Body-For-Life Graduation: 8 Diet & Training Upgrades To Reach The Next Level (Part 2)!

Last time I provided you with 4 upgrades to the Body-for-Life program to take your training and nutrition to the next level. Today I'm back with part 2 and 4 more results-packing upgrades. Let's have at it!
Part 1  |   Part 2

Article Summary:
  • Don't do cardio in a fasted state.
  • Eat healthy fats and schedule carbohydrate intake.
  • Vary more than your types of exercise. Vary the stress on the body.

  • Body-for-Life Graduation - Part II
    8 "Upgrades" To Bring Your Diet And Training To The Next Level

    Last time I provided you with 4 "upgrades" to the Body-for-Life program to take your training and nutrition, and ultimately your body, to the next level. Today I'm back in the second part of this two part article with 4 more results-packing upgrades. Let's have at it!

    Upgrade 5: Skip The Fasted-State Cardio

      It was originally thought that while consuming a meal before exercise may have a positive effect on performance, it would certainly have an adverse effect on the amount of fat metabolized as a result of that session.

      Consequently, consuming a meal prior to exercise was frowned upon and performing cardio in a fasted state became the staple recommendation to optimize fat loss. However, all theory aside, research has shown this not to be the case.

      Several studies directly analyzing the aforementioned variable found that consuming a carbohydrate containing meal prior to cardiovascular activity had no adverse effect on substrate utilization during exercise (the amount of fat versus carbohydrates used as energy during exercise)2,3,4.

    What Kind Of Effects Can Fasting Have On A Bodybuilder?
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      Furthermore, the one study analyzing time to fatigue founded that those who did not consume a meal before exercising fatigued faster and performed at a lesser level than those subjects who did eat prior to the session 4.

      Needless to say if your performance is suffering, so will the calorie burn resulting from the session (a more intense workout burns more calories).

      Also, it should be noted that performing cardio in a fasted state is very catabolic not only to fat stores, but also to muscle protein. Continual use of such a method will likely cause lean tissue loss in dieters while restricting calories. This is especially true for leaner trainees trying to shed that last bit of fat.

      And what about waiting an hour after cardio to eat in order to take advantage of the substantial increase in metabolism that results from a high intensity cardio workout?

    Fasting Cardio? Myth Or Something To It?
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    Fasting Cardio? Myth Or Something To It?
    Thoughts on cardio'ing on an empty stomach having any benefits?
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      This theory was also directly studied and the researchers founded that those subjects who consumed a protein and carbohydrate beverage actually increased the amount of calories burned during the hour post-exercise while still having no effect on substrate utilization 1.

      So, by eating shortly after an intense cardio workout, you can actually further increase metabolism, and most importantly it will help prevent the body from catabolizing muscle tissue for energy during this time.

    Upgrade 6: Eat More Fat

      On the BFL program, each meal consists of combining protein and carbohydrates, with little emphasis on the importance of fat in the diet. This causes most folks on the program to drastically undershoot their daily dietary fat needs, perpetuating a host of problems.

      First, adequate dietary fat consumption is necessary to promote healthy hormone levels and a low-fat intake has been shown to be correlated with lower testosterone levels - this is anything but helpful to both your sex drive and muscle-building efforts.

      Secondly, consuming a variety of fats is necessary to promote optimal health. Saturated fats and cholesterol are necessary to ensure bone health and density as well as liver, immune, digestive, endocrine, and central nervous system function. Additionally, they are the main constituents of the trillions and trillions of cell membranes within each of our bodies.

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      Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to carry an array of health-benefits, including decreasing the risk for developing heart disease and cancer, decreasing blood pressure, improving liver and kidney function, reducing joint pain, improving vision, improving diabetic conditions, decreasing occurrences and intensities of migraine headaches, increasing circulating levels of fat burning hormones, reducing stress, and increasing metabolic rate.

      Monounsaturated fats have been shown to boost immune function, support healthy hormone levels, and decrease the risk for developing cancer and heart disease. Additionally, olive oil - a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids - is rich in antioxidants, particularly Vitamin E, which further fight disease and aging by attacking dangerous free radicals.

      Good sources of saturated fat and cholesterol include most animal proteins (meat), dairy (butter, cheese, cottage cheese, cream), and eggs.

      Although saturated fats have been correlated with testosterone levels, it's probably best to limit them to less than 20% of your total fat intake while concentrating more on polyunsaturated Omega-3's and monounsaturated fat (with the latter also having a positive impact on natural testosterone production).


