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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:

James Clear on How to Build Effective Habits and Make Them Stick

(Originally published 7/6/2018)

How to Successfully Clean Bulk In 6 Simple Steps

(Originally published 2/27/2018)

16 Destructive Things You Have to Stop Doing to Be Happy

(Originally published 10/23/2017)

And we’ll be starting with number one, James Clear on How to Build Effective Habits and Make Them Stick.

Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!


5:01 – James Clear on How to Build Effective Habits and Make Them Stick

11:36 – How to Successfully Clean Bulk In 6 Simple Steps

20:30 – 16 Destructive Things You Have to Stop Doing to Be Happy

Mentioned on the Show:

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, mindsets, 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.

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. It poses a problem for you, my dear listener, especially if you are new here, and that is, ain’t 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 podcast, My WBA 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 could help 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. And people have also been telling me that they would like me to do more shorter multi topic episodes like my q and A’s 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 the 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 listen 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. 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 hand picked mores from three episodes. The first is an interview I did with James Clear on how to build effective habits and how to make them stick, and then a monologue that I recorded called How to Successfully Clean Bulk in Six Simple Steps, and then another monologue that I recorded called 16 Destructive Things You Have To Stop Doing to Be Happy.

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 because every ingredient. 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.

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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 MFL checkout and you will save 20% on your entire first order. Okay, so let’s start with the first one, which is, James, Clear on how to build effective habits and make them stick.

We often think that what we need to change are the results, but in fact, we need to change the system behind the results. So for example, let’s say that you decide, Oh, I really need to like clean my garage, or I have a messy room or something. Eventually the clutter builds up enough that you get this burst of motivation to make a change and then maybe spend all Saturday like cleaning the room or cleaning the garage.

And you have a clean room, so you have the result that you want. But if you don’t change the habits behind what led to a messy garage in the first place, then three months from now you’re gonna have a dirty garage in. And I think the same thing is true for so many aspects of life. You can say the result that you want is to lose 20 pounds and fine, you could go on some like crazy juice cleanse or crash diet or whatever and lose the weight.

But if you don’t change any of the habits that led to that in the first. And I think this is one of the downsides of, especially with health and fitness goals, looking at them as a finish line rather than a lifestyle. If you look at things as a finish line, then it can be motivating for the short term.

And it’s possible that you could get to it, although in many cases you won’t. But if it’s just about crossing that finish line, then you never adopt the lifestyle that you need to actually live that way, day in and day out, and maintain those results. I think this is why you see a lot of people who, they may train for a marathon or something, or a five.

And then they run the race and after the race is done, they stop training because they were just training to, to finish the race and they don’t have anything to motivate them afterward. And that’s one of the weird things about focusing on goals rather than systems, is that. If you just focus on the goal after you achieve it, what’s left to push you forward.

Whereas if you’re focused on building the system is different, what can we do to optimize the environment to make it more likely that we are a person who feels motivated at the right time or who feels inspired to do things at the right time? And this is where environment design can be very useful. And so I’ve done a variety of research on this topic.

And one of the stories I like to share is from Harvard Medical School. It was done at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the researchers had an interesting question. They said, Can we change the eating habits the behaviors of people without actually talking to them without trying to motivate them?

And so what they did was they went into the hospital cafeteria. They changed the layout so that before they went in, there were like maybe five refrigerators interspersed throughout the cafeteria, and only two of them had water in it as an option, and the other three were like soda and orange juice, and things like that.

And so a, then they changed it so that all five refrigerators had water soda was still an option, but they just made water more prevalent. And then they added a couple little rolling cards next to some of the food stations with water as well. And that was it. That was all I did. But after they made that change over the next six months, sales of water increased 25% and sales soda decreased 11%.

And I like that example because if you were to go up to anybody eating in the cafeteria and ask. Why did you get a Coke? Or why do you have a water? Everybody would have a reason for it. They would say Oh, I got it cuz that’s what I wanted to drink. But in truth, a quarter of those people chose water just because it was more prevalent or more obvious to them.

And this is so true about many things in our environment. We desire the things that are obvious. Our cravings are once, are shaped by the world around us, what is made prevalent to us. And so we can take advantage of that by redesigning our workspaces at home or our workspaces at the office or our kitchen counters at home so that the good option is more prevalent.

