Friday, June 26, 2015

Training specifics: Getting ready for a fire fighters physical exam

I've recently been asked to develop a training program for someone who wants to enter the fire fighters physical exam in order to become a life-saving hero. 

In order to become a fire fighter, potential candidates must pass a rigorous physical test. This test is known as the CPAT, or the Candidate Physical Ability Test. From www.fitday.com we learn that the CPAT is an intense examination of a candidate's cardiovascular and muscular strength and endurance (the CPAT described in fitday.com includes requirements for USA fire fighters). Candidates must therefore prove themselves to be in top shape, with enough strength and endurance to handle extreme situations before being allowed to serve as fire fighters.

This makes perfect sense when you think about the work that is required of a fire fighter. Fire fighters are required to roll down heavy water hoses, connect heavy brass couplings to hydrants and fire engines, climb ladders, break down doors, clear obstructions, handle fire hoses with water spewing out at tremendous pressures and carry victims to safety just to name a few. All of this must be performed while wearing a heavy safety suit, other protective gear and oxygen bottles on their backs. And off course time is of the essence. Lives may be lost if the fire fighter cannot reach people in danger quickly enough. So, if the fire fighter is not in the best shape, he/she may not be able to perform all the tasks that are required to save lives.

The CPAT contains 8 tasks that are designed to expose the candidate to the situations they may be faced with in the real world. These 8 tasks include:

1. The stair climb - the candidate must wear full protective clothing as well as a weighted pack that simulates breathing apparatus and fire hoses while climbing a set of stairs or performing the test on a stair climbing machine. The test is designed to last for three minutes, during which the candidate must maintain a 60 step per minute cadence. That's 1 step per second.

2. The hose drag - the candidate places a hose nozzle over the shoulder or chest and must then drag 200 feet of hose for 75 feet, then around a drum, making a 90 degree angle, after which the hose is dragged for a further 25 feet. The candidate then lowers to one knee and in this stationary position, drags the hose with arms and hands for a further 50 feet. 

3. The equipment carry - this test is designed to test the candidate's ability to fetch and carry heavy power tools from a cabinet in a fire truck to the scene of an accident or fire. To do this the candidate must remove two power saws from a cabinet, one at a time, then pick them both up and move them to a spot 75 feet away.

4. The ladder raise and extension - the candidate must pick up an unhinged end of a ladder, carry it to a wall and place it against the wall. Then the candidate immediately returns to the other end of the ladder, picks it up and flips it up and over until the whole ladder leans against the wall. From here the ladder is extended, then lowered and finally brought away from the wall as well.

5. The forcible entry test - this test determines a candidate's ability to break down a door or other obstruction with a sledgehammer. The candidate strikes a force measuring device with a sledgehammer and must hit hard enough for the measurement to pass a certain threshold.

6. The search test - in this test candidates must crawl on hands and knees through a tunnel maze. The maze will be dark and may also be filled with smoke. Some of the sections of the maze will be smaller and tighter than the rest. It has been designed to test the candidates ability to find victims in cramped spaces.

7. The rescue test - candidates are required to drag a 165 pound mannequin on a stretcher for 35 feet, make a 180 degree turn and drag the mannequin a further 35 feet. The test simulates the scenario where a fire fighter must drag a victim and remove him/her from danger.

8. The ceiling breach and pull test - the candidate removes a pike from it's bracket on a fire engine, then uses it to poke a door in a ceiling 3 times. Immediately following this, the candidate must use the hook of the pike to pull a platform from the ceiling 5 times. The 3 time/5 time set is performed a number of times and simulates the breaking down of a ceiling to determine the spread of a fire.

As if these 8 tests weren't enough, candidates are given only 10 minutes and 20 seconds to complete all 8 tests correctly (University of Waterloo). If you take longer than the allotted time, you automatically fail the CPAT. It is important to know that in an actual CPAT, the course is designed so that it allows the candidate to walk from test to test. The distances between tests are approximately 85 feet long and affords the candidate about 20 seconds to catch their breath and prepare for the next test. Therefore, when you perform your workouts and preparation for the CPAT, remember to take a 20 second rest between each test in order to simulate the actual CPAT as closely as possible.

Now that we know what the physical tests are to become a fire fighter, we can move on to how we can prepare ourselves to take the CPAT and pass it the first time with flying colors. But before we can jump straight in, we need an overview of the important pieces of equipment necessary to simulate the CPAT. What you'll need are the following:

1. A backpack in which you can place weights, bricks, stones or bottles filled with water or sand, or a weighted body harness. The backpack/harness simulates the heavy equipment that a fire fighter must carry when fighting fires or responding to emergencies and must weigh a minimum of 50 pounds (approx 22.6 kg). You need to carry this backpack/harness at all times during your workouts and preparations. Backpack/harness and person must become as one.

2. Access to either a stepping machine or a long staircase in order to perform exercises that will help you to pass the stair climb test.

3. A dragging platform to which you may add weights. The dragging platform simulates the heavy fire hoses, couplings and nozzles which fire fighters get to work with every time an emergency occurs.

If you don't have a dragging platform or if you don't have access to a gym, a tyre, to which a length of rope is connected will work just fine. Basically, anything of appropriate weight to which a rope may be fixed and which you can drag along the ground. The rope must be long enough for you to sling it over your shoulder so that the tyre may drag along behind you as you walk or run. You'll be needing some weights as well. The weights must be placed on the tyre as you drag it forwards. Bricks will work really well, otherwise use more tyres and place them on top of one another, or connect them to each other. Stones will also work. If you don't have a tyre, then fix a rope to a car and pull that along.

