Tag: Bodybuilding

One of the popular questions I get asked alot is what supplements should people take? Supplements aren’t needed but some are definitely helpful. For the purpose of this article I will focus on the benefits of why you should be taking creatine to assist you in your fitness journey. Several people shy away from creatine due to the fear of water retention. If you ever had several alcoholic drinks, high sodium meals or just didn’t consume enough water, the day after you will notice a weight increase and more of a fluffer look to your physique. That’s your body retaining water in the skin. Creatine on the other hand causing you to hold water in the muscles which in my opinion makes it a very useful supplement.

If you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, crossfitters or just someone who wants to put on some muscle size, creatine can benefit you. Creatine may also help those who perform high intensity sprints or endurance training. So how does creatine actually work? Creatine increases your muscles phosphocreatine stores which help create additional ATP energy. During high intensity exercise such as resistance training, ATP fuels your muscles during your workout. ATP energy is burned faster than the human body can reproduce it so supplementing with creatine allow you to produce more ATP which will improve performance during your high intensity training sessions. If you’re currently not supplementing with creatine you probably notice days in the gym where you hit a certain amount of weight for a certain amount of reps successfully. But on the last set with same weight, you’re unable to execute. This is due to not being able to reproduce ATP fast enough at that present time. Since supplementing with creatine, I’ve noticed an increase in energy. Prior to using creatine I found it difficult to successfully complete 4 sets of 3 reps on my heavy squat days being that my body wasn’t producing more ATP. This is the key benefit of creatine supplementation!

Now you know the most important benefit of creatine so which one do you purchase? With the supplement industry constantly growing, several different forms of creatine have been developed. Creatine monohydrate is the one I’d recommend for two reasons. One is the cheapest form of creatine and two other forms are still relatively new which haven’t been tested to see if they actually work how supplement companies claim they do. Creatine monohydrate is the most common you will find and is the form that most scientific studies have used to conduct their research on the effectiveness of the supplement. So instead of possibly paying an overpriced charge for creatine, stick to the one that has been proven to work for years. Just to give you an idea of how cheap creatine is, a 200 serving container of creatine on Vitacost.com will cost $17.32 not including shipping. That should last you about a half of year if you’re only taking the daily recommended amount of 5 grams.

Out all the supplements that exist today, creatine monohydrate is one of the few that is actually backed up by science. I personally used creatine whether I’m bulking, dieting or just maintaining simply because of the improved performance during my workouts. So to address the title of this article “no creatine DOES NOT make you fat”. Instead it provides your muscles with additional energy than what your body can naturally produce to push past intense training sessions. If increased strength, muscle or endurance is one of your goals, creatine is the one supplement that can benefit you!

Cardio isn’t required in your training routine but it is highly recommended. In order to keep things simple I will only focus on performing LISS(Low Intensity Steady State) cardio as opposed to discussing all forms of cardio. Along with benefits such as increased heart strength, most people utilize cardio to burn extra calories to increase fat loss. The best times for you to perform your cardio will ultimately depend on your goals and/or lifestyle. In the past, I’ve done cardio post workout, pre workout and even fasted. Each time frame has its own benefits believe or not. Choose the time frame that will benefit you the most in your own journey.

Post Workout Cardio

If your goal is to build the most amount of muscle possible, cardio at the end of your workout will be the smartest choice. Main reason is to be able to utilize your energy on the lifts that will build the most muscle instead of cardio. If you have scheduled to perform a 30 minute cardio session and you get that done first, you’ll have less energy during your strength training portion of your workout. It’s completely fine to warm up with 5-10 mins of cardio but completing the entire cardio session before hand can impact your strength levels during your strength training. Prioritizing your energy for the heavier lifts will allow you to lift the most amount of weight while applying the most amount of tension to your muscle. With LISS cardio being low impact on the body, you should still be able to perform it towards the end of your workout.

Pre Workout Cardio

Let’s say your someone who doesn’t care much about building or retaining muscle while dieting, performing your cardio before hand is an option. Also if the strength training fatigues you to the point of where you have little to no energy to perform the cardio post workout, doing your cardio first will benefit you tremendously as well. I always emphasize to my clients to incorporate strength training and cardio together because it’s the smartest way to lose fat, but if the strength training is more taxing on the body, prioritizing cardio first will ensure that you have the energy to complete your full routine.

