Category: Nutrition

Fears of iPhone X Impacting Sleep

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Introduction


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Sleep is an integral part in our success, but everyone wants to have the latest and greatest phone. If you are like me you do not compare different phone brands. It really just comes down to whether or not I want an iPhone or an iPhone plus. Why? The late Steve Jobs hooked me with his “why”. Steve didn’t set out to make computers or phones, he set out to “Challenge the Status Quo.” This too is what I stand for. Keeping in line with this mission every iPhone pushes the boundaries of introducing technology that truly changes the game. One such area of improvement that is important to apple is your security. Think about it…our lives are tied up in our phones. Our phones track where we have been, who we have been in contact with, and what we shop for. A breach of this security would be chaos. To date, Apple has secured our phones with passwords and touch recognition. Recently, however, they took things to a whole new level. In fact, their newest iPhone X which launched protects us with facial recognition. I am predicting that for those of us not careful with this feature that we will lose sleep over it. Why? The answer is tied to the phenomena of the visible light spectrum known as blue light.

What is Blue Light & How Does It Effect Sleep?


When we open our eyes we seamlessly integrate an array of colors and lights, which, along with other senses, defines our reality. Blue light is a narrow part of this spectrum that our brain uses as a cue to trigger alertness, wakefulness, and precision. Indeed, many studies have found that blue light can enhance performance. For example, Dr. Viola and colleagues (2008) conducted a study where they used enhanced blue light bulbs in the office of white-collar workers and found that alertness and performance went up. Still other companies have found blue light to be as effective or more effective at enhancing alertness and reaction time as caffeine (Beaven et al. 2013)!

         

Know Your Whey Protein

Introduction


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When it comes to supplementation, protein is arguably the most commonly used among athletes with whey protein being the number source. A new protein has surfaced on the market called hydrolyzed whey protein. Before we proceed, I want you to understand that protein has various structures. This includes primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. The primary and secondary protein structures are simply chains of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) bound together by water. As protein becomes more complex, for example, the steak you’re going to eat later tonight, the chains of amino acids start to fold over top of each other and begin to form what we know as muscle (NIH, 2017).

The process of collecting whey protein first comes from collecting cow’s milk. This dairy is then separated into curds, that eventually can be used to create a whey liquid. The protein goes through pasteurization and filtration to create our beloved whey protein powder. However, one more step is required for hydrolyzed whey; a process called hydrolysis. Hydrolysis breaks these bonds between amino acids resulting in smaller amino acid chains and free amino acids; hydrolyzed protein. Smaller chains and free amino acids allow for much faster digestion and absorption! As you can see, regular whey protein has higher amounts of the secondary and tertiary protein structures. Although, hydrolyzed whey protein is broken down more, which means that it has more simple chains of amino acids (Zumwalt et al., 1987).

Hydro Whey and Fat Loss


Now that we understand what hydrolyzed whey is, we are going to take a look at how it compares to normal whey protein on body composition and recovery. When it comes to gaining muscle mass and increasing strength, whey and hydrolyzed whey both exhibit similar effects.
whey-protein-and-recovery

Where they differ is changes in fat loss. A recent study showed that subjects supplementing with hydrolyzed whey experienced a greater loss in fat mass and body fat compared to subjects using regular whey protein (Lockwood et al., 2014).

This increase in fat loss in the hydrolyzed protein group is due to a different of reasons including a rise in total amino acids, improved insulin response, and an increase in satiety hormones. The research also showed that muscle cells were able to burn more fat! This study suggests that using hydrolyzed whey over regular whey protein is beneficial if the goal is to lose fat mass while simultaneously increasing muscle mass. If your goal is to bulk up with little to no concerns towards gaining fat mass, then there is no benefit of using hydrolyzed whey over regular whey protein (Lockwood et al., 2014).

The Lactate Lie


The common misconception regarding lactic acid is that a buildup of lactate in the cells is related to muscle soreness, however, that is not necessarily true. Lactic acid is a byproduct from the energy system glycolysis. If we continue to exercise, eventually lactate cannot clear fast enough resulting in the impaired function of glycolysis (Abramson et al., 1993). In conclusion, Yes! As a result of physical activity you will have a buildup of lactic acid, but as soon as you stop exercising your body begins to clear lactate once again. Therefore, short term (during training) lactic acid can cause pain, but after you stop working out it does not cause soreness.

training-and-lactate-levels

If lactate or lactic acid isn’t responsible for muscle soreness, then what is? This soreness that you may have experienced is called DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS is believed to be caused by micro-trauma to the muscle fibers. This micro-trauma heals and creates a larger, stronger muscle fiber and is also considered to be a contributing factor to muscle hypertrophy. DOMS may not be fully preventable, however, there are some treatments that have shown to help with muscle soreness after exercise and one of them is supplementing with hydrolyzed whey. When two groups of participants were put through a muscle damaging workout, the group consuming hydrolyzed whey protein increased recovery (Nosaka, 2008).

The Thermic Effect of Protein


When it comes to metabolism, there are a number of factors that contribute to your daily energy expenditure, one being the thermic effect of food (TEF). This accounts for roughly 10-15% of your daily caloric expenditure. TEF is impacted by the caloric content of a meal, the diet of the individual, and the composition of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates of the meal. Studies have shown that the greater the protein content of a meal, the higher the TEF (Tataranni et al., 1995). Dr. Jose Antonio (2015) found that an increased intake of protein (roughly 1.5g/pound/day) resulted in a decrease of body fat while gaining muscle! One group ate a normal protein intake and another group ate high protein (1.5g/pound/day). Both groups saw similar increases in muscle mass but the high protein group experienced much more fat loss, even though the high protein group consumed more calories (2600 vs. 2100 calories).

higher-protein-fat-loss

Research has shown us that protein types have different benefits. Dr. Jose Antonio has shown us that an increase in protein intake to roughly 1.5g per pound per day increases fat loss while increasing muscle mass. Still, the question remains, does the amount of protein consumed post workout matters? How much is needed to maximize muscle growth?

