The “help I’ve got kids and a busy job” fitness plan

Life has a tendency to get in the way!  I remember back to the luxurious days of having all the time in the world to workout and eat well.  Then this whole “adulting” thing kind of happened.

You have to work longer hours.  You have more responsibilities.  More financial commitments.  Relationships to upkeep.  And then there are kids to worry about too!  (I don’t personally have any kids yet, but I’m experienced enough to know how it is when you do!)

So, for many of us, long gone are the days of five or more gym sessions a week.  In fact, for a lot of us, getting to the gym at all might be out of the question.  This is why I thought I would write this post, and I call it the “help I’ve got kids and a busy job” fitness plan.

Training

Ok, let me address this one first.  I’m assuming that worst case scenario, you can’t make it the gym at all anymore. That means that equipment-free workouts are our solution.  They can be done in just 30 minutes.  And you can do them at home or on your lunch break at work if you have space.  I’d aim to perform 3 to 4 of these short workouts per week.

HIIT

Interval training (HIIT – high intensity interval training) would be one of my preferences here, since you are limited for time.  Plus interval workouts can be completed quickly.  The simplest method would be just to run.  Warm up with a 5 minute jog, followed by 15 seconds of sprinting / hard running, then 45 seconds of walking to recover.  Perform 10 – 20 sprints with walking in between, and finish up with another 5 minute jog after.  Done.  

Note that to prevent injury, especially if you aren’t used to sprinting, I’d suggest “bounding” into each sprint and building up the speed until you are running flat out.  Build up rather than taking off like a sprinter at the start line.

busy fitness

Otherwise, if you happen to have an exercise bike, you could do a similar type workout using that. Ride easy for 5 minutes, building up the speed and resistance.  Then crank the resistance up and ride as hard as you can for 20 seconds, followed by 40 seconds at an easy resistance.  Repeat 10 – 20 times, again followed by 5 minutes of easy riding to finish.

If you can skip (jump rope), you could also do that.  Same format: 5 minutes warm up, 10 – 20 intervals of skipping hard for 15 – 20 seconds then 40 – 45 seconds of easy skipping.  Then 5 minutes of easy skipping to finish.

Note: only skip if you are actually half decent at it.  Otherwise, if you are continuously “messing up” and have to keep stopping, it removes the benefit of the workout.

Circuit training

Similar to interval training, use bodyweight exercises to perform a quick hard circuit.  I have done a series of videos demonstrating different equipment-free exercises you could use.  The video series is called “No Gym, No Problem” and you can see them here:

https://howistayfit.com/?s=no+gym+no+problem

Pick 5 or so exercises, preferably a mixture of upper body exercises (e.g. push ups, tricep dips, Y handcuffs) and lower body exercises (e.g. squats, lunges, burpees).  Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Rest for 2 minutes after each circuit. Repeat the circuit 3 to 4 times.

busy fitness

For example:

  1. Mountain Climbers 30 secs, 30 secs rest
  2. Lying Abs Leg Raises 30 secs, 30 secs rest
  3. Bird Dogs 30 secs, 30 secs rest
  4. Tricep Dips 30 secs, 30 secs rest
  5. Squat to Toe Touches 30 secs, 30 secs rest.

Rest for 2 mins.  Repeat circuit 3 – 4 times.

Gym Training

If you are lucky enough to be able to make it to the gym, even just one day a week, then you will want to make best use of the opportunity.  That’s why I would recommend a full body workout using compound free weight exercises. These will work the most muscle groups at once, will burn the most calories, build the most strength, and take the least time.  Don’t waste the opportunity on “fluff” exercises like bicep curls or cable cross overs.

I’d recommend doing something like this:

  1. Barbell Back Squats 4 sets of 6 reps, 1 to 2 minutes rest
  2. Overhead Barbell Press 4 sets of 6 reps, 1 to 2 minutes rest
  3. Barbell Deadlift 4 sets of 6 reps, 1 to 2 minutes rest
  4. Lat Pull Down 3 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest
  5. Barbell Bench Press 3 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rest
busy fitness

Besides the gym session laid out (if you are fortunate enough to make it to the gym at all), the workouts I’ve recommended can be done anywhere at any time and with almost no equipment.

