Kris Gethin: Man of Iron, Nutrition Plan

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Kris Gethin doesn’t leave anything in his diet up to chance. Whether he’s undergoing a dramatic transformation, building muscle, getting shredded, or throwing himself into entirely new athletic undertakings such as the Man of Iron triathlon prep, he makes sure his nutrition is dialed in from day one.

Swimming, biking, and running multiple times a week—on top of weight training—burns an incredible number of calories, so adding muscle is a challenge. But remember, Kris isn’t looking to reinvent his hard-earned physique. As he says a number of times throughout the program, “I want to look like a bodybuilder and function like a triathlete.” So it should be no surprise that he eats like he’s looking to add muscle.

If you’re an ambitious hybrid athlete looking to follow Kris’s approach and aim for success in both bodybuilding and endurance sports, you need an approach that takes both goals into consideration. Here’s everything you need to know.

Monday-Friday: Muscle Building

For most of the week, Kris follows the basic nutrition approach and calculations laid out in his Muscle-Building Trainer. If you’ve followed that approach, you know it allows a little more variety than, say, the 8-Week Hardcore Trainer or the original 12-Week Hardcore. Along with protein and carbs, there’s room in the food list to add healthy fats, fruit, and even some dairy. This variety is included to fuel your muscle growth, power your diverse workouts, and help you recover from the two-headed assault of the weight room and sport-specific training.

Use the same calculator from the Nutrition Overview of the Muscle-Building Trainer to establish your calorie and macronutrient intake during Man of Iron. Enter “Moderate Activity” if this training program is your primary source of physical activity and you don’t, for example, work a strenuous physical job as well. But if you start the program and find a week or two in that you’re dropping weight or not recovering adequately, recalculate under “Very Active.”

This calculator provides the numbers you need for both training and rest days. The food list you follow on Man of Iron will also be the same as on the Muscle-Building Trainer. Be warned: your body will be screaming for calories both good and bad, and you’ll need to keep stuffing only good ones into it until it finally shuts up. There are no cheat meals on this plan, but you’ll eat well enough and often enough that you won’t need one.

Protein Sources

Your proteins will provide the amino acids necessary to recover and build muscle tissue. It’s important that you stick to lean sources of protein.

Man Of Iron Nutrition Plan: Protein
  • Beef
  • Skinless poultry
  • Pork
  • Bison
  • Ground meats
  • Game meats
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Sardines and other small canned fish
  • Ricotta cheese (whey)
  • Cottage cheese (casein)
  • Low-fat paneer
  • Greek yogurt
  • Egg whites
  • Whole eggs
  • Soy/tofu
  • Plant-based protein or beans
  • Whey protein

Carbs

The strength and endurance workouts in Man of Iron are highly glycolytic in nature, which means your body will require a specific type of energy in order to perform at its maximum capacity. The starchy carbohydrate sources below are the best choices for this purpose.

To make this diet work for you, you also need to consume plenty of fiber from sources like leafy green vegetables. The gut is where your body breaks down all of the food you eat and then absorbs it. This is how you recover, grow, and thrive: through nutrient assimilation. In order to sustain perfect gut health, consume a serving of green vegetables with each meal.

Man Of Iron Nutrition Plan: Carbohydrates
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grains like bulgur or spelt
  • Raw or cooked vegetables
  • Whole, raw fruit
  • High-fiber bread
  • Oats
  • Muesli
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Salad greens
  • Green vegetables

Fats

Fats are a highly efficient form of calories, and they’re essential to hormonal health. You may find your stomach doesn’t like it if you eat them around your endurance workouts, so experiment with timing to determine your tolerance.

Man Of Iron Nutrition Plan: Fats
  • Extra-virgin coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Avocados and avocado oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fatty fish
  • Natural nut butters

Water and Other Fluids

It’s easy to forget the role water plays in any training program and overall health. Keeping your body hydrated around the clock is absolutely crucial to burning fat, building muscle, aiding recovery, and guaranteeing optimized performance at every workout.

For Man of Iron, you need to consume a minimum of 1 gallon per day, sometimes more, depending on the climate you live in and how much you find you sweat during the endurance training. To further the hydrating properties of your water, Kris recommends adding Hydra-Charge 2-3 times per day to benefit from the five naturally occurring electrolytes.

“Don’t forget to drink while you’re swimming as well,” Kris advises. “You sweat more than you think in the water!”

  • Water
  • Coconut water
  • Black coffee
  • Green tea
  • Unsweetened and cream-free teas
  • Water flavored with Hydra-Charge and BCAAs

Weekends: The Rolling Buffet

Kris’ weekend training during Man of Iron is unique to say the least. On any given Saturday, he might be undertaking an 80-mile bike ride through hilly terrain in hot weather. Other times, he may be doing a long bike ride plus a short run, or a long run and an open-water swim, or some other combination of the three triathlon components.

Fueling for this much variety is more art than science, but Kris attacks it aggressively and as systematically as possible. “I can’t believe how much I have to eat on those days,” he says. “It’s like a rolling buffet when I’m out there.” Here’s how he does it.

Weigh yourself at the start of the day and the end of your activity. The first time you do this after a long endurance workout, you may be surprised by how much weight you’ve lost! Some of that is definitely sweat loss, and being proactive about drinking both water and BCAAs will help. But you also need to eat enough calories to make up for what you’ve lost. Kris says his goal on epic weekend training days is to stay within 3 pounds of where he started the day. He weighs himself once his training is done on that day, then alters his future plan accordingly.

Man Of Iron Nutrition Plan: Track Calorie Burn

Track calorie burn as much as possible. Kris has a power-tracking stationary bike, which helps him track calories burned with remarkable accurately. You may not have access to that type of equipment, but he recommends investing in a heart rate monitor and an app to help calculate calorie burn during your long runs, rides, and swims. Make sure to eat enough to match that burn, and then some.

Start your journey with a shake. When he’s heading out for an epic ride, Kris brings along a shaker bottle containing a unique blended concoction of carbs and protein that helps him stay fueled and stave off muscle loss:

  • Bananas, 3
  • Dates, 8
  • Oats, 1/2 cup
  • Honey, 2 tbsp
  • Re-Kaged Protein, 2 scoops
  • Water, as necessary to blend

During the ride, further fuel yourself with things like Stinger waffles, fruit, and protein as needed. For the rest of the day, eat as if it is any normal day of the week.

Yes, this will launch your daily calories through the roof. But you must embrace it fearlessly! This is a whole new world of training, and you’ll need to fuel yourself like a high-performance machine to perform like one.

Supplements

Kris created a custom supplement stack to help him get the most out of his hybrid workouts and epic endurance training. As with the nutrition plan above, work to master your airtight system during the week, and then use what you’ve learned to tackle the unpredictable nature of weekend workouts.

The nice thing about epic rides and runs is that you need water during them anyway, so adding a scoop of crucial supplemental nutrients to a bottle you’re already carrying doesn’t add any weight. If you bike or run with a small satchel, pocketed jersey, or other garb that allows you to carry small items, predose your supps in small baggies and keep them packed away.

Weight-training or hybrid-training days

PRE-KAGED, 20 Servings

30 minutes pre-workout
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In-Kaged, 20 Servings

during workout
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Re-Kaged, 20 Servings

1 serving post-workout but pre-cardio
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During post-workout hour, after cardio

Hydra-Charge, 282 grams

1 Serving
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BCAA 2:1:1 Powder, 400 Grams

1 Serving
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Glutamine Powder, 500 Grams

1 Serving
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C-HCl, 75 Servings

1 Serving
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Non-training days

Hydra-Charge, 282 grams

1 Serving
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BCAA 2:1:1 Powder, 400 Grams

1 Serving
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Glutamine Powder, 500 Grams

1 Serving
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C-HCl, 75 Servings

1 Serving
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Long cardio sessions: first 2 hours (1st water bottle)

Hydra-Charge, 282 grams

1 Serving
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BCAA 2:1:1 Powder, 400 Grams

1 Serving
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Glutamine Powder, 500 Grams

1 Serving
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C-HCl, 75 Servings

1 Serving
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Long cardio sessions: first 2 hours (2nd water bottle)

Re-Kaged, 20 Servings

1 Serving
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Long cardio sessions: second 2+ hours (3rd water bottle)

In-Kaged, 20 Servings

1 Serving
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Long cardio sessions: second 2+ hours (4th water bottle)

Re-Kaged, 20 Servings

1 Serving
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Fit For Court Domination: Your Ultimate Basketball Trainer

March Madness may give rise to Cinderellas, but there are no overnight sensations when it comes to putting the pumpkin through the net. The players you see out on the court this weekend have paid their dues in the gym long before they lace up their kicks on game day.

James Naismith may not have realized it when he first nailed a peach basket to the wall and started tossing a round sphere into it, but he devised a sport that taxes nearly every system in the body. Just for starters, basketball requires speed, strength, stamina, explosiveness, power and amazing hand-eye coordination.

Developing all those skills requires a serious training program; otherwise, the next guy will be putting you up on YouTube because he worked harder than you did. I can help. As a strength and conditioning coach since 1978, one who worked with teams like the Charlotte Bobcats (back when they were the Hornets), I know what it takes to succeed.

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Make sure your warm-ups, exercises, and rest are perfectly balanced for take-off.

Pre-Game Warmups

Coaches need to implement an efficient and effective pre-game warm-up system that works to get their team properly prepared for the game. During this time of year, coaches should really make the most of their pre-practice and pre-game stretching routines. Going into tournament or playoff time, the last thing a team needs is an injury to a player.

Before The Whistle Blows

The pre-practice warm-up I implemented with the Charlotte Hornets (now Bobcats) usually took about 12 minutes to complete.

Running/calf Stretches

We’d start out by running three laps around the court.

Next, the players would stretch their calf muscles and Achilles tendons by stretching against a wall. These sites can be prone to injury due to the frequent use among running and jumping athletes.

For an excellent calf stretch, face and lean against a wall keeping the leg or legs straight while keeping the heels down.

Additionally, keep the toes pointed inward. When stretching the Achilles tendon, the same stretch, however, the knees should be bent and once again the heels remain on the floor.

Team Stretching/rope Jumping

Next in our warm-up sessions, we would spend 2-3 minutes jumping rope while doing various routines. This is a great way to warm-up the legs while preparing the ankle and knee joints for practice.

After our jump rope sessions would come 5-8 minutes of team stretching. Make sure you are really concentrating on the major muscle group such as:

  • Lower Back
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Shoulders

One area we stretch that is often overlooked is the upper back or the “lat” muscles, which are key for reaching rebounds and shooting.

While in a seated position, spread both legs as wide as possible with your knees slightly bent. Have teammates hold hands and pull each other forward and upward. Hold the stretch 5-8 seconds for 3 sets.

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The lat areas are often overlooked but the lat muscles are used for reaching rebounds and shooting.

Warm-Up Drills

After stretching as a team, we put our players on the baseline and continued with a running warm-up for three minutes. These drills consisted of:

  • Ankle Flips: Running on the toes without bending the knees
  • Butt Kicks: Jogging while leaning forward bringing the heels up behind
  • High Knee Pumps: Running with good, powerful extensions of the knees
  • Power Skips
  • Carioca: Running laterally with crossover step
  • Defensive Slides

Not until we finished this routine did we start practice. Coaches – be smart!

Now For The Weightlifting Routine: Generic Basketball

Tired of wheezing your way through those 1-on-1 matches in the driveway? Wish you could slam dunk instead of having your opponent flush one in your grill? Everything you need is here!

Barbell Bench Press – Medium Grip

4 sets, 10 Reps


Incline Dumbbell Press

4 sets, 10 Reps


4 sets, 10 Reps


Seated Cable Rows

4 sets, 10 Reps


Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3 sets, 10 Reps


Upright Barbell Row

3 sets, 10 Reps


Side Lateral Raise

3 sets, 10 Reps


Lying Triceps Press

3 sets, 10 Reps


Dumbbell Bicep Curl

3 sets, 10 Reps


Cable Reverse Crunch

3 sets, 10 Reps


Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip

4 sets, 10 Reps


Dumbbell Bench Press

4 sets, 10 Reps


Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

4 sets, 10 Reps


Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row

4 sets, 10 Reps


Machine Shoulder (Military) Press

3 sets, 10 Reps


Barbell Shrug

3 sets, 10 Reps


Bench Dips

3 sets, 10 Reps


Close-Grip EZ Bar Curl

3 sets, 10 Reps


Concentration Curls

2 sets, 10 Reps


Kneeling Cable Crunch With Alternating Oblique Twists

3 sets, 40 Reps


4 sets, 10 Reps


Seated Leg Curl

4 sets, 10 Reps


Power Clean from Blocks

4 sets, 8, 6, 6, 6 Reps


Dumbbell Lunges

4 sets, 10 Reps


Standing Calf Raises

3 sets, 15 Reps


Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)

3 sets, 10 Reps


Ab Crunch Machine

3 sets, 40 Reps


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The 40 Best Low-Calorie Foods

While zero-calorie doughnuts have yet to be invented, that doesn’t mean your search for foods that fit nicely into your low-calorie diet, or easily fill out the last remaining macros of your day, is at an end. After all, think of all that extra exercise you have to do to burn off a whole pizza or towering hot fudge sundae.

