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University of Arkansas Q&A

A full transcript of my 2017 talk and Q&A session at the University of Arkansas.

Busting Strength-Training Myths

I spend a lot of time on social media, not just putting information out there but interacting, and talking, and discussing why this and why that, and why certain myths are just that—really myths. We really know so little about muscle physiology and biochemistry. But we’re learning, and things are changing every day. It’s hard to settle on any real mechanisms—but we can settle on results. So I’ve always been interested in the pursuit of results—not only the results we get the lab, but real-world results we see every day: Faster, stronger, bigger, leaner, feeling better.

For those of you who don’t know my background, as Dr. Kavouras mentioned we did our doctoral studies together, he was in his fourth year when I was in my first year, and so Stavros handed the baton off to me and my colleague Dr. Scheett over here who is the most educated personal assistant. He’s actually my chief scientific officer but since we’re such good friends and we’ve always been close he does a lot of other things for me when I travel.

I grew up very, very interested in exercise. It’s sort of in my blood. My grandfather on my father’s side was a professional boxer. He died before I was born, but my father carried on that passion for fitness and combat sports. So I was always involved in martial arts. Baseball was my team sport. I’m left-handed, so I was a pitcher, first baseman, I threw a no-hitter, all thanks to the exercise training that I was doing at a very young age. At the time I was reading and learning a lot from Muscle & Fitness Magazine. But the way I got into fitness was through my father—I wanted to emulate my dad. He built this amazing homemade gym in our basement, and I would spend time with him there, and he would buy these magazines. And I loved to read as a kid. So I would scour through these magazines, and I started learning about things like muscle fiber type. “Hey, wait a minute there are people studying muscles? There are people in labs looking at how muscle grows stronger?” Not really at the time, but it was sort of getting there.  There really wasn’t an “exercise science” in the early ‘70s when I was a kid. If there was any exercise science it would’ve been the American College of Sports Medicine, and back then it was all about endurance—it was all about running. There was no strength training. Strength training was something that heart patients should avoid. Even athletes—a lot of athletes were told they shouldn’t do strength training for many years.

But Joe Weider—for those of you who don’t know who Joe Weider is, he was a pioneer on strength training, not just in bodybuilding and sports supplementation but really getting the word out about science on strength training. He said back in the ‘50s that there would be a day when every athlete—every human being, whether they were healthy or diseased—would require strength training; a day where strength training would not be some strange pursuit, but would be something that every individual would be doing for their health. This was at a time when there were coaches telling athletes “You don’t wanna get too musclebound. You're going to lose your range of motion if you train." He really pioneered a movement. And that's really where I started learning about science, to get an interest in the science of performance.

So I lifted as a kid, I played baseball, did martial arts, I raced motocross as well. And for all these activities, I used the sports nutrition and exercise training that I was reading in magazines to enhance my performance. I was racing motocross in men’s opens as a 13-year-old kid on a 125cc, for those of you who know anything about motorcycles. A 13-year-old kid on a 125cc, racing grown men. Why? Because I strength trained and followed a proper diet. I was far stronger and more capable than most 13-year-olds because of my nutrition, because of my training.

And what we really find now about nutrition—I don't want to talk to you about my childhood training tonight—is that for those of us who have kids or for those of us who want to have families, nutrition seems to be more critical the younger you are. There are studies—in animals of course, we can't do this in humans—comparing animals: The first group were raised with a very poor diet meeting basically none of their requirements; then they switched them over to a great, perfect diet later on in life. They took other animals and gave them the perfect diet early on, and then they did the opposite—they gave them the bad diet, one neglectful in most of their requirements. What they found was that for the animals who started with the better diet the health consequences that the bad diet would normally cause were not as influential, because they’d had the perfect diet early on. Those who started with a bad diet, even though they switched over, never caught up health-wise to the animals that were given a proper diet in their early stage of development.

Makes sense when you think about it. But what do you see parents feeding their kids? They should be feeding their kids like they're athletes, not just to shut them up or throwing something they're going to eat. They should be feeding their children like athletes. This is the most critical time—not just for their physical growth, but for their mental health, their overall health. Providing those nutrients early on is the most critical time in our lives. I'll shut up about that, though. I tend to go off on these little tangents because there's so much information that we ignore.

That's sort of what my goal is. I was a research fellow at the John B. Pierce Foundation, which is a dual position with the Yale School of Medicine, in the department of cellular and molecular physiology, studying how nutrition and exercise influence genes. This is where everything happens, the level of the gene. And I won the Gatorade Beginning Investigator award, in 2002. I was well set up to go on and do a lot of good research, and I told all my colleagues "Hey, I'm leaving to work for Muscle & Fitness Magazine." They all saw these magazines with bodybuilders, "Huh? Did you lose your marbles?" And I said "No! No no no, this is why I’m in science. This is what got me into science."

I used to write while I was working on my post doc. I would sit and run rats, down in the basement, with my laptop while running the rats for hours and hours. Writing articles. Submitting them. Turning my research and other research into real-world application. "What does this mean? This is happening. This gene is being turned on. There's more protein being produced. What does that mean?" None of my colleagues wanted to say it. Seeing other research scientists, when they ask "Well does that mean that creatine—" "NO we're not saying that you should take creatine, we're just saying that in the study we found..." Nobody wanted to make that leap and say "Yeah, you know what? We probably should be taking creatine. You probably should try this type of diet." Nobody really wanted to do that. And so when I was offered the position of science editor for a group of magazines—Muscle & Fitness, Shape, Men's Fitness, Flex—I saw that as a huge opportunity to take what was going on in the lab, really make sense out of it, and apply it. And so despite all my colleagues at UCONN and Yale thinking I was crazy, it was the best decision I ever made in my life.

So for you students—keep on learning. Never stop learning. That's the first thing. You never know where life is going to take you. A lot of people ask "How did you get to this position? What did you do? How did you plan?" They see my success—for those who don't know me in the fitness world, I have a million followers on Facebook. A lot of people follow my information on Bodybuilding.com. Several million people have done just my Shortcut to Size program alone. So I reach a lot of people, and so people ask "How did you get in that position?" I never stopped learning, and I wasn't afraid to make hypotheses and say "You know what? This study showed this, let's try this. Let's try doing this. And I'm going to start doing it on myself first and see what we get for results."

So I used my body. I'm the first guinea pig in everything I do—every program that I create, every diet, every supplement—I am the first guinea pig. And then when I see something that first worked in the lab, now is working on myself, then I can start getting the individual clients that I may have to try it, and we see what works from there. Then I spread it out to more people, and soon what we call the JYM Army are following the programs, and those tips, that advice, is reaching millions of people. And it's effective, because it's been tested from the ground up. I've been doing this for decades with people from regular Joe Blows to world-class athletes from all different levels—wrestlers, soccer players, field hockey players, ice hockey players, bodybuilders, strength athletes.

That's data to me, versus data in the lab. I’m still working with doctor Kovouras on a study. I'm working with a lot of colleagues, still feeding the research, but to me, you can't design the perfect study. We can only learn so much from research. Those are just snapshots. Taking what we see in the lab and then testing it in the real world, that's really where I run with the science. Because I can understand it from the level of the gene, and am actually in the gym applying it, it creates the perfect way to test real concepts in exercise science and understand them from the mechanism at the level of gene activation all the way to the level of bigger biceps in the gym. That's a critical step. So for the students—how do you do that? How do you get that status? It's in not ever turning down opportunities, and always seeking more opportunity. You can't sit still and expect your teacher to say "You should take this class, this class, this class" as if that’s going to set you up to be a great researcher. You need to be the one out there looking for opportunity. That might not seem like the regular path, but it might be the right path for you.

Like I said, a lot of people thought I was crazy leaving academia to work for a bunch of muscle magazines. They really couldn't understand what I was doing or what the goal was, filling a gap in the way that science gets presented. One of the main goals that I have is to take social media and educate people. And I keep learning to use new tools, new methods, to simply educate.

It's great to sit here in a classroom, but how many people can fit in this classroom? So right now we're on Facebook Live broadcasting to the entire world, and as many people who want to come on here can. I'm also on Instagram live right now, and I do these kinds of live sessions, I do videos, I use photos, I post my own workouts every day so that people can see not only what works—not only theory, not only mechanism—but what's actually working consistently, over time, on a day-to-day basis.