You can do these workouts early morning before work.  Or maybe on your lunch break.  Otherwise, perhaps you can work out on an evening time.  It can be handy if your partner / spouse can watch the kids while you do a workout.  Or you can do it after you have put the kids to bed, while watching TV.

Diet

This is going to be the most important factor in staying in shape when you have a full schedule.  And sadly, this is where most people go wrong, even those who have the luxury of going to the gym as much as they want. Remember that you can’t out-train a bad diet!

To lose weight, you’ll want to be eating in a calorie deficit.  This means figuring out how many calories your body needs to maintain weight, and then making sure to eat fewer calories than this.  The easiest way to do this is by monitoring your calorie intake using a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal https://www.myfitnesspal.com

busy fitness

I talk in detail about figuring out your calorie intake for weight loss here:

If your lifestyle is mostly sedentary, in that if you spend the majority of your time physically inactive at work, and your time spent exercising is limited, then I recommend you prioritise protein and cruciferous vegetables in your diet.  I’m not saying to cut out carbohydrates.  But keep in mind that carbs are for energy.  So, if you aren’t moving a whole lot, then you probably won’t need many.

Protein

Protein is not just important for building and maintaining muscle and for growth and repair.  But protein is also very important for fat loss!

Your metabolism can slow down when eating in a calorie deficit over a prolonged time.  The fancy term for this is “adaptive thermogenesis”.  Having an adequate protein intake helps prevents this, so it assists in keeping your metabolism going!

Muscle mass is very “metabolically demanding”.  This means that more muscle tissue creates a higher energy demand.  So, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn!

busy fitness

Furthermore, an adequate protein intake helps with satiety. This means you will feel “fuller”, and you will be less tempted to cheat on your diet and eat more!  Protein also has a high “TEF level” (thermic effect of food).  This means that the process of digesting protein burns a fair number of calories in itself!

General guidelines for protein intake are to take in at least 1g of protein for every lb of lean body mass, each day.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are high in fibre, so aid in digestion.  They are also predominantly negligible calories – they end up burning so much energy just to digest that their calories don’t count!

Fibre helps you feel fuller during meals, as well as helping you feel fuller between meals too.  This mean that it will help you eat less!

busy fitness

Eat your protein, eat your fibre, and you’ve covered the most important elements of your diet!

I talk more about the importance of prioritising protein and fibre in your diet here:

Sample quick meals

Tuna salad

Chicken and mixed vegetables

Cottage cheese and celery sticks

Egg white and spinach omelette

Tofu with vegetables

Prawn salad

Whey protein shake blended with kale

Don’t eat the kids’ leftovers!

It is often tempting to snack on food leftover by your kids.  But be mindful that these extra calories all add up!

Whether you choose to eat the same food you give your children is up to you, but just monitor your calorie intake.  Otherwise, it is always an option to make food for the family as normal, but then make a slightly lower calorie version for yourself.  For example, if you were making spaghetti bolognaise for the family, you might want to replace the spaghetti on your plate for vegetables instead. Whatever you choose to do, just remember that it is YOU who is watching their diet – not necessarily your family. And your children’s energy demands and nutrient requirements may very well be different to yours!  Still though, it is always good to encourage the whole family to eat healthy food together!

Intermittent Fasting

IF (intermittent fasting) could be a good option for calorie control and convenience.  This involves limiting the timing of your food intake to a specific time window.  The most popular one is probably to fast for 16 hours, and then to eat during an 8 hour period, usually between 12pm and 8pm.  Basically, all you do is skip breakfast.  Of course, you could switch these times up to suit you better.

It can be convenient as it involves not having to make time to eat breakfast.  Or, if you shorten your eating window to skip breakfast and lunch too, you don’t have to worry about finding “healthy” food options when you are out.  You can just wait until you get home to eat.

