[ Q ] I'm in the Marines, and I've been working out for a year. I've tried countless supplements including NO2, creatine monohydrate, and Optimum's Pro Complex Protein. I am still taking the protein along with my daily vitamin right now, but I'm looking for something to help me bulk up and to get rid of the 'soft' look. I'm looking to not only bulk up, but also cut some fat while I'm at it.
I work out 6 days a week. In addition to suggestions on my supplements, if you could give me a few pointers on how to refine my workouts I would appreciate it.
A. The soft look that you want to eliminate can result from three things: subcutaneous water retention, body fat accumulation, or the failure to sufficiently stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers.
1. Subcutaneous Water Retention
Excessive water retention can result from excessive carbohydrate consumption, high body fat stores, or insufficient water intake.
Insulin levels surge when you consume too many simple carbohydrates.
When this happens, growth hormone levels drop, testosterone levels drop, and the testosterone to estrogen ratio is tilted in favor of estrogen.
Water retention is symptomatic of high estrogen levels. When women menstruate they often complain of feeling "bloated", and this is because estrogen is elevated during ovulation, and water retention results.
Estrogen also encourages the accumulation of body fat.
Testosterone is the dominant male hormone, and testosterone is one of the reasons why men have more muscle and less adipose tissue than women.
If you don't drink enough water, your body will hold on to whatever you do drink. What's more, you will impair your liver and kidney function, and this will have long-term consequences. This kind of damage can not be reversed.
2. Body Fat Accumulation
It is possible to cut fat and build muscle at the same time, but this occurs slowly.
Ask yourself: have you gained ten pounds in the past year? You probably answered yes. Now, how much of that gain was fat-free mass? Six pounds? You've done very well if you've gained six pounds of fat-free mass in the past year.
If you figure out how much of that six pounds of lean muscle mass gain is gained per day, the answer is: 0.0164 of one pound. We are talking about fractions of an ounce per day here. So, you can see how pointless it is to weigh yourself every day on the scale - any daily bodyweight fluctuations will result from water shifting.
This point underscores the fact that muscle gain is an extremely slow process - even assuming that you are eating and training correctly. To gain muscle you must eat clean, unprocessed foods, and train with intensity. You must also provide your body with plenty of rest and sleep.
The process is identical when losing body fat. It takes hard, intelligent, work to become lean. When I interviewed 2000 Ms. Olympia Valentina Chepiga and asked her how long it took for her to get really lean, do you know what she said?
From the beginning, when she started bodybuilding, it took her a total of THREE YEARS to get lean and hard. Body fat reduction, like muscle building, is a slow process.
As for your training, I think that you are training too much. When you get up at 5am and do your PT, and then workout six days a week, how can your body recover?
When I was in the ARMY I was in a similar situation. I had to cut back my schedule to three days per week, and focus on compound movements like deadlifts, flat bench press and squats. I did 10 minutes of cardio before and after each workout session to circulate blood throughout my body and warm-up my joints. I also kept each workout to a strict limit of 45 minutes.
Because I was doing my PT at 5 am every day, I didn't want to be lifting six days a week in addition to running 5 miles every morning before breakfast. What's more, I didn't want to be lifting six days a week when I was out in the mountains or the field late at night on exercise.
It's important to understand that you're not just training your muscles when you exercise - you're also training your central nervous system. And, CNS fatigue is the greatest threat to your health. If your central nervous system becomes impaired, you begin to get sick, and even your mental ability to perform seemingly simple tasks becomes severely limited.
Also, cut back your training to three days per week, and focus on heavy lifts.
Make your schedule realistic. Working out is not like ammunition; more is NOT always better. Remember this, and find the balance that works for you.
Supplementation is critical for getting results. So, I recommend taking a multivitamin that has high concentrations of antioxidants. Antioxidants support your immune system and speed recovery. If necessary, supplement also with immune boosting supplements like Echinacea and Siberian ginseng.
