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The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 4 – You’re Just Not Serious About Building Muscle

The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 4 – You’re Just Not Serious About Building Muscle

“The one who doesn’t stop trying, wins”

Let me ask you this: Have you ever wanted something so bad, you did everything in your power to get it? You made sure you somehow got the necessary money, you worked your ass off to impress someone, you made a little extra effort to get into that team, you researched for hours on end just to fit in and have knowledge about a certain topic. The list goes on.
 
Have you ever done something like that?
 
Well good, because then you know what it means to get results. And then you’ve got all the tools you need to dramatically transform your physique. If not, building muscle might not be your thing.

Just a hint: After you’ve read this, be sure to check out The Total Testosterone Optimization Cheat Sheet. You’ll find lots of advanced, useful and simple ways to skyrocket your testosterone in no time. More Testosterone = More Gains. Now who isn’t in for that?

Let me ask you this: Have you ever wanted something so bad, you did everything in your power to get it? You made sure you somehow got the necessary money, you worked your ass off to impress someone, you made a little extra effort to get into that team, you researched for hours on end just to fit in and have knowledge about a certain topic. The list goes on.
 
Have you ever done something like that?
 
Well good, because then you know what it means to get results. And then you’ve got all the tools you need to dramatically transform your physique. If not, building muscle might not be your thing.
 
That might seem a bit harsh, and there will be countless others who promise you that no matter your current state, you can have a great looking body. Still, I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong and that not everybody can build muscle.
 
Only the ones with dedication, consistency, willpower and the mindset to do what it takes will build a great physique.
 
It’s the only ones who have ever achieved looking so damn good.
 
It’s tough, guys. Building muscle is not just some playing around in the school playground, having fun day after day. Sometimes, it sucks and you won’t want to continue because there just aren’t any results in the mirror to be proud of. Sometimes, you get thrown off by unforeseen circumstances, like bad weather, guests or holidays without a gym. Sometimes, you wake up feeling as if you crashed into a tree during the night.
 
But then, sometimes, everything just clicks and falls into place. It’s the ones who wait for that “sometimes” who will succeed.
 
Listen, I’m not talking about some measly 5 pounds of muscle gain a year. I’m not even talking about 10 pounds a year. Almost anyone can gain that if they just stay consistent for a year.
 
What I’m talking about are the guys cracking the 20 pounds + of solid muscle in their first year, even going as high as 30 pounds in some rare cases.  The ones who strive for mastery and quick but concrete progress week after week. The ones who jump from 100 pounds bench presses to 175 pounds within a year. The ones who follow one program with absolute dedication. The ones who will always remain superior simply because of their attitude towards life.
 
It’s a tough road.
 
Sadly, too many gurus in the fitness industry will tell you it’s easy and that you can gain 15 pounds in 4 weeks or get shredded in the same time. All they’re doing is selling you their B.S.
 
Granted, once you do everything right and keep yourself in check, working out and building muscle can be one of the most rewarding things ever.
 
When the results come, you will gain confidence like never before. You will feel like a king and act accordingly. You will simply feel amazing. It’s crazy how much a person can change simply by working out and changing their body. It teaches confidence, dedication, consistency and willpower unlike anything else.
 
But there’s still a mountain to climb and things to fall over and get stuck on. Not everyone will conquer them.
 
Otherwise, why wouldn’t everyone that started working out look like a complete boss just a year later? Why would people have to keep getting back in shape for summer each and every year? Why do we see so many New Year’s resolutions fail?
 
It’s simple – only a small bunch of people actually have what it takes to build their dream physique. Not everyone will get there.
 
That’s the thing: Everyone has the potential to build an awesome body, to look amazing. But there’s still only a few who will actually do it. 
 
In this case, it has nothing to do with your body’s capabilities or muscle building potential – but it has everything to do with the right mindset. Sure, some lucky guys have all the genetics set out for them, able to build muscle on demand. But that doesn’t mean Joe Average can’t also add some solid 30-40 pounds of muscle to his frame over the years.
 
Our Joe might not look as proportionally Greek god-like as the genetic freaks and he might not naturally get over 200 pounds of lean mass; but he’ll achieve a pretty darn good-looking physique by simply dedicating the hell out of himself. By staying consistent with everything he does. By making every workout count.
 
So, that’s why you need to ask yourself: Are you taking muscle building serious? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your time to go to the gym consistently, week after week (you only really need 2-3 sessions per week, though), month after month, year after year? Are you willing to turn to a proper nutritional plan (a plan where you can eat all the meat, eggs, bacon you want, aka the stuff you really crave) which you will follow as a way of life – and not a stupid diet which will only result in regret and metabolic chaos? Are you willing to choose one workout routine and follow it with dedication? Finally, are you willing to do all this whilst enjoying the process and having fun seeing your transformation come about?
 
Are you that person? Do you think you can do that?
 
Then building muscle might just be your thing. Then you might just be the right person for the task. Someone I can bet my money on and know that I will win.
 
To some, this probably sounds extreme. This is not what people make building muscle sound like?! As if I’m expecting the world for something so basic in nature.
 
The truth is: It isn’t hard. Building muscle can become a passive, automatic process and a joyful, exciting part of your everyday life. If you see it as a journey and accept your body in every stage you are in – good or bad – it will be a breeze. If you learn to enjoy simplicity (eating one way, training one way), it will even make life easier and more rewarding.
 
It’s what you set your mind to, that will ultimately determine the outcome. Once you have arrived at a better, a more bulletproof mindset, working out and eating right will become second nature. It won’t be a daily struggle but a simple decision to choose what’s right and drop what’s wrong.
 
You will learn to only feed your body with the things that improve it and make it better. Instinctively, you will choose the better option. It’s a powerful evolution of the mind.
 
Once you’ve reached that mental state, building muscle and looking good won’t be your daily obsession and goal anymore. It will simply be a regular part of your day, the same as eating. You don’t have to think about it. You won’t find it hard or extreme to follow. You won’t find yourself obsessing over it. It will become a state you live in. Something you just do without a second thought.
 
From then onward, the real fun begins, since everything will just be so much easier.
 
That’s what I meant with my initial statement: Muscle building might not be your thing because you’re just not ready for the challenge yet. You haven’t grown enough mentally.
 
If you keep asking yourself why you’re not seeing results in the gym despite doing some (maybe most) of it right, this is your problem. You’re still weak and small because you haven’t fixed the only place muscle building stems from.  Your daily mental state and mindset. It determines each action you’ll take on any given day, so better give it some thought before blindly heading off into the day, right? I promise you now, your day will transform and your decisions will lean toward the positive and growth-focused the more you practice.
 
Now, there’s just one thing missing.
 
You are probably asking yourself: Alright, Sven, but how exactly do I practice this stuff? How do I get to that mental state of mind? I need some guidance, please!
 
Alright, I hear you. So let’s look at a few of my favorite examples. Some people absolutely love meditation for this but I, personally, have found the following to work even better for me:
 
  • An Invincible Mindset – You need to have the right mindset from the get-go if you want to truly really change your behaviour. This isn’t something that can be easily taught, it’s more of a conviction, a relentless pursuit to find the best version of yourself day after day.  You need to decide for yourself that you’ll follow this path, no matter what it takes. Once you have this ingrown conviction, you can use the next two tips to manifest and reinforce it.
  • Planning the Next Day in Advance – If you want to manifest something in your life, you have to make room for it and plan it into your day. Just saying you’ll do it won’t cut it for most people. You need something to look at, something to motivate you. Plus, if you write it down, you are challenging yourself and making it harder to just overlook.
  • Making Working Out a Rule in Life – You will follow this rule, no matter what. It’s what you live by, something you don’t question. It’s the same as drinking water every day or brushing your teeth. You just do it because it just needs to be done. Same thing for your workouts. If you don’t allow choice or emotions to come into play, you’ll do it because you know it’s a part of life. I have several of these rules in life. Working out daily (if resistance training or other activities) is one of them. 
 
