5 Full-Body Circuits To Carve Out Six-Pack Abs

If you’re someone who wants stand-out abs, sure, there’s some work you need to do in the kitchen. But, you’re also definitely going to want to make good use of metabolic training.

Metabolic training involves intense combinations of traditional strength-based exercises and high-rep programming that will give you a serious cardiovascular challenge. You do the exercises one after another with short rest periods in between, giving you an all-around intense workout that will shed fat, improve your cardio conditioning, and work every muscle in your body in the process.

The workouts below take those benefits one step further by adding more core exercises to add a little growth stimulus to the crucial muscles of the obliques and rectus abdominis. Sure, you engage the core in just about every standing exercise you do. But, in these metabolic workouts, you’ll be zeroing in on those moves that emphasize your visible ab muscles.

You get leaner abs through a combination of building up those muscles, and losing body fat so the definition you’re building shows through. These workouts will do both in 30 minutes or less, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to fit it into your busy day.

1. Killer Crunch Circuit

This circuit is a great option if you’re at the beginner to intermediate level, and will work both your strength and endurance at the same time. It’s also a great circuit to perform at home, since all you need is a set of dumbbells and an exercise ball.

Perform each exercise in order. Aim for 20 reps of each one before going on to the next. Once all the exercises are finished, rest for 1 minute, then repeat the circuit a second time through. Go for a third time if you’re up to it.

Killer Crunch Circuit

Killer Crunch Circuit

2. One Side at a Time

Sometimes the best way to work the abs is to focus on balance. That might sound counterintuitive, but doing exercises that put your body off balance can dramatically increase overall core recruitment, which can lead to a stronger mid-section. The following workout uses this principle, using stabilization-focused movements that work all the main areas of your body, including your core.

Perform each exercise for the reps indicated. Once each exercise is done, rest for 30 seconds before moving on. Repeat the circuit four times through.

One Side at a Time

One Side at a Time

3. Mountain Climber Madness

Mountain climbers are an excellent cardio exercise that will target your abs if you focus on using your core to help drive your feet in toward your body with each step. They’re also great for burning calories and for working your upper body, as well.

For this circuit, alternate between mountain climbers and bodyweight-based ab moves to really give your core a workout.

Mountain Climber Madness

Mountain Climber Madness

4. Legs On Fire

Another great way to work your core is to train your legs. Lower body training can be incredibly intense since it works so many large muscle groups at once to burn calories fast. Your core will be engaged in every single lower-body exercise you do while standing.

This lower-body metabolic circuit might be one of the hardest you’ll ever face, but rest assured, you’re earning results. Move through each triset, doing one exercise after the next. Once all three exercises are completed, rest for two minutes before repeating again two more times.

After each triset is done three times, move on to the next.

Legs On Fire

Legs On Fire

5. Reps for Time

A final, brutal way you can structure your metabolic circuit is by attempting to reach a number of reps in a given time period. Your mission is to beat each rep level that you accomplished the workout before. By doing so, you help increase your fitness and up the intensity of the workout overall.

Perform each of these exercises for one minute. Count your reps and track them in a journal. This workout lasts only 10 minutes, but it should be a very intense 10 minutes. If you need to rest to maintain good form during each exercise, do so. As you become more advanced, you can try to perform two rounds instead of one.

Between sets, rest only as long as necessary to set up the next exercise.

Note that for any weighted exercise, you should be using a low amount of weight. Try using around 40-50 percent of the weight you usually use for your 5-rep sets.

Reps for Time

Reps for Time

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Kris Gethin: Man Of Iron, Week 6

Back | Main | Week 7 Coming June 19

“That isn’t age. That is self-inflicted damage.”

Those are the words of a man who is fresh off of a brutal leg workout and dreading having to step up into his jeep. Laugh if you want…unless you’re doing the Man of Iron training program yourself. If you are, your day will come soon!

Soreness is the name of the game this week, as Kris attacks the weights with renewed intensity and sees his volume go up in both swimming and running. He also gets some crucial bike maintenance tips, then takes a ride along Idaho’s scenic highways.

If you’ve been doing your biking or running solely indoors on this program, consider this your push to get out in the world and try a trail or road. Use the weekly downloadable program as your guide, and get after it!

Tips from Week 6

  • You know your body. You know what training your body and schedule will tolerate. Don’t feel compelled to do things the way other people do them in your sport of choice. Kris isn’t training like a traditional triathlete, why should you?
  • Don’t forget the unique nature of this training protocol. You fry your shoulders and triceps before swimming, so that when you come back fresh on race day, you’ll be much more powerful.
  • Maximize your passive recovery, not just active recovery. That means ice baths, massage, rest, and nailing your nutrition.
  • Your injuries are part of your story. Don’t forget about them! They may very well revisit you during this epic training experience.
  • Flats and other technical issues happen. Prepare for them if you’re going to be in a race! Basic bike care, a properly fitted bicycle, and in-race nutrition all need to be dialed in if you’re going to hit the strict Ironman cycling time cutoff.

Back | Main | Week 7 Coming June 19

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3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Decide To Compete

Sleek curves. Rippling muscles. Bright lights, cheering fans, and shimmering tans.

There’s no denying it: Bodybuilding and physique competitions are seriously alluring. What gym rat wouldn’t want to be ranked among the most exquisite specimens of the human form, showing off their prowess at the squat rack through their massive quad sweeps and bulging hams?

Yet for every athlete who finds competing to be a positive and transformative experience—as it was for me—there is at least one who tells a story of regret, obsession, and suffering. And that’s just the prep! Add to that the fact that your body is being nakedly judged and critiqued every moment onstage, and you’ll quickly understand the harsh and unforgiving nature of this glamorous sport.

Scared? Not to worry. It is possible to know on the front end if you have what it takes to compete—and thrive while doing it. The first step is to ask yourself these three simple questions, and take the answers deadly seriously.

Question 1: Why do you want to do this?

This is the all-important question—and it’s not the “why?” you’ll have to constantly answer to your co-workers, your grandma, or your friends. It’s the one you’ll have to answer to yourself, at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night, when you still have to prep meals, finish laundry, and head back to the gym to finish a leg workout you left unfinished earlier in the day. At that moment, you need to know the answer.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your love of workouts will make it easy; training for a competition will wear through that love quickly enough. Some competitors enjoy the challenge and process of pushing their bodies to the limits of perfection and trying to outdo their personal best.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Decide To Compete

Others compete for the glory of standing onstage with a trophy in hand proving they are the best. Still others compete for the thrill of doing something completely daring that they’ve never done before, thus proving to the world, and themselves, they have what it takes to step on stage.

Whatever your reason, make sure it resonates. The last thing you want to do is enter into the competitive world of bodybuilding simply because your trainer thought you’d be good at it, or you’re trying to impress someone. Mediocre motivation produces lackluster results. There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself, chasing a dream, or daring to try—as long as you are doing it for yourself.

Question 2: Can you go all-in?

Preparing for a competition is a full-time commitment that will devour your resources. All of them. Before you commit to training for a show, ask yourself if you have the necessary amount of these:

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Support
  • Finances
  • Mental fortitude
  • Emotional stability

Not having enough of any one of those can cause one, or several, of the others to unravel. Don’t have a babysitter for your kids? You’ll probably need one. Are you already stretched thin financially? Maybe stick to lifting casually until you’re not.

Keep in mind that this is a question for your partner as well. Many a spouse has found themselves a “gym widow” from the hours and hours of training it takes their loved one to prepare for competition. Initial support may run high, but family and friends will quickly tire of your long workouts, constant meal prep, and increasing irritability. You may even find yourself buckling under the mental and emotional strain that this kind of competitive sport imposes on you. I’ve even seen athletes lose their hair under the strain of competition.

Know that there is no substitute for experience when it comes to contest prep. Judges can spot poor posing, improper diet, and lousy homemade suits a mile away. If you can’t properly and thoroughly prepare for a competition, this probably isn’t the sport for you.

Question 3: Are you prepared to lose?

If you’re like the vast majority of people who compete, you’re not there to finish in the middle of the pack—you’re there to win. Failing to do so can destroy your ego. And that’s precisely why you need to answer this question. Too many novice competitors walk away frustrated and angry because they simply did not have a firm grasp on the realities of the sport.

That reality can be summed up in four words: You will probably lose.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Decide To Compete

Bodybuilding is a tough business. Most competitors who step onstage do not win. You might show up the day of competition absolutely on point, with every vein, striation and pose dialed in, and yet the person next to you is just a bit more shredded, more vascular, and more dominating. Even seasoned bodybuilders with years of experience preparing their physiques rarely walk away triumphant. So ask yourself, are you prepared to sacrifice months, in some cases years, toiling away at the weight stack, slaving over the food scale, and pounding out monotonous miles on the treadmill to go home empty-handed?

Just like any other competitive sport, bodybuilding has winners and losers. Failing to comprehend this basic truth is a mistake many first-time competitors make.

It’s Not All Bad News

It takes years of training to reach peak performance in any sport, and bodybuilding is no exception. 12 weeks won’t get you from couch to trophy. Just because you have the mindset, physique, and resources to train for a competition does not mean you will win. But to be clear, that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compete.

If you have answers to these questions, competition can be a transcendent, triumphant, and downright life-changing experience, even if you come in dead last in your class. If you can treat every improvement you make and tiny goal you meet as a personal victory, then you are likely to go home with a smile on your face, regardless of the final outcome.

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Podcast Episode 16: All About Caffeine – What Every Lifter Needs to Know

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Listen To Podcast Episode #16

Episode 16: All About Caffeine – What Every Lifter Needs to Know. Fill up the cup and listen to Krissy Kendall, Ph.D. tell us everything we should know about the world’s most popular drug. Are you trying to match your caffeine intake to your physique or training goals? Here’s what you need to know!

Publish Date: Monday, April 25, 2017

Behind The Scenes Photo:

Chef Robert Irvine speaks with Nick Collias and Dr. Krissy Kendall on The Bodybuilding.com Podcast

Behind The Scenes Video:

Ep.isode 16 Highlights & Transcript


  • What happens in your body when you ingest caffeine, and how soon the effects “peak”
  • Caffeine primes your body to use fat as fuel? It’s true!
  • Why caffeine is the most legit ingredient in your fat-burner
  • What half-life means, and what it should mean to you
  • Nicotine’s strange effect on caffeine’s half-life
  • How to know if you’re sensitive (it’s not rocket science)
  • The lethal dose and recommended highest dose
  • If you’re a light responder, is caffeine still damaging your sleep?
  • How long to cycle off of caffeine or a fat-burner
  • The “upper limit” for performance boosting is… really high!
  • Why volume, rather than strength, is where caffeine shines in the gym
  • Caffeine and the endurance athlete: A natural match
  • But doesn’t it dehydrate you? Not really.
  • How to tell different caffeine sources apart
  • How much caffeine is in your coffee? Good question.
  • Why decaf is anything but.
  • Does adding milk to coffee affect the caffeine content?
  • Does caffeine make you “less drunk?” (No)
  • Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?
  • What is the ideal spacing of caffeine doses?
  • Does caffeine stunt growth?
  • Can caffeine keep you from adding muscle?
  • Are the health benefits of caffeinated coffee better than decaf?
  • Coffee vs tea: The differences in caffeine (and just as importantly, theanine)


Nick Collias: Hi everyone, Nick Collias here. I’m an editor for Bodybuilding.com. And I’ve got my caffeinated cohort, Krissy Kendall, by my side, science editor for Bodybuilding.com. And today we’re talking all about caffeine. Krissy has not only studied caffeine, she has also taken enough of it to kill a blue whale. That’s this morning alone.

