5 Core Workouts For A Tight Midsection – A Beginner's Guide!

Main Arms | Back | Chest | Core | Legs | Shoulders

Six-pack, eight-pack (genetic freaks), washboard, whatever you want to call it, your core is the centerpiece for any muscular physique. It is the eye-catcher for the opposite sex.

A muscular and well-defined core shows both strength and health. Both guys and gals strive to have a strong, toned midsection, but very few of them ever achieve getting one. If you have been looking for the perfect program to get you the tight, strong core you always looked for, look no farther.

In this article, we go over the basic anatomy of what makes up the core, and list five easy-to-follow workouts to help strengthen your midsection. Diet and cardiovascular training will have to be in check for you to see your abs. This article will only focus on the training that goes into building and strengthening your mighty core.

The core is composed of four different parts. Below, I will discuss where each is located, what its function is in the body, and also a couple exercises you can do to stimulate the muscle.

Abdominals

Rectus Abdominus
  • Location: Covers the area from sternum all the way down to the pelvis bone.
  • Function: Pulls the upper torso to the hips
  • Exercises: Crunch or Sit-up
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Oblique
  • Location: Side of the waist.
    • Internal Obliques
    • Transverse Obliques
    • External Obliques
  • Function: Tilt and twist the torso
  • Exercises: Side Bends and Decline Oblique Crunches
Intercostals
  • Location: Between the side of the rib cage. It comes into play when you flex the torso and twist from side to side.
  • Function: Elevation and depression of the ribs
  • Exercise: Air Bike

Serratus
  • Location: Between front abs and lats.
  • Function: Pulling of the scapula forward and around like in the motion of throwing a punch
  • Exercises: Barbell Pullovers and Cable Crunches

Rep Ranges

The core is made up of primarily fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are more dense than their counterparts (the slow-twitch muscle fibers. Hence, hard, heavy, and explosive bouts of exercise will stimulate fast-twitch fibers a lot more.

This means that core training should be in the moderate rep range for best growth. No more endless reps of crunches and sit-ups like you’ve done in the past. Focus on sets in the 8-15 rep range.

Now that you understand which muscles make up the core, their function, location and the rep range needed to stimulate them, let’s give you some workouts to help you get that strong muscular core.

All exercises should be performed in perfect form because bad form or habits you start now will follow you and will lead to lack of progress or injury in the future. Many, if not all, the exercises will be new to you. So make sure you use the Exercise Guide on Bodybuilding.com to help you with your form.

Core Strengthening Workout Programs

Sample Core Workout 1

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Cable Crunch

Sample Core Workout 2

Sample Core Workout 3

Sample Core Workout 4

Sample Core Workout 5

Conclusion

There you have it: five core strengthening workouts. I like to work my core every 2-3 days. Try rotating these 5 workouts into your workout split. These workouts sure will help you get that strong muscular core you are looking for.

Remember quality over quantity with the core. Stick with the programs listed above and you will be just fine. As always if you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop me an email.

Main Arms | Back | Chest | Core | Legs | Shoulders

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Lifted: Original Transformation Series

Elevate your entertainment with Bodybuilding.com’s original series, “Lifted”! Tune in weekly to follow ordinary people and top athletes looking to take their training—and their lives—to the next level. Learn, laugh, and cheer them on as they overcome their struggles—and inspire you to conquer yours.

Immerse yourself in the journey of brave individuals willing to transform in front of the camera. Whether redefining their purpose or hitting the gym for the first time in a long time, their stories will inspire you to get up, get moving, and get growing.  

Episode 1

Having a meaningful “why” behind the reason you’re transforming is essential to the process. It gives you a reason to keep pushing, to stay excited, and to forge ahead when times get hard. Today, get to know the Lifted crew and check out the reasons they decided to kick off their transformation journey.

Episode 2

It’s easy to get started, but day-to-day grind can be tough. Watch as each of these transformees battles balancing real life and fitness—whether that means kids, dinner parties, or time with fur babies. Today, get ready to see the Lifted crew do everything from taking progress pics to facing the challenge of weighing in and winning the struggles of fitting in morning cardio—even when you don’t want to.

Episode 3

Watch as each of these transformees tackles a major obstacle—from overcoming a sleepy start on race day and giving it all during a football game to balancing fitness and family to live life full circle.

Episode 4

Life happens—injuries, bad weather, and unexpected events—but that’s no excuse. Watch as these transformees break free from the excuses and start putting in the real work.

Episode 5

Life doesn’t always make it easy to fit in fitness, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Watch as your favorites navigate travel, skip the excuses, and find inspiration—whether in sunny LA or frigid Iceland.

Episode 6

When you feel overwhelmed with work and family, you still find time for training. Find out how everyone manages to stay on track while dealing with stressor and life events.

