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I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following three questions:
- Should I wear a mouthguard while lifting?
- How beneficial is compression clothing for muscle gain?
- Should I eat or skip breakfast?
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected]
Recommended reading for this episode:
3:44 – Should I wear a mouthguard while lifting?
13:52 – How beneficial is compression clothing is for muscle gain?
21:16 – Should I eat or skip breakfast?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for a q and a where I answer questions that readers and followers ask me. If you want to ask me questions that I can answer for you and that may be chosen for future q and a episodes, shoot me an email. Mike Muscle for Life, just f o r.
Dot com and let me know what’s on your mind. I get a lot of emails, so it may take me seven, 10, maybe even 14 days or sometimes a little bit longer, to be honest, to get back with you, but you will hear back from me and you will get an answer. And if it’s a question that a lot of people. Are asking or have been asking for some time, or if it’s something that just strikes my fancy and it’s something that I haven’t already beaten to death on the podcast or the blog, then I may also choose it for an episode and answer it publicly.
Another way to get questions to me is Instagram at Muscle for Life Fitness. You can DM them to me, although. That is harder for me to stay on top of. I do try, but the inbox is a little bit buggy and it just takes more time trying to do it, whether it’s on my phone or the Windows app. But there is a good chance you will still get a reply.
Emails better, and I also do post, I think it’s every few weeks or so in my feed asking for. People to give me questions, give me fodder for the next q and a. So if you would rather do that than just follow me on Instagram at most for life fitness and send me a message, or just wait for one of my q and a posts.
And in this episode I will answer three questions. One, Comes from Tom Phillips via email, should I wear a mouth guard while lifting? The other comes from Tyler Upchurch, I think via email as well, and he asks how beneficial compression clothing is for muscle gain in particular. And last, I have an anonymous question here, something that I have been asked many times over the years, and I’m still asked at least once or twice per week, and that is, should I.
Or skip breakfast. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and. Thinner, leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef.
Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores. And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100%.
When you sign up for an Audible account, and this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audiobooks for free, just go to www.buy Legion, that’s b y legion.com/audible and sign up for your.
So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn time proven and evidence-based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, bigger, leaner, stronger for Men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women, and the Shredded Chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipe.
Okay, let’s start with Tom Phillips’ question about mouth guard. Should I wear one while lifting is what he asked? And there are several reasons that people wear mouth guards while they’re lifting weights. It’s not just to look hardcore . One is just to protect their. Teeth. Some people tend to clench their jaws and grind their teeth heavily, especially when the weights are heavy and they are deep into sets.
And yes, you can mess your teeth up, you can break teeth, you can give yourself headaches, and of course, wearing a mouth guard helps prevent that. Now there are other people out there who wear a mouth guard because they’re afraid they’re gonna pass out mid set and they don’t wanna damage their teeth when their head hits the ground.
And unless you are a competitive strength athlete who has to push himself or herself to the brink, That makes about as much sense to me as figuring that you can drive recklessly because you are wearing a seatbelt. Now, maybe you should just not drive recklessly. And similarly, instead of using a mouth guard to make you feel better about your reckless weightlifting, how about you just don’t lift weights recklessly, and then you don’t need the mouth guard to make you feel a little bit better about the reckless weightlifting or feel that it is a.
Safer, which it’s not. I mean, the mouth guard, sure, it may help protect your teeth if you pass out, but you’re gonna have bigger problems. There are many other things that can break if you’re training so intensely that you may pass out with a bunch of weight on your back or over you. Like in the case of the.
Bench press and training that intensely is not only unnecessarily dangerous, it is also not necessary for making progress and will almost certainly stunt your progress. It may make you feel like you’re progressing faster in the short term because you’re putting more weight on the bar, but unless rep maxes are going up over time, and particularly your rep maxes up to maybe 6, 7, 8 reps, not beyond.
Unless those are going up over time, unless the total amount of weight that you can move for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 reps is going up over time, you’re actually just treading water. You can get in volume and you can burn a lot of calories, and you can maintain muscle and strength. But to get bigger, to continue gaining muscle size, muscle definition, for women out there who are thinking more in terms of muscle tone and muscle shape than just pure size, you need to see your strength going up.
