What Is Insulin And Why Is It Important For Building Muscle?

If you are into fitness or have been trying to become more healthy, you have probably heard the word “insulin” being thrown around. What is insulin and what role does it play in your body?

If you read some nutrition “gurus”, insulin gets a bad rap. Especially guys who argue that carbohydrates are evil and push low-carb diets, try to point the finger at insulin as one of the main causes of people getting fat. They argue that carbs are bad and insulin is bad by association.

However if you look at their arguments more closely, you can see that they make pretty sketchy connections and their conclusions are pretty much BS.

In order to be able to analyze all the different diets that people are hyping-up and make an informed choice on which is the best for you, you need to know what insulin is and how it works.

Let’s start by listing the main roles of insulin in the body:

1) push glucose into cells, in order for it to be used as energy

2) push other types of nutrients (for example proteins), in order for them to be used by the cells

3) store excess glucose for later use (either as glycogen or fat)

Remember these roles when reading the rest of the article, as this is crucial for understanding the importance of insulin in different bodily processes, and especially in what role it plays in getting bigger muscles and losing fat.

Insulin is one of the most important hormones for your metabolism. The different cells in your body need glucose for energy and insulin promotes the absorption of glucose by them (either for energy or for storage – glycogen, fat).

It is a peptide hormone, which means that it’s a functional protein. It is produced in the pancreas by beta cells and serves many functions in your body. You can think of it as the main regulator of your body.

Insulin is released into the bloodstream when glucose is present, whether due to food getting ingested or due to different stress hormones flooding the body.

What happens is that when you are eating, the food is broken down into its more basic constituent parts, and the pancreas starts releasing insulin into your bloodstream. The insulin then directs the transport of these nutrients either into the cells or for storage. Once the level of these nutrients in the blood drops, then the amount of insulin drops as well.

Let’s use an analogy in order to illustrate how insulin works. Imagine that insulin is a small spaceship that travels through your blood and muscle cells are big space factories. These space factories have docking stations (insulin receptors) that the insulin spaceship periodically visits and docks at them.

In the process, the insulin acts as a sort of key, unlocking the doors to the cells. Once these doors are unlocked, nutrients such as glucose or amino acids can enter the cells, bringing energy and also different building blocks for their internal processes.
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Gaining Weight Isn’t That Hard

how to gain weight

A lot of hardgainers complain how hard it is for them to gain weight. I used to be that way too. Then I started being serious and transformed my skinny frame into a big, muscular body. I don’t get mistaken for the skinny boy anymore! 🙂

I wrote a free guide on how this can be done, outlining the basic steps that need to be taken in order to do this and what type of information you should know before you begin:
How To Gain Weight

However basically all this can be summarized in 3 easy words:
1) Eat
2) Workout
3) Rest

Yes, it’s that simple! 🙂

For all of you that want to know more, here is some further information that can help you on your quest to become the big, strong dude you always wanted to be:

Motivation
First thing is motivation. If you are not motivated, you will never get anywhere. Your mindset is the key to achieving whatever you want to achieve. Figure out the bigger picture. Who do you want to be and then try to fit what role gaining weight and muscle will play in that.

Who do you want to be?

Then try to figure out who you are. Some nice little concepts from psychology and especially its branch, neuro-linguistic programming, can help you in that.

Personality types and why you are the way you are

Doing these two thing will reveal what your strengths are and what you still need to work on. You can then perform a personal gap analysis.

This will help you in the next phase of your journey and that is setting actual goals. Actually many people fail in this initial phase, because they never set any goals!

How to set goals and actually achieve them

Nutrition
If you don’t eat big, you will never get big. The number one reason why most hardgainers fail at gaining weight and muscle is because they don’t eat enough. You need to eat more than your maintenance calories in order to gain weight. You should be eating from all three basic macronutrient types: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

What are carbohydrates?
What is protein?
What is fat?

Most of your calories should come from normal food, although you can sometimes use supplements, such as whey or casein protein, in order to help you pack on the calories. However remember that these are just supplements and that means that they only supplement your eating efforts, not replace them.

The different types of protein supplements

Workout
Working out is all about the effort you put in. It’s not about what type of a routine you do, but instead about consistency and coming in and working hard (and smart). There are just some basic principles that you should follow, the main one being progressive overload, meaning increasing the weight you are working with.

Your routine should be based around compound exercises, as these recruit the most muscles.