Episode 7

Life stressors can lead to discouragement and unexpected binges, but even when you slip up, you can get back on track. See how everyone works to accomplish their goals: finishing a Tough Mudder, getting nearly 19-inch arms, and finishing a 12-week challenge on a strong note.

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5 Ways To Add Super-Healthy Chia Seeds To Your Diet

You may be well-versed in the benefits of chia seeds, but let’s be honest; a spoonful of these tiny beads by themselves doesn’t sound too appetizing. Don’t worry, I agree. Try the following suggestions to make chia seeds an appetizing addition to your daily diet.

1. Chia Icing On The Cake

Chia seeds make a great topping for oats, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, protein puddings, and salads. And yes, you can even add them on top of cake! Chia has a rather neutral taste, so it can add a bit of crunch without affecting the overall flavor of the dish.

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2. The Proof Is In The Protein Pudding

For a dessert that won’t blow up your physique, try making a chia pudding. Blend together 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour everything into a jar and stir in 3 tablespoons chia seed. Seal the jar shut, and let the mixture chill until thickened, about two hours. You can even add your favorite protein powder!

3. The Daily Chia Grind

Ground chia seeds are now available in powdered form, making them an excellent addition to your favorite protein pancakes, oatmeal, or homemade energy bars. They can even serve as an excellent breadcrumb substitution in meatballs or meatloaf!

4. Spread The Chia Love

Chia seeds are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which enables them to form a highly versatile gel when mixed with water.[1] Take advantage of this quirk to create a better-for-you jam to put on your morning whole-grain toast.

Simply heat 1-1/2 cups of your favorite berries in a saucepan over medium heat until they begin to break down, about five minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 tablespoon honey, and an optional 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, then heat for another two minutes.

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Gently mash the mixture with a potato masher or fork, and let it cool to thicken. Spread, and enjoy!

5. Egg-Replacement Therapy

The same gelling quality that makes chia jam a possibility for your morning toast also lets you create a substitute for eggs when making baked items like muffins.[2] For each egg, add one tablespoon of chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of water in its place.

Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, until a goopy texture has formed. Now it can be used to create a binding effect in a recipe, much like an egg would.

References
  1. Coorey, R., Tjoe, A., & Jayasena, V. (2014). Gelling properties of chia seed and flour. Journal of Food Science, 79(5), E859-E866.
  2. Borneo, R., Aguirre, A., & León, A. E. (2010). Chia (Salvia hispanica L) gel can be used as egg or oil replacer in cake formulations. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(6), 946-949.


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Clayton South's Health Facts: Betaine Anhydrous

What is it and where does it come from?

Betaine anhydrous ((CH3)3NCH2COO) is a vitamin derived from choline. Dietary sources of betaine anhydrous include spinach, cereal grains, seafood, wine and sugar beets. It has a molecular weight of 117.15.

Wine and Spinach

Betaine anhydrous is also known by the following names:

  • Trimethylglycine (TMG)
  • Methanaminium1-carboxy-N,N,N-trimethyl-, inner salt
  • 2-(Trimethylammonio) ethanoic acid
  • hydroxide, inner salt
  • (Carboxymethyl) trimethylammonium hydroxide inner salt
  • Trimethylammonioacetate
  • Glycine
  • Glycine betaine
  • Trimethylbetaine
  • Trimethylglycocoll
  • Abromine
  • Glycylbetaine
  • Oxyneurine.

What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?

Betaine anhydrous is a versatile vitamin that is used by the body for a wide variety of physiological purposes.

Betaine may be helpful by helping support healthy homocysteine levels. [1,2]

Animal research suggests that betaine may help support liver health. [3,4,5,6,7,8]

In humans, betaine is essential to the maintenance of intestinal function and cell production. It may help support kidney health, and it may also function as an antioxidant.[9] Betaine has also been suggested to support plasma methionine and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) levels under certain conditions. [10,11]

As a nutritional aide, betaine anhydrous has been suggested to be lipotropic (i.e., fat-loss supporting) by promoting the oxidization of lipids. It has also been noted to increase appetite, improve digestive efficiency, and in animals it has been suggested to promote lean mass.

The action of betaine is potentiated in the presence of choline (its precursor), folic acid, and vitamins B-6 and B-12. In some circumstances, betaine anhydrous can be used as a substitute for methionine and choline chloride.

Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?

Betaine anhydrous is orally supplemented in the form of a powder. All persons who are free of medical complication and in good health can benefit from incorporating betaine or betaine-containing products into their lifestyle and overall health-management strategy.

In times of stress, endogenous betaine levels may be insufficient to support optimal immune-system function. Consequently, athletes and members of the general population can derive benefit from betaine supplementation.

How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?

Dosage guidelines vary by age and medical fitness.

As a general dose, adults can supplement with two 3-gram doses daily, for a total of 6 grams per day.