Workout Frequency

So, as far as workout myths go today I really don't have any specific myths that I want to talk about. I've posted a few just to get some thoughts going but I want to talk, I want to discuss with you guys, versus me just lecturing. So I'll start with one and that is "One workout a day is enough for health." Because it's not. What is the ACSM recommendation for exercise, what is it weekly? How many times a week is the minimum? Four? Around Four? Well, I'll say this: Seven times a week isn't even enough for overall health. Research is now showing that if we sit for as little as 30 minutes we start turning off genes that are involved in metabolism. We start burning less fat and storing more fat. Sitting is the worst thing we can do. Absolute worst thing.

How about what time is it right now? We should all stand up right about now. Because I think we've all been sitting for about 30 minutes. The rule that I go with—the 30/60 rule—is meant to help you be more cognizant of your daily physical activity. For every 30 minutes that you're sitting—consecutively, just sitting—you should get up for at least 60 seconds and stand, walk, stretch, do anything for about 60 seconds. And again this is based on the research, so stretch around—I've got some knee issues, so I guess let's do some jumping jacks.

Alright, feel better? It's better than sitting, isn't it? So when I say one workout isn't enough, they find that even when people train, even people who are exercising once a day, those who are sitting the rest of the day? Even if they're athletes—seriously, they're screwed. If all you're doing is training once a day and sitting the rest of the day, that one workout is not enough for your health. Sure, that one workout might be enough for muscle, for staying lean, for performance if you're an athlete. But it's not going to be enough for your health if you're just sitting the rest of the day. You have an office job, you get up in the morning and you drive to work, you sit at your desk, then you drive home and then maybe work out for an hour. That's a lot of sitting. A lot of sitting.

The thing I remind people to consider is "What is a workout?". What is a workout? For an athlete, it's a way to get better. It's an adjunct to their training. It's a way to increase their performance. And a lot of us are doing that too, but for most of us a workout is taking all the physical activity that we used to normally do in the day—that our bodies are designed to do as human beings—and cram it down into this one, little, “Here's my block of physical activity.” That's not how our bodies work. They can't sit all day. It doesn't matter how hard we go for that hour. You could kill yourself for that hour, it's still not going to be enough if you're sitting the rest of the day.

So my 30/60 rule is one of those ways just to be more mindful, for those who aren’t as active. A nice thing for students is you're pretty active. Have a class—okay, maybe it goes even 2 hours, but then you're up, you're moving around. It's sitting—you go to your job on the train or in your car, then you sit at your desk. You might get up a couple times but for the most part, you're really sitting. And then you think about it, you come home and you’re on your computer, or watching TV—you're still sitting. That's great that you trained, even if it was a two-hour workout. That one two-hour workout is not enough for overall health. You really need to be moving all day long. So a little mindfulness goes a long way.

Now, I don't need to be here talking and running at the same time, but in general, you must increase your physical activity, all day. You need to be looking for ways—you need to park farther out, you need to take the stairs. Stop taking advantage of all these conveniences that we have because that's what's forcing us to now work out. Most people shouldn't even need to work out. Most people, for what they want—overall health, lean body—should not have to go to a gym. It should be that the physical activity that they're getting throughout the day—walking places, lifting things, doing—that's what our bodies are designed to do. We're designed to work all day long. I laugh when people say "You know, I'm following your program training an hour a day, six days a week. Am I overtraining?" If you feel like you're overtraining, you're undereating. Because an hour a day for a human body is nothing. It’s absolutely nothing.

Our bodies are designed to get up and work all day long. And then we sleep and we rest, get back up and we work all the next day—that's what the body's designed to do. Today we don't do that. We sit and we sit and we sit and we sit. Even people who know how bad it is, we still sit because it's so convenient, it's just the way that modern life is designed. Most people don't even think about it—at the airport, you hear "Where's the escalator?" There are the stairs right next to me, I'm standing on the escalator wasting a perfect moment to train my legs while I'm carrying a heavy bag—lug the bag up the stairs if you're capable. That's your workout. That's your workout, that mini-workout. That's not your workout for the day, that's the mini-workout right there. You should be looking for ways to make your life harder.

Overtraining vs. over-reaching

Full-Body Training

Exercising once a day is not enough. On that same note, another myth is that you can't or shouldn't train a muscle group every day. “Recovery is important, guys. Everyone knows how important recovery is!” What is recovery? How do you know when you're recovered? In research and studies, we say we're recovered when the muscle can perform the same number of reps as it could prior to that workout, which could take several days. So you need several days before you can train a muscle group again? That's what we used to think. Once we get it—how do we measure what is recovered? That's one of the main questions.

Now we find that when we damage muscle tissue, it gains a protective mechanism. You can't damage it any more. And when you train a damaged muscle group the very next day, what happens to that muscle? Nothing! Nothing. The training doesn't disturb recovering muscle tissue—those muscles don't even get used. In fact, it may be more beneficial to actually exercise when that muscle is sore, because in those muscle fibers that were damaged the cells are basically dormant. They're recovering. You're now using other muscle fibers within that muscle.

I actually train pretty much every muscle group, every single day. Within the last year or so that's what I've been doing. I had four knee surgeries this year. I injured my leg in January. Completely severed the quadriceps tendon, and then severed it again. Got a staph infection from one of the surgeries, had to have an emergency surgery to clean it out, and then had a reaction to something that they put in there to help the infection so I had to have a fourth emergency surgery. That last one was April. So I really have only been walking on this leg since June of this year. I've done zero cardio all of 2017. Zero. I can barely run in place or do jumping jacks. All I've been doing is strength training, mainly upper body. For at least half this year I could not do anything with this leg, so all I was doing was upper body and some left leg strength training.

I'm about 4% body fat. Not because I started dieting after the knee surgery, but I documented the knee surgery on social media. You can see me every day, I gained zero body—I've gotten leaner. I reduced my total calorie expenditure, yet got leaner. How? By training every muscle, every day. I switched over to full body training, targeting each muscle—lower volume than I would normally do in a workout, but every day. And what does that do? It activates genes in every muscle of the body: Metabolic genes, muscle hypertrophy genes. Trust me, if you're not activating genes, you're not getting results.

Let's take a bodybuilder who trains his chest once a week. He goes into the gym and he might do just a chest workout. That's it, 20 sets of chest, and it took him an entire hour but he just did chest. I'm sure he used some shoulders and triceps, but no lower body. So he activated genes in the chest with that. That's great for muscle growth, but now he's not going to activate it again for another week. One way muscle might grow is by more frequent activation, but again we're too afraid to frequently activate it because of recovery. However, recovery doesn't really seem to be an issue when different muscle fibers get used in different workouts. And so, one of my theories is that greater, more frequent activation can help with hypertrophy but more importantly is fat loss.

Think about this: If you're just activating metabolic genes in one muscle of your body, versus activating metabolic genes in every muscle in your body, what's going to have a better effect on fat loss? You want to activate the most amount of muscle so you have more metabolic activation in more tissues in the body, meaning you're basically turning into a fat burning machine. And like I said, it's anecdotal, but I dare you to find one person who's been through four knee surgeries and gotten leaner while building muscle. Do we have a true mechanism we can pinpoint here yet? No. But there's some very strong anecdotal evidence.

Now, I've been posting these daily workouts for free on my social media so that everyone can follow them should they so choose. And what is the number one response I get from people? "I can't believe the fat loss! It's like it melts off me." Yes! You're activating genes in just about every muscle tissue in your body every single day. You're basically turning yourself into a fat burning machine.

Questions, other things you want to cover?

Full body training for fat loss

Daily Grind workout


Question: "So recently there was a competitor in the Olympia, his name is Cedric McMillan, and I was watching one of his training videos leading up to Olympia this year. And this deals with hypertrophy, but he's a believer that stimulating the muscle rather than going to complete failure like extreme and high intensity is better for muscle growth because if you go to extremely high intensities rather than causing the muscle to kind of like adapt and grow it will just cause it like harden up and resist the next time you train. And if you rather stimulate it, like through progressive overload, it's going to adapt and kind of fix itself to handle more weight next time. So he just kind of says that like doing more stimulation versus extremely high-intensity all-out failure reps is better for muscle growth. Is that broscience? Cause if you look at his physique, there's definitely muscle."

It sounds a little broscience, the way it's explained, "the muscle hardens and won't react.” One of the smartest things that I've learned over the years when it comes to training is the motto that "Everything works, and nothing works forever." And that's sort of the real underscoring explanation of periodization, if you will, in a nutshell. Pretty much everything works, but nothing works forever. Adaptation, right? Once you have that, you have to change the stimulus. And you know my programs that I put out there aren't just designed for results, they’re designed to get people thinking.