Your whole body strength needs to be rising over time. And the best way to. Gauge your whole body strength is to look at your estimated one rms on the big lifts, the squat, the deadlift, the overhead press, and the bench press. And a great way to do that is with rep max testing, where you load the bar heavy with a weight that you can do maybe 3, 4, 5, 6 reps with, and then do as many reps as you can pushing until.
Form starts to break down going up to the point of technical failure, and then you can take that number. So let’s say that’s 225 pounds on the bench and you get four reps, and on that fourth rep, your butt starts to come off of the bench. Okay? Technical failure. You can then go plug the 2 25 for four into a one or M calculator and get a good estimate of what your one RM strength is and pay attention to.
Over time. So if you are doing most of the most important things correctly, then several months later you should be able to get maybe five reps or maybe even six reps with 2 25. That is progress. Now, if you train too intensely, and this is. Especially true for intermediate and advanced weightlifters who are lifting heavier weights and who have to do higher amounts of volume to continue gaining muscle and strength.
If you push your body too far too often, it’s going to fall behind in recovery, and what you’ll see is your one RMS will stagnate. Regardless of what you do in the kitchen, regardless of how many supplements you take, regardless of how fancy your training protocol is, your one RMS will just stay stuck in a rut.
They’ll go a little bit up and a little bit down a little bit up a little bit down, and that can go on indefinitely. Now, I don’t want to go off on too much of a training tangent here. I want to get back on topic, but if you wanna learn more about optimal programming for intermediate and advanced weightlifters, how to make sure that you are getting in enough volume and intensity to continue making progress.
How to make sure that you’re pushing yourself enough to. Continue gaining muscle and strength, but not so much that you are blunting the adaptation process that drives muscle and strength gain. Check out my latest book that I released several months ago Beyond Bigger, leaner, stronger. It’s actually a, an updated second edition.
I released the first edition years ago and then essentially rewrote it from scratch though for. Second edition. It really is like a new book. So if you read the first edition and liked it even a little bit, I think you’re gonna really like the second edition. So anyway, coming back to mouth guards again.
If you are wearing a mouth guard because you are getting lightheaded in your squatting and you’re deadlifting and your overhead pressing and bench pressing, and you’re afraid you’re gonna drop a bar on your face or fall on your. Let’s dial that intensity down a little bit. Let’s think with long-term sustainability, because training like that is not sustainable, I promise you.
Now, one other reason people wear mouth guards in the gym has to do with performance, and there’s something to this actually. The connection between clenching your teeth and increasing your strength goes all the way back to the late 18 hundreds. Actually, it was first discovered by a Hungarian physician named Erno Yk, and what he found is if a patient clenched their teeth and flexed their fingers into hooks and then interlocked their hooked hands in front of themselves, they can improve the strength of their patella reflex.
The the reflex that’s triggered when. Below a person’s knee, normally with a little hammer. And since then, a number of studies have found that doing things like clenching your teeth or gripping as hard as you can, or using the Valsalva maneuver, which you can learn [email protected] If you don’t know what that is, just search for Val Salva, V A l S A L V A, that.
Doing those things helps you generate more power and strength because of something that scientists call concurrent activation. Potentiation a fancy term that just refers to the phenomenon of increasing the amount of force you can generate in one muscle by simultaneously contracting, generating force in another muscle.
and this is one of the reasons that strength athletes talk about squeezing the barbell as hard as you can when you are squatting or deadlifting or bench pressing. Overhead pressing. And it works. If you’ve never tried it, try it the next time you’re in the gym. If you normally don’t think about gripping the bar as hard as you can, if you don’t consciously squeeze the bar as hard as you can, try it next time.
And what you’ll probably find is you feel a little bit stronger and it will probably translate into an extra rep or maybe even. And if you have experienced that and wondered why, now you know why it is because of this concurrent activation, potentiation phenomenon. And there’s probably also something to be said for the efficiency of force transfer.
So in the case of a bench press or an overhead press, probably a deadlift as well, more forcefully contracted, more rigid grip muscles, forearm muscles are going to be better for transferring force than slacker muscles. But this concurrent activation potentiation principle is the primary reason why squeezing really hard.