As a general dose, adults can supplement with two 3-gram doses daily, for a total of 6 grams per day.

All persons should follow label dosing recommendations.

Possible side effects can include diarrhea, stomach upset (gastrointestinal irritation) and nausea. This substance is not known to interact with medications, but users should consult with a physician prior to its use.

Administration should be immediately discontinued if itching, chest tightness, rashes, trouble breathing, or swelling of the face or hands occur.

Diabetics should not supplement with betaine anhydrous or products containing this ingredient, and pregnant or nursing women should consult a physician prior to betaine-anhydrous administration.

References
  1. Schwab, U., Törrönen, A., Toppinen, L., Alfthan, G., Saarinen, M., Aro, A., & Uusitupa, M. (2002). Betaine supplementation decreases plasma homocysteine concentrations but does not affect body weight, body composition, or resting energy expenditure in human subjects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(5), 961-967.
  2. Gahl, W. A., Bernardini, I., Chen, S., Kurtz, D., & Horvath, K. (1988). The effect of oral betaine on vertebral body bone density in pyridoxine-non-responsive homocystinuria. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease, 11(3), 291-298.
  3. Hilt, G., & Tuzin, P. (1973). Clinical results using betaine citrate (Flacar) in fatty livers. Medizinische Monatsschrift, 27(7), 322.
  4. Nicrosini, F. (1972). Therapeutic activity of betaine aspartate. La Clinica Terapeutica, 61(3), 227.
  5. Cairella, M., & Volpari, B. (1972). Betaine aspartate in the therapy of liver diseases. La Clinica Terapeutica, 60(6), 513.
  6. Cachin, M., & Pergola, F. (1966). Betaine aspartate in the hepato-digestive domain. Semaine Thérapeutique, 42(8), 423.
  7. Barak, A. J., Beckenhauer, H. C., Junnila, M., & Tuma, D. J. (1993). Dietary Betaine Promotes Generation of Hepatic S‐Adenosylmethionine and Protects the Liver from Ethanol‐Induced Fatty Infiltration. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 17(3), 552-555.
  8. Murakami, T., Nagamura, Y., & Hirano, K. (1998). The recovering effect of betaine on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 44(2), 249-255.
  9. Chambers, S. T. (1995). Betaines: their significance for bacteria and the renal tract. Clinical Science, 88(1), 25-27.
  10. Selhub, J. (1999). Homocysteine metabolism. Annual Review of Nutrition, 19(1), 217-246.
  11. Barak, A. J., & Tuma, D. J. (1983). Betaine, metabolic by-product or vital methylating agent? Life Sciences, 32(7), 771-774.


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8 Moves For A Crazy-Strong Core

Many compound lifters scoff at abdominal exercises and argue that heavy squats and deadlifts work the core sufficiently. I think this is a mistake. Sure, the core gets taxed during heavy compound movements, but it’s often the hidden weak link and limiting factor that keeps lifters from reaching new PRs.

In other words, a stronger core inevitably leads to bigger lifts. If it helps, think of it this way: Squats and deadlifts work the glutes and hamstrings a hell of a lot, but most serious lifters still do supplemental posterior chain work. Why should the core be any different?

There’s a catch, though. Crunches, basic planks, and side planks aren’t going to provide the stimulus necessary for strong lifters to get stronger, because they’re simply too easy. You need to challenge yourself with difficult, high-tension core exercises to see improvement across the board.

Here are eight demanding exercises to take both your abdominal strength and your overall strength to the next level!

Exercise 1 Iso Chin-Up Hold with Leg Raise

Generally I’m not a big fan of combination exercises, because one exercise is typically a lot harder than the other and you end up not being able to push yourself on the harder exercise. But here, both exercises are equally difficult, thereby allowing you to blast your upper back and core simultaneously.

People often cheat the heck out of hanging leg raises, usually by leaning way back, swinging, and creating momentum. This makes for a less than effective core exercise, and also leads to some significant spinal flexion. Holding the chin-up position helps prohibit backward lean, forcing you to be strict with the leg raises, which makes it safer and more effective.

Doing these with rings is especially great for stabilizing the body and keeping from swinging, but a bar works fine if you don’t have access to rings. Don’t lower your legs all the way down; stop 1-2 inches short to keep tension on the core. If it’s too hard at first, hold the chin-up at mid-level and/or bend the legs to shorten the lever length.

Counting time can be difficult for this exercise unless you’re positioned in front of a clock, so it’s best to go for reps.

Exercise 2 Iso Chin-Up Hold with Dynamic L-Sit

I suck at naming exercises, so I normally just call these “spread ’ems” or “open sesames.” No matter the title, it’s a great exercise to challenge your core and upper back.

