Thursday, 21 March 2013

How to lose fat effectively

By Juan Rojas
You’ve spent all winter bulking up, hitting the gym hard, eating big, you look at the scale and you’ve put on a few pounds. You can tell a lot of it is muscle because your shirt sleeves don’t seem to accommodate your arms anymore and your pants can’t go up your quads. Although you put on some nice muscle mass, you see that your abs aren’t very visible, and even though you don’t look like the Michelin man, you've put on a few pounds of unwanted fat. Summer is coming up and you want to show off that hard earned muscle you gained, but how can you go about doing it?

When generalized, cutting seems like an easy process, you just gotta eat less energy than what your body burns, but is this really the best mindset to have going into a cut? When we go into a cutting phase your goal should be to MAINTAIN AS MUCH MUSCLE MASS AS POSSIBLE WHILE BEING IN A CALORIC DEFICIT REQUIRED TO BURN FAT.  But, how can you do this in the most effective manner?

“Lose 10 lbs. in 10 days”
Quotes like this are very popular in the supplement industry now in days, everybody wants to achieve quick, easy results. But in order to maintain as much muscle mass as possible, this should not be done fast. According to Dr. Donald Hensrud, you should not lose more than 1-2 lbs. maximum a week(there is an exception and this is if you are obese). Although this seems very slow, it is the best in the long run. A pound of fat may not sound like much, but look at a picture of a pound of fat, and don’t tell me that you wouldn’t be happy getting this amount of fat off your body:

Studies have shown losing body weight quickly, meaning you’re at a large caloric deficit, will make your body burn muscle as opposed to fat. This also goes to show that, although the scale indicates progress, an even better indicator is the mirror. Don’t measure your progress based on the reading of a number, but more on what you look like and how your body is changing.

How do I make sure to lose 1-2 lbs. a week?
This can be done by determining your Basic Metabolic Rate(BMR), this is the amount of calories you burn per day by just existing on this planet. On top of this you can add your activity level for the day and this will give you a total number of calories you can use in order to determine how many calories you burn per day. This is approximately calculated based on your activity levels, your age, your height and your weight.  You can determine this number with many websites online such as this one:
Once you determine this number, you must subtract calories from it in order to reach your desired weight loss. 1 pound of fat contains roughly 3,500 calories, so in order to lose 1 pound of fat a week, you must burn 500 less calories than what you ingest each day (7 days x 500 calories = 3,500). So for example somebody who burns 3,000 calories daily, should aim to only consume 2,500 (3,000-500). This number changes as your body weight changes and it must be reviewed and adjusted as progress begins to halt.

What kind of diet should I follow?
There are many diets out there, some do keto (high fat very low carb), some diet with moderate carbs and low fat, some do paleo, some do intermittent fasting, IIFYM etc. I will not go into detail on which is better and why because many different things will work differently on different people. I’m sure everyone can agree that keeping protein intake high (1-1.5 g /lb of bodyweight), is ideal to maintaining as much muscle mass as possible when dieting. But where opinions differ is on the fats and carbs.

In my opinion, a carb cycling approach is the best to take, not only from personal experience with different diets but with the scientific proof to back it. Carb cycling is not a specific diet but more of a template on how to diet. You have high carb days, low-moderate carb days and no carb days. If you have a lot of fat to lose only do 1 high carb day a week (on a major heavy bodypart), if you are leaner you can have more high carb days based on your judgement. If you are interested in carb cycling, read more in the links below:

Carb cycling is a great way to diet because the high carb days allow you to mentally have a break from the intense dieting you are following. Since the high carb days are planned, they are typically at maintenance calories, or slightly above. With this approach you won’t even crave cheat meals, allowing you to not indulge in that large stuffed crust pizza by yourself and adding an extra 3,000 calories to your day.

The other thing about carb cycling is it operates on scientific evidence. When we diet, a hormone that is very important to regulating energy intake and expenditure called LEPTIN, decreases. As leptin levels are decreased, this makes the body want to spare fat. Remember, our bodies are literally fat storing machines; it is much more beneficial for the body to store body fat in order to use it later as energy rather than to keep muscle.

In a study done on 13 individuals who went on reduced calorie diets, all 13 of them had levels of leptin much lower than what they started with.  And many studies done on rats have also shown that fasting or reduced calorie diets will decrease leptin. According to Lyle Macdonald he says:

 interjecting high carbohydrate, high calorie refeeds of varying lengths (anywhere from 5 hours to 3 days) is (currently) the best way to raise leptin while dieting. 
One of the interesting (and often missed points) is that, as dieters get leaner (and leptin drops more and more), refeeds need to become larger and/or more frequent. That is, rather than necessarily dieting harder as they get leaner, some people are actually doing better by ‘breaking their diet’ (with specific high-carb refeeds) more frequently.
I’d note again that leptin production is related primarily to carbohydrate intake in the short-term, high-fat refeeds aren’t the best way to raise leptin levels. I’d also note that single ‘cheat’ meals won’t impact on leptin levels significantly as leptin doesn’t really change on a meal to meal basis.”

