Saturday, December 26, 2009

My workout program for the next 4 weeks.

Glycogen depletion workout - The idea behind this workout is to train with light weights, high repetitions with very little rest so that body's glycogen levels drop. When this happens, and the amino acid levels are kept high using protein intake, the body loses fat very quickly.

Superset: Flat DB bench press + Pull ups - 4 sets of 8 reps each.(1 warm up set)
Superset: Leg press + leg curls - 4 sets of 12 reps each.(1 warm up set)
Superset: Seated rows + Skull crushers - 4 sets of 10 reps each.
Abs: Roman chair sit ups, crunches and hanging leg raises - 2 sets each to failure.
Cardio: 15 minutes low intensity cardio on the treadmill.

Tuesday and Wednesday:
15 minutes High Intensity Interval Training, I will use Turbulence Training for this.

Incline DB press: 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
Dead lifts: 4 sets of 6 reps.
Front squats: 4 sets of 6 reps.
Pull ups: 3 sets of 10 reps.
Parallel bar dips: 3 sets of 8(with weights)
Weighted crunches - 3 sets of 15 reps

Thursday post workout until Friday afternoon is a high carb day. Rest of Friday will be maintenance calories.

Similar to Thursday's workout, but instead of Front squats, I do regular squats and instead of deadlifts, I do bent over rows.

Sunday: Turbulence Training again.

Except my high carb days(Thursday post workout to Friday lunch), all other days are low carb days, but not too low. I'll keep it below 150 grams carbs per day. Protein will be at 200 grams per day atleast. 10 gms fish oil per day and creatine in my pre and post workout shakes.

I'm at 192 lbs right now, at about 11 % body fat, goal is to get to stay at the same weight but drop bodyfat to about 7 %, and this is exactly what the above workout plus diet plan is meant to do. Lose fat, gain muscle. Isn't that everybody's goal?! Guess what, its possible.
Lose fat from the low carb days and prime the body for growth when I increase calories drastically on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Whats in your fridge?

You are what you eat. Eating right can be easy or difficult, it all depends on what we let ourselves get used to.
In the United States, based on the IHRSA/ASD Obesity/Weight Control Report states that about 63 % of Americans are obese. That's unbelievable but true!

Why are these people obese? Because they've got used to eating the wrong things and not exercising.
Lets take a look at whats in my fridge:

1. Frozen chicken breasts
2. Ribeye steaks- lean cuts.
3. Salmon fillet.
4. Lucrene and Activia yogurt - which I use for dessert.
5. Coke Zero cans - cant live without them :). I also have some diet sprite.
6. Eggs
7. Milk
8. Condiments like Mustard, A1 steak sauce, wasabe, etc.
9. Vegetables: Broccoli, Onions, Tomatoes, carrots and Bell pepper.
10. Mozarella cheese - which I use on omelets sometimes.
11. Fruit - Apples and bananas are a staple, I also get strawberries sometimes.
12. Ham - For the omelets again.

I also have the occassional ice cream or cheese cake in there. Other stuff in the kitchen include:
Tuna cans, Multi-grain wheat bread, Peanut butter and the like.

But thats it, simple but there's enough variety there to not get me bored with what I'm eating.
Also, if you eat out frequently like I do, dont let it destroy your diet plan. Most places have an
entree which is a meat + veggies combination. You can still have the occassional indulegence though,
mine's sushi!

There you go. Now tell me, whats in your fridge?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

5 little things which make a difference

I'm sure most people have their fitness on their list of new year resolutions.  However, a common complaint I hear is the lack of time. Most of us do not have the time to spend many hours in the gym every week. So to these people, I'd like to point out little things they can do to stay fit without even having to step into the gym.

1. Stairs: We've all heard it before. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. This seems so trivial but it really does add up. Stairs are everywhere, so climb them! Not only do you burn calories, but it also tones the legs.

2. Watch the liquid calories: Most people quit soda trying to get "healthy" and replace it with "health drinks". So they pick up gatorade or Vitamin water or an Odwalla drink. The problem is, these drinks are almost completely full of sugar and in some cases, have more calories than a can of coca-cola or pepsi. So want to pick up a healthy drink? Pick water. Or just pick a diet version of your favorite soda.

3. Avoid late night eating: If your diet is full of excessive late night eating, too much rice, and high-sugar meals, YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT. Eat your last meal atleast 2 hours before bed time, and keep the carbohydrate and fats low for that meal.

4. Stay hydrated: Most people do not even drink 2 liters of water per day. Fat cells are harder to be metabolized when the body is dehydrated, and the body retains water when dehydrated. Making it a point to drink atleast 1 gallon of water per day will help flush out toxins, keep the metabolism healthy and keep skin healthy.

5. Workout at home: An efficient training program like Turbulence training by Craig Ballantyne can be practiced anywhere, even at home. Take 15-20 minutes of your day to do a quick workout. This will not only increase your energy level for all your other activities, but it will jump start your metabolism to burn more calories even when you are not doing anything!

There you go. 5 simple things anyone can do to stay in shape. Remember, when it comes to health and fitness you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be consistent.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Track your progress

Writing down goals works. Like Johny Depp says in the movie Blow:
"Life passes most people by while they are making grand plans for it".

Dont be that way. Research shows people who write down goals are 75 % more likely to achieve them.
Ask anyone what their new year resolutions are getting into shape would be on the list. Gyms are crowded in the first week of January but empty by the last week of that month. Why does this happen? Either we dont have a plan at all or dont keep track of our progress.

I've been looking at Fitbook, a 12 week planning system to reach your overall fitness goals.
I like it because:

1. Its goal oriented.
2. Weekly planning and daily tracking facilities.
3. Its portable. Can be carried to the gym.

Its really cheap and sold on, check it out here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Interval Training and why you should be doing it.

Its been a while since I've written here, so here's a brief update on my progress over the last 6 weeks or so. I currently stand at a solid 196 lbs body weight, still maintaining under 10 % body fat, so this means over the last 3 months of training, I've gained about 10 pounds of muscle, while still keeping my body fat low and my endurance good. Another thing to note is, I no longer am cycling my carbohydrate intake. So how did I gain muscle, while keeping fat off?

Apart from the common sense guidelines to get about 1 gm per pound of body weight and training hard, I believe the one key component which has allowed me to progress at a extremely fast rate has been the use of Interval training.

What is "interval training?" Its simple. To quote Craig Ballantyne from Turbulence Training:
"An interval is a short period of exercise performed at a given intensity for a specific length of time. Each interval is separated from the next interval by a short rest or lighter activity. There are no strict rules on how long or how intense the interval must be, however, changing the interval length or intensity changes the way your body works and responds to exercise."

Studies[1] have shown that interval training is significantly better at dropping body fat in comparison to regular forms of steady intensity cardio, so if you think jogging or walking is your way to fat loss, think again, and consider interval training.

This is what I've been doing, and I recommend to others who are trying to gain quality muscle yet avoid getting fat. You will need a treadmill for this:

1. Warm up at a slow pace for 2-5 minutes.
2. Run at a speed which is fast for you, I usually run at 8-9 mph. Do this for 30-60 seconds.
3. Slow down and walk/jog at a lower pace, for me its 3-3.5 mph. Do this for 60-90 seconds.
Steps 2 and 3 constitute one interval. Perform 5-10 such intervals.
4. Finish with a 2-5 minute "cool down" period walking at a slow pace.

Do not perform interval training more than 4 times a week if you are also weight training as this would lead to a chance of over training the Central nervous system.

