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Fast Fat Loss Guide

Use these tips and tricks to accelerate your fat loss and get leaner quicker than ever before.

fast fat loss guide

Most people, if they’re being honest with themselves, can identify obvious reasons for being softer than they’d like to be: too much fast food, sporadic training habits, a wicked sweet tooth. And then there are those individuals seemingly doing everything right and still not seeing a ripped physique in the mirror – emphasis on seemingly. If you’re not ripped, there’s probably one or more reasons. It’s just a matter of identifying them. Below are a handful of culprits that might just be holding you back from burning body fat at a higher clip and making those abs pop. Address these issues and you could finally make getting ripped a reality.

5 Reasons You’re Not Ripped

Reason #1: Your Diet Is Too Strict

A common problem for people who are dieting is that they drop calories and carbs too low right out of the gate. I get a lot of questions from people asking about going on a keto diet to get ripped. Dropping all your carbs in one fell swoop is the last thing you want to do. Yes, a drastic cut in your carbs can lead to a big drop in body fat, but that drop will be short-lived.

When you diet, your body is constantly fighting to prevent too much fat loss; after all, fat is a great energy reserve for when times get tough and food is no longer plenty. While that may have been a problem for our ancestors, it's not a real issue for most people today.

So no matter how low you drop carbs, and therefore calories, your body will adjust to your new calorie intake. If you’ve dropped most or all of your carbs, what will you drop when your body adjusts to that low-carb intake and no longer is losing body fat? The real key to dieting is to eat as much as you can while still losing body fat. Then, when you reach a plateau, you make a small cut in carbs/calories so that when you plateau again, as you inevitably will, you can make another drop and keep losing body fat.

I usually start clients off on a diet by having them record at least three days of eating on their current meal plan, which I use to calculate their average daily calories. I use this number as the starting calorie intake for the diet, but I alter the macronutrients so that within those calories, they’re consuming 1.0-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight and about 0.5 grams of fat per pound daily. The remaining calories come from carbs. I’ll stick with that diet until fat loss plateaus, at which point I’ll reduce the carbs by about 0.25 grams per pound of body weight. Each time a new fat loss plateau is reached, I’ll simply reduce carbs by another 0.25 grams per pound.

Reason #2: Not Using the Right Cardio

One misconception that’s been perpetuated in bodybuilding circles for decades is that you must do low-intensity cardio to maximize fat burning and spare muscle mass. Yet the research and what we’re now seeing in the gym is pointing in the exact opposite direction. Studies having shown that those who do some form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) lose about twice as much body fat as those doing steady-state (slow and steady) cardio – despite the fact that those doing HIIT spend far less time exercising. Let me repeat that: Less time spent doing cardio, way more fat being burned. The real benefit of HIIT comes from the boost in calories and fat burned when you’re not exercising.

As far as sparing muscle goes, both research and real-world experience show that those performing HIIT either lose no muscle or actually gain it. In fact, consider the muscle mass of a sprinter as compared to a long-distance runner. The high-intensity training the sprinter does helps to build muscle, not sacrifice it. The long-distance runner training at a slow, steady pace has far less muscle mass.

HIIT can take on several forms. Your typical HIIT session template consists of all-out efforts (i.e., sprints) alternated with low-intensity intervals (i.e., active recovery).

Another great form of HIIT is Tabata, which has become hugely popular in recent years among CrossFitters and other serious gym rats. One bout of Tabata involves eight 20-second all-out work intervals alternated with 10 seconds of rest, totaling four minutes. For example, you could do 20 seconds of kettlebell swings followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 cycles, or you could sprint for 20 seconds and walk 10 seconds, again eight times through.

Few people realize that my popular technique cardioacceleration is a form of HIIT. With cardioacceleration, you do around 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise (such as running in place, kettlebell swings, bench step-ups or sprinting) in between all sets of your weight-training workout. For example, if you were doing three sets of bench press, after reaching muscle failure on the first set, you’d go right into 60 seconds of, say, bench step-ups. Then, when you're done with the step-ups, you’d go right into your second set of bench press. Your entire workout would be done in this manner.

Reason #3: Not Lifting Heavy Enough

Another misconception about training for fat loss is that you must use light weight and high reps to get lean. People probably think this due to the fact that higher reps means more work performed, which can help to burn more calories. But it’s not just about how much work you do, but also how the work you do affects your body and your metabolism. Similar to HIIT cardio, research confirms that using heavier loads in your workouts results in a higher metabolic rate post-workout as compared to light weight.

Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education (Oslo) researchers analyzed multiple studies and concluded that training with heavier weights for fewer reps elicits a greater and more sustained rise in resting metabolic rate (following the workout) than training with lighter weights and higher reps. By “heavier weights for fewer reps,” I’m talking about a load that limits you to six reps per set and training to failure. This will boost your metabolic rate more and keep it that way for longer after the workout ends than those 20-rep sets everyone thinks are getting them shredded. The Oslo research confirms this.

Reason #4: Too Much Rest Between Sets

Another thing that may be hampering your fat-loss efforts is all the time you waste in the gym between sets. If getting shredded is your goal, you should be spending as much time as possible moving in the gym, not standing around. Bottom line: Minimize rest time between sets. Researchers from the College of New Jersey discovered that when subjects rested 30 seconds between sets on the bench press they burned a little more than 50% more calories than when they rested three minutes between sets.

I suggest turning your rest time into work time via supersets or cardioacceleration. As discussed above, cardioacceleration will save both time in the gym and further enhance fat loss. Supersets involve doing two exercises back-to-back, either for two different muscle groups (i.e., a chest exercise followed by a back move) or the same one (i.e., two quad exercises).* Research shows that using supersets can increase calorie burn during the workout and by around 35% after it’s over, compared to standard straight sets.

*Side note: If you want to get technical with the late, great Joe Weider’s definitions, doing two exercises for the same muscle group back-to-back is a compound set. But nowadays, it’s widely accepted to consider any pairing of two exercises, regardless of muscle groups involved, a superset.

Reason #5: Too Much Sitting

What you do when you’re not in the gym may be further compromising your fat-loss efforts, not to mention your health. Research from Australia found that out of more than 2,000 subjects who exercised vigorously for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours per week, those who watched more than 40 minutes of television per day had higher waist circumference, blood pressure and blood glucose levels than those who watched fewer than 40 minutes.

