Let me guess – you are at the gym every day, trying to get bigger and stronger. Maybe you even spend every free moment of your life obsessing about adding muscle. You read all the magazines, follow every piece of advice you can find online and buy all the best supplements, but you still don’t see any results. If you think you have worked hard and are eating right, but are still too weak, skinny or fat, maybe it is time to change your approach completely.
1. Fasted Cardio is not a Ticket to Fat Loss
On the surface it seems to make sense – you do your aerobics first thing in the morning, and since you haven’t had your breakfast, your glycogen levels are low and your body has to burn fatty acids for fuel. Scientists suggest that fasted cardio burns a spectacular 30% more fatty acids than non-fasted does. Now, if 30 minutes of regular cardio burns around 300 calories, and you do it three times a week, after six months you will burn more than 23,000 calories, which translates to roughly 6.6 pounds of fat. Burning 30% more calories will help you burn an additional 0.07 pounds per week, which adds up to another 2 pounds lost during the same period. However, fasted cardio also elevates cortisol levels, and burns muscle, so it is counterproductive, to say the least.
2. Too Many Recovery Days
Rest and sleep are essential for your training, but many people take the concept of recovery to the extreme. Unless you ran a marathon, you don’t need to speed a week recovering. Recently, researchers from the McMaster University conducted a study to determine how long it takes for your muscles to fully recover. According to the findings, the recovery process peaks about 24 hours after training, when muscle protein synthetic rates are up by a staggering 109%. Furthermore, instead of spending those 24 hours sitting on the couch watching TV, try active recovery techniques, like kettlebell swings, Prowler pushes, or even riding a bicycle up some hills.
3. Your Ideas about Training and Nutrition are Obsolete
You probably still think that you should consume a protein-rich meal about an hour before your workout and then eat again about an hour after you train. That pre-training meal is meant to raise your insulin levels, which allows nutrients to piggyback onto the hormone, and get sent off to your muscle cells. Even though this sounds good in theory, your insulin levels, unfortunately, go back to normal by the time you hit the gym, allowing glucagon to start robbing your muscles of amino acids so it converts them to glucose that your muscles need for fuel.
4. You Have Too Many Meals
While we are on the subject of obsolete ideas, let’s talk a little about number of meals. For as long as you can remember, everyone has been telling you to have a meal every 2-3 hours. The premise is to keep your sugar levels steady by not allowing yourself to get hungry. The trouble is, of course, that nothing suggests that this practice works. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that suggests it doesn’t. In a healthy body, glucose is taken up by the bloodstream and moved into cells where it is burned as fuel. This process is facilitated by insulin that is produced by your pancreas after a meal. However, if your cells aren’t able to utilize the glucose properly, it can build up in the blood, which can lead to insulin resistance, and subsequently to type II diabetes.
5. Ignore Squats and Deadlifts
Most of the biggest natural bodybuilders in the world put squats and deadlift in their top three exercises for a good reason – there are no two better lifts for gaining strength and building muscle, period. If you continue to focus on lightweight leg presses, your legs will remain weak and frail; if you add these primal strength exercises to the mix, your legs (and the rest of your body for that matter) are forced to respond and grow. To put it simply – skipping legs is not an option, no matter how exhausted you feel during an intense workout session. Luckily, adding muscle to the lower body is drastically easier than the upper body, because your legs are the largest muscle group in your body and once you master the deadlift and start squatting, you will start building leg muscles.
6. Stop Pushing Yourself to the Limit
Progression, or the adding of weight over time, is the fuel that drives muscle building, and if you start lifting too much too fast, you will only wear your body out. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who push their bodies too hard are basically undoing the benefits of exercise. German researchers discovered that people who ran at a fast pace for more than four hours per week during the 12-year study, had about the same risk of dying as people who barely exercise at all. Surprisingly, the people who ran less than two-and-a-half hours per week achieved better cardio, gained more strength and had the lowest risk of dying during the study period.
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