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testosterone

Hack Your Sleep

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If your sleep quality sucks so will your workouts. And your recovery. And your sex life. And your dietary decisions. And your mood. Yea, sleep  is pretty damn important.

Let me tell you a story.

My last two years of college I lived with 6 other guys. It was a blast; however, sleep quality was piss-poor. Specifically, I remember a heat wave during my last year of college. It was July with temperatures 95-105 for about a week straight, with heat indexes hanging out around 110.  Working two jobs, one which was outside all day, and then coming home to “chill” with 6+ dudes was brutal. We didn’t have air conditioning and it stayed about 90 degrees and humid inside all night long, it was as much fun as licking the inside of a toilet bowl. Never, ever have I appreciated the benefits of quality sleep.

Sleep is essential to many of the fundamental attributes for physical health, mental performance, and overall health. Aim to get at least 6 hours, as growth hormone and testosterone peak during sleep.

Plain and Simple, you need at least 6 hours of quality sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with:

  • increased body fat

  • higher stress levels

  • increased hunger

  • smaller muscles

  • less sex and sexual dysfunction

  • irritable behavior

  • earlier death

None of this sounds good to me, so getting high quality sleep is a huge priority. Is it really necessary to check your emails again?

No, F^*% that.

I’d rather have my muscle, intelligence, sanity, abs, and life.

As many as 30% of adults sleep less than six hours per night, the minimum you should try to get per night. Any less than six hours of sleep per night and your testosterone begins to plummet, growth hormone output decreases, and cortisol spikes. Sold on sleep?

Here are 7 Tips to Maximize Your Sleep

1. Turn your room into a cave

In order to fall asleep the body produces melatonin, a hormone that aids the body in relaxing enough to sleep. However, many of todays technologies such as cell phones, alarm clocks, tablets, and emit blue light that disrupts natural circadian rhythms.

For those who aren’t familiar, the circadian rhythm refers to our internal, 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes. To optimize melatonin production avoid screens 1-2 hours before bed and instead, opt for a book or other relaxing activity and cover all sources of light in your room.

2. Avoid Caffeine

Coffee and caffeinated drinks are great. I drink them when I need an extra boost for workouts or increased alertness early in the morning. When used correctly, caffeine can yield very productive days. Issue is, caffeine has a 6 hour half-life.

Unfortunately, this means that cup of Joe you slurp down at 10am still has caffeine flowing through your body when you’re prepping for sleep and trying to wind down in the evening. You probably don’t even feel the affects causes issues because caffeine disrupts sleep quality through decreased REM sleep, the deep sleep that your body utilizes to recuperate physically and emotionally.

3. Turn down the thermostat

This one takes me back to college. We had a brutal heat wave in Wisconsin (yes this happens), it was 95-105 for about a week straight with a heat index 110+. This would be bearable, but I happened to live in a stuffy house without A/C filled with 6 other guys. In other words, it sucked and I woke up every morning drenched in sweat and dehydrated.

Although sleeping temperature is highly variable from person to person, most scientists agree that slightly cooler temperatures than normal promote deeper sleep patterns.

4.Protein Before Bed

“What happened to eat after 8 gain weight?”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is a fallacy. When looking to build an awesome body it’s important to emphasize protein. My favorite before bed is cottage cheese, as the slow digesting casein proteins will provide amino acids to the muscles for hours to come. In addition,
Tryptophan, the amino acid popularized by post-Thanksgiving naps facilitates serotonin production. Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter that assists in sleep regulation.

5. Crush Carbs At Night

First protein at night, now carbs? Eric are you crazy?

Calm down junior, there is nothing wrong with carbs at night.

In fact, placing a bigger emphasis on carbohydrates at night will greatly benefit you sleep quality. Similar to tryptophan, carbohydrates facilitate seratonin production, aiding in improved sleep quality.

6. Have a Cheat Day

Cheat days during a diet are not only beneifical for your sanity but also for hormones such as leptin to keep results coming and sleep quality on par. Keeping consistent leptin levels is paramount  because leptin sends a message to stop eating when your body has fueled up enough. When at a caloric or sleep deficit, leptin decreases, making it more likely to overeat.
In short, this sucks.

When leptin decreases so does your rate of fat loss, which is why your diet may stall. By using a cheat day you can increase your leptin to spark fat burning. In conjunction with this increase in leptin levels the increased calories in your body will increase serotonin production, aiding in sleep quality similar to a huge holiday meal.

7. Set an evening routine

Our bodies like consistency due the consistency of ciradian rhythms. Try unwinding, avoiding P.M. stimulants, stimulating lights from electronics, and practice relaxation techniques such as stretching and meditation. In essence, instead of checking email and watching Mean Girls opt for a book and a comfy chair in a quiet area.

Your body will increase melatonin and serotonin production for higher quality, more restful sleep.