The researchers theorized that when you sit for prolonged periods of time, your body’s ability to burn fat is severely compromised. This was shown by University of Missouri (Columbia) researchers in both animals and humans with their discovery that prolonged sitting severely blunted the activity of enzymes involved in fat burning, particularly lipoprotein lipase.

Other research also supports a link between the amount of time spent sitting during the day and body-fat levels, as well as negative health implications. A 2012 meta-analysis of 18 studies by University of Leicester researchers found that those sitting for extended periods throughout the day, even if they exercised regularly, had a significantly greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and death. A more recent meta-analysis by scientists at the Toronto Rehab, University Health Network (UHN) and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences analyzed 47 studies on sedentary behavior and reported that regardless of exercise habits, sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of disease and early death.  

The take-home here is simple: Follow my 30/60 Rule to avoid a fat-burning slump by staying active throughout the day. If you sit for long periods at work, try getting up and stretching or walking to the fridge or water cooler at least every 30 minutes or so, for at least 60 seconds. Do the same if you’re sitting at home in front of the TV or computer. When you’re shopping or running errands, park far away from store entrances to increase total walking distance. Even better, walk or bike on your errands when possible instead of driving. Avoid elevators and escalators and take the stairs whenever you can.

Seizing all of these opportunities for physical activity can add up to a lot of extra activity, which can keep your fat-burning engines primed and your health optimized. At that point, you won’t need to look for reasons you’re not ripped… because you’ll be ripped!


Supporting Research

Trapp, E.G., et al. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Apr;32(4):684-91.

Tremblay, A., et a. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8.

King, J. W. A comparison of the effects of interval training vs. continuous training on weight loss and body composition in obese pre-menopausal women (thesis). East Tennessee State University, 2001.

Altena, T. S., et al. Effects of continuous and intermittent exercise on postprandial lipemia. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise (5cSuppl), 2003.

Boutcher, S. H. et al. The effect of high intensity intermittent exercise training on autonomic response of premenopausal women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 39(5 suppl):S165, 2007.

Gorostiaga, E. M., et al. Uniqueness of interval and continuous training at the same maintained exercise intensity. European Journal of Applied Physiology 63(2):101-107, 1991.

Meuret, J. R., et al. A comparison of the effects of continuous aerobic, intermittent aerobic, and resistance exercise on resting metabolic rate at 12 and 21 hours post-exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 39(5 suppl):S247, 2007.

Sijie, T,. et al. High intensity interval exercise training in overweight young women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012 Jun;52(3):255-62.

Talanian, J. L., et al. Exercise training increases sarcolemmal and mitochondrial fatty acid transport proteins in human skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab IN press, 2010.

Talanian, J. L., et al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Physiology 102(4):1439-1447, 2007.

Trapp, E. G. and Boutcher, S. Metabolic response of trained and untrained women during high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Dec;293(6):R2370-5.

Treuth, M. S., et al. Effects of exercise intensity on 24-h energy expenditure and substrate oxidation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 28(9):1138-1143, 1996.

Hoshino, D,. et al. High-intensity interval training increases intrinsic rates of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation in rat red and white skeletal muscle. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2013 Mar;38(3):326-33.

Babraj, J. A., et al. Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males. BMC Endocr Disord. 2009 Jan 28;9:3.

Mirela, V., et al. Continuous versus intermittent aerobic exercise in the treatment of obesity. 6th European Sports Medicine Congress, 2009.

Tabata I, et al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30.

Tabata I, et al. Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Mar;29(3):390-5.

Borsheim, E. and Bahr, H. Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33(14):1037-1060, 2003.

Falvo, et al. Effect of loading and rest interval manipulation on mean oxygen consumption during the bench-press exercise. National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, 2005.

Healy, G. N., et al. Television time and continuous metabolic risk in physically active adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Apr;40(4):639-45.   

Hamilton, M. T., et al. Role of low energy expenditure and sitting in obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes 56(11):2655-2667, 2007.

Rosenkranz, R. R., et al. Active lifestyles related to excellent self-rated health and quality of life: cross sectional findings from 194,545 participants in The 45 and Up Study. BMC Public Health, 2013; 13 (1): 1071

Wilmot, E. G., et al. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia, 2012; 55 (11): 2895

Biswas, A., et al. Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2015.

5 Ways to Burn Fat Today

Getting shredded is a long-term process; it doesn't happen overnight. However, you can certainly start burning fat immediately – like today – by adding some simple strategies to your routine, on top of an otherwise prudent diet and consistent training program. Below are a few strategies that scientific research has linked to fat loss, either directly or indirectly. Adopt these habits (if you haven't already) and your 4-pack may turn into a 6-pack faster than you expected.

1. Eat Eggs for Breakfast

From a nutrition standpoint, there's no better way to start your day than with whole eggs. The cholesterol in eggs helps synthesize testosterone, which will help burn fat indirectly by promoting gains in lean muscle. The fat in the yolks also provide much-needed energy to your muscle cells and aren't typically stored as body fat. Three to four whole eggs for breakfast should suffice.

2. Grab Some Grapefruit

Perhaps you've heard of the grapefruit diet. Although I don't suggest you live on this citrus fruit alone, it can nonetheless help you shed body fat. A study from the Scripps Clinic (San Diego) reported that subjects eating half a grapefruit or 8 ounces of grapefruit juice three times a day while maintaining their normal diet lost an average of four pounds over a 12-week span, with some individuals losing more than 10 pounds without even dieting. The researchers reported that the effect is likely due to grapefruit's ability to reduce insulin levels, as they discovered in the subjects consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice. Try adding half a grapefruit to a few of your meals – I suggest breakfast, lunch and pre-workout.

3. Lift Heavy

Common gym-speak says light weight and high reps is better for burning calories and fat than going heavy. Not necessarily. Studies have shown that training with heavy weight (doing sets of around six reps) will keep your metabolism higher and your testosterone levels elevated for longer after the workout, both of which will result in greater fat-burning potential.

4. Eat Fish for Dinner

The healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon and trout can help promote fat loss. One study showed that individuals who ate fish on a daily basis dropped more weight than did occasional fish eaters.