Protein Post Workout


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To answer this question a group of researchers in Dr. Tipton’s lab analyzed the impact of 0g, 10g, 20g, and 40g of whey protein in active, young, college aged individuals at rest and following resistance training. At rest 20g was enough to maximize protein synthesis, however, after training, protein synthesis was not maximized until 40g of protein was consumed (Witard et al., 2014). Suggesting that consuming a larger dose of protein post exercise can assist in muscle growth. What makes consuming protein so critical around a workout? Are there specific amino acids that act as a trigger for protein synthesis; the building of new muscle in the body. With one of those specific amino acids being Leucine (La Bounty et al., 2011).

Conclusions


When it comes to protein type and protein intake, we do believe according to research, that there are a number of different methods that can be used to strategically design your macronutrient distribution according to your goals. Whether that be through supplementation or diet intervention. Therefore, before starting any diet, it is beneficial to explore all options so that you can use the most effective method.

Will Alcohol Make You Lose Gains?

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Introduction


Having gone to school for most my life I understand what it’s like in college. On Thursday or Friday nights people will do a two-hour workout and then party all night. Of course, part of partying is drinking, but what effects does this have on our gains? One thing we know is that it is very high in calories; in fact, seven calories per gram. We also know that when alcohol is consumed it is burned preferentially over fat (i.e. body fat).

When doing this, you are much more likely to store fat. However, even if you don’t have a problem with fat gain, if you are reading this article, I have a sneaky suspicion that you do care about gains in muscle. So, what happens when you train hard and then drink the night away?

Alcohol Metabolism


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Alcohol is slightly different from other macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) because it is not metabolized the same way. There are various types of alcohols based on their molecular formulas, however, the only type of alcohol that can be consumed is ethanol. When ethanol from a cocktail or beer is consumed, it is sent to the liver to be metabolized. In the liver, ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde, which is then further broken down into acetate. Acetate is an interesting molecule because it is also produced when your body ferments fiber, which is beneficial. Acetate can also be used to produce the ketone body acetoacetate (Ríos-Covián et al., 2016).

Alcohol & Protein Synthesis


A study was published in 2009 that gave rats alcohol. One group of young rats were given a low dose and another old group of rats was given a low or high dose of alcohol. What the researchers found is that in the young rats, at two-and-a-half hours after consumption, their blood ethanol was lower than the older rats. However, in all groups, protein synthesis was significantly lowered, which means that they had turned off the muscle building switch (Lang et al., 2009).

alcohol-protein-synthesis

Okay, that study was in rats, so let’s see what the research says about alcohol in humans. In a recent study, eight physically active males completed three resistance training bouts consisting of heavy leg work combined with interval training. They then consumed either:

1) 25 grams of protein
2) Alcohol and protein
3) Alcohol and carbohydrates

This study showed that when protein was consumed by itself two hours after a bout of resistance and endurance exercise, protein synthesis (muscle building) was increased by 297%. However, when protein was consumed with alcohol, protein synthesis was only increased by 157%. However, it’s also important to realize that the protein blunted the negative effects of drinking, at least in part.

Alcohol & Muscle


Alcohol has also been shown to have detrimental effects on testosterone and lean muscle mass (Bianco et al., 2014; Steiner & Lang, 2015). Current research shows that when you consume higher doses of alcohol you not only blunt protein synthesis, but you also cause a decrease in lean muscle mass. In this case, consuming 3-4 drinks can decrease protein synthesis up to 24% after 12 hours. In addition, long-term ingestion has been associated with decreases in muscle mass. More specifically, type II muscle fiber concentrations, which we know are the muscle fibers that have the greatest potential to grow!

Alcohol Conclusions


If you’re going to drink do it on days that you don’t train to optimize gains. Also, avoid long-term consumption because we know that it may make you lose muscle mass. However, we will say this! The cool thing is that consuming alcohol & protein is better than consuming alcohol & carbs. Therefore, if you are going to drink, make sure you have a protein shake waiting for you when you go to sleep and when you wake up!

How Safe Are Artificial Sweeteners?

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What are Non-Calorie Sweeteners?

Non-Calorie sweeteners are molecules that can be similar structures to table sugar (sucrose) or include molecules such as amino acids. Non-Calorie sweeteners fall under a subclass of nutrients called Non-Nutritive Sweeteners. The broad scope of Non-Nutritive Sweeteners includes Sugar Alcohols as well as Non-Calorie Sweeteners or commonly called Artificial Sweeteners. The primary Non-Calorie Sweeteners that we are going to discuss in this article are Sucralose, Stevia, and Aspartame, but we will also touch on Saccharin and Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K). What you will find out reading this article is if Non-Calorie Sweeteners are truly calorie free, if Non-Calorie Sweeteners have metabolic health benefits, and if Non-Calorie Sweeteners are safe.

Fat Burners for Fat Loss?

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Fat Burners Introduction


Fat metabolism or fat burning is one of the most complex processes that occur in the human body. The general equation for fat loss is for calories consumed to be less than calories needed to meet energy demands. While this equation may seem simple, it is not as black and white as some may express. This is because your body adapts to almost every situation. Metabolism can be lowered, appetite can be increased, hormones can be altered, which can all lead to you feeling miserable! This is why we incorporate nutrition, training, and cardio variables to increase fat burning and break a fat loss plateau. In addition, fat burners can be very useful when diet, training, and cardio are not working as anticipated.

What is Body Fat?


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Body fat is a storage place for triglycerides and interestingly enough, it is an organ that plays a critical role in the production of hormones. Body fat is comprised of four primary types of fat. This includes visceral fat, subcutaneous fat, brown fat and beige fat. Visceral fat surrounds organs and having too much visceral fat may be detrimental to health. Subcutaneous fat is the body fat that is normally lost when dieting; this is the target of most fat burners. Brown fat is interesting because it is a metabolically active fat that may have many health implications. Brown fat is primarily found in babies and is reduced as one ages. Lastly, beige fat is a fairly new finding. Beige fat may have similar properties as brown fat, however, it is found within subcutaneous fat (Harms & Seale, 2013). There are many fat loss supplements on the market and it is difficult to know which one to choose. Before choosing, it is important to understand that they do not all work the same way. The picture below depicts the different mechanisms on how fat loss agents work.

