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 allthewhey.com.

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.


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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 t-nation.com 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?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thank God its Thursday!



Gotta love carb up days! After 4 days of low carb dieting, I can get away with eating stuff most people who try to stay lean only dream about! My carb up started after my evening workout today, so after a big meatball sub, I bought myself a big cup of gelato(3 flavors)! Tomorrow is again a high carb day, which means I'm going to be in the "Thank god its Friday!" mode all day. I can get away with eating this way and yet stay lean and strong because of the 4 days of keeping to schedule.
Today's workout was brutal. Low carbs means I'm not as strong as I usually am in the gym, so I started off with the hardest exercises first.
Began with front squats, I was still able to get 6 reps with 220 lbs, so that was great!
Smith machine bench press to the sternum.
Superset of pull ups and parallel bar dips - this almost killed me, 7 sets of this!
leg curls.
Finally, bent over rows and finished with an intense abs workout.

In the meanwhile, while resting between sets, I helped someone who wanted advice on proper arms training. Most people think they know what they're doing, but its amazing how the results change when minor tweaks are done to adjust their form and posture during the exercise movement. Another satisfied customer and good karma for Vikas...

And Tomorrow is another day!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What went down today?


Today being a low carb day, my workout was aimed towards further depleting glycogen levels in my body. This means I do around 15 repetitions on all exercises.
Exercises today included:
Dumbell bench press - 4 sets with 60 lb dumbells
Pull ups - 4 sets
T-bar rows - 4 sets
Parallel bar dips - 4 sets
Lateral raises - 3 sets
DB Bicep curls - 2 sets
Preacher curls - 2 sets

I finished with a quick abs workout at the end and I was out of there.

Again, my eating was strict as usual. Being a low carb day, I got around 90 grams carbohydrate in. But I stayed reasonably full by keeping my protein and fat intake high.
So today was a good day over all where most of the things on my "To Do" list got done. Tomorrow is another day, and the endless journey continues...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How is it done?

Since summer is coming up and its time to get the washboard abs out on display, I've adapted my training and nutrition toward this purpose.
I follow a cyclic carbohydrate diet. So my diet looks like this:
Monday to Thursday : Low carb days( less than 100 gms carbs a day )
Friday to Saturday Afternoon : High carb days( About 600-700 gms carbs)
Saturday Afternoon to Sunday night : Medium carb days( About 300 gms)

This allows me to keep my insulin sensitivity up, improve muscle quality while also having enough leeway to party over the weekend while continuing to lose bodyfat. I keep my protein at about 200 gms a day(1 gm per lb) and keep things simple with fats(just don't go overboard)

Right now, my training split looks like:
Monday: Lower body(leg press, leg curls, lunges, leg extensions and calf raises)
Tuesday: Upper body(Bench press, pull ups, T-bar rows, parallel bar dips and lateral raises)

Monday and Tuesday I keep the repetition range around 12-15, this allows me to further deplete glycogen stores and target type 2 fibers in the muscle at the same time.

Thursday: All body workout( Bench press, close grip pull ups, bent over rows, front squats, stiff leg deadlifts, calf raises)

Saturday: Repeat Thursdays workout, but go heavier on all movements(because of Friday's carb up)

Cardio on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday evenings(on the treadmill)

This is a relatively simple program, only thing one needs to get used to while being on such a program is the low carb days Monday to Thursday. People usually find this tough for the first week or two, but soon the body gets used to metabolizing fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrate, this allowing the athlete to lose weight quick.

Again, just because my carb intake is low, doesn't mean my workouts suffer. I go into the gym with purpose, and always train as intense as I can. No other way to train. Do it right or go home!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Where do I stand?



Since this is my first post, I should probably write a little about my background in weight training. I got involved with lifting weights at the age of 17, when I realized eating junk food, drinking beer(yes!) and playing sports was not enough to keep me in shape. I was not fat, but I felt I needed to be in better shape. I was 5' 11'' and was 140 lbs soaking wet, so I felt thin. So, I made my way into the gym closed to my house then, and thus began my journey into the "sport" of weight training.
That was 8 years ago. Today, I weigh 195 lbs and my journey continues to this day. I currently live in California, where I go to grad school while working part time. This means I'm constantly crunched for time, and its a challenge to eat, train and rest right. I'm no fanatic and I strive to keep a balance between all aspects of my life. So this will be a journal of a person who strives to stay in top condition while living the normal life.
I am fascinated by all aspects of the fitness lifestyle, and am a keen student of the same. In this blog, I'll post about my training, diet, studies and facts I encounter as I continue learning. So...welcome to my journey :).