Choosing the right low-calorie foods can tip the scales in your favor toward fat burning rather than fat accumulation. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of the 40 best foods from different aisles in your grocery store. There’s even a handy list for you to print out!

While it’s really a myth that certain foods have a strong “negative” caloric effect, meaning they burn more calories to digest than they contain, that doesn’t mean the grocery store and farmers’ market aren’t stocked with plenty of nutritious foods that are very low in energy and cost you almost nothing calorie-wise. In fact, of the 40 foods profiled here, 35 contain 100 or fewer calories per serving!

When you’re mindfully watching your calorie intake to trim down your waistline, it’s vital that you saturate your diet with plenty of edibles that don’t leave you feeling hungry. After all, you don’t want to be starving all day long.

The good news for your palate and muscles is that not all low-calorie grub is rabbit food. In fact, meat, dairy, and other aisles in the supermarket are home to a number of items that, despite being light in calories, are heavy in important stuff like protein and good flavor.

If you’re looking for foods to munch on but can’t spare too many calories, these edibles can help you get something for nearly nothing.

Vegetables

1. Watercress—4 calories per 1 cup

You need this low-calorie veggie in your diet: A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, among items in the produce aisle, watercress is one of the most nutrient-dense, meaning that those diminutive green leaves provide lofty amounts of nutrients.[1] Like other cruciferous vegetables, watercress also packs plenty of antioxidant power.

Like Other Cruciferous Vegetables, Watercress Also Packs Plenty Of Antioxidant Power.

Eat This

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 diced pears, 1 diced white potato, and 1 tablespoon chopped ginger to pan; heat 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Add 2 bunches watercress, 2 tablespoon red vinegar, and 2 tablespoon fresh tarragon to pan. Heat 5 minutes, stir in juice of 1/2 lemon, and puree soup. Return to pan, stir in 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, and heat 2 minutes.

2. Arugula—5 calories per cup

This peppery green can fill out a salad or sandwich for very little calorie cost. What it lacks in calories, arugula makes up for with plenty of bone-strengthening vitamin K. Similar to other leafy greens, arugula can also be considered an antioxidant powerhouse. Look for it alongside other tender greens such as baby spinach at the grocer.

Eat This

For a quick lunch sandwich, toast a couple sandwich thins. Spread Dijon-style mustard on one toasted thin and top with sliced prosciutto, sliced apple, a handful of arugula, and the remaining bread thin.

3. Celery—6 calories per stalk

It might not have been awarded the superfood status that has lead kale to be a regular fixture in the crispers of hipsters, but celery adds a lot of crunch to a calorie-controlled diet. It’s an exceptionally high-volume food, meaning you can eat bushels of it without going into calorie overload.

It Might Not Have Been Awarded The Superfood Status That Has Lead Kale To Be A Regular Fixture In The Crispers Of Hipsters, But Celery Adds A Lot Of Crunch To A Calorie-Controlled Diet.

For an insignificant amount of calories you get healthy amounts of vitamin K, a must-have nutrient associated with lower risk of death from diseases like heart disease.[2]

Eat This

Spoon up some tummy-filling chicken noodle soup. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, chopped carrot, and chopped celery to pan and heat until onion has softened.

Add 4 cups chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 tespoon chili flakes. Simmer until veggies are tender, then stir in sliced cooked chicken, cooked soba noodles, and fresh thyme.

4. Bok Choy—9 calories per 5 leaves

While kale and spinach might get all the press, this Asian green is a worthy addition to a calorie-controlled diet. This member of the cruciferous vegetable family is a nutritional standout with respectable amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, disease-thwarting antioxidants. It also has a milder flavor than many dark leafy greens to appease picky eaters.

Eat This

Separate bok choy leafy tops from their stalks and roughly chop leaves. Thinly slice the stalks. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add bok choy stems, 2 chopped shallots, and 2 sliced garlic cloves; heat 3 minutes or until stems are tender.

Stir in bok choy leaves and 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest; heat just until the leaves have slightly wilted. Remove from heat, stir in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and season with salt to taste.

5. Radish—17 calories per cup

Delivering tempered peppery heat and great texture to dishes, radishes might be stingy when it comes to calories, but they supply good amounts of vitamin C. Our bodies require adequate amounts of vitamin C to support growth and repair of bodily tissues, including your expanding muscle mass. And don’t forget the leafy green tops, which are very much edible and packed with a low-calorie nutritional windfall.

Radishes Might Be Stingy When It Comes To Calories, But They Supply Good Amounts Of Vitamin C.

Eat This

Toss 1 pound halved radishes with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and heat in the oven at 400 degrees F for 35 minutes or until wrinkled and tender, stirring once halfway. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt, 1 teaspoon curry powder, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Serve roasted radishes with yogurt sauce.

6. Zucchini—31 calories per medium zucchini

When it comes to “squashing” some of the calories from your diet, be sure to steer your grocery cart toward this veggie. Do so and you’ll also take in a range of good stuff like hunger-quelling fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and manganese.

Eat This

Using a serrated vegetable peeler or sharp knife, slice zucchini into long noodle-like strips and sauté for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Top cooked zucchini noodles with a tomato meat sauce for a low-carb riff on pasta night.

Fruits

7. Cucumber—22 calories per 1/2 cucumber

Cukes are about 95 percent water, which is why they’re one of the lowest-calorie options in the produce department. This high amount of water can even help keep you hydrated and feeling full so you’re less likely to give into cookie-jar temptation. For a little extra bit of fiber, leave your vegetable peeler in the drawer, since the peel is where much of the grit in a cucumber is found.

Cucumbers Are About 95 Percent Water, Which Is Why They’re One Of The Lowest-Calorie Options In The Produce Department. This High Amount Of Water Can Even Help Keep You Hydrated And Feeling Full.

Eat This

For a no-fuss salsa, combine chopped cucumber with diced bell pepper, cubed avocado, minced jalapeno pepper, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, and a couple pinches salt. Serve over cooked fish.

8. Plum—30 calories per plum

Bob Dylan famously sang, “Everybody must get stoned.” If he was referring to eating copious amounts of this low-calorie stone fruit, then good on you, Mr. Dylan! Their inherent sweetness is a great way to settle down a raging sweet tooth without any repercussions to your physique. What’s more, even the supermarket standard is packed with antioxidants.

Eat This

Add 4 pitted and sliced plums, 1/2 cup port wine, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, 1 teaspoons fresh thyme, 1 teaspoons grated orange zest, 3 whole cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a medium-sized saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until plums soften (about 12 minutes). Serve over grilled chicken breast.

9. Grapefruit—37 calories per half grapefruit

It’s time to pucker up if you’re searching for a fruit that keeps sugar calories in check. As with other citrus, grapefruit is a vitamin C heavyweight. University of Arizona (Tucson) researchers determined that daily intake can help lower waist circumference, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers, making it a ticker-friendly low-calorie fruit option.[3]

Eat This

For a washboard-friendly side dish, segment a red grapefruit over a bowl and reserve any juices. Combine grapefruit segments, sliced avocado, and thinly sliced fennel. Stir together reserved juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a couple pinches salt and pepper. Toss dressing with salad and garnish with fresh mint.

10. Strawberries—49 calories per cup

Now ubiquitous in supermarkets year-round, strawberries are not only light in calories and high in fat-fighting fiber, they also supply a wallop of vitamin C. Studies suggest that higher intakes of vitamin C may make breathing easier during exercise, particularly in those who suffer from exercise-induced asthma.[4,5]

What’s more, a 2014 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry study found that eating plenty of the rosy fruit and the payload of antioxidants it delivers may help keep coronary woes at bay by improving blood cholesterol numbers.[6]

Eat This

For a tasty riff on the ultra-nutritious Spanish soup known as gazpacho, blend together 1/3 cup water, 1 cup strawberries, 3 medium-sized tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 cucumber, 2 scallions, 1/3 cup fresh mint or basil, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

11. Honeydew Melon—61 calories per cup

The sweet, juicy flesh of the honeydew melon contains few calories, but plenty of vitamin C and heart-protective potassium. Wedges are great as a stand-alone snack, but you can also work it into smoothies, yogurt, salsas, and salads. If you have never bought this melon before, look for one that feels heavy for its size with a waxy rind. Avoid any with soft spots.

The Sweet, Juicy Flesh Of The Honeydew Melon Contains Few Calories, But Plenty Of Vitamin C And Heart-Protective Potassium.

Eat This

For a refreshing salad, toss baby spinach together with cubed honeydew melon, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, crumbled feta cheese, and toasted almonds.

12. Blackberries—62 calories per cup

When it comes to berries, these are blackout good. Not only are blackberries light in calories, they’re brimming with fiber—a whopping 8 grams per cup to help fill you up without filling you out.

By slowing down digestion, a high-fiber diet is essential to helping you feel full, and a primary reason why roughage has been shown to contribute to shedding body fat.

Other items that contribute to blackberries’ impressive nutritional resume are antioxidants and vitamin K.

Eat This

Place 2 cups blackberries, 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Dissolve 2 teaspoons cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water, stir into blackberry mixture, and heat 1 minute. Serve this sauce over oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, cottage cheese, or yogurt.

Grains

13. Bulgur—76 calories per 1/2 cup (cooked)

Made from whole-grain wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and then cracked, the high amount of fiber in quick-cooking bulgur can help prevent your blood sugar from going on a roller coaster that can lead to sagging energy levels and cravings for nutritional dreck.

Eat This

For a calorie-controlled breakfast porridge, bring 2 cups water, 2 cups low-fat milk, 1 cup bulgur, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the bulgur is tender and the consistency of oatmeal, 10-15 minutes.

14. Soba Noodles—113 calories per cup (cooked)

Containing about 50 percent fewer starchy calories than whole-wheat spaghetti, this Japanese-style noodle gleaned from gluten-free buckwheat is more conducive to your six-pack pursuit. Just be sure to look for brands made with 100 percent buckwheat since it can sneak in some wheat flour, which will drive up the calories.

Eat This

Cook soba noodles according to package directions (unlike normal pasta, be sure to rinse well after cooking), and then toss with cooked salmon, cooked peas, sliced carrots, and chopped scallions. Season with a dressing made with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a hot sauce like Sriracha.

15. Teff—128 calories per 1/2 cup (cooked)

Ounce for ounce, this Ethiopian staple delivers fewer calories than other whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Because of its itsy-bitsy size, the bulk of the teff grain is mostly the bran and germ, the most nutritious parts of any grain. This makes diminutive teff a nutritional giant that’s rich in a range of nutrients including fiber, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.

Teff has a malty-nutty taste, and because it expunges its starch during cooking, you can use it to make calorie-controlled puddings, riffs on polenta, or a breakfast porridge similar in consistency to Cream of Wheat.

Because Of Its Itsy-Bitsy Size, The Bulk Of The Teff Grain Is Mostly The Bran And Germ, The Most Nutritious Parts Of Any Grain.

Eat This

For a physique-friendly pudding, bring 2 cups water and 1/2 cup teff to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until the water has absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Let teff cool, then puree with 1 ripe banana, 1/3 cup light coconut milk, 3 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a blender or food processor. Chill for 2 hours or more before serving.

16. Wheat Bran—31 calories per 1/4 cup

Think of flaky wheat bran as an easy way to add low-calorie nutrition to your diet. On top of a laundry list of nutrients including magnesium and B vitamins, the 6 grams of fiber in a quarter-cup serving can help you stay satisfied and slim.

Eat This

To make tasty wheat-bran cakes, stir together 1/2 cup wheat bran, 1/2 cup oat flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Combine 1 whisked egg with 1 cup low-fat milk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and drop 1/4 cup batter for each pancake into a hot skillet.

17. Popcorn, Air-Popped—31 calories per cup

The butter-strewn offering from the multiplex is a calorie bomb, but when it comes to a low-calorie snack choice, air-popped popcorn is a definite waistline-friendly option. Since popcorn contains a lot of volume, it can fill you up on fewer calories than most snack foods.

Eat This

For an Asian-inspired snack, stir together 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, and grated zest of 1 lime. Toss spice mixture with popped popcorn.

18. Rice cakes, plain—35 calories per cake

When you’re craving something crunchy, rice cakes can satisfy your need without a significant number of calories. Made from puffed brown rice, the cakes can also provide a source of whole grains and energizing carbohydrates. Avoid flavored options to steer clear of sugars and other sketchy ingredients.

