53 Muscle Building Recipe Subtitutions

Getting in the right foods for your muscle-building needs can get a bit tricky at times not to mention monotonous. Variety is king when it comes to continuing your quest to build maximum, lean muscle without adding body fat.

For example, sometimes switching up an ingredient or two can work wonders for helping you build the ideal physique. No need to overhaul your whole plan, simply substituting certain foods for healthier options can open up a whole new path toward more muscle. Read on if you want to get bigger, stronger and leaner.

Protein Sources

1. White-meat, skinless poultry for dark-meat poultry
Which is best: white or dark meat? With white poultry meat containing less fat and more protein than its darker counterpart, the choice is clear.

2. Bison over beef
Bison is quickly becoming the bodybuilder’s best friend as it is lower in fat, higher in protein than beef and increasingly more available.

For a cool source of Bison protein to eat on the go, try Tanka Bars, Available on Onnit.com. Named after the Lakota word for “Outstanding” the 70-calorie Tanka Bar delivers a slow, powerful protein punch by mixing two primary ingredients: low-fat, high-energy American buffalo meat and tasty cranberries.

3. Ground turkey for ground beef
Be sure to select lean ground turkey as it will be lower in fat and is a great source of easily digestible muscle-building protein.

4. Whole eggs for egg whites
WHAT, you say?! Yes, the fats in whole eggs secretly provide triggers to help keep vital hormones such as testosterone operating at premium levels. Also, you will get an extra helping of protein within the yolk! Read More: Raw egg protein shakes, will it kill you?

5. Skim milk for 2% milk
Having virtually no fat, skim is a great way to go especially when on a fat-cutting diet.

6. Low-fat cottage cheese over regular cottage cheese
Much like milk, the low-fat and fat-free varieties are the logical options.

7. Greek yogurt for regular yogurt
Having twice as much protein as regular yogurt, the Greek version also boasts more natural ingredients without the added gelatin.

8. Lean turkey bacon over pork bacon
Lower in calories, fat and cholesterol, turkey bacon is a great source for morning protein when eggs just lose their appeal.

9. Fresh tilapia and salmon over canned tuna
The choice is clear when choosing a fresh catch over the canned variety. Singling out salmon particularly; this protein powerhouse also contains vital healthy fats.

10. Beef jerky for potato chips
Beef of the jerky kind is not only an excellent source of whole protein but also extremely portable and convenient. If you need a snack, opt for one packed with protein.

11. Whey protein for weight gainer powder
Whey not only provides the best possible combination of branch chain amino acids, it also is void of the high amounts of sugars and carbs that most weight gainers contain.

12. Low-fat cheeses over regular cheese
Lower in fat, cholesterol and calories, low-fat cheese is a clear winner.

13. Chicken breast for deli meat
Fresh cooked chicken breast is a far superior source over highly processed and additive-filled deli meat. Not to mention chicken has the all too important higher protein content.

14. Sirloin steak over ribeye
Sirloin boasts a leaner cut and lower cholesterol and fat than its fatty cousin the ribeye. Plus, the sirloin has a more protein per square inch.

15. Casein protein for late-night binges
Casein is an excellent choice for a late-night fix. As a slow-digesting protein, it’s ideal to fuel the body during the eight or so hour fast during sleep.

16. Turkey sausage for pork sausage
Being the leaner of the two, the turkey variety has less cholesterol, fat and calories.

Fat Replacements

17. Natural peanut butter for regular or low-fat peanut butter
Yes, it is true. Even the low fat kind still has a lot of unnatural stuff in it such as preservatives and trans fats. Stick with the natural kind for a healthy dose of goodfats and an extra helping of protein.

18. Greek yogurt for mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise can get a bit high in fat and calories due to the fact that not many of us truly measure what we eat. Using Greek yogurt can put you at ease and give you a little extra protein in the meantime.

19.  Coconut Oil for anywhere oil or butter are normally used. Ideal substitution.
Replace as a butter or margarine spread on toast and muffins. Coconut oil as a dietary source of MCTs. Try dripping melted coconut oil over popcorn instead of butter. View Onnit Coconut Oil.

20. Avocado for butter
Simply mashing up your avocado into a puree can easily replace butter on any sandwich while reaping the rewards of healthy fats and antioxidants.

21. Unsweetened applesauce over oil
If you find yourself with a recipe that calls for some not-so-desirable cooking oil, simply slash the fat and calories by subbing in unsweetened applesauce. Lighter, healthier and tastier.

22. Olive oil for butter
Another great way to slash saturated fat and boost healthy fats. Not to mention cutting down on cholesterol.

23. Sunflower seeds for croutons
Cutting out the breaded crouton and adding in some healthy fats from sunflower seeds can go a long way toward better recovery and performance in the gym.

