Can you possibly lose fat or even gain muscle while on vacation? Absolutely. It’s not easy of course. You are on vacation after all, so you probably want to indulge and eat and relax. Here are some tips to actually lose fat and/or gain muscle and STILL have a fun indulgent vacation.
Let’s say you are taking a one week or two week holiday. You can do a lot of damage to your body in 14 days of eating junk, drinking, and laying around the beach. Don’t let that be you! You can be the person who comes back from vacation not just well rested and rejuvenated but also in better shape! An important step is to plan ahead – waiting until you are on vacation is too late. So good for you for reading this article now.
These are notes partially to myself (I’m on vacation as I write this). And as with many of the approaches I take, I need to thank Tom Venuto and his Burn The Fat ebook.
1. Find A Gym – Chances are, there is a gym near your vacation spot. Search before you leave, find out if they have a power rack or squat rack. (Yes, you’ll still do the Big Seven as your primary lifts). Find one with day passes.
2. Time Your Workouts around the “indulgent” meal. You’ve heard me (and countless others) talk about how important it is to feed your muscle within that 1 to 2 hour block around your workout. You need protein and carbs to start the repair process. Many people advocate eating most of your calories for the day around this window (shake before, shake during, big meal afterwards). Well, if you are on vacation and you love big, crazy breakfasts, then workout in the morning before you indulge. If instead you are going to go hog-wild over dinner, then workout beforehand.
3. Count Calories – Calories do still count. There’s no magic here – if you eat more than your body uses then you will gain fat. I believe it’s more complicated than just counting calories (hormones play a huge role) but for some people, the logical process of counting calories let’s them eat crazy for a meal, then dial it back the rest of the day. Which brings me to… Read the rest of this entry »
I recently wrote about how most yogurt should be thought of as a carb, not a protein.
Well, would you believe the same holds true for so-called “protein bars”?
Most protein bars are really only about 30% protein! 50% is carbs and 20% is fat.
So that makes protein bars essentially “candy bars with some protein”.
Let’s look at some labels:
PowerBar ProteinPlus: 23g protein BUT 39g carb and 6g fat. Remembering that fat has 9 kcal/g and protein and carbs each have 4 kcal/g, that puts it at about 52% carbs, 30% protein, and 18% fat.
Detour “Low Sugar” Whey Protein Bar: 30g protein BUT 33g carb and 10g fat. That translates to 39% carb, 35% protein, and 26% fat. Note that this is the “low sugar” version which is still mostly carbs and only 1/3 protein.
I could go on and on but I’ll leave you by repeating the phrase I use with my kids: “Protein bars are fine as a treat, but think of them as candy bars with protein.”
If you want to plan for the worst, keep protein powder, a shaker bottle, and a bottled water in your car. That’s $5 – cheaper than 2″ candy bars with protein” and way better for you. (I’d suggest casein protein if you have the option.)
Two other things to watch for:
a) soy-based protein
b) “energy” bars, where protein is even lower – like 10%! The packages look the same but these are really just candy bars
Look, I’m a practical guy. There are times when you are “stranded” or totally rushed and can’t get real food. Or maybe on a long flight you get one to stow and eat after 3 hrs. For most of you, this is once or twice a year but even the busiest of you shouldn’t be eating these things more than once a month. How serious are you about your fitness? If you are, then you’ll plan ahead and never be caught having to resort to “candy bars with protein”.
The Two Keys For Eating To Gain Muscle While Simultaneously Shedding Fat
I’ve found two specific eating habits that are essential if you want to gain muscle and shed fat at the same time.
Before I share them, and conclude this series, let’s get some assumptions on the table:
- You are not fat now, but still want to get leaner
- You want to gain muscle AND lose fat at the same time
- You are willing to have each of those goals progress more slowly in combination than if you focused on only one at a time; but you still want good progress on both
- I assume you are using a decent lifting routine
- I assume you are eating healthy food, in a good mix of proteins, carbs, and fats; if you don’t know the basics, then refer to Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle or 3 Months To A New You.
Ok , so rather than tease you, I’ll state the two keys upfront:
a) Gradually increase your overall calories to a point far above what you think you should be eating
b) Use the zig-zag calorie method
Last week I shared a 5-step strategy about how to gradually increase your caloric intake.
Now let’s talk about that “zig-zag method”… Read the rest of this entry »
Why Skinny Guys Stay Skinny
This is Part 2 of a series on how to eat right to gain muscle. Click here for part 1. This article (part 2) has three sections
- one about why skinny guys stay skinny,
- another about how to get yourself to eat more, and
- the real secret to gaining muscle fastest from your diet.
Then next week I’ll share the advanced eating technique to actually gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, plus I’ll include a few sample menus!
The biggest mistake skinny guys make, when starting to lift, is not eating enough. Oh, they think they are eating enough. But they aren’t. They think they are in Case 5 above but really they are in Case 4 (see last post).
Look at a skinny guy who isn’t lifting. He’s currently skinny, right, so that means he’s not eating excess calories.
Now start him lifting on a decent muscle building program. Lifting heavy weights burns calories during the activity and also burns more after the activity. If he’s still eating the same amount as he was before, then he’ll actually lose mass!
This is compounded by the fact that the skinny guy isn’t happy about his muscle size, but he likes being able to see his abs. (Yeah, but you can see his ribs too!) So he absolutely doesn’t want to get fat. He just wants more muscle. As we’ll see, this constraint comes back to haunt him.