Eat This

For a quick snack, slather some low-fat ricotta cheese on a rice cake and top with blackberries!

19. Shirataki Noodles—0 calories per 3 oz.

These translucent, gelatinous noodles are made from the powdered root of the Asian konjac yam plant. Consisting mostly of a highly soluble, indigestible fiber called glucomannan, shirataki noodles are virtually calorie-free.

They have a rather nondescript taste, but they soak up the flavors of accompanying sauces and spices beautifully. You can find shirataki noodles in liquid-filled bags at Asian markets and an increasing number of local grocery stores.

Consisting Mostly Of A Highly Soluble, Indigestible Fiber Called Glucomannan, Shirataki Noodles Are Virtually Calorie-Free.

Eat This

For a quick side dish, prepare shirataki noodles according to package directions, then toss with prepared pesto and halved cherry tomatoes.

20. Sandwich Thins—100 calories per thin (2 halves)

These flattish, slimmish rolls can save you plenty of starchy calories when making your lunch sandwiches and breakfast toast. Case in point: Two slices of regular bread can have twice as many calories. As with other bread products, look for thins that are made with 100 percent whole grains so you bite into extra hunger-fighting fiber.

Eat This

Make near-instant individual pizzas by topping toasted sandwich thins with tomato sauce, cooked Canadian bacon, and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese. Microwave until cheese has melted.

Meats

21. Turkey Breast Deli Meat—72 calories per 3 oz.

When it comes to building your lunch sandwich, pile on this sliced meat for a low-cal option. Indeed, turkey breast is one of the leanest meats at the deli counter. To sidestep added sugars, be sure to avoid the honey-roasted versions.

Eat This

For a quick, six-pack-friendly snack, slice vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and cucumber into matchsticks. Spread some Dijon mustard on turkey slices, top with sliced veggies, and roll.

22. Cod—70 calories per 3 oz.

It may not contain a boatload of calories, but the tender white flesh of cod delivers impressive amounts of selenium. Acting as an antioxidant, increased intakes of selenium may help reduce levels of oxidative stress and muscular damage associated with stiff workouts.[7] If possible, source out cod that was caught in Alaskan waters, since it’s one of the most sustainable options.

Eat This

Blend 2 cups arugula, 1/2 cup parsley, 1/3 cup almonds, 1 chopped garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil in a food processor or blender until well combined. Serve over pan-seared cod.

23. Mussels—73 calories per 3 oz.

Here’s more proof that you should cast your line and reel in mussels! With 10 grams of high-quality protein in a serving, they offer an exceptional protein-to-calorie ratio. This is on top of the fact that they’re very inexpensive, considered one of the most sustainable choices among your seafood options, and deliver a dose of ultra-healthy omega-3 fats.

A European Journal of Sports Science study suggests getting your fill of omega-3 fats may help bolster exercise performance by improving blood flow, maximum oxygen uptake by working muscles.[8]

With 10 Grams Of High-Quality Protein In A Serving, Mussels Offer An Exceptional Protein-To-Calorie Ratio.

Eat This

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. Sauté a chopped onion and 3 minced garlic cloves until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add 1 pinch halved cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon each red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to the skillet. Simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 4 minutes.

Add 2 pounds mussels to the skillet, cover, and steam for 8 minutes or until they open. Discard any that remain shut.

24. Turkey Legs—91 calories per 3 oz.

Time to embrace your inner Flintstone. This flavorful and low-calorie cut of poultry supplies an impressive 16 grams of protein in a mere 3-oz. serving to keep muscle growth going in full force. Just go easy on the fatty skin, since the calorie number above applies to just the meat.

Braising turkey legs in liquid will convert the abundant amount of connective tissue to gelatin, which helps lubricate meat, making it tender and lip-smacking moist.

Eat This

Heat oil in a skillet large enough for the turkey legs to fit comfortably in over medium-high heat. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Add legs to the pan and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove legs from pan and reduce heat to medium-low, adding more oil if needed. Add 1 sliced leek, 2 sliced garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon chopped ginger; cook 5 minutes, stirring often, or until leeks have softened and browned.

Add 1-1/2 cups chicken broth to pan and scrape up any brown bits from bottom of pan. Stir in 1 cup orange juice, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Return turkey legs to pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to reach a mild simmer, and cook covered for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until meat is very tender, flipping drumsticks every 30 minutes.

25. Chicken Breast—92 calories per 3 oz.

It might not be the most exciting meat that you can toss in your grocery cart, but if you’re looking for a huge amount of low-calorie, muscle-building protein, it’s hard to beat reliable boneless, skinless chicken breast.

High-protein intakes can help in the battle of the bulge in two ways: by keeping you feeling satiated, and by increasing the thermic effect of feeding, which is the amount of calories you burn by simply digesting food.

If You’re Looking For A Huge Amount Of Low-Calorie, Muscle-Building Protein, It’s Hard To Beat Reliable Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast.

Eat This

To keep chicken breast moist, try poaching it. Place breasts in a large pot and add enough water to completely cover by at least 1 inch. Bring water to a very slight simmer with just a few bubbles breaking the surface.

Do not boil! Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. Adjust heat as needed during cooking to maintain the slight simmer, and skim off any foam that forms.

26. Pork Tenderloin—92 calories per 3 oz.

Pork tenderloin is a good value meat that won’t put a significant dent in your daily calorie intake. It does, however, contain laudable amounts of thiamine, a B vitamin your body uses to convert the food you eat into energy to power you through a workout. And one should not overlook the protein windfall: 18 grams in a mere 3-ounce serving.

Eat This

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan. Cook 1 diced onion, 1 pound of sliced pork tenderloin, and 2 minced garlic cloves for 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup red wine and simmer 5 minutes. Add one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, 1 cup water, 1 cup brown rice, 1 diced green bell pepper, 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne, salt, and pepper. Simmer until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

27. Eye of Round Steak—100 calories per 3 oz.

If you’re on the hunt for an economical cut of beef that won’t break the calorie bank, look no further than eye of round. Gleaned from near the rear legs of the cattle, or the “round,” this red-meat option has a fantastic 6-to-1 protein-to-fat ratio—meaning it will help you better pack on the muscle. Marinating the meat prior to cooking can help tenderize it so it’s less likely to dry out during cooking.

Eat This

In a shallow baking dish or container, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, juice of 1 lime, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder. Add 1-1/2 pounds eye of round, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, flipping once. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat.

Remove steak from marinade, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, about 8-10 minutes total for medium rare. Let steak rest 10 minutes, then cut thinly across the grain. Try serving in tacos.

Legumes

28. Silken Tofu—31 calories per 3 oz.

There are a wide variety of tofu textures available. Silken tofu, which can be available as “soft,” “firm,” or “extra firm,” is a style of tofu that has not had much (if any) of its water pressed out, resulting in a custardy texture and lower-calorie brick than pressed, firm-style tofu.

While not a candidate for stir-fry, silken tofu works well in blended dishes like puddings, smoothies, dips, and salad dressings to keep calories in check and to supply a source of fairly high-quality plant-based protein.

Eat This

To make a low-calorie post-training shake, try blending together 1 cup coconut water, 3 ounces silken tofu, 1 scoop protein powder, 2 tablespoon ground flax seed, 1 cup frozen mango cubes, and 1 teaspoon fresh ginger.

29. Refried Beans—91 calories per 1/2 cup

Made up of mashed pinto beans, this Mexican staple delivers a wallop of hunger-quelling dietary fiber along with a range of must-have nutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, and energy-boosting iron.

Just be sure to read the ingredient list on the can and be sure that no fats are added.

Eat This

Stir together refried beans, chipotle chili powder, cumin powder, and fresh lime juice.

Spread on toast and top with a poached or fried egg.

30. Canned Kidney Beans—108 calories per 1/2 cup

Kidney beans are a quick way to add low-calorie plant protein and fiber to your diet. The protein and fiber in inexpensive kidney beans results in a slow burn of the complex carbs found in the legume for sustained energy and satiety levels. Some companies such as Eden Organics now offer canned kidney beans that are not packed in a salty liquid.

Eat This

For a hunger-squashing lunch salad, stir together a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans with chopped bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, and parsley. Toss with a lemon dressing.

31. Lentils—115 calories per 1/2 cup

Few foods deliver as much nutritional bang for your buck as lentils. Not only are they stingy when it comes to calories, lentils supply plenty of muscle-sculpting protein, core-carving fiber, and a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. And they’re budget-friendly, too!

Not Only Are They Stingy When It Comes To Calories, Lentils Supply Plenty Of Muscle-Sculpting Protein, Core-Carving Fiber, And A Laundry List Of Vitamins And Minerals.

Eat This

For a veggie burger that doesn’t suck, place 1-1/4 cups dried green lentils in a medium-sized saucepan with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside to cool. Add lentils to a food processor and pulse until most of the lentils are broken down but not until completely smooth.

Add 1/2 cup quick-cook oats, 4 ounces soft goat cheese, 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 chopped garlic clove, and salt and black pepper to taste; pulse until well combined.

Form mixture into 6 equal-sized patties and cook in a greased skillet.

Dairy

32. Liquid Egg Whites—25 calories per 3 tbsp

If you’re looking for pure, low-calorie protein, consider picking up a carton of liquid egg whites. In recipes, you can use them like regular eggs (3 tablespoons equals 1 large egg) without the need for any cracking. The protein within egg whites is especially rich in essential amino acids, making them a muscle-building superstar.

The egg whites are pasteurized, meaning that you can eat them straight from the carton, so consider using them to add a protein boost to smoothies.

Eat This

Heat 1/2 cup liquid egg whites, 1 chopped zucchini, and 1 cup chopped plum tomatoes in a skillet until egg whites are set, stirring often. Season this low-cal scramble with hot sauce.

33. Mozzarella, Part-Skim—71 calories per 1 oz.

Eat too much calorie-laden fatty cheese and your six-pack will very likely be a few cans short. But you can still have your cheese and eat it too if you keep a chunk of low-fat mozzarella in your fridge. Compared to regular cheddar cheese, part-skim mozzarella has about 61 percent fewer calories. Try it on your sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, and scrambled eggs.

You Can Still Have Your Cheese And Eat It Too If You Keep A Chunk Of Low-Fat Mozzarella In Your Fridge.

Eat This

Make a caprese pasta salad by tossing together cooked whole-grain penne pasta with flaked canned albacore tuna, diced part-skim mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes, and chopped fresh basil. Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Toss dressing with salad.

34. Skim Milk—83 calories per cup

This great white lets you take advantage of the top-notch protein in moo juice minus the fatty calories. Each glassful also contains a trio of bone builders: calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. If you don’t mind the splurge, opt for organic skim milk, which is sourced from cattle not pumped full of antibiotics.

Eat This

Make no-cook oats by stirring together 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup plain or vanilla protein powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons chia seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir in 2/3 cup skim milk, and top with sliced strawberries and chopped nuts. Cover and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.

35. Plain Nonfat Yogurt—137 calories per cup

Fat-free yogurt is a stellar way to add quality protein and beneficial bacteria called probiotics to your daily menu without the added calories found in higher-fat or sweetened varieties. Beyond the power to bolster your immune and digestive health, probiotics might even be an ally in the battle of the bulge!

Eat This

Place 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 avocado, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle or ancho chili powder, and a pinch of salt in a container and blend until smooth. Use as a sauce for tacos, sliced steak, or fish.

Nuts/Seeds

36. Almond Milk, Unsweetened—30 calories per cup

This nutty, dairy-free alternative—which is made by grinding skinned almonds with water and filtering out the mixture—contains very little of the fat found in whole nuts, so it’s a calorie-conscious option for your cereal, post-training shakes, or weekend stack of pancakes. Look for the word “unsweetened” on the carton as your guarantee that no sugars were pumped into the faux milk.

Eat This

Recharge after a workout by blending together 1 cup almond milk with 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt, a couple tablespoons powdered peanut butter, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 cup frozen strawberries.

37. Powdered Peanut Butter—45 calories per tbsp

Brands such as PB2 make their powdered peanut butter by taking peanuts and pressing them to remove much of the fat. When mixed with water, the end result is a creamy spread with about half the calories of regular peanut butter. But similar to the regular spread, you still get the nutritional bonuses of protein and dietary fiber. You can even add the powder straight up to items like oatmeal and protein shakes!

Eat This

Reconstitute powdered peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon according to package directions and spread between celery sticks for a snack that’ll make you feel like a kid again.

Seasonings

38. Red Wine Vinegar—3 calories per tbsp

If you want to add a splash of flavor to dressings and sauces for essentially no calories, be sure to keep your pantry stocked with vinegars like red wine. Some research suggests that the acetic acid in vinegar can slow down digestion of a meal, which works to improve blood-glucose control and bolster satiety.[9]

Eat This

For a tasty salad dressing, blend together equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar with chopped shallot, chopped garlic, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, salt, and black pepper.