Compound exercises to do if you want to gain weight and muscle

Before starting any fitness routine, try to figure out what your imbalances are. Most of us have some sort of imbalances, largelly due to our sedentary lifestyles. This means some muscles might be out of whack and if you don’t work on correcting these imbalances, you could get injured pretty easily, thereby undermining your entire effort.

You are imbalanced and so do something about it

Lifestyle
And remember all this should be reflected in your lifestyle. Your lifestyle has a huge impact on who you are and what you look like.

Your lifestyle will influence whether you get fat

Read the articles above. They will give you the basic information that you need in order to help you get started.

Good luck!
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How A Routine Of Deadlifts And Pullups Made Me Blow Up To My Biggest Weight Ever

gaining weight and muscle, scale

gaining weight and muscle, scale

Today I got to my parent’s house. I live far away from them, so visit just a few times a year. The scale at my house is broken, so I wasn’t really aware of my weight. I thought I had actually lost weight, as I had not really been eating right and my working out routine has been severely limited due to the fact that I am still trying to strengthen up my knee after the ACL operation I had in the fall of last year. My focus this year has been recovering from my ACL injury and not gaining weight and muscle.

So today for the first time I had access to a functioning scale. Imagine my surprise when the scale showed 86 kilograms! That basically equals my all time high weight ever. And I had actually thought I had lost weight and was probably howering somewhere around 80 kilograms.

That’s great news, since not only am I close to my biggest weight ever, my abs are showing as well, and all this after not even trying to eat properly. 🙂

What can I thank this to? I think it’s due to my routine now heavily relying on pullups and deadlifts.

This is what my routine consisted of:
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In Order To Get Big You Need To Eat Big

monkey eating to gain weight

The number one mistake that people who want to gain weight and muscle make is that they simply aren’t eating enough. Most of the time they don’t even realize that they are making this mistake. They might think that they are stuffing themselves, however in reality they are not eating the amount required for them to gain weight.

In order to gain weight, you need to eat more than your maintenance calories. This is the most important advice that anyone can give you. Most people always want to know what kind of a routine they should do, how many reps, what exercises and stuff like that. It doesn’t matter what type of a routine you are doing, if you are not eating enought. Eating above your maintenance level is the basic prerequisite for any routine to work.

For most beginner and even intermediate lifters, basically any type of routine will help them pack on weight and muscle. Of course some might be better at it than others, however if your routine meets some basic principles, then it will help you. It’s the eating part that will be the main difference maker.

The importance of eating cannot be understated. Most of the time when people failed to gain weight, it is because of the fact that they were not eating enough. If you are lifting hard and still fail to make progress on gaining weight, then you need to reexamine your diet. Track it for a week and see what you are eating and how many calories per day in total it is.

Based on this tracking, you can then prepare your diet plan. Calculate your maintenance calories and try to eat anywhere from 500 to 1000 calories above that one. Start off slow, the first week, maybe add just 250 calories above maintenance and consistently keep adding more, until you reach an optimum level, where you are adding weight, but not too much fat. When packing on weight, you are bound to gain fat as well, however by eating clean, you can minimize this fat gain. You can always lose a lot of this fat in a fat-cutting phase later.
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GOMAD – Drinking Milk To Gain Weight Fast

hulk, gain weight, muscle, strong, big

GOMAD, milk, how to gain weight and muscle

For some reason whenever I read the words “GOMAD“, I tend to think of the guy that transforms himself into the Incredible Hulk. I have a mental picture of a huge green guy growing larger and then ripping off his shirt and screaming. Actually with GOMAD you won’t turn into the Incredible Hulk, but you can come close! 🙂 GOMAD is not some super secret military program, but instead stands for “gallon of milk a day”. This means drinking a gallon of milk a day in order to gain weight. It’s a simple, yet very effective strategy.

hulk, gain weight, muscle, strong, big

This is actually the strategy that some people (for example Rippetoe) advise for hardgainers who are struggling to gain weight. It means basically to drink a gallon (or around 4 liters for all of you outside the US) of milk a day, in addition to your regular meals and exercise routine. That is a huge amount of calories!

