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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:

Kurtis Frank on the Best Functional Foods for Improving Health and Wellbeing

(Originally published 2/9/2019)

Are Compound Exercises Better Than Isolation Exercises?

(Originally published 3/6/2019)

Motivation Monday: What Got You Here (Probably) Won’t Get You There

(Originally published 11/5/2018)

And we’ll be starting with number one, Kurtis Frank on the Best Functional Foods for Improving Health and Wellbeing.

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


5:16 – Kurtis Frank on the Best Functional Foods for Improving Health and Wellbeing

14:45 – Are Compound Exercises Better Than Isolation Exercises?

20:40 – Motivation Monday: What Got You Here (Probably) Won’t Get You There

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 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.

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, 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 podcasts, my Wang 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 run. 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. 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 will be hearing hand picked Mors from three episodes. The first is an interview I did with Lesions Director of research, Curtis Frank, on the best functional foods for improving health and wellbeing, and the second episode featured in this episode, or the highlights from the episode that’s featured in this episode.

Is a monologue called our Compound Exercises better than Isolation exercises. A refresher on the fundamentals. That’s always useful, right? And then the last episode featured here is a motivational Monday episode. What got you here probably won’t get you there. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion.

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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. 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.

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Okay, let’s start with the highlights from the interview I did with Curtis Frank on the best functional foods for improving health and and the general idea of functional foods, like in the most basic definition, are foods that also have a function. Hence the name. But basically speaking, a lot of foods just you eat them because they’re nourishment and you don’t give a second thought about it.

But sometimes there are some certain foods that you do give an extra thought about. The best example would be if you’re sick, you have some chicken noodle soup or ginger. Where, sure, they’re just nourishment, but they also provide an extra function of helping you while you’re sick. This idea that extended to how functional foods or foods that have these unique components within them are the bridge between diet and supplementation.

So very often you hear about people quacks if you. Talking about how eat this food and then they just claim all the benefits of supplementation of a particular molecule, the food. So anytime you hear about just hype where it’s eat broccoli to get jacked or eat eggs to lose body weight or stuff like that, you always talk about functional foods, which is just buy the stuff in the grocery store.

And you could have an extra benefit. There’s a lot of detox kind of claims are often, at least that’s, I see that pretty often in the context of functional food. Oh yeah. It’s the whole like eat, detox, weight loss, yeah. Eat the certain food. You get these goodies, eat these foods. They have these like negative effects or whatever.

I think the best place to start would be with Phish. Just fish products in general because fish oil is a dietary supplement and it’s just straight up taken from fish. And fish is a great functional food in this essence because not only is a ne nutri, but it contains within it the fish oil dietary supplement.

So if you’re to have the food, you get the benefits of just the proteins within the, say salmon. , but you also have the benefits of doctor supplementation. Now some fish are better than others for that though, right? Like when it comes to fish, the general rules are if you want the omega-3 fatty acid as you go for cold water, fish.

The ones that are just more fattier because if the fish exists in cold water, it needs to have some fat just to protect itself. Whereas warm water fish can be leaner cause they don’t need that temperature coating. And you also want fish that are not necessarily predatory, but you don’t want them to be like crusta bottom feeders as well.

So you want fish lower on the food chain cuz then they have the lowest level of mercury buildup. The only ones that are a problem would. I think catfish, the species of tuna known as Albacore is pretty up there. Skipjack and Yellowfin should be okay. That’s more of a, like once you’re trying to decipher the differences between different species of tuna that’s pregnant women territory when it comes to mercury levels for like just day to day health reasons.

Don’t worry about it too much. It’s just general theme. But the main reason I wanted to bring a fish in particular is because on the topic of functional foods, food with a function, we can measure the fish oil within the food. And this is important because we just get a sort of an idea. That there are indeed molecules within this food and they’re at a certain level and they could actually be taken out of the food if need be.

The main problem when it comes to functional foods is that sometimes people say, Eat broccoli because it’s good for you, and then you ask why. Then they respond with cuz it’s good for you, obviously. Like they always will be traced back to a molecule or class of molecules. You will be able to measure them and there should be supplemental alternatives for a lot of these things.

