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I’ve recorded hundreds of episodes of Muscle for Life on a huge variety of things related to health, fitness, and lifestyle, ranging from the basics of diet and exercise like energy and macronutrient balance and progressive overload and training frequency and volume to fads like the ketogenic and carnivore diet and collagen protein to more unfamiliar territories like body weight set point and fasted cardio.

Some episodes resonate with my crowd more than others, but all of them contain at least a few key takeaways that just about anyone can benefit from (that’s what I tell myself at least).

And as cool as that is, it poses a problem for you, my dear listener:

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Well okay, some people do make the time to listen to most or even all of my podcasts, but my wizbang analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of Muscle for Life and thus miss out on insights that could help them get a little better inside and outside the gym.

People have also been saying they’d like me to do more shorter, multi-topic episodes, like my Q&As.

And so I got an idea: how about a “best of” series of podcasts that contains a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from my most popular episodes?

This way, people who are new to the show can quickly determine if it’s for them or not, and those who enjoy what I’m doing but don’t have the time or inclination to listen to all of my stuff can still benefit from the discussions and find new episodes to listen to.

So, in this installment of The Best of Muscle for Life, you’ll be hearing hand-picked morsels from three episodes:

Dr. Eric Helms on the Best Way to Lean Bulk (Gain Muscle and Not Fat)

(Originally published Sept 4th, 2019)

What 17 Studies Say About Increasing Your Testosterone Naturally

(Originally published Aug 9th, 2017)

Motivation Monday: The Little Big Things About Building a Better You

(Originally published Aug 13th, 2018)

And we’ll be starting with number one, Dr. Eric Helms on the best way to lean bulk.


5:13 – Dr. Eric Helms on the Best Way to Lean Bulk (Gain Muscle and Not Fat)

14:12 – What 17 Studies Say About Increasing Your Testosterone Naturally

22:07 – Motivation Monday: The Little Big Things About Building a Better You

Mentioned on the show: 

Dr. Eric Helms on the Best Way to Lean Bulk (Gain Muscle and Not Fat)

(Published 9/4/19)

What 17 Studies Say About Increasing Your Testosterone Naturally

(Published 8/9/17)

Motivation Monday: The Little Big Things About Building a Better You

(Published 8/13/18)

Shop Legion Supplements Here

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hello, and welcome to the latest and greatest episode of Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews and thank you for joining me today. Now, I have recorded hundreds of episodes of Muscle for Life, and I’ve talked. To about a huge variety of things related to health, fitness, lifestyle, mindset, ranging from the basics of diet and exercise, like energy and macronutrient, balance and progressive overload, and training frequency and volume to.

Fads like the ketogenic and carnivore diet and collagen protein to more unfamiliar territories like body weight, set point, and fasted cardio, and some episodes resonate with my crowd more than others, but. All of them contain at least a few key takeaways that just about anyone can benefit from. At least that’s what I tell myself.

That’s what helps me sit down in the chair every day and do this, and as cool as that is, it poses a problem for you, my dear listener, especially if you are new here, and that is, Nobody got time for that. We’re talking about probably a thousand plus hours of content at this point. And while some people actually do make the time to listen to most, or even all of my podcasts, my wizzbang Analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of Muscle for Life.

Thus, they miss out on insights that. Them get even just a little bit better inside and outside the gym because if you just get a little bit better consistently enough, that can add up to big results in the long run. And people have also been telling me that they would like me to do more shorter multi topic episodes like my q and As and says you episodes.

And so I got an idea how about. A best of series of podcasts that contains a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from my most popular episodes. Going all the way back to beginning this way, people who are new in particular can quickly determine if this is the droid they’re looking for, if this podcast is for them or not.

And then those who are regulars and enjoy what I’m doing, but just don’t have the time or inclination to. All of my stuff, and I do understand that I don’t take it personally. , you can also then benefit from the discussions and the episodes that you are not listening to in full. And you can also find new episodes to listen to without having to give an hour of your time to determine whether it was worth it or not.