Hold the chin-up position, go into an L-sit position, and slowly open and close your legs while keeping the torso steady. Learning to resist swinging is one of the most challenge aspects of the exercise. The slower you go, the harder it is. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible.

You can also do these from the hang position if the chin-up hold is too tough. Like the chin-up iso-hold/hanging leg raise combo, it’s usually best to do these for reps. Just make sure to wear loose shorts to avoid giving your fellow gym-goers a show they don’t want.

Exercise 3 Iso Chin-Up Hold with L-Sit Flutter Kicks

This movement starts at the same point as the open sesame, but moves vertically rather than horizontally. Hold the chin-up position, enter an L-sit position, and perform small flutter kicks with your legs straight out. These are harder than the dynamic L-sit combo, so master that exercise first.

The goal is to keep your legs straight, but if you’re unable to manage that initially, start with bent legs and progress to straightening them. Because the legs move quickly, it’s tough to count reps, so it works better to do these for time. Start at 5-10 seconds and build up from there. That time will go by slower than you think!

Exercise 4 Iso Chin-Up Hold with L-Sit Leg Extension

I saved L-sit leg extensions for last because it’s the hardest L-sit variation. Start by holding the chin-up position and extend your legs into an L-sit position. Bring your legs in, extend them straight out, and keep your torso steady to avoid swinging.

Put a medicine ball or dumbbell between your feet to increase the challenge. You can do these for reps or time.

Exercise 5 Single-Leg Plank Walk

Get in a push-up position with one foot on a Valslide or furniture slider and let the other foot hover just off the floor. From there, walk forward with your hands, keeping your arms as straight as possible, and keep your hips steady.

Walk as far as possible with one leg and switch legs on the way back. If you don’t have space to walk, use a slide board to walk forward and backward for a set number of reps, and then switch legs. In either case, this exercise works your core and shoulders and jacks up your heart rate, which makes it a great finisher to an upper-body workout, either on its own or as part of a circuit with movements like battling ropes, sled pushes, or farmer’s walks.

Exercise 6 Shoulder-Friendly Suspension Strap Fallout

The normal suspension strap fallout progression is to start with the straps around waist height and extend your body until your arms are directly overhead. As you improve, you lengthen the straps and extend out farther, progressing until the straps almost touch the floor, which resembles the starting position of a standing ab wheel rollout.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that progression, but for people with shoulder issues it can be problematic. To make it more shoulder-friendly, set up several feet behind the anchor point of the straps. This also makes the exercise significantly harder, because you don’t have to extend your arms out nearly as far to challenge the core. The tension is more or less constant throughout the movement.

There isn’t much range of motion at the arms, but this exercise lights the core up when done correctly. The farther you walk back, the harder it becomes. On the plus side, the farther you walk back the easier it becomes on the shoulders, but only walk back to a point where you can still control the movement. If you start to feel the exercise in your lower back, you’ve gone too far.

Perform this exercise for reps, and focus on progressively moving farther backward.

Exercise 7 Single-leg fallout

Single-leg fallouts decrease your support base, which makes the exercise harder and adds a rotary stability component. The normal fallout already does a great job at working the anterior core, so this wrinkle makes it even better at building all-around core strength. Like the shoulder-friendly fall-out, perform this exercise for reps and focus on progressively moving farther backward.

Exercise 8 Single-Leg Bodysaw

Regular bodysaws are great, and many people are surprised by just how difficult such a tiny range of motion can be. Once you’ve got that down, though, you can take it a step further by doing single-leg bodysaws. From there, if you feel frisky, try the single-arm, single-leg version, which challenges even the most advanced lifters.

Trying to count during this exercise is nearly impossible due to the intense strain throughout your body. Go for reps, and enjoy all the benefits your newfound core strength brings!

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4 Nighttime Nutrition Blunders Solved!

Nighttime eating do’s and don’ts bewilder many fitness enthusiasts. It was once thought that eating after dinner would expand your waistline, especially if you were munching on carbohydrates. Thankfully, much of that advice has since been discredited, but confusion still abounds.

Depending on your goals, it might even be beneficial to eat before bed. For example, a little late-night feeding can actually boost your muscle-building power, especially if you eat the right stuff.

If you really want to make the most of your fitness goals, don’t make any one of these four nighttime nutritional mistakes!

Mistake 1: Passing On Protein Before Bed

Problem: To get the most out of protein, consume 25-30 grams every few hours. If your dinner falls around 6 p.m., but you don’t go to sleep until after 10, skimping on a nighttime snack ups your time spent in a catabolic (muscle-breakdown) state. This can negatively affect your quest to maintain muscle mass during a fat-loss phase, or to gain it during a growth phase.