The only thing is we eat the functional foods because they’re cheaper than actually taking this stuff out of the food product and putting into a pill. All right, so what is another tier one? Let’s say functional food. Garlic. So we have fish. Your favorite. Of course. Of course. Garlic. Yeah, garlic. But anyways, like the definition of functional food is food with the function and if the function is gonna be reducing blood pressure, the first question is, can I just eat enough this food to knock myself out?

With garlic, you can, I’m actually gonna have to give a disclaimer on this. Some people use garlic before the head to the gym as a sort of nitric oxide booster. First and foremost, yes, that does work. Secondly, it’s not recommended because you exhale a lot at the gym and there are gonna be other people there who will not take kindly to the garlic.

She genetic as you’re doing, and if you do any overhead work, you may very well pass out from low blood. Garlic can quickly and potently reduce blood pressure. So that is enough to call it a functional food. What’s in garlic? What’s the special, what’s the secret sauce? I don’t know exactly what the entire category is, but they’re basically sulfur bearing compounds, small amino acids that have sulfur on them, survive digestion, and then just give sulfur off within the human body.

But when the sulfur is in the human body, rather than being, say, incorporated into a sulfur forbearing amino acid like L Seine, the sulfur just floats around and it usually forms hydrogen di sulfide, which is the molecule known for producing egg farts. Or at least the smell thereof. Hydrogen dify is actually similar to nitric oxide and the fact that it relaxes blood vessels.

Furthermore, it actually bolsters antioxidant defenses, like there’s three different molecules known as the gas transmitters, small transmitters, kinda like neurotransmitters, but like neurotransmitters are called that because they’re transmitters within neurons. Gastro transmitters are transmitters that are gas.

It’s nitric oxide, hydrogen di sulfite, and carbon monoxide, and the three of them can pass through any cell barrier they want cuz they’re small gases and they just don’t care about barriers. They just slip on through. They reduce blood pressure, they bolster antioxidant defenses. They actually help the immune system.

It’s very much just like a secondary nitric oxide that works in concert with it. Furthermore, if you boost one of them up too much, the other one will follow suit, cuz they have to have some sort of balance with each other. Another one could be blueberries. They’re a bit expensive. Also, I should mention, not many of the listeners may know this, but when it comes to blueberries, if you do wanna buy it, frozen is better than fresh.

Why? Because the antioxidants within blueberries over time, like the reason antioxidants are in fruits, or to prevent the fruits from oxidizing once the fruit goes brown and just rotten all. All its antioxidants are used up, it can no longer prevent oxidation. Thus it oxidizes. So the more exposed to air, the more it’s antioxidants are just decreased over time.

Now the process of freezing could potentially destroy antioxidants as well, but the ones that we want when it comes to health benefits of blueberries, the an CINs seem to be resilient against the. So first we freeze them. There’s no major destruction of the antis and blueberries, and then because they’re not really exposed to oxygen and they’re frozen, all their metabolic processes are slowed.

They have a significantly lesser rate of decay when they’re on the shelves at stores, they most likely have a higher antioxidant content, and if you just leave them in your fridge for a week or so, they’re gonna retain a lot more of them than fresh ones. Furthermore, they’re cheaper, which is a significant point cuz fresh blueberries probably one of the most expensive fruits at this point in time.

Yeah, they’re pretty absurdly expensive as far as fruit goes and. Why blueberries? What do I get for eating blueberries regularly? All berries that are on the blue to black spectrum color, but the darker skinned ans do have cognitive boosting properties and are generally antioxidants that can reach the brain.

So I wouldn’t say if you’re a young youth, otherwise healthy and you’re a student, I’m not gonna go out and say that blueberries will make you smarter, but at the same time, if you’re a 70 year old whose cognition is starting to fade, you may very well have like noticeable improvements in cognition with say, a cup of frozen blueberries made into a smoothy every morning.