[1] King, J., Panton, L., Broeder, C., Browder, K., Quindry, J., & Rhea, L. (2001). A comparison of high intensity vs. low intensity exercise on body composition in overweight women. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, 33, A2421

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Escalated Density Training

What causes muscle growth? When the body is faced with a challenge which it hasn't faced before, it adapts by increasing muscle size and strength to be prepared for further bouts of such stress. This is the principle on which Escalated Density Training which is promoted by Charles Staley.
I have practiced Escalated Density Training intermittently whenever my goals are to change body composition, shock the muscle, and get a tremendous amount of work done in a short amount of time. Yesterday was such a day.

I was aware I had to train my whole body and I did not want to spend endless hours in the gym. I wanted to challenge myself with enough intensity and volume so that my body is stressed enough to lose bodyfat and release useful hormones in growth hormone and testosterone in large amounts.
The training I did is called an A-B split. Basically, 2 opposing muscles are trained with 1 exercise each for a continuous period of about 15 minutes.
So I did 3 such bursts.
Incline Dumbbell bench press with 50 lbs and Close grip lat pulldowns with 110 lbs: Started off with sets of 10 on each and as the soreness and fatigue increased, I continued with 6 rep sets ending with a total of 64 reps on the incline press and 80 on the lat pulldowns. 15 minutes to do this.

Barbell squats with 135 lbs and leg curls with 80 lbs: 8 sets each of 8 reps per set.Took me about 12 minutes to do this but I had no energy left to continue.

At this point, I took a break and trained abs for 10 minutes.

Next, Seated rowing with 100 lbs and parallel bar dips: 8 sets each of 8 reps per set. Again took me about 12 minutes but my arms and back were so pumped that I could barely continue.

All in all, the workout was no longer than an hour, I had trained my whole body, and burnt tremendous amounts of calories.
I followed it up with proper nutrition the rest of the day and today, although I'm VERY sore, I'm looking lean, muscular and defined. Progressing towards our goals makes all the pain and effort worth it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Deadlifts and why you should be doing them

Today's workout was great! My training partner and I scheduled an upper body workout and we were there at the gym full of energy after 2 days off from the gym recuperating.
The main focus today was on 2 exercises, one was the incline dumbbell press and the other was the deadlift.
Deadlift is such an efficient exercise when it comes to adding muscle both to the upper body and lower body. It strengthens the back and all its surrounding muscles also making this a great lift for rehabilitative and preventive purposes.It also improves core strength, increases testosterone and growth hormone levels in the body and improves over all functional strength. So anyone with a healthy back MUST incorporate deadlifts into their program.
We warmed up with 135 lbs and 225 lbs on the bar and moved onto our working set with 315 lbs. While I can lift heavier, I decided to go for as many repetitions as possible to bring out the so called "Christmas tree" look in the back.

Here's a video of me deadlifting 315 lbs for 15 reps.

I don't bend my knees as much because I wanted to take my legs out of the movement to some extent. Notice my back remaining straight, eyes looking forward, looking downwards rolls the spine thus causing injuries so its important to look ahead and keep the back straight.
Deadlifting regularly with proper form is one of the best exercises to build over all strength, core stability and stay on the right track to achieve one's fitness goals.
Include these in your program and live strong.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trying out Nutrilite

I'm sure a lot of people have heard about the nutritional supplement brand called Nutrilite. They have some pretty cool nutritional products, are very popular in Europe and North America. My friend Bharadwaj who I know from many years endorses and markets the products and he asked me if I would be interested in trying out some of their products and write testimonials about my experiences with these products. I agreed to this and we met today and he had a bag full of supplements and brochures for me.

I will be trying out these products and write my experiences with them, and me being the way I am, and being quite well acquainted with various supplement companies, I believe I will be able to provide an unbiased opinion on these products.

I tried out 2 of the products today.
first was the Nutrilite® Sports Drink which I used during my workout today. Today was a hot day, and this doubled as a energy source(20 gms of carbs or so) and my source of hydration at the gym. Training as hard as I do usually exhausts me on hot days but the sports drink definitely helped. It also tasted great which makes me give it a thumbs up.

Second was "Simply Nutrilite" which is an antioxidant juice. Tastes great, and a good source of anti oxidants, and its not too loaded with sugar. I wish there was a zero calorie version of this though, but it tasted great, and is a quality product.

I will be incorporating the other products into my daily supplementation and training program and see how things go. For now, Thank you Bharadwaj and Nutrilite!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stimulate, not Annihilate

Some people make the mistake of going to the gym and working out until they feel completely tired and drained. They feel some kind of masochistic pleasure in the fact that they trained so long until their muscle is completely annihilated. Deriving some kind of pseudo-satisfaction out of an effort like this is foolish, and damaging in the long run. When one performs multiple exercises for many sets on the same muscle group, there's a good chance the Central Nervous System gets over trained.
And over training is the WORST thing one can do if their goal is gain muscle, lose body fat and recover properly.

Not only will the gains in the gym get affected, when the CNS stays over trained for a prolonged duration, it can lead to elevated levels of cortisol, stress, fatigue and sometimes even depression. Again, because of not seeing results in the gym, the athlete might feel like quitting. There's another way, a way to gain well from workouts in the gym, and have a life outside it too. However, to do this, one has to be willing to spend FEWER hours in the gym.

The main problem with traditional workouts where each muscle is trained on a separate day and the lifter performs 4-5 exercises for 4-5 sets each of 6-10 reps. The gains are simply not linear with this model unless he always keeps track of how well he is recovering from these workouts.

The flip side of this is that to grow as fast as humanly possible, training as frequently as possible is a key. That is, if you can train a muscle 2-3 times a week and recover from it, you grow at a much faster rate. However, its common sense to understand that if you train the muscle multiple times a week, the volume must be cut in half every workout.

An ideal kind of training program which uses the increased training frequency and intensity rule, while keeping track of CNS recovery is DC training as explained here.
In this kind of program, the body is split in upper and lower halves and each half is trained on one day, with few important compound movements, with enough intensity to stimulate growth but not over-train the CNS. And this process is repeated as frequently as possible. Simple common sense and great gains in the gym. Not only will one gain muscle and lose bodyfat, because they are not over training their CNS, their mood will be elevated outside the gym and transfer onto other aspects of daily life.

Keep in mind one can over train on any kind of training program, if the diet and rest is not proper. Everyone should strive to get close to 1 gm protein per lb of body weight and 6-8 hours of quality sleep, without this, efforts in the gym will go unrewarded. This is where supplementation comes into the picture, the intelligent use of nutritional supplements greatly help improve recovery rates. The supplements I use and the whys are answered here.
Remember, the ideal training model is one where you workout to stimulate growth and not annihilate the muscle. Then you get out of the gym, eat/drink your protein, rest well and watch the transformation your body goes through slowly but surely. Lets over-gain, not over train.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Drop it!

Most people while working out, do exercise sets of 8-10 repetitions with a weight they can handle, and then rack the weight back. While this is OK, there are techniques which can be employed to increase stress on the muscle thus increasing the amount of work done by the muscle(s) in a short period of time. "Drop Sets" is one such technique. Most people have been working out for a while have either seen others do drop sets or occasionally performed drop sets themselves. Here I will write about WHY drop sets are so awesome, HOW to do them right and WHEN to do them.

Why drop sets?

Drop sets are one of the ways to achieve maximal motor unit recruitment, fatigue the muscular, as well as increase the amount of work done in a very short amount of time. A drop set is essentially a series of mini-sets performed in continuation where the athlete picks up a heavy enough weight, trains until positive failure, picks up a slightly lower weight to continue training and continues, and he repeats this process until the muscle is completely fatigued.
So this is a perfect way of getting a lot of work done in a short period of time, increase muscle definition, get a great pump, increase time under tension. In other words, its everything one wants to achieve in the gym.

