Thursday, August 31, 2017

9 Foods That Are Beneficial For Cognitive Health


Sometimes we need reminding that food has powerful impacts on our health. What if I told you that blueberries can make you have a better memory? What if I told you dark chocolate could improve your concentration?

And what if I told you that to date, 99.6% of pharmaceutical drugs developed to combat neurological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease [AD] have failed? I think I have your attention.

This article will give you a rundown of the nutrients and foods with the strongest evidence for neuroprotection, and for improving cognitive function.

(Side note: understanding how to fuel your mind and body starts with a proper intake, our macro calculator is a great starting point.)

1. Fish




The strongest evidence for any nutrients protecting against cognitive decline lies with the marine omega-3 fatty acids, EPA & DHA; as little as 1 oily fish meal per week is associated with less incidence of AD and dementia (1; 2; 3).

The primary benefit appears to derive from the fatty acid DHA, the main fatty acid in brain tissue that is found highly concentrated in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings and anchovies (3).

A consistent feature of this research is that the effects of marine omega-3 fatty acids are preventative, and intake throughout the lifespan is the strongest association with protection against cognitive decline (4; 5). At a minimal intake of 1-2 meals per week, this is a simple dietary addition to any IIFYM strategy.

Your Dose: 3 x 90-120g servings of oily fish per week.

2. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables


cognitive health


Several nutrients vital for cognitive health are provided by this broad food group, which encompasses foods like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, rocket, cabbage, broccoli etc. In particular, vitamin E and vitamin B9.

Next to the omega-3 fish oils, high dietary intake of vitamin E is strongly associated with lower risk of neurodegenerative disease (6).

An interesting feature of vitamin E research worth paying attention to is supplementation in controlled trials has failed to improve cognitive function (7; 8). Vitamin E thus appears to be a nutrient where dietary intake comes first.

Our client’s macronutrient intakes allow for plenty of Vitamin E consumption with their Custom Macro Blueprint.

Vitamin B9 is another nutrient abundant in dark green leafy vegetables, and the B-vitamin family have been implicated in neurological disease, due to their multiplicity of roles in neurological processes (9).

Additional Cognitive Benefits to Dark Leafy Greens

The mechanism may be through lowering homocysteine levels; traditionally considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high homocysteine levels have been associated with risk of AD (9). Recent controlled trials have found improvements in cognitive function with supplementation of vitamins B6, B9 and B12, via reducing homocysteine levels (10; 11).

Vitamin K is also abundant in vegetables of the dark green variety and is an oft-overlooked nutrient in brain health. Higher circulating vitamin K levels are associated with less cognitive decline with ageing (12).

Dark green leafy veggies serve another purpose for our IIFYM coaches: adding bulk to clients diet plan’s during fat loss phases.

With that said, it’s nice to able to eat a lot of something during a diet, and with this low- calorie food group, you not only get density for your diet but nutrient density for your brain and overall health.

Your Dose: 1 large greens salad – about 2 cups chopped vegetables – daily.

3. Berries


cognitive memory


Specifically, blueberries and strawberries have been singled out as particularly beneficial for cognitive health (13). The reason lies in a group of non-nutrient compounds known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant chemicals that are highly concentrated in berries, grapes (yes, this includes red wine), cacao and teas, and high dietary intake of flavonoids are associated with lower risk of dementia and AD (14; 15).

Citrus fruits are home to another member of the flavonoid family, namely the compounds hesperidin and narirutin, both of which have been shown to result in boosted brain function.

Anthocyanins, a subtype of flavonoid, have been shown to improve cognitive function across the lifespan. Supplementing elderly adults suffering mild cognitive impairment with anthocyanin-rich concord grape and blueberry juice, respectively, improved their cognitive function when consumed daily over 12-weeks (16; 17).

In otherwise healthy children aged 7-10yrs, supplementing with blueberry anthocyanins – equivalent to 120-240g fresh berries – improved memory performance acutely assessed 6-hrs after ingestion of blueberries at breakfast (18).

Eating blueberries, strawberries, and dark-skinned berries daily is a simple, low-calorie and carb, easily IIFYM-compliant way to boost your memory and cognitive function.

Your Dose: 120g blueberries daily.

4. Citrus Fruits




Alarmism over the fruit sugar, fructose, may have chased orange juice away from your breakfast table. Your brain may be calling it back. Citrus fruits are home to another member of the flavonoid family, namely the compounds hesperidin and narirutin, both of which have been shown to result in boosted brain function.

In a randomised, placebo-controlled crossover design trial [the gold-standard in research], consuming 500ml orange juice with 549mg hesperidin and 60mg narirutin [total 45g sugars, FYI] for 8 weeks improved executive function – the brain tasks which regulate attention, focus and organisation – an effect that had not been measured in other flavonoid studies (19).

From an IIFYM perspective, commercially available orange juice may be a bit of a waste of your macros. 45g of carbs in OJ could be 300g of potatoes, and you’ll be fuller for a lot longer on a fat loss diet with the latter.

Setting up your diet for satiety and adherence is a common issue our IIFYM coaches work through with clients. With the main resource being a Custom Macro Blueprint to alleviate these issues.

The positive feature of the studies into flavonoid-rich citrus is that they used otherwise healthy adults, without any cognitive impairment, and found improvements in global assessments of brain function (19; 20).

Cognitive Benefits with a Caveat

These studies do, however, come with a caveat: it would be hard to find a commercially available orange juice with the same hesperidin content (circa 500mg). Citrus fruits contain an average of 15mg/100g fruit flesh, and analysis of commercially available orange juices has shown a range of 12-15mg/100ml (21).

Thankfully, then there is a solution from Chinese researchers to obtain an equivalent dose of hesperidin used in studies: sun-drying tangerine peels, which contain the highest concentration of hesperidin at 50-100mg/g (22). 5-10g of sun-dried tangerine peels will give you an equivalent dose of hesperidin used in the research.

Your dose: 5-10g sun-dried tangerine peels daily or regular citrus fruit consumption.

5. Dark Chocolate




Need an excuse to eat chocolate? Your brain health is one. The caveat here is that it is dark chocolate [min.70% cacao] that we’re talking about, as the benefit is derived from cocoa flavonols [see a theme with these foods?].

Cocoa also contains caffeine and another brain-boosting plant chemical known as theobromine. The synergistic effect of these phytochemicals has led to some interesting results; improvements in visual acuity, working memory, attentiveness and response time (23).

IIFYM blueprint

And if you need that mid-afternoon cognitive lift, without the over-stimulation or sleep-disrupting effects of caffeine late in the day, then dark chocolate may give you the lift you need. In a randomised, placebo-controlled trial in healthy adults, consumption of 520mg cocoa flavonols – equivalent to around 20g dark chocolate – reduced subjective mental fatigue, where subjects underwent a battery of cognitive test performed 2-minutes apart (24).

All in all, this happens to be both a delicious and, from an IIFYM perspective, minimally invasive means of boosting cognition.

Your Dose: 20-40g dark chocolate containing 80-90% cacao daily.

6. Cruciferous Vegetables




I know, I mentioned some of these – kale, cabbage – in no.2 above, but the reality is that the Brassica family of veg deserve their own slot, due to the presence of a family of compounds known as glucosinolates. In particular, a compound known as sulforaphane looks particularly promising for brain health.

Brain inflammation is gaining recognition as a cause of depression, and sulforaphane has demonstrated similar efficacy to pharmaceutical anti-depressants, an effect mediated through its potent anti-inflammatory action (25).

The effects of sulforaphane may convince you never to pass on the Brussels sprouts again at Thanksgiving: the highest food sources of sulforaphane are Brussels sprouts, broccoli sprouts, cabbage and raw broccoli.

The point from no.2 also applies here: this food group count minimally against your carb and calorie goals from your Custom Macro Blueprint, and are easily incorporated in the recommended doses daily.

Sulforaphane protects against the accumulation of amyloid-β, the plaque which builds up in AD, and oxidative damage to the brain (26; 27).

This is yet another example of the preventative effects of nutrition in relation to brain health, as a diet rich in sulforaphane in youth protects against later cognitive impairment (28).

Your Dose: 50g broccoli sprouts; 100g Brussels sprouts; 250g broccoli; daily intake. NB: consume raw, or lightly steamed – never boil.

7. Green Tea




You can drink your way to a better brain, too. For green tea, not unlike dark chocolate, the effect is a result of a combination of compounds, namely green tea catechins, caffeine, and the amino acid theanine, which is unique to tea (29).