You know, the barbell, the dumbbell, the machine handles can boost your strength a little bit. Now, one other way to activate that, to benefit from that is to clench your teeth. To clench your jaw really hard. And if you’re gonna do that, then wearing a mouth guard is probably a good. To help protect your teeth.
Now, how much additional strength can clenching muscles really hard give you? Well, according to a study conducted by scientists at Marquette University, it can make a pretty significant difference. In this case, what they found is that when participants clenched their teeth and performed leg extensions, they were about 10% stronger than when they did the exercise with a relaxed jaw, and when they clenched their teeth and gripped handle.
Both hands as hard as they could, did grip tests and used the Valsalva maneuver. They were on average, 15% stronger than when they did the grip tests without any concurrent activation potentiation. So should you wear a mouth guard when you’re training and clench your jaw as hard as you possibly can, it’s up to you.
I don’t, because I don’t think it’s gonna make that much of a difference when I’m also gripping the bar or dumbbell or machine handle as hard as I can. And using the Valsalva maneuver and the idea of taking a mouth guard in and out between sets, you know, touching it, touching the weights, eh, unhygienic all pass.
But if that doesn’t bother you, and you just wanna see if adding that extra little bit of concurrent activation potentiation can make a difference in your big lifts, give the mouth guard a go.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded.
Okay. Let’s move on to the next question, which comes from Tyler Upchurch, and he wants to know how beneficial compression clothing is for muscle gain. Well, let’s start with defining the term here to make sure we are all on the same page. What is compression clothing, or what are compression garments exactly?
Well, these are items of clothing that fit very tightly to your. , they cause slight compression of whichever areas you are covering, like your legs or your arms, for example. And they’re often worn during or after certain types of exercise like weightlifting and running or while playing sports, especially endurance sports where you run around a lot like basketball, soccer, because it’s believed that these.
Garments can aid in recovery and that may be able to improve performance over the long term, particularly for athletes who have to train a lot. And so recovering faster does allow them to train more frequently and more intensely, which then, of course can turn into competitive advantages over time. Just.
Long-term performance improvements that maybe their competitors, their peers, are not able to match without using the compression clothing themselves. So that is the theory. What does science have to say? Well, a recent meta-analysis that was conducted by scientists at St. Mary’s University College looked at this.
They went over 23 different studies on compression garments to see how. Factor recovery. And before we dive into the findings, it’s worth noting that most of the studies that have looked at the effectiveness of compression clothing have participants doing some kind of fatiguing exercise or something that would cause muscle damage, in particular, like lifting weights or maybe running sprints.
And then they have the subjects put on the compression clothing normally within an hour of doing the. And then they’re supposed to wear the compression clothing until their performance is retested, and that could be two hours later or maybe 48 hours later. Usually not longer than that. So that’s the normal protocol for using these things.
And in this St. Mary’s University college study, what the researchers found is that wearing compression clothing did improve recovery to a small degree in athletes who are training for endurance and power. It is unlikely to make any meaningful difference in the case of performance. Now in the case of athletes who are training for strength, so this is gonna be more relevant to me and likely you and the rest of the people who are listening to this podcast who just wanna get more jacked.
The researchers found that the improvements were much larger, so much so that they concluded that wearing compression garments is very likely beneficial over the long. If strength gain is your goal, and the reasons for this is that it’s well established that strength is compromised for between 24 and 72 hours after resistance training because of the damage caused to the muscle by lifting weights, and then wearing compression garments appears to decrease the muscle damage, which means that you can then train again with a high intensity sooner than you could if you.
Wear the clothing, and if you were to do that, if you were to increase your training frequency, which really just means increase your training volume, you can think of frequency primarily as a tool to hit the volume target that you want. For a given muscle group. It is not extremely important. Per se to train a muscle group 2, 3, 4 times per week.
But it is extremely important to make sure that you are training a muscle group with enough weekly volume to continue making progress. And if you are not brand new to lifting weights, that means you’re probably gonna have to hit the big muscle groups with anywhere from 12 on the low end to maybe 16, maybe even 18 hard sets.
That’d be on the high end per week. And as you can’t do more, 10 to maybe 12 hard sets for an individual muscle group In an individual training session before the point of diminishing returns is reached, before you are no longer adding more muscle building stimulus, you are just, uh, causing more muscle damage and burning more calories.