And for a, just any food product to have noticeable improvements in cognition is quite remark. Okay. That’s it for the key takeaways, at least some of the key takeaways from the interview I did with Curtis on the Best Functional Foods, and that was originally published in February of 2019. If you want to go listen to the whole interview.

All right, let’s move on now to our compound exercises better than isolation exercises. One of the major changes that I made in my training that helped me get to where I am now was shifting my focus from isolation to compound exercises, and there are several reasons for this. One is compound exercises train many muscles at once, and the more muscle groups you can effectively train in a given exercise.

The. Overall muscle you can build as a result. This is also more time efficient, obviously, because one compound exercise can do the work of several isolation exercises. Another big benefit of compound exercise is they allow you to lift heavier weights, best compound exercises, put dozens of major muscle groups and multiple joints through a large.

Range of motion, and consequently then they enable you to move more weight than isolation exercises, and that allows you to better progressively overload your muscles over time. Now, that is significant of course, because mechanical tension, the amount of attention generated in your muscles is the primary.

Driver of muscle growth outside of some hormonal stuff that goes on in the body, but it’s the primary factor in terms of what you are doing in the gym. And your goal then is to increase the levels of tension produced in your muscles over time. And the most effective way to do that is to get stronger over time, to add weight to the bar over time, and that is progressively overloading your muscles over.

Every compound exercise has a prime mover that is the star of the show. It has a primary, major muscle group that will benefit most from it. And then there are secondary kind of assistant muscle groups that can benefit as well, but not as greatly as the primary ones. And what that means then is that compound exercises can create imbalances in the growth and.

Portions and symmetry of various muscles that are involved. For example, if all you did for leg training was front squats, you would probably develop an imbalance between the strength and size of your quadriceps. Those are the prime movers and your hamstrings. Those are the secondary. Movers. You will probably also develop an imbalance between your right and left legs because invariably you are going to, over time come to favor one side, probably your dominant side over the other.

And if you repeat that enough, eventually the side that you are favoring you, if it’s just slightly over time, gets a little bit bigger, a little bit more defined, a little bit stronger than the. Other side. Now, if you didn’t address this issue at all, let’s say you didn’t address the imbalance between the quads and the hamstrings in particular, that issue can increase the risk of hamstring injury.

It can increase the risk of developing knee problems and other undesirable things. Another benefit of isolation exercise is they allow you to better control the total amount of volume, the total amount of hard sets that you’re doing every week for each major muscle group. Isolation exercises are very helpful with volume cuz they allow you to increase volume on specific.

Muscle groups without much impacting others that you want to leave alone, that you want to rest, that you have already put your hard sets in on. And this helps you better program your workout routine to avoid under or over. Working certain muscle groups. So for example, the dumbbell side lateral ray allows you to increase your volume on the lateral deltoids without putting much stress on the other muscles in your shoulders.

The chest fly allows you to increase volume on the PS without much involving these shoulders or triceps. The front raise allows you to increase volume on your front dels without involving the triceps. The hamstring curl allows you to increase volume on your hamstrings without engaging the quads.

The leg extension reverses that it isolates the quads without involving the hamstrings. And then you have biceps, triceps, and calf exercises, which are all isolation movements and are really the only way to directly train those muscles without increasing the volume of larger muscle groups as well. And.

Is why many well designed weightlifting routines include both compound and isolation exercises. No matter how you look at it, compound exercises do deserve more of your attention than isolation exercises. If your goal is to improve athletic performance, if you wanna run faster, jump higher, be more explosive and so forth, compound exercises are going to deliver better results than isolation exercises.

If your goal is to improve your whole body strength. Then you actually may not need to do much isolation work at all, at least until you become a more advanced weightlifter on the big compound movements. And if your goal is just to build muscle and look good, then you will get their quickest by focusing most of your efforts on the big compound exercises and then supplementing them.

Isolation exercises where needed, and if you are wondering when you might want to emphasize isolation exercises often it’s when there is an injury involved or maybe age and joint issues, but even then, there are often cases where compound exercises are the better choice. And that’s it for the highlight reel of our compound exercises better than isolation exercises.

