X - t reme LEAN was written to help you get closer to your physical potential with sensible bodybuilding and fat-loss strategies. Weight training and dieting can be demanding activities, however, so it is highly recommended that you consult your physician and have a physical examination prior to beginning. Proceed with the suggested diets, exercises and routines at your own risk.
Photography by Michael Neveux
Cover models: Steve Holman, Jonathan Lawson and Becky Holman
Copyright © 2005 by IRON MAN Magazine and Homebody Productions All rights reserved.
The material in this document may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner or form without prior written consent from the publisher.
P.O. Box 2800, Ventura, CA 93002
Introduction......................................................................4 Chapter 1—Eat More, Lose Fat......................................7 Chapter 2—No Carb, Low Carb or Slow Carb?...........15 Chapter 3—X-citing Transformations...........................23 Chapter 4—Cheat Your Way to Leanness....................35 Chapter 5—X-treme Lean Diets....................................39 Chapter 6—Feminine X-ploits.......................................45 Chapter 7—X-treme Lean Nutrients.............................57 Chapter 8—X-treme Lean Training...............................67 Chapter 9—X-treme Lean Q&A.................................... 81 Appendix A—Exercises..................................................93
What can you learn from us that will get you the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, cut physique you’re after? Plenty! After all, we’ve been training together for more than 10 years at the IRON MAN Training & Research Center, and almost every summer during that time we’ve taken our bodies to their limits— attempting to get into our leanest, most muscular shapes p o s s i b l e . We’ve experimented with countless fat-loss programs and theories during that d e c a d e — l e a rn i n g lessons along the way. That trial and erro r ( t h e re were lots of errors!) helped us hone our fat attack to principles that work fast, and we’re positive that you can follow our lead and accelerate fat loss to the extreme (that’s why we wrote this
book). No question, you’ll feel great when you’re in hard shape, but
t h a t ’s only part of it.
Visible abs have sex
appeal and grab
attention like nothing
else. That’s a big
reason you want that
X - t reme Lean look,
and we want to help
you get it. Lots of
men a n d women are
a l ready using our
b o d y - t r a n s f o rm a t i o n
p rograms with gre a t success. The fact that women have produced rapid results says a lot because women are notorious for having a much more difficult time losing bodyfat than men. A big reason: They have less testosterone, a male hormone that accelerates fat burning, and m o re estrogen, a female h o rmone that promotes fat storage. (Incidentally, the fatter a man gets, the lower his testosterone and the higher his estrogen, so adding fat becomes easier and easier the fatter he gets. How’s that for a cruel turn of events? Talk about a snowball effect!)
One of our female subjects was Becky Holman, Steve’s wife, and the success she had with our X-treme Lean principles and diet were even better than we imagined (and getting there was much easier than she thought; she and Steve hardly argued— and they were both on X-treme Lean diets at the same time!). You’ll see exactly how she did it later in this book.
As for us, our last ripping phase was the most spectacular we’ve experienced. We got in incredible shape, our most muscular and cut conditions ever, and most of those re s u l t s came within a one-month window. The really exciting discovery we made is that it’s possible to burn fat quickly while packing on lean muscle. Most experts say that you’ll have a diff i c u l t time even holding on to your muscle while losing fat. They insist that muscle loss on a diet is inevitable. Not from our experience. We transformed ourselves, building pounds of muscle as we dropped ugly fat in a mere 35-day period—and no drugs were involved. The quick results we achieved were unprecedented in our many years of ripping up. Even we were stunned when we saw our before and after photos!
But like we said, our latest success came after lots of trial and error over the years. In other words, we made plenty of mistakes, which is good news for you. It means this book can help you sidestep those pitfalls—and there are plenty. Here are some of the biggest blunders people make when they try to drop bodyfat (yep, we’ve made most of them):
We’ll discuss all of those in the coming pages, as well as outline loads of critical body-transformation info, so you’ll know exactly what to do to shed pounds of bodyfat and pack on muscle at the same time. You want abs? We’ll show you how to let ’em rip! And you can do it faster than ever with your health intact and with no drugs whatsoever (well, maybe a little caffeine). Ready? It’s time for you to get X-treme Lean!
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson IRON MAN Training & Research Center
How can you possibly eat more and still strip away fat? No, bulimia isn’t the answer. It has to do with eating more often— five to six times a day—and the composition of each of those meals. Hmm, maybe a diff e rent term is in order because if y o u ’ re used to gorging on two or three big meals a day, you w o n ’t really consider these smaller, more frequent feedings “meals.” They’re more like mini-meals designed to keep your blood sugar steady (no cravings or energy dips), your muscle tissue intact (you won’t burn it for energy) and your fat store s shrinking (Eureka!—I see abs!)
T h a t ’s in direct contrast to how most of us were raised to eat—the thre e - s q u a re-meals-a-day approach. Take a look at what happens when you follow that classic American eating schedule and you’ll see why you can get fatter and fatter if y o u ’ re not careful. A big part of the problem is insulin, a hormone that can shuttle excess calories right to your fat cells (excess energy consumption—eating more calories than you can burn off—is also a big part of the problem):
insulin surge, blunt fat burning and store more bodyfat.
•At 9:30 p.m. the starvation mechanism rears its ugly head, and you either burn more muscle or binge on carbohydrates and feed your fat cells.
That type of eating schedule, along with excessive refined-carbohydrate intake (Coke—it’s the real thing!), is the re a s o n people are so fat! People don’t eat often enough or the right foods. And when they do, it’s usually excessive. The big t h ree—or big two if you skip breakfast (don’ do it!)—even p revents high-level athletes from getting that X-treme Lean look. The best example is pro basketball players. You’d think those athletes would be ripped to the bone like pro bodybuilders considering all of the calories they burn during games and the endless hours of practice. Sure, most of them a re thin, but shouldn’t they be shredded beyond belief? For some reason almost every player has a layer of fat and very little muscle definition—and that reason is diet and meal scheduling.
Most pro basketball players eat the normal three meals a day, and pretty much gorge at each of those to make up for the calorie deficit they create with all that running around. As you can see from the above scenario, gorging promotes fat deposition, so they retain a layer of fat. (Can you imagine how intimidating Shaq would be if he were more muscular and ripped? Whoa!)
But even if you don’t stuff yourself at each feeding, eating t h ree big meals a day is not conducive to getting ripped. It’s the way to continually burn muscle and conserve fat. If you don’t spread out your food intake so you keep your blood sugar levels stable, that’s what happens—burn muscle, build fat. On top of that, you get cravings due to stress hormone release. Oh, and one big meal a day is worse, as your body hordes even more bodyfat because it thinks it’s starving all day long. When the starvation mechanism kicks in, your body shovels muscle into the energy furnace continually. As far as your body is concerned, muscle is expendable; it’s denser than fat, so off it goes. You must do things—like lift weights and get plenty of p rotein—to convince your body that it needs to hold onto muscle and jettison the fat like the excess baggage that it is.
Having five to six smaller protein-based meals a day is the best way to do that. Sure, you’ve probably heard that, and you may even believe it, but do you do it? You have to make it a priority. Understand that it’s the only way to continually provide your body with the elements it needs for building muscle, and that it will keep your blood sugar stable to prevent cravings. Do it! And if those meals are the right percentages of carbs, protein and fat, insulin will be held in check so there’s very little, if any, fat storage and you’ll have that X-treme Lean look faster than you can say six-pack (we’re talking abs here, not Budweiser).
Notice that we said every meal should include some protein. Why? Well, it keeps muscle-building amino acids circ u l a t i n g . That will protect muscle tissue, keeping it in a building mode instead of a burning one—for energy. It also signals your body
that more muscle is okay. You probably figured that out. But did you know that it also has a higher energ y cost? That recent discovery explains why higher- p ro t e i n diets are so effective at b u rning fat as well as building muscle.
A “higher energy cost” means that it takes more energy to digest protein. So you burn extra calories without doing a darned thing. There f o re , i n c reasing your protein intake at the expense of carbs will be like a calorie reduction. Yep, more protein in your diet means you burn more calories. In fact, research indicates that a high-p rotein meal boosts postmeal thermic activity by 100 perc e n t over what you get with a high-carb meal (Am Col Nutr, 21(1):55-61; 2002). You’re actually stoking your metabolism by including protein foods (water can do that to; more on that later). And, as you know, protein also helps you build and maintain more muscle. But here ’s something you may not know: The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. Plus, you get another metabolic boost as higher-p rotein diets help maintain thyroid hormone. It all adds up to more metabolic momentum that converts bodyfat to energy (J Nutr, 133:411-417; 2003).
Wow! That all sounds great, but don’t fall into the trap of t rying to eat all protein all the time. Carbs are important too, v e ry important. If you eat too much protein and not enough carbs, your body has to convert protein to glucose for energy. Glucose helps your muscles function as well as your brain, so i t ’s absolutely critical! If you limit your carbs too much, your body must convert protein to fuel, which is called gluconeogenesis, and that results in waste products, many of which are toxic. Can you guess where your body stores a lot of those toxins? Yep, fat tissue.
So too much protein can make it more difficult to burn fat. But so can too many carb calories because that’s excess fuel. And what about fat? Believe it or not, it can be an ally in your battle to burn bodyfat and increase lean tissue—as long as you don’t get too much. (Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to get the p e rfect X-treme Lean percentages of all the macro n u t r i e n t s l a t e r.) When you supply your system with fat—around 25 p e rcent of your total calories—you stoke the fat-burn i n g f u rnace even more. One reason is that when a little fat is available as a fuel source for daily activity, it teaches your body
Many women think muscle is dirty word. Far from it. Becky Holman shows that muscle can give the female body curves in all the right places. (More on Becky’s sensational transformation in Chapter 6.)
to burn fat—not only what you eat but also the bodyfat you have stored—if you create a calorie deficit and don’t overdose on carbohydrates.
By creating a calorie deficit, getting just enough pro t e i n and carbs and providing your system with some fat, you prime your body to use fat as fuel. In other words, having some fat in your diet sets the
stage for optimal fat burning throughout the day. It also helps your body build essential anabolic hormones, like testosterone, and it keeps your thyroid healthy for a smooth-ru n n i n g metabolism. (You should be having visions of your new, ripped physique about now.)
The bottom line is that you don’t want to reduce your fat intake to extremely low levels. No-fat diets are wrong, wrong, wrong! If you take your fat intake down near zero, you deprive your body of vital hormone-building omega-3s, -6s and -9s, and you coax it into using only protein and carbs for its daily energy needs. In other words, you teach it to burn muscle for e n e rg y, which is not something you want (muscle is made of protein and it’s also where carbs are stored, as glycogen).
Muscle is good! We don’t have to tell bodybuilders that. They strive for it at every turn; however, many women think m u s c l e is a dirty word. Not true. It gives the female body a metabolic boost and more curves in the right places. Wo m e n d o n ’t have to be concerned with building too much muscle thanks to their female hormone balance—more estrogen, very little testosterone. Women should train just as hard as men do, using weight training to sculpt their bodies. (More on that in Chapter 6 when Becky Holman tells her transformation story.)
So what are the keys to an X-treme Lean physique? We’ve covered a few; let’s review:
1) Eat small, frequent, protein-based meals, and never miss bre a k f a s t . R e m e m b e r, you want to keep your blood sugar level steady and minimize insulin, which promotes fat storage (except after a workout). A recent study showed that men who ate at least five meals a day had an average body-mass index that was 13 percent lower than those who ate only one or two meals a day. The frequent eaters also had a 4 p e rcent lower waist-to-hip ratio, which indicates less bodyfat (Int J Obesity, 26:1476-1483; 2002). Eat right, eat often.
