How Much Protein You Need and

Pro Bodybuilders eat about one gram (sometimes even 1.5 grams) of protein per pound of body weight or per pound of non-fat tissue. I'm sure you've seen that the recommended dail


Monday, October 17, 2016

Fasted Cardio Eats Muscle

Here's what you need to know...

  • Most people attempting to lose fat will use diet and exercise strategies that make it impossible to preserve muscle.
  • Fasted cardio works, but only if you're on performance-enhancing drugs to protect your muscle. Otherwise it stinks.
  • If you decide to add cardio, use low-intensity work for 45-60 minutes or high-intensity work lasting 15 minutes or less.
  • Dropping workout nutrition is counterproductive when it comes to energy expenditure and muscle preservation.

More Muscle = Higher Metabolism

Whenever people decide to lose body fat, they make the same dumb mistake: They adopt strategies that make it impossible to preserve their muscle mass.

They lose weight, of course, but they lose just as much lean body mass as fat mass. They simply become smaller versions of their unaesthetic selves.

Sure, they'll occupy less space, the scale will tell them they weigh less, and their doctor might even congratulate them for being closer to their "healthy weight," but in reality they aren't looking any better, which kind of misses the point.

The number one priority when trying to lose fat should be keeping muscle. Losing muscle mass should not be acceptable. Doing so will make it harder to continue losing fat since muscle tissue is metabolically responsible for most of the fat you'll lose.

Ten pounds of muscle burns 50 calories per day even at rest, so if you lose 10 pounds of muscle, you will burn 50 fewer calories per day, or 350 fewer calories per week. That can make a significant difference in the long run.

Then there's the issue of insulin sensitivity. If you have more muscle, your insulin sensitivity will be slanted more towards accruing muscle mass. A larger muscle has more insulin receptors, which makes the muscles more insulin sensitive.

That means you'll tend to store more of what you eat in the muscles instead of as body fat. Lastly, when you have more muscle mass, you can lift more weight and train harder, which increases the amount of calories you burn during a workout.

As you can see, it's not only important to maintain muscle when dieting, it's vital. Here are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose fat.

1.  Fasted Cardio

Fasted cardio, most often done first thing in the morning, has been a popular approach in the world of bodybuilding for years... and it works, if you're using performance-enhancing drugs to protect your muscle mass. But for a natural lifter, fasted cardio is a very good way to eat away at your muscle mass.

First of all, cortisol is at its highest in the morning (the cortisol spike is what allows you to have energy when you wake-up). If you don't eat, it will stay elevated and even increase.

And if you couple it with cardio, which also tends to jack up cortisol output, you'll end up with a sky-high cortisol level, which is one of the best ways to lose muscle.

Not only that, if it gets high enough you'll actually have a hard time bringing it down during the day (especially when in a caloric deficit). You end up spending the whole day in a muscle-wasting state!

I'm not pro-cardio or anti-cardio. Some people need it to get super lean, some don't. I do however think that people introduce it too soon in a fat loss phase. If you decide to use cardio to get leaner, doing it fasted is a bad idea.

The absolute best way to get the greatest caloric expenditure over the whole day from cardio is to do your it in what's called the post-absorptive state. That means not in a fasted state, but not while you're still digesting either.

The post-absorptive state is when nutrients are available in the bloodstream and fat oxidation and caloric expenditure is at its greatest.

If you do your cardio in a fasted state, the overall fat oxidation over a 24-hour period is significantly lower, probably because the metabolic rate doesn't increase or stay elevated, but also because the bout of activity causes more fatigue.

You instinctively end up lowering your activity level throughout the day. There's also the issue of fasted cardio being potentially catabolic to muscle mass.

However, doing cardio after you just ate isn't better either. It'll lead to less fat oxidation and more glucose oxidation, not to mention that a lot of people have a hard time going hard on energy system work when they're still digesting a meal.

THE BEST OPTIONis to perform cardio when the body has fully absorbed nutrients prior to the activity. Unfortunately, this is really hard to do with solid food. It's almost impossible to know how fast solid food is digested. It will vary from person to person and even from time of day in the same person.

What I use is Mag-10® because it's readily absorbed, so you can drink it and do cardio afterwards and get all the benefits of the post-absorptive state. It boosts metabolic rate and actually helps you get leaner faster.

To summarize, avoid fasted cardio when you're trying to lose fat and are not using an anabolic aid. (Mag-10 works perfectly for that purpose.) Do cardio in the post-absorptive state to preserve muscle mass and will have the greatest impact on your fat loss over a 24-hour period.

2.  Lighter Weights + Higher Reps

Maintaining or even gaining strength is the absolute best way to make sure that you're not losing muscle mass. If you keep pushing big weights, it'll force the body to keep its muscle since it will see it as necessary for survival.

