Autor: markyoung

~ 28/02/11

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A couple weeks back when I wrote my Ultimate Guide to Physique Assessment I came across the following question:

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“Mark, I’m curious to see how you’re going to lay this out because in Part 1 you talk about the limits to the continued pursuit of more muscle … and the switch in priority to focus more on bringing up weak points potentially, focusing on shape, bringing the body as a whole into more balance/proportion, etc.  Given muscle grows or shrinks, how does one bring up a lagging bodypart without adding more muscle?”

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I responded in the next part of the series by reminding people that I didn’t say that muscle mass stops.  I mentioned that advanced trainees can still build muscle, but suggested is that we must accept that it will be much slower and that we should put our efforts at further development where they are most needed instead of distributing them randomly about the body with no concern for aesthetic balance.

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However, what I didn’t address was the idea that the body can break down muscle into its constituent amino acids and use them elsewhere.  After chatting with my colleague Brad Schoenfeld this week I think he said it best.

“The body can (and does) break down tissue proteins into the constituent amino acids and then use these aminos in various capacities (can be for energy via gluconeogenic or ketogenic aminos, can be for use in other tissues, can become part of the free amino pool, etc). If you don’t train an “overdeveloped muscle” it will begin to atrophy and its proteins will be broken down. Technically any area of the body could use the amino acids for tissue building. So yes, it could “redistribute” to the underdeveloped muscle assuming it is provided with a growth stimulus.”

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So there you have the full explanation.  We can develop “new” muscle or possibly redistribute the old.  In the end, I believe the focus on shape is more important than size for the advanced trainee.

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What do you think?

Autor: markyoung

~ 24/02/11

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I’ve recently had several discussions on Facebook about the fact that I think the single biggest factor for weight loss is calorie balance.  In other words, I believe that if you want to lose weight you need to simply consume less calories than you burn.

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In fact, this is the ONLY way you can lose weight unless the laws of thermodynamics have changed since I went to school.  So if we want to lose weight we need to either consume less or exercise more to create a calorie deficit.  (Regular readers will know that I think exercise isn’t a great tool for weight loss…but I digress)

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At the same time, there is mounting evidence that if you are in a calorie deficit for a while there are hormonal changes that result in a weight loss plateau.  And most people will know that if you increase calories in a person like this you can actually jump start their weight loss again.

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The problem with this is that some people take this to mean that the calorie balance equation is flawed and that the “calories in, calories out” equation doesn’t apply.  However, the key point that I want to address is not to suggest that the equation doesn’t apply, but that calorie balance is not static for any individual.

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Any changes that happen as a result of undereating, overeating, stress, lack of sleep, supplements, and anything else you can think are not making the equation invalid, but are altering the “calories out” side of the equation in either a favorable or unfavorable direction.  In other words, the body “learns” and adapts to a stimulus, but the equation still applies.  If you are trying to lose weight and you hit a plateau it isn’t because the equation doesn’t work.  It is because one side of the equation has changed and you need to adjust accordingly.

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Anyone who suggests that you can lose weight without worrying about calorie balance is either selling something or totally naive.  More to the point, I’ve yet to see evidence from a randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of research) where a group of people lost any measurable amount of weight while not in a calorie deficit.  If someone can present this I’ll gladly reconsider…but I think I’ll be waiting for a LONG time.

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The other argument that I often encounter is that the equation primarily applies to WEIGHT loss and not FAT loss.  Many are quick to point out that you don’t need need to lose weight to improve body composition, but that you can lose fat and gain musle while staying at the same body weight.  In this case I do agree that you don’t necessarily need to be in a calorie eficit to see improvements.

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However, this is most often the case with novice trainees and those returning from a layoff from training.  After a few years of training though, the degree to which you can simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle is more limited.  After 2-3 years of training you simply aren’t going to be losing 15 pounds of fat and gaining the same amount of muscle (without drugs).  If this is you and you aren’t as lean as you want to be, you are probably going to have to lose some weight to achieve this look.  You do want it to be fat weight…but the number on the scale is going to have to go down.

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To do this…calorie balance is THE most important factor regardless of what diet you’re on.  If you’re not in a deficit you’re pretty much wasting your time.

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Autor: markyoung

~ 22/02/11

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This week I have some exciting new content to share, but today I just HAVE to share a few things I’ve read recently because they are just THAT good…or at least thought provoking.

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Exercise Impacts Calories In More Than Calories Out

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The first think I’d like to share is an article by Dr. Arya Sharma on whether exercise actually makes a difference in the “calories out” side of the weight loss equation.  I’ve written often that I don’t think the calories burned from exercise make up a huge component of weight loss.  In other words, it is probably something else causing the weight change for those whom exercise has an effect.  You can read his post HERE.

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Inner versus Outer Core BS

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The second thing I’d like to share is from my buddy Bret Contreras who did an incredible interview with Jurdan Mendigutxia (Yeah…I know…I had to cut and paste his name from Bret’s site) on the fallacies surrounding the inner and outer core and what that means for our training.  This guy quotes research like Rain Man and he’s super smart.  If you’ve bought into the idea that the “inner core” should come on and symmetrically stabilize the spine (like I had) prior to movement you might be in for a shock.  You can check out this interview HERE.

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How to Make Money Online

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I know a lot of fitness professionals read this blog so it would be unfair of me not to share that Craig Ballantyne has been throwing down a TON of free information on his new blog on how to make money online in the fitness biz.  That said, I know a lot of fitness pros come down hard on fitness marketers, but the fact is that these guy are masters at their craft and if you’re stupid enough to ignore what they’re saying because someone has bashed them you are missing out.  HERE is a link to a great post by Craig on how to make $100K in 12 Months to get you started.