24. Sliced almonds for croutons
Another great substitute for croutons providing healthy doses of fat and minerals to help recovery.

25. Low-fat cottage cheese over sour cream
If yogurt isn’t your first choice try low-fat cottage cheese. More protein, less fat.

26. Oil-based dressings over cream-based dressings on salads
The oil-based variety is normally derived from olive oil sources and the cream-based are from saturated fat sources.

27. Natural almond butter for regular peanut butter
Another no-brainer. Natural beats out processed every day of the week.

28. Cinnamon for coffee creamer
Adding in some cinnamon over creamer drastically reduces the calorie content and boosts the fat-burning properties.

Carbohydrate substitutions

29. Quinoa over white rice
Quinoa serves up a more complex chain of starches and provides an extra helping of protein as a bonus. White rice has virtually no fiber and little, if any, protein.

30. Long grain brown rice over white rice
The long grains provide a more fibrous and complex carb than white rice which will help you feel fuller, longer.

31.  Steel cut oats for instant oatmeal
Steel cut oats are a phenomenal source of whole grain oats and will provide a steady state of energy as opposed to the quick digesting, insulin inducing packaged, flavored oatmeal packs.

32. Sweet potato for white potato
Although not a completely bad choice, the traditional white potato pales in comparison to the sweet potato regarding fiber, vitamins, minerals and glycemic effect.

33. Spinach lettuce for iceberg lettuce
The almost non-nutritious iceberg lettuce does very little to boost any real muscle-building benefits, however, spinach contains much-needed iron and other vital mineral and vitamins plus fiber.

34. Mashed cauliflower over mashed potatoes
Much lower in calories and simple starches, mashed cauliflower is an excellent substitute for potatoes without the guilt.

35. 100% whole wheat pasta over regular pasta
The whole wheat variety is not only the healthier choice but will also create more satiety in the long run and normalize blood sugar levels.

36. Whole grain cereals for sugar-laden cereals
If cereal is your thing, try to stick with the whole grain kind. Normally higher in vitamins and minerals, whole grain cereals are also significantly lower in sugar.

37. 100% whole wheat bread for white bread
Nearly stripped of all nutritious benefits, white bread does not stack up to the nutrient-rich, fibrous wheat bread. Just be sure it states 100% whole wheat.

38. Ezekiel bread over 100% whole wheat bread
If you want to go a step further, Ezekiel bread (which is flourless) is a prime choice for a low glycemic alternative.

39. Apples for sugary snacks
Apples are the superior choice for not only slow-digesting energy, but also contain specific phytochemicals to help burn body fat.

40. Beans for corn
Beans are an excellent source of not only fibrous carbs but also contain an impressive amount of protein. Alternately, corn has little to offer the muscle-building minded.

41. Applesauce for sugar
Applesauce is lower in sugar and is an excellent ingredient in place of many recipes that call for regular sugar. be sure to purchase the unsweetened kind.

42. Stevia for sugar
Lower in calories and 300 times sweeter than sugar, stevia is all natural. Since it is sweeter than sugar a lot less is needed for cooking or baking.

43. Lettuce leaves for tortilla wraps
If losing the carbs in your diet is your objective, then lettuce wraps are an excellent substitute for anything you wrap be it fish, chicken or steak.

44. Sweet potato fries for regular french fries
Choosing sweet potatoes over the traditional white adds an extra dose of fiber and powerful B vitamins. Plus, it cuts out roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates per one-cup serving.

45. Unsweetened tea over sugary drinks
Cutting out sugary drinks will dramatically have an effect on not only your calorie consumption but also on your blood sugar levels. You can always use sugar substitute to sweeten tea or other calorie-free drinks.

46. Frozen or fresh fruit for canned fruit
Opting for the fresh or frozen kind will eliminate the syrupy juices found in canned varieties and you will also avoid a lot of the additives and preservatives while you’re at it.

47. Frozen yogurt over ice cream
Yogurt not only has live and active cultures but is also lower in fat than ice cream. But use sparingly. Yogurt of the frozen kind can add up in calories before you know it.

48. Dark chocolate over milk chocolate
Dark chocolate has long been superior over the ever-popular milk chocolate for many reasons. It boasts a lower sugar content and is high in free-radical fighting flavonoids.

Condiments

49. Garlic powder for salt
If salt is an issue (especially from eating mounds of  animal protein) then garlic can provide a flavorful punch in place of sodium.

50. Low-sodium soy sauce over regular soy sauce
Cutting sodium virtually in half, the low sodium kind still tastes the same.

51. Fruit puree over syrup
Not only will you cut out tons of empty calories, but you will also be getting in tons of healthy antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

52. Lemon juice over butter
When cooking meats, fish or chicken, try adding squeezing a little lemon over the dish instead of unhealthy butter. Not only will you save on calories, you will kick up the flavor a notch.