Fasted Cardio/Separate Session

Fasted cardio is a concept a lot of individuals believe in. The theory is that if you perform cardio while being in a fasted state, your body resorts to its fat stores as energy to get through the cardio. Makes sense right? Only problem is that there isn’t any studies to back up this claim. Instead we have a study where 20 women were divided into two groups, one group performing cardio in a fasted state and another group performing cardio after consuming a meal. The conclusion was that body compositions were similar between the two group regardless of being fasted or fed prior to training. Click here for the full article on the study. So what’s the point of doing fasted cardio anyway? Fasted cardio or performing your cardio session separately can help with potential time constraints while at the gym. For example if you prefer to strength training later in the day when you’ve eaten a good amount of calories but only have about an hour for your session, doing your cardio separately can help you not feel like there isn’t enough time to complete your entire routine.

After reading this article you should now understand that the best time for YOU to do cardio is the time that works best for YOU! There is a lot of misinformation in the fitness industry that has cause many of us to over complicate our lives to reach our fitness goals. If you don’t like doing cardio first thing in the morning, you can do it at other times of the day. Cardio is a tool that is used to create a larger caloric deficit therefore as long as you get it done and the time you choose to perform it aligns with your goals, you will lose fat and reveal the physique you desire.

If I was to categorize the amount of messages I get on a daily basis, the winner would be how to tone up and reduce belly fat. I know what everyone wants to hear! Most likely a list of exercises to perform or maybe some magic foods to accomplish that but the truth is simple. In order to tone up and/or reduce belly fat you have to be focus on continuously reducing your overall body fat as a whole to start seeing the definition and results you desire. If anyone is telling you different they are simply lying to you! There are many different factors that affect how you effectively lose body fat but if your consistent in your approach, you will get closer to your ultimate goal.

Calorie Deficit

If you’re not in a calorie deficit, your body will remain the same or worst you will gain weight. How do I know if I’m in a calorie deficit you may ask? Without changing anything, eat and train as normal then weigh yourself first thing in the morning for 2-3 days. If your weight is dropping you’re already in a deficit. If your weight remains relatively the same, you may be close to the amount of calories to maintain your weight also know as you maintenance calories. If you weight is increasing, you could be eating over your maintenance which puts you in a calorie surplus. The most accurate way to figure this out if through trial and error. Most individuals who have been tracking for a while will know how many calories their bodies would need but that comes for years of experience. You can utilize any macro calculator from any website but understand that those are just estimates and it’s impossible for a calculator to understand your body let alone what your daily life consist off so trial and error will be your best bet!

Continue To Strength Train

From beginners all the way to the more advanced lifters, you’re strength training should remain consistent while you diet. For advanced lifter if you completely abandon lifting you run the risk of losing muscle mass which is what you don’t want. If your a beginner you’re leaving potential muscle growth on the table that you would have put on. Untrained individuals or beginners can take advantage of the “newbie gainz” due to the new stimulus on the body of strength training. The less muscle mass a person has, the slow their metabolism will be therefore while dieting, one of your main objectives should be to retain or build the most amount of muscle while being in a caloric deficit.

Use Cardio As Needed

I’ve seen many people get extremely lean just from dieting and strength training. Cardio isn’t necessary for fat loss but it definitely helps when the diet isn’t enough. Start small maybe 15-20 mins on your preferred cardio machine and continue to monitor your weight each morning to see if the extra cardio is in fact putting your a deficit. Cardio and diet go hand in hand meaning that if you prefer to eat more food while dieting, you will have to do more cardio and vice versa. The trick is to do enough cardio where your weight is still dropping but not too much where you’re creating a huge calorie deficit that your body hasn’t slow work towards. Adjust cardio in small increments maybe by about 5 mins. The same way you wouldn’t just drop 1,000 calories from your diet, you should just add 30-60 minutes more cardio than what you were doing prior to making the change.

Be Patient

Any knowledgeable trainer or coach will tell you that losing 1-2 lbs per week is great! But for some people that amount of weight just isn’t fast enough for them to see their bodies changing. If you’ve been overweight or obese all your life, it took several years for you to reach that point. It’s going to take time for you to lose the weight so don’t rush the process. As a person who had bad eating habits growing up, I’ve learn alot about how certain foods, following specific macros or different types of training styles affect my body. Use this time to do the same because that is how you lose the weight and keep it off for the rest of your life. As a online coach for my clients, I create sample meal plans at the start of their coaching so they understand what I would eat if I were them but they are not obligated to follow the meal plan exactly or at all. I want my clients to eat what they want as long as they stay within the calories/macros I provide for them. That way they still eat the foods they enjoy while still continue to chase their progress. Dieting shouldn’t be depressing. Sure there will be days, where your just not feeling it but ultimately there are plenty of good healthy choices that are delicious. Find the ones that work for you and keep incorporating them to help you throughout your journey!