How to drop set?

Pick up a weight you would struggle to get 8 repetitions with, and do 6. Drop the weight, pick up a sightly lighter weight and perform another 6-8 repetitions. Drop it again, again pick up a lighter weight and perform 8-12 repetitions or until failure.
Its ideal to have a training partner while doing drop sets because he can hand you weights or reset the pin on the weight stack. If not, just do it yourself.

An example of doing the drop set right:
Pick up 80 lb dumbbells, crank out 6 reps, drop it. Pick up 65 lb dumbbells, crank out 6 more. Drop it and now pick up 50 lb dumbbells and crank out 6 more. Drop it again and curse me or the gods for recommending this idea. Pick up 35's and now do as many reps as you can. Then drop that weight and fall back on the bench, recover, get some water to drink, and then feel your muscle pumped up, looking better than ever before. You have done all you can to work the muscle, now its time to let it rest and eat right to let it grow.

When to drop set?

Drop sets need not be performed every workout, or on every exercise. Its a high intensity exercise and over doing it will cause fatigue of the central nervous system and thus slow recovery. However, use it for lagging body parts.Also, let the drop set be the last thing you do for your muscle for that workout. So if you are training chest, a drop set using dumbbells is a perfect way of finishing the workout. Again, for shoulders, time and again, bodybuilders claim drop sets are the most effective way of making those deltoids grow, so use it freely while working shoulders.

Finally, a word of advice to 130 lb skinny guys who want to try this to get their biceps bigger. Biceps are one of the smallest muscles in the body and over-working them is the worst idea one can think of to get them to grow. Maybe you will drop a dumbbell on your head one day and that will knock some sense into the brain. :-)

For the rest of the world, lets drop that weight, and not the attitude.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Super Breakfast

Everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, people don't know the reason behind this. Also, people don't usually know what to eat for breakfast. And some people skip breakfast, which is probably the worst thing one can do to their body.

Why eat breakfast?
1. It is the first chance the body gets to refuel its glycogen stores after 10-12 hours of starvation.
2. Helps curb hunger and binge eating later in the day.
3. Without a proper breakfast to stop the catabolism, body loses muscle and the metabolism slows down. Remember, a slow metabolism means its harder to lose bodyfat.
4. Eating a proper breakfast jump starts the metabolism, helps curb hunger, keeps energy levels up,

What to eat?
Corn flakes? Muffins? Orange Juice? If you want an insulin roller coaster ride, then yes. The breakfast options advertized on TV are terrible. These contain almost entirely of simple carbohydrate which spike insulin levels and result in feeling tired after a few hours.
An ideal breakfast should contain enough protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats. Ideal options are eggs + a piece of toast, oatmeal + a small protein shake, etc. Point being get some protein in there.

While I know this, I struggle with low appetite in the mornings. I'm hungry but can barely stomach food. So far, I was eating some oatmeal and a small protein shake but now I've discovered a new way of getting the nutrients I want easily.
A friend of mine suggested this and I love the idea. We decided to call it super breakfast!

For this, you need:
2 scoops of Whey isolate(fast absorbing protein early in the morning)
6-8 ice cubes
10 oz water/milk
half cup quaker oats.
1-2 tbs peanut butter.

Put them all in a blender and mix it up until its smooth. The peanut butter and the protein powder add great taste and over all it comes upto about 12 oz and I just pour it into a big mug and sip on it.

How much protein, carbs and fat in this? About 65 gms of protein, 30-35 gms carbs and about 15 gms of fat. Perfect!

Want more carbs? Throw a banana in there. For the protein powder, I use chocolate, but you can experiment with different flavors.

So, drink up! And start the day right.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Super Squats!

Training legs is a pain. Everyone agrees, and most people slack away from it. Even experienced lifters hesitate to push themselves hard enough while training legs. However, there's few things one can do in the gym which leave the athlete with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment like a hardcore leg workout. Again, legs are the biggest muscles in the body, so training legs well means the metabolism shift which occurs as a result, and the release of all sorts of anabolic hormones in the body alone should convince one to focus on training legs.

The hardest exercise to do for legs? Heavy squats! Of most people who do squats, people try to find ways to make it "easier" but doing it either on the smith machine, or doing half reps or not going heavy enough. And this is again a cop out. The only way to hit legs hard enough to get them big, well defined and functional is to SQUAT. Unless one has a functional disability, like a bad back or a knee accident which doesnt allow squat, there's no excuse not to squat.

People who squat consistently as a part of their program will see great gains, not just great legs, but their whole body begins to transform and look the way they want it to. Indeed, squat is the secret of the best bodies around.

There's a book called "Super Squats" by Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D. In this book, he mentions a specific squatting concept called the 20 rep breathing squat. To quote him:

The nucleus of this venerable program is one set of squats - twenty reps in the set, to be sure, but just one set. Additional exercises are incidental, two or three sets of several other basic exercises at most, and the general caution is to err on the side of doing too few additional exercises rather than too many. Make no mistake about it, however, this one set of 20-rep squats is not your ordinary cup of iron tea: Whatever our recipe might lack in complexity of volume will be more than recouped in intensity.

That's it: one set of 20-rep squats, a couple of other basic exercises, plenty of good food, milk and rest. But, oh, those squats!

The specific approach to the 20-rep squats is nearly as simple as the overall program. First, load the bar to what you normally use for ten reps. Now, do twenty reps - no kidding. Second, every single workout, add at least five pounds to the bar. These two elements are what separate the men from the boys and produce results, by simultaneously embracing the two cardinal principles of weight training: overload and progressive resistance.

The overload principle states that unless you do more than you are used to, you won't build muscular size or strength. All those training cliches like "no pain, no gain" reflect the overload principle. By requiring twenty reps with your normal ten-rep poundages, you are forced into overload mode.

Reading this inspired me to try it out, so yesterday, I decided to get 20 reps with 220 lbs!! Crazy idea as it was a low carb day and my energy tank was running on empty! My friend took a video of me squatting. Check it out.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Truth about Soy Protein

Soy protein is controversial. It is a kind of protein which comes from soybeans and its a often suggested source of protein, especially for people who follow a vegan diet(avoiding meat, eggs and milk) or for regular vegetarians. So, there's a lot of noise from this crowd who tend to promote Soy protein more than it needs to be.

Soy protein has multiple benefits, however, it has a target crowd. Its ideally used by women. The advantages soy protein holds for women, might not be ideal for men. Let me elaborate. For men, using Soy protein may:
1. Soy lowers testosterone levels! Yikes! Soy products on the market contain phytoestrogens(known as isoflavones) and this is the kind of hormone which men dont want to increase in their bodies, as it leads to decreased libido and sperm count.
2. Soy protein also affects thyroid hormone levels, this means loss of energy and weight gain.
3. The bio-availability of soy protein is lower than that of eggs, casein and whey protein.

However, we dont need to be fanatics and swear off soy altogether. In low amounts consumed infrequently, soy does no to little damage. Infact, soy is often a "hidden ingredient" in about 60 % of any canned products we buy!
So, we cannot avoid soy, but dont chase it and definitely stop promoting it.

So does soy have a place in our diets? Yes. If:
1. A person is lactose intolerant. Then an obvious choice is to switch to Soy Milk.
2. Vegans, because they do not use regular milk, eggs or meat as a protein source.
3. If a soy based product, say like tofu is a part of someone's culture, then its unavoidable to a degree.