53. Sauerkraut over potato salad or cole slaw.
Sauerkraut contains live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes that aid in digestion.

Fitness With Style: An Interview With WBFF Founder Paul Dillett

How did a former bodybuilder come to run a federation that’s built around the idea that bodybuilding is dead? We ask the man himself to explain.

It’s hard to miss them on the web: the racy shots of fit, beautiful hard-bodies rocking wild costumes that would look at home in New Orleans during Mardi Gras or Rio during Carnival.

These women are competing in shows presented by the WBFF, short for World Beauty Fitness and Fashion. They have the muscle and definition of ripped fitness models, but the theatricality, pounding music, and wild style of this competition make it clear that this isn’t a traditional figure show.

The male competitors look different, too. Sure, they’re jacked and cut to the bone, but even the largest of them has lean lines and proportionality that would leave them on the sidelines of a mass-to-the-max bodybuilding competition.

However, the founder of this series of physique contests is a former bodybuilder—and not just any bodybuilder, either. Paul Dillett was one of the biggest giants to tread the IFBB stage around the turn of the century.

So how did he find his way to promoting fit women wearing wings and tipping cowboy hats? To find out, Bodybuilding.com checked in with the big man himself.

Q

WBFF has a more dramatic, less hardcore look than the IFBB and NPC. But you were a mass monster in your day. What changed your preference?

I look nothing like those days. That was 80-90 pounds ago. It was a great time when I competed, because guys were actually friends with each other. That’s what made it so cool back then. Myself, Chris CormierFlex WheelerLee LabradaNasser El SonbatyDorian Yates—it was an amazing group of guys.

I look at bodybuilding today, and I can’t lie: It disappoints me. Back when I competed, guys still looked aesthetically pleasing. Even when the guys were big, they still looked incredible. Now, the bodybuilders just look like a bunch of powerlifters to me. They’re huge guys, but I don’t see any shape in any of them.

When the biggest guy gets rewarded, everyone else feels the need to get bigger too. Somewhere along the line, everyone forgot about symmetry and balance. Everyone is just going for mass, mass, mass. I was one of the guys who started the mass thing. I told people, “Mass is class.”

But, no matter how heavy I got, when I stepped on stage, I carried nothing more than a 30- or 31-inch waist. Today you can’t find that. Nobody has that flat stomach anymore. It looks like guys have abs on top of a basketball.

I think bodybuilding is dead. It’s nowhere nearly as popular as what it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s when it was at its peak. It was a different time.

What’s the new direction you’re trying to take with the men’s divisions of the WBFF?

For me, even though bodybuilding is dead, I know people still want to have a nice physique. They want to go into gyms, and they still want to have a great body.

I created a division called “muscle model,” which is a cross between a fitness model and a bodybuilder. Not big enough to be a bodybuilder, not small enough to be a fitness model, but he still has nice full pecs and a full back. I think “muscle model” fits him because he’s still a model, but he’s not a bodybuilder. When he lifts his arms up, he still has biceps.

There’s a market for the guys who like training, like working out, even like competing, but who don’t want to be a bodybuilder.

“Marketability” makes up almost half of your judging criteria. Explain what this means for your male competitors.

When a huge guy walks in the gym, you see the normal faces, and you see them whisper. When a guy walks in with a nice physique, you look at him. Girls look at him and go, “Wow,” and guys look at him say, “I’d like to have that physique.”

It’s attainable, but it’s also a sustainable physique. You can get that look naturally with proper nutrition. Yeah, you’re going to have to bust your ass; it’s not going to come easily, but it can be done. People look at the other guy and say it’s not attainable, it’s on another level. Either they just can’t get it, or they just don’t want it. The general public doesn’t want to be associated with it.

Look at baseball. Think of some of the great players who were so incredible, but because their name has been associated with steroids, all of a sudden their popularity has diminished. These guys were so beloved by people. What do you think is going to happen to a tiny thing like bodybuilding?

So are you saying you want to present physiques that people can “believe in” in some way?

Don’t get it twisted. I’m not a hypocrite. I love bodybuilding. I still admire all those guys, because I know they bust their ass. They’re so deep into something, they can’t turn back now. This is how they’re making a living. They don’t have a choice.

I am out of the game, and looking back at everything, I regret nothing. I loved the way I looked. I thought it was great. But, like anything else in life, you have to evolve. You have to change with the times. You have to give the fans and audiences what they’re looking for.

People want guys they can look at and feel like they can obtain that look naturally.

Do you think there is a major difference between North American styles of bodybuilding and how the sport works in other countries?

What I find in Europe, parts of Asia, the Middle East, and South America is that the guys are not as big, but they have conditioning. Their posing is so dramatic. It’s still an art form. It’s completely different. Bodybuilding is still popular there. I find that in North America, and even certain parts of Europe like the UK, it has lost its luster.