Quality sleep is the most overlooked and neglected factor when it comes to health, body composition improvement, and athletic development. Sleep is your time to improve and reap the benefits of your hard work in the kitchen and gym, maximize sleep to maximize your gains.

How can you improve your sleep? Do you have any tips or tricks?

Top 10 Tips to Add Muscle

tips to add muscle, high performance exercises


I’m going to keep this simple and straight forward.  If you’re not building muscle, you’re probably missing the basics.

1. Eat Big to Get Big

You can’t put 60 miles worth of gasoline and drive 120 miles can you? Providing your body with the essential calories and nutrients is rule #1. You will be working hard in the gym, you not only need to provide enough calories to fuel your workout, but you also need a caloric surplus in order to gain weight. For each meal aim for 1-2 fistfuls of protein (30g or so), 2 fists of vegetables, healthy fats, and carbs such as sweet potatoes or rice. Track what you eat using a site such as livestrong.com and consider reading up on carb cycling to maximize muscle and minimize fat.  Supershakes are a convenient and easy way to pack your body full of quality nutrients for muscle growth.

2. Progressive Overload

To build muscle you must follow the laws of progressive overload. You must continuously work to add weight to the bar, increase the speed you move the bar, increase the number of reps, or decrease rest periods each time you set foot in the gym. Give your body a reason to grow by challenging to a new level every chance you get (within reason), repeating the same workout pound for pound and word for word will not help yield the gains you are looking for.

 

3. Stick with Compound Exercises

Mixing in endless amounts of curls, leg extensions, calf raises, and lateral raises will do little more than delay your recovery and hinder your progress. Stick with squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses, chin ups, dips, hip thrusts, and rows to build a well rounded physique. Major structural exercises like these will work the most muscle mass and stimulate the biggest release of testosterone to fuel your muscle growth. You don’t need gimmicky machines, cable crossovers, and shiny new equipment to get the job done; they are often a waste of time. Pay your dues with a barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, and your own bodyweight to move your body the way it was built to move.

 

4.  Train Heavy

Training heavy is becoming a lost art in many gyms. I see so many people training every exercise at 12-15 reps chasing the pump that it makes me sick. Most individuals tend to follow body part splits with crazy high volume and rep ranges that only work for beginners and/or steroid users. Most drug free lifters make phenomenal gains by putting more weight on the bar and focusing on rep ranges between 3-8. Anything over 8 reps really begins developing endurance unless you can handle significant weight for reps. Bottom Line: If you add 50 pounds to your squat or a deadlift in a year you will be bigger, add weight and see magic happen!

 

5. Get In Get Out

Workouts are meant to stimulate, not annihilate the body. Get in a solid warm up and try to complete your workout in 45 minute or less. You are in the gym to work out and see results, not socialize in-between sets on the preacher curl. Get in, get out, eat, and repeat.

6. Sleep 8+ Hours

You need to recovery to grow, and optimal growth and recovery comes with getting 8+ hours of sleep per night. Sleeping well and long will increase your testosterone naturally while giving you more energy and making you more efficient throughout the day. Turn off the TV and get some sleep

7. Foam Roll

Staying healthy and recovering from workouts is absolutely vital to making consistent progress in the gym. Foam roll troubled areas such as the shoulders, pecs, IT bands, calves, and piriformis to improve movement quality. Pick up a foam roller or use tennis balls, baseballs, softballs (ouch), medicine balls to break up scar tissue. If you are financially able try to get a deep tissue massage once per week.

 

8. Incorporate SOME higher reps into your training

The emphasis on your training still needs to be on lower repetition multi-joint exercises to build muscle. However, increasing reps on occasion to 10-15 reps will increase your muscles ability to store glycogen and water. This will add volume to the muscle and increase their size. This is known as non-functional hypertrophy. If you goal is solely aesthetics and not strength/power mix 1-2 exercises per workout with a higher volume. Just be aware this can compromise your performance on big lifts!

 

9. Keep a Workout Journal

Writing down your workouts and tracking your progress is incredibly important to make consistent gains in the gym. How in the heck will you know when you have a new PR, or when you increased your reps by 5 on your squat from 2 months ago? Keeping a detailed workout journal will show you exactly what has worked in the past and what has not. Your workouts will improve and so will your knowledge of how your body reacts to different workouts.

 

10. De-load every 6-8 weeks

De-loading the muscles and nervous system every month or two will keep you healthy and mentally fresh in the long term. Muscle building is not an overnight ordeal, it takes years to build and smart programming. Take a complete week off on occasion, drop your intensity, or your volume for a week to allow joints, ligaments, and the nervous system to health up.

The Top 10 Tips to Add Muscle

Lift heavy, eat, sleep, repeat to get the gains you want. By taking these tips and focusing on 1 at a time until it becomes common practice will bring your training and physique to where it wants to be.
And if you’re looking for a program to get rollin,’ I’ve got you covered here.