‘Nuff Said on diet.

When training on a caloric deficit it takes more mental fortitude to get to the gym and have your mind take over when you feel like quitting on that 8th rep when you can get 12. Training on a cut is very important because although you will be building very little muscle, if any, you will need to train hard and heavy in order to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. Like the old saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

From personal experience I can tell you not to change your training from when you bulk or cut, it should remain the same. Some people say you need to increase the reps and lower the weight; this is BS, if you drop the weight and increase the reps your body will lose muscle mass. I suggest drinking a carbohydrate and amino acid drink while training, you can go for the expensive ones or just simply mix whey isolate and dextrose sugar.

In order to minimize the effects of muscle loss in the weight room you should be placing most of your carbohydrates and calories around your weightlifting. Dr. Layne Norton mentions this in one of his articles:
  • Dietary carbohydrates will provide fuel for the anaerobic pathway, and spare muscle tissue from being converted to glucose for fuel.
  • Dietary carbohydrates will cause the release of insulin, which blocks the release of cortisol from the pancreas.
  • Dietary carbohydrates will increase muscle glycogen levels which will improve performance and decrease fatigue.
As we can see, carbs are very beneficial around your workout, especially since you will be at a caloric deficit.

Cardio is one of those things that many say is not needed to get lean; all it does is “burn extra calories.” Although it is true, cardio increases your caloric needs; there are many benefits to it, especially with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) cardio. But cardio not only helps you keep your heart healthy, which in turn allows you to become more efficient while you train due to improved recovery, but it has many more benefits that I could go on forever. Tell me, how many Mr. Olympia competitors, who have perfect diets, perfect training and all the supplements in the world do you see getting on stage without doing some sort of cardio? Not many, if any at all.

Many argue that long bouts of low intensity cardio are the best way to burn fat, because you’re in the “fat burning zone.” But research suggests that being in the “fat burning zone” is not as significant as many play it out to be, you’re in the fat burning zone right now, as you sit and read this article. Research also suggests that total daily energy expenditure is more important as opposed to what zone you’re in.

HIIT cardio seems to be more effective for fat loss, even though you may be burning less calories during the session, depending on how long you go. HIIT training is a form of cardio in which you switch between intervals of maximum effort, and low effort. For example, speed walking on a treadmill at 3.0 mph for 1 minute, and sprinting at 8.0 mph for 30 seconds, then you repeat.  A study was done on 2 groups of individuals doing cardio 4-5 times a week, one doing 30 to 45 minutes of low intensity cardio for 20 weeks, and the other doing HIIT cardio for 15 weeks. The number of calories burned by the low intensity cardio group was more than double of the HIIT group, but the HIIT group lost 9 times more fat, why is that?

This is due to the fact that HIIT increases your metabolic rate, thus making your body burn calories, not only when you’re doing the exercise, but afterwards when you rest. The problem with steady pace cardio is that the more you do it, the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat, so you have to keep doing more and more, this is why many bodybuilders start with small sessions at the beginning of their contest prep and end up doing up to two 60 minute sessions a day!

This is evident by comparing a sprinter to a marathon runner. Marathon runners do slow steady cardio for hours on end and look at their body, compare them to a sprinter who does short bouts of an all-out maximum effort, and tell me which body you’d prefer. 

Now I know cardio is not the funnest activity to do, and many will say “I’m overtrained because I did HIIT”, you’re overtrained because you’re a pussy, you need to get in the gym and train. HIIT will have you gasping for air and really taking the best out of you. A proper combination of both high intensity and low intensity cardio should be done for you to get the best results of fat loss!

What supplements will help me lose the most fat possible? Although there are many great fat loss supplements that have ingredients that will help you lose fat more effectively, they tend to cost more than a  limb. Do these supplements help? Yeah they do, if your diet and training are in check they will help you feel better, reduce hunger and help your body be more effective to utilize its fat stores, but you can do great without them as well. Many people like using the ECA stack (ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin) which tends to be quite cheap and aid with energy and fat loss.

Other supplements I strongly recommend in order to maintain as much muscle mass as possible are BCAA’S, whey protein if you’re not getting enough in your diet, glutamine and a fiber supplement if you are on a low carb diet, because your body will be full of $#*% if you don’t, literally.

