Quick guide: Vitamin D supplementation for building lean muscle

Vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin. It’s most commonly known for its role in increasing the absorption of calcium and other minerals from your intestine. Now, we know it is involved in so much more.

Vitamin D has been repeatedly linked to skeletal muscle functioning. This link is making everyone question its role in maintaining healthy muscle. Where is the research at? Should you add vitamin D to your supplement repertoire?

This week’s article will answer these questions and more. I’ll take you through what vitamin D is, how it works, what the evidence is linking vitamin D to muscle health, and how much you need to supplement with.

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What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, also known as cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), is a fat-soluble essential vitamin. That means vitamin D can dissolve in fats and oils, can be absorbed along with fats in the diet, and it can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue.

An essential vitamin is one our body cannot create on its own and must be obtained from an outside source.

Vitamin D has many different biological functions: it is an antioxidant, immune-booster, linked to maintaining optimal levels of testosterone, increases cognition, promotes bone health, and improves general well-being.

The main source of vitamin D is from the sun, although it is also found in fish, eggs, and many dairy products (because it is added artificially to dairy afterwards). The body generates vitamin D from cholesterol in the presence of enough UVB light from the sun.

How vitamin D works

Vitamin D from the diet or synthesized from the skin is initially inactive. Each of these sources (diet or skin) has a slightly different path to activation.

Vitamin D lies dormant in the skin until it is exposed to UVB light. It then breaks apart into a molecule called pre-vitamin D3. From there, it travels to the liver where it is converted to hydroxycholecalciferol and then on to the kidney where it finally becomes 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol (the active form of vitamin D3).

The active form can then travel to various parts of the body and exert its effects via a receptor (the vitamin D receptor) expressed in the nucleus of cells.

Orally ingested vitamin D3 skips the initial step that takes place in the skin and goes straight to the liver and kidney for conversion into its active form.

The mechanism of action of vitamin D makes it very similar to a hormone.

Vitamin D and muscle health

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Vitamin D is associated with increased strength, better aerobic fitness, and improved muscle function. It is linked to muscle tissue via neuromuscular adaptation, protein synthesis, and fat infiltration into muscle tissue.

The term, “neuromuscular”, refers to the interaction between your nerves and voluntary muscles. These interactions affect things like muscle strength and power. Low serum vitamin D levels in humans are associated with decreased strength and increased weakness. The converse is also true. Higher serum vitamin D is linked to greater muscle strength in both men and women.

Research suggests vitamin D supplementation can improve rates of protein synthesis. A group of scientists in France compared protein synthesis rates of old rats (who have age-related protein synthesis deficiencies) introduced to a diet high in vitamin D and low vitamin D.

The rats who ate the diet high in vitamin D had much higher muscle protein synthesis rates compared to the rats who did not.

Ever seen a marbled steak? That’s what fat infiltration looks like in muscle tissue. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased fat infiltration in muscle, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Less vitamin D means more fat in the muscle, which affects muscle strength and power generation.

Vitamin D deficiency

Much of the general population does not get enough vitamin D. There are 4 possible states when vitamin D levels are measured in blood serum.

  1. Deficient – less than 12ng/ml
  2. Insufficient – between 12 and 20ng/ml
  3. Adequate – between 20-50ng/ml
  4. High – more than 50ng/ml

**ng/ml = nanograms per milliliter

The only way to know your vitamin D status definitively is to get your blood tested. Some common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are bone pain and muscle weakness. If you’re noticing these symptoms, it may be worth your time to make an appointment to get your blood checked.

How to supplement with Vitamin D

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Vitamin D’s recommended daily allowance is 400-800 IU per day, which is way too low.

Research suggests vitamin D is safe taken up to 10,000 IU per day. If you’re looking to start supplementing, a good amount to go with is 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day. This will meet the needs of a vast majority of the population, be enough to confer the general health benefits of vitamin D, and will also be enough to let you experience the beneficial effects of vitamin D for muscle health.

Vitamin D3 or D2?

Vitamin D3. It’s used more effectively in the body. And take it daily with meals or a source of fat. Vitamin D is fat-soluble so this will help its absorption from the intestine.

Vitamin D is considered safe when taken in the recommended amounts (compare the recommended dose with the upper limit above). If you do go overboard, some common side-effects include weakness, fatigue, sleepiness, headache, loss of appetite, dry mouth, metallic taste, nausea, and vomiting. But this will not happen if you stick to the recommended doses.