39. Thyme—3 calories per tbsp

Fresh herbs like thyme, basil, and dill are an excellent way to liven up dishes with bright flavor and very little calorie cost. These flavor boosters also contain an arsenal of antioxidants to help assure that your low-calorie eating plan is also a disease-fighting one.

Fresh Herbs Like Thyme, Basil, And Dill Are An Excellent Way To Liven Up Dishes With Bright Flavor And Very Little Calorie Cost.

Eat This

Stir together 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Use as a rub for chicken, steak, or pork.

40. Cinnamon—6 calories per 1 tsp

When it comes to oatmeal, smoothies, and pancakes, cinnamon can help you go big on flavor without the calories. A number of studies, including a recent report in Nutrition Research, have linked cinnamon with improved blood-sugar control, which not only reduces the risk of diabetes but may also aid in satiety, improved energy levels, and less risk of fat storage on your midriff.[10]

Eat This

For a pudding with less gut-busting consequences, heat 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just under a simmer. Remove pan from heat, add 3 ounces chopped dark chocolate and 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Stir until chocolate is smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoon grated orange zest, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Place chocolate mixture, 1 package silken tofu, and 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Chill pudding for at least 2 hours before serving.

References
  1. Di Noia, J. (2014). Peer Reviewed: Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Preventing Chronic Disease, 11.
  2. Juanola-Falgarona, M., Salas-Salvadó, J., Martínez-González, M. Á., Corella, D., Estruch, R., Ros, E., … & Bulló, M. (2014). Dietary intake of vitamin K is inversely associated with mortality risk. The Journal of Nutrition, 144(5), 743-750.
  3. Dow, C. A., Going, S. B., Chow, H. H. S., Patil, B. S., & Thomson, C. A. (2012). The effects of daily consumption of grapefruit on body weight, lipids, and blood pressure in healthy, overweight adults. Metabolism, 61(7), 1026-1035.
  4. Hemilä, H. (2013). Vitamin C may alleviate exercise-induced bronchoconstriction: a meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 3(6), e002416.
  5. Hemilä, H. (2013). Vitamin C and common cold-induced asthma: a systematic review and statistical analysis. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 9(1), 46-9.
  6. Alvarez-Suarez, J. M., Giampieri, F., Tulipani, S., Casoli, T., Di Stefano, G., González-Paramás, A. M., … & Battino, M. (2014). One-month strawberry-rich anthocyanin supplementation ameliorates cardiovascular risk, oxidative stress markers and platelet activation in humans. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 25(3), 289-294.
  7. Goldfarb, A. H., Bloomer, R. J., & McKenzie, M. J. (2005). Combined antioxidant treatment effects on blood oxidative stress after eccentric exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(2), 234-239.
  8. Zebrowska, A., Mizia-Stec, K., Mizia, M., G?sior, Z., & Poprz?cki, S. (2015). Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation improves endothelial function and maximal oxygen uptake in endurance-trained athletes. European Journal of Sport Science, 15(4), 305-314.
  9. Östman, E., Granfeldt, Y., Persson, L., & Björck, I. (2005). Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59(9), 983-988.
  10. Hlebowicz, J., Darwiche, G., Björgell, O., & Almér, L. O. (2007). Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(6), 1552-1556.


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The 8 Essentials Of Competition Prep

If you’ve set your sights on the stage, having a plan of attack is essential. There is no one way to cross the finish line and different things work for different people, but taking a systematic approach is essential to help you manage both your expectations and your outcome.

Whether you plan to compete only in local shows or plan to work your way up the ranks to compete at the national level, here are the most important things you need to have nailed down before you set foot onstage.

1. A Qualified Coach

While you may be in great shape, a qualified competition prep coach can point out crucial areas of improvement and share their knowledge of your specific style of competition. A qualified coach should be able to assist you with all aspects of your training, including a meal plan, a training program, weekly check-ins, a supplement schedule, posing—even providing a friendly ear when you need to vent. They can also help guide you on which show to enter, what the “current look” and guidelines for your division are, and which division your physique is best suited for.

I’m not just referring to hiring any trainer at your local health club. If you want to have a truly positive experience, I recommend someone who specializes in the competition realm. Just because someone hired their own coach, competed in one show, and now offers “online training” does not make them a qualified competition coach. Someone without proper knowledge and background in this area should never take your money, but, sadly, it happens all the time.

If this happens, there’s a good chance you won’t get the attention you need and you’ll be saddled with a cookie-cutter meal plan that not only doesn’t meet your needs, but can do long-term damage to your body and metabolism. Referrals and testimonials are great, but ultimately results are key, so don’t be afraid to ask around.

The 8 Essentials of Competition Prep: A Qualified Coach

There are many qualified competition coaches, but do your homework to be sure the person you chose is right for you. Presenting your very best package possible will depend on it.

2. A Sound Training and Nutrition Plan

It’s easy to say that there’s no right or wrong way to prepare for the stage, since there are numerous schools of thought on what works best. But, to be clear, there is a wrong way. It’s the way that feels like pure punishment, leaves your body scrambling for resources, and takes weeks or months to recover from after your event.

If there’s one thing that most “wrong way” approaches have in common, it’s that they’re rushed. A quality prep should be eight weeks at minimum, but more likely 12-16 weeks, depending on where you begin and how responsive your body is.

Resist the urge to rush into a show if you’ll be hard pressed to be ready in time. This can turn a process that should be fun and manageable into something extremely stressful, which won’t do anything to help foster a positive self-image. Ultimately, you should enjoy the ride!

3. Lots of Practice on Stage Presence and Posing

Just because you’ve put blood, sweat, and tears in behind the scene, don’t think you can just put on a sparkly bikini, jump out on that big stage, and blow everyone away. If you don’t know how to present what you’ve been building, you’ll be behind from the start.

Posing practice is essential to help you shine onstage. Women who don’t nail down mandatory poses are scored more poorly than those who do. The expectation is to appear polished and move with grace and elegance while contracting every muscle effortlessly. It’s not an easy skill to master, but, with practice you can ensure that your hard work stands out. Your walk and transition from one pose to the next will be highly scrutinized, so be sure you’ve not only done your work in the gym and the kitchen, but also in front of the mirror.

If you never walk in heels, you’d better start well before the day of the show. Clomping out onstage like a derby horse will catch the eye of the judges—and not in a good way. Select the size and style of competition heel that you feel most comfortable in, and work it like your hallway is a runway every day until show time.

4. The Right Suit

There are lots of suit designers, but locating the suit that offers the most flattering cut and color for you is just as important as every other component of your preparedness.

The 8 Essentials of Competition Prep: Practice Presence and Posing

Suits can be hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars, depending on the brand and extent of crystal application. If you think details like this don’t matter, think again. Judges will score against you for ill-fitting, lackluster suits.

No, this doesn’t mean you have to purchase the priciest suit out there, but the most flattering cut and color for your hair and skin tone will serve you best. Your coach can help here. And, on the day of the show, make sure your suit is glued in place so there are no wardrobe malfunctions.

5. A Solid Stage Tan

Stage color is definitely not the same as the healthy summer glow you get from hanging by the pool. The entire premise behind stage color is to define all the muscles and make them pop under the bright lights of the stage. Without this, you’ll completely wash out all your efforts and not present anything close to your best look.

Professional tanning services are a constant presence at shows, so they should be easy to find. I highly recommend you utilize their services to ensure the best possible color. Trust me, it’s a very messy process, so having someone who knows what they’re doing can make all the difference.

If you’re experienced with self-tanning, you can travel with the products and tan from the comfort of your home or hotel room. Always bring a set of old sheets to put on the hotel bed to avoid being charged for staining theirs.

Prior to tanning, I also recommend you shave your entire body and exfoliate well, because, after several applications, the tan can appear muddy over even just peach fuzz. A final rule of thumb: When you think you’re tan enough, do another two coats! Judges can and will hold a poor tan against you, so err on the side of caution and assume that more is better.

The 8 Essentials of Competition Prep: A Solid Stage Tan

6. Perfect Makeup and Hair

Like a stage tan, stage makeup isn’t a typical daytime look. The lights will wash you out, so your makeup should be more of a theatrical look. Many makeup artists work shows, so find out who is available and consider booking them in advance.

If you’re good at the task yourself—and many competitors are—then you can do your own makeup. Many YouTube tutorials can assist you with this very specific look, which will take plenty of expense out of the equation.

7. A Photoshoot

What happens on the stage is only one part of the final destination! Whether they’re just for you or you plan to share your images with the world, capturing your physique with a photoshoot is a fun way to celebrate your hard work coming to fruition, without all the pressure of the show itself. After all you’ve gone through, you’ve earned this!

For your own safety and to ensure you have a positive experience, be leery of anyone offering anything for free. Establish up front how much they’ll charge, how many looks you’ll do, and how many images you’ll get after the shoot.

8. A Plan for After the Show

Just as it’s important to set a goal prior to taking the stage, it’s equally important to have a goal in mind once the show is over. To help avoid the “post-show blues,” establish your plan for what’s next even before your final coat of spray tan has dried.

The 8 Essentials of Competition Prep: A Plan For After The Show

After a show, it can be easy to slip into complacency. Plan something, anything, to avoid the potential pitfalls of a rebound. Sure, it could be your next show, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be the absolute opposite of a show, like an obstacle course race or even a fun 5K run, just to have something new to look forward to.

If your show prep has you dreading the gym, seek out a new form of fitness to mix it up and get you excited again. Breathing new life into your fitness goals is not only fun, it’s essential to keep things from becoming monotonous. Just because the show is over, doesn’t mean it’s time to coast. Maybe it’s time to prepare for your next goal!

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Steve Cook Smashes Arms And Shoulders

It’s true: big biceps, triceps, and shoulders look good on everybody. But you know what’s even better? Strongbiceps, triceps, and shoulders. That’s what this workout is all about. I want you to look great, but I also want those muscle groups to be strong and function well.

Because shoulders and arms are relatively small muscle groups, you can work them together on the same day without overtaxing the nervous system.

This workout is designed to work each head of the delt and the biceps and triceps in under 45 minutes. The program is broken down into two distinct sections for your shoulders and arms. First, we’ll tackle your shoulders with some heavy presses, two supersets, and a tough finisher. Then, you’ll hammer your arms with one heavy superset and one lighter superset.

Steve Cook Smashes Arms And Shoulders

Watch The Video – 10:48

Pumped and ready to work? Don’t just sit there! Go to the gym!

Steve Cook Smashes Arms-And-Shoulders Workout

Push Press

2 sets, warm-up sets
4 sets, 6-8 reps


Side Lateral Raise

Superset with next exercise

1 set, warm-up set
3 sets, 10 reps


Bent Over Low-Pulley Side Lateral

3 sets, 10 reps


Barbell Front Raise

Superset with next exercise

3 sets, 10 reps


Upright Barbell Row

3 sets, 10 reps


Prison Push-Up

3 sets, 10 reps


EZ-Bar Curl

Superset with next exercise

2 sets, warm-up sets
3 sets, 6-8 reps


Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension

2 sets, warm-up sets
3 sets, 6-8 reps


Bench Dips

Superset with next exercise

3 sets, 8-10 reps


Hammer Curls

3 sets, 10 reps


Steve Cook’s Pro Tips

Dumbbell Push Press

If you know your max for barbell or dumbbell push press, use 60, 65, 70, and then 70 percent of your max for each consecutive set. If you don’t know your max, plug in whatever numbers you know into the 1RM claculator.

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Dumbbell Push Press

This isn’t a strict press. Dip your knees about 3 inches, then explode upward. If you have a belt, I encourage you to wear it.

Keep your pinkies a little higher than your thumbs, and never lock your elbows out completely. Because this is a compound exercise, use good form, and give yourself at least two minutes of rest between sets.

Shoulder Superset 1: Dumbbell Lateral Raise/Bent-Over Reverse Cable Fly

When performing lateral raises, tilt your wrists in slightly and keep your pinkies faced out as you raise the weight. Try not to let the weight come to the front of your body. On those flyes, switch the top arm each set.

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Side Lateral Raise

I like doing this superset closer to the front of my workout, because my middle and rear delts are my weakest areas. I like to work them when I have plenty of energy.

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Bent-Over Reverse Cable Fly

Shoulder Superset 2: Barbell Front Raise/upright Barbell Row

Use a wide grip on the upright row to hit your rear delts rather than the front delts. Rotate your shoulders forward, and bring the bar to mid-chest.

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Barbell Front Raise

Try to keep the bar close to your body. On the front raise, use a reverse grip, and bring the bar to eye level.