5. Have a Side of Broccoli

This vegetable is nutrient dense and high in fiber, both of which will aid your fat-loss efforts by making you feel full and curbing your appetite for junk foods that could derail your results. Broccoli is also high in calcium, which many studies have shown is linked to weight loss, not to mention vitamin C, another potential fat-burner. So place a pile of broccoli on your dinner plate next to your fish.


Vander Wal, J. S., et al. Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6):510-5.

Fujioka, K., et al. The effects of grapefruit on weight and insulin resistance: relationship to the metabolic syndrome. J Med Food. 2006 Spring;9(1):49-54.

Borsheim, E. and Bahr, H. Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33(14):1037-1060, 2003.

Controlling Food Cravings

One of the hardest things about dieting is controlling your cravings.

While I am a firm believer in scheduled cheat days, the real problem with caving in to your cravings is when it's not a scheduled cheat meal. Whether it's a cold ice cream sundae or a hot slice of pizza, when cravings strike, they are tough to combat. And cravings can be even tougher when you are also stressed out over work, or finances, or your relationship. All too often the stressed out dieter finds himself scarfing down not just one slice of pizza, but a whole pie.

Now science knows why stress increases your likelihood to binge. And I know how science can help you prevent binging!

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center placed mice in stressful situations. Basically that meant putting mice in a cage with more dominant males that "bullied" them. When the mice were exposed to this stressful situation they had higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that increases hunger. This caused the mice to preferentially eat more fatty food.

So what does this mean for you? After all, you're not a mouse who's being bullied. But I bet that many of you have bosses who put a lot of stress on you. Then there's paying the bills, keeping your significant other happy, or even just the commute back and forth to work every day. All these things cause stress. And that stress can increase your ghrelin levels, making you crave more fatty, carb-heavy foods. When you are feeling stressed out and get the urge to binge on your favorite donuts or cheesecake, make a whey protein shake, or eggs, instead. Both whey and eggs have been shown in research studies to lower ghrelin levels and decrease hunger and food intake. But of course, if you are already doing what I recommend – starting the day with a whey shake, having eggs as your second breakfast, having whey before, during and after workouts, as well as having whey as a snack between meals, then you are already blunting your ghrelin levels and probably find that you rarely have such cravings.


Chuang, J. C., et al. Ghrelin mediates stress-induced food-reward behavior in mice. J Clin Invest. 2011 Jul 1;121(7):2684-92.

Drink Water for Fat Loss

I'm sure you've read this advice before – to lose weight it's important to drink plenty of water. And as skeptical as you may have been regarding this advice, it is absolutely 100% correct! I'll be even more specific when it comes to drinking water for fat loss: Drink two cups of cold water before every meal.

This trick has been shown to aid fat loss through two different mechanisms. The first is the more obvious – it can make you fuller before meals and help you eat less. And this is not just folklore, but is actually backed up by real science. Virginia Tech researchers had two groups of 24 subjects follow a low calorie diet for 12 weeks. One group drank 500 mL (about 2 cups) of water prior to their meals and the other group did not drink before meals. They reported that those who drank the water before meals, not only ate less food, but they dropped almost 50% more weight than the group not drinking before meals.

Water Boosts Your Metabolic Rate

German researchers reported that subjects drinking 500 mL of cold water on an empty stomach boosted metabolic rate by 30%. The researchers repeated the experiment in a later study and found similar results. They also looked into the mechanism involved. It appears to be due to a boost in norepinephrine levels, which is a neurotransmitter/hormone that raises metabolic rate and fat burning. They theorized that if a person drank 2 cups of cold water before breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a year, they'd burn 17,400 extra calories, which translates into a little more than 5 pounds of body fat lost. And that's without dieting! So imagine the benefit on fat loss when combined with a fat loss diet, especially one of mine where you are eating far more than three meals per day.

So when it comes to getting lean, remember to drink 2 cups of cold water between meals to eat less food at meals and to boost your metabolic rate in an effort to burn more calories at rest. And be sure to get in a total of 1-1.5 gallons of water every day. Staying hydrated is not only important for your health, but research also shows that it helps athletes maintain better strength and endurance, as well as brain function.


Supporting Research

Dennis, E. A., et al. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7.

Boschmann, M., et al. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 88(2):6015-19.

Boschmann, M., et al. Water drinking induces thermogenesis through osmosensitive mechanisms. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Aug;92(8):3334-7.

Schoffstall JE, et al. Effects of dehydration and rehydration on the one-repetition maximum bench press of weight-trained males. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2001 Feb;15(1):102-8.

Judelson, D. A., et al. Effect of hydration state on strength, power, and resistance exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Oct;39(10):1817-24.

Insulin Guide

You may notice that I talk a lot about the hormone insulin. Years ago, insulin was only discussed in regards to diabetes, as it's the hormone that drives glucose into cells, such as muscle cells. But insulin is so much more than a hormone that controls glucose. Insulin is highly anabolic, which means it's critical for building muscle. But insulin also has a dark side, as it can increase fat storage. The fact is that you need to spike insulin to optimally recover from workouts and grow, yet you also need to blunt it to stay lean. Make sure you know all the facts about insulin and how to use it and avoid it for creating a muscular yet lean physique. My Insulin Guide will teach you how.

Getting to Know Insulin

Insulin is actually a protein. Yet unlike the proteins you think of, which are the building blocks of muscle, this is a functional protein, much like growth hormone. Like all other protein, insulin is a chain of amino acids strung together, but the way this protein chain is folded makes it act as a signaling mechanism.

Insulin is produced by and released from the pancreas when you eat carbs or protein or both. (Note: People with type I diabetes have inadequate insulin production and release). From the pancreas it enters the bloodstream and travels to various tissues, one of those tissues being muscle. The muscle fibers (or cells) are lined with insulin receptors, which are similar to a docking station. Once the insulin molecule docks onto the receptor, it signals the muscle cell to open up “gates” in the muscle that allow glucose, amino acids and creatine to enter the muscles. This is one reason why insulin is important for bodybuilders.

When insulin docks onto the muscle cells, it also instigates biochemical reactions in the muscle that increase protein synthesis, the building of muscle from the amino acids that are entering the muscle cells. This is the second reason why insulin is so crucial to gym rats. In addition, insulin also decreases muscle breakdown, which further promotes muscle growth. (Note: People with type II diabetes do in fact produce enough insulin; however, their insulin is not effective at opening the cell gates to let nutrients like glucose and amino acids into the cells).