4. A set of dumbbells or weights that may be used to perform lunges and overhead presses. These will help you to prepare for the ladder test. If you don't have dumbbells or access to a gym, try to find adequate weights with which you can perform lunges and overhead presses. Large stones will work, or pails of water or sand fixed to the ends of a metal pole.

5. A sledgehammer or other heavy weight that you can use to swing to the ground or to hit a tyre with. Many gyms these days have sledgehammers and large tractor tyres which are used in cardio styled workouts. If you don't have a sledgehammer, swing a heavy stone above your head, or improvise: fix a stone to a pole and use that to simulate a sledgehammer. 

If you have neither the hammer nor the stone, but access to a gym, then use a lat pulldown machine to simulate the upwards and downwards strokes of the hammer swing.

6. A stopwatch or other timing device. You'll use this to make sure you keep your CPAT test under 10 minutes and 20 seconds. You'll also need a logbook and a pen.

Right. Equipment? Check! Now, let's move on the preparation and workouts we're going to follow in order to pass the CPAT with flying colors.

I recommend a program that breaks your CPAT preparation down into three parts. Part one concerns pure cardiovascular ability and endurance. Here the focus is on increasing your cardiovascular ability, performance and endurance. Part two concerns muscular strength and endurance. In this part the focus should be on increasing strength and muscular endurance. Part three concerns the specific tasks that must be performed to pass the CPAT. In this part you will carry out simulated versions of the 8 tasks that are required of fire fighter candidates in order to see how well you stack up. If you fail this simulated test, it's just as good as if you failed the CPAT itself.

All three parts will be performed in tandem in order to get you to pass the test as soon as possible. Cardio and weight workouts will be performed on alternating days, with at least two CPAT simulations per week. On a CPAT day, no other workouts will be performed. You'll know you're ready to take the test on the day you pass the CPAT in the allotted time and according to the correct procedures.

All three parts of your preparation require you to measure and log your progress. This is of the utmost importance and must not be overlooked. It is only by measuring and logging our progress that we're able to see how well we're doing or if we're progressing or standing still.

There are some parts of the CPAT for which no amount of cardio or weight training will help. I refer specifically to the tunnel maze test. This test requires you to fight and/or suppress your fear of small, tight spaces. If you are claustrophobic this test will be a real challenge for you. In order to prepare I recommend that you find a small space and progressively spend more and more time in this space until you learn how to calm yourself down and focus. Confront your fears head on and learn how to beat them.

We'll split our weeks in the following manner. Mondays and Thursdays will be for cardio training. Tuesdays and Fridays for weight training. Wednesdays and Saturdays are for the actual CPAT test itself and Sundays are rest days.

Before you start with any training, you need to take the CPAT just as you are now. This must be done in order to correctly estimate where you stand and how much work you need to perform. Set up your own CPAT course in the following manner:

1. To prepare for the step test, find a stair climbing machine in your gym, or a long staircase. The step test requires you to climb steps at a 60 steps per minute (or 1 step per second) cadence, for three minutes. Therefore, your first exercise will be to step 180 steps or more in three minutes while wearing your 50 lb weighted harness or backpack. You must step for the entire 3 minutes. Note how many steps you complete in the allotted time. Rest for 20 seconds while walking about.

2. For the hose drag test, add enough weight to a dragging platform or your object of choice so that the entire thing weighs approximately 288 pounds (this represents a 200 feet section of hose filled with water) (288 lb = 128 kg). Drag this weight behind you as fast as you can for a distance of 100 feet (about 30.5 m), then turn around, get down on your knee and pull the weight with your arms for a further 50 feet (15 m). Do this as fast as you can, while wearing your weighted harness or backpack. Attempt to complete the test, no matter how long it takes. Note the time it took for you to complete. Rest for 20 seconds while walking about.

3. A industrial power saw, used by fire fighters weighs approximately 22.9 lb (about 10 kg) (http://www.hvfd.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/HVFDTrainingRotarySaws.pdf). For this test you need two 10 kg dumbbells, or 25 lb dumbbells or anything of similar weight. The dumbbells must be placed on an elevated platform that is about 1.7 m high. Now, remove the weights on by one and place them on the ground. Then bend downwards, pick them up, one in each hand, and carry these to a spot 75 feet (23 m) away. Place them down again and one by one pick them up and place them on an 1.7 m elevated platform again. This must be performed with your weighted suit on. Walk about for 20 seconds after the test.

4. To perform the ladder test, if you have a 21 foot ladder lying around somewhere, that will be excellent, but otherwise, you'll have to simulate the ladder lift with smaller weights and a specific exercise. Begin this test with a set of dumbbells or similar weights. While holding them overhead, perform a shoulder piston press with and alternating lunge, like in the clip below.


A 21 foot ladder has approximately one rung per foot, therefore you need to perform 42 continuous reps of this exercise to simulate the upwards and downwards movement of the ladder. Usually a ladder is not very heavy, so a set of 5 kg dumbbells may be adequate to start with. Obviously, the heavier the weight you can use, the better. Perform this test with your full weighted gear and note the time it takes to complete all 42 reps. Take a walk for 20 seconds afterwards.

5. To simulate the forcible entry test, take a sledgehammer (or your equivalent) and hit an object 10 to 20 times as hard as you can. The forcible entry test requires that you hit with a certain amount of force. We won't be able to simulate this force in the gym of outside, therefore a number of reps will be performed in order to build up our strength. Note the time it takes to hit between 10 to 20 reps. As always, do this while wearing your 50 lb gear. Rest for 20 seconds afterwards.

