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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.

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:

What Can BCAAs Actually Do For You? (According to Science)

(Originally published 7/13/2018)

8 Signs of Overtraining That Most People Don’t Know

(Originally published 3/15/2019)

Motivation Monday: An Ode to the Gym

(Originally published 6/18/2018)

And we’ll be starting with number one, what can BCAAs actually do for you?


2:47 – What Can BCAAs Actually Do For You? (According to Science)

13:44 – 8 Signs of Overtraining That Most People Don’t Know

21:49 – Motivation Monday: An Ode to the Gym

Mentioned on the Show:

Books by Mike Matthews

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


Hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And if you haven’t already, take a moment to subscribe to the show in whatever app you are listening to me in so you don’t miss any new episodes. And so you help me by boosting the rankings of the show.

It really does help. I really would appreciate it. Okay, so this episode, A new installment in the best of series where you get to hear hand picked mors from the most popular episodes that I have recorded over the years. Highlight reels, key takeaways, and if you like what you hear. In these best of episodes, then chances are you are going to like the full episodes that the highlights came from.

So this time around the three episodes that will be featured on this episode are, what can BCAAs actually do for you according to Science? Eight signs of over training that most people don’t know. And owed to the gym. 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 Legion, that’s b y and sign up for your account.

So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna. 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 recipes. Okay, so let’s start with the takeaways from what can BCAAs actually do for you according to science? For people listening just to answer that question of what BCAAs are, why are people using them and what can they do, what can they not do?

And All right, so BCAAs, the branch chain amino acids. Just to get the audience outta the way, they have three amino acids that have branched chains. The other amino acids are pretty much straight lines. These ones are all bendy, and they were grouped together specifically for that purpose. Just structural.

The three BCAAs, leucine, iso, leucine, and veiling do different things in the body. And truth be told, we don’t know anything about ve. It’s just nobody really wants to research it. But leucine is the primary one that stimulates muscle protein synthesis. And this led to BCAs being marketed initially because it was claimed that they could build as much muscle as protein, but because you’re taking in less amino acids overall, it’s less calories.

Then this, fueled consumption of BCAs and it was later found out that this was not the case. You needed all essential amino acids to sufficiently build muscle. So either should, shouldn’t that have been obvious from the outset? It was not necessarily obvious from the outset because there are stores of amino acids in the body, mostly the intestines and liver.

So I always thought that if you could. Tell the muscle to start building, it will start taking amino acids from the liver intestines then that those stores would be replenished the next time you eat food. But it seems that it’s not so simple. You can’t just take amino acids from the liver cuz it’s incredibly greedy.

So it needs a surplus of, most of amino acid is probably all the essential ones in the blood when you stimulate the muscle. So because Legion is the whole premium sports comp company, we can only sell stuff that has an effect, which is why I tried to look into a legitimate effect of BCAs, and I technically did find one.

  1. , but it’s not something most people would, use it for. Cause BCAs seem to have a role in preventing central fatigue. So central just refers to the brain in the con, like in a way that is probably due to the. I’d say, I’m gonna give a little nod prevailing here, but the truth is, the mechanisms of how BCAAs prevent fatigue is just due to the fact that they’re literally branched.

You wanna explain that? So when you’re working out you just have like muscle breakdown and the amino acids go into your blood and they just float around. Some go to the brain realize, Huh, we have nothing to do here. So they just leave, go to the kidneys and eventually get processed out. But the more you work out, the more amino acids go into your blood and ammonia builds up.

And this does lead to fatigue. But another thing that happens is trip to f. Turkey amino acid as many people know it by, that also produces serotonin, and thus melatonin can go into the brain and start to accumulate. And when it accumulates in the brain, that is strongly associated with not just fatigue, but also fatigue related to heat stress.

Tryptophan does this because it’s, tryptophan turns into neurotransmitters, but it’s also a large neutral in charge amino acid. There’s actually a transporter into the brain, so the door of which it goes through called the large neutral amino acid transporter, very aptly named. It just looks for large, neutral amino acids.

Trip fan’s one of them, but not the only one. If you pump a lot of BCAAs into the system, they’re also pretty large and neutral and they just float around the body. They clog up this transporter a little bit. So the trip to fan that would normally go into your brain. Just hangs around in the periphery for a trip.

It delays the buildup of trip command in the brain, not perfectly, because eventually the BCAs just gonna leave, or the BCAs just gonna eliminate it. But by delaying this, it can delay prolonged fatigue with re specific reference to a heat. But also more like when you get fatigued and your finite motor control goes down a bit, that’s also the fatigue that BCAs can prevent a little bit.

So not so much CrossFit, not so much repetitive like running where you just do one repetitive motion all the time, but more so in highly technical sports like tennis or badminton. Those are the ones where BCA supplementation can really interest. The main thing that I want to get into, and this is like the part where I can say BCAs actually work.

Cause for the longest time, BCAs, despite these mechanisms, did not show much strength. Like they technically delayed fatigue, but it was like you got one extra swing in a tennis match. Oh no, that just makes such the difference. , it doesn’t. This is because what I mentioned earlier, how amino acid or breakdown products, ammonia is produced and ammonia causes fatigue.

BCAs themselves will produce ammonia so they cause fatigue in a way, BCAs for the purpose of reducing fatigue, shoot themselves in their own feet, which is why I wrote this article for Muscle for Life recently. BCAs paired with Citruline because citruline through the UIA cycle can help reduce ammonia built up in the blood.