Recent evidence has shown that catechins and theanine improved cognitive function over a 16-week period (30). Neuroimaging shows green tea significantly increases calmness, shown through increases across alpha brain bandwidths, which is the brain frequency associated with relaxed attention (31).

Caffeine positively impacts mood and cognitive processes and interestingly can promote neuroplasticity

Green tea consistently shows improvements in mood, alertness, and attention in healthy adults (29). Interestingly, these effects appear to be dependent on interactions between caffeine, theanine and catechins, as the compounds in isolation are less potent (29). The good news? No need to consider green tea within your IIFYM framework: the drinks, my friend, are free.

Your Dose: 3 cups per day (each containing 3-5g leaves dry weight)

8. Eggs




The concern over diet and cholesterol is a concern our IIFYM coaches hear regularly. However, they also have the evidence-based answer: the evidence no longer supports associations between eggs, dietary cholesterol, and blood cholesterol levels (32).

This has been put to bed in dietary fat research, but still, hasn’t trickled down to the lay public. Even in obese subjects, consumption of 3 eggs per day improved their lipid profile – there was no change in LDL-cholesterol and increased HDL-cholesterol (33).

So, with that aside, what do eggs do for your brain? Provide the richest dietary source of choline, the raw material required to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is responsible for learning and memory.

Higher dietary choline intake is associated with better memory performance and reduced risk of neurodegenerative disease (34). From an IIFYM standpoint, a 4-egg omelette may take up a lot of macros. Our coaches at IIFYM, in this case, will recommend smaller servings for a client, but more regularly.

It truly depends on your allotted fat intake, which you can find out with a Custom Macro Blueprint.

Your Dose: Up to 12 eggs per week (average 2 per day, 6-days a week).

9.  Coffee




I know you were waiting with bated breath to see if it made the list, and it deservedly does, due to the presence of multiple compounds which exert beneficial effects on cognitive function. Coffee contains caffeine, cholinergic compounds [i.e. boosting acetylcholine] and other plant compounds like theobromine [which you’ll recall from dark chocolate/cacao].

Where our coaches at IIFYM notice, many clients tripping up on fat loss diets is a cognitive dissonance toward liquid calories: “coffee” does not mean the 200kcal Grande Starbucks caramel latte.

With that said, there is strong evidence that habitual coffee consumption protects against Parkinson’s Disease (35). Caffeine positively impacts mood and cognitive processes and interestingly can promote neuroplasticity i.e. the ability of the brain to change and develop new connections (35).

Evidence suggests caffeine reduces inflammation in the brain, providing a protective mechanism against depression and neurodegenerative disease (36). As with green tea, the drinks are free: just remember that from both the cognition perspective and the “free” IIFYM standpoint, we are talking about black coffee.

Your Dose: 1-2 cups per day.


You may have noticed that a theme of much of the research in this area is preventative effects of consumption. Ultimately, the earlier your diet includes a consistent intake of the doses of these foods – or more particularly the beneficial compounds within them – the better.

From an IIFYM perspective, one of the uniform benefits of these foods, perhaps except for eggs and oily fish, is that they come with minuscule caloric weight. Berries, greens, and cruciferous veg can all be included daily without detracting much from your diet plans and weight loss goals.

Green tea and black coffee are free, but if your weakness is the matcha latte or pumpkin-spiced frap, obviously, the purpose of the IIFYM framework is that you can have it – just make sure to plug it into your macro tracker, liquid calories still count.

Nutrition is vital to cognition, so be sure to take this aspect of your brain health seriously, as prevention remains the only cure.

The post 9 Foods That Are Beneficial For Cognitive Health appeared first on IIFYM.

from Articles & Interviews – IIFYM

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Best Core Exercises to Protect You from Injury


We all have abs, yet not everyone is able to achieve that sacred ripped 6-pack. While we could discuss how to achieve that defined midsection (which we do briefly below), this IIFYM article is going to focus more on the functioning of your abdominals, rather than the aesthetics.

This brings to question what the abdominals are intended to do, and that is stabilization. Without our core, our upper and lower body would be working against each other rather than on a uniformed front.

Our core is essentially what keeps up upright so that our upper body isn’t flopping forward or arching backward, causing serious injuries—especially to something like the spine. So, how do we keep our core strengthened to aid us in everyday tasks?

Well, this IIFYM article is going to showcase the best core exercises you should definitely add to your workout routine.

Can You See Me Now?

Clearly, abs are made in the kitchen with a solid diet plan. We have heard that time and time again in magazines and even in articles here on our site—and it’s 100% the truth.

If your diet plan isn’t on point, the ability to see any type of definition around your midsection is slim to none, regardless of your activity level.

The best piece of advice I can give when tightening up your diet plan to help shed unwanted body fat and expose eye-catching abs is to pay attention to your macros and be accountable for everything you put in your mouth.


best core exercises


With IIFYM, you aren’t as worried about the commonly deemed “good” and “bad” foods, more than anything it comes down to if you’re hitting your numbers. If you aren’t sure where to start, IIFYM has some great programs available for you on the website to help get you moving in the right direction.

If you are more of the type to figure things out on your own, you are more than welcome to utilize our macro calculator.

This quick and easy IIFYM calculator will lay out how many calories you need per day to achieve your goal—whether it be weight loss, increase muscle mass, or performance driven. From there you can even get a breakdown of your macros if you wish.

Anatomy Lesson

Before breaking down the best core exercises, let’s first discuss the makeup of the core so we understand exactly what muscles we are working, where they are located, as well as their function.

As with any exercise, you want to go through the full range of motion using strict and proper form.

I’m a huge advocate for understanding the reasons why you are doing something as well as where the muscles are so you can truly envision squeezing and working the individual muscles versus going in blindly utilizing the best core exercises without at least a little knowledge on what you’re working.

Rectus Abdominis

Your rectus abdominis is just a fancy name for your abs. When in your head you visualize a 6-pack, that’s exactly what we are describing here.

The function of your rectus abdominis is to pull your upper torso towards your hips. To visualize this movement, think of an abdominal crunch (which just so happens to have not made the list of best core exercises). The rectus abdominis is located from your sternum and travels straight down to your pelvis bone.



best core exercises


The oblique muscles are what give you the ability to twist and tilt. To visualize the purpose of these muscles, imagine holding your arms out in front of you while you are standing erect. Without moving your lower body, you twist your upper body to the left or right side without needing to move your feet.

This side to side motion (twisting) is due to the strength of the oblique muscles. The five best core exercises mentioned later in this article will certainly help you strengthen this muscle group.

Oblique is a generalized term considering there are three different types of oblique muscles that help make up your core. You have the external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse obliques.

To visualize the different oblique muscles, imagine your external obliques running from the middle of your pelvis (below your belly button), and running diagonally to your sides. The internal obliques do the opposite where they are found from the outer edges of the pelvis and run diagonally towards the centerline of your body.

breastfeeding calories

Last, but not least, the transverse obliques run left to right through your core. So, as you can see, you can think of your obliques like a mesh that travels in all directions to help keep your upper body stable.


The serratus is a muscle group that is found from your lats and travels to between your front abs. If you can envision a bodybuilder, think of where they pose with their arms above their head.

When looking at them from the front, the serratus are the long strands of muscle that you see traveling from their lats diagonally towards their midsection—sometimes almost looking like feathers. The function of the serratus is to pull the scapula forward and rotate slightly.

Envision the movement like throwing a baseball or pushing someone where it’s pulling your shoulder blade forward.


While not really talked about when you think about the core, these smaller muscles are found between the sides of the rib cage and aid in elevating and depressing the ribs.

The intercostals are activated when you engage your rectus abdominis and move/twist from side to side such as when doing a bicycle ab exercise on the floor where your legs move as if they are pedaling a bicycle and your elbows move across your body to touch the opposite side’s knee.

If you want to see these muscles and get as lean as possible, IIFYM has everything from a 90-day weight loss challenge, coaching, Custom Macro Blueprints and even recipes that you can utilize. If you haven’t checked out the programs, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to see how they can take your health and fitness to the next level.

The Best Core Exercises


best core exercises


As with any exercise, you want to go through the full range of motion using strict and proper form. The articles found here on are to help keep you safe and working towards your goals. When form is compromised, injuries can occur which is counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve. By finding out what the best core exercises are, you can protect yourself from injuries.