6. The rescue test is performed in the same way as the hose drag test. In this case you need to add 165 lb (73 kg) to your dragging platform. The platform must be dragged 35 foot on one direction (10.5 m), then another 35 foot in the opposite direction. Wear full gear and rest for 20 seconds afterwards.

7. For the final test, I recommend that you add some weights to one side of a weightlifting bar. This bar is to be your pike. Now, with the bar in hand, with an explosive movement, lift it up and over your head quickly, as if you were trying to poke a hole into a burning ceiling. The weight is to be at the top. Keep the bar and weight at the top for a couple of seconds and then lower it again. This is one thrust of the pike. Do the required amount to pass the CPAT test. It'll be very helpful if you can increase the weight at the top of your bar.. 


If you don't have a weightlifting bar, you'll need to improvise by using a pole with a weight fixed to the top. This weight may be a stone, a brick, a pail of sand, anything with enough weight that may simulate a pike being pushed through a burning ceiling.

In order to simulate the pulling of the pike, simple pull ups or lat pull down exercises will do. If you can do enough unassisted pull ups, as much as the CPAT requires, then you'll probably not struggle with the test.

The above is your CPAT circuit. Do this twice weekly and note your time. You need to show improvements if you want to make it as a fire-fighter one day.

On the other days of the week, those during which you do your cardio and strength training, I recommend a great post I wrote about training and nutrition: A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass

With these tools, you should have no problem passing the CPAT test one day, to become a great fire fighter. You now know how to eat, how to train and how to perform your CPAT to be able to pass with flying colors.

Remember that the CPAT has been designed to SIMULATE actual occurrences during emergencies. You need to keep in mind that the actual emergency will be many times more strenuous than a CPAT. If red hot fires are blazing around you, smoke obstructs your vision and victims all cry out for your help, your heart rate and physical and mental states will all contribute to your performance. Adrenalin will pump through your veins and raise your heart rate and you'll have to make difficult decisions that may cost your or someone else's life. This can potentially pre-fatigue you so that when push comes to shove, you're not able to perform adequately. It is therefore that I recommend that you do your workouts and preparation in such a manner as to completely obliterate the CPAT. 

Don't perform just the bare minimum in order to pass the test. Remember that people's lives are at stake, as well as your own. Try to get better than the test, try to become stronger, fitter and leaner. And if you pass the test, don't stop your workouts. Keep on going strong and attempt to get better and better. One day your fitness and endurance levels may save someone's life. And that's an encouraging thought!

If you yourself aspire to become a fire fighter some day, to be able to save lives and become a hero, then give this training plan a go. See if you can qualify to make your dreams a reality.

The CPAT test is also a great workout program in it's own right. You can get a great workout if you perform a CPAT test every two or three days. And the best part is, its only 10 minutes long and you can do it at home even. Enough for you to remain healthy and fit without having to go to the gym.

I sincerely hope that if you plan on becoming a fire fighter, this plan may be right for you. May you be successful and reach all your goals.


Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!




Friday, December 19, 2014

Designing a nutrition and training program

(this post is a natural follow up to my previous post which was: A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass)

Very recently I developed a nutrition and training program for someone (let's call him Mike) who wanted to gain weight and build tons of new muscle. Riding on my previous post (A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass) I thought this would be an excellent idea to show how one can use the Calorie Calculator (which can be found on www.lyfafitness.co.za) to develop a nutritional program for those interested in gaining mass and building muscles. 

If you read through A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass, you'll see that there are three parts to the guide. The first part was for those who wanted to lose fat. Parts two and three concerned themselves with gaining muscle while staying lean and building pure bulk, respectively. The answer I gave to "Mike" included the information on parts 2 and 3 of the guide. It goes a little something like this:

(I've included comments in square brackets [*])

Dear Mike 

As promised here’s a guide for you to start building muscle and adding weight to your frame. You mentioned in the beginning that you were at 57 kg’s and that you want to build large and strong muscles. I’m going to assume that you’re about 1.7 m tall and 22 years of age. By using a metabolic rate calculator [can be found here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/] I determined that you need about 2186 calories per day for optimal energy and function. But you want to gain a lot of muscle, so we need to add to this amount of calories for you to make gains. Before we get to the amounts to add, I want to explain the program to you.

The program that I've designed for you contains three phases. The first phase is exactly 8 weeks long and is designed to add major bulk to your body. The second phase is also 8 weeks long and is designed to cut away some of the fat stores gained during the first phase, but also develop nice muscle definition and quality. The third phase is simply a rest phase of two weeks long during which no training or dieting will be performed. During phase 3 you’ll just go about your normal life as if you weren't training or dieting for size. At the end of the third phase, you’ll start with phase one again and then work your way up to phase 3. Each time after phase three you repeat the process until you've reached the weight and size you want to be at and then you only stick to phase 2.

These three phases have been designed so that you may first build up a lot of bulk and then secondly cut away fat and develop quality muscle. There is a rest period in between to give your muscles time to recuperate and reset after which you once again focus on bulking up and cutting down. In this manner you progressively add weight and size, while developing quality lean muscle.

Phase one:

In this first phase the focus is entirely on adding bulk, whether muscle or fat, it doesn’t matter. In order to add bulk you need to really spike your calories during the day for weight gain. I suggest that you add 1000 calories to your daily caloric requirement for a total caloric intake of 3186 calories per day.

