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2017/08/19 09:27:10
James 6 comments

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.
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!
1 comment
2017/07/23 16:26:26
James 1 comment

Which Carbohydrate Powders are Best Post Workout?

This article was written by James Collier & was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2010 edition
There are a number of carbohydrate supplement powders available (for an in-depth article see Carbohydrate Supplement Powders) and there are numerous discussions on the forums debating which is the optimum powder and how much is required. The more expensive powders like Vitargo and waxy maize starch are claimed to be superior to bog-standard dextrose and maltodextrin, but are they worth the extra cash?

Firstly though, why do we need carbs in our post workout shake? Well, not all of us do - though most people do. People who are not training hard, who do not train every day and who are trying to lose weight may not need carbs post workout, or just a small serving. However, most of you reading this will be training hard and therefore will need carbs to help replenish muscle glycogen (the storage carbohydrate) after hard exercise. This will help you fuel for your next session so you can train to maximal efficiency. Indeed, even regular trainers who train hard and who are trying to lose body fat may need some carbs post workout: fuelling for the next session will help hard training and therefore fat loss.

For most of us maltodextrin or dextrose/glucose powder will be absolutely fine: the rapid absorption post workout when demand is high will help refuel the muscles. Waxy maize starch and Vitargo (a patented formula made from barley starch) are of a higher molecular weight and are therefore digested and absorbed very rapidly and have been demonstrated to lead to a higher muscle glycogen level, which in turn leads to improved performance. Vitargo is really the optimum post workout carb, but it only has benefits post workout and for the most of us recreational trainers, the additional benefits will not be apparent over dextrose or maltodextrin. Vitargo was designed really for the competitive athlete or elite bodybuilder.

How much carbs you need post workout really depends on your goals. If you're looking to lose weight, then 10-15g is plenty: enough to refuel to help performance, but not too much to inhibit fat loss. For replenishment of energy the average male could use 30-40g in his shake. For those trying to gain lean muscle then this level should be high, even as much as 70g. Obviously, if you're carrying more muscle then you'll need more.
1 comment
2017/07/10 16:38:58
James 1 comment

Home-Made Biltong

This recipe was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2010 edition
For those who feel adventurous you can even make biltong at home!

  • Beef (preferably silverside/London broil)
  • Rock salt
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • Coarse ground coriander
  • Vinegar (preferably apple-cider vinegar)
Get some half-inch thick strips of beef (silverside - called London broil in the US). Make sure it's cut with the grain and the pieces should be about 6 inches long. Liberally sprinkle rock-salt on each side of the pieces of meat and let them stand for an hour. The longer you let it stand the saltier it will become.

After the hour, scrape off all the excess salt with a knife (don't soak it in water!). Then get some vinegar - preferably apple-cider vinegar, but any vinegar will do - and put the vinegar in a bowl and brush (do not dip) the strips of meat with the vinegar - just so that the meat is covered in the vinegar. Hold the biltong up so that the excess vinegar drips off. Then sprinkle ground pepper and ground coriander over the meat on all sides.

Once you have done this, the meat is ready to dry. There are several methods of drying. One is to hang it up on a line in a cool place and have a fan blow on it. This method is a bit difficult because if the air is humid the meat can spoil.

You can also add sauce, such as BBQ, Tabasco, and Worcestershire to liven it up even more!

More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
1 comment
2017/06/07 17:11:53
James 1 comment

Celery Recipes

This recipe was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2010 edition
Bloody Mary
1 shot(s) vodka, good quality
200ml tomato juice
2 slices lemon
1 tsp horseradish, (not the creamy one), pepper, freshly ground, celery salt
1 dash(es) sherry, red Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce
1 stalk celery
some ice cubes

Fill an average sized glass with the vodka of your choice and top it up with the tomato juice. Cut the lemon and squeeze the first slice into your drink whilst you reserve the second to garnish at the end.

Add a teaspoon of horseradish (of course, freshly grated would be even better), add a dash of red sherry and season with freshly ground black pepper and celery salt. Add a few drops of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, add some ice cubes and cut a piece off the celery to stir and garnish with the remaining lemon.

Stir Fry Celery
200g celery
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
120ml cup chicken stock

Separate the stalks of the celery from the centre and with a sharp knife, string the tougher outside stalks by holding the celery stalk in your hand, rib side up, and starting at the very end, run the potato peeler the length of the rib, releasing the strings. Then cut the celery into 1 inch lengths. Heat a wok or large sauté pan until it is hot. Add the oil, salt and garlic and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Pour in the celery and continue to stir-fry 2 minutes.

Finally, pour in the chicken stock and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then serve.

Tomato-Orange & Celery Soup
120g potato, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic crushed
1 celery stick, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
700g ripe tomatoes, cut in quarters
1 tbsp tomato puree
Juice of half medim orange
350ml vegetable stock
1 tsp dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil (15ml)
1 onion, chopped

Heat the oil in a large stockpot or saucepan, add the onion, potato, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are softened (about 5mins).

Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more, remember to stir. Add the tomato purée, orange juice, vegetable stock and basil. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, sieve to extract skins and pips. Check the seasoning before reheating gently.
More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
1 comment
2017/05/31 18:18:17
James 4 comments


This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2010 edition
When talking about celery (Apium graveolens), sooner or later you will encounter one of the oldest, most persistent food myths in the known universe: celery is a negative calorie food. Any dieter desperately wants this to be true, it's not!

Celery has a long history, celery leaves were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen who died in 1323BC, while celery was later praised for its medicinal qualities by the father of modern medicine Hippocrates, around 370BC. Indeed the English name 'celery' is derived from selinon; the Latin name for celery itself borrowed from the Greek.

