It was only recently the Institute of Medicine discovered a key nutrient supporting a myriad of essential health functions. While your liver can produce modest amounts, your diet provides the overwhelming intake of this crucial vitamin. If you're looking to take your performance, or health, to the next level, getting enough choline into your nutritional arsenal is an absolute must. Unfortunately, there is a 90% chance you're deficient in this essential vitamin, compromising how well you perform at work, at home and in the gym.Read More
It seems like 2017 is the year of the ketogenic diet. A new study examined the impacts of a 6-week ketogenic diet on body composition, health and fitness markers in healthy middle-aged men. So, if you’re active and want to take a glimpse into the effects of adopting a keto diet may have on your health and performance, here is your chance to take a sneak peek. Let’s review
Forty-two men in their late 30s were recruited for this 6-week study. They were fed a non-calorically restricted ketogenic diet – comprised of 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbs - and assessed for ketosis using urinary testing.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.