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Solution: Make sure you have ample protein in your last meal before bed, which, as we just discussed, may actually be an additional “meal” after dinner. A study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” demonstrated that muscle growth continues following a protein-rich meal even if you’re going to sleep immediately afterward![1]

To truly maximize this meal, consider eating a combination of fast and slow-digesting proteins. Dairy is an excellent source of casein and tastes great when mixed with whey protein, but consider purchasing a casein protein powder, too. This combination will flip on the growth switch quickly, as well as prolonging the delivery of protein to your muscles during the night.

Mistake 2: Avoiding Carbohydrates At Night

Problem: Some people are under the impression that eating carbs at night will lead to weight gain, but this isn’t true if your total daily calories and carbohydrates are considered and aligned with your goals

Weight change is dictated by the relationship between calories in and calories out across a 24-hour period, not necessarily overnight. If you consume most of your calories—or carbs in this case—later in the day, then so be it. A deficit or surplus is what’s truly important. Oh, and good luck trying to train in the evening and expect to recover if you’re skimping on your nighttime carbs!

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Solution: Don’t fear carbohydrates in the evening. In fact, multiple studies have observed effective weight loss in subjects consuming a majority of their carbohydrates in the evening.[2,3] Furthermore, there was even improvement in multiple obesity-related health parameters, and reports of feeling more full and satisfied throughout the day. Is this reason to abandon daytime carbs? No. But it goes to show you that your calorie deficit or surplus is more important for weight management than carbohydrate timing.

Your daily schedule should dictate your need for carbohydrates in the evening. If you train in the evening, or prefer carbohydrates with dinner, go ahead and eat them. As long as you’re taking in the appropriate amount of carbohydrates in a 24-hour span to meet your goals, you’ll be okay.

Mistake 3: Consuming Stimulants Too Late In The Day

Problem: Consuming stimulants close to bed inevitably delays sleep, or most certainly interrupts it. Even if you’re able to fall asleep after a cup of coffee, it still negatively affects sleep quality—specifically deep REM sleep.[4]

Sleep is the best time for your body to rest and recover from hard workouts because it’s when the majority of your anabolic hormones are secreted. Taking stimulants right before bed won’t only shortchange your sleep, but also your muscle gains.

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Solution: Stop consuming stimulants (coffee, caffeinated tea, energy drinks, and pre-workouts) a minimum of six hours before you plan to go to sleep. This should allow enough time for the caffeine to be metabolized to the point that it won’t affect your sleep.

If you train in the evenings, consider supplementing with TeaCrine, a caffeine complement that enhances the benefit of caffeine without the accompanying jitters. When taken alongside a small dose of caffeine (50-100 mg), TeaCrine has been shown to prolong the increased cognitive benefits associated with caffeine intake for up to six hours, rather than the 1-2-hour rush from caffeine alone.[5] Consuming less caffeine will help you better sleep at night.

Mistake 4: Relying On Alcohol To Help You Sleep

Alcohol negatively effects sleep by increasing time spent in stage one sleep and decreasing time spent in REM.[6] Of the four sleep cycles, stage one is characterized as the “lightest” and the most prone to sleep disturbances. REM sleep is our deepest sleep, where the body is repairing and recovering.

Second, alcohol intake inhibits growth hormone (GH) release. GH, which is a key muscle-building player, peaks within the first 90 minutes of sleep and remains elevated for roughly three and a half hours.[7] Alcohol has a dose-dependent effect on GH release: The more you drink, the less GH is released.[8]

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Solution: Alcohol isn’t a solution for your sleeping woes or good for your fat loss. A combination of a bedtime routine, balanced diet, and consistent exercise should enable you to sleep well. If this isn’t enough, specific supplements, such as magnesium and melatonin, may enhance your sleep quality and length. Relying on alcohol will only further exacerbate the problem, not to mention cause adverse affects on your physique and muscle growth.

References
  1. Van Loon, L.J.C., Verdijk, L.B., Kies, A.K., Maase, K., van Kranenburg, J., van Vliet, S., Smeets, J.S.J., Res, P.T. & Snijders, T. (2015). Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. Journal of Nutrition. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.208371.
  2. Sofer, S., Eliraz, A., Kaplan, S., Voet, H., Fink, G., Kima, T. & Madar, Z. (2011). Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Journal of Obesity (Silver Spring), 19(10), 2006-2014.
  3. S. Sofer, A. Eliraz, S. Kaplan, H. Voet, G. Fink, T. Kima, Z. Madar.Changes in daily leptin, ghrelin and adiponectin profiles following a diet with carbohydrates eaten at dinner in obese subjects. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 2012; DOI:10.1016/j.numecd.2012.04.008
  4. Březinová, V. (1974). Effect of caffeine on sleep: EEG study in late middle age people. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 1(3), 203-208.
  5. Feduccia, A. A., Wang, Y., Simms, J. A., Henry, Y. Y., Li, R., Bjeldanes, L., … & Bartlett, S. E. (2012). Locomotor activation by theacrine, a purine alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine: involvement of adenosine and dopamine receptors. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 102(2), 241-248.
  6. Roehrs, T., Yoon, J. & Roth, T. (1991). Nocturnal and next-day effects of ethanol and basal level of sleepiness. Human Psychopharmacology, 6, 307-311.
  7. Takahashi, Y., Kipnis, D.M. & Daughaday, W.H. (1968). Growth Hormone Secretion During Sleep. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 47, 2079-2090.
  8. Prinz, P.N., Roehrs, T.A., Vitaliano, P.P., Linnoila, M. & Weitzman, E.D. (1980). Effect of alcohol on sleep and nighttime plasma growth hormone and cortisol concentrations. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 51(4), 759-764.