Originally growing wild celery has always had a number of uses. The leaves were used to make garlands for the dead and to adorn winners in the Isthmian Games (around 55BC). While its seeds (actually a very small fruit) continue to be prized for their aromatic oil which is used in both the pharmaceutical and perfume industries. The purported medicinal application of celery continues to this day, while the ancient Greek physician Cornelius believed a celery seed made an effective pain killer, today celery is supposed to lower blood pressure as well as make you calm. Unfortunately for Cornelius he did not have the power of modern science to back his bogus claim; unlike today where the presence of 3-N-butyl-phthalide (a substance that lowered the blood pressure of rats) in celery is used to back up hype. It has also been claimed that it is an aphrodisiac because it contains androsterone; based on a misunderstanding of testosterone metabolism this claim is equally untrue.

So what about nutrition? We already know that celery is low in calories, with around 19 calories per 120g, and high in fibre, what most people don't know is that celery is high in calcium, vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, Vitamin A, magnesium, and iron, giving celery an incredibly healthy nutrient profile indeed. We are in the middle of the celery season which runs from the end of January right until the start of September so British celery is at its best right now. Often eaten raw celery is also widely used in home-made soups, and there is no better time to try out my celery recipes to mix things up a little.

So far, we have discovered that celery is far more than a chewy stalk to stick in your guacamole, but we haven't considered celery's dark side. Celery ranks second to nuts as the most common cause of allergy, and like the peanut has the potential to cause fatal anaphylactic reactions. Since November 2005, European Food Labelling regulations stipulated that the presence of celery must be declared.

Finally, while you check that none of your guests are allergic to celery; remember to wash it very well, especially if you live in the US, where celery topped the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen of foods containing the most chemicals when grown conventionally, with 64 different chemicals being found.
2017/05/23 16:24:14
James 2 comments

Vitamin B12 in Bodybuilding

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2010 edition
Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin and is necessary for healthy red blood cells and nerve fibres and has a role in carbohydrate metabolism. It is a water soluble vitamin and cannot be stored in the body, so foods rich in B12 need to be eaten every day. It is most commonly found in animal products, so those following a vegan diet need to be especially careful. Best food sources of vitamin B12 include most meat and meat products, fish, milk, cheese, yoghurts, eggs, yeast extract, fortified breakfast cereals, seaweed and pulses (in reasonable quantities).

Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to a form of anaemia and neurological degeneration. Causes of deficiency may be dietary insufficiency, malabsorption and the use of certain drugs.

Although the functions of vitamin B12 are numerous, those of particular importance to bodybuilders include carbohydrate metabolism and maintenance of nervous system tissue. Stimulation of muscles via nerves is a critical step in the contraction, coordination and growth of muscles. As B12 is linked to carbohydrate metabolism, it is also believed within bodybuilding circles that it can help stimulate a good appetite. This is not validated scientifically, but such is this myth believed that injectable B12 is popular with countless bodybuilders and athletes many of who swear it helps them perform better.

Although there is no need to inject B12 intra-muscularly, as with all vitamins, a good intake is vital. Consume plenty of the foods above as part of a varied diet, although as a bodybuilder you will probably already be doing this by default, due to the greater than normal amounts of food that we typically eat.
2017/05/02 18:41:52
James 2 comments

Home Made Fresh Pasta

This recipe was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2010 edition
Read about pasta here
Prep time: 25 mins, plus 30 mins drying
Cook time: 3 mins in boiling water (Serves: 4)

400g plain flour
4 large eggs
pinch of salt (optional)

A purist will tell you to put the flour out on a work surface, make a hole in it; personally I use my biggest mixing bowl. Break the eggs into the hole and add a pinch of salt. Using your fingers, mix the eggs roughly into the flour. Using your hands, knead everything together vigorously. Continue to knead the mixture until it forms a really smooth, pliable ball of dough. Alternatively bung it all in a food processor and make the dough that way!

Roll out the dough thinly with a rolling pin (a short light rolling pin is a nightmare, use a heavy one that is at least too big for a cutlery drawer!), then fold it in half and roll it all out again. Continue to do this over and over again until the dough is really elastic, smooth and shiny.

The traditional test that the dough is ready to cut is to use a rolling pin which will make a neat snap as it rolls over the fold, indicating that the tension in the dough is at the right point; this takes practice.

As an alternative to rolling out the dough by hand, you can use a pasta machine:

Take a plum-sized lump of pasta dough to work with, covering the remainder with a damp cloth or cling film. It is really important to cover with the damp cloth, and I found the damp cloth works better than cling film, if the dough dries out forget about it being workable with afterwards.

Press the dough through the rollers of the machine, starting at the widest gap. Fold it in half and roll it through again.

Continue rolling it through the rollers over and over again, 3 times on each gap, folding it in half after each roll, decreasing the gap between the rollers each time. Please note that after the pasta has snapped audibly over the fold as it passes between the rollers, you will not need to fold it in half again but simply continue to roll it through each gap three times. When you get to the last or penultimate gap, you will achieve a silky smooth, cool, fine sheet of pasta.

Finally, cut the pasta to the shape you want, which can be done my machine or by hand, remember pasta dries very quickly so keep it moist using a damp tea towel or cling film. You can then dry it (on a rack) or plunge straight in and cook it.

Top tip: use very fine flour and once you have made the pasta do not dredge it back through flour , this will almost guarantee a sticky sludge mess in your pan as the flour acts like glue when boiled!
More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
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