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Upright Barbell Row

Prison Push-Up

If your shoulders aren’t completely smoked by now, they’re about to be. For this exercise, go down into a push-up, then stand up and move your arms like you would during a jumping jack. Instead of bringing your palms together, externally rotate your arms, and try to touch the back of your hands together. This little variation will add some serious spice to this finisher.

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Prison Push-Up

Don’t rest between sets. Do one rep, and then go right into two reps. Keep moving until you get to 10 reps on that 10th set. Do it right, and you take care of your cardio for the day too!

Arm Superset 1: Ez-Bar Curl/Dumbbell Skullcrusher

Now the fun really begins. Before you start this superset, rest for about five minutes. Give your body a little time to reset before you start hammering your arms.

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EZ-Bar Curl

Your goal for this superset is to control the weight; don’t let the weight control you. If you feel your lower back or front delts come into play while you’re doing the EZ-bar curls, call your set good. I like to use dumbbells for the skullcrushers, because I know each triceps will get the same amount of work.

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Dumbbell Skullcrusher

Arm Superset 2: Bench Dip/Seated Hammer Curl

Stay focused and finish strong here. If bench dips are way too easy for you, put a dumbbell in your lap like I do. Get down until your elbows are at 90 degrees. When you push up, flex your triceps, but try not to put tension on your elbow.

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On both exercises, try to fail in the range of 8-10 reps. If you can make it to 10 reps, add some weight on the next set. Pushing yourself over time and knowing when to increase the load are essential to getting big and strong, so don’t settle for anything less than your best on each set.

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Seated Hammer Curl

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The 8 Best Supplements For Strength Athletes And Bodybuilders

If you’re a serious strength or physique athlete, you’ve surely heard that supplements can help you get the most from your intense training sessions and on-point diet. But which supplements? The market is overstuffed like a bodybuilder in a child’s blazer! You might be tempted to wander through a digital forest of get-big blogs and personal guru websites, but unfortunately those places can often be rife with misinformation.

Fortunately, we’re here to set the record straight. Knowing what to take, how much to take, and when to take it will help you squeeze every ounce of results from your hard work, so let’s zero in on the right supplement stack for your needs.

If your goal is to get as big and strong as possible, these eight products will help you do it.

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Knowing what to take, how much to take, and when to take it will help you squeeze every ounce of results from your hard work, so let’s zero in on the right supplement stack for your needs.

1. Creatine Monohydrate

This muscle-building, power-enhancing supplement has an extremely high safety profile and a plethora of evidence to support its efficacy. Creatine supplementation works by increasing the availability of creatine and phosphocreatine (PCr) within the muscle, helping to maintain energy during high-intensity exercise such as weightlifting. Furthermore, increasing the availability of PCr may help speed up recovery between sets.

Long-term creatine supplementation appears to enhance the quality of resistance training, generally leading to 5-15 percent greater gains in strength and performance.[1]

Recommended dose: The fastest way to increase muscle creatine stores is to follow the loading method of 20 grams per day for 5-7 days, followed by the standard maintenance dose of 5 grams per day. However, a lower dose of 5 grams for 28 days will also increase creatine stores without causing the 2-4 pound weight gain typically seen with a loading protocol.

2. Caffeine

Caffeine may be the most widely used stimulant in the world, and for good reason. It has repeatedly been shown to be an effective ergogenic aid in both endurance exercise and high-intensity activity. However, when it comes to strength performance, the effects of caffeine are a little muddier.

While there’s some research suggesting caffeine consumption prior to resistance training can increase one-rep max (1RM) for the bench press, other studies have found no strength benefits from caffeine.[2,3,4]

That being said, caffeine has been shown to decrease rates of fatigue and lower perception of effort, which may be of benefit during high-intensity, high-volume workouts, or if you just need a little pick-me-up before hitting the weights.

Recommended Dose: 150-300 milligrams 30-60 minutes before your workout.

3. Branched Chain Amino Acids

If you’re a strength athlete or bodybuilder, we can’t think of a single reason not to take BCAAs during your workout. Besides the fact that they taste delicious, sipping on BCAAs between sets may help speed up the recovery and repair processes after a tough workout.

A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that participants who ingested BCAAs at 100 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight, or about 9 grams for a 200-pound individual, experienced significantly less muscle soreness and damage following a high-volume squat protocol.[5]

It appears that BCAAs, especially leucine, help to regulate protein metabolism by promoting protein synthesis and suppressing protein degradation, which may improve recovery of muscles damaged during resistance training.

Recommended Dose: 6-10 grams before or during your workouts.

4. Citrulline Malate

Citrulline malate (CM) was originally marketed as an “antifatigue” supplement. In fact, if you were to travel back in time about 40 years, you’d find CM being prescribed to treat both mental and physical fatigue in post-surgery patients. More recently, CM has become popular for its performance-boosting effects.

The benefits seen with CM supplementation are most likely attributed to the synergistic combination of both L-citrulline and malate, which may help to increase rates of ATP during exercise, followed by increased rates of PCr recovery after exercise.[6]

Previous investigations have shown that a single dose of CM (8 grams) increased the number of repetitions performed during an upper-body resistance training protocol and reduced soreness at 24 and 48 hours post-exercise (compared to a placebo).7 Recently, researchers from Mississippi State University found that a single dose of CM (8 grams) significantly increased the number of lower-body repetitions compared to a placebo group.[8]

CM may be beneficial in improving exercise performance during upper- and lower-body multiple-bout resistance exercise in resistance-trained men.

Recommended Dose: 8 grams of CM taken 60 minutes before exercise

5. No Boosters

Nitrate-rich foods like beets, radishes, and pomegranates are a great way to boost the production of nitric oxide (NO). Although there’s very limited research examining the effects of beet root juice and pomegranate extract on resistance training, these ingredients have previously been shown to increase skeletal muscle blood flow and lead to reduced soreness, which may ultimately lead to improvements in strength and performance.[9,10]

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Nitrate-rich foods like beets, radishes, and pomegranates are a great way to boost the production of nitric oxide (NO).

Several studies have used either beet root juice or pomegranate extract in multi-ingredient performance supplements and have observed improvements in strength, hypertrophy, and performance in resistance-trained men. At this point, however, it’s difficult to determine if these benefits are from beet root juice and pomegranate extract working alone or synergistically with other ingredients.[11,12]

Recommended Dose: 500 milligrams of beet root juice or pomegranate extract 30-60 minutes before your workout.

6. Whey Protein

Fast-digesting protein like whey is optimal post-workout as it can help improve your muscles’ ability to recover and adapt after strenuous exercise. In fact, consumption of whey protein has been found to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a greater degree than other proteins like casein and soy.[13,14]

A recent review article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted the benefits of protein supplementation and showed that supplementing with protein during prolonged (greater than 6 weeks) resistance-type training can lead to significantly greater increases in muscle mass and strength when compared to resistance training without a dietary protein intervention.[15]

Got milk? Blends of protein, like whey and casein, have been shown to promote muscle hypertrophy and improve body composition to a greater extent than soy-based proteins when consumed after resistance exercise.[16,17,18]

The combination of fast-digesting whey and slow-digesting casein keep the body in a highly anabolic environment for a prolonged period of time, helping to keep rates of protein synthesis up, while minimizing any muscle breakdown.

Lifters who follow high-volume or high-intensity resistance-training programs, as many bodybuilders do, may also benefit from carbohydrate intake immediately post-workout. Compared with a placebo, carbohydrates combined with protein immediately post-workout and one hour after a bout of resistance exercise have been shown to increase insulin levels and rates of glycogen resynthesis.[19]

Recommended Dose: 20-30 grams of whey (or whey/casein blend) protein with a high-glycemic carbohydrate post-workout

7. Glutamine

While this nonessential amino acid may not deliver earth-shattering PRs or extreme muscle growth, it does play an important role in repair and recovery. Glutamine works by removing excess ammonia, which can accumulate during intense exercise, helping to regulate your body’s acid-base balance. Individuals who are engaged in heavy resistance training, two-a-day training splits, or are in a calorie deficit may benefit from the extra support of glutamine supplementation.

Recommended Dose: 20-30 grams a day, consuming 10 grams post-workout

8. Fish Oils

Fish oils are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which provide myriad benefits for the body. For strength athletes and bodybuilders, we’re most concerned with their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Intense resistance training can cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, leading to muscle damage and inflammation. While some inflammation is desirable, too much can delay the post-exercise recovery process.

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and speed up the recovery process, getting you ready for your next session with the weights.[20,21] As an added benefit, when combined with BCAAs and carbs, omega-3s can increase protein synthesis rates, leading to greater gains in muscle mass.[22,23]

Recommended Dose: 2 grams daily, ideally with a meal

References
  1. Kreider, R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244(1-2), 89-94.
  2. Beck, T. W., Housh, T. J., Schmidt, R. J., Johnson, G. O., Housh, D. J., Coburn, J. W., & Malek, M. H. (2006). The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capabilities.The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(3), 506-510.
  3. Astorino, T. A., Rohmann, R. L., & Firth, K. (2008). Effect of caffeine ingestion on one-repetition maximum muscular strength. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(2), 127-132.
  4. Woolf, K., Bidwell, W. K., & Carlson, A. G. (2009). Effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid during anaerobic exercise performance in caffeine naive collegiate football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(5), 1363-1369.
  5. Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness.International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 20(3), 236.
  6. Bendahan, D., Mattei, J. P., Ghattas, B., Confort-Gouny, S., Le Guern, M. E., & Cozzone, P. J. (2002). Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36(4), 282-289.
  7. Pérez-Guisado, J., & Jakeman, P. M. (2010). Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1215-1222.
  8. Wax, B., Kavazis, A. N., Weldon, K., & Sperlak, J. (2014). Effects of Supplemental Citrulline Malate Ingestion During Repeated Bouts of Lower-body Exercise in Advanced Weight Lifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/National Strength & Conditioning Association, 29(3), 786-92.
  9. de Nigris, F., Williams-Ignarro, S., Sica, V., Lerman, L. O., D’Armiento, F. P., Byrns, R. E., … & Napoli, C. (2007). Effects of a pomegranate fruit extract rich in punicalagin on oxidation-sensitive genes and eNOS activity at sites of perturbed shear stress and atherogenesis. Cardiovascular Research, 73(2), 414-423.
  10. Trombold, J. R., Reinfeld, A. S., Casler, J. R., & Coyle, E. F. (2011). The effect of pomegranate juice supplementation on strength and soreness after eccentric exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1782-1788.
  11. Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Dudeck, J. E., de Souza, E. O., McCleary, S. A., Wells, S., … & Wilson, J. M. (2013). Effects of 8 weeks of Xpand® 2X pre workout supplementation on skeletal muscle hypertrophy, lean body mass, and strength in resistance trained males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 44.
  12. Kraemer, W. J., Hatfield, D. L., Spiering, B. A., Vingren, J. L., Fragala, M. S., Ho, J. Y., … & Maresh, C. M. (2007). Effects of a multi-nutrient supplement on exercise performance and hormonal responses to resistance exercise.European Journal of Applied Physiology, 101(5), 637-646.
  13. Cribb, P. J., Williams, A. D., Carey, M. F., & Hayes, A. (2006). The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,16(5), 494.
  14. Volek, J. S., Volk, B. M., Gómez, A. L., Kunces, L. J., Kupchak, B. R., Freidenreich, D. J., … & Kraemer, W. J. (2013). Whey protein supplementation during resistance training augments lean body mass. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 32(2), 122-135.
  15. Cermak, N. M., de Groot, L. C., Saris, W. H., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), 1454-1464.
  16. Hartman, J. W., Tang, J. E., Wilkinson, S. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Lawrence, R. L., Fullerton, A. V., & Phillips, S. M. (2007). Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(2), 373-381.
  17. Wilkinson, S. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDonald, M. J., MacDonald, J. R., Armstrong, D., & Phillips, S. M. (2007). Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(4), 1031-1040.
  18. Josse, A. R., Tang, J. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2010). Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(6), 1122-1130.
  19. Roy, B. D., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (1998). Influence of differing macronutrient intakes on muscle glycogen resynthesis after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 84(3), 890-896.
  20. Jouris, K. B., McDaniel, J. L., & Weiss, E. P. (2011). The effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the inflammatory response to eccentric strength exercise. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 10(3), 432.
  21. Tartibian, B., Maleki, B. H., & Abbasi, A. (2009). The effects of ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids on perceived pain and external symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness in untrained men. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 19(2), 115-119.
  22. McDonald, C., Bauer, J., & Capra, S. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids and changes in LBM: alone or in synergy for better muscle health? Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 91(6), 459-468.
  23. Smith, G. I., Atherton, P., Reeds, D. N., Mohammed, B. S., Rankin, D., Rennie, M. J., & Mittendorfer, B. (2011). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clinical Science, 121(6), 267-278.