So here we are with the best of Muscle for Life, and in this episode you’ll be hearing handpicked Mors from three episode. The first is an interview idea with Dr. Eric Helms on the best way to lean bulk or to lean gain to maximize muscle gain and minimize fat gain. And that was originally published in September of 2019.

And then you’re gonna hear takeaways from a monologue called what 17 studies say about increasing your testosterone naturally. And that was published back in August of 2017. And last is a Motivation Monday mono. Called The Little Big Things About Building A Better You, and that was originally published back in August of 2018.

Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world, and we’re on top. Every ingredient and dose in every product is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research.

Every formulation is 100% transparent. There are no proprietary blends, for example, and everything is naturally sweetened and flavored. So that means no artificial sweeteners, no artificial food dies, which may not be as dangerous as some people would have you believe. But there is good evidence to suggest that having many servings of artificial sweeteners, in particular every day for long periods of time may not be the best for your health.

So while you don’t need pills, powders, and potions to get into great shape, and frankly, most of them are virtually useless, there are natural ingredients that can help you lose fat, build muscle, and get healthy faster. And you will find the best of them in legions products to check out everything we have to offer, including protein powders and bars, pre-workout and post-workout supplements, fat burners, multivitamins, joint support, and more head.

To buy, that’s b U Y L E G I And just to show you how much I appreciate my podcast peeps, use the coupon code M F L checkout and you will save 20% on your entire first order. Okay, so let’s start with the highlights from the interview I did with Dr. Eric Elms on the best way to lean.

Talking about bodybuilding today, of course, and specifically, I guess we could say lean bulking, and this is something that I have spoken a little bit about and written a little bit about, but there hasn’t been much research, at least that I was aware of, that I could point to, to give great insights so we can talk about.

A study that you’re gonna go into, and then also the study that you are conducting as well. And I’d be curious just to hear your take on the difference between the study that just recently came out and the one that you’re doing, and just your thoughts in general. And specifically on, just for everybody listening, so you know, what you’re getting into here is, okay, we all know that a calorie surplus is conducive to muscle and strength gain.

There’s no question, but how much of a calorie surplus and is a much larger surplus? Better than a smaller one. And what can we take from that to optimize our lean bulking or bulking phases. Yeah, Mike, that’s a great setup to the question because I think we really need to get into a phase in the hashtag evidence based community where we have a little more nuance around this topic.

It wasn’t too long ago. Where you’d hear voices in our community say something like, if you want to gain muscle, you have to be in a calorie surplus. Or if you wanna lose fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit. And especially that latter statement as it’s largely true, but it’s much more complicated than that.

 We’ve all seen like the biggest loser where you see someone who, by the time they’ve lost a lot of body fat, they’ve clearly built muscle. Or we see those kind of transformations as trainers, or we have someone who’s novice off the street comes. They’re a higher body fat percentage, and by the time they’ve lost a fair amount of body fat, they’ve also gained a ton of strength and muscle mass.

So then, the conversation progressed towards, oh, okay, if you’re overweight, it can happen. But an interesting thing that we see in the broader literature is that anytime you take relatively untrained individuals, which is. Most people in studies, even the trained folks are relatively low training age for how we see things in the body building and strength training community.

If you just put them on a resistance training program and do nothing with their nutrition, no intentional manipulation of it, just they eat ad lium or do their thing. People tend to maintain body fat and increase muscle mass or decrease body fat percentage via their lean body mass going up and body fat going down at the same time.

And just so people understand, why is 11 subjects a disadvantage just for people not familiar with research? Absolutely. That’s a fantastic question. So anytime we do research, the goal is to make some kind of generalization about the population that’s representing. So if I want to be able to stay confidently to.

My brothers and sisters and I are, Hey, here’s what probably makes sense for you to do. But I’m extrapolating from only 11 males. There’s a certain amount of uncertainty of whether or not that’s a representative sample. So for example, you’ve got 11 people. That means you’ve actually got a group of six and a group of five.