There are some people who should avoid vitamin D supplements.

Because vitamin D increases calcium levels in the blood, it should be avoided by people with kidney disease (can cause hardening of the arteries), who already have high calcium levels, sarcoidosis, histoplasmosis, an overactive parathyroid gland, lymphoma, or tuberculosis.

Conclusion

Because of its safety and link to general health benefits and muscle maintenance and performance, adding vitamin D to your supplement repertoire is a good idea. There’s lots to gain and little risk associated.

If you’d like more information on vitamin D supplementation, contact me. I’d love to help you out.

Follow the blog to get updates when new articles are posted. And be sure to follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Have a great week!

 

 

High frequency meals vs. Intermittent fasting: which is better for your metabolism?

We’ve all heard it before: if you want to boost your metabolism and lose some weight, you need to be eating smaller meals more often.

This way of thinking has been around for decades. You can trace it back to some studies done in the 1960s showing the more frequently a person eats, the leaner they become.

More recently, we’ve completely shifted the way we think about meal frequency. Now, it’s all about intermittent fasting. That is, abstaining from food for an extended period of time – maybe 16-18 hours – then eating the remaining calories within a 6-8 hour window.

These two ways of thinking are in direct contradiction to one another, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for a middle-ground or gray area. One of them has to be better than the other.

With this article, I’ll take you through how each type of diet affects your metabolism. Then, you’ll have plenty of information to decide which one seems better for you.

The effect of increased meal frequency on metabolism

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Metabolism can be altered in one to four ways:

  • Altering the basal metabolic rate (the minimum number of calories your organs need to function while you perform no activity whatsoever)
  • Altering the thermic effect of food (the energy you expend to process food you eat)
  • Altering the energy expended due to exercise (the energy you expend due to physical activity)
  • Altering something called “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” (the energy you expend during daily living that wouldn’t be considered structured exercise)

To date, there is no research suggesting increasing the number of meals you eat in a day will alter any of these factors.

Benefits associated with increasing meal frequency are most likely secondary to beginning to control caloric intake. Once you begin to pay attention to and control the number of calories going in, you may experience a reduction in body weight and a change in body composition.

Once this reduction happens, then you begin to see changes in the factors that relate to metabolism. For example, a decrease in body weight is associated with an unconscious reduction in spontaneous activity, which is a reduction in non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and, therefore, a decrease in energy expended.

It has been speculated that an increase in meal frequency could increase non-exercise activity thermogenesis because you’re active preparing more food throughout the course of the day. But, the increase is likely negligible.

Controlling caloric intake can cause changes in body composition (i.e. increase the relative proportion of fat-free mass).

Your basal metabolic rate is largely dependent on the amount of fat-free mass you have. So, increased meal frequency can increase basal metabolic rate, but, again, it’s secondary to a change in body composition.

The effect of intermittent fasting on metabolism

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Intermittent fasting is a broad term describing multiple different protocols for regular short-term fasts. Intermittent fasting, like increasing meal frequency, does not alter metabolism with respect to the four factors mentioned in the previous section.

And, again like increased meal frequency, intermittent fasting is associated with increased control of caloric intake and body weight reductions and body composition changes. So, there will be some changes in metabolism secondary to these two factors.

What intermittent fasting does do, which increased meal frequency does not, is alter the substrates which are utilized to supply energy.

Normally, the body relies primarily on carbohydrates to maintain the four factors involved in metabolism: basal metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food, energy expended due to exercise, and non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Short-term fasting switches the body’s reliance on carbohydrates to fatty acids. This is exemplified by decreased blood glucose levels (signifying a decrease in the use of carbohydrates) and increases in markers of fat oxidation (meaning an increase in the breakdown of fat).

How does this shift from carbohydrates to fat utilization occur?

It’s thought to happen through increased sympathetic nervous system activity, more circulating growth hormone, and decreased insulin.

The sympathetic nervous system is a branch of the nervous system responsible for initiating the fight or flight response and maintaining normal functioning in various organs and tissues throughout the body. It does this through various neural connections.

The sympathetic nervous system has connections with the liver and fat tissue.

Stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (which happens with intermittent fasting) increases fat breakdown in fat tissue and stimulates the liver to use more fatty acids to create VLDL-TGs.

Growth hormone is a hormone known to increase fat breakdown when its circulating levels are increased. This hormone increases during intermittent fasting.