Of course he’ll have heard from his buddies that he needs to eat more. Plus, he’ll naturally be more hungry. So chances are he would increase how much he eats, right?
But most skinny guys only end up eating a little bit more. They eat enough to prevent muscle loss, but not enough to really grow muscles.
An Example Might Help
Let’s take an example of a skinny guy: 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, 10% bodyfat. So he’s not too skinny, he’s got a thin layer of muscle because he’s an active guy, but he’s now going to start lifting. His target is to get to 180 pounds and stay 10% bodyfat. (6 feet tall, 180 pounds, and 10% bodyfat looks really good at the beach.)
And let’s say he wants to get there within 1 year. That’s 30 pounds (27 pounds of muscle and 3 pounds of fat) in 12 months. Breaking this down, we get to an average of 0.5 pounds of muscle a week. That’s tough to do but not impossible for the skinny guy who’s never really lifted before. [And it won’t be linear – in the beginning, if he does things right, he’ll gain faster than he will towards the end.]
It’s pretty universally accepted that Read the rest of this entry »
I’m starting a series today on how you should eat in order to gain more muscle mass. This will be a 3-parter that I’ll finish throughout the month. Here’s the outline:
- Why your eating habits are more important than your lifting habits if you want to get bigger (naturally)
- Why skinny guys stay skinny – plus, the fastest way to gain muscle from your diet
- How to eat more to gain more muscle and actually lose fat at the same time – plus, I’ll also include some sample menus ( keep in mind that entire books are written on menus so I’m only offering some examples!)
Today let’s tackle the importance of eating habits compared to lifting habits. Next week we’ll dive into #2 and the week after that we’ll conclude with the third topic.
Why Eating Is More Important Than Lifting
You want to get bigger, huh? Join the crowd.
You might just be thinking “a little” bigger. Or maybe you are thinking “a lot bigger”. And maybe you just want bigger shoulders, or pecs, or glutes, or whatever.
The point is, we’re talking physique here and we all have different ideal images of what our target physique should be. If you are reading this, then chances are high that part of your desired physique means bigger muscles.
So weightlifting is the most important part of getting bigger muscles, right?
Now before you start writing me hate mail, I’m saying “most important”. That’s a relative term. Meaning, that of course lifting matters! If you want to get bigger muscles, instead of just a bigger gut, then you’ve gotta lift.
But I’m saying that a great eating plan with a mediocre lifting routine will do more for your physique than a great lifting routine and a mediocre eating plan.
(I’d like to write that previous sentence in all caps, but that would just annoy you, right?)
A Simple Example
Let’s walk through a very simplified analysis of 5 cases…
Muscles need stimulation, nutrients, and rest. That combination triggers growth. How much growth depends on the quality and quantity of the stimulation, nutrients, and rest.
No stimulation, no growth. Ditto for rest. And of course, no nutrients (food), no growth.
Since this article series is about how eating impacts muscle growth, let’s assume for now that you are on a pretty good lifting routine. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst. (So, you can extrapolate from this and assume that results will be better/worse in relation to your lifting routine.)
Case 1: Let’s say you are doing your “adequate” lifting routine, but not eating at all. What would happen? Your body would go into starvation mode, burning muscle first, then fat, and then you’d die. Obviously, no muscle growth in this scenario.
Case 2: Now, instead of eating nothing, imagine you eat a small quantity of junk food. Let’s assume total calories are just enough to prevent starvation. But your muscles need protein (in the form of amino acids) to heal after you’ve stimulated them with your adequate workout. And so just junk food doesn’t give the muscles what they need to grow. Result: no muscle growth.
Case 3: Read the rest of this entry »
We’ve been talking recently about how periodicity in your lifting program – systematic alternations in the intensity and volume over time – can improve your results. And we honed in on undulating periodicity as an advanced technique.
But what about runners?
Periodicity Is Not The Same As Progression
I previously wrote about how to incorporate progression into your cardio. But progression and periodicity are not synonyms. You can progress each week (for example, adding a 1/4 mile to each run, each week or improving your time a little bit each week) but that’s not periodized running.
A fake example “linear periodization” of running would be doing 4 weeks at a 12 min pace, then 4 weeks at a 10 minute pace, then 4 weeks at an 8 minute pace.
But runners know that linear periodization just doesn’t work. (So don’t follow the silly example of linear periodization!)
I realize that most of the people reading this site are much more focused on lifting than on running, as am I, but running still makes up a good part of conditioning and fat loss training for many of you. So let me explain.
Runners Use Undulating Periodicity
Well, truth be told, runners figured out the value of undulating periodicity long before lifters/strength coaches. But runners don’t call it “undulating periodicity”.
Take a look over at runnersworld.com and you’ll see countless training plans (in prep for 10k, half marathons, etc.) all of which vary the intensity throughout the week but showing progression over time.
Here’s an example week Read the rest of this entry »
If you haven’t read my previous summary of the Vermont Spartan Beast, it might make sense to do that now. You can also check out Cameron’s article on the Super Spartan. In this article, I’ve got photos plus some description of the obstacles for you!
I’m a big fan of stretching. Well, maybe that needs a qualifier… Let me explain.
I’m a big fan of
- General dynamic stretching before a lifting/running/exercise session
- Specific warm-up sets before lifting heavy
- General static stretching and foam rolling after a session or on off days (or just about any Read the rest of this entry »