Unconventional Bodybuilding (Pt.2)

Continuing on with our look at the misinformation and misunderstandings tied to conventional bodybuilding wisdom and offering better (unconventional) alternatives.

#2 – You Should Not Eat too Many Carbs, But Should Consume a lot of Protein.


Despite being disproved time and time again, the belief that carbs make you fat has stuck around like gum under a middle-schoolers desk.

carbohydrates, high carb, low protein, low fat, diet

In my favorite aisle in the supermarket…the cereal aisle!

This is a deep topic that deserves its own attention so I am going to avoid going into extensive detail.  I’ll just summarize why if anything you want to be carb heavy for the purpose of achieving the lean muscular look of a bodybuilder.  But first, let’s address protein.

Based on an extensive amount of research protein intake for someone who resistance trains or performs high intensity exercise need to only be 1.6 – 2.4g/kg of fat free mass.(1-6)   Or for those of you that eschew the metric system, around 1 gram per pound of lean body mass.  That means a 180lb. male with 10% body-fat would only need approximately 162g protein per day (even if in a caloric deficit).

Why high carb?

  • Because carbs are protein sparing.  In the absence of carbohydrates or low glycogen levels amino acids are called upon to do “double-duty” and supply energy needs.  This is very inefficient and leaves fewer to perform their primary job of repairing and building muscle tissue.
  • They along with ATP are the muscles primary source of energy for forceful muscle contractions.  Low carb diets leave little immediate energy available for intense anaerobic exercise.7
  • Carbs combined with water is what gives our muscles their fullness and hard appearance (more on this in Pt.3).

#3 – You Must do Cardio to get Shredded

I’ll do anything but cardio!


I am not saying to avoid it if you enjoy it. Or that it can’t assist in fat-loss—especially if you do HIIT or some form of high intensity cardio.8, 9  But the notion that 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise several times a week to get bodybuilder lean is nonsense.

Thermogenesis is the name of the game and the caloric expenditure needed to trigger can be achieved through exercise or nutrition.  But really, it’s all about nutrition.  You can do cardio to help put you in a caloric deficit or you can choose to consume less calories.  Skip on the four Oreo cookies and you just saved yourself 30 minutes on the elliptical.  I know which option I’m going with!

There’s only a few reasons I’ve come across why some people must absolutely implement cardio to assist with fat-loss:

  1. Flat Ass Syndrome – Nope, it has nothing to do with developing glutes to rival Jen Selter. This is all about the terrible scenario that plagues millions of people which is extreme inactivity and sedentary work.  Put another way, people basically sit on their ass allllllllllll day.  They go to work by sitting on their ass in a car or on a train.  They get to work and sit on their ass in front of a computer for 8-10 hours.  They go home the same way came into work…sitting on their ass.  And then when they get home they sit their ass in front of a television while checking Twitter updates on a tablet. If this resembles your life in some way, shape or form then a little cardio might be necessary to.
  2. Diet is inadequate – Meaning they just have not touched on the proper distribution of calories and macronutrients to make fat-loss consistent or they have not allotted enough TIME to lose the necessary amount of BF.  The latter is very problematic for those competing in bodybuilding or any type of physique contest because the harder one needs to push their diet and exercise to meet a deadline the more susceptible they become to muscle loss.The negative impact is twofold. First, even if you reach your desired weight or degree of leanness you will not look your best.  Second, you will have suppressed your metabolism making it harder to lose more body-fat and easier to regain body-fat.
  3. Metabolic Kick-start – Sometimes you can do everything right and the G.A.S. (General Adaptation Syndrome) goes and spoils it all.  The more easily your body adapts to your diet the tougher it becomes to keep your metabolism elevated.  Adding some HIIT or any form of higher intensity cardio can help provide a different stimulus to cause a metabolic response.

#4 – You Need to Use a lot of Supplements

That depends on what you define as “a lot”.  I personally use protein powder, Shaklee Vitalizer, and creatine and some BCAA’s during competition prep.  That’s pretty much it.

My pre-workout is typically a cup of black coffee or if Rich Fitter hooks me up with some pre-workout samples I might use that for a shot of energy instead.

The truth is, while natural bodybuilders are probably the largest consumer of supplements many of the top natural bodybuilders in the world don’t take all that many.  Things such as protein powders, multi-vitamins, Omega’s, creatine, and BCAA’s are pretty standard but beyond that most everything else tends to be unnecessary if your nutrition and training is on point.