Since you mentioned that you’re a vegetarian, but that dairy products are OK for you, I've set up your diet for the first phase as follows:



Since you mentioned that you’re a vegetarian, but that dairy products are OK for you, I've set up the diet plan to provide more or less 1305 calories of healthy fats, 141 grams of protein (about 2.5 grams per kg of body weight) and the rest in carbohydrates for energy, without adding other animal products [those that are non-vegetarian can use the Calorie Calculator to select animal foods for their diets]. Total caloric intake during the day would be 3413 calories.

You'll notice on the plan that there are 5 meals to be eaten during the day, one every 3.5 hours. Food quantities have also been indicated. With eat meal you must eat at least one of the following: broccoli, green beans, spinach or green peas. You must also drink a large glass of water with each meal, this is not negotiable.

Please attempt to eat the quantities of food as indicated on the plan. It's going to feel like a lot of food, and you'll most likely feel very full and bloated at times, but you must take in all the calories for weight gain. If you skip some foods or don't eat all of it, you won't be able to gain the bulk you so long for.

I recommend the following for training during phase one:


Day 1: Legs and shoulders
Squats
Leg press
Standing military press
Clean and jerk

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Chest and back
Bench press
Dips
Deadlifts
Pullups or lat pulldown machine

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Arms
Barbell curls
Bench dips
Tricep cable pushdown

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Start with Day 1 again and repeat

This training has been designed to include all compound movements. Compound movements are very important during phase one because they involve more muscle groups and hence allow you to lift heavier weights for more size and strength. Please always make sure you use the proper form and technique when doing these exercises, otherwise you may injure yourself. You do not do any cardio during phase one.

When you train try to lift as heavy as you can. Each exercise must include 3 sets with 6 to 8 reps per set. Take a log book with you so that you can write down the exact weight you used in that particular set and exercise. You'll need this to select your weights for the next workout session. If you're able to perform more than 8 reps of a particular exercise in a particular set, then that weight is too light and you need to increase it. If you cannot do more than 6, the weight is too heavy and you need to decrease it.

Keep up this program for the 8 weeks of phase one and then switch over to phase two.

Phase two:

During phase two of the program, our focus switches from adding pure bulk, to cutting some of the fat gained during phase one and adding muscle shape and definition. To this end, we increase your daily caloric requirement by only 500 calories, because we still want to have enough energy for building muscle, but not so much that it'll make you fatter.

I've set up your phase 2 nutrition plan to provide 120 grams of protein (2.1 g per kg body weight), and the total daily caloric intake is now 2681 calories. Just as in phase 1 you must eat a green vegetable (broccoli, spinach, green beans or green peas) and have a large glass of water with each meal. There are also 5 meals to be eaten, just as in the first phase.



Phase two training program looks like this:

[this is also the same program as in A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass]

Day1: Legs
Squats or leg press
Lunges
Lying hamstring curls
Standing calf raises

Day2: Shoulders
Seated or standing military press/dumbbell shoulder press
Lateral raises
Rear delt flyes

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Arms
Standing bicep barbell curls
Hammer curls
Standing tricep cable pushdown
Tricep overhead extension

Day 5: Chest
Bench press
Chest flyes
Dumbbell pullovers

Day 6: Back
Pull ups or lat pulldown machine
T-bar row
Straight legged deadlifts

Day 7: Rest

Day 8: Start the whole sequence from the beginning again

Again, use a logger to log the weights and reps you perform. During phase 2, aim for 10 to 12 reps per set, and three sets per exercise. After each weight workout, perform 20 minutes of low intensity cardio. The same rules governing the weights to be used count here during phase 2 as well. If you cannot do more than 10 reps, your weight is too heavy and if you can do more than 12 your weight is too light.

Follow the program like this during phase 2 for 8 weeks then move on to the third phase, which is your two week resting period. After the two weeks, begin with phase one again. Print out these nutrition plans if you can and paste them where you can always see it. Stick to them diligently and you should be able to gain a couple of kilos in no time.

(Note that this is only a guide and that results may vary, especially depending on how well you perform on the diet and training programs. I urge you to do your research on the exercise movements to learn the proper form so as not to injure yourself. Start with smaller weights and get used to the movement first, and always make sure you have someone around you who can help when you encounter problems. If at any point during this program you feel unwell or if you feel like you've injured yourself please visit your doctor to get yourself checked out and refrain from the program for at least two weeks or as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the plan at your own risk. Stefan Stoman, LYFA! FITNESS or any of it's affiliates may not be held accountable for any injuries or other problems that may arise from participation in this nutrition and training program.)


Best of luck, Mike, I hope you gain tons of new muscle and strength. Please send me a message if there is anything you don't understand or if you have other questions. Also keep me in the loop on your progress. Let me know if this program is working or not.

Warmest regards,


Stefan Stoman

Perhaps you too can use this program if you've ever wanted to build muscle and mass. As for those interested in losing fat, I refer you to my previous post, A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass. Best of luck to all of you!

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A practical guide to losing fat and gaining lean muscle mass



Since I joined Quora I've noticed so many questions that either ask “How do I lose weight?” or “How do I gain weight?” I've attempted to answer many of these but still more and more questions on these topics pop up every day. I also notice that the answer to these questions are among the most read of all. I’m really thrilled that there are so many people who want to improve their health or gain mass and, in an attempt to answer all of them, I give you this guide. In this guide you may find practical tips on how to achieve both fat loss and lean muscle gain and also tips for vegans or vegetarians to do the same.