Insulin, a hormone mainly responsible for the uptake of glucose into the liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells, also regulates fat metabolism. High insulin levels promote the synthesis and storage of fat, while, put simply, low levels have the opposite effect. Insulin levels decrease with intermittent fasting.

The bottom line

Neither increasing or decreasing how often you eat leads to an increase in metabolic rate. Any differences in metabolic rate noticed with either diet seem to be as a result of increased calorie control, reductions in body weight, and changes in body composition.

That being said, intermittent fasting seems to have some clear advantages when it comes to substrate utilization (i.e. using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrates).

Conclusion

There you have it. You should have enough information about both types of diets to make an informed decision about what diet will work best for you.

If you’d like more, or some personalized help, please contact me. I’d love to share what I know with you.

If you’d like to read more articles like this, check out the rest of the site and follow the blog – there’s new articles about different aspects of good living every week. And be sure to follow Healthy Wheys on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter).

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Interested in building and maintaining muscle? Look into Omega-3 fatty acids.

Muscle is incredibly adaptable. If you challenge it and push it passed what its used to, it adapts, it grows, and it gets stronger. If you don’t use your muscles, they’ll adapt to that too by getting weaker and shrinking.

Along with the physical demands, muscle is also quite sensitive to what you put into you body: your nutrition.

Increasing amounts of research tell us that the nutritional status of the muscle can influence how a muscle responds to adaptive stimuli. In other words, muscle in a person with a good diet will respond better to exercise compared to a muscle in a person with a bad diet.

What should you have in your diet to optimize the nutritional status of your muscles?

As more data comes in from the research community, we’re learning more and more about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids.

Research tells us the amount of omega-3 in muscle can have a significant impact on its metabolism and function.

More specifically, good stores of omega-3 in muscle can have a beneficial role in preserving and increasing muscle mass – especially in the elderly.

If you’re interested in preserving and building muscle, pay attention to this article. I’m going to tell you how omega-3’s work in muscle and how much you need in your diet to experience these beneficial effects.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids help preserve muscle

Muscle deteriorates when it’s not being used. This can happen for a lot of different reasons. Maybe you’re on vacation, maybe current circumstances make getting to the gym really hard, maybe you’re dealing with an injury of some sort, maybe you’re recovering from surgery. The list goes on and on.

One group of researchers looked at what recovering from esophageal cancer surgery did to people’s lean muscle mass and what supplementing with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) did to this process.

EPA is one of the most bioactive omega-3 fatty acid species.

The researchers conducting this study split the participants into two groups. One that had a standard diet during the operating procedure (the control group) and a second group who had a diet enriched with EPA (the test group).

They found that the test group – the group with the diet enriched with EPA – had a much greater preservation of lean muscle mass compared to the control group, suggesting EPA could play a role in preserving lean muscle mass.

Research suggests this muscle preservation effect occurs as a result of EPA’s ability to influence an immune system pathway called NFĸB (“NF kappa B”).

NFĸB is a protein complex that controls many processes within a cell. It’s involved in DNA transcription, the production of signaling molecules called cytokines, and cell survival. It plays a major role in regulating the immune response.

NFĸB is emerging as one of the most important players in muscle atrophy or muscle breakdown.

The activation of NFĸB in muscle leads to the breakdown of specific muscle proteins, it induces inflammation and fibrosis, and it prevents the regeneration of muscle fiber after it has been broken down or it has been injured.

It appears that EPA can prevent NFĸB from getting to the nucleus of the cell and performing its functions, essentially cutting NFĸB off at the pass. EPA prevents NFĸB from doing its job and prevents muscle protein breakdown, reduces inflammation, and creates an environment within muscle conducive of regeneration.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids help build muscle

Yes, it seems omega-3s can prevent muscle from being broken down. Omega-3s can also go one step further and aid in muscle building.

A group of scientists from the Center of Human Nutrition at the Washington University School of Medicine looked at the effect 8 weeks of fatty acid supplementation had on muscle protein production in healthy individuals. They found supplementation increased muscle synthesis in both young and middle-age adults.

This positive effect seems, at least in part, to be occurring through omega-3s ability to potentiate, or increase the power of, muscle’s response to muscle-building stimuli – like exercise.

Omega-3s may be doing this through mTOR (the mechanistic target of rapamycin). mTOR is a protein that plays vital roles in protein synthesis (i.e. muscle building). It is a central regulator of pathways that govern muscle building and muscle wasting.