Then of course increasing frequency can make sense. So let’s say you have to do 16 hard sets for your chest per week to continue gaining muscle and. There. You could do 16 sets in one session, but that’s not gonna be nearly as effective as doing maybe 10 in one session and six in the other, or maybe eight, eight, maybe 12, four.
That approach is going to produce much better results than trying to do them all in one session. And so then in the case of compression clothing, if compression clothing were to. In your programming. Essentially, if it were to help you recover a little bit faster in between your chest training or any other muscle group training sessions and allow you to hit your volume target more effectively, well then it would help you get results over time.
It would help you gain muscle and strength over time, but if you are currently able to hit your volume targets and recover just fine from your training session. Then adding compression clothing wouldn’t likely do anything. It may help you get over DOMS a little bit faster, so maybe you’ll just like that.
It’ll just feel better, but that probably won’t translate to anything in the gym. Now, if you want to give compression clothing a go to get the best results with it, research suggests that you should put it on within an hour of your training and then. It for around 24 hours after. There’s also a slight trend in the research toward better recovery when lower pressure clothing is worn compared to the higher pressure stuff that’s out there, which is counterintuitive to layman at least, who often think more is better.
So if you’re gonna wear compression clothing, you might as well make it as constricting as possible. What we know is that. Is probably not going to produce better results. So you don’t have to subject yourself to that. You can just go with the normal level of compression. And as far as brands go, it actually matters what you pick because studies have shown that various large commercial brands don’t offer enough compress.
To actually produce benefits. They’re more like slim fitting athleisure. That’s not what we’re going for. We need enough compression to actually cause improvements in blood flow to improve the body’s ability to clear lactate and other detrimental metabolites to increase oxygen saturation. Those are the primary benefits that studies have identified as to the physiological reasons that compression clothing can.
And so a brand that is good, a brand that I’ve used, I’m not getting paid to recommend them, but they make good stuff is two X U. So I can endorse that one. And another good brand is Zoot, Z O O T. So if you go with either of those, you can know that you are getting proper compression clothing. Alright, moving on to the final question of this episode, which is, should I eat or skip breakfast?
Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast, the ever controversial? Meal, the perennial controversy. It just never goes away. Some experts say that breakfast is vital for preserving your health and for preserving body composition and preventing weight gain. And then other people say that skipping it entirely is the trick, the one weird trick to staying lean and healthy.
Intermittent fasting. Basically that’s skipping breakfast. Start eating around 12 or one. Stop eating around eight or nine right now, as far as the scientific research goes, well, it cuts both ways. For example, one study that was conducted by scientists from Harvard’s School of Public Health found that men.
Who regularly skip breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease. That sounds scary. Another study found that skipping breakfast was associated with a higher risk of weight gain. That’s not good, but on the other hand, you have studies that say otherwise. For example, a study that was conducted by scientists at the University of Alabama involved an extensive review of the literature on breakfast eating, and it concluded, the researchers here concluded that missing breakfast either has little or no.
On weight gain. In fact, the data showed that breakfast eaters tended to consume more calories than breakfast skippers. So what’s going on here? What’s the deal? Does skipping breakfast make it easier to har or harder to lose weight, or does it have no effect whatsoever? And what about health and. What about muscle building?
Well, let’s take a closer look at the studies I just referenced and see what we can learn here. So the first thing that jumps out in the Harvard research is the people who didn’t eat breakfast were generally hungrier later in the day and then ate more at night than those who did. Now that is important.
not because eating food at night is a problem per se. It’s not. You can eat as much or as little food at night as you want, so long as you are controlling your calories according to your goals and controlling your macros according to your goals. But studies show that meal skipping can lead to overeating and an increase in total overall energy intake.
So in some people, what studies have found skipping meals tends to make them eat. Compared to eating more frequently. On the other hand, other people experience the opposite, and that’s been shown in research too. Some people are able to better control their eating, better, control their calories with fewer meals.
Those people tend to do very well with intermittent fasting, for example. They tend to not be hungry in the morning. Uh, in my experience working with many of these people and therefore skipping calories in the morning when they’re not hungry anyway, and saving those calories for later in the day when they are hungry.
