Where has my muscle gone!?

Ok so I have had a pretty hectic couple of months with my personal life. There has been a family death on my side and another on my partners side. This has meant travelling 200 miles south west and back again, then 200 miles north and back again. Teaming this with 2 weeks of trapped nerves in my neck and a car that’s been out of action, it’s lead to me being out of the gym for almost 2 months… and damn am I feeling it!

Here’s a couple of action shots!

I went back to the gym for a week 2 weeks ago, and then I was off again. From today I haven’t got any plans to go anywhere so I am back to training. I’m booking in for a sports massage and getting my strength back up. Today I had a go at snatching and boy has my strength dropped. Only managing a mere 40kg sadly.

But I’m stocked up on protein, chicken and vegetables. I’ve got myself a new half gallon water jug (hopefully my boyfriend won’t throw this one out) and I plan on being 100% badass and back on the game from this week on wards.

Missing the gym isn’t just detrimental for my valuable gains, but it’s also pretty bad for my mental health and my sanity. My whole self worth goes downhill, I feel a mess and a retreat into my little shell, my mojo goes, my motivation goes and so does my love for life.

So here’s to gains, a healthy mind and finding my motivation again. Let’s get it.

‘But I don’t wanna get big’

Ladies… Do not fear the weights room! I promise you, that strength training WILL NOT make you big.

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Let’s look at what it takes in order to build substantial amounts of muscle.

  1. An intense strength programme.
    Unless you are training 6/7 days a week, having 2 hour, hard sessions twice a day and hammering the weights HARD every session, with little to no cardio (or the right kind of cardio) then building muscle is going to be a very slow process. As a female myself, I have been trying to ‘get big’ for years. I strength train 5 days a week mostly, and the majority of the time to failure… I’m yet to ‘get big’

    2. FOOD!
    You would not even believe the amount you would have to consume in order to sustain that level of training. Let alone the amount of protein intake you would need to repair the muscle and recover from your training. I’m not talking eating a little bit more chicken and adding a bit more protein and carbs to your diet. I am talking hitting 4000 calories or more PER DAY. You can not build muscle unless you are consuming a surplus in calories. Most women, in order to build muscle will need around 2500-2800 calories a day out of that you would need to eat 30% at least in protein in order to repair and recover. Let me put this into perspective for you. 30% of 2500 is 750 calories from protein, Which is just over SIX CHICKEN BREASTS, and that’s PER DAY! Without the necessary food intake for your training you will not be able to build a substantial amount of muscle. (This goes for men too)

    3. Testosterone
    To look like a man,, you have to be built like a man, and ladies… We are most definitely not. You can not build muscle without testosterone. FACT. Men with lower levels of testosterone will find it much more difficult to build muscle, so imagine how much harder it is for us. Again, here’s a little perspective for you to highlight the extreme differences in the levels of testosterone male and females have.

    Total testosterone (amount floating around at the time of a testosterone test)

    An average healthy adult male will have between 270-1070 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

    An average healthy adult fertile women will have between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter of blood.
    This is such a huge difference in testosterone levels that it literally makes it impossible for women to build muscle like men can, unless of course, you are using the supplements or steroids. You may see many female bodybuilders who look manly, have that thick neck and chiseled jaw line, (and deeper voice) this is the results of steroids, NOT picking up some dumbbells a couple of times a week.

    4. Metabolism
    Weight training increases metabolism. Going back to point number 2 and food intake. The reason you will need to be consuming all those calories is because weight training will burn more calories, therefore you need to eat more. Your body will look to your muscles for energy before anything else, as this is a more efficient way for your body to convert energy stores. So actually you can strength train and your body will be taking those gains right back from you unless your eating right.

Weight training will actually enhance your figure, add curves, help you reduce and keep off that extra fat, it will increase bone density and reduce risk of developing osteoporosis later in life, it will help reduce cholesterol, help to keep type 2 diabetes under control, increase moto nurone recruitment which will help balance and coordination, it’s a great antidepressant -releases endorphines which help boost your mood, helps you sleep better, gives you more energy and of course… makes you stronger!

Fasted cardio. Good or bad?

Do you do fasted cardio? Does fasted cardio work? What is the evidence that fasted cardio is better than non fasted cardio?