Omega-3s activate mTOR to stimulate muscle growth, otherwise known as muscle hypertrophy.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplementation

Whatever supplement you choose, it’s important to note that muscle needs a minimum of two weeks to respond to dietary changes. That means you need to allow at least two weeks from the time you’ve altered your diet to start seeing or experiencing any of the beneficial aspects of that change.

What kind of fatty acid supplements should you look for or what kind should you incorporate into your diet?

The best responses seem to come from marine sources. We’re talking things like fish oils.

You can get fish oil supplements from many different places. At the bare minimum, whoever you get it from, it should have both EPA and DHA fatty acids. EPA we’ve already talked about. DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is the other most bioactive fatty acid found in omega-3 fatty acid mixtures.

These two, EPA and DHA, are primarily responsible for the benefits of omega-3s, so you need to make sure they’re in your supplement.

A good supplement has at least 300milligrams of EPA and 240milligrams of DHA in it.

You don’t want your supplement to have any heavy metals in them. Good supplements will be third-party tested to make sure they don’t contain them.

If you’re not into supplements, good dietary sources of omega-3s that have a good EPA, DHA content is certain types of fish – anchovies, artic char, cod, mackerel, salmon, and sardines.

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Conclusion

If you’re interested in maintaining muscle mass and/or building muscle, consider getting more omega-3s into your diet – either with a supplement or by increasing your dietary intake of certain types of fish.

If you’d like some help with omega-3 supplements and have more questions, please contact me. I’d love to help you out.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s article and please like it, follow the blog, and follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Have a great week!

 

Lean muscle gain and genetics: What the newest science has to say about it

We all know that person. They seem to just look at a weight and their biceps automatically get bigger. And they look at you in utter confusion when you describe your problems making gains. They just don’t understand it.

Lucky for you, you’re not crazy. This phenomenon isn’t just in your head. There’s some solid science backing it up.

A group of researchers in the department of Exercise Science at the University of Massachusetts assessed 587 men and women before and after 12 weeks of progressive, dynamic resistance training. They were looking for changes in muscle size and strength. Their results were quite interesting in that they were all over the place. And this was for both men and women. Some experienced huge gains in both strength and size while others didn’t respond to the training at all.

Why?

It could be that some people just don’t respond to the particular type of training in the protocol used for the study.

But it could also be genetics. I’m going to explore the possibility of the latter.

 

With this article I’d like to get into how genes work and cover some new research on how genetics influence muscle growth.

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How genes work

Every person, and every cell within that person, has the same set of genes to work with.

Where things differ – between cells and between people – is in gene expression. Gene expression controls what proteins are created.

Proteins are the workers of the cell. Every function a cell performs – movement, engulfment, support, etc.- is carried out by the proteins present in that cell. Genes carry the information needed to create proteins. They’re like the blueprints. That means that each cell within the body has its own specific pattern of gene expression that ultimately dictates its function.

Which genes are expressed, and which aren’t is partly controlled at two levels: transcription and translation.

Transcription is the copying of the information a gene contains into a format that can be eventually turned into a protein. Different mechanisms within a cell can control what genes are transcribed and which are not.

Translation takes the product of transcription and turns it into protein. There are also different mechanisms within the cell in place to control what gets translated and what doesn’t.

All this boils down to a better understanding of what someone is saying when they talk about a person’s genetics.

When we talk about a person having the “genetics” to do something, or not do something, we’re really talking about differences in people’s ability to express certain genes.

Patterns in gene expression can be regulated in other ways beyond transcription and translation too, and in ways that can be passed down from your parents, but that’s a discussion that’s a little too sciencey for the scope of this article.

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What matters for lean muscle gains

When we talk about lean muscle gains, we’re largely talking about hypertrophy. That is, the increase of muscle size as a whole and the increase in size of its individual components.

Hypertrophy is stimulated in response to strength training and anaerobic training. Muscles respond by changing their cell biology to cope with the new demands being placed on them. How a muscle cell alters transcription and translation to initiate hypertrophy aren’t really well understood.

With new advents in technology, it is getting clearer and clearer… albeit slowly.

A recent study, led by Marcelo G. Pereira at the Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine in Italy, looked at the genes changes associated with functional muscle growth.

The researchers weren’t able to find a significant number of genes that were regulated in a similar manner in all the modes of muscle growth they looked at. But, they did find increases in mTOR signaling and ribosomal biogenesis.

mTOR is a master regulator of growth. It senses nutritional and environmental cues, integrates them together, and decides whether or not growth should be permitted.