And if you think about, okay, I’ve got five people who I selected at random from bodybuilders. What if one of them is a hypers responder to the protocol? Or what if one of them got sick during the study and didn’t tell me? Or what if one of them didn’t follow the protocol? Now 20% of my data is off, and that can really quite easily skew the group average. Or what if one of them lied about drug use? Sure. Yeah. I think that’s really unlikely just because why would you volunteer for a study? But it certainly is not out of the realm of people do weird shit. Yeah. . Yeah, I tend to think someone’s Hey, we’re doing a study on natural bodybuilders.

You wouldn’t be like, I’d like to join that study and ruin knowledge. , I don’t know if your Instagram bio has lifetime natural or lifetime drug free, you know there’s something wrong with you and it’s that plus an F M I of 29, you never know. I’d be like, oh, I am absolutely a natural bodybuilder who wants to further prove this by being included in a natural bodybuilding study.

Yeah. The thing is you’re de-identified. You don’t get a trophy, you don’t get likes. All the reasons why someone does it on social media. For fame, money, self-gratification, external reward, winning a trophy, athletic prowess. That all makes sense to me. But being like, I can’t wait to be part of a mean in obscure study that no one’s gonna read , I can’t wait to be a data point

No, it’s totally true. Just immediately, what popped into my mind, so if you think about it from a practical perspective, you know the person who’s gaining fat mass at three times the rate of the. They’re gonna have to do a mini cut constantly, every couple mess cycles. And they’re gonna end up being in that hair versus the tortoise scenario where they end up gaining less muscle mass over time because they have to come outta that surplus constantly.

So I think it maybe makes sense for someone who is. Just doesn’t care. Or is it a very low body fat percentage already and is just you know what? Whatever I need to put on a lot of muscle mass. So young teenage males, perhaps early twenties novices. But if you think about a competitive power lifter who’s trying to fill out their weight class or a competitive bodybuilder, who has to get down to those mind effing levels of leanness we talked about at the beginning of our podcast, it’s all gotta come off, so if you end up. 20% over stage weight, whatever extra kilo or two of muscle mass you put on, you’re gonna lose in the process of having to diet twice as long or twice as hard. So it’s just not a a worthwhile trade off in most cases. And the visual change for someone who is putting on 0.3 kgs of fat mass and, 1.2 kilograms of lean mass, that you’ll actually look better if you do that, yeah. However, if you’re putting on 2.4 kilograms of lean mass, and then also 1.8 grams of. You’re gonna look basically the same, maybe a little worse, because of the area of each one of those tissues takes up. I think that’s something to considers the whole reason you’re doing this is probably for changing the way your body looks, not in all cases.

Sometimes it is just raw performance. If you’re a strength athlete in a non-weight class, restricted sport, like if you’re a shot putter or if you’re in the over 1 0 5 strong man division. Or if you’re, like I said, a super heavy weight lifter, a power lifter, and you’re gonna. Whatever, bro.

I don’t care. Whatever’s gonna make me strongest, but I think it’s worth considering that if you are in any other situation than those, it just doesn’t really pan out. There was a study that came out not too long ago that showed that there’s an obligatory loss of lean body mass when you lose body fat, and it is not skeletal muscle tissue.

So something like around 15% of adipose tissue of fat tissue is actually lean mass. So it has some structural components to it that is, Triglyceride. It’s not just a bag of stored triglyceride that’s on you. That’s only about, 80, 85% of fat tissue. So when you lose fat, you have to lose lean mass as a component of it.

You might be gaining muscle at the same time, you might see a net positive change, but anytime you see someone gain fat or lose fat, there’s gonna be a slight over representation of how much lean mass they’re losing or how much lean mass they’re. Likewise, if you have someone pound this much food, you’re invariably gonna change their sodium content and therefore their body water.

And a lot of that does become, hyper hydrated muscle tissue. Some of that also becomes subcutaneous water retention. And how much of that is gonna get represented in one of these equations is gonna be unclear. So with the skin fold, you are supposed to, if you’re doing it properly, you hold the skin fold out and you clip the c.

And then you wait for the reading to stabilize. You give it a few seconds and that should press any subcutaneous water out from underneath the caliper. So you’re actually just getting a true skin fold measurement. But that’s assuming you’ve got someone who really knows what they’re doing, but what you can’t do is know how much additional, hyperhydration there is in the tissue.