Dr. Krissy Kendall: Is that in reference to your shirt? The blue whale?

Nick: Hey, there’s no cameras here, we don’t need to talk about my shirt. Leave the shirt out of it. Anyway, Krissy is as they say, hopped up on goofball this morning.

Krissy: Oh, is that what the kids are calling it?

Nick: What have you had, in terms of stimulants, this morning?

Krissy: I’m on my third cup. Third cup of coffee.

Nick: Oh, okay.

Krissy: Yeah.

Nick: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Is that how it works? It’s like three to four cups a day?

Krissy: So, yeah, depends if I work out. If I work out in the morning, then I will have a pre-workout which the one I use has about 200 milligrams of caffeine. Then I have, usually, two cups of coffee, morning and then mid-morning. And then I have a Monster, either white or blue. Those are the only two that I have.

Nick: Oh, there’s a plan here.

Krissy: Yeah, there is. Yeah. I teach classes, fitness classes, in the evening. So then I either have another … Like amino energy or any one of those BCAAs that have caffeine. The reason why I use those is just because they’re smaller doses and a lot of them you can control, so one scoop is 50 milligrams, two scoop is 100 milligrams. I can easily control how much caffeine I want, or I’ll just have another cup of coffee because, on average, you’re looking at an eight ounce cup of brewed coffee, 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. It’s not super, super –

Nick: Depending on where you get it. If you make it yourself, that’s one thing.

Krissy: That’s what I mean, yeah. The Keurigs that we use, that’s what I’m looking at. That’s pretty much what I have, not including any food. There’s some sources of caffeine in food, but for …

Nick: Arugula. Arugula is the secret caffeine.

Krissy: Yeah, I know, that’s right. Food’s not a major source …

Nick: I don’t know if that’s actually true, I just heard that recently.

Krissy: Well, there is, yeah. Surprising. But most of the time, even chocolate, chocolate, people say chocolate’s caffeine. Unless it’s infused or the people put caffeine in it, it’s not a huge … Like 30 to 40 milligrams.

Nick: Yeah, that was something I wanted to talk about at some point and also the theobromine in it affects that, right?

Krissy: Yeah, yeah. That’s my daily caffeine. Obviously, things change little bit day to day but for the average day, that’s what I’m looking at.

Nick: For full disclosure, I guess I’ll say what I do as well.

Krissy: Yeah, I’m interested to know.

Nick: I make a shot of espresso when I wake up. It is the first thing I do every morning before I even allow myself to take a breath outside the bed, I’m staggering toward the espresso machine. I make one beautiful little shot. It’s the highlight of my entire day. That’s also a ritual. The kids wake up every morning to the sound of the espresso machine warming up. It kind of goes … I grind the beans and I hear my one year old, “Da, da!” And then the five year old goes, “Hey, da, da, mama!” And then that’s how the day starts. I’ll have usually one more, either a shot from someplace in downtown Boise on the way or a cup or two of tea here, or I’ll sneak into the board room where we are recording this podcast and have a cup of coffee out of the executive coffee machine because at Bodybuilding.com, that is the best cartridge plate in the town.
So anyway, my secret’s out I guess. But it’s a little more limited than you, but I think it’s worth discussing these things also, because it’s easy to talk about caffeine. Oh, caffeine it is this substance. But it isn’t caffeine for nearly anybody, it’s what you drink. It’s coffee, it’s tea, it’s your amino fruity punch, or it’s a tool for your workout. And I want to get into caffeine today, so we can have a little greater understanding, be a little more strategic about how we actually take it. Not only because every day is a good day to talk about caffeine, as people do every day in this office. But the world’s most caffeinated coffee just got released the other day.

Krissy: And what is that?

Nick: That would be Black Insomnia, it’s called. It’s about 750 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounce cup. You know, whatever, it’s a total gimmick and I don’t really want to dwell on it.

Krissy: Nor do I want to take it.

Nick: Yeah, exactly. And as fascinating as it is, I don’t really want to dwell on the history of chemistry of caffeine either, that’s something for somebody else’s podcast.

Krissy: Well we have articles, you can look, read it on the Internet.

Nick: But let’s talk about caffeine and actually what it does when you take it and how you can take advantage of that, what you should watch for. Caffeine, it is first and foremost a central nervous system stimulant. You hear that?

Krissy: Correct.

Nick: What does that mean for something to say central nervous system stimulant? What does that do to your body?

Krissy: It awakes you, it makes you alert. And that’s, so … And I’ll try to stick on track with you and not go too far out, but we could really talk about a few things that caffeine does, and the main thing is its effect on the central nervous system. You just talked about it, that the first thing you do when you wake up is you make coffee, and that’s what I do. I mean, I’m not gonna do much before I either take a pre-workout if I’m going to the gym or grab a cup of coffee because I need to wake up, I need to feel alert, I need some mental clarity so I can get myself to do something. And that’s, I would say, 80% of what caffeine does, is its effect on the central nervous system. And I think that’s why most people take it.

Nick: Right, and I feel like, just as I start the ritual I’m more awake, but the caffeine itself is not nearly that fast acting.

Krissy: Correct, yeah. And it depends on the form. You can take caffeine in liquid form, like coffee, you can take it in pill, you can take it in powder, if it was on your pre-workout, so the form will affect that a little bit, but you’re looking at 30 to 60 minutes for it to hit its peak. Not to say you won’t feel an effect, people get thrown off by that. When I tell people don’t take your pre-workout or don’t have your coffee right before you go to the gym, or right before you want to start to feel the effects, well I feel something immediate.
Okay, well there’s probably other things that … You’re just starting to feel more awake. You might start to feel small effects within 15, 20 minutes. But you’re looking at the peak effects? 30 to 60 minutes depending on how you’re taking it.

Nick: Right, yeah. Is that really different for … Say you take a little shot of espresso or you have, I don’t know, a Mountain Dew, versus taking caffeine in a powder form mixed with water?

Krissy: Yeah, so anything in that liquid form would be the same. A capsule form might take a little bit longer just because your body has to dissolve the capsule, right? And then it has to get into the blood stream. But as far as anything like liquid form, so whether it’s a power dissolved into a liquid, or just a coffee, that’s about, I would say on average between like 45 and 60 minutes, for it to hit its peak values in the blood. Peak values.

Nick: Meaning at that point, okay, you are feeling the most energy benefits from it.

Krissy: The most energy benefits.

Nick: What else is happening in your body in response to the caffeine?

Krissy: Okay, so I mentioned that three things that we look at caffeine for, the benefits of caffeine and the majority of what it’s going to do, is that mental or … The effects on the central nervous system. The alertness, the mental clarity. But it also can affect …

Nick: Pooping.

Krissy: What?

Nick: Pooping.

Krissy: Pooping? Yeah. But it can affect your metabolism. And that’s why, if you look at popular and successful, weight loss pills, powders, whatever, they have caffeine or a form of caffeine in it. Because it can increase your resting metabolic rate, it can help you even at rest, burn more calories. And again, this is … It can be different forms of caffeine. So like, green tea, and we can get into that in a little bit, but green tea extract, which does have caffeine in it, can help to boost metabolism. But it can also, caffeine specifically, if you use it before you work out, caffeine can actually help you use fat, burn fat, rather than carbs while you work out.
So again, in a pre-workout or if you take a fat burner before you work out, 30 to 60 minutes before you work out, your body is primed to use more of your fat than your carbs as a fuel source when you work out. So another use for caffeine or any source of caffeine is weight loss.

Nick: Okay, because it could be easy to look at a fat burning product and say, “Oh it’s just a bunch of caffeine, they put that in there so you feel like you’re burning fat.” But is caffeine the most beneficial in a thing fat burner, generally?

Krissy: Most beneficial thing, yes.

Nick: Most science backed, at least?

Krissy: And I don’t want to say, non-stim … And when I say non stim or non-stimulant base, I am talking about it doesn’t have caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it’s the most well-known stimulant and that’s what we’re talking about. So when I talk about a non-stimulant based fat burner, I’m talking about a fat burner that doesn’t have caffeine in it. And I just say, don’t waste your money on it, or don’t rely on it as your primary thing. If you are serious and you really want something that’s gonna get you to have any sort of noticeable effects, have one that has caffeine or green tea extract, for the same reasons that green tea extract has caffeine in it. And those are your two best, and the research supports it. Now keep in mind, and I’ll do my disclaimer, you have to follow a reduced calorie diet and you have to work out if you want to see fat loss, blah blah blah.

Nick: And sleeping, sleeping can actually help too, sometimes.

Krissy: Right, I mean, it’s the whole thing. You’ve gotta have it all in order. I think if you are gonna go the fat burner route, pick one that has caffeine or some source of caffeine in it to get the most benefit out of it.

Nick: And speaking of sleep a little bit, obviously some people are more sensitive than others. You can take caffeine at night.

Krissy: Yeah, I can have a cup of coffee right before I go to bed.

Nick: I can’t have caffeine after about 11 in the morning, or else I feel like it … I’m a little bit more of a responder. But what is the general window, you call it half-life, or the … How long is caffeine in your system?

Krissy: Okay yeah, so you brought up half-life. Half-life is a term we use in science and research, and half-life can be, we can relate that to anything that you ingest or that we measure the level, the peak level. So we talked about it takes 30 to 60 minutes to hit peak, and we talked about half-life, we’re talking about the time it takes for half of whatever you took, or whatever you’re measuring to drop down by half.
So let’s just throw a number in, we say we measured 100 milligrams of caffeine in your blood, and then we tracked how long it took to get to 50. That time is your half-life, and on average, for caffeine, that could be anywhere between four to six hours. So from where it hit peak, to then where it’s half of that, takes about four to six hours for caffeine.

Nick: Oh okay. So it’s still in your system at that point.

Krissy: It’s still in your system, but at half of its potency. But there’s a lot of things that can affect that. Gender can affect that, body size can affect that, age can affect that, your tolerance can affect that, how often you use it, and pregnancy can affect that. So if you’re pregnant it can extend the half-life, meaning it takes longer for caffeine to clear out of your system. And then if you’re a smoker, nicotine actually cuts the half-life in half. I’m not suggesting that you smoke or use …

Nick: I am, I think that’s totally fascinating. You go get a little unflavored vape and then you can drink coffee all day, right?

Krissy: I’m not promoting that, but yeah, so it’s crazy. Nicotine actually influences an enzyme in your liver that breaks down caffeine. And it creates, or it stimulates that enzyme at a higher rate so that caffeine is broken down much faster.

Nick: That’s interesting.

Krissy: Yeah, yeah.

Nick: You mentioned body size as well, how does that affect the half-life?

Krissy: So, excuse me. A lot of our … Let me try to think of the easiest way to put this, a lot of our dosing recommendations and how we see the effects of caffeine are all based on body weight, although we generally give across the board, two to 300 milligrams, or whatever. But it is very much based on body weight, so because of the enzymes, and there are multiple ones, they’re not just ones that are found in the liver, there are other ones too.
So depending on the body size, so a larger individual could probably break down and metabolize caffeine at a much faster rate than a smaller individual, given the same amount. Now if you made it relative to their body weight, that’s probably going to change, if that makes sense. So if I gave a relative dose, meaning I said, “Everyone’s gonna take six milligrams per pound,” which would be extremely high, six milligrams per pound of body weight, that now becomes a relative measure and it would make it more equal across all groups. But if I said, everyone takes two to 300 milligrams, larger individuals are probably gonna be able to metabolize and break that down much faster, and then the effects are going to not be as noticeable for an extended period of time.