Ribosomes are the little molecular machines responsible for translation (they make proteins from the products of transcription). Biogenesis means more ribosomes are being produced so more translation can happen.

What the results of Pereira’s work tell us is that muscle growth, or lack thereof, may be due to differences in a person’s ability to activate mTOR or the translational machinery required to make new proteins. All of which is necessary to cause muscle growth.

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What this means for you

As of right now, it means some people are lucky in that they seem to have been born with this above average ability to activate mTOR and initiate translation, while other have been giving the shaft.

Nothing we have at the moment can stimulate what we need in a organ or cell-specific way.

What can you do

If you’re one of the people whose genes seem to be working against you, don’t get too disheartened. It’s no reason to give up hope and resign yourself to your seemingly predetermined fate.

There are things you can do to overcome your genetic curses.

Figure out what works for you. Experiment with yourself. Scientists have a way of keeping things constant so they can better interpret their data. That means they don’t typically look into different training stimuli or protocols when assessing its effect on hypertrophy –  or the cellular signaling involved with hypertrophy.

So, try different types of training, different volumes, different intensities, and different frequencies. It’ll take some time, but eventually you’ll figure out what works best for you.

Conclusion

Genetics can put you at an advantage or disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean you should give up if you’re experiencing some adversity in getting the results you’re after.

Train smart and experimentally, make sure your nutrition is where it needs to be, and some different supplements will help to.

Get all these things in line and you will get to where you want to be eventually. It just may take a little more time for you if you have some genetic disadvantages compared to your friend who seems to respond quickly to any type of training.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great week. Contact me directly if you’d like to learn more, follow the blog, and follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

 

Body composition: what it is, how to measure it yourself, and how to see it improve

Body composition is a term often confused with body fat percentage or body mass index (BMI). But, they’re completely different things.

Body fat percentage is your total mass of fat divided by your total body mass, times 100. If a 30-year-old man had 16.4 kilograms of fat and their total body mass was 82 kilograms, they would have a body fat percentage of 20%.

16.4kg/82kg x 100 = 20 (body fat percentage)

Body mass index is your body mass divided by the square of your body height. Using a man with the same body mass as our previous example, with a height of 1.85 meters, he would have a BMI of 23.95.

82kg/(1.85)2 = 23.95 (body mass index)

BMI can be misleading from a fitness standpoint – it’s a measurement great for looking at trends in populations, but it’s not so good when your looking at an individual alone.

It’s because of how BMI values are correlated with body weight status.

Underweight = <18.5

Normal weight = 18.5-24.9

Overweight = 25-29.9

Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

Our example man has a body fat percentage of 20% (below average for his age), but, according to his BMI, he’s overweight.

If he’s a fit guy, his muscle mass could be pushing his BMI into that higher range. He’s not an unhealthy person. On the contrary, he’s fitter than average.

Body fat percentage also doesn’t paint the whole picture. A person can starve themselves to drop their body fat: it doesn’t mean they’re healthy.

Because of the shortcomings of body fat percentage and BMI a person looking to get fitter should be paying attention to their body composition, not those other two.

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Body composition

Body composition takes into account everything that your body is made of: it’s the percentage of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body.

Fat can be anywhere from 10% (considered very lean) to 50% (morbidly obese), muscle makes up 30 to 50%, and bone is about 15%.

The rest is minor. The brain weighs a few pounds, skin is approximately six pounds, and blood is about 7% of body weight.

Do you need some complex machine or a specialist to measure your body composition?

No. You can do it yourself with a little practice and some commitment. It can all be done with a set of calipers (to measure your body fat), a scale, a measuring tape, the mirror, and your camera.

Step one: Weigh yourself daily

Weight fluctuate 5 to 10 pounds a day depending on water retention, glycogen storage, and bowel movements. To get an accurate representation of your weight, weigh yourself daily (at the same time of day) for 7 to 10 days and average it (add up every weight from the weighing period and divide it by the number of days you weighed yourself for).

Step two: Caliper measurements

Measure one site once a week and keep track of the measurement over time. There’s plenty of calipers out there to purchase and here’s a pretty instructive video telling you how to use them.

Again, just measure one site. And you don’t need to do the whole body fat percentage extrapolation. You just need the one measurement to track a difference in you body composition over time.

Step three: Waist measurements

Use a measuring tape at the level of the belly-button. It’s crude, but it’s a decently reliable indicator of fatness.

