An ultra low-carb/high fat diet designed to keep the body in a status of ketosis.
IF: Intermittent Fasting — A dieting technique of purposely not eating for 12-24 hours (depending on the specific plan) at a time.
NSV: Non-scale victory. An achievement showing that you have worked toward a goal that doesn’t involve the number on the scale.
OHP: Overhead Press — A type of barbell movement that entails lifting the bar from shoulder height to over one’s head.
Paleo: Paleolithic diet — A nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various human species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era.
PL: PowerLifter/PowerLifting – A sport that focuses on the development of maximum strength in three types of weight lifting events: squat, bench press, and deadlift.
PPL: Push Pull Legs — A kind of weight lifting split where upper body push exercises are done one day (e.g. bench press), upper body pull exercises are down the next (e.g. rows) and leg work is done the following (e.g. squats). Typically done in a ABCABCx fashion, where ‘x’ is a rest day.
PR: Personal Record — The maximal amount of weight an individual has ever personally lifted.
PWO: Pre- or Post-workout — Generally used in the context of food or a beverage consumed immediately before or after a workout, “PWO shake, PWO meal, etc.” Clarifcation as to whether the user means pre- or post- will need to be sought if their use is unclear.
RDL: Romanian Deadlift — A variant of the deadlift performed with little to no knee bend in order to target the hamstrings and lower back muscles.
ROM: Range of Motion – the distance a joint or limb travels during exercise.
SS: Starting Strength — A beginner barbell program by Mark Rippetoe
SL5x5: Strong Lifts 5×5 — A beginner barbell program by Mehdi Hadim
TGU: Turkish Get-Up — An exercise common in the kettlebell community

Bodyweight/Gymnastics Terms
BL: Back Lever
FL: Front Lever
GHR: Glute Ham Raise
HBP: Hollow Back Press
HSPU: Handstand Push Up
HeSPU: Headstand Push Up
HS: Handstand
HMSH: Horizontal Middle Split Hold
MU: Muscle Up
MN: Manna
MSH: Middle Split Hold
OAC: One Arm Chin up
OAP: One Arm Pull up
PL: Planche
PHS: Press Handstand (not related to HSPU)
PPPU: Psuedo Planche Pushup
RC: Rope Climb
RTO: Rings Turned Out
SAS: Straight Arm Strength
SL: Side Lever
SPL: Straddle Planche
RMU: Reverse Muscle Up aka Pelican
SLS: Single Leg Squat

You Need To Grip It If You’re Gonna Rip It

Grip is immensely important when it comes to weightlifting (and daily life for that matter). We have covered it somewhat in Gavin’s post on Focusing On Weakness: Plate Pinchers. A member of our group on Facebook went into a little more detail recently and we wanted to share.

By: Nigel Blackburn

I was asked a question on how to improve grip strength–specifically for deadlift; I figured this information would be very useful to many peers, so I decided to post it separately for all to read. For starters: the deadlift is a lift that utilizes crushing strength. Crushing strength is essentially classified as it sounds: a specific strength involving anything you can completely fit your hand around and “crush,” like a tennis ball or a normal barbell.

For the purpose of the deadlift, I would train crushing strength and a little bit of open-hand strength (something you can’t fit your hand all the way around) for maximal-effort grip strength rather than grip endurance (i.e. train heavy for less reps, and on timed reps such as static holds, go heavy enough to where 10-12 seconds will be close to failure. On warm-up sets, always try to go standard double overhand–this will help quite a bit over time. Obviously, on heavier sets it is perfectly fine to go over-under or hook grip (after all, the point is to pull as much as you possibly can). As far as grip work: only train grip specifically and intensively twice a week, as they are small muscle groups and fatigue very easily. Try to ditch lifting straps as much as possible if you are aiming to improve grip strength.

As far as accessory work I found useful for crushing strength (deadlifts), there is a lot, but I will narrow it down to the exercises I found most useful for both feats of strength and gripping the hell out of a barbell.

Finger Curls:

When you grip a barbell, the weight should be resting in your fingers with your thumb assisting in keeping those fingers closed (on whichever grip you use). That is why it is essential to have strong fingers! I prefer to use a standard barbell for these. Basically you will set the barbell so it rests on your fingers, which will be supporting the barbell but not gripping it. The rep is completed by curling your fingers until the bar is completely in your grasp, like it would be on a set of deadlifts. You may use your thump to wrap around at the end of each rep to simulate what the weight would feel like in your hand normally, but be sure to only use your thumbs at the end of each rep.