No motivation is required when you have a discipline! I can recall so many days where I just posted a workout video on my Instagram and I receive a message saying “I wish I had your motivation”. The honest truth is that the more experience you acquire from practicing a certain skill or activity, the less so called “motivation” is required. Everyone has their own life to manage and responsibilities that come with it, but with a sold routine that strengthens the discipline is how most successful people are able to do what they do. Discipline comes with time but establishing a routine that you can commit to on a daily basis is the best way to be successful in any field.

Training Scheduling

Analyze your current schedule and see where you can fit your training session in the gym. If you work a 9 to 5 that can be stressful at times, where you schedule your training session matters! For example, for myself in particular I currently work a 9:30pm-8am overnight job. Knowing that I may or may not be exhausted when I clock out of work, I choose to schedule my training session around 4-5pm after I’ve had some sleep and wake up with a clear mind. Sometimes our jobs can get the best of us and that may impact our workouts in the gym or even cause us to want to skip the gym. If you work a job that you love and is never stressful, you are blessed. But if you work a job where some days you may get out on time and some days where you won’t, thinking of scheduling your workout before work may benefit you to stay consistent in the gym without the added stress of working your full time job. If you can allocate a time slot in your schedule that you will never miss is one thing that has worked for me. I like to think of it as a class in college that I must attend and knowing that other things won’t affect me showing up, helps me rarely miss a day in the gym.

Meal Timing

With the fitness industry continuing to grow, different myths are being broadcast to the world. I’m sure everyone has heard the old myth of “don’t eat carbs after 8pm”. I’ll be the first to say that meal timing for the average individual is not as important as to someone who lets say is a powerlifter, bodybuilders, athlete, etc. If you want to lose weight and following a low carbohydrate diet where you’re only eating about 50-150 g of carbs a day, its okay to leave those carbs for later in the evening when you mostly crave carbs. Get to know yourself and learn what works for you versus what doesn’t work for you. No matter what your goals are, if you reserve your carbs for later in the evening lets say before bed time, yes you’ll feel weaker during your workout but you get to enjoy foods you like when your home relaxing. Any knowledgeable fitness professional can tell you that you can’t out train a bad diet. Therefore structuring your meal times to make sure you’re happy while remaining consistent with your diet is the most important factor for you reaching your goal(s).

Reserve A New Circle

You are a product of the company you keep! I’m not suggesting to cut all ties with people that you have in your life for years but instead limit the time you spend with them. The more comfortable you get in the gym, the more friends you’ll make with people who share the same fitness lifestyle. You won’t be excited to go to the gym every day. On those days use your friends to keep you consistent. Something I’ve notice within my own fraternity via Instagram is that brothers will post on their stories and tag each other a picture of them in the gym with a caption of “just checking in”. Something as simple as that can give you that extra push from those you keep around to make sure you take the necessary steps to continue to master your discipline in the gym.

Picture this! You had a long weekend with family & friends and decided to eat freely because these gathering with your loved ones rarely take place. Fast forward to Monday morning, you wake up, the scale is just waiting for you to step on it but you are too afraid to see the number and realize the possible setback you have taken on your goals over the weekend. In all honesty the scale isn’t something to get upset or frustrated about. It is simply a tool to track your progress but it DOES NOT define who you are!

 

The scale doesn’t measure fat meaning that just because you gained one, five or even ten pounds in a matters of days, it doesn’t mean you gained that weight in the form of fat. If you can change how you view the scale, you won’t be terrified the next time you may want to weigh yourself. The scale simply measures everything in the human body from muscles, body fat, water, bones & organs. Depending on the time of day and how much you’ve eaten or how much water you’ve drank, that number can reflect differently than your weight first thing in the morning. As you eat food and drink water throughout the day, the more and more you’ll weigh which is why it isn’t recommended to weigh yourself multiple times a day. This is completely normal so safe bet is to stick to weighing yourself first thing in the morning or when you wake up.

 

Like any other measuring tool, the scale should be used to compare and contrast progress instead of putting a label on a person. Just because you weigh a certain number doesn’t make you obese, overweight or underweight which are categories of the BMI(Body Mass Index) chart. The truth is that the BMI chart has been debunked for several years now! I’m currently 6’3 weighing 211 lbs which puts me at a BMI of 26.4 considering me overweight. Reason being is because BMI doesn’t take muscle mass into account when categorizing individuals. Muscle weighs more than fat therefore you can be an extremely muscular individual and not fall within the normal weight for your height. Which brings me to my next point, if you just started going to the gym and building muscle is one of goals, expect your weight to go up. It’s not a bad thing. It just means that you are reaching your goal of putting on some muscle on your current frame. As long as you’re not gaining drastically noticeable amounts of body fat and the scale is going up, you have nothing to worry about.