I like causing controversy, I like people hating me. Saying "It's so stupid doing full body, everybody knows full-body is for beginners." Okay...fine. I love that. One of my most popular programs, Shortcut to Size, is a 12-week program—"shortcut", 12 weeks, it's not short—it's a periodized plan, it uses microcycles. So every week, the rep ranges change. You start 12-15 one week, the next week it's down 8-10, down so on and so on all the way down to 3-5. Then you go right back and start over. This was on Bodybuilding.com, trying to get all the broscience guys to stop doing 8-10 reps every workout. Because that's the sweet spot for muscle growth, right? No! Not forever, it isn’t.

The other smartest thing I learned is when people asked me "What's the best program?" The one you're not doing. The one you're currently not doing is the best program for you. Because you're already doing the one that you're going to stagnate on. It's the same thing when you ask "What's the best chest exercise?" The one that you rarely use. That's the best chest exercise, there is no "one". It's the one that you're not using. You need to change things up. So, for a period of time can you get results by not going to failure? Maybe under the assumption that by not going to failure your recovery is going to be a bit better, so the next workout, instead of being exhausted—biceps being exhausted, say—you'll be able to go a bit heavier. And then you don't go to complete failure that workout, and then the next workout you'll be a bit stronger, and so on. So it should help. Sure, I'll buy it.

I'll buy that there’s “a” mechanism, I'm sure he doesn't have a mechanism that has him “hardening up”. But I'm going to guess that for him the reason that mechanism is working is that he's not—I don't know what his frequency is or training—but that because he's not destroying a muscle group, the next time he goes and works out if it's more frequent he can use a bit more weight, a little bit more overload. Consistent, right? Versus coming in there "Oh my god I'm so strong today", next day "Shit I'm dead." You know, this way he's more consistently hitting it. That's kind of my hypothesis on that. But again, everything works, nothing works forever.

So constantly change it up, and like I said my real goal is to really not just get people results, but I want them to think about it. When they get the results they say "Wait a minute, what was different about this program? Oh! Maybe if I start changing up my reps more frequently, I'll get better results!" Yes. Now take that, and apply it to your own. You know I want people to be their own sort of exercise scientist or to be able to design their own workouts. Because I can't tell you, specifically, what your goals are. You know what your goals are, and if you can then take my advice and tweak it, and use it and add things to make it better for you, that's really my goal. It's not to say "Here just do this workout." Here's this concept: Do the workout, but now when you're done with that workout don't just repeat the workout. If you're going to, think about how you would change that, what would you use from that workout?

Periodization in strength training

Linear periodization boosts strength

Shortcut to Size introduction


With Shortcut to Shred—which is another of mine—what I brought to the bodybuilding world was the concept of cardio in weight training. And when do you do it—"Oh my god, I heard if you do cardio and weight training in the same day you'll lose all your muscle mass." "I heard that you should only do cardio four hours after your weight training because..." No. What did I do? I took cardio and stuffed it right into the workout. So you do a bench press, and then instead of sitting there, you do some bench step-ups for a minute. It's cardioacceleration. I didn't develop it, there's a study on it. They looked at female athletes, and they had them skip rope between weightlifting sets or just sit around. They found that the ones that were jumping reported less muscle pain after the workout. They found they were recovering better in between. And so I said "Hmm. This is 'active recovery'. So, let's put it into a weight training program."

Now, most people think "Hey, that's a great way to combine weights and cardio, really efficient. Not the best thing if you really wanna make strength gains though, right Jim?" Oh no! Actually, what we found was that it's actually so effective as active recovery that people are able to break their PRs on the deadlift, on the bench press, on the squat, while running in between sets. Believe it or not. Now, what happens with Shortcut to Shred is the first two weeks is murder. You go into the bench press and you're dead. Your strength is zapped, it's a huge toll on the body. But once the body as a system adapts to the extra work? About two weeks—for most exercise physiologists we know the body takes somewhere around two weeks for most adaptations to take place—around the two-week mark, people report "Oh my god, my bench press is going up. How is my deadlift going up while I'm running in between? How is that possible?" It's called active recovery. They have more blood flow, you're removing more waste products, you're providing more oxygen to the muscle. It's active recovery. And once the body adapts to the extra work, it can actually enhance your strength gains. Who knew?

I would've told you "BS" until I actually saw it in the gym. And then I put it out there, and several million people have completed the program and, by the thousands and thousands, people have said, "Oh my god, I've broken my PRs while I've gotten to my leanest and I don't even stop during the workout. I thought I'd have to sit there and rest for five minutes doing nothing." No! It's active recovery. So I really like to sort of take all these—we place so many limits on exercise, people are so afraid to look different in the gym. "Oh my god people are gonna think I'm weird if I'm doing step-ups." Really? I think you're weird if you're sitting down in the gym. Why the hell are you sitting in the gym? There should be no sitting! You've got an hour here. An hour. You'd better be using most of that hour because I know the rest of the day you're going to be sitting on your ass. So don't sit on your ass when you're in the gym, right? I think that looks silly.

But people are so afraid to break the norm. Because they're going to look like idiots. "What are you doing? Why are you doing that? You should be resting between your sets on the bench press." I love getting that controversy going, but the way I love doing it is not by saying it "Hey this works, do it!” Try it. Then argue with me after you've tried it. Don't argue with me beforehand about why you don't think it works. There are people who have websites devoted to "Shortcut to Size is the stupidest program in the world." You're debating the fact that millions of people got results? I don't know why you're wasting your time, but people love, LOVE, to debate strength training because we have such rigid beliefs. Such rigid beliefs, and that's why I really love sparking a controversy BUT I don't just say it, I actually show the results. Then let's talk.

Cardioacceleration improves strength and recovery

Shortcut to Shred overview

Active Recovery

Question: "How effective do you think active recovery would be for experienced lifters? Like let's say you were one of the top level powerlifters, do you think they would benefit off of running in place between sets?"

To some degree. But again, when you're talking about moving 1000lbs on the bench press versus going from 220lbs to 240lbs, that's a little different. It's a little different. But I definitely think that some active recovery would be beneficial. I'm not saying they should chuck their dynamic training out the window. Included, an adjunct to their training, would definitely be beneficial. For anyone, particularly strongmen—when you really think about strongman competitors, versus powerlifters—with a strongman, it's not really strength: They're really showing endurance, with insane amounts of mass. They don't just push a truck, and "Oh, okay", they have to pull the freaking truck the entire—that's endurance. It's muscle, strength endurance at its finest. And so particularly someone like a strongman, not just for the strength but because it's what we call strength endurance. Like what you call a push-up, strength endurance more so than long distance endurance, but it's really endurance. But like I said these concepts aren't saying "This is the one way to do it", this is just another thing to consider adding to your training.

Peak Week

Question: "For a strict athlete that maybe lives about ten pounds above their weight class and is going to be doing a two-hour cut into that and then competing immediately afterward, something like a water cut, do you have any recommendations for reloading during that two-hour period?"

I’m actually—this is more for bodybuilding, with fluid cutting and dropping, but I'm actually doing a study with Dr. Kavouras. That's one of the reasons I'm here, to sort of design and look at the way some of my protocols are built for photo shoot prep and whatnot, and we were literally just talking about the way athletes sort of dehydrate. I've worked with a few fighters and whatnot, and one the things I recommend is not actually cutting weight, for obvious reasons, but rather to live at that weight or under. And it's difficult to get there but once you get there and can maintain? It takes a while, takes a few months to get comfortable, for your body to sort of adjust to that weight, but it gets easy to maintain. Then what happens is instead of getting these strength losses from that acute drop, even though you're at a lower weight your strength gains start evening out. So I would seriously consider, if you're competing, to seriously try to live at that weight. And even in some cases, I have athletes live under the weight because then they can eat up as they get closer, and then their strength gains through the roof because they've adapted to the lower weight.

It seems counter-intuitive, you think "Oh you want to live bigger and be stronger when you're training" To some degree, sure, but then you have to make this massive cut, and you know there's no way to avoid any strength losses from that, it affects you. Compare that to living at your weight, your body then adapts to that weight, and I mean it's only a ten-pound difference. You'd be amazed at how strong you'll be at that same weight and then you can even eat up. I would consider that. But if you're cutting, you know we talked about using certain techniques but this is more for a bodybuilder physique, trying to keep fluid in the muscle and out of the extracellular space. But I would advise you to seriously consider living at your competing weight and trying it that way. However, most people love to eat, so. Be careful, obviously, I don't know what protocol you're using to drop water. How are you dropping the water?

Questioner: "I just like stack like 2.5 gallons at the start of the week and then just taper by a half gallon"

Ok, so you don't do any like sauna or garbage bag stuff. So now are you a student here?