As for skipping breakfast, here ’s why it’s a bad idea: In 1993 re s e a rchers at the University of Colorado and the University of P i t t s b u rgh studied people who’d lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least one year. They were looking for clues as to what helps people reduce bodyfat p e rm a n e n t l y. One thing they found was that four out of five ate b reakfast every day of the week. If you don’t eat breakfast, your body starts burn i n g muscle immediately and hangs onto bodyfat.
Some fat in your diet can teach your body to burn fat for energy. It’s also a building block of testosterone, a hormone that helps target abdominal fat.
2) Increase your protein and reduce carbs—but not too much. It takes more energy to digest protein, and that burns extra calories. Extra protein also boosts your metabolism by maintaining thyroid hormone and building more muscle—the m o re muscle you have the more calories you burn at re s t . However, too much protein can force your body to use it as an e n e rgy source, which produces toxins that slow fat burn i n g . You need the right balance of protein and carbs for your specific energy and rebuilding needs. (More on that later, plus diets with the exact macronutrient balance that can help you strip away bodyfat fast.)
3) Include fat in your diet. Especially the so-called good kind, essential fatty acids found in nuts and fish. Studies show that diets in which less than 20 percent of total calories come f rom fat can cause a decrease in testostero n e — a n d testosterone not only helps you build muscle but also helps you burn bodyfat, especially in the abdominal area. Don’t associate dietary fat with bodyfat. In fact, diets rich in omega-3 fats not only d o n ’t p romote bodyfat accumulation but may pro t e c t against obesity as well. Omega-3s are known to change the characteristics of cellular membranes in a way that favors i n c reased insulin receptor effectiveness. In other words, they help prevent excess fat gain.
One fat you should avoid like the plague, however, is trans fatty acids. Look for the words p a rtially hydro g e n a t e d in the ingredients list on food labels. That means there are trans fats p resent and you shouldn’t eat it. Trans fats have been associated with many diseases, especially card i o v a s c u l a r disease, because they raise serum cholesterol levels even more than saturated fat (the kind found in bacon). They also elevate p roduction of low-density lipoprotein. If that’s not enough to keep you from eating foods with trans fats, how about this: They can cause muscle loss (Nut Res, 23:651-658, 2003). That’s right, the muscle you work so hard to build in the gym. Now that’s evil!
We already explained why a no-carb diet is a bad idea—it can increase the use of muscle tissue for energy, which, in turn, produces toxins that make fat loss more difficult. Here’s another reason directly related to your muscle mass: No-carb and lowcarb diets can cause your bodyparts to look flat because of dehydration. Without enough carbohydrates your muscles have a hard time filling with glycogen, and glycogen is what helps the muscles hold more water so they’re bigger. It also provides the muscles with energy for high-intensity muscle contractions in the gym. If your muscles aren’t glycogen loaded, your workouts are going to suck! Are you convinced yet that carbs aren’t evil? There’s more...
How about the health consequences of no-carb or extremely low-carb diets? If you cut your carbs to low levels you can’t possibly get enough fruits and vegetables, which contain phytonutrients that are necessary for optimal body functions ( c i t rus fruits alone contain more than 170 of those newly d i s c o v e red, very important nutrients). Oh, and not to mention your diet will lack fiber that keeps the digestive tract moving (constipation and hemorrhoids are no fun!). You probably won’t enjoy the cloudy thinking that low-carb diets produce either. ( R e m e m b e r, carbs also fuel brain function. In fact, Sylvester Stallone said that to become his slow, mumbling Rocky Balboa character, he would go on a low-carb diet. “Adrian! Where’s the fruit?”)
The detrimental affects of extreme low-carb diets on the brain also can cause depression. Low-carb eating re d u c e s levels of serotonin, the hormone in the brain that keeps you happy—so say re s e a rchers at MIT. Symptoms of depre s s i o n can appear in as little as two weeks when carbs are severe l y restricted.
In general, decreasing one of the macronutrients—fat, protein or carbohydrates—to abnormally low levels isn’t the way to go for fat loss. You may lose weight, but in the case of low carbs some of it may be muscle, which will just add to your depression. (“I beat Mr. T, Adrian. Why am I so melancholy?”)
Now to throw a monkey wrench into the mix: If you eat carbs and have glucose circulating in your bloodstream, your body has no reason to burn bodyfat; it chooses the circ u l a t i n g glucose for energy first. After all that talk about how necessary carbs are, now we tell you that every time you eat them, fat burning stops. Now what?
One solution is carb stacking, in which you eat the majority of your carbs in the morning and around your workout, when they’re shuttled to muscle tissue rather than stored as bodyfat. Combining carb stacking with a six-meals-a-day eating strategy can help minimize insulin and decrease fat storage fast. Plus, you still get enough carbs for health and muscle building, keeping those bodyparts full and powerful.
You gotta remember that carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, and that provides immediate energy for your body, so there’s no reason to burn fat. The solution is to tailor some of your meals later in the day so they’re low in carbohydrates, stacking the majority of your carbs in the m o rning and immediately after you train, when your muscles a re primed to pull in the glucose and store it as glycogen. (Studies show that even 100 grams of carbohydrates after a hard weight-training workout does not promote fat storage—it all goes to the muscles.)
The sample diet on the previous page (adapted from the book Fat to Muscle 2) accomplishes that. By the way, it works even better if you can train in the morning, thus getting your high-carb postworkout drink in the a.m. too. That’s impossible for most people, but just remember that the carbs you get in the late afternoon right after you train will be absorbed by your muscles, not by your fat cells.
And don’t think that just getting all protein after your workout is the way to go. A University of Washington study showed that postworkout drinks that have both carbs and protein are nearly 40 percent more effective than protein alone at repairing muscle tissue after a workout. It’s why we use the X Stack after workouts (Meal 5 above). We’ll have more on that in the supplement chapter. For now, just remember: Don’t cut out the postworkout carbs! Just keep other afternoon meals low in that macronutrient so fat burning isn’t stopped in its tracks.
So too many carbs at one meal can stop fat burning and perhaps increase fat storage. Once your muscles are glycogen loaded and your energy needs are met, excess carbs are simply excess calories that are stored as energ y — b o d y f a t . Some experts will say that the amount of fast or slow carbs can make a difference in how much is stored as fat. Fast carbs are those that cause a spike in insulin from your pancreas, such as processed sugar foods like candy, as well as some high-sugar f ruits and juices. Because insulin is considered a storage hormone, it will shuttle carbs that you don’t need for immediate e n e rgy to your fat cells if your muscles are already full of glycogen. That means that high insulin levels can knockout your fat-loss efforts—except after a workout.
So, yes, fast carbs can result in more fat storage—if you eat them alone. However—and this is a big however—when you combine them with other foods, specifically fat and/or fiber, the speed at which your blood sugar is increased is significantly reduced. You get more of a trickle effect into your bloodstream, and a slower release of glucose means less insulin. Because of that fact, we suggest you never eat carbs alone, especially p rocessed carbs like candy. If you have to have sweets, eat them with nuts or other fat-and-fiber food. Make them part of a balanced meal. Even then, however, don’t eat too much. Small meals are best—no more than 350 calories—and limit insulin output. An insulin surge is only part of the problem with fast carbs, however. The other is that many are more calorie dense, usually because of significantly more carbs and/or fat. In other words, you’ll get more potential fat storage from eating a candy bar than an apple due to excess energy intake. Here’s proof: A two-ounce milk chocolate bar has about 300 calories, while an apple has about 75 calories, but because of its fiber content, an apple is more filling (and healthier, of course). Do you still want the candy? With more than three times the calories (energy), you’re going to store more fat. But there is a way to indulge with damage control.
If you have to have processed sugar, save it for your cheat day. You’ll actually improve your ability to burn bodyfat instead of impair it by easing up on your diet once a week, as you’ll see in Chapter 4 (like we said, cheating is good—to a degree).
Keep in mind that the carb-stacking diet that’s listed is one you would gradually move to, as around 2,000 calories is the lowest level for safe,healthy fat loss (that total is around 1,700 for a woman). We’ll have more on how to gradually reduce your calories for continuous fat burn in the next chapter. At this point understand that it’s not enough to get the right macronutrient p e rcentages and stack your carbs. You also have to create a calorie deficit—expend more energy than you take in—to lose fat. Also keep in mind that your body is always adapting to that deficit, which requires gradual calorie reduction—up to a point.
Your next questions may be, “So how many grams of carbs do I need?” That ideal amount is activity dependent—as is the p e rcentages of protein and fats you should eat. For example, the body stores 300 to 400 grams of glycogen (carbs). The amount of carbohydrates you should eat each day depends on how much you burn. If you lift weights and/or perform cardio, you may need to eat up to 200 grams of carbs in a 24-hour period to replenish what you burned and keep your body functioning norm a l l y, but probably no more than that. Any amount you take in above what you burn is considered excess e n e rgy and can be stored as bodyfat. (Remember, your body also stores carbs as bodyfat if you eat too much at one sitting. Keep your meals small and frequent.) And if you do zero intense glycogen-burning activity (couch potato), your carb intake should be significantly lower, as what you take in that isn’t used for immediate energy will be stored as—you guessed it—ugly bodyfat. Think of carbs as energy for activity, but also consider that you need fruits and vegetables for health, so you can’t restrict them too much. You can, however, eat them when your metabolism is highest, like before noon and after your workout, and eat only enough to partially fuel between-meal activity so your body is forced to dip into its bodyfat stores.
P rotein intake, like carbs, is also activity dependent. If you do lots of work that breaks down muscle tissue—like lifting weights or wrestling aligators—you need many more grams of p rotein than sedentary individuals. A good rule of thumb is about one gram per pound of bodyweight, and you want to spread it out over the course of your day. Try to get about 20 to 40 grams at each meal so that the building blocks are readily available at all times for muscle growth.
Fat is also activity dependent, although less so than the other two macronutrients, carbs and protein, because it’s used to build hormones and keep bodily functions running smoothly. N e v e rtheless, if you do hard labor, your fat needs incre a s e . Also, eating enough fat keeps your body burning fat, as it knows there’s not a shortage of that important nutrient.
Yo u ’ re reading this book, so you know the importance of lifting weights for a lean, muscular physique. And we hope y o u ’ re working out regularly to build muscle and stoke your metabolism. If you are, that means you’re going to need 30 to 40 percent of your calories from carbs, about the same percentage from protein and about 25 to 30 percent from fat— mostly good, essential fatty acids found in fish and nuts. Those are the totals in the carb-stacking diet outlined earlier. With that strategy you also get the majority of your carbs in the morning and limit carbs in meals later in the day so your body has to at least partially rely on bodyfat for its energy.
We’ve covered a lot of information in this chapter, so there’s a summary on the next page. After that, we’ll give you a real-world example. What the heck. How about two? The next chapter will show how we ate up to and through our one-month body transformation experiment. (The training we used is described at www.x-rep.com. We’ll also have more on training,
128 carb calories ÷ 360 = .35 (or 35%) 160 protein calories ÷ 360 = .44 (or 44%) 72 fat calories ÷ 360 = .21 (or 21%)
2) Now divide each of those figures by the calorie total:
32 g. of carbs x 4 calories = 128 calories 40 g. of protein x 4 calories = 160 calories 8 g. of fat x 9 calories = 72
1 ) C o n v e rt grams to calories. There are four calories in e v e ry gram of protein and carbohydrate and nine in every gram of fat.