This strategy has its pros and cons. First of all, it will be really hard to force down all that milk. It’s also not really a good strategy for those that are lactose intolerant, but even those that are lactose tolerant might have some side-effects. For example, it might make you feel bloated and gassy! So don’t use this strategy if you plan to be around people too much. We don’t want you to stink up the room. 🙂

Milk is a very good source of all kinds of macronutrients and micronutrients. It is made up of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. So you get all your basic macronutrients there. For example both whey and casein protein come from milk and so if you drink a lot of milk, you can get them in that way, instead of buying expensive protein powders. Milk also contains such goodies as vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, and many other healthy things. It is also a good source of fluids and can keep you hydrated.
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The Ultimate Guide To Gaining Weight Has Come Out!

weight gain with beer

weight gain with beer

It’s here! If you want to get all the essential information that you need in order to gain weight and lean muscle, then you are in luck! 🙂 I wrote a big post on all the basic principles for gaining lean weight. You can use it to start your own journey to have the body that you always wanted. 🙂

Read it here:
How to gain weight

It’s still a bit of a work in progress, however it should give you all that you need to know to get started.
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Should You Lift Fast Or Slow?

7923900652_aff13d7549

You are lifting and one bro comes in and states: “Yo bro, you lifting too fast. You gotta go slower to increase time under tension!” The next day another bro comes in: ” Yo bro, you doing it all wrong. You gotta explode up fast in order increase explosive power!” This leaves you confused and you just go home shaking your head: “WTF?”

One of the basic questions that people lifting weights ask themselves is: How fast should I lift? In order to be able to answer that question, we have to look at some basic terminology and analyze the different stages of a repetition (rep) first. Then we will go into the different arguments whether rep speed matters and if so, how fast should you perform a lift.

There are two words that are important for this discussion:

  •  Rep tempo: how fast you lift
  •  Time under tension: how long each set of reps lasts.

The individual rep can be broken down into four parts:

  1. The starting position: this is the position where you have the weights when you are starting the rep. For example in a dumbbell bench press, this would be when you have the upper part of your arms parallel to the floor, the elbows are bent at 90 degrees and pointing up.
  2. The ending position: this is the position where you finish the rep. For example in a dumbbell bench press, this would be when your arms are extended straight up in the air and you have finished the movement.
  3. The concentric (positive) portion of the rep: this is the lifting part of the rep and you are moving the weights from the starting position to the ending position and experiencing resistance. In a dumbbell bench press, this is when you are moving the weights up.
  4. The eccentric (negative) portion of the rep: this is the lowering part of the rep and you are moving the weights from the ending position back to the starting position. In a dumbbell bench press, this is when you are lowering the weights.

The speed of reps is often measured by giving 3 numbers, for example 2-1-2, meaning speed on the concentric phase, time of pause up top, speed of eccentric phase.

There are some people who argue that you should lift slow, while others argue that you should lift fast. Even scientific studies are divided on this issue, with some showing results that support the slow camp, while other results support the fast camp. Some studies even came up with mixed results. For example a study on the velocity of weight training for kayak spring performance, had one group perform lifts at a slow speed, while another group was performing lifts at a fast speed.

The conclusions were: “Slow weight training is likely to be more effective than explosive training for improving the acceleration phase of sprinting, when force is high throughout the length of the stroke. Explosive weight training may be more effective in speed maintenance, when forces are developed rapidly over a short period at the start of the stroke.” So basically, both methods were good, they just differed on which portion of the race they were more beneficial for.
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How To Gain Weight: The Star Wars Edition

gain weight, muscle

It is a time of troubles. The Empire has taken over the Galaxy and you are the only one who can stop them. First however, you have to fight the demons within, in order to become the person you want to be.

You are embarking on an epic quest. One that will change your life for the better. You can take inspiration from the characters of Star Wars (the original trilogy) to conquer the universe, or at least be the master of your own domain. Luke Skywalker went from skinny moisture farmer to a powerful Jedi knight who brought down the Empire. You too can rise up from being a skinny nerf herder to a guy the size of Chewbacca (but not as hairy though 🙂 ). You too can use the wisdom of Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi and other wise men (or wise guys 🙂 ) to guide your quest for getting bigger and gaining weight and lean muscle. However remember that this quest to gain weight will only be a side quest on the entire journey of transforming your life to become the master of the galaxy.

“May the Force be with you!”
Old Jedi saying

The Force is supposed to be an invisible energy field created by all living beings. It is similar to the concept of ch’i (or ki) in East Asian cultures. The Jedi use it to do incredible things. Unfortunately I cannot teach you how to use the Force, but I can give you some pointers on how to apply the principles behind it. In the Star Wars Universe, some beings are born with a natural sensibility to the Force, while others have to work hard to develop this sensibility. However for all beings, training is necessary in order to be able to harness the Force. In order to be able to use it, you need to train.