Axle Bar Deadlifts:

Admittedly, I do not do these enough because I have small hands, and it frustrates me to do any open-hand grip training. These axle bar deadlifts will produce strong fingers AND thumbs, assuming you are squeezing the bar with all your might. The lift itself is pretty self-explanatory. If you do not have access to an axle bar, I have seen many DIY axel bars which work fine. You may substitute these as your warm-up sets for deadlift or do them separately. You can also do static holds with the axle bar, which, like stated before, I would not hold for more than 10-12 seconds since the goal here is max-effort grip strength. Be careful not to cheat the static holds by leaning back and holding the bar against your body. This will make the reps far too easy, and you won’t get as much out of it.

Tennis Ball Isometric Squeezes:

This involves squeezing the hell out of a tennis ball for 10-12 seconds as hard as you possibly can. Very simple and accessible, but very beneficial.

Heavy Farmer’s Walks:

We all know these, as they are beneficial for just about everything. Ideally you want a free weight for each hand. Rather than walking for 100 or more yards, aim for 20 yards for something as heavy as you can carry. Again, avoid straps—we want to train grip as hard as possible.

Extensor Work:

If we train any type of grip strength, we must also train the opposite muscle group: the extensors. For these, you can be creative. Use a rubber band, a wristband, or better yet—an iron mind extensor band. For these, we want to have the band around our fingers and push our fingers out to extend the band. The difficulty will differ based on what you are using and how far the band is on your fingers. Obviously the farther we move the band up our fingers, the hander it gets. Don’t kill yourself on these; just do 3×10-12 at the end of every grip workout, and you’ll be golden. This will assist with injury prevention and dexterity.

For all these exercises, I would do anywhere from 3-5 sets twice a week. The reps scheme is variable, as it depends on what you want to accomplish. Remember that training heavy helps us lift heavy!

Podcast #9 – Meet Your Macros: Protein

We will be running a short series of casts to cover in a little more detail the three major macro-nutrients that you should be paying attention to. First up is protein. the building blocks of your body.

If you would like even more information on what helps build up your muscles, check out some of our other posts:

Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Protein

Leucine and Driving Muscle Protein Synthesis

Things to Consider for When the Going Gets Stagnant

By: Nicholas Meisch

So you’ve decided to try to get into better shape. Better health comes in many shapes and sizes, with some people trying to lose weight, lose size, or gain muscle, or simply improve any number of their various statistics. Run faster, jump higher, squat more, squat more often? Sure! It could be bodybuilding, crossfit, marathons, ironmans, hiking or climbing, and honestly the sky seems like the limit whenever you initially find something you are passionate about, which is great at first. Over time things get more difficult, losing weight gets harder, getting stronger or faster occurs at infantismal rates, sometimes going months or even years without progressing. You begin to get frustrated. You change tactics time and time again, varying your sleeping patterns, nutritional intake, and programming style to little (if any) avail.

So, what do you do when you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel? When you start feeling miserable and stop loving what you used to enjoy? You start resenting attempting to do even a fraction of the things you did before, despite the level of effort.

  • What do you do?
  • What can you control?
  • What CAN’T you control?
  • What can you change and improve on?

We’ll start with some of the more basic answers. Sometimes little things can make a huge difference so we look at what we can improve upon; off the top of our heads:

  • Are you eating enough?
  • Are you eating properly?
  • CAN you sleep more?
  • Is the sleep you are already getting GOOD sleep?
  • Is your body repairing itself properly?
  • Are you giving it a chance to do so?

Each piece can cover a variety of things and if you feel that something is going on, it’s never a bad idea to look into it. Don’t just check WebMD. See a doctor or hire a trainer to assess imbalances and things of a similar nature.