That’ll lead to what effectively looks like better willpower, but in fact, what it actually is a better environment. One more point I wanna make about that kind of ties together, this environment concept and the systems over goals concept that we started with, which is a system can get to the same result through many different shapes.

Through many different forms and perhaps training is a good example of this. If you want to get bigger shoulders, that’s fine. You can do that in many different ways. You can focus on shoulder training and doing military presses and things like that in the gym. If you’re into gymnastics and you’re gonna be like doing things on a pommel horse all the time, the bars and whatever, great.

You’ll probably get huge shoulders that way. If. Into some other type of training like shop put or swimming or something else that is heavy on the upper body, then that’ll probably help. But the point is that you can get to the same result through a variety of different pads. And this is true no matter what kind of system you’re building.

And if you’re thinking about habits that you want to form, whether going to the gym more consistently or tracking your calories or journaling each morning, those also are outcomes that can be solved in many different ways. Like maybe one person. Becomes the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts because they have a morning running partner that they meet for 6:00 AM every day and they use the social pressure to get them to do that.

Maybe another person hates working out in public and doesn’t really like working out with other people, so they have a home gym or a yoga mat or something like that. And so they make it easy by changing their environment in that way. All of the ideas that we’ve offered today and really any habit that you’re thinking through, Is just one way to get to that result.

One form that system can take. If you wanna live a peaceful, calm, meditative life, you don’t have to meditate for 60 seconds every morning to get to, to live a peaceful life. That’s just one way the system can be designed. And I mentioned that in closing only because I think that’s a useful way to think about putting these concepts together as different components of a larger system.

And you get to decide what your system looks. And maybe that involves some of the environment design things we talked about here. Maybe it involves some of the identity concepts we talked about. Maybe it involves other stuff. You pull from a variety of other, self-help books or training books or whatever, it doesn’t really matter where it comes from.

What matters is that the system that you create serves the end goal that you want. And so my point is that you don’t have to build the habits that everybody tells you have to build. You could, should just focus on the ones that work for you and your circumstance stands. All right. That is the highlight reel from the interview I did with James Clear that was originally published back in July of 2018.

So if you liked what you just heard and you wanna listen to the full episode, you can go find it in the feed, if that’s the term or if you’re on YouTube in the channel, and give it a listen. Okay? Now let’s move on to some of the more interesting tidbits from a monologue I recorded called How to Successfully Clean Bulk in Six Simple Steps.

Okay, so now let’s get to how to clean bulk correctly. So the first step is you have to calculate your calories. The first step is figuring out your energy balance. You have to figure out approximately how many calories do you need to eat every day to be in that slight, five to 10%. Surplus. And to do that, head over to legion and search for Clean Bulking, and you’ll see an article that I wrote on this subject that has a calculator that makes it very easy.

I might be able to put a link up here as well. So if I can, then you’ll see a link here to the article. Okay, so you have your calories. Step two is figuring out your macros, your macronutrients, turning those calories into protein, carbs, and fats. And the easiest way to do this is to set your protein at 0.8 to one gram of protein per pound of body weight.

I personally just go with one. To keep it simple, some people like to go with a bit less so they can free up calories for more carbs and more fats. So that’s up. So once you have that, set your fat to about 0.32, 0.35 grams per pound of body weight. And this is of course, per. And you can go up to as high as 0.4 if you really want to, but I don’t recommend it because the additional carbs that you can eat are going to do more for your progress than the additional fat.

So I would say if you can enjoy your diet at 0.3 grams per pound of body weight per day, then set your fat there. So you have a lot of calories for carbs. And lastly, carbs. And for your carbs, you allot all of your remaining calories to carbs. So a gram of protein contains about four calories. I know there’s research that shows it might be like 3.2, but just to keep it simple, let’s just say four calories per gram of.

Protein and about nine calories per gram of fat. So you add up of your calories for your protein. You add up your calories for your fat, you sum ’em together, you subtract that from your total daily calories. What you have left is your calories for carbs, and a gram of carbohydrate contains about four calories.

