Allow Me to Introduce Myself
Hello all of you beautiful Evlution Nutrition lovers out there! Let me go ahead and begin this blog series by introducing myself –
My name is Sam and I am a 28-year-old Executive Assistant turned Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Model currently living in Tampa, Florida. Before I dive into the nitty gritty of my current Competition Prep, I think it is important to tell you all a little bit about me and how I got involved in the world of Bodybuilding…
Let’s go ahead and begin with teenager Sam. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut where I ate, slept and breathed athletics; I was a female Jock and spent all 4 of my high school years playing sports at a competitive level. Growing up in a family of athletes, competition was all that I knew. Who in the family could run the fastest? Throw the farthest? Score the most points? That competitive spirit has stayed with me to this day.
Fast forward to college… I was faced with the decision of remaining under the microscope and playing sports in school or stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to reveal other aspects of my identity. I decided to go with the latter. I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee (Go Noles!) and had the absolute time of my life. During that time, I managed to pack on a whopping 30 or so pounds of what I like to call, happy fat. The happy fat that accumulates over time via campus food halls, spring breaks, late nights and lack of exercise. That happy fat quickly turned into very unhappy fat when I actually realized what had happened to my shape...
Fast forward to post-college life in the Big Apple… After a couple of years of fluctuations in weight and activity level I had reached an all-time low in my confidence and my self-esteem; I hated shopping, I hated getting ready for a night out, I hated looking in the mirror and feeling crappy about what was looking back at me but most of all, I hated feeling like there was nothing that I could do about it. Several months, several fad diets and several 2 hour long cardio sessions later, I met a group of women at a boot camp that would change my life forever. These women laughed and bonded over heavy squats and shoulder presses. They showed me photos of themselves on stage in beautiful, sparkling bikinis with ripped up abs and glutes you could bounce a quarter off of and I wanted to be a part of it. SHOW ME YOUR WAYS, I pleaded.
I began to attend bikini posing sessions, just for fun. I watched these women as they paraded around in sky high heels, shaking their perfectly sculpted booties with such pride and such confidence. Could I ever have abs like those? A back like that? Well, there was only one way to find out. It didn’t take long before I hired my first Coach in January of 2014 and it was that very moment that my life changed forever.
Before I present my next few posts in my competition series, I want to give anyone and everyone reading this a heads up on a couple of things:
1. The diet and training posts are specific to ME and MY experience only. They are not to be interpreted as being the only way to do things or even the right way to do things. Every Coach and every competitor you meet tells a different story and likely eats and trains differently. There is no cookie cutter prep. And..
2. I plan to get real with this series. Like, really real. I plan to discuss the highs of my prep and the lows… the easy parts and the hard parts and all of it will be REAL
With all of that being said, I look forward to sharing my experience with you! Stay tuned for post number 2 on the phases of my current prep diet!
Name: Mikhail Gittens
Height: 6’ 5”
Why did you get started with your fitness journey?
Addressing these health risks I was previously informed of was the ultimate goal of incorporating fitness into my cycle, but as I became more involved and invested, I realized that it was becoming much more than just “addressing a concern” and that it was actually becoming a lifestyle.
Outside of the concerns, I started to feel positive benefits and impacts in other areas I would’ve never imagined. The physical and aesthetic gains were definitely noticeable and admirable, but what really got me more attached were the mental and emotional gains I started experiencing. These not so noticeable benefits to the eye started playing a major role not only in my daily activities but also the way I started looking at life and different challenges I faced.
For me currently, my fitness journey and focus isn’t solely wrapped around building the best physique, but it’s now also about building/improving my overall wellness and outlook while maintaining what I do as a positive lifestyle.
What is your ultimate goal with fitness?
In addition to that, I want to ensure that everyone I’m surrounded by is meeting their goals and maximizing their full potential by being a valuable resource while providing continuous motivation and inspiration.
What is your current training program?
The way I organize my split is starting with the largest muscle group at the beginning of the week to smallest towards the end with a mixture of rep styles (e.g. pyramid, drop sets). Here’s a look at my usual split:
Wednesday: Active Rest Day
What does your diet consist of?