So if insulin is so important for building muscle, how can it also be detrimental to bodybuilders (not to mention non-bodybuilders)? Answer: Because insulin not only builds up muscle cells, but fat cells too. When insulin is released from the pancreas, it signals the body that it has just been fed. Since the body is always trying to spare energy, it halts the burning of stored fat for energy in favor of using the nutrients that have just been ingested. In addition to muscle cells, insulin also works on fat cells, where it increases the uptake of glucose and fats. This causes the body to store more body fat.

Another reason that having high insulin levels can hurt you has to do with energy, or lack thereof. When insulin levels spike, it clears out the majority of the glucose in the blood (by pushing it into muscle and fat cells). This causes blood glucose levels to severely dip, a condition known as hypoglycemia. When this occurs, your energy levels crash, and so do you. Not only is this bad for your energy, but it’s bad for your physique. When your energy crashes your hunger soars, causing you to overeat, especially on carbs.

In addition to increasing nutrient uptake and muscle growth, as well as body fat growth, insulin has a couple other, lesser known, functions in the body. Insulin causes the muscles of the blood vessels to relax, which causes the blood vessels to dilate and allow greater blood flow to the muscles. By increasing blood flow, insulin can get more nutrients like glucose and amino acids to the muscles. This is one reason why bodybuilders pound simple carbs on contest day. Not only does the corresponding spike in insulin drive the carbs into the muscles to keep them full, but it also boosts vascularity.

Insulin may also play a role in aging. Research has discovered that when insulin levels are maintained at a low level, animals live about 50% longer. Although the precise mechanism for this anti-aging effect is undetermined, it’s believed the signaling that insulin causes in cells makes them less healthy over time, which decreases overall longevity. Therefore, keeping insulin levels low results in less insulin signaling within cells, resulting in healthier cells and a longer life.

How to Rule Insulin

Since insulin has a good and bad side, it’s key for bodybuilders to know how to use insulin to their advantage (gaining muscle) while avoiding its effects on fat gain. Follow these six rules and you’ll be good to go:

Insulin Rule #1: Know the Glycemic Index (GI)

The types of carbs you eat can make or break your ability to rule insulin. Carbs can be categorized into two basic categories: 1) high glycemic index (GI) carbs and 2) low GI carbs. The glycemic index refers to how fast the carbs in the food end up as glucose in your bloodstream. High GI foods are those that pass rapidly through your digestive system (i.e. fast-digesting) and into your bloodstream. Because these types of carbs get into your bloodstream so quickly they drive up blood glucose levels and this causes insulin to spike in order to utilize the glucose. Low GI foods are those that pass more slowly through the digestive system (i.e. slow digesting) and slowly enter the bloodstream. This keeps insulin levels low.

Insulin Rule #2: Know Your Carbs

Typically, simple sugars such as table sugar (sucrose) are high GI carbs, while most complex carbs such as sweet potatoes are low GI carbs. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, fruit is high in the sugar fructose, yet most fruits are very low GI carbs. The reason for this is twofold. For one, most fruits are high in fiber, which somewhat slows down the digestion. Also, the sugar fructose can not be used by he muscles for fuel. It must first be converted into glucose by the liver. This process takes time to complete, keeping most fruits in the low GI category. Exceptions to this are cantaloupes, dates, and watermelon, which tend to be higher GI fruits than their counterparts. On the other side of the coin, white potatoes are complex carbs, yet they are digested very rapidly and deliver their glucose into the bloodstream quickly, making them a high GI complex carb. The same can be said of white bread and most white rice. See my list below of high GI and low GI carbs.

Insulin Rule #3: Aim Low on the Glycemic Index (Most of the Time)

At almost every meal of the day you want to focus on low GI carbs, if any. This will keep insulin levels low, thereby helping to maintain energy levels throughout the day, as well as fat burning. This is not just theory based on what we know are insulin's functions in the body, but this has been shown in several clinical studies. One of the most critical times to go with low GI carbs is right before workouts. For years bodybuilders went with high GI carbs before workouts, reasoning that they needed fast energy. The problem with this thinking is that they got exactly that, fast energy that quickly ended before the workout, killing their intensity before the workout was over. In addition, they were halting fat burning during workouts. If you consume carbs before a workout, be sure to go with 20-40 grams of low GI carbs within 30 minutes before workouts. Of course, that's along with 20 grams of protein powder.

Insulin Rule #4: Know When to Aim High

While you want to observe Rule #3, there are two times of day when high GI carbs may rule rule. If mass gaining is your goal, the first time is within minutes of waking. When you wake you have just endured a solid 6-8 hours of fasting. That has caused your muscle and liver glycogen (the storage form of carbs in the body) to drop. This drop in glycogen signals your body to tear down muscle tissue for fuel. So you are waking in a muscle-wasting state. Taking in about 20-40 grams of fast-digesting carbs as soon as you get out of bed will boost insulin and quickly restock your glycogen levels and stop the muscle onslaught. I recommend fruit in the morning, as it offers other benefits such as antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals. And while higher GI fruits may be quickest, even low GI fruits are good.

The main reason fruits are low GI is fructose, which needs to go to the liver. But once it gets to the liver it signals the body to stop breaking down muscle. And be sure to take those carbs with 20-40 grams of fast-digesting protein, such as whey, which will restore the muscle lost during the night. If you are trying to maximize fat loss, you may want to skip the carb altogether in the morning. Yes, you are waking in a catabolic state but you are also waking in a fat-burning state. Your body also has to burn more fat due to the lower glycogen levels. Getting in a protein shake will help to stop some of the muscle breakdown without halting too much of the fat burning.

Whether your goal is mass gaining or fat loss, the other time to take in high GI or fast-digesting carbs is within 30 minutes after workouts. Here you'll want to shoot for about 30-80 grams of those carbs along with 40 grams of protein powder. At this time the high GI carbs will spike insulin, which will drive those carbs and amino acids for the protein, as well as creatine (we hope you take creatine) into your muscles. The fast carbs are critical for quickly restocking the muscle glycogen used during the workout. The amino acids will boost muscle growth, as well as further boost insulin. And the creatine, well you should know that that will further boost muscle growth. In addition, the insulin itself signals the muscle to kick start muscle growth processes and halt muscle breakdown.