Say you eat a meal that contains 360 calories, 32 grams of carbs, 40 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat. What are the percentages? Here’s how to figure that out:
We usually start revving the X-treme Lean machine aro u n d late March. Yes, it’s a little difficult at that time because it’s still chilly out. Cold weather means our physiques are rare l y u n c o v e red, so that leaves our motivation still groggy from its winter hibernation. Nevertheless, we try to pound it into our heads that summer is just around the corner, so we’d better get with it—unless we want to resemble a couple of glazed doughnuts when warm weather arrives. (Did we say doughnuts? S o rry.) And just to hammer home that point, we shoot some b e f o re photos. Seeing our digital images on our computer s c reens forces us to admit to ourselves just how far off peak condition we are. It instills a sense of urgency. Put it this way: We’ve never looked at those first photos and said, “Oh, we don’t look so bad.” It’s usually more like, “Oh, crap! We’d better kick it up a few notches.”
What we’re saying is that, if you’re serious about getting into your best shape ever (why else would you be reading this book?), you should definitely take before photos. They’re re a l eye-openers. You can take relaxed front, side and back views, or you can shoot those standard befores along with a variety of bodybuilding-type poses (put the camera on a tripod, if possible, at about waist height so you get a balanced top-tobottom assessment). Be sure to keep a list of the shots you take—the poses you hit—and the camera settings you use. T h ree to six weeks later, take photos again and use the same poses and camera settings. Also—and this is import a n t — b e sure the lighting is the same. Take the pictures in a room with a fairly bright overhead light and don’t use the flash on your camera or your muscularity will be washed out. (We have a specific spot in the IRON MAN Training & Research Center where we take our photos. Some of those photos are included below so you can get an idea how we do it.)
We should warn you that it can be frustrating at the beginning of your X-treme Lean program, especially for men, because the first fat that starts to go is visceral fat—that is, the fat that’s stored in the muscles. So, as much as we don’t like it, when you start losing bodyfat, you’ll feel as though you’re shrinking somewhat and not getting leaner. That can re a l l y mess with your head if you have a muscle-building mind-set.
Stick it out! Eventually, the subcutaneous fat, which is under the skin, will start to melt away, and that’s when you’ll feel like you’re hitting your stride—you’ll actually create the illusion that y o u ’ re getting bigger as you get leaner. To keep that eff e c t moving forward, you have to do one of two things:
1) slightly reduce your daily calories every few weeks
2) slightly increase your activity
Of course, you can do both, but you have to be very careful not to get carried away or you’ll get the opposite effect—your body will horde fat and burn muscle because it will think it’s starving. Big calorie cuts or excessive cardio all at once is the wrong way to go—if you don’t want to lose muscle, that is. To keep the starvation mechanism in check, and keep shrinkage to a minimum, you have to make changes gradually.
As far as our preferences go, Jonathan uses only one or two calorie cuts during our entire ripping phase (about 12 weeks). He prefers to gradually ramp up his cardio work. He has an exercise bike in his living room, and he’s pretty diligent about doing it daily as our target date for our final photo shoot approaches. He begins by riding his exercise bike about twice a week in April and increases his time and frequency fro m there. When the shoot is about a month away, he will be riding his bike twice a day for 30-minute stints. New re s e a rc h , h o w e v e r, shows that walking a treadmill burns more calories than an exercise bike because walking is a weight-bearing activity—you have to move your bodyweight as opposed to sitting on your duff and pedaling. That research has Jonathan considering outdoor walking or treadmill walking along with e x e rcise-bike work to speed up his fat burning. (Bonus: Walking also helps improve calf development, as discussed in The Ultimate Mass Workout e-book.)
Steve, on the other hand, has a faster metabolism—he has a l e a n e r, ectomorphic stru c t u re—so he likes to rely more on calorie decreases. For him, cardio tends to burn muscle tissue. He uses four or five calorie cuts throughout his 12-week ripping phase, and he usually doesn’t start cardio until mid May—and even then it’s only two or three times a week. At 45 years old, h o w e v e r, he’s realizing that burning off the last bit of fat is getting harder and hard e r. The older you get, the slower your metabolism becomes, so that may mean more cardio for Steve if he wants to get into X-treme Lean shape on schedule. He will continue to use gradual calorie reductions as well. There are examples of how he does that on pages 30 and 31.
Notice that most of Steve’s calorie cuts usually come from carbs or slight reductions in overall portions of a meal. For example, at breakfast he will drink a half glass of orange juice instead of a full glass, and at night he will reduce his wine consumption. One of his major calorie reductions comes when he moves from a Muscle Meals meal-replacement packet to P ro-Fusion protein as his between-real-food-meals feedings. Here’s how those two protein supplements compare:
Muscle Meals meal replacement (1 packet in water)
324 calories, 12 grams carbs, 40 grams of protein
Pro-Fusion protein powder (2 scoops in water)
220 calories, 6 grams carbs, 45 grams protein
When he goes from one packet of Muscle Meals to Pro Fusion, he reduces his calories by more than 100. Plus, he cuts his carb grams in half and actually increases his protein by five grams for that meal. He usually makes that reduction at one meal, holds that calorie total for two to three weeks, then makes the switch at his other powder-based meal. Once again, i t ’s gradual calorie reductions that work best, not massive calorie slashes. It takes patience!
All of that isn’t meant to imply that carbs are bad. On the c o n t r a ry, they are your body’s most efficient fuel, supplying your muscles with the glycogen they need to contract hard to stimulate muscle growth; however, you have to remember that getting just enough to replenish glycogen shortfalls is the key. Too many carbs, and you get spillover into fat cells because you simply have too much of a good thing—an abundance of energy substrates without the necessary activity level to burn it off. (That’s one reason getting most of your carbs early in the day is a good idea—it ensures that you don’t have much of that energy substrate in your bloodstream as the day wears on, so your body has to resort to fat for its activity late in the day.)
Jonathan gradually increases his activity to make sure he burns off excess calories. Riding his exercise bike helps push his body into the fat-burning zone. Steve chooses to do that later in his ripping cycle, but keep in mind that he is more of h a rdgainer type (ectormorph) with a faster metabolism, while Jonathan is more of a muscular body type (mesomorph) with a tendency to hold onto bodyfat. Jonathan appears to be more carb sensitive; that is, his fat cells suck up extra carb calories, which is why he tends to keep his carb percentage on the low s i d e — a round 30 percent. (Like proper training, a re s u l t s p roducing diet isn’t the same for everyone. You’ll have to experiment to find out how your body reacts to carbs and different calorie levels—but extremely low-carb eating is never the healthy answer.)
No matter how fast your metabolism, you will almost always have to up your activity as your body adapts to different calorie deficits on the road to an X-treme Lean look, even if it’s only with brisk walks two to three times a week. As both of us move t o w a rd our leanest physiques, we’re taking in between 2,000 and 2,400 calories and doing additional cardio work—oh, and our carbs don’t drop below 140 grams a day.
Right around 150 grams of carbs a day on training days appears to be an adequate amount that keeps our bodies functioning in a healthful manner, with enough glycogen to replenish muscle-tissue deficits created by hard weight training. ( R e m e m b e r, your body holds a total of 300 to 400 grams of carbs, so a weight-training workout depletes less than 100 grams—400 calories.) On nontraining days, you should subtitute a meal replacement drink or a lower-carb meal for your postworkout drink. That will keep your carbs over 100 grams so you continue to fill glycogen stores, but not so much that you blunt fat burning. With that strategy we always had plenty of energy for training—in fact, we got stronger on many e x e rcises as we got closer to our shoot date—and we never got the cloudy mental condition associated with severe lowcarb diets, and rarely did we ever get cravings for sweets.
The most interesting thing is that during our last month, our photos show that we gained muscle as we continued to lose fat. As we said, the first phases of a diet tend to burn visceral fat, which is in muscle tissue. That last month, as the remaining fat came off from below the skin, our muscle size appeared to i n c rease—and we got stro n g e r. Many experts believe it’s impossible to build muscle on a low-calorie diet. Look at our last two photos in the sequence and you be the judge.
Of course, during that last month, when we took the final two photos in the sequence, we began using X Reps. We ’ re sure that had something to do with building more muscle as we continued to drop fat. Using power partials at the end of a set at the max-force-generation point in the stroke does everything f rom increase muscle-fiber re c ruitment to stimulate anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone. (Those two hormones are potent fat burners, so you’ll definitely want to use X Reps!) We’ll have more on X Reps later in this book. They can superc h a rge your fat-burning and muscle-building efforts, getting you to X-treme Lean condition faster! Even we w e re stunned with how fast they worked in combination with our other X-treme Lean strategies.
By the way, the last two photos in each of our series at the beginning of this chapter drive home another point: Just how much your appearance can change without a fluctuation in bodyweight. Jonathan’s bodyweight was the same in both photos, about 204, and Steve’s stayed at about 194. Obviously, if you gain muscle as you lose fat, the scale won’t register a fluctuation. Don’t use the scale to guage your progress.
Steve’s X-treme Lean Calorie-Reduction Schedule
Jonathan begins by gradually eliminating any junk food and alcohol consumption and eating cleaner the frist three to four weeks. He considers that his first calorie cut, which leaves him with this diet (at right) with nine weeks left till peak day.
In order to create an energy deficit, he prefers to gradually ramp up his activity via cardio sessions. He begins with two to t h ree 20-minute sessions a week, and he adds a session or time to his existing sessions every other week until he is doing at least one 30-minute session every day. The last three weeks he is often doing two 30-minute cardio sessions a day (that’s excessive unless you’re peaking for a photo shoot or bodybuilding competition where you need to be under 5 percent bodyfat).
Making gradual calorie cuts is Steve’s method. Incre a s i n g activity is Jonathan’s preference. Which way is best? It’s up to the individual. Whatever suits your personality and lifestyle. Either way you create an energy deficit, which forces your body to burn bodyfat if the circumstances are right. The key: don’t create an overwhelming deficit all at once, one that’s so large that fat burning stops dead in it tracks. That can trigger the starvation mechanism and your body will start hording fat and b u rning muscle. The key words to remember are gradual a n d patience. Oh, and don’t forget to cheat...
Note: We’ll have more on what each of the specific supplements are in Chapter 7.
It may go against your moral upbringing, but you have to cheat to get lean. (We’re talking food here, not running around behind your significant other’s back—although that does burn calories.) If you don’t have a cheat day during the week, you can sabotage your fat-loss eff o rts in a big way. That’s true from a psychological standpoint (you will feel deprived, and you’re more likely to binge) and from a physiological standpoint. It has to do with a specific hormone called leptin.
Leptin is known as the antistarvation hormone. If you have enough, your body doesn’t panic. If you don’t take precautions as you reduce calories, however, your body can produce less and less. When your leptin levels fall, the starvation mechanism shifts into high gear, and your body halts fat burning and triggers a voracious appetite (you start having dreams about giant chocolate sundaes). Studies show that increasing calories, primarily with carbs, only one day a week during a diet can help n o rmalize leptin levels, keeping the starvation mechanism in check and speeding the fat-burning process.
