Alex's Amusement 3/25/14

Before we get started, there won’t be an Amusement next week because I will be amusing myself in Las Vegas!

Critical Thinking Corner

Dan John wrote an article last week on the 10 secrets to building mass, and although I am definitely no fan of most of T-Nation’s articles, Dan John is a REALLY smart guy. Basically Dan argues that mass building is a simple process. And by simple I mean that you should just sit or sleep all day, do minimalist training with heavy loads, and eat pre-dinner meals. I feel like a lot of it comes verbatim from his book, Mass Made Simple, which I have done in the past and enjoyed (the training program anyways, as the nutrition advice was crap and there was no way I would follow that advice). I have received a surprising amount of questions regarding my own bulking experiences on Facebook and it seems like people are lost when it comes to “bulking”. No surprise really, since everyone is obsessed with dieting, but I figure this would be a good time to talk a little about it using Dan John’s layout as a template where I can offer an alternative view. To keep this short(er), I’m going to stick with his nutrition and lifestyle advice, as his training programs do kick some quality butt.

  1. Mass building has to be done at the exclusion of everything else. Forget your abs, your cardio, your “game”, and the five other things.
    1. I couldn’t agree with this more, especially about forgetting your abs. Too many people are obsessed with maintaining their six-pack and end up running weird cyclical diets that just result in spun wheels and no progress. I don’t think you need to forget about your abs entirely, but you need to accept that you will gain fat when in the caloric surplus that is necessary for building muscle. It is inevitable. You can always diet off the fat after you have gotten 18 inch arms, and you will look much better than before you started to boot. If it really bugs you, just bulk during the winter when you will be wearing a jacket everywhere anyways.
  2. You must eat. Think shark-week when you sit down at the table, eat pre-dinner sandwiches, and ensure proper peri-workout nutrition
    1. There is absolutely no doubt that you need to be in a caloric surplus to gain mass, but muscle only needs so much, and eating everything in sight will only lead to excessive fat gain. In turn, you just end up worsening your insulin sensitivity, creating a sub-optimal “bulking” metabolism, and creating more work to be done during the dieting phase. My general recommendation is to start with a 10% surplus, and increase calories by increments of 10% when the time is right.
    2. When bulking the first thing you need to watch is your weight. I don’t mean every day, but definitely have a day one or two times per week where you log your weight. Try to do it on the same days at the same time from week to week to help eliminate confounding variables. I would usually just step on the scale before I headed to go workout every Monday and Friday, but have recently just started doing it once per week. Next up is strength. You are bulking, and if you are doing it correctly then you will be gaining muscle and setting records in the gym. I found myself adding weight every week, although I would typically stick with a weight for at least two workouts before increasing. Finally, caliper and circumference measurements are less important than the former two but can help you stay on track as well. The calipers will let you keep an eye on fat gain through the mm increases; while the circumference will help you track overall growth, of various body parts.
    3. Ideally you want both strength and weight to increase, and when this plateaus it is time to eat more. If your weight has stalled but you are still progressing in the gym, then hold steady until both give out. Similarly, if your weight is going up but your lifting is not, hold steady because you do not need to increase the weight at each workout to elicit a growth response. One of the keys to muscle growth is progressive overload, but progression doesn’t always happen linearly and the overload is significantly more important.
  3. You must master resting, pick-up games are not resting. Forget the cardio and get eight hours of sleep per night.
    1. This is solid advice. Sleep is crucial, and as Super Humans you should be well aware of its importance is nearly all aspects of life (gaining muscle included). Ditching cardio is also a good plan, but not necessary so long as you keep it light and short in duration. What isn’t a good idea is sitting on your ass all day (especially if coupled with eating everything in sight). I wrote about active vs. passive recovery over at SuppVersity last year, and I stand by my research. Being active throughout the day is nothing BUT beneficial, even if it means eating a little more to cover the energy needs. I will refer you to my linked article to see the many reasons why.
  4. Pamper yourself; wear more clothes so you don’t waste energy staying warm, park closer, and sit more.
    1. Okay, this is absolute crap advice. I literally wrote a piece called Is Sitting Killing You? I’m a huge advocate of daily movement and this one ties back into #3 above. Also, honestly how much energy do you expect to save by wearing an extra jacket? Hell, a new study was just published ahead of print that showed that alternating 30 minutes of standing with sitting during the typical eight hour office-workday reduces the glucose spike of a test meal by 11% after just five days of adopting this new habit. Granted it was in overweight/obese persons, but there are countless other studies that show daily movement and even just standing to beat out sitting when it comes to health. These benefits, I might add, would definitely extend into the “bulking” realm and help you there as well.

To sum up, Dan John hit the nail on the head when it comes to gaining weight. But people don’t want to gain weight; they want to build muscle, and Dan’s advice will ultimately just result in excessive fat-gain and possible negative health effects. Of course, if you don’t care about that and just want to get GOMAD huge, then by all means follow the see-food (you see food, you eat it) diet and sit on your ass all day.

Around the Web

We are still evolving!

This is a pretty cool infographic about why it’s important to eat ALL colored vegetables.

If you had $84,600 every day, what would you spend it on?

Bruce Lee was full of wisdom.

This little film did in 2.5 minutes what most movies can’t accomplish in 1.5 hours.

Just one more reason standing desks should become the norm.

The equivalent of about 6.5 standard alcoholic drinks reduces testosterone following heavy lifting.

SuppVersity Post of the Week

Coconut Miracle? Anti-Arthritis Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil Confirmed - Plus: 10 Additional Benefits of "White Gold" From "A" in 'Alzheimer's' to "W" as 'Waist Circumference'

I picked this one because I always poke fun at coconut oil and its purported ability to do whatever you want. Seriously, Joe Mercola says it is the best for cooking, for your heart, stimulates your immune system and helps you lose weight, and of course he sells it. The wizard of Oz and Wellness Mama claim a dozen other uses including treating sunburns, athlete’s foot, nasal allergies, arthritis, insomnia, etc. Despite all this hype as a miracle food, coconut oil does have some benefits.

As Adel points out in his article, coconut oil was shown to be very effective in treating symptoms of arthritis, and even beat out the common NSAID treatment. For those of you who only skimmed the article, I will point out that this is due to the polyphenols and antioxidants present in the oil, and thus getting virgin (unrefined) coconut oil is necessary since these are removed during the refining process. Or better yet (in my opinion), just do what I do and eat the damn coconut meat instead. Yes coconut oil shows some promise, but keep in mind that it is still a processed oil (even if only minimally). The actual coconut meat likely has other compounds in it that are synergistic with whatever is in the oil. Adel did another post nearly two years ago showing that fish oil phospholipids were better than there triglyceride counterparts, and you know where you get the former? From the actual fish. So why wouldn’t coconut meat also beat out the oil?

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