Before we get started on the specifics, a few definitions and concepts are in order. This will help you to understand why each of the steps explained below are necessary for weight gain or loss. The first, and most important, concept we need to address is the concept of the balance of energy.

The balance of energy:

Our bodies are energy systems in balance at all times. Energy comes into the system when it is produced from food and drink and energy goes out when it is used, such as when we exercise and move, during maintenance of homeostasis and when we excrete wastes.
If we use more energy than what we consume, in other words, when the energy going out of the system is more than the energy coming in, there will be a net negative gain in energy. The other way around, when there is more energy coming into the system than what is going out, results in a net positive gain in energy.

In more practical terms this means that if we take in more energy from food and drink and expend less energy from moving and exercising we’ll gain an amount of fat proportional to the net gain in energy. If we expend more energy than what we take in from food, we’ll lose an amount of fat proportional to the negative gain. If we balance the amount of energy coming in from food and drink and going out via exercise and movement, there’ll be no net negative or positive gain, and no fat will be gained, nor lost.

Let’s look at the energy system as a barrel filled with water, with a tap at the bottom. The barrel represents our bodies, and the water the energy in the system. The tap at the bottom can be seen as energy expended, like if we were to do some exercises, and water into the barrel would be energy in, like in the foods and drinks we take in. If we open the tap at the bottom, and start adding water to the barrel at exactly the same rate as what it flows out at the bottom, then the amount of water in the barrel will remain exactly the same. This corresponds with the scenario where energy in is the same as energy out and there is no net gain nor loss. If we start adding more water, at a rate larger than what is flowing out at the bottom, then the amount of water in the barrel will increase. If we open up the tap and let out more water than what we add, then the water in the barrel will become less. In the same way these two scenarios correspond to net energy gain and net energy lost. It works exactly the same with food and exercise. More food in, less exercise and movement equals fat gain. Less food in, more exercise and movement equals fat loss.

It is because of the balance of energy that we may reason that all weight loss or weight gain activities result from the way in which we manipulate the balance of energy inside our bodies. With this concept in mind, let’s move on to three other concepts that governs the entire process of losing or gaining weight: nutrition, training and supplementation.

Nutrition:

As far as it concerns the balance of energy, nutrition involves the intake of food and drink, and thus the intake of energy. But nutrition is more than just eating and drinking stuff. In addition to delivering energy to our systems, nutrition must also be manipulated in such a manner as to deliver all the necessary macro and micro nutrients our bodies need for optimal health and function. These include protein, carbohydrates, fats, water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a host of other beneficial compounds that keep us healthy.

Training:

Training concerns the expenditure of energy, in other words, the energy going out of our systems. Training and energy out is brought about by movement. Movement requires energy and so results in energy out. But training is not only about moving around. No, training involves specific movements that help us to build new muscle tissue and cause growth of existing tissues. Training is also the manipulation of movement to make large energy expenditures possible for fat loss. Training is beneficial for the upkeep and maintenance of our healthy bodies.

Supplementation:

Supplementation plays a small role in the energy balance. It’s main benefit is in the delivery of compounds that make other functions in our bodies more efficient and pronounced. Supplements can improve fat loss or promote the development of lean muscle mass and are thus powerful weapons in our arsenal against fat loss and muscle gain. Please note, supplements in this context are not anabolic steroids, injectables or any other form of illegal performance enhancing drug that may have detrimental consequences to our health and well-being.

=====

Now that we know what the balance of energy is, and we know about nutrition, training and supplementation, the next question becomes: “How do we use this information to lose fat, build muscles or gain weight?” There are three parts in the answer to this question, depending on what your goal/s are. The first part concerns itself with losing fat and is therefore suited for those who want to become slimmer and leaner, with less regard for developing muscle tissue. The second part is about developing muscle, in addition to losing fat and is intended for those who want to build powerful lean physiques. The third part of this answer is for those who want to gain pure mass, with less regard to slimming down. The question is therefore not one question only, but three different questions. Each answer will see improvements in your health and well-being as well, so one should really select the question that best fits their goals from the following:

1. How can I get leaner/slimmer and improve my health?
2. How can I build lean, strong muscles, lose fat and improve my health?
3. How can I gain mass?

Let’s delve into each question separately.

1. How can I get leaner/slimmer and improve my health?

Like we mentioned, this question is for those who want to lose fat to become slimmer or leaner, with lesser regard to developing muscle tissue. I would say this question is mainly for women who want to slim down to look good in a swimsuit or perhaps new mothers who want to lose the baby fat but who do not necessarily want an increase in lean muscle mass. But guys, it does not mean that this type of goal is not for you. There may some guys out there who also want to lose fat, without a massive increase in muscle mass.

In order to get leaner/slimmer, we need to manipulate our nutritional plans to deliver enough protein to maintain our current levels of muscle mass, enough carbohydrates to provide just enough energy to sustain an adequate energy level during the day and enough healthy fats for optimal function. The gist of the nutritional plan should thus be centered on lean, fat free and sugar free foods, in quantities that ensure a net negative energy gain for fat loss.

Food quantities in this category are extremely easy to measure and one doesn't need fancy scales or calculators to do so. You can measure all the portions of your food with your bare hands in the following manner: a portion of protein is as large as the palm of your hand, and as thick as your index finger, a portion of carbohydrate is as large as your tightly clenched fist, a portion of vegetables is as much as you can grab with one hand in one go and a portion of fats is as large as the first joint of your thumb.