Questioner: "Ah no."

Oh, so where do you live?

Questioner: "I live in Fayetteville"

Well, the lab here happens to be one of the world-renowned labs on hydration. You're definitely in the right spot, so you should try to bend Dr. Kavouras's ear a bit. Like I said, we're going to be working on—I'm looking at this but it would also be interesting to look into for wrestlers and powerlifters and whatnot as well. Obviously weightlifters.

Show prep peak week

Cardio Timing

Question: "If you do like 30 minutes to an hour of cardio, and then 30 minutes to an hour of strength training is that still beneficial?"

Oh definitely, yeah.

"In the same way as adding it in like reps?"

Yes. I mean you could argue and tweeze out and study to find which one would be better, and you might get better results from the cardioacceleration because it's a minute, you can go more intense for each one of those minutes versus 30 minutes straight, right? But it doesn't matter at the end of the day as long as you do it. It doesn't matter what time of day—if you did morning and then lifted at night or lifted in the morning, did cardio at night; did cardio before and then immediately went and did your weights, or did weights and immediately followed with cardio—doesn't matter. Just doing it is the main thing. Whenever it's more convenient. The other question I get is, "Does it matter what time of day I train?" Well, we do know that there's a sweet spot for performance, which is afternoon. Somewhere in the 4 pm to 7 pm window seems to be a sweet spot for performance. But when we have people train at that sweet spot, it doesn't really equate to better results than if they trained in the morning. So even though performance tends to be better in the afternoon, it really doesn't matter when you train because your body adapts to your training time, and you're going to get those results and adaptations.

Cardio before or after weights?

Cardio, how often, fasted?

Meal Frequency

Question: "So about protein intake, is it better to get it spaced out throughout the day? Or does it really not matter much so long as you’re hitting your macros?"

I do intermittent fasting, but I also write about getting more frequent protein feedings, every 2-3 hours. Some of the data that's out there has shown that when you take the same amount of protein and give it to weight trained athletes spread out at different rates throughout the day, the net effect is different. One study used 80g of protein in two 40g doses, four 20g doses, and eight 10g doses, and what they found was that when it was broken up into 20g at around every 2-3 hours the net protein balance—not just protein synthesis, because when we look at protein synthesis that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to equate to more protein; that's just protein synthesis there could be higher degradation as well—but we find that net protein balance is higher from those more frequent feedings. However, not when it gets too frequent.

Again, this is a concept of both frequency and bolus, the amount, because as the frequency increased the dosing got smaller because it's the same amount taken throughout the day. And so when it was under 20g it wasn't as effective, even though it was more frequent than the 20g dose. So there seem to be a few things that are important for stimulating or maximizing muscle protein synthesis. And again this is theory. This is all theory, and it changes all the time. But right now, if we take a sort of snapshot of everything we know, it seems that the amount of protein is important—which may be due to leucine content for activating muscle protein synthesis—and then for overall net protein balance it seems to be the frequency that matters, with more frequent being preferred versus less frequent. The other school of thought is that if you get too frequent what happens is you don't really see it, that next feeding doesn't further spike protein synthesis. However we can't just look at protein synthesis, we also have to look at degradation. And there are studies showing that longer breaks between protein feedings equates to higher protein synthesis—which makes sense because the longer you go without a feeding the more degradation you're going to have, so you really need to ramp up protein synthesis to make up for the degradation that you're having from not eating all that time. So that makes sense as well, but it doesn't mean that overall net protein is greater. When we look at data that shows net protein balance, at least it seems to be more beneficial to get protein frequently, around every 2-3 hours.

Again, that's my interpretation of data, you know people who will strongly stand here and say "No, less frequent". And then he says "well I intermittent fast", so I don't eat for 16 hours. I'm not trying to maximize muscle growth, I'm interested in overall lean muscle mass, strength, endurance, performance, health, staying lean. If I were truly trying to maximize muscle growth as a bodybuilder, I wouldn't be intermittent fasting. I don't know a single professional bodybuilder who does intermittent fasting because, like I said, you eat and you synthesize. You starve, you break down. There's no way around it. But that's a constant struggle all day long when it comes to muscle growth. It's synthesis versus breakdown. So you can either fight it through shorter battles throughout the day, or you can fight it by a longer battle where you starve more but then you really gotta eat in that window to fully spike synthesis with a bigger amount of protein, to make up for all the degradation that you experienced. Again, that’s if you're trying to get muscle growth. Either way, you can still grow muscle with intermittent fasting, but like I said it seems that possibly a better solution would be more frequent feeding throughout the day.

Frequent eating for frequent benefits

Eating frequent meals to maximize muscle growth

Warming Up

Question: "What kind of warm-ups do you do, and also what's your thoughts about stretching before and after a workout."

So the question is on warm-ups, what I recommend for warming up and particularly for stretching.  think most people who are exercise scientists understand the difference between static stretching versus the dynamic warm-up. With static, it's the classic stretch and reach, right? What does every personal trainer try to do, "Oh come on, before your workout let's do our stretching. That's good, that'll protect from muscle damage." So again my interpretation of all the data that's been out there is that static stretching appears to be better when it's done after the workout, for the obvious reason that the muscles are warm, and a bit fatigued so they resist less. And when they compared studies looking at stretching done before or after, athletes made better progress with flexibility when the stretching program was done afterward. Now the flip side of that is performance: Power, strength, and even speed with stretching and static stretching in particular, with data showing that if you stretch before you do an explosive move or very heavy lift, you may be placing your body at a detriment, and so you don't really want to do static stretching. However, you want to do some kind of warm-up. So, a dynamic warm-up is typically what I recommend, which is literally the old school arm circles, the kicks, dynamic—that's been found to not cause a detriment in power and strength, but possibly to enhance it. So I recommend doing more dynamic stuff prior, and then static stretching towards the end. As far as specific warm-ups? I don't typically list my warm-ups in my programs. However for a specific warm-up, if you're doing a bench press let’s say, you really don't need a warm-up unless the weight is heavier than say 12 reps. If you can get 12 reps with a weight, those first 4-5 reps on that set are pretty much going to be your warm-up. Because you're progressively getting into it. 12-15 reps you really don't need much of a warm-up. If you were doing something like 3-5, obviously you don't want to jump right into it 3-5. You would need several different warm-up sets—not to failure—to get to that point. But as far as stretching goes, dynamic before, static afterward. And it sort of shows that stretching after not only doesn't cause a detriment in strength it can actually enhance your flexibility.

Stretching before cardio

Stretching for size and strength

Supplementing PT Tests

Question: "So online, this guy wants to know what he should take before a PT test, an Army PT test. Do you think it would be a good thing?"

Sure, before an Army PT test, taking Pre JYM?. I would definitely recommend Pre JYM and Pro JYM prior to the PT test, just like a workout. It's going to enhance endurance, speed, blunt muscle pain.

Creatine and Cramping

Questioner: "Can you also address creatine and cramping?"

What's interesting about creatine and cramping is if you actually look at some of the Greenwood data, it actually shows that creatine in—and I think this was in football, possibly baseball they looked at—creatine not only did not increase or influence any muscle cramps or any muscle injuries but there was actually a reduction in muscle cramps and injuries in the group. So the old muscle cramp myth is busted. It's pretty much the opposite.

Post-Workout Protein

Question: "So you can you touch on post-workout, just how much protein you should shoot for, when you shoot for that by, 30 minutes, 2 hours, doesn't matter just hit your macros?"

Some of the data on recover, Schoenfeld studied—I mean it's not really a study, it's just a review—but they looked at all this literature on recovery and came to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter, there's no real post-workout window. In some cases, it lasts for 48 hours. But then when you really start to look at the data on that anabolic window and how long it lasts, it appears that the more training experience you have the shorter the window. I think it was MacMillan's lab that was doing the data, but they looked at novice lifters when they trained because it's such a huge stimulus on an untrained person, and that anabolic window where food will still boost muscle protein synthesis was elongated. When they look at trained athletes, or even when they re-evaluate people who started on the program at the end of the 12 weeks, that window was already shortened. Meaning the more you train, the shorter your window is. So some of this recommendation that "it doesn't matter, you can eat the next day, you don't have to worry about getting your carbs with protein right after, whenever you do it"—again, that might be based on novice lifters and different in someone who has more training experience.