Currently, I have two different types of diets, one for my bulking phase, which I normally go through October-March, and my cutting phase, which happens April-September. In both phases, I consume about 5 meals per day, all preplanned and portioned out.
During my bulking phase, I make a big increase in my nutrition intake, consuming around 350g of carbs, 250g of protein and 120g of healthy fats. I usually weigh in about 220lbs on my bulk. I prefer bulking with complex carbs and try to minimize simple carbs as well as unhealthy fats to ensure that I am picking up as much good clean size.
During my cutting phase I decrease the amount of carbs I intake to around 200g, fats to around 100g, and maintain my protein intake around 250g. A key difference in my cutting phase is that I will also include CLA and Carnitine into my diet, 2 amazing supplements for assisting with fat loss. My weight usually ranges between 205-210lbs on my cut. Here’s a layout of what my intake daily intake schedule looks like:
4PM: Pre gym snack
8PM: Post gym shake
What are your top 3 favorite EVL products?
Advise to people starting out with fitness?
If you are on the hunt for a new diet to try out, chances are, you’ve come across idea of intermittent fasting before. It’s one of the hottest new trends out there in the nutrition world and many people are jumping on the bandwagon.
But, is intermittent fasting right for you? What do you need to know about this type of diet set-up?
Let’s go over some of the key things that you should know and remember about intermittent fasting so that you can choose whether this will be your next protocol.
The idea behind intermittent fasting is that you will supplement periods of eating with periods of fasting. There are a few different ways that you can set this up.
Some people choose to fast every other day, taking an EOD approach as it’s called. They’ll fast for 24 hours and then eat for 24 hours, repeating the cycle as the week goes on.
Others choose a slightly less aggressive approach and simply implement a ‘fasting window’ into their day. With this approach, they’ll generally fast for about 16 hours, however some may choose to go a little less, fasting for just 14 hours while some may choose to go longer, fasting for 18 hours. After that time period is up, they’ll then have an ‘eating window’ where they consume food for the remaining hours of the day.
Generally the fasting will take place from after dinner around (8 or 10PM) until around lunch or early afternoon the next day (noon or 2PM). This allows you to eat during the later hours during the day when you’re awake and can enjoy your food.
So what benefits does intermittent fasting bring? Here’s a quick run-down.
Research illustrates that intermittent fasting enhances blood glucose control insulin sensitivity, so improves how your body responds to glucose. This may also help with preventing type 2 diabetes.
You might think your hunger would be increased while fasting, but endorphins will set in and you’ll be amazed at how low it becomes. Most people have to remind themselves to break the fast.
Since you are only eating a few meals a day, this makes it very easy to sustain reduced calorie intakes required for fat loss purposes. No more ‘mini meals’ of only 250-300 calories each. Now you can finally eat a satisfying meal during the day.
Studies also indicate that growth hormone levels may rise during the fast, which could help you maintain lean muscle mass and burn fat faster as well.
If you lead a busy life and hate having to take time to stop and eat during the day not to mention prepare all those meals, intermittent fasting may be for you. Now you won’t have to worry about that. You’ll prepare just two or three meals a day, two of which will likely happen while you’re at home.
So now that you see the benefits of intermittent fasting, you may be thinking this is the plan for you. Hold up though. One thing that you do want to safeguard yourself against as an active individual is lean muscle mass loss.
Go too long without an incoming source of protein and you may notice that your body starts moving into a catabolic state.
The best way around that?
Simply supplement with some Branched Chain Amino Acids. By using our BCAA5000 product for instance, you can help put an end to catabolism and ensure that you stay feeling strong and energized while you fast, all without disrupting the benefits that fasting provides.
So as you can see, intermittent fasting does offer some great benefits to consider. If you don’t mind going for hours without food and want a diet that makes food prep easy, it may just be the one for you.
Ho, Klan Y., et al. "Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man." Journal of Clinical Investigation 81.4 (1988): 968.
Barnosky, Adrienne R., et al. "Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings." Translational Research 164.4 (2014): 302-311.
By far, one of the most common excuses that people give for skipping their workouts is lack of time. And, often, this is based on a wild misunderstanding of what it takes to really get an effective workout. The truth is that, with careful planning, there's no reason to dedicate hours to the gym each time you head in for a workout.