So you divide that that number that you have for your calories, for your carbs by four, and there are your gram. And the reason why I want you eating a lot of carbs when you’re clean, bulking is carbs are very conducive to muscle growth. Not only do they make for better workouts because you’re generally gonna have higher glycogen levels, glycogen is a form of carbohydrates stored in your muscles and your liver, and that is, Used primarily for anaerobic activities, so I’m assuming you’re gonna be doing a lot of weightlifting.

If you’re bulking, more carbs are going to help you do better in your weightlifting workouts. Furthermore, studies show that higher carb diets are better for muscle recovery. They’re also even better for your hormonal profile because lower carb diets combined with intense heavy weight lifting is generally gonna result in higher cortisol levels and the.

Your cortisol levels are the lower your testosterone levels are going to be, and so you want to do whatever you can to keep your cortisol. As low as generally possible. Of course it’s going to spike when you work out, but that’s good. That’s what you want. Otherwise, you want it to be generally low, so it doesn’t impact your testosterone to any significant degree.

Okay, so the fourth tip for successful bulking is to cheat intelligently. And I have three little rules of thumb here. The first one is cheat once per week and don’t exceed 150% of your calories that you’d normally be eating for the. So what that means is once a week you could have a cheat meal or you could make more of a cheat day, so to speak, and sprinkle foods throughout the day that you wouldn’t normally eat.

But make sure that your calories are not. Exceeding 150% of what you’d normally eat for the day. So if your bulking calories are 3000 calories, make sure you’re not going over 4,500 calories on your day that you are cheating. And the reason for that is simply to minimize fat gain and so you don’t go crazy and gain several weeks worth of fat that week.

Now the second tip here, which is something I actually prefer that you do over. Even going 150% of your overall intake is actually to save up calories for this is usually is, this is better for a cheat meal if you’re trying to just eat stuff throughout the day, you know that you normally wouldn’t eat or eat more throughout the day than you’d normally eat.

This doesn’t quite work, but if you like to just have one big meal at on your cheat days, then this works and it’s very simple. What you do is, so let’s say it’s. I, it’s easiest to do if it’s dinner’s gonna be your treatment. You go to a restaurant and you want to order what you want. You wanna get an appetizer to, you wanna get an on train, you wanna get a dessert.

So what you do then is you basically just see protein throughout the day. You have lean protein and you have as few carbs and fats as possible leading up to the dinner. So when you arrive at the dinner, let’s say you’ve already eaten your protein for the day, but you have a lot of carbs and fats just to reach your normal daily caloric.

So to put numbers on it, let’s say that you are eating 3000 calories a day that those are your bulking calories and you’re eating about 200 grams of protein per day. And so you do that throughout the day and you eat your 200 grams of protein and it comes with some carbs and some fats. So you come into that dinner having eaten a thousand calories, you now have 2000 calories to eat before you’re even eating more than you normally.

And unless you have an absolutely insane pathological kind of appetite, you start to slow down after 2000 calories. That’s a lot of food. That’s 500 grams of carbs. Or if it’s a mixed meal, if it’s like. 250 grams of carbs in a hundred ish grams of fat, for example. Those are both about 2000 calories.

That’s a lot of food. Moving on to step number five in clean bulking is adjust your food intake based on how your body’s responding. And what you want to see is if you are new to weight lifting. You wanna see anywhere from, let’s say, a pound to two pounds a week for the first 10 to 12 weeks. And if you’re not new to weight lifting, you’ve been lifting for a while, then you wanna see something closer to probably a quarter to a half a pound a week.

So personally, if I’m bulking, that’s what I’m looking for. A quarter to a half a pound, a week of weight gain. And those numbers are for men. I’d say for women, there’s probably about half of those numbers. So if you’re new to weightlifting or woman who’s new to weightlifting, I would like to see a half a pound to about a pound of weight gain for per week for the first 10 to 12 weeks if you are in a surplus.

Now, I’m just saying that if you’re a woman and you’re starting out in a deficit, so if you’re starting out looking to lose fat, then you won’t necessarily gain weight. In the beginning, you may gain a little bit, but you may not. For more advanced female weightlifters, you wanna see about the same about as men.