And if I’ve peaked your interest and you wanna listen to the whole thing, it was published in March of 2019. And that brings us to the third and final episode featured in this episode. And that is the Motivation Monday. What got you here probably won’t get you. Know this as important as goal setting is, system building is far more so no matter how beautifully we populate the landscapes of our futures with lush dreams and desires, only equally magnificent systems can build bridges across the chasm between what currently is and what could be.

So your goal might be to increase your power lifting numbers by 50 pounds. For example, your system would involve the way you eat, train, recover, and supplement, or maybe your goal is to build a successful business. Your system then would involve how you create and sell products and services, recruit and retain employees, and use and manage finances.

Or maybe your goal is to learn a new language. Your system though would involve how often you practice, how you go about learning new words and grammar and syntax. A textbook example of the power of Systems is the. Story of the legendary college basketball coach John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years and went on an unprecedented 61 game winning streak.

Now, what many fans don’t know. Is that Wooden coached his Bruins for 15 years before winning his first championship. During that time, he worked in relative obscurity to assemble his system, his basketball system, Peace by peace. From recruiting the right players to developing his coaching philosophy, to advancing the full court press style of play.

Now no one quite understood or appreciated what Wooden was doing all those years until suddenly the humble coach and his team started tring every competitor. So my point is this, while clearly and properly formulating goals is an important aspect of successful living, effective systems are ultimately what produce achievements.

There are also a number of ways to improve systems, and as far as personal achievement goes, two of my favorite methods are quantification and ritualization. Now by quantification, I’m referring to measuring and paying attention to things that are important. And by ritualization I am referring to developing and maintaining the right habits.

So let’s review each of these things in a little more detail. So quantification. Now in his best selling 2008 book, better, a surgeon’s notes on performance a tool. Gawande wrote the following quote, Count something. Regardless of what one ultimately does in medicine or outside of medicine for that matter, one should be a scientist in this world.

In the simplest terms, this means one should count something. It doesn’t really matter what you count. You don’t need a research grant. The only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to. Now counting is crucial because it’s a powerful way to determine whether a system is fulfilling its stated purpose or not.

So if your goal is to gain muscle and strength and you don’t record your workouts or your body measurements, you won’t have the raw data required to know with certainty whether your diet and exercise systems are. You might have intuitions or educated guesses, but these can be faulty and you can never really be certain.

This uncertainty can then slowly or quickly sap your motivation and your willingness to continue dieting and training. By quantifying and tracking at least one thing that’s important, however, you are installing in your system what is known as a feedback loop, which is a significant component of all complex systems.

Now, by definition, a feedback loop is formed when the change in a stock of a system. Affects the flows into or out of that same stock. So in other words, it’s a mechanism whereby an output can loop back to and affect the thing that produced it. According to research conducted by scientists at Duke University as much as 40%.

Of our daily actions are dictated by habits. Now, biologically speaking, this makes sense. By Habitualizing activities, our brains are able to conserve energy and perform common tasks more efficiently. How then can we get better at wielding the power of habit and thereby increase the resilience of our systems for positive change?

The following three strategies can help. The first one is start easy and small. The second one is improve gradually, and the third one is expect failure. Now let’s discuss each. Start easy and small. So when it comes to building and breaking habits, consistency is the name of the game. The more often you do or don’t do things, the easier it becomes to continue doing or not doing them.

This is why you want to avoid biting off more than you can comfortably chew in the beginning of any new endeavor. Instead, you should start with something that is so easy and small that you simply can’t say no to it. So let’s say you want to get more and better sleep, I would say start with going to bed just 15 minutes earlier than usual each night.

If you want to eat a healthier diet, how about you start with eating one highly nutritious meal per week, or one more than you’re currently? If you want to increase your net worth, okay, let’s start with saving just 1% more of your income each week. Remember that in the beginning the goal is simply to get in motion, not go for radical transformation that comes later through consistent and enduring effort.

And that’s it for the highlights from that episode, and it was originally published back in November of 2018, in case you want to listen to the whole thing. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show because. It makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes, and it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for, muscle f or and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.

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