In fact, we're about to show you how you can get one of the most impactful workouts that you've ever experienced – in about 10 minutes.
But first, let's talk about how it works.
The Basic Principles
In order to really make you're limited time count, there a couple of little tricks that we need to employ.
First, the entire workout is going to function as a circuit. This means that you'll move from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible, adding a cardiovascular element to your routine. The circuit method will also allow you to speed through the routine, despite getting a full-body workout.
Which nicely brings us to our next point: You need to challenge all of your major muscle groups. So that you aren't cranking out an absurd amount of exercises, your time is best spent with compound movements. This will include complex, multi-joint exercises that activate several different muscle groups all at once – with a specific focus on your largest, hungriest muscles.
And that's really all you need to know.
So, with those guidelines in mind, how do you actually chain together a workout? Here is a basic example using only bodyweight exercises - but you can fairly easily piece something together for yourself based on your needs, fitness level, preferences and available equipment.
As mentioned, you'll perform each exercise for the required number of reps and then immediately move on to the next. Once you've completed the entire circuit, rest for 90 seconds before repeating the pattern.
Again, this workout is meant to be a basic example. Feel free to use variations on any of these exercises if you need to adjust the difficulty.
When it comes to your workout program, are you quick to gravitate towards the free weights? Or maybe as soon as you enter the gym, you head straight for the treadmill to do some interval sprint training.
Whatever the case may be, chances are, you are neglecting the stretch mats. Most people simply do not devote the amount of time needed to stretching because they don’t see the validity in it. It’s not going to help you burn fat or build muscle, so why do it? For you, it may just be a ‘waste of time’.
But is it?
The fact is, stretching will help you see greater results, just perhaps not in the direct way you think. Here are five reasons why you should be focusing at least 10 minutes at the end of your workout to stretching.
Stretching Relieves DOM’s
Muscle soreness. We’ve all experienced it before and know that it can be quite debilitating. If you are in serious pain from your last leg workout, you may not be doing your elliptical session you have scheduled the next day.
Here’s great news: stretching can help. By stretching after your workout session, you can reduce the level of muscle tension present from the heavy weight lifting sets just performed, lowering the chances you wake up unable to move the next morning.
This can translate to increased gym frequency, which then means better results for you.
Try taking your stretching with some Glutamine5000 powder in your post-workout shake for an even better overall recovery.
Stretching Increases Your Range Of Motion
Another way stretching indirectly helps out is by improving your overall range of motion. When you are limber and flexible, you can do more with each set that you perform.
Take squats for example. If you are tight and tense, you may not be able to move through the full range of motion as your body is preventing you from doing so. As a result, you reap fewer overall benefits from that squat exercise.
If you stretch, you can make the most of each rep you perform. Being able to move through the full range of motion for every exercise you do is critical for results. Stretching can help ensure you do that.
Stretching Improves Body Awareness
Stretching also is great for improving body awareness. As you stretch, you are forced to focus on one specific area of the body, relaxing that muscle while helping it stretch further into position.
This is a good lesson in achieving the mind-muscle connection, which can then help you later on as you go about your gym workouts. The last thing you want to be doing is just ‘going through the movement pattern’ mindlessly. Sadly, that’s what many people do.
Stretching Helps You Cool Down
Stretching is also a great way to help you cool down after an intense workout. It’s never a good idea to just stop exercising when your heart rate is elevated, so use stretching as a means of bringing your heart rate back down to normal and relaxing before you head out of the gym.
Stretching Can Help Prevent Injuries
Finally, stretching can also help you prevent injuries from occurring. When you’re inflexible due to lack of stretching, you’re that much more likely to tear or pull a muscle, which will result in great pain – and you likely being sidelined for weeks or months.
Staying limber helps keep you mobile and ensures you stay in the game, continually striving to reach your goals.
So don’t skip stretching any longer. Take a few minutes and get this into your workout routine. You will notice benefits over time if you do.
Among the multitude of topics that populate the health and fitness world, volumes have been written about one particular subject: the six-pack.