So, write down your goals for each day the evening prior. Don’t create a to-do list and don’t see it as one. Just write down 3 things you want to achieve the next day. Then, act on them. Make it happen. You’ll feel so satisfied once you reach your target.
 
This is an audio book by Eckhart Tolle, which is absolutely amazing. If you’ve never heard about the concept of living in the “Now”, the idea is this: Most people today go about their day and activities mindlessly. When they are at work, they daydream about how their life could be better or what movie they’ll watch tonight with friends. When they workout at the gym, their mind is buzzing from all the stress they had at work today and they try to figure out a way to fix things that went wrong, or they’re just mad at their boss and can’t stop hating on him in their mind. Finally, when they return home, instead of having fun and enjoying some time with the family, they worry about their financial situation.
 
Point being: Their mind is always out of place and out of space! There’s rarely a strong focus on the Now, on what’s going on in the present moment. Tolle says that this is wrong and it’s making us sick. You can’t change the past and you cannot know or determine the future – so why bother thinking about it! Why spend time in places that don’t aid you in life? All you’ll achieve is feeling anxious, stressed out, depressed, angry and sad.
 
Instead, focus on the Now, the present moment. That’s where you’ll feel excited, engaged, happy and alive. In fact, the Now is the only time you can ever live in or ever will live in. It’s the only thing that counts since you can actively change it. Thinking about what was and what will be is useless since there’s nothing you can change about it.
 
If you practice the Power of Now (and I strongly suggest you get yourself the audio book to listen to) , you’ll see your focus, concentration, productivity and happiness increase like crazy. You’ll feel rooted in whatever you do and have way more joy in life.
 
Here’s how you use it: Listen to Practicing the Power of Now every morning (or evening) for 20 minutes and then go about your day practicing the teachings. It’s as simple as going to the gym and being fully engaged in your training and aware of your every surroundings. Try it, it’s awesome.
 
Daily Affirmations
Affirmations are simply words or sentences you repeat and speak to yourself (aloud or in your head) again and again, on a consistent (optimally daily) basis. It’s just a way of training your subconscious mind to believe your affirmations over time. It goes by the same principle that, when Nick keeps telling himself he’s bad at playing tennis, he’ll eventually end up being a bad tennis player, just because he trained his mind to believe it. Even if he turns out to actually be a really good tennis player, it might take him months or even years to overcome that feeling of mediocrity because he entrained his brain to think he’s really bad.
 
That is affirmations in true action. On the contrary, we can use positive affirmations to attain the results we desire. Obviously, just saying it but never really acting on your affirmations won’t do any good, either. You gotta live it.
 
Here’s a good example of how to make use of affirmations for your fitness goals: Pete heard about affirmations and how they can help him achieve his dream physique. He is quick to take action and comes up with a few sentences, writing them down. They say: 1. I easily build muscle 2. I look just like Brad Pitt in the movie Troy 3. People admire me for my dedication and consistency in the gym 4. People keep telling me how amazingly muscular my body looks 5. I love my workouts and never skip a session 6. I am genetically gifted and build muscle insanely fast
 
After he has written them down, Pete, now satisfied and ready to go, plasters these sentences on his room wall and begins his first round of repetitions, saying the sentences out loud and with deep conviction that they’re true. All this takes him around two minutes. He goes about his day, maybe works out (like crazy, of course). The next day, he wakes up and after a nice cold shower, Pete once again repeats the affirmations for two minutes. He does so day after day and month after month. With time, his affirmations might change but he still repeats them.
 
One year later, Pete is a shredded dude. He has gained a staggering 15kg (30 pounds) of solid mass and can now toss his old affirmations and instead take on new goals. This time, he focuses on how to be more confident.
 
Pete feels pretty amazing.
 
Anyways, back to serious. That’s how you do it. It’s quite simple really and literally takes 1-2 minutes for one round, depending on the amount of sentences you wrote down. By the way, it works! You’re just simply making your brain believe it’s true and it will make the necessary changes. It’s not woo-woo, there’s even science behind this but I’ll pass on that for now.
 
You can use daily affirmations for anything. For your family life, fitness, health, relationships, behaviour, productivity etc. Just try it out – it never hurts.
 
Summary
 
To sum things up, this is how I’d tackle my day from now on:
 
  1. Plan the Next Day in Advance – In the evening, go grab a piece of paper and write down your goals for the next day. What do you want to achieve in terms of work, fitness and health? Write down that you’ll actually workout and schedule the workout into your day or say that you’ll eat to nourish your body and give it what it needs. Whatever it is, write it down.
  2. Get into an Invincible Mindset – You need that deep conviction to truly want to change things, that no matter what, you’ll be ready and follow-through anyways. Set out a plan and follow it. You can change it (because we all make mistakes when we first plan something out) but still follow whatever you planned out. Also, look at the longterm result – one year, two years away. Don’t get stuck in the little things that don’t make a difference. When you wake up, know your plans for the day and take action.
  3. Practice The Power of Now – Get those audio books and listen to them! After you have established your Invincible Mindset for the day, listen to Practicing the Power of Now for 20 minutes. That will get you into the zone and ready to tackle your day (especially your workout) with full concentration and focus.
  4. Read Daily Affirmations – Next, read your daily affirmations out loud (just find a private space, like your bedroom) and with conviction, as if they were already reality. Now you know where you’re going, you know what to do and you can attack your day with confidence and produce results. Go get ’em!
 
The whole thing really shouldn’t take longer than 30-35 minutes. Five minutes in the evening to plan your day and another 30 minutes for the morning routine. That’s it! If you can’t do 30 minutes, only listen to Practicing the Power of Now for 10 minutes. If you really want to, you’ll make the time.
 
There you go. That’s procrastination-destroying, results-driven behavior in full action. If you can establish this routine, you’ll be down and dirty in no time and a year from now, you’ll reap all the fitness and general life benefits you can’t yet imagine. Enjoy.
 
Question: What are your thoughts on this? Will you take action and become one of the “meant-for-muscle-building”? Tell me what you think of the routine and how you will implement it (if you do) in your life. Do you think a routine like this is good or just boring and stupid? Let me know.

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The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 3 – You’re Nutrient Deficient

The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 3 – You’re Nutrient Deficient

“Muscles don’t just grow the way a growing child does. Muscles are stubborn. You need to give them a reason to grow.”

Here’s the deal: The body is made up of dozens of different building blocks, which we refer to as nutrients. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. There are close to 100 essential nutrients the body requires on a daily basis. They are called “essential” because the body simply cannot make them or is very limited at doing so.
 
The only way out? We need to get these nutrients from the food we eat. Sounds fair and simple, right?
 
Hmm… I’m not so sure about that because if you look take a closer look at our modern day, Standard American Diet, you’d find out that almost none of the foods we typically eat (pasta, pizza, ice cream, cookies, french fries, cereal…) contain a huge variety of these nutrients and definitely not in a high enough quantity. Even if you ate lots of vegetables and fruit, it still wouldn’t suffice since the soil we grow produce in is so nutrient-depleted that the food doesn’t contain all the nutrients we need. It’s quite sad, really.
 
Simply put: Our diet doesn’t feed the body, it starves it.
 
Let’s change that right now. We need to somehow get more nutrients into our body.

Just a hint: After you’ve read this, be sure to check out The Total Testosterone Optimization Cheat Sheet. You’ll find lots of advanced, useful and simple ways to skyrocket your testosterone in no time. More Testosterone = More Gains. Now who isn’t in for that?

There’s two ways we can do this:
  1. Eating a very nutrient-dense diet
  2. Targeted supplementation
 
But wait, Sven, what on earth does all this have to do with me building more muscle? Alright, before I get into the two points above, let me briefly explain.
 