We verified that, inadvertently, through a miscalculation Steve made during our last peaking phase (we just keep learning from our mistakes!). Right up until the last few weeks before peak day Steve thought he was carbing up one day during the weekend, his cheat day, but he was actually carbing down—and it almost stopped his fat burning cold.
H e re ’s how it happened: When Saturday rolled around, he stayed on the same meal schedule he was using during the week, upping his carbs slightly. So far, so good. What he forgot was that since he wasn’t training on the weekends, he didn’t include his postworkout drink in his calculations. Whoops! RecoverX, our postworkout drink of choice, contains 60 grams of carbs, which he wasn’t getting on the weekends. So while he added 40 grams of carbs on Saturday, he already had a deficit of 60 grams. He was actually taking in fewer carbs and calories instead of more, which severely hampered his fat burning. In fact, he didn’t know what was going wrong for weeks. He thought that because he was approaching his 45th birthday, age was finally slowing everything down, including his ability to burn fat. His body refused to let go of that last bit of blubber that was blurring his muscularity.
While age may have had a little something to do with his slowing metabolism, it was mostly due to his plummeting leptin levels. His body was hording that last bit of fat.
Luckily, he figured it out in time and carbed up enough every few days over the course of about two weeks before peak day, and he showed up in ripped shape; however, he could’ve been even more shredded had he cheated on Saturdays instead of actually lowering his carbs. (He should’ve realized what was going on when he started having wild fantasies about Betty Crocker.)
As for Jonathan, he did it right. He upped his carbs on the w e e k e n d s — remembering to include those in his postworkout drink in his calculations—and he even increased his carbs on Wednesdays. That calorie-and-carb zig-zag maintained his leptin levels and tightened up his physique quickly—he was shredded on peak day. His Wednesday carb-up was especially important due to his low-end carb intake—25 to 30 percent as opposed to 35 to 40 percent for Steve. Jonathan increased his carbs by about 50 to 80 grams on Wednesday; while Steve rarely took in more carbs midweek.
Jonathan upped his carbs two days a week to stabilize his leptin levels, and he peaked perfectly. Steve miscalculated, accidentally lowering his carbs one day per week, and almost blew it. Luckily, he realized his mistake in time— but he could’ve been leaner.
Here are the lessons you should learn from this (so you don’t have to learn the hard, frustrating way as Steve did):
O k a y, you’ve seen how we do it, and you’ve got lots of X-t reme Lean fat-attack facts bouncing around in your head, so let’s put it all together. You want to know where to start and the exact steps to follow, and that’s what this chapter is all about.
As we said previously, everyone responds to a diet differently. You may have a faster metabolism than your friend (Steve’s metabolism tends to be faster than Jonathan’s) and you may be m o re carb sensitive than the next guy or gal (Jonathan needs fewer carbs than Steve to get in X-treme Lean condition). Nevertheless, you need a place to start, so let’s outline a diet.
What are the basics?
1) Carb stacking. Try to keep most of the carbs in the morning.
2) At least 20 grams of protein at each meal. That will keep the muscle-building wheels in motion.
3) A fast-carb, fast-protein drink after your workout.
4) Daily macronutrient percentages of about 30 to 40 percent carbs, the same for protein and about 25 percent fat.
5) Gradual calorie reductions.
On the following page is a good diet to start with. Or you can try following one of our diets from Chapter 3. Keep in mind that you may not be able to jump right in. As we’ve said, you can’t make a giant calorie cut, or your body will think it’s starving and hold onto bodyfat. If your current diet contains more than 3,000 calories, which it probably does, you’ll need to first break it up into six meals and then gradually pare down your calories till you’re below 3,000. The Higher-Calorie Beginning Diet on page 44 is a good starting point. Make the calorie cut suggested, then move to the diet at right.
So you’ve looked over the diet and thought, “Man, is that boring!” There are some meals you can use as re p l a c e m e n t s that will keep your macronutrient percentages in the ballpark:
You now have a starting point. Where to from here? You can follow Jonathan’s lead and begin to gradually ramp up your activity. Start with two 20-minute cardio sessions a week and build on that (see his X-treme Lean Cardio Surge schedule in Chapter 3). Or you may want to follow Steve’s lead and begin cutting calories, primarily from carb sources.
What do we recommend? A little of both. Here ’s how we suggest you make this diet work as quickly as possible:
Weeks 1 and 2: Stay on the diet as it’s written, with one cheat day on the weekend. (Keep the cheat day throughout your fat-loss phase.)
Weeks 3 and 4: At meal 2 substitute two scoops of protein powder (low in carbs) for the meal-replacement packet. For example, if you use Muscle Meals meal replacement and move to two scoops of Pro-Fusion protein powder instead, you reduce your calories by more than 100 and cut your carb intake. Also introduce low-intensity 20-minute cardio sessions (walking or light jogging) two times a week.
Weeks 5 and 6: At meal 4 substitute two scoops of protein powder (low in carbs) for the meal-replacement packet.
Weeks 7 and 8: Add one 20-minute cardio session per week or increase your current cardio work (two sessions per week) to 30 minutes each.
Weeks 9 and 10: Add one 20-minute cardio session per week.
Weeks 11 and 12: Add one 20-minute cardio session per week or extend one or two of your sessions to 30 to 40 minutes.
Once you reach your desired leanness level, you can loosen up your diet somewhat and rotate in more fruits and vegetables.
The above is how Becky Holman made her start l i n g t r a n s f o rmation. Her primary calorie cuts were via pro t e i n powder to substitute for her meal-replacement feedings. She also gradually ramped up her cardio activity, running or walking two miles every few days. You saw her before and after photos on the cover and in the introduction, which are very impressive. Whether you’re a man or woman, you can learn from how she approached her X-treme Lean program, so let’s let her tell it in her own words...
by Becky Holman
The old saying is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In my case my before picture evoked a thousand emotions— primarily disgust and depression. I didn’t realize I looked like that till I saw those awful photos. It’s amazing how your mind can play tricks on you when you look in a mirror. On top of that, clothes can help re i n f o rce the denial. Throw on a baggy shirt and some jeans, and, see, you don’t look fat at all. Amazing. It’s so easy to hide it—even from yourself. And men do it too. It’s hard to deny it, however, when you see a photograph of yourself in a bathing suit head-on. Now, that’s a slap of reality—and in my case the reality was worse than anything the folks at “Fear Factor” could dream up.
I felt so terrible after I saw my before photos that the idea of changing my appearance seemed almost hopeless. And to make me feel even worse, my daughters, Chelsea, 11, and L i n d s e y, seven, kept s a y i n g , “ M o m m y, y o u ’ re fat; go on a diet,” but my h u s b a n d , S t e v e H o l m a n , IRON MAN’s editor in chief and coauthor of this book, did his best to put a positive spin on things. He e n c o u r a g e d me and told me that
changes would start to happen fast if I buckled down. I knew he was right, but I just couldn’t find the motivation to be persistent. I knew I could do it because I’d get a spark, but then it would quickly be extinguished by thoughts of how far I had to go. I felt overwhelmed!
Those false starts were disheartening, and I had a number of them. My before pictures were taken in September, and that’s when I decided to begin a transformation program. The problem was I couldn’t commit completely. I went to the gym a few times in September, but I didn’t stick with it. I decided that Thanksgiving would be my starter pistol, and right after the holiday I’d go full force. Nope, it didn’t happen. I put it off till Christmas, New Year’s and, finally, my birthday, which was my 41st, at the end of February.
B i rthdays are milestones, and turning 41 finally ignited my enthusiasm to more than a flicker. I’d gone through my first year in my 40s in perhaps my worst shape ever—not a good way to enter the prime of life. It was time to change that and prove to myself that I could achieve my best shape ever and be a h a p p i e r, healthier person. Steve was beginning his annual cutting phase, so that helped my mind-set. (I stro n g l y recommend having a partner or friend go through the process with you. Steve and I ran and walked together a lot—and ate a lot of the same things.)
I started with some easy full-body sessions for a few weeks, training two days a week (see the Phase 1 Break-in Workout), and then Steve created a split routine for me, using his Positions-of-Flexion training method (more on POF in Chapter 8). I started going to the gym three days a week and training more intensely. The first two days I did a split routine, and then on Friday I did a full-body workout with slightly higher reps on each exercise.
If you look at my Phase 2 routine that begins on page 50, you may notice that there ’s direct and indirect work for every b o d y p a rt on Monday and We d n e s d a y. In other words, I re a l l y trained every bodypart on both of those days. For example, I did chest on Monday and triceps on Wednesday—pressing for chest also trained my triceps and flat-bench dumbbell presses with my arms angled into my torso for triceps also trained my chest.
On Friday I did one or two sets of higher reps, around 12, for key exercises, and I did only one exercise per bodypart — although there was direct and indirect work for almost every b o d y p a rt within that day’s routine. For example, I did feet-forward Smith-machine squats for my hamstrings, but they also work quads, which I trained directly with the next exercise, leg p resses, which also hit hamstrings. It may sound a bit confusing, but trust me, it works, and you’ll know you’ve given every muscle the once over (and usually twice-over if you count the indirect hits). With direct and indirect work on Monday and Wednesday and a full-body workout on Friday, I was essentially training every bodypart three days a week. (Steve and Jonathan explain the dire c t / i n d i re c t a p p roach more thoroughly in The Ultimate Mass Wo r k o u t e book.)
Steve went with me to the gym a couple of times to answer questions I had, and I also read t h rough the exercise section— Appendix B—of Train, Eat, G row: The Positions-of-Flexion Muscle-Training Manual to make s u re I was doing all the movements corre c t l y. (Those e x e rcise illustrations and descriptions also appear in Appendix A of this book for your convenience.)
For extra calorie burn I walked a couple of days a week, but that was it for cardio the first six weeks. I introduced running twice a week after that, doing one to two miles a session.
If you’d like to follow my programs, they are included in a form that you can print, cut out and take to the gym on a small clipboard. There is space to the right to log your poundages.
Oh, and if you’d like to add X Reps, which I highly recommend for the muscle-building and f a t - b u rning eff e c t s , see Chapter 8 for how to incorporate them, how to p e rf o rm them and how and why they can significantly i m p rove your results.
Phase 2 Workout: Monday Quads, Chest, Back, Abs Exercise, Sets, Reps Poundage
Phase 2 Workout: Wednesday Hamstrings, Delts, Triceps, Biceps, Abs Exercise, Sets, Reps Poundage
Phase 2 Workout: Friday Full Body Exercise, Sets, Reps Poundage
As for eating, the first thing I did was stop having anything after 8:00 p.m. That took some weight off me immediately, as I often had ice cream or other goodies late—which is how I got in that horrible before shape in the first place. I think most people’s metabolisms slow down in the evening, and they tend to sit around anyway, so adding extra calories during that time does nothing but feed fat cells. If I got a craving, I’d have a big glass of water with lemon squeezed in. That was refreshing and usually killed the urge to splurge.
My next step was to add protein to every meal. In the beginning I was having one or two Muscle Meals meal replacements during the day to supplement my regular food intake, but as I pro g ressed into month two, I replaced each MRP with one or two scoops of Pro-Fusion protein powder to reduce my calories. One Muscle Meals has about 340 calories, while two scoops of Pro-Fusion has 220. That’s Steve’s favorite way to make gradual calorie reductions, as you saw in Chapter
3. Chocolate Pro-Fusion is my favorite, and sometimes I’d put a tablespoon of peanut butter in the drink to give it that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup flavor (that’s when I’d only use one scoop of p rotein—I was good about keeping my calories in check). It was delicious and satisfied my sweet tooth without spiking my insulin.