If your waist is shrinking over time, you’re losing fat. If it’s getting bigger, you’re gaining fat.

Step four: Take pictures

It seems unscientific, but they eye can be pretty accurate in detecting changes in body composition.

Take weekly pictures from the front, back, and side. Comparing how your body looks over time will tell you what’s changing and what’s not.

Now that you know why body composition is a better indicator of fitness than body fat percentage or BMI, and you know how to measure changes in body composition over time by yourself, what kind of changes should you be looking for?

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What kind of body composition changes to look for

Bone composition is quite constant between individuals (15% of total body mass). The two variables at your disposal to manipulate are body fat percentage and muscle percentage.

Here are the average ranges of those two variables for three different levels of fitness:

Average fitness:

Male

Body fat percentage: 17%

Skeletal muscle percentage: 47%

Female

Body fat percentage: 27%

Skeletal muscle percentage: 41%

Athletic fitness:

Male

Body fat percentage: 12%

Skeletal muscle percentage: 50%

Female

Body fat percentage: 21%

Skeletal muscle percentage: 44%

Exceptional fitness:

Male

Body fat percentage: 8%

Skeletal muscle percentage: 54%

Female

Body fat percentage: 14%

Skeletal muscle percentage: 49%

There’s a trend to note here: as fitness level increases, skeletal muscle percentage increases while body fat percentage decreases.

If you’re looking to improve your overall fitness level, strive for a change in the ratio of skeletal muscle percentage and body fat percentage.

Here’s what an improvement in this ratio could look like using the measurement guidelines we previously discussed.

If you’re overweight and have a high body fat percentage:

You’ll notice a decrease in your caliper measurements over time, a decrease in your waist measurement, and a decrease in body weight. Also, your pictures will look as if your body is becoming “tighter”.

If you’re overweight in the body fat percentage sense, not the BMI sense, more of your body weight is represented by body fat. Therefore, if you start to lose fat you’re going to be losing it in a disproportionate rate to the muscle you’re gaining from exercising and you’ll lose body weight.

If you’re already of average fitness or better with an average body fat percentage:

You’ll notice a decrease in your caliper measurements, a decrease in your waste measurement, but no decreased, and possibly an increase, in your body weight. Everything will begin to look more toned with your picture assessment.

If you’re already in good physical condition, you’ll lose fat at a rate equal to or slower than the rate at which you gain muscle. Muscle gain will stabilize your weight where it is or increase it.

Conclusion

Don’t get hung up on bodyweight, or BMI, or body fat percentage if you’re trying to get fitter. There’s much more to physical fitness than these tiny components.

Focus on your body composition. And now that you know how to do it by yourself, you can.

Let me know what you think of the article by liking it or commenting below. Follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and check back weekly for new articles.

Contact me using the information you’ll find on my contact page, I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great week!

 

Cardio workout guidelines when you’re trying to gain lean muscle

Most people equate lifting weights with building muscle and cardio with shedding weight. Taking that even further, some people even think you should actively avoid doing cardio if you’re trying to build muscle.

While it may be true that overdoing the cardio can degrade muscle tissue, you certainly shouldn’t avoid the treadmill if your goal is lean muscle gain.

In fact, cardio is an instrumental part of gaining lean muscle (not to mention an important component for promoting overall health and wellness). So, it’s definitely something you should incorporate into your workout protocol.

The answer to the lean muscle gain, cardio equation lies in the balance and timing of the two.

With this article, I’m going to shed light on how much cardio you should do, what type, and when you should be doing it.

Follow these guidelines and cardio training becomes another tool you can use to enhance your ability to make lean muscle gains.

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How much cardio should you do?

Two. Maximum three days a week.

Any more than that and the balance of your exercise activity is too heavy on the cardio side.

The cardio training stimulus placed on your body will overpower the muscle building stimulus and your body will adapt to the cardio training stimulus (i.e. you’ll lose size as your body optimizes itself to perform for long periods of time and over long distances – think of what an endurance athlete typically looks like).

What kind of cardio should you do?

Not all cardiovascular training is created equal; depending on the intensity and type of training you do, you can specifically target different energy systems. Hitting them all systematically, provides a more holistic approach to cardio training; one that will supplement your weight training efforts, not work against them.

The three basic energy systems

Working muscles need energy to function. The most efficient source of energy is oxygen. We breathe it in from the air around us, it enters our blood system through our lungs, and our heart pumps it throughout our body. Muscles then use the oxygen to break down energy substrates.