It is similar with training your muscles. Some people are born naturally big and have great genetics, so for them it doesn’t take too much effort to train and get big and muscular. For others, the ones that were not born big and have shitty genetics, it takes a lot more effort. You can get there too however.

Every journey begins with a first step. Whether it’s a long journey or a short journey, it doesn’t matter. You still need to take the first step. Many people hesitate on taking this first step and end up never taking it. You need to be strong and have faith. Whether you carefully prepare that first step, or plunge head first without thinking much, you are way ahead of most people already by actually having the courage to take it.

The journey will be difficult, but hopefully you will have luck on your side. We cannot escape from it, luck is a big part of our lives. However luck will never come, if you don’t give it a reason to come. And sometimes hard work can make luck happen. Hopefully luck, just like the Force, will be on your side.

Do not get discouraged on your journey. It will be hard and full of obstacles. Some people might start off later than you and surpass you, but you need to keep on going. Luke Skywalker also had to overcome many challenges in order to become a Jedi Master. He had to face his own fears by battling what he thought was Darth Vader, but ended up being himself. He failed that test. However he got back up and continued on the journey. You too may fail a few times, or suffer a few setbacks, the important thing is to get back up and continue in the same direction.

If you feel that the direction that you were heading in was not the right one, then it is ok to change it, as long as you continue moving forward. After all we all have different needs and goals and we cannot all be heading the same direction. However we do need to be heading in some direction, a direction that will fulfill us. For example if you decide one day that you don’t want to focus on size and getting bigger, but instead want to focus on strength and getting stronger, it is ok, you changed the direction you were heading in, but you are still continuing on your journey.

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Yoda

Unfortunately for many of us, our previous lifestyles have come with a bunch of baggage. This baggage weights down on us and prevents us from growing. One of the major obstacles here are our habits. We have developed many habits, which quite frankly are not very good. We might scrounge at our desks with a bad posture, we might have the habit of eating potato chips while watching the television or maybe we go a bit too wild and drink too much.

You need to unlearn all the bad habits that you have acquired. This is a very hard part of our journey, maybe even the hardest. We feel comfortable in our habits and don’t want to let go of them. However it is a necessary part of our journey, one that will be one of the pillars of success at the end. The strategy on doing this depends on what type of a person you are and what your preferences are. Some people may change from one day to another and do a complete turn around of their life really quickly. For some people it might take longer. They might need to take small steps. For example starting a few beneficial habits first, going with them and then piling a few more new beneficial habits on top of those.

The quote above also signifies a need for a new way of thinking about things. Sometimes we have negative perceptions of things. Some of these can be based on bad experiences. Sometimes we just make excuses why something cannot be done. So you need to change that. Instead of seeing the cup half empty, you might start seeing it half full. Instead of complaining how skinny and unhealthy you are, look at all the opportunities that are out there that will help you change that.

You also need to learn to do things differently. Try to be more efficient and effective. Experimenting is good, but you should observe carefully and note what works and what doesn’t. Then you should actually apply what you learned.

“Do…or do not! There is no try.”
Yoda

In order to achieve something you need to be committed to it. A half-assed effort won’t help you achieve your goal. In every gym, you can see those guys BSing around, going from one machine to another haphazardly, and then pushing out a few puny reps with bad form. If you see them at the gym a year later, you will notice that they have progressed very little and still look puny. Of course it’s better to do something than nothing, however that something needs to be done correctly. These guys have taken the first step, but have not followed up on it. They are trying, but not getting anywhere.

Yoda told Luke to use the Force to lift the X-Wing out of the swamp. Luke thought it was going to be impossible, but said that he was going to try. He tried, but was not committed, and ultimately failed. With Luke agitated, Yoda, with a calm demeanor, set out to work. Through the power of his mind and the use of the Force, he achieved something that Luke a few minutes ago thought was impossible.