Getting shredded is much more complex than “reducing calories”, is not only fat loss with what we’re concerned with, but more importantly the maintenance of the muscle we currently have. Remember, you need to take your fat loss slow, follow a proper diet, train hard and heavy, do your cardio, and take your supplements. Getting rid of the winter fat you may have put on will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Keep training hard and results will come!

Remember to like the facebook page if you like these articles!

 If you want me to write about a specific topic, experience or a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!

Neuromuscular and cardiovascular adaptations during concurrent strength and endurance training in untrained men, by Mikkola, Rusko, Izquierdo, Gorostiaga and H√§kkinen, in International Journal of Sports Medicine, 2012
Muscle insider magazine, issue 10. HIIT me with your best shot. 2013.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fiber, The Underrated Nutrient

By Juan Rojas
Eating enough protein throughout the day? Check. Eating enough calories to grow? Check.  Did you go balls to the wall in the gym? Check.  How’s your fiber intake for the day? If you’re answer to this is “I don’t really know”, you may want to reexamine how much fiber you’re eating. Many of us simply don’t know how much fiber we’re taking in, others don’t really care, they think, “that’s the stuff my granny needs”, but you may be surprised on how it affects your gains and your overall health.

Fiber is a word we hear all the time if we are interested in nutrition, but as bodybuilders we do not pay much more attention to it other than “it helps you go to the bathroom.” Sure this is true with one of the two types of fiber, but it has a way more important role in the body than this and can help you not only have more muscular gains, but also look your best.  Let’s see exactly what fiber does in the body.

Types of fiber and how they work
There are 2 types of dietary fiber we intake through our food. The first one is soluble fiber, this fiber is responsible for slowing down digestion thus lowering blood sugar levels, and lowering cholesterol.  When ingested, soluble fiber ferments in your intestines and creates substances that have many health benefits, it also slows down the absorption of carbohydrates allowing you to feel fuller for a longer amount of time. This is great when cutting because we all know how long each minute feels when we are waiting for the next meal.  

It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels allowing for a delayed insulin response, although insulin is a very anabolic hormone, it is mostly important after our workouts, constantly spiking insulin throughout the day may lead your body to store fat easier (under certain circumstances) and decrease our insulin sensitivity when we should be saving it for after our workout. This is why fiber is beneficial anytime EXCEPT for post workout, when we want nutrients shuttled to our muscles right away.

The second type of fiber is insoluble, this type of fiber regulates our blood sugar and speeds up the process that the waste in our body goes through in the digestive system, thus allowing us to go to the bathroom easier. This type of fiber acts like a sponge because as it passes through our digestive system it swells up in the intestines picking up water removing waste and toxins your body does not need.

How does fiber benefit a bodybuilder?
As bodybuilders, our health is a major priority, now some will argue that bodybuilding is not a healthy sport at all due to the use of so many hormones, certain supplements and chemicals. I won’t argue that; but a bodybuilder straining their body with these things should care even MORE about their health, so they have to try to be as healthy as possible in other aspects. As we saw, fiber is very healthy for you as it stabilizes blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol.

It also creates short chain fatty acids in the body, which help maintain the intestinal walls healthy. As bodybuilders, we eat a lot more than the average person, and in order to aid the body with digestion and defecation fiber is #1.

Lastly, fiber makes you feel fuller for longer and is not digested by the body, meaning you can eat things containing fiber and your body cannot use it as energy, or calories. This makes it easier to eat more and feel fuller for longer times, allowing you to cure those cravings over those chips and cookies on the counter. A study showed that diets high in protein and high in fiber have both shown to reduce hunger as opposed to a diet with low fiber.

Where can I get this fiber you speak of?
Fiber is found mostly in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If your diet is made up of these foods, you’re probably hitting the 25-40 grams of daily fiber recommended for adults. If your diet contains little vegetables and mostly refined or “white” carbohydrates you should look into either changing your diet, or adding a fiber supplement to it.

Many times when a bodybuilder is going through a low carb “cutting phase” his only source of fiber may be vegetables. This may cause constipation and I recommend a fiber supplements while cutting to ease digestion and help you feel fuller for longer.

Now, does this mean you should go out and eat all the fiber you can stuff down your throat? NO! Just because a certain amount is good, it doesn’t mean it should be taken above and beyond. If you eat too much fiber your body begins to have the mal absorption of certain nutrients, it may cause bloating, abdominal pain and gas.