For women, soy is more useful. Genistein, one of the phytochemicals found in soy, can reduce the risk of cancer by preventing tumors from creating blood vessels that would increase their growth. Again, Phytoestrogens are currently being researched to determine their usefulness in acting like synthetic estrogen to protect women from bone loss, maintain cardiac health and those who use hormone replacement therapy. The phytoestrogens in Soy also help in easing the symptoms of menopause.

So, whats the final verdict on Soy? Yea or Nay? If you're a male, definitely say NO! If not, use it in moderate amounts. However, know that the upside of using Soy is barely what its made out to be.

Staying Injury Free.

We are only as strong as our weakest link. Once a person is determined to workout consistently over a period of time, there's few things which can come in the way. One such thing is gym related injuries.

People hurt themselves due to various reasons:
1. They see others lifting heavy weights, they try to imitate that and hurt themselves.
2. Improper range of motion or form performing the exercise.
3. Not warming up properly.

When people try to lift heavier than they can handle, they compromise on the range of motion, and do "half-reps", and such "half-reps" or incomplete range of motion puts tremendous pressure on the joints and cartilage. Such repetitive stress causes joint pain, or in extreme cases, muscle tears which take a long time to heal.
Another reason people might hurt themselves although they are doing everything right is that their diet lacks "healthy" fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food/supplementation.

Supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids(Fish oil for example) reduces tenderness in the joints, decreases inflammation and reduces the activity of enzymes that destroy cartilage. The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids are numerous, read here for further information on its benefits. I use 5-10 gms of fish oil a day, and along with protein powder, I consider fish oil to be a compulsory supplement for every one who trains with weights and is conscious of their health.

People also tend to ignore the role of Vitamins and Minerals in joint protection. Using a simple Multivitamin-Multimineral product, at the recommended daily dosage is generally enough.
So using Fish oil and a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral is usually enough as a preventive measure.

However, once an athlete is hurt, he needs more. If suffering from joint pains for a long time, I would recommend a product which contains Glucosamine, Chondrotin and MSM, all of which act towards repairing joint damage and restoring joint health and support normal function. A few years ago, in attempting to chase "numbers" in the gym, lifting more than I could, I hurt my joints and I relied on a glucosamine product to recover.

Also, people tend to train through injuries, not accepting that they need time off from the gym. There's no point in not letting the injuries heal. Again, with injuries, workouts tend to be half-assed, so suck up that ego and take time off from the gym.

Finally, I cant emphasize proper lifting form enough. No matter how heavy one lifts, all exercises should be performed with perfect form and full range of motion. Stretch and contract the muscle properly and the numbers will come. Its not about how much you lift, its not a exercise for the ego, because the ego is something you leave at the door when you walk into the gym. Walk in with heart, and the sole purpose to do it right.

Train heavy, Train right, or go home.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For the Fairer Sex!

Walk into any gym, and where are all the girls usually concentrated? Either on the cardiovascular machines or in the aerobics room moving around little dumbbells hoping that they will look like the models they idolize. Take a look at any top female model who's "made it", and talk to her about her workout routine, she'll confess to training with weights a few times a week, in one way or another. The bodies of these models are lean, symmetrical and firm.

However, a lot of women are misinformed about the means to achieving this end and are convinced that starving themselves or spending hours doing cardio is the way to achieve this look. Weight training or resistance training is pretty much the only way to shape your body into being lean, symmetrical and beautiful.

Few facts everyone should be aware of:
1. Weight training elevates metabolism for many hours, compared to aerobics which does so for only a few.
2. Dieting and aerobic exercise without strength training causes muscle loss.
3. Women who weight train won't increase their muscle size much, just their muscle's density and strength. So forget the fear of "bulking up."
4. Muscle burns fat!

Most of the problems women have with their bodies looking the way they want comes down to 2 factors: slow metabolism and stubborn bodyfat areas. Weight training helps with both. Also, having some muscle on the body means the more fat you burn and can eat a reasonable diet without getting fat.This is called a good metabolism.

Many girls ask me how to "tone" their muscles, and lose fat from their legs, etc. I usually suggest weight training along with their cardio routine, and to add some extra protein to their diet. A simple circuit training workout is ideal for most women and will take them quite far in their pursuit of the beautiful body.

Jamie Eason has a simple but very effective workout called the "Plyo Card Routine". Check it out!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Research and Science Manifest in Muscle!

I get asked a lot how I manage to train the whole body thrice a week, training hard every training session and still recover from it. Recovery is a science. As one famous bodybuilder once said: "There is no over training, there's only under eating and under resting". While I don't subscribe entirely to that theory, I definitely believe people training each muscle once a week are missing out on the growth cycles they can achieve from training the hard briefly, but intensely multiple times a week.
The key to recovering from such training is diet, supplementation and rest.

1. Diet: Get a minimum of 1 gm protein per pound of body weight, and at least 5 grams fish oil everyday.

2. Rest: Get 8 hours of quality sleep. A nap during the day during the weekends helps too. During REM sleep, the body releases Growth Hormone and various other anabolic hormones which aid in the growth and body's recovery from hard workouts.

3. Supplementation: A lot can be made or broken in the supplementation people use. The intelligent use of supplements can vastly improve recovery rates and strength during training.

Currently, I use:

1. Protein powder after workout and before bed.

2. NO-Explode before workout.

3. Alpha Lipoic Acid post workout

4. Fish Oil before bed.

5. VPX Redline before workout.

I've been looking for a Branch Chain Amino Acid supplement to use during my workouts, which replaces glycogen levels very fast while flooding my system with animo acids. One product which has caught my eye is Ressurection by Diabolic Labs.

The primary carb source in it is Karbolyn, which is absorbed superfast and each serving contains Vitamin B6, and the key amino acids(Leucine, Iso-Leucine, Valine and Glutamine). These are the amino acids which the body burns off first during the absence of glycogen for energy, so using this product will prevent muscle loss, while increasing recovery rate and reducing muscle soreness. is offering it for a very low price because its a new product. Maybe I'll pick it up. It'll be my secret, and like my friend Jay Cholewa says:"Research and Science Manifest in Muscle"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Familiar Territory again!

Back to training at the school gym! Gold's gym was good, but its definitely good to be back training among friends. Thursday's and Today's workouts were at the school gym. Its always a great feeling to walk in and see familiar friendly faces, who are there to train just as hard as I plan to.
Working out on a Saturday is extra special for me, because usually, Friday is a carb up day which means eating whatever I want, resting and doing other things I enjoy. So this means I'm rested, full of energy and totally looking forward to a long hard training session.

Today's workout was:

Pull ups - 4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Press - Working sets with 75 lb, 85 lb and 95 lb dumbells for 6 reps each.
Deadlifts - Working set with 315 lbs for 10 reps
Seated rows - Working set with 180 lbs for 12 reps
Leg press - Working set - 6 plates each side for 2 sets of 12 reps each.

Just 5 exercises, but I pushed myself hard on every one of them and they were compound exercises which hit all the supportive muscles like shoulders, biceps, triceps and hamstrings, so I did not try to do direct work for those muscles.

From the diet and supplementation angle, I added 250 mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid and 5 gms of creatine to all my meals yesterday. This accomplishes 2 things, the alpha lipoic acid acts by increasing insulin sensitivity and also as a shuttling agent and drives the creatine into muscle cells. This improves the storage of carbohydrate as glyogen. This again means I store glycogen, not fat. The result is that my body has enough creatine and glyocgen and is ready to be pushed very hard the next time I want to exert maximum effort.