First of all, I am an advocate of looking and feeling amazing at the same time. Why look good if you feel like a bag of crap on the inside? Why only look good in your 20s, if you can look good well into your 40s, 50s and beyond? Why sacrifice longterm health by eating bad and treating your body bad if you can live disease-free and healthy for the rest of your life?
 
The bottom line: Don’t think short term, think longterm and how the right food and lifestyle choices now will allow you to have good looks and feel healthy 40 years down the road.
 
So that’s the first reason you’d want to consider optimizing your nutrition.
 
Then there’s the other question you are perhaps more interested in: Why would nutrient deficiencies kill my gains?
 
It’s an easy answer, really. In order to build muscle, the body needs the right building blocks to make it happen. Amino acids, minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids all play a part in this. Heck, if that weren’t true, why would we even eat food? It’s got to have some sort of function in the body, other than filling us up and making us feel good, right?
 
Inadequate nutrition results in some deficiency somewhere. The result could be any of these examples:
 
  • From one week to the next, you just don’t have the energy to workout anymore
  • You wake up tired every morning
  • You are suddenly not motivated to workout anymore
  • You get brain fog at a certain time each day
  • You can’t concentrate properly, no matter what you do
  • You keep plateauing, week after week
  • You are eating enough and training with intensity but your muscle just won’t grow
  • You feel depressed more
 
The list goes on but you get the point. Lack of energy and focus, motivation, low testosterone, mood swings, plateaus. Those can all sometimes be related to nutrient deficiencies without you even knowing.
 
In the long run, this is problematic and you will not make the kind of gains you aim for. Period. If you don’t give the body what it requires, it will have to compensate at some point. And that compensation might just be your muscles.
 
Since I hopefully answered that question, let’s get back to how we can get this nutrient-thing right.
 
  1. Eating a Very Nutrient-Dense Diet
That sounds pretty simple, right? Just eat foods that are nutrient-dense, such as fruit and vegetables, for example? That’s a good start, but surprisingly for many, fruit and vegetables in fact don’t belong at the top of that list.
 
They’ve got some good amounts of various nutrients, especially vitamins – I agree. Still, there are certain foods that outrank fruit and vegetables by more than tenfold.
 
The best example would be beef liver. Let’s check out a comparison chart real quick:
 
 
Now ain’t that fascinating? Depending on what we’re looking at, beef liver outranks apples and carrots by far, sometimes containing 100 times the nutrition of either of those foods. That’s quite the achievement.
 
When it comes to the nutritional profile, your mum was wrong, after all. She should have told you to eat your beef liver instead of the veggies! Beef liver actually maxes out the daily requirements for certain nutrients (Vitamin B12 and Vitamin A!) in just one serving.
 
Beef liver is not alone, though. Some other fantastic sources of a wide range of nutrients are pastured eggs, sea vegetables (spirulina, chlorella…), wild-caught alaskan salmon, bone broth, sprouts and green leafy vegetables. I know, I did mention vegetables but they still aren’t the most nutrient-dense.
 
All those foods contain a plethora of nutrients and you’d be well off incorporating them into your daily diet. Plus, they are really good for feeding your muscles for growth, too, so definitely make use of them.
 
The best for you to do right now would be to go ahead and download my free Anabolic Shopping List (click here), which contains all the best foods to include in your diet, including the ones I already mentioned. It takes all the guess work out, plus you don’t have to worry about whether a food will be good or bad for you to eat. All the foods on that list are amazing for muscle building and health. Go check it out!
 
When you start eating for nutrient-density, you’ll start noticing amazing changes in health and recovery between workouts, since you’re only eating anti-inflammatory foods. You’ll get sick way less, have more energy for workouts, get fewer injuries and recover a lot quicker between workouts. Plus, the increase in testosterone will make you feel like a beast.
 
For me, it’s definitely worth it.
 
  1. Targeted Supplementation
Very often, in fact almost always, our diet is not adequate anymore. It just doesn’t provide all of the essential nutrients the body requires on a daily basis. As I mentioned, the soil used for farming is so depleted, most minerals aren’t even present in it anymore. There’s maybe a dozen minerals we still get from our food in mediocre quantities but what about all the other ones? There are 60 essential minerals we need to somehow get from our food since the body can’t make them.
 
The only real option is to supplement – if you want to live a long, happy and healthy life, that is.
 
It’s important to supplement cleverly, though. Just simply dumping a bunch of chemicals into your body, without really knowing what they’re there for or why you’re taking them, is not a clever game plan. Targeted supplementation is the way to go.
 
There’s also quality. Many, if not most of the supplements out there these days simply do not qualify to be put in your body. The quality is horrendous, often doing more harm than good. Ingredients such as nasty fillers, additives, artificial sweeteners, food colourings etc. are included more often than not, with some causing serious trouble in the body.
 
If we’re gonna take a supplement and spend money on it, we might as well make damn sure it’s doing our body good, right? Otherwise, if you’re not prepared to go for quality, please just stay away from supplementation all together. You are probably doing more harm than good.
 
So now we know that we need to supplement wisely and go for quality. Plus, the main goal is to refill the body with missing/deficient nutrients or the essential nutrients we probably don’t get enough of on a daily basis.
 
There are 5 supplements I consider to be essential to achieve optimal health and to build muscle more effectively:
 
  • Multivitamin/mineral
  • Trace minerals
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Essential amino acids
  • Digestive enzymes
 
These 5 supplements cover all the bases and ensure the body gets all the essential nutrients it requires daily. The multivitamin/mineral is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into any further detail on that. The best one I’ve found so far is from BodyHealth, called Complete Multi + Liver Detox. It covers all vitamin/mineral needs and offers additional liver detox support.
 
Trace Minerals
 
The main focus is put on macro-minerals these days. Everyone focuses on magnesium, zinc and calcium. This is a good thing because these nutrients are definitely missing in our diet and play a crucial role in maintaining health, however they are not everything.
 
What often gets neglected is the role of micro-minerals or trace minerals. Ever heard someone say that, to maintain health, we need to supplement with strontium, titanium, silicon, silver, scandium, rubidium, antimony, lanthanum, yttrium or gallium? I bet not. These trace minerals are only present in really small amounts in the body, however they play a vital role in all kinds of bodily processes.
 
If we don’t supply our body with a regular dose of these (and we generally don’t), our health starts to go south. You see, we used to derive these minerals from plants we ate, since they’re the only good source apart from mineral-rich salts such as sea and Himalayan salt. But nowadays, plants simply don’t provide adequate (if any) amounts anymore, due to soil depletion.
 
Also, plants can’t make minerals. They can manufacture vitamins but not minerals. Thus, the soil needs to provide, which it doesn’t.
 
Not fixing these mineral deficiencies can lead to damage in the long run and may just be the cause of your fatigue, depression, sleep issues etc. In fact, it was a major reason why I plateaued for almost 2 months in a row! After taking trace minerals, I was literally revived and crushed plateau after plateau, week after week.
 
So, our only real option remains supplementing with a quality trace mineral supplement. The best one I’ve found is called Plant-Sourced Minerals from Natural Vitality.
 
Essential Fatty Acids
 
The fish oil craze has been going on for a considerable amount of time now already – to no surprise. For most people, it is one of the only sources of essential fatty acids. Especially the two most important EFAs, called EPA and DHA, are just not present in most people’s diet today. We rarely eat fish, and if we do, it’s usually the farm-raised variety that comes with a host of toxins. Other sources, such as eggs and meat also have to be grass-fed in order to contain a good amount of these fats.
 
Instead, the modern diet is mostly comprised of omega-6-heavy vegetable oils, such as soybean, canola or sunflower seed oil. That’s a problem since it creates a major omega-3 to omega-6 imbalance. An ideal ratio would be somewhere between 1:1 to 1:5 (Omega 3: Omega 6). Here’s the crazy part: The average person today has a ratio of up to 1:20!
 
This is so concerning because Omega-6 acts inflammatory in the body. If there’s no balance between the anti-inflammatory and inflammatory essential fatty acids, heavy inflammation occurs. That is what’s happening to most people.
 