So BCAs do their unique effect on preventing fatigue. There is the natural side effect of increasing ammonia, which would normally shoot themselves in the foot. Then CI takes care of the ammonia issues and allows the BCAs to actually shine without being. And the studies that I, Yeah, the studies that I went over on this article, there’s one looking at elite tennis players where they’re basically put through a few simulated matches just to make them fatigue.

And then they just shot tennis balls of them and said, in a very suggest manner, go until you fall. And in the. Last stages of fatigue. Citraline seem to stave off like half of the fatigue that placebo group experienced. Wow. The BCA Citraline, I should say. So yeah, there actually does seem to be a specific promise for BCAs, but it may require citruline or potentially L orine in combination with BCAAs to truly shine.

And again, it only shines in like cognitively heavy. Fatigue chrome sports. So it’s not really something everyone does. Yeah, it’d be more of a, an endurance supplement. What about we were talking about this before we started recording a theory that has been bouncing around online that BCAs may stunt muscle gain as opposed to augment it.

Okay? So that theory comes from the fact that luine is the trigger to stimulate muscle. Paired with the idea that the body is always in a state of homeostasis, an active balance, much like a grandfather clock swinging back and forth. If something goes in one direction, it’s gonna go in another. You cannot just have a body at baseline, stimulate a process in one direction, then expected to go back to baseline without dipping into the opposite direction for a little bit.

It’s very much like a sign. Rather than just a straight line. And so if you stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but you do not give the actual amino acids to build the muscle with, you’ll have no net gain. But then after the stimulation, muscle protein synthesis goes away. You’ll be left with a refractory decline in synthesis rates.

And you don’t need to provide amino acid for that because you have your muscles, they can just degrade on their own. So I said decline in most protein synthesis, but the theory is it might also stimulate metabolism. So it’s like the sign curve where the stuff you want, you’re not optimiz. The stuff you don’t want will happen regardless.

And so the theory is if you keep on pulsing BCAs throughout the day, could you have a net loss of protein if you don’t optimize the positive spikes by actually just having Whole Foods? And at this moment in time, there’s no evidence at all assessing this in otherwise healthy demographics. But, The theory has been going around a lot with sarcopenia researchers, those who are tending to the elderly and don’t want them to lose any muscle mass, and I can’t really read their research all that well, but it seems like that’s a valid hypothesis that they’re still testing out.

As for athletes, . If you wanted a reason to not pulse BCAs each and every day, then have that be your reason. But I don’t think you’re just gonna shrivel up into a little weightlifting raisin if you continue using BCAs. I doubt it would actually cause any significant muscle loss. And that’s it for what can BCAAs actually do for you according to science?

And that was originally published in July of 2018. If you want to go back and listen to the whole episode, and I wish it weren’t so I wish BCAAs were worth taking because. I get asked multiple times a week and over at Legion, our customer service team, they hear from people multiple times per week, asking us to make BCAAs, asking why we don’t make BCAAs, and so we have a simple explanation that links people to a more in depth explanation for me if they want it as to why we don’t make BCAs.

Probably never will because the weight of the evidence is pretty heavy at this point. It would take some real convincing, breakthrough research to all of a sudden show that BCAAs, in fact, do help us gain muscle and strength faster if we use this special type of product or if we use it in a special type of way.

But as far as your run of the mill BCAAs go and the run of the mill supplementation protocol, unfortunately it just doesn’t do anything If you eat enough protein, and that’s why I don’t sell BCAAs, but if that changes and I can get behind BCAAs, then I will happily sell them because again, many people want them.

I just don’t want to sell them. Anyway. Let’s move on to the highlights from eight signs of over-training that most people don’t. So one of the tricky things about weightlifting is. It conforms to one of the basic laws of living, which is that if you want more, then you need to do more, and so more for less.

That is the motto as an intermediate slash advanced weightlifter. Now, what does all that have to do with over training? Many people understand. And try to program their training accordingly. They try to just work harder and harder in the gym to continue gaining muscle and strength, and it’s the right idea, but it generally leads to problems unless it’s gone about intelligently.

It leads to problems. So anyone who has. Tried that before, knows what I’m talking about. You start to struggle to finish your workouts. The weights start feeling very heavy. You start losing strength. You start losing endurance. You start sleeping worse. You start to struggle with just general fatigue and energy levels.

You start getting odd aches and pains, particularly joint pains. You start getting sick more frequently, and now these types of things are all signs that there is a systemic imbalance between work and recovery and scientifically speaking, the symptomatology is known as over-training syndrome, and that is something that everyone does run into and does have to wrestle with at some point along the way in their weightlifting journeys.

There are two general schools of thought. So the first one says that there is no such thing as over training. There’s only under recovering. The idea here is if you are feeling physically overwhelmed by your training, it’s not really that difficult in the scheme of what your body can actually handle.

It’s just that you are not recovering well enough. And if you just did a better job recovering from your training, you would feel totally fine and you could even train harder than you are currently training as long as you are recovering well. Now the other school of thought is the polar opposite of that.

It is that if you do more than, let’s say a couple intense weightlifting workouts, heavy compound weightlifting workouts per week and a couple cardio sessions per week, you are going to overload your nervous system, which is then going to fall behind, and that’s going to negatively impact your performance and your health and wellbeing in many different.

As is often the case in the health and fitness space, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, heavy resistance training workouts do place a lot of stