I wore a Waist Trainer for a month. Here’s what happened

I wore a waist trainer for a month.  Here’s what happened

I’m not particularly proud of it, but it’s true: I wore a waist trainer.  For a whole month.

I’m always learning, so I’m often experimenting, trying and testing out different things that are fitness related.  The whole concept of waist trainers had me curious, so I figured “hey, what have I got to lose?”

What is a waist trainer?

For those who don’t know, when I say “waist trainer”, I am referring to what can only be described as a modern-day less-extreme version of a corset!  (Yes, I know I am only damaging my reputation even more here by telling you that I was basically wearing a corset!)

waist trainer

Essentially a waist trainer is a tightly worn belt that compresses your midsection, and it is to be worn for long durations of time daily, over periods of months or longer. I wore a waist trainer for most of the day for one month.  Albeit a shorter time period, I figured it was enough time to notice any changes that might occur.  Note, that I did not wear it whilst working out.

I am NOT referring to one of those compression belts made from neoprene.  Those are in my opinion a complete waste of time.  All they do is make you sweat from your abdominal area. They do not make you burn fat from your belly.  The only way to burn fat is by creating a calorie deficit, through diet and exercise. And even then, you can’t pick and choose the areas you lose fat from!

However, I must say that waist trainers (and corsets too), also do not make you lose belly fat.  You’ll need to be eating in a calorie deficit and exercising consistently to lose fat!

What are waist trainers meant to do?

Waist trainers are theoretically meant to make your waist “narrower”.  Obviously, they are unlikely to make your waist narrower from a front view.  You cannot change the size of your pelvis – this is determined by bone structure.  Though there is the possibility of waist trainers “atrophying” (making smaller) your oblique muscles (the core muscles that run down the outer sides of your midsection).  If this were to occur, then yes, to a degree, it could make your waist appear narrower from a front view.

More likely though, waist trainers are meant to force you to keep your stomach “sucked in”.  Thus, making your waist appear smaller from a side view, overcoming any stomach distention.  Basically, this means they are meant to encourage you to tense the Transversus Abdominis muscles – the abs muscles used to perform a stomach vacuum – read more about that in my posts HERE:

What did I do?

As mentioned, I wore a waist trainer every day for a month, wearing it for the most part of each day. I made sure to wear it tightly too, to ensure effectiveness (if it were to actually do anything, of course!)

I didn’t wear it while working out, because I found it restrictive to move in or to breath as deeply as necessary to perform hard exercise.  Also, when performing exercise, I need my core muscles to be fully engaged.  I was wary that the waist trainer might make it more difficult to fully engage my core muscles.  This is because it would act similarly to a tight lifting belt, and take away the need for my core muscles to tense as hard as they normally would whilst exercising.

waist trainer

What happened?

Nothing happened, to be honest!  I got fed up of wearing it, because it wasn’t very comfortable.  Though out of stubbornness, I did continue to wear it each day for a month.

But no, my waist size remained the same.  I didn’t see any changes in how far I could perform a stomach vacuum either (i.e. how far I could suck my gut in).  In fact, if anything, I think my core muscles (including my Transversus Abdominis muscles) got weaker, so making it harder to do stomach vacuums to suck my gut in. This is probably because those core muscles got “lazy”.  I guess that after a while, they got used to being supported by the waist trainer.  I’ve seen the same thing happen with people who unnecessarily wear a lifting belt all the time whilst exercising.

The take home message

Save your time and money. Don’t bother with waist trainers. No, they don’t encourage you to burn body fat anyway.  The only way to burn fat is by creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise. And even then, you can’t pick and choose the areas you lose fat from!  

Extra sweating from your midsection isn’t very helpful either.  This also doesn’t encourage fat loss!

You may possibly (though I think unlikely) be able to make your waist “smaller”.  But I think for that, you’d have to wear an actual corset. It would have to be VERY tight fitting, which would be VERY uncomfortable.  And I imagine that you’d have to wear it for the most part of each day, probably over a period of years!  In my opinion, this is definitely NOT worth it!

If you want to make your waist “smaller”, then continue to diet and exercise to bring your body fat down. And, also perform resistance training to make your shoulders and lats “bigger”, giving you a nice “V-taper” and creating the illusion of a smaller waist!

I talk more about training for bigger shoulders in my post HERE:

I talk more about training for wider lats HERE:

To find out more about my Online Coaching Services, please click the link HERE!

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!)

“Metabolic Damage”

Last post I spoke about “starvation mode”.  If you missed it, you can read it HERE

Basically, I spoke about how “starvation mode” (at least the version most of us know it as) is a myth.

In this post I want to talk about a fairly similar topic: “metabolic damage”.

You may have heard this term thrown around lately, as it seems to be the latest fad within fitness circles.

What is metabolic damage?