About a quarter to a half pound a week. And in my experience working with a lot of women, it’s usually closer to a quarter pound a week. You find the sweet spot in terms of calories and work in the gym that allows you to put on about a quarter of a pound a week on average. What that means then is you need to see how are you doing, and then if you’re not where you need to be, you need to adjust your food.

For example, and I’ll see this often with guys, especially skinnier guys that have always had trouble gaining weight, they are getting a little bit stronger in the gym, but they’re not gaining any weight. You gotta eat more. So what you want to do is bump your daily caloric intake up by a hundred to 150 calories.

I’d recommend starting with just bumping your carbs up and really pushing your carbs. As high as you can. If you need to keep on increasing your calories, there is a point where you have to stop eating more carbs simply because it gets physically hard to do. But in my experience working for a lot of guys, that usually doesn’t start becoming the case until they’re eating five to 600 grams of carbs per day in some cases.

That’s not enough. So you know, you have a guy eating 80 to a hundred grams of fat per day, five to 600 grams of carbs per day, and maybe 150 to 180 grams of protein today, still not gaining weight consistently. Then usually we start going to increasing protein more if they’re willing to do that, because that can get the needle moving, and research also shows that it will minimize the additional fat game.

And that’s it for how to successfully clean bulk and six simple steps. That one was published back in February of 2018, in case you want to go check out the whole thing. And now the final part of this episode this installment of Best of Muscle for Life, and that is some key takeaways from a monologue called 16 Destructive Things You Have to Stop Doing To Be.

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 brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. Like many of life’s great existential problems, how to be happy is a very tough nut to crack.

Decades of research have gone into it. Books come out every month on it. It’s almost inscrutable some people would say. Now, there are plenty of things that we can do to increase our happiness quotient. We can simplify our lives. We can cultivate mental toughness. We can find a passion, we can help others.

There are also. Plenty of things that we should stop doing though if we don’t want to spend our lives fighting the undertow instead of writing the wave. Now, I know that there are a million articles and podcasts out there like this, X number of ways to be happy, and in this one I just wanna share. 16 things that have made a difference for me, and the first one is, stop being around shitty people.

Never underestimate someone’s ability to make you feel inadequate, unwanted, and insecure, and never subject yourself to their brand of misery. No matter how much you might want them to you ditch the friend. I put that in, scare quotes, that’s always making backhand digs or one upping you or pointing out all the flies in your soup, or just making you feel like you constantly have to explain yourself.

You have a right to choose who you share your life. Exercise it. Which brings me to number three, and that is stop being afraid of mistakes. Yes, failing sucks. It is indisputable proof that we just weren’t good enough, That our idea was crap, that our work was shoddy, that our will was too weak. But the truth is, everyone fails.

Even the most successful people that you know, even the most wildly successful people in the world in history have failed. And in many cases, Failed tremendously. They never got knocked out of the game. They never quit, but they had some hard knocks. Nobody bats 1000 in life, period. So failing isn’t what matters.

It’s what you do next. That’s what really counts. And something that many people don’t know about mistakes, little failures is the faster you’re going, the less they matter. If you can just maintain speed and momentum, those things alone can carry you right on through the rough spots. Number 14, stop blaming others.

If you want to completely relinquish control over your life, then you only have to do one thing. Just start blaming others for all of your failures and all of your problems. Now if you want to earn the right to remain at the helm of your life, then you should go in the other direction. You should always seek to acknowledge your role in causing the circumstances that you face, both good and bad.

Number 15 is stop worrying so much. No amount of nail biting is gonna change the truth. And that is much of life is simply outside of our direct control. Yes, we can keep our eyes on the road and we can keep our hands on the wheel, but we can’t keep everyone else’s eyes and hands where they need to be, and therefore, sometimes shit happens.

The simplest advice I’ve been able to find for fretting less is to just work for the best, but prepare for the worst. Don’t just hope things will go. Make them go right. And if they don’t go right, don’t let it be because you didn’t really try. Okay. That’s it for the featured tidbits from 16 Destructive Things, you have to stop doing to be happy.

And if you liked it and you wanna listen to the whole thing, you can go find it in October of 2017. 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, strong.

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 Just muscle r and share.

On how I can do this better. 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 multiple And. That’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.

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