If you reduce the amount of weight you're lifting, the body will "assume" that you don't require as much strength and that it's okay to lower your muscle mass. Why? Because muscle uses a ton of calories every day and the body will see it as expendable.

Then there is the second part of the mistake: increasing reps. Often times this is done to "cut up" a muscle. Too bad that's impossible to do.

You cannot get a muscle more cut. You can only make it bigger or smaller. To get more "cut" you need to get rid of the fat while keeping the muscle large and full.

Some people aren't stupid enough to think that lifting lighter weights for more reps works, but they still perform higher reps simply to burn more calories and accelerate fat loss.

That's fine, provided that you did your heavy lifting already. However, if you overdo the reps, you can indirectly decrease your muscle mass by impairing recovery.

When your caloric intake is reduced, your capacity to recover from training is already handicapped, so adding the burden of increased volume can lead to regression in both performance and muscle size.

The moral of the story? Do everything in your power to at least maintain your strength when dieting down, and this will not happen if you stop lifting heavy to focus on doing more pump work.

3.  Moderate Intensity, Steady State Cardio

If you decide to add cardio to your fat loss regimen, you have two options and both are at opposite ends of the spectrum: low-intensity like walking, or high-intensity like sprints and HIIT.

It's a hormonal thing. Moderate intensity/steady state cardio – the type that most people are doing when trying to lose fat – will increase cortisol levels the most. The activity is just intense enough to stimulate the release of cortisol, and also long enough to elevate it significantly.

Low-intensity cardio, however, in the form of taking a one-hour walk in the park or something, will not be intense enough to stimulate much cortisol release. In fact it might actually lower cortisol levels by having a relaxing effect.

High-intensity work, on the other hand, might lead to a lot of cortisol being produced, but the duration of the activity isn't usually long enough to lead to a large elevation.

Use longer, low-intensity work (a relaxing pace at which you can sustain a conversation) for 45-60 minutes, or high-intensity work lasting 15 minutes or less.

That's why I love loaded carries. Three to five minutes is all you need to get an amazing fat burning effect with basically zero negative impact on muscle mass. In fact, it can help you build some muscle!

4.  Cutting Too Much Too Soon

Losing fat and changing your body is an emotional issue; we want that dream body and we want it right now! That mindset leads to our fourth mistake: starting out way too abruptly.

I've seen people start their diet out with less than 50 grams of carbs and fat per day for a total of roughly 1200 calories. Add to that doing 90 minutes of cardio per day (sometimes 120 minutes spread into two daily sessions), doing circuit training in the gym, and using a powerful fat burner formula.

Great. But how long do you think someone can sustain that? More importantly, how long do you think it'll take the body to adapt?

The body will adapt to that level of deprivation and activity level in 4 to 6 weeks and fat loss will come to a screeching halt... and that is if you can make it 4-6 weeks! You'll feel depressed, have unbearable hunger, zero energy, and basically stop enjoying life. And then there is the muscle loss from such an excessive approach.

So what happens when fat loss stalls with this approach? What can you do to get it started again? You have nothing left to cut from your diet, and unless you can afford to devote your whole agenda to training, you can't ramp up the activity any further (you won't have the energy anyway).

You'll be doomed. You'll still lose some fat, but progress will be so slow that there is no way you'll be able to handle it long enough to reach your goal.

Avoid being excessive from the start. Use the dietary and cardio strategy to allow you to lose fat at an acceptable rate and train to maintain or increase your strength.

The more conservative you are while still getting good fat loss results, the more options you'll have to play with when fat loss slows down.

5.  Increasing Training Volume With More Exercise

When someone wants to get ripped he naturally tends to add exercises to his program. He does that because he believes that doing so will help him "carve" the muscle by working it from as many angles as possible. Well, you cannot carve, shape, or cut a muscle. You can only make it bigger or smaller.

Adding exercises will not work for the purpose of shaping or carving a muscle.

Can you make it bigger by adding more exercises? Sure, if you're in a caloric surplus, but when in a caloric deficit your body will have a hard time just maintaining the muscle mass it already has.

Adding a significant amount of muscle will be very hard to do if you're a natural lifter. Since you won't be in a physical state conducive to building new muscle tissue, adding more exercises will only make you burn more fuel. Which, in turn, might actually make it harder to recover from your training – not something we want when trying to preserve muscle mass.

Now, some people swear that adding exercises makes their muscles larger. This is more likely due to inflammation of the muscle tissue (which will naturally tend to increase when dieting since it's harder to recover), which can make the muscles feel and even look swollen.

But that won't last long and it won't take much time to start losing your capacity to get a pump, and that's the first sign that you're about to start losing muscle. The idea is to focus on the big money lifts to maintain your strength. You correct muscle imbalances and lagging body parts when you're in a caloric surplus, not when you're dieting down.