While we could sit here and discuss our favorite exercises that we THINK are putting us in a position for success, I’ve found a study conducted by San Diego State University that looked at a long list of exercises and have found the below to be the best core exercises, and ones that we should all include in our abdominal routines to build a stronger core.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is standing behind the five best core exercises found in the SDSU study…

All of the best core exercises mentioned below should be completed in the 8-15 rep range and can have a total of 3 sets.

*It should be noted that we at, as well as the author, would advise you to consult with your doctor before engaging in any new diet plan or exercise program, including the ones found here on

Top 5 Most Effective Core Exercises:

  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Captain’s Chair
  • Stability Ball Crunch
  • Vertical Leg Crunch
  • Reverse Crunch

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is standing behind the five best core exercises found in the SDSU study and trying to get these exercises out in front of the public to utilize so they aren’t spinning their wheels on exercises that aren’t as effective.

ACE even documented how to perform each of the best core exercises above, which we are sharing with you below.

Bicycle Crunch

Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands beside your head. Bring knees up to about 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion.

Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Keep even, relaxed breathing throughout.

Captain’s Chair

Stabilize your upper body by gripping the hand holds and lightly pressing your lower back against the back pad. The starting position begins with you holding your body up with legs dangling below. Now slowly lift your knees in toward your chest. The motion should be controlled and deliberate as you bring the knees up and return them back to the starting position.

Stability Ball Crunch


best core exercises


Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Let the ball roll back slowly. Now lie back on the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel with the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and slightly tuck your chin in toward your chest. Contract your abdominals raising your torso to no more than 45 degrees.

For better balance, spread your feet wider apart. To challenge the obliques, make the exercise less stable by moving your feet closer together. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to the starting position.

Vertical Leg Crunch

Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands behind your head for support. Extend your legs straight up in the air, crossed at the ankles with a slight bend in the knee. Contract your abdominal muscles by lifting your torso toward your knees.

Make sure to keep your chin off your chest with each contraction. Exhale as you contract upward; inhale as you return to the starting position.

Reverse Crunch

Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands beside your head or extend them out flat to your sides—whatever feels most comfortable. Crossing your feet at the ankles, lift your feet off the ground to the point where your knees create a 90-degree angle.

Once in this position, press your lower back on the floor as you contract your abdominal muscles. Your hips will slightly rotate and your legs will reach toward the ceiling with each contraction. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to the starting position.

Now that you know what it takes to work your abdominals effectively through the best core exercises, let one of our IIFYM coaches build your Custom Macro Blueprint to help speed up the process and allow you to reach your end goal quicker.

The post The Best Core Exercises to Protect You from Injury appeared first on IIFYM.

from Articles & Interviews – IIFYM

Thursday, August 24, 2017

New Lifters: Embrace The Muscle, Forget The Scale


You recently incorporated weight lifting into your exercise routine. During the short time you have been lifting weights you notice that your clothes are fitting differently and visually you can see some muscular development. However, the scale isn’t moving.

At this point it is common to question:
“What is happening?”
“Am I actually making progress?”

This is a common point of confusion for those who are new to lifting weights.

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to dive into this scenario and clarify how to assess progress when beginning to lift weights for the first time.

If you’re here, then you most likely have your macronutrient breakdown. If not, then start with the IIFYM macro calculator.

Benefits of Lifting Weights


muscular development


Before we dive into what happens when an individual begins to lift weights, it is important to discuss reasons why weight lifting is an important part of an exercise routine.

For those looking to maximize body composition change, lifting weights to increase muscular development is going to be a key piece of the puzzle. A recent analysis of over 200 diet and weight loss studies concluded that incorporating weight lifting along with an energy deficit resulted in the greatest changes in body composition observed [1].

It is also important to note that spot reduction of body fat is not possible.

This means for those looking to maximize fat loss and muscular development weight lifting should be a part of your plan. In addition to muscular development and the visual changes associated with regular weight training, there are a number of other health benefits associated with lifting weights [2, 3]:

  • Improved Bone Density
  • Reduced Anxiety and Depression
  • Improved Self-Esteem
  • Reductions in Heart Disease and Diabetes Risk
  • Improved Sleep
  • Reduced Pain in Chronic Pain Sufferers
  • Improvements in Cognition with Aging
  • Increased Independence with Aging

Clearly, there are a number of benefits to lifting weights beyond changes in physical appearance and muscular development. Therefore, it would be advisable to include weight lifting into your fitness routine.

What to do in the Gym


muscular development


When beginning to lift weights, there can be a lot of confusion. With so much information out there, it can be difficult to know what you should be doing in the gym; however, here are a few pointers to those just starting out:

Train Your Entire Body

We all have body parts we would like to improve more than others; however, muscular development across the entire body is going to be important for functionality during daily life and injury prevention.

It is also important to note that spot reduction of body fat is not possible. You will not lose more body fat in a certain region by training it more.

In addition, by training all muscle groups you will increase muscular development and body composition change compared to only training certain body parts.

Furthermore, it is going to look goofy if you have a lot of muscular development in one body part, but not others. Therefore, it will be in your best interest to train your entire body, not just body parts you want to focus on.

Although training is crucial for muscular development, it starts with your diet. Our clients have seen a lot of progress in this manner with a Custom Macro Blueprint.

Learn Good Technique


muscular development


It is important that a new lifter learn good technique first prior to adding heavy loads to the bar. This will maximize the effectiveness of the lifts performed and minimize injury risk.

Free Weights vs. Machines

Both free weights and machines can be effective for increasing muscular development. Utilizing a combination of both may increase variety in the gym and help keep a new lifter interested and consistent.

Rep Ranges

A wide variety of rep ranges has been shown to increase muscular development [4, 5]. For those interested in maximizing muscular development, incorporating most work in the 6-15 rep range is likely best.

However, there is likely benefit to performing some work in both the <6 and >15 rep ranges as well.

Progressive Overload

Regardless of the movements and rep ranges performed, a lifter’s focus in the gym should be progressive overload.

breastfeeding calories

In fact, a review of over 200 nutrition and exercise weight loss interventions observed the largest changes in body composition when weight lifting was incorporated progressively [1].

Progressive overload can be achieved through increasing weight used, the number of reps performed, sets performed or even by getting the same number of reps with better technique. However, it is important to note that form should not be sacrificed at the expense of progressive overload.

Other Gym Members

Many new lifters are concerned about what others will think of them. However, the vast majority of gym members are more concerned about their own workouts than what you are doing.

Something that may seem like a big deal to you likely won’t even be noticed by most other gym members.

Beginners can Obtain Muscular Development Quickly


muscular development


An individual’s potential for muscular development will be at its highest when first starting to lift weights. Studies have shown young healthy males can add 4-5 pounds of lean mass in the first 10 weeks of weight training [6].

Over the first year of proper training, experts have estimated that a new male lifter can add between 15-25 pounds of muscle. A new female lifter may be able to add approximately half this amount.

The amount of muscle gained over the first year will depend upon a number of factors such as consistency with a nutrition and exercise plan, genetics [7] and if the individual is in an energy deficit. Maximum muscular development will likely not occur when an individual is not in an energy deficit.

However, as an individual becomes more trained, the rate of muscular development will be reduced. An experienced drug-free lifter may only be able to add 1-2 pounds of muscle annually (if that).

If the scale is not changing and you are getting stronger, it is a good sign that you are adding muscle, losing fat and improving body composition.

Moreover, for an experienced lifter, progress is going to be maximized by choosing either fat loss or muscular development as the primary goal because muscular development and fat loss will not occur simultaneously to a larger extent.

For a beginner, muscular development and fat loss can occur at the same time and to a significant extent. Studies in beginning lifters have observed meaningful amounts of fat loss and muscle development during the initial months of training [6].

If you are new to lifting weights, it is important to realize that body composition change can occur without the scale changing because you are at one of the few times where a significant amount of muscular development and fat loss can occur at the same time.

Other Markers of Progress


muscular development


Aside from the scale, there are a number of ways a new lifter can monitor progress:


Progress pictures can be a very powerful way to monitor progress over time. Typically, visual changes will occur quickly during the initial months of weight training; however, it is important that progress pictures aren’t taken too frequently to give change time to happen between sets of pictures.

In addition, it would be advisable to take pictures at the same time of day, in the same location/lighting and under the same conditions to be able to accurately assess progress.


A new lifter can gain strength rapidly. This increase in gym performance is important to track because if you are gaining strength, it is very likely you are also gaining muscle.

If the scale is not changing and you are getting stronger, it is a good sign that you are adding muscle, losing fat and improving body composition. We’ve seen this with many of our clients.