Now that we have seen how fiber may benefit a bodybuilder, make sure you are getting enough of it. You should be taking in a healthy balance of insoluble and soluble fiber. It may not be directly correlated with you getting on the Olympia stage, but it’s the pursuit of correctly putting all the little pieces together that creates the grand picture at the end of the puzzle. Like eating your fiber, being consistent to your diet, getting enough healthy fats, getting enough sleep etc.

My goal with these articles is to inform you on how the scientific processes work in the body and how things may benefit you if achieving a great physique is your goal. So House of Iron readers, keep training hard, eating your fiber and giving everything you do 110%!

If you want me to write about a specific topic, experience or a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!

Remember to like the facebook page if you like these articles!


Nickols-Richardson SM, Coleman MD, Volpe JJ, Hosig KW. Perceived hunger is lower and weight loss is greater in overweight pre-menopausal women consuming a low-carbohydrate/high-protein vs. high-carbohydrate/low-fat diet. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 2005 Sep;105(9):1433-7.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Can creatine safely maximize my muscle gains?

By Juan Rojas
If you’re interested in fitness, chances are you’ve come across many different supplements. Especially when you open up a bodybuilding magazine, you will see that half of the magazine is just pages upon pages of supplement advertisements.  Sure a lot of them claim that you will look like Mr. Olympia in just a short timeframe by taking their product. While most of these claims are exaggerated and the products are overpriced, there are many products out there that are used by a large portion of bodybuilders; one that we hear a lot of is creatine. Many don’t know how creatine works or what creatine is, I have actually had guys tell me: “I don’t take creatine, I don’t wanna put that chemical into my body, I’m natural.” Let’s look at some of the facts to see if this “chemical” is dangerous and how “unnatural” many think it is.

What is creatine?
Creatine is an organic compound that naturally occurs in our body.  It is used to supply energy to all the cells in the body, primarily our muscles by increasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is very important because it is required for the biochemical reactions involved when contracting a muscle. As the workload on the muscle increases, more and more ATP is used and must be replaced in order for the muscle to keep moving.  The body can use up to 4 different systems of obtaining ATP depending on the duration of the stress put upon it. But the one that concerns us the most is when the muscles need short bursts of energy in a range of up to 10 seconds; this is when the body uses creatine to turn into ATP in order to give your muscles a burst of energy. Not only does creatine give your muscles more available energy but it also improves your body’s ability to make protein within the muscle fibers, which will also add increased amounts of water in your muscles, thus increasing muscle mass. Many people think that supplementing with creatine gives you “Water muscles”, yes creatine does increase the amount of water in your muscles, thus making them appear larger, but your muscles are 70% water to begin with so their ideology doesn’t even make sense.  Creatine is created by the combination of 3 amino acids; these are arginine, glycine and methionine.  In order for your body to create creatine the process begins in the kidneys where the 3 amino acids blend and are then transported via your blood stream to the liver, where it is converted into creatine.   We originate most of the creatine in our bodies from food, primarily meats. Foods high in creatine include steak, salmon and tuna. In a study done by St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, 18 vegetarians and 24 non-vegetarians who were not supplementing with an outside source of creatine were examined. It was proven that the ones who were vegetarians had significantly lower levels of creatine in their bodies. So why does all this science stuff matter to us if our goal is to gain as much muscle mass as possible? BECAUSE SUPPLEMENTING WITH CREATINE HAS BEEN PROVEN TO ALLOW AN INDIVIDUAL TO PERFORM MORE REPS WITH A GIVEN WEIGHT, ALLOWING YOU TO TRAIN AT A HIGHER INTENSITY LEVEL, WHICH MEANS MUSCULAR HYPERTROPHY AKA GETTING SWOLE BRAH.