6.  Getting Rid of Workout Nutrition Carbs

This is probably the most common problem. I've even been guilty of it myself! For a long time carbs were thought to be the enemy of fat loss. That was especially true during the low-carb diet craze a few years back.

Nobody was as carbophobic as I was. So I understand the impulse to suddenly stop using workout carbs (before, during and post-workout) when dieting down.

But your absolute best insurance policy when it comes to preserving (and even increasing) muscle mass when dieting down is workout nutrition like Plazma™ which contains fast acting di- and tri- peptides and functional carbs.

If anything, you should increase your workout nutrient intake when dieting down, then reduce carbs and calories for the rest of the day. This will give you the maximum fat burning effect possible.

Don't be afraid of workout carbs – the highly-branched cyclodextrins in Plazma actually have fat burning effects. They won't be stored as fat, and they'll increase your rate of fat loss by allowing you to train harder and keep your metabolic rate higher.

7.  Cardio Before Bed

This was popular in some bodybuilding circles when it got out that Ronnie Coleman was doing it when preparing for the Mr. Olympia.

Performance-enhancing drugs change your physiology. For example, steroids/androgens and cortisol share a cellular messenger. Without giving you a physiology lecture, it means that the more androgens you have in your body, the less impact cortisol will have on you.

Doing cardio – especially moderate steady state cardio – will elevate your cortisol, and in the natural hormonal cycle of humans, cortisol has to be at its lowest before going to bed. Having a high cortisol level when going to bed will make it much harder to go to sleep and much harder to have a restorative sleep episode.

It will also turn your sleep period into a 7 to 10 hour-long catabolic episode, which isn't a good mix if you value your muscle mass. To maintain your muscle, recover faster from your training, and optimize your hormonal levels and cycles, avoid evening/night cardio.

It's Simple

  1. Keep lifting heavy on the big basic lifts.
  2. Do not add extra exercises.
  3. Do not try to burn more calories via weight lifting.
  4. If you decide to do cardio, choose low-intensity cardio, high-intensity/short duration cardio, or loaded carries and make sure to be in a post-absorptive state. Also, avoid doing cardio at night.
  5. Do not try to correct lagging muscle groups when in a caloric deficit. The best you can do is maintain your muscle or increase it slightly; you can't make drastic changes at this point.
  6. Don't ditch your workout nutrition carbs. Increase them.
  7. Start conservatively. Do just enough to maintain a good rate of progress – a loss of 2 pounds per week, for example – so that you keep some weapons in store for when fat loss slows down.

3 Exercises That Will Wreck You

Drop These Exercises

Few exercises are inherently dangerous, but if your posture sucks, then there are some that will be dangerous for YOU.

And it doesn't matter if you're not sedentary. Even athletes and committed lifters can learn the hard way that their posture isn't great. Luckily there are simple modifications you can make in order to train hard while protecting your orthopedic health.

Here are the three movements that can put your shoulders and spine at risk. I no longer program these for the majority of my athletes. The modifications they now use actually give them a greater training effect while minimizing joint stress.

1 – The Barbell Overhead Press

Straight bar overhead pressing is one hell of a diagnostic tool. It'll tell you a lot about your spinal stability, scapular mobility, shoulder strength and function. But it's rarely a good fit for those struggling to achieve good positions.

First off, the symmetrical stance (feet parallel on the floor) has the potential to create instability and hyperextension at the lumbar-pelvic junction. It's this lack of trunk and pillar support that becomes the weakest link in the functional chain. It limits top-end loads and places unwanted stress on the spine.

Since the body is a functional unit, this hyperextension can become more notable when you lack the ability to achieve a neutral, or possibly even slightly extended, thoracic spine position. A rounded mid-back will be tough on the lower back and also on the shoulder, reducing space in the shoulder girdle for structures to properly function.

Between the lack of lumbar spine stability, thoracic spine mobility, and the ability to display functional range of motion and stability through the shoulder girdle, the overhead barbell press is risky.

2 – The Bent-Over Barbell Row

Most lifters need to be doing horizontal pulls. These help ameliorate the affects of daily slumping and sitting. But the bent-over row isn't your best bet. There are better ways to develop a muscular posterior chain.

What makes it suck? The barbell bent-over row combines a high amount of requisite stability through the lower body, pelvis, and spine while simultaneously creating dynamic tension through the musculature of the back. So again it doesn't inherently suck for everyone but it might for YOU.

Even the more elite lifters and athletes that I evaluate can't hip hinge properly with their own bodyweight (the majority at least). So telling them to try and maintain a hip hinge isometrically, while powerfully lifting and lowering a heavy bar, is absurd.

If you lack the ability to do a proper hip hinge (a bow not a squat), this should automatically exclude you from the barbell bent-over row. It's a red flag that you shouldn't be getting in any bent-over position that also involves dynamic movement from the upper extremities.