Where our muscles derive energy from is largely dictated by the availability of oxygen.

1. Anaerobic alactic:

Anaerobic means “without oxygen”. Alactic means without the production of lactic acid (a byproduct that gives you that burning feeling in a working muscle).

The anaerobic alactic system is fast and powerful. It’s supplying energy for the first 6-15 seconds of exercise – before enough oxygen can make it to working muscles.

2. Anaerobic lactic:

The anaerobic lactic system is still functioning without oxygen, but is producing lactic acid.

It lasts for approximately the first 2 minutes of exercise, when the intensity of muscle function is too much for oxygen to keep up with.

3. Aerobic:

The aerobic system relies solely on oxygen to break down energy substrates in working muscle; it’s the main engine supporting efforts above 4 minutes.

Your muscles want to use oxygen and will default to it whenever there is enough around.

Muscles use the anaerobic alactic and anaerobic lactic systems to supplement energy production when enough oxygen isn’t available to working muscles (either because the muscle just started working and your respiratory system hasn’t caught up to the effort yet, or because the muscle is working at an intensity that respiration and the arrival of oxygen just can’t keep up with).

Workout protocols can be manipulated to target each of these energy systems.

High intensity sprints target the anaerobic lactic and alactic systems. Low intensity activities (e.g. jogging, hiking, slow bike ride, etc.) targets the aerobic system.

For the purposes of stimulating lean muscle growth and preserving muscle, two of your three cardio training sessions in a week should be high intensity sprints. The third should be lower intensity, aerobic focused.

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An example sprint training protocol:

  • 5x 40 meter sprints with a 2 minute recovery in between each sprint. Do 2 sets. Once you’ve done 5, take a 4 minute break and do the other 5.

These can be done on a track, open field, or even on something like a stationary bike.

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An example aerobic-focused training protocol:

  • 20-30 minutes of steady-state activity. The heart rate should never exceed 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (220-your age).

When should you do cardio?

If your ultimate goal is gaining lean muscle, do your cardio training before you strength train.

Hypertrophy (muscle growth) is all about creating a hormonal environment in your body that supports anabolic (growth) processes.

Strength training is an anabolic stimulus while cardiovascular training is largely catabolic (breaking down). Hormones responsible for anabolic processes can block the effects of catabolic hormones, such as cortisol.

Doing your strength training after cardiovascular training can overwhelm the catabolic stimulus with an anabolic one. This means that when you leave the gym your body will be in an anabolic state – preserving muscle and supporting the gain of lean muscle mass.

Furthermore, getting your cardio training in before the workout gives you the opportunity to burn more calories over the course of the entire training session.

The initial elevation of your heart rate from the cardio session will increase your internal temperature and elevate the metabolic demands on your body.

This boils down to you getting more bang for your buck.

Conclusion

Cardio training is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle: the idea that you should skip it if you’re trying to put on muscle is not only false, it’s bad for your health.

To summarize all the information I’ve collated in this article: you should be doing cardio 3 times per week, two of those sessions should be sprints and one should be at a slower, more relaxed pace, and get it done before you move onto the weights and strength training.

Be sure to follow Healthy Wheys on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and contact me directly if you have any questions about supplementation, weight loss, training, and freeing yourself financially – I’d love to help you out. You can find my contact information through this website.

 

 

 

 

10 goals you need in the new year to make some lean muscle gains

January: the time of year when one in every three people aim to better their nutrition and fitness in some way.

According to a study done in 2002, approximately 75% of people will stick to their goals for at least a week; by six months, however, less than half are still on target.

I’d be willing to wager the majority of people, those that fall off the wagon by six months at least, fail because they don’t set good goals: their goals don’t involve coming up with a strategy or game-plan of any sort.

With a lofty resolution, you’re never going to get where you want to go unless you sit down and come up with some actionable steps – goals that ensure you’re going in the right direction.

This article is for people who have made it their New Year’s resolution to gain lean muscle.

I’m going to help you make some dynamite goals – both exercise and nutritional – that will help you make those lean muscle gains you’ve always wanted a reality in 2018. These are simple, actionable, attainable steps that will keep you out of the 46% that don’t realize their New Year’s resolution by six months into the new year.

Exercise

Goal 1: Weight train 4-5 times per week.

To gain lean muscle mass, increase your lifting frequency to four or five times a week. Yes, the sessions will need to be shorter (you need to give your body adequate time for recovery), but the increased training stimulus is essential.