When I came back from my workout, I checked my mail and found a really cool black T-Shirt from Jay Cholewa who runs Big Red Physical Performance. Jay is an upcoming fitness trainer and a good friend who writes for and knows what he's talking about. I hope me wearing his brand brings his business much well deserved success!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Question Of Taste.

A friend called me yesterday asking if I wanted to go in with him on a great deal on protein powder from 5 lbs protein for like 23 $ and he wanted to buy 10 lbs and share with me to save on shipping. It sounds like a great deal but I turned him down and explained to him that I drink about 2 protein shakes a day, which means that if the protein powder tastes lousy, its going to be very hard for me to motivate myself to drink it on a daily basis.

I use Syntrax's Matrix protein, which is one of the best tasting protein powders out there today. It costs me about 39 $ for 5 lbs and 5 lbs lasts me quite a long time, so from a price perspective, its not really that expensive. Also, Matrix contains a mix of whey isolate, casein and egg albumen which ensures a steady supply of slow digesting amino acids which keeps the body in an anabolic state for many hours, which makes Matrix a perfect drink right before bed.

Just some happy thoughts I had after drinking a protein shake :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Warm Days, Hot Workouts!

I've been training at Gold's gym the last 2 days. School gym's closed for a week and I signed up for a free 7 day guest membership at the closest Gold's gym. Sometimes, change is good. I was eager to train at Gold's and try out the equipment, which are better than the school gym I usually train at. Ofcourse, normally free weights are all one needs, but machines can bring new angles and unworked muscles into play, which is a good thing.
I've also started on my new summer program, and hope to further improve my physique as a result.
Yesterday was a leg workout day at Gold's and a high rep workout being Monday. Special part of the workout for me was using the Donkey Calf Raise machine, which trains the calves at a different angle. I liked the new environment and had a great workout.

Today was a upper body workout day, exercises were:
Incline Dumbell Press.
Wide grip pull ups.
Parallel Bar dips.
Seated Hammer Strength Rows.
Bent over raises superset with Lateral raises.

And I finished with some low intensity cardio. Today was a hot day and I struggled to complete the workout and maintain intensity through out. My ears were ringing by the time I got done, but was satisfying to know I didnt compromise on intensity despite the heat. Summer is here to stay though, and it means I have to improve my conditioning to keep up.

The best part of today was buying a george foreman grill! I've wanted one for so long, and am super happy I finally got one. George foreman grills are pretty much a must have for anyone who wants to cut carbohydrate and fat intake while keeping protein high. I was looking for ways to do so and a conversation with a friend sold me on it. Cost me 40 dollars and probably worth every cent.

Bed time, I take my Vitamins and fish oil, drink my protein shake. Its not rest, its momentum gathering.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Unstoppable Progress!

School's done for the semester! Whats next? The possibilities are endless. As they always are. On the fitness front, I've set some goals for myself and am about to write up a plan to achieve these goals. For now, the goal over the next 3 months is to gain about 5-10 pounds of quality muscle while keeping my conditioning. This I believe is a reasonable target, as I tend to add muscle easily.
To achieve these goals, I've written up a training, diet and supplementation program for myself.

1. Training: I will continue with a 4 day per week split, training the whole body thrice a week. Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays I'll train in the 12-15 repetition range and Saturdays will be heavy workout day with 6 rep sets.

So, training will be:

Monday: Lower Body(high rep)
Tuesday:Upper Body(high rep)
Thursday: Whole Body(high rep)
Saturday: Whole Body(low rep)

Low intensity cardio in the mornings and cardio post workout(depending on energy level)

2. Diet:
Carb Cycling. However, my low carb days will have about 100 gms carbs because I'm trying to add some muscle.

Monday - Thursday Evening:- 100 gm carbs, 200 gms protein and whatever fat naturally is in food.
Thursday Evening(post workout) :- Saturday Morning:- 600 gms carbs, 400 gms protein and keep fat low.
Saturday PostWorkout - Sunday Night :- Maintenance level eating, 200 gms carbs and 200 gms protein basically.

3. Supplementation:

I'm going to be adding a new product to my supplement stack.

NO-Explode:- I'm picking NO-Explode because it contains:
1. Arginine and other compounds to improve pumps and ATP levels in the gym.
2. Creatine - Ive already written quite a bit about the benefits of creatine.
3. Caffine, and some useful Amino acids like L-Tyrosine and Taurine.
4. Electrolyte Replacers.

All this makes NO-Explode an ideal product to rely on for my summer lean muscle gain goals. I will be using 1 serving on all days of the week.

Apart from NO-Explode, I'll be using my regular supplement stack of:

1. Syntrax Matrix 5.0 Cookies & Cream

2. Now Foods Alpha Lipoic Acid

3. Fish Oil

4. VPX Redline

Its a solid program, with all bases covered. My progress is inevitable and unstoppable!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vitamins may block the benefits of exercise?

News channels yesterday covered this latest study on the effects of taking vitamins along with regular exercise. The conclusion after the study was conducted was:
"Exercise helps increase insulin sensitivity and ward off diabetes, but taking supplemental antioxidants such as vitamins C and E actually blunts that benefit."

This caught my attention because I use
Nature's Science Vitamin C-1000, 1000mg/100 Capsules

so I decided to look deeper into this topic.

When we exercise, the muscles work hard because there is stress on the body. There is oxidative stress on the muscles and muscles respond to this stress by creating free radicals. This process increase insulin sensitivity, which helps keep diabetes at bay. Increased insulin sensitivity is also key for people to process carbohydrates properly and store than as glycogen in the body and not as fat.

The study claims:
"If you take antioxidants like vitamins C and E, you block the oxidative stress response, but you also block the beneficial effects of exercise on insulin sensitivity"

Few things to keep in mind:
1. Excessive free radicals in the body can harm important cellular components and cells start functioning poorly.
2. This was a 4 weeks for 20 men and no mention was made of the doses used, their dietary and exercise habits.
3. Vitamins C and E increase insulin sensitivity.

Another important aspect to consider is the aspect of "timing". Taking Vitamins before a workout will do exactly what the study says, it will blunt the oxidative stress from the exercise and will prevent the athlete from getting the full benefits off it. However, taking these vitamins and supplements like Alpha Lipoic Acid post workout are an integral part of recovery.
Such studies should be "taken with a grain of salt", accepting them blindly might prevent us from achieving our fitness goals.
So don't throw away your vitamins! Or if you want to carefully dispose of them, send them to me for decommissioning!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trying out SizeOn

Recently, I was at a local NPC contest and I visited the Gaspari Nutrition booth there. I was given a few sample packets of Gaspari Nutrition's SizeOn to try out. SizeOn is primarily a creatine product along with a few other useful compounds which help the creatine to be absorbed better and is meant to be used during a workout. It promises a better pump during workout, increased recovery rate and clearance of lactic acid from the muscle(allows one to train harder).

Today being Tuesday(one of my low carb days), I'd eaten less than 100 gms carbs before training, and I had a hard training session scheduled. I was going to train with a friend who was significantly stronger and weighed more than me so I needed to be at the top of my game to keep up with him strength wise, and I decided it was a good time to try the SizeOn sample.
I mixed it with water(mixes very easily without needing a blender!) and took a bottle to the gym, and sipped on it between sets. I definitely noticed a better pump and my strength was much better than usual(for a low carb day, low carbs makes it harder to lift heavy). I was also more vascular which is obviously from using SizeOn. The taste was pretty good too, I liked the product over all and would recommend it to someone looking for a new creatine and intraworkout supplement.