Is supplementing with creatine safe?
Creatine monohydrate is the most studied sports supplement. Although creatine does have some side effects like weight gain (due to the muscles storing more water), muscle cramps, increased urination, and increased thirst, these can be countered by just drinking more water. According to diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis, this was mentioned in an interview with CNN:
 “[creatine] is considered the most effective supplement for athletes looking to increase lean body mass and as well as enhance muscular strength, power and endurance. Despite a few widely publicized, but mainly anecdotal reports, of kidney or electrolyte abnormalities, hundreds of studies have found that it is safe in healthy individuals and may also be effective for people with certain medical conditions, including heart patients, and on some types of neuromuscular disease or orthopedic injury if taken at recommended doses.“
Although creatine makes your kidneys work harder, according to many studies done at the University of Maryland, studies found no significant permanent side effects at doses used up to six months. This isn’t the only study saying creatine is safe, you can look everywhere on the internet and find thousands of studies and reports saying the same thing. This is more than enough proof to know it’s safe. If you’re scared to take creatine due to safety concerns then maybe you should live in a bubble, because I can assure you those pitchers you and your buddies have every weekend aren’t therapeutic to your kidneys and liver.
Is creatine worth the money?
Yes it’s true your body creates creatine from the foods we ingest, but this amount is smaller than when we supplement with it. Unless you’re eating 2 lbs. of beef a day, your body could probably maximize its strength potential by supplementing with creatine. Creatine is very inexpensive compared to many other supplements out there, especially if buy it in bulk. Buy it and try it out, if you don’t like it, send it to me, because I’ll sure as hell use it. You will feel a nice boost in strength when you begin supplementing with it; a study was done that said supplementing with creatine increased phosphocreatine in muscles by 20%. To me, pushing more weight in the gym has no monetary price. There are also a few studies claiming creatine can decrease myostatin levels, increases testosterone and increase IGF-1. (All these things are good and more studies are being done to look further into this).
What type of creatine is best to use?
There are many types of creatine out there, HCL, ethyl ester, nitrate etc.; the most studied and cheapest one is monohydrate. Creatine HCL claims to not bloat you at all, but it is much more expensive. If you’re on a budget, monohydrate is your best bet. At the end of the day, creatine is creatine no matter what ester.
What dose should I follow and should I cycle creatine?
The recommended dose of creatine is between 5-10 grams per day, obviously a 100 lb. girl will need much less than a 300 lb strongman. If you take too much creatine your body will simply urinate out the excess creatine you don’t need, so you’re literally flushing it down the toilet. A lot of people claim they cycle creatine because your body stops making its own levels of creatine, but no study has ever shown this to be true. No harm is done to the body by not cycling it, so you can try cycling it or just run it straight through, your decision.
We’ve seen creatine is naturally made by the body with foods we ingest ourselves. There is no need to be scared of creatine supplementation, as research has shown it is harmless. And to the contrary of what many people say creatine is NOT a steroid, as we saw in the previous article steroids are hormones that derive and have similar effects of the hormone testosterone. Besides, last time I checked steroids were illegal to sell and buy, so why would the grocery store down my street sell it? So next time you bash or get bashed for using creatine, give them all the facts straight how I mentioned them here. So remember House of iron readers: “Train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, and take your creatine”  ;)

If you want me to write about a specific topic, have any questions, or want me to talk about a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!



Thursday, 7 March 2013

How important is testosterone for muscle growth?

By Juan Rojas
Hormones play a very important role in our body. They are chemical substances produced by our own bodies that act as "messengers" in order to affect cells in other parts of our bodies. Hormones are responsible for things such as our growth, development, reproduction and our own behaviour. What's amazing about hormones is that they do this all on their own and we don't  need to be telling them what to do. Now, most average males aren't really concerned with their hormone levels, but if you are a bodybuilder you should be. Hormones are directly responsible for the way your body uses food, growth, sex and the control of the hormones themselves, which means they are directly responsible for any muscle gains you make. Most hormones in the body are produced by organs called ductless glands, although some are also created by endocrine tissue in organs like the stomach and pancreas. Although many hormones are responsible for our progress in the gym, in more ways than just simple muscle growth, there is one that stands out, TESTOSTERONE.

Testosterone 101
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is produced by the Leydig cells in the testes of males, more specifically it is a member of the androgenic group of steroid hormones. Steroid hormones are produced from cholesterol, which is a fatty substance obtained from certain foods you eat. There is a few intermediate steps which cholesterol goes through to be turned into testosterone, but to simplify things, we will not go in depth here. Androgens are responsible for the development and maintenance of male characteristics such as the male reproductive organ, hair growth, an enlarged larynx (or adam's apple), deepened voice and many many more. But the most important characteristic that concerns us bodybuilders is increased muscle mass and strength. According to Dr. West Conner, an average male produces between 3 mg and 10 mg of testosterone per day. This gives an average male levels that range between 300 and 1000 ng/dL (one nanogram per decalitre) of testosterone. After testosterone makes it to the blood stream, 95-98% is bound to proteins called albumin and globulin which protects testosterone from degeneration by the liver and kidneys and to make the testosterone soluble for being transported within the blood. The remaining testosterone is what is referred to as "free testosterone" which is the amount of testosterone that can actually interact with cells and be used towards physiological changes.

In order to regulate our testosterone levels from getting too high, our bodies naturally go through a very very complex process and I will try to sum it up as simple as possible. At many different times throughout the day the brain sends signals which lead to the hypothalamus (a part of the brain that regulates many hormones) to send a signal to the pituitary gland saying that testosterone needs to be created. Due to this event, the pituitary gland releases a hormone called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone causes the gland to create luteinizing hormone(LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). LH then travels through our blood to the testes and it begins the production of testosterone from cholesterol. If our testosterone levels start getting too high, our pituitary gland will slow down the release of LH.