Insulin Rule #5: Get Help from Protein

As we mentioned above in Rule 4, you'll want to take protein, particularly whey protein, when you take your high GI carbs. This is not only important due to the fact that the amino acids from that protein are used to build muscle. Another reason has to do with the fact that protein, especially whey, helps to further boost insulin levels. Research confirms that when you take high GI carbs along with fast-digesting protein, such as whey, after workouts, insulin levels soar even higher than when just high GI carbs are consumed.

In fact, whey protein has been suggested in a few studies to boost insulin levels as high as high GI carbs. This has caused many people to wonder if they should use whey protein between meals and before workouts because it spikes insulin so much. Will this hinder fat loss? While whey does appear to spike insulin, due mainly to the amount of the branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) leucine that is in whey, it does not appear to hinder fat loss in the long run. In fact, studies show that supplementing with whey, or BCAAs, or just leucine actually aids fat loss. Although leucine may increase insulin release without carbs present there seems to be little fat storage. Plus, this seems to increase insulin sensitivity, which is a good thing as it allows the muscles to take up more carbs.

Additionally, the leucine, or BCAAs, or whey protein blunt hunger so you eat less in the long run. So should you worry about whey protein spiking insulin? Not really. However, if you get to a point where you are having trouble dropping those last few pounds of fat on your stubborn areas, consider using casein protein, particularly micellar casein, which is a quality milk protein that does not spike insulin levels the way whey does, in the morning and before workouts, and any other time of day when you normally have a whey shake between meals. This can help to get you the quality protein you need, but keep your insulin levels low, helping to keep you in an optimal state of fat burning so you can encourage those trouble spots to let go of their fat. Of course, as I always suggest combine both whey and casein post-workout to maximize muscle growth.

Insulin Rule #6: Use Insulin Mimetics

There are also supplements that enhance insulin's effects at the muscle cells and/or mimic insulin's action at the muscle cells, which can help post-workout to get more out of insulin. These include alpha lipoic acid (ALA), and Cinnulin-PF. ALA is a potent antioxidant that enhances insulin's actions at the muscle cell. Cinnulin-PF is a trademarked water-soluble cinnamon extract. The active ingredient in this cinnamon extract, hydroxychalcone, mimics the effects of insulin at the muscle cells. Immediately after workouts consider stacking 300-500 mg of ALA and 100-250 mg of Cinnulin-PF with your post-workout carbs and protein. This will enhance insulin's actions for better recovery and growth after workouts.

Common High GI (i.e. Fast) and Low GI (i.e. Slow) Foods

Low High
Most fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, etc.) Post JYM Fast Carbs, Table sugar, Sugary cereals (Froot Loops, Frosted Oatmeal, Flakes, Lucky Charms, etc:)
Whole-grain/wheat bread Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes
Rye bread White bread/plain bagel
Sourdough bread Regular pasta (semolina)
Whole-wheat pasta White potatoes
Sweet potatoes Sports drinks (Gatorade)
Wheat germ Angel food cake
Most 100% fruit juice Regular soda
Beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.) Pixy Stix, gummy bears
Quinoa Couscous
Most waxy maizes Vitargo Dextrose

If You Have a Dog, Don't Miss Out on This Workout

No, I'm not a spokesman for ASPCA. However, my family did adopt a Jack Russell/fox terrier mix puppy that was in need of a good home. She was seven months old and found close to death on the street and brought back to health by a vet in my neighborhood.

The good news us that today she is doing very well and is a wonderful addition to our family and to my workout program. This type of terrier has a lot of energy, so she needs frequent runs. And that's the nice thing about the responsibility of having a dog. It forces you to get cardio every single day. I take her out on at least 3-6 10-minute runs every single day. Usually I do these runs high-intensity interval training (HIIT)-style by running for about 1 minute and walking for about 30 seconds. But that's not critical. Getting in short, multiple bouts of cardio throughout the day is the real key for these 4 reasons:

1) Breaking up cardio into several short sessions.

Throughout the day can be more beneficial than doing one longer session for fat loss. One study reported that when subjects performed three 10-minute bouts of running separated by 20-minute rest periods, they reported the total workout was easier than when they ran at the same intensity for 30 minutes. The intermittent cardio even allowed them to burn a little more fat than the continuous cardio. Intermittent cardio like this has also been shown to boost the calories you burn after the workout (EPOC) higher than the same amount of cardio done continuously.

2) It keeps fat burning enzymes turned on.

As I've said before, research has discovered that one problem with our sedentary lifestyle is that when you are sitting, such as working on a computer or watching television, enzymes in your body responsible for burning fat turn off. In other words, the more you sit the less fat you burn. In fact, research from Australia found that out of over 2000 subjects who exercised vigorously for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week, those who watched more than 40 minutes of television per day had higher waist circumference, blood pressure and blood glucose levels than those watching less than 40 minutes.

The researchers theorize that the reason for this may be due to the fact that when you sit for prolonged periods of time your body's ability to burn fat is severely compromised. This was shown by University of Missouri-Columbia researchers in both animals and humans with their discovery that prolonged sitting severely blunted the activity of enzymes involved in fat burning. That's why I recommend that those who have a desk job or sit for several hours at a time, get up and walk to the water cooler, go to the bathroom, or just stretch, every 30-60 minutes.

It's also a good reason to do some short (5-10 minutes) but frequent (every 2-3 hours) bouts of cardio throughout the day. By getting up and taking a 10-minute walk or doing some HIIT keeps your fat burning enzymes turned on so that you are maximizing fat burning all day long.

3) Keeps your metabolic rate turned up.

Getting in short but frequent bouts of cardio throughout the day also helps you to keep your metabolism turned up throughout the day. After every workout, your body is in an energy deficit. That's because after exercise your body, particularly your muscles and nervous system, need to recover. Recovery involves refueling muscles and nerves and rebuilding muscle proteins that were broken down during exercise. This recovery process requires fuel, so your body burns more calories and fat for a while after the workout. Short but frequent bouts of cardio helps you to keep your calorie and fat burning turned up all day long.

Unless you're a long distance runner, the thought of walking or running for 30 minutes straight or longer likely ranks up there on your list of "most boring activities to do" with watching paint dry. At least it is on my list. By doing short bouts of cardio several times a day, the task does not seem so daunting and is over before boredom sets in.