[International competitors] have the tiny wasp waists and the washboard stomachs I wanted when I started out as a kid. If I could look like someone, those are the guys I’d want to look like. And this is coming from a guy who was one of the biggest bodybuilders of all time.

Your competitions have a couple of other unique divisions: “Diva” bikini and fitness models. How are these different from what we know?

I was competing during the inception of the figure category in the IFBB. Figure was brought in because the female bodybuilders transformed, and people were calling for change.

The girls who came were drop-dead gorgeous, with bodies women liked to have and men wanted to be with. That transformed, too, to where the figure girls started looking like bodybuilders. I didn’t want that in my federation.

The diva fitness model is more of an athletic woman, someone you would see in track and field, with long, lean muscle and a nice midsection.

The bikini model is just more toned. It can’t be a girl who just walked in off the street. You still have to work out, and you still have to show in your physique that you work out, but it’s a much more attainable look—a sexy look. It’s Victoria’s Secret meets fitness.

The WBFF looks at everything. We look at your physique, your face, your hair, the way you put on your makeup—every single thing. We ask, “Could this girl be on the cover? Could she be in an ad campaign for Nike or Reebok?” We judge the complete package of what we’re looking for.

You also have some specific requirements for tanning. Explain your philosophy there.

How many times have you heard a buddy at a contest say, “They look orange,” or “My God, they have mud all over them!” You go backstage and you don’t want them to come near you because your nice suit is going to be destroyed.

[A show tan] doesn’t look mainstream. The bodybuilding guys need to get nice and dark, but for modeling? I don’t get that. You look at Victoria’s Secret or Miss Universe, and all those girls have on a tan, but it’s a natural-looking tan. That’s what we go for. We don’t want that muddy, dark, orange look.

If Armani, Paul Mitchell, or companies like that look at those guys and girls, they’ll never give them a second chance. They’ll never see their potential.

What do you do if one of your pros shows up to a competition with a traditional spray tan?

I tell them to take a shower. At a show in Denmark, I told a girl, “You need to go right into that shower stall and shower that off. It looks horrible.” If you let it slide, another girl will try it, and the next thing you know, there are 20 girls on stage looking like that.

Our girls are just as beautiful as any Victoria’s Secret model out there who is making 5, 10, or 20 million per year. Why shouldn’t our girls get paid? That’s my goal. Let’s see what we can do for our girls.

I’m a dreamer. The world was built by dreamers. I was a kid who left Montreal to the United States and no one thought I would have made it, and I became one of the best bodybuilders of all time.

So why would I believe them when they tell me I’ll never get a fitness girl to make that kind of money. Why not? Fitness girls works just as hard as anyone else. Right now the sport is being led by women, not men.

So are they getting paid these big bucks?

We’re not there yet. This is just our sixth year. We’re still building and branding ourselves to where we can get in the position to create some of the financial opportunities for our people. We’ve been fortunate in the past that some of our people have earned great opportunities through being with us, but we still haven’t reached the pinnacle of where we want to be.

To get there, we have to create something that competes with Victoria’s Secret, Miss Universe, and Miss America, so that when these girls win, they are on national television and people are throwing opportunities at them. We want to see that for our guys and girls. I think it’s 100 percent possible, and I know it’s going to happen.

One thing that really separates the WBFF is costumes. What does that add to the extravaganza?

That’s the show. One of the biggest things about Victoria’s Secret it was that the show was so big. It wasn’t just their lingerie. It was the models, the costumes, the theme wear. It’s like a carnival. The costumes, colors, music, and excitement make the carnival great.

Say you have 100 beautiful women with incredible bodies. After the first 20 girls come out, all of a sudden you start going cross-eyed. Everyone looks the same. With the costumes, every time someone comes out you are blown away. Each one is better than the next. It’s excitement.

That’s what people want to see. They want to be wowed. Cirque du Soleil isn’t just a guy on a high-wire. It’s the production, the costumes. That’s what the WBFF is all about.

The Gods Of The Gym: 5 Inspirational Icons

Itching for a fight? Just start the ”greatest physique of all time” discussion. Here’s one athlete’s take. What’s yours?

A picture may be worth a thousand words outside of the gym, but in bodybuilding, a great physique shot speaks volumes. I’m talking about the legends, the guys who have honed their bodies into perfect fulfillments of human potential.

Here are my five top bodybuilding icons. They made their mark on stage and screen, but only after long years laboring in the gym. They are some of the most inspirational physiques this young sport has ever seen. Agree? Think I’m nuts? Make a case for your favorites in the comments!

1 / Sylvester Stallone

Proof that age is just a number, Stallone seems to have gotten better with age. Though he never competed in bodybuilding, Sly did train with SchwarzeneggerColumbu, and other greats. He not only developed a world-famous physique, he also maintained it, unlike many actors and actresses in the biz. He shows up stronger and leaner in almost every movie; in fact, some of his best performances have come past age 60. He inspires all those who share his lifelong passion for bodybuilding and fitness.

