You get greater overall muscle and strength gains from the squat than from any other exercise. Because the exercise involves the largest muscle group in your body (glutes, hamstrings, quads) and requires a high amount of energy, the movement triggers what is known as a neuroendocrine response. In short, this response causes the release of extra testosterone and growth hormone into your bloodstream, which in turn will help you to build muscle not only in your legs, but your upper body as well. In addition, squats require a great deal of core strength.
There are some out there who will tell you that squats will ruin your knees. This is wrong. There have been numerous studies conducted which prove that on the contrary, when done properly, squats not only strengthen and tighten your knee ligaments, but are also very effective in building core and upper body strength. It has actually been determined that squats place less stress on your knees than leg extensions! And perhaps my favorite part, squatting is a functional movement. I can't think of a single example where a leg extension would translate over to something you would have to do in a real life situation. On the other hand, you squat every time you get out of or sit down in your chair at work.
My recommendation, do squats 2-3 days a week in conjunction with a full or upper body workout for stronger knees, a tighter core, and improved lower and upper body strength.
Yours In Health,
Let's start with what starch is. Starches are actually long complex chains of simple sugar, also known as "complex carbohydrates". While some starches do not raise blood sugar as fast or as much as simple carbs (A.K.A. simple sugars), some starches are act
ually more glycemic than some sugar. High glycemic foods raise a persons blood glucose level, which in turn releases the hormone insulin in the body. During this period of time your body cannot use fat for fuel. Insulin actually turns OFF the fat burning switch and turns ON the fat storage switch. This helps explain the logic behind the Low-Carb Diet, the Paleo Diet and others like them. In order to burn body fat, you must eat a LOWER carb diet (I do not advise a no-carb diet, it is not sustainable for most people) and focus more on meats, veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, while only having a little starch and sugar daily.
So which foods are high in starch?
Some of the highest on the Glycemic Index (GI) include grains (wheat, rice, barley, oats), potatoes, corn, and beans. Also high up on the GI are bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, biscuits, cookies, cakes, pie crust, and anything else made with flour.
Well than what should we eat? The best starchy foods are whole beans or lentils. When choosing grains, eat ones which are whole and intact when cooked, such as brown rice, barley, amaranth, or quinoa.
Avoid most baked goods or anything made with flour, along with processed cereals with little fiber. Best choices are specially-made low carb breads or wraps which have less starch and more fiber, along with high protein high fiber cereals such as some Kashi cereals.
"Lets be realistic Brian, I'm not giving up bread, rice, or pasta." Neither am I. I recommend trying one of these two methods in order to start scaling back your carb and starch intake. This first one is my personal preference.
- Monday through Friday, no cereal, bread, rice, or pasta. Increase your protein intake in order to build lean muscle. Saturday and Sunday are your cheat days. That doesn't mean go on a two-day cupcake bender, just have whatever you feel like having and don't worry so much about the diet.
- If that method doesn't suit you, try allowing yourself 3-4 cheat meals per week instead. Same rules apply.
Branched-chain amino acids, also known as BCAA's, are among three of the nine essential amino acids for humans. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot synthesize on its own and must get adequate amounts of through dietary sources. BCAA's comprise about 35% of the aminos within muscle tissue. They are isoleucine, leucine, and valine. The name "branched-chain amino acids" comes from the structure of these compounds (see picture). They are the only amino acids that are not degraded in the liver, meaning they head directly into the bloodstream.
Why should I take BCAA's?
To help build and preserve muscle while burning body fat.
When should I take BCAA's?
Before, during, or immediately following your workout.
BCAA's & body fat loss
Recent research has shown that BCAA's can have a positive effect on fat loss. More specifically, they seem to maximize fat loss when one is already on a diet that is geared towards losing fat. In most cases, this means a diet with a reduced carb intake. Research also shows that BCAA's preserve muscle. For this reason, they can and should be used as a supplement during any fat loss program. Whenever on a restricted caloric intake, it is a delicate balance between burning fat while still retaining and building muscle. Your body is forced to find some source of energy to burn. Ideally, this would be your body fat and nothing else. However, what you want to happen and what your body wants to do are not the same thing. When put under pressure or stress, your body kicks into survival mode, and will pull energy from wherever it needs to in order to function. BCAA's help protect and preserve muscle in this situation.
What sets BCAA's apart from other amino acids is how they are metabolized. Unlike most other amino acids, BCAA's are metabolized within muscle tissue, as opposed to the liver, allowing them to be used as a quick energy source when the body needs it. Because the body requires more energy during periods of stress such as training or lifting, there is a significant increase in BCAA metabolism during prolonged exercise. This is why BCAAs' are so effective when taken around workout time.
For most people, weekends usually involve a few alcoholic beverages and some pretty unhealthy food choices. That's just the way it is. Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do to avoid allowing a bad diet weekend set you back.
As I briefly talked about in "Starch & Your Body Fat", incorporating cheat meals or a cheat weekend after a clean healthy week are a good way to indulge yourself and also satisfy some of your cravings as long as you don't go overboard. One meal, or even one day of a subpar diet is not going to cause weight gain. It's meal upon meal, day after day, that will put you in the hole, cause you to get discouraged, and eventually take your foot off the gas or give up.
Let's assume that you do pretty well with your exercise plan, but constantly feel like you are taking two steps forward during the week, than two steps back over the weekend with your diet (yes, I just referenced Paula Abdul). Here are two tips for quick recovery.
Have a high protein, high vegetable day(s). Odds are that your weekend consisted of a lot of empty carbs. Having a high protein, high vegetable day(s) will help even out your caloric balance between the weekend and the beginning of the week and help get you back on track.
Put it behind you and move forward. One weekend is not going to kill you. It is not a reason to have a pity party, feel like you are now on the path to gaining it all back, and abandon ship. Pinpoint where you went wrong, and have a plan for next time. If you have strong cravings for fast food or junk food when you are hungover, have something healthy ready to go the night before, and resolve to eat it the next day no matter how bad you want that cheeseburger and fries. Once you are full, your craving for crap goes away and you can move on with your day. Plus, you'll feel a lot healthier than you would with a belly full of burger compounding the guilt or sluggishness you might be feeling from the night before.
Being able to enjoy your weekend is as important as having a productive work week. Like the saying goes "Work Hard, Play Hard, Eat Smart".............OK, I added that last part.