Seeing how complex testosterone is, and how many different steps it takes our bodies to create it, it is inevitable that many times people have low testosterone levels, and this can occur at any age. More surely, research has shown that once a male hits an age of about roughly 25, testosterone levels begin to drop slowly by about 1%-1.2% per year. Finding out each individuals testosterone levels is not exactly easy to do without a blood test, which can be done through a private medical corporation (in the U.S.) or in Canada through your family doctor. Although testosterone levels can vary between the time of day, it is believed according to many studies that testosterone levels peak in the morning, decline throughout the day, and peak again in the afternoon, so you should not base yourself after one reading, but more after a few taken at different times throughout the day.

Why Should I care about testosterone?
After all this information you may think, "why should I care so much about testosterone if my body automatically does this process?" Well, as we have mentioned before, there are many advantages to having high levels within the normal ranges of testosterone, things like normal sperm development, increased libido,  increased self confidence and the two we're mostly interested in, INCREASED MUSCLE MASS AND IMPROVED ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. Testosterone increases muscle mass by increasing the rate of protein synthesis in the body (another complex topic for another day, but increased protein synthesis is something that is crucial for gaining muscle) allowing you to build muscle size. To sum Protein synthesis up, it is the method by which muscles are built, the human body uses protein and synthesizes it in order to grow, so we want this to be to the highest degree possible. When we look at the definition of steroids (or better said Anabolic Androgenic Substances) according to the University of Maryland it is: any drug(s) (other then estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) or hormonal substance(s), chemically related to testosterone, a male hormone that promotes muscle growth. If Anabolic Steroids are all based on testosterone, then testosterone must be a very important factor in muscle growth and improved performance. Now that we've seen why we should care so much about testosterone, let's see two methods on how we can increase testosterone and the side effects they may have.

Increasing Testosterone Synthetically
This is the most assuring way to know that your testosterone will increase and it is also the only way to get your testosterone to levels so high that muscle size and performance will increase substantially way past levels you could ever naturally achieve. Increasing your testosterone synthetically involves the use of Anabolic Steroids. I am not promoting or condoning their use, but I will give you the facts on the most basic steroid, which is called, as you may have guessed, testosterone. Synthetic testosterone is medically prescribed at a low dose to males who have low levels of testosterone since low levels of testosterone are associated with: decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and depression. But the people who choose to use them for cosmetic purposes use a much higher dose, and since they are self medicating themselves, most of them do not seek proper bloodwork to see how exactly the body is reacting to the increased levels of testosterone. With high levels of testosterone you will notice your muscle mass increase at a very rapid rate, performance and strength in the gym is also greatly increased. Agression is a side effect, but I consider it to be beneficial if used properly INSIDE the gym, because the more aggressive you are the more intensity your workouts will have. Synthetic testosterone has great rewards, but once weighed against the negatives you may decide otherwise.

What happens when testosterone levels far surpass natural levels?
As with any drug, there are side effects,  and these depend on the individual taking the drug. When the body senses that your testosterone levels are so high, it will try to counter this by releasing other hormones and trying to convert the extra testosterone to things like estrogen and DHT which are the main cause of some of the unwanted side effects many get from steroids. Although these side effects can be harsh, they can be prevented or minimized with the use of other drugs, and if one does happen to get a bad side effect, it will most likely go away once use of the synthetic testosterone is ceased. Most of the time the media blows the side effects way out of proportion, but these possible side effects may include:

-High blood pressure
-Changes in your cholesterol
-Gynecomastia (or man breasts)
-Hair loss
-Liver damage
-Shrunken testicles
-Water retention
and testosterone supression. The use of exogenous testosterone will in fact make your body shut down its own production of testosterone. Since you are already obtaining it from an outside source, it sees no need in creating its own. This is why your testicles will shrink while you are using the synthetic hormone. Shutting down your natural hormone production, or how it is referred to medically as your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Testicular Axis(HPTA), will in fact make you run the risk that it will not come back functioning properly after your steroid use. This can be minimized by not abusing the use of exogenous hormones but there is always a risk.