To ensure that you put the right amount of food on your plate, foods that provide enough protein, carbohydrates and fats, you need only select a protein food, a carbohydrate food, a vegetable food and a healthy fat food in the proportions described above and you’re good to go. No counting of calories or grams or whatnot required. This is the amount of food to eat regardless of whether you’re 200 pounds overweight or 20 pounds overweight. The portion sizes will see you eating the right amount of food and will eventually bring you to your ideal, healthy weight so long as you make healthy choices.

On the subject of the ideal, healthy weight, if you’re underweight, this nutritional plan will cause you to gain healthy weight, up to what your ideal healthy weight is supposed to be. Being underweight is just as unhealthy as being overweight, and this type of diet is going to get you closer to a normal, healthy weight.

So what would a typical diet look like for a person in this category? The following table describes but one type of plan for one day in the week. I've chosen foods that many of us eat on a daily basis. You’ll also note that there are no quantities given. That’s because it’s already covered by the portion sizes as described above.



A person eating a diet like this, sticking to the portion sizes will most likely see a reduction in fat. Remember the foods must be fat free, lean and otherwise contain little sugar. This is just one day in the week and one way of eating. There are a million and one other ways of designing a diet for this category and the choice really is up to you. The important points are that you must have a protein, a carb, a vegetable and a healthy fat in your meal and you must include a glas of water as well. To make things really easy, look for the meal construction tables on www.lyfafitness.co.za and construct your very own healthy meals.

Sauces, fruit juices and other hidden calorie foods must be avoided as far as possible. See this post on hidden calories to learn how to watch out for them and avoid them.

As far as training is concerned, if your plan is to slim down, I suggest participating in a training program that places some of the focus on firming and toning of muscle tissue, while giving more attention to cardiovascular types of training. Great programs include pilates, calisthenics, aerobics, spinning classes or circuit training. These types of programs will see you burning mountains of calories, while at the same time firming up muscle tone. In no time you should be able to see fat melt from your body, leaving you with those sexy defined lines and voluptuous curves.

I always recommend that you include a multivitamin in your diet no matter what type of diet you follow. A multivitamin will give you all the nutrients you need, where your diet may be lacking and it’ll ensure your good health and optimal function. Another supplement which will also help you in your fat loss efforts is a thermogenic fat ripper. These types of supplements help to suppress your appetite, boost your metabolism and burn more calories during the day. If used correctly, they can boost your fat loss efforts considerably. If you decide to take them, make sure that you follow the dosage as described on the container to the letter and remember to drink lots of water. Never exceed the dosage and if the supplement makes you feel unwell or ill, discontinue use of it immediately.

Other than that, there is no more to losing fat and maintaining your lean muscle mass. Make sure you construct healthy meals from the meal construction tables, by making use of your own hands to gauge portion sizes, drink lots of water, participate in a cardio focused training program and take a multivitamin and fat ripper if you feel inclined to do so.

There are other ways in which you can lose more fat, even before stepping one foot in the gym. Find out more about these tips and tricks here.

But what if I’m vegan or vegetarian?

If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you should not have any problems in constructing your meals from the meal construction tables. Just follow the portion size measurements of your hands and select the appropriate foods from the meal construction tables. If you’re a vegan or lacto vegetarian, you need to make sure you construct meals to include enough protein, carbohydrates and fats for your requirements during the day. This may be done by combining protein sources and eating a large variety of foods. To see how my wife and I lived like vegans for one month, with actual meal plans and healthy recipes see this post.

2. How can I build lean, strong muscles, lose fat and improve my health?

If your goal is to develop lean muscle mass, lose fat and improve your health and well-being at the same time then this guide is for you. Gaining muscle mass and losing fat at the same time is indeed possible but it requires much, much more intricate planning and execution. I explain below.

To build muscle and lose fat at the same time, you need to control your food intake precisely to ensure that you achieve a caloric surplus of around 500 to 700 calories per day. Why 500 to 700 calories? Because this amount ensures a steady gain in muscle mass, while minimizing fat formation. It allows one to grow while staying lean.

In addition to this caloric increase you need to train like a beast, in order to ensure that that 500 to 700 calorie surplus is used to fuel muscle development and not fat formation. But then you must also ensure that you train hard enough to lose fat in the process as well. You need to boost your efforts with great supplements and you have to bring it all together to ensure that it all runs smoothly and effectively.

As the preceding paragraph suggests, quite a bit of calorie counting and food portion calculations need to be performed in order to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. I’ll show you how to do this just now, but before that I need to mention that your food intake should still be lean, fat free and sugar free. Other than in the first section above, your food quantities will be calculated and will not be a simple measurement by means of your hands.

So let’s assume that you weigh 132 pounds (60 kg), you’re about 5”9 (1.77 m tall), you’re 27 years old and you’d really like to lose fat and replace it with lean muscle. How should you go about to achieve that? The first thing you need to know is your metabolic rate and how many calories you use during a day, assuming that you participate in a strenuous training regime. This is relatively easy to do by finding a metabolic calculator online. A good one may be found here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/. If you pump these properties into the calculator, you should find that your base metabolic rate (BMR) is 1581.06. Now use the Harris Benedict Equation to determine your daily caloric requirement for maintenance of your current state. This can be found at http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/harris-benedict-equation/. By using this equation you should find that your daily caloric intake should be around 2727 calories per day (BMR x 1.725).