You need the ability to maintain a neutral spine and pelvis in the hinge. The addition of an anteriorly loaded bar will create heavy compensation patterns. And when you're tasked with moving it up and down, your spine will move back and forth into flexion and extension, dumping the pelvis anteriorly and posteriorly during every rep. This is bad.

With a majority of the movement generated from joints and non-contractile structures, the poorly positioned bent-over row not only steals the muscular emphasis we're targeting, but places the body in a potentially injurious position, especially when training extended rep ranges and sets which involve cumulative postural fatigue.

3 – The Barbell Upright Row

There's no exercise more notorious for messing up the shoulders than the upright row. And everybody knows it, which is why there are a dozen modifications in hand placement, bar path, and setup. They're all invented to make this exercise easier on the shoulder girdle. But why play with fire when there are safer alternatives that'll get you the same benefits?

The traditional upright row creates increased anteriorly-directed joint stress to the shoulder girdle, especially when shoulder mobility and thoracic spine positioning are less than perfect.

The lack of respectable posturing through the upper quadrant can create more of an internally rotated movement at the gleno-humeral joint, reducing the area of structures to freely slide and glide through. An imperfect posture can also keep the shoulder blades from functioning smoothly and synergistically against the thoracic cage.

This movement has a tendency to shift tension from the medial delts (which most lifters are attempting to target with this) to the upper traps. And that defeats the purpose because you can develop your upper traps in a gazillion more effective and less dangerous ways.

If your posture is dysfunctional don't even try to program modified versions of the upright row. The cost to benefit ratio is too small, even for athletes and lifters with great posture and healthy shoulders.

The Best Damn Workout Plan For Natural Lifters

Here's what you need to know...

The number one mistake by natural lifters is doing too much volume. You need to trigger protein synthesis and then stop training.
Frequency is also super important. Hitting a muscle three times per week is the optimal frequency for natties.
The key to growth is to have a big disparity between protein synthesis and protein breakdown. The more volume you use, the more you break down protein.
The best split for the natural is the push/pull split. It's both physically and psychologically beneficial.

Don't Train Like Drug-Enhanced Genetic Freaks

If you're a natural lifter, you can't train like an enhanced bodybuilder or action movie star. And if you have average genetics, you can't train like a genetic freak. Sure, it's tempting to copy the training programs of those we admire, but always chasing the next "star program" will get you nowhere.

So how should natural lifters should train to get the best results? Basically like this:

Do a push/pull split (or push+quads/pull+hamstrings) 6 days a week.
With that amount of frequency, you only need one exercise per muscle group and three total sets: two sets of moderate intensity to get ready, then one hard set.
Use different methods and exercises on the three different weekly workouts.

The Number One Natty Mistake

The most common mistake made by those who don't use performance enhancing drugs is doing too much volume. The whole purpose of training to build muscle is to trigger protein synthesis. Once it's been triggered, there is no added benefit in continuing to punish a muscle – it will not grow more. In fact, it might even lose size!

The key to growth is to have a big difference between protein synthesis (building muscle) and protein breakdown (mobilizing amino acids from muscles for energy). The more volume you do, the more protein breakdown you get. You don't want that.

Frequency is King

To maximize growth, frequency is king. That not only applies to how often you train a muscle per week, but also the number of training sessions you do per week.

Frequency is crucial for the natural lifter because the actual training session is the stimulus to trigger protein synthesis. In other words, the workout itself is what puts you in anabolic mode, whereas the enhanced bodybuilder doesn't need to use the workout as a trigger. The enhanced lifter is in anabolic mode 24 hours a day!

So the more often you train, the more your body stays in an anabolic state and the more muscle you'll build. But don't forget that frequency and volume are inversely related. Remember, you can't do a high volume of work if you have a high frequency of training when you're natural.

Frequency works better than volume. Hitting a muscle three times per week is the optimal frequency for a natural trainee (with a low volume to compensate for the increase in frequency). Train six days a week, doing short, low volume workouts hitting half the body each time. That's the only way to get the optimal frequency without the excessive cortisol release.

The Training Split

The best split, both physically and psychologically, is the push/pull split:

Pulling Muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Back
  • Biceps
Pushing Muscles
  • Quads
  • Pecs
  • Delts
  • Triceps
Each push or pull workout will have 4 exercises – one per muscle group (two for back since it's made of many different muscles).

Workout A: Pull Workout
  • Hamstring exercise
  • Lats/back-width exercise
  • Rhomboids/rear delt exercise
  • Biceps exercise
Workout B: Push Workout
  • Quad exercise
  • Pec exercise
  • Delt exercise
  • Triceps exercise
You do three pull workouts and three push workouts three times per week, using different exercise at every workout. While you can use any exercise you want, when possible I like to use 2 multi-joint exercises and 1 isolation exercise.

For example, our first hamstring workout of the week might consist of Romanian deadlifts while the second might consist of lying leg curls. The third hamstring workout of the week – the isolation move – might consist of glute ham raises.