Caffeine & Fat Loss


Fat burner supplements that directly increase metabolic rate are normally the backbone of most fat loss supplements. This can include caffeine, ephedrine, and green tea extract. These ingredients cause an activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which releases the hormone epinephrine and neurotransmitter norepinephrine (e.g., adrenaline). Once released, these will act on beta receptors found in adipose tissue increasing the release of stored fatty acids. In addition, caffeine, through the release of adrenaline, will increase heart rate. When combined this will cause an increase in metabolism by burning fat at a higher rate. In addition, this response will also activate thyroid hormones, which also help increase metabolic rate (Harpez et al., 2017).

A study by Davoodi et al. (2014) assessed the effects of caffeine on a calorie restricted diet. Women who were overweight or obese (BMI >25) were divided into two groups. Both groups followed a calorie-restricted diet. One group was given 400mg of caffeine while the other group was given no caffeine. Subjects adhered to an eleven-day calorie restricted diet (1350 calories) followed by a three-day self-selected diet. The 11-3 diet plan was repeated three times. Overall both groups achieved a significant amount of fat loss. However, the group that was given caffeine lost more fat and was able to maintain the loss during a 30-day follow-up period. Additionally, they continued to lose weight even after the 42-day period was over. Loss of total body fat was also greater for the group taking caffeine.

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While losing fat during the dieting period is important, I think you would agree that even more astonishing is the ability to maintain it and even lose more during the non-dieting period. This is because, as we know, most people regain weight very rapidly. These scientists found that the reason for this was that the supplemental caffeine was able to prevent much of the decline in metabolism normally seen. Although caffeine is a great supplement for increasing metabolic rate, chronic use can cause one to become desensitized to its benefits. Therefore, I would recommend cycling caffeine to continue to obtain its benefits. I would recommend starting with 100-200mg/day and increase dose to 300-400mg/day split into two doses with 4-6 weeks on with a 2-6 week off. During the off period, one could supplement with other fat burners such as yohimbine.

Yohimbine & Fat Loss


Yohimbine is similar to its effects on fat loss as caffeine, however, it acts on different receptors. Yohimbine has been shown to preferentially antagonize alpha receptors, which in turn increases norepinephrine causing similar fat burning effects as caffeine. Ostojic (2006) assessed the effects of 10mg yohimbine HCl, twice per day on fat loss in soccer players. One group supplemented with yohimbine, whereas the other group did not supplement with anything. Both groups performed a soccer-specific skill and resistance training program. Over the 21-day study, the group supplementing with yohimbine lost over 2% body fat and gained lean muscle mass. The control group also gained lean muscle but did not lose body fat. These results show that yohimbine is a great alternate choice to caffeine.

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It is important to note that the dose of yohimbine is much less than that of caffeine. The study I just referenced used 20mg per day, however, I would recommend starting with 5mg for the first week, then if the fat loss is aligned with the goal, the dose can be maintained until fat loss stalls. Once fat loss stalls, the dose can be increased 2.5-5mg per day to continue to lose body fat. Similarly to caffeine, yohimbine should be cycled. I would recommend using it for 4-6 weeks, then cycle off for 2-6 week. Caffeine and yohimbine can be cycled back to back. I would even recommend using them together to optimize fat loss. However, when doing this, start with a dose that is 25-50% less than normal to assess its effects.

Other Fat Loss Supplements


There are also other fat loss supplements on the market. These influence factors such as hunger as well as an increase in mitochondria, which can indirectly increase fat loss. Check out the article on Berberine to understand how these fat loss agents work. However, glucomannan can directly target the increase in hunger.

Satiety and satiation are controlled by numerous aspects of diet. One of the more popular is satiation hormones which decline as you lose weight, making you hungrier. A second one is a number of carbs, fats, and proteins in your blood. By nature, these will also decline. A third, however, is what we call mechanical stimulation of fullness. The bulkier the food you eat, the fuller you will be after a meal. One supplement which increases the mechanical stimulation on your stomach is called Glucomannan.

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Glucomannan is a fiber derived from the plant Amorphophallus konjac. It is unique in that 1 gram Glucomannan absorbs 100ml water. This means that it has a mechanical stimulation in the gut, making you full. Another mechanism of action is to increase satiety due to a delay in the stomach releasing its contents to the small intestine. Thus, this supplement forms a gel-like mass in the stomach and slows down digestion keeping you fuller longer. However, does it help with fat loss?

Dr. David Walsh’s classic research showed that you might want to consider supplementing with glucomannan. The graph below shows the effects of eight weeks of glucomannan supplementation in obese females. Ten participants received 1 gram of glucomannan one hour prior to each meal (three times daily) and ten participants received a placebo one hour prior to each meal. Neither groups were asked to change their diet. The group taking the placebo gained an average of 1.5 lbs over the eight weeks. On the other hand, the group supplementing with glucomannan lost an average of 5.5 lbs over 8 weeks! This is likely due to its bulking effect which helped the participants feel satisfied more quickly.

Conclusions


So how do you know which supplements to choose? Use a supplement that suits your needs. For instance, if you are always hungry even after eating, then maybe you should try a supplement that will help you feel more satisfied throughout the day, such as glucomannan. I would recommend 1g of glucomannan 3 times per day; with or 30 minutes prior to a meal. If you have a slow metabolism, then try a supplement that will help increase your metabolism. Supplementing a calorie-restricted diet with caffeine increases its effect on weight loss. Caffeine prevents the metabolism from dropping while calorie consumption is low. Since metabolism remains steady, the effect of a calorie-restricted diet is greater and results in more weight and fat loss. However, it’s important to understand that you become used to caffeine’s effects. Thus, it is likely that you should save caffeine for the most difficult part of your diet. In conclusion, before you jump into that next fad diet, consider simply cutting your calories back while adding some caffeine into your diet. If caffeine is not working for you anymore, supplementing with yohimbine is another option because it acts similarly to caffeine. The take home message is that everything needs to be tailored to you!

The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Eating

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What is Intermittent Fasting/Eating?