Nick: Okay, so is that something that, if someone is taking a pre-workout, specifically, like all right, I know I like to work out with a pre-workout, that they should take into account when they are actually dosing it?

Krissy: Yeah, and also not just their size, but how well they tolerate it. So I always say, start small and then go up from there, just to see how well your body adapts to …

Nick: It’s entirely possible to be a large individual who is still highly sensitive.

Krissy: Exactly. And I think we talked about this a few weeks ago, but there are … With creatine we’ve talked about it, responders and non-responders. There’s responders and non-responders to caffeine, and so you could have someone who takes high amounts of caffeine and they don’t feel much of anything, or they could take caffeine super late at night and fall asleep right afterwards and not have any effect. And that’s, again … I mean, I still do get an effect from caffeine, I’m just … And we’ll talk about how well you can tolerate and build up tolerance.
But yeah, so there are certain people and certain genes or enzymes that your body produces, that you just breakdown caffeine so fast that you just don’t have the same sort of reaction to it, or same sort of effect to it. So I always say start small, don’t start with a product that has 300 milligrams if that’s your very first time taking caffeine, so that you can see how you adjust to it, and then how long it takes your body to come down from it, because that’s another thing that you want to …

Nick: Coming down and using sleep, I imagine, is a pretty good measure of that. Like, I can’t sleep, hmm, maybe is it … Okay.

Krissy: Yeah, yeah.

Nick: Is there anything else that you can do aside from that? Or is it just like, I feel nervous, just pure symptomatic like that, in terms of gauging your sensitivity to caffeine.

Krissy: So, yeah. So, looking at people who consume too much or if you’ve gone too high, gone overboard, symptoms could be jitteriness, your hands are shaking, sometimes your eyes, you’ve got twitching.

Nick: It feels like my eyes of popping out of my head when I have too much, like there actually, there’s electricity in my eyeballs.

Krissy: Yeah, yeah. People will tell me that too. Do you see that twitch? Do you see that twitch? I’m like, how much coffee have you had, caffeine have you had? Nausea will be another one. I actually encountered that in undergrad. I, uh … Gosh, I don’t even know how much caffeine … And I’ll talk about, to follow up, the higher limits of what most would recommend, so remind me to hit on that. But I am pretty sure I was well over that and I’ve never been so sick in my life before, as far as being so nauseous. And I laid down and everything was spinning, and it was just, it was a lot to handle.
And when I looked back at how much … I mean, between Diet Coke and energy drinks and an entire 12 pot thing of coffee, and it was just so much and so much, because I was cramming for exams and you do horrible things to your body at that time. So yeah, nausea’s another one, we talk about coffee or caffeine helping to keep you regular, too much of it can actually cause you to be constipated, so there’s a lot of things. Insomnia, having trouble sleeping, or having problems staying asleep, falling asleep. There’s a lot of things that you could look at, far as maybe I’ve been having too much, maybe I need to stop. Like, for you it’s 11, for me I could probably have my last dose of caffeine, around 100, 150 milligrams around six PM and be okay. If I’m staying up later, which, disclaimer, I go to bed around nine PM so I’ll say that.

Nick: As do I, I guess. Back when I was staying up more until 11:30 or 12, I could stop it by two. But yeah, I go to bed while the sun is still up.

Krissy: Yeah, it’s awesome. But I do want to hit on, because I get asked this a lot, on how much is too much? We talk about the symptoms of when you’ve had too much. So lethal amounts, I’m talking about amounts that will, and could potentially kill you, 10 grams. That is a lot, 10 grams. So most of the time we talk about dosing of caffeine, it’s in milligrams. So what is that?

Nick: 10,000 grams?

Krissy: 10,000 milligrams …

Nick: Or yeah, 10,000 milligrams.

Krissy: Yeah, or of 10 grams? Yeah, sometimes I question how I have a Ph.D., I’m trying to calculate that in my head.

Nick: But that would be in like an anhydrous powder?

Krissy: That’s in caffeine in any form in one day.

Nick: In one day.

Krissy: In one day, is 10 grams of caffeine.

Nick: I feel like I’ve heard news reports about people dying from far less than that in a single shot.

Krissy: Yeah, and so that would be a cumulative like, one day, 10 grams. So what most would recommend, and I follow the same recommendation, would be a healthy amount in an entire day, for most individuals is 400 milligrams. And people might be doing their calculations and, “Based on what you said you have more than that.” Yes, I’ve been drinking caffeine for a long, long time, so my upper limit is probably a little bit higher, and we would still consider an upper high … An upper limit to still be okay would be five to 600 milligrams and I probably fall within that. You talk to someone like Chris Ullery, sorry Chris …

Nick: One of our colleagues here.

Krissy: Yeah, he probably exceeds that by noon. But a lot of that has to do with how well you tolerate it and build up to it. But even so, he’s probably really not higher than that, and that’s considered still safe, but at the higher end. So what I recommend for most people is just, look at how much you’re having throughout the and if you are experiencing any of the symptoms that we talked about, check how much caffeine you’re having. And if you are at that higher end, see in areas where you can pull back, have a little bit of less. Can you substitute for either low caffeine options, caffeine free options? Maybe you don’t even realize that you’re having the caffeine, maybe it’s just, you’re drinking something that has caffeine.
Even the flavor packets that you put in water, they’re having energy in them now. Beef jerky, Perky Jerky, has caffeine, 75 milligrams per serving, which I love that stuff. But if you’re eating it, not even thinking about it, there’s more caffeine that you’re …

Nick: Yeah I suppose that’s true, if you are somebody who has enough of a tolerance that you don’t really consider caffeine before you put something in your mouth. Like me, I consider, I’m like, eh …

Krissy: Yeah, yeah … how is this going to throw me off for the day?

Nick: That person could he mindlessly consuming caffeine. Chris actually, our colleague, asked me a question the other day about that, though. He said, I’m one of those people who can take caffeine right up until I go to bed, pretty much. And I sleep, but am I doing damage to myself without realizing it? And doing damage to my sleep, like is it … Even if you have that incredible tolerance, the caffeine is still in you. Is it damaging your sleep quality potentially?

Krissy: It could potentially, but you could gauge that. How tired are you when you wake up? If you’re exhausted when you wake up, you probably didn’t get good sleep. If you’re only getting three hours of quality sleep, caffeine probably has an impact on that. But for me …

Nick: Ask your FitBit, I guess.

Krissy: Yeah, yeah. If you have someone who shares the bed with you, are you waking them up every five minutes because you can’t fall asleep? But if you’re not having any problems with any of that, if you’re like me who once I lay down, I am out, nothing will wake me up. Unless it’s my alarm clock. I sleep hard, and it doesn’t matter if I have caffeine or not. A lot of that has to do with the tolerance of it.
So, there are a lot of acute effects to caffeine. Increases blood pressure, increases heart rate, we know that it has an effect on performance, exercise performance. The more you take it, the lower those things, the lower those changes, the acute changes are observed. So people will say, oh well, caffeine raises your blood pressure, caffeine increases your heart rate. That’s true, in the very short term.
But long term studies, studies that have given people caffeine day after day after day show that it is incredibly safe, in the recommended doses which we’ve just talked about, and actually has no effect on resting heart rate, resting blood pressure. I, myself, again take caffeine every single day and I have extremely low blood pressure, extremely low heart rate, and I take caffeine as part of my medication for my migraines, which we’ll talk about special populations who might benefit from caffeine.
But your body does become adapted and does become more tolerated. So someone like Chris, his body’s just become so tolerated, he can very well easily take caffeine right before he goes to bed and sleep perfectly, and not have any sort of issues. Your body just becomes tolerant to it.

Nick: So he probably couldn’t sleep if he was not …

Krissy: Yeah, so that’s the other problem, is once you become tolerant to it and you start to see less performance effects, you start to take a fat burner. And we tell people to cycle their fat burners, because you’re on a fat burner for 4-6 weeks, your body starts to get used to it, you’re not gonna see that same increase in fat oxidation or use of fat. You may not see that same increase in metabolic rates so we say cycle off of it.
If you want to cycle off of caffeine, that is not fun. That’s full on withdrawal symptoms, because the World Health Organization looks at caffeine. It’s a drug and it’s a stimulant and it’s an addictive drug, they view it as an addictive drug. So when you come off of it, it’s like other drugs. When you take it away from you, you have and experience withdrawal effects. They’re the worst one to two days without it, and they linger on for about seven days, but most will say after about a week of it your body starts to adapt with it, without it, excuse me.
And then if you want to reintroduce it after that, like after a couple weeks, you can start to then go back to what it was like the first few times you had, it if that makes sense.

Nick: Oh, okay.

Krissy: So if you want to go back to feeling the full effects of caffeine, you should cycle off of it for a week or two before you come back on.

Nick: Every what? Like six months to a year?

Krissy: Yeah, or never. I know, I know …

Nick: I was gonna say, “When’s the last time you took your own advice here?”

Krissy: Well I won’t because I suffer from chronic migraines, and for me, I use it as part of my medication. And I’m not saying that you need to cycle off of caffeine, but if you are using it for performance, or you’re using it for fat loss, or if you are starting to feel too much of the negative side effects from it, like I said insomnia and things like that. And you’ve already tailored back, you’ve pulled back and it’s still not helping, then I would suggest cycling off.
So yeah, I would say anywhere from two to three months, you could cycle every two to three months, you could cycle every six months, it just kind of really depends on your goals that you want with it.

Nick: Well if your goal is saving money on pre-workouts that might help a little bit, right? Because we hear about people who are just habitual two and three scoop users. We see them on our website, we hear them talk about it here like, “Oh yeah, that one? That’s 350 milligrams, I take two scoops of that.”

Krissy: Yeah, it’s crazy.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about what actual benefits that person is getting from this, aside from the actual question of dependency, which is a larger question. What are the performance benefits to somebody in the gym? And at what point do they stop? If you take too much, like … If you can handle it, if you’re like, oh I can handle 500, I can take that … What is it? Mr. Hyde, the most caffeinated pre-workout, I can handle that. Is there any upper threshold where all of a sudden all of the benefits go away.

Krissy: So surprisingly most of the research looking at caffeine and performance, and I will say that a lot of the studies looking at performance benefits with caffeine use caffeine anhydrous, so they use a synthetic version, most common just because it’s easy to create that in a lab. You could use a natural form, but a lot of them don’t necessarily use coffee. So it’s usually caffeine anhydrous, which is why you see that in a lot of supplements. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact when you want to relate that and translate that to what the research has shown, there’s a direct line there. That’s what the research used, that’s what’s in your product, so you can be a little bit better about, okay, I’m taking the right thing.

Nick: Sure. You can be more strategic …

Krissy: So most of the research uses … that’s hard to say for me. Most of the research has used high doses, and again they use it based on body weight. Most of the beneficial effects occur between 3 and 6 milligrams per kilogram, so off the top of my head, for a 70 kg reference male, which is pretty light I would say, that’s about 150, 160? Okay. But you’re looking at around 400, to 400 milligrams of caffeine.

Nick: That’s 160. As the upper limit?

Krissy: As the upper limit.

Nick: That’s plenty, yeah.