Since eating more wild-caught fish or pastured/grass-fed eggs and meat is not possible for everyone, supplementing with fish oil is essential and an absolute necessity, especially if you’re hitting it hard at the gym, to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
 
Taking some good, high quality fish oil, such as SuperEssentials Omega from LivingFuel will do the trick.
 
Essential Amino Acids
You might not believe it when I say it but you might be amino acid deficient, especially in the essential ones. Even if you’re downing tons of protein shakes.
 
There’s a number of possible explanations for this. For one, you could suffer from low stomach acid, which is a very common phenomena (usually, stomach acid is too low rather than too high, unlike your doctor might tell you), which would lead to protein malabsorption and digestive upsets such as bloating and gas.
 
Or you could suffer from a shortage of digestive enzymes, in which case you won’t digest the protein you’re so desperate to gulp down, either.
 
Lastly, it could also be that you don’t produce enough bile, which is essential for proper digestion.
 
If any or several of those problems exist, you are very possibly amino acid deficient, which turns out to be an issue when trying to build muscle.
 
You see, I firmly believe that most bodybuilders and amateurs today ingest so much protein because their bodies are so incapable of properly breaking down and utilizing what they’re consuming. So they have to eat enormous amounts just to satisfy their amino acid needs.
 
Here’s a good scenario. Imagine two young men, both age 25. The one, for some reason, can make use of and absorb 100% of the protein he ingests. The other one only 75%.
 
A good guideline to stick by when it comes to how much protein you should consume in order to gain muscle is to take your bodyweight (in kg) times 1.5 – 1.7 (in pounds it would be times 0.7 – 0.8).
 
Both of these men weigh 82 kg (180 pounds). That gives us the following protein needs: 82 x 1.5 – 1.7 = 123 – 139 g (or 180 x 0.7 – 0.8 = 126 – 144).
 
Now, back to the two men.
 
The one can use 100% of his ingested protein, the other one 75%.
 
How much protein would the first guy have to eat in order to meet his nutritional needs? About 130 grams, right?
 
How much would the second have to eat? Well, he can only absorb 75%, so he would have to eat 175 x 0.75 = 131 g of protein before he meets his nutritional needs. That’s 45g more protein! That’s an entire medium-sized steak right there!
 
I hope you understand the message here.
 
Most folks trying to build muscle completely overdo protein, when in reality, it’s completely unnecessary if they had a properly working digestive function! And most everyone doesn’t.
 
You could say: Well, Sven, why can’t I just eat more? I’m fine with eating more if that’s what it takes.
 
There’s a number of reasons I don’t recommend eating so much protein.
 
  1. It’s much more expensive. Why waste money on an additional two protein shakes if you could get the same effects whilst spending less?
  2. It’s really hard on the digestive system. When your body has to keep digesting protein, it can’t use the enzymes in other parts of the body to help with healing and repair.
  3. It’s boring and a drag. I just absolutely hate having to constantly think about when to drink my shake, how much I still have to eat, whether I might turn catabolic by forgetting to drink my shake 2 minutes later than usual and preparing protein shakes the whole time.
  4. It’s anti-longevity. There’s enough research out there proving that too high protein consumption reduces longevity and I definitely want to live a long, disease-free life.
  5. It creates too much acid in the body. Once you go way above your protein needs, the rest of the protein is turned into uric acid, a toxic waste product of your body. I don’t see a need to keep it elevated by aggressively pumping useless protein into my body.
 
I think that should suffice.
 
So we have a twofold problem here. For one, most people have poor digestive function which results in protein malabsorption. And then, these people tend to eat way too much protein to make up for the missing amino acids the body can’t absorb, which creates the five problems I listed above.
 
The only unanswered question is: How do we maximize amino acid uptake so that we don’t have to stuff ourselves full of food?
 
Good question.
 
The answer lies in optimizing digestive function for maximum protein breakdown. If we can optimize digestive function to a degree where it can take in the maximum amount of amino acids with as little waste as possible, we have reached our destination.
 
Unfortunately, there will always be waste products left from the food we ingest. It just cannot be changed. But, there’s a certain upper digestion limit we can reach naturally. I say naturally because there are hacks around maximizing absorption above our bodies natural capabilities, which I’ll discuss further down the article.
 
But first, and most importantly, we want to optimize what we naturally have. This is how you do it.
 
Protein gets broken down during digestion (obviously) into amino acids. Every protein source has its own amino acid profile. Meat, fish, pork, beans, sesame seeds, heck even carrots all bring their unique amino acid profile to the table. Some are considered complete sources of protein (meaning they contain all 21 amino acids, including all the essential ones) and some incomplete (such as when one essential amino acid is missing).
 
Each protein source also has a specific Net Nitrogen Utilization (NNU), which  refers to the percentage of amino acids that follow the anabolic pathway (the one you want). You may have heard of the bio-availability of different types of protein foods before, but NNU is a different concept. Where the bio-availability of a protein food (say, milk) refers to the amount of protein from this food source the body can digest fully, NNU talks about the amount of amino acids actually used for Body Protein Synthesis (BPS).
 
If that sounds too complicated, just consider this: Whey protein and meat both enter the digestive tract. If you look online for the bio-availability of certain types of protein sources, you’ll often see a list from highest to lowest availability. On this list, whey protein is usually cited as the top protein source considering it’s bio-availability of above 100 (eggs where used as the standard and they have a score of 100). Meat, on the other hand, scores a measly 80.
 
The conclusion most people would draw from this is: Whey protein is superior to meat for muscle building since it is way better absorbed by the body because of its higher bio-availability score.
 
This assumption is wrong. WRONG. Yet you hear it all the time.
 
The problem is that yes, whey protein might be very well absorbed by the body and meat not as much, but of the protein that gets absorbed, how much is eventually being used by the body? What percentage of the amino acids are used for Body Protein Synthesis (BPS) and what percentage is wasted as toxic by-products?
 
That’s where Net Nitrogen Utilization (NNU) comes into play.
 
NNU considers this variable and gives a score that tells how effective a protein source really is and how much our body can really make use of. The rest is wasted and excreted as toxic waste.
 
And with NNU in play, whey protein suddenly looks a whole lot uglier than once thought. The NNU of whey protein is a ridiculous 16%. Compare that to meat at around 30% and the odds have suddenly changed. Meat seems to be the superior protein source, after all.
 
Neither of the two have the highest NNU, though. The highest NNU belongs to eggs, which top the list at 40%. So the ancient bodybuilders of the 20th century where right, after all. 12 raw eggs a day anyone?
 
As you can see, actual absorption is definitely king.
 
Note: There is a way you can get close to 100% amino acid utilization in the body, meaning every single gram of amino acids you ingest will end up being used for Body Protein Synthesis (BPS). You’ve probably heard about Branched-Chain Amino Acids before. Well, I’m talking about the big brother of BCAAs. I’m talking about EAAs or simply Essential Amino Acids, which provide all 8 EAAs, which has shown to be way more effective, especially for healing and repair in the body – crucial for recovery after workouts. This is gonna up your game, trust me. So, to find out more about the only way to get as close to 100% amino acid utilization as possible, check this out.
 
Digestive Enzymes 
 
But let’s get back to the initial digestion of the protein source in the gut because there’s still a whole lot that can be said about that. Plus, it also factors into the end goal – maximum amino acid utilization.
 
If we can’t digest our food properly, we also can’t utilize its building blocks (amino acids) efficiently. This might mean that, theoretically, instead of absorbing 80% of the protein from a beef steak, you’d only be able to absorb 65%.
 
That makes a huge difference, since right off the bat, you’re already losing 15% of possible muscle building protein (I know, that’s probably not an accurate assumption but you get the point – protein is lost).
 
To prevent this, we better make sure we got our digestion bulletproof.
 