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If you have ever heard of intermittent fasting or intermittent eating, it is described as periods of food restriction and feeding. Intermittent eating can be broken into two different categories. This includes time restricted feeding such as 12/12, 16/8, 20/4, 24/24; for clarification, the ratio is fasting/feeding, or alternate day fasting, which I will cover later on in the article. Fasting is interesting because you can do whichever protocol fits your lifestyle. Many use Intermittent Fasting (IF) as a weight maintenance and/or weight loss strategy, as well as technique to improve cognitive function. One big concern is the hunger that comes along with fasting. I will go into this topic in detail in this article. I will also discuss the mechanisms that cause fasting to be so effective!

Time Restricted Feeding and Body Composition


When it comes to dieting we are all aware of the general equation for fat loss. If calories in are less than calories out, we lose fat. CALORIES IN < CALORIES OUT = Weight Loss (hopefully fat). However, in bodybuilding, we often refer to dieting as body re-composition. We’re looking for the most optimal method at losing the most amount of fat possible while preserving lean muscle mass; better yet increasing lean muscle mass while getting leaner. In fact, our lab has found in several studies that at maintenance calories, individuals are able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time! intermittent-fasting-before-and-after

To support this, in a recent study by Trabelsi and colleagues (2013) researchers investigated this exact question. These researchers used 16 bodybuilders who were practicing Ramadan fasting for 29 days, fasting approximately 15 hours a day. In this study, the bodybuilders maintained their normal calorie consumption. However, they were only allowed to eat and drink during the night time, which was approximately 9 hours. Furthermore, they were broken into two groups; the first group trained during the feeding period (FED) and the other group trained at the end of the fast (FAST).

As one can see, in this study the researchers found that over a 29-day period, athletes on Ramadan who maintained calories didn’t lose any fat. However, there certainly was a visual trend for fat loss, which possibly may result in true body composition changes had they sustained the diet for 12-16 weeks. This is interesting because as we stated before, to lose weight the calories consumed must be less than the calories burned in a day’s time. However, the individuals in this study ate maintenance calories and still had a slight trend towards fat loss!

In addition to the study I just mentioned, there was another great study by Karli et al. (2007) that looked at the effects of intermittent fasting on body composition. This was once again another Ramadan study; however, this one was conducted in elite power athletes. Once again, the guys in this study were consuming maintenance calories and performing a maintenance training stimulus. What the researchers found here is that from pre-Ramadan to post-Ramadan (29 days) to one-month post-Ramadan, the subjects actually gained lean mass and maintained fat mass.

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Another study by Tinsley et al. (2016) looked at the effects of intermittent eating constrained to a four-hour window, four days per week. This group was compared to a group that ate at will during the study. Participants in both groups performed resistance training three days per week for eight weeks and were able to eat whatever they wanted during the study. The final results showed that the group that was restrained to a four-hour eating window, four days per week did not lose or gain any lean muscle mass. In addition, the group that was able to eat whenever they wanted did not lose or gain any muscle mass. These results show that constraining your eating to a four-hour window may not be optimal for muscle growth. However, the group that performed fasting consumed ~667 calories less on fasting days, which may have contributed to the absence of change in muscle mass.

Alternate Day Eating


Another form of intermittent fasting one can use during their dieting endeavors, which can be an alternative to long-term calorie restriction (i.e., being in a calorie deficit for extended periods of time) is to calorie cycle. Calorie cycling is when one has periods of calorie restriction (losing weight) and calorie maintenance (maintaining weight). An easier solution to calorie cycling is to avoid the need to track calories and change macronutrients every day; this is a technique called Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting.

This type of fasting involves a fasting day in which caloric needs are reduced to 25% followed by a non-fasting day; this process is repeated throughout the week. For example, if one normally consumes 2000 calories a day, on the “fasting” days they would only consume 500 calories. As you may notice, one may not technically be fasting on their very low-calorie days. However, due to the severe calorie restriction, this procedure can mimic a fasting state. Clearly, this is a more extreme example of calorie cycling.

Alternate Day Eating and Body Composition


With that being said, what does the research say on alternate date intermittent fasting? Well, it appears to work really well. Relative to this topic, Dr. Varady had two major questions when conducting a 2013 study. Specifically, in normal weight, non-training individuals. Does alternate day fasting cause muscle loss and can it help in fat loss? The study used 32 non-obese middle-aged men divided into a non-fasting and alternate day fasting groups.

The subjects in the fasting group could eat normally on non-fasting days. Unfortunately, we do not have much more information on the diets of these subjects, but we can assume the ones fasting were in calorie deficit overall for the duration of the study. With that, we can make the assumption that the calorie restriction caused the substantial weight loss. What we can say is that using the alternate day intermittent fasting resulted in over 7 pounds of fat loss in the 12-week period and a small amount of muscle loss (about 3 pounds).

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Another study looking at the effects of alternate day eating was done by Heilbronn et al. (2005). However, this study was much more extreme than the one mentioned previously. In this 22-day study, participants fasted every other day for 24 hours. After the study, the subjects lost an average of ~6-pounds of total body weight, which was a mix between lean muscle and body fat.

The alternate day intermittent fasting approach does seem extreme and to some maybe even unhealthy. However, if you look at the science behind the idea it makes sense. In order to lose weight, one must be in a calorie deficit. Alternate day intermittent fasting does simply that. It causes a long-term calorie deficit, which allows for continued weight loss.

Although we need much more research in this area, especially in lean and/or trained individuals, alternate day intermittent fasting may be a very useful tool for those trying to lose weight quickly or maintain a certain level of leanness. Furthermore, if restricting calories so drastically seems hard every other day, then they can start by restricting calories once or twice per week preferably on their off days from the gym to promote fat loss.

Do You Need to Intermittent Eat Every Day?


A big question that I normally get is, “Do I need to Intermittent Eat Every Day?” Let’s see what the research says. A study by Chaix et al. (2014), looked at the effects of three different interventions on mice. Yes, this was a mouse study, however, the results are intriguing and they open the door for future research in this topic. Time restriction, in this case, was a 15 hour fast and a nine-hour feed. As you can see in the picture, obese mice that were subjected to eating when they wanted became more obese, however, when they were restricted, they became lean. In addition, when lean mice ate when they wanted they became obese, but when they were restricted they stayed lean. Furthermore, when lean mice were restricted during the week (five days) and ate when they wanted on the weekend (two days), they stayed lean. Interestingly enough, the calories consumed between each group were exactly the same!