2 / Frank Zane

Zane, had that “classic” physique that is still the envy of guys today. He masterfully squeezed every bit of potential out of every body part to create the ultimate V-taper. A born competitor, he knew that just a pound or two of muscle in the right places creates an incredible image of size and strength. Unlike the modern mass monsters, Zane won the Olympia at under 200 pounds, using the power of aesthetics to win over the judges.

Even if you favor today’s bodybuilding behemoths—or even the thicker powerlifter look—you can’t help but respect Zane’s sharp physique and incredible longevity. He competed for over a decade after his Olympia days and still trains himself and others today.

3 / Serge Nubret

Renowned for his incredible shape and conditioning, Serge Nubret joined the pro ranks after just a few years of training. His famously long and brutal workouts called into the question that you can train “too much.” Whenever a newbie starts to worry about overtraining at four workouts per week, vets point to Serge. Yes, it’s smart to eat and rest to match your training, but Serge proved that your body really can adapt to almost anything if given the chance.

Arnold once said that Serge reminded him of a racehorse, because you could see his muscles rippling beneath his skin when he trained. His classical, symmetrical physique is an inspiration to those who want to look their best without becoming as massive as modern bodybuilders.

4 / Dorian Yates

Known for his tendency to show up, clean house, and then quickly disappear, “The Shadow” is in my opinion the most impressive Mr. Olympia to date. Bodybuilding took him off the streets of England and out of trouble—which doubtless played a part in his discreet show appearances and gritty persona. Though Lee Haney, the reigning champ prior to Dorian, was certainly huge, Yates took muscle mass to a whole new level. His brutal, heavy training style was a sight to behold, which is why his Blood and Guts training video, although 20 years old, still inspires budding bodybuilders to this day.

Yates also changed the game when it came to conditioning. Bodybuilders had always gotten ripped for shows, but Dorian popularized a level of leanness that judges had never seen before. His intense dedication was his secret. He rarely took time off and committed himself to meticulous, year-round clean eating. He ate few cheat meals and always tracked his calories and macros.

It’s hard to get big and lean at the same time, but Yates proved that it’s possible. It just takes devotion.

5 / Arnold Schwarzenegger

His humble beginnings in Austria and his success on and off the stage makes Schwarzenegger one of the most inspirational bodybuilders of all time. He is renowned for his obsessive, single-minded focus on training and competition—a dedication that would serve him in other facets of his life. Like other “golden era” bodybuilders, he ignored warnings about overtraining and hit the gym hard for up to five hours per day. You’ve got to admire anyone with the drive to train so much.

After a record seven Mr. Olympia wins, he took his talents—and his physique—to Hollywood, starring in one film after another. He also served two terms as California’s governor. Arnold is an incredible example of the drive and dedication. His willpower led him to great success in everything he tried.

Abdominal Axioms: 9 Rules For Better Abs

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people may enjoy better abs. Declare independence from your soft stomach this summer. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms!

Thinking you could look like that fitness model is a lot easier than actually looking like him, especially if you’re groping the bottom of your popcorn tub for that last kernel. It might be June, but it’s never too late to try for a chiseled six pack. Even if it doesn’t happen this summer, you’ll have plenty of other days in the sun to show off your great body.

Remember, achieving six pack abs won’t happen overnight. It requires dedication to a clean diet and a great training program. To really see those etched abdominals, you’ll have to have an aggressive approach. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms and you’ll see some great changes in your physique.

1 / Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Weight loss requires creating a calorie deficit. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so in order to lose pounds you must create a deficit equal to the number of those calories. Losing one pound per week, for example, would require only a 500 calorie deficit per day (3,500cals/7days). That’s fewer than the number of calories in a king-sized Snickers bar! Unlocking better eating habits is the key to uncovering your buried six-pack.

Bear in mind that “better eating habits” does not mean you should jump on the newest crash-diet bandwagon. As tempting as it may be to go on some ultra-low-calorie diet to cut corners and get those abs sooner, resist. Sure, you might lose some weight at the beginning, but drinking three gallons of lemonade and honey per day is not sustainable. As soon as you reap the temporary results, returning to regular or even healthier eating habits will result in weight gains. Your metabolism will still be stuck in slow motion—not cool.

Skip the cycle and choose an option that will work long-term.

2 / Eat Fish for Fat

Add fish to your dinner plate just a few times each week to help trim some fat from your diet. Fish like salmonmackerel, or tilapia are great substitutes for a Rib-Eye steak, because they are leaner. The Omega fats found in fish will also boost your insulin sensitivity, guarding against a blood sugar spike and crash. Healthy omega fats also foster a leaner body composition.