And, as summer quickly approaches, interest in this mythic feature is steadily rising. So, then, how can you actually achieve such a feat? What does it take to get a six-pack? Fortunately, it's actually much more straightforward than you might think.
At it's most basic level, cultivating a six-pack is about reducing your body fat percentage down to a point at which your muscles become visible. For men, this means getting below about 10 percent. Women's abs will generally start to show below 19 percent.
Why does this matter? Because fat rests on top of your muscle, hiding it's shape. And the famous shape of the six-pack is made by the rectus abdominis – a muscle that is split up by a network of tendons. Although, to be fair, many more muscles contribute to a respectable set of abs. But more on that later.
To build six-pack abs, therefore, you need to first have those muscles and then make them visible. And, in order to reach that lofty goal, you have to adjust both your diet and your workouts.
Part One: Diet
Generally speaking, the diet you would adopt in order to drop body fat is roughly the same as any other weight loss approach. Your caloric intake needs to by about 500 calories less than your caloric expenditure each day, forcing your body to burn up fat reserves for fuel.
In order to speed this process and minimize the amount of water weight that you're carrying (which can also hide your muscles), a low-carb, high-protein diet consisting of whole, minimally processed foods is best. Not only will this help you burn fat, but the increased protein intake will also keep you feeling full even though you're eating less food.
Part Two: Workout
Honestly, a proper diet is much more important than your workouts when it comes to sculpting your abs. Unfortunately, even if you lose the weight, you will only have a six-pack if there are actual muscles to show off. Otherwise, you'll just be skinny. Which is totally cool if that's what you're going for. If you want abs, though, some extra work is required.
Of course, you need to build your rectus abdominis. And, despite all of the claims out there, the classic crunch is still one of the best ways to work that particular muscle group. As mentioned, though, other muscles are also involved. Namely, your obliques, transverse abdominis and even your pecs all play a role here. Unfortunately, no one exercise can work all of those different muscles which all move in a variety of directions.
In order to burn enough fat to really show off your abs, though, you have to work your biggest, hungriest muscles. To do that, compound exercises like the squat and deadlift are some of your best choices. Yes, squats give you abs. Think about it. In order to pull off a proper squat, your back, abs, hips and legs are all working. And it takes a lot of calories to fuel all of that movement. When you do a crunch, though, one small muscle group moves.
Bonus Third-Prong: Supplements
While proper a well-designed diet and workout program is absolutely vital to losing fat and revealing your glorious abs, supplements can help support your efforts and give you a powerful boost.
By combining both LeanMode and Trans4orm, you can ensure that your body has all of the necessary micronutrients to support a healthy metabolism. These supplements are also packed with natural ingredients that will increase your energy and improve your mood, allowing you to bring your absolute best effort to the gym.
Within the fitness realm, there is a handful of enduring and guiding principles that everyone just seems to automatically know shortly after stepping into the gym for the first time. Some of these are time-tested, proven and trustworthy.
Most of these axioms, however, are completely false and need to just die already. One of the most persistent and pervasive of all of these concepts is this: To lose fat, use light weights with high reps. This is often recited in conjunction with the other half of the false equation: To bulk, lift heavy weights for a few reps.
As you may have gathered from the tone of this article, that is entirely wrong. In fact, if you're struggling to lose fat by swinging around the lightest weights you can find, you're actually doing yourself a huge disservice. The reality is that heavy lifting is a much better way to shred fat.
To really understand the advantage that heavy lifting has over it's lighter counterpart, we need to compare both the immediate and long-term impacts of both forms of training.
Just To Be Clear
But what are we talking about when we say “heavy” or “light” weights? After all, these are completely relative terms, representing different numbers for everybody.
So, here are some guidelines. For our purposes, we'll say that a “heavy” weight is one that limits you to about 8 reps. Typically, this works out to about 70 percent of your 1RM. Granted, you could go heavier. But this rep range is that one that is best suited toward building defined muscle. Which is what you're looking for when trying to shred extra fat.
If your reps approach – and pass – the 15 count, you've now entered the realm of “light” weights. This workout style isn't useless, it's just not what you need when your goal is fat loss. But more on that later.