So if someone’s just heavier, Has lower skin folds and equation is gonna spit out a greater lean body mass gain. So it’s very possible that 2.4 kilograms of additional lean mass is, let’s say 0.1, 0.2 of that is lean body mass gain from fat tissue gain, and then another, maybe as much of a full pound, 0.4 kilograms could be additional water retention more than the other group.

So I’m quite skeptical that it was actually twice as much muscle. But there’s gonna be some of that going on in the slow game group too, just proportionately less. I think best case scenario, we’re looking at a four to one versus a four to three ratio. Probably more realistically, we’re looking more like a four to four and a four to one ratio, if I had to guess.

So I think it’s almost misleading to see how well the fast game group did. I think it’s probably a best case scenario to be honest.

All right. That’s it for the snippets from that interview, which again was published back in September of 2019. In case you want to go check out the whole thing, and if you liked what you just heard, I would recommend go listen to it. It was a great interview. think all of the interviews that I do are great, of course, but the ones that I’ve done with Eric have always stood out in my mind, at least as some of the most informative and practical fitness interviews that I’ve done here on.

Okay, so now let’s move on to the monologue, what 17 studies say about increasing your testosterone naturally. What is a hormone? Now, most people can tell you that testosterone is a hormone, of course, but few of them could probably explain what a hormone is. So I think we should just start there. A hormone is a chemical that the body produces to control and regulate the activity of cells and organs.

Hormones play a critical role in pretty much every bodily function, including. Digestion, metabolism, reproduction, and even mood. You can think of them as quote unquote messenger molecules that give your cells and organs instructions. For example, insulin is a hormone that you have probably heard of and probably heard a lot of bad things about as of late.

A lot of bad things that are untrue, I might add, but that’s another discussion anyways. Insulin is a hormone that causes cells to absorb glucose, which is blood sugar from the blood, and use it for. All right, so that is a hormone. Let’s now move on to what testosterone is. Testosterone is a hormone that is mainly produced in the testicles and the ovaries.

It is the most important male sex hormone, also called an androgen, and that’s why men generally have much higher testosterone levels than women. And those testosterone. Affect a lot of what goes on in the body, including muscle and bone strength, the production of red blood cells, sex drive, the production of sperm and energy levels and mood.

This is why testosterones effects are very easy to see. The more testosterone there is in a body, the more manly it looks and functions. And on the flip side, the more of the female hormone estrogen there is, the more womanly the body will. Accordingly, when testosterone levels aren’t as high as they should be, you can experience various side effects, like low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, sleep problems, loss of muscle and strength, fat gain, brain fog, and.

Depression. So there clearly are plenty of good reasons to pay attention to our testosterone levels and really just do whatever we can naturally to keep them in a normal range. Another study worth mentioning was conducted by scientists at the Charles r Drew University of Medicine and Science. And in this study, synthetic testosterone and testosterone suppressing drugs were used to manipulate the testosterone levels of 61 young, healthy.

Men. This went on for 20 weeks, and in the end, researchers found that there was a dose dependent relationship between testosterone and leg strength and power. And that means that the higher the testosterone levels were, the greater the leg strength, but those effects were not significant. Until testosterone levels reached about 1,200 N G dl, which as you now know, is about 20 to 30% above the natural ceiling.

Now granted, the increases in strength and power would’ve been higher if the subjects had been weightlifting, which they weren’t. But those results are still. Telling And for even more perspective, we can look at an extensive review of steroid research conducted by scientists at Master H University in 2004.

What they found is that people lifting weights on steroids gained on average between about four and a half. And 11 pounds of muscle over the short term, less than 10 weeks, and that the fastest muscle gain was five pounds over the course of six weeks. Now, that might sound impressive, but when you compare those numbers to what you can achieve naturally, which I’m going to record a podcast on soon, by the way.