The two determining factors in protein digestion are stomach acidity and the amount of proteolytic enzymes present in the gut. The more acidic the gut (usually reaches a low of ph 3.0), the better. But it’s not the stomach acid that digests the protein, it merely acts as an activator of a proteolytic enzyme called pepsinogen, or pepsin. Pepsin then digest the protein and breaks it down into amino acids.
 
There’s a host of proteolytic enzymes that could be used for protein digestion. Plant enzymes such as bromelain and papain, or trypsin and protease are all part of the proteolytic enzyme family. They are found in food, as well as being naturally present in our body.
 
Here’s an example of a proteolytic enzyme formula.
 
IMAGE
 
So why are we talking about this, Sven? See, the body is in a catch 22 situation. It uses proteolytic enzymes for both repair/healing in the body – but for digestion, as well. So it can really only do either of those two things properly and with overuse, even loses some of its digestive enzymes, depleting the body of its available stores.
 
In the long-term, that’s problematic for digestion, as well as inflammation throughout the body, since proteolytic enzymes are needed for both.
 
The result is a sub-optimally functioning body. Digestion, which we really need to maximize for optimized protein absorption, is impaired.
 
So, let’s find out how to optimize both stomach acidity, as well as digestive enzyme function, shall we?
 
How to Increase Stomach Acidity
 
Stomach acid is often misunderstood. People tend to think (after all, doctors told us so) that high stomach acidity is a bad thing. That it’s the cause of things like reflux and GERD.
 
It’s not.
 
In fact, without sufficient acidity in the gut, we are screwed. We can’t fight off pathogens, bad bacteria or fungi. We can also not absorb the nutrients from our food properly (for example Vitamin B12). Lastly, we can’t digest protein optimally.
 
As a result, we feel lethargic, have zero drive to do stuff and tend to get sick more often. Stomach acid is a natural part of the body’s defense mechanism and without it, we couldn’t fight off all sorts of pathogens, bad bacteria and yeast we get exposed to on a daily basis.
 
Subsequently, antacids are a real nasty thing. They destroy stomach acid and ensure we set ourselves up for all kinds of problems further down the road.
 
To increase stomach acidity and as a result improve protein digestion, there are a few possible routes to take:
 
  1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple Cider Vinegar is interesting. It’s not clear why exactly it helps to for digestion, but I assume it slightly decreases the stomach acidity in the stomach, whilst also contributing to the gut flora because of the probiotics in it. Nonetheless, it works.
 
Take 1 tsp ACV mixed with half a glass of water before each meal. As an interesting side note, you can take the same amount after each meal to get rid off heartburn (yes, a completely safe alternative to antacids!).
 
  1. Digestive Bitters
So, digestive bitters basically just signal the body to produce more stomach acid. That, of course, is quite helpful.
 
You can just take the quite well-known Swedish bitters or use another good digestive bitters brand.
 
  1. Himalayan/ Sea Salt
Stomach acid is made up of Hydrogen and Chloride. Salt contains chloride, which makes it important to include in a meal since it provides one essential half of stomach acid’s make-up. As long as you choose to go with Himalayan or sea salt, you needn’t worry about a high salt intake either. These salts contain basically all trace minerals needed in the body, which makes these salts an essential part in our diet since the majority of the population is mineral depleted (because of mineral depletion in soil due to aggressive farming practices). So don’t hold back! Salt until the food tastes good.
 
  1. Betaine HCl
Although it shouldn’t be the only method, supplementing with Betaine HCl is a very efficient way to increase stomach acid. You are simply giving your body pure stomach acid, which lowers the pH in the stomach to the required level. If done right, it’s completely safe and doesn’t hurt your stomach by any means.
 
Still, anyone with stomach ulcers or using medications such as corticosteroids or anti-inflammatories like Advil, Tylenol and other NSAIDS must absolutely NOT take Betaine HCl. It’s going to do more harm than good.
 
Important: Make sure you choose a Betaine HCl product that also includes Pepsin. The Pepsin is crucial for protein digestion and is activated by HCl, making it a double awesome combo.
Important #2: Supplement the right way. You need to slowly load with Betaine HCl to see where your current limit is. Too much at once and you risk hurting yourself. So, here’s the procedure:
 
Only take Betaine HCl with a meal containing at least 15 grams of protein (a simple snack like a carrot and apples won’t cut it). Take one tablet right before the meal (the tablet should contain 650 mg of Betaine HCl). Eat and then see how your body responds. If there’s no warming sensation in your stomach, then with your next meal, take two tablets. If that won’t do it either, increase to three. Go all the way up until you feel a warming sensation in your stomach. Once you feel it, back down one tablet. So if you felt it at six tablets, only use five with your meals from then on. With time, your need for Betaine HCl will decrease and you’ll feel the warm feeling with five, then with four, then with three tablets and so on. That shows that your body is increasing its own stomach acid production.
 
I especially recommend Betaine HCl to bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts or anyone else eating comparatively higher amounts of protein, since it definitely helps with digestion and takes some load off the digestive system.
 
  1. Avoid the Sugar
Sugar, especially the processed version, depletes your body of minerals, as it creates an acidic environment. Acidic blood robs your body of minerals and might even take minerals from your bones. Combine that with already low stomach acid and you have a setup for disaster. Since low stomach acid results in mineral malabsorption, a vicious cycle develops. Low stomach acid = low minerals = acidic blood. Sugar amps that whole cycle up, making it worse than it already is. So, drop the sugar and rather follow my Invincible Being Diet Plan by downloading a free copy of the Anabolic Shopping List here.
 
  1. Stop Drinking Around Mealtime
It’s quite simple logic, really. When you drink water, soft drinks, juice or anything similar around mealtime (within 30 minutes before/after meals), your stomach acid is diluted, turning it into a weaker acid. Subsequently, digestion is impaired and you won’t maximize your protein digestion potential. So, stop the drinking.
 
Note: An exception to this are beverages such as coffee, herbal teas and green/black tea, since they help with digestion. So, if you really feel like drinking something, choose those.
 
How to Optimize Digestive Enzyme Function
 
As we’ve already learned, digestive enzymes (especially proteolytic enzymes), are needed for both digestion and repair/healing in the body. They’re responsible for two very important systems in our body. As we all know, having to put the same high value focus on two different tasks at once – never works. At some point, the one has to be sacrificed.
 
Proteolytic enzymes (unfortunately) aren’t much better than we are with this. They can only do one thing – digest or repair. And if they have to choose, proteolytic enzymes will always choose digestion first, leaving no time for healing the body.
 
The other sad part is how we humans abuse their function and expect them to multi-task, which always fails.
 
How do we abuse them? Well, with the way we’re eating, we aren’t giving them even the slightest chance of a break digesting food. Here’s how we humans are cruel to our proteolytic enzymes:
 
  1. We don’t allow them to have long, recharging breaks
I mean, you’ve heard it all, right? Eat six meals a day, every two hours, otherwise your muscles waste away. That’s the common bodybuilder broscience and surprisingly, a large number of guys still follow this nonsense-advice.
 
Even if you’re not a bodybuilder, every Pete and their sister will tell you to eat breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. So, Pete and Pete’s sister, why are you still fat and tired all day long?
 
Here’s the problem: We are not giving our digestive system (read: digestive enzymes) a break! And they are screaming for it. They can’t keep up with the food. Eating three to six times a day is absolutely not necessary for muscle growth or for general health and is in fact inferior to less frequent meals.
 
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the answer. And it’s as simple as finishing dinner at 8:00 pm, then skipping breakfast and waiting until 12:00 – 2:00 pm to eat (seriously, just do it for 2 weeks and your body will stop craving food in the morning – dead simple).
 
What is IF good for?
 