Supporting Research

Altena, T. S., et al. Single sessions of intermittent and continuous exercise and postprandial lipemia. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Aug;36(8):1364-71.

Almuzaini, K. S., et al. Effects of split exercise sessions on excess postexercise oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate. Can J Appl Physiol. 1998 Oct;23(5):433-43.

Hamilton, M. T., et al. Role of low energy expenditure and sitting in obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes 56(11):2655-2667, 2007.

Healy, G. N., et al. Television time and continuous metabolic risk in physically active adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Apr;40(4):639-45.

Kaminsky, L. A., et al. Effect of split exercise sessions on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Br J Sports Med. 1990 Jun;24(2):95-8.

Run, Don’t Walk, for Fat Loss

There is some debate still going around in labs and gyms alike over whether you burn more calorie when you run a mile versus when you walk a mile, or if you burn the same number of calories regardless of whether you run or walk a mile. Convention had it that since it's the same distance, it doesn't matter whether you run it or walk it, you burn the same number of calories since total work is the same. Running should burn more calories per minute, but since it takes fewer minutes to cover a mile when you run it versus when you walk it, it all evens out in the end.

Yet convention apparently has it all wrong, according to new research from California State University, San Bernardino.

The Cal State researchers set out to determine this once and for all. They measured the amount of calories subjects burned when they walked one mile at 3.2 miles per hour and when that ran one mile at a 6 miles per hour. They reported in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that the subjects burned almost 30% more calories when they ran one mile than when they walked the mile. They also burned over 50% more calories at rest after the one-mile run was over as compared to at rest after the one-mile walk.

If you're still doing the good ol' slow and steady cardio for 30-60 minutes or longer in order to burn off body fat, it's time to give that up and step up the intensity. Your best bet for getting lean (losing body fat) is to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Bottom line: When it comes to cardio, remember that stepping up your pace can help you burn more calories in less time as well as more calories long after the workout is over.


Wilkin, L. D., et al. Energy expenditure comparison between walking and running in average fitness individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(4):1039-1044, 2012.

Sprint the Fat Off

As you likely know by now, I'm a firm believer in the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for shedding body fat.

HIIT involves alternating between high intensity cardio, such as fast running for one minute, and low-intensity cardio, such as slow walking for 30 seconds. Doing HIIT like this for 15-20 minutes per day can burn off more body fat than slow and steady jogging for twice as long.

Now new research from the University of Western Ontario suggest that you can burn off body fat with even less than 15 minutes of HIIT cardio! The Canadian research team had male and female subjects follow one of two cardio programs for six weeks. One group of subjects ran slow and steady for 30-60 minutes three times per week. The other group did four to six 30-second sprints with a 4-minute rest period between sprints three times per week. That's basically HIIT with an extended rest period between the high-intensity exercise.

They reported in a 2011 issue of the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that the group doing the sprint intervals lost more than twice as much body fat as the slow and steady group despite the fact that they only did 2-3 minutes of total cardio exercise per day and just 6-9 minutes per week! The sprint interval group also gained over one pound of muscle. So this type of cardio not only burns off body fat, but even builds muscle.

Jim's Take-Home Point

I know: It sounds too good to be true! But give it a try for yourself. I suggest you try doing six 30-second sprints about 3-5 times per week. You can rest the full 4 minutes if you feel you need to. But if you want to shorten your time, you can reduce the rest periods to one or two minutes. This is a great way to burn off body fat in minimal time and not lose muscle mass... you may even gain some, especially on your legs and calves.


Macpherson, R. E. K., et al. Run sprint interval training improves aerobic performance but not maximal cardiac output. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 43(1):115-122, 2011.

Boxing Workouts for Fat Loss

One of my favorite forms of cardio involves beating the crap out of a heavy bag, or BOB, or other fighting work like sparring, working the pads, even shadow boxing.

I typically incorporate it in my HIIT training, or Power HIIT, or cardioacceleration. Or you can even just get in a full-out boxing or martial arts, or MMA workout as a great way to train your cardiovascular system and melt off some fat. I'm sure I don't need to convince you of how effective this form of cardio can be, but a recent study looked into it.

Researchers from the University of Montreal measured the heart rate of subjects following a typical boxing workout that involved common boxing drills, such as sparring, pad work, and heavy bag work. They reported in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research that the boxing drills increased the subjects' heart rate up to about 85% of their maximum heart rate.

Jim's Take-Home Point

Getting your heart rate up to 85% of your max heart rate is the perfect heart rate for intense steady-state cardio work. If you use these boxing drills as HIIT, you will be able to bring your heart rate up even higher by keeping the intensity up during the short intervals. Either way you do it, and regardless of the style, any fight training is a great way to get in your cardio, and research supports that.

So if you're the type who gets easily bored with typical cardio, consider throwing in some fight training into your mix. It will keep you from getting bored, will pass the time quickly, and will teach you a skill that might just come in handy. After you all, you never know when you're going to have to knock someone out for making fun of your Pixy Stix!


Arseneau, E., et al. VO2 Requirements of boxing exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25(2):348-359, 2011.

Using Training Variables to Torch Fat and Feel the Burn

When it comes to burning body fat, diet and cardio are definitely key. Yet how you train with weights can also have a huge impact on the amount of body fat you drop.

There are four training variables in particular you can manipulate to increase the amount of fat you burn when lifting weights. If you incorporate these variables properly, you'll have a training program that simultaneously burns fat while building lean muscle and strength. Below you'll find my "Feel The Burn" workout program, which will maximize your body's fat-torching potential. But first, here are the five "burn variables."

Burn Variable #1: Exercise Selection

Research suggests that using multi-joint, free-weight exercises such as squats, bench press, shoulder press and bent-over rows maximizes the number of calories burned as compared to machine exercises or single-joint isolation moves. This is likely due to the fact that multi-joint exercises utilize more muscle groups – aka, assistance and stabilizer muscles that assist and support the prime movers (for example, the triceps, shoulders and even the back muscles in a bench press). The more muscles you're using, the more calories you're burning. In fact, one study found that when subjects did the barbell squat, they burned 50% more calories than when they did the leg press machine. That's why I've included several free weight multi-joint exercises in the below workout plan.

