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[ Q ] I was wondering: is it possible that doing squats will give you love handles? I ask because I have been doing squats and have noticed that my waist is getting much bigger - so much so that it's ruining my proportion. Is it the squats, or my diet? Thanks!
[ A ] No, it is not possible that squats can give you love handles, but they can cause an expansion of your midsection because of the incredible amount of pressure that your midsection bears when powering out of the bottom of the movement. I suppose that, over time, you could get a "thick waist." To avoid this I recommend lowering your poundages and doing more repetitions with a lighter weight - this may help.
There are also other factors that may be at work here.
First, it's not possible that squats can give you love handles, because love handles are not the product of exercise - they're the result of excess body fat mass that has accumulated around your midsection. So while squats don't give you love handles, it's well-known that a bad diet, overeating or a lack of activity all does. Look to your diet and cardio regimen for potential answers.
It's also possible that, like most bodybuilders, you're simply not drinking enough
water, causing excess water retention. Many bodybuilders suffer from water retention - and this water retention can make even the leanest bodybuilder look fat. Try drinking at least 1 gallon of water daily - this will help your fluid distribution, increase your digestive efficiency and eliminate excess water.
Finally, it may be that, for a number of reasons, that you're holding waste in your system - something not uncommon for bodybuilders who frequently experience digestive sluggishness and discomfort because of high protein intake. Try eating yogurt, supplementing with enzymes or increasing your fiber and water intake. This should help clear any waste out of your system.
If, once you do all of these things, you still find that your stomach is extended, I suggest holding off the squats for a while, doing stick twists and seeing the response.
[ Q ] I love your articles - they're very informative. I am currently in a gaining phase and am trying to gain as much lean muscle mass as possible. I eat 5-6 times every day, including the use of protein shakes.
I am getting a lot of gas - farting - and I find it disturbing. Do you think this is because of the amount of food that I am eating? And, are there any supplements that can help?
[ A ] Your problem is common. In fact, it's quite well-know that bodybuilders have more gas than the average person. And, the reason for this is simple: it does have to do with what you're eating - but not the amount of the food you're eating - the
Gas or, as you put it, farting, is the result of bacterial action. Bacteria in your gut are responsible for breaking down the foods you eat, and the production of gas is a waste product. This is especially true for protein digestion - the digestion of proteins is a major cause of the gas experienced by bodybuilders.
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But here's the truth: it can't be helped. The fact is, you need protein to maintain existing muscle mass and build more muscle from your
hard training - so you can't simply stop eating protein, or else you'll get no results. The answer lies with
Digestive enzymes are especially important for bodybuilders, and I have for years advocated their use, simply because they aide with digestion, help prevent discomfort that results from a sluggish and overtaxed digestive system, and they help speed the delivery of nutrients to muscle tissue by increasing gut efficiency.
They also help eliminate solid waste - another bonus. Some people are less tolerant to milk proteins - the ones found in whey protein powder - than others; this is especially true for people from Asia and India. By using an enzyme supplement, you may find that you're better able to digest the protein that you're getting from food and supplements, and that your gas situation is solved.
Of course, it is possible also that you're getting gas because you're using a poorly made supplement. While this was more common in the early years when supplements were a new concept, poorly made products do still, on occasion, hit the market.
Primarily, any gas problems related to poor products is the result of cheap ingredients being used, or the manufacturer skimping out on an expensive production step that would have made the product you're using easier to digest. However, if you're using a product from a well-known company, you can rule out this possibility and go the enzyme route that I mentioned. Let me know how this works out for you!
[ Q ] Hi Clayton,
First, I want to thank you for providing up-to-date, impartial and accurate information every month - it's great to have someone you can trust give you the correct information.
I'm writing about ECA - I am 5'5" and weigh 165lbs, with a body fat percentage of 17%. I train three times per week with weights and I do cardio twice weekly. What is the correct dose for each ingredient in the ECA stack? And, how many times per day should I take ECA?