How Many Sets and How Should I Do Them?

You will do two preparation sets for each exercises. These are sets where you get the feeling for the weight and decide what training weight you'll use for the work set(s). It also gets some blood in the muscle to increase the mind-muscle connection.

These sets are not typical warm-ups. They're done with weights close to your working set weight, or you can even use the same weight as your work sets but do fewer reps. Basically, your level of effort on these two sets is about 7 out of 10.

Then you'll do one all-out work set. This will use a special technique/method (explained below) and need to be taken to technical failure (but don't go to the point where you need to cheat to get the weight up). These special techniques will only be used on the third and last set of each exercise:

1 – Heavy Double Rest/Pause

  • Pick a weight you can do around 4-6 reps with.
  • Do your 4-6 hard reps, rest 10-15 seconds, do another 2-3 reps, rest 10-15 seconds, and then try to get an additional 1-2 reps.
  • Always use the same weight. You only do one set of this special technique/method.

2 – Maximum mTor Activation

Here the key is how you perform each rep. Accentuating the eccentric (negative) and loaded stretching are the contraction types that increase mTor activation the most. So with this method you'll do as follows:
  • Lower the weight over a 5-second count while tensing/flexing the target muscle as hard as possible at all times.
  • Hold the full stretch position for 2 seconds per rep.
  • Do 6-8 reps like this, and on the last rep hold the stretch position for as long as you can tolerate. Again, you only do one set of this special technique/method.
  • 3 – 6-8-10 Drop Set

  • Start the set with a weight you can lift for 6 reps.
  • Drop the weight down immediately by 25-40% (depending on the exercise) and do 8 reps with that new weight.
  • Drop another 25-40% and perform 10 more reps.
  • Rest as little as possible between the parts of the drop set. Only perform one set of this special technique/method.

The Program

This program is unconventional, at least when compared to most modern-day plans, but how has conventional been working for you so far?

Monday – Workout A1
  1. Romanian Deadlift:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
  2. Pronated Lat Pulldown or Pull-Up:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
  3. Bent-Over Lateral:  2 sets of 8 and one 6-8-10 drop set
  4. Standing Barbell Curl:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set

Tuesday – Workout B1
  1. Front Squat:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
  2. Bench Press:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
  4. Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set

Wednesday – Workout A2
  1. Lying Leg Curl:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
  2. Straight-Arm Pulldown or Dumbbell Pullover:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
  3. Pronated Chest-Supported Row:  2 sets of 8 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
  4. Preacher Curl:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set

Thursday – Workout B2
  1. Leg Extension:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
  2. Pec Deck or Cable Crossover:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
  3. Military Press or Dumbbell Shoulder Press:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set
  4. Close-Grip Decline Bench Press or Dip:  2 sets of 6 and one all-out heavy double rest/pause set

Friday – Workout A3
  1. Glute Ham Raise or Reverse Hyper:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
  2. Supinated Lat Pulldown:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
  3. Neutral-Grip Cable Seated Row:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
  4. Dumbbell Hammer Curl:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set

Saturday – Workout B3
  1. Hack Squat Machine or Leg Press:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
  2. Incline Bench Press or Incline Dumbbell Press:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set
  3. Dumbbell Front Raise on Incline Bench:  2 sets of 6 and one maximum mTor activation set
  4. Rope Triceps Extension:  2 sets of 6 and one 6-8-10 drop set

5 Tips To Reduce Your Risk Of Foodborne fitness

Prepping foods in bulk has become the norm within the fitness industry. Unfortunately, patience and attention to detail often fall by the wayside, which can lead to frequent dates with the toilet or a trip to the hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 48 million illnesses in 2013 related to food.1-3 Sit-down restaurants are still the most prevalent location for bacterial exposure; however, cooking and preparing food at home can still expose you to disease.1-3 Implement safe prep, cooking, and handling techniques to minimize your exposure.

BACTERIA                     COMMON FOODS                                 CONSEQUENCES
Salmonella                      Poultry, eggs, cookie dough     Severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever
Shiga toxin-producing E. Steak, ground meats, water   Severe diarrhea, blood in stool, stomach            coli                                                                                                           cramps, fever
Campylobacter                 Poultry, water, produce           Severe diarrhea, blood in stool, stomach                                                                                                             cramps, fever


Always wash your hands before and after handling food, particularly produce and raw meat. If you're unsure whether you've touched raw meat, wash your hands just to be safe. This is especially true with the ever-popular chicken breast, so take extra caution when handling this type of protein.


Don't prep raw meat and fresh produce simultaneously. For safety and efficiency, cut, prep, season, and place lean protein in the oven first. Use separate, clean utensils and cutting boards to prep your produce. This will ensure raw meat juice does not contaminate your produce, minimizing the risk of infection. It will also save you time with food prep.