Actually, we lied. Let's talked about why light weights don't work in this situation right now.
Once your reps get into the 15-or-more range, your muscles are no long working as hard as they had been in the lower ranges. And that's really the major difference. Essentially, these workouts turn into endurance training. Which most definitely has it's place.
And, generally, these high-rep workouts will actually burn more calories than the low-rep alternatives in the same way that cardio will typically burn more workouts than lifting.
If you're looking to get rid of body fat, though, you need to do more than just burn calories. You need to develop muscle fibers. Otherwise, as you lose weight, you will simply become skinny rather than the cut, defined, toned look that you're actually working for.
Plus, the more muscle fibers that you activate during your workout, the more calories you will burn. And, in order to activate those muscles, you have to challenge them with heavy, exhausting weights.
The real reason why heavy lifting is a better fat-burning tool, though, takes place over the long period of time and – as such – often gets ignored. Put simply, muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you're sleeping. As you build more muscle, then, your metabolism will steadily increase.
Heavy workouts in particular, though, bring with them the added perk of Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, loving known as EPOC. This effect means that, for up to 48 hours after your workouts ends, your body will continue to burn more calories than it would otherwise.
So, while light-weight workouts have their place, the ability to build more muscle fiber and burn more calories in less time makes heavy lifting a much better tool for shredding fat.
Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over a decade of experience writing about all things health and fitness. In addition to plenty of articles and blog posts, Thompson is also the author of the book Weighted Vest Workouts.
What Is Carb Cycling?
Any time the topic of weight loss comes up, carbs inevitably get mentioned. It's just going to happen. And, put simply, this is because your carb intake could have a pretty powerful impact on the success – or failure – of your efforts to shed a few pounds. Along with the traditional and straightforward low-carb diet, though, there are a few options.
Carb cycling is among the most common and useful carb-manipulation system out there. What is carb cycling? Does it work? What do you need to know about it?
Defining The Practice
As the oh-so-descriptive name suggests, carb cycling requires you to cycle your carbs. Generally, however, protein and fat intake remain roughly unchanged. Since each gram of the oft-maligned macro contains about four calories, it's pretty typical for carb cycles to also become calorie cycles. Essentially, in their effort to adjust your carbohydrate intake, these diets will also tend to limit your total calories at the same time.
And that's really about it. But, as you might imagine, there are plenty of different ways in which you can alter your carbohydrate intake from one day to the next.
The big question, though, is this: Why would someone do this? Because it works.
The traditional low-carb diet also works but comes with several limitations. First, and most famously, it's a challenge to maintain for long stretches. It's also important to realize that much of the initial rapid weight loss associated with low-card diets is actually water weight, not fat.
Once that water is gone, then, weight loss can slow to a full, irritating, grinding stop. And then what?
The idea behind carb-cycling is to continually restrict and then reintroduce carbohydrates – and calories – in a strategic way that takes advantage of the effects of both low-carb and low calorie diets while limiting the side effects. Anyone who's ever attempted a full-on low-carb diet knows all too well about the mood swings, low energy and fatigue that can accompany this already difficult nutritional strategy.
In theory, though, the occasional high-carb day should help to offset these side effects, allowing you to continue your normal routine – both in and outside of the gym.
Which brings up an interesting point: Carb cycling could also offer some benefits for those looking to build muscle mass. By manipulating your body's response to anabolic hormones like insulin, while still allowing you to perform your best in the gym, carb cycles could keep you building muscle during your cut.
Does It Work?
Sadly, solid science is a little limited here. Granted, there are decades worth of anecdotal evidence in the bodybuilding and physique athlete world to testify to the effectiveness of carb cycling. And research has shown that calorie-restriction – like that seen in carb cycling – can cut back on feelings of hunger, speed up your metabolism and even encourage muscle growth.
In 2013, however, one study did look specifically at carb cycling, with promising results. This study did find that women who followed a simple carb cycling routine for three months lost more weight and saw a greater improvement in their insulin resistance than those who didn't cycle.
So while carb cycling is a tested method for both losing weight and generally improving your physique, it's vital to remember one thing: Carb cycling is very hard.