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The 20 Best Fat-Loss Transformation Foods

While calorie-crushing workouts play a key part in obtaining a better reflection in the mirror, what you eat likely plays an equal part—some would argue a larger one—in honing your physique. So…what should you eat? We thought you’d never ask.

The latest science suggests that there’s a grocery cart full of foods that have what it takes to alter your body for the better. So if your goal for the year ahead is to turn belly flab into tight abs, here’s the ultimate shopping list to transform your physique into a showstopper.

1. Beans

In a child’s perfect world, those bland lima beans would be illegal. But for physique-minded adults, all types of beans should be on the menu regularly. They provide a range of nutritional highlights including plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

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In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that a bean-heavy, fiber-rich diet is as effective as a lower-carbohydrate approach for weight loss, but far superior when it comes to improving cholesterol levels.[1]

What’s more, a University of Minnesota investigation found that subjects were just as satisfied after eating a higher-fiber bean-based meal as they were following a beef meal.[2] Of course, a serving of beans contains far fewer calories than a serving of beef: 109 in 1/2 cup of black beans versus 246 in 3 ounces of cooked beef.

2. Salmon

Count antipudge powers as another reason to reel in salmon. Why? Omega-3 fatty acids, of course!

A study out of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who swallowed an omega-3 supplement daily and performed cardio for little more than two hours a week (surely, you can handle that!) reduced their body-fat percentage while simultaneously lowering their heart-hampering blood triglycerides and raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol numbers.[3] When another group with the same exercise regimen was provided omega-3-poor sunflower oil instead, they shed hardly any fat.

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Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and is full of satiating, high-quality protein. Together, this makes salmon an ideal food to boost your weight-loss efforts!

3. Green Tea

Green tea is an ancient beverage with modern tummy-melting powers. In a recent study out of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, participants who were provided with a caffeine-free green tea extract experienced a 25 percent higher rate of fat oxidation during exercise than those who received a placebo.[4] The supplement group also witnessed a higher drop in body-fat levels following the month-long study.

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Like salmon, this is one case where the food is every bit as good as the supp. Green tea is high in catechin-polyphenols (ECGC), which are partially responsible for the antipudge capacity. So sip green tea throughout the day as a calorie-free way to stay hydrated and rev up the fat-burning machine.

A caveat: The casein protein in milk may interact with antioxidants and polyphenols in tea and render them less potent.[5] So sip your green tea au naturale.

4. Cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts

Sure, these are four different plants, but we’re grouping them together because they’re all great, and you can use them all pretty much interchangeably.

When Harvard University researchers tracked the eating habits and body-composition changes of more than 130,000 men and women for more than two decades, they found that higher intakes of nonstarchy, lower-glycemic-index vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale were strongly associated with lower rates of weight gain.[6]

These types of vegetables are nutrient dense and often high in fiber, meaning they can fill you up on fewer calories and won’t negatively impact blood sugar levels. Higher-glycemic vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas don’t appear to have the same satiating powers.

Take full advantage of these fiber-packed vegetables by including them in at least two meals each day. In the case of cauliflower, just drizzle pieces with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and paprika, and roast them at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

5. Blueberries

Blueberries possess numerous health benefits, but one you may not know about is their ability to help you uncover those abs. An investigation in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that pterostilbene, an antioxidant compound found in these blue health bombs, may help keep pudge at bay by reducing the activity of enzymes involved in fat storage, while also enhancing fat oxidation.[7]

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What’s more, the aforementioned Harvard study found that, along with cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, higher intakes of berries are associated with less weight gain over the years.[6]

Pro tip: Because they contain a higher skin-to-flesh ratio, wild blueberries are especially rich in antioxidants.

6. Greek Yogurt

All too often, people starting a fat-loss phase rid their fridge of dairy. No more! A Journal of Nutrition study determined that overweight people who exercised daily and followed a high-dairy, high-protein diet (while also keeping their calorie intake in check) lost more body fat and gained more lean body mass than people who took in the same number of calories but adhered to less protein and less dairy.[8]

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Deliciously thick Greek yogurt has the added perk of being especially rich in physique-friendly protein compared to traditional yogurt. In fact, research shows that scooping up protein-packed Greek yogurt for a snack can bolster satiety and keep you feeling full longer than a nondairy, calorie-matched alternative.[9] For maximum effect, avoid the sugary flavors, and let plain reign!

7. Apples

An apple a day may not only keep the doctor away—it may also keep the flab monster at arm’s length. Research out of Japan suggests that polyphenol compounds found in apples (mostly in the peel, FYI) may improve body-fat measures by altering compounds involved in fat metabolism.[10]

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These polyphenols were shown to increase levels of adiponectin, a protein that plays a major role in energy regulation, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.11 Low levels of adiponectin, which are observed in obese populations, are linked to insulin resistance, a pro-inflammatory environment, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure.[12,13]

It remains to be determined how many apples a person would need to eat to witness an effect, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to work one or two into your daily fruit quota. In fact, a Harvard study found that an increased intake of apples and pears led to more weight loss in subjects, second only to berries out of all fruits examined.[6]

8. Chocolate

If you are hunting for an ideal cheat food, look no further than chocolate. Scientists in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine examined chocolate and exercise habits among over 1,000 subjects. They found that those who consumed chocolate more frequently, despite the extra calories and saturated fat content, tended to have a lower BMI versus those who didn’t embrace their inner Willy Wonka.[14]

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How could this be? The study authors surmised that flavonoid antioxidants in chocolate may alter metabolism in a way that reduces fat storage. Cocoa-derived epicatechin has been demonstrated to enhance fat burning and promote weight loss in rat models, suggesting it may play a similar role in humans.[15]

As with anything, moderation is key. Rather than a candy bar (or five) per day, stick to an ounce or two of chocolate containing at least 60 percent cocoa.

9. Sprouted Bread

Sprouted breads like Ezekiel have a leg up on the competition when it comes to helping you stay pumped up rather than plumped up. A study out of The Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism discovered that sprouted bread has a lower glycemic index than regular whole-grain loaves, thus providing a slower release of its carbohydrate energy.[16] More good news: Many sprouted brands include healthy items like seeds and nuts in their blends.

10. Pistachios

If you are trying to win the battle of the bulge, be sure to go nuts for nuts. A recent study out of Loma Linda University in California found that including tree nuts—a group that includes pistachios, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts—as part of your healthy eating plan is strongly associated with a reduced risk for obesity.[17]

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How can this be, when nuts are packed with calories? It turns out that nuts like pistachios contain a powerful mixture of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can keep you from turning to other higher-calorie foods with less of an impressive nutritional resume. Plus, pistachios contain the fewest calories of all nuts!

Pro tip: If you have trouble eating only a reasonable portion of nuts, turn to pistachios still in their shell. The task of shelling the nuts will help keep portions in check by forcing you to slow down your eating.

11. Mushrooms

How can you enjoy your favorite burgers, tacos and meatloaf with less calorie guilt? Pack them full of low-calorie mushrooms!

An intriguing study in the Journal of Food Science found that substituting up to 80 percent of the ground beef in a meal with cooked mushrooms not only boosted the flavor intensity beyond that of the all-beef meal, but also resulted in a dish with not only significantly fewer calories, but also enhanced levels of nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, and B vitamins.[18]

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This is huge news if you’re looking for places to trim your calorie intake in the hopes of trimming your waistline. So the next time you are rustling up a burger, pasta meat sauce, taco filling, or a sloppy Joe, consider swapping out some of the beef with finely chopped and sautéed mushrooms.

12. Split Peas

A mere 1/4-cup serving of split peas delivers a whopping 13 grams of fiber! Why does this matter? Fiber wages a war on fat by reducing hunger, improving blood-sugar control, and positively altering the population of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. As a bonus, split peas also contain a laundry list of must-have vitamins and minerals an active body needs.

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You may have also noticed that pea protein powder is garnering shelf space alongside whey. That’s because this plant protein powder, which is often sourced from yellow split peas, contains healthy amounts of anabolic aminos, while offering an animal-friendly source of protein.

13. Hot Sauce

Turn up the heat of your meals, and you can also expect to melt away more fat. Capsaicin, the pungent compound that gives the chili peppers in hot sauces their fiery kick, is believed to be among body fat’s worst enemies by cranking up metabolism and enhancing fat burning.[19]

Capsaicin can also bolster satiety, resulting in improved calorie control. Pair your favorite with any cut of protein, eggs, veggies, and even rice!

14. Frozen Bananas

When frozen bananas are blended into protein shakes, they instantly make the drink deliciously thick and creamy, which also adds more volume to your meal and more carbs to replenish you after a tough workout.

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Researchers at Purdue University compared blended drinks that were identical in calories and volume, but with different viscosities.[20] They found that the thicker drink did a much better job at suppressing hunger than the thinner, less viscous beverage. A thicker drink likely stretches the stomach in a similar manner as solid food, and also won’t leave your stomach as quickly as a thinner beverage would.

Bananas freeze very well. Just slice the peeled fruit into thirds and put them in the freezer spread out on a baking sheet. Once the chunks are frozen solid, transfer them to a zip-top bag and keep them frozen until it’s time to whip up a post-gym drink in the blender.

15. Steel-Cut Oatmeal

A stomach that won’t stop growling is a dieter’s worse nightmare. So instead of subsisting on a bowl of unsatisfying boxed cereal for breakfast, fill your stomach with hearty oatmeal.

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A 2015 study by researchers at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center discovered that people who consumed oatmeal for breakfast experienced greater satiety and consumed 31 percent fewer calories at a follow-up meal compared with people who spooned up the same number of calories from corn flakes.[21]

Oats contain a bounty of hunger-fighting soluble fiber that can help you avoid vending-machine temptation and its waistline repercussions. Processed boxed cereal? Not so much. The only downside: Taking the time to cook steel-cut oats in the morning isn’t always feasible. To speed up the process, soak the oats in water overnight, which can slash cooking time by half.

16. Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is Mother Nature’s low-carb answer to pasta. Once cooked, the flesh of the squash pulls apart into slightly nutty tasting, noodle-like strands, minus the excessive starchy carbohydrates and calories.

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Turn to your microwave for an easy way to prepare spaghetti squash. Simply slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves on a microwave-safe dish, flesh-side down, and cover it loosely with a paper towel. Microwave the squash on high for 8-12 minutes, or until the flesh is very tender. Let it stand for five minutes, then scrape out the squash flesh with a fork.

17. Potatos

During the low-carb craze, potatoes were deemed public enemy number one. But it turns out that the spud may hold a secret weapon in the battle against flab: resistant starch.

Resistant starch is a uniquely bulky form of fiber that takes up space in your digestive system, leading to greater feelings of fullness. And because it resists digestion, the starch passes through your system and doesn’t enter your bloodstream, so it’s less likely to get socked away as body fat compared to other carbohydrates.[22]

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But there’s a catch. In cooked starchy foods like potatoes, resistant starch is created during the cooling process. That’s because cooking triggers starch to absorb water when it cools.[23] To take advantage of the potato’s ability (as well as that of beans, corn, lentils, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice) to infuse your diet with fat-resistant starch, eat it cold or pureed into chilled soups.

18. Ground Beef And Other Meats

Like yogurt and salmon, meat can assure your diet includes plenty of protein, which has been shown to be quite effective at promoting fat loss.[24]

Beyond increasing lean body mass, protein can also help prevent belt-stretching weight gain due to the fact that it has a higher thermic effect than carbs and fat. Think of the thermic effect of food as the energy cost of chewing, digesting, absorbing, transporting, and storing the food you eat.

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Protein’s thermic effect can range from 20-35 percent, meaning that up to 35 percent of the calories it provides end up being burned up during digestion and processing. In contrast, only about 5-15 percent of the energy consumed from carbohydrates or fats are burned up to process them. So even though protein and carbohydrates have the same calories per gram, the human body stores fewer of them from the former.

19. Olive Oil

If you want to say sayonara to belly fat in 2016, it’s important to make the fats you eat work harder for you. And if you have trouble keeping your hand out of the cookie jar, be sure to make olive oil a dietary fat staple.

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A recent investigation by a group of white coats in Italy found that oleic acid, a main monounsaturated fat present in olive oil, can increase post-meal circulating levels of a hunger-fighting compound called oleoylethanolamide (OEA). That simple ingredient results in a lower caloric intake over the following 24-hour period.[25] It appears that lean individuals are more sensitive to the impacts of oleic acid than overweight people are.

You can use cheaper, more refined “light” or “pure” olive oil for cooking purposes, since it has a neutral flavor and higher smoke point, but for the purposes of salad dressings, sauces, and dips, go with the extra-virgin good stuff. It has the added benefit of being richer in body-friendly antioxidants.

