2017/09/13 17:02:52
James Leave a comment


This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
Although pork is the most commonly consumed meat in the world, forming the staple in many countries, it is not a meat that is commonly thought of as a bodybuilding staple food, and it is a good question to ask why. If we discount any conspiracy theories involving Joe Weider and the US Beef industry then we have to look at its nutritional content.

Of course pork is not just one meat, it is a variety of different cuts, and the nutritional content varies significantly by cut. For example 100g of belly pork contains 258kcal, 19g protein and 20g of fat, while a pork chop weighs in with 227kcal, 15g protein, and 18g fat. However, this is not the whole pork story. Pork fillet is lean; containing 147kcal, 22g protein and 6.5g fat, whereas chicken comes in with 148kcal, 32g protein and 2.2g of fat.

With 10g of protein less than chicken and a similar price it becomes easy to see why pork fails to make a regular appearance on the bodybuilders table. When choosing meat both chicken and lean beef (steak) are simply better, and if you want to increase your fat intake, fish trumps pork due to the high saturated fat content of pork compared to the more desirable fats found in oily fish. In bodybuilding terms, pork is the guy that doesn't train legs, looks good for a while, but ultimately isn't complete.

Of course, variety is a good thing too, and pork can find it way onto your plate now and again, not only in the off season bacon sandwich.
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2017/09/11 16:32:28
James Leave a comment

Spotting: The Dying Art

This article was written by Micky McKay Dip PT & was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
Today we have endless courses, for the better I might add, about training with weights: WABBA, BAWLA, YMCA, Fitness First, to name but a few. I, myself, have greatly benefited from these courses giving me lots more knowledge about weight training and exercise in general.

One major problem that seems to have been forgotten on these courses, though, is the art of spotting. It's all very well being shown how to lift a weight correctly, but what if, half way through the lift, problems are encountered? For example a person is bench pressing and takes the bar to his/her chest but has miscalculated the weight and cannot get it back up? Easy you say, lean over and pull the bar back up. But, what if the weight is 400lbs and the person is physically exhausted? These are the times when proper spotting methods should be employed. If you feel the weight is too heavy, get a spotter you can trust either side of the bar, then you have full control, and the trainer can perform as many reps as they can knowing they have the safety of you all there. It is only a minute of their time to be asked to assist you in spotting; not a great deal to give up!

There have been a few fatalities in gyms in recent times; accidents will unfortunately happen, but when you are spotting someone, you are in charge, you dictate how many reps the person can do in a safe manor: their trust is in you, don't let them down! Be vigilant at all times during the set.

The main thing to remember when spotting heavy weights is to have a person either side, with you at the rear. This is the safest method. Make sure the people either side know their job; it's a team effort so run through what you expect prior to the set. It's no good after as the damage could already be done. Remember, it only takes a second for accidents to happen, try to make sure they don't happen in your gym. Make people aware of the importance of spotting and create a safer environment around you.
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2017/09/05 16:31:20
James Leave a comment

Are you Eating Enough Fruit and Veg?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
It's all too common to see people who are into bodybuilding shoving vitamin and mineral supplements down their neck thinking that, because they do this, they don't need to eat much fruit and veg. This is a major mistake; fruit and veg provide a whole load more than vitamins and minerals: they provide different types of fibre and numerous other antioxidants. Also, the vitamins and minerals they contain are often more bioavailable - i.e. we absorb them more efficiently - than those in pills.

You'll have no doubt come across the Government campaign of '5 a day' encouraging us to have at least five servings of fruit and veg per day. However, note the 'at least'; in reality five is the absolute minimum we should be consuming; studies have shown that for optimal health we should be having at least seven or eight servings per day. And, seeing as bodybuilders feel that we need higher amounts then everyone else shouldn't we really be aiming for a minimum of eight per day?

Hang on a minute: that does sound a lot, especially when most of us aren't even making the five. Home-made smoothies are really useful. Most of us consume a few protein drinks everyday anyway, so why not add protein powders to fruit smoothies? Make up a smoothie with three servings of fruit and divide this into two drinks to consume in a day.

Include two portions of different vegetables with your main meal and also one or two salads with your smaller meals each day. Then, with a couple of items of fruit eaten with your snacks, you've easily made the eight servings required, and it wasn't that hard.
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2017/08/24 17:08:16
James Leave a comment

Overcoming Mental Sticking Points: Resetting the Mind's Thermostat

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2011 edition
Everyone at some point during the course of their bench pressing has ended up left lying on the bench gazing up at the ceiling as the spotter re-racks the barbell after a failed set. We know that progression can never occur in a consistent linear line between each and every workout, but trying to remind yourself and understand that as you gasp for air doesn't ease the sting after a failed set, does it?