Meal prep

It is often a good idea to prepare food in advance to save time, and to make sure that you always have “healthy” food to hand.  This can mean preparing the kids’ packed lunches for the week, as well as your own lunches.  You can also make dinner ready for the week too.  As you get better at it and more organised, you’ll see how much time cooking in bulk can save you.  You can use this time to squeeze in some home workouts!

Just cook food, package it up in containers, and store it in the fridge or freezer.  And don’t worry about having to eat the same food each day, because you won’t.  Chicken breast can be had several times a week, but just flavoured differently or served with other varying food options.  It will make it into completely different meals!

You might find it useful to create a weekly “menu” too, so you can plan ahead each week for what meals to have ready-cooked on what days.

There are other time saving tips, like to be sure to order your groceries online.  This saves you making time to go out and buy your food, which can be a long and stressful affair if you have to take young children with you to the supermarket.

Also, there are now various “meal prep companies” that will cook and deliver nutritious food for you. These are often quite pricy though.

An active lifestyle

Lastly, I want to talk about lifestyle change.  Make an effort to include more physical activity in your everyday life.  Often this is effortless and takes little to no extra time out of your day.  All extra physical activity you can do helps towards burning more calories.  This can be difference between losing weight and not losing any weight at all!

  • Monitor your step count using a fitness tracker like a FitBit.  Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day.
  • Cycle or walk short journeys
  • Take the stairs rather than elevators where possible
  • Do your daily chores like cleaning and tidying up
  • At work, walk over and talk to your colleagues rather than emailing
  • Take regular breaks from the computer during work to move around.  Your eyes need a break anyway!
  • Get up and move during TV adverts
  • Get up and walk around while talking on the phone
  • Stand on the train or bus rather than sitting
  • If possible, use a standing desk at work rather than sitting
  • Park your car further away and walk the rest of the way.

Having a busy schedule and a hectic lifestyle doesn’t have to mean that your health and fitness goes out the window.  With some time management and some organisation, you can say goodbye to your “dad bod” / “mum bod” (I don’t know if a “mum bod” is an actual thing, but I don’t like to discriminate!)

Post Workout Protein and the Anabolic Window

I remember it so well. Every time I would pack my gym bag before heading off for a workout, I would always be sure to include my post workout protein shake.  It would be ready mixed in my shaker bottle, ready to be slammed back as soon as I finished the session.  And on the odd occasion when I forgot to pack my protein shake, I would be horrified!

I would hurry home as fast as I could, to quickly get my protein down as fast as possible.  My eyes would be on my watch, as I raced the clock to consume my post workout protein shake within 45 minutes of finishing my workout.  Because if I didn’t get my protein in time, that gruelling workout I had just put myself through would be a total waste.  It would result in no muscle gain if I didn’t have protein within the 45-minute post workout anabolic window!  Little did I know that I had nothing to panic about!

The 45-minute post workout anabolic window

It used to be treated as gospel that in order to maximise muscle gains, you have to consume protein within 45 minutes of completing a resistance training workout.  This time frame is known as the “anabolic window”.  We now know that the “anabolic window” isn’t anywhere near as small, or as important, as we first thought.

Yes, post workout protein can help your muscles recover and grow.  And logically, since we know that protein is used by the body for growth and repair, it sounds like it makes sense to fuel your body with nutrients after having broken your muscle tissue down through hard training.  But still, this 45-minute period of panic isn’t the drastic affair we first believed.

It’s all about total daily protein intake

A meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al considered23 high-quality studies on protein timing.  They concluded that the total amount of protein consumed each day was a lot more important for muscle growth, as opposed to “when” that protein was consumed.

The anabolic effects of protein last 5 – 6 hours

There is evidence to show that the muscle building effects of ingested protein actually last for 5 to 6 hours.  

Let’s put this into a real-life scenario.  

You have lunch (which includes a healthy serving of protein) at 1pm.  Work finishes at 5pm and get to the gym for 5.30pm, to workout for an hour.  You finish your workout at 6.30pm.  In this case, it would make sense to have a post workout protein shake, since it would have been 5 and half hours since your last protein intake.

Post Workout Protein

But, let’s look at another example.

