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Health & Fitness Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making


  • MYTH #1:


THIS ONE GETS TOSSED AROUND a lot. A Genetics are a favorite scapegoat for people who can’t build enough muscle or lose enough fa But what are they, exactly, and how much do they actually influence your results?

    The word genetics comes from a Greek word meaning “origin,” and it refers to the molecular structure and function of our genes. Genes are molecules in our DNA that provide instructions for the creation of special types of proteins that then tell each of our cells what to do, such as build muscle, make bone, carry nerve signals, and so forth.

    While our bodies all contain the same types of genes, our programming is different. For instance, the cells that form my iris were programmed to be a certain shade of blue, whereas yours were programmed to be a different shade, or a different color altogether. This variability in programming applies to every physiological activity in our bodies.

    So yes, your genes determine things like which muscle groups tend to be your strong points, your natural hormone levels, how much fat you tend to hold on your body, and where you tend to store it, but they don’t alter the basic physiological processes by which your body builds muscle or loses fat. So long as you don’t have a disease directly impairing these functions, you can get into amazing shape if you know what you’re doing. Period.

    I’ve helped quite a few hardgainers to gain 30, 40, and even 50 pounds in 1–2 years of training and eating correctly (and with no drugs). I’ve helped scores of men and women who were convinced that they were genetically programmed to be fat get in the best shape of their lives by targeting and changing the many little things they were doing wrong.

    If you’re afraid that your body is genetically destined to be small, weak, or fat, you can lay those fears to rest. Your body contains the same genetic programs as mine that result in muscle growth and fat loss. In fact, your body might be able to do certain functions relating to these things better than mine. If I’ve made better progress than you with my physique, it’s only because I have a better understanding of how to kick those programs into gear—that is, I know more about proper training, eating, and resting. That’s it.

    Now, genetics can make parts of the process easier or harder. Some people have naturally high testosterone and growth hormone levels, which means faster muscle growth and an overall leaner physique. Some people’s bodies mobilize fat stores more effectively than others, making weight loss an easier endeavor. Genetics also play a role in the shape of your muscles. Not all guys can have that perfect square chest or ridiculous bicep peak, and not all women can have a gravity-defying, perfectly round butt.

    But none of these things are limitations. Who cares if you gain muscle or lose fat more slowly than someone else? As long as you can see regular improvements and get to where you want to be, the added time is irrelevant. Regardless of the “quality” of your muscle-building and fat-burning genetic programming, you can build the body of your dreams in a matter of a few years and maintain it for the rest of your life.

    And it’s no big deal if you can’t have the same aesthetics as your favorite fitness cover model. You can still look awesome and, more importantly, feel great, and that’s what it’s all about.

MYTH #2:


THESE DAYS, HAVING SIX-PACK ABS is basically synonymous with being sexy and in shape. For men, this means a washboard stomach. The goal is a little different for women: less defined but flat, lean, and toned.

    Fitness magazines are constantly touting new ab workouts. Fancy new supplements are released every month that promise to kick your fat burning into high gear and help you get a lean, rippling stomach. There are quite a few “ab gurus” online selling eBooks on the secrets of getting a six-pack. At first glance, the belief that ab training gives you great abs seems to make sense. That’s basically true with any other muscle in the body, so it must also hold true for the abs, right?

    Well, not quite.

    While direct ab training will grow the muscle over time, just as with any muscle, you’re not just going for bigger ab muscles—you’re going for visibility. That is, if you have a beautifully developed set of abs hiding under a layer of fat, you just look fat.

    A study conducted by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville demonstrated this very clearly with 24 healthy adults1. A control group did nothing different, and the other did 140 repetitions of ab work 5 days per week for 6 weeks. After the training period, the ab training group saw no change in body weight, body fat percentage, abdominal circumference, or abdominal skinfold measurements. Although their abs were stronger, they looked exactly the same.

    So the good news is you don’t have to train your abs for hours and hours every week to have a six pack. In fact, you don’t have to train them at all. What do you have to do?

    If you’re a guy, the mystical secret to a sexy stomach is to get your body fat percentage under 12%. Yup, that’s it. When your body fat percentage approaches 10%, your abs become clearly visible whether you directly train them or not. If you’re a woman, getting your body fat percentage under 20% will get you a flat, lean, toned stomach. That’s all there is to it (although exact numbers vary by body type, of course).

    While reducing body fat percentage requires nothing more than making sure your body burns more energy every day than it gets from food, there are a few little tricks that have been scientifically proven to speed up the loss of not just fat, but abdominal fat in particular. The first is known as fasted training.


    When you eat food, your body breaks it down into various substances, one of which is glucose, or blood sugar. Your body also releases the hormone insulin, which tells your liver, muscles, and fat tissue to take the glucose from the blood and store it.

    Your liver and muscles store the glucose as a substance known as glycogen, and your fat cells store it as a substance known as triglycerides. The storage of glycogen expands the size of the muscle cells, and the storage of triglycerides expands the fat cells, which in turn expands your waistline.

    you’re in this fed state, fat burning does not occur2. Your body uses the glucose in the blood for all its energy needs and stores the excess. Depending on how much you eat, this state can last for several hours3.

    But, as the nutrients recently eaten are absorbed, insulin levels decline, and the body senses that its post-meal energy is running out. It then shifts toward burning fat stores to meet its energy needs. Day after day, it juggles these states, storing nutrients you eat and then burning its stores when the supplies run out.

    When insulin is at a baseline level, your body is in a fasted state and therefore relies on its energy stores. For a moderate-sized meal, it takes 2–3 hours for your body to enter this state.

    When exercise is performed in this state, fat loss is accelerated4. Weight training in a fasted state is particularly effective5. As an added bonus, research has shown that weightlifting in a fasted state results in an improved anabolic response to a post-workout meal6.

A fasted state is also great for that six pack because it increases blood flow in the abdominal region, resulting in more stubborn fat mobilization7. And it gets even better: Fasted training first thing in the morning has an added benefit since fasting for longer than 6 hours increases your body’s ability to burn fat8.

   There is one significant drawback: accelerated breakdown of muscle tissue. Fortunately, this is simple to prevent. Supplementing with BCAAs 10–15 minutes before training will suppress muscle breakdown during your workout9.