20. Chia Seeds

No longer just for hairy desk pets, chia seeds may help you crush hunger and cravings. That’s because they are plush in soluble fiber, which can swell in your stomach when mixed with liquids to create a sense of fullness to help silence a raging case of the munchies, so you become less tempted by nutritional landmines that can derail your diet.

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This is why chia seeds have become a popular way to create healthier puddings and drinks; they create a thickened product when mixed with the liquids in the recipes. Some people even create a chia gel to be used in items like pancakes and baked goods to act as a binder in lieu of eggs. In stores, you may come across both white and black chia seeds; both contain the same fiber bounty.

References
  1. Tonstad, S., Malik, N., & Haddad, E. (2014). A high fibre bean rich diet versus a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 27(s2), 109-116.
  2. Bonnema, A. L., Altschwager, D., Thomas, W., & Slavin, J. L. (2015). The Effects of a Beef-Based Meal Compared to a Calorie Matched Bean-Based Meal on Appetite and Food Intake. Journal of Food Science, 80(9), H2088-H2093.
  3. Hill, A. M., Buckley, J. D., Murphy, K. J., & Howe, P. R. (2007). Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1267-1274.
  4. Roberts, J. D., Roberts, M. G., Tarpey, M. D., Weekes, J. C., & Thomas, C. H. (2015). The effect of a decaffeinated green tea extract formula on fat oxidation, body composition and exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 1.
  5. Bourassa, P., Côté, R., Hutchandani, S., Samson, G., & Tajmir-Riahi, H. A. (2013). The effect of milk alpha-casein on the antioxidant activity of tea polyphenols. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 128, 43-49.
  6. Bertoia, M. L., Mukamal, K. J., Cahill, L. E., Hou, T., Ludwig, D. S., Mozaffarian, D., … & Rimm, E. B. (2015). Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS Med, 12(9), e1001878.
  7. Gomez-Zorita, S., Fernandez-Quintela, A., Lasa, A., Aguirre, L., Rimando, A. M., & Portillo, M. P. (2014). Pterostilbene, a Dimethyl Ether Derivative of Resveratrol, Reduces Fat Accumulation in Rats Fed an Obesogenic Diet. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 62(33), 8371-8378.
  8. Josse, A. R., Atkinson, S. A., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2011). Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet-and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women. The Journal of Nutrition, 141(9), 1626-1634.
  9. Nagasako-Akazome, Y., Kanda, T., Ohtake, Y., Shimasaki, H., & Kobayashi, T. (2007). Apple polyphenols influence cholesterol metabolism in healthy subjects with relatively high body mass index. Journal of Oleo Science, 56(8), 417-428.
  10. Rabinovitz, H.R., Boaz, M., Ganz, t., Jakubowicz, D., Matas, Z., Madar, Z. & Wainstein, J. (2014). Big Breakfast Rich in Protein and Fat Improves Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetics. Journal of Obesity, 22(5), 46-54.
  11. Sofer, S., Madar, Z., Eliraz, A., Kaplan, S., Voet, H., Fink, G. & Kima, T. (2001). Greater Weight Loss and Hormonal Changes After 6 Months Diet With Carbohydrates Eaten Mostly at Dinner. Obesity Journal, 19(10), 2006-2014.
  12. Chandran, M., Phillips, S.A., Ciaraldi, T. & Henry, R.R. (2003). Adiponectin: more than just another fat cell hormone. Diabetes Care, 26(8), 2442-2450.
  13. Golomb, B. A., Koperski, S., & White, H. L. (2012). Association between more frequent chocolate consumption and lower body mass index. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(6), 519-521.
  14. Ramirez-Sanchez, I., Nogueira, L., Moreno, A., Murphy, A., Taub, P. R., Perkins, G., … & Villarreal, F. (2012). Stimulatory effects of the flavanol (-)-epicatechin on cardiac angiogenesis: Additive effects with exercise. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, 60(5), 429.
  15. Mofidi, A., Ferraro, Z. M., Stewart, K. A., Tulk, H. M., Robinson, L. E., Duncan, A. M., & Graham, T. E. (2012). The acute impact of ingestion of sourdough and whole-grain breads on blood glucose, insulin, and incretins in overweight and obese men. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2012.
  16. Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Haddad, E., Oda, K., Fraser, G. E., & Sabaté, J. (2014). Tree nuts are inversely associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity: the adventist health study-2. PloS One, 9(1), e85133.
  17. Myrdal Miller, A., Mills, K., Wong, T., Drescher, G., Lee, S. M., Sirimuangmoon, C., … & Guinard, J. X. (2014). Flavor-Enhancing Properties of Mushrooms in Meat-Based Dishes in Which Sodium Has Been Reduced and Meat Has Been Partially Substituted with Mushrooms. Journal of Food Science, 79(9), S1795-S1804.
  18. Whiting, S., Derbyshire, E., & Tiwari, B. K. (2012). Capsaicinoids and capsinoids. A potential role for weight management? A systematic review of the evidence. Appetite, 59(2), 341-348.
  19. Mattes, R. D., & Rothacker, D. (2001). Beverage viscosity is inversely related to postprandial hunger in humans. Physiology & Behavior, 74(4), 551-557.
  20. Geliebter, A., Grillot, C. L., Aviram-Friedman, R., Haq, S., Yahav, E., & Hashim, S. A. (2015). Effects of Oatmeal and Corn Flakes Cereal Breakfasts on Satiety, Gastric Emptying, Glucose, and Appetite-Related Hormones. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 66(2-3), 93-103.
  21. Raigond, P., Ezekiel, R., & Raigond, B. (2014). Resistant starch in food: a review. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(10), 1968-1978..
  22. Noakes, M., Keogh, J. B., Foster, P. R., & Clifton, P. M. (2005). Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81(6), 1298-1306.
  23. Mennella, I., Savarese, M., Ferracane, R., Sacchi, R., & Vitaglione, P. (2015). Oleic acid content of a meal promotes oleoylethanolamide response and reduces subsequent energy intake in humans. Food & Function, 6(1), 203-209.
  24. Vander Wal, J. S., Gupta, A., Khosla, P., & Dhurandhar, N. V. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International Journal of Obesity, 32(10), 1545-1551.
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26 Best Healthy Snacks

Like most people, you probably eat your three “squares” daily: a clean protein source, complex carbs, and some healthy fats. That’s not the problem. The problem comes when between-meals munchies arise and you didn’t pack any of your healthy snacks. Look around; there’s the vending machine, weeks’-old food in the fridge that looks like a science experiment, and the cupcakes on your co-worker’s desk.

If only you’d packed some healthy snacks.

Thankfully, we’ve come to the rescue (again!) with our picks for the top 26 healthy snacks. Some are high in protein for building muscle, others are low in carbs for when you’re watching your total calories, and still others are just plain good for you.

Stock up on these healthful staples and you’re less likely to sabotage your buff-to-blubber ratio. When you have the right snacks available, you can curb cravings and provide vital nutrients to support fitness gains.

Now who’s hungry?

1. NUT BUTTER PACKETS

A number of companies like Justin’s and Nuttzo are now supplying on-the-go single-serving packets of nut butters such as almond, hazelnut, or peanut. Simply tear open the portion-controlled packet and suck back the creamy goodness that’s rich in healthy fats, protein, and a number of important minerals. Look for options with the least amount of added sugar.

A Number Of Companies Like Justin’s And Nuttzo Are Now Supplying On-The-Go Single-Serving Packets Of Nut Butters Such As Almond, Hazelnut, Or Peanut.

Need to Know

Forget the reduced-fat versions. All they do is replace the healthy fat with not-so-healthy sugar.

2. IN-SHELL PISTACHIOS

Pistachios have an impressive nutritional resumé: laudable amounts of protein, cholesterol-busting monounsaturated fat, and plenty of fiber and energy-boosting B vitamins. But they’re so tasty that it’s easy to inhale several handfuls, which can quickly send your snack time into calorie overload. After all, a mere ounce delivers about 160 calories. That’s why in-shell pistachios are a near-perfect snack option. Scientists at Eastern Illinois University discovered that the extra work of shelling pistachios caused people to consume an average of 41 percent fewer calories than when they snacked on the nuts that were already shelled for them. The extra work (and tender fingers) of shelling the nuts can put the brakes on mindless overeating.

Need to Know

Pistachios added to common carbohydrate-rich meals, such as rice and pasta, can significantly reduce the post-meal blood sugar spike.

3. MIXED NUTS

Nuts like peanuts, cashews, and almonds make for a crunchy way to add more protein and healthy unsaturated fats to your diet. They pack about 6 grams of protein per 2-ounce serving.

Need to Know

If you’re watching your sodium intake, look for packages labelled “unsalted.”

4. WALNUTS

With only 4 grams of carbs per ounce, walnuts can help you snack your way through a low-carb diet, not to mention their lofty levels of mega-healthy omega-3 fatty acids: another good reason to go nuts for them. When purchasing nuts, opt for salt-free to keep your sodium intake in check.

Need to Know

This crunch bunch also supplies copper, a mineral required for proper energy production in the body.

5. FROZEN GRAPES

These subzero heroes provide a sweet pop in your mouth that helps quell any midday sugar cravings. Unlike strawberries, grapes don’t become rock solid when frozen; they’re firm but still easy to bite into with a creamy consistency, similar to a bite-sized grape Popsicle. Simply spread whole grapes in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until firm, and store in an airtight zip-top bag.

Unlike Strawberries, Grapes Don’t Become Rock Solid When Frozen; They’re Firm But Still Easy To Bite Into With A Creamy Consistency.

Need to Know

Try using red grapes, which are higher in body-friendly antioxidants than their green brethren.

6. EDAMAME

Edamame is basically an underripe green soybean. It provides a stellar mix of protein, slow-digesting carbs, and fat to keep your energy levels steady so you’re more likely to hit the gym than the couch after work. These verdant gems are also jam-packed with a range of important nutrients like folate, vitamin K, iron, and magnesium. You can find bags of frozen shelled edamame in the freezer section of most supermarkets and prepare them according to package directions.

Need to Know

If you’re concerned about genetically modified foods, splurge for edamame that’s certified organic.

7. DRIED PLUMS

Bathroom jokes aside, dried plums (aka prunes) are an ideal nosh when you need a sweet fix or shot of energy before hitting the weight room. A study in the journal “Appetite” found that subjects who snacked on dried plums experienced a greater degree of satiety than when they ate the same number of calories in the form of low-fat cookies. Why? The researchers discovered that the fiber-rich dried fruit favorably impacts blood sugar and appetite-regulating hormones, compared to the nutritionally lackluster cookie.

Dried Plums Are An Ideal Nosh When You Need A Sweet Fix Or Shot Of Energy Before Hitting The Weight Room.

Need to Know

Dried plums are also laced with disease-fighting, muscle-mending antioxidants.

8. CELERY

Celery is 95 percent water, so it’s no surprise that there’s a dearth of carbohydrates, making it a perfect low-carb snack. Slice and add to salads or simply smear on some nut butter for a snack that’s big on nutrition but low in six-pack killing processed carbs.

Need to Know

Celery is a good way to obtain an extra dose of vitamin K, which can bolster bone strength.

9. APRICOTS

Bob Dylan famously sang, “Everybody must get stoned.” If he was referring to eating the stone-fruit apricots as a lower-sugar option (about 8 grams per two fruits), then good on you Mr. Zimmerman. Enjoy as an out-of-hand snack, or slice and add to yogurt, oatmeal, and even salad for natural sweetness.

Need to Know

The orange-tinged flesh of the apricot is a tipoff that it contains high amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that has been linked to improved brain functioning.

10. STRAWBERRIES

Among berries, strawberries supply the least amount of sugar—about 11 grams per cup—making them a great option for helping satisfy a sweet tooth. If you’re concerned about possible pesticide exposure, opt for strawberries labelled “organic.”

Need to Know

Strawberries are a stellar source of vitamin C, which may help regular gym-goers avoid coming down with the sniffles.

11. PUMPKIN SEEDS (PEPITAS)

These jack-o’-lantern castoffs are a surprising source of whole-food protein, with about 7 grams in a crunchy serving. Of note, none of their carbohydrates (5 grams per ounce) are sugar, making them an even better way to elevate protein content in salads, oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese.

Need to Know

You can turn to pumpkin seeds for a source of testosterone-boosting zinc.

12. TOMATO JUICE

Good for more than bloody marys, ye olde tomato juice has less than half the sugar found in orange juice: about 10 grams of carbs per serving. Besides, don’t we all need more veggies in our diets? Lower-sodium options are now available to help reduce the risk for water-retention. Be sure that what you’re drinking is 100 percent vegetable juice and not a blend made with sugary fruit juices and sweeteners.