You wake up, slam down a protein shake, and head straight to the gym for an early morning workout before work.  Say you have your protein shake at 7am, get to the gym for 7.30am, and finish training at 8.30am.  There would be no need to necessarily have a post workout protein shake immediately. You could simply wait up until lunch at 1pm, which is 6 hours after your morning pre-workout protein shake (as long as your lunch includes a healthy dose of protein).

Protein shakes aren’t necessary

Note that protein shakes are certainly not necessary either, they simply can act as a convenient means of meeting your protein requirements.

And off course, how frequently you consume protein throughout the day is entirely up to you.  Whether you have just 3 meals, or decide to have 6 meals, it is your choice.  As long as you go no longer than 6 hours without ingesting protein, your body will still have protein “in your system” to build muscle!  Just focus mainly on getting enough protein in total over the course of each day. Don’t fuss over “having” to necessarily take in protein immediately after working out.

How much protein do I need each day?

Research suggests that, if you are looking to build muscle and you are regularly resistance training, you should aim for at least 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day.  So basically, aim for 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight each day minimum.  It still seems to be unclear what the upper limit for daily protein intake is.  But we do know that there is no proven harm in taking in “extra” protein.

post workout protein

The take home message

  • Focus on consuming “enough” protein in total, over the course of each day.
  • Aim for at least 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight each day in total.  But more protein than this is fine too.
  • Protein will continue to have anabolic (muscle building) effect for 5 – 6 hours after consuming it.
  • Having protein immediately after working out, i.e. the 45-minute anabolic window, is not necessary.
Post Workout Protein

References

International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition
Alan A. Aragon, Brad J. Schoenfeld,Robert Wildman, Susan Kleiner, Trisha VanDusseldorp, Lem Taylor, Conrad P. Earnest, Paul J. Arciero, Colin Wilborn, Douglas S. Kalman, Jeffrey R. Stout, Darryn S. Willoughby, Bill Campbell, Shawn M. Arent, Laurent Bannock, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan and Jose Antonio
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201714:16
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y
©  The Author(s). 2017Received: 25 May 2017Accepted: 30 May 2017Published: 14 June 2017

Lou Schuler and Alan Aragon, “The Lean Muscle Diet: a customized workout plan – eat the food your love to build the body you want and keep it for life”, Men’s Health, Rodale Inc.(2014).

de Souza R, Bray G, Carey V, Hall K, LeBoff M, Loria C, et al. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(3):614–25.

Antonio J, Peacock C, Ellerbroek A, Fromhoff B, Silver T. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:19. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-19.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Orris S, Scheiner M, Gonzalez A, et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women–a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:39.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Peacock C. The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition–a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:3. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Tamayo A, Buehn R, et al. A high protein diet has no harmful effects: a one-year crossover study in resistance-trained males. J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:9104792. doi:10.1155/2016/9104792.

The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201310:53
https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-53
©  Schoenfeld et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received:22 September 2013,Accepted:20 November 2013

“Starvation Mode”

It is quite likely that you have come across the term “starvation mode” before.

If you are dieting and exercising, but you are not seeing progress, then a common self-diagnosis is that your body has gone into “starvation mode”.  In this post I am going to reassure you that this is simply not the case!  Read on!

Here’s a common scenario

You were trying to lose weight, so you decreased your calorie intake and stayed disciplined to your workout routine.  You were happy to see your bodyweight readings going down, and your physical appearance was beginning to look slimmer and leaner.  Then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, all progress appeared to stop!

You didn’t cheat on your diet.  You didn’t skip any workouts.

So, you do what most of us do when we have a problem.  You search online.  You talk to your friends.

And you soon come to the conclusion that you are not losing weight because your body has gone into “starvation mode”.

Starvation Mode

What is “starvation mode”?

“Starvation mode” is the term used to describe the theory stating that when your body feels it is being deprived of food, a survival mechanism is triggered where the body will stop you from losing body fat.  So, the theory concludes that if you have been dieting and then all of a sudden, your weight loss stalls, it is because your body “thinks” it is being starved.

Sound legit?  Keep reading!

Is “starvation mode” real?

