ARE STEROIDS YOUR ANSWER?

Revisiting an old blog here, but as I see many guys getting disgruntled with their lack of progress so far in 2017, I wanted to put this out again to give some perspective if you're starting to wonder whether steroids are the answer...

There's two ends of the spectrum here.

On one end, you might make bit of a meh decision to to jump on a quick cycle of gear. You think popping a few pills and a handful of semi structured, mediocre workouts are going to do the trick and have you ripped for ibiza in a few months. Nothing much happens in the first few weeks so you fob the idea off and think no more of it.

OR.

You decide to do it 'properly', but just one cycle right? What harm can that do.. You're willing to use whatever drug it takes but you're going to follow the recommended doses right? You train like an animal and weigh your white fish and oats to the gram. You see some results.

But you want more. And because more is better you up your dosage, perhaps you bring in another drug to help 'get rid of that last bit of fat' or 'give you that hard 3D shouldered, Instagram filtered look'.

So you go on holiday and look/feel better than ever have before. You thrive on the compliments and love the attention. You figure you've done a great job and decide when you get home you'll come off the gear and just maintain your shape. Cool.

But a few weeks down the line you feel small, weak and soft. F*&k it, jumping on one more cycle should do the trick.

That right there is the slippery slope of steroid use.

If you get the desired result from taking something, you will go back to it to regain the results you lose coming off it and the further down the path you get, the harder it is to find your way back..

You've not just built a physique with drugs, your mind is now at the mercy of them too.

It's now a part of who you are. You feel the desire to keep up this reputation of being the guy everyone looks at in the gym and asks for advice.
Dysmorphia kicks in. You become increasingly dissatisfied with where your physique is at. Thus more drugs. More drastic measures.

The negative physiological effects have now hit really hard. Unbeknown to you your natural testosterone production is shutting down. Your liver is starting to wane and your nuts are shrinking.

So where does it stop?

Worst case scenario... Your body says enough is enough. Heart attack. Done. You're out. Dead.

Still worth cracking on with a quick course for your holiday?

If you want a physique like the guy in this picture, please believe me that you DO NOT need to take drugs. Is that kind of physique easy to achieve? No. But is it achievable.. For absolute sure.

If you want to be Mr Olympia then yes, at some point drugs will have to come into the equation. But if like most of us guys you're after that lean, men's heathesque kind of look you really do not need to be anywhere near drugs.

Gyms this day and age are littered with guys using performance enhancers and that's their body and their choice, no judgement on them.

But it pains me to see so many young guys resorting to such drastic measures because they feel it's the only way to get the results they want or the easier/quicker way to make it happen.

I urge you to look at the bigger picture and consider your decision on this kind of stuff very, very seriously.

ARE YOU STRUGGLING TO BULK UP?

Something a lot of us guys want when it comes to physique goals is to fill out our tshirts with a thick chest, round shoulders and dense arms that hug our sleeves. Classic superheroesque kinda torso. Whilst some guys can be more genetically predisposed to slapping on muscle tissue quicker, many struggle adding that extra size. Typically known in the industry as  hard gainers! Is this you? If so, read on for my five commandments to bring even the skinniest of you the best results possible...

1/ DECIDE WHAT BODY COMPOSITION YOU WANT - If you just want size, size and more size and body fat isn't really something you're bothered about (within reason) then congratulations you can get bigger, quicker. On the other hand if you want to keep body fat gain to a minimum, then you're going to have to play the longer more gradual game of making 'lean gains'. Although this longer more steady process requires more patience, in my eyes it is the superior approach. It's better news for you hormonally (the fatter you get the worse your hormonal profile will become). It's also going to reduce the chance of you developing any physiological and psychological food issues from over eating/bingeing on junk, which is typically what happens when people go on a no holes barred, aggressive bulk. 

2/ GET STRONGER - Getting stronger on all your big compound lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, lunge, pull up etc) is going to help massively when it comes to laying down new muscle tissue. The process of getting stronger requires you to get better at essentially 'turning on' muscle fibres and the better you get at this, the better you can break them down to allow them to adapt and grow back bigger and thicker.