IsoFlex is a pure product that's made according to pharmaceutical standards - the highest known - and it contains 97% WPI. The quality whey protein isolate in isoflex is critical for your results, because it's important to take a clean and pure WPI product post-workout when your body needs fast acting protein that is quickly released AND quickly absorbed.
While cheaper WPC - whey protein concentrate - products are released quickly, the large size of the molecules will slow their absorption, thereby costing you results. To gain muscle, you need WPI at this critical time, and IsoFlex supplies this protein when it counts.
IsoFlex also has an N02 delivery system. N02 is important because it helps give your muscles more of the nutrients and vitamins they need to recover and grow. More nutrients mean more muscle, greater strength, less soreness and faster recovery. Over time, faster recovery can make a big difference in how big you get.
[ Q ] I'm confused about what supplements to take. Everyone that I ask at my gym gives me different answers and I don't want to waste my money on supplements that I don't need. Please tell me: what supplements do I NEED to take?
A. After nutrition, supplementation is the biggest area of confusion for bodybuilders. So, in order of importance, here are the supplements that you need to take as a bodybuilder.
- Immune-System boosters
- Multivitamin and mineral formulation
- Glutamine (bonded or free)
- Protein powder supplement
Immune-system boosters are necessary for athletes in all sports. Exercise is intense and stresses the body and the immune-system. You can take massive amounts of protein but it won't matter if you are too sick to train.
Immune-system boosting supplements include antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, but also include glutathione precursors, Echinacea, garlic and zinc. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, and also contains tannic acid and polyphenols. For this reason I drink three cups of green tea throughout the day. One immune-system boosting supplement that I use religiously is Immuno-Shield by Irwin Naturals; it's simply stellar.
Glutamine is important because it helps maintain the free-amino acid pool and positive nitrogen balance. Nitrogen balance helps preserve muscle mass during and after workouts when your muscles need glucose for glycogen manufacture. Glutamine can be used for this, and a glutamine deficiency can initiate muscle wasting.
Muscle tissue loss can result in immune system weakness and a loss of muscular functionality. These losses can result in injury which can further impede physical functioning.
Glutamine helps to prevent muscle loss, and whey protein helps to increase muscle mass, thereby offering increased protection to bone. Increased muscle mass and improved body composition will serve to increase metabolic efficiency, and this will further allow for improvements in immune function.
These supplement types form the basis of a solid supplementation program that will yield results. Anything above and beyond these supplements is optional and should be used only when you have first successfully incorporated these supplements into your bodybuilding lifestyle.
[ Q ] What exactly is 6-OXO? And, what is it used for?
A. 6-OXO, made by
ErgoPharm, (4-Androsten-3,6,17-trione) is classified as a steroid, even though it doesn't exert any direct effect on hormone profile.
Instead, 6-OXO, as an estrogen suicide inhibitor, binds permanently to the estrogen enzyme (because of its high affinity) and renders it inactive.
The inactive enzyme is then removed from the body. The result is lower estrogen levels and an increase in the levels of available testosterone.
Estrogen and testosterone are opposing hormones, and building muscle is possible only when you have high levels of free testosterone.
Muscle building aside, you also need high testosterone levels for immune system health and disease prevention. Low levels of testosterone can lead to sickness, lethargy, depression and a host of other problems, including muscle loss. Simply, testosterone is critical for quality of life, and 6-OXO can help to restore quality of life if your testosterone levels are in decline.
6-OXO is also effective for when you're trying to lose fat, or when you're trying to boost natural testosterone levels after a cycle of anabolic steroids. Testosterone is anabolic and lipolytic, and increases in your testosterone levels will cause you to lose fat and become more lean and muscular.
6-OXO is suitable for use by young and old people alike, but is not recommended for use by women.
[ Q ] I am an avid reader of your articles on Bodybuilding.com and elsewhere. I have a question about contest preparation. I am six weeks out from a contest and I still have these ridiculous love-handles; I've seen guys six weeks out who look ripped.