So I'm a firm believer in recovery. I do a workout, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I've depleted my glycogen. Drinking dextrose not only helps me replenish that—I feel better. Why do I want to feel like shit after my workout? I don't understand why anyone is telling people to not eat properly after a workout, it's so irresponsible. "Don't worry about it" No! We know people recover better when they take their nutrition seriously and one of the easiest ways is to focus it around a workout. People can debate whether beta-alanine and creatine around workouts is effective, but when is the one time you're focusing on your supplements and nutrition? Around workouts. So take it! Are you going to think about it at 12 noon when you're sitting at your desk, "Hey I should take my creatine right now" No! You think about it when you go into the gym, "Hey I should I take my—” That's one of the reasons I recommend taking it is around those workouts. Did that help at all?

13 Things You Didn't Know about Muscle Growth

Post-Workout Carbs

Questioner: "Yeah, the timing and what's the minimum amount of dextrose there."

As far as amount—people go "Tell me what to do. I don't want to do any math, don't give me any bodyweight" so I make things simple. Eat at least a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. People debate whether it's 0.7, 0.9—eat a gram, at least a gram. It's easy to do. I'm 200lbs, so I should be shooting for 200g of protein. Easy, right? So I try to keep recommendations simple. Post-workout, 20-40g of protein, post-workout 20-60g of carbs. The harder you train, the longer you train, the bigger you are, the more you want. The shorter you train, the less intense, the smaller you are, go less in that range. Instead of giving how much, I try to simplify those things. Shoot for 20-30g.

Do you need carbs after a workout?

The importance of Post JYM Fast-Digesting Carbs

Alcohol Consumption

Question: "How about alcohol?"

What's really interesting about alcohol is the testosterone data has shown that if you've taken alcohol prior to or immediately after a workout, the testosterone goes up. But prior general alcohol consumption lowers testosterone, and obviously lower testosterone's going to hinder performance to some degree. So around workouts, interestingly it might actually boost testosterone. And then beer was found to be effective for rehydration post workout as well. Isn't that exciting? But as far as alcohol and overall consumption, will it hurt? I'm Italian, so—my grandfather made wine. Started drinking it when I was young. Alcohol has numerous health benefits as well. I don't see any real issues with alcohol, obviously in moderation, but if someone's following one of my programs I don't tell them "You can have no alcohol". Work it in, you know what I mean? You can work it in.

Moderate alcohol consumption is more than okay if there are no other issues.

Protein Blends vs Whey

Question: "So my question has to do with your supplements, I know you recommend a protein blend. So like with different body types, since I play soccer and want to transition to building more muscle since I've always been cutting for speed, do you recommend packing in more whey or casein for building? Does it depend on body type or is it more universal?"

I think it's more universal. It's hard to really say right now, but what it appears to be—what's interesting is recent thinking was that whey was the only protein you should have. "Casein protein is too slow, it won't provide you any of that spike, so only focus on whey." And then I think Bob Wolf's lab showed some interesting data with milk and casein protein. "Wait a minute, we're getting protein synthesis post-workout?" And then when we combine it with whey we see an interesting play—the reason we thought whey was so critical is because of the way it spikes protein synthesis. It's high in leucine, it's very fast-digesting. It's the soluble portion in milk, yogurt, it's the liquid on top. It's soluble, it's fats, our body digests it, absorbs it almost immediately. Like 30 minutes. That ramps protein synthesis through the roof, so everybody's like "Oh my god, whey protein makes protein synthesis go up! That's the only protein you should be taking." Yeah, but what happens 30 minutes later to that protein spike? It literally drops off the roof. It literally nosedives protein synthesis after you have a bolus of whey. It goes way up and then literally drops way down, so you get this quick little flash of protein synthesis if you're just taking whey.

Then when you look at the whey and casein combined you see that the whey is still critical for shooting up the magnitude of the protein synthesis, but then what the casein does is it allows it to stay elevated for longer. Casein forms these little micelles, like an onion in the digestive tract and the way it's digested is layer by layer by layer. Whereas whey protein is just digested. Doesn't form those micelles that the enzymes have to attack layer by layer. That's why casein lasts so long. Micellar casein is the natural form that is in milk. It will have to be digested for several hours. And so that's the way a blend tends to be more beneficial. Then you talk about adding soy which is a medium digesting protein. We can talk about fast and medium and slow being a nice sort of bridge to maintaining synthesis, and then we can talk about the different properties of those proteins. Soy protein—numerous antioxidants, other benefits that dairy protein can't provide. Dairy protein a far more anabolic form of protein, so a blend tends to be far better for numerous reasons—for the digestibility, the digestion rate, and the amino acid profile, and the other benefits that they provide.

And so finding the perfect blend per the individual is hard to say but right now it appears that for muscle growth you want to be higher on the casein side than the whey. You need the whey—whey is critical—you want whey in there but again whey is just going to give you that quick spike and it's really the other proteins that are—you know I have casein, micellar casein. I haven't used soy because a lot of people are afraid of soy, they see soy on the label and go "Oh my god". So I have egg protein, which is a medium digesting protein and it contains a lot of sulfur-containing amino acids which provide different health benefits to the body that the dairy proteins don't. So you're getting different digestion rate proteins but you're also getting different amino acid profiles.

So I wouldn't worry so much about the exact blend, but I would shoot for at least half and half. You want no more whey than half the blend—you want more casein than the whey, believe it or not. Casein is the more critical player, because you're going to get that spike from the whey and then it's just going to drop right off. You want the casein there to keep that maintained. I have it 40/50 whey to casein because I have the egg. If I didn't have the egg it would just be 50/50, it would be split up 50/50 but because I add the egg I took away the whey because it was less critical than the casein. You want more of the casein. If you want a really easy way to do it, milk is 80% casein, so take a cup or two of milk, especially if you can handle the carbs in your diet, and then put a scoop of whey in it if you wanted. And then you've got whey and casein. So if you want to make it really easy, or you just drink milk too. You can do milk.

Protein blends are better than just whey

Fasted Training

Question: "I wanted to get back to intermittent fasting. After so much time in the military, you wake up first thing in the morning, you work out, you do your run sometimes 10 to 15 miles or that's how far it feels—do you see a negative effect in terms of muscle growth by coming in in a fasted state versus making sure you're taking something beforehand?"

One of the things I tell people who are using intermittent fasting and want muscle growth is to make sure they train in their feeding window. So for example, I eat from 4 pm every day till midnight. So I rarely ever train fasted—I mean I'll be exercising but I'll never really go through a full hardcore workout before 4 o'clock. Sometimes I do, because of my schedule, I have to. Once in a while, not so critical. But if my goal was truly muscle mass, I would want to be training during the feeding window. Because I have more energy, I'll have better recovery. However, when you're used to the fasting—I mean I could go work out during that and I'd be fine. My recovery probably would be less than I need.

The truth about fasted cardio

Fat Intake

Question: "So you said after your surgery you got a lot leaner actually, so what was your calorie count, what kind of deficit—"

My diet didn't really change, because I'd been intermittent fasting for a while, so that stays fairly consistent. I probably do somewhere around 3000 to 3500 calories, that's it for me, somewhere right around there. And then my macros—my protein's around a gram, gram and a half per pound of bodyweight. I'm about 210, so close to 300g of protein per day. And then carbs I manipulate—the carbs are what I play around with. I keep fat, to make it easy, at half a gram per pound of bodyweight. So I'm 200lbs, I shoot for at least 100g of fat a day. And the reason for this is, in particular, I try to keep an even diet of saturated, mono, and polyunsaturated fat. I don't go higher on my polyunsaturated than my saturated or my mono because what the research shows in athletes—and male athletes in particular—is that those who are consuming higher amounts of fat, particularly saturated and monounsaturated, have higher testosterone levels. So I make sure to get half a gram per pound of bodyweight. So my diet hasn't really changed at all, just the training. I did less total training but just switched over to full body daily.

Dieting 101

Muscle Building Nutrition Rules

BCAA Timing

Question: "For intra-workout amino acids are they necessary or like more beneficial than when taken pre-workout or post-workout, or doing all three?"

It's not any more beneficial. You have numerous ways to meet your training nutrient requirements. I'm a firm believer in getting branched chain amino acids prior to a workout because there's some digestion. Now you can sip on it during, but you definitely want to do some prior. I prefer pre-workout because that way you've got the full dose ahead of your workout, and then the acute benefits are there. If you're sipping on it during you may not have a high enough dose of the branched chains to start getting the benefit of what the valine does on tryptophan blunting fatigue and whatnot. So I prefer to go pre. If you do that, as long as you're going to recover post-workout with something, you don't need any intra. You can. It won't really benefit you. Or, you can skip the pre and just start sipping on it through the entire workout. In the end it'll probably equate to the same but you don't need to do pre, and intra, and then a post. You're good pre. You just want to sip on water—unless it's going 2 hours or more—if you're in an hour workout, it's not going to make a difference.