OK so now you know that in order to stay the same, you need 2727 calories per day. But you want to build some muscle and lose fat, so add 500 to 700 calories to this number to see what you really need per day for awesome gains. You should find that you need to consume 3327 calories per day (2727 + 600) for lean muscle development.

For a good, steady gain in muscle mass, I recommend that your healthy fat foods not be more than 30% of your daily caloric requirement. Therefore 998 calories should come from foods that deliver healthy fats alone. For adequate muscle development I also recommend 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass. For a 132 pound frame, you therefore need to get about 118 grams of protein per day (59 x 2) for lean muscular development. The rest of your calories should be filled with carbohydrates. If you feel you need more muscles, then add more protein to this plan.

With this information, it’s time to sit down and plan your diet. But you’re going to need a calculator (or an Excel spreadsheet) and lots of nutritional information in order to make sure you balance your caloric equations.

Here I’ve shown what a typical day’s diet may look like for our 132 pound, 27 year old. I’ll explain the calculations below:




In order to calculate the protein, carbs and fats delivered by the foods we eat, we need to calculate from the nutritional data of the food how much is contained in a serving size. Take the oats in the example above for instance. The nutritional data for oats is as follows:


(obtained from Google by typing “Oats nutritional value” in the search box https://www.google.co.za/?gws_rd=ssl#q=oats+nutritional+value&spell=1)

Thus, for 200 grams of oats, the calculation for the amount of protein would be 200g / 100g x 17 g of protein. That gives 34 grams of protein. The same calculation is followed for carbs, 200 / 100 x 66, to deliver 132 grams of carbs. This formula is followed for all foods, for protein, carbs, fats and calories to determine how much is delivered by a certain amount of food. I have set up a spread sheet in Excel with the most basic of foods, which you can download at www.lyfafitness.co.za. On it you can perform your own calculations in order to get a feel for how to develop your own unique diet.

If there are any foods you like that are not on the nutritional data list, send me a message at lyfafitness0@gmail.com, and I’ll update the list and the calculations. Otherwise, if you know a little bit of Excel yourself, download the sheet and make you own changes as you see fit.

Great! So for the diet above for our 132 pounder, we can see the foods he/she needs to eat in order to ensure that his/her fat, carbohydrate, protein and caloric intake is just right for lean muscle gain while staying lean. There is no hard and fast formula here. You need to play around with the numbers in order to ensure that you hit the targets more or less. Also keep in mind that this is not an exact science, so don’t attempt to be exactly correct to the nearest decimal, you can give or take 100 calories or a couple of grams here and there.

You may eat as much vegetables as you like in this diet, as long as they’re green and fibrous. That means that you may as much as you like of the following: Green beans, green peas, broccoli or spinach. Those will be the best.

You can also easily spike your protein intake with a whey protein supplement, or a soy protein supplement, if you prefer going the vegetarian or vegan route.

This takes care or the nutrition part, so now we can go ahead and focus on the training portion. In order to make the most of the increased calories you will take in on this diet, an intense training regimen must be followed. You need to use all that calories to build muscle and gain mass, otherwise it’ll just become fat.

What I recommend you include in your training program, are both compound exercises as well as isolation exercises. Compound exercises are movements that involve multiple muscle groups at once. This makes it possible to lift heavier weights for more growth and development. Isolation exercises are those that isolate one specific muscle group. They are not so much geared to strength and size, but more towards proportion and shape. Compound and isolation exercises are to be used in this manner: build size and strength with compound exercises first, then add shape and definition with isolation exercises. So during every training session, you first exercise will always be a compound exercise, followed by a number of isolation exercises.

I recommend a training program like the one shown below:

Day1: Legs
Squats or leg press
Lunges
Lying hamstring curls
Standing calf raises

Day2: Shoulders
Seated or standing military press/dumbbell shoulder press
Lateral raises
Rear delt flyes

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Arms
Standing bicep barbell curls
Hammer curls
Standing tricep cable pushdown
Tricep overhead extension

Day 5: Chest
Bench press
Chest flyes
Dumbbell pullovers

Day 6: Back
Pull ups or lat pulldown machine
T-bar row
Straight legged deadlifts

Day 7: Rest

Day 8: Start the whole sequence from the beginning again

A table of exercises may also be downloaded at www.lyfafitness.co.za. I recommend that you always train to failure in every set. See more about training to failure here.

Cardio is to be performed for no more than 20 minutes after each training session. My recommendations are brisk walking on a treadmill, use of the elliptical trainer, stepping machine, rowing machine or something like the Jacob’s ladder or stationary bike. Cardio should not be too intense, otherwise your body will start using carbohydrates and sugars for fuel. At a low intensity, the body mobilizes fat reserves for energy which is what we want instead. To keep you cardio low intensity, attempt to keep you heart rate between 100 and 120 beats per minute (BPM).

It is very important that you follow this program to the letter, especially in conjunction with an increased calorie diet. Eating like this and training like this will see you gain mountains of new muscle tissue, while at the same time remaining lean and slim.

There are a number of supplements you can use to boost your efforts tremendously. Paramount are a protein supplement, either whey or soy (for those vegan or vegetarian inclined), and a creatine supplement. Creatine will help you to build lots of size and strength in a short amount of time. Then off course, also invest in a multivitamin supplement and a fat ripper. These 4 supplements will help you in many ways to build large, strong muscles.

What about our vegetarian and vegan cousins?