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No BS Approach to Fitness

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Lastly, I wanted to let you all know to check out my boy JC Deen’s new site design…and, of couse, his absolute no BS approach towards looking good naked.  If you are fed up with this whole “clean eating” phenomenon and like straight up fitness info you can check out his site HERE.

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Check ‘em out and enjoy!

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Post tags:

Autor: markyoung

~ 17/02/11

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During my series on physique assessment last week I mentioned that one of the key elements of creating a vastly more aesthetically appealing body is to get your waist as close as possible to an ideal size (which I defined as approximately 45% of your height).

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I later received an email asking if I believed it was possible to preferentially target abdominal fat as was mentioned in THIS ARTICLE.

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Truth be told, I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Lowery and generally appreciate his articles so this is not an intended slam on him personally or T-Nation for posting the article.  However, I’m just not convinced at this point that the main study supporting his article was strong enough to suggest that this is really an effective strategy.

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Let’s Take a Look

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Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans?

Stallknecht B, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;292(2):E394-9. Epub 2006 Sep 19

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Background

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There is evidence that exercise induced fat loss is higher in visceral fat (around the organs) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (fat below the skin) in the abdominal region than in the femoral (thigh) region.  This suggests that regional fat tissue is regulated independently and that spot reduction may be possible.

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*Note that the aforementioned belief belongs to the authors not me*

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Numerous studies have examined spot reduction with conflicting results.

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Purpose

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To determine if spot lipolysis (local fat breakdown) in subcutaneous fat occurs to a greater degree overlying contracting muscle than resting muscle.

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Methods

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10 male subjects performed one legged knee extension ergometer for 30 minutes at 25% of their maximum work capacity.  They then switched legs and performed 120 minutes at 55% of their max work capacity.  Finally, they switched back to the first leg and performed another 30 minutes of exercise at 85% of their max work capacity.

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During this time they had microdialysis catheters inserted in the adipose tissue of each thigh to measure blood flow and fat breakdown.

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Results

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In general, exercise increased adipose tissue blood flow in both the working and resting leg.  However, in the 25% and 55% work capacity conditions, the blood flow to the adipose tissue closest to the working muscle was higher than the resting leg.

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Subcutaneous adipose tissue lipolysis (fat breakdown below the skin) was greater for working leg in the 25% and 85% capacity groups, but not in the 55% capacity group.  In other words, the fat breakdwn for both the exercising leg and the resting leg was the same in the group working at 55% of their work capacity.

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My Thoughts

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One major point that I want to highlight is that Dr. Lowery correctly pointed out that exercise does increase body temperature and temperature does increase adipose tissue blood flow.  However, based on this study, I’m not sure the blood flow and lipolysis are even directly releated..

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In the 25 and 55% conditions blood flow was higher for the exercising leg, but adipose tissue lipolysis was greater in the exercising leg in only the 25 and 85% conditions.  In other words, the conditions that caused the greatest increases in blood flow didn’t match the conditions with the greatest amount of breakdown. 

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As a result, I tend to believe temperature and blood flow may not be the primary mediators of local fat breakdown.  So even IF local fat breakdown can be effected, taking measures to increase local temperature and blood flow probably aren’t going to help.

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And, as the authors of the study astutely pointed out, any broken down fat stores may be replaced or even supercompensated (more fat stored there) when exercise is complete.  This is certainly a possible scenario and highlights the importance of not using acute variables (like lipolysis) as anything more than hypothesis generating tools for the possibility of chronic changes (like local fat loss).

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But most importantly, even if the fat wasn’t replaced in that area, the maximum calculation for the amount of fat lost in the area at the end of 30 minutes of 25% or 85% exercise is 2.1 milligrams of triglyerceride per 100 grams of fat in that area.  Doing some rough calculations in my head I think this would amount to NOT VERY DAMN MUCH!!!

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As I’ve blogged before, I just don’t think the evidence for spot reduction is strong enough to warrant any of the methods suggested to achieve it.  And even if it was statisticaly significant, will it be visually relevant?  Would you really notice these effects in the mirror?  Two milligrams per 100 grams of fat doesn’t seem like it is worth pursuing to me.

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What do you think?

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If you’d like to review studies like this for yourself, check out my product How to Read Fitness Research.

Autor: markyoung

~ 16/02/11

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Yesterday morning when I opened my feed reader I noticed that my colleague Nate Green was giving away something awesome. 

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Nate, if you don’t know him, previously wrote for T-Nation and is now working with John Berardi over at Precision Nutrition.  He’s been featured in the LA Times and Men’s Health and is the author of Built for Show.

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Oh…and he’s only like 15 years old.  Okay…not 15, but he’s young and he’s accomplished more than many do in their entire professional careers and he’s living life on his own terms.

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The sweet deal for you is that today Nate is giving away his 136 page Hero Handbook for free.  Whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat, get out of debt, or just create the life of your dreams and live on your own terms this book has it all.

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Frankly, I downloaded it yesterday morning and read it in one sitting.  The conversational style made it easy to digest, but most importantly Nate breaks down some action steps at the end of each chapter for you to go out and directly apply.

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You can get it HERE for free.  There is no need to purchase anything, no submitting your email, or anything of that sort.  I am also NOT and affiliate for this so I’m not making a cent for recommeding it to you.  I just think it is really worth sharing and you should really check it out.

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So here’s the link again.

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The Hero Handbook <— Go get it!

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