Remember, just because the meat is lean doesn’t mean you get to smother it in butter or deep fry it. Healthy, lean meat doesn’t stay that way if you boil it in a vat of vegetable oil. Plenty of healthy seasoning and cooking options can keep your body and taste buds happy.

3 / Go Au Naturale

Twinkies and Wonder Bread don’t belong on your plate. Processed starches spike insulin levels, keeping dieters on the sugar-binge roller coaster, and also have no nutritional benefit.

Almost anything which comes wrapped in a package needs to stay on the shelf. Closet-eating Pop-Tarts won’t land you anywhere closer to your six-pack goals.

Don’t skip starches altogether. Instead, get the carbs and nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables. If it doesn’t come from the ground or a tree, you probably don’t need it.

4 / Just Say No to Sauces and Condiments

Sauces and condiments, though delicious, can wreck your diet regimen; it’s where a great deal of your excess sugar likes to lurk. Sauces and condiments are also full of sodium. Sodium increases water retention; so even if your eating habits are spotless, your abs might just be hidden under that bloat hanging out above your pants.

Kick the ketchup and soy sauce and save yourself hundreds of calories per day. Instead, flavor dinner with sodium-free and sugar-free spices and herbs.

5 / Don’t Drink Your Calories

Be picky about the fluids you put into your body. If you regularly quench your thirst with fruit juice, energy drinks, sugary coffee drinks, or fruit smoothies, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you pack around a few extra pounds. A good rule of thumb: If your beverage contains calories, don’t drink it.

If you just aren’t ready to break up with your favorite Starbucks barista, then switch up your routine. Try an Americano or green tea instead of your usual large Orange Mocha Frappuccino, and hold the whip.

6 / Lay Off the Booze

As hard as this may be, cutting alcohol out of your diet will eliminate empty calories that attach themselves to your waistline. Drinking also slows down the fat-burning and muscle-building processes. If your body is ridding itself of those beers you had, burning fat or building muscle will get short shrift.

If eliminating alcohol is simply not an option, stick to wine. Red wine has a little less residual sugar than white wine and has the natural benefit of antioxidants. Yet both types are similar in their calorie content. Liquor is the next best option, so long as it is not mixed in sugary cocktails.

7 / Pursue Muscle Mass

Without some muscle under that adipose tissue, your 6-pack won’t be too impressive. Resistance training adds lean muscle to your frame, which revs metabolism and burns more calories. Adding muscle mass also makes your body stronger, shapelier, and better defined.

That muscle mass doesn’t come from doing a few biceps curls and calling it good. Lift heavy and lift hard. If you want some extra calorie burn, shorten your rest periods, or do some sort of cardiovascular activity between sets. High intensity resistance training is the most powerful fat loss weapon in your arsenal. It burns calories during and after exercise, and it increases the secretion of hormones that stimulate fat breakdown.

8 / Keep Crunches in Their Place

Don’t let your quest for great abs rule your workout routine. Some ab isolation movements are helpful, but you need to spend most of your time under a barbell or rocking some dumbbells. If all you do is crunches or cycle for an hour, you won’t burn enough calories or build enough muscle to make a difference in your physique.

Spend 10-15 minutes three times per week doing isolation ab work in addition to your intense resistance training routine. But keep in mind that your abs are more than the washboard-looking rectus abdominus, so don’t focus on them. Perform a variety of movements to strengthen the external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus.

9 / Sleep Your Way to Better Abs

Sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate and synthesizing essential hormones and protein needed for muscle growth. Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced more abundantly when you sleep; you’ll need it for growth stimulation and cell reproduction.

Sleep also encourages better eating habits. A not-so-restful night might mean reduced leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone) levels.

So, if you ever wake up from a fitful night craving nothing but carbs, lower leptin levels might be the reason. Sleep well and your diet will feel easier.

Skyrocket Your Strength And Muscle Gains In Two Workouts A Week!

Training two days per week takes efficiency and intensity to another level. See how to defy mainstream lifting logic and become stronger and bigger with less time in the gym!

Most lifters won’t take this claim seriously: You can build PR-worthy strength with only two training days per week. You can roll your eyes all you want and return to curling five days per week, but this isn’t a virtual girlfriend story. It’s reality.

This claim does require a preface, however. When I talk about hitting two workouts per week, I’m not talking about unmotivated, haphazard training sessions that involve more yak-yak than heavy lifting. No, these two days per week must be a focused and driven attack on the iron.

Even with intense focus, I’ll admit that achieving measurable strength gains on only two sessions per week seems unlikely. But I’ve done it. I’ve seen my clients do it, too. I coach, attend grad school, and work a full-time job, so I don’t have much spare time.

For someone like me, two-day training is perfect. The key is to focus volume and intensity toward specific goals and lifts.