Another strategy I used was what Steve and Jonathan call carb stacking. I tried to get most of my carbohydrates before noon, with the remainder of my meals being mostly protein and cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and asparagus. I trained in the morning, so my last higher-carb meal was around 11:30, which was my postworkout RecoverX shake. That supplement has fast whey protein and fast high-glycemic carbs, just what you want after an intense workout to replenish and build muscle.
Yes, I was trying to build muscle because I’ve learned that the more muscle I add to my frame, the more calories I burn. Was I afraid of getting too big? Of course not. As a woman I know my hormones won’t allow it, so I trained as hard as I could—and it worked!
I did my after photos in mid-July—about four months after I got serious—and even I was impressed. Getting there wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and I kicked myself for all those false starts caused by my feelings of being overwhelmed. The “thousand words” my after photos are worth include pride, accomplishment and satisfaction. I’ve taped my before and after pictures together side by side and placed them in my closet so I can see them every morning as I get dressed. That before shot is a constant reminder to stay the course.
Becky Holman’s X-treme Diet
Becky Holman’s X-treme Lean Tips
We’re all looking for that magic pill or powder we can take to double or triple our fat-burning, muscle-building eff o rts. We ’ v e gone through much of the latest re s e a rch, and here are our picks for the best X-treme Lean nutrients and compounds available. Are any of them magic? You’ll have to be the judge. Most have helped our bodyfat disappear faster than you can say flab-ra-cadabra.
1) L-carn i t i n e . This amino acid is directly responsible for t r a n s p o rting long-chain triglycerides, or fat, into the cells for energy production. Sounds like a winner so far. It works with an enzyme called CPT-1, which results from omega-3 fatty acid intake, to shuttle fatty acids into the cell mitochondria, where fat is oxidized in a process called beta-oxidation. (We told you good fat was important, so don’t neglect getting your EFAs.)
C a rnitine not only transports long-chain fats into the mitochondria but also helps you recover from killer lifting sessions. (Are you starting to see why it’s at the top of our list?) A study at the University of Connecticut had 10 healthy men who were recreational lifters take two grams of L-carnitine daily (a divided dose at breakfast and lunch) for three weeks. The subjects performed a squat protocol consisting of five sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. They repeated that under placebo and carnitine-supplemented conditions. Growth hormone increased above resting levels during the first 30 minutes after exerc i s e , and testosterone increased during the first 15 minutes, but there were no differences between the carnitine and placebo groups.
The real difference was in the muscle-damage area: 16 to 23 p e rcent in the carnitine group vs. 29 to 39 percent in the placebo group.
In another muscle-related study L-carnitine improved the contractile force in the latissimus dorsi of dogs by 34 perc e n t and overall force production by 31 percent (J Strength Cond R e s, 17:455-462; 2003). (That means it may give your X Reps m o re firepower!) So it can improve fat burning, muscle power and muscle recovery, but there’s more.
Scientists re p o rted still another unexpected effect fro m supplementing L-carnitine tartrate. This study examined the e ffects of carnitine on testosterone responses and andro g e n receptors after heavy weight training and a postexercise carba n d - p rotein meal. Ten men, average age 21, took either a placebo or two grams of L-carnitine tartrate for 21 days.
Baseline andro g e n - receptor content was higher in the carnitine group. That’s what anabolic steroids do—increase the number of androgen receptors! We’ve obviously very excited about L-carnitine.
How we use L-carn i t i n e : You saw how Steve’s carb miscalculation on the weekends—not getting more, but less— slowed his fat-burning results. One thing that lessened the severity of that mistake was L-carnitine. He began using one gram per day before bed about four weeks out, increasing it to t h ree grams per day as panic set in. Once he realized his miscalculation mistake and upped his carbs every few days, fat began melting off his physique, no doubt accelerated by his L-carnitine supplementation. His strength also improved right up till his peak day, which is unheard of on a calorie-restricted diet. C a rnitine could also be partially responsible for that power f a c t o r. Jonathan used a liquid form of L-carnitine before workouts, and he also got stronger right up till shoot day.
2) Caffeine. Okay, caffeine isn’t a nutrient, it’s a drug, albeit a naturally occurring one. Nevertheless, if you’re strictly antidrug, then stay away from it. Keep in mind, however, that it is fairly innocuous if it’s used infrequently and in moderation, and it does have some powerful fat-burning, muscle-building properties. Research indicates that not only does caffeine give you an energy boost, but it can also help you contract your muscles harder because it stimulates your central nerv o u s system—and it can help you burn more fat during exercise.
While you don’t burn much fat during a bodybuilding workout because high-intensity work is fueled by glycogen (carbs), caffeine may help you burn a little more fat during your lower-intensity work, such as your warmup sets. How? Caffeine coaxes your body to use more fat during your low-intensity w a rmup work, which spares glycogen for your high-intensity sets. True, even with caffeine the fat burning that occurs during your weight workout is minimal, but anytime you can create a situation in which you use even small amounts of fat as energy, you should take it. Considering the central nervous system stimulation that caffeine provides, you can see how a little may go a long way toward making your resistance workouts more intense and that much more effective for burning fat as you build muscle.
Here’s another bonus: According to new studies, coffee can make your workouts less painful. Caffeine appears to lessen exercise-induced muscle pain, which means you can push your sets hard, get more X Reps and stimulate more growth. There’s a desensitizing effect, however: The pain-reduction eff e c t s were less significant among heavy caffeine users because their pain receptors had been altered. Researchers don’t know whether the caffeine acts on the muscles or the brain to reduce pain.
How we use caff e i n e : For best results you should consume caffeine 30 minutes before your workout so that it’s in your system and taking effect prior to your first work set. About 150 milligrams, the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee, will do the trick for most people. During the last eight weeks of our ripping phase, we used SAN Corporation’s Tight. It’s considered a fat burner because it contains caffeine and other metabolic stimulators like synephrine, guggulsterones and yohimbine (more on that last one in a moment). We took one Tight capsule about 15 minutes before our weight-training sessions and sometimes another capsule before card i o , depending on when it occurred. If we did cardio in the evening, we avoided caffeine because of its sleep-disruption effects. We found that any caffeine after 2 p.m. made it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Caff e i n e ’s nervous system-stimulation eff e c t s are said to peak about an hour after you take it, but it isn’t out of your system for another six to eight hours. Keep that in mind. Also, don’t use it if you have any cardiovascular problems, as it may amplify them.
3) Yo h i m b i n e . Your body won’t burn much lower-body fat until nearly all upper-body fat is eliminated. That has to do with certain receptors in l o w e r-body fat. There is evidence, however, that shows using an alpha2 adrenergic blocker can allow you to tap into lower-body fat stores faster (women and those who have tro u b l e getting cut quads take note). The fat cells in the lower body, unlike those in the upper body, have a predominance of alpha-2 adre n e rgic fat cell receptors, which make for slower fat release. You may be able to short-circuit that problem with the alpha-adrenergic blocker yohimbine, which is a natural plant derivative. It’s been shown to be especially effective for women.
How we use yohimbine: The Tight supplement we mentioned above contains a very potent form of yohimbine, so we were getting a dose once or twice a day to enhance our fat-burning efforts.
4) Phosphatidylserine. PS is not a drug. It’s a natural c o rt i s o l - s u p p ressing substance. Why would you want to s u p p ress cortisol? You’ve probably seen the TV ads that say cortisol is a stress hormone that causes bellyfat to accumulate. T h a t ’s correct. It’s a hormone your body secretes when it’s under stress, such as from an intense workout, and it literally forces your body to eat its muscle tissue for emergency energy and build up fat deposits. In other words, if you’re training hard, you’re not only stimulating a growth response but activating a muscle-wasting emergency response that can make bodyfat more difficult to burn.
Research has shown that a high-carb diet can help control cortisol, but that’s not the optimal eating plan for you if you’re looking to get in X-treme Lean condition. To get the same, or b e t t e r, cort i s o l - c o n t rol effects than a high-carb diet can produce, you may want to try phosphatidylserine, a soy-based lipid. PS can help you get a better muscle-growth re s p o n s e from your workouts by blocking some of the catabolic effects of cortisol without your having to resort to eating a higher-carb, insulin-stimulating diet.
P rofessor Thomas Fahey, Ed.D., of California State University, Chico, established the ability of PS to reduce blood cortisol during and after bodybuilding-type workouts. The study builds on prior Italian studies that found that PS lowers cortisol p roduced as a result of endurance exercise (cardio). It’s a breakthrough bodybuilding supplement along the same lines as c reatine monohydrate, especially for hardgainers, who are usually genetically challenged because of high levels of cortisol in the first place.
Bonus: Gary A. Martin, Ph.D., says that supplementation with PS can benefit cognitive functions. “Some 25 human studies have been performed with PS, of which 12 were double-blind studies. Palamieri, et al. (1987), stated that PS benefited the cognitive effects of vigilance, attention and short - t e rm memory. Heiss, et al. (1993), conducted a study on 40 subjects and found significantly greater brain activation.”
So PS will not only help you ward off the muscle-wasting, fat-storing effects of cortisol, but it may also help your mental sharpness during your workouts as well—and who couldn’t use a little more laser focus in the gym? Count us in!
How we use PS: One of our favorite supplements when w e ’ re in our X-treme Lean ripping phase is Cort-Bloc, a PS supplement by Muscle-Link. We take three or four capsules before we train and two capsules before bed. We don’t use it as often in the winter, as our intensity is generally lower, but when spring rolls around, we pull out all the stops and Cort Bloc accelerates our results.
5) Zinc. The body re q u i res the trace mineral zinc for conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into T3, which is five to seven times more metabolically active. A lack of zinc in the diet leads to a 30 percent drop in T3 levels, and that means a slower metabolism and more fat-burning plateaus. If you want to jack up your metabolism, think zinc—on second thought, don’t just think it, supplement it. Zinc also helps the body build testosterone, the key muscle-building hormone and one that has been shown to burn bellyfat.
How we use zinc: Studies suggest that you should get about 50 milligrams of zinc a day and no more than 100 milligrams. Check your meal replacement to see how much you’re getting from it before you supplement. When we switch f rom Muscle Meals meal replacement, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals (including zinc), to Pro-Fusion, we start supplementing with zinc. We use Muscle-Link’s ZMA-T, three to four capsules at bedtime.
6) Creatine monohydrate. This nutrient has been found to boost the energy capacity of the muscle cells. That’s great for speeding up the muscle-growth process, but keep in mind that more energy expenditure equals more calorie use and the possibility of more fat-burning activity. Creatine is especially helpful to those who don’t eat red meat, as they can develop a creatine deficiency, which, in turn, causes the body to function at less than optimal levels. That may be one reason dieting bodybuilders report such amazing results with this supplement.
How we use cre a t i n e : We add five grams of titrated creatine (Muscle-Link’s CreaSol) to our postworkout drink after almost every training session. We like to cycle it, using it for around 12 weeks and going off for two. We do that throughout the year.
7) Te a . Recent studies show that drinking green tea may help increase bodyfat oxidation, and another shows that oolong tea may do the same. The study involving oolong tea suggests that it’s not just the metabolic stimulation that makes the tea effective—it actually may thwart the addition of bodyfat (J Nutr, 131:2848-2852; 2001). Researchers in Taiwan studied more than 1,100 people for 10 years and found that those who drank t e a — g reen, black or oolong—several times a week had 20 percent less bodyfat than those who never drank tea.