One thing becomes very clear, and that is if an anabolic drug cocktail that doubles or even triples your testosterone levels doesn’t necessarily cause you to gain quote unquote shocking amounts of muscle, what then can we really expect to achieve with a relatively small increase? And the answer of. Is next to nothing.

Now that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take steps to increase your testosterone levels. I think you should, and we’re going to talk more about that soon. But you should do it knowing that it isn’t likely to help you much in your quest to get bigger, leaner, and stronger. Switching from a low fat to a high fat diet.

It can boost your testosterone levels. That’s true, but not by very much. For example, one study found that men who got a whopping 41% of their daily calories from fat had 13% more testosterone than men who got only 18% of their daily calories from fat. Another study conducted a decade earlier, demonstrated more or.

The same thing. So what that means is, strictly speaking, eating a lot of dietary fat is quote unquote better for increasing your testosterone levels. But it’s just not very exciting when you consider that one. Increasing your testosterone levels by relatively small amounts isn’t going to do much of anything.

And certainly isn’t going to help you get jacked faster. And two, if you eat that much fat, you’re going to have to dial your carbohydrate intake down, which isn’t only non optimum for your body’s muscle building machinery, so to speak, but it actually can suppress your testosterone levels. That’s right. A low carb diet.

Can suppress testosterone production so much though that if you exercise regularly and eat an even halfway sensible diet, the carbs that you eat are going to affect your testosterone levels a lot more than the fat. We can find evidence of this in a study conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina, and what they found is that, When combined with daily exercise, a low carb diet raised resting cortisol levels and reduced free testosterone levels.

Now, how does that work? There’s an inverse relationship between cortisol and testosterone, which means that the higher your cortisol levels are, the lower your testosterone levels will be. Therefore, anything that dramatically and chronically raises cortisol levels. Like caloric restriction over training, high levels of stress and low carb dieting.

It’s also going to dramatically and chronically lower your testosterone levels. And this is one of the many reasons that I recommend a high carb diet. If you’re physically active, and especially if you spend a lot of time in the weight room, you see it helps keep cortisol levels low and thus testosterone.

High and the mechanisms in play here are actually pretty simple. If you eat a high carb diet, your insulin levels are going to be generally higher than if you were eating a low carb diet. And insulin lowers cortisol levels, so in a sense, a high carb diet. Allows you to train hard without paying the price of abnormally high cortisol levels, putting the kibosh on your testosterone production.

A high carb diet is more anabolic than a low carb diet for other reasons as well. But that’s another discussion. So here’s the bottom line. If you’re physically active and you care about your health performance and results, and especially if you lift weights regularly, you are going to do far better eating a lot of carbs than a little.

All right. That is it for the highlight reel from what 17 studies say about increasing your testosterone naturally. And again, that was published in August of 2017. In case you want to go find it and listen to the whole thing, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you is the leading.

Of all natural sports supplements in the world. And let’s move on to the third and final key takeaways, and these are from a Motivation Monday, a motivational monologue called The Little Big Things About Building a Better You. Workouts build more than muscle. They build character. They teach us how to have the courage to commit to goals.

They teach us how to create purpose and meaning. They teach us how to stop making excuses and finding reasons to fail. They teach us how to stop being a victim and take responsibility for ourselves. They teach us how to stop chasing magic bullets and quick fixes and embrace the process. They teach us how to get gritty and push through pain and adversity.

They teach us how to value long-term satisfaction over immediate gratification at bottom. Working out teaches us a very powerful lesson. If we have the power to change our bodies, we have the power to change our lives. That’s why we train. We train because fitness is one of those special things in life that you can’t buy steel or fake.

There are any rewards for complaining or failing, and fitness doesn’t care about your opinions or feeling. You have to give something to get something. You can’t slide by on bullshit. It’s cold working out after all, and for good reason. You either do the work and transform your body or you don’t. This is a valuable lesson to learn because it’s a metaphor for something bigger.

No matter what you’re facing in life, you have two choices you can put in the work or get put in your place. The gym is also a source of learning because it calls on us to constantly attempt new things. It’s a forum where questions are at least as important as answers, and it cultivates what scientists call a growth mindset by teaching us that our abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, a worldview that’s essential for great.