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This study interestingly seems to contrast with a study done by Trabelsi et al. (2013). These researchers found that over a 29-day period athletes on Ramadan, who maintained calories, didn’t lose any fat. However, there are a few things we need to consider:

1) The mouse study gave a typical fast food diet, whereas the Ramadan study was more of a bodybuilding “clean” diet. It is suggested that intermittent fasting may cause fat loss by increasing insulin sensitivity. Thus, the effects from the mice study can further be increased with the combination of training and a cleaner diet, as seen in the Ramadan study.

2) The length of the studies; the mice study was carried out for 12 weeks whereas the Ramadan study only lasted a month. It is fair to note that the Ramadan study had a visual trend for fat loss. Perhaps these changes would have been significant if it were to extend to 12 weeks. Interestingly, in the mouse study, when they fed the mice a cleaner diet over the course of 20 plus weeks, they got leaner with the same caloric intake; which supports my contention.

What is the Mechanism of Intermittent Eating?


If you have read the article on insulin sensitivity, you may recall an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK is the cells fuel gauge that helps regulate the energy used in the cell. During periods of fasting, AMPK increases causing your body to break down fat for energy and increase insulin sensitivity. Therefore, during the fast you are utilizing stored body fat as energy and when you eat you are more sensitive to the food (specifically carbohydrates) that you consume. This will allow you to store the food as energy and not body fat. This shows that intermittent fasting may be great for overall improving body composition, but how do you overcome the hunger pains?

Intermittent Eating and Hunger


One question that we commonly hear regarding intermittent fasting is how it affects hunger. Most people cannot imagine only eating during scheduled times because they fear that they will experience intense hunger that will affect their day. This thought often prevents people from giving intermittent fasting a try, but is hunger actually an issue? Maybe it is more of a psychological relationship with food that makes the idea of not being able to eat scary. I am here to present some information on why intermittent fasting gets easier as one progresses.

In Dr. Varady’s study, the researchers also evaluated the effects of intermittent eating and fullness and the feeling of satisfaction in healthy active people. Participants in this study were divided into a control group that didn’t fast and an experimental group that fasted every other day by lowering calories to 500 on fasting days; what we term alternate day intermittent fasting. These participants followed this protocol for 12 weeks and were asked to rate their fullness and satisfaction throughout this period. The results found are expressed in the graph below.

Intermittent fasting appears to have an adaptation period as well. Researchers from the study above found that fasting became easier over time! This is likely due to the individuals adapting to the diet! This means that when you try intermittent fasting, you need to be patient. As you become more and more adapted to your fasting period, your desire to eat will likely lower. Additionally, you will probably begin to consume fewer calories than you previously did. Not only does intermittent fasting offer weight loss benefits, but it has been speculated that fasting also improves cognitive function. There are a number of ways that this can happen, however, one of the most obvious is the fact that once you have become adapted to not eating for extended periods of time you tend to not think about food. Ask yourself this question, “how productive could I be if I didn’t have to worry about eating every three or four hours?” Like I said before, this idea does take some time to adjust to, however, you’ll be surprised with the benefits and results!

Practical Application


Obviously, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in the field of intermittent fasting on its effects on strength, power, hypertrophy, performance and overall body composition. Up until now, many have only researched its health benefits, which include the ability to reduce markers of cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, high total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, atherosclerosis), as a cancer therapy with calorie restriction, and neurological and cognitive benefits. The research is quite promising when it comes to intermittent fasting and improvements on quality of life.

You can utilize intermittent fasting as an approach to maintain lean muscle mass and decrease fat mass. If you are doing intermittent fasting every day, I would refrain from fasting longer than 16 hours in fear of potentially losing muscle mass. However, if you are only fasting a few times per week, then you can utilize longer fasts to help increase fat loss. In addition, a way that one can make this intermittent fasting adaptation period easier is to start with a small fast and progress to a larger fast. For example, start with a simple 12-hour fast and schedule the majority of the fasting period while sleeping. Then increase the fasting period each day in small increments until you become adapted to the diet. From that point you’ll be acquainted with the idea of having periods of fasting, therefore it will be easier to fast for longer durations of time.

Stay tuned because my team of scientists and myself are in the process of developing a study where we will investigate the direct effects of meal timing on body composition. This seems to be one of the biggest concerns when it comes to intermittent fasting; people want to know what is the BEST protocol. That is something that we want to figure out for YOU!

The Basics of Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is perhaps the most talked about hormone in our industry. Many vilify it as the number one cause of obesity. On the other hand, many bodybuilders take insulin in hopes of it adding ridiculously crazy amounts of muscle onto their physiques. How can we have such wide discrepancies? The answer is that insulin itself has several roles. These include driving glucose into cells (primarily muscle and liver), stimulating the formation of glycogen, increasing the use of carbs as fuel, increases satiety, increasing the formation of fat and decreasing the use of fat as fuel. Given all of these factors the goal for those looking to optimize their physiques would be to enhance the anabolic effects in muscle, while inhibiting the anabolic effects in fat mass. The general regulator of this process appears to be Insulin Sensitivity. This article will discuss insulin sensitivity and what factors influence it.

Insulin sensitivity refers to the ability of insulin to “talk” to tissue. We are of course primarily interested in liver and muscle insulin sensitivity. If insulin sensitivity is high in these tissues then you need very little insulin to increase glucose uptake, glycogen storage, and the converting of glucose into rapid useable energy (Gulli et al., 1992). On the other hand, if you are insulin resistant the opposite occurs in that you need a lot of insulin to do the same job! Generally speaking when insulin is drastically high then the use of fat as fuel is drastically impaired. In addition, insulin drives blood towards muscle giving a full, nutrient rich, round look.

Genetics and Insulin Sensitivity

As we all know, blood is most definitely thicker than water. Many people think that obesity is the true cause to insulin resistance. However, genetics are certainly an underlying factor for both. The main way to study this is to take two sets of lean individuals. The first set comes from parents who are lean and insulin sensitive, while the second set come from parents who are both obese and insulin resistant. When you do this, even though the offspring of the insulin resistant offspring are lean, they still at the cellular level show all the signs of beginning insulin resistance (Gulli et al., 1992; Pratianawatr et al., 2001; Short et al., 2004). The primary reason why they are able to have normal blood glucose levels is because their pancreas is releasing more insulin. However, all hope is not lost because diet may serve as an answer; Mitochondria

A major player in Insulin sensitivity?