How we use tea: S A N ’s Tight supplement that we use before training contains green-tea extract. Steve also has green tea most nights after dinner. He says it helps kill the urge to eat b e f o re bedtime (and you burn calories when you run to the bathroom to pee in the middle of the night).
8) Wa t e r. Your muscles are about 70 percent water, but that’s not the reason this substance is considered an anabolic accelerator and fat burn e r. Drinking more water isn’t going to f o rce your muscles to hold more and thus become larg e r, although sufficient carb intake will help them hold as much water as possible and retain a full look. For maximum muscle growth and fat loss to occur, all of your bodily systems must be functioning at optimal levels, and water is one way to keep things flowing along at a healthy pace. It helps flush poisons from your system and also enhances blood flow, which means that nutrients reach your recovering muscles more efficiently.
Keep in mind that bodyfat is where many toxins are stored. When you start burning fat, your body has more toxins to deal with, and water makes removal of that waste more eff i c i e n t . Without enough water your body may force the toxins back into fat storage, which can slow the fat-burning pro c e s s — y o u r body needs the fat to hold the toxins. Incidentally, alcohol is a toxin, so drinking it on a regular basis can also hamper the fat-burning process, not to mention the fact that alcohol contains excess, empty calories that can blunt anabolic hormone activity (it’s been shown to suppress testosterone).
Here’s a big bonus: Water also ramps up your metabolism. R e s e a rchers conducted a study to test its therm o g e n i c effects—that is, its conversion of fat calories into heat. Seven men and seven women, with an average age of 27, drank 500 milliliters, or about half a quart, of water. That caused a metabolic increase of 30 percent over resting levels. The increase occurred within 10 minutes, reaching a maximum 30 to 40 minutes after the subjects drank the water. It lasted for m o re than an hour, and it led the authors to suggest that drinking just over a quart of water a day would augment energy e x p e n d i t u re each day by 200 kilojoules. That’s like taking a dose of 50 milligrams of ephedrine three times a day, which results in an increased energy expenditure of 320 kilojoules. Granted, that adds up to only about 100 extra calories burned daily, but it does add to weight loss (J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 88:6015-6019; 2003).
How we use water: We drink a total of six to eight glasses of water throughout the day. Try it. You’ll not only feel healthier, but you’ll build muscle and burn fat faster. And by keeping your system properly hydrated, you make it more efficient at flushing out fat by-products as you burn off adipose tissue.
9) Growth hormone. No, we don’t inject GH (like so many pro bodybuilders and other athletes do), but we do everything we can to increase it naturally because it helps burn bodyfat and it synergizes with anabolic hormones like testosterone to make your muscle-building efforts much more productive.
How we use GH: At the beginning of our ripping phase we jump-start the p rocess with a gro w t h hormone booster. We use GH Stak and have gotten some p retty impressive gains with it. Why did we choose this particular product? For one, it was developed by noted pharmacologist James Jamieson, who also invented the patch delivery system for drugs. It comes in effervescent tablets (like Alka-Seltzer), which contain a number of growth horm o n e activators along with anterior pituitary peptides that normalize somatostatin, a hormone that can shut down GH re c e p t o r s . T h a t ’s extremely important because if you elevate GH, you want to minimize any substance that can smother its effects.
We like to use it before we train, and because your stomach should be empty when you take it, you’ll have to move your p reworkout meal. There should be two hours of no eating before you take it. We eat breakfast at 6 a.m., have a protein drink at eight and then take our GH Stak right before we train at 10 a.m. A four-week cycle is usually what Steve does; Jonathan may stay on it for six to eight weeks, gradually increasing the dosage each week as the instructions suggest. We also design our training to maximize GH output, as you’ll see in the next chapter.
The bodybuilding champs of yesteryear used to swear by high-rep sets for burning bodyfat. For example, they’d do up to 20 reps on leg extensions, believing that they were etching cuts into their thighs. These days we know that spot reducing is impossible, so the high-rep strategy was and is completely wrong for getting ripped. Or is it?
As new studies indicate, lack of blood flow to an area on your b o d y, such as your thighs or midsection, can hamper fat loss there. So high reps may help. It’s kind of a round-about spot-reduction strategy—or at least a more targeted fat-lossacceleration technique. From that perspective, high reps have X-treme Lean potential. But there’s more…
Research shows that muscle burn induces growth hormone s u rges. And growth hormone is notorious for firing up fat-b u rning. Do high reps make a muscle burn? You bet they do! (Try a 20-rep set of leg extensions and tell us you don’t feel the fires of hell racing through your quads.)
So maybe those legendary bodybuilders weren’t wrong after all. While they may not have realized the exact mechanisms at work, they did instinctively employ some high-rep sets when it was time to get lean—using some lower-rep sets as well—and in the process ramped up GH and blood flow.
We know how important GH and blood flow are to the fat-b u rning process—you’ve read about both throughout this book—and that’s why we use a number of techniques in the gym to maximize both. Those methods include drop sets, supersets, tri-sets, high reps and X Reps.
If you’ve read our e-book The Ultimate Mass Wo r k o u t, you know what each of those are, and you’ve seen how we use them. For those who haven’t, here’s a brief description:
Drop sets: Do a set to failure, reduce the poundage and then immediately do another set to failure. You can use one, two or three weight reductions, depending on your goals and pain threshold (just remember that the fires of hell can help you burn more fat; you’ll feel them here).
Supersets: Do a set to failure of one exercise, then move to another exercise for that same bodypart and immediately do another set. For example, lying extensions followed by close-grip bench presses for triceps.
Tr i - s e t s : The same as supersets, only you use thre e exercises instead of two.
High re p s : Using a weight that allows more than 15 repetitions.
X Reps: At the end of a set to failure, you move the weight to the X spot on the stroke, usually below the midpoint, and pulse in a five-to-10-inch range.
If you’ve been to our site, www.X-Rep.com, you know which of those techniques has produced the best results for us. (Heck, we even named the Web site after it.) We got such spectacular muscle gains and fat-burning results in only one month after using X Reps, that it’s become a mainstay in our p rogram—and we’ve had a much easier time staying leaner and bigger thanks to that training innovation.
So why do X Reps, or power partials at the end of a set, work so incredibly well? One big reason is that they allow you to leapfrog nervous system f a i l u re. As we explained in T h e Ultimate Mass Wo r k o u t, every time you do an all-out set—to w h e re you’re grinding out those important last reps that create the most muscle gain—your nerv o u s system fizzles. It stops the muscle dead in its tracks, leaving as much as 50 percent of the
Jonathan’s X-Rep results. For the exact training program we used during our X-Rep transformation, see The Ultimate Mass Workout e- book, available at www.X-Rep.com.
f a s t - g rowth fibers unused or understimulated. According to scientists, that’s an “inhibitory mechanism” your body has to protect itself, but it’s a bad deal for those seeking more muscle because it limits results. You can get around it—somewhat—by doing more sets, but your muscles still balk early on each of those, so adding lots of sets is very inefficient (X Reps are the best way around it that we’ve found). Plus, other genetic deficiencies may cause your gains to crash and burn.
Those genetic shortcomings include not having enough of the right kind of muscle fibers or enough recovery ability to get e x t r a o rd i n a ry growth rates. If you’re not gifted in the fast-growing fast-twitch area, adding muscle to your frame will be painfully slow. And if you lack the ability to recover from a high number of straight sets—to get past nervous system failure little by little, as explained above—your growth may be nonexistent. Obviously, high volume (lots of sets) is very i n e fficient, overtraining being unavoidable—unless you use drugs, which is precisely why so many bodybuilders start using steroids. (You may be realizing why so many people quit trying!)
The reality is that even with average or even below-average genetics, you can still build a muscular, defined, eye-popping physique. You just have to train smarter to partially disarm or completely derail those limiting factors. You can’t just do lots of sets on any old routine, as the genetic, drug-enhanced elite do. You can’t afford to waste all that precious energy because there will be nothing left for growth. You have to sneak up on the muscle and clobber it with a few intense, precise sets that hit as many fibers as possible. And if you can do that and trigger more fat-burning at the same time, you’ve really got something (we’re going to tell you how in a moment). Do that correctly and soon your muscular, ripped physique will amaze you and everyone else when you’re at the beach or by the pool.
That’s where X Reps come in. They can make each set three to five times more effective, which means you don’t need a lot of sets to get the job done. Helping you leapfrog nerv o u s system failure is one thing, but they also do something else that can produce spectacular growth as well as leanness: They occlude blood flow to the target muscle.
Scientists have been getting incredible muscle growth and strength increases by blocking blood flow during workouts. It’s called occlusion training. One study, reported in the Journal of S t rength and Conditioning Researc h (15:362-366), applied occlusion to the subjects’ forearms by placing a blood-pressure c u ff on their upper arms for two minutes. The cuff was then removed and the subjects did wrist curls. Results: Those who had their blood flow impaired prior to exercise showed a 20 percent strength increase over the subjects who didn’t use the blood-pressure cuff. Impressive, to say the least.
What about muscle size? Rob Thoburn (www . ro b t h o b u rn.com), an IRON MAN contributor and muscle-science re s e a rc h e r, has been corresponding with Japanese scientists who have been experimenting with occlusion techniques. Thoburn reported that Takashi Abe, Ph.D., got a 7 p e rcent increase in quadriceps cro s s - s e c t i o n a l a rea in four months with standard training, but when he used occlusion, he got an 8 p e rcent increase in cro s s sectional are a —in only two w e e k s ! T h a t ’s right, slightly better results in about one-eighth the time—two weeks as opposed to 16 weeks.
Continuous tension, as Jonathan gets here with the Forearm Bar, blocks blood flow to the target muscle, and that can result in extraordinary size and strength gains as well as a fat-burning aftereffect.
That’s about an 800 percent increase in gains when blood flow was impeded. (You read those numbers right. Unbelievable!)
Why does blocking blood flow produce such spectacular increases in muscle size and strength? Part of it may be due to the incredible rush of blood to the bodypart once blood flow resumes. Scientists have suggested that the bloodbath that occurs can produce everything from upgraded release of heat shock proteins to alterations in muscle calcium metabolism to greater recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers.
That last one makes a lot of sense—greater recruitment of fast-twitch fibers—a direct result of ramping up muscle energetics with extra blood. Let us explain: If you block blood flow to a muscle for a minute or two, the moment you remove the occlusion, it’s like a damn breaking—blood floods to the choking bodypart like a tidal wave. Now if we relate that to the size principle of fiber re c ruitment—the low threshold motor units fire first (slow-twitch endurance fibers), followed by the mediums followed by the high-threshold motor units—it could be that with so much more blood (oxygen) in the muscle, the slow-twitch endurance fibers carry more of the load early in the set, sparing more fast-twitch re c ruitment for later. That would result in more reps, i.e. impressive strength (20 percent would take a 300-pound bench to 360 if you could occlude blood from all the muscles involved for two minutes). Interesting stuff. And it may explain why warming up a muscle is so important for strength—it gets more blood in the muscle.
Okay, that may explain the strength jumps, but what about the muscle size increases?