Get Your 12 Week HFT Mass Program Today

Hormones and Body fat Distribution

getting back into shape, Fat Deposits and Hormone Correlations

Dude…is it true all this beer is giving me man boobs?

I keeled over and nearly spit my beer all over the table. I was 21 years old, an undergrad in kinesiology and kickin’ back a few beers on thirsty Thursday with my friend Chris.

“No, I mean, seriously. I heard beer has compounds that mimic estrogen. So drinking a lot of beer throws guys hormones off and gives us man boobs. Is this right?  At the time, I wasn’t sure. Three beers deep I was tipsy and didn’t really care. In hindsight maybe I was being a jerk. But then again, I wasn’t completely sure.

Do hormone imbalances play a role in where we store body fat? Is excess cortisol the reason some of us have stubborn belly fat that won’t go away?

Is excess cortisol the reason some of us have stubborn belly fat that won’t go away?
Taken a step further, by naturally working to improve hormone levels can we get rid of stubborn body fat to become stronger, leaner, and look better naked?

The more clients I work with, the more I believe hormones play a significant role in body fat and body fat distribution. Before going any further I must note that I am not a doctor. This is no attempt to treat any medical condition; rather, to paint a picture of a few possible reasons for stubborn body fat. That said, using well-planned resistance training, small tweaks in your diet, and avoiding environmental toxins you can potentially improve natural hormone levels for less fat and more muscle. I put together a free guide showing you what to do. Grab it here.


Here are some common issues and questions that my clients bring up when coming in for body composition testing, typically done as skinfold measurements and body circumference measurements.

“My arms and chest are toned and lean, but I just can’t seem to shake this stubborn lower belly flab, why am I lean everywhere but my stomach?”

“I can’t get rid of this stupid fat around my hips, it looks like a muffin top!”

“ Why am I developing man boobs  fat on my chest muscles?”

I’ve heard every combination of slang terminology for fatty deposits around the body. As funny as some of them may be they represent real, common problems that can wreak havoc on both physique and confidence.

Having body fat tested is a great way to get a reliable, quantifiable idea of your current body composition and is recommended for everyone. If this is not an immediate option, make it a priority. Check out this post on how to estimate your body fat percentage based on what you see in the mirror.

Skinfold measurements will provide vital information to track body composition with changes in activity level and diet. These numbers from a skinfold also provide important data that can signify correlations between important body altering hormones in the body and skinfold measures.

Here are the most common trouble spots along with necessary interventions and strategies to correct the issue:

High abdominal Skinfold

  • Physiological Correlation: High Stress, High Cortisol
  • Intervention: Cortisol Suppression, Stress Control
  • Potential Strategies: Frequent protein meals, improved sleep, BCAA’s, stress reducing techniques such as meditation.

High Suprailliac Skinfold (hip region)

  • Physiological Correlation: Large Insulin Release w/meals (Likely too much sugar)
  • Intervention: Control Carb intake and greatly reduce processed foods
  • Potential Strategies: Consider a low carb diet. Better yet, try carb cycling, as outlined in this article.

High Subscapular Skinfold

  • Physiological Correlation:Poor Insulin Sensitivity (too many carbohydrates, too little exercise)
  • Intervention:Boost Insulin Sensitivity
  • Potential Strategy: Add Fish Oils, R-ALA Supplementation, Low Carb Diet, potentially Intermittent fasting protocols

High Chest Skinfold

  • Physiological Correlation: Low Testosterone, high estrogen
  • Intervention: Support Healthy Testosterone Levels
  • Potential Strategy:Adequate caloric intake, adequate dietary fat intake, possible medical referral. Avoid alcohol, beer specifically.

High Triceps and Thigh Skinfold

  • Physiological Correlation: High Estrogen
  • Intervention:Reduce estrogen levels
  • Potential Strategy: Increase exercise volume, add cruciferous veggies (always a good idea), discuss prescription estrogens with doctor

As you can see there is a pretty consistent consensus that many hormonal issues stem from poor exercise and dietary habits. Body composition is very diet specific and using the potential strategies to attack trouble spots can help you lose fat, improve your overall health, and look better naked.

It is important to note that if body fat is high universally on all body composition measurements then correlations are relatively meaningless. You need to lose body fat to improve your overall hormone profile. Our 30-day fat loss transformation plan can help you lose 6-10 pounds in one month. Join us next month by applying here.

Other Tips

If looking to lose weight do whatever is necessary to increase your activity level, but studies show 5+ hours per week is what is needed to optimally lose weight. And if you’re looking for a workout program to maximize your fat loss, here’s a free program to get building your dream body.

Hook me up with the Free Fat Loss Program, Eric!

Sources:

Andrews, Ryan, MS,MA,RD. Berardi, John, PhD,”Chapter 12 Interpreting Client Information.” The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 2nd ed. N.p.: Precision Nutrition, n.d. 316-18. Print.

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