This however, wasn't the first time you have been humbled by this weight on the bar. Even though you have progressed to this point, for a few too many weeks now the weight has stayed the same and you are still a rep or two short of completing the set.

There are a multitude of methods to help overcome stubborn sticking points in our training ranging from changing the way we train to even changing how we eat. There is another area, however, changing how we think about our training. A typical example will be an individual who always fails on 100kg on the fifth rep of a six rep set. This has carried on for a number of weeks now and has almost become an expected occurrence. The first five reps go well without an issue, but on the sixth it is almost like a switch, similar to that of a thermostat on a boiler, is thrown, everything seems to shut down and he cannot lift without a spotter's assistance.

One method to help overcome a sticking point that is more mental than physical is to reset the point in which the 'thermostat' switch is thrown by making a large leap above the weight which the individual is stuck on and using a spotter to help grind out a full set with this weight for the normal amount of reps. For example, if you are stuck on 100kg, instead of attempting 100kg for six reps once the appropriate warm up is completed, place 120kg on the bar (ensuring the extra 20kg is easily removed). This set will be tough: you might be able to complete a few reps on your own but the spotter will need to assist through the remaining reps. However, the spotter must not make it easy and he has to ensure it is a complete struggle for the lifter. As soon as this set is completed, drop the weight by 20kg and immediately proceed to press 100kg, you will find that this 100kg feels lighter than it has done in the past; the shock of attempting to press 20kg above where your 'mental thermostat' switches is usually enough to reset it to a higher point and allow you to complete, in this example, the full six reps of the set.

Give it a shot, sometimes a plateau can be as much mental as physical and this can be used as one tool in the box to keep the progression moving forward. Although the above example uses the bench press, you can use this for other compound exercises where you can be easily spotted.
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2017/08/19 09:27:10
James 1 comment

Pre-Exhausting the Pecs

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2010 edition
At some stage most weight trainers use pre-exhaustion as a training method to try and improve the size of a lagging body part. The pectoral muscles are often trained using compound pressing movements where some trainers can feel that the chest is not being worked as hard as say their shoulders or triceps.

One successful method I have used in the past to help bring up what was at that point considered a lagging body part was to use the pre-exhaustion method shown below. After an adequate warm up of the shoulders find an available bench, lay back and complete a set of dumbbell flyes for 40 reps, (yes 40!), with good form.

Now the fun has only just begun!

Immediately after the set of 40 reps grab a heavier dumbbell and perform a set of 10 reps.

The weights used for both sets should be heavy enough to provide you with a challenge, although will take a session or two to perfect which weight to use. By the end of these two sets your chest will be pumped and fatigued in comparison to your shoulders and triceps which will remain fresh and unworked (providing you kept the form clean!).

You will feel any bench pressing movements more in the chest and should help to bring it up in size over time as part of your chest workouts.
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2017/08/18 17:13:19
James 1 comment

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG or E621)

This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2010 edition
MSG was invented in 1908 in Japan by Kikunae Ikeda. Originally fermented from a seaweed broth, today MSG is made from fermenting sugar in a process not dissimilar from that used to make soy sauce. Chemically MSG is a salt of the amino acid glutamate; C5H8NNaO4. By 1940 MSG was a popular ingredient in many foods, but by the 1970s studies on mice had linked MSG to health concerns and 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' was on the rise. MSG was well on the way to becoming the nutritional bad boy that it is today. As anyone who follows food of the month, as well as the author's ramblings on science, will know, there are big problems with studies on mice, and findings can point the way forward but should never be taken as definitive. Even the highly reliable studies used to establish lethal dose can be significantly off when a human tries the test on themselves!

Epidemiological data makes the mice studies look alarmist, with a lack of lesions, hypothalamus damage and obesity in Asian populations with high MSG intakes over their life times, however discredited, the association will never go away. Studies have also looked at the evocatively named 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' and discovered the culprit is glutamate. Feed people susceptible to 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' glutamate rich foods or a source of glutamate and they report the same symptoms as found with MSG containing food. The solution becomes rather simple, avoid glutamate and MSG. Looking at the research MSG is actually among the safest food additives you can find, linked to less adverse health events than salt.