You need to be smart about training and nutrition. It doesn’t really matter what type of a workout program you choose, as long as it respects a few basic principles and you adhere to it religiously without slacking off. The few basic principles that any training program for gaining weight and muscle needs to adhere to are:

  • lifting with correct form
  • progressive overload
  • cut down on the cardio
  • shorter workouts
  • plenty of rest

The number one advice is to lift with correct form. If you don’t, then you might get injured and your journey will end right there. In order to grow, you also need to keep on lifting heavier and heavier things. That’s how you will grow in size and strength. You should also cut down on the cardio and do shorter workouts in order not expend too much energy. You also need to get plenty of rest, as it is during resting that your body grows.

Also do not forget that eating is actually more important than exercise. In order for your body to grow, it needs the necessary nutrients to do so. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the building blocks for your body and you need to ingest a lot of them.

“Never tell me the odds!”
Han Solo

Some people might tell you to give up on your goals, because you are not built for it or some other reason. Don’t listen to them. Even scruffy looking nerf herders like Han Solo knew that the odds are just numbers and they can be overcome. You might have the odds stacked against you, but with hard (and especially smart) work, you can overcome them. The sense of achievement will give you ultimate confidence. At the end of that journey you can also become a master of witty remarks, just like Han Solo. Wisdom and wittiness can sometimes just be the opposite sides of the same coin. 🙂

“You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi

Don’t get caught up in all the fitness battles that are happening out there. Many fitness gurus have their wisdoms that they try to preach, but often preach it in a way as if it was the only “truth”. Learn from them, but always keep an open mind. There is no such thing as the “truth” in fitness. Every person is different and what works for one person, does not work for another one. Everything depends on the point of view you take. Just like Obi-Wan Kenobi was both right and wrong at the same time, when explaining to Luke the story of his father, so are the people on this planet. Each person has their own experiences, beliefs and agendas, and all those have an influence on their actions. Remember this, when reading about the latest greatest workout, diet or supplement.

“Don’t give into the Dark Side!”
Old Jedi saying

And seriously don’t give into the Dark Side. Without pain, there is no gain. Don’t take steroids or similar things, just to get big muscles and gain weight fast. There will be negative side-effects and they can possibly mess you up bad. So stay away! Just like Obi-Wan and Yoda tried to instill in Luke the discipline needed in order to succeed, by taking the longer way, you should too. They could have taught him all the tips and tricks straight away, but that would have just made him cocky and would have led to the Dark Side and his own downfall. Instead he learned the hard way and had many “aha” moments on the way. That made him a stronger person and at the end was the key towards him defeating the Emperor.

gain weight, muscle

So take from this what you will. You don’t need an Imperial Stormtrooper telling you that yellow is yellow or green is green, or Yoda looking over you. You just need to apply a few common sense things and develop a plan to achieve what you want to achieve. Actually, on second thought, I think George Lucas was probably high when he came up with all those quotes above. 🙂 However it is of no importance of how all this came about, it is the message that matters, or rather how you interpret the message. If you interpret the message positively and apply its lesson, then you can be on your way to achieving great things. Maybe even bringing balance to the galaxy. However it all begins with a single first step.


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One Size Does Not Fit All: What Fitness Advice To Follow

workout routine advice

A lot of people who are new to the gym and haven’t lifted before, often follow routines which are not right for them. Many of them end up seeing very little progress and then quit. What they often do is flip through a glossy bodybuilding magazine and find a routine that is being followed by some buff bodybuilder. This routine is usually made up of a hundred different exercises for each muscle and the different muscles are trained in isolation. Yes, the routine works for that particular bodybuilder, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

Each person is different and what works for one person might not work for another one. Before starting any type of routine, think hard about where you are now and where you want to be. If you are a skinny beginner and your goal is to gain weight and bulk up, then you should not be doing the routine of some huge bulky bodybuilder who has been working out for the past 15 years (and might or might not be on steroids). Instead you have to start slow and build up progressively.

Another mistake that some beginners make is that they try to start off lifting too heavy. What ends up happening is that they use poor form, the weight might fall off and they might even injure themselves. Good form is everything! There is no shame in starting off with a low weight, learning good form and then progressively increasing the weight as you get bigger and stronger.

Split routines where each muscle is trained separately are also not the right type of routines for the skinny beginners. Instead, a skinny beginner who wants to bulk up and gain weight should follow a full body (or at least a lower body, upper body split) routine which is composed of heavy compound exercises. The key is to periodically increase the weight you are lifting. That makes you bigger and stronger. You should also use free weights. All this is of course not saying that split routines and machines are bad. They all have their place. As you get more advanced you can change up your routine and maybe do split routines and incorporate machines. See what works for you.
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