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Should You Train Rear Delts On Shoulder Or Back Day?

Back training is pulls; shoulder training is mostly pushes. Simple enough, right? On the former, you focus on a variety of rows and pull-downs that engage a wide variety of real estate on your backside, including the lats, middle and lower traps, and rhomboids. Maybe you even do some deadlifts in there. On shoulder day, it’s military presses, dumbbell presses, and isolation work like lateral raises.

But there’s one muscle group that fits in a gray area between these two: your rear delts. These muscles on the back of your shoulders are highly engaged in multijoint back exercises where you bring your elbows back behind the plane of your body—in other words, rowing motions and that end-of-shoulder-day classic, the rear-delt fly.

But should rear delts be trained on shoulder day or back day? It may seem like splitting hairs, but there’s more to take into consideration than you might imagine. Let’s break it down.

Out of Site, Not out of Mind

It’s likely not surprising that muscle stimulation on the rear delts isn’t great on overhead shoulder presses. Those primarily focus on the middle and front delts, as well as triceps. After a few hard sets, your body will definitely let you know this is the case. But the research backs it up as well.

An unpublished EMG analysis from 2014 found that rear-delt activation was considerably less on the overhead dumbbell press than it is on the incline dumbbell row.[1] This suggests to me that other kinds of rows also effectively engage the rear-delt musculature.

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So if overhead presses don’t really hit the rear delts, but rows do, why don’t bodybuilders consider training their rear delts as part of their back workouts rather than shoulders? In fact, many do. But before you make your decision, here are some further points to consider.

You’re probably double-dipping: If you choose to do rear-delt isolation exercises like bent-over lateral raises or reverse pec-deck flyes with you shoulder workout to ensure it covers all three delt heads, don’t forget you’ll get further rear-delt stimulation on your back days.

That means your rear delts are effectively being trained twice over the course of your split. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! On the contrary, it can be a great strategy to bring your rear delts up if they’re lagging in comparison to the fronts and middles.

The rear delts still need rest: Typically, you don’t want to work a muscle on consecutive days to allow for more optimal recovery. So, if you want to hit your rear delts hard, consider separating your back and shoulder workouts by at least 48 hours.

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You could train back with shoulders: Yes, one potential solution to this dilemma is to hit both muscle groups in the same workout. If you do, start your training session with the larger muscle group—in this case, the back. Who knows; starting with back might actually be good for your shoulder health and pressing power!

Rear-delt isolation work still belongs at the end: If you train rear delts with back, add single-joint rear-delt moves after you’re done all your multijoint back exercises, just like you would on shoulder day. The combo of multijoint rows and the rear-delt isolation moves will tax them quite effectively.

References
  1. Sweeney, S. (2014) Electromyographic analysis of the deltoid muscle during various shoulder exercises (doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse).


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How Much Protein Should You Consume Post-Workout?

The conundrum surrounding post-workout nutrition isn’t so much about what to eat as much as how much to eat. You and I both know protein needs to be a priority following a workout, but the jury is still out on how much protein is needed to maximize muscle growth and repair.

Fortunately, new research has shed some light on the matter. A study published in Physiology Reports sought to determine the impact of two different post-workout protein portions following exercise.[1] Furthermore, it also sought to determine how varying amounts of protein post-workout influenced individuals with significantly different amounts of lean body mass.

Subjects were split into four groups as follows:

  1. Low Lean Body Mass (LLBM), 20 grams of whey protein
  2. Low Lean Body Mass (LLBM), 40 grams of whey protein
  3. High Lean Body Mass (HLBM), 20 grams of whey protein
  4. High Lean Body Mass (HLBM), 40 grams of whey protein

Each group received their protein following two total-body workouts.

Researchers observed a 20 percent greater uptick in post-training muscle-protein synthesis in subjects consuming 40 grams of whey protein compared to those consuming 20 grams. What didn’t make much difference was whether the subjects had low or high lean body mass.

As long as they had the higher amount of protein, they tended to experience a greater degree of muscle- protein synthesis.