I t ’s possible that blocking blood flow works so well in creating new size by affecting the slow-twitch, or type 1, fibers as well. Those fibers are aerobic, which means they re q u i re oxygen. One theory is that if you starve them of oxygen with occlusion early in the set, they adapt by getting larg e r — a n d that means you get bigger faster!
Bodybuilders tend to focus on the fast-twitch fibers because they’ve had it hammered into their heads that those are the ones with the most growth potential. That’s true, but growth in the slow-twitch fibers will obviously improve the size of a b o d y p a rt as well. You should try to build a l l fiber types and subtypes for the most size possible—and fat burn i n g ; remember, more muscle helps speed up your metabolism—and occlusion training is key to making that happen.
How does it accelerate fat burning? Remember that muscle burn is directly connected to growth hormone surges, and GH is a powerful fat burn e r. Well, occlusion training burns like a b l o w t o rch when you train with it. That’s because when you block blood flow to a working muscle, it’s oxygen deprived. Are you beginning to see why you should include some type of occlusion training in your X-treme Lean workouts? The question is, What’s the best way to do it?
U n f o rt u n a t e l y, using a blood-pre s s u re cuff or a tourn i q u e t above the working muscle isn’t very practical (how are you going to stop blood flow to your pecs?), and it can be painful, p e rhaps even dangerous. But you can get similar, safer occlusion effects with standard exercises and perhaps get close to replicating some of those amazing gains in only a few workouts. Here’s how...
Keep in mind that when you contract a muscle, you forc e blood out of it. So if you keep tension on the muscle long enough as you pump out continuous-tension reps, you occlude blood flow. The burn you get on the last few reps of leg extensions is partly due to the quad muscles screaming for blood (oxygen) because they’re in a constant state of tension during that exercise—blood is getting squeezed out of the muscle on every rep.
Now, most people use leg extensions in their quad routines, so why aren’t they getting 8 percent increases in size every two weeks? Part of the reason is that right when the most occlusion is occurring—near the end of a set—they stop. It’s a simple case of terminating sets too soon—when they can’t get any more complete reps—and that severely limits occlusion effects.
( R e m e m b e r, the first study above blocked blood flow for two
minutes to get impressive strength results; most standard sets
only last about 20 seconds.) So there are two ways to get better occlusion effects from exercises with continuous tension:
1) Add X Reps to the end of the set, such as right below the midpoint of a leg extension rep. Six to eight X Reps should add at least eight seconds to the set and force the muscles to keep contracting at that point of m a x i m u m - f o rce generation (there ’s more on max-forc e points in The Ultimate Mass Wo r k o u t). Static contractions at the fully contracted position may work also to some extent, but we’ve found that movement, even partial pulses, helps force as much blood out as possible, and that’s what occlusion is all about.
2) Do a high-rep set of a continuous-tension exercise rest, then do a big compound movement. That will give you an extended occlusion effect—50 to 60 seconds— which could translate into more muscle contractile force on the second exercise. For example, do a 20-rep set of leg extensions, rest, then do a set of squats. An added benefit of high reps is that you’ll get more muscle burn on both exercises (GH release for more rapid fat loss).
You’ll see both of those in the program that begins on page
76. Number one is self-explanatory, so let’s look at two and apply it to quads. You’ll use a compound, or midrange, exercise like squats, hack squats or leg presses, and you’ll use leg extensions, a contracted-position quad exercise that pro v i d e s continuous tension (occlusion). Here’s the sequence…
First, warm up on your big exercise. We use hack squats,
doing two progressively heavier warmup sets (if you have knee
issues, you may want to do some light leg extensions too).
Now it’s time for the work sets. Do one heavy all-out set of hack squats for eight to 10 reps. Go as low as you can and drive to full lockout. This is n o t the occlusion part. Your first work set is to push more blood into the target muscle. It’s like an extended warmup that primes your nervous system for optimal force later—on your X Rep set. (Note: More forc e equals more growth stimulation. See The Ultimate Mass Workout e-book for more detailed information.)
Rest one minute, then go to the leg extension for some serious occlusion. Do 15 to 20 reps, with each one squeezing blood out of your quads. It should burn like crazy at the end of the set as your quads are empty and screaming for oxygen (if it doesn’t burn, add weight). Extreme burn means occlusion has occurred. Now to take advantage of it...
Rest another minute, feel the blood rushing in, and then go back to the hack machine. Crank out as many reps as you can. When you can’t get another full rep, do X Reps, or part i a l pulses, at about the midpoint of the stroke (that will give you key fast-twitch fiber activation—and some occlusion as well). If you pushed even close to failure on those three sets, you’ll feel an incredible rush and fullness in your quads. (It’s that massive wave of blood we mentioned earlier.) You also will have stimulated a substantial number of muscle fibers and GH.
Finish with sissy squats or feet-forw a rd Smith machine squats, with X Reps, and you will have completes the full-range chain for quads—midrange (hacks), contracted (leg extensions) and stretch (sissy squats). That’s Positions-of-Flexion training, a full-range muscle-training method we’ve been using for years (see page 80 for more information).
Incidentally, Ronnie Coleman, the current Mr. Olympia, does high-rep sets of leg extensions prior to launching into his heavy compound quad work. He’ll do 20 reps on each blood-wringing set. Is he using extensions for occlusion to achieve more muscle and strength with a fat-burning aftere ffect? We think he’s onto something.
Let’s look at the program. (Note that we’ve put each workout on a separate page so you can print it out and take it to the gym. Write your work-set poundages to the right of each exercise. We use a small clipboard with a pencil attached.)
Q: I weigh around 215 right now. I’m pretty active, and I have ro c k - h a rd legs, but I need a better upper b o d y. If I want to maintain a fit 190-to-200-pound bodyweight, should I try to drop all 25 pounds to 190 and then build the muscle, or should I just drop 10 to 15 pounds and use weight training to replace the fat with lean muscle? I want to be a fairly ripped 190.
A: First, you shouldn’t be so hung up on weighing a certain amount. In fact, you probably shouldn’t weigh yourself. Go by how you look (take photos, as we suggest in Chapter 3). If you’re losing notches on your belt, you’re losing fat.
When you lose fat and gain muscle, you redistribute your weight. In other words, you’ll look completely diff e rent if you lose 10 pounds of fat and add 10 pounds of muscle, but you’ll weigh exactly the same. Think about that, and let it sink in. Step away from the scale!
Concentrate on working out hard, being consistent and keeping your eating relatively clean. You’ll be amazed at the changes your body will make.
Q: I can only make it to the gym three days per week. Should may diet be the same on the days I don’t train, or should I reduce my calories somehow?
A : On nonworkout days you should eliminate your postworkout drink (fast carbs and fast protein) and substitute either a meal replacement or a lower-carb meal, such as those listed on page 42 in X-treme Lean Meal Options. That substitution meal should be about 350 calories and contain no more than 20 grams of carbs. That should put your carb intake on your nonworkout days at just over 100 grams. That amount will keep your muscle re c o v e ry and glycogen re p l e n i s h m e n t moving forward and provide enough carbs for healthy body and brain function.
By the way, if you can only make it to the gym three days a week, try to do some medium-intensity cardio, like fast walking, on those nonworkout days.
Q: I’ve tried higher-protein, low-carb diets, and they tend to constipate me. Is there anything I can do to alleviate that problem?
A: That can happen on low-carb diets because most dietary fiber comes from carbs—fruits and vegetables. Our diets are medium-carb, so you shouldn’t have that problem. In fact, Steve’s diet includes high-fiber cereal in the morning, an apple and cruciferous vegetables. Nevertheless, everyone’s system is different, and even we run into it now and again. For insurance we often use psyllium husk powder at night. Two tablespoons in a protein drink or in water will keep things moving, and it will also help fill up your stomach more to decrease appetite.
Q: What’s the number-one thing I can do to start dropping fat immediately?
A: Exercise! If you mean from a dietary standpoint, the first thing you should always do is start eating five to six pro t e i n based meals a day. As we said, protein has a higher energ y cost than carbs, so protein-based meals will help you burn m o re calories and, if you keep your meals small—in the 300calorie range—you’ll limit insulin production. That’s a good thing because insulin stops fat burning and helps your body store excess calories as bodyfat. The only time insulin is good is immediately after a workout to help shuttle protein and carbs into your muscles. Research shows that even 100 grams of carbs after a workout won’t increase fat deposits.
Q: Does Pro-Fusion protein powder work as a good between-meals protein drink, and can I drink it 30 minutes before a workout? What about as my postworkout shake? How many times a day can I take it? Is it really better than regular protein supplements? Can women take it too?
A: Pro-Fusion is a great protein source because it combines whey, micellar casein and egg. You get fast and slow release of amino acids. Having one or two scoops about an hour before you train is an ideal use for it. You can also use it between meals or with meals, if the meal needs more protein. And, yes, women can and should use it too. As she outlined in Chapter 6, Becky Holman used it every day during her transform a t i o n program. One of her favorite between-meals snacks during that time was chocolate Pro-Fusion in water with a tablespoon of peanut butter. (She said that helped quash her cravings for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.)
As for after the workout, you can use Pro-Fusion then as well. It’s best to mix it in fruit juice instead of water, as you need carbs to replenish glycogen stores postworkout; however, we recommend that you use a fast straight whey protein powder in juice after you train, or, better yet, a postworkout-specific supplement like RecoverX. With specially form u l a t e d postworkout powders you get all fast protein (whey and h y d rolyzed whey) and fast carbs, which is exactly what your muscles need after a hard workout. Oh, yeah, women can and should use postworkout drinks too. Becky always had RecoverX after each of her three weekly workouts. We ’ re big believers in RecoverX plus creatine after training. It’s why we suggest the X Stack, which is RecoverX and CreaSol that you mix, after every training session. The X Stack is available at www.Home-Gym.com.
Q: I go to the gym with my husband. Is it okay for me to work out with him on one of the programs in your e-books and use X Reps, or will I get too big?
A : Work out with him as hard as you can—and include X Reps to build muscle and burn fat. A woman’s horm o n a l makeup prevents excessive muscle gain. You have more e s t rogen and not a lot of testosterone, which means you’ll never look like a male bodybuilder—not even close. You’ll just get curves in all the right places.
What about those women bodybuilders you see? They all take male hormones to make their bigger muscle possible. Even many men have to supplement their male hormones to get extremely big muscles, so you don’t have to worry one iota.
Q: I’d like to lose about 60 pounds. I have a few questions: For breakfast Steve says he pours Pro Fusion protein powder mixed in water over his cereal. Is that all he puts on it? Does he ever mix it in milk? Could I just use whey powder?
A: Steve uses about one scoop of Pro-Fusion in water, stirs it with a spoon in a glass and then pours it over his cereal. It has a sweetness that adds to his Fiber One/Raisin Bran combination (older guys need their fiber). If you can’t stomach that—Steve’s wife and kids gag when they see him do it—you could use skim milk on your cereal and have a small pro t e i n drink in addition. Whey powder would work, although a m i c e l l a r-casein-and-whey combo protein will keep aminos in your bloodstream longer, due to the fast/slow protein release. Milk is pretty good at doing that too.
Q: Do you think it would be healthy to replace my lunch with a meal-replacement drink every day? I hate to cook, and I eat the same thing for lunch every day: a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, a banana and a 16-ounce glass of fat-free milk.