Failure to cook food to the proper internal temperature significantly increases your risk for consuming contaminated food. Sure, you may notice that grilling last week's chicken breast for 10 minutes on each side was enough to get the job done; however, next week's chicken may be shaped differently or larger in size, thus changing the appropriate cooking time.

Using a meat thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. An additional method to double-check the doneness of your chicken is to ensure you see no pink and that the juices run clear. If not, make sure you continue cooking your chicken, regardless of the food thermometer reading.

Refer to these temperature guide to minimize your contamination risk.4

Steak                                                                                               145°
Pork                                                                                                       145°
Lamb                                                                                               145°
Seafood and shellfish                                                                       155°
Ground meat                                                                                       155°
Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)                                                       165°


If something smells funky or looks off-color, toss it. That additional bite may provide you with 5 gram of protein, but it could cost you five days of training.


To thaw meat, simply place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight. Depending on the size of the packaging and amount of protein, 12-24 hours should be sufficient to completely thaw your food. Placing it on the top shelf increases the risk of raw meat juice dripping onto other items in your refrigerator.

If you're short on time, thaw the meat under warm running water; however, make sure you cook the meat immediately afterward. Don't let the meat sit a bowl of warm water—a method that's just asking for bacterial growth!

Are Traps Best Trained With Back Or Shoulders?

Unless you're a beginner, your workouts are most likely divvied up by body part, and that means using multiple exercises to hit a specific muscle group from various angles in hopes of maximizing growth. That approach works well most of the time, but the trapezius muscle located on your backside presents an unusual dilemma.

Who, after all, says, "It's trapezius day"? No one I ever met.

What makes the trapezius so different is that the diamond-shaped muscle has three regions—the upper, middle, and lower —and each has a different function. Even though the trapezius is a single muscle, trainees often work those regions on separate training days. Hence the confusion, so let's separate the functions of each of the traps' regions to better determine when to train them.

When doing lateral raises for middle delts, shoulder elevation means the upper traps are engaged as well.

When you think of big traps, you're probably thinking of the upper region between your neck and shoulders. When you elevate your scapula (shoulder blades) or upwardly rotate them, the upper region is worked the hardest. This is the same motion someone does when they shrug their shoulders in everyday life. Besides shrugs, many delt exercises including lateral raises and upright rows effectively hit the upper traps quite directly, so it makes sense to finish off with single-joint shrug movements. So, it makes sense to train the upper traps on shoulder day.

The middle portions of the trapezii primarily pull the shoulder blades together, which is called retraction. You mimic this in the gym when doing seated cable rows. (And if you're not pinching your shoulder blades together during rowing motions, you're shortchanging your middle traps!) Rows are commonly done on back day, but the movement hits other muscle groups as well. You can better isolate the middle trapezius doing seated cable rows in which your arms remain straight throughout (called a straight-arm seated cable row). Simply pinch your shoulder blades together and release, so the range of motion is pretty small. For middle traps, your best training day is with back.

The first few inches of the pull-down recruit the lower trapezius.

To complicate matters even further, let's move on to the lower traps. Their function is to rotate the shoulder blades downward, such as during the initiation phase of pull-downs, another back exercise. In fact, you can effectively isolate the lower traps by doing just the first few inches of a pull-down by keeping your arms straight. Those lower fibers are also engaged when doing prone front raises on an incline bench, and that's considered a shoulder exercise!  Even snatches, a whole-body Olympic move, engage the lower-trap fibers.

So where do traps belong in your workout split? It depends. Unless you train back and shoulders together on the same day, you're most likely hitting different regions of the muscle in different body-part workouts, and that's perfectly fine. Just know that to target it completely, you'll need a variety of motions. Too often, trainers might think shrugs are enough. Now you know they aren't.

3 Ways Whey Protein Can Help You Lose Weight

You probably know that whey protein should be your top protein choice when you're trying to build muscle, but you may not know that it should actually be your top choice when looking to lose weight, too! Yes, this fast-digesting protein king actually packs a powerful appetite-suppressing punch, contrary to the fact that liquids (and whey in particular) digest quickly.

Whey protein has been shown to positively impact the hunger hormones in your gut, the appetite control center in your brain, and to have a helpful impact on blood glucose levels (which has a positive impact on appetite). It's even been shown to be a superior appetite suppressant compared to casein protein in the short term.[1]

1. Increases Appetite Suppressing Hormones

Whey protein is composed of several bioactive compounds, or small molecules that exert powerful effects in your body. Glycomacro protein (GMP) is one that may play a major role in suppressing your appetite. GMP has been shown to increase secretion of the gut hormone cholecystokinin (CCK).[2] CCK plays a major role in sending satiety signals to the brain, which may help encourage you to put your fork down.