Krissy: That’s where they see performance benefits. So when we see pre-workouts that say 300 milligrams, for me I don’t need that much, I’m also not 160, 170 pound male, so again base it off your body size. And this is a lot of trial and error, I’ve tried plenty of different combinations and dosing strategies. But that’s what they’ve used, higher doses. But that’s kind of the higher end, anything over that they haven’t noticed any additional performance benefits. Where the performance benefits comes in, a lot of time more endurance-based activities because of it’s effects on the central nervous system in masking fatigue.
So we go back to where we started this podcast, is caffeine’s effect on the central nervous system. It can help to delay, or excuse me … Well, yeah, delay fatigue by masking fatigue. So it almost hides it from you so you can keep going longer. So people will take it maybe for a workout, it’s not necessarily gonna help you. And the research is pretty mixed on whether it can help you push out a few more reps or load up the bar and set a PR on your bench press? Maybe not so, but can I finish my workout with the same energy that I started, or can I finish my last set feeling good? Probably more so. That’s the kind of effect you’re going to see in the weight room.

Nick: So if you’re training with more volume, maybe …

Krissy: Training more volume, circuit training, things like that where fatigue plays more a role in it. Now if you’re taking it just to feel more awake, then absolutely, you’ll get that benefit. But where you don’t see a whole lot of benefits, the results are pretty mixed in studies, is if you’re doing like a 1RM test. You take caffeine right before, probably not gonna do a whole lot there because caffeine doesn’t have a direct effect on the contraction of your muscles, they’re not gonna make your muscles contract more powerfully or stronger so that you can lift more weight.
For endurance athletes, again, because it helps to allow your body to use fat as a fuel source, think about any long distance event, right? We always want to tap into fuel sources that we have a lot of, and that’s fat. We want to preserve carbs so anything that’s longer distance would benefit from caffeine as well.

Nick: Does it do anything to blood flow or anything like that? Or … You look a pre-workout, there are a lot of blood flow-boosting agents in there already, can caffeine be considered one of them?

Krissy: Actually, caffeine a lot of times is used … Well, and it has a couple different effects. It does increase blood flow to the skin, not necessarily does it increase dehydration, and they’ve shown that caffeine, at moderate doses, does not influence rates of dehydration during endurance activity.

Nick: Yeah, that was another question we were gonna ask, yeah.

Krissy: But a lot of times people take caffeine and I’ll relate back to people who suffer from headaches. We take it because it vasoconstricts blood flow, especially to our brain, which sounds bad because you’re like, why would you cut off blood flow to your brain? Headaches are caused by an increase in blood flow in cerebral arteries, so arteries that are in your brain, so it helps to reduce the blood flow there. Yes, you will have a later effect of blood flow increase, a small effect of dilation, but that’s not one of the primary mechanisms of caffeine.
We go back to the acute effects of caffeine that I mentioned before, which was also an increase in blood pressure, because it constricts blood vessels. So there are other things in pre-workouts that will give you that immediate pump, that immediate blood flow boost, all of your NO boosters (nitric oxide boosters), that’s responsible for that.

Nick: Okay.

Krissy: Asthmatics might take it too, and you might see it because of the airways, it helps to open up or vasodilate the airways that help you breathe better, so asthmatics might benefit from that during exercise.

Nick: Now when you look at pills that contain caffeine or powders that contain caffeine, you don’t just see caffeine anhydrous though. You see a lot of different things on labels these days and supplements. Everything from natural caffeine, whatever that is, to dicaffeine malate, PureCaf, green tea extract, green coffee extract—how do we parse those out? Is there any significant difference in them?

Krissy: Okay yeah, there is. Caffeine anhydrous, that is your most pure form of caffeine. So you look at that, you can say that amount of caffeine anhydrous, up to 99% of it is caffeine, pure caffeine. It’s your strongest source of caffeine. Everything after that, the actual percentage of pure caffeine starts to come down. But it can be altered a little bit. So we’ll go to coffee or PureCaf, or coffee bean or green coffee bean, those are all kind of grouped together as coming from the actual coffee bean. There’s a lot of things that can affect the percent of caffeine that’s in there, the potency of that caffeine.
Roasting, that’s always a fun one to talk about. And people would say, the longer that it’s roasted, the darker that it’s roasted, it decreases the caffeine to a very small extent, but I wouldn’t look at roasting too much. It more has to do with the type of coffee bean, how well it’s, fine it’s grinded down, how it’s made, certain things like that. Or brewed, not made, but brewed, more things affect that. So yeah, PureCaf, green coffee bean, coffee in itself, those, depending on how it’s made, can range from 10% coffee to much higher percentages.

Nick: Caffeine?

Krissy: Oh, sorry yeah, caffeine to much higher percentages, 70%, again, it all depends on how it’s made.

Nick: Oh okay, so if you have any doubt then choose something that actually says how much caffeine is in that?

Krissy: Exactly. Exactly.

Nick: Along with that, that category alone where it’s saying, it has this many milligrams of green coffee bean extract doesn’t tell you anything about how much caffeine is in there necessarily.

Krissy: Right. And a good example of that is when you buy something with green tea extract, it should always say how much caffeine is in that. Because it might say 175 milligrams of green tea extract, that’s how much caffeine is in that. Because green tea extract is not a high amount, maybe 15%, let’s say of caffeine. So it should say on the label how much caffeine is in that product, because it does carry some caffeine, but not equal to the amount of the actual green tea. There’s other compounds in green tea, EGCG and other things like that, compounds that have effects that you’ve gotta account for.

Nick: And it’s worth noting that that also applies to any caffeine product that you buy any place too, there’s no predictable way, as you kind of mentioned with roasting, to predict that. I was looking at, there’s a website called Caffeine Informer, I believe it was called, that lists caffeine amounts in every conceivable beverage that … Not of course your little local coffee shop, but all the big ones. And Starbucks for instance, their darkest roast coffee is their highest caffeine and supposedly it’s made with 100% arabica, which is the lowest caffeine bean.
So there’s like … Everything on the label, except the actual number, says this should be a relatively low caffeine cup of coffee, but on the contrary it’s very high. How do they do that? Well, it’s a mystery. One coffee roaster once told me, well clearly they add a bunch of caffeine to it.

Krissy: And that goes back to how it was actually made.

Nick: But they may or may not, whatever it is, you don’t know.

Krissy: You can add caffeine, or the way that it’s formulated and made or produced, you can concentrate the caffeine to a higher level.

Nick: And even decaf does have, right?

Krissy: Yeah, so I believe it’s FDA requires that is be 97% caffeine free.

Nick: Oh okay.

Krissy: So you can find caffeine in decaf.

Nick: Okay, so let’s go to a couple other questions. I’ve been opening it up to people in the company for their caffeine and caffeine in training related questions.

Krissy: All right.

Nick: One person wanted to know, does adding milk to your caffeine, to your coffee, to your milk, affect the absorption or anything about the caffeine.

Krissy: No, milk actually has no effect on the amount of caffeine that your body absorbs, but most people and most of the research actually looks at the … So coffee, because of some of the compounds in coffee has an antioxidant benefit to it, more people are concerned about whether or not the milk inhibits the absorption of that, and it doesn’t. So you can add milk, interestingly enough, I did find a paper that looked at non-dairy creamer, which could potentially slow down the absorption of that. So if that is something that you’re interested or concerned about …

Nick: Slow it down, not eliminate it?

Krissy: Not eliminate it, just slow it down.

Nick: It does add volume, all those things add volume to the drink, which might make you absorb it more slowly.

Krissy: Yep. And that was something that I read that brought it up, is that it causes you drink it slower a lot of times, is because there’s calories in it too, so if you’re concerned about that. But as far as the caffeine or the antioxidant potential of drinking coffee, it has no effect on it.

Nick: What about, “caffeine makes me less drunk?” If I mix the two of them?

Krissy: No, no don’t do that. Yeah …

Nick: But many, many people do that, right? But does it actually make you less drunk at all?

Krissy: No, caffeine has no influence on the effects of alcohol. So the whole upper and downer thing, and the effects of your body absorbing that, no, nope.

Nick: So if it makes you feel less drunk, maybe that is a bad thing?

Krissy: Yeah, and that’s why … Well, that’s why companies … What, Four Loko? Yeah, that’s why they had to pull those things and the other companies too that were putting caffeine in alcohol. It’s getting cracked down on and not seen as a good thing, because it’s misleading for the body. I mean, people will Red Bull and vodka and things like that, which, never a good night ended with that.

Nick: What about caffeine during pregnancy? Is it safe for a pregnant woman to drink caffeine? Or a breastfeeding woman?

Krissy: That’s a great question. So, there are studies that have shown, caffeine during pregnancy can lead to premature births, low birth weights, other complications during birth, however, in those studies, and there are a few of them, they did not control for smoking and alcohol use. So it is a little bit difficult to know if it was coffee, or caffeine, or alcohol, or smoking. Also, there is some data to suggest that caffeine can affect the fetal heart rate.
Most physicians will not say necessarily to ban it completely, but to limit. And I believe the upper limit is two to 300 milligrams per day, but I think most physicians would say, if you can, to take it out from the diet or to minimize it from the diet. But we don’t have conclusive evidence that says, absolutely, it causes this or it does not cause this. But I think it’s definitely worth monitoring and watching. I don’t know about breastfeeding, but I have heard that from friends who, they weren’t … Their babies, their stomachs … Their baby’s stomachs, their digestive system, did not appreciate when they were drinking coffee and then breastfeeding afterwards.
I think probably just from. Even with adults too, right? Too much coffee can cause an upset stomach, kind of an acidic-type feeling, similar to …

Nick: I mean, and I guess the way you gauge that with a baby a lot of times is that they’re not sleeping, so it’d be hard to tell is it because they’re actually getting stimulated by the coffee? Or is it their stomach’s upset? Yeah, I will say that when my wife had coffee and was breastfeeding that was ‘no bueno’ for my son, in that he just would not sleep after that.

Krissy: Right, right. And so you learn, say okay, no, not doing it.

Nick: Okay. Is it worth having a caffeination strategy for a specific event? Do elite athletes, elite lifters, anybody like that peak their caffeine usage? Or is that something that somebody should even consider?

Krissy: Yes, and it just goes back to when the peak values in the blood are seen. Now if you’re talking about a powerlifter, unless they’re using it just to sustain energy throughout the day, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they need as much of a strategy. They may want to use caffeine just as like an upper, as an energy booster throughout the day. But for an endurance athlete, I would definitely say … And anytime I go out on a long ride or, excuse me …
Or have an endurance event of any sort, I definitely time mine so that 30 minutes before I start … Because I know I don’t necessarily need, right as I start to have full, peak levels, but I do know that once I get settled in, the values are gonna be at the highest. And I don’t compete in anything longer that’s five to six hours, or I’m currently not doing any rides that are longer than five to six hours, so I don’t need to worry about taking multiple doses.
But keep in mind the half-life. So if you are doing like an ultra event or anything like that, keep a monitor or watch and know, okay, it’s been three to four hours, my numbers are starting to decline, or the blood values are starting to go down, so I might to take, whether it’s chews or the beans that have caffeine in them, you could start taking those to maintain …

Nick: Two to three hour spacing? Is that something we could apply to our daily lives? Those of us who actually do it too, as opposed to oh, just take a cup every hour, cup every hour, and it’s actually not doing that much. If you just said, you know what? I’m gonna have a cup of coffee every two hours, every three hours, would you get the same effect?