The linking of MSG to obesity has turned out to be a little difficult to prove; again evidence so far is that take away food, not MSG is the real culprit!

With MSG off the hook, it is time to look at how it works. Many years ago it was thought that taste consisted of salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. However, a fifth taste 'umami' has been added to describe a naturally occurring taste found in foods such as ripe cheese and tomatoes. MSG stimulates these receptors, and it is by this route MSG works to enhance flavour.

So, you are wondering why MSG is of interest to bodybuilders? Simple, flavour. Many bodybuilders, athletes and health conscious individuals eat food that is plain, and with many commercial sauces being too fat or sugar laden to grace their plates it can often be difficult to have a tasty meal. Add to this the detrimental effects of commercial farming and storage methods on the flavour of vegetables dinner time can become a bit of bland affair. If you are watching your salt intake too, then things only get more difficult. Adding flavour is usually done by adding fat, sugar, and salt, what MSG allows is less of those three for the same amount of taste.

As it stands, MSG is still a controversial ingredient, but one whose scientific pedigree is very impressive. Give it a go in your cooking, it's cheap and it could make your food a lot more cheerful!
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2017/08/09 16:54:46
James Leave a comment

How Important are Regular Meals for Muscle Gain?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2010 edition
We often hear that we need to eat every 3 hours in order to gain muscle; but how true is this? Is it backed up by science?

Well, we do need regular amounts of all three macronutrients - protein, carbohydrate and fat - in order to build muscle and to provide energy, but eating every three hours can be impractical for many of us with busy lifestyles as this means eating seven times per day. Not only is this time consuming to make the meals, but quite often it's also quite inconvenient to find the time to eat the food. We do need a higher than normal protein intake in order to gain muscle, but how much this amount is, is an area of much debate and unquantified by research (but that's not for this article to discuss). It's claimed that we need 30-40g (sometimes more) protein every three hours, but this is probably a claim invented by supplement companies trying to push whey protein sales. Think about it, if you go longer than three hours without consuming protein, is muscle tissue really going to waste? Or, at least will it maybe not build as quickly? In reality, both situations are very unlikely, as you're still digesting protein from your previous meal for several hours after ingesting and muscle doesn't waste at anywhere near the rate paranoid bodybuilders believe it does!

For carbohydrates, you may need regular amounts in order to maintain even energy levels, but the need for frequency reduces if you're consuming low glycaemic index (GI), slow released carb foods as opposed to simple high GI sources. Many big guys with physical jobs will need very high carbohydrate intakes in order to supply sufficient fuel to get through the day, provide energy for training and to grow with, so frequent intakes of low GI carbs may be necessary.

It is less of a necessity for fats to be eaten regularly as long as you are consuming good intakes of your essential fatty acids every day or two. However, it is advisable to include fats frequently especially if your energy requirements are high, as they will reduce the need for such high carb intakes and will help slow down the digestion of carbs, helping a more slow and steady influx of energy.

There is no scientific basis for the 3 hour protein rule. However, for some people 3 hours may actually be more practical than less frequent eating if you have so much food to eat. Moreover, for competitive heavyweight bodybuilders who have such high energy requirements eating too much food in one sitting may be a contributing factor to abdominal distension: an undesirable stage trait. Spacing the food out into 2 ½ or 3 hourly meals means less need be consumed per sitting.

So, how regularly should we eat? Well, this is entirely individual. If your requirements aren't relatively so great, then you can easily make great gains on consuming 5 good meals per day. If you're a big guy and have huge requirements, then you may be better off with 7 or 8 meals per day. However, the reasons for this are not physiological, they're purely practical.
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2017/08/06 12:39:44
James Leave a comment

Chicken Stew

This recipe was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker September 2010 edition

Ingredients (Serves 6)
  • 1 cup chopped red pepper
  • 110g chopped onion
  • 100g chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp (approx 7g) flour
  • 1lb skinless chicken thighs, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 470ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
  • 250g sweetcorn
  • 250g beans (mixed beans work well)

  • Heat a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat
  • Coat pan lightly in oil (spray oil recommended), then add pepper, onion and celery to pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Combine flour and chicken in a bowl, tossing to coat
  • Add chicken to pan and cook until lightly browned
  • Gradually stir in stock and bring to a boil
  • Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly
  • Add tomato paste and rest of the ingredients to pan
  • Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minute

More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
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