 

There are some other instances where the scale can reflect a number that shocks you. For example, women during their menstrual cycle experience bloating therefore causing their weight to fluctuate more as opposed to when their cycle ends. For someone who doesn’t intake a lot of sodium but eats a high sodium meal, the body will retain excess water causing the scale to read higher prior that meal. If you had some drinks the night before you will weigh more the following day due to alcohol serving as a diuretic which causes an increase urine output and dehydrates you. These are all scenarios that will affect your weight but how important is the scale at the end of the day?

 

The simple answer is no its not extremely important because there are other ways to track progress. I recommend to have two or more ways to measure your progress so that one form doesn’t become the end all of everything. If the scale isn’t moving but you are losing inches in certain areas of your body, you’re still losing fat. If your entire focus is on losing a certain amount of weight, you’ll drive yourself crazy finding new ways to force the scale to move which is why some people skip meals or do massive amount of cardio to change that number. Don’t be that person! Instead use other forms of tracking such as measurements, progress pictures, calipers, body fat readers, dexa scans, etc. In conclusion the scale isn’t the king when it comes to measuring your progress. Use it to your advantage but also have another form of measurement for when the scale isn’t playing in your favor.

 

When embarking in anything new, it’s important to to start small so that you prevent feeling overwhelmed. A lot of times we tend to want to become experts to start something, when in reality waiting will only delay the results we desire. When it comes to your fitness journey, look at all the habits that are prevented you from achieving your dream body and focus on the small things you can change in a short amount of time versus the overall big goal. If the small goals are headed in the same direction as the larger goal, you will see progress in the efforts you are making and eventually become successful at your goal if your remain consistent & discipline.

The Scale

Let’s say you have a weight loss goal of 50 lbs. This may seem like an eternity if the scale isn’t moving fast enough. A quick fix that a lot of us fitness professional implement is creating a weekly weight loss goal. For my online coaching clients, I give them a goal to lose 1-2 lbs per week and over a period of time they get closer to their end goal. 1-2 lbs a week is more realistic than finding a way to lose 50 lbs in the fastest way. Remember that outside of the gym you have other responsibilities that require your energy so following a diet that can potentially affect your energy levels dramatically isn’t the smartest idea. Please refer to my past blog article “Losing Weight Too Quickly? A Bad Thing?” for more information on the risks involved when losing weight too fast.

Buy Food In Servings Not Bulk

Next time you step foot in the kitchen, take a look around and look for foods that attract your taste buds. If they are sweets, soda, chips or any other processed food, just go ahead and toss those out or give them away. You don’t want them in your home if they are triggers for you. They will serve no benefits in your current fitness journey especially when it comes to weight loss. But if you have some healthy options or foods that aren’t very calorically dense, next time you go shopping look into buying them in individual serving sizes. Reason being is that it’s easy to snack on a bag of almonds or rice cakes and realize a few minutes later that you’ve eaten more than you should have. I’ve been guilty of this and I can assure you that you are not alone! The convenience of having separate serving may cost a bit more so if you prefer saving a few dollars at the store, use gladware or zip lock bags to package them separately instead. It’s all about building the discipline to eat just one or two servings but not over indulge. Also if you’re always on the go like myself, having these quick servings ready to go make great snacks to ensure you are not going long periods of time without fueling your body. Even though you are dieting, missing meals or unintentionally fasting should be avoided.

Compete With Yourself

Have you ever been in the gym, took a look around and saw someone with an physique you admire? I’m sure everyone has experience that but I’ll say this, don’t worry what the next person is doing! Just focus on you and only you because everyone is at different points of their fitness journey. Comparing yourself to another individual will only cause you to lose the motivation in your journey. I highly suggest getting a workout journal or downloading an app on your phone to document your workouts in the gym. If the next week you do more repetitions, lift more weight or perform the same distance of cardio in a shorter amount of time, thats a small win! Not only does that give you satisfaction that your efforts are working, it’s also keeps you motivated to continue your own journey. At times we miss the small progress we make in the gym because we focus on the bigger goal way to much. Yes improving our appearance is important to us but if your getting stronger or able to move like you’ve never had before, thats a huge accomplish too!