  1. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Apr;21(2):97-104.
  2. Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body
    mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010; 42(2), 326-337.
  3. Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham LD, McClung JP, Rood JC, Carbone JW, Combs GF Jr, Young AJ. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013 Jun 5.
  4. Phillips SM, Moore DR, Tang JE. A critical examination of dietary protein requirements, benefits, and excesses in athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Aug;17 Suppl:S58-76.
  5. Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Apr;24(2):127-38. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2013-0054. Epub 2013 Oct 2.
  6. http://suppversity.blogspot.de/2013/06/evidence-from-metabolic-ward-16-24gkg.html
  7. Couto PG, Bertuzzi R, de Souza CC, Lima HM, Kiss MA, de Oliveira FR, Lima-Silva AE. High-CHO Diet Induces Faster Final Sprint and Overall 10,000 m Times of Young Runners. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2015 Apr 22. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, Crona KP, Kim MP, Moon JR. Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Mar;29(3):779-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000661.
  9. Greer BK, Sirithienthad P, Moffatt RJ, Marcello RT, Panton LB. EPOC Comparison Between Isocaloric Bouts of Steady-State Aerobic, Intermittent Aerobic, and Resistance Training. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2015 Feb 12:1-6. [Epub ahead of print]

15 Ways to Avoid Exercise Disaster

1. Routinely change the plane

I’m not talking about transferring airlines from one trip to the next, I’m talking about the angle—the plane of motion—you perform your exercises on.  While everyone loves to talk about the need to “change things up” to avert plateaus the real benefit of multi-angle training is minimizing wear and tear on the joints and soft tissue from performing the same exercise in the same plane of motion on a weekly basis.  How many rotator cuff surgeries could’ve been avoided if only those guys didn’t bench press every freakin’ week for 7 years straight?

2. See it as a stress

Like it or not, exercise is a negative stress on your body.  Anything that leads to you having near 100% of your strength and energy one minute and then 50% of that an hour later (I’m making up the percent drop in ability just to highlight the scenario) is a negative stress.  If your body is given enough time to rebound from this stress and defend against it by getting stronger and more resilient, great, you’re making progress.  If not then the stress compounds with all the other stressors in your life and your progress comes to an abrupt stop.

3. Weigh the risk

Training hard is a necessity for success; training stupid is not.  I’m cool with people doing Crossfit, Olympic lifting, and Powerlifting if they’re competing in those sports.  As a competitor you assume certain risk.  A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Condition Research indicated that “Injury rates with CrossFit training are similar to that reported in the literature for sports such as Olympic weight-lifting, power-lifting and gymnastics…”  The takeaway is this; if you’re exercising for health, fitness, appearance, or function then you need to consider the vehicle you use to get you there.

4. Get out of your head

Stopping getting in your own way!  There is no way to balance your bullshit unsubstantiated negative thoughts and beliefs with your desire for positive results.  When you’re in your head you’re dead.

5. Don’t try to outwork a lousy diet

Here’s a double dose of disaster.  You have no control over your nutrition so you accumulate more body fat and put additional stress on your body.  You try to make up for your poor nutrition by doing more exercise. “If I do sixty minutes of cardio a day on top of my weight training I can eat whatever I want.”  Not quite.  If you’re a quick learner you remember point #2 and realize that piling on the exercise only creates additional stress.  If your body can’t recover from this and other stress it will not function optimally.  If it’s not functioning optimally that means your metabolism is not functioning optimally.  The only thing your extra exercise will be burning is muscle tissue which further fucks up your situation.

6. Don’t assume more is better

For the exercise zealot your commitment is commendable.  However when progress begins to wane the answer is rarely to do more (see #2 and #7).  Most notable in young impressionable male lifters who believe the behemoths in the muscle magazines are “natural” and that fourteen plus hours of training a week is normal.

7. Don’t assume less is (always) more

At the opposite and less observed end of the spectrum are the minimalists performing less than thirty-minutes of exercise a week.  While something may be better than nothing and this amount of exercise could be enough to help maintain the functionality of someone over the age of seventy, don’t expect to achieve fitness superstardom while under-stimulating your muscles.   That said, the best approach is to always do the least amount of exercise necessary to achieve the best result or desired result.