Diet:

The first option is seemingly the most obvious one. Are you getting enough calories, and are the calories you’re getting optimal for you to achieve your goals? If your goal is to get as strong as possible, avoiding carbohydrates or undereating are things you want to avoid. America seems to have a problem more-so than a lot of the rest of the world, specifically in the area of things that are low-fat, or no-fat, or reduced-fat, because of the misnomer that fat is bad for us. Guess what, water is bad for you if you have enough of it. Fats aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, acts as an energy source, and provides insulation for your body, so avoiding them as much as possible tends to not be a great idea. If simply losing weight is the goal, you need to assess where your intake levels should be at a relatively healthy level, and start from there. There is no black and white answer for most of these things and everyone will ultimately do what they think is the best option for themselves but it never hurts to have a second opinion to see how optimal or sub-optimal your plan is.

Programming:

It might just be time for a change of pace. If you excel at one specific thing but come up short somewhere else then you may need to shift focus to balance things out. You might also change programming tactics if you’ve sort of “outlasted” your current approach. 5×5 Stronglifts is a great example that often works fantastically for beginner to intermediate weight lifters looking to gain strength but eventually that person is going to need something more tailored to whatever their goals may be so they look into things like Cube Method, GZCL or Wendler’s 531 or perhaps they feel that they’re strong enough and they’d like to focus on something else, so they adopt a Dorian Yates style program while bumping their cardiovascular activities up with the time they save.

Sleep:

Sleep is a huge factor in allowing your body to recover and in the case of hard training, should often be used in conjunction with myofascial tissue therapies to ensure tissue longevity. Avoiding getting that bodily repair in can lead to connective tissue problems down the road, which young lifters might scoff at but for others that potential damage is right around the corner and will be hobby-ending when it comes into play. The best starting basis for getting the best sleep is typically done by checking off a checklist.

  • Is the room dark enough?
  • Will the curtains keep enough light OUT?
  • Are your electronics turned off, to the best of their ability?
  • Are there any other soft glows in the room?
  • Do you have the proper support, physically?
  • Is the room the proper temperature for you?

All these things seem like they might be fairly straightforward but admittedly a lot of people never seem to consider them. The presence of scoliosis or kyphosis, for example, mean that certain sleeping positions are specifically worse for people with the condition. Front-to-Back scoliosis, for example, has a tendency to mean that the individual should not sleep on their stomach. For side sleepers, a sturdy pillow is usually advised between the knees to prevent strain from being placed on the outer, upper hip. The same sort of scenarios apply for people trying to correct posture issues or get the best blood and air circulation throughout the night. Foam rolling, graston technique, and other voodoo flossing work to treat muscle and joint immobility and/or pain. The idea is to relax semi-permanently contracted muscles or bunched up and knotted tissues, and improve circulation. I strongly suggest that anyone with specific muscle or tissue issues look into it.

Next up come things that are not so easily identifiable, things like having specialized blood work done, getting a full metabolic panel, assessing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or any hormonal or glandular issues that may be present. Lots of things sound like outright common sense when they are brought up but they have to be brought up to begin with. Do you tend to avoid milk? Do you rarely go outside? There’s a good chance that you’re deficient in Vitamin D. Are you having issues getting proper amounts of restful sleep and optimal nutrition? You might have low hormone production. Various issues in your vitamin, mineral, and hormone levels can stem from lots of things within the body. Low vitamins or minerals may be something lacking in a person’s diet or they may be issues with the body’s actual ability to produce or use the substance. The same goes for hormonal production, where the person in question might have alarmingly low testosterone levels from extreme lack of sleep, for instance. Poor diet, inactivity, sleeplessness, or adrenal problems can all contribute to these things.

Personal Experiences and Moving Forward: 

Next, let’s say you get all your ducks in a row. You’re sleeping better, you’ve got your nutrition on point, and your programming is optimized. A few weeks pass and you feel better, and then a month or two, and you stall out again. You ask yourself why you’re doing the things you’re doing, questioning their benefit to your improvement and to the achievement of your goals. I’ll use myself as an example, and offer up a minor introduction so we’re all on the same page. Hello! My name is Nich, and I started weightlifting and training before I could drive, close to 12 years ago. This, at the time, was before things like Crossfit and foam rolling were commonly mentioned. I’ve had shoulder and posture issues for years, and in Spring of 2009, a week before St. Paddy’s day, I tore an unknown number of connective tissues in my lower spine. Now let’s fast forward to June of 2015, when I FINALLY began graston/FuzionFT3 therapy in conjunction with hiring a trainer for mobility, another for imbalance correction, and learning to perform myofascial release on myself with various objects. The idea being that in roughly 5-8 years (32-35), most of the connective tissue in my body would be junk, my cartilage would be mutilated, and I very possibly might have to give up weight lifting if those issues came to fruition. Every injury I’d ever had had never been properly recovered. Shoulder issues, back issues, hip and knee issues, and the lot. Every time I’d accidentally fuck something up, I’d do my best to find a work-around and keep training, which would cause problems and imbalances of which I was not aware and the next injury would compound those things with the new issues and so on until I reached a point where I was told that I have only slightly better neuromuscular connections in my body than someone who is paralyzed.