Obviously helps with compliance. Now, if though somebody is more likely to overeat when they skip breakfast, well that’s gonna lead to weight gain and eventually they’re going to become overweight. If this continues and if it becomes enough of a problem and we know that, Overweight people are at an increased risk of heart disease.
So therefore, it’s not surprising that there can be an association between skipping breakfast and an increased risk or an increased incidence of cardiac events and heart disease. But does that mean that skipping breakfast causes heart attacks? No, of course not. It’s an association. It is a correlation, not a caus.
Now, how about this University of Alabama study? Well, in this case, the researchers found only a handful of rigorous, well-executed studies on the effects of eating and not eating breakfast. And you actually have to go all the way back to 1992 to find the only long-term, carefully controlled trial that looked at routinely eating or skipping breakfast and how.
Affected or how those things affected body weight. And in that 1992 study, which was conducted by scientists at Vanderbilt University, eating or skipping breakfast, had no significant effect on weight loss. What mattered weren’t the breakfast habits, but the overall eating habits and dietary compliance, which merely confirms what metabolic researchers have been saying for decades and that.
If you enjoy breakfast, eat it. And if you enjoy skipping breakfast, skip it. And if you enjoy a big breakfast and that helps you stick to your meal plan better do that. If you enjoy a small breakfast and that’s better for you. Like me, I have a very small breakfast. I actually just have a scoop or two of protein powder.
That’s it. And that works for me. I’m not very hungry in the morning anyway, and it just helps me get enough protein in, you know, I supplement in the morning and I supplement in the afternoon, and then I eat protein lunch dinner, and that works for me. And so if you are someone who just likes breakfast food, so you’ll like eating breakfast, or if you find.
Eating breakfast again helps you stick to your diet. If it reduces hunger levels, maybe it perks you up in the morning. Maybe it gives you a nice boost of energy, especially if you’re training in the morning. It’d be a good idea to have, at least, let’s say you wake up early and you go to the gym basically first thing.
it would be smart to have some protein either before, certainly after the training, and some carbs definitely before. A little bit of carbs after may be a good idea as well. So when I was training first thing in the morning when I was lifting first thing in the morning, I would have a scoop of protein powder, 20 grams of protein, and I would have a banana, 2025 grams of carbs.
Sometimes I would. Some extra carbs in the form of rice milk. So I believe that was 20 carbs per cup, and I would mix the protein powder in it. It was pretty delicious actually. And so I would get in a good serving of 40 to 45 grams of carbs and about 20 grams of protein, uh, at least 30 minutes before I would go to the gym.
Um, and then eventually I dropped it just a banana and I didn’t notice any difference in terms of like a, a performance drop off. So, uh, 20 to 30. Carbs 30 minutes or so before. Training is generally going to help a little bit. You’re gonna feel a little bit stronger, your performance is gonna be a little bit better.
And then after I worked out, within an hour or so, I’m not worried about the quote unquote anabolic window, but within an hour or so of training, I’d have another scoop of protein and then just move on with my day. Now if you like to skip breakfast because you’re not hungry in the morning, maybe you don’t like breakfast food, or maybe you just like, Fewer larger meals then great, do that.
The key is really just knowing what works best for you. And that’s it for that question. And that’s it for this episode. We’ve done it. We’ve made it through another. Thanks again for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed it, and definitely stay tuned for next week where I’m gonna be talking about when you should give up.
On a goal, and although that may sound kind of pessimistic and defeatist, I think it is very important to understand when you just need to cut your losses and go back to the drawing board and either modify the goal that you have been working toward, or maybe just scrap it all together for something else.
And then I have an interview with James Madden and Pat Flynn on the philosophy of mind, a rather high brow. That I did my best to keep up with. I think I asked enough dumb questions to keep it grounded for those of us who are not as enlightened as my guests were. And then I have another q and a coming where I’m gonna be talking about neck training.
Something that is trendy these days. Not sure how that happened, but it happened. As well as trainer certifications and unilateral exercises. All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or.
Wherever you’re listening to me from, in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility, and thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well.
And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com. Just muscle f o r life.com and share your thoughts on how I can do this.
I read everything myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open to it. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.
That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at muscle life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.