A study in the journal Appetite found the presence of GMP in whey protein to have a major impact on keeping appetite at bay.[3] Researchers provided subjects with a regular whey protein or a GMP-depleted whey protein before they sat down to an all-you-can-eat meal. Subjects who drank the GMP-depleted whey ate significantly more than the traditional whey group, which researchers attributed to the appetite-suppressing impact of GMP.

2. Signals Fuel Availability In The Brain

Whey protein contains more leucine (a critical branched-chain amino acid) than any other protein source.[4] Beyond its muscle-building role, it's thought that leucine may have a direct impact on appetite, too. In a study published in Journal of Science, researchers injected one group of mice with supplemental leucine and another with a control, and then exposed them to unlimited food after a brief fasting period.[5] Both groups gained weight over the next 24 hours, but the mice injected with leucine gained one third of the weight of the control group!

There seems to be a complex relationship between leucine, mTOR (the master growth regulator within cells that plays a role in initiating muscle protein synthesis), and the hypothalamus (where the appetite control center in the brain is located). Researchers suspect that mTOR has a fuel-sensor role and helps to regulate appetite.

When you consume leucine-rich whey, the leucine serves as a signal of "fuel availability" to the mTOR complex. As a result, mTOR sends a signal to the hypothalamus to downregulate appetite, helping you feel full!

3. Stabilizes Blood Glucose

Hunger is one consequence of low blood-glucose levels. After a meal, particularly one rich in carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates), blood glucose levels spike; however, shortly after, insulin levels rise in order to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range. A rapid rise in blood glucose and the subsequent insulin response can lead to a dip in blood glucose shortly after. This sets the scene for hunger to take over.                                                

Whey protein can help to curb this response, ultimately promoting steady blood glucose and appetite for hours after eating. Whey has a profound effect on the release of two incretins: glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP).[6-8] Incretins work to enhance the insulin response to a meal to ensure proper blood glucose control.

Rather than a massive spike in blood glucose and insulin, followed by a spike in hunger soon after, whey helps you remain on an even keel in terms of both energy and appetite. Plus, GLP-1 and GIP both function to suppress appetite and slow gastric emptying.[9-10]

There's Another Whey

If the idea of chugging a liquid to fight hunger doesn't appeal to you, consider making protein pancakes, protein pizza crust, protein oatmeal, or homemade protein bars. They're all good—and delicious—options!

If you decide to take the liquid route, consider using a blender and adding ice to your shake. The blender will help incorporate air, which will add volume to the shake. The ice will further thicken your shake and help increase fullness.

The 8 Best Supplements For Strength Athletes And Bodybuilders

If you're a serious strength or physique athlete, you've surely heard that supplements can help you get the most from your intense training sessions and on-point diet. But which supplements? The market is overstuffed like a bodybuilder in a child's blazer! You might be tempted to wander through a digital forest of get-big blogs and personal guru websites, but unfortunately those places can often be rife with misinformation.

Fortunately, we're here to set the record straight. Knowing what to take, how much to take, and when to take it will help you squeeze every ounce of results from your hard work, so let's zero in on the right supplement stack for your needs.

If your goal is to get as big and strong as possible, these eight products will help you do it.

Knowing What To Take, How Much To Take, And When To Take It Will Help You Squeeze Every Ounce Of Results From Your Hard Work, So Let's Zero In On The Right Supplement Stack For Your Needs.

1. Creatine Monohydrate

This muscle-building, power-enhancing supplement has an extremely high safety profile and a plethora of evidence to support its efficacy. Creatine supplementation works by increasing the availability of creatine and phosphocreatine (PCr) within the muscle, helping to maintain energy during high-intensity exercise such as weightlifting. Furthermore, increasing the availability of PCr may help speed up recovery between sets.

Long-term creatine supplementation appears to enhance the quality of resistance training, generally leading to 5-15 percent greater gains in strength and performance.[1]

Recommended dose: The fastest way to increase muscle creatine stores is to follow the loading method of 20 grams per day for 5-7 days, followed by the standard maintenance dose of 5 grams per day. However, a lower dose of 5 grams for 28 days will also increase creatine stores without causing the 2-4 pound weight gain typically seen with a loading protocol.

2. Caffeine

Caffeine may be the most widely used stimulant in the world, and for good reason. It has repeatedly been shown to be an effective ergogenic aid in both endurance exercise and high-intensity activity. However, when it comes to strength performance, the effects of caffeine are a little muddier.

While there's some research suggesting caffeine consumption prior to resistance training can increase one-rep max (1RM) for the bench press, other studies have found no strength benefits from caffeine.[2,3,4]

That being said, caffeine has been shown to decrease rates of fatigue and lower perception of effort, which may be of benefit during high-intensity, high-volume workouts, or if you just need a little pick-me-up before hitting the weights.

Recommended Dose: 150-300 milligrams 30-60 minutes before your workout.