The therapy began, tissues got forcibly re-lengthened out and then made to stay and then worked on. One day at a time for roughly 40-60 minutes a day outside my actual training I am attempting to repair my body. The changes were quick, and in some cases drastic. I lost the ability to perform compound movements for a few months because my muscles wouldn’t communicate during the lift. Over 3 months in and deadlifting is awful and a chore. My squat is only recently coming back and I’m supposed to ignore any sort of front delt or pectoral exercises, because the tightness in them both is the cause of my posture and shoulder problems. I lost hundreds of pounds off lifts, watching my powerlifting totals slip away 1 week at a time. It might seem absurd to some, but at first things north of 500 became challenging, then 400, and finally down to the 200-300 range, which is essentially my warm up weight from a year ago. I learned that after lengthening the tissues in my forearms, not only has my grip suffered, but it has gotten so bad, that as of Labor Day, attempting to eat 4 rolls of sushi with chopsticks is near-physically impossible for me, because I cannot generate enough pressure to hold a piece of sushi between the chopsticks.

So the problem now is how to move forward. When you find yourself looking toward the goals you want to achieve, and wondering if it’s possible to get there, and wondering if it’s worth it to try. Fixing this stuff is not fun, or pleasant, and learning how to approach the subject with an entirely new perspective is something that, admittedly, is proving challenging. The goals I held previously seem off the table, like they’re near impossible to achieve, and it leaves you wondering what to do next. So when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can’t envision yourself achieving the goals you set, what do you do? Change the structure? Dig your heels in, and grit your teeth? It’s an answer to a question that I’m still seeking. If anyone finds it or knows it, I and others going through similar and often times much worse experiences await an answer. ImgurFit is a great starting place, where everyone is welcome to bring questions and concerns. We’re a forum that is never short on people who are willing to lend a sympathetic ear, and that’s often an incredible tool to have at your disposal. The only definitive ideas I have right now are “be patient” in your progressions (these things and these changes take time), do your best to find the silver lining, and remember that you don’t have to try to take on seemingly insurmountable tasks all on your own.

On the Subject of Fats: Cooking Oils

By: Matthew McKenzie

Alright, so here’s the short version, guys (if you can believe it, this wall of text really is a VERY truncated version). There are dozens and dozens of cooking oils out there, and entire wall of them at every grocery store. So which oil is the good-for-you oil? None of them. Not a single one. Now, don’t take me wrong here; I’m not saying “never use oil because it’s bad for you.” What I’m saying is that despite what broscience, pinterest or your yoga teacher have to say on the subject, there is no such thing as an oil that could be unironically classified as a health food.

All cooking oils are simply refined fats. They’ve had all of the fiber and most of the nutrients removed, resulting in a pure oil that’s about as calorically dense as it’s currently possible to make a food. +/- a calorie or two, all common cooking oils have 120 calories per Tbsp. So let’s assume you are very careful and only add 1 Tbsp. of oil to your food when you cook it. What’s happened is that you’ve added 120 calories to your intake, but nothing else. You haven’t added any fiber, minerals or vitamins. Has the addition of those 120 calories put any more bulk in your stomach or somehow increased your satiety (the amount of time you feel full after eating)? Nope. In short, you gain nothing from oil except for extra calories.

“But I heard that [oil X] has [fringe benefit]!”
Yeah. Here’s the thing about that. The US government recognizes 4 classifications of health food claim. A grade A claim is what we’d love all health claims to be, proven science that the vast majority of the scientific community agrees on as fact. After that, though, the graded claims get less proven. Grades B-D range from there being evidence to suggest that the health claim is true, but proper testing is currently incomplete all the way down to “we ran simulation after simulation ten thousand times and selected the one time that our desired result came up to present as evidence that it’s not outside the realm of physical possibility that our health claim is true.” I’m not exaggerating.