Goal 2: Add four weeks of muscle endurance and muscle strength training into your routine

The general rule of thumb for hypertrophy (aka increase muscle size) workouts is eight to twelve reps per exercise.

While this is true, your body craves, and will positively respond to, variety. So, mix in 4 weeks of muscle endurance (twenty to thirty rep sets per exercise) and 4 weeks of muscle strength (four to six rep sets per exercise).

Goal 3: Concentrate on compound movements

Compound movements are those that involve two or more joints – squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pullups… you get the idea. These should make up the bulk of your workout.

Goal 4: Isolation

While compound movements are making up the bulk of your workout, isolated movements make up the remainder.

The ying to the yang of compound movements, isolation movements involve one joint – bicep curls, calf raises, etc.

Goal 5: Shoot for adequate recovery

Of course, the time you spend in the gym is responsible stimulating a training effect, but it’s your time away from the gym when repair and growth happens.

Maximize this phase of your daily training cycle by ensuring you get the proper nutrition, you’re getting enough sleep, and you’re reducing outside stress as much as possible; these factors play more of a role in gaining lean muscle than most people give them credit for.

Goal 6: Give your program a chance

Mixing up your training every so often is important – as I mentioned in Goal 2 – but, it’s also important to stick with a program long enough to see some changes.

Allow your body enough time to improve its strength and efficiency to similar movement patterns (at least four weeks) before changing to a different type of training.

Nutrition

Proper training goals are fifty percent of the battle when it comes to gaining lean muscle; the other fifty percent is nutrition.

A lot of times when people think of eating to gain lean muscle mass they think of eating fat-free. In actuality, though, a balanced diet (full of protein, carbohydrates, and fat) is what you need to create lean muscle.

Here are five nutritional goals to keep in mind in the new year.

Goal 1: Eat enough carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a critical component of your diet when you’re looking to gain lean muscle, and it’s because carbohydrates are protein sparing.

How much is enough depends on your metabolism and the intensity of your training: too much and you’ll gain fat, not enough and you won’t have enough of a calorie surplus to gain any lean mass. The National Strength and Conditioning Association – a worldwide leader in strength and conditioning research – recommends approximately 1 gram of carbohydrate for every 1 kilogram of body weight.

Goal 2: Eat your carbohydrates at the right time

To maximize the protein sparing and anabolic effects of carbohydrates, they should primarily be consumed at three points in the day: when you wake up (because you haven’t eaten for an extended period of time and your cortisol levels are high), about an hour to an hour and a half before you workout, and after you workout (this causes insulin levels to spike, pulling amino acids out of the blood and getting them to the muscle tissue where they’re needed).

Goal 3: Make the glycemic index your best friend

The glycemic index is a number associated with carbohydrates in a particular type of food; it indicates the effects the carbohydrates are going to have on your blood glucose levels.

Foods with a low number on the glycemic index are generally of the fibrous sort – whole wheat bread, oatmeal, etc. Carbohydrates high on the index are your “fast sugars” – soda, fruit juices, fruit, fat free yogurt, etc.

In the morning and pre-workout you want foods that are low on the glycemic index – choices that aren’t going to cause spikes in your blood sugar levels; post- workout, on the other hand, go for high glycemic index foods.

Post-workout insulin spikes from “fast sugars” draw amino acids out of the blood and deliver them to muscle tissue: something you definitely want.

Goal 4: Eat enough fats

A diet with an adequate amount of fat in it has many benefits for your general health; moreover, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiologyhas shown a diet high in fat can benefit your training by elevating serum levels of testosterone – an anabolic hormone that promotes muscle building. Fat can also ensure cortisol – a stress-associated hormone that breaks down muscle – doesn’t completely evaporate your testosterone.

To make sure you have enough in your diet buy some peanut butter, eat your chicken breasts or turkey with oil and vinegar for flavor, and supplement with Omega 3 or eat fish at least twice a week.

Fat intake for someone training heavily should range between 20-35% of your total daily calories, and the majority should be poly- and mono-unsaturated (these two types are never solid at room temperature).

Conclusion

There are ten goals (6 exercise and 4 nutritional) that you should incorporate into you New Year’s resolution if you want to increase your lean muscle mass and make some real gains in 2018. These are simple, every day, actionable items backed by solid research.

Let me know what you think and whether these dietary and exercise tips work for you in the comments and be sure to follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. That way you’ll get instant updates about new content on the site.