[ A ] While ECA can be incredibly effective when used correctly, it is not appropriate for you in your situation. You told me that you currently have a body fat percentage of 17% - this is pretty high. And, you told me that you do cardio only twice weekly.
| What Is ECA?
The ECA stack is a combination used as a stimulant and in weight loss. ECA is an acronym for ephedrine, caffeine, and Aspirin.
You didn't mention anything about your diet but, based on the results of this
training protocol, I'm going to make an educated guess that your
diet is making you fat. So, based on what you told me alone, here is what I recommend: fix your diet, and increase your cardio exercise.
When it comes to your diet, it's important to understand that PRECISON is key. Simply, if you don't feed your body enough, you starve it, and if you feed your body too much, you overburden it with more food to process than necessary, and you make yourself fat.
By determining exactly what you need at any given time, you can give your body exactly what it needs, when it needs it, and get the best possible results without any negatives, like body fat gain.
To get your diet under control, start by recording exactly what you're eating every day - and when - for a week. Then, with this data, go and start doing the math - calculate your total
calorie intake every day, and for the week, and also determine how many grams of
carbohydrates you're taking in on a daily and weekly basis. It's my guess that you're going to be very surprised.
When you have your total calorie intake number in front of you, reduce it - removing calories first from simple sugars and animal fats. Cut out the sugar and start eating lean meats if possible.
Also, I recommend increasing your fiber intake by dramatically increasing the amount of vegetables that you eat on a daily basis - this will not only help you cut calories, but it will make your digestive system more efficient and turn you into a fat burning machine like nothing else - people really don't get just how powerful vegetables are for getting you ripped up.
It's also important to understand that
cardio must be done with precision to be effective. Next time you're in the gym, take a look around and notice that most people don't really think about their cardio sessions - instead they just jump on a machine, peddle or cycle or walk or run. All action - no brain. For these people, their goal is to go as hard as possible for as long as possible. Well, their approach is wrong.
The fact is, like diet and weight training, your cardio has to be precise to be effective. In my situation, I find that doing interval cardio for 30 minutes on an elliptical machine, burning 300 calories is a good starting point - after which time I hop on a treadmill for 15 minutes to do 15 minutes of walking, at an incline of 1.0 and a speed of 3.0. In total, then, I burn around 350-370 calories per session - done 4 days per week, 2 days on, one day off, repeated.
The important thing with cardio is to understand that precision and consistency are key. The fact is, twice a week is simply not enough stimulus to keep your metabolism high for long enough to burn the kind of calories you need to burn body fat.
Once you do successive cardio sessions - sessions done one after the other - you'll really start to appreciate the power of cardio to burn fat and make you lean. Give it a try and forget about the ECA for now - it only really works if you're already somewhat lean.
[ Q ] I have a question: Even though I consume an adequate number of calories, I'm naturally underweight - I wonder what will happen if I try to artificially gain weight through weight training? My question is: Does artificially built muscle mass need to be maintained by regular exercise or will it stay permanently for as long as adequate calories are provided?
[ A ] Thanks for your question - you're not alone. It's common for people who have difficulty gaining weight or muscle to think that they are naturally underweight. Naturally, I am always sceptical of these claims, because people often conclude that they are naturally underweight by default, - if everything they've tried hasn't worked.
The only problem with this line of reasoning - i.e. I've tried everything and nothing works, so I'm naturally underweight - is that people never try everything possible, and they often don't correctly employ the methods they do try.
While I do acknowledge that some people have higher
metabolisms than others, I don't believe in people being naturally underweight. In fact, being underweight is a sign of starvation - that you're not giving your body enough of what it needs to stay the same and grow.
- Skinny Guy's Guide To Gaining Weight! - By Vince DelMonte
- Skinny Guy's Guide To Muscle-Building Nutrition. - By Vince DelMonte
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Given the right eating plan, even people with high metabolisms are able to maintain their weight and build muscle - i.e. gain weight. Therefore, if someone is underweight, it's because they're not eating enough, and this stems from a lack of knowledge - not a universal destiny to be underweight foisted off on you by bad genetics.