3. Branched Chain Amino Acids

If you're a strength athlete or bodybuilder, we can't think of a single reason not to take BCAAs during your workout. Besides the fact that they taste delicious, sipping on BCAAs between sets may help speed up the recovery and repair processes after a tough workout.

A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that participants who ingested BCAAs at 100 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight, or about 9 grams for a 200-pound individual, experienced significantly less muscle soreness and damage following a high-volume squat protocol.[5]

It appears that BCAAs, especially leucine, help to regulate protein metabolism by promoting protein synthesis and suppressing protein degradation, which may improve recovery of muscles damaged during resistance training.

Recommended Dose: 6-10 grams before or during your workouts.

4. Citrulline Malate

Citrulline malate (CM) was originally marketed as an "antifatigue" supplement. In fact, if you were to travel back in time about 40 years, you'd find CM being prescribed to treat both mental and physical fatigue in post-surgery patients. More recently, CM has become popular for its performance-boosting effects.

The benefits seen with CM supplementation are most likely attributed to the synergistic combination of both L-citrulline and malate, which may help to increase rates of ATP during exercise, followed by increased rates of PCr recovery after exercise.[6]

Previous investigations have shown that a single dose of CM (8 grams) increased the number of repetitions performed during an upper-body resistance training protocol and reduced soreness at 24 and 48 hours post-exercise (compared to a placebo).7 Recently, researchers from Mississippi State University found that a single dose of CM (8 grams) significantly increased the number of lower-body repetitions compared to a placebo group.[8]

CM may be beneficial in improving exercise performance during upper- and lower-body multiple-bout resistance exercise in resistance-trained men.

Recommended Dose: 8 grams of CM taken 60 minutes before exercise

5. No Boosters

Nitrate-rich foods like beets, radishes, and pomegranates are a great way to boost the production of nitric oxide (NO). Although there's very limited research examining the effects of beet root juice and pomegranate extract on resistance training, these ingredients have previously been shown to increase skeletal muscle blood flow and lead to reduced soreness, which may ultimately lead to improvements in strength and performance.[9,10]

Nitrate-Rich Foods Like Beets, Radishes, And Pomegranates Are A Great Way To Boost The Production Of Nitric Oxide (NO).

Several studies have used either beet root juice or pomegranate extract in multi-ingredient performance supplements and have observed improvements in strength, hypertrophy, and performance in resistance-trained men. At this point, however, it's difficult to determine if these benefits are from beet root juice and pomegranate extract working alone or synergistically with other ingredients.[11,12]

Recommended Dose: 500 milligrams of beet root juice or pomegranate extract 30-60 minutes before your workout.

6. Whey Protein

Fast-digesting protein like whey is optimal post-workout as it can help improve your muscles' ability to recover and adapt after strenuous exercise. In fact, consumption of whey protein has been found to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a greater degree than other proteins like casein and soy.[13,14]

A recent review article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted the benefits of protein supplementation and showed that supplementing with protein during prolonged (greater than 6 weeks) resistance-type training can lead to significantly greater increases in muscle mass and strength when compared to resistance training without a dietary protein intervention.[15]

Got milk? Blends of protein, like whey and casein, have been shown to promote muscle hypertrophy and improve body composition to a greater extent than soy-based proteins when consumed after resistance exercise.[16,17,18]

The combination of fast-digesting whey and slow-digesting casein keep the body in a highly anabolic environment for a prolonged period of time, helping to keep rates of protein synthesis up, while minimizing any muscle breakdown.

Lifters who follow high-volume or high-intensity resistance-training programs, as many bodybuilders do, may also benefit from carbohydrate intake immediately post-workout. Compared with a placebo, carbohydrates combined with protein immediately post-workout and one hour after a bout of resistance exercise have been shown to increase insulin levels and rates of glycogen resynthesis.[19]

Recommended Dose: 20-30 grams of whey (or whey/casein blend) protein with a high-glycemic carbohydrate post-workout

7. Glutamine

While this nonessential amino acid may not deliver earth-shattering PRs or extreme muscle growth, it does play an important role in repair and recovery. Glutamine works by removing excess ammonia, which can accumulate during intense exercise, helping to regulate your body's acid-base balance. Individuals who are engaged in heavy resistance training, two-a-day training splits, or are in a calorie deficit may benefit from the extra support of glutamine supplementation.

Recommended Dose: 20-30 grams a day, consuming 10 grams post-workout

8. Fish Oils

Fish oils are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which provide myriad benefits for the body. For strength athletes and bodybuilders, we're most concerned with their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Intense resistance training can cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, leading to muscle damage and inflammation. While some inflammation is desirable, too much can delay the post-exercise recovery process.

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and speed up the recovery process, getting you ready for your next session with the weights.[20,21] As an added benefit, when combined with BCAAs and carbs, omega-3s can increase protein synthesis rates, leading to greater gains in muscle mass.[22,23