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How to Eat 40 Grams of Protein Post-Workout

Although this study was small and the first of its kind, the results suggest that striving to consume 40 grams of protein post-workout is the way to go if you want to add muscle, regardless of your size. The authors speculate that this is especially true if you follow a total-body training style.

That’s because more muscle breakdown is occurring throughout the body compared to a single-body-part split. “Speculate” is the operative word, though. Single-body-part splits were not included in this study.

Rather than having to face two monstrous chicken breasts after your workout, consider one of these seven muscle-building meal combinations to meet your post-workout protein quota!

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 scoop whey protein + 1/2 cup blueberries = 43 g protein
  • 6 oz. salmon fillet + 1 cup quinoa + 1 cup broccoli = 45 g protein
  • 4-oz. can albacore tuna + 1/2 cup canned navy beans + 2 cups baby spinach + 1 cup cherry tomatoes = 43 g protein
  • 1 cup cottage cheese + 4 tbsp hemp seeds + 1 cup chopped pineapple = 42 g protein
  • 6 oz. chicken breast + 1 cup brown rice + 2 cups baby kale = 42 g protein
  • 6 oz. sirloin steak + 1 medium sweet potato + 2 tbsp pesto = 40 g protein
  • 1 cup low-fat milk + 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt + 1 scoop whey protein powder + 1 tbsp almond butter + 1 frozen banana = 44 g protein
References
  1. Macnaughton, L. S., Wardle, S. L., Witard, O. C., McGlory, C., Hamilton, D. L., Jeromson, S., … & Tipton, K. D. (2016). The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole‐body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiological Reports4(15), e12893.


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Ask The Science Chick: Does Coffee Count Toward My Daily Fluid Requirements?

Q. I Drink A Lot Of Coffee, But I’ve Been Told It’s A Diuretic And I Shouldn’t Count It Toward My Daily Fluid Requirements. Is This True?

We’ve all heard the warning before: Coffee has a diuretic effect, it’s dehydrating, and it shouldn’t count toward your daily fluid intake. Given that most of us who pursue fitness rely on coffee for its pick-me-up effects, are many of us unwittingly contributing to poor athletic performance because we’re in a state of chronic dehydration, or can it contribute to our daily fluid requirements?

Before we get into the research looking at the effects of coffee on hydration levels, let’s first identify how much fluid we should be taking in every day. Individual requirements can vary extensively across populations, and can differ based on gender, activity level, rate of sweat, altitude, and climate.

Generally speaking, women require about 90 ounces (11 cups) of fluids per day, while men should aim to get around 125 ounces (16 cups) per day. And if you’re a coffee drinker like myself, it’s recommended you drink an extra glass of water for every cup of joe. Given those guidelines and the amount of coffee I drink regularly, I might as well set up my office in the bathroom! But seriously, is all that extra fluid consumption really necessary?

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If you’re a coffee drinker like myself, it’s recommended you drink an extra glass of water for every cup of joe.

The quick answer is no. Results from several studies suggest that coffee, when consumed in moderation (about 4 cups a day) by caffeine-habituated individuals, provides hydrating qualities similar to water.[1,2] Additionally, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, which compared the effects of consuming equal amounts of water to caffeinated cola and coffee, found no adverse effects of coffee consumption on hydration status.[3] All this simply means that coffee can count toward your daily fluid goals, as it does not lead to dehydration.

So where exactly did this “coffee dehydrates you” myth come from? My guess is that it all started with earlier studies that found coffee increased urine output. The problem with these studies is that they only measured urine production 2-4 hours after consumption (failing to look at the 24-hour picture), they didn’t compare the effects of drinking coffee to drinking water or other noncaffeinated beverages, or they used ridiculously high doses of caffeine in one sitting.

The truth is, drinking several cups of anything, whether its water, coffee, BCAAs, or milk, will cause you to pee more frequently. Think about how you make coffee…with water! So it’s no surprise that if you start your morning with 3-4 cups of the stuff, you’ll have to make at least one trip to the bathroom. Moderate intake of caffeinated beverages (including coffee) can be counted toward your daily fluid needs, particularly if you consume caffeine on a regular basis. (I’m pretty sure we all know one person who drinks copious amounts of coffee throughout the day and yet somehow remains fully functional!)

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Moderate intake of caffeinated beverages (including coffee) can be counted toward your daily fluid needs, particularly if you consume caffeine on a regular basis.

A couple of key points to keep in mind:

  • Caffeine consumed in large doses (more than 500 milligrams, which may be as many as 5 cups of coffee) can elicit a diuretic effect. However, regular consumption can build up your tolerance so that you don’t experience those initials effects, meaning you might soon require more.