The Foundation

Okay, here are the principles. Simplicity is paramount.

No Deloads ///

Most training cycles I pen include a deload between weeks four and six, but this one doesn’t. Training two days per week won’t accumulate enough stress to require a deload. A “down” week would just be wasted time. You can apply the template below for 12 solid weeks without any deload weeks.

Limited Variation ///

Progress is dependent on focus, and exercise variation must be limited for progress when training twice per week. If you throw several exercises at your body in a short timeframe, limited adaptation results. Strength gains require exposing your body to constant stimulus, especially in a limited training window. There’s no need to get fancy.

You’re going to pick two lifts and get good at them. Really good. You’ll do them every time you train, after all. With only two training days, I know it seems logical to use as much variation as possible, but variety doesn’t promote progression. Building skill does. Getting good at lifts allows us to train harder and get stronger.

The two lifts you choose will be done with speed and vigor. They’re included at the end of your warm-up preceding your main lifts, which are the same lifts loaded more intensely.

Forget About Body Parts ///

To get strong, we train lifts, not muscles. If you’re a body-part-split aficionado, you must remove your bias and open your mind to try this template.

High Intensity ///

All lifts, except for your warm-up lifts at the beginning of each workout, are going to be heavy. We’re talking about high intensity. There’s no time for fluff and unnecessary volume. We have to use intensity to get strong.

The main lifts are loaded using heavy sets of 2-3 reps. Assistance work will stay between 5-8 reps per set.

Training Days Devoted to One Lift ///

By now, you know that you have to choose two lifts and train them with a chip on your shoulder. It’s not rocket science. One training day will be devoted to the first lift you choose, and the subsequent day is devoted to the other lift. All assistance work on each day is devoted to develop the main lift.

The Template

A Few More Guidelines ///

Exercise Pairings: Pair a lower-body exercise like the squat or deadlift with an upper-body exercise, like the overhead press or bench. This combo creates training efficiency and helps the body adapt to the new loading parameter.

Intensity Ratings: Below you’ll find nomenclature describing training intensity based on Mike Tuscherer’s rated perceived exertion (RPE) system. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • 6 = Bar moves quickly without much effort
  • 7 = Bar moves quickly with maximal effort
  • 8 = Could’ve done 2-3 more reps
  • 9 = Could’ve done one more rep
  • 10 = Absolute max, couldn’t do one more rep
Sample Days ///

Below are twosample days aimed to build a stronger deadlift and bench press. The first day is the deadlift day. Notice that all the assistance work is deadlift-specific. This is a template example, so feel free to set up your own programming. Choose assistance exercises based on your individual weaknesses.

The Benefits of Flaxseed

Is flaxseed the new wonder food? Preliminary studies show that it may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.

Some call it one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s some evidence it may help reduce your risk ofc heart diseases, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. That’s quite a tall order for a tiny seed that’s been around for centuries.

Flaxseed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it.  Now, thirteen centuries later, some experts say we have preliminary research to back up what Charlemagne suspected.

flax seed

 

Flaxseed is found in all kinds of today’s foods from crackers to frozen waffles to oatmeal. The Flax Council estimates close to 300 new flax-based products were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone. Not only has consumer demand for flaxseed grown, agricultural use has also increased.  Flaxseed is what’s used to feed all those chickens that are laying eggs with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its primary healthy reputation to three of them:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
  • Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.

 

 The Health Benefits of Flax

Although Lilian Thompson, PhD, an internationally known flaxseed researcher from the University of Toronto, says she wouldn’t call any of the health benefits of flax “conclusively established,” research indicates that flax may reduce risks of certain cancers as well as cardiovascular disease and lung disease.

Cancer

Recent studies have suggested that flaxseed may have a protective effect against breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. At least two of the components in flaxseed seem to contribute, says Kelley C. Fitzpatrick, director of health and nutrition with the Flax Council of Canada.

In animal studies, the plant omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed, called ALA, inhibited tumor incidence and growth.

The lignans in flaxseed may provide some protection against cancers that are sensitive to hormones without interfering with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen. Thompson says some studies have suggested that exposure to lignans during adolescence helps reduce the risk of breast cancer and may also increase the survival of breast cancer patients.

Lignans may help protect against cancer by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells.

Some of the other components in flaxseed also have antioxidant properties, which may contribute to protection against cancer and heart disease.

Deadlift Dominance: 5 Tips For Massive Pulling Power!

If I had to make a list of things I like in no particular order, it would look something like this:
  1. Turning right on red
  2. Anything involving Jason Bourne, ninjas, or zombies
  3. LOLCat videos
  4. Getting people strong
  5. Deadlifts

I’ll admit that as a strength coach, I’m biased when it comes to the last two. To me, nothing trumps strength. And nothing gets people stronger than good ol’ fashioned deadlifts.