8. Leave the warp speed to Star Trek

You walk into the gym for the first time and you see everyone pumping out reps as though you get an Olympic medal for how fast you complete your set.  So what do you do…?  That’s what I thought.  We all do this because we don’t know any better.  The repercussions of such thoughtless exercise performance is best explained in Reppin’ Like a Moron.

9. Get off the ball  

It is painful that the circus act resembling trend of functional training using the Bosu or fit ball, has not yet seen a bitter death.   There is nothing more “functional” than having well developed muscles that are strong through their natural range of motion.  Traditional weight training in a stable environment accomplishes more to this end than attempting to balance on an object.  Aside from the safety concerns the argument that such balancing acts involve more muscles is an exercise in displaced rationale (no pun).  Sure, you might involve more total muscles but you are also shifting focus away from the one or two that the exercise is intended to target.  Strengthening of these muscles is better accomplished in a stable environment where they can be overloaded.  As far as the “functionality” aspect.  Unless you’re part of Cirque du’ Solei none of your everyday movements or activities requires spectacular balance.  (My sister was a gymnast and I was not, yet somehow I’ve been able to function in life just as effectively as her…hmmm).

10. Trading time for work

The time you spend working out is not a measure of the quality of your workout.  Take away your walks to the water cooler between sets, the conversation you’re having with your training partner or friend, the two warm-up sets for every exercise, or the time spent letting everyone on Facebook and Twitter know you’re at the gym, and how much time is spent on productive exercise or sets that actually have the potential to stimulate results.  You can train six hours a week or sixty minutes and produce the same exact result if the “quality time” is the same.

11. Better on paper

When I say “better on paper” I don’t mean what the stats say about who should win the game between the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns.  Football fans knows that regardless of who should win according to the stats, it’ doesn’t always turn out that way.  So why track them?  Because it gives you a better overall view of what areas need improvement and they can help you formulate a better game plan.  Having a running record of your exercise performance or nutrition helps to uncover clues about what’s working and what’s not.  You can save yourself years of poor results simply by making sure you’re getting better on paper.  You can measure your weight, your reps, your time under tension, your body weight, body composition, energy levels, etc.

12. Same thing, too often

The body is a pretty extraordinary machine.  One of its most remarkable features is its ability to adapt to external demands.  Everything from building muscle, to increasing strength, to having greater endurance, and a host of other fitness related outcomes is an adaptation to the demands we impose on ourselves through exercise.   So good is this ability to adapt that after repeated exposures we look for the most efficient way to deal with these demands.  And this consequently becomes the source of the fitness enthusiasts’ frustration regarding a lack of progress.  What I mean is, at a certain point our bodies get accustomed to the demands of exercise, especially when it’s performed the same way week after week, and it doesn’t sense a need to add more muscle or increase strength, or whatever outcome you’re chasing.  However before you think I’m on some Tony Horton P90x bullshit read my Holy Shift post.

13. Crowning a variable as King

You ever have one of those clingy girlfriends or boyfriends?  They need to constantly be around you and damn you if you’re not doing something every 5 minutes to make them feel special.  They latch onto you like I latch onto my shotgun and NRA membership card.  We know that being clingy is unhealthy yet some people insist on clinging to a certain training variable, put it on a pedestal and claim it as King of all Variables.  Volume is not any more important than intensity, than intensity is any more important than frequency, or frequency any more important than volume, and on and on.  The key is to figure out when a little more or a little less of any or all of them is necessary.

14. Choosing cardio over weights

At this point this one should not even need to be listed.  But a quick observation of what the people pounding away in the cardio section look like compared to the ones (seriously training) in the weight training area tells me that some people still haven’t gotten the memo.  The short of it—since it’s been written about a hundred bazillion times—is that cardio in excess (HIIT does not get lumped in here) is a muscle wasting metabolism killer.  Properly performed weight training is a muscle building, ass sculpting, metabolism enhancing, osteoporosis preventing, anti-aging, energy producing, sex drive heightening juggernaut.

15. Comparison with others

You are an individual…you have your own set of advantages…your own limitations…your own needs.  No matter what you do, or how hard you try, you will never under any circumstances be that person over there.  So why are you comparing yourself to them?  Uncover your individual needs and satisfy them…not someone else’s.


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