As new lifters in a calculated calorie deficit with their Custom Macro Blueprint, they have changed their body compositions considerably.

Body Measurements

Body measurements (such as waist and hip circumferences) can be a great way to monitor body composition change. Be sure to take body measurements under the same conditions.

How Clothes Fit

A common way many new lifters notice body composition change is in the fit of their clothes.

A Word of Caution on Body Fat Tests

Many individuals use body composition assessments to track progress. However, it is important to note that many of the methods typically available have a large amount of error. For example, bio-electrical impedance analysis commonly used at gyms has an error of +/- 8 percent [8].

To minimize error, it is important to measure body composition under the same conditions (for example, first thing in the morning, fasted, in minimal clothing and with an empty bladder).

It is also important to take the results into consideration along with other markers of progress as body composition measurements alone can have large error margins.

Using the Scale


muscular development


Many new lifters will want to use the scale to assess progress. Should you choose to use the scale, there are a few factors to take into consideration:

Daily Fluctuation

Body weight commonly fluctuates a few pounds daily. This due to a combination of factors such as sleep patterns, hormones, stress, salt intake, water intake, bowel movements, sweat and a number of other factors.

However, the daily changes in weight from these factors come primarily from water and intestinal food mass weight, not real tissue weight. Therefore, it is important to look at averages and trends rather than individual weigh-ins when assessing progress.

Time of Day

It is important to weigh-in at the same time of day under the same conditions to minimize fluctuation. An easy way to do this is to weigh first thing in the morning in minimal clothing prior to eating or drinking anything.

Menstrual Cycle

Many women will see an increase in water retention around the time of their monthly cycle. Therefore, it is important to keep this in mind when assessing body weight.

Take Home Points

In a new lifter, significant body composition change can occur without much change in body weight. As a result, it is going to be important for a new lifter to assess progress through alternative methods.

If you are seeing a visual change in your pictures, getting stronger in the gym, losing inches and noticing a positive change in the way clothes are fitting, screw the scale you are making progress!

The post New Lifters: Embrace The Muscle, Forget The Scale appeared first on IIFYM.

from Articles & Interviews – IIFYM

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Best Chest Workout Program to Build Mass

Big and perky, that’s how we like ‘em. Someone new walks in and it’s the first place our eyes snap to. No, I’m not talking about a bar scene, but actually, the gym and finding the best chest workout for a bigger pair is a seemingly never-ending journey.

A balanced physique is important, but every man out there hopes for a particularly impressive pair of pecs to show off to his bros and impress the ladies. Luckily, we share your passion for a nice pair, so we’ve created a guide with the best chest workout tips to help you maximize your efforts!

Incorporate the below principles in your training, and use tools like the IIFYM macro calculator to begin taking control of your diet, and fuel your way to the best chest workouts for a bigger, perkier pair!

Progressive Overload is a Pec Priority

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the best chest workout strategies for strength and size. Of the multitude of important factors, none are likely as important as progressive overload is in resistance training. Now, of course, we first need to make sure we’re executing the exercise properly to avoid injury and ensure full muscle activation.

Once that’s taken care of though, it’s extremely vital to consistently focus on lifting a given weight for more repetitions, or lifting a heavier weight each workout.

Our bodies, but especially our muscular systems, are extremely adaptive. Past the minimum necessary for daily activities, our bodies aren’t very interested in gaining slabs of muscles. It’s metabolically expensive to build and maintain, and especially with the relatively sedentary life most of us live, extra muscle isn’t really all that important to survival.

This makes it vital for us to have the best chest workout possible each session if we want to create sufficient stimulus for our bodies to then adapt by further developing muscle tissue.

Moving Past Adaptations


best chest workout


Too often, trainees hit the gym consistently yet use the same weight and repetitions each and every workout. 6 months later, they have nothing to show for their efforts. This is because as our neuromuscular system adapts to a training stimulus, it improves its ability to lift a given weight using less total muscle fibers and more efficient neurological signaling to the muscle.

As we get better at lifting, let’s say 200lbs for 3 sets of 10 reps, we eventually use less total muscle fibers to lift that weight.

What this means for athletes is not only a lack of strength and size progression but an actual regression in size over time. We not only don’t improve, but we actually begin to look worse without constantly pushing ourselves to lift more weight for more reps over time. (1) The best chest workout isn’t one particular rep scheme or list of exercises.

The best chest workout is one that that continually challenges us through more reps, more weight or more total sets completed over time.

 Rep Your Set

Anyone that’s followed my content here on knows I pretty much have to insert a reference to rap music somewhere in my articles. Well, Future isn’t the only one that “gotta rep the set.” When I program athletes’ training, there are three factors, in particular, I always keep in mind: Progressive overload, rep range manipulation, and training frequency.

The best chest workouts available are those that keep these as top priorities. Other factors are important, but these three, in particular, can vastly benefit athletes.

Once you’re consistently focusing on lifting more weight for more reps, it can be very beneficial to training a career for athletes to also manipulate their rep ranges each training block.

Without getting too technical, the best chest workouts incorporate a variety of rep ranges, all of which help promote muscular strength and size gains through different mechanisms. Varying rep ranges also helps promote sufficient central nervous system recovery, which encourages better long-term training performance.

Although a larger variety of rep ranges and training techniques can offer benefits, a very effective, general rule of thumb is to train exercises between a range of at least 1-12 rep sets, differing training load based on your one repetition max (1RM) and the percentage of that 1RM that coincides with the rep range we’re using for compound exercises. (2)


best chestworkout


1RM% Initial Loading Chart

Rep Range 1RM Percentage
2-4 90-95%
4-6 85-90%
6-8 80-85%
8-10 75-80%
10-12 70-75%

For isolation exercises, training load should be self-determined through warm up or “acclimation sets” which can help the athlete find the proper weight to use with exercises such as chest flies which don’t have a 1RM to base initial training load off of.

At this point, it’s important to make a concerted effort to complete your programmed rep range with the initial training load, then add more weight to the bar as often as possible (while making sure to keep safety the top priority).

Extremely high rep ranges (upwards of 20 reps) can also offer unique benefits to muscle growth such as cellular swelling and metabolic stress adaptions. For athletes just getting into a structured program, the best chest workout first focuses on 1-12 rep ranges, which can offer plenty of benefits. (3)

Then as training experience is gained, incorporating higher rep ranges in the neighborhood of 12-20 reps can add additional benefits through increased cellular swelling and metabolic stress within muscle tissue.

The best chest workouts include at least (2) of the below rep ranges to train in each training program. Compound exercises like presses can safely be executed anywhere between 1-12 repetition ranges. On the other hand, isolation exercise and exercises that can place a lot of stress on the shoulders such as dips are likely safer to perform between 6-12+ repetitions per set. (4)

If training chest twice per week, try programming a different rep range focus on both days. This will allow you to more effectively maximize the best chest workouts and the muscular adaptions they can promote.

For example, your training programming may look something like this:

Training Block 1 (Week 1-12)
Day 1 Rep Range Focus: 4-6 Reps

Day 2 Rep Range Focus: 10-12 Reps

Training Block 1 (Week 13-24)
Day 1 Rep Range Focus: 2-4 Reps

Day 2 Rep Range Focus: 8-10 Reps

Training Block 1 (Week 25-36)
Day 1 Rep Range Focus: 5-7 Reps

Day 2 Rep Range Focus: 10-12 Reps

By this point, you likely get the idea. Every 8-16 weeks, shifting the rep ranges you emphasize in your training can help you continually get the best chest workout possible.

Tune into the Right Frequency


best chest workout


The third major factor in creating the best chest workout program, and really the best training program in general, is determining the most appropriate training frequency for your goals. As the below chart helps reflect, for those just beginning a structured training program, hitting each major muscle group just 1x/week can provide a lot of benefits early on and allow for athletes to better adapt and recover sufficiently to the new training stimuli.

Then, as our bodies positively adapt to training, largely through a mechanism commonly termed the “repeated bout effect” we gradually improve our ability to sufficiently handle greater training frequencies. (5,6)

A safe rule of thumb is 6 months of more of consistent training, athletes can then begin incorporating increased training frequency by hitting each major muscle group twice each week.

This increased training frequency benefits resistance-training athletes by more effectively taking advantage of training induced muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the recovery and growth mechanism responsible for muscle tissue getting bigger and stronger.

Research has helped show that MPS is heightened for approximately 36-48 hours after a resistance training session. So if you train chest on Monday, MPS will be increased and muscle tissue will be repairing and growing until around Wednesday evening.