  1. It allows for healing and repair – Simple, when the proteolytic enzymes don’t have to digest food the whole friggin’ time, they can actually for once concentrate on taking care of the body. You will also get sick less often with this approach, meaning less downtime in the gym.
  2. It increases testosterone yes it does, and that’s really awesome for us since we need high testosterone in order to effectively build muscle. (Check out my FREE Testosterone Optimization eBook to learn all the latest and greatest tricks to increase testosterone like crazy, naturally)
  3. It’s a huge time-saver – Shame. The poor guys who still prepare six meals a day of chicken breast and broccoli, neatly packed into a fitting container, so they have everything ready to eat every two hours of their awake time. I just wish I could tell them there’s another way, a way they can easily safe 2 hours a day preparing food and instead enjoy life to its fullest. Sigh…
  4. It maximizes nutrient absorption – The body is in a primed state to absorb nutrients after prolonged fasting. It is craving food and nutrition and once you provide it, it flippin’ eats up everything.
  5. It makes you more productive – Finally, you don’t have to constantly think about food all day long and can actually get stuff done. If you’re a lazy guy, you might not want to try this.
 
Raw vs. Cooked Food
 
Now that we know why Intermittent Fasting is so damn good for improving just about anything, especially digestive function, let’s look at a few more ways we can improve the efficiency of digestive enzymes.
 
Apart from the wrong mindset about how often we should eat, what we eat further plays a huge role. I’m talking about cooked versus raw food.
 
The problem is not that we eat cooked food. Heck, it’s really good for us and we wouldn’t be able to properly access all the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds in a food without cooking, since the plant’s cell wall needs to be broken down first.
 
Still, part of our diet should be raw because that comes with it’s own advantages:
 
  1. More enzymes – Raw food has the advantage of retaining its enzymes when it enters the mouth. That way, the body isn’t forced to use its own stores as much to break down the food.
  2. More vibrancy and energy – When you cook a food, it’s basically dead. It’s got no life force left. Raw food actually radiates more energy. These kirlian  photos show it well:
          Whether this is true or just some woo-woo, I look at how I feel when eating raw food. And I definitely crave a juicy, raw salad after a prolonged period of eating cooked food only. So there’s something to it, for sure.
  1. It keeps the body more alkaline – Raw foods are king when it comes to their alkaline power (not all, but most). This is especially important when you look at what we eat otherwise on a day to day basis. It’s processed crap, which puts us into a massively acidic state. Thus, changing the diet whilst incorporating more raw foods will help to re-balance your acid-alkaline balance.
 
So, to take action on this is quite easy. Simply eat one quite large salad a day, consisting of (organic, if possible) tomato, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, avocado, pepper, carrots and herbs such as cilantro, oregano etc.
 
That’s all you need and it will ensure you staying on the right track.
 
Supplemental Digestive Enzymes 
These days, life is tough. Quite often, we just don’t manage to do things the way we planned them or we revert back to comfort.
 
We eat when stressed out (in the car, watching a movie, fighting with family at the table), we don’t chew our food properly and we don’t focus on what we are actually eating but just gulp it down. All that is problematic for digestive function, especially for optimizing digestive enzyme function.
 
When we are stressed, we are in fight or flight mode so that the body focuses its energy on everything else but digestion. When we don’t chew properly, our saliva can’t perform its job (breaking down carbohydrates), making it harder for our digestive enzymes in the gut to take care of the job. Abusing this once is fine. Repeated abuse, however, is a crime and after some time, our body just won’t cope anymore.
 
It’s one of the main reasons we need supplemental assistance in the first place.
 
Nonetheless, for the occasion that you eat when stressed out (I hope it’s not too often) or if you simply feel like you can’t digest your food well anymore, supplementing with a high quality digestive enzyme is a wise choice.
 
It’s important to look out for certain standards when choosing digestive enzymes. Here are a few points to consider:
 
  • The supplement should contain a variety of proteolytic enzymes, such as different proteases, papain and bromelain
  • The protease potency should be no less than 50.000 IU, with an optimum of 80.000 IU or more per capsule
  • It shouldn’t contain fillers, additives or other crap but simply have a vegetable capsule surrounding it
  • It should include amylases (carbohydrate enzymes) and lipases (fat enzymes) in high quantities, as well (at least 20,000 DU for amylase and 3000 FIP for lipase)
  • It should ensure optimal delivery to the gut, where it can do its magic
 
Any digestive enzyme of that basic nature will do a pretty good job.
 
The ones I’ve found to work best and have all the above and more, are either this one or this one. Try them out.
 
In terms of maximizing amino acid utilization, we’ve covered quite some ground.
 
What it really comes down to in the end is optimizing your digestive system by focusing on digestive enzyme function and stomach acidity. If you can bulletproof those two things, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a protein-dismantling, amino acid munching gut machine.
 
Of course, there are other factors that come into play, such as leaky gut, allergies, intolerances etc etc. But those are topics I’ll cover another day and right now, just focus on the two points I made in the article. If you can get those right, it’s a good place to start.
 
To Summarize: 
 
  • There are two ways to get all the nutrients the body requires into the body – 1) by eating a nutrient-dense diet and 2) targeted supplementation.
  • To maximize nutrient density, the diet should consist of foods from the Anabolic Shopping List, primarily nutrient-dense foods, such as animal products (meat, organ meat, fish, eggs, raw milk, animal fats), fruits and vegetables (primarily berries and green leafy vegetables) and some (soaked/sprouted) nuts and seeds.
  • Even the best and most nutrient-dense diet will stay have shortfalls somewhere. Thus, the only other route to take is targeted supplementation.
  • The most important supplements to take for both health and optimal muscle building goals are: multivitamin/mineral, trace minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids and digestive enzymes, since these represent the most important building blocks in the diet.
  • Lastly, optimizing digestion is important and hugely beneficial for proper protein breakdown and subsequent amino acid utilization. The most important factors to optimize are digestive enzyme function and stomach acidity.
  • Methods to increase stomach acidity include apple cider vinegar, Himalayan/ sea salt, avoiding sugar, digestive bitters, supplemental betaine HCl and avoiding to drink water around mealtimes.
  • Methods to optimize digestive enzyme function include fasting, incorporating more raw foods into the diet and supplemental digestive enzymes.
 
There you go. I hope you enjoyed the article. If there’s anything you’d like to add, discuss or complain about, just hit up the comments section and let me know! I’m looking forward to your thoughts.
 
My question to you: What has been the most helpful tip for you?

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The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 2 – You’re Sabotaging Yourself

The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 2 – You’re Sabotaging Yourself

“Muscles don’t just grow the way a growing child does. Muscles are stubborn. You need to give them a reason to grow.”

It might be hard to admit for some but it’s true. “Wait, what? Sabotaging myself? How? I workout three days a week, eat above my caloric needs, am physically active and eat clean most of the days. There’s no sabotage there.”

Looking at the obvious aspects, you might be right. You seem to be quite the dedicated person, doing what you believe is just right for gaining slabs of muscle in no time. In fact, most people still think that the best way to gain muscle consists of: workout + eat (+ protein shake(s)) + sleep, repeat. It’s what conventional wisdom, broscience and even most motivational bodybuilding quotes teach us. It’s just that it’s not that simple – it’s what you do in-between (and during) those times of the day that makes the biggest difference. Let me clarify what I mean by that:

Just a hint: After you’ve read this, be sure to check out The Total Testosterone Optimization Cheat Sheet. You’ll find lots of advanced, useful and simple ways to skyrocket your testosterone in no time. More Testosterone = More Gains. Now who isn’t in for that?

Let’s be honest. There are at least a few ways we’ve all self-sabotaged ourselves in the past. It’s either those occassions where you just know you’ve messed up, or it’s subtle, perhaps even unbeknownst to you sabotaging behaviours scattered throughout your day. Whatever it is, it’s self-sabotage and it just has to stop if you really want to move on and get results – in life and in the gym. 

So, what are some of these self-sabotaging behaviours I’m talking about? Let’s find out!

The Ways You’re Sabotaging Yourself, Risking Gains

1. Weekend Indulgences

Congrats! You’ve actually made it to the weekend sticking to a healthy, anti-inflammatory and higher fat diet (I sure hope that’s the way you eat…). Great! So, now it’s the weekend. Time to relax, right?