The gym is practical too, not idealistic. It’s a laboratory open to any and all ideas and methodologies, and it gives clear, unqualified feedback. They either work or they don’t. In short, the gym can be so much more than merely a place to work out. It can be a refuge from the chaos around us, a world of our own that we create to satisfy dreams and desires.

The gym can also provide us with something missing from so many people’s lives, principles, values, and standards to live by. In short, a game worth playing. Without a game worth playing, nothing else really matters. Life becomes a daisy chain of random events that happen to us accidentally rather than intentionally without rhyme or reason, direction or meaning.

It doesn’t have to be like this, though. Fate has dealt us a hand, but we get to choose how we play. This is one of the many reasons to love fitness. It has purpose, order, and significance. It’s an outlet for integrity, intention, and excellence. It fosters community commitment and a clear focus on worthwhile results.

The type of results that bespeak prized virtues like discipline, patience, work ethic, self-respect and passion, the type that speak louder than words and posture. The fitness game goes deeper than that too. It’s a meta game, so to speak, because if you have what it takes to conquer your psychology and physiology, then you might just have what it takes to reach out into the world and conquer a whole lot more.

In short, the better you get at the fitness game, the better prepared you’ll be for every other game you might want. What about you? What game do you most want to play? What do you value most? What are your strengths? Who do you most want to become? Don’t sell yourself short. When reflecting on these questions, don’t nod along with the reasons why you think you should downsize your dreams.

Don’t allow the reality of who you currently are. Snuff out glimmerings of who you could be. Don’t skid through life ignoring the music that is inside you. Recommended. The magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. Do this now. What’s your why for fitness? Why is it a game worth playing? Why do you keep showing up?

Reflect on those questions and write your answer down. Why does that matter? Why is it important to you? How does it benefit you? Reflect on those questions and write your answer down. Why do those things matter? What do they mean to you? What is special about them? Write your answer down. Continue this process of asking why until you’ve written something that clicks, that puts a sparkle in your eye and makes you say, yes.

That is really why I do it. Write this down in case you’re curious. Here’s my personal take on this exercise. What’s your why for fitness? Why is it worthwhile? Why do you keep showing up to look and feel good and be healthy? Why does that matter? Why is it important to you? How does it benefit you? Life is just better when you’re happy with what in the mirror, when you feel energetic and healthy, and when you don’t have to worry about developing disease or dysfunction.

Why does that matter? What does it mean to you? What’s special? I want to do a lot of things well in life, personal growth, career love, friends, et cetera, and taking good care of my body will make all of them easier to do. Neglecting my body, however, will make them much harder, if not impossible to achieve.

I also wanna be a certain type of person. I want to embody the values and ideals I admire, like honesty, honor, diligence, resilience, and independence as my body is literally the embodiment of my character. Taking care of it is closely intertwined with. Therefore, when I work out, I’m not just working toward a better looking body.

I’m working toward every single one of my goals and the person I really want to be. And that’s it for the preview of the little big things about Building a Better You. If you liked what you heard and you want to go listen to the whole episode, it was published back in August of 2018. And that’s it for this episode.

That’s all I have for you today, friend. Again, thanks for joining me today, and tune in tomorrow. For a q and a episode on deload, timing, birth control, and performance and popular exercises I don’t like. And then next week I’m gonna be talking about aine sulfate, which is a popular ingredient. Used mostly in pre-workouts, but also sometimes in other supplements.

And I’m gonna be answering the question, does it live up to the hype? I have an interview coming with Sam Vinik on improving mobility and dealing with chronic pain, how to get rid of pain, how to at least lessen pain, how to work around pain. And then another q and a where I’m gonna be talking about mouth guards, compression, clothing, and skipping b.

Please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from. Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibility and help more people find their way to me and to the podcast and learn how to build their best body ever as.

And of course, if you wanna be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast in whatever app you’re using to listen and you will not miss out on any of the new stuff that I have coming. And last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at mike muscle for and share your thoughts.

Let me know how you think I could do this better. I. Every email myself, and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.

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