A: As long as you’re eating solid food at other meals—and getting enough fruits and vegetables every day—substituting a meal replacement for a solid-food meal should be fine. We use a lot of liquid meals. The only problem with that is getting enough fruits and vegetables, so we take vegetable and fru i t capsules, which contain an array of them freeze-dried. You may be able to find them in health food stores. They’re good health insurance, especially for older bodybuilders. We use capsules f rom Vitamin and Mineral Therapies International ( w w w.vmtiinc.com). Phytonutrients from those foods are essential for health, and the capsules are the next best thing. Another route is a new powder called Miracle Greens. We dump a tablespoon or two of that in our protein drinks, and its m o re “health insurance.” High-protein diets are known to be acidic to the body and the alkalinity of the fruit and vegetable powders can help. Acidosis of the blood can slow muscle g rowth and fat loss, so be sure to get enough fruits and veggies. If you can’t do that, the next best thing is to supplement with capsules and powders.
Q: Currently I do four 30-minute sessions, one on Saturday, one on Sunday and a session on each of my leg days. Everyone I talk to says I should increase the number of minutes so I can get into burning bodyfat for energy. Should I do longer sessions?
A: A lot of studies say that fat burning during cardio doesn’t begin till about 25 minutes in; however, you can speed that up by:
1) Not eating any carbs a few hours prior to your session (have a small protein shake or a few amino acid capsules about an hour before to prevent muscle breakdown).
2) Having a cup of coffee before (or something else that contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine), as caff e i n e increases the use of fat substrates for energy.
3) Doing your cardio after a weight-training workout, as the lifting will deplete your bloodstream of glucose and prime your body to shift to fat for energy during the low-intensity card i o that follows.
You say you do cardio on leg days. New research suggests t h a t ’s not a good idea because it can interrupt leg-muscle recovery if you do it after your workout. A better plan is to do it on the same day, but do it at low intensity before the workout as a warmup. Or you can do it after if you wait at least 30 minutes—later in the day would probably be better. Doing c a rdio immediately after an upper-body workout, however, is fine and will allow you to tap into bodyfat sooner.
As for your weekend cardio, try not eating carbs before you do it and having a small protein shake (one scoop) 30 minutes to an hour before. You can also bump up the amount of cardio you do to 45 minutes; just don’t make it very intense. If you c a n ’t carry on a conversation during your cardio, you’re p robably working too hard and dipping into muscle glycogen stores rather than bodyfat (more on that below).
Keep in mind that cardio isn’t only for burning bodyfat during the activity. It also creates an overall calorie deficit, which forces your body to burn bodyfat for daily energy needs.
Q: When and how long should I do cardio to start losing fat? Also, how many days a week of cardio do you suggest, and what about high-intensity cardio?
A: There are two ways to do cardio: slow, steady-state work, which means 20 to 40 minutes of medium-intensity fast walking, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which means going all out for 20 seconds, then slow for 40 seconds, then repeating that sequence four to eight times. An example is sprinting the straightaways and walking the curves on a running track.
Steady-state work burns calories and can tap into fat stores during the activity; interval training also burns calories but doesn’t burn as much fat during the session. So steady-state c a rdio is the ticket if you want to lose fat, right? Not n e c e s s a r i l y. HIIT ramps up your metabolism to burn more fat after the workout. In fact, interval training has been found to b u rn more fat overall than steady-state work, even though it doesn’t burn much fat during the actual activity. Why? The fat b u rn is due to the metabolic uptick you get, which doesn’t occur with steady-state work.
I n t e rval training has the same metabolic effect as a hard weight workout and can stress the muscles you use in the same way—it trains fast-twitch fibers in your quads and calves. That means you don’t want to do it the day before or the day after a hard leg workout. You could make high-intensity interval c a rdio part of your leg workout or as a substitute for your lower-body weight workout, but you have to be cautious. Too much can trigger overtraining. Remember, you’re getting the same systemic effect when you hit the weights, no matter what b o d y p a rt you’re working. Too much intensity training will overstress your recovery system quickly.
That’s a lot of info, so let us give you our suggestions.
You can do steady-state, medium-intensity cardio any time, about as often as you can fit it into your schedule—but not immediately after a leg workout. However, it’s not as efficient as i n t e rval training. Nevertheless, it can help create a calorie deficit so you get rid of bodyfat. Plus, it won’t steer you toward overtraining as easily as interval aerobics can.
You can do high-intensity interval cardio on days you don’t train with weights, but don’t do it the day before or the day after a leg-training day. Keep in mind that it has an effect on your recovery system similar to a hard weight-training workout, so if you’re on the brink of overtraining with weights, HIIT can push you over the edge. If you’re training five days a week with weights, we suggest you only do one interval cardio workout— on Saturday or Sunday. (It’s a good idea to leave at least one day workout-free for systemic re c o v e ry.) As we said, you can use it as part of your leg routine during the week if you like, but cut back on quad, calf and hamstring weight work that day.
Here’s how Steve has used the two types of cardio. When he’s on a five-day weight-training schedule, similar to the one in Chapter 8, working out Monday, Tu e s d a y, We d n e s d a y, Thursday and Friday, legs can fall on any of those days. He’ll do one medium-intensity cardio session during the week, usually on an upper body day. That gets blood into his legs without stressing the fast-twitch fibers. Then on the weekend he tries to do a high-intensity interval session on the day that’s f a rthest from his next leg workout. If he works legs again on Monday, he’ll do his interval cardio on Saturday. If he trains legs on Friday, he’ll do his interval cardio on Sunday. The weekend day he doesn’t do cardio is for systemic recovery.
Q: Shouldn’t I cut out all milk and other dairy foods when I’m trying to get lean?
A: On the contrary. New research finds that milk and other d a i ry products can reduce your fat cells’ tendency to store calories. Michael Zemel, chairman of the nutrition depart m e n t at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is one of the leading researchers delving into the phenomenon. In one study he put 32 people who needed to lose weight on reduced-calorie diets, but some of the diets included three to four servings of dairy d a i l y. Six months later all the subjects had lost weight, but those who were eating dairy lost 70 percent more—about 19 pounds of fat compared with only 11 pounds in the subjects who didn’t eat dairy. Zemel says the reason is that when there’s plenty of calcium in the blood, fat cells get the message to quit storing fat and start burning it. On the other hand, when calcium levels are low, the cells hoard fat.
Other studies verify those findings. In the mid-’90s Connie Weaver and Dorothy Te e g a rden conducted a study at Purd u e University to observe the bone health of women between the ages of 18 and 31—but they noticed something else: Women who ate a diet that included milk, cheese or yogurt lost or maintained their weight, while those who didn’t put on pounds.
As Zemel says: “If people are cutting calories and not including dairy in their diet, they’re making a big mistake.”
Bottom line: Be sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet. Check your meal-replacement supplement for balanced calcium and magnesium—and always include some cottage cheese and/or yogurt in your X-treme Lean meal plan.
Q: How much sleep should I be getting for best results from the X-treme Lean program?
A : It varies from individual to individual. A good rule of thumb is that if you have a difficult time getting out of bed in the morning, you’re going to slow your progress. The fact is, if you don’t get enough sleep, you make it more difficult to lose bodyfat. In a study done at the University of Chicago, men who got only about four hours of sleep a night showed lowere d leptin levels. As you saw in Chapter 4, leptin is a hormone that signals your body that it’s had enough food. The leptin levels of many of the subjects, who were all well-nourished, were similar to those of underfed people. That may explain why other studies have shown that sleep-deprived people crave starc h y and sugary carbohydrates—their leptin levels are low, which tricks their bodies into thinking they need more food.
One thing that can help is to go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. If you keep your body on a schedule, you won’t add unnecessary stress and fatigue; however, if you stay up late on the weekends, you’ll shock your body’s built-in clock, and you’ll have a hard time readjusting it. You may even feel as if you have a hangover on Monday, even if you didn’t drink alcohol over the weekend, which will be detrimental to your energy levels and your training. (That’s one reason people despise Mondays and often get headaches.) Try to stay on schedule as much as possible.
Q: How do you guys stay motivated?
A: Staying motivated is one of the hardest parts of building muscle and burning fat. For us it’s most difficult in the winter, when sugary foods are every w h e re and our physiques are hidden from view. And to be honest, we both add some fat f rom about Thanksgiving to past New Ye a r’s Day—but we try not to let our abs completely disappear (Steve’s before picture on the cover shows he’s not always successful in that endeavor).
For most people it’s just hard to exercise in the winter, period, much less eat right. We manage to stay consistent, using a few tricks. For example, during part of the winter we often go on a basic program similar to the Basic Ultimate Mass Workouts in The Ultimate Mass Wo r k o u t e-book, training only three or four days a week using fairly abbreviated sessions. We also like to experiment with diff e rent tactics, like X-Rep variations. Finding and experimenting with new training techniques is a big motivator for us.
When we’re in that back-to-basics winter phase, we try to increase our strength as we gradually increase our calories. We make an effort to stick with quality foods and avoid junk, but we do allow ourselves to indulge every so often (Jonathan is better at staying strict than Steve). We try to convince ourselves that winter is the time when we can build lots of muscle due to a calorie surplus—your body is more apt to pack on mass when there are extra calories available—so we stay focused on how that extra muscle will look when we lean out for summer.
As spring approaches, say, around the end of March, we start training for some detail and ramp up the intensity. We also begin to gradually drop our calories—or at least eat cleaner. It’s still cold out, so our motivation is only about 80 perc e n t ; h o w e v e r, it’s much easier to see summer on the horizon, and our big goal is to try to improve on the way we looked the year before.
And, of course, once we start leaning out, the looks and comments we get add rocket fuel to our motivation. It seems like everyone notices, even strangers. For example, Steve was running in his neighborhood with his shirt off one aftern o o n , and a guy driving his kids home from school pulled up next to him and said, “Hey, you look awesome!” His kids waved, and Steve thanked him, waved back to the kids and kept running. Sure, it was a little strange, and took Steve by surprise, but it was good of the guy to take time to stop. Then, on down the bike path, a woman pushing a baby carriage with her husband walking beside her saw Steve coming toward them. As he passed, the woman said, “Now that’s a body!” More motivating acknowledgement (although she probably said it to annoy her husband).
Jonathan has had similar experiences. While at the beach with his shirt off, Jonathan saw an older gentleman and his wife walking toward him. The man glanced at Jonathan and said sarcastically, “Gee, you need to work out.” Then, when he and his wife got a little closer and took a good look, they were stopped in their tracks by Jonathan’s condition. They just kept looking at him, jaws dropped, uttering a “wow” every few seconds.
We’re not relaying those incidents to brag. We just want to remind you that those types of pats on the back help fuel motivation as you get in muscular shape—and they keep coming. Once you start making X-treme Lean progress, you’ll no doubt get lots of those types of comments, not to mention a p p roving glances, with a raised eyebrow or two, from both sexes. Is it all worth it? You bet it is! And you’ll feel great too!
Q: I want abs. What exercises should I do to get them?
A: Believe it or not, getting abs is more about losing bodyfat than exercise. Almost anyone will have abs if they get down to below 8 percent bodyfat, and the diet advice in this e-book will get you to that point as quickly as possible. You can do a lot to achieve deeper lines of delineation in your midsection with e x e rcise, however. Those lines you see—or want to see—are caused by tendons running across and down the muscle, so the more developed your rectus abdominis, the long, flat muscle that runs from your ribcage to your pelvis, the deeper the creases. There are some good ab programs in this book. Just remember to try to increase the weight you use whenever possible. That will give you a little more muscle in the midsection and deepen those creases.