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Some people bang on about fasted cardio and how it helps you burn more fat. The reason behind this is that your body will use energy from fat stores rather than energy from the food you have just eaten. While there is SOME truth in this, there is absolutely NO scientific evidence to back this up.

Fasted cardio being better than non fasted cardio is made up based on assumption, taking into account 2 scientific facts.

1) You burn more fat when your insulin levels are low.

2) Your insulin level is low when you wake up due to the fact you havent eaten through the night and have ‘fasted’.

Therefore the assumption is that when you wake up, after having not eaten all night your insulin levels are lower therefore you can burn fat better. That is the part that is true.

The whole truth is that if you have a zero carb breakfast, high in fats and protein, your insulin levels will be low and your body will burn fat just as well as if you were fasted.

There is only evidence that low insulin levels helps you burn fat faster, and no evidence what so ever that not eating at all is any more beneficial.

So what’s the answer? IF you don’t like to eat before cardio for whatever reason then fine, if you do like to eat before hand but want the maximum efficiency for fat loss, eat something very low or zero carb such as chicken and eggs. There’s no need to go hungry, if you’re hungry then eat.

Personally I eat before a workout, but usually something light like eggs so it’s not sat heavy in my stomach for the session, but I don’t really do much cardio apart from maybe a quick HIIT session. Even then as I always do my cardio after my strength training I usually need the food to give me enough energy to push my sessions as hard as I can.

Let’s talk about supps baby!

Protein this, protein that, protein pancakes, protein shakes, casein, whey, isolate! WHAT THE F?

The supplement market is completely flooded, there are some great products out there but there are also some very very bad ones.

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Here is a simple guide to which protein is right for you and when.

Let’s look at whey isolate and whey concentrate.

Both are fast digesting, which means these are great to have for a post-workout shake.

Whey concentrate is purer than isolate. Concentrate is around 92% protein while isolate is around 80%. This usually means that buying whey concentrate will have a slightly higher price tag than the whey isolate, but both are equally as good. If you’re looking for the BEST post-workout shake then go for whey concentrate, but to be honest you’re not going to notice a huge difference if any at all. These usually come in all sorts of amazing flavours. I always make sure I have vanilla flavour because its great in pancakes and mixed with yogurt. There are a lot of things you can make with protein, I’ll cover some of these at a later date.

The next one we are going to talk about it casein, now this is a slow digesting protein which means it is ideal to have before bed, or as an evening snack, the protein digests slowly throughout the night which keeps your muscles absorbing it while you’re asleep and not taking your regular meals.

You’re looking at around 100 calories for a protein shake, however, this brings me to my next protein product. Mass gainers. Now mass gainers have an extremely high calorie content, some being 1500 calories per serving, that is massive, and you might think it’s great for bulking and increasing weight. The issue is they very rarely hold many nutrients and most of the calories are just sugars. If you just stuck to a normal whey protein powder and ate the extra calories from food you will be doing much more than just feeding your body empty calories. The best advice I could give you, is to ditch the mass gainers and eat more, lots more! Mass gainers often come with a hefty price tag too.

Diet whey. Now while these are pretty much the same as your isolate and concentrate whey proteins you may find that they contain a fat burner too, but not all of them so check the label. Sometimes they are given the name ‘diet’ whey, put in fancy packaging and stuck on a shelf at almost double the price and occasionally may have a few less carbs in them, but certainly not enough to warrant the hefty price tag.

Hemp protein powder. This protein is made from hemp seeds and is great for vegans and vegetarians and is also gluten-free, although it’s usually unflavored and offers slightly fewer grams of protein per serving.

Lastly we have soy protein. This is hugely controversial, while it’s still a protein there are studies that suggest soy alters the hormone balance, decreasing testosterone (which is a huge muscle-building factor) and increasing estrogen, the female hormone. although soy protein generally has a higher protein content of around 27g per serving.

So those are the ins and outs of knowing the protein powder basics. There are many other factors to take in, like amino acids, however I’ll leave that for a more in depth discussion.

So whey protein for pre and post workout, casein before bed. Hemp and soy for vegans and vegetarians and those with more particular dietary requirements such as gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant.