An Introduction to Bodybuilding

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I’m going to spend some time today sharing what I’ve learned while on my journey in fitness so that if anybody else out there is struggling to get started, maybe this can give you some direction. I’m going to do my best to cover what I feel are the basics, and also the most important tips that I have gathered along the way.

Diet Tracking

This has made the single biggest difference in my life for pushing me towards the physique that I have always wanted, and I avoided this step for far too long. Most people are not taking in enough protein on a daily basis, not enough calories or perhaps even far too many calories with way too much sodium, sugar, and fats.  Tracking your diet will help you to correct your diet and to give your body the material that it needs to create an awesome physique.

To begin, you need to first find your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This will tell you approximately how many calories you burn on an average day with your current level of physical activity.

You can figure this out here at IIFYM.  Write down your TDEE somewhere, because you are going to need to remember this later. Once you have your TDEE then bodybuilding becomes as simple as manipulating your calorie intake for calorie surpluses or calorie deficits. You can add up to 500 calories when you’re trying to gain muscle or you can subtract from your TDEE to try and lose some fat.

Macronutrients

Now, tracking your calorie intake is not enough. You also need to track your macronutrients, which are your carbs, fats and proteins. A great app that I use to keep track of what I eat is MyfitnesspalThey have a huge database of most foods already in their system and it makes tracking really simple. You should also pick yourself up a kitchen scale at some point to make things easier.

You can manipulate your macros in various ways and I often do from time to time, but a good starting point for anybody is this…

First of all – it’s a safe bet to take in 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So if you are a guy that weighs 160lbs, you should be taking in 160g of protein per day. This is especially important if you are looking to build muscle or to avoid losing muscle while in a deficit. The only exception to this rule would be if you were heavily overweight at say 300lbs, there’s no way in hell that you are going to need 300g of protein per day. Try to figure out what your lean body mass is and then use that estimate to gauge how much protein you will need per day.

Once your protein is set, then it’s on to fats. Fats should take up approximately 20-25% of your daily calories. Just remember that these should be mostly composed of healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, and avocados. Keep the artery-hardening saturated fats to a minimum.

Afterwards, the rest of your calories should come from carbohydrates. These should be mostly high-quality, complex carbohydrates that break down slowly in the body. Such as brown rice, oats, multigrain bread and pasta, sweet potato etc. You can have some junk in your diet just make sure you track it and that it’s not the bulk of your diet.

If you want some more information about healthy eating I’ve written an article in the past on Proper Nutrition in a Nutshell.

Workout Routines and Workout Tips

Each to their own when it comes to a workout routine, but it’s best to follow or create a routine that hits all of the muscle groups in the body evenly so that you don’t end up with imbalances in the future that can lead to joint problems and other health issues. Also be careful about who you take your advice from, too many guys spout nonsense or “Bro-talk” because of what they’ve heard through the rumor mill. Do a little research of your own and take all advice with a grain of salt unless it’s backed by science or a professional.

There are some great Youtube channels out there that give great advice on exercises and routines while explaining the science behind it in the process. I’ll provide 3 of my favorites at the bottom of this article

Focus on your form above all. Start off light until you have it right and then increase your weight gradually. Leave your ego out of the gym because it will really just hurt you in the long run. Keep track of all of your workouts and practice progressive overload. Have a plan and don’t just wing it in the gym.

Also, when you’re working out, be conscious of your muscle movements. Take the movement slowly and really try to feel the contraction in the muscle. Stabilizing yourself in the negative portion of an exercise really increases strength gains. Bodyweight exercises are also very helpful for building strength and stability.

You only really need to work out 3 days a week if you’re hitting it hard enough. This will give your body lots of time to recover and build up that muscle while at rest. You can always do cardio on your off days or something active outdoors.

Progressive Overload

Okay and finally, progressive overload. This is something that took me far too long to figure out but keeping track of your weights and practicing progressive overload is the absolute best way to ensure that you are consistently making strength gains. So tracking your weights and reps and sticking to a plan for 8-12 weeks at a time will allow you to really be aware of your strength progression.

With heavy lifts this is what I like to do; I’ll do 3 sets per lift and hit my heaviest set first, then drop the weight by 10% hit my 2nd and add 1-2 reps, then the same for the third. One week I’ll add 5 pounds to my max weight and then the next I’ll add 5 pounds to the subsequent sets.

For Example:
Bench Press – 5/6/8 reps.

Wk 1 – 165/150/135.   Wk 2 – 170/150/135.  Wk3 – 170/155/140 and so on…

With lighter lifts, you can just progress on a rep increase instead while staying at one weight for all 3 sets. Say you are doing lateral raises for your shoulders, well you can start doing 3 sets of 8 reps with dumbells suited to your strength then keep adding 1 rep to a set per week until you’ve hit 3 sets of 12. Then you can add 2.5-5lbs or so and start over again at 8 reps.

For Example:
Lateral Raise – 8/8/8 reps.

Wk 1 – 8/8/8 Wk 2 -9/8/8 Wk. 3 – 9/9/8 Wk 4 – 9/9/9 Wk 5. – 10/9/9 etc.

I hope some of this information was helpful and that these tools can help somebody else’s own journey into fitness. This is information that I would have loved to have had years ago. I have seriously started my own journey into bodybuilding about a year or two ago. I used to hit the gym before that on and off but never really had all the information. You can read about my start and progression here if you’re interested.

Lastly, try to enjoy the experience and the lifestyle. If you want it to be sustainable you need to make it work for you. Enjoy the foods you eat and learn to love beating yourself up in the gym and seeing those strength increases. It’s the only way you’re going to succeed.

Youtubers to Check Out

Jeff Caveliere – Hundreds of videos to search through, he’s a physiotherapist by trade so he knows the mechanics of the body well. He also trains professional athletes.

Sean Nalewanyj – Fitness Author and Personal Trainer

Mike Thurston – Personal trainer and professional bodybuilder.

 

Nonconformity of the Human Spirit

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Among the minds of our brethren many, infectious disease spreads through the plenty.
While men born free find no respite, with options few, but fight or flight.
Society respects not, the truly free, hive culture mind demands minds agree.
When one mind elevates above the rest, it’s sole survival is its final test.

Men’s egos weak by natures seed, so death to minds which strong hearts freed.
Threats consume weak men with ease, for the weak man’s mind cannot concede.
Great men have sought for virtues claim, contribution to the human flame,
And in life’s short span have found no fame, but after death retained their name.

Proper Nutrition in a Nutshell

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Well, today I’ve decided that what I want to spend a little time writing about is food and nutrition in general. I’ve had many conversations with people that are looking to lose some weight, look healthier and feel healthier, but they just don’t seem to properly understand what a good healthy diet looks like. With the modern society that we live in, especially in North America, good information about proper eating can be hard to come by because so much is influenced by the profit of big corporations. So big corporations will always try to sell you on some miracle ingredient, fad diet or expensive supplement, and in the grocery stores, even the foods that are marketed as diet foods are not always the best choices for improving the health of your body.

So where do we begin?

Well, let’s start with the basics and cover the 3 macronutrients which we as humans consume on a daily basis for nourishment and sustenance. For anyone that’s unfamiliar with what a macronutrient is, well, this is typically broken down into 3 categories; carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Let’s talk about these in a little more detail.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a staple of the modern human diet. Carbohydrates are converted by the body into glucose which is then used to support bodily functions, the brain and it can also be stored within your muscles to provide fuel to the muscles during strenuous exercise.  The National Institute of Health recommends that the average human’s diet consists of 45-65% carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates can come from a number of very healthy and very unhealthy sources, so making sure that you are eating healthy sources of carbohydrates is actually way more important than just trying to eat a certain quantity of carbs. Every gram of carbohydrate that is consumed is equal to 4 calories of energy for the body.

Healthy Carbs – Healthy carbs are generally fibrous carbs that are slow to digest within the human body, therefore releasing energy slowly over time rather than in one big energy spike. A slower absorption of carbohydrate will create a smaller spike in insulin levels and less of the digested carbohydrate will be stored in the body as that hard-to-lose fat. It also facilitates better overall health because insulin resistance will be minimised this way and you will have a much lower risk of developing debilitating chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.  Some examples of wholesome and nutritional carbohydrates include; brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole oats, whole grain cereals and pasta, lentils, legumes (beans), fruits and vegetables.

Unhealthy Carbs – Unhealthy carbs, on the other hand, are digested by the body far too quickly because they have usually already gone through some sort of processing in a factory and have been stripped of most of their fibre and nutrition. This ends up spiking the glucose levels in your blood and your insulin levels, leading to further insulin resistance over time and weight gain. White bread, white flour and white rice can all be just as hard on your body as sugar, although sugar is by far the one carbohydrate that everybody should strive to minimise within their diet as much as possible. Even fruit juices are hard on the body because all of the fibre that was in the fruit has been stripped away and it’s essentially just the sugar from the fruit that is left within the juice. It’s far better to eat your fruits than to drink them.

Fats

Fats, like carbs, can be both a good and a bad thing for the human body depending on the type of fats that you are taking in and the quantities in which you are consuming them. There are healthy, heart-friendly fats that are beneficial to both your cardiovascular system and your brain. These fats are mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are found in fish, nuts, avocados and certain oils like olive oil. Also, there are unhealthy fats such as Saturated and Trans fats which, in abundance, can lead to cardiovascular issues, cholesterol problems and plaque build up within the arteries. Trans fats are artificial fats that are created within the food industry by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make the oil more solid. It is sometimes used to improve the texture of certain foods. Saturated fats are often found in foods such as butter, red meats like beef and pork, and peanuts. Unlike carbohydrates and protein, fat is very calorie-dense and contains 9 calories of energy per 1 gram of fat and this is why fat foods can really put you over your daily calorie goals.

The best way to manage your fat intake for optimal health is to stay clear of the bad fats as much as possible and to indulge in some healthy fats to make sure that your body is getting the fat that it needs to operate efficiently.

Protein

Last on the list is protein. Protein is found throughout the human body in abundance. It’s in our skin, muscle tissue, organs, hair, bones, etc. Protein consists of a group of amino acids which are required for many important functions within the human body, including muscle and tissue repair, but also maintenance of the bodies haemoglobin that accommodates proper oxygen circulation in the blood and other chemical reactions within the body. Protein can also come from good and bad sources, just like the other two macronutrients that we’ve covered already. This is mainly because of the fat content associated with certain types of protein. Like carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein will provide the body with about 4 calories of energy.

The healthiest options for protein sources are lean meats such as poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, and healthy sources of protein can also be found in beans and lentils along with some carbohydrates.

The least healthy options for protein would be sources that come with a lot of unhealthy fats, such as deep-fried meats, big cuts of red meats like steak, and way too many eggs. This doesn’t mean that these sources can’t be enjoyed in moderation, but being aware of what you eat and how much you eat of it is the key to maintaining a healthy balance in your diet so that you can live a healthy life and feel great also.

Fibre, Micronutrients and Staying Hydrated

Last but not least are a few other components of a healthy diet that are worth mentioning so that nothing is left out.

Fibre – It’s very important that adequate fibre is consumed on a daily basis to not only ensure that what you consume is moving through your body easily, but also because it helps to clean out the intestinal tract and it can help improve the body’s cholesterol levels. 1 gram of fibre is recommended for every 100 calories consumed in a day, so an individual that consumes 2700 calories on a daily basis should aim for 27g of fibre in their diet to go along with that. This will help to keep the body operating efficiently.

Water Intake – This actually pairs well with fibre recommendations because the more fibre that you take in the more water you need to keep everything moving properly also. For Men, about 3 litres of water is recommended daily for proper hydration and for women it’s slightly less at about 2.2 litres of water. Staying hydrated is important for all areas of function in the human body. Digestion, cognitive thought, detoxification and physical exercise. If you don’t think that water is important for keeping the body clean and operating efficiently, just try washing your dishes without water one night and see how far you get.

Micronutrients – Now lastly, micronutrients. These are your vitamins and minerals which the body needs to operate at its best. Some of these can be acquired through vitamin pills and supplements, but everyone should aim to acquire a good portion of these nutrients through their daily food intake. This means vegetable and fruit sources. Also, it’s important to vary these sources to ensure that you’re receiving a variety of micronutrients. Try eating vegetables and fruits of all different colours and tastes. If you’re a person that doesn’t like to eat too many veggies on a daily basis, well today is always a good day to start, and after a few weeks or months of putting in that effort, you might actually grow a taste for them. I know that when I was a kid I couldn’t stand vegetables and avoided them at all costs, but now as an adult, I feel a little cheated if my meal doesn’t include some nutritious vegetables in the mix.

Finally, it’s important to remember that just because you want to make a change to eat healthier does not mean that you have to cut out entirely those foods that bring you so much pleasure right now. Creating a sustainable and balanced diet that you can carry on following for the rest of your life requires a bit of flexibility from time to time.  A great sustainable diet does not need to feel like a chore. Make little improvements week to week so that the transition to healthy eating feels natural rather than a shock to the system but keep in mind your ultimate goal of where you want to be. Always remember the benefits of eating clean for both yourself and your family, so that everyone in your life can enjoy life to the fullest. Eating doesn’t have to taste bland, but it should provide the body with the energy and nutrition that it needs to operate at it’s best.

The Eternal Struggle of Good Versus Evil

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The pendulum swings in motion, tracking time with every dip and swing. The Earth zips through space following the course of its orbit around the Sun. The oceans heave and sigh as the tides come in and then withdraw. All the while, humanity is caught in a constant struggle for balance between the forces of good and evil.

Darkness threatens to overwhelm the light, but the light is resilient and unrelenting. Chaos swirls about the planet like weather patterns. Unpredictable at large, there are moments of calm and there are moments of disaster. Humanity struggles to balance itself and to find it’s true identity. The good in life will not accept the evil for what it is and the evil sees only weakness in the good. Evil abides by no rules and feels ultimately powerful within itself when it is barred by no limitations. Good has boundaries, but what evil often forgets is that the power of good comes not from the strength of the individual but by the strength of all the good in the world working together. Evil is inherently selfish although it does believe in teamwork in desperation. Even this teamwork is fragmented and divided because evil does not consider the needs of another. Good can be concrete, loyal, honest and undeterred by personal ambition or corruption. Those who are invested in goodness for the sake of progressing what’s right in the world often act upon the request of something so much larger than themselves. They become a vessel of the Universe. A Hero’s life becomes part of something larger than themselves. A Hero fights for the people rather than solely for themselves. The power of good rests primarily in its support for one another.

So the world spins and so spins the chaos in humanity. Evil taking from the good and good neutralizing the evil, like atoms crashing into dark matter. Humanity is hungry for change and evil is hungry for power. The clash goes on for hundreds of thousands of years. Victories of evil are temporary and progress is undeniable. Yet evil will always be necessary to balance the good in the universe. As there could be no light without darkness. There could be no heat without the cold. No euphoric happiness without the knowledge of what it is to be sad and miserable. So shall humanity continue to dance with both good and evil.

Pick a side. There is no sitting on the sidelines in this life.