Workout today was:
Flat Bench press - 6 sets(last set being a giant drop set)
Push Ups - 2 sets of 25 reps each
Cable Crossovers - 2 sets of 15 reps each
Bent over lateral Raises superset with Side Lateral Raises - 4 sets
Shoulder Press on the Smith Machine - 4 sets of 8 reps each
Lying tricep extensions - 4 sets of 8 reps each
Parallel Bar dips - 2 sets of 10 reps each
Tricep Pressdowns superset with Reverse Pressdowns - 2 sets
Weighted rope crunches for the abs - 4 sets

Pretty long and hard workout! What doesnt kill me makes me stronger.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Quality Muscle.

A lot of guys in the gym try to add muscle fast and in that pursuit, eat everything they can get a hold of hoping that will get them bigger fast. While they may add weight this way, the muscle/fat ratio is very bad with this approach. Ideally, one would want to gain mostly muscle and a little fat(which is inevitable while trying to add muscle) and then strip away the fat with some dieting. With the "eat everything in sight" approach, most of the weight added is fat, and people who do this look big, but are soft and completely lack muscle quality.

The intelligent way to approach building muscle is to understand how the body works and supply the proper nutrients at the right time. For example, Branch Chain Amino acids consumed during or before a workout greatly help in adding quality muscle. This is because supplementing with free form Amino acids spares muscle tissue from being broken down to acquire BCAA. This spike in amino acid levels during the workout also increases growth hormone levels in the body, helps speed recovery, enhance ATP production and promote cell volumization. Sounds good? Add a creatine and Nitric oxide product along with BCAAs preworkout and most people would gain a few quality of pounds of muscle in a few weeks. Ofcourse, this is assuming they are eating and resting properly the rest of the day.

Why does this happen? Muscle growth and/or fat loss is not about calories alone. Counting calories is the most basic step. Body is a complex system with multiple growth pathways. The body's testosterone levels, insulin sensitivity, presence of free radicals and cortisol levels all control the amount of muscle we add or fat we store. Intelligently tweaking these will make our task of looking the way we want much easier.

And I'm sure everyone will agree adding a few pounds of muscle at a time is better than looking like michelin man and then spending months trying to get leaner!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Training right for your Body Type.

In pursuit of their fitness goals, people who are serious about it seek to follow a schedule. The first place they look is in the popular fitness magazines. There are various fitness magazines for men and women. Men tend to read Muscle and fitness, Men's health or Muscular development while women read fitness, shape, women's health or oxygen and so on. While these magazines tend to have a lot of programs targetted towards getting into shape by losing fat and gaining muscle, its important to realize that these programs are very generic and may not work if one blindly follows these programs. Every person is unique and following programs blindly from magazines or the internet doesn't always work.

Its not unusual to see people at the gym who look the same week after week, month after month. Why don't their bodies transform? They seem to train hard, and claim to eat right. I meet several such people in the gym, and its obvious to me why they are stuck in the rut they are in. They're not training right for their body type. Most of them are told to stick to the magical 4 sets per exercise, 10 repetitions per set, 12-20 sets per body part. No one ever questions if this is right for them, or if it even works. They do it because their favorite bodybuilder or model said so in a magazine.

This is one way of going about it. Follow the magazines religiously and wonder after a few months why you look nowhere close to the person promoting the program.

Another way is to put some effort into recognizing the best way to train for your own body type. Our bodies are unique. There are certain muscles which grow easier than other parts in our bodies. We accumulate and store fat differently, and have problem areas.
Today, someone asked me in the gym how to get bigger biceps, and this person has been trying very hard to increase his bicep size for the last 3 months. His biceps are a whopping 12 inches, and one can barely tell he works out. I asked him what he usually does for his biceps and it turns out he does about 16 sets of 4 different curling variations. I explained to him how working the brachialis adds more size to the bicep than all of the curling movements he's been doing, and that doing chin ups would help him improve the size of his biceps while also improving his back.

Again, another person complained how his legs don't grow although he squats 315 lbs for 6 reps easily. I pointed out to him that his muscle fiber type predominance in his legs might be slow twitch, and to target such muscle fibers, 20 rep squats and drop sets are a better approach. Time under tension for people with primarily slow twitch muscle fibers should be over a minute per set.

Also, diets tend to be different based on the person's insulin sensitivity. People with low insulin sensitivity(store fat easily in love handles and abs) should cut down their carbs and increase their fat intake to lose weight, while people with high insulin sensitivity should eat a moderate protein, moderate carb and low fat diet.

Few of the many things which differ from person to person. Over the next few weeks, I'll try to explain some of the common mistakes people make, and solutions to them. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

It is recorded that Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel for 4 years. That's a long time to paint a ceiling. Why did it take so long? Because it is art. And beautiful art like that at the Sistine Chapel comes together as a result of endless repetitive effort, patience and an eye for detail.

Molding the body into a desirable object is similarly an act of art.
Our sedentary lifestyles are such that, if unchecked, the body goes out of shape, loses strength and vitality. The repetitive act of training our muscles in a gym to get stronger and look a certain way is our effort at making an art form out of ourselves, so to speak.

Ofcourse, we're all born with certain physical limitations, we cannot get taller after turning into adults and cannot alter our bone structure. However, within the given framework and limitations, we can extend it to an extent that body is an object of beauty and health.
This is art. Bodybuilding is an art. Working out and pushing ourselves to get better is the effort required at producing the unique Sistine Chapel which is our own bodies. This is a repetitive endeavor. Getting into shape is not something achieved in a few weeks, but if we're at it consistently, results are always apparent to the eye.

The reason behind such an endeavor is your own, whether you want to look good at the beach, perform better at a sport, be a model or simply look and feel better about yourself. While everyone's reasons and destinations are different, the journey toward achieving such a transformation is similar for everyone in most respects.

This journey however is not a boring or painful one, although it may seem so to beginners. Once people get into the habit of challenging themselves, beating their previous best efforts, start to see results and get complimented by their peers, they're hooked to this process. It turns into a healthy expression for the release of daily stress and frustrations, and the dopamine which is released by the body in response to exercise makes people feel better. Very rarely do people who have been exercising for years quit, or even if they quit, before long they feel like an integral part of their life is missing.

Anyway, these are just thoughts I had while on the way to the gym yesterday. Every workout I do, I know exactly what exercises to do and what I'm trying to achieve out of them, and this realization made me draw parallels between Michelangelo's art and what we try to achieve in the gym.
In a way, I'm Michelangelo, and I'm painting the ceiling.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Diet Soda and Weight Loss

Many people used to drinking regular sodas on a daily basis tend to switch a diet version of their favorite drink when they realize they drink they love so much is almost entirely made of sugar. A 12 oz can of regular coke contains upto 40 gms of sugar, a single such can would mess up anyone's diet if they were trying to eat healthy. So people switch to diet versions hoping they can continue to enjoy their favorite drink without the calories. I personally drink my share of diet coke/coke zero/sugar free redbull. Normally at least one can a day with a meal.

However, there's been a lot of press about how even the diet versions of our favorite drinks tend to create problems for people on diets. An article on webmd quoted a study which claimed people who drank diet sodas are still under the obesity threat. Most people read this and are quick to blame diet sodas. However, the article further goes onto mention that its probably because people drinking these diet sodas are still on a lousy diet. The lousy diet is always overlooked, and people read between the lines and believe what they want. The popular argument against diet soda being that it fools the body into thinking that real sugar is being supplied, so the same amount of insulin is released as a response to drinking diet soda. This is simply not true, because people who switched from cane sugar to the zero calorie versions have all benefited from it, including diabetics to whom the insulin response to food is very important.