Keep in mind that as frequency increases, volume should be adjusted accordingly does allow sufficient recovery from week to week.

The Best Chest Workout Frequencies by Experience Level

Beginner (training less than 6 months)
– Each major muscle group 1x/week

Intermediate (6+ months)
– Each major muscle group 2x/week

Advanced (12 months+)
– Each major muscle group 2x/week
– Increase frequency of weak muscle groups to 3 or even 4x/week periodically

This is important because, as we’re able to, training chest again later in the week can help us maximize the “spikes” in MPS we can achieve each week.

If we continued only training chest on Mondays, then Thursday-Sunday of that week we’re missing out on time we can produce more stimulus for growth. Even though Monday is typically “national chest day” in most gyms, the trainees hitting chest again on Thursday or Friday will achieve the best chest workout benefits than those following an old school bodybuilding split and only training each muscle group once.

In most cases, training each major muscle group twice each week, separated by at least 48 hours, can be a very good spot for athletes.

The exception being competitive weightlifters or those with noticeable weak areas they are determined to bring up. If competing in power lifting meets, increasing the frequency of barbell squats, deadlifts, and bench press greater than twice each week is common as the skill of each lift is better perfected leading into the competition.


best chest workout


The Advanced Require More Frequency

For the rest of us, increasing training frequency of a weak area to 3 or even 4 times each week in some capacity can provide benefits.

In the case of a weak chest which many of us deal with, this may mean having two designated chest workouts each week, then incorporating a third day of a bench press or fly variation in order to increase the frequency we’re able to stimulate our chest muscles.

This can help us maximize MPS stimulation while also improving the motor pattern of chest exercises, allowing us to get better at the skill of the exercise, and more effectively gain strength through it.

As a side note, it’s important not to overdo our training frequency. Sometimes increasing weak point training frequency has its benefit. At the same time though, the best chest workout program can quickly become a bad program if frequency or volume reaches a point in which recovery begins taking a major hit and we begin feeling too run down to perform effectively.

Work Your Angles

You don’t have to be a model to appreciate the importance of working your best angles. In resistance training in general, but especially when focusing on getting a bigger chest, the best chest workouts will take advantage of the variations in muscle activation that training in multiple movement patterns can produce.

A study in 2010 helped support the benefit of training in multiple angles by comparing activation in flat, 28°, 44° and 56° chest press to determine the best chest workout exercises. Results of the study showed that activation of the clavicular head of the pectoralis major was highest in 44° and 56° incline presses.

On the other hand, activation of the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major was higher at angles closest to 0° presses.(7)

Another study in 2016 resulted in similar findings, with the addition of -15° decline bench press activation measurements. In this study, not very surprisingly, flat and decline bench presses activate more lower pec musculature. 30° and 45° bench press activated more upper pec.

Each angle incorporated differing proportions of the measured pectoral recruitment, suggesting that each angle likely provides unique benefits to muscle growth.(8,9)

Simple Rule of Thumb For the Best Chest Workout



With this said, multiple training sessions each week, with progressive overload in mind will provide large benefits regardless of exercise selection. However, logical exercise selections in each training program can help trainees further maximize results. This can be achieved in a variety of programming methods.

However, a simple rule of thumb can be to include at least 1 variation of chest exercise in each of the major angles offered in the average gym- 0° (flat), 30-45° (incline) and -15° (decline) in each training program.

Then, periodically adjust the portion each training block is focused on a given angle. For example, 8 weeks of 85% flat and incline and just 15% decline.

Then the following 8 weeks shift focus to 60% of sets in flat and incline, and the remaining 40% of chest volume toward decline. The exact percentages of training volume don’t exactly matter. The point is varying the amount of training dedicated to a given angle can help provide the best chest workout balance over time.

Inclined to get a Bigger Chest?

A quick note on incline presses and fly movements. Be careful to err on the side of caution when adjusting your incline movements. In an effort to maximize angles for total chest activation, you may be tempted to raise your incline very high to maximize angle variation.

Doing so, as you may imagine, can lead to overstressing the shoulder joint and inferior chest activation. A good rule of thumb (chest in this case) is to work between -15° decline up to 45° incline movements. Doing so can help keep your shoulders healthy and chest activation high. When in doubt, flatten it out.

Decline the Invitation to Small Pecs

Walk into a gym and flat & incline movements are being performed all over. Decline movements, on the other hand, seem to be a bit rarer. Granted, decline movements do typically require more set up time.

However, both anecdotal and scientific evidence help highlight the great benefit trainees can reap from consistently performing them.

Although decline fly movements or dumbbell work can be a logistical pain in the pec to set up. Taking advantages of a decline barbell and smith machine bench press can be a great asset to trainees focused betting the best chest workout possible.

It’s a great movement to really overload the muscle, offers a great stimulus to both the lower and middle portions of the chest muscles, and some studies have even shown similar activation in the upper chest compared to a 30° incline bench press.

Needless to say, data like this helps make the decline bench press a big hitter for getting a bigger chest. (10)


Devil’s in the Details

We can give exercise suggestions and workout plans to help you grow your chest. Without ironing out the details though, the best chest workout is still likely to leave a lot to be desired in the growth department. To get a bigger chest, we first need to stay healthy enough to train consistently in the first place.

Not to mention, details such as bench press form and preventative exercises can help us better activate the muscles we’re focused on growing in the first place. Below are some of the best chest workout primers to help you do just that.

Mind your Bench

A gym is a respectable place, so we can’t have benches going wild every time things get a little exciting. We’re all pumped to get bigger, but taking time to mind the details that can form a better bench foundation. A foundation that will support better muscle activation and go a long way in ensuring more consistent progression.  

If you haven’t already, the mind-muscle connection is something I’ve touched on previously in my “The Best Back Exercises to Increase Pull Up Volume” article here on After reading this, check out that section for a thorough explanation of why an efficient mind-muscle connection for physique development is so beneficial.

In brief, in order to really achieve the best chest workout, it’s vital to make sure your pecs, not your pipes, are doing the majority of the work during your chest exercises.

As with any training session, making sure to warm up prior to hitting your working sets can greatly reduce risks of injury. As well as improve the elasticity and contractile force of muscle tissue and better nutrient transport to working muscles prior to getting into the heavy lifting.

That being said, performing some exercise specific warm ups just prior to starting your actual session can help you get better contractions. In turn, better activate your chest and perform your exercise more efficiently for more consistent growth.

The main goal with these primers are simply getting a better feel for activating your pec muscles and getting in the mindset of using your pecs to do the majority of the work- not your shoulders and arms.

Performing a few sets of cable or pec deck flies, along with some isolated pec contractions can help you get into that mindset before getting into your warm up sets of your first actual exercise.

The Best Chest Workout Primers

Exercise Sets Reps
Pec Deck Fly 1-2 8-10
Standard Push-Ups 1-2 8-10
Pec Contractions 1-2 8-10

The key to each of these is to go light on all three. These aren’t meant to be pre-exhausting exercises, but purely to help you gain better activation by focusing on contracting your pec muscles to finish off your warm up. Pec deck flies and push-ups are self-explanatory. Pec Contractions are a bit more obscure though.

Pec deck flies and push-ups are self-explanatory. Pec Contractions are a bit more obscure though.

Although it may sound odd, I’ve found that simply concentrating on getting a full contraction in my pecs several times before getting in my working sets really helps me activate my pecs during movements like bench press.

Simply sit on a bench or stand up somewhere, and fully squeeze your pecs and hold for ~1 second, relax and repeat as need. You’ll notice more blood coming into your pec muscles, and a generally better ability to really activate your pecs as you move into your working sets.

Fine Tune your Form

As this section highlights, building and refining our base can be huge in progressing more consistently in your pec pursuits. This holds especially true when it comes to your bench press form. It may be a boring topic, but keeping a constant eye on proper form can help us all make sure we’re training effectively and safely throughout our careers.

After all, it’s hard to see results from even the best chest workout if we’re constantly nursing nagging shoulder or wrist pain, or heaven forbad a torn pec. Each person’s form will vary a bit based on differences in body structure, however, there are some general pointers that can help you make sure your bench press is allowing you to better grow your chest and prevent being sidelined by injuries.

Each person’s form will vary a bit based on differences in body structure, however, there are some general pointers that can help you make sure your bench press is allowing you to better grow your chest and prevent being sidelined by injuries.