You wake up Saturday morning, rather hungry and perhaps still a bit tired from the tough week. You open the fridge or cupboard and happen to find some really tasty, really sugar-laden and inflammation-promoting food still left in the house (oh oh, that is not supposed to be in the house, actually). Perhaps some Oreos, ice cream, chocolate …. or even healthier but sugar-filled snacks – who really knows. You know you shouldn’t be but you’ve been really good the whole week and this one box won’t make a difference. The bad stuff will pass. So you sit down and enjoy. For the time eating you feel really awesome but just moments after you’re done, you know you screwed up.

It’s these occasional indulgences that really add up over time and become an issue, for (lean) gains and your health. Eating these foods will result in inflammation in your body, destroying your recovery, wreaking havoc on your energy and metabolism and creating a snowball effect that ends up as fat very quickly.

People think when gaining muscle, they can get away with anything. And sure, they can get away with a lot more than perhaps sedentary people. But it’s not simply calories in, calories out. The effect the food has on the body needs to be considered for optimal results in looks and health. Blood sugar balance, inflammation, digestion, allergies. They all come into play here. If you want to gain muscle the clever way and not be stuck with a host of health issues ten years down the road, please do yourself a favour and think: food quality over quantity.

These weekend indulgences keep us from making progress and can eventually halt it, as recovery is greatly affected by how well we are able to manage inflammation in our body. So increasing inflammation on the most crucial days for muscle growth (the rest days) will leave us feeling weak and not properly recovered. The next gym session will suck and you will not beat your previous workout’s performance, eventually plateauing for good. Bad luck, you deserve it.

2. Thinking Your Workout is Enough (or: Just Move More!)

You are probably not aware of it but you might be part of what I call an “athletic couch potato”. You go to the gym three days a week for an hour or so whilst either sitting in the office or in the classroom for 7-9 hours straight. The same position for the entire time through (except for the occasional stretch of tiredness or toilet break in between). Wow, your muscles are probably getting a pretty damn good workout that whole time.

Sitting, guys, is not just the new smoking but also an absolute catabolic disaster and recovery-enemy number one.

Think about it. Your muscles require movement, blood flow and some sort of stimulation to function properly. If they stay in the same position for a few hours straight, it kills their primary function. They get sluggish, weak and inflexible. They waste away, the same a broken arm does when you can’t move it for months. Why do you think almost every adult these days has back pain? Exactly.

I can promise you, you will certainly not be in a position to improve your performance and prevent plateaus if you spend 20 hours (including sleeping) a day not moving a single muscle. Yet, that’s what most of us do.

Humans need to move and our body wants to move. Movement removes excess waste products from the body (stimulates lymphatic system), reduces post workout soreness, provides low-level endurance and even increases testosterone (Yes indeed! See for yourself here. Would you believe that something as stupid as a daily 30-60 minute daily walk would be beneficial for testosterone production? I was stunned, too.

By the way, any movement will do. Walking, wood-cutting, lawn mowing, cleaning the house (your girlfriend/wife can thank me later), etc. Just get moving more. You could also insert 5 minute breaks every 30 minutes at work and do some basic jumps, knee lunges, squats, push ups and so on. As long as you don’t spend prolonged hours in a row sitting (or standing) in the same position.

So work some movement into your day-to-day life and I promise you, you’ll experience improved ROM, recovery and strength in your workouts.

3. Thinking a Mindless Gym Routine is Enough (or: Make your workouts intense and trackable)

Let me tell you this straight. If you are entering the gym thinking you can have a nice, relaxing chill after a hard day, please leave. Immediately. You are not doing yourself any favor. If you don’t want to gain muscle, fine, have your chilled session to get the joints moving. But if you are serious about building a ripped physique, you better make sure you a) get that intensity up! and b) have a solid routine and know what the hell you’re even doing in the gym.

You need a solid action plan, knowing exactly which exercise you will do when, how long you’ll rest and how many sets and reps you need to do to beat your previous best. Write the stuff down. Track it. You can’t expect to miraculously gain muscle if, for triceps pulldowns, you rest for 1 minute the one day and for 3 minutes the next. Your body won’t be forced to improve! There needs to be a routine, a rhythm.

Only change one metric from workout to workout. The best and most trackable is either weight or reps. If you’ve been using the same exercise for a muscle group for a few weeks, try changing that up.

But please don’t go into a workout without knowing what you’re supposed to do or improve on that day.

Summary

To sum things up, it’s quite simple really.

  • Try to avoid crazy food indulgences. Rather have a piece of dark chocolate every day instead of running after Oreos all weekend. Don’t fool yourself, bro!

  • Just get moving more. One 30 minute walk each day in the morning can do wonders for you. Also, definitely break up your work time into 30 minutes work, 5 minutes movement.

  • Friggin’ work your ass off in the gym. Go in there with an Invincible Mindset, knowing you’ll give it your all.

Now I’m asking you. Are you guilty of any of these “sabotages”? How did you get over them? What did you change that made the biggest difference? I’d love to hear your comment and thoughts.

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The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 1 – Your Sleep Sucks

The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 1 – Your Sleep Sucks

“Muscles don’t just grow the way a growing child does. Muscles are stubborn. You need to give them a reason to grow.”

“Hey. Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“That noise?”

“No. What did you hear?”

“Oh, sorry. I was wrong, after all. It sounded as if your muscles were growing. My bad”

Ok, I admit that wasn’t the best of jokes (although I’ve heard worse) but it’s got some truth to it.

Haven’t we all had that feeling? The wish to wake up one day after a gruelingly tough workout session, looking in the mirror and seeing yourself staring back at a Greek god-like physique of epic proportions? I sure had that wish many times over.
For me, the best time to have something is right now. It’s always been that way for me. New phone? Right now! New tennis racket? Gotta have it now! Crazy damn good-looking, shredded and cut physique? Plaster yourself onto my body now! I don’t enjoy waiting. My emotions just get the better of me every time and for days I will dream up ways to get what I desire as quickly as humanly possible.

In those instances, money is never an issue. I either work to get it or use what I already have to pay for it. To be fair, this has led me to make quite a few really dumb decisions that I regretted weeks, sometimes even days, later. Impulsive decisions almost always turn out dis-satisfactory for me.

But I’ve learned and got better over the years.

But the one thing I still desire to have right now is a darn good-looking physique. It’s not that I don’t like working for it. I flippin’ love the gym and will hardly ever hate working out. It’s more the deep desire to own something the moment I take notice of it that makes me want results immediately. I just thrive on instantaneous results.

As a result, I get really upset when I hit a strength plateau or just can’t put on more muscle. It drives me crazy. When I can’t beat the reps of an exercise from a previous workout, I scream at myself and turn into an animal, trying to at least get it right on the other exercises. Sometimes it works. Other times I overdo it and end up over-training, which certainly doesn’t help.
For that reason, I promised myself to find a way to never hit a plateau again and always reach new heights with every workout. More reps. More sets. More weight. More strength. More muscle. More drive. One of those aspects had to improve from one session to the next.

I quickly found out about the obvious reasons we gym freaks plateau and how to prevent them. Things like switching up exercises from time to time to prevent the body from adapting, eating more to prevent burning out, using specific intensifier techniques such as drop sets or isometric holds, inserting planned rest weeks to recover and come back stronger, switching up rep ranges etc etc. They all helped but for some reason I still plateaued, not as frequently as before but it still happened.
Something was still missing.

So I dug deeper and deeper.

I have come quite a way since then and through trial and error, was able to find out just what that missing piece to the puzzle is.

It’s hard for me to plateau nowadays. It still happens but only once every few moons (not that I feel weakest when it’s full moon, lol). It took me some time to figure things out but heck, was it worth it.

