Have you ever seen ads for a program promising 20 pounds of muscle in 8 weeks? Or maybe a friend who has a secret diet that helped him pack on pounds of muscle instantaneously? Well, there’s a reason that those ads promising 20 pounds of muscle in 8 weeks have way more views than transformations … they aren’t possible.

Muscle gain is an enjoyable process, but it can be disheartening to compare yourself to these wild claims online. Yes, it is possible to gain 20 pounds naturally in 8 weeks. However, the lion’s share of it will not be muscle.

The goal of building muscle is not to see a certain number on the scale. The goal of building muscle is to look and feel strong. Thus, you need to focus on gaining lean muscle weight and not just weight by any means necessary.

How much muscle can I reasonably expect to gain?

Strong muscular man measuring his bicep growth using a measuring tape
Vladimir Gappov

A man can naturally add about 40-50 pounds of muscle throughout his life. A woman can add about 20-25 pounds of muscle. During the first year, men can add about 2 pounds of muscle per month and women can add 1 pound of muscle per month. In year 2, that halves to 1 pound of muscle per month for men and .5 pounds of muscle for women. The next year it halves again to .5 pounds of muscle per month for men and .25 pounds of muscle for women. After year 4, you can expect to add 1-3 pounds of muscle with proper diet and training.

So, instead of focusing on gaining weight to hit those fantastical numbers, let us help you build a realistic road map. Our coaches will work with you to help you build lean muscle mass with a custom diet and training program.

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What is a macro-based diet?

Man eating a salad at while at work and counting his calories and tracking his macros

Diet culture is ever changing with slogans, phrases, and silver bullets. There are so many passing fads and phrases that it’s difficult to tell what’s real. You may have heard the phrase “macro-based dieting” and presumed that it’s another marketing tactic (especially if it shows you how to fit a slice of pizza into your diet). Lucky for you, macro-based dieting and macros in general are not a fad. In fact, macros are the foundation of every diet you follow.

Macros are short for macronutrients. These are nutrients that your body needs in large amounts to function properly. The three main macronutrients are proteins, carbs, and fats. Proteins and carbs provide an average of 4 calories per gram and fats provide an average of 9 calories per gram. Breaking these molecules down is how your body gets energy, or calories, from food.

Each macronutrient has a specific function in the body. Protein helps build muscles, repair tissue, and hormones. Carbs help provide energy to your cells, fuels your brain, prevents muscle loss, can help you feel full, and can aid in digestion. Fats help provide energy, assist in vitamin absorption, protect your organs, and assist in cell growth.

A macro-based diet is a diet in which you consume a certain amount of protein, carbs, and fats per day to reach your goal. Your macros can be shaped around your fitness goal, your age, your experience, your workouts, or your food preference. Since all foods are made up of macros, a macro-based diet helps you understand how certain foods can be adapted to fit your goals. A macro-based diet is ideal for someone interested in achieving sustainable weight loss or for someone who wants to fit their favorite foods into their diet.

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Can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

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Everyone has different reasons for going to the gym. Some may want to feel healthier. Some may want to excel in a certain sport. Some may want to be able to fit into a favorite outfit. Despite the plethora of reasonings, most people new to the gym share a common goal… to build muscle and lose fat.

This makes sense. If you are just starting in the gym, your goal physique probably has more muscle and less fat than you currently have. Therefore, you WILL need to build muscle and lose fat. However, your fitness journey to your goals is not a straight path.

Think of driving to the mall. You understand that your house is the starting point, and the mall is the end point. You can draw a straight line between the two. Does this mean that you can drive straight through your neighbor’s yard and make a direct path to the mall? The Homeowner’s Association and most of society would say no. Reaching your fitness goals is the same way.

While you can burn fat and build muscle under certain circumstances, you are going to need to make a series of planned turns. To gain weight and muscle, you need to be in a caloric surplus. To burn fat and lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit. If you try to build muscle and lose fat, you are trying to eat more and less than you burn simultaneously. This is akin to going diagonally towards the mall instead of taking left and right turns.

Now, there are certain conditions wherein you can build muscle and lose fat naturally at the same time: if you are new to training, if you are obese, and if you are previously trained and returning from a break. Even then, it is best to focus on one goal at a time.

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Do I need to cut out carbs to lose weight?

Muscular man cutting a loaf of fresh baked bread in his kitchen with a bread knife
George Rudy

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve undoubtedly been told you need to “cut out the carbs”. The reasoning is simple. Carbs increase blood sugar levels and cause a spike in insulin, the storage hormone. This insulin spike is the reason that carbs are cast out and labeled the devil. Well, we’re here to play devil’s advocate.