What's really interesting is some of the data on caffeine for performance shows it may be better sipping it throughout than getting a big bolus ahead of time. But again, that's just in one study at this point. Either way, find out what works best for you. Like I said, I prefer just getting it pre, myself, and I think you play with that and find out what works best for you.

Intra-workout nutrition 

What to take during your workout

BCAAs do more than just build muscle

Carb Targets for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss

Question: "You talked about your fat intake at half a gram per pound, and your protein as well—what do you think about carbs for muscle growth?"

Carbs are interesting because there's no real set amount. I set protein at a number based on the data we show on protein synthesis, muscle growth, in athletes. About a gram. I've got some fat numbers based on data in athletes and fat intake. Carbs—there are essential amino acids and there are essential fats—there are really no essential carbohydrates. Our body makes carbs quite effectively. Even our kidneys can perform gluconeogenesis. We're well equipped to provide glucose to our body. So there's really no such thing as essential carbs, and where you fall on carbs is pretty much dependent upon your diet history. If you're used to eating low carbs you can still gain muscle on a low carb diet, there's not a magic number of grams of carbs where if you're not eating 2 grams of carbs per pound you're never going to grow muscle. If you're eating less than a half a gram of protein per pound of body weight you're probably not going to gain much muscle. We know that. But with carbs it's not really the case.

Now, clearly they have benefits—for one thing, there are glycogen levels and the way it pulls water into the muscle, keeping muscle cells hydrated. And there may be stretch receptors that are involved in growth—as a matter of fact, we were talking about that today, about the hydration in cells and how that influences muscle growth. So with carbs, definitely beneficial, but there's no sure number. A ballpark figure if I were just giving someone, "Here's your snapshot diet for muscle growth" I would say start somewhere around 1 to 1.5g protein, .5g fat, and then somewhere around a gram at least of carbs. Start there, see how you go. If you're gaining body fat on a gram of carbs, you know you're going to have to drop the carbs. If you're gaining muscle and you're not gaining body fat, you can increase the carbs. Keep going from there.

Questioner: "The reason I ask is because I was at 200g of carbs and was going nowhere in body fat or muscle mass."

So you can increase the carbs because you're not gaining any body fat, you see? That would be my suggestion. Since you're not gaining body fat you can tolerate more carbs.

Cardio and Strength Training

Question: "What's your opinion on distance running as far as a strength training program goes?"

I'm a mixed athlete—I do martial arts, I hike, I stay very active. Any activity is a great adjunct to strength training. You're just asking because it's at opposite ends? A good long-distance runner is lighter, the lighter you get the better right? Whereas you're trying to gain muscle.

Questioner: "Yeah, as far as trying to gain muscle and still being able to run"

Obviously, if you're burning excessive amounts of calories and you're having difficulty gaining muscle mass then you know that it's a question of calories. So you can either decrease your activity or increase your food intake. As long as you're eating enough to support that activity, I don't see any issue. If you were training to win Mr. Olympia I would say you might want to cut back on the running, but I don't see any reason why you can't do both.

HIIT cardio to blast fat and hold onto your hard-earned muscle

Fasted Cardio

Question: "As far as fasted cardio, for example waking up and immediately doing 20 minutes of cardio and then eating, is that a significantly more beneficial practice for cutting body fat or is it not worth it."

What's really interesting about the fasted cardio is that as exercise scientists we were all guilty of running with a snapshot that we saw and going "Hey you should do fasted cardio." A lot of us were, most scientists. Do cardio fasted, and you burn more fat. If you burn more fat, over time you're going to lose more fat, right? Well, that was the hypothesis, makes sense right? Turns out, not so much the case! Why, if we're burning more fat during the workout would we not lose more fat? Well, there are 24 hours in a day. And our bodies don't work on an hour workout. While we took a snapshot of what was going on during the workout, we forgot to measure what was going on the rest of the day. Turns out—to put it in simple terms—the more fat you burn during your workout, the less fat you burn the rest of the day. The less fat you burn during your workout, the more fat you burn the rest of the day. There are 24 hours in a day, how much of it are you working out and how much of it is the rest of the day? So do you want to focus on fat burning during your workout, or the other 23 hours of the day? I'd probably focus on the 23 hours, because there's only so much you're going to burn in the workout.

Fasted cardio

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

And when you start looking at the data on high-intensity interval training, one of the most extreme examples is a study that compared sprinting—they did sprinting, 30-second sprints, 4 to 6 of them 3 times a week. Do the math: 30 seconds times 6, 3 minutes right? The other group went out for a run 30-60 minutes 3 times a week. Do the math. One the shorter end that's 90 minutes of exercise a week. So let's compare the high end of the sprinters—3 minutes, 3 times a week, 9 minutes total—versus the short end of the running—90 minutes. The group sprinting for 9 minutes a week lost twice as much body weight. How is that possible on 9 minutes of exercise a week? How is that possible? Because of the intensity. They burned no fat when they were sprinting. None. Fat barely provides energy during sprints. They were barely burning any fat, but it turns your body into a fat burning machine the rest of the day. HIIT, you burn more calories and more fat the rest of the day than when we do much longer but less intense endurance exercise.

So fasted cardio, yeah it burns more fat during the workout but it's not going to make a difference on physique. Now I do say that athletes—take a professional bodybuilder who's trying to get down to 3% body fat—if he's at 5% body fat and he's got one area of body fat that he's just having difficulty getting off, sometimes we'll do fasted cardio because fasted cardio for that athlete is not going to affect his metabolism as much, because he's doing so much else. Fasted cardio in addition to everything else may help because again you're burning more fat during the workout, but you then have to do other things to make sure that it's not blunting your metabolic response the rest of the day. So you can use fasted cardio, but again I only recommend it typically for those athletes who are trying to get that—if you're 12% percent body fat and you're just trying to get to like 8% it's not going to make a difference what you eat before you work out. It won't matter at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month. Only at the end of the workout.

HIIT science 

HIIT for a more ripped physique

Body Recomposition

Question: "Is it more beneficial, is there a way to lose body fat and increase muscle mass? I know it's like a myth, that it's almost impossible unless you're genetically gifted to do both at the same time, or is there a way to accelerate both and just steadily decrease body fat and increase muscle?"

Obviously, when you're burning body fat and trying to build muscle you're basically working against yourself, trying to do two opposite things. To build muscle you need calories, you need protein. To burn fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. However, as we've seen it's not impossible to build muscle while you're losing body fat, particularly in untrained individuals. They get amazing responses. They can lose body fat while gaining muscle. And even some more advanced trainers—with the right program you definitely can lose body fat and gain muscle mass at the same time. You're just never going to maximize both.

My training right now is not to maximize muscle growth, it's not to maximize fat loss, it's not to maximize strength, speed—it's to sort of maximize them all. But I can't maximize them all, right? But I've increased them. So it's designed—my lifestyle, my diet, my training—are designed to give me sort of overall benefits. I can grow muscle—I can't maximize my muscle if I'm intermittent fasting—but I can still grow. I can lose tons of body fat, maybe not maximal but all things being equal. Trying to do both at the same time, you can, but you can never maximize it.

Body Fat Percentage and Muscle Growth

What's really interesting about muscle growth and body fat is some of the data on protein synthesis shows that the leaner you are the higher your protein synthesis is following a meal. And they compared—this is just using BMI they weren't using body fat—but they looked at obese individuals on the BMI scale, overweight individuals, and then normal weight individuals, and they fed them a high protein meal. They measured the protein synthesis—again, this is just protein synthesis, gives us a snapshot—and what we saw was literally linear—the overweight had less protein synthesis than the normal weight, the obese had lower protein synthesis than the overweight group. So the more body fat they had, the lower their protein synthesis response to the high protein meal.

And so one of the ways people gain muscle is to overeat. Well, they also gain body fat. So possibly a better way of gaining muscle is not to overeat, but to better fine-tune your diet so that you're staying lean. One of the reasons that I'm a firm believer in getting athletes to live at their competition body weight is they will be leaner, and when you're leaner you're more anabolic. However, getting down there, it's hard to gain muscle while you're losing body fat. Once you get there and maintain that body weight, now you're leaner and your protein synthesis may be higher. It may actually be easier to gain muscle while staying at a lower body fat percentage.

Lose fat to build more muscle

Tabata Training

Question: "So going off what you said earlier about the sprinters, do you think Tabata training as cardio has the upper hand on steady state cardio when it comes to fat loss?"