The short answer here, is yes, but not to the extent you might think.  Yes, it is true that processes do take place in the body to prevent further weight loss, following a prolonged restricted calorie intake. Though it won’t “stop” you from losing fat.  And there are some external factors at play too when dieting.

– You naturally tend to feel more tired and move less – i.e. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) levels decrease (fidgeting, pacing, walking, etc).

– Also, it is true that your metabolism begins to slow down after consistent dieting (this is adaptive thermogenesis), meaning your body will burn less calories while at rest.

What may be classed as external factors, are:

– TEF (thermic effect of food) levels decrease, probably because you’ll be eating less food when dieting, so your body will burn less calories through the process of digestion.

– You will burn less calories during exercise, because your body adapts to become more efficient at carrying out exercise while saving energy.  Plus, it may very well be that you are not training as hard as you think you are, if energy levels are declining through dieting.

But no, your body does not enter a “mode” where it refuses to drop body fat!

So, when dieting, you will feel more tired and less prone to move and burn energy spontaneously and unnecessarily (e.g. fidgeting).  And your metabolism will begin to slow, but this will not stop you from continuing to lose body fat.

An extreme example here, but have you ever seen someone suffering from anorexia?  They still continue to drop body fat despite literally starving themselves, right?!

The Minnesota Experiment

The Minnesota Experiment is worth mentioning, just to emphasise my point.  So, let’s go back in history a little.

Towards the end of the Second World War in 1944, an experiment was carried out to see the best way to assist starving people to return to a healthy body weight.

36 soldiers participated in the experiment, in which for six months they were put through conditions meant to replicate a prisoner of war (POW) camp.  These men were made to do hours of manual labour each day.  Plus, they had to march for many miles, and were only given a diet of half the calories of their average daily calorie output. They were quite literally starved.

At the end of the six months, the men had lost on average 25% of their bodyweight.  Their metabolisms (basal metabolic rate) were estimated to be only 20% lower than they had been previously (not a great deal considering the circumstances!).

The men were put on a “recovery diet” over the twelve weeks afterwards, at which point their metabolisms were recalculated to be only 10% lower than normal.  Which isn’t such a great deal at all!

So, my point here?  If these guys were to be put under the most extreme circumstances of actual starvation, and yet:

  1. They were continuing to drop body fat
  2. Their metabolisms didn’t even slow down by a great deal, and their metabolisms recovered fairly quickly afterwards too…

…then it is safe to say that the average person following a conservative diet and exercise program has nothing to worry about!

Starvation Mode

Then why does it seem that fat loss stalls after prolonged dieting?

This question is actually very simple to answer.

  • Fat loss tends NOT to be linear, especially after dieting for a little while.  This means that after a few weeks into a calorie-controlled diet, you may very well not see a pattern of regular fat loss each week.  You might lose 1lb one week, 2lbs the next week, no change for the next two weeks, and then 1lb the week after.  It’s not always linear!  You may think that your body is not dropping fat anymore, when in fact it still is. The process just may have become slower.
  • You may be gaining muscle mass whilst dropping body fat.  This is especially possible for those new to resistance training.  If you lose a lb of fat but gain a lb of muscle, then your body weight will not have changed.
  • You may be retaining water.  This can happen depending on:
  1. hydration levels,
  2. the time of day you weigh yourself,
  3. your stress (cortisol) levels,
  4. your menstrual cycle if you are female,
  5. or even due to how much food you have still in your digestive system.
  • The most likely solution – you are eating too much.  Even when you have the best of intentions in sticking to your diet, adherence becomes harder and harder over time.  Portion sizes slowly begin to creep up, whether you know it or not. The best fix for this is to weigh and log all of your food and drink.

If you think that it is “starvation mode” that has brought your fat loss to a stop, then think again. I am almost 99% sure that “starvation mode” is not the reason!

Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Just a quick reminder that I am on YouTube!

So if you haven’t done so already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/danmarashi

I am always posting new video content, with workout footage, nutrition advice, and all things fitness!