Aside from multi-joint, free-weight exercises, when in doubt choose a standing exercise instead of a seated one – for example, a standing shoulder press instead of a seated press. One study out of Brazil found that subjects performing a standing barbell curl showed a 10% increase in heart rate compared to individuals doing seated preacher curls. Extrapolating this study a bit is reasonable: A higher heart rate can be associated with greater calorie burning.

To drive the point home further, another study (this one presented at the National Strength and Conditioning Association's annual meeting in 2005) showed that subjects burned roughly 50% more calories when doing barbells squats than when doing leg presses. For more insight on standing versus seated exercises, read the section below.

Does this mean every exercise you do has to be standing? Of course not. There are some great seated and even lying exercises that I highly recommend doing (some of which I included in the below program). The point is, be aware of exercises that can be done both seated and standing (for example, dumbbell curls and shoulder presses) and opt for standing when you're looking for the greatest fat-burning effect.

Burn Variable #2: Amount of Weight Used

Light weight and high reps is best for burning fat and getting lean, right? Well, this is partly true. Using light weight and high reps will burn more calories during the workout. College of New Jersey researchers found that when subjects used a weight that allowed them to complete 10 reps on the bench press, they burned about 10% more calories than when they used a weight that limited them to 5 reps. The more reps you do, the more calories you burn.

On the flip side, several studies have shown that while using heavier weight for fewer reps burns fewer calories during the workout, it burns more calories when the workout is over and you're going about the rest of your day. In fact, research has shown that when you train with heavy weights that limit you to 6 reps per set, the boost in your metabolic rate for two days after the workout is more than double the boost you get when you work out with light weights that allow you to complete 12 reps per set.

So what do you do: Lift heavy or go light? The answer is... BOTH! That's why the below Feel the Burn program uses heavy weight for fewer reps on some exercises and very light for very high reps on others. This provides the best of both worlds.

Burn Variable #3: Rep Speed

Research has shown that doing reps in a fast, explosive manner can increase the number of calories you burn by more than 10% as compared to doing reps in a slow, controlled manner. Plus, fast rep exercises have been shown to better boost metabolic rate after a workout is over. In the below workouts, I have you starting each major muscle group with explosive-rep training, such as power push-ups for chest and band shoulder presses, to reap the fat-burning benefits of fast reps. For all band exercises, you'll perform reps as fast and explosive as possible.

Burn Variable #4: Rest Periods

Research from researchers at the College of New Jersey has discovered that rest periods between sets has more effect on calories burned during a weight workout than the number of reps.

To test the role that reps played on calorie burn, the scientists had 8 males perform 5 sets of bench presses completing 5 or 10 reps. To test the role that rest periods between sets played, they had them complete each workout using 30 seconds of rest between sets or 3 minutes of rest between sets. The number of calories burned was calculated by having the subjects connected to a metabolic cart during the workout and for 30 minutes after.

The scientists discovered that regardless of the number of reps performed, the lifters burned more than 50% greater calories when they rested just 30 seconds between sets as compared to 3 minutes. Doing ten reps per set only burned about 7% more calories during the workout as compared to doing 5 reps per set. However, this was negligible because when they did 5 reps per set they burned 6% more calories during the 30 minutes after the workout as compared to when they did 10 reps per set.

So if getting lean is top priority for you, you don't have to give up your strength. After all, training heavy burns more calories after the workout. And research shows that this greater calorie burn can last up to two days! So you can still train heavy and burn more calories in the gym. Just keep your rest periods down below 1 minute. Yes, this little rest will affect your strength somewhat on successive sets, but it's better than giving up all your strength by sticking with 20 rep sets.

And this is just dealing with straight sets. Another strategy to use for keeping rest periods under 30 seconds is supersetting. Supersets involve doing two exercises back-to-back without resting in between. Researchers from Syracuse University had male subjects perform a chest, back, biceps, triceps, quads and hamstrings workout that consisted of either supersets or straight sets with one minute of rest between sets. They reported that when the men did the superset workout, they burned 35% more calories per minute during the workout and they burned 35% more total calories during the hour after the workout was over. In the Feel the Burn workout, I use supersets for each major muscle group and have you resting just 30 seconds on the straight sets that involve light weight.

Feel The Burn Workout

Follow this workout program for 4-6 weeks. And since you can't train like a pro and eat like a pig to lose body fat, don't forget to follow a good diet while following this plan. A great straightforward approach to eating for sustained fat loss can be found in my Dieting 101 steps. And if you're interested in intermittent fasting (my preferred style of eating), check out my recently released Intermittent Fasting Carb Cycle Diet (IFCC).

Do all four workouts consecutively over four days, and rest on the fifth day. Then start over on the sixth day and continue in this fashion.

Download this Workout


Supporting Research

Crewther, B. T., et al. The effects of two equal-volume training protocols upon strength, body composition and salivary hormones in male rugby union players. Biol. Sport 33: 111-116, 2016.

Souza Oliveria, A. and Goncalves, M. Positioning during resistance elbow flexor exercise affects electromyographic activity, heart rate, and perceived exertion. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(3):854-862, 2009.

Falvo, et al. Effect of loading and rest interval manipulation on mean oxygen consumption during the bench-press exercise. National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, 2005.

Tower, D. E., et al. National Strength and Conditioning Associations Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, 2005.

Take a Stand to Burn More Fat

For most people the goal of building more muscle mass and strength comes along with burning more body fat. The good news is that you can employ a few simple tricks to enhance the fat burning benefit of your weight training. I covered a number of these techniques, such as how to manipulate rest periods and rep ranges, as well as make the best exercise selections, in the sections above. 

When it comes to exercise selection, another simple trick you can use to aid fat burning is to incorporate a number of standing exercises versus seated or lying exercises.

For example, barbell curls versus preacher curls, or squats versus leg presses. It should make sense to anyone as to why standing exercises would help you burn more fat than seated exercises. This is due to the fact that you utilize more muscle fibers when standing than you do when seated. Using the barbell curl as an example, when performing biceps curls standing, you utilize the majority of your lower-body muscles. Although they are not involved in the actual curling of the weight, they are contracting to hold your body up as you work against the barbell.

