Fat Loss

Body Fat Benefits

I've gone back and forth on whether this post should be made, but at this point, I really feel the need to say something.

The man in the following picture has an unhealthy body fat percentage:

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Bear in mind that I'm not hating on Chris Pratt; I love him! He's a Guardian of the Galaxy for crying out loud; however he's the one who felt he was unhealthy and not fit at this stage. Honestly, he was correct; he weighed nearly 300 lbs at one point and that simply isn't healthy.

Still think this is some generic, fat-shaming article? Well, what if I claimed that the man in this picture has an unhealthy body fat level too?

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Surprised, Darth Sidious?

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The truth is that being ripped to the bone isn't good for you. There's no getting around that. I'm not talking about having a six pack or having a flat stomach... I'm referring to the single digit body fat range (9% and lower). I'm talking about the guys you see on Instagram with veins bursting from their chest and abs. I'm talking about men with veins bursting all over their chests and abs, just like Jeff Seid in the photo above.

First off, this low level of fat doesn't even look better. A guy with 12% or even 15% body fat will have a fuller and more muscular look than someone hovering around 7% body fat; this helps beef up the appearance more when you have a shirt on. You'd never know this looking at social media, however, because many athletes and models in the low body fat range are taking steroids that augment their muscle mass and shred their fat to minimal levels. Also, their most ripped appearances are temporary states for their bodies that they reach during photoshoots and such.

But looks aren't everything either. You should be training for your health and longevity as well. If that's the case, then the reality is you never need to go below 10% body fat if you're a man (or 20% body fat if you're a woman). Rather than gaining a health benefit, ridding yourself of that much body fat would actually be a health risk.

These days I'm sitting at 170 lbs and about 10% body fat:

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Now maybe I'm wrong; maybe a DEXA scan would pin me at 12% or 13%. If that's true, then it only helps the point I'm trying to make: there's no need to be leaner than this. I have a six pack and can see striations in my obliques; furthermore, my veins are noticeable without ever needing a pump.

Body fat isn't some evil parasite created by the Devil; we have it for a reason. It plays an integral role in the overall health of your body. In today's blog post, I'd like to discuss the specific roles body fat plays.

First and foremost, body fat is crucial your immune system. Fat acts as an organic cushion that prevents disease and infection from spreading throughout your body. Competitive bodybuilders who cut down to the 5% - 6% range might very well find themselves catching colds and other illnesses more frequently than they normally would; this is a clear sign that the immune system is compromised.

Body fat also contributes to healthy hair growth. Ridding yourself of fat too quickly could lead to premature baldness or graying of your hair. If you're lucky enough to have a head shaped well for the shaved look, maybe this doesn't bother you as much; I personally appreciate my hair and want to preserve it for as long as I can.

Your fat also helps promote a healthy level for your skin. Take a look at competitive bodybuilders and look at their faces during competition: they've drained their faces so much that they almost resemble skeletons. I understand some men want a chiseled jawline (I prefer rocking a beard myself), but your jaw will be about as lean as it can get at 10 - 12% body fat.

Body fat is also crucial to temperature regulation in your body. I find myself getting chills more easily than most people, and I attribute it mainly to my body fat. The ideal temperature to me is 80 Degrees Fahrenheit, which would be considered hot by most people. When I jump into a pool, I freeze up immediately and it takes several minutes to adjust. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable it must be at even lower body fat levels.

Your energy levels are also directly correlated with your body fat levels. Most of us live in the real world: we don't make a living off social media. We have real jobs. And as someone who works in a demanding corporate job, I need to emphasize the importance of feeling focused and energetic throughout the day.

Let me give you an example: let's say you're currently at 15% body fat and eating around 2,500 calories a day. You're not as lean as you'd want to be, but you feel fairly alert during the day at work.