So, the theory goes something like this…

You follow a calorie-controlled diet for a prolonged period of time.  You workout regularly and consistently (particularly doing a lot of cardio, too). Over the weeks and months you manage to drop body fat and maintain or even build muscle mass too.  But what happens next?

It appears that all of that dieting and training negatively impacted your basal metabolic rate (slowed your metabolism).  Your body starts burning less calories than it should. And this ultimately brings your fat loss to a halt.  It has “damaged” your metabolism, i.e. “metabolic damage”.  Now the only way to fix it is by following a super complicated far-out bunch of witchcraft type diet techniques.

Not true.

Is metabolic damage real?

No, metabolic damage is not real.  End of article.  Just kidding! Keep reading.

As discussed in my post on “starvation mode”, when you are in a prolonged calorie deficit, it is true that processes do take place in the body to prevent further weight loss.  But it won’t “stop” you from losing fat.  And there are some external factors at play too when dieting.

So, it is true that:

 – 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 due to 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 from dieting.

But no, your body does not enter a “mode” where it refuses to drop body fat!  Nor does your metabolism get damaged.

The Minnesota Experiment

I want to refresh your memories from my last post on “starvation mode” POST,and again mention the Minnesota Experiment.

You can read more details about this in my previous post. To summarise, an experiment was conducted on starvation.  The participants were genuinely starved (extremely low calories) and forced to perform hard physical activity every day for six months.  The findings of this dangerous study were that the participants lost 25% of their bodyweight on average.  And, despite being starved and worked to exhaustion, the participants’ only saw a fairly small reduction in their basal metabolic rate (metabolism).  Furthermore, this decrease in their basal metabolic rate was significantly remedied after twelve weeks of following a normal diet again.

The take home message: their bodies did not suffer metabolic damage.  They continued to lose weight over the duration of the experiment.  And their metabolisms pretty much returned to normal afterwards.  If this is what happened to these guys after six months of torturous conditions, do you really think it will be different for you? In comparison, your diet of a slight calorie deficit , with workouts a few times a week is a breeze!

And another metabolic damage study

Still not convinced?  OK, here’s another paper.  They concluded that “the theory of permanent, diet-induced metabolic slowing in non-obese individuals is not supported by the current literature”.

The rate of weight loss did slow down, but it never came to a stop.  And participants continued to lose weight for the duration of the study.

Zinchenko, Anastasia & Henselmans, Menno. (2016). Metabolic Damage: do Negative Metabolic Adaptations During Underfeeding Persist After Refeeding in Non-Obese Populations?. Medical Research Archives. 4. 10.18103/mra.v4i8.908.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312308214_Metabolic_Damage_do_Negative_Metabolic_Adaptations_During_Underfeeding_Persist_After_Refeeding_in_Non-Obese_Populations

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

This question is actually very simple to answer.

  1. 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.

OK, metabolic damage doesn’t exist.  But what should I do after I finish dieting so to prevent regaining fat?

The answer to this question is really simple: reverse dieting.  I talk more about reverse dieting in this post HERE from when I used reverse dieting myself after dieting.  To sum it up, it is exactly as the name implies.  It is the process of gradually increasing calories and / or decreasing exercise levels over a time period to give your metabolism time to adjust back to normal, without piling on body fat.

I hope you found this post useful.  Yes, your metabolism will slow down a little from dieting.  But you now know that metabolic damage simply just doesn’t exist, so is one less thing to worry about.

How much steroids really contribute to muscle growth

Let me talk about steroids for a moment.

Now apart from occasionally having to speak out against a minority of naysayers to defend my natural status, this is a topic I don’t usually broach.

There are a few reasons for this.  But my main reason is simply that I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough on the subject. I don’t have any personal experience of steroid use.  So, the only knowledge I have is based on what I see from others’ use, and from what I read.

However, this is an interesting study that I came across, and I thought it was definitely worth discussing.

steroids

For 10 weeks, 40 “normal men” (i.e. not bodybuilders / regular gym goers / athletes – originally there were 50 men, but 10 dropped out) aged 19 to 40 years old were assigned to one of four groups:

  1. No steroids, and no exercise 
  2. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and no exercise
  3. No steroids, and exercise (weight training 3 days per week)
  4. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and exercise (weight training 3 days per week)

Fat-free mass (i.e. lean muscle mass) levels and strength levels were measured before and after the 10 weeks.

Food intake of the participants was controlled throughout, with a diet of 36 calories per kilogram of bodyweight, and protein and at 1.5g per kilogram of bodyweight.  (Protein was surprisingly on the low side compared to most recommendations for muscle size).  Dietary intake was adjusted every two weeks according to changes in bodyweight.  The weight training sessions were controlled and supervised.

So, what happened?

After the 10 weeks, the changes in muscle mass for the four groups were:

  1. No steroids, and no exercise = no significant change in muscle mass
  2. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and no exercise = an increase of 3.2kg of muscle mass
  3. No steroids, and exercise (weight training 3 days per week) = an increase of 1.9kg of muscle mass
  4. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week),and exercise (weight training) = an increase of 6.1kg of muscle mass

The body fat percentage did not change significantly in any group.