Increasing Testosterone Naturally
Although you won't see the benefits to the same degree as with using synthetic testosterone, doing everything possible to increase your testosterone naturally will make an impact in your life and in your physique.This is the safest way to increase testosterone with little to no side effects. When you increase testosterone naturally you don't have to worry about adverse health effects caused from taking synthetic hormones. Although there are reports of men saying the they developed gynecomastia after using over the counter products intended to increase testosterone naturally, these are very rare and the root of the cause has not been proven to be the products. Here are some ways you can increase your testosterone levels naturally:

-Getting Enough Sleep, this is fundamental to having higher testosterone levels, not to mention when you sleep, the greatest amount of growth hormone release and recovery takes place in your body. In a study done in 2001 by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 10 healthy 20 year olds were examined with how their testosterone levels reacted to fragmented sleep, this led to no testosterone increase. These same individuals when examined with normal sleep patterns, were reported to have had increases of 20%-30% or more in their testoterone. So make sure you are getting your 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.

-Weight lifting, studies have shown that when your body is pushing heavy weights in the gym it releases higher levels of testosterone, specially with exercises that use a large amount of muscles at once, such as squats and deadlifts.

-Lower alcohol consumption, not only does alcohol lead to zinc depletion, but in a study conducted by Dr.A. Sierksma it was shown that individuals who drank 2-3 beers per day lowered their testosterone levels by 6.8% during a three week period. Not to mention, alcohol in excess also lowers protein synthesis which we learned, is crucial for muscle hypertrophy.

-Take in enough zinc, in a study of 88 men aged 40 to 60, it showed that those with normal testosterone levels had a much higher amount of zinc in them than those with low testosterone levels. Zinc was directly correlated with testosterone levels.

-Sex has been linked to increasing levels of testosterone.

-Proper diet, your diet is key to having higher levels of testosterone, make sure you are getting in things like lean beef and eggs, these contain fats and cholesterol which are crucial for making testosterone, how we mentioned before, Testosterone is made from cholesterol. Healthy fats like nuts and seeds have a very positive effect on your testosterone levels as well.

-Lower your stress levels, when you're under high levels of stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, and this hormone lowers the effects of testosterone.

-Supplementing with testosterone boosters, this is not a must, but to maximize your natural testosterone levels you can supplement with many herbs and products that are sold over the counter. Testosterone boosting blends are very expensive and made by many companies, but if you notice, they all use similar products in order to boost your testosterone, which can be bought separately at a cheaper price. These items may include, D-aspartic acid, tribulus, ZMA  and many more.

We have seen the complex process that occurs when testosterone is made by the body and how testosterone is so important to build muscle mass. Testosterone is in my opinion the most important hormone in the process of building muscle, although there are many other hormones that play key roles as well. So House of Iron readers, I hope all of you got a small insight into how important testosterone is and as long as you keep training hard, keep eating right, and keep chasing your goals, you will get the physique of your dreams!

If you want me to write about a specific topic, experience or a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!

Journal of Clin Endo & Metab 86(3):1134f, 2001
Sierksma A, et al. Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, and estradiol levels in middle-aged men and postmenopausal women: a diet-controlled intervention study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 May;28(5):780-5.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

How to gain muscle while training at home

Many times, we can't get to the gym, sometimes it's because of a holiday, or because we simply don't have time to go out on a certain day, other times it's because of vacation and we simply can't get to a place that's full of dumbbells and barbells. Some people just choose to start out exercising at home, while it is okay to start out building some muscle at home with basic movements, without continuous added resistance, over time, your gains will plateau and you will need to increase the resistance you are putting your muscles through in order for hypertrophy to occur. Once you get to this stage, you can either A)Join a gym or B) start buying more weight and equipment to do it yourself at home.

I will warn all the readers that think they can maximize the potential of their muscle gains by just training at home, that they might be disappointed by the gains they make. For the first few weeks they might notice differences, but you will only get so far with the same resistance. Unless you are truly out of shape, someone who is decently in shape will get a lot more bang for their buck at a gym moving some heavy weight around. With this being said, for all the readers who are beginners out there and are looking to start working out at home I would say this equipment is crucial: 

-a pair of adjustable dumbbells that go to at least 35 lbs.
-a place to do pull ups.
-an old bag pack to fill with heavy things to add resistance.

Here is the workout I would do 4-5 times per week:

Workout A

-Push ups 5 sets to failure (Add weight to bagpack once you get past being able to do more than 20 push ups, also switch angles up try doing a few sets with your feet elevated, hands farther etc.)
-Pull ups 5 sets to failure, if you can't do many pull ups, add a chair and put your foot on it to help you lower the resistance
-Shoulder dumbbell presses 3 sets to failure
-Dumbell skullcrushers or chair dips 3 sets to failure
-Dumbell curls 3 sets to failure

Workout B

-Walking lunges with weight 5 sets to failure
-Dumbbell squats 5 sets to failure
-Crunches with feet elevated 5 sets to failure

You can alternate between these 2 workouts and add a rest day when you want etc. don't forget though, if you are looking to take your body to a level beyond what you can imagine right now, you must join a gym sooner or later or buy gym like equipment for your home. Remember diet is also key to getting the results you want! so House Of Iron readers, keep training hard, and eating clean and you will get the results you are looking for!