If you’re looking for tips, help, and advice for when it comes to fat loss and muscle gain, then please check out my channel!

youtube

https://www.youtube.com/danmarashi

By the way, click HERE to see my Online Coaching Services

Fat Loss & Muscle Gain: what I wish I knew back then! Part Two

In these short videos I again reflect back on my experience to give you some training and nutrition advice. And again, I bring you this information straight from my bedroom…why I have these sudden ideas to make videos like this when I’m in my bedroom, I really don’t know haha!

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to see Part One of this post HERE.

I’ve made so many mistakes over the years regarding my training and nutrition. There are so many things I used to believe to be true that aren’t. Thinking back now, some of the stuff I used to do was straight up stupid!

But the good news is that now I’m in a position, years later, to put my experience to good use, and help others out! Learn from my mistakes!

experience

Training for a Wide Back

You want a wide back? Wings? An impressive back that is visible even when you are wearing a shirt? Then keep reading!

As with the shoulders and traps, the back muscles are what gives your physique its “V taper”. Combined with a narrow waist (which is the result of a good diet to reduce body fat), a wide back is always impressive and is one of the muscles visible whether you have your shirt on or not!

wide back

You will notice a common theme, in that I believe in prioritising muscle groups that are visible even in clothes.

The exercises I show below are some of my favourites for lats development. The devil is in the detail, in that with rowing and pulling exercises, I like to implement a stretch in the movement.

For example, notice my technique with the pulldowns in that the movement incorporates a full stretch. I relax my shoulders and let the weight stretch my scapula out. This same technique can be applied to pull ups (no kipping, swinging, or cheating!). However I actually favour pulldowns over pull ups. Most of us aren’t strong enough to perform many reps with pull ups using this strict dead hang stretch technique.

Another Supplement That Works! My “A-Bolic4” Review

As you probably already know, I am generally not a big fan of nutritional supplements.  The reason being, is that most of the time I don’t notice any results that warrant spending money on them.

Apart from Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), I usually just stick to the few basics like whey protein, creatine, omega-3 fish oil, and multi-vitamins.

However, I am quite excited by the results of a new supplement that I have been experimenting with: A-Bolic4

a-bolic4

A-Bolic4

The product I have been using is called A-Bolic4.  It is made by an American company called The Lab, and it is marketed as an “anabolic growth supplement”.  They claim that it “supports anabolic growth, increased metabolism, cellular integrity, and male sexual health”.

My Experience

Before I talk more about the supplement, and what’s in it, let me talk about my results with using A-Bolic4.

I have been supplementing with it for roughly three months now.  Throughout this time, I tried not to change any variables in my food intake or training.  I kept things pretty much as consistent as I had been before I started using the supplement.

My calorie intake was roughly at maintenance level throughout, although if anything, I was actually “looser” in controlling my food intake through having more “treats”.

a-bolic4

The Results?

This is going to sound like a sales pitch or something, but I am only being truthful here and have no ties with the company!  I honestly noticed that my appearance was:

  • Leaner
  • Tighter
  • Muscles looked denser
  • More vascular with veins popping all the time everywhere.

And since nothing else in my training / diet changed during these 3 months, I can only credit these changes to A-Bolic4.

a-bolic4

What’s in it?

I don’t want to bore you with too many details on the ingredients – if you want to read more on that, you can visit The Lab’s website (https://thelabsupplements.com/product/a-bolic4/).

 So just to give you a quick run down, A-Bolic4 contains:

  • Over 250mg of Ajuga Turkestanica
  • Over 167mg of EMIQ (Enzymatically modified isoquercitrin)
  • Over 98mg of Apigenin
  • Over 5mg of Bioperine

In short, the aforementioned ingredients, as backed by various studies listed on The Lab’s website, may act to promote muscle growth, promote fat loss, and promote increases in testosterone and decreases in cortisol.

*Note that I say “may act”, as in all honesty I don’t believe that we can 100% say for sure.  But from my personal experience I believe it!

a-bolic4

How do I take it?

Each container has 60 capsules, and I was taking one capsule in the morning and one in the evening, daily.  I only weigh around 75kg though, so bigger guys may want to take two capsules morning and evening.

Where do I get it from?