While its true that switching to a diet soda and eating crappy will keep a person fat, I believe someone who cleans up his diet, and also switches to diet soda will benefit from the change. I'm not saying diet soda is healthy, drinking a carbonated drink loaded with all kinds of chemicals and preservatives isnt the best thing for our health, but I find drinking water all the time to be boring and find diet soda as a reasonable alternative occasionally. Plus the caffeine in the diet soda boosts metabolism.

So dont hesitate to pick up a can if you crave one. Its sexy!

That time of the month!

Its that time of the month again, when I look in my cupboard and realize I'm out of protein powder, etc and need to buy some more. Yesterday was such a day. These days are both exciting because I get to pick out new supplements, but I also hate having to spend more than I need to.
So what did I buy?
1. Syntrax Matrix 5.0 Cookies & Cream :- Syntrax always makes the best tasting protein powder in my opinion, so I decided to pick up some Matrix powder. This powder is a blend of whey, casein and egg protein thus providing a steady availability of amino acids for the body hours after drinking the protein shake.

2. Cytosport Muscle Milk n Oats :- This is my standard breakfast. Its great because a serving has about 30 gms of protein and another 30 gms of good carbs in it, perfect for my busy mornings where I dont have time to make eggs, etc.

3. Now Foods Alpha Lipoic Acid :- As I have already written before, alpha lipoic acid is one of the healthiest supplements one can take to protect the body from free radicals which are generated due to stress and exercise.

4. Zone protein bars :- Protein bar to snack on in the middle of the day, I get hungry a few hours after lunch and a protein bar is useful when on the move. I buy Zone bars because so far I've found them to be the best tasting and low in compounds like glycerin, etc which upset the stomach.

So that was my shopping list! even threw in a free tshirt because of the big order. Now I wait for the mail like a kid waits for his christmas presents.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Know Thyself

Training in the gym is addictive. Once we learn how to work the muscles, and keep challenging ourselves in the gym, we're hooked on the dopamine/feel good hormone the body releases as a response to exercise. This is similar to "runner's high", which is a pleasant feeling a long distance runner feels which keeps them going. Infact, some compare the runner's high to an orgasm! Anyone who watched the movie "Pumping Iron" will recall how the pumped up feeling one gets in the gym is like an orgasm. But getting hooked on this can sometimes result in overtraining. We need to really know ourselves well and know what our bodies can take, and recognize the signals to rest it.

This again applies more in my case because my frequency of training each muscle is very high, I train the whole body thrice a week, so its very important for me to keep track of recovery, otherwise, the training is counterproductive. So after partying hard last weekend, and training from Saturday through Tuesday, and not eating so much, I was drained. I recognized it because I've been at this for a long time now and know my body's signals.
Bryan Haycock calls this "art" of resting as "Strategic Deconditioning", which is a way of letting the body get back to normal before pushing it hard again.
Few things to do when you realize you're over training:
1. Eat normal, which means get enough protein, carbs and healthy fats.
2. Get extra sleep.
3. Take time off from the gym(much hated but necessary part).
4. Break the monotonicity of the usual routine and do something nice to feel relaxed. In my case, it was shutting off the computer and TV and just taking a walk + reading a book.

After 3 days of resting, I was feeling relaxed and ready to head back to the gym today! I decided to go in and train upper body with emphasis on working the back.
Today's workout was:
Incline DB press - 4 sets.
Smith Machine press - 2 sets
Wide grip pull ups - 4 sets
Rack Deadlifts - 5 sets
Side laterals - 4 sets, last set was a giant drop set.
Another shoulder exercise which my friend came up with, which is basically a lateral raise movement from various angles.

It was intense! The lateral raises were done with very high intensity and I was feeling strong! I went on to do deadlifts, where I pulled 495 lbs for 1 rep today which is a new personal best for me! Super! After that, worked shoulders some more and got outa there. I got back home and it was time to hibernate again until its time to go all out again!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unleash The Beast Within.

After a day filled with working on code, I badly yearn to get to the gym for a hard training session. Today was such a day.
Its a healthy expression of aggression, the instinct that makes us animals first and humans later...
Today was a leg workout day, and a hard leg training session brings with it the promise of pain and the satisfaction of walking away feeling very satisfied with oneself.
Since I aim to deplete glycogen levels in the body from Monday to Thursday, most of my exercises were performed in the 12-15 repetition range today, which means heavy leg presses, squats and so on are all pushed until the pain threshold is touched and crossed repeatedly.

Today's workout was:
Leg press - 6 sets
Squats - 1 set of 20 reps.
Lunges - 2 sets
Leg curls - 4 sets
Stiff leg deadlifts - 2 sets
seated calf raises - 4 sets

Finished with rope crunches for the abs and some quick cardio.
The 20 rep squat was brutal, the person training with me couldn't finish and dropped the weight on the 18th rep and I quickly yanked the bar away to make sure he was safe. After he settled down, I said "PAIN!!!" and laughed.
Gotta love the adrenaline rush that comes with hardcore training. Brings out the big bad green man in all of us.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lifting under the influence

Ugh, a night of drinking and playing poker until 3 am definitely doesn't help if one has an intense training session lined up the next morning. That's exactly what happened to me. As mentioned in my earlier post here, I did all I could to prepare for it,I made sure I ate a high protein meal for for breakfast, took antioxidants and rested,but today was a whole body workout and it wasnt easy.

Today's workout was supposed to be:
Pull Ups - 4 sets of 8 reps each
Squats - 4 heavy sets
Stiff Leg Deadlifts - 3 sets
Incline Bench Press - 5 sets
Lateral Raises - 4 sets
Parallel bar dips - 4 sets of 10 reps
Calf Raises - 4 sets

I stopped after the StiffLeg Deadlifts because I was too nauseous. But I'm not fretting it because I've had a good week of training behind me and my eating was proper yesterday.
Carbup days are so much fun! Ate a couple burritos, 2 cans of tuna, some protein bars, some indian food and a bag of doritos, not to mention my protein shake with creatine mixed in it. Eating can be a source of great pleasure indeed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The question of supplements.

People just love shortcuts. The most often asked question when an average person sees someone with muscles is what supplements they take. As if thats the only missing ingredient in their routine. The truth is farther than it seems to be though. Supplements are just that, they're "supplementary". That is, they supplement a good eating and training program. Having said that, I'll write about what I use here, because I've been asked this too many times and I thought it would make a good post to list what I use and my rationale behind using these products.

My list of supplements:
1. Protein Powder: I use 2 kinds, one is Pro Complex Protein Powder by Optimum Nutrition, which is a slow digesting protein. This is useful right before sleep because it ensures a steady availability of amino acids through out the night. Post workout I use regular whey isolate, from

2. Creatine Monohydrate: The logic behind using creatine is simple. Creatine is a compound naturally found in our bodies, and supplementing your diet with creatine can maximize your endurance, strength, performance and muscular developement.
And its safe. Only thing people need to remember on creatine is to stay hydrated.

Exclusive Flavors

3. Alpha Lipoic Acid: This is one of the healthiest supplements one can take to protect the body from free radicals which are generated due to stress and exercise. ALA is also vital to the production of energy from the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats we take in each day.

4. Fish Oil: Fish oils are derived from the fat of deep-sea, cold water fish and are a natural source of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Omega-3 is an important nutrient for maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system. Fish Oils themselves are said to contribute to healthy heart function and joint flexibility as well as supporting brain, nerve, and visual function.
I use this brand because I dont like swallowing fish oil capsules, this brand has a mild lemon flavor and has no after taste.