Bench Press Tips

  1. Retract shoulders to form a solid base
  2. “Pull apart” bar with your hands to increase stability and pressing power
  3. Plant feet fully on the floor to maximize force output and low back safety
  4. Try to keep elbows at around 45°, not 90° to your torso to maintain shoulder health
  5. Keep wrists in line with forearms to take stress of wrist and forearm

Prehab Your Pecs

Another less sexy, but very significant factor in consistently having the best chest workout is to consider performing some “prehab” work to keep your shoulder complex healthy and able to support your chest training.

The extent of which prehab work is necessary for a trainee will depend on factors such as current shoulder health and overall pressing volume focus.

However, if you’re noticing frequent tweaks and pains in your shoulders, along with taking necessary rest to prevent any major injury, it could be prudent to add in some rotator cuff work to your programming.

Doing some brief rotator cuff work at the end of 1-2 training sessions per week can help strengthen and maintain ideal rotator cuff strength.

Although this may not directly grow your pecs, it can go a long way in keeping you healthy and more capable of giving maximal effort in your chest training.

After all, the best chest workout is a healthy chest workout. Focusing on going very light and executing a full range of motion, try periodically adding the below exercises at the end of 1-2 of your training sessions to ensure healthy rotator cuffs and more chest training.

Prehab Exercises

Exercise Sets Reps
Standing, Rotator Cuff External Rotations* 1-2 12-20
Standing, Rotator Cuff Internal Rotations* 1-2 12-20
Band Pull Aparts 1-2 12-20

*Can use a physical therapy band, exercise band or cable station

Putting it All Together

At this point, it is pretty clear that a lot of considerations play into creating the best chest workout, with the details of the plan personalized to each individual. Each person will have differing needs in terms of total training volume, frequency, and exercise selection. As you apply these principles though, you can personalize them to benefit your personal progression. To highlight how all these factors may come together in an actual training program, below is a full workout template reflecting the best chest workout principles.

As you apply these principles though, you can personalize them to benefit your personal progression. To highlight how all these factors may come together in an actual training program, below is a full workout template reflecting the best chest workout principles.

This template is based around a relatively lower training volume block for someone just starting to hit chest twice each week, without any one portion of his or her chest being much weaker than another. A generally balanced proportion of movement angles, some prehab work for longevity, and a moderate rep range variation to comprise the best chest workout to base your training off of. If hitting all body parts twice each week, the other muscle group in each session should be performed after finishing the chest exercises if chest growth is a major focus in your training.

A generally balanced proportion of movement angles, some prehab work for longevity, and a moderate rep range variation to comprise the best chest workout to base your training off of. If hitting all body parts twice each week, the other muscle group in each session should be performed after finishing the chest exercises if chest growth is a major focus in your training.

The “Best Chest Workout” Template

Monday (Day 1: 4-6 Rep Focus)

Exercise Sets Reps
Flat Barbell Bench Press 4 4-6
30° Smith Machine Incline Chest Press 3 4-6
Bodyweight or Weighted Dips 3 10-12
Standing, Rotator Cuff External Rotations* 2 12-15
Standing, Rotator Cuff Internal Rotations* 2 12-15

Thursday (Day 2: 10-12 Rep Focus)

Exercise Sets Reps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 4 4-6
15° Decline Barbell Bench Press 4 10-12
Standing Incline Cable Fly 3 10-12
Band Pull Aparts 2 16-18 

*5-10 minute general warm up and chest specific warm ups performed before each training session.

At the end of the day, there’s honestly isn’t one best chest workout. The exact workout an athlete needs and choose can vary quite considerably. There are some very important principles that should apply to every athlete, and help them design the best chest workout for their personal needs and preferences. Place these pec-building principles in your program and start having your best chest workout, every workout!

Place these pec-building principles in your program and start having your best chest workout, every workout!

The post The Best Chest Workout Program to Build Mass appeared first on IIFYM.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Part 1: Why Fad Diets Are Ruining The Fitness Industry


It’s no secret that weight loss is a popular goal among many people today. Even though obesity rates do continue to climb, it seems as though we’re turning a corner; as more people than ever are starting to get interested in health, fitness, and flexible dieting.

Along with this increased interest, we’ve also seen a rise in the number of products, services, and other items aimed at helping people reach their weight loss goals. A great tool, for instance, is the IIFYM macro calculator.

And while there are a lot of great things that have come from this fitness boom, one of the most detrimental, confusing, and outright harmful things to come out of has been the rise of fad diets.

Diets, Dieters, and Fad Dieting

According to the dictionary, the main definition of the word “diet” is, “the kind of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. So, to get all technical on you, we all have a diet; it’s the food we eat.

But somewhere along the line, the meaning changed from “having” a diet, to “being on” a diet; where you’re intentionally restricting your food for the purpose of weight loss.

And it’s this shift in perspective that I believe has caused us to stop looking at “a diet” as something that should be better understood in order to improve our overall health, and instead, has caused people to start looking at it as something to fear.

The Fad Diet Evolution


fad diets


With the rise of bodybuilding in the 70s and 80s, so too came a rise in the popularity of strength training, working out, and getting in shape.

However, where a bodybuilder was concerned with “having” a diet that supported not only muscle growth but also increased energy and overall health, the general population – most of whom were more concerned with losing weight and looking skinnier – adopted diets as something you needed to “be on” in order to reach their goals.

Much of this coincided with the “low-fat” craze of the 80s and 90s. As waistlines began to expand, and cardiovascular disease increased, the health industry needed a plan of attack.

And since fat is what’s found in blocked arteries, while also containing high amounts of cholesterol, this became the natural scapegoat.

When diets are this restrictive it drains your willpower and your energy. It forces you to think of food in terms of “good” and “bad” – a dangerous mindset to fall into.

Since then, fad diets have evolved to include such things as very low-carb, paleo, clean eating, the HCG diet, cleanses, detoxes, and much more.

In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at fad diets, why they are so harmful to our health and our fitness goals, and how to structure a “diet” that is right for you.

But before we do that, we first need to define what fad diets actually are, and why they are complete garbage.

What Is A “Fad” Diet?

While there’s no official definition of a “Fad Diet”, they do share a number of characteristics, including promoting weight loss, promising dramatic results, and being unsustainable.

The nature of fad diets can lead to a number of problems:

They’re Unsustainable


fad diets


One of the biggest problems with fad diets is that, by their very nature, they aren’t sustainable. Fads are movements that come and go, and the same is true of fad diets.

Think about it; if a fad was popular, it would stick around. And then it wouldn’t be a fad. Well, the same is true of diets. If a diet worked; if it was sustainable, enjoyable, and helped people lose fat, then it wouldn’t be a fad. It would stick around, unlike these fad diets.

If you can’t stick with a diet long enough to reach your goals – or you can’t transition into a lifestyle that allows you to maintain after you reach your goals – then the diet doesn’t work.

They’re Too Restrictive

The biggest reason why a diet may be unsustainable is that it’s too restrictive (a popular theme among fad diets). Fad diets often severely limit your food choices; with these foods often being the ones you enjoy most. When diets are this restrictive it drains your willpower and your energy. It forces you to think of food in terms of “good” and “bad” – a dangerous mindset to fall into.

IIFYM blueprint

For a majority of people, they can only restrict themselves so long before they fall off the wagon, crash, binge, and undo most of their progress.

This leads into the next reason why fad diets don’t work; they don’t teach you how to eat.

Short-Term Results

Fad diets have a common theme in that, they ban certain foods, while only allowing you to eat certain others. In essence, they tell you what to eat and what not to eat; instead of teaching you how to eat.

The problem with this is, what happens when the diet ends? What do you do?

Say you’re following a low-carb diet. Your goal was to lose 20 pounds and congrats, you reached it! Now what? Are you just suppose to go without pizza, ice cream, donuts, and all the other delicious carby-foods the rest of your life, just to maintain your progress?


fad diets


No. That’s stupid.

Unfortunately, fad diets don’t teach you what to do when you reach this point; so what most people do – through no fault of their own – is immediately stop following the diet, thinking, “Okay, I hit my goals, so the diets over.” and reintroduce the foods that were banned.

And as a lot of you reading this probably know, that’s a recipe for disaster; as most often end up undoing all of their progress; sometimes even ending up worse off than when they started.

Potentially Harmful

Last, but not least, fad diets can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, when it comes to nutrition, there is no blanket solution that works for everyone. That’s why we evaluate each client separately when creating a Custom Macro Blueprint.

Sure, someone may have success on a very low-carb diet plan, but for others, just jumping into a fad diet without knowing the specifics of how it could affect you, could be harmful to your health.