The powerhouse of our cells are mitochondria. These are the organelles that produce the majority of energy in our bodys. The mitochondria help convert both carbohydrates and fats into ATP (energy). In individuals who are insulin resistant, mitochondria do not work properly (Pratipanawatr et al., 2001). When not fully operational, fatty acids cannot be fully broken down in muscle. When this happens the fatty acids build up in the muscle as triglycerides (stored fat), and eventually convert to many harmful byproducts which are toxic to insulin signaling (Pan et al., 1997). Thus, the key to overcoming insulin resistance is to:


A. Increase the amount of mitochondria in tissue
B. Increase the function of the mitochondria

So how do we do this? The answer is that we need to stress the mitochondria by short bouts of energy deprivation in the cell. Secondly, we have to prevent the build up and stagnation of fat in our tissues. This can be manipulated at least three ways. These three ways include diet, exercise, and supplementation.

Diet and Insulin Sensitivity

A famous study by Dr. Bob Wolfe investigated the question as to if a high fat diet impaired mitochondrial functionality. You see, up to this study high fat diets had been vilified. In fact, researchers have said high fat diets cause obesity and insulin resistance. However, when Wolfe and his team infused fat into human subjects blood they found no negative effects on insulin sensitivity. In fact, the only thing that happened was the fats were used as energy. However, when he infused fats and carbs at the same time guess what happened? Fat burning halted and insulin resistance was immediately increased!

Why is this the case you ask? Without getting into too much complexity, fat must be oxidized or used as fuel in the mitochondria. As discussed, if fat is not used, it builds up in the cell. This causes toxic byproducts to be formed, which cause insulin resistance. It turns out that insulin blocks the entry of fats into the mitochondria. It does so by inhibiting the rate limiting transport enzyme for fat which is called Carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT-1). This impairs mitochondrial function and insulin signaling. Thus, the first way you can improve insulin sensitivity is by manipulating your carbohydrates.

Chronically high carbohydrate overfeeding (>150 % greater than needed) leads to insulin resistance within days. Thus, it is plausible that by training periodically in a low carbohydrate state that you can improve mitochondrial function and optimize insulin sensitivity. In fact, research from Hansen (2005) and Yeo (2008) found that training every other session in a carbohydrate depleted state increased markers of mitochondrial function and robustly enhanced fat oxidation. Finally, very low carbohydrate ketogenic diets (<30 grams per day) may also drastically improve insulin sensitivity (Volek et al. 2004)!

Training and Supplementation

The final ways to increase insulin sensitivity are training and supplementation. Both of these rely on the same principle; activating the cells Fuel Gauge. To clarify inside of our cells lies a sensor which can detect low energy levels. In particular when muscle glycogen is depleted you turn the sensor on. This sensor is called AMPK. It’s called this because our main energy source in our body is ATP. When ATP is depleted you form AMP. AMP activates AMPK which stands AMP activated protein kinase. AMPK increases fatty acid transport and oxidation (use as fuel) in the mitochondria. It also turns on the pathways which increase mitochondria itself. Training works by depleting energy in the muscle. This in turn turns on AMPK.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will rapidly deplete the energy in the cell resulting in an increase in AMPK. As you use up your cells energy through HIIT, AMPK will rise causing an increase in insulin sensitivity. Another way is to perform giant sets. Giant sets as we know are a form of training where we target one muscle group, but we do so in a circuit. Not the basic circuit training you would find at your local gym’s group fitness classes though. To perform a giant set you would choose a muscle such as quads, then perform 3-5 movements at a higher intensity for 3 to 4 rounds at 8-10 reps with 2-4 minutes between each giant set.

We know that giants sets are a great way to increase metabolic rate and improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing the energy in a cell and increasing AMPK. Lastly, low intensity, steady state cardio will deplete energy in the cell and increase AMPK. Furthermore, supplements such as Cinnamon (Cassia or Ceylon) and Berberine at a dose of 6g/day and 0.5g three times/day, respectively, may optimize insulin sensitivity.

Key Take Away Points from Article

1. Insulin is a hormone which increases the storage of carbohydrates primarily in liver and muscle and is important for blood flow and the pumps you get in the gym.
2. Insulin also increases fat storage when levels are high.
3. Insulin Sensitivity is the ability of insulin to signal its effects in tissue. If insulin sensitivity is high then you need very little insulin to drive glucose into tissue after you eat. If its low, meaning you are resistant then you will have high insulin levels, greater body fat stores, and impaired blood flow.
4. Impaired function and number of mitochondria due to a build up of intramuscular fat seem to trigger insulin resistance.
5. Not combining a high carbohydrate diet with high fats can minimize the risk for insulin resistance.
6. Various exercises which deplete muscle glycogen can increase mitochondria and their function and thus improve insulin sensitivity.

Practical Applications

1. If you like higher carb diets then we recommend cycling them, such that you have 2 to 3 low days a week. On those days we recommend purposely depleting the muscle with exercise.
2. Glycogen depleting exercise such as high intensity cardio is paramount for increasing insulin sensitivity.
3. If you are highly resistant to insulin and both parents are obese or diabetic you might consider a generally low carb lifestyle. Ketogenic dieting for example works very well here.
4. Various insulin sensitizing agents assist in improving insulin sensitivity. These include ketones, cinnamon and berberine.

Diet Duration

Lets face it, we are in a society which is obsessed with having low body fat, and yet obesity is skyrocketing. Why are so many diets failing and how can we remedy the situation? To tackle this problem we have to assess all the components of caloric restriction based diets. One of the issues with dieting today is an individual’s misunderstanding about the optimal length stent at which one should remain in a calorie deficit.

As we go about our lives people may become more aware and uncomfortable with their body composition and decide it’s time to start a diet; time for a change. When it comes to dieting and losing body fat, there are a number of different approaches one can take. However, the difficult part is choosing one which fits an individual’s lifestyle the best. We become lost in the demand for immediate results and fail to account for the longevity of the diet.