Definitely. Tabatas are just another form of high-intensity interval training, just a different style where it's very specific. You take one movement, you do 20 seconds of high intensity, 10 seconds of rest, 8 times, basically. 8 cycles, 4 minutes long. It's just a more descriptive—and there's a reason for it, it's been tested to not just provide fat burning benefits, but it was used as a training method in Japanese speed skaters. Was very effective for increasing their performance. Turns out, also great for fat loss. But really wouldn't matter if you did 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off. It's more the ratio and the time, for fat loss it's more about doing those high-intensity bursts. The rest is not important as far as the timing or how long it is, other than it's allowing you to recover so you can burst and keep your activity high the next set, keeping that intensity. So tabatas would definitely—I would expect the same if you compared tabatas to long distance running for fat loss you'd see far better fat loss in the Tabata group.

Tabata training 

Tabata weight blast workout

Super Shredded 8 program overview 

Intermittent Fasting - Dieting on the Road

Question: "How you maintain your diet while traveling?"

I do intermittent fasting, and really—for those of you who are not familiar with intermittent fasting, the style I do is called 16/8.  fast for 16 hours, and then I eat for 8. Now few people realize this but when I was at the Pierce lab, we actually had data on intermittent fasting and refeeding. And what we found, the mechanism behind it—everybody says "Well you're going to fast, you'll slow your metabolism"—well not the case when you fast and feed, fast and feed. It's different from starvation. With intermittent fasting, what happens is you actually have an increase in the production of uncoupling proteins. And uncoupling proteins basically poke holes in your mitochondria. Your mitochondria are what turn fat, carbs into energy—ATP. Well, it's like a car engine, there's efficiency, right? It puts out work and heat. The more work an engine puts out versus heat, the more efficient it is. Well, these uncoupling proteins poke holes in the mitochondria meaning you burn that fat and those carbs, and you're putting out more heat, less energy. So guess what—you now have to burn more fat and more carbs just to get the same amount of energy to sit there, to run through your day, because your body is less efficient.

Then we found the meal that you follow the fasting with matters. If it was high protein, low carb, there was a further boost in uncoupling proteins. If it was followed with a high carb meal there was a sort of blunting—still higher than normal, but a bit of a blunting. And so one of my recommendations is I fast and then I eat a high protein meal, low carb for the first meal to take advantage—but that's the mechanism behind the fasting and why it's so effective for fat loss.

What I like about the lifestyle is it's very convenient. I eat at 4 pm, so when I get up in the morning I don't have to make breakfast, I don't have to prep lunch, I don't have to think about food until 4 pm. I get a lot done when I'm not cooking breakfast in the morning. I just get up, get right to my social media. Allows me more time to work. Far more convenient. The other benefit it provides? There's a ton of research, few people realize—there’s a boost in immune function, and it offsets jet lag. One of the things that our body uses as our 24-hour clock is our light cues, right? One of the other cues that we have is feeding. If we do something at the same time every day it's a cue that our body can use to schedule this 24-hour clock. Typically we use light, so I'm in LA and I travel to New York and now it's dark 3 hours sooner. So my body's like "What's going on?" and the next day, and the next day, and eventually my body goes "Oh, right, okay." and it adapts, but it takes a while for those light cues.

Well, what research is now showing is that food cues are another way to do this because we eat at the same time—I eat at the same time, 4 pm. So what's nice about the food cue, unlike the light cue, is we can erase it with fasting. And so if you fast for at least 16 hours it erases, sort of resets your food cue. And now when you eat at 4 pm in your new time zone, it sort of resets it—I eat at 4 pm my body goes "Oh, I know what he's going to do next, he's going to train." because I eat at 4 and then I go train. Those are cues that help my body adapt more quickly to that time zone change so when I travel, I'm rarely hit up by jet lag because of intermittent fasting. But also because of that, when I get on a plane—if it's 8am—I don't have to worry about what I'm eating on the plane, I really don't have to worry until I get to where I'm going, so it's convenient.

The other nice thing, what it's really allowed for, is a much looser diet. So when I'm on the road I don't have to worry so much about my carbs, my fat intake, because of I've been fasting my metabolic rate is up because of the uncoupling proteins and it allows me to be far looser with my diet, especially when I travel. It's really the key to eating on the road, is intermittent fasting. It allows for a far looser—more convenient, like I said. I don't have to worry about breakfast, lunchtime, not until 4 pm. So I get a lot done, especially when I'm traveling on the road, the jet lag, boost in immune function—I'm literally never sick. You can ask my team, people on my team are sick, I'm never ever sick. One of the reasons is intermittent fasting, it makes it so much more convenient.

And the other nice thing I like about it is it depends on the type of person you are, with control. If we diet, normal like—let's say you're on a low carb diet, or let's say you go keto, “I'm in a keto diet, no carbs.” Or you have a limited number of carbs. So all day long you're playing this game. All day long, you're standing in the line at Starbucks and you know you've got 20g of carbs left in the day. It's only 8 am. That pumpkin bread looks really good, right? So you're standing there looking at that pumpkin bread. "Well, what if I just get half, and then I won't have the rice I was going to to have with dinner" right? It's constant, constant. Your brain does more work on the diet than you do. With intermittent fasting, I walk into starbucks—I love that pumpkin bread. I look at it, and then I look at my watch—it's not 4 o'clock? No, that's it. There's no—I don't have to bargain with myself. I don't have to figure out ways I can get this in without feeling guilty. No, the answer is no. There are two answers with intermittent fasting: Yes, or No. Is it time to eat? Yes or no. That's it. It makes it so much easier if you're that type of person that can say no. It makes it easy. "Is it 4 o'clock?" I don't have to do any of that math, that figuring out, that worrying, no. It's been done for me, it's not my time to eat yet. Makes it very simple.

Questioner: "What did you eat today at 4 o'clock?"

I had Pro JYM. And some granola, I had some granola too.

Intermittent fasting carb cycling diet plan

Intermittent Fasting FAQ's

Protein Needs When Breaking a Fast

Question: "How much protein do you want to break a fast with?"

At least 20 to 40g. What they say—as far as the leucine, you want to get about 3g of leucine, it appears to be. So typically you need to shoot for around 30g. Most protein sources will provide 3g of leucine within 30g of protein—dairy, most meats, fish, at 30g will provide somewhere close to about 3g of leucine. But again, this is a theory, that 3g seems to be the sort of sweet spot for leucine. So if you shoot for somewhere in that 20 to 40g range, you're probably going to hit your leucine target.

Continued Education

Question: "How do you stay read up on the most current research, do you subscribe to a lot of research journals?"

I do a lot of searching. I'll randomly just go to PubMed and put "creatine" in there, but I also read a lot of newsfeeds—Nutraingredients, NSCA—so I'll get those feeds to see what's going on. And I know Tim will as well—we did our doctoral work together, so I stole him from academia, my chief scientific officer. And so a lot of times we'll keep each other—I'll say "Hey, can you get this study" or he'll say "Hey, did you hear about this one?" We sort of both work together on that. I'm always hungry to hear about a new study, like on something that might shorten the mechanism on glucose granulation fluid masses—completely fascinating to me. I love learning new things that we had no idea about. Every year we just learn more and more. And it makes it more confusing, but it also starts answering questions as well, as far as completely destroying what we thought was happening, to make us say "Now I don't know what's going on." That's so awesome about science.

As scientists here in the lab your job is to find those mechanisms and sort of find proof. My job is to take that and say "Hey, maybe we should try doing this." So that's what I love about it. I love hearing about these mechanisms and going "Oh my god, what does this mean for the average person and the way we eat, and live, and exercise." I'm just hungry for it.

Ketogenic Diet and the Dangers of Undereating

Question: "What are the dangers of undereating? Say for example a 200 lbs male eating about 1800-2000 calories a day and 140g of protein."

Probably a longer life. No, I'm serious. We know that one of the ways that we can increase longevity is to lower calorie intake, which is counter-intuitive to anyone who wants muscle mass. I'm being serious but joking at the same time. But the dangers you're talking about are more like metabolic, is it going to slow down your metabolism—sure. That's the problem with dieting is our bodies have always tried to find homeostasis. They always want to adapt, right? So you lower calories, what happens? Your body burns less. Eventually, your body says "Okay, I need to adapt to this level of calories I get through my day. I better get more efficient." Then we keep lowering it. And that's why I don't really like diets like the keto diet, where you literally just go "Alright, I eat 400g of carbs today, but now I'm starting the keto diet so I'm going to eat zero." No, you don't need to jump to that extreme right off the bat. What's going to happen six months from now when you hit a plateau and you've already removed all the carbs from your diet? Your body's adapted. How are you going to continue if you want to lose weight? It's going to be very difficult if you've removed all your carbs in one fell swoop. You did not have to go to that extreme.