Krissy: Yeah, and I think a lot of times there are other things that you could do, rather than just taking coffee or caffeine every hour, there’s probably other things. You might be dehydrated, you might be … maybe you just need to stand up. There’s other things that you could be confusing with, “I need caffeine because I’ve been staring at my computer all day.” Give yourself a break, yeah. Because if you’ve …

Nick: You just ritualized.

Krissy: Now let’s say you’ve only had 50 to 60 milligrams, or you just had one cup, and I’ve only had 80 to 100 milligrams, I probably haven’t hit that upper limit to what I would probably get my best benefit. So for me, I would say usually around two to 300 milligrams. So in the morning as I’m getting started I’ll have a few cups of coffee within my first two hours of being here, and then I back off, and then I have something in the afternoon, if that makes sense.
So when I talked about my morning ritual, I’m heavy in the morning and then I’m back at it again before I teach my evening classes. So I have that period of time in the day where I’ve hit my peak and so now I kind of come down, and then I hit one more time before the evening, before I teach again.

Nick: Um, people are taking more caffeine at younger ages than ever too, I saw something really interesting recently about the amount of coffee that young people are drinking, and aside from things like energy drinks, anything else. Is there any risk about stunting growth from caffeine usage? That’s something that has been tossed around for a long time.

Krissy: Yeah, no, so if you look at … Growth is really about length of bones, and caffeine has no effect on bone plates, growth plates. Other things can affect that. Now I guess if you had high, high, high levels of caffeine, if you were not having a diet that was adequate in calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, if you were not getting enough physical activity, I mean there was other things that were minimizing bone growth.

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Krissy: And because you were just consuming a bunch of caffeine … There’s a lot of ifs, ands, or buts that you could say, well maybe, high level of caffeine would do that. But it would be a stretch to say that, which is a stretch for stunting your growth.

Nick: It’s unlikely. What about somebody who’s just trying to add muscle and takes a lot of caffeine? Okay, we’ve established that caffeine helps to burn calories, is that something that they need to worry about? Because they want to put every calorie to good use.

Krissy: Yeah, it’s not … You’re not burning that much. Most of the studies will show that with fat burners, and again, this is someone following a diet and an exercise program that you might burn an extra couple hundred calories a day, which is great for someone who’s trying to lose weight, yeah, sign me up if you’re gonna give me something that’s gonna help me burn two to three hundred more calories, that sounds great.
But that’s following a reduced-calorie diet, doing cardio, doing all that sort of things. Having caffeine in your pre-workout, you’re gonna be okay. The thing that I …

Nick: 200 calories is pretty easy to eat.

Krissy: Yes, exactly, right. But then your post-workout shake … The thing that some people to experience though, if they’re drinking a lot of coffee is that it sometimes can act as an appetite suppressant. So if someone is trying to put on weight and they’re noticing, I’m never hungry when I’m drinking coffee all the time, that might be a cause for that. Gives you something to look into, and the same thing with kids who drink a lot of coffee, it could … They might not be getting a lot of good nutritional value from that, either they’re putting a bunch of crap in it … Because what kids actually like the taste of coffee, most of them are … They want the drinks from Starbucks, whereas I love black coffee. Give me black coffee, I don’t want anything …

Nick: About age 15 I just decided, I was like, you know what? Black coffee’s the cheapest, that’s what we’re gonna start drinking guys, now we started drinking.

Krissy: That’s why I started drinking it, I was like, “I can’t even afford milk in college, so I’m gonna drink black coffee, that’s all I can get.”

Nick: Okay. I we hear a lot about the health benefits of coffee, okay, for different cancers, Alzheimer’s, all these different things. Is that a compelling reason for somebody to drink caffeinated coffee? Is there anything in the caffeinated version versus saying, “Hey, you know what? I drink decaf like my grandmother does.” And I’ll have my cup of decaf and pretend that it’s caffeinated.

Krissy: Yeah, that’s a great question. First, on that, caffeine hasn’t been shown … Okay, I’m gonna switch now to say coffee. Most of these studies are done with coffee, not necessarily caffeine, so coffee. And none of them are going to reduce the symptoms or, once you have said disease, will it reduce or reverse the disease. So if I have type two diabetes and then all of the sudden I start drinking cups and cups of coffee? Am I going to reverse type two diabetes? No study has shown that.
But there are numerous studies and everything that you just said, type two diabetes, certain forms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, that coffee consumption lowers the incidence or it lowers the risk for said diseases. So, I think if it is something that’s part of your diet, I think continue to drink it. Now if you don’t like coffee, you can do other things. The reason why coffee is seen as beneficial in those, because certain compounds, chlorogenic compounds that are found in coffee, that are also found in decaffeinated coffee. And there was actually a study that looked at both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee for type 2 diabetics and found the incidence rate or the risk for type 2 diabetics was the same whether you drank … Was reduced the same, whether you drank caffeinated or decaf.
So it’s more about the chlorogenic compounds which are anti-inflammatory. There’s a lot of things that are anti-inflammatory these days that we can take. So if you hate coffee, don’t drink it just because you’re like, “Oh, it will help this.” Because you’ve got to drink a lot to see those benefits.

Nick: Right, the Alzheimer’s study’s was a ton of coffee.

Krissy: So you’re talking like six to eight cups of coffee. For me, I’m like great, I’m gonna do awesome.

Nick: I’m gonna live forever.

Krissy: I’m never dying. But if someone hates coffee, you can find those things other places. You can have antioxidants are in fruits and vegetables, anti-inflammatories you can take … Fish oil is anti-inflammatory. There’s so many other things that we can talk about but yeah. That’s what I tell people, don’t fear that it’s gonna cause you to die earlier or that it’s horrible, quite the contrary, coffee consumption is potentially beneficial for preventing a lot of these chronic diseases.

Nick: Okay. It’s worth noting that this has been a very coffee-centric conversation so far because we get free coffee in this office, but also because we are Americans where coffee is a little bit more fundamental, whereas Kris Gethin, Robert Irvine, some of our guests on the podcast, they don’t like coffee. They’re like, “We’re tea drinkers.” Is there anything in black tea, green tea, that throws a wrench in everything we’ve said so far about caffeine?

Krissy: No, it just depends on the type of tea. So black tea compared to green tea, black tea has more caffeine than green tea. But when you talk about the antioxidant effects of tea, green tea is higher than black tea. So it just depends on what the benefit you want from it. They tend to be less caffeinated than, let’s say your standard cup of coffee, but there’s nothing wrong with getting your caffeine from tea.

Nick: Okay. It also has the theanine in it right?

Krissy: It has theanine in it.

Nick: I find that I can drink green tea all day, pretty much and not have any of the sleep impingement.

Krissy: Yeah, you bring up a good point. So theanine actually … And it’s being used in more products now, supplements, in combination with caffeine because it has a similar effect to caffeine. It helps mental acuity, it helps with alertness, but without the negative side effects of caffeine. And it actually has been shown to reduce tolerance to caffeine. So a lot of people like to take it because, or combine it with caffeine, and you see it in products combined with caffeine, or maybe you see TeaCrine®, which is a trademarked version of L-theanine, it’s the same thing it’s just the compound.
You combine it with caffeine so you get the … This is how I say it, you get all the good stuff of caffeine, all the stuff that you want without all the bad stuff. The jitteriness, trouble sleeping, fast heart rate, shaky, whatever it may be. So you get all the good without the bad because of L-theanine, so it basically milds it out.

Nick: That’s interesting, okay. So somebody could potentially just take … Is L-theanine something you could just take as a supplement as well?

Krissy: You could take it on its own, but it works best with caffeine.

Nick: Toss one back with your coffee? Make your own green tea version?

Krissy: Yeah. On its own, you … Well, it goes back to what the effect you want to see. On its own, you’re not gonna have that alertness, like, “Okay, I’m ready to take on the day, or ready to do this.” If you want more a calming effect in your brain, like you just want to soothe everything then just take L-theanine on its own, and maybe that’s why you see it more in teas or marketed in teas or sleepy time teas and things like that, it’s more of calming, which is how it helps to balance out caffeine with it’s combined.

Nick: Okay. I think we’ve covered a fair amount of caffeine area here. If there’s anything else that anybody wants us to address in the future, we’re more than happy to do a follow up podcast, yeah exactly.

Krissy: Yeah, get another cup of coffee.

Nick Collias: Toss it in the questions and we’ll see if we can gather enough up to do another one of these. Thank you very much for talking about this, Krissy Kendall.

Krissy Kendall, Ph.D.: Thank you.

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Bodybuilding Transformed: How Weight-Loss Competitors Are Reshaping The Sport

Sitting in a quiet auditorium watching competitors file out on stage, you notice one participant who stands out. He has the suit, the tan, the technique—but he definitely doesn’t look like everyone else. He’s got a few stretch marks on his belly and not enough muscle to fill out the loose skin around his stomach or arms.

As a fan of bodybuilding, you admire anyone who has the guts to step on stage, but this guy has you baffled—why compete if you have no chance of winning? Then your neighbor leans over and whispers, “How embarrassing. That dude has no business being on stage.” 

This is a very touchy subject. And whatever your response to that competitor, you’re not alone. The weight-loss transformation has become a fairly regular sight on the competitive stage in recent years, especially at local and regional shows, and one has been the subject of plenty of online discussion recently. Many believe that every competitor has a right to showcase his or her hard work, while others find it strange, or even offensive, to compete if you have no real chance of winning.

It’s easy—perhaps too easy— to cast this conversation entirely in terms of winning and losing. After all, as I wrote in my article Three Question to Ask Yourself Before You Decide to Compete, the vast majority of bodybuilding competitors aren’t there to finish in the middle of the pack—they’re there to win. But clearly, that dialogue doesn’t capture what’s going on here.

So let’s tackle the two tough questions: What brings the transformer to the stage, and do they belong there?

Inspiring Possibilities

There’s no doubt that achieving lasting weight loss is incredibly difficult. Losing just 5 pounds is difficult for many, but losing 100 pounds or more? It often seems impossible. But, Louis Sheppard did just that.

When Louis first began his weight loss journey, which Bodybuilding.com chronicled in the video Give Yourself One Good Year, he didn’t set out to inspire others. He was a 350-pound man trying to avoid the same fate as his childhood friend, who had passed away from obesity-related complications at age 37. Knowing he had to lose weight to save his life, Louis started working out at a gym where he met people who were training for competitions.

“I learned how to work out from people who were training to get onstage,” explains Louis, “I just thought it was part of being fit.”

Soon Louis found himself attending his first bodybuilding show to support and cheer for the friends who worked out alongside him.

As he recalls, “There was a guy up there who had just gone through his own transformation, and I thought to myself, ‘What’s the difference between him and me? I could do that.'”

Louis found new motivation in competition and developed a new purpose—to show people it is possible to lose 100 pounds in a year. True to form, one year later he’d lost 105 pounds and stepped onstage himself to compete.

Although there were moments when he dreamt of holding the trophy—who wouldn’t?—Louis was ultimately realistic about his chances of winning.

“I know I didn’t look like the guy standing next to me who has been doing this for 20 years,” he says, two years later. “That’s not the point. Where I started from and how I overcame it—that’s the important thing.”

For Louis, the show was an end point to a crucial part of his journey. For the sport of bodybuilding, it was a chance to inspire a whole new set of future Louises waiting to get the push they needed to change their lives. He showed them what is possible, and wore his results without shame in the bright lights.