Creating worse conditions than beforehand. When first choosing to go on a fat loss diet, the biggest problem that persists is one’s decision to drop calories dramatically. Instead of slowly decreasing calories over time, individuals believe the prompt action of consuming nothing will yield the greatest results; this could not be further from the truth. However, crash dieting is likely very problematic. This places extreme stress on your system and results in a high breakdown of muscle and fat tissue which puts the body into a state of starvation.

Instead of burning fat stores to meet energy demands, your body may instead decide to burn muscle for its primary fuel (Doneley., 1991). This approach is what many call the suicide diet (prolonged extreme calorie restriction and excessive exercise). Along with the difficulties of being extremely calorie deprived, metabolism damage and metabolic adaptations also occur as a result of this extreme dieting approach. This style of dieting was observed more closely in a very recent and alarming study.

This study compared and investigated the impact of suicide dieting with diet duration and on metabolism rates. Researchers looked at obese subjects before, 30 weeks after, and post six years after beginning a suicide diet. The suicide diet involved a total loss of 130 lbs over the 30 weeks, which is roughly 4.5 lbs per week of bodyweight! After 30 weeks of dieting, subject’s metabolism were 610 calories less than before the diet. Six years later, after regaining 86% of their original body weight, their metabolism was still 704 calories below the original value! (Fothergrill., 2016) Suicide dieting does nothing more than provide quick results on the scale and ultimately ruin one’s metabolism and impairs metabolic rate for years to come.

Adaptations-over-diet

We have already determined that extreme suicide dieting ( > 4 lbs per week for 30 weeks) may not be ideal. The question is do we go to the other extreme and have longer drawn out diets with very low calorie restriction (1 lb a week), or shorter/moderate duration diets with moderate weight loss per week (1.5 to 2 lbs). The duration at which one deprives themselves of calories seems to go get pushed to the side when deciding to lose weight. There is a formulation process to reducing calories methodically, which results in a more suitable life while simultaneously promoting the loss of unwanted fat. However, many feel that reducing calories slowly is the way to go. In fact, in the physique realm diets are lasting longer and longer (>20 weeks), compared to past competitors who were dieting only 12 to 16 weeks. However, does it matter? Research shows that, as long as calorie restriction is not beyond moderate (1 to 2 lbs a week), regardless of one’s approach to a diet the end result will still produce an RMR (resting metabolic rate) which is below one’s initial measure (Davoodi., 2014). Through the process of acquiring weight loss, one’s overall body composition will eventually decrease resulting in a lower resting metabolic rate. In fact, researchers showed that six months of dieting slow versus double the restriction for 10 weeks reduced subjects 24-hour resting metabolic rate the same!

RMR

Due to the sensible amount of restricted calories, no muscle mass change was noted between either of the two groups. (Heilbronn., 2006). This research questions the benefit of long, drawn out diets. Now you may be pondering the results noted above. Due to the fact that the individuals were placed on an adequate caloric restriction, as opposed to a suicide diet, participants were still able to utilize fat for fuel without catabolizing muscle! The difference between these two diets is their approach under which they still meet an adequate amount of their daily caloric needs in a deficit. Slower versus moderate dieting have been shown to both promote weight loss, but provide different results.

The next question is, are there any other benefits to using a very slow diet (20 + weeks) compared to a faster one (8-12 weeks)? Longer drawn out diets have been shown to be detrimental for the speed at which one regains weight. In this a study out of norway, athletes who took double the time to lose weight lost slightly more fat and maintained slightly more lean mass, but the slow group gained back the fat twice as fast! (Garthe., 2011). Given that the time spent dieting could have been directed at gaining muscle, this method does not seem to be efficacious. Thus, losing fat over a shorter duration and spending more time improving lean mass and metabolism is better for long term body composition.

lean-mass-lossMonthly-weight-regain

Quick rebounds after dieting for long periods have also been questioned for quite some time. Typically, bodybuilders and physique athletes put their bodies through 12 weeks of dieting, slowly lowering calorie consumption and in turn lowering their RMR as a result. Post show is where doubt and frustration come about. They begin to ponder how they should bring calorie intake back to a happy medium. Do I slowly reinsert calories over time to ͞fix my metabolism, bring calories immediately back to maintenance, or binge eat until I can not move? Approaches differ from individual to individual. Has science addressed this question? The answer is yes, science has finally provided us with an answer. In this study from Dr. Maclean, researchers and colleagues (2004) looked at the effects of a long term weight maintenance on the rebound effect when coming off of a diet. What they found is that the longer low body fat was maintained, the bigger the rebound in weight! (MacLean., 2004). After contest prep one should not try and maintain contest shape for long after a show and raise calories back to maintenance as fast as possible. In other terms, these long slow reverse diets likely are counter to what a competitor should do post contest.

chart

Conclusions After reviewing these studies the most beneficial way of approaching a diet is to restrict calories enough to promote weight loss (2 lbs a week), but not create a deficit which is so severe that it deprives your body of necessities. Getting the job done quickly will prompt a less detrimental effect on one’s resting metabolic rate and maintain a metabolism that is still operating properly. When choosing to lose a few pounds step back, assess the situation, and tackle an approach which is maintainable for your lifestyle and you will accomplish the intended purpose quickly and effectively.

Overcoming Fat Gain While Bulking

tips-to-bulking

Introduction


Bodybuilders often go through periods of bulking in order to build muscle, gain weight, and increase strength. When the primary goal is building muscle and gaining weight, the typical practice is to increase the amount of food eaten in a day, creating a surplus of calories that will be used to “feed the machine.” However, various studies have shown that the practice of overfeeding can lead to insulin resistance. What is insulin resistance you ask? Well, in brief, insulin’s job is to take glucose in the blood and tell the muscle and liver to store it as glycogen. However, when insulin levels rise the hormone also stimulates an increase in fat storage and a prevention of fat breakdown.