I weigh 130lbs at 10% BF - I want to reach 5%. I train with weights three times per week, and I do high-intensity cardio first thing in the morning four days per week. I consume about 1000 calories daily. I eat the same foods everyday (whey, eggs, chicken breast), and I cycle my macronutrients. I drink about 1-2 gallons of water per day.
Do you think I may suffer from water bloat?
A. It is possible that you will suffer from water retention.
The first thing I notice is how low your caloric intake is at six weeks out from the show. An energy intake this low (1000 calories daily) is usually reserved for the last five days prior to a competition.
Why are you consuming only 1000 calories with six weeks to go? How much further do you think you can reduce your calories and continue seeing reductions in body fat? Unfortunately, the answer is: you can't.
It's important to remember that the function of stored body fat is to provide fuel for survival during times of prolonged famine. In your case, you are not eating enough calories - you're inducing a famine - and your body refuses to shed any fat. I suggest that you start eating more.
To test for water retention, I recommend depleting your glycogen stores. This will not only show you your true body fat percentage, but it will also shift your metabolism so that your main energy source is stored body fat instead of ingested carbohydrates.
If you are retaining water, insulin decreases resulting from glycogen depletion will result in water loss - a shedding of any water you are holding. You can then measure your body fat stores with precision.
[ Q ] I'm 20 years old and I've been training for one year. Here are my questions... Is there a way to be huge, as well as in top cardiovascular condition? I lift 4 times a week, as well as run upwards of 20 miles a week and I seem to be progressing in both areas fairly well. I supplement with creatine, protein, as well as ZMA, and I take a little Xenadrine for added energy.
I have a heart condition called cardiomyopathy and my doctors tell me that the most physical activity I should be doing is no more than a light jog a couple of times a week. I pretty much want to throw everything I have been told back into the faces of the people that have told me what I can and can't do.
A. Cardiomyopathy is a serious heart condition, and you should not only listen to your doctors, but discontinue the use of any stimulant products.
Stimulant products like Xenadrine state clearly that they are for use only by healthy adults. Do not mistake the seriousness of your potentially fatal condition - if you do, you're gambling your life.
| What Is Cardiomyopathy?
Cardiomyopathy is a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't work as well as it should. There may be multiple causes including viral infections.
Cardiomyopathy can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary cardiomyopathy can't be attributed to a specific cause, such as high blood pressure, heart valve disease, artery diseases or congenital heart defects. Secondary cardiomyopathy is due to specific causes. It's often associated with diseases involving other organs as well as the heart.
The above notwithstanding, I congratulate you on your spirit and willingness to train hard and with enthusiasm. All that I think you need to do is shift your focus.
With a condition like yours, or with any health condition, the focus must be on becoming or staying well, and working within the realistic limits that you've been given.
The purpose of training is to improve the body and to enhance health - not to go all out, violate doctor's orders, and end up dead. The first step to shifting your focus toward health is to realize that it doesn't matter what other people think about you.
I'm continually surprised that people spend so much time focusing on what others think of them. The only thing that really matters is what you think of yourself. And, training is about the self.
It's about the body - making and keeping it healthy through an active lifestyle based on correct nutrition, correct exercise and correct supplementation. You will never accomplish anything if you're always focused on beating someone else, changing their views, or showing them how "wrong" their judgments about you are.
You have to be selfish with your training, you have to find your calling, and you have to make it all about you. Get a referral to a sports therapist or a conditioning specialist that can design an intelligent plan for your medical condition. Once you do that, find your purpose in the gym, and then go after it because it makes you a happier and healthier person.
There is a way to get "huge" and be in top cardiovascular condition: eat right, train right and be realistic. Getting into shape takes time. It takes hard work. If you're consistent, you'll get there naturally and safely.
You're twenty years old, and your ego is strong. Don't let your desire to prove yourself send you to an early grave. Get solid medical advice, and then follow that advice. I you and anyone else who may be in your spot to do the same. Respect your body and treat it well.
Here's to your health. Good luck.
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