Different Destinations, Same Journey

The harsh reality for a competitor who doesn’t quite fit the classic bodybuilding aesthetic is they will, almost inevitably, cross paths with people who simply assume they don’t belong. Recently, a female competitor named Jana Roller underwent a 140-pound weight loss before stepping onstage. She then set social media ablaze by calling out the photographer for deliberately omitting her photo from the competition’s website. According to a FOX News story, the photographer said he contacted her privately and told her he didn’t put them up because he figured she would be embarrassed and want them taken down.

As she explains in an Instagram post, she felt he did her an injustice because she’d earned the right to be there.

“I worked for 2 years, lost 140 lbs., went through prep just like everyone else,” she wrote. “I stuck to the plan, did hours of cardio, 5 a.m. sessions. I worked just as hard to be told that I wasn’t good enough to be showcased amongst everyone else.”

Roller’s explanation may or may not be “enough” for you, as a fan of bodybuilding. But, it highlights an important point: Yes, bodybuilding is a sport based on physical appearance, but, it’s also an amateur athletic event, and athletes who compete have different end goals in mind. Some compete to take first, some train to do better than they did before, and some just want to prove that they can do it at all.

In this respect, it’s no different than a golf tournament, obstacle course race, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition; if you pay your money, follow the rules, and do the work, you are entitled to your place on stage. You are, for that moment, a competitive athlete, and, ultimately, your reasons are your own.

So why was Roller up there? In a subsequent post, she laid it out clearly.

“I wanted to taste success,” she wrote. “To taste the joy of reaching my goals. And, I am still hungry for more. That day I stepped onstage and accomplished the biggest goal I have ever set for myself was the best thing I have ever felt. It was exhilarating. You wanna know what that feeling was? Belief in myself.”

As someone who has competed, coached, and judged bodybuilding shows, I can say that most competitors are fine with sharing the stage with weight-loss transformations. They get that Sheppard or Roller being onstage next to them can help grow the sport. They get that someone in the audience saying “I can do that” makes for more passionate fans and competitors. And, they flat-out admire the achievement, just like the rest of us.

Judges tend to get it, too. As former competitor and NGA head judge Jas Krdzalic (also Bodybuilding.com’s president) explains, it is therapeutic for competitors who have lost a lot of weight to step onstage—and he applauds them for it.

“Bodybuilding doesn’t require talent; it requires effort,” he says. “As a judge, it is my job to place the person who best fits the criteria. But, if a person stands up there who doesn’t fit but is happy with how their body looks, then that is their win.”

Of course, in the case of weight-loss transformations, “their win” isn’t a literal victory at the show. And, at one level, that could be viewed as a positive. Since these competitors are spared from having to aim for a literal victory against the field, they can focus on making the most of their individual achievements. But, in one high-profile bodybuilding federation, that’s changing.

Should There Be a “Transformation” Category?

Better known to the Bodybuilding.com world as Possible Pat, the subject of an ongoing video series on our YouTube channel, Pat Brocco is no stranger to hard work. He underwent a dramatic transformation by losing over 340 pounds in the past three years, then, once he got closer to his ideal weight, Pat upped the ante and made the decision to compete in a bodybuilding show.

But, he didn’t just choose the nearest local show. He chose to compete in an entirely new category created by World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF): the transformation division.

This competition, which will be at 17 WBFF shows around the world this year (it was also at a few in 2015 and 2016 under the title “Transformation/Makeover Division”), requires a competitor to share their written personal story, as well as a before picture, when they enter. But make no mistake: This isn’t just about weight loss.

“It could also be for individuals overcoming anorexia/ bulimia…cancer and other health disorders,” reads the WBFF’s page on the category. “This event is a true celebration of a personal journey to a more healthy lifestyle.”

But, with that obvious upside comes a different type of difficulty. Brocco began his journey to the stage with the same goal as Sheppard and Roller: to inspire, and nothing else. But now, along with the rigors of prep, he faces a whole new slew of questions. What if he wins and goes to the world championships? What if he doesn’t win? How will he handle either possibility?

We asked Pat just those questions on the Bodybuilding.com podcast, where he was recently a guest. And, after a pause, he answered it frankly.

“That’s a good question. Damnit. If I don’t win…life goes on. I won’t do another show…it’s not what I like. It’s too much, it’s intimidating,” he said. “Yes, I’m doing a show to prove a point, but that point is not for everyone…I would’ve never thought in a million years I’d be stepping onstage. I want to show them it can be done, but then I want to go back to helping people.”

I asked what he would say to individuals who have lost massive amounts of weight and are considering entering a bodybuilding competition.

“Do it,” he replied, “if it’s a goal that you have, and that goal drove you to be a better you, you have to finish it.”

Reflecting on the emotional journey of his incredible weight loss, Pat described the transformation of his own self-image.

“At 600 pounds, people stare—you feel a lot of negativity—but 90 percent of it comes from yourself. You can’t expect people to love you or to treat you better until you do it for yourself,” he said. “That’s what I learned—you have to love you first.”

No matter how you feel about it, the weight-loss transformation has become a part of the sport. Don’t expect it to change. But, expect to be amazed by what is possible.

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Hanging: The Missing Link of Strength Training

Grip strength is about as foundational as strength gets. You can’t lift anything heavy, move your body around a bar, or even do ordinary day-to-day tasks without a decent baseline.

Fortunately, the power to grip is built into us. As all parents are aware, newborn babies can do little more than suck and grip. That’s right; even in our earliest phase of life, this physical predisposition to grabbing is of equal biological importance to feeding. Mother Nature, in her infinite splendor, has rendered us ready to grip, even before we can roll over or lift up our own heads. It’s that important.

Recently, however, scientific research has found that the human grip has been getting weaker. The reason why is no surprise: We don’t use it! Most of us don’t climb trees, hunt big game, carry our food and water, or work in the fields for hours on end. Our hand strength has regressed simply because we allowed it to.

So what do we do to get it back? There is an abundance of grip training equipment and techniques available to us. But in my book, none can rival the noble pull-up bar. Grab a bar and try these exercises and drills that will fire up the grip strength you’ve lost over time.

Bar Hang

A basic, relaxed bar hang is a great place to start. All primates do it, and baby, you and me ain’t nothing but mammals!

Simply grab an overhead bar tightly, using an overhand grip, and hang. The purpose of this drill is to introduce your physiology to the mechanics of hanging and the only body parts explicitly targeted are your hands and forearms, so feel free to let the rest of your body loosen up. Allowing your shoulders to open and your spine to lengthen provides an excellent stretch.

Bar hang

While you hang, focus on your fingers and pay attention to the subtleties, including the feel of the bar and any tendency for your body to sway. It’s best to avoid swinging in the remedial exercise, as you want to become comfortable countering gravity, without adding any motion to it. Only once you feel comfortable hanging should you start to incorporate motion.

Active Bar Hang

The next step is to add tension to the exercise. Rather than allowing the body to lengthen and stretch, we encourage maximum muscular recruitment in this variation.

Begin by grabbing the bar hard using an overhand grip. Tense all your muscles to initiate full-body tension—even your abs, legs, and glutes. It is important to keep your shoulder blades down and back, with your chest up. This scapular retraction will help you get the full postural and strength benefits of the active hang.

Active Bar Hang

Though your hands, forearms, and fingers obviously do a lot of the work here, you’re also training your entire body to act as a cohesive unit. If you’re a calisthenics fanatic, you already know that full-body muscular coordination is key to advanced moves like the human flag, but also just to building your best calisthenics body.

Odd Surface Hang

When doing bar hangs—as well as pull-ups and all other bar exercises—there is no doubt that the surface you choose to grasp makes a difference.

The thicker the bar, the harder you have to work. Furthermore, hanging from ledges, scaffolding and other structures can provide an even greater yield. Towel hangs, rock walls, and climbing grips fall into this category as well.

Odd Surface Hang

In the wild world of street workout any surface is fair game, so be prepared to get creative and build serious strength in the process!

One-Arm Hang

This exercise is virtually impossible to perform for very long without a solid baseline in grip strength. But if you have advanced hanging or pulling goals like, say, a one-arm pull-up, it’s an essential part of the progression.

Start out by hanging from the bar with both arms. As with the active hang, use an overhand grip, keep your shoulders packed, and activate every muscle in your body. Now remove one hand from the bar and bring your arm to your side, all the while maintaining tension. Again, be aware that forearms, shoulders, lats, abs, and glutes play bigger roles than you might expect in this variant.

One-arm Hang

The goal is to keep your body extended and your shoulders packed without twisting, turning, or swinging. Make sure to train both sides evenly.

Flex Hang

Essentially the top position of a pull-up, a flex hang can be executed from either an overhand, underhand, or mixed grip. Begin by standing on an elevated surface in front of a pull-up bar and grabbing it tightly, hugging it toward your chest. Now, with your chin above the bar, tense your grip and carefully step your feet off of the surface, maintaining a flexed-arm position.

It will help build strength across the board to lower yourself down from the flex-arm position as slowly as possible when you dismount the bar. This is sometimes referred to as a “negative” pull-up, and it is one of the best ways to build up to your first pull-up, if that’s your goal.

Flex Hang

However, the flex hang is more than just a pull-up tool. It’s also a first class way to add time under tension to your bar training, which can help build both strength and muscle.

Monkey Bars

Climbing across monkey bars is one of the most spectacular ways you can train your hanging powers and unlock your genetic potential. Not only does the act of removing one hand at a time while moving from bar to bar give you a taste of the one-handed grip, it also incorporates a dynamic movement and increases overall muscular recruitment.

Remember how I recommended eliminating the swing when performing a standard bar hang? Well, this time we want to embrace it. Try to climb across the bars in rhythm with the natural twists and turns of your body.

Monkey Bars

It’s essential to note that hang time and overall performance for all of these exercises will vary greatly from person to person, so it is important to respect your current fitness level. Our species did not become deconditioned overnight, so don’t expect an instant fix in your grip strength if it is not yet where you’d like it to be. All things take time.

Be diligent, work hard, and embrace consistency rather than intensity. It can even be fun to bring in a workout buddy for some of these exercises. Everyone loves a good old-fashioned hanging contest!

If there are any hanging drills that you’ve found helpful, please let me know in the comments below. Let’s get strong!

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HD Abs: The Ab-Etching Diet 4 Weeks Of Fat Burning

I’m sure you have heard there is a limit to the number of pounds you can lose in one week. Most docs will tell you that shedding 1-2 pounds per week is healthy weight loss.

Well, I have good news for you.

That is a lie.

My good friend and expert trainer Alwyn Cosgrove told me years ago that he saw fat loss as a thermostat: if you want to lose fat faster, turn up the dial and turn up the heat. In order to make your abs pop, your thermostat needs to be pegged in the red zone.

When you start talking about breaking the imaginary 2-pound-per-week weight-loss boundary, you’ll hear a lot of people wondering if it’s healthy. Unlike many diet gurus, I spent 5 years of my life studying the impact of nutrition on heart health in order to earn my Ph.D. in nutrition.

I place your health as a major priority. That’s why, on this diet, you eat more vegetables and nutrient-rich foods than 80-to-90% of Americans.

Scientists have not discovered a physiological limit for pounds of fat lost in a 7- or 30-day period. No data or evidence shows that losing 2 pounds per week is any healthier than losing 4 pounds.

Four pounds lighter is healthier than just 2 pounds lighter. How you lose the weight is what makes your weight loss healthy or unhealthy.

Big Effort, Big Results

I’ll show you how to take advantage of hard-wired biochemical pathways in your body to drip-feed stored body fat into your blood stream.