The reason I bring this up is because while the health claims themselves are graded based on having met a certain burden of proof, there is currently no mechanism in place to inform the consumer as to what level their health claim is. That means that on product packaging, there’s no difference between a grade A claim and a grade D claim; they’re all presented to you as fact. A really good and relevant example of this is the “good fats” claim that mono-unsaturated fats are heart-healthy and reduce your chance of heart disease. The average consumer reads “a heart-healthy fat” and “can help reduce heart disease” on the packaging and decides that this is a health food. “I’m doing something good for myself. This stuff’s good for my heart, so I can eat two bags of this instead of one.” But the problem is that while there’s evidence to back up the claim made on the packaging, it’s presented in a manner that’s extremely misleading. Mono-unsaturated fats do very little to help reduce heart disease. But saturated fats contribute a lot towards heart disease, so the studies have shown that a diet that makes use of mono-unsaturated fat *IN PLACE OF SATURATED AND TRANS FATS* can help reduce your chances of heart disease. See how that works?

Never believe anything printed on the front of the packaging. Assume everything that’s not in the ingredient list or the nutritional information block is lies, because the overwhelming likelihood is that it is, or that it’s heavily misleading at best.

The reason I mention all of that is because if you’ve heard some health claim about a type of oil, it’s very likely a grade D claim at best. We all assume olive oil is a health food. Why? Because it has a lower percentage of saturated fat than unsaturated. But it’s still 100% fat, 120 calories for no measurable positive benefit. Is it a health*IER* choice of fat than, say, palm oil? Yes it is, assuming you’re trying to avoid saturated fat. Does that make it a health food? No, it does not.

As I close this up, I think coconut oil deserves special mention because it’s so remarkably popular these days. All the hype that surrounds coconut oil these days? It was the same with olive oil 15 years ago. And vegetable shortening before that. If you can believe it, coconut oil has the highest percentage of saturated fat of any oil you’re gonna find on the shelf. A whopping 90% of it is saturated fat. The broscience experts will point out that is has medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid, which taken together help offset the percentage of saturated fat. And to a point (a much lower point than they likely believe), this is true. But even taking that into consideration and ignoring a reasonable portion of the saturated fat because it evens out with the potential benefits, coconut oil still has a higher percentage of saturated fat than lard. LARD! To say that coconut oil is good for you because it has these beneficial compounds while ignoring the hefty amount of saturated fat it contains is a little bit like saying that the application of fire is good for your skin because it removes harmful bacteria (a good example of a grade D claim, actually).

So many people out there seem to be looking for some magic bullet in the foods they eat, most especially in fats. Honestly, in my estimation we all ought to stop looking for that magical version of a thing that’s somehow healthier than normal and just eat right and in moderation to begin with. Even if coconut oil worked as advertised, it’s still refined fat, which as I mentioned above, always has a calorie content right at 120 calories per Tbsp. and a shitload of saturated fat. It’s fine to cherry pick your oil based on what ratio of fat type you think is best for your particular goal (hint: it’s almost always canola/rapeseed oil), but at the end of the day, it’s still 120 kcal/Tbsp that adds only those calories and adds no fiber, no satiety and no extra mass to your food. Coconut oil is just the latest in the horrible “superfood” craze. It is not a health food. In the grand scheme of things, it rarely matters as much whether you choose olive oil or peanut oil as it does that you add minimal oil to your food.

The point I’m making is not that oil is going to kill us all or that it’s poison and should be avoided at all costs. I work for Whole Foods, I hear that shit day in and day out from some of our less-stable customers. What I’m trying to get across here is that you should never allow yourself to think of oil as a health food in any way. Just like everything else, there are health*IER* choices in oil, depending on your particular goals, but in a perfect world, you’ll ignore all the claims about this oil having omega-3 and that oil being better for your heart and base your choice of oil on flavor and its breakdown of saturated to unsaturated fat based on your particular goals, always keeping in mind the fact that at the end of the day, oil is oil and should never be confused for a healthy food.

-Chart stolen shamelessly from http://www.nutristrategy.com:

fats_chart