Note that neither mood nor behaviour was altered in any group (I.e. “roid rage” is a myth – but this could be another topic of discussion in itself!)

But wait – there’s more!

The four groups also had the following changes in strength:

  1. No steroids, and no exercise = no significant change in bench press or squat 1 rep max
  2. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and no exercise = an increase of 19% squat and 10% bench press 1 rep max
  3. No steroids, and exercise (weight training 3 days per week) = an increase of 21% squat and 11% bench press 1 rep max
  4. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week),and exercise (weight training) = an increase of 38% squat and 22% bench press 1 rep max

So, what’s the big deal?

OK, so it was no surprise that group 1 (no steroids, and no exercise) saw no changes in muscle mass or strength.  And it is also not surprising that group 4 (steroids, and exercise) saw the biggest gains in muscle mass and strength.

But, how about the fact that group 2 (steroids, and no exercise) saw much greater gains in muscle mass than group 3 (no steroids, and exercise), and had almost the same strength gains too.  So, let me reiterate that the guys taking steroids but not working out had much greater gains in muscle mass than the guys who were working out without steroids.

steroids

Am I saying we should all start taking steroids?

The purpose of me discussing this study is not because I want to try to encourage people to take steroids.  Steroid use can often come with a bunch of negative health implications.  And if you are taking steroids while competing within a drug tested sport, then obviously you are straight up cheating.  Though I am not bashing steroid users here either.  To achieve maximum muscle size and strength, steroid users will still train hard and be dedicated to their nutrition.  Yes, the study showed that steroid users grew even without training, but they will never reach their maximum muscle size potential without hard training.

So, why am I discussing this study?  It is to promote a greater level of appreciation for those who choose NOT to use steroids. It is so much harder to build a muscular physique while drug free.  And I don’t think those who manage to do it always get the credit they deserve.  I am also trying to demonstrate just what a significant advantage steroids give in boosting physical performance.  Anyone who downplays the edge steroids give, saying “it’s mainly all about training and nutrition”, are very naive.

Don’t compare

Additionally, I want to emphasise the importance of those that train drug free not to compare themselves to those taking steroids.  It is important to manage your expectations.  Don’t expect to go to the gym, following the training program of a professional bodybuilder (usually obtained from a muscle magazine), and think that you’ll end up looking like them.

This brings me to my final point.  Drug free trainers can still build an impressive physique and can still gain muscle. No, you won’t put on mass comparable to a professional bodybuilder.  But by paying particular attention to getting body fat levels relatively low (through a good diet), you can still look awesome.  And remember, that when you are lean, with visible muscle definition due to having lower body fat, you actually look “bigger”.  So, don’t be disheartened.  You can still build an impressive physique without steroids.  But my recommendation would be to focus more on getting lean, rather than shooting for pure size (which you may never achieve drug free).

References

The Effects of Supraphysiologic Doses of Testosterone on Muscle Size and Strength in Normal Men
Shalender Bhasin, M.D., Thomas W. Storer, Ph.D., Nancy Berman, Ph.D., Carlos Callegari, M.D., Brenda Clevenger, B.A., Jeffrey Phillips, M.D., Thomas J. Bunnell, B.A., Ray Tricker, Ph.D., Aida Shirazi, R.Ph., and Richard Casaburi, Ph.D., M.D.
July 4, 1996
N Engl J Med 1996; 335:1-7
DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

Subscribe to my YouTube channel

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So if you haven’t done so already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel:
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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!

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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.

Stomach Vacuum and Abs Training

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big fan of practising the stomach vacuum as part of my abs training. This is not just for vanity reasons, in that it helps keep your midsection tight and prevents any stomach distention (plus it looks cool!). But also for the overall health benefits of training the Transverse Abdominis for a strong core and healthy lower back.

I talk about this in a previous post here!

abs training

Normally I like to include stomach vacuums as part of my abs training. I mix vacuums in with each abs exercise I do, in that I hold a vacuum for a second or so after each rep. I try and do this daily if I have time.

These are some of the exercises I do.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Feta Cheese Chicken Breast

These taste great! Chicken Breast sliced length ways with Gherkin and Feta Cheese in the middle! Cook for about an hour. Season with paprika, parsley, sugar-free ketchup, and mustard…or your own choice of herbs and spices!

Serves 2 people.

Just a quick video here! I had these with mixed vegetables on the side, and lentils. But you could have them with rice or couscous or whatever else you fancied!

Also note that I opted for reduced-fat Feta Cheese to lower the calorie content. The condiments and herbs and spices I used were super low calorie too!

Nutritional Info

Per Feta Cheese Chicken Breast:
Calories = 214 cals
Protein = 30g
Carbs = 6g
Fats = 8g