5. VPX Redline: I use this as a pre workout stimulant to help me train harder in the gym, but most people dont really need to use this.

So thats the list! The "secret" is out, and its nothing special. Most people in any gym I walk into are all about trying out the latest supplement fad, but they neglect the most important aspect, eating regular food. The adage "You are what you eat" is 100 % true. So whats on your plate?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Domination is the name of the game.

Its Thursday, and after 4 low carb days, I'm usually not feeling my strongest, but today's workout was crucial, because it completes the glycogen depletion effect which I'm aiming for at this point.
Today's workout was:
Front Squats superset with Pull ups
Flat DB press.
T-Bar Rows.
Parallel Bar Dips
Lateral and Bent over raises.
Barbell and DB shrugs.

The initial superset of Front Squats and Pull ups got me fired up for the rest of the workout, because the combination was an intense one and very exhausting. Front squats are not the most comfortable exercise because its hard to take deep breaths between repetitions, but I usually do sets of 8 reps with 220 lbs. To superset with this pull ups was madness, and I loved it.
The feeling of dominating the Iron, overcoming any hesitation and weakness, is very satisfying. Under the iron is one place where if you dont push through the pain, if you dont dominate, then you get subdued. And there's no way I'm going to let that happen...

Another standout aspect of today's workout was the extensive shoulder workout with lateral raises, bent over raises and shrugs. I had 2 friends who were keen on improving their deltoids and I got pulled into training with them, and I enjoyed challenging them to push themselves harder.

So it was one intense workout, one in which I pushed through and dominated inspite of being tired and hungry. The huge sandwich plus 2 chocolate chip cookies after the workout made it a perfect evening :-).
Tomorrow is a high carb day when I get to eat all I want, it's going to be a beautiful day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Leg up on the opposition

Today was a leg workout day and being the first workout of the week, I was looking forward to it. Most people hesitate to train their legs or even if they do, they dont push themselves hard enough. However, when trained right, leg workouts can be very satisfying and toned legs are extremely attractive, on both men and women.

A friend of mine, who's a rookie at weight training wanted to workout with me today. I warned him that training with me might more than what he can handle, because I push myself very hard in the gym, but he was eager and I always enjoy training with someone who wants to learn.
Its funny how people who train with me always end up lifting much heavier than they ever imagined themselves lifting. Today was no exception, my 140 lb friend warmed up with 220 lbs and quickly moved onto 315 lbs for 12 reps. After 4 sets on the leg press machine, we moved on to lunges, leg curls, 100 rep body weight squats and standing calf raises. We also performed high rep crunch variations for our abs while varying for equipment. In an hour, we had performed over 20 sets and had burned up a tremendous amount of calories. After 10 minutes on the exercise bike, we were out of there.
So, today's workout was:
Leg press - 6 sets of 12 reps each.
Lunges - 2 sets of 15 reps per leg.
Bodyweight squats - 100 reps
Leg curls - 4 sets of 15 reps each
For the abs:
Ab crunches on an incline bench
Roman chair sit ups
Hanging leg raises

My friend was psyched after the workout and was feeling great, although exhausted. This feeling of exhilaration one gets after a workout is a result of the release of "Dopamine" in the body from the hard workout, which is like a feel-good hormone.
Another happy customer and good karma for Vikas...I should charge money though, instant karma is more fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blame it on the alcohol!

Blame it on the alchol!

I'm constantly approached by people in the gym with all kinds of questions. Some of them are from idle admiration, some from beginners who want to get bigger/leaner and sometimes from other serious lifters who have a decent physique but want to get better. The most often asked question is about alcohol, and how it fits into the fitness lifestyle.
Bottom line: People want to go out, drink and have fun but dont want it to hinder their fitness goals.

The negative effects of alcohol are many ofcourse, but I primarily worry about 2 things:
a. Number of calories from the alcohol itself.
b. Its effect on various hormones in the body.

I focus mainly on these 2 aspects because I party pretty hard myself, this means there are many days where I drink my share of Long Island Iced Teas, Vodka redbulls or mojitos.

First, from a calorie stand point, it obvious makes sense to avoid drinking beer.
A friend of mine who trains pretty hard but drinks beer every night( and has problems losing weight as a result, no surprise ) asked me what to do about it? I said drop the beer and maybe switch to vodka? Its terrible advice from a health standpoint ofcourse, but people make their choices and my suggestion was aimed at helping him lose weight without disturbing his lifestyle.
I suggested a strong drink like vodka with a mixer like diet coke or sugar free redbull because, mainly because it'd get him drunk quicker, which means he will drink less during the night.
Just to compare calories between vodka and beer:
1.4 oz(about 40 ml?) of vodka( 1 serving ) contains roughly 100 calories.
12 oz(360 ml) of beer contains roughly 100-200 calories(depending on the brand)

How much beer would one drink in a night? Most people would get 500-800 calories off it easily in a single night thus throwing their whole macronutrient intake off balance. So I suggested something different.

What about the effect on hormones in the body?
1. Disrupts the kreb's cycle in the body(which hinders fat loss)
2. Decreases testosterone and increases estrogen levels in the body(yikes!)
3. slows down protein synthesis
4. Increases cortisol and free radicals in the body.

Which basically means, drinking alcohol regularly is the worst thing one can do if their goal is to look better.
If you are going to drink however, some useful tips:
1. Drink atleast 1 litre of water before going to bed.(prevents hangovers and helps keep muscles hydrated)
2. Drink a protein shake before going out for the night.
3. Use a testosterone boosting supplement like ZMA and eat a high protein meal upon waking up. This is key to keep the body's homeostasis as undisturbed as possible.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't have fun, definitely go out and have a fun time, I always do. Just remember that moderation is the name of the game.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rage against the Iron!

Good times! After taking the day off from the gym yesterday, I was fresh, full of energy(yesterday being a high carb day) and eager to hit the weights! Today's workout was going to be a long, hard one. I knew it and was ready for it. No compromises. The 2 hardest exercises today were going to be Squats and deadlifts and I decided to start with squats.

After a few heavy sets of Squats, next on the list was deadlifts. Although I normally pull 465 lbs, I decided to stick with 405 lbs today as I had a long workout ahead. This was easier than I thought, 4 sets, incrementing 90 lbs every set.

After this, I moved onto Incline DB bench presses, followed by lateral raises, pull ups and standing calf raises, 4 sets each on all of them.
After a 90 minute workout, it was time to get out and refuel(a nice glass of chocolate flavored protein shake and chow mein(with chicken + shrimp) while chilling to the Lord of the Rings on DVD.
Life is Good.

Friday, April 17, 2009

All juiced up!

Today being a day when I eat all I can and want(yippie!), I decided to satisfy my craving for a giant 24 oz Banana Berry flavored Jamba Juice smoothie! With 90 gms of sugar in it, its something most people shouldnt touch with a 10 foot pole, but today's a high carbohydrate day and all's fair.
However, for most people, Jamba Juice always does more harm than good, although they would be convinced otherwise.
Dr. Jonny Bowden, in a nutrition article on writes: "the Academy Award for health-food imposters goes to the smoothie offerings at Jamba Juice."
I concur.
Lets see: Some Jamba Juice drinks contain over 100 gms of carbs for example, most of that sugar, and almost none of it fiber. They claim them to be "healthy" because they're low in dietary fat... as if that's the definition of healthy.
If a 150 lb person is trying to lose fat, consuming around 2000 calories a day, its not helping the cause at all if 400-500 of those calories come from sugar. Juice for thought eh?