I ordered mine directly from The Lab’s website: https://thelabsupplements.com/product/a-bolic4/

It is a little pricey, although they do frequently have discount promotions running.  Also, unfortunately because it comes from the States, shipping to the UK and the additional tax were fairly pricey too.  But I believe this supplement “works” and is worth it.

a-bolic4

Is it worth taking Caffeine?

Caffeine is found in almost all pre-workout supplements.  It is found in energy drinks (like Red Bull, Monster, etc), as well as in coffee.  It is also present in various other things we often don’t suspect, like chocolate, soft drinks, and even cold and flu capsules.

For the moment, lets ignore inadvertent consumption of caffeine.  I’m going to focus on those who intentionally take caffeine with the purpose of seeking an energy boost.  Considering how many coffee drinkers there are in the world, caffeine is one of the most commonly used “drugs” globally!  So many of us feel like we can’t even function before having that morning coffee!

But what’s really the deal with caffeine?  And how can it effect performance?

caffeine

Mental and Physical Performance

Let’s cut the chase: caffeine “works”!  It’s true. The “energy boost” experienced by those who take caffeine is not imaginary or placebo.  Caffeine actually does aid physical and mental performance. Caffeine has a positive effect on both muscle cells and brain cells.  It can provide better focus, as well as better exercise performance.

Fat Loss

And there’s more!  Caffeine can also aid fat burning too!

Caffeine increases the production of heat and epinephrine (adrenaline), which helps burn more fat during exercise.

caffeine

When to Take Caffeine

Caffeine is absorbed into the blood stream quite quickly.  Following an intake of caffeine, levels in the blood stream seem to peak after about 60 – 90 minutes.  So, it makes sense to take caffeine approximately this time frame out from a workout, event, race etc.

How Much to Take

Recommendations are in the range of 3 – 6mg per kg of bodyweight to improve performance. So, a person weighing 80kg would take anywhere from 240mg to 480mg.

For your information, one 500ml can of Monster contains 169.05mg of caffeine.  Or one cup of regular strength coffee has about 95mg of caffeine.  A pre-workout supplement usually has about 400mg.

caffeine

Considerations

There are a few points to consider when it comes to caffeine use.

Firstly, note that caffeine has a half-life of 4 – 6 hours.  In other words, after 4 – 6 hours, half of it will still be in your blood stream.  It is for this reason that you don’t want to be taking caffeine too late in the day, otherwise you will struggle to sleep.

Another point to note, is that your body develops a tolerance to caffeine if you use it regularly.  So, if you already regularly consume lots of coffee, or even chocolate, soft drinks, or other caffeine containing products, you may need to take higher caffeine doses to see any benefit.  For this reason, it would make sense to keep caffeine use low / infrequent, to save it for when it is really needed.

Furthermore, it is debatable, but caffeine does appear to be addictive.  This is another reason not to take caffeine too frequently, or to use it in unnecessary circumstances.  Save it for events / hard workouts only.

Also to consider, are some of the side effects caffeine can have.  Some of these include, trembling, jitteriness, anxiety, and rapid heart rate.  So, don’t go overboard on your caffeine usage.

caffeine

Are Pre Workout Supplements Worth it?

This isn’t such a black and white question.  As mentioned previously, pre-workout supplements usually contain about 400mg of caffeine.  Compare this to a 500ml can of an energy drink, which contains about 169.05mg.  Or one cup of regular strength coffee has about 95mg of caffeine.

Pre-workout supplements usually do come with a higher price tag.  But, considering that they can provide a simpler means of getting an adequate intake of caffeine to aid performance (you’d need to drink several cups of coffee, or probably two or more 500ml cans of energy drink to get a comparable caffeine intake), they might be worth it.

caffeine

Conclusion

Caffeine is one of the limited supplements available that are proven to deliver performance enhancing results.  Caffeine can improve physical and mental performance, as well as enhance fat loss.

If you choose to use caffeine, take it an hour or so before hard physical activity.

But to avoid building a higher tolerance to it, and to avoid addiction, don’t use caffeine too regularly.

Be wary of the other possible side effects of too much caffeine.