3/ BE PROGRESSIVE - Don't keep doing the same workouts with the same weight, exercises, sets, reps etc and expect drastic change. Your body responds to changes of stimulus so be sure to track your training shooting for progression week in week out. Try to change up your program every 4-6 weeks as a general rule.

4/ CALORIE DENSE FOODS - If you struggle to get in enough calories because of a modest appetite 1. I'm very jealous of you! (closet fat boy) and 2. You need to be wise with your food choices opting for foods that contain a lot of calories without being too much of a chore to get down your neck. Snack on nuts/nut butters, use a little oil in your cooking and incorporate fruit juice and full fat milk into your diet if you're looking for some easy calories. Making your own mass building shake is a great idea in between meals. 1/2 pint full fat milk, 1/2 pint coconut milk, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 40g whey, 1 banana, 50g oats. Blend. Done. 

5/ ARE YOU WORKING AS HARD AS YOU THINK? - Adding muscle takes intensity. I drone on about this all the time, but if you aren't training hard enough, you simply will not build muscle. Period. A great training partner or a well equipped personal trainer should take your training to the next level. Having someone else there allows you to really get stuck in and leave nothing on the table. You can start throwing in techniques like negatives, forced reps and AMRAP sets much more effectively when your right hand man is there to make sure you don't squash/decapitate yourself.  

Address those five points, be patient, and you will grow!

6 THINGS I WISH I KNEW WHEN I STARTED TRYING TO GAIN MUSCLE

For anyone who is at the start of their health and fitness journey I can completely understand if you're a little puzzled as to what direction to turn when it comes to building muscle. Just google "how to build muscle" and you'll be bombarded with over 8 million search results! So here's a couple of key things that in hindsight I wish I had got to grips with sooner when I made my start.

1/ CALORIE SURPLUS - Without this you won't build muscle. It's as simple as that. What this means is you need to be eating more calories than you are burning for a sustained period of time. It works a little like this... Imagine a house (your body right now) and it's made of a certain amount of bricks (calories). If you want to build a bigger house, you're going to need more bricks right? Very simplistic analogy but you get the picture. 

2/ MUSCULAR DAMAGE - This is something you're looking to create through training. Not in the same way that you would tear a muscle and end up with an injury, we're talking about tiny micro tears within the muscle tissue. Causing these microscopic tears is one of the goals of weight training when trying to build muscle. Again, lets use the above analogy... If you're going to build your bigger house, you're going to need to chip away a few bricks and cement (muscle damage) to be able to add on more bricks (new lean muscle tissue). 

3/ PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD - This is crucial for making progress in whatever the aspect of fitness and building muscle is no exception. The term progressive overload simply means progressing your training over time. This might mean adding extra weight on certain movements or maybe more total reps and sets of specific exercises. The key is to log your training so you know your numbers to then push forward on as the weeks move on.

4/ PROTEIN - Being in a calorie surplus is important but if you don't have an adequate amount of protein in your diet then it's all for a lost cause. Aiming for 2/2.5g protein per kg of bodyweight puts you in a great position. If you don't want to get lost in the maths of it, another good gauge is to include a palm sized protein source in every meal (based on three meals a day) and then supplement with a standard whey protein shake once a day too. 

5/ FEEL THE BURN - If it ain't hurting it ain't working. You need to understand that the dull ache you get towards the end of an exercise, that's important! I'm not saying you need to yourself into the ground killing yourself 7 days a week, especially in the early days, but you do need to get your game face on and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It isn't a social event and it will require effort.  

6/ IT TAKES TIME - Building muscle is a long steady process. There is absolutely zero chance of you waking up and seeing superman's torso after a week of bench pressing. If only it were that simple! One week you might notice your a couple of pounds up on the scales, the next month you might notice your t-shirt sleeves getting a little snug and next year you might be looking back at holiday pictures and getting some clean cut perspective of the gains you have made over the year. 

Building muscle isn't easy, if it was everyone would be walking round looking enviably good! But the benefits of carrying a little extra muscle mass than the average guy or girl definitely make it worthwhile. In fact, they deserve a post all of their own, so i'll leave this one here for now!

WHAT IS ONLINE COACHING AND IS IT FOR ME?