So I'm all about eating as much as you can and still—I mean if you're trying to lose body fat, the goal is always to eat as much as you can and still lose body fat. You always want to be eating as much as you can, because there's going to be a time when your body is going to adapt to that calorie level and you're going to need to adjust it. There's only one way to go down, if you want a way to adjust, if you want to keep going down in body fat, right? And that's down in intake, so you always need to be eating as much as you can because eventually you're going to have to take something away. Especially—few people really think about this, because most people who are recommending diets that are just sort of quick fixes. That's for people who want to get ready for a wedding. I work with people who want to change their lives. So I know what happens when they plateau on a keto diet, because they weren't just getting ready for a wedding, they didn't just want—they want a lifestyle change. And when they're there saying "What do I do now, I'm eating no carbs and I can't lose any body fat" and I tell them "Well you're going to have to eat back up, you're going to have to gain some body fat so we can get your metabolism back up essentially." So 1800-2000 is a bit on the low side if you jumped right there. "Here's my new diet, I'm going to go 1800 calories." No. If you're telling me you started at 3000 and over the last year, now you're down to 1800, that's different. So how did you get there?

Questioner: "Well, doing intermittent fasting. Sometimes I find it's really hard to get that much food it, to eat 2600, 2800, so I used to eat 2500 and lately I've been eating 1800 to 200. I'm getting 150, 160g of protein.

Oh good, so you're getting enough protein, how much do you weigh?

Questioner: "200"

You're 200? Yeah, you could probably use a little more protein, but.

Questioner: "I just gotta eat more."

Yeah. Well, what's your feeding window, 8 hours?

Questioner: "Yeah, and I work out in the morning. So I eat from like 4 am to noon."

And how's the fat loss going?

Questioner: "Great until I went on vacation"

So what if you increased your feeding window, added an hour or so.

Questioner: "Yeah I could add it on the back side, it'd be easier."

5 reasons you're not ripped

Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

Common sense, right? Sometimes it's just common sense. The other thing about intermittent fasting I tell people who want to start, they're like "How do I go that long?" Well you know a lot of you are already intermittent fasting. You already are. You go to sleep at night. Except for a few extreme bodybuilders that I know, nobody wakes up in the middle of the night to eat. So if you sleep for 6 to 8 hours you've at least done intermittent fasting for 8 hours, right?  You're already doing it. To be honest most people are probably closer to 12/12. They probably eat at say 8 am and stop eating at 8 pm. So most people are already doing it. That's how our bodies are already designed to work. And now what you're doing is just extending that window.

So what I tell people who want to test the water instead of just jumping right in, just test it. You're already doing it. First step: 12 hours. Just make sure you're hitting 12 hours. You're already probably doing it, but now let's make sure you're doing it for at least 12 hours. Step 1. It's easy, trust me. Now Step 2, increase it to 13 hours fasting, 11 eating. Once that seems easy, you go to 14. You don't have to go to 16—I usually recommend at least 13, like I said because most people are 12/12 already. So at the minimum, I'll try at least 13/11 and you'll see a difference just in that. You're already almost right there at 12 anyway, so it's really not that big of a deal. There’s data piling up on intermittent fasting and the health benefits, like immune function, insulin sensitivity, they're finding it's helping with skin regeneration, other tissue as well. It seems to be, like I said, that the fat loss benefits seem to be due to the uncoupling protein. The health benefits, harder to sort of put the finger on but I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact that our bodies are sort of designed to eat that way as it is, when you really think about the way that our bodies used to work historically, when we used to eat, it sort of fits more in line with the way we’re designed to eat. I think to extend that sort of gets the body optimized. You have these fasting and feeding windows, and when you look at some of the data like on skin protection, it seems to be optimizing the way the cells regenerate and repair themselves.

Breaking a Fast

Question: "You already touched base on breaking your fast with protein but is it just protein or protein and fat?"

I typically do protein and a little bit of fat. So I'll do like Pro JYM and some Peanut butter or something. Or I might even do salmon. I typically go protein and fat, lower on carbs. And then I just wait—typically if I train, I usually train so I train with protein fat and then I'll have carbs post workout, usually like an hour after. A lot of people ask "Well how long should I wait to have the carbs then?" About an hour or two.


Question: "So what is your take on Crossfit training? Do you think it does more harm than good or there some serious benefits to it?"

I don't practice Crossfit, but I love Crossfit for the fact that weightlifting is boring for most people. The way that most people go into the gym—I don't train this way, I keep moving—but most people go to the gym and they bench press and then they sit there, right? The trainer takes them through, "And then you do the leg curl." That's boring, right? What does Crossfit do? It's community, there are challenges, it's fun. It's getting people excited about weightlifting. You can argue all you want about the modalities that they use, whether it's safe to be doing high reps with cleans at the end of a workout, whether it's dangerous. But it's getting people working out. It's getting people moving. Movement is never bad, so I applaud Crossfit for what it's done in getting people to not just move but particularly with strength. That's what's so positive about it, is they're lifting weights. Normal people are now embracing strength training as a way to get fitter and healthier. Like I said, you can argue all you want about the specific style but they're taking strength training and popularizing it, bringing it to the masses. And that's a good thing.

Calisthenics and Bodyweight Training

Question: "What about calisthenics?"

I like doing those calisthenic style exercises as a dynamic warm-up. I also do a lot of bodyweight training. I have this Rise and Shine workout that I do—every morning I get up, I do push-ups. I do a push, a pull, and some kind of leg movement. Three movements to start the day, a push, a pull—either a pull-up or I'll use the door jamb to do one-arm rows—and step ups or just lunges. Just to stimulate most muscles pushing pulling legs in the body getting that gene activation going. So I exercise all day long, I do these many workouts throughout the day. Working in calisthenics is a great idea.

Bodyweight push pull legs circuit 

5-minute morning workout

Adjusting Macros and Reverse Dieting

Question: "So I was actually the guy you were describing about keto just jumping in feet first"

It works so well! It's quick. I know Joe Volek—for those of you who know the name as far as keto research. Trust me it's effective, very effective. Carb manipulation is—but like I said you take them all and then what? So people who follow me don't just want to lose 20lbs, they want to look like a cover model. And a lot of times they go from 20% body fat, "I want to be a cover model." You're going to get some fast results with your keto but you're not going to get to where you want to go and then what are you going to do?

Questioner: "So what do you recommend to get back to...?"

So where are you right now, do you know how much protein and fat you're taking in?

Questioner: "So fat is—it's high, y'know, it's probably about 140"

What do you weigh?

Questioner: "about 220 right now"

You're right at 220? So that's not high, that's like, you're at my recommendation, you're almost at .5 that's standard, that's not high fat.

Questioner: "Well maybe it's about 180, but I've plateaued."

And your protein?

Questioner: "It's gonna be low, around the 120s. and then, of course, 20g or less of carbs. But I've noticed—I've been doing intermittent fasting for some time, then implemented keto for about 3 months, and the last month I've plateaued."

So the first thing I would try to do—you could start reverse dieting, adding carbs back, but I'm assuming you don't want to do that. You'd still like to lose some weight. So the first thing I would probably try is to alter your macros and—without changing your calories, bring up your protein, and bring down the fat, but calorie-wise not grams. Because the calories are different, right? 20g of protein calorie-wise is almost half of your fat, so you're only going to replace it calorie-wise equally. So I would do probably somewhere around 50 to 100 calories, adjust—so take away 100 calories from fat and replace it with 100 calories from protein. Try there just to alter those macros, and then I would like you to see is if you can get up to about 220g of protein without changing your calories and flipping the fat side around eventually. And see how you go from there. Do you follow me at all?

Questioner: "Oh all the time"

Oh well, you know I'll answer you. Yeah let me know how it goes and eventually you're going to have to reverse diet, because there's only so much you can do playing with protein and fat, and then you're going to be starving to get—that's the last thing you want to do, you don't really have to be that low, so I think once you play, let's play around with that, and then what you can start doing is a little bit of reverse dieting, bring some carbs back in. And then once you get your carbs up you can start sort of cycling that.

Alright, so I want to thank everyone for attending, I hope you all got something out of this. I want to thank everyone who wasn't able come here but made it online, you guys can watch this—I'll post this on my facebook as well. So thank you guys, thank you Stavros, Dr. Kavouras, thank the University of Arkansas for the platform I really appreciate it.

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