Following from this, it's obvious to me that you're simply not eating enough - so increase your food intake.
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Because you didn't give me any information about your diet, I can only make the general recommendations to increase your protein and fat intake, while moderately increasing your carbohydrate intake. Use a high quality multivitamin and drink plenty of water. If you're still not gaining weight - i.e. muscle - eat more protein, fat and carbs, in that order.
Now, when it comes to muscle mass, it's important to know that there is no such thing as "artificially built" muscle mass - unless you're talking about muscular implant surgery - like the kind that occurs when bodybuilders get calf implants and the like.
Otherwise, the muscle that you build is the result of natural bodily processes set into motion by training stimulus and adequate nutrient supply - even if you take steroids.
An increase in your
muscle mass does require a sustained increase in the amount of calories that you eat. To build muscle you have to increase your food intake, and to maintain newly built muscle, you have to maintain a higher calorie intake - otherwise your body simply sheds the "metabolically expensive" muscle tissue to ensure the functioning of survival organs like your brain and heart.
Given that muscle growth is an anticipatory adaptation to exercise stimulus - i.e. your body grows in order to be able to handle stimulus that it believes will occur in the future - you must continue to subject your muscle mass to stimulus in order to keep it.
Muscle is functional - everything your body does is based on a functional energy economy, with energy resources going to maintaining your body structures that are used - and adaptation occurs in specific ways according to how you use your body.
If you change the way you use your body, your body will change and adapt. And, if you stop using your muscles, your body will begin the atrophy process, sensing that they're no longer needed in their current configuration. So eat more, exercise, and keep at it!
[ Q ] I was reading some of your articles on Bodybuilding.com and found them very helpful. Thank you.
If I do cardio 6x per week in the mornings and weight training 4x per week in the evening, will this inhibit my training? Am I overdoing the cardio? I typically do it on an empty stomach then eat about 45 minutes later.
Thank you in advance,
[ A ] It's a common misconception that you have to do cardio on an empty stomach to get the best results. Well, it's simply not true. The fact is, by doing cardio on a truly empty stomach, you are putting your muscle mass at a severe risk of loss. And, far from burning a ton of fat, you'll burn 60% muscle and only 40% fat for every pound of "weight" that you lose.
Why? It's simple: when your stomach is empty - as is usually the case when you wake up in the morning - your body is in a negative nitrogen balance, and a catabolic state, characterized by elevated glucagon and cortisol levels. Together, these two hormones break down muscle tissue for amino acids - amino acids that are sent to your liver and used to make the glucose you need to power your brain and essential survival organs.
Not surprisingly, muscle tissue breakdown puts you in an inflamed state, and this brings me to the answer to your question: doing cardio, for this reason, can, in fact, hurt your resistance training because your muscles will be in a state of constant inflammation.
To do cardio and get the absolute best possible results, I recommend taking one or two servings of whey protein about 15 minutes before your cardio, along with some B-vitamins. This will help give you energy and will help protect your muscles from intra-exercise muscle loss. And, you'll also notice something else: you'll sweat like never before and the fat will literally melt off of your body every single cardio session you do.
Just be sure to use as much oxygen per breath as possible by inhaling deeply with every breath and controlling your breathing - this will send your mitochondria into overdrive!
Aside from the way in which you do your
cardio, I also have concerns about the frequency of your cardio training. You're simply doing too much, and the caloric burn and stress load from your 6 cardio sessions per week coupled with the calorie burn and stress load from your 4 weight training sessions per week simply hammers your body too hard - you're not giving yourself enough time to get out of an inflamed state. As a result, you're getting sub-par results.
When it comes to cardio, I recommend doing a two days on and one day off split. With this split, and by cleaning up my diet, I was able to drop 8% body fat in 10 weeks - all the while my body weight stayed the same. Give it a try and see how it works for you - my guess is that you'll do better in your weight training and in your cardio sessions. Good luck!
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