When you do curls seated on a bench, most of those lower-body muscles are no longer required. And if you do a seated exercise like preacher curls, where your upper body is supported on the bench, you don't even require much use of your abs and lower back muscles, as well as your deeper core muscles. The more muscle fibers used to perform an exercise, the more fuel you burn and hence the more calories you burn. And that goes not only for during the workout, but the rest of the day long after the workout is over.

While such a concept is pretty much common sense, it is always nice to see the real results when you test those concepts in the lab.

Researchers from Brazil actually compared the standing barbell curl to the seated preacher curl. Although they did not measure calories burned during the exercises, they did report that the standing curl increased the subjects' heart rate by about 10% more than when they did preacher curls. And a higher heart rate is associated with a higher caloric burn. In fact, one study presented at the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Annual Meeting, reported that doing barbell squats burned about 50% more calories than when subjects did the leg press.

You likely are already using a number of standing exercises in your training programs.

For example, most of you already use standing barbell curls, squats, However, there are a few places where you could include a few more. Chest might seem to pose an impossible challenge since the majority of chest exercises are done lying on a flat, incline, or decline bench. But the cable crossover station allows you to take your chest exercises to your feet with a variety of cable crossover exercises and even cable chest presses, as seen in the videos below:

And while the push up is not done standing up, being on all fours like that will burn even more calories. Consider adding push-ups at the end of your chest workouts or superset them with other chest moves.

With shoulders you likely do lateral raises and upright rows standing, yet when it comes to the shoulder press almost everyone takes a seat.

Whether you do them with dumbbells or a barbell, or even cables, consider trying them standing. The push press also makes a great way to add more power to your shoulder presses and involve more lower body for an even bigger calorie burn. Watch my video on the push press below:

Watch my video on doing cable shoulder presses below:

With back, the bent-over barbell row is the only exercise that keeps you on your feet.

Pulldowns have you locked down in your seat. But you can get up with pulldowns by doing standing pulldowns, as popularized in my Shortcut To Size, a.k.a. Micro Muscle program. You can also do cable rows while standing, to not only work your lats, but your core as well.

For biceps, the standing barbell curl, as well as dumbbell curls and hammer curls are all great standing options.

But you can even try taking concentration curls to your feet by doing then standing and bent over from the hips. This version was popularized by Arnold back in the day. There's also my behind-the-back cable curl, as seen below:

With triceps you can even try doing dumbbell overhead triceps extensions on your feet.

Or at least do them with the cable using my method found in the video below:

And you can even do forearm exercises on your feet. 

Sure the barbell wrist curl and barbell reverse wrist curl are the most popular and effective forearm exercises out there and they are typically done while sitting on a bench. However, you can try standing reverse wrist curls. To do these, hold a barbell with a shoulder-width, overhand grip and your arms extended straight down so that the bar is in front of your upper thighs. Bring the bar out a few inches away from your legs so that your arms make about a 30-degree angle with your torso.

Contract your forearm extensors to extend your wrists back, lifting the bar as high as possible. Hold the top position for a second and then lower the bar until your wrists are straight again. And to do regular wrist curls standing, try behind-the-back wrist curls, which will also help you hit the forearm flexor muscles from a different angle than you're used to. Watch the video below to see how to do behind-the-back wrist curls:

And even abs can be taken to your feet. Examples are standing crunches, band roundhouse elbows and my modified oblique cable crunch, as seen in the videos below:

The bottom line here is to consider adding more standing exercises to your training.

Not only will it help you burn off more body fat, but it will also help you to target your muscles from a different angle, which can help produce more muscle growth. I am not suggesting that you replace all your seated or lying exercises with standing versions. But you should consider adding one or two standing versions for each upper-body muscle group you train.


Souza Oliveria, A. and Goncalves, M. Positioning during resistance elbow flexor exercise affects electromyographic activity, heart rate, and perceived exertion. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(3):854-862, 2009.

Tower, D. E., et al. National Strength and Conditioning Associations Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, 2005.

More Muscle, Less Fat

There's no doubting the fact that the more muscle you build the easier it is to get lean.

No, I'm not saying that everyone with a lot of muscle mass is shredded. However, if the same person gains 20 pounds of muscle, it is generally easier for them to get lean than before they built that extra muscle. For decades it was assumed that this was due to the fact that muscle burns more calories than an equivalent amount of body fat. And while that is true, the difference is not significant enough to really make a huge difference in fat loss.

While there are many reasons why more muscle means less fat, one plausible mechanisms has to do with the hormone leptin.

Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that increases metabolic rate and decreases hunger. So you burn more calories yet consume fewer. Most people would assume that the leaner you get the more leptin you would release. Yet a recent 12-week study from Spain combining weight lifting and aerobic exercise found that as you lose body fat your leptin levels decrease. This seems counterintuitive, or at least counterproductive to continued fat loss. However, an earlier study from the same Spanish researchers shows why muscle growth is so important for continued fat loss. And it also shows why combining weight lifting with cardio is the best way to keep fat loss going as compared to cardio alone.

The Spanish researchers reported that in the dominant arm of male pro tennis players, which had 15% more muscle mass than the opposite arm, they also had higher levels of leptin receptors.

Jim's Take-Home Point

Having more leptin receptors means that bigger muscles would have a higher sensitivity to leptin. This means that you likely would get a bigger spike in metabolic rate despite having lower levels of leptin. And this may be one of the reasons why building bigger muscles can make getting leaner all the easier. It also highlights the fact that the best way to lose body fat and to continue losing body fat over the long term is with a program that combines weight training and cardio. I can't tell you how many times people contact me and ask, "If I want to focus on fat loss should I just do cardio and then lift weights after I lose the fat, or is it OK to also lift weights while trying to lose fat?" My answer is of course that you definitely want to do both for the best fat loss. And this research shows one reason why lifting weights and doing cardio is superior for fat loss than just doing cardio alone. Since cardio doesn't build muscle, but will decrease body fat, it may lower leptin levels, but without an increase in muscle size, may not increase leptin sensitivity enough to offset the lower leptin levels.


Olmedillas, H., et al. Training, leptin receptors and SOCS3 in human muscle. Int J Sports Med. 2011 May;32(5):319-26.

Olmedillas, H., et al. Muscle hypertrophy and increased expression of leptin receptors in the musculus triceps brachii of the dominant arm in professional tennis players. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Mar;108(4):749-58.


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