For many years it has been thought that to build muscle, we must demolish our muscles in a very isolated manner through hundreds of repetitions and then let them rest for a week.
But what we’ve found is that despite the ‘science’ supporting this approach, newer science has shown something much different.
In fact, all of the data points in the opposite direction. Increased frequency (versus massive volume just once per week) is actually the key to muscle growth.
This is because exercise is much more of a signal than a structural influencer. As an example of this, common knowledge tells us that lifting weights is good because it ‘breaks down’ our muscle. Then our body compensates by putting more protein in there, right?
Sort of, but not really. See exercise changes our bodies’ metabolic preferences by signaling to different tissue systems that we need to get stronger to handle the stress of our current activities. (Your brain tells your muscles to get bigger in order to be better at lifting things.) This is why higher frequency demands quicker muscle growth – muscles love frequent signals.
Imagine you stopped moving altogether. You’d probably lose muscle, right? But that’s not because you’re tearing down muscle without replacing it. It’s because you aren’t using it. So your nervous system sends everyone a signal that says, “Stop building & maintaining this muscle. We don’t really use it all that much and it’s metabolically expensive to maintain.”
So let’s play this same game with fat loss.
Common knowledge states that as we exercise, the fat from fat cells is extradited and sent to some fat-furnace in the middle of your body where it goes to be incinerated.
But this isn’t entirely true either. In a way, all movement helps to signal fat loss because extra fat doesn’t make sense in the presence of extra movement. Holding onto excess fat would be detrimental because it would make movement more difficult.
And all of this signaling is performed by … drum roll, please … hormones. Your body’s hormones are the gatekeepers to health.
But we can help control them by our actions. We can strength train, move a lot during the day, sleep plenty (during the night, preferably), keep our stress levels low, and manage our hunger cues. And when we take care of ourselves, our hormones in turn take care of us back.
So there are two main take-home points here:
Movement & exercise (and all of the other things that I mentioned above) are far less about the actual, physical, structural implications of the exercise and much more about the signals that all movement produces in our body. To think about things only in terms of calories in versus calories out or breaking down muscles is sort of silly when you consider the larger impact that movement has on our bodies’ internal functions.
Hormones truly control our health – everything from our brain function to weight to energy levels to sleep quality to sexual & reproductive health relies on hormones to function optimally. But you can’t depend on hormones to always just regulate themselves and keep you healthy in the absence of self-care. Health is a two-way street. To optimize your results, you need to think about optimizing hormone production. This means managing stress levels, going to bed at a consistent time every night, moving a lot during the day, strength training a little, and eating unrefined foods that are actually good for your body.
First, I’ll tell you why not. It’s not gluten. It’s not fat or carbs or sugar. No, it’s not animal products. Or dairy. Or because there aren’t enough gyms. It’s not because you don’t workout enough.
So then, by this logic, none of the following are going to help: more diets, more diet foods, more gyms, more obstacle course races and 5ks, or more trainers crafting clever blog posts about making sensible lifestyle choices.
There are three main reasons why America is so overweight and they all stem from the fact that we’ve spent hundreds of years attempting to create the most luxurious, convenient, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey lifestyle of any human beings in history, ever.
I mean, it makes sense, why would we make food less accessible if we don’t have to? Why use manual labor when we have machines that can do twice the work in half the time?
We live in this age of technology and information. But unfortunately, half of the information on the internet is outright wrong and we’ve forgotten that human beings are actually just gorillas that can drive to Starbucks and order a latte.
With intermittent fasting on the rise once again, the question of meal frequency is rearing it’s myth-covered head.
How often should I be eating?
How many meals should I eat each day?
Won’t more meals speed up my metabolism?
Should I be eating breakfast?
Is it bad to eat before bed?
Shouldn’t I consume at least 20 grams of protein every two hours?
Is it ok to go more than 2-3 hours without food?
First off, yes. Your body, as a rule of thumb, can go about two weeks without food. So, yes, it’s okay to go hungry for a few hours.
Meal frequency is a hot topic in the fitness & nutrition industry right now. And along with it comes meal timing, so we’ll cover both today.
After reading through this article, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to design your own meal schedule, allowing you to work efficiently, train intensely, sleep better, and live an awesome life in general.
Are interested in being healthier or “just feeling better”
Enjoy comparing apples and oranges
It’s no secret that “fat loss” is probably one of the top three most common goals of the non-competitive gym-goer. But don’t read that as a criticism of the 99% of people that never play a sport past their senior year of high school.
A few years ago, I came up with the acronym DEER. I even wrote a short pdf about it. It stands for “Drink more water, eat more protein, eat more vegetables, and replace crap.” See, when I’m coaching nutrition, I generally start by asking somebody to drink more water. It’s fairly simple and a relatively “win-able” task that helps set somebody up on the right path.
Protein always came next. Protein assists in recovery from workouts, requires more energy to digest, and usually keeps us satiated longer. The third thing was always vegetables. Vegetables are usually the hardest thing to add to a diet. Our Western diet doesn’t include many vegetables (save for the lettuce, tomato, and red onion on our cheeseburgers) and it can be tough to find a “spot” for them in our meals and snacks. So this is where people usually get hung up.