Now suppose that, for the sole sake of getting shredded, you manage to get down to 7% body fat and are now eating only 1,500 calories a day. I guarantee you are going to feel WORSE in this situation; your brain will be so shot you won't even know what 2 + 2 is. Furthermore, with this big drop in calories, you might not be taking in as many vitamins and minerals as you normally would be, which further compromises your health.

Unfortunately, this is often how extreme body fat percentages are reached: bodybuilders nearly starve themselves to rid as much fat as possible, especially in the weeks leading up to their competitions. Actors do this as well, but they find themselves feeling weaker than they'd like: Sylvester Stallone was possibly the leanest he's ever been in Rocky III, but he once commented in an interview that the shape came with drastic side effects. Stallone nearly passed out at different points of the day simply due to the lack of energy. You'd never know this by watching the movie, however, since he's pounding Mr. T like it's his job.

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My overall message is simply this: keep health as your focus when it comes to body fat. Just like you'll never be the biggest guy in the gym, you'll never be the most shredded either. But you can still have a lean, strong body that will turn heads at the beach. Men who shred down to 10% and women hovering around 20% will have healthy, aesthetic bodies that any normal person would envy. More importantly, you won't feel miserable maintaining a physique like such; your self confidence will match the physical energy that comes with maintaining a healthy level of fat.

Mega Metabolism

The basic way to lose fat fast is to increase your metabolism. People argue over the best ways to do this, however. Some say hours of daily cardio will help you achieve it; others claim that all you need to do is some resistance training every week.

Well, I'll speak from experience on this one. I never had a fast metabolism to begin with; it was only ever average. Back in high school, my maintenance was roughly around 2,000 calories a day, much like the average American diet.

These days, however, it's bounced up to 3,000 calories. Most people bulk with that much food, yet somehow it's become my maintenance. Despite eating so much, I exercise with the intensity of the Black Panther, and that definitely burns some energy.

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By the way, if you haven't seen the movie yet, I would HIGHLY recommend it. Moving on...

Ultimately I enjoy having a metabolism this high. It lets me have more flexibility with my diet; if I want to sneak a donut or slice of pizza each day, it won't have a negative impact on my physique. People who burn less than 2,000 calories a day can't say the same; a large slice of pizza has 400 calories, and eating one of those every day could lead to weight gain over time.

Again though, I wasn't always like this! Some guys have it bad and have 3,000 calories as their maintenance just as they're starting their fitness journey. They're the lucky ones when it comes to fat loss. I was never that lucky, but in the same way I boosted up the energy I burn each day, you can do it too!

Here are 4 quick steps to supercharging your metabolic processes!

1) Weightlifting

Resistance training burns tons of calories. Whether you use free weights, machines, or just your bodyweight, lifting is an effective way to both build muscle and burn fat. The more muscle you have on your frame, the more calories your body will naturally burn from day to day.

Ultimately, the focus of your lifting should be compound exercises. For one thing, they're more efficient. A heavy set of deadlifts can grow your entire upper back and posterior chain rather than individually isolating your lats, traps, lower back, glutes, etc. Am I saying isolation is useless? Of course not; but compound lifting is definitely superior.

Another advantage with compound exercises is that because they involve so many joints and muscles, they burn tons of calories. You can feel it during some of the sets too. Try doing 20 reps of Back Squats to failure; as your squeezing that 20th rep out, your heart will be racing like crazy.

Here are some very effective compound exercises:

  • Deadlift
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Squat
  • Chin Up
  • Dip
  • Row
  • Split Squat

Your routines should center around these. Throw in isolation exercises where needed (Dumbbell Curls and Tricep Extensions, for example, if you have trouble building those arms) but focus on the compounds. And make sure you don't lift for more than 60 minutes at a time.

2) Cardio

Lifting will help boost your metabolism, but it's not everything. You shouldn't be lifting weights 5 - 7 days of the week; cardio should be performed on the other days instead.

Personally I lift weights 3 days a week, perform cardio another 3 days of the week, and use Monday as a rest day (I spend it sleeping in a bit after the weekend).