First, let’s tackle the role of carbohydrates in your body. Carbs help fuel your body’s processes and are the preferred fuel source for your brain. Carbs can be stored in your muscles, making them look full and providing you with energy during your workouts. Fiber, a form of carbohydrate, can also help you with digestion, regulate cholesterol, and help you feel full. Plus, carbs can prevent you from losing significant muscle mass during a cut.

Fat loss or gain isn’t controlled by insulin spikes. Fat loss or gain happens in the context of caloric restriction. If you are eating less than you burn, you will lose fat. Yes, even if you are eating pasta and bread every day! That is why you can see a bodybuilder or sprinter who eats 300 grams of carbs a day yet has washboard abs. It’s also why someone who eats very low carb diets can still have a high amount of body fat.

Let our coaches help you have your cake and eat it too. We can create the perfect plan that fits the dieting style that’s right for you. There are no shortcuts, but there is a clear path to your goals.

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Is eating more meals per day really better for my metabolism?

Meal plan broken down into six meals according to an individual's macro and nutrition plan
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You’ve probably heard some variation of the myth that you need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your body in fat burning mode. Some claim this stokes the metabolic fire. Others claim it keeps your body out of starvation mode. Whatever the reasoning, they are wrong. Eating every 2 to 3 hours does not increase your fat burning or total fat loss.

The myth that eating every 2 to 3 hours is based on the thermic effect of food (or TEF). This is the increased metabolic rate you experience after consuming a meal. Thus, some believe that if one meal increases your metabolic rate then more meals will increase your metabolic rate even more! Unfortunately, this is not true.

TEF is based on your caloric intake and is a percentage of the calories consumed. Different macronutrients require more calories to metabolize, but on average TEF will account for 10% of your diet. So, if you are eating 2,000 calories in 2 meals or 6, the TEF would still be 200 calories.

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Are my weekends messing up my gains?

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You’ve worked hard all week. You’ve meal prepped Monday through Friday. You’ve hit the gym after work and gotten all of your cardio in. You’re feeling good and like you’ve made some progress. So now it’s time to celebrate!

You might end Friday night with some pizza and Netflix to wind down with a pint of your favorite ice cream. Then Saturday comes around which means it’s time for brunch and some afternoon Summer drinks. This easily warps into wings, more pizza, drinks, and any cold treats you can get your hands on. Finally, it’s Sunday and you don’t feel so good. You start to meal prep and promise yourself it’s time to get back on track. At least until next Friday…

Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your weekend, especially in summer! Fitness is a lifestyle which should give you more energy to do the things you like to do. However, if you’re trying to lose weight and look leaner, you can easily reverse all of your progress from the week!

Say you are a 28-year-old 200 lb. guy who works a normal desk job. You workout in the gym for an hour every weekday. You want to shred up and lose about 20 pounds. Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (the amount of energy you need to maintain your current weight with your current lifestyle) is around 2800 calories. All week you eat 2000 calories to help you reach your goal. It’s hard, but you do it!

Then, Friday and Saturday you have the days we described above. Friday you enjoy a whole pizza and ice cream, adding an astounding 3,000 calories to your day. That equates to 5,000 calories for Friday. Saturday, you only eat two meals, but each are 2,000 calories plus 500 calories in drinks. That equates to a total of 4500 calories. Sunday morning you have a large breakfast to feel better. Combine this with a last hoorah meal before the week of 2,000 calories starts and you are at 3000 calories for the day. As you can see, these numbers are way higher than your weekly 2000 calorie goal!

Weight loss requires a caloric deficit. This means you need to eat less than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). If you eat the above meals (2000 calories Monday through Thursday and a no-holds-bar weekend of eating) your caloric average comes out to 2928 calories per day. If your TDEE is 2800 calories, you won’t be losing fat. In fact, you may be slowly gaining weight!

Instead of suffering all week and trying to make up for it on the weekend, the above person should try increasing his calories to 2400 calories per day. This will allow him to fit more of his favorite foods in during the week and avoid the binging temptation on the weekend.

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Can one size fit all for diet and exercise?

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Do you have a favorite athlete or action star? You watch in awe as they dominate the field or bust through a door to save the day at the last minute. Then, when you see someone post their workout or diet, you immediately think “I’m going to eat, train, and look just like them!” Well, unfortunately, that plan can backfire big time.

There is no perfect diet for everyone. There are no special fruits or exercises that, when added in the same amount to everyone’s diet and exercise plan, will garner the perfect outcome. It is much more nuanced than that.

Imagine you are giving directions to a nice vacation home to people who live all around the world. Would you give the same directions to everyone? No. You would look at where they are starting and recommend different modes of travel so they can reach the destination safely and in a timely manner. The same must happen for diet and exercise.