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    Upgrade 7: Vary Your Workout

      The body is the king of adaptation. It can and will adapt to any stressor you continually throw at it, and before long your body is no longer fazed by that level of stress. This is a good thing in many life situations, but a tricky one to deal with when trying to progress in the gym.

    Plateau Busted!
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    Plateau Busted!
    After about 8 months stuck at 181-184lbs, I finally broke through! I've been seeing 187-189lbs recently (That's roughly 5 pound gain in the past month).
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      The BFL weight training program is a great starting point and beginner level workout, but in order to continue to see results from your gym efforts, you're going to need to switch it up and some point and give the body a different "stress" to adapt to. After all, you've probably been doing more or less the same workout for the last 12 weeks, or perhaps even longer.

      "But I Already Switch Up The Exercises Every Four Weeks."

      Unfortunately, that doesn't really get the job done. The body is much less concerned about the source of the stress as it is with the actual stress.

      In other words, your body doesn't know or care if you're doing a barbell curl, dumbbell curl, or preacher curl; it just knows that stress is being placed on the biceps. And with the BFL program, you place stress on each muscle group with the same number of sets and reps with every subsequent workout - this, as you have probably noticed, will lead to stagnation.

      Barbell Curl Dumbbell Curl
      + Click To Enlarge.
      Your Body Doesn't Know Or Care
      Which Exercise You're Doing.

      So if it's not the exercises that we need to change, what is it? Again, we need to concentrate on changing the stress placed on the muscle, and that can be done by manipulating several things known as the stress related variables.

      These include time under tension (the length of each set), the weight used, rest periods, and density (how much work you perform in a given period of time). That sounds like a lot, but it's actually very easy to manipulate the stress related variables as simply changing the set/rep scheme of your workout will affect all of them.

      By shifting from, say, five sets of ten (5x10) to ten sets of five (10x5), the time under tension decreases (each set is shorter because you're performing a smaller number of reps per set), the load increases (you're able to handle more weight when performing less reps), rest periods lengthen (to allow for adequate recovery when using heavier weight), and the density of each workout decreases (workouts take longer because of the extended rest periods and higher number of sets).

    Upgrade 8: Effectively Time Your Carbohydrate Intake

      Consuming carbohydrate all day long probably isn't the optimal approach (unless you're using a specific carbohydrate cycling regimen) for a couple reasons:

      1. Because carbs are spread throughout the day, not enough carbohydrate is delivered during the "post-workout window" to optimally fuel recovery and spark anabolism.
      2. Keeping insulin relatively low, especially during times of inactivity, creates an internal environment for optimal fat burning; this does not occur when consuming carbs with every meal.

      The solution? Consume carbs when your body is primed to use them for recovery and consume them minimally at other times. Remember that during and for the few hours after your workout, muscle tissue is primed to suck up carbohydrate.

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      On weight-training days, the bulk of your carbohydrate intake should be ingested during this time. This solves problem #1 by giving you a large amount of carbohydrate to fuel recovery when the body is most receptive to carbohydrates and insulin. It also solves problem #2 by keeping insulin low (and fat burning high) at other times of the day.

    Closing Remarks

    Graduation is an exciting time, with new experiences and opportunities lying ahead. You've taken some great steps thus far, but it doesn't end there. The time has come to upgrade your training and nutrition practices to bring your physique to even higher heights.

    Utilize the eight tips provided in this two part article to give you a huge jump-start on new progress, browse through the extensive article database containing a gold mine of knowledge, and be sure to check back in at T-Nation often for the latest, cutting-edge training and nutrition info. Never stop learning; never stop applying. Go get 'em.

    About The Author

    Joel Marion is an internationally recognized body transformation coach and the 2001 Body-for-Life Grand Champion. Join thousands of other Body Transformation enthusiasts for FREE at Joel's brand new website


    1. Lee YS, et al. The effects of various intensities and durations of exercise with and without glucose in milk ingestion on post exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1999 Dec;39(4):341-7.
    2. Diboll DC, et al. Cardiovascular and metabolic responses during 30 minutes of treadmill exercise shortly after consuming a small, high-carbohydrate meal. Int J Sports Med. 1999 Aug;20(6):384-9.
    3. Bergman BC, et al. Respiratory gas-exchange ratios during graded exercise in fed and fasted trained and untrained men. J Appl Physiol. 1999 Feb;86(2):479-87.
    4. Schabort EJ, et al. The effect of a preexercise meal on time to fatigue during prolonged cycling exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Mar;31(3):464-71.
    5. Tipton, KD. Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Aug;281(2):E197-206.

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