If you guys want me to write about a specific topic, experience or a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!

Monday, 4 March 2013

$25,000 per year for this gym!

I don't know about all of you readers, but when I go to the gym it's to sweat, to take my body to complete exhaustion, to see badass bodybuilding posters, to use chalk, to hear loud music, to get motivation and inspiration from the big dudes at the gym, to push heavy weight around. I want to be in an atmosphere that it's okay to grunt once in a while, and it's okay to be aggressive, in fact the more aggressive you are, the better. These little factors are so significant to me that you cannot put a price on them. I don't care if my gym has a $5,000 revolutionary bicep machine, sure it's cool but I probably wouldn't use it much. But if my gym was missing a squat rack I'd sure as hell guarantee you I wouldn't set foot in there again.

This brings me to the topic of the most expensive gym membership in the world. It is called "The Madison Square Club" in New York City. It looks like an overpriced living room with a few machines. Does it look nice? sure it looks like a nice place, if I was going to take a nap and have a fancy dinner at! Would this be my first choice of where to train? I can guarantee you I would look for any other gym but this one. The owner says this on their website:

"I wanted to build a beautiful boutique gathering place where people could be healthy, but I didn't want it to look, smell or feel like a gym"

Now I can understand that some people are not into bodybuilding like myself, or powerlifting. But at a price tag of $25,000 a year for a membership here plus $125 in monthly dues, this place better be injecting me with all types of hormones, better be feeding me expensive foods, and better have a money back guarantee in case I'm not satisfied. The smell and feel at the gym is what makes you know that it's okay to get sweaty, sweat is a sign of hard work, if it looks like a gym it should look rough, hardcore, weights are not meant to be treated like glass, Iron is made to be heavy and withstand being dropped.

Everyone should look for a gym that they feel comfortable at, but this is just a waste of money. I'm done my rant. 

If you guys want me to write about a specific topic, experience or a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!

Friday, 1 March 2013

How do you build a broad chest and wide shoulders?

When you look at the most famous bodybuilders to ever live, even when they have suits on, it's impressive to see how wide their chest and shoulders that can barely fit through a door are. What guy doesn't want to have a broad chest and shoulders?
No guy out there wants to have his waist larger than what his shoulders are, this my friends, is a true warning sign that you gotta get to the gym ASAP.

Having that wide upper body appearance is a combination of a few things. First of all you need to have broad shoulders and some muscle on your chest, and second of all you need to reduce the size of your waist.  Now, many of us might not have the genetics that Arnold had, and might have a narrow bone structure, but this SHOULD NOT stop you from adding muscle to your torso and having a wider appearance, Bodybuilding is as much a sport of optical illusion as it is a physical sport.

In order to build thick slabs of muscles on your shoulders you have to do heavy presses. I personally recommend behind the neck barbell presses if you do not suffer rotator cuff problems, be careful if you feel any discomfort, as some people may find a different variation is a better option for them. The deltoid, or shoulder muscle, is actually made up of 3 muscles, the medial delt, the front delt and the rear delt. When doing behind the neck presses the medial delt is recruited to a greater degree than the front press version will give you, the medial delt is the head that is responsible for giving you that broad appearance. After doing these I also recommend doing a few sets of upright rows and lateral raises to compliment and fully exhaust the deltoids.

As for chest, the best exercise for mass is the bench press. There are many different variations of this and you should play around with all of them for complete muscle development. You should vary week to week bench angles, dumbells, barbells, machines, grips etc. You should finish exhausting your chest with dips and chest flyes in order to achieve a great pump and stimulate growth in those fibres.

As for having a small waist in order to make the illusion that your shoulders are broader, it's just a matter of diet (a whole different topic for a different day)

This is a great example of a chest and shoulder workout you can do that is guaranteed to make you have that great broad appearance as long as your nutrition and rest are in order:

Barbell bench press 3x6-8
Dumbell Bench press 2-3x8-12
Chest dips 2x10-20
Decline bench flyes 2x10-20

Behind the neck barbell press 3x6-10
Upright Rows 2x10-15
Cable lateral raises 2x12-20
rear delt flyes 2x12-20

If you guys want me to write about a specific topic, experience or a specific supplement on this blog please let me know, your input and feedback is appreciated, comments can be made anonymous!