And this is a lot more important than it sounds. The issue isn't simply that it might be a challenge for you to follow this routine; if you do it wrong or for too long, you could both sabotage your weight loss efforts and even damage your health.
For the most part, carb cycling should only be done by physique athletes with significant experience sticking to restricted diets or those under the supervision of a qualified professional.
Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over a decade of experience writing about all things health and fitness. In addition to plenty of articles and blog posts, Thompson is also the author of the book Weighted Vest Workouts.
As you design your workout program, you are going to come to a crossroad at some point and wonder which cardio method you should be doing for maximum results.
Chances are, you’ve heard of the two main types:
Which of these is best for you? And when is the best time of day to perform each? Let’s go over a few of the key facts you need to know.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is constantly being talked about in the mainstream fitness world as the best cardio method to lose fat. For this cardio, you’ll alternate between very intense bouts of exercise with active rest periods, repeating this 5-10 times to make up a 15-20 minute sprint session.
It’s true – this form of cardio, when done properly, can work great for burning fat. It burns a high number of calories while you do it and also revs your metabolic rate so you burn calories far after the workout is finished.
On top of that, because it is so intense, it’s also going to increase your overall fitness level more than that of a lower intensity cardio session.
Finally, it tends to help preserve lean muscle mass better than endurance type of training because more of the fast twitch powerful muscle fibers are being used to carry out the sprint.
It’s intense. For someone on a very low calorie, low carb diet, performing this type of cardio may be challenging. It will utilize only glucose as a fuel source so you’ll need carbs present in order to complete it properly. For this reason, it is not a cardio method to do on an empty stomach.
Furthermore, if you try and stack too many sessions of HIIT with too many intense weight lifting workouts, performance will be compromised on one of the workout types.
HIIT tends to be best done by those who have a good level of fitness already, by those who are eating sufficient carbohydrates in their diet plan, and by those who have good recovery abilities and are balancing it with their strength workouts.
Do this form of cardio either after your weight lifting workouts or in a separate session altogether after eating at least one meal in the hours prior. Be sure to consider using our BCAA Lean Energy product to help you get through these sessions. With 110 mg of natural energizes, it’ll help you give your best performance.
Low Intensity Steady State Training (LISS)
Next we have low intensity steady state training, also referred to as LISS. This is the more commonly thought of form of cardio and the one that most people dread: 30 minutes on a treadmill, bike or elliptical at one pace. You’ll work at around 50-70% of your maximum heart rate for this variation of cardio, so won’t be pushing yourself too incredibly hard. For this reason, the body can also utilize stored fat as a fuel source so it is one variation that you can do on an empty stomach. It’s the form of cardio most often done before eating breakfast first thing in the day, however it can be done at just about any time of the day. The only exception right before lifting. Avoid it at this time.
The benefits of this cardio variety? First, it isn’t overly taxing on your body. It’s something you can do most days of the week without too much worry about overtraining.
Second, it’s good for beginners. As you can go at a more moderate pace, this is great for those who are building up their fitness level.
Finally, it doesn’t interfere with your weight lifting performance all that much. Unless you are doing hours and hours per week or doing it before you are lifting, you shouldn’t see much of a decline in how much you can lift.
This said, note that if you do too much of this type of cardio, muscle mass loss may occur. Take a look at a marathon runner for instance. This is the epitome of low intensity steady state training and most marathoners do not have much lean muscle mass to show. This is a big reason why. For extra assurance against this, try adding our BCAA Lean Energy product before you do your session. With 5 grams of high quality branched chain amino acids, this will help preserve your lean muscle tissue.
Second, you can be more prone to overuse injuries when doing this form of cardio as well if you aren’t careful. It’s important to change up your mode of cardio every so often to avoid this.
Finally, while you will burn a good number of calories while you do the cardio session, the calorie burning stops when you do. So you won’t get much of a metabolic ‘boost’ so to speak like you will with HIIT.
So there you have the two types of cardio methods along with the pros and cons of each. Both types of cardio can find a place in your overall workout routine so don’t think it has to be one or the other. Decide for yourself what is best for you based on your goals, your lifting schedule, and your nutrition protocol.