A well-seasoned athlete or action star will have different experience, muscle mass, activity, and a plethora of other variables that will make their needs different from yours. For example, Michael Phelps famously ate 10,000 calories while training for the Olympics while staying very lean. However, if the average person ate 10,000 calories, they would end up gaining an incredible amount of fat.

This doesn’t just apply to diet, either! For instance, barbell squats are an excellent exercise to build quad, hamstring, and glute strength. Yet, some people may have injuries or lack the equipment/confidence to perform the exercise. Does this mean that they can’t build a strong lower body? Or that they should “push through the pain”? Absolutely not!

The perfect diet and exercise plan is one that you can follow safely and effectively to reach your goal. There is no one best approach for anyone. That’s why we work with each of our client’s to learn about their needs, diet and exercise preferences, and goals to craft the perfect customized diet and training plan.

So…I Can’t Get Abs?

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Washboard abs. A flat stomach. The holy grail of the fat loss fitness journey. But how do you get those abs?

For some people it’s as easy as waking up in the morning. They seem to eat whatever they want and still have your dream midsection. Is it genetics? Or is it a specific ab routine?

Well, the answer is both…and neither.

First, let’s talk about genetics. Your origin and insertion points, or where the muscles connect to your bone, determine your overall ab and muscle shape. These are genetic and cannot be changed with exercise. Furthermore, your genetic makeup helps determine where your body stores the most fat. Some may store fat on their lower back, arms, and legs while their stomach remains lean. Others may store most of the weight on their stomach, glutes, and chest. Your genetic makeup can play a role in how your midsection looks, but it does not mean you can’t get abs like the lucky few with great stomach genetics!=

So, should you move to a better ab routine? Working your abs can help strengthen your core, improve your fitness, and bring in your waist. Planks and hollow holds can work the transverse abdominis muscles otherwise known as the corset muscle. This muscle wraps around your waist, stabilizes your spine, and can help you maintain a tighter waist. However, no exercise can help you selectively burn fat off your midsection.

The answer is to train your core, choose a diet and training program that helps you maintain lean muscle and burn fat, and not base your results on others. Everyone’s body is different and what works for one person may not work for another. That is why it’s important to work with a coach who can learn your specific needs and craft the perfect program for you!

Am I Waiting Too Long Between Meals?

Man intermittent fasting and timing his meals and feeding windows

If you’ve talked to any hardcore fitness enthusiast over the past twenty years, you’ve probably heard some variation of the myth “you need to eat every two years or you’ll go catabolic!”. Now, catabolic refers to the breakdown and loss of muscle tissue. That’s definitely not good if you want to get more toned and stronger! Well, not only is catabolism or breakdown of muscle a necessary and ongoing process, eating every two hours may be worse for muscle building!

It may seem intuitive that eating more often would give your body more frequent materials to build muscle. However, our bodies seem to undergo a protein refractory period. This means that after a meal spikes muscle protein synthesis (a process that creates protein to rebuild a repair muscle), it cannot be spiked again for several hours. This period can last 3-4 hours after a high protein meal. So, even though you are eating a high quality protein meal, you may not be getting much benefit from it after only two hours. If possible, try spacing your protein heavy meals 3-4 hours apart for the best muscle gains!

Interested in having a plan created for you and your goals? Let our professional coaches design the optimal eating schedule, meals, and workouts for you.

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Do I Need To Cheat To Win?

Man eating late night cold pizza in front of a refrigerator as his aging metabolism slows down
Kopytin Georgy

You’ve been eating “clean” all week but not seeing many results. You keep cutting calories, cutting carbs, keeping added sodium low, etc. but end up just feeling tired and weaker. That’s when your friend on instagram posts his weekly cheat meal. His caption claims that this burger, loaded with fats and sodium, and a large plate of fries is the secret to breaking through your weight loss plateau. Could it really be that you need to cheat on your diet to succeed?!

Sadly, no. A high calorie cheat meal will not trick your body into burning more fat.

All fat loss is controlled by calories in versus calories out. Adding an extra 2,000 calories above your metabolic needs will not shift your body into overdrive fat burning mode.

Instead, you are overly starving yourself during the week. This leads to poor energy, fatigue, possible muscle loss, and feeling “flat”. Then, the inclusion of a large cheat meal helps fill up your glycogen, increase your energy, and provides a much needed mood boost.

A better course of action is to choose a moderate deficit that you can adhere to all week, avoiding the extreme effects of over restriction. This doesn’t mean that you can’t reduce calories earlier in the week to enjoy a burger, it just means you aren’t expecting a magic change to your diet.

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