Guys can brag about their squat numbers despite only hitting quarter reps, or even brag about a big bench press that’s more like an upright row for their spotter, but you can’t cheat a deadlift.

It’s you versus the barbell. You either rip that son of a bitch off the floor, lock it out, or not. The deadlift lends itself very well to gauge progress. It’s up to you, and brute strength, to break initial inertia off the ground. If you’re able to lift more weight over time without blowing your sphincter, you’re making progress!

Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to deadlifting than just bending over and hoisting a barbell off the ground. The following tips will undoubtedly clean up your technique and improve your deadlifting dominance.

1 / You Don’t “Dead Squat”

I once overheard a personal trainer explain to his client that a deadlift is a squat with the barbell in your hands. I’d trust this advice about as much as I’d trust a barber with a mullet, or a mallet. Unfortunately, this is a common thought process among fitness professionals and Internet users. I could write a Tolstoy-esque dissertation on why this is faulty logic, but let’s agree on a couple things:

  1. Squats are generally, but not always, considered more “quadriceps dominant,” while deadlifts can be considered more “hip dominant.” I’m not married to this mantra because you can easily make either lift more quad or hip dominant. Yet for the sake of brevity, let’s just make note of the distinction.
  2. Maybe most important of all, regarding trunk, hip, and knee angles, significant differences between the lifts are readily apparent. In the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Pure Power, in an article called “Differences in the Squat and Deadlift,” scientists noted that squats produce a more linear relationship between the hip and knee angles, “illustrating a more synergistic and simultaneous movement.”The deadlift showed three distinct phases defined by dominant joint action at the knees during lift off, the hips with the barbell at knee height, and both knees and hips during lockout.

So a deadlift is not a squat, which serves as an appropriate segue into the next point.

2 / The Hip Hinge

I see a lot of people who use a squat pattern to deadlift because they don’t know how to hip hinge correctly. The problem is that the hip hinge is crucial to a proper and powerful deadlift.

You can think about the hip hinge as another way of saying, “Push your hips back.” This is a cue that will come into play throughout the movement, from the deadlift setup to the descent back to the floor.

Make no bones about it: The setup is key, essential for mastering the deadlift and lifting big weight. I tell people to set up right against the bar and push their hips and hamstrings back as if they were trying to hit the wall behind them. Think of it like performing a Romanian deadlift—feeling significant tension in the hamstrings—until your hands can grab the bar.

In this context, your hips will be back and a bit higher than what you’re probably accustomed to. Of course, positioning will differ among people with different leverages and body shapes, but the recommendation serves as a great starting point for most people.

Consider—as it relates to the hip hinge—the initial movement after lockout as you start the descent back to the floor. Many trainees mistakenly break with their knees and essentially “squat” the weight down. Focus on the hip hinge and push your hips back! If you feel the brunt of your weight translate into your toes, it’s a safe bet you’re “squatting” the weight down.

3 / The Setup … Continued!

It’s crucial to attain more upper back stiffness by keeping your chest tall and engaging the lats. Pulling heavy loads with a rounded back is a big no-no because it places compressive and shear loading on the spine.

In non-geek speak, if you consistently deadlift with a rounded back, your spine will eventually flip you the middle finger. The ability to resist shear loading (i.e., upper-back rounding) is a big deal, and how you initially set up is going to pay huge dividends.

Here’s a video that breaks down many of the coaching cues I use with my athletes and clients:

4 / Take Your Shoes Off

As innocuous as it sounds, taking your shoes off to deadlift can make a huge difference to clean up technique and improve overall performance. The main points to consider are:

  1. Most shoes make us 1-2 inches taller. This bodes well for people who are vertically challenged, but wreaks havoc on deadlift performance because the bar has to travel farther.
  2. Pulling barefoot allows you to sit back on your heels more, which helps engage the hamstrings and glutes to a higher degree and improve performance. I’ve seen people increase their deadlift by 10-20 pounds after removing their shoes.

If you train at a lame gym that doesn’t allow you to take your shoes off due to safety concerns, your best bet is to wear a “minimalist” or flat-style shoe like New Balance Minimus or Chuck Taylors.

5 / Perform More Singles!

Deadlifting for high(er) reps doesn’t make sense. When we get in the 5-10 rep range, I find that form becomes suspect at best. My deadlift programs tend to stay in the 1-5 rep range, even for beginners.

Working in a 1-5 rep range allows people to hone in on technique. When they become more proficient, I allow them to use heavier loads under that same rep scheme. It’s a win-win.

As a paradigm shift, I tell my athletes and clients to think of it as five separate singles rather than thinking of “x” set as five reps. There is no golden rule that says you can’t pause or reset between each rep. This is the mentality I lean toward to coach the deadlift. It slows people down and ensures that each rep is as close to perfect as possible.