Need to Know

In a study published in “Nutrition Journal,” athletes who sipped antioxidant-rich tomato juice had less post-exercise inflammation than those who didn’t, which could speed up recovery.

13. POUCHED FISH

If you’re on the hunt for a snack that’s nearly pure muscle-friendly protein, look no further than the take-anywhere pouches of fish like salmon and tuna found in the canned fish aisle of most supermarkets. Simply cut open the top and fork up the protein-packed meat to keep muscle growth in full force all day long. Try the single-serve wild albacore tuna pouches from Wild Planet. This forward-thinking company packs only sustainably sourced tuna meat that’s loaded with more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than the competition.

Need to Know

Tuna is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant that may help to prevent heart disease, cancer, and vision loss.

14. HARD-BOILED EGG

Not just for breakfast, the white orbs possess an abundance of branched-chain amino acids, which are the most anabolic amino acids in the body. This makes the humble egg a muscle-building power snack to grab hold of. Boil up a carton’s worth of inexpensive eggs and stash them in your office fridge for times when you feel tempted by the vending machine.

Need to Know

Look for omega-3 enriched eggs, which contain 5 times as much omega-3 as conventional eggs.

15. PLAIN GREEK YOGURT

In recent years, Greek yogurt has gone from an obscure item in the dairy aisle to a cultured rock star. It’s made by straining away the liquid, so deliciously thick Greek-style yogurts contain twice as much protein as regular versions, supplying about 23 grams of protein in each cup serving. You’ll also reap the rewards of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria and bone-building calcium.

Greek Yogurt Has Gone From An Obscure Item In The Dairy Aisle To A Cultured Rock Star.

Need to Know

Plain Greek yogurt can contain up to three times less sugar than flavored types.

16. ICELANDIC YOGURT

Greek yogurt isn’t the only smart choice on the dairy aisle. Traditional Icelandic yogurt, called skyr, typically has even more protein than its Mediterranean counterpart (about 15-20 grams per serving) and a praise-worthy creamy texture that makes it feel more like dessert than a healthy snack. Like Greek yogurt, it’s made by straining away the excess liquid, leaving behind the ultra-thick yogurt that’s laced with gut-friendly probiotic bacteria.

Need to Know

To sidestep the added sugars that can blow up your physique, opt for plain versions of skyr. For a touch of natural sweetness, stir in some berries.

17. STRING CHEESE

Not just for your kid’s lunchbox, string cheese is a convenient way to help bolster your intake of protein with little carbohydrate cost. Stash a bag in your fridge for when the munchies strike, but consider choosing reduced-fat versions to keep the snack calories more in your favor. If you’re looking to gain mass, however, the extra calories that full-fat string cheese provides can help in your pursuit of glance-stealing size.

Need to Know

As with regular cheese, the stringy version offers up good amounts of bone-strengthening calcium.

18. MILK (2%)

Moo juice remains a reliable source of top-notch protein with a biological value just shy of that found in an egg. But why try to chug watery, flavorless skim milk when you can still enjoy the richer taste of 2 percent without breaking the fat bank? Besides, the extra fat will help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D present in the great white.

Need to Know

Studies show that cows raised using organic farming methods produce milk richer in a range of nutrients, including body-friendly omega fats.

19. COTTAGE CHEESE

This curd-riddled cheese product is laced with casein protein—about 28 grams in a cup. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that supplies your growing muscles with a steady supply of vital amino acids. Think of it as the MVP of snack time, especially before bedtime.

This Curd-Riddled Cheese Product Is Laced With Casein Protein—About 28 Grams In A Cup.

Need to Know

Cottage cheese is notoriously high in sodium, but you can now compare nutrition labels to find brands that contain less.

20. JERKY

We’re not jerking you around when we say jerky is one lean, mean snack option that’s good for more than just road trips. With a surprising 10:1 protein-to-fat ratio for most brands, going all paleo and gnawing on jerky between meals is a perfect way to show your muscles some love. You can’t go wrong with the brand Krave, which has delicious jerky flavors such as chipotle or pineapple orange and eschews any sketchy preservatives like MSG.

Need to Know

Beyond beef, also look out for buffalo, pork, turkey, venison, and even salmon jerky options.

21. DARK CHOCOLATE

If you need a nibble that feels a bit indulgent, look no further than dark chocolate. Dark chocolate—the stuff with at least 60 percent cocoa content—has been linked to reduced heart disease risk and even lower body fat numbers in people who nibble on it more often. The polyphenol antioxidants in chocolate may favorably influence metabolism.

Need to Know

Because dark chocolate has a more intense flavor than the sugar-laden milk varieties, you’ll be satisfied with less (say about 1-ounce).

22. PROTEIN BARS

Looking for convenient, delicious protein on the go? There’s a wide selection of protein bars available today that provide ample protein (depending on the brand). Don’t just glance at the protein numbers; if you’re watching your calories, check the fat and carbohydrate grams to ensure you’re not just eating a protein-laced candy bar.

Need to Know

Keep a few in your gym bag and at work to ensure you won’t reach for the wrong kinds of foods when the munchies strike.

23. KALE CHIPS

Crispy kale chips are surprisingly tasty (seriously!) and have the benefit of being made with one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. When a snack attack strikes, you’ll also reap the benefit of sending about 30 percent less starchy carbs into your body compared to potato-based chips. Look for bags such as Rhythm Superfoods in health food shops and an increasing number of larger supermarkets.

Crispy Kale Chips Are Surprisingly Tasty (Seriously!) And Have The Benefit Of Being Made With One Of The Most Nutrient-Dense Foods On The Planet.

Need to Know

This green giant contains a surfeit of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A.

24. BEAN CHIPS

If you’re jonesin’ for crunchy chips, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the ones made with protein-rich black beans. They pack about 4 grams of protein per ounce.

Need to Know

For a high-protein nibble while watching the big game, try making a dip with Greek yogurt and using bean chips as a delivery vessel to your mouth.

25. SMOOTHIE DRINKS

Homemade protein shakes are always preferred, but if you want a quick shot of protein in liquid form you can pick up bottles of premade smoothie drinks such as Bolthouse Farms. With about 16 grams per cup, they’re the next best thing to making your own.

Need to Know

Make sure the drink you choose contains a source of protein in the ingredient list such as whey protein and not just fruit, which can quickly send you into a sugary overload.

26. FROZEN GREEK YOGURT

Frozen Greek yogurt is frosty and creamy like ice cream, but with the benefit of containing about twice as much high-quality protein—about 12 grams per cup.

Need to Know

Compare brands and look for those with the lowest sugar levels. Some brands actually list fruit before sugar in the ingredient list. Go figure.

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Modern Physique: Steve Cook's 8-Week Training Plan


Main | Program Overview | Supp/Nutrition Overview | Training Overview | Get Started

What is the modern physique? More than anything, it’s the outward representation of a conscious and deliberate decision to shape yourself into something strong and powerful. It’s the result of your choice to build a defined, athletic, and aesthetic body. It’s your chance to define who you are.

If you’re ready to take control of your fitness, and to build a body you can be proud of, then you’re ready to take on the 8-week challenge that is Modern Physique. It won’t be easy, but it will change your life.

Modern Physique Trailer

Watch The Video – 1:58

Throughout most of human history, how our bodies looked was determined by our struggle to survive, not by a conscious choice to look a certain way. Not anymore. Today, we have the means to shape our bodies as we see fit.

The Modern Physique program is designed to maximize eight specific physical qualities, or “pillars” of the ideal modern body: strength, power, symmetry, muscularity, flexibility, endurance, definition, and athleticism. Each of these pillars will help you build a body worthy of history. Every week, the program contains a video from Steve on the importance of each pillar.

Get Started Now

Program Overview

You can either shape your body, or let yourself be shaped. Choose to tell a story. Choose to build your Modern Physique.

Training Overview

If you want to look like Steve, you have to train like him. For the next eight weeks, that’s exactly what you’ll do. This is how the Swoldier built his best-ever physique!

Nutrition & Supplementation

Make the most of Steve Cook’s tough workout with this detailed nutritional plan. Here are the numbers you need to get the results you’ve been craving!

DOWNLOAD THE FREE MOBILE APP!

Put the power of Modern Physique in the palm of your hand with our free mobile app! Track your workouts, nail your nutrition plan, stock up on supps, and get strong on the go.

Available in the iTunes App Store (for Apple iOS mobile devices)
Available in the Google Play App Store (for Android mobile devices)

View all our mobile apps

Sign up for email support

Some weeks will be more difficult than others. With our email support system, you’ll get weekly reminders and updates about the Modern Physique training and nutrition program!

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The Shoulder-Training Mistake You Can't Get Away With

Arnold presses? Check. Upright rows? Check. Front and lateral raises? Check.

If you think you’ve marked all the boxes for an effective shoulder-training program, think again. There’s one important box you and just about everybody else in the gym misses: the rotator cuff exercise.

When you’re hitting your shoulders with maximum intensity, your rotator cuffs take a beating. But a lot of people overlook exercises to make their rotator cuffs stronger, either because they think they’re strong enough already or they just don’t know any better.

Rotator cuff exercises don’t burn loads of calories to help you get leaner. And, considering the fact that people use very light weights to do them, they don’t exactly demand respect at the gym.

But don’t confuse lack of respect with lack of usefulness. Developing your rotator cuffs can reduce the risk of shoulder injury, so you can keep building muscle mass.

So, let’s talk a little about what the rotator cuff is, which muscles contribute to it, and what you can do to ensure yours are up to the task at hand.

Overused but Overlooked

The rotator cuff is comprised of a group of tendons and muscles that connect your arm to your shoulder blade. The four small muscles in your rotator cuff include the teres minor, the infraspinatus, the supraspinatus, and the subscapularis.

These muscles help your arm move around in circles, move in closer to the body, and move outward when you lift something up and away from you. They also help you maintain good posture by keeping your shoulder girdle back and in the proper position.

Common Rotator Cuff Injuries

When these rotator cuff muscles are weak, your risk for shoulder-related injuries skyrockets—especially when you lift increasingly heavy loads. Some of the main rotator cuff injuries include:

  • Rotator cuff tear: This occurs when age or overuse cause the rotator cuff tendon to weaken and eventually tear.
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis: Often triggered by repetitive overhead lifting, this is one of the most common overuse injuries. This tends to be a nagging injury, and complete recovery can be difficult.
  • Rotator cuff impingement: This occurs when tendons that connect the rotator cuff muscles are squeezed between two bones.
  • Subacromial bursitis: This condition is caused by inflammation of the small sac of fluid (bursa) that helps to cushion the rotator cuff tendons from the bones that surround them.

Best Rotator-Cuff-Building Exercises

The following exercises can lower your risk for these injuries. Make them a part of your shoulder warmup for upper-body workouts, and set aside time each week to do them on their own.

Internal and External Rotations

Do internal and external rotations either lying on your side or standing upright, whichever is most comfortable for you.

The Shoulder Training Mistake You Can't Get Away With

External Rotation

To do an external rotation, hold a dumbbell or plate weight in one hand, tuck your elbow directly into the side of your body with your hand straight out in front of you and your forearm parallel to the floor. Keeping your elbow pinned to your side, rotate the weight out away from your body, then back to the starting position for one external rotation rep. Do two sets of 15-20 reps with each arm.

To do an internal rotation, hold the dumbbell the same way, but this time rotate it across the front of your body instead of out away from it. Do two sets of 15-20 reps with each arm.

Scapular Plane Elevation

“Scapular plane” refers to the normal resting position of the shoulder blade (scapula) at 30-45 degrees from your midline.

To perform a scapular plane elevation, hold a light-weight dumbbell in one hand down by your side. Lift that arm upward and outward from your body at 30-45 degrees, along the scapular plane. Lift until your arm is parallel to the floor, keeping your thumb facing up as you raise your arm. 

Once your arm is parallel to the floor, pause for a brief second, then lower it back down to your side to complete the rep.

After you’ve developed a good feel for the movement pattern, perform it using both arms at once.

Wall Angel Stretch

In addition to strengthening your rotator cuffs, you also need to stretch your shoulder and back muscles. Without adequate stretching, these muscles can become overly tight and strain your shoulder tendons and ligaments. This, in turn, can cause pain and possibly lead to injury.

One very simple exercise to stretch your shoulder and back muscles is the wall angel.

To do a wall angel, stand with your back against a wall, with your arms down by your sides and touching the wall. Then, just as if you’re making a snow angel, slide your arms up the wall and over your head.  

See if you can keep your hands and shoulders in direct contact with the wall during this exercise. If you can’t, that’s a sign you should be spending more time on mobility and stretching work.

Don’t Forget to Warm Up!

In addition to doing these exercises, always take time before you start lifting to warm up your shoulders with plenty of arm circles and cross-body swings. This will help prevent shoulder tightness as you lift heavier weights, reducing the risk of injury.

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