What is Insulin Resistance?


how-does-insulin-work

Insulin resistance occurs when the muscle responds poorly to the signal of insulin. When this occurs, the pancreas releases a drastically higher level of insulin to lower blood glucose. The result is not only less muscle glycogen, but also high enough insulin levels to prevent you from using fat as fuel and promote fat storage! So what happens when you overfeed for a long amount of time to add mass? Let’s look at what the research has to say. In a 1-week study, six healthy men were fed a 6000+ calorie diet. They began to show insulin resistance in as little as two days (Boden et al., 2015)! In another study, 29 healthy men were fed a 4000+ calorie diet for eight weeks. Their overfeeding, though a little less extreme, still led to insulin resistance (Johannsen et al., 2014). But if you’re thinking right now “I don’t increase my calories by that much when I’m bulking”, consider the results of another study. Twenty-four healthy men were fed only 1000 calories above their usual daily caloric intake for 100 days. They also began showing signs of insulin resistance (Oppert et al., 1995).

Conclusions


cyclic-dieting

The bottom line is that regardless of the duration or number of calories eaten, overfeeding can lead to insulin resistance. Gains in body weight and fat mass have been linked to insulin resistance. The stress placed on the body during overfeeding ultimately hinders the body’s ability to effectively use carbohydrates. Responsibly adding calories to your diet during a bulking phase may not only decrease the risk of becoming insulin resistant, but it may also reduce the time needed for the cutting phase. Practical Applications Our lab has found that bulking should be kept to shorter periods. I would recommend a cyclic bulking approach when bulking where you fluctuate between high, moderate, and low calorie days.

For example, where you increase calories slightly for anywhere between 2-6 weeks. In addition, we have found that the increase in calories above maintenance should generally not exceed 250-500 calories extra a day. Finally, it is imperative to realize that insulin resistance is generally driven by high levels of insulin. Thus, you should select out a combination of lower glycemic index carbohydrates and healthy protein sources on a lean bulk.

Controlling & Optimizing Your Metabolism

Introduction


Many people mistake “metabolism” for its technical term, resting metabolic rate. For instance, we often hear the term labeled as “fast” or “slow,” however, metabolism is actually much broader than what we think. The textbook definition of the word is “the sum total of all chemical reactions that occur in the body both anabolic (building) and catabolic (to break down) (Human Anatomy & Physiology). So as you can see, it is not really an accurate term to use when trying to explain your body composition.

The correct term we are looking for is resting metabolic rate. So what does this outlandish term mean? If you are like me and have repressed memories of staying up until the wee hours of the morning studying textbooks, then look no further! I have a very practical explanation for you and will not only define what it is, but how to modify it.

What is Metabolism?


Resting metabolic rate, or metabolism is the number of calories your body burns at rest and accounts for nearly 60-80% of all your daily caloric expenditure (Ravussin & Bogardus, 1989). Therefore, yes, people are somewhat correct when they say they are skinny because they have a fast “metabolism”, however, in reality, they have a high resting metabolic rate which can be due to a number of reasons. One of the key components of your RMR is your total body mass. An individual who is 300 pounds will have a higher RMR than someone who is 150 pounds and this is because it requires more energy to move a larger mass.

Think of a high-performance asphalt tearin’ large engine vs. a tiny little engine. The larger motor is going to require much more fuel than the smaller one. Other determinants of RMR include age, sex, thyroid status, and not being able to choose your parents; genetics (Stiegler & Cunliffe, 2006). So aside from these characteristics given to us at birth, the one thing we can control in our body is mass.

Metabolism & Muscle Mass


muscle-and-fat-chart

Now, it is understood that a decrease in weight loss due to a caloric restriction is accompanied by a decrease in RMR. This is not only because of a reduction in fat but more significantly from a reduction in lean mass (Stiegler & Cunliffe, 2006). Even though a fat cell can be much larger, a muscle cell burns much more energy because of its high metabolic demand (Speakman & Selman, 2003). To give you an idea, one pound of muscle can burn quadruple the amount of calories at rest compared to fat (Wang et al, 2011). Needless to say, muscle mass has much more of an impact on RMR than fat mass. So back to the main point, if we are looking to improve our physique, doesn’t it make sense to build muscle mass in order to combat the decline in RMR due to the loss of fat?

How to Increase Metabolism


as-muscle-mass-increases-rmg-increases

So what does all this mean? Why do we care high how our RMR is, we just want to look good right? I have mentioned the term “daily caloric expenditure” a few times throughout this article, and that is precisely why we want to raise RMR! The fact of the matter is that if we want to lose weight we either have to eat fewer calories or expend more calories. In order to lose weight, we must be in a caloric deficit below our RMR, and the easiest way to do that is with both! Although resting metabolic rate contributes for most of our daily caloric expenditure, there are two other components that make up the other 20-40%; the thermic effect of food and physical activity (Tataranni et al, 2005, Speakman & Selman, 2003). Simply put, the thermic effect of food is the amount of energy our body requires to break down the food we eat. Of these three components to our daily energy expenditure, the one we can have the biggest impact on is physical activity.

Obviously, if you exercise throughout the course of the day you will burn more calories than if you did not. The studies cited above have demonstrated that there is a direct increase in RMR resulting from an increase in lean muscle. In reality, building lean muscle takes a tremendous amount of time. It yields great results in the long run, but it isn’t exactly efficient if we want to see an increase in caloric expenditure right now.

gaining-muscle-increases-rmr

Luckily one of the three main components of daily caloric expenditure is physical activity itself. I say luckily because it is the easier to manipulate of the three and is something all of us can do in some way, shape or form in our everyday lives right now. Even though RMR accounts for such a large amount of your daily caloric expenditure, exercise can have an impact as well!

This is where including various different training variables such as high intensity and low-intensity cardiovascular training is beneficial to increase metabolism. However, as you will read here, low-intensity cardio may not be something that you want to do very often or for an extended period of time. I would recommend using high intensity training such as HIIT to optimize your metabolism and you can read more about that here. You can also utilize training techniques such as daily undulating periodization, failure training, greater exercise variation, and higher training frequency.

Conclusions


Although we cannot modify some of the factors that determine our resting metabolic rate we do have some control over our body composition. Even though total mass and has a large impact on our resting metabolic rate we have learned that increasing our muscle mass can combat the decline in RMR due to fat loss. This may sound like a case of “which comes first, the chicken or the egg” but depending on the individual we can conclude that an increase in muscle mass may increase your RMR and in return improve your overall body composition!