When you’re young or have lots of time on your hands, it’s easy to carve out 5-10 hours a week to hit the gym. Getting all your lifts in when you train 5-6 days per week makes achieving your hypertrophy goals quite straight forward. However, as you get older or your time becomes more limited, or if you’re simply looking for the most efficient hypertrophy program possible, the real question is… “how little time can you spend in the gym and still maximize your gains?”Read More
Protein intake around exercise is always a hot topic around the gym water-cooler. Is it better pre-workout? Post-workout? Intra-workout? The options seem endless. It’s well recognized from previous research that the minimum amount of protein required to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is 20g post-training and that increasing to 40g post-training had no impact on muscle gains after exercise. That said, if you can get some marginal gains from ramping up your protein post-training, why not? A new study attempts to uncover if ratcheting up your intake to 40g post-training is really worth the effort and if bigger athlete require more protein post-training.Read More
Just the other day, a client named Tim came into my office because he was struggling to add lean muscle. He was eating right and training at a CrossFit box 4-5x per week (and getting stronger), but couldn’t seem to pack on the 10 pounds of lean muscle he was looking for. He was stumped. This is a classic case of really having clarity in your goals. Are training to get stronger so that you can perform better in your sport? Or is your primary goal to get bigger and add size to your frame?Read More
Tell me is this scenario sounds familiar. You’ve been training in the gym for a while, you made some nice gains and now your progress has stalled. You’re doing all the compound lifts – squats, deadlifts, bench press, chins, etc. – but you just can’t seem to get any stronger, or any bigger.
The answer might not be your exercise selection or rep scheme, but something a lot simpler that you may have overlooked… rest periods.
A new study investigated the effects of long rest periods (i.e. 3-minutes) versus short (i.e. 1-minue) during resistance training. Twenty-one young men who were regular lifters trained three times per week, 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for seven exercises per session, over the course of 8 weeks. The researchers tested muscular strength, endurance, and thickness before and after the study. The results were eye opening.
The group that rested the had to take “long” rest periods had significantly greater gains in muscular strength (i.e. 1-RM squat and bench press), as well as significantly greater muscle thickness in the legs (and a trend for upper body improvements).(1) It may not surprise many trainers that taking longer rest periods helps with your maximal strength performance, but the fact that it can also increase muscle thickness makes it a great “rest” strategy for athletes or anyone trying to add more lean muscle and size to their frame.
A lot of lifters can get caught up in the burn and build-up of lactic acid as a measure of training success, and therefore shy away from longer rest periods. This study suggests the longer rest periods you take, the greater loads you can lift, which then translates into greater hypertrophy gains.
How can you make this practical during your training session (so it doesn’t take you 2 hours to train every session)? Your best bet is to superset opposing body parts, or upper and lower body, to maximize your time. For example, you could alternate chest and back exercises, or alternate between a compound leg exercise and upper body push or pull movement.
You might be wondering if your work capacity will be impaired by the longer rest periods? Great question and one the researchers investigated. They found muscular endurance was equal between the two groups, so taking 3-minute rest periods didn’t reduce the work capacity of the lifters compared to their 1-minute counterparts. This goes against a lot of popular thinking, as a 1-minute rest interval has to be the most common prescribed in gyms across the country.
If you’re struggling to get bigger or stronger (or both), and feel like you’re doing all the right things in the gym, the answer overcoming your plateau may be simpler than you think. This groundbreaking new research suggests adding 3-minute rest periods to your compound lifts to ramp up strength and hypertrophy gains. (Just think of how much down time you’ll have for mobility work!)
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS
Check out more articles in the "STRENGTH" SERIES...
Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha, is a powerful herb that’s been used for centuries in Ayurveda - traditional Indian medicine - to build strength, stamina and combat fatigue. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptagen herb, which helps the body maintain normal physiological function during times of physical or mental stress, builds resistance to future stressors, and promoter superior vitality and energy.1 Popularly known as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha has a vast array of pharmacological benefits; relaxing a stressed nervous system, lowering blood pressure, supporting superior immunity, reducing inflammation, promoting deep sleep, keeping your memory sharp and acts as an antioxidant.(2)
The question is, if you’re training hard in the gym and looking to add lean muscle can the ancestral benefits of ashwagandha help you build more muscle? Or is this yet another example of exaggerated folklore?
A recent study investigated the benefits of ashwagandha supplementation on 57 adult men, aged 18-50, to see if this “wonder herb” really has what it takes to make you stronger. After eight weeks of training, the ashwagandha group showed significantly greater increases in strength, in a one-repetition maximum for bench press and leg-extension compared to the placebo group (see Figure 1).(3) They also experienced greater muscle hypertrophy in the upper-body (not lower-body) as well as seeing superior improvements in body-composition.(3) (Bigger, stronger AND leaner… Not a bad combination!) The benefits didn’t stop there. The group supplementing with ashwagandha also displayed lower levels of muscular damage, suggesting faster recovery after training, as well as greater testosterone levels.(3) Faster recovery means an increased ability to ramp up training frequency, a great recipe for getting bigger and stronger. Furthermore, intense training tends to lower testosterone levels, making this adaptagen herb a great choice during peaking training phases.
Figure 1 -
If you’re a regular gym-goer or advanced trainee, the added support from adaptagen herb ashwagandha may help get stronger, accelerate recovery and keep your anabolic hormone testosterone in balance. Try adding 300mg of ashwagandha, twice daily for 4 to 8 weeks. If you’re a new trainee and hypertrophy is your goal, remember that achieving your ideal daily protein intake and total caloric intake is absolutely crucial to your success and should be your first priority, before adding the “bells and whistles” of supportive herbs.
It can be difficult to fit all your training into a busy schedule when striving for hypertrophy and lean muscle gains. Ashwagandha doesn’t just help you build muscle and recovery more quickly, but offers added benefits of building a better brain and overall health to offset the stressors of busy workdays, constant connectivity and lack of sleep. This ancestral herb does indeed pack a powerful punch.
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS
Check out more articles in the TESTOSTERONE SERIES...
- 4 Dietary Pitfalls That Lower Your Testosterone
- Testosterone - The New Recreational Drug
- Low Testosterone In Men
- Is A Vegetarian Diet Affecting Your Fertility
- The Best and Worst Foods For Sex
1) Abascal K, Yarnell E. Increasing vitality with adaptogens: multifaceted herbs for treating physical and mental stress. Altern Complement Ther. 2003;9:54–60.
2) Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Alternative Medicine Review. 2000;5:334–46
3) Wankhede S. et al.Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2015) 12:43.
Whey protein has been considered “king of the jungle” when it comes to protein supplement and building lean muscle, however new research some vegetarian proteins might be making up ground. If you’re an athlete and training intensely or an avid exerciser trying to lose weight and improve your health, achieving your daily protein intake with a morning smoothie, mid-afternoon snack or post-training can go a long way to realizing your goals.
But, if you currently use a whey protein supplement and struggle with chronic gas, bloating or abdominal discomfort after consuming shakes, then whey protein might not be for you. Sometimes symptoms are subtler; low energy, fatigue, constant congestion or frequent colds and flu are all signs you may not be reacting well to whey protein. This can be particularly problematic if you’re adding multiple whey shakes per day to your diet, common in athletes and bodybuilders, and the problems persist.
Most people just decide to “live with it” because they know whey protein is superior to vegetarian proteins when it comes to strength, power and hypertrophy. A new study suggests this might no longer be the case.
Over 160 men between the ages of 18-35 went through 12 weeks of upper-body training, consuming either 25g of pea protein, whey protein concentrate, or carbohydrate only drink (e.g. maltodextrin) twice daily. Their biceps muscles were tested pre, during and post-training over the course of the 12-week program to assess hypertrophy gains. The results were very surprising. It showed that pea protein was able to produce equivalent muscle gains compared to whey.1 Pea protein is contains 85% of proteins and is especially rich the branched-chain amino acid leucine that stimulates the genetic pathways that promote muscle protein synthesis.
If you struggle to digest whey protein effectively but stick to it thinking it’s markedly superior to vegetarian sources, it’s time to perhaps reconsider. Chronic gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, dark circles under your eyes, consistent nasal congestion, dry sinuses or inconsistent stool are all signs that whey protein may be causing you digestive disturbances. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s likely time for a change.
So, can pea protein outmuscle whey? Not quite, but this research shows it can perform "on par" with whey protein, which is quite a big win for typically inferior vegetarian proteins. Try switching over to pea protein formula for 4-8 week and see for yourself how it can upgrade your health and performance.
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS
Check out more articles in the "PROTEIN" SERIES...
- Very High Protein Diet For Fat Loss? Science Says Bodybuilders Were Right
- BCAAs - Key Amino Acids For Performance
- Can Creatine Boost Physical (And Mental) Performance?
- Glutamine - What It Is, Benefits & Natural Sources