Now you want to perform cardio the proper way. Hours of running at a time would certainly burn tons of calories, but it would also throw your hormones out of balance. When you run for longer than 30 minutes straight, cortisol starts to shoot up.

I went through a phase in college where I was running 4 times a week for about an hour at a time; I was lighter than ever (almost a measly 150 lbs) but I STILL couldn't see my six pack. Fast forward to today and I see my six pack even at 170 lbs of bodyweight.

The proper way to use cardio for maximal fat burning is by performing it in intervals. My cardio of choice is sprinting on a treadmill: I perform it as follows:

  • Stretch and warm up
  • Sprint at max speed for 30 seconds
  • Rest 2 - 3 minutes
  • Sprint at max speed for 30 seconds
  • Rest 2 - 3 minutes
  • Sprint at max speed for 30 seconds
  • Rest 2 - 3 minutes
  • Sprint at max speed for 30 seconds
  • Rest 2 - 3 minutes
  • Sprint at max speed for 30 seconds
  • Rest 2 - 3 minutes

5 sprints may not seem like much, especially to those of you who competed in track during high school or college, but this really has worked wonders for me. I probably burn as many calories during this as I do during my lifting workouts.

Are you limited to only sprinting? No, I only suggested it because I truly think it's the best exercise anyone can do for fat loss. Here are some other cardio ideas:

  • Burpees
  • Kickboxing
  • Exercise Bike
  • Elliptical Machine
  • Stairmaster

Pick whichever one you prefer. Just make sure you stick to intervals and that the total cardio workout is no more than 30 minutes (even 20 minutes might be a better time limit).

3) Restful Sleep

Sleep impacts everything in your health and fitness, especially your metabolism.

I've always been a bad sleeper, and on nights where I get only 3 - 5 hours of actual sleep, I notice a HUGE drop in my energy and appetite. I'm lucky if I cram in 2,500 calories on those days.

Sleep needs vary from person to person; some people can operate fine on 6 hours of deep sleep. I've tried this before, but it just doesn't work for me; I feel wiped out after 2 days or so of this.

Time and time again, the National Sleep Foundation has recommended an average of 7 - 9 hours sleep per night. This seems consistent with most people; even most fitness channels online recommend at least 8 hours per night.

Let me emphasize this though: when it comes to sleep, it's quality over quantity. What's the point of "sleeping" for 10 hours if you wake up 5 times during the night? You might feel more rested just sleeping for 6 hour straight.

Personally, I operate best both in the gym and at work when I'm sleeping 7 - 8 hours, assuming I wake up no more than one time during the night. Lately I've been sleeping 7 hours straight and I feel alert the moment I wake up. I don't need to hit snooze or anything; I just get out of bed and start my day.

4) Active Throughout the Day

This is a bit more vague, but as a general rule, your metabolism will be higher if you stay active throughout the day. In contemporary society, people spend so much of the day just sitting around.

Instead of scrolling through your phone all day, go outside and talk a walk. Rather than use the elevators at your office, see if you could take the stairs instead. These may seem like simple and even intuitive ideas, but they can accumulate how many calories you burn over the course of a day.

Try to implement these at home at well. Let's say the weather is terrible outside and you don't want to go anywhere. Well, maybe see if there's something you need to fix or organize around the house. In my experience, there's always SOMETHING that has to be taken care of. Or better yet, maybe you could have a cat or dog you could play with.

Summary

There you have it! 4 steps to boost your metabolism. Keeping your calorie burning processes high will help you burn more fat and give you the ability to be more flexible with your diet. Stick to these tips and you can start grabbing that slice of pizza at lunch!

Hardgainer Training Tips

Hardgainer Training Tips

I never even heard the term "hardgainer" until I began perusing the Internet a few years back in search of bodybuilding and fitness knowledge.

The moment I understood what it meant, I had an epiphany.

I AM a hardgainer.

For those without a Webster Dictionary on hand, a hardgainer is essentially the worst of genetics when it comes to body physique.