That way, you have a 24-hour continuous supply of energy, as well as a full day of fat burning. After four weeks, 15 pounds and newly-shredded abs, I’ll say you were smart about your weight loss, not unhealthy.

These kinds of results are within your grasp, but it takes work. Ray Lewis once said that at the end of the day, a champion should be judged by effort. Effort doesn’t care whether you have bad genetics or not.

Effort doesn’t care if you don’t have access to the best equipment at your gym. Big effort gets big results. You have all the diet and nutrition information you need in this article, you just need to provide the effort.

The Calorie Conundrum

Weight-loss is much more complex than calories in, calories out. Scientific research shows us that lowering the amount of carbs you consume changes your metabolism.

By eating fewer carbs, you can eat more calories and lose more weight than by following a traditional low-fat, higher-carb diet.

This phenomenon was highlighted in a recent study from the University of Connecticut. Study participants were separated into low-carb and high-carb groups.

The low-carb group was given instruction on how to eat a low-carb diet, but they weren’t told to restrict their calorie intake.

The high-carb group was told to eat a high-carb/low-fat diet and to restrict its calorie intake by counting calories. At the end of the study, the low-carb group lost more weight, although it ate more calories. This finding is common in low-carb diet research.

Because the ab-etching diet program is design to help you lose maximum weight in a short period of time, you cut fat with a double-edged sword that’s low carb AND low calorie.

Your daily caloric intake is set at 11 calories per pound of body weight.

In other words, if you currently weigh 200 pounds, you’ll start at 2,200 calories per day.

Don’t worry too much if your daily calorie intake is slightly above or below your target. It will all even out.

As the weeks progress, and you get leaner, you may need to drop your calories down to 10 calories per pound of body weight in order to strong-arm your body into using the remaining fat coating your midsection for energy instead of insulation.

Protein Powered

Your daily protein intake will be at about 1 gram per pound of body weight, or at least 30% of your total calories. Don’t be concerned about losing lean body mass.

If you follow the diet and training program exactly, your muscles will be well protected.

Your body frequently functions from an evolutionary/survival perspective. Historically, we would build muscle for survival reasons: moving stones, carrying trees, building huts, and hunting and gathering food.

If the human body needed muscle to survive, then it wouldn’t break them down for fuel.

In order to mimic that “caveman” experience, do some heavy lifting. Sets of 8, 12, 15 or even 20 reps are good for stimulating your metabolism. But heavier sets of 4-6 reps give your body the message that if it doesn’t keep the muscle, it’ll be crushed.

Protein “costs” your body more energy just to digest it.

So it boosts your daily total calorie burn. The high protein intake in this diet will preserve your muscle and increase your metabolism.

Protein is also a hormonal fat-loss rock star. Eating protein causes the release of fat loss hormones CCK and glucagon.

CCK tells your brain to signal that you’re full and satisfied, even if you’re eating fewer calories.

Glucagon is a catabolic hormone that breaks down stored energy so it can be poured into your blood stream and used to fuel you throughout your day.

The Carbohydrate Factor

To maximize fat loss, you need to fuel your body during training sessions and also give it energy from stored body fat throughout the day. Giving your body easy access to burn stored body fat as fuel will also protect your muscle while you diet.

Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source. By cutting them, your body is forced to find another source for energy: fat. Once you cut your carbs down to 40-60 grams per day (10-20% of your total calories), keep them there.

Train your system to fuel itself with fat, not carbs. Once your body starts efficiently using fat as its primary fuel source, it will realize that it has an abundant amount of energy at the ready and will not as readily catabolize your muscle.

Carbohydrates trigger the release of the hormone insulin. Think of insulin as the “gatekeeper hormone” regarding fat loss and muscle growth. During the Ab Etching Diet, you will alter your carbohydrate intake to use insulin to your advantage while minimizing the negative effects it can have on fat loss.

Don’t worry, the application is simple. You’re going to modulate your carbohydrate intake in relation to your workouts.

  • Normal Carb = Carbohydrates are 10-15% of your total calories.
  • High Carb = Eat an additional 40-60g of carbs per day. Increase your carbohydrate intake to maximize the effort and recovery of your training sessions.
  • Low Carb/Calorie = One less meal on these days lowers your calorie and carb intake for the day.

Carb days follow this regimen:

  • Monday: High Carb
  • Tuesday: Normal Carb
  • Wednesday: High Carb
  • Thursday: Normal Carb
  • Friday: High Carb
  • Saturday: Normal Carb
  • Sunday: Low Carb/Calorie

Work out hard on those higher-carb days. Extra carbs fuel you to train harder, recover faster, and burn more calories. On Sundays, don’t train at all. Your body doesn’t have the same energy needs, so dropping a meal will help your body fuel itself through fat cells.

If you alter your training schedule, make sure to adjust your carb intake so high-carb days are training days, normal-carb days are cardio days, and low-carb/calorie days are recovery days.

Face The Fat

Fats make up the remainder of your calories. Eating sufficient fat and reducing your carbohydrate intake cues your body to shift toward the production of enzymes and optimize biochemical processes that support the use of fat as fuel and away from enzymes and processes that primarily use carbohydrates as fuel.

Don’t skimp on fats. Your body needs to become accustomed to fueling itself with fat, not carbs.

Follow These 3 Rules:

  1. Eat a variety of fats. Eating different types of fat ensures you will get all your essential fatty acids, and also a variety of additional nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that come packaged with higher-fat foods like nuts, oils and avocados.
  2. Take supplemental fish oil every day.
  3. You can eat more solid fats than you normally would, so don’t be scared to have a little butter or cheese.

New research shows that reducing the amount of carbs in your diet changes how your body metabolizes fat; the risk of increasing cholesterol levels doesn’t seem to hold true anymore.

Supp You Up

7-Day Ab Etching Diet

Day 1 – Monday

Calories: 1943.09 | Fat: 113.25g | Carbs: 51.15g | Protein: 180.18g

Day 1, Meal 1

Day 1, Meal 2

Day 1, Meal 3



Olive Oil


Day 1, Meal 4


Cottage Cheese

Whipped Cream

Protein Powder

Day 2 – Tuesday

Calories: 2087.95 | Fat: 107.21 | Carbs: 91.60 | Protein: 193.82

Day 2, Meal 1

Day 2, Meal 2



Olive Oil

Red Onion

Day 2, Meal 3

Protein Shake

(or any recovery drink)

Day 2, Meal 4


Coconut Milk




Day 2, Meal 5

Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops



Day 3 – Wednesday

Calories: 1919.41 | Fat: 108.60 | Carbs: 49.11 | Protein: 181.96

Day 3, Meal 1

Day 3, Meal 2

Day 3, Meal 3

Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops

Peanut Butter


Day 3, Meal 4

Day 4 – Thursday

Calories: 2025.46 | Fat: 98.61 | Carbs: 84.12 | Protein: 196.25

Day 4, Meal 1

Turkey Bacon


Chocolate Milk

Day 4, Meal 2

Day 4, Meal 3

Protein Shake

(or any recovery drink)

Day 4, Meal 4


Brussels Sprouts

Olive Oil

Day 4, Meal 5

Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops



Day 5 – Friday

Calories: 1980.33 | Fat: 114.89 | Carbs: 58.73 | Protein: 185.49

Day 5, Meal 1

Greek Yogurt

Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops



Day 5, Meal 2

Day 5, Meal 3

Cottage Cheese


Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops


Day 5, Meal 4



Bell Pepper

Canola Oil

Day 6 – Saturday

Calories: 2236.20 | Fat: 113.88 | Carbs: 100.39 | Protein: 204.75

Day 6, Meal 1

Day 6, Meal 2

Day 6, Meal 3

Protein Shake


Day 6, Meal 4

Day 6, Meal 5

Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops



Day 7 – Sunday

Calories: 1455.05 | Fat: 86.69 | Carbs: 40.69 | Protein: 136.02

Day 7, Meal 1

Chocolate Milk

Protein Powder

1 1/2 scoops

Coconut Milk



Day 7, Meal 2





Olive Oil

1 1/3 tbsp

Day 7, Meal 3

Super HD Abs Main Page

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10 Best Muscle-Building Shoulder Exercises!

The list you’re about to read is based on two factors: EMG tests, which measure electrical activity in the deltoids; and an exercise’s ability to accommodate load. For example, you may be able to do an overhead barbell press with 185 pounds, but use only 35-pound dumbbells on lateral raises.

More often than not, then, the press is the better choice, even if the lateral raise totally lights up the EMG.

We cite research, when available, but we’ll admit up front that this list reflects yet another factor: our best judgment, based on many years of lifting.

For each exercise, we’ll tell you why it made the list and how to use it in the context of your workouts. If you disagree with our selections, or think we missed the boat by overlooking your favorite shoulder exercise, let us know in the comments section below!

1. Barbell Push Press

Why it made the list: This press allows you to load up the most weight (or do more reps) above all other overhead pressing moves. It’s considered a bit more of a whole-body movement for developing explosiveness, so you lose some of the isolation effect if you do this same movement seated.

With the barbell atop your upper chest, bend your knees slightly and explode upward on the balls of your feet while pressing the bar overhead. Your lower body, core, delts, triceps, and upper pecs are all involved.


Barbell Push Press

This is considered more of a strength/power movement than a bodybuilding exercise, but building more strength here can help you load up more plates in any number of other lifts. Moreover, doing movements that engage a great deal of muscle mass boost muscle-building hormones better than movements that don’t.

In your workout: Because this variation uses so many muscle groups, don’t do it every workout. When you do use it, perform it first in your workout, after warming up well.

For bodybuilders, this isn’t the exercise to do every shoulder training day, but it’s a great choice for increasing strength and power during an offseason phase.

2. Standing Military Press (Barbell Or Dumbbell)

Why it made the list: This is essentially a push press without the extra bit of body English generated through your legs. That makes it a better isolation movement, but this movement still isn’t considered an isolation exercise. In fact, it’s a highly demanding multijoint overhead press that, because it’s not seated, still allows for a bit of momentum as well as increased muscle activation compared to the seated version.[1]

Keep the bar just off your upper chest, and press straight overhead, stopping just short of lockout. Maintain a slight bend in your knees to absorb subtle changes in your center of gravity and relieve some of the stress on your lower back. We included both the barbell and dumbbell here. Research has shown that dumbbells elicit a greater degree of EMG activation, but this usually comes at the expense of the amount of weight lifted.[1]

Be sure to maintain a neutral hip position. Tipping your hips forward or sticking your butt back can wreak havoc with your lumbar spine. If you spend all of your time injured, you’ll miss out on the gains!

In your workout: This is your multijoint overhead press in your workout, so it substitutes for any of the other presses on this list. After warming up well, choose a challenging weight, but not one so heavy that you break form. If your triceps are lagging, grab a pair of dumbbells rather than a barbell; they require less triceps activation.[1]

3. Dumbbell Incline Row

Why it made the list: What the heck is a multijoint rowing exercise doing in an article about shoulder exercises? Remember, rowing movements don’t just work the “back”; they also involve the rear delts to a significant degree as well.

We didn’t realize just how much until we saw research from a 2014 study out of the University of Wisconsin (La Crosse) that compared mostly shoulder exercises to see which had the greatest EMG activation on each of the three delt heads.[2] Of note, this particular row scored just as high as a dumbbell lateral raise for middle-delt activation (and significantly better than dumbbell shoulder presses, cable lateral raises, and even barbell upright rows). For rear delts, that same row scored the same as the seated rear-delt raise in terms of activation but significantly higher than the other eight exercises, though none of them would be considered rear-delt moves.