Online health and fitness coaching has surged over this past few years. The development of relevant apps, software and communication technology had made online coaching a legitimate service than can help you along your health and fitness journey. That being said, it doesn't come without it's drawbacks too.

WHAT IS IT?

Well this can vary. There are many different models of online coaching out there but generally ranging from the low budget model which will involve equally low input from the coach. My honest advice is to avoid the cheapest services out there. You won't get any individualisation or contact time with your coach as the business model involves bringing in a high number of clients to make any kind of profit. You are for the most part treated as just a number.

Move across to the other end of the spectrum where you will have to part with a more chunky investment and you should find yourself in the hands of a coach that truly customises your training, nutrition and lifestyle plan to help you obtain the results you want. This means bespoke training, a nutrition plan that is tailored to you (this could be macronutrient based or more meal specific) and the guidance you need to help address the 23 hours outside of the gym, not just the 1 in it. They should also hold you accountable and regularly evaluate progress, whether that be email check ins, weekly calls, weigh ins, photo updates etc. 

WHO IS IT FOR?

Online coaching works best for those with a good basic understanding of training who aren't fearful of walking into a gym environment. Those with little to no experience of training should seek a 121 Trainer first ideally. As an online client it's up to you to shoulder a lot of responsibility, you need to make sure the workouts get done and you must be honest with the Coach. They cannot pick the weights up or eat the food for you. If you find it tough to fit allocated slots with a 121 Trainer into your hectic schedule then Online Coaching might be great for you. You get all the structure of working 121 but get to train when it fits in best for you. 

HOW I DO IT?

My online approach has evolved over time and still does much like my approach with each of my 121 clients. Some of the common components my online coaching involve are:

- Access to the Brisbournefit app where you can access and log your specific workouts.

- Weekly check ins evaluating the week previous and pre-empting the hurdles in week coming up.

- Initial diet diary assessment and relevant guidance moving forward (Myfitnesspal set up/meal plan templates etc).

- Detailed check in calls/Skypes/Facetimes varying from weekly to monthly.

- A number of 121 sessions if geographically viable (e.g. day one, half way point, completion date).

- 1/2 day workshops where I set aside time to go through specific, relevant content as well as spending some extra time getting to know one another.

- Nutritional sensitivity testing via blood draw.

- Basic supplemental set up.

- Hormonal assessment and custom supplemental protocol following this.

- Email/Whatsapp support as required within guide times.

If you're considering hiring the services of an Online Coach, do your research first. Run a google search, read some reviews, even speak to some of their current/previous clients if possible to get some insight first hand into what it's like to work with them. The fitness industry comes in all shapes and sizes and finding not just a coach who is knowledgable, but a coach that you get on well with and respect is massively important. Use the beer test. If you can imagine going out for a beer with them, chances are you will work well together. Well maybe, not a beer, but you catch my drift!

 

REST DAYS AND DOING THEM RIGHT

For anyone wanting to get the most from their workouts, resting and recovering is as important as training itself. A few key points...

YOU NEED THEM: If you train intensely day in and day out, not only will your body not thank you for it, but you'll likely become disinterested at the monotony of the weights room. Having a few days away from the gym will do wonders for your physical recovery and motivation.

ADJUSTING YOUR DIET: My personal preference is to drop carbohydrates down slightly on rest days and replace those calories with healthy fats instead. You won't need the influx of carbohydrates given your reduced activity and the healthy fats have fantastic anti inflammatory properties which will further aid your recovery. So out with the potatoes and rice, in with the steak, salmon and nuts.

ACTIVE RECOVERY: If like me you struggle to take your down time, think about using your rest days as days you can get involved in other activities that will benefit your training goals. Yoga, pilates or just doing your own mobility and stretching work are all great options.

WHEN TO TAKE A REST DAY: If you feel your workout intensity lagging after several days straight training; maybe your strength is down or you are struggling to concentrate on your workout, it could be worth thinking about taking a rest day. Another common scenario you should put your feet up is if you are going to be going out to consume alcohol (in relatively large/free amounts) later that night. Being hungover and trying to recover from a workout is pretty tough on the body and both processes of recovery will slow down when combined!