Breaking Down Popular Fad Diets

Now we’re going to breakdown some of the more popular fad diets that you’ll come across.

The HCG Diet

I don’t like to admit this, but this is a fad diet I fell victim to early in my fat loss journey.

HCG – or human chorionic gandotropin – is a hormone found in the early stages of pregnancy. Actually, it’s the hormone that results in a positive pregnancy test.

HCG is also used to boost fertility in both women and men.

Somewhere along the way, however, it became the belief that HCG also contains metabolism-boosting, and hunger-curbing properties as well.


fad diets


The HCG diet requires the participant to take HCG drops daily, while maintaining a 500 calorie per day diet, for 3-6 weeks.

Now, considering the average person burns about 2,000 per day, where do you think the weight loss is coming from? The HCG, or the massive daily calorie deficit?

In fact, multiple studies comparing HCG injections to placebos have shown that it’s the ultra-low calorie diet responsible for the weight loss; not the HCG.(1)(2)(3)(4)

Another huge problem with a calorie deficit that large is that you’re likely to see drastic reductions in muscle mass, in addition to fat. This is going to cause your metabolism to slow down even quicker.

Lastly, not only does HCG do nothing for weight loss, the plan could potentially be dangerous. Not only are the ingredients unregulated and unknown, but the massive calorie deficit can lead to feelings of fatigue, headaches, severe hunger, and possible depression.

Juice Cleanses/Detoxes

These aren’t so much as diets as they are all-out assaults on your body, but I include them here anyway because they are ridiculously popular.

Basically, these “diets” require you to not eat anything for anywhere from a few days to upwards of a week.

Our bodies are way ahead of us when it comes to this. Think about it, if our bodies weren’t able to “detox” themselves, we wouldn’t be able to function, or even survive.

The only foodstuffs you can consume during this time is some liquefied combination of fruits and vegetables or some sort of powder (which you usually have to buy from whoever is promoting the program…shocker).

The food we eat plays a role in how our body functions. When you stop eating food and replace it with low-calorie shakes and drinks, your body is going to react accordingly.

You’re going to be miserable, tired, cranky, hungry and just not pleasant to be around.

We’re Always Detoxing


fad diets


Detoxing is also unnecessary.

Our bodies are way ahead of us when it comes to this. Think about it, if our bodies weren’t able to “detox” themselves, we wouldn’t be able to function, or even survive. Our digestive tract, colon, kidneys, liver and even skin all play a role in expelling unwanted waste from our body.

If you really want to “detox” naturally, without having to purchase expensive drinks and put yourself through hell, try increasing your consumption of lean protein and colorful fruits and vegetables, while decreasing your consumption of highly processed foods.

Whole foods such as animal protein, fruits, and vegetables help rid the body of toxins, so cutting these out of your diet makes absolutely zero sense.

Which is why we suggest balance with our clients and set up their Macro Blueprints geared towards sustainability.

These types of diets can appear to provide promising results; sometimes upwards of ten pounds lost in just a few days. But what do you think’s going to happen when you remove solid food from your diet?

Often this “weight loss” is nothing more than just water, and as soon as you add solid food back to your diet plan, you’ll gain it back.

Very Low-Fat Diets

While very low-fat diets aren’t as popular as they used to be. Unfortunately, there still are a large number of health professionals that recommend them to their patients, even though no long-term studies have shown any benefits of a very low-fat diet.

First, by its nature, a very low-fat diet discourages the consumption of some perfectly healthy foods, namely animal proteins. Because many animal proteins are naturally high in saturated fat and cholesterol, the low-fat crowd demonized them because cholesterol and saturated fat were supposedly bad for our health.

But in reality, there’s nothing to fear from these. In fact, the cholesterol in eggs and other animal proteins has been shown to have a positive effect on HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.(5)

Low-Fat, But Not Healthy


fad diets


The second problem with a low-fat diet is that it encourages the consumption of unhealthy foods. When the low-fat craze started, food companies jumped at the chance to market low-fat foods to consumers.

Yet, the problem is when you take all the fat out of something it winds up tasting terrible. So companies replace the fat with lots of refined and highly processed sugars which can jack up the calories. Not exactly a great trade.

Lastly, very low-fat diets are closely associated with low testosterone levels. Fat is needed to produce testosterone.(6) Low testosterone levels are associated with decreased muscle mass, depression, decreased libido, and an increase in body fat.

According to the American Heart Association, fat should make up no less than 15% of your total daily caloric intake. However, recent research suggests that optimal fat intake falls between 20-35% per day.(6)(7)

As you can see, there are many negatives to a very low-fat diet, while very few, if any positives. And while the low-fat craze isn’t as popular as it once was, the amount of “low-fat” products you still see on store shelves shows that not everyone gets it; proving the low-fat fad isn’t over quite yet.

That’s it for Part 1 of our article on Fad Diets. Stay tuned for Part 2; where we’ll talk about some more popular fad diets that, while they offer promising results, may not be right for you.

The post Part 1: Why Fad Diets Are Ruining The Fitness Industry appeared first on IIFYM.

from Articles & Interviews – IIFYM

Thursday, August 17, 2017

6 Ways You Can Optimize Muscle Soreness Recovery


Muscle soreness recovery after a workout is often overlooked by many fitness professionals, athletes, and bodybuilders.

For many, they place large amounts of focus and preparation on getting to the gym, optimizing supplement timings, pinpointing every meal and macro but then forget to optimize a key pillar in sports performance and muscle growth, their muscle soreness recovery or capabilities.

As a result, many experience intense muscle soreness, also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which can be painful and affect your workouts for several days. Along with the general discomfort and impact on your workout, it can also lead to increased injury risk, a decrease in your anabolic hormones and lowered immune system.

Along with the general discomfort and impact on your workout, it can also lead to increased injury risk, a decrease in your anabolic hormones and lowered immune system.

It’s clear your muscle soreness recovery is key. At the end of the day, your ability to recover is probably a key factor limiting your progression and ability to train harder, more often and obtain better results.

Another massive factor that can limit your physical progress is your diet, start with our macro calculator to dial in your nutrition.


Here are 6 scientifically proven methods you can apply today to maximize recovery:

1. Cool Down to Improve Muscle Soreness Recovery


muscle soreness recovery


To make these tips even more actionable we’re going to take them in order, starting from the last set of your next workout.

Cool down is skipped by most – ultimately, you’ve worked hard and are fatigued, ready to go home for some much-earned nutrition.

Your nutrition is the cornerstone of muscle soreness recovery, our clients rebound well from their workouts with a Custom Macro Blueprint.

However, a cool down can still be important, especially when optimizing muscle soreness recovery and reducing DOMS the next day.

The intensity of your workout will tend to gauge how much time you need to dedicate to a cool down. However, as a general rule of thumb 5 – 10 minutes should suffice.

One reason muscle soreness recovery is important is that it helps remove by-products that accumulate within the body while training; these include hydrogen ions and other markers such as lactate, also referred to as lactic acid.

Lactate production is associated with increases in hydrogen ion, which causes fatigue and gives us that burning feeling when we’re running or lifting weights.

While these processes are completely normal during a workout, it is important to remove these by-products from the blood as quickly as possible after a workout to improve muscle soreness recovery and keep DOMS at bay (1).

How does this affect performance?

As mentioned, this isn’t just the key to reducing DOMS, it can actually help you become a better athlete or improve performance.

Two researchers compared the effects of an active cool down versus no cool down on University soccer players after a soccer match. They showed that the cool down group had better scores on both the vertical and broad jump performance.

Also, in the 30-meter sprint test the non-cool down group demonstrated sprint time reductions 50% greater compared to the cool down group!

Muscle soreness ratings 48hours after were also significantly lower in the cool down group compared to the non-cool down (2).

Applying a cool down is a lot easier than you may think. In the study listed above their cool down consisted of:

  • 5 min of light jogging
  • 5 min of light stretching
  • 2 minutes lying with their legs raised while another player “shakes them down”

Other ways our clients have applied a cool down include, 5 minutes of light activity on a treadmill, elliptical or another cardio machine.

Lastly, you can even perform similar movements during your workout just at a lower intensity, promoting fresh blood flow without the accumulation of waste products.

If you’re using an IIFYM exercise routine, then adding 20 minutes of low-intensity cardio will fit seamlessly into your cool down. Check out this example here on IIFYM, best cardio for fat loss.

2. Foam Roll To Improve Muscle Soreness Recovery


muscle soreness recovery


After you perform your active cool down, another muscle soreness recovery tip you can apply while still in the gym is foam rolling.