Dumbbell Incline Row

Because the row appears to hit both those heads particularly well, it appears it would be a good addition to your shoulder workout. Because other types of rows weren’t considered in the study, it’s impossible to say whether they’d be equally as good, but there are surely a number of variations to this movement, including supported T-bar rows and standing (done bent-over) T-bar rows. To best mimic the movement done in the study, which used dumbbells, use a wide grip on the machine.

In your workout: If you pair back and shoulders on the same training day, this would be a smart exercise to transition between the two body parts. If you include this move with your shoulder workout, do your overhead presses first. Try this before adding single-joint movements.

4. Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press

Why it made the list: Switching out the barbell for dumbbells on overhead presses works each side independently, making the move more challenging and requiring more input from stabilizer muscles. Moreover, the range of motion is a bit longer as you press the weights together overhead. (We recommend you don’t allow them to touch.)

Going from standing to a seated position further removes your lower body from the lift. Because your upper arms go straight out to your sides during the motion, the middle delts are heavily recruited, with far less stress on the anterior delts than when a barbell is in front of your head.

In your workout: Do it first in your shoulder session. You’ll generally be able to go much heavier on the seated dumbbell press than the standing alternative because of the increased base of support. When going heavy, we recommend a seat back that allows you to press your spine into it for safety. Also, use a spotter to help you get the weights into the starting position and give you a spot (or even a forced rep or two) as you push toward failure.

Raising the weights into position can be harder than it looks. Beginners, try this: When prepping to hoist the dumbbells overhead, grab a weight in each hand, sit down, place the dumbbells on your thighs toward your knees, and quickly lift one knee toward your shoulder to hoist the weight. Repeat using the opposite knee.

5. Seated Overhead Barbell Press

Why it made the list: Sitting not only makes it hard to use momentum, it also creates a nice base from which to push the weight. A barbell recruits a greater degree of triceps musculature than dumbbells can. If you’ve got sore shoulders, stick to keeping the bar in front of you.


Seated Overhead Barbell Press

When you lower the barbell to the front, notice how your upper arms no longer move directly out to your sides, an indication that the anterior delts are now picking up some of the workload. In fact, this is evident in muscle activation patterns, which demonstrate significantly greater anterior delt activation with a barbell over dumbbells. Some lifters lower the bar behind their head, which more directly stimulates the middle delts. We discourage this approach, which even many longtime lifters find painful.

In your workout: Do these first in your workout, and use challenging weights. Use a seat back for support on heavy sets.

6. Upright Row

Why it made the list: There’s another family of multijoint movements that also targets the middle delts; upright rows. Each variation—whether on cables, using a Smith machine, or even an EZ-bar or barbell—has its advantages, but none is intrinsically better than the others. Wrist comfort may be the deciding factor for you. Don’t take a close grip, which can internally rotate your shoulders; instead, take one in which your upper arms go directly out to your sides.

While a closer grip increases range of motion, a wider grip has been demonstrated to have significantly greater delt activation, minimizing the biceps’ role in the movement.[3] That means it’s great for the middle delts.

In your workout: Even though it’s a multijoint movement, don’t do this first in your workout. Consider doing it after your overhead press. It can even be done as a burnout move at the end of your routine, if you’re looking to bring up the middles.

7. Arnold Press

Why it made the list Start with the dumbbells in front of your shoulders with your palms facing you. Press the weights overhead while simultaneously rotating your wrists, so that, in the top position, your palms face forward. Rotate your wrists in the opposite direction when lowering the weights.


Arnold Press

In your workout: Consider doing these second in your workout after a more basic overhead press. If those overhead presses are heavy, do your Arnold presses with a slightly higher rep range—say, for sets of 10-12 reps.

8. Machine Rear-Delt Fly

Why it made the list: There are three movement arcs for single-joint exercises. We put this one before movements for the front and middle heads because the rears are so often undertrained compared to the others. Maintaining rear-delt size and strength relative to the other two is important for both posture and rotator-cuff health.

While you can do a bent-over version with dumbbells to hit the posterior delts, lifters often cheat and sling the weights up with poor control. When doing the rear pec-deck machine, go for a neutral grip—not palms-down—to maximally activate the muscle.[4]

In your workout: Perform your multijoint movements first in your workout, but if your rear delts are lagging, do this one first in your order of isolation moves.

9. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Why it made the list: This is a great single-joint movement for the middle delts, but they’re tougher to master than they seem. Beginners often have trouble learning how to lead with their elbows. They also tend to rest at the bottom of the motion, when in fact it’s better to stop the downward arc when their arms are about 30 degrees out to their sides.


Dumbbell Lateral Raise

On some sets, take the motion about 30 degrees past shoulder height for a longer range of motion; you may have to sacrifice some weight with this variation. This movement also works well with down-the-rack training, whereby you quickly exchange your dumbbells for lighter ones (about 5 pounds) each time you hit muscle failure.

In your workout: Position it with other single-joint movements, after multijoint presses, but be aware of the amount of stimulation your middle delts might already be getting. Many of the movements already mentioned target the middle delts especially well. If you want to bring them up, do this exercise first; if your front or rear delts need more work, do this exercise last.

10. Front Dumbbell Raise

Why it made the list: Raising your straight arm directly in front of you emphasizes the anterior head of your deltoids. We put this one last because the front delts tend to be disproportionately large among individuals who overdo chest training relative to backside muscles. (And we don’t know anybody who’d do that! Cough) So the front delts tend to already be well-developed.

Front raises can be done with a barbell or various cable handles, but we went with the standard dumbbell version. Each side works independently, which can help you not only spot strength imbalances but also correct them. These also calls in more stabilizer activity, so your core has to work that much harder.

In your workout: Do it during the latter half of your shoulder workout, after your multijoint movements have been completed. Position it in front of (or behind) single-joint movements for the other delt heads, depending on whether your front delts are relatively weaker/smaller (or stronger/larger) than the others.

  1. Saeterbakken, A. H., & Fimland, M. S. (2013). Effects of body position and loading modality on muscle activity and strength in shoulder presses. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(7), 1824-1831.
  2. Sweeney, S. (2014). Electromyographic Analysis Of the Deltoid Muscle During Various Shoulder Exercises(Doctoral dissertation), University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
  3. McAllister, M. J., Schilling, B. K., Hammond, K. G., Weiss, L. W., & Farney, T. M. (2013). Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(1), 181-187.
  4. Schoenfeld, B., Sonmez, R. G. T., Kolber, M. J., Contreras, B., Harris, R., & Ozen, S. (2013). Effect of hand position on EMG activity of the posterior shoulder musculature during a horizontal abduction exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(10), 2644-2649.

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Weight Gain Meal Plan: Part 2.

There has been a tremendous amount of reader feedback with one common question: “How do I pack on mass?” Since I unfortunately can’t outline individual plans for each reader who emails me, I thought I’d give a full week meal plan that will at least give you some ideas on how to get through the work week. I will continue to do this throughout the upcoming weeks and will intermix these plans with some ideas for weight loss too. Good luck!

Eating 4000 calories each day may make you feel like a bear that is getting ready to hibernate during the winter, but when you build serious muscle than when the small amount of fat storage that comes along with gaining extreme muscle can be hidden underneath your winter clothes. Keep your eye on that mirror; there’s no better way to monitor your gains.

Weight Gain Meal Plan

Day 5

Meal 1

      4 Buckwheat pancakes (Follow directions on back of Arrowhead Mills buckwheat pancake mix)
      2 TBS pure maple syrup
      1 cup low-fat milk
      1 cup fresh blueberries

720 calories, 18 g protein, 140 g carbs, 5 g fat

Meal 2
6 hardboiled eggs (2 whole eggs, 4 whites)
1 cup raw oats cooked with 1 cup low-fat milk and topped with 1 banana and dash of cinnamon
566 calories, 41 g protein, 61 g carbs, 12.5 g fat

Meal 3
Leftover 2 cups whole wheat pasta with 2 TBS jarred pesto sauce and 4 oz grilled chicken breast 1 small side salad over a base of baby spinach 723 calories, 63 g protein, 90 g carbs, 23 g fat

Meal 4
1 cup brown rice mixed with 1/2 cup canned salmon (mix with 1 TBS olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a dash of oregano, basil and cayenne pepper)
1 apple
506 calories, 28 g protein, 45 g carbs, 23 g fat

Meal 5
6 oz rotisserie chicken (can be purchased cooked at most grocery stores)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 large sweet potato
491 calories, 46 g protein, 42 g carbs, 6 g fat

Meal 6
Meal Replacement Powder with 2 cups low-fat milk, 2 cups frozen fruit plus 1 TBS flax oil
Add water to desired thickness
736 calories, 66 g protein, 71 g carbs, 16 g fat

Day 6

Meal 1

      Breakfast Burritos
      Scramble 2 whole eggs + 4 egg whites mixed with 1/2 cup salsa, 1 cup diced peppers and 1/2 cup reduced fat pepper jack cheese. Sauté ¥ggs and add to 4 whole wheat tortillas; top with salsa
      1 medium grapefruit

761 calories, 51 g protein, 88 g carbs, 20 g fat

Meal 2
2 cups oat bran made with 2 cups low-fat milk, dash of cinnamon and topped with 1/2 cup raisins
495 calories, 12 g protein, 108 g carbs, 3 g fat

Meal 3
2 frozen organic burritos
Carrot sticks
620 calories, 20 g protein, 101 g carbs, 16 g fat

Meal 4
Triple Decker
Peanut butter and banana (3 slices whole grain bread, 3 TBS peanut butter, 2 bananas. Top each slice bread with 1 TBS peanut butter, slice banana place between bread).
1 cup organic black bean soup
625 calories, 19 g protein, 77 g carbs, 27 g fat

Meal 5
6 oz tuna steak
1 cup whole wheat pasta with 1 cup favorite marina sauce, mixed with steamed broccoli
1 cup low-fat milk
674 calories, 36 g protein, 50 g carbs, 13 g fat

Meal 6
Favorite MRP with 2 cups low-fat milk, 2 cups frozen fruit plus 1 TBS flax oil
Add water to desired thickness
736 calories, 66 g protein, 71 g carbs, 16 g fat

Day 7

Meal 1

      1 multi-grain bagel, topped with 2 TBS reduced cream cheese and 4 oz smoked salmon

640 calories, 43 g protein, 77 g carbs, 18 g fat

Meal 2
Whole grain, hydrogenated oil free crackers (Kashi TLC crackers are great)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese (dip crackers in cottage cheese)
1 orange
348 calories, 26 g protein, 44 g carbs, 8 g fat

Meal 3
2 slices whole grain bread with 6 oz ham, 2 oz reduced fat cheese, sliced tomato and lettuce. Top with honey mustard
veggie sticks
1 cup low-fat milk
590 calories, 62 g protein, 55 g carbs, 12 g fat

Meal 4
Favorite MRP with 2 cups low-fat milk, 2 cups frozen fruit plus 1 TBS flax oil
Add water to desired thickness
736 calories, 66 g protein, 71 g carbs, 16 g fat

Meal 5
1 homemade 6 oz sirloin burger on a whole wheat bun
2 cups steamed mixed vegetables
1 large sweet potato
1 cup skim milk
680 calories, 52 g protein, 97 g carbs, 8 g fat

Meal 6
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1 cup mixed fruit canned in own juice
241 calories, 24 g protein, 28 g carbs, 4 g fat

*prepackaged mixed veggies can be purchased in the produce section of most stores

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