And how you obtain your required caffeine intake to aid performance is up to you. Pre-workout supplements are the simpler yet pricier option.  Otherwise you could opt for coffee or energy drinks.

caffeine

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7775331

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2333832

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1616022

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16018347

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7775331

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15672985

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10049999

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10906543

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10049999

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9729561

Traps Training

Big traps are cool! In fact I’d say having big traps is freakin awesome! Abs are obviously cool too. But the problem is that unless you walk around all day without a shirt on, nobody will even know you have that coveted six pack!

But a big pair of traps on the other hand, are noticeable with or without a shirt on! Even while wearing a long sleeve shirt! I don’t think any other body part can get the same admiration and attention even while covered up!

Trapezius

By “traps”, I am of course referring to the trapezius muscle, that is visible on top of the shoulders, tying in the shoulders to the neck. In my opinion it gives the impression of a powerful strong physique!

traps

How to train your traps

The traps are hit INDIRECTLY through exercises like deadlifts and rows. And to an extent presses, pull ups, and pull downs. They are also used in back squats.

But to isolate and hit the traps DIRECTLY, this is best done through shrugging movements.

Monkey Shrugs

My favourite direct traps isolation exercise right now is “Monkey Shrugs”. This is demonstrated in the video at the top of the page. I find these are done best using dumbbells, where you shrug hard and hold the squeeze at the top, while simultaneous bending the elbows and raising the upper arms upwards. You will have to use a lighter weight than you would for standard dumbbell shrugs. But I find the contraction and trapezius activation from this exercise to be superior to anything else!

Shoulder Cable Complex

Why and When to do it

This is a shoulder cable complex I came up with a little while ago. Well to be honest I am a little reluctant to take full credit for this, since I am always keeping an eye out for new training ideas. So it is quite possible that I was influenced by something I saw someone else doing.

I have been using this lately either at the beginning of workouts for the purpose of “activation” of the shoulder muscles before beginning my main exercises. If so, I perform the exercises very slow and deliberately, focussing on concentrated contractions.

Or this serves the purpose of pre-exhausting the shoulder muscles before performing compound exercises. In which case, I will perform the exercises in more of a pump set fashion, emphasising controlled and constant tension.

Otherwise, I might perform the shoulder cable complex at the end of my workouts, after completing my main compound movements. If so, again it will be performed in pump set fashion as a “finisher”, with a focus on feeling the burn.

A Complex?

A complex is simply a series of exercises performed as a circuit back to back with minimal rest.

The exercises in this shoulder cable complex are to be performed for a minimum of 8 reps each, for a total of 3 to 5 circuits, using the same weight for all exercises. Don’t rest between exercises, but rest about 30 seconds between circuits.

At a cable station, remove the handles, and set the pulleys at the lowest setting. You’ll only need a very light weight for this. Grip the cables in opposite hands across the front of the body.

shoulder cable complex

The Exercises

There are only 3 exercises here:
1. Trap / Front Raises – grip the cables with the carabiners sticking out from the top of your hands (thumb side). Keep a neutral spine, with your scapula retracted, trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keeping your arms fairly straight, raise your arms out in front above your head, keeping those shoulder blades together, and engaging and squeezing your traps at the top of the movement. Hold the position overhead briefly, before lowering your arms back down to your sides. 8 – 15 reps

2. Bent Over Rear Delt Raises – change your grip on the cables so that the carabiners are now protruding from the bottom of your hands. Bend at the waist 90 degrees, keeping your lower back engaged, with a natural arch in your back. Keeping your arms fairly straight, thumbs facing each other, raise your arms out to the side inline with your ears. At the top of the movement hold the position briefly, contracting your rear deltoids hard, before lowering your arms back down. 8 – 15 reps.

3. Side Delt Raises – keeping your grip on the cables the same, stand up straight, neutral spine. Focus on keeping your scapula retracted, trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. With your hands by your sides, thumbs facing forward, and keeping your arms relatively straight. Raise your arms out to the sides to ear level. Hold the position and contract your medial deltoids, before lowering your arms back down. 8 – 15 reps. Rest about 30 seconds before repeating.