  • The nonhabituated caffeine user can still consume a moderate amount without causing a diuretic effect, but may be more at risk for some dehydration than habitual users in larger doses.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think drinking adequate amounts of water and staying hydrated are important, especially for those who are physically active. Chronic dehydration can have a significant impact on performance and lead to headaches, fatigue, and muscle cramps. But do we need to eliminate coffee altogether? Absolutely not!

If you notice you’re not performing as well in the gym, experiencing muscle cramps, or lacking overall energy during your workouts, you may want to cut back a little on the bean juice, or drink 2-3 more cups of water or low-calorie beverages throughout the day.

Do you have a question for Dr. Kendall? Place it in the comments section below; it might be chosen for an upcoming installment of Ask the Science Chick!

References
  1. Silva, A. M., Júdice, P. B., Matias, C. N., Santos, D. A., Magalhães, J. P., St-Onge, M. P., … & Sardinha, L. B. (2013). Total body water and its compartments are not affected by ingesting a moderate dose of caffeine in healthy young adult males. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 38(6), 626-632.
  2. Armstrong, L. E., Pumerantz, A. C., Roti, M. W., Judelson, D. A., Watson, G., Dias, J. C., … & Kellogg, M. (2005). Fluid, electrolyte, and renal indices of hydration during 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 15(3), 252-265.
  3. Grandjean, A. C., Reimers, K. J., Bannick, K. E., & Haven, M. C. (2000). The effect of caffeinated, non-caffeinated, caloric and non-caloric beverages on hydration. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19(5), 591-600.


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Keto For Vegetarians!

At the age of 6 years old, I decided to step into the world of the vegetarians. I don’t even remember why I decided to stop eating meat, but I did and I have not eaten a single piece of meat since.

My mom was always concerned about me not getting proper nutrients, but my doctor said as long as I was eating eggs and cheese I would be fine.

From then on, I would eat Italian food at least 10 times per week, and all food from Italy is just loaded with carbs. I would say I was ingesting over 600g of carbs per day for the last 10 years. This never came as an inconvenience to me until a few weeks ago, when I decided to start my first Ketogenic diet.

If you are not familiar with Ketogenic (“keto” for short) diets, the main idea of them is to get into a state of “Ketosis” where your body will eat up fat like crazy for energy. In order to reach Ketosis, you must keep your carbs extremely low – 15g or less per day. For the average person, this diet is not too hard; in fact, this is a preferred diet of many people.

They can eat as much meat as they want, just stay away from the bread and you will lose nice amounts of fat. But for vegetarians such as myself, you must be willing to make sacrifices beyond belief!

A Vegetarian Keto Diet

For the first week of my diet, I ate nothing but eggs and cheese. That is the only thing I was able to find with very low carbs. And since I did not want my heart to stop beating from amazing amounts of cholesterol, it was actually limited to egg whites.

Egg White Products In Our Store

I would eat egg white omelettes with cheese a few times per day. Whenever I would get hungry, off to the frying pan I would go to fry up some eggs. When it came to my protein shakes, I could not take them with milk since even skim milk has 16g of carbs per serving.

I tried taking them with water, but I couldn’t stand the taste. Somebody then told me to try mixing the shake with Egg Beaters. I did so, and I thought it tasted something like pancake mix. So, off I went to my frying pan to experiment with something.

I discovered that by mixing my whey powder and ¼ of Egg Beaters, I was able to cook 2 pancakes that tasted pretty damn good. I then found a company that produced a syrup with 0 carbs! This made my diet a slight bit easier to do, now that I was able to eat more than just plain eggs all day!

More Recipes

Later that day, I found a great recipe for a Greek Salad. romaine lettuce, green peppers, radishes, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, feta cheese, and an Italian dressing.

One serving of this salad consisted of 8g of carbs, so I would eat that as my dinner for every night from them on. I still needed something else to eat to hold off the hunger, and not get bored to death from the same foods all the time. I then decided that I would pick up some Protein Bars.

So now I was able to have somewhat of a variety of food. I was eating my six meals a day, and getting over 2500 calories per day, so I was not losing any muscle, and actually I gained a couple pounds of muscle while on the diet!

To make sure I was shedding the fat off of my body, I needed to make sure my body wasn’t being resistant to insulin. In order to increase insulin sensitivity, I decided to take some ALA. This helped me shed body fat even more than I was already. Since I wanted to stay on this diet for a while, and not quit, I decided I would need to have a cheat day.

I decided every Saturday would be my cheat day, where I would go and eat like crazy. My first cheat day, I ordered a pizza and ate the whole thing. This allowed me to tell myself “Okay, I only have to watch my carbs for 6 more days,” instead of “I have to stop eating carbs for 2 months!” That was much easier to do!

I have been on this diet for almost a month now, and I am loving the results! But, I would only recommend this diet to a vegetarian if he/she is willing to sacrifice more than they can imagine!

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