For vegetarians there should not be any problems in developing the right type of diet for muscle development and fat loss. And I dare say for vegans also. All you need to do, is select from the table the foods you want to eat, adjust the quantities and make sure your totals are close to what is required for growth and fat loss. Just remember that each meal should contain a protein type of food, a carbohydrate type of food, a healthy fat and lots of green vegetables like broccoli, green peas, green beans or spinach.

Vegans need to make sure that they eat a variety of foods to ensure adequate intake of all 9 essential amino acids and must take a multivitamin as well.

3. How can I gain mass?

This part of the answer are for those with pure mass gain on their minds. There really isn't much to this, all you need to do is ensure you eat a ton of food every day. Ok not really a ton, but you need to spike caloric intake massively in order to give the body the calories it needs for growth.

As in the section above, ensure that you eat enough protein for adequate muscle growth. 1.5 to 2 g per kg of body mass should do the trick nicely, but you can easily go up to 3 g per kg of body mass. If your protein requirements are met, there is no limit to the amount of fat or carbs you should eat. All that’s important is that you eat many more calories than what is required for daily maintenance.

To do this calculate your daily caloric requirement as was described above, then use the spread sheet on www.lyfafitness.co.za to select foods that will fill your protein requirement and finally eat boatloads of carbohydrates and healthy fats to ensure a caloric surplus. Try to increase your caloric intake to 1000+ calories over your daily requirement and always remember to include green vegetables in your diet as well.

With this plan, expect that you will gain some fatty tissue as well as muscle tissue. With a huge caloric surplus like this, there is no other way than to gain some fat, but this type of plan will see you gain the most muscle and bulk as when compared to the other two types of plans.

As far as training is concerned, my recommendation is that you stick to compound movements throughout this plan. See the training split in the table below.

Day 1: Legs and shoulders
Squats
Leg press
Standing military press
Clean and jerk

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Chest and back
Bench press
Dips
Deadlifts
Pullups or lat pulldown machine

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Arms
Barbell curls
Bench dips
Tricep cable pushdown

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Start with Day 1 again and repeat

Don’t worry too much about sets or reps or training to failure. Your goal here should be to lift heavier weights with each new training session, whilst maintaining proper form and technique. If you’re unsure about how to perform an exercise properly, consult with a personal trainer in your gym, or go online and find advice on the millions of training sites out there today.

You’ll also not be required to do any cardio on this plan. It may be hard, but refrain from all cardio activities while you’re bulking up.

Finally, make use of the same supplements as was described above.

You can see, there’s not much to this type of plan, designed to gain mass. Eat a lot, train hard and heavy and use proper form and technique.

Vegans and vegetarians:

Like before, both vegans and vegetarians can easily design their programs by using the spread sheet on www.lyfafitness.co.za. Make sure you meet your protein requirements, and then fill in the empty spaces with carbs and fats.

For vegans this may be a tad more difficult than for vegetarians. Vegans must make sure a variety of foods are eaten while at the same time meeting their protein requirements. Careful planning is necessary, but it may still be possible.

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The great thing is that you can use all three programs in sequence to create the exact results you’re looking for. Say for instance you find yourself to be a little bit scrawny, and you’d like to add some mass to your frame. But you also want to be lean and sexy. One way you can go about to achieve this is go all out and for the first 12 to 16 weeks focus on pure mass gain. Follow the guidelines in the third section, which is about gaining mass to the letter and don’t worry about losing fat for this period. After 12 to 16 weeks, when you've gained some mass, start following the principles in the second part of this guide, the one which concerns itself with losing fat and building quality lean muscle tissue. Follow this guide for 12 to 16 weeks, then go back on to building mass and after than back onto cutting fat again. In this manner you’ll find that you can add tons of lean muscle mass and maintain a good physique in a short amount of time.

This is but one example and there are many other configurations of these guidelines that you can follow to achieve the exact goals that you would like to have one day.

To sum it all up:

1. The balance of energy governs all weight loss/weight gain activities.
2. Nutrition, training and supplementation is ever present in every weight loss/weight gain situation. You must give each the attention it deserves to make the goal you desire a reality.
3. In order to slim down with lesser focus on muscular development, make sure you follow a lean, fat free and sugar free diet. Use the meal construction tables together with your own exact portion measurements to design a weight loss diet for yourself. Make sure you include a glass of water in each meal. Take a multivitamin supplement and a fat ripper if you so desire to aid your fat loss efforts. When you exercise try to participate in activities with a slightly more pronounced focus on cardio activities and a lesser focus on toning and firming of muscle tissues.
4. To build muscle and lose fat at the same time, calculate your metabolic rate and daily caloric requirements. 30% of your daily requirement should come from fats, you should eat between 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kg of body mass for adequate muscle growth and the rest should be carbohydrates. Use the spread sheet on www.lyfafitness.co.za to plan your meals and make sure your protein and calorie intake is on par with your requirements. Follow a training plan with both compound and isolation movements and finish with 20 minutes of cardio. A protein supplement, a creatine supplement, multivitamins and a fat ripper will aid your endeavors.
5. To gain pure mass, calculate your caloric requirement as above. Then plan a diet that gives you 1.5 to 3 grams of protein per kg of body mass and make sure you spike your caloric intake to 1000+ calories, over what is required daily for maintenance. Perform an all-out compound movement training regimen and aim for increases in the amount of weights used, while maintaining proper form and technique. Do not do any cardio. Use the same supplements as mentioned above.

And there you have it friends, three ways to losing or gaining, as you want it or see it. There really isn't much more to it than that. Small tweaks here and there may produce small differences in the results, but the principles remain the same for all three. I hope with this info you may reach your goals and even surpass them!

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!