Foam rolling has been previously shown to correct muscular imbalances, alleviate muscle soreness, relieve joint stress, improve neuro muscular efficiency and even improve range of motion (3,4).

While it is a very common practice, its effectiveness on improving muscle soreness recovery had not been researched extensively until recently.

In one study, the researchers took 20 highly resistance-trained males and split them into two groups. Both groups performed an intense workout bout consisting of 10 sets of 10 reps of squats! The only difference was that one group foam rolled after the 10 sets whereas the other did not.

Alterations in tissue temperature may also reduce muscle spasms, inflammation and even improve range of motion (10,11).

Performance measurements and perceived pain scales were taken for the following three days, showing significantly reduced muscle soreness for those who foam rolled.

They also witnessed improved muscle activation, jump height and greater range of movement compared to the group that did not foam roll (5).

It appears that foam rolling works as a method to improve muscle soreness recovery by decreasing pain and inflammation through increasing blood flow to the muscle-tendon surface. Just perform 5 minutes after the cool down, focusing on the working muscle groups (6).

3. Post Workout Protein Increases Muscle Soreness Recovery


muscle soreness recovery


After you’ve cooled down and foam rolled it’s time to improve muscle soreness recovery with some post workout nutrition.

Whey protein is a staple workout supplement and for good reason, it contains key essential amino acids which are vital for muscle growth and recovery.

It also increases your daily protein intake and takes you out of a negative catabolic state that may have occurred during the workout. In short, when trying to build muscle you must be in a positive protein balance, which is essentially having greater rates of protein synthesis compared to protein breakdown.

When taking your shake after the workout dozens of studies have shown it spikes the key biological driver of growth and recovery, known as muscle protein synthesis and therefore decreases muscle protein breakdown (7,8)!

breastfeeding calories

Recently, a systematic review was conducted where 22 studies were pooled together in an attempt to examine the effects of protein consumption post workout and the subsequent effects on muscle soreness recovery.

The results demonstrated that protein supplementation has a positive effect on recovery, showing an increase in both lean mass (0.69kg) and strength (13.5kg) compared to placebo groups (9).

Try taking 1 – 2 scoops of whey protein around 30-60 minutes after you work out.

Deciding how much protein you need to consume through supplementation and diet is often a misunderstood concept, that could potentially be holding your recovery back. To make it easier for you, we’ve broken it down in a separate article on IIFYM. Check it out here, how much protein is enough while dieting.

4. Contrast Water Therapy to Reduce Muscle Soreness


muscle soreness recovery


Contrast water therapy is a relatively new phenomenon that encompasses all of the benefits from similar recovery methods including cryotherapy and cold water immersion.

While methods such as cryotherapy can work well, they are less practical on a daily basis. However, contrast therapy is simple to perform; all you need to do is alternate between cold and warm water immersion, which can even be done at home if you have two baths.

Contrast water therapy may reduce muscle soreness and damage by increasing blood flow and alternating peripheral vasoconstriction and dilation. Alterations in tissue temperature may also reduce muscle spasms, inflammation and even improve range of motion (10,11).

In addition, sleep also affects 2 more positive hormones, Testosterone and Growth hormone, which basically do the opposite, helping your cells repair and helping them re-grow (16,17).

Recently, a meta-analysis was conducted that looked at the effects of contrast water therapy on muscle soreness recovery. These researchers grouped 18 studies together and found that cold water therapy resulted in significantly greater improvements in muscle soreness compared to passive recovery without it.

These researchers also found that contrast water therapy significantly reduced muscle strength loss after intense exercise to a greater degree compared to other methods of recovery (12).

How to Apply?

  • Cold Water Immersion (8°-15°C) 1 Minute
  • Hot Water Immersion (35.5°-45°C) – 1-3 Minutes
  • Alternate for 3-5 times per session

5. Take These Supplements to Improve Muscle Soreness Recovery


muscle soreness recovery


Along with the basic whey protein, a few other supplements have been shown to aid in muscle soreness recovery.

These supplements include anti-inflammatory and antioxidants that boost cellular repair, remove waste products and drastically reduce DOMS.

A few of the best include Tart cherry juice dosed at 12 oz & Vitamin C & E dosed at 500mg.

In one study, tart cherry juice and its effects in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage were investigated. 14 male college students drank either a 12oz tart cherry juice or placebo 2x a day for 8 days.

On the fourth day of supplementation, both groups underwent a damaging exercise protocol. Strength, pain, and muscle tenderness were recorded for the following four days.

At the conclusion of testing, the control group demonstrated strength losses of up to 22%, whereas the tart cherry juice condition only lost 4%. Pain levels were also significantly lower following tart cherry juice supplementation (13).

Of course, the sample size is small, but this study is promising!

To Support Supplementation For Muscle Soreness Recovery

In another investigation looking at the effects of dietary supplementation with Vitamin C & E similar improvements were noted.

Those who supplemented with vitamin E & C prior to a damaging exercise bout were able to better maintain strength and maximal isometric contractions in the following sessions compared to control (14).

These results indicate that both tart cherry juice and Vitamin C&E may be beneficial supplements to improve muscle soreness recovery.

Try adding these in the evening, a few hours after the workout. It’s best to not take them straight after you train as they may block the positive adaptations we want from our training.

By taking it closer to the night-time you can maximize both positive adaptations and boost recovery. Just as your diet does, optimize it with a Custom Macro Blueprint.

While these supplements have been backed by research, a lot of common supplements on the market today aren’t and may give you side effects. For this reason, we’ve identified 6 side effects a common supplement and how to avoid them. Check it out in this IIFYM article, pre-workout side effects.

6. Sleep More To Improve Muscle Soreness Recovery


muscle soreness recovery


Lastly, after you cool down, foam roll, drink your protein and take a couple baths we have exactly what you were hoping for, a good night’s sleep!

Not only is sleep vital for cognitive function and your overall health, but it is also essential to optimize muscle soreness recovery, hormone production and performance.

Sleep is basically when your body hits the reset button and goes into recovery mode to prepare you for the next day, repairing damaged cells while you sleep.

If you deprive yourself of sleep not only are you impairing cognitive and immune function but also hormonal function (15).

Sleep alters some key hormones such as cortisol, which is often viewed as a catabolic hormone that can impact our muscle soreness recovery, reduce performance, energy and causes chronic fatigue and constant DOMS. We’ve seen clients deal with this issue on multiple occasions due to stress and lack of sleep.

In addition, sleep also affects 2 more positive hormones, Testosterone and Growth hormone, which basically do the opposite, helping your cells repair and helping them re-grow (16,17).

Ultimately, a good night’s sleep helps keep cortisol in a healthy range which ensures your Testosterone and Growth hormone levels are optimized.

As a result of insufficient sleep, your physique and muscle soreness recovery become negatively impacted. Thus, to make sure you’re recovering optimally aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.

5 quick tips for improved sleep habits

  • No caffeine, pre-workouts or stimulants after 3 pm.
  • Reduce the use of your TV/laptop/phone screens at least 2-hours before bed to block out blue light, which tricks our brain to think it’s daytime.
  • Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black.
  • Drink Bed Time Tea or take sleep aid supplements such as ZMA or Melatonin.
  • Read a non-fiction book for 5-15 minutes before bed.

Optimize Your Muscle Soreness Recovery Today

As you can see from all the research, your workout recovery habits can result in reduced DOMS and increased performance and progress towards your goals.

To see significant and immediate improvements in muscle soreness recovery try adding these six key tips into your routine today:

  1.  Cool down for 5-15 minutes after each workout, this can be light cardio or 1-2 light sets of that muscle group.
  2. Use a foam roller and roll the working muscle group for 3-4 minutes after your cooldown.
  3. Drink around 1-2 scoops of whey protein after the gym, ideally within the first 60 minutes post workout.
  4. Try applying contrast water therapy or other cold therapy techniques if you have access to them.
  5. Take certain supplements, including antioxidants such as Tart Cherry Juice and Vitamin C & E.
  6. Make sure you optimize sleep, aiming for at least 7-8 hours of sleep or more if needed.

Lastly, an aspect that seems obvious for muscle soreness recovery, your DIET plan. It plays a massive role in recuperating and restoring energy. We’ve witnessed countless clients recover better once they’ve dialed in their nutrition.

If you are struggling in this realm, have one of our coaches build your Custom Macro Blueprint.


The post 6 Ways You Can Optimize Muscle Soreness Recovery appeared first on IIFYM.

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