I’d hate for you to go through the same trial and error I did. It’s frustrating and goal-crushing. So up next, I’d like to share with you the 7 strategies I used to become the ultimate plateau-crusher. All 7 are really important, so pay close attention and write some stuff down. You’ll want to use this right away. Let’s go.

Sidenote: By the way, this will be part 1 of a 7 part series about the little known reasons stopping you from gaining muscle. In every post, I’ll discuss one reason.

Just a hint: After you’ve read this, be sure to check out The Total Testosterone Optimization Cheat Sheet. You’ll find lots of advanced, useful and simple ways to skyrocket your testosterone in no time. More Testosterone = More Gains. Now who isn’t in for that?

  1. Your Sleep is Messed Up

    People say it all the time. You probably first heard it from your mom. Then, a few years later you heard it from fitness gurus and fellow muscle builders.
     
    Sleep more son, they said. You will feel better son, they said.
     
    That might sound like good advice and it makes sense at first.
     
    More sleep = more rest = better recovery…
     
    Right?
     
    Well, not quite.
     
    Yes, more sleep will indeed be better than pulling an all-nighter, it’s just that most people forget one essential piece of the puzzle.
     
    Quality.
     
    The magic word. Quality food. Quality water. Quality exercise. Yes, even quality sleep, folks.
     
    Most everyone will tell you about the magic 7-9 hour sleep window. “And all your troubles will disappear”.
     
    “Well thanks, Bob, but I still feel horrible when I wake up.”
     
    “Well, that means your body needs even more rest! Try to go for 10-11 hours perhaps?”
     
    “Ok Bob, I’ll just tell my boss/ professor I’ll be missing the first few hours of work/school, then. He surely won’t mind.”
     
    Here’s the thing. No matter how long you sleep (in fact, 9+ hours have been shown to have a negative effect on your body), you won’t feel truly well rested and recovered until you change the quality of the hours you spend asleep.
     
    I will bet any day that the guy who has an optimized 6 hours of sleep every day will feel more recovered than the guy getting 11 bad hours of sleep per night.
     
    Because sleep is not just sleep. Closing your eyes, shutting out the light and turning into an unconscious rock is not the reason behind sleep (although you definitely want to block all light at night). Sleep is a recovery process, a way for your brain to organize all the hectic information of the day, clear the body of toxins and yes, promote growth and regeneration.
     
    To do all that, your brain needs to feel as if it is in the perfect environment for an ongoing, uninterrupted recovery process. It doesn’t want to feel alarmed or shocked, lest the recovery process will halt.
     
    You need to communicate to your brain that during the entire night, you are in paradise, a perfect place of comfort, harmony and relaxation.
     
    Consistent quality sleep will be a massive game changer for recovery after your workouts. You will feel like a beast every time you hit the gym because you allowed your body to maximize it’s full anabolic capacity during sleep.
     
    Now how exactly do you ensure this “paradise-feeling”? Here are the most crucial tips to kick-start your journey:
     
    • Block out all light and noise Make sure that you have blocked out all light sources from your room. That includes those tiny light-emitting sources from chargers, TVs and laptops. Use blackout curtains for the windows and duct tape for tiny lights. If there’s still light, a sleep mask with earplugs will take care of both light and noise.
     
    • Optimize your circadian rhythm If you want optimized sleep, you’ll need an optimized circadian rhythm. The two most important contributors to the circadian rhythm are light and meal timing.
     
    For light, follow this routine daily:
    • In the morning, within the first 2 hours of waking up, make sure you expose yourself to natural light outside. No, a sun bathing session in front of the window won’t cut it, since glass blocks UVB rays, which messes up the UVA/UVB balance penetrating your skin, and is harmful to the skin. We don’t want harmful. Instead, go for a 15-20 minute walk outside, do some deep breathing, listen to a podcast, mentally prepare your day and return home happy, knowing you have just kick-started your body’s natural processes so that it knows the day has officially begun. It’s a wake up call for the body, crucial for melatonin secretion later on at night.
    • During the day, ensure you get some adequate sun exposure, as well. Take a lunch break and go for a 10-15 minute walk. Personally, I’ve got an even better routine. Since I work from home, I can actually lay down half-naked in the sun, next to the pool to take a sun bath. I really enjoy my life.
    • Blue light is sleep’s enemy #1 at night, since it’s not naturally present in the afternoon sunset. It prevents melatonin secretion because the body still thinks it’s day time. Instead, the body needs to primarily absorb red/orange light. To make sure that happens, either disconnect yourself from any electronic devices (since they are the major blue light-emitting source these days) or, if not possible, get yourself some blue light-blocking glasses or blue light-blocking screen protectors. Try to limit exposure 2-3 hours before bed time.
     
    For meal timing, the routine is pretty simple. Just eat at around the same time, every single day. No big surprises there.
     
    • Cool down at night Body temperature can have a considerable impact on sleep quality. Too hot or cold isn’t good. An optimal sleeping temperature lies between 18-22 degrees for most people. Good ways to regulate temperature include using an air conditioner (use an air humidifier with it, to keep the air from drying out) or simply keeping the windows open at night.
     
    • Stress less We’ve all been there. The sleepless nights of terror, when worrying thoughts just won’t leave our minds, torturing us all night. It’s a problem way too many people have and it is usually tied to work or family. It is often unavoidable. There are ways to counter it, though. One would be to simply stop all work-related tasks 2 hours before bed. Instead, take a relaxing bath. Do some yoga. Meditate. Pray. Journal. Do whatever you feel comfortable with and what takes your mind off stressful thoughts.
     
    • Get a routine If you haven’t made use of the power of a routine for sleep, you’ve been missing out on a serious sleep-enhancing advantage. Going to bed and waking up the same time every day can do wonders for sleep in the long run. Your body gets used to the rhythm and will, with consistency, automatically get tired. I go to bed at 10:00 pm every day. At around 9:30 pm, I can feel my body signaling “time to sleep”. It’s wonderful. By the way, it also really helps with improving deep sleep.
     
    • Supplement Sometimes, no matter what, we just can’t sleep. For those instances, supplementing might be useful. The best supplement I’ve found is the Sleep Remedy by Dr. Kirk Parsley. It’s a mixture of magnesium, vitamin D3, taurine and tiny amounts of melatonin to make you fall asleep immediately. It also increases deep sleep. Otherwise, just use magnesium, although for serious insomnia, it will probably not help.
     
    • Track it Don’t you sometimes wonder whether something you’re doing is actually helping you sleep better? I’ve asked myself that question way too many times. That’s why I got myself the Oura Ring. It’s by far the most accurate, high quality sleep and fitness tracking device out on the market. It tracks all stages of sleep plus several other metrics to determine the quality of your sleep. In the morning, it gives you a score, telling you how recovered you are and how good your sleep was for the night. It’s awesome and an all-in-one tracking solution. If you really want to know if something is working for your sleep or not, this is the device to get.
     
    Those are my top recommendations to optimize your sleep as quickly as possible. But there’s more. If you want to get really down and dirty with this whole sleep optimization stuff, so you feel recovered, energized and ready-to-attack every day, get my “One Page Sleep Optimization Cheat Sheet” for free.
     
    Summary 
     
    To sum it all up, here’s what you should do to optimize your sleep:
     
    • In the morning, wake up at the same time every day. Expose yourself to sunlight by going for a walk. If it’s a cloudy day, use vitamin D3 to simulate the sun exposure effect.
    • Throughout the day, make sure to get at least 10 min of full on sun exposure.
    • In the evening, cool down by taking a cold shower and cooling your bedroom. Relax by watching a funny movie/show, reading or spending time with your family/friends. Then, use blue-light blocking glasses to eliminate blue light, go to bed at the same every day (just choose a time and stick to it 80% of the time), supplement with something like the Sleep Remedy and track the whole thing with the Oura Ring to see how you’re doing.
     
    Simple science. Now, keep me posted on your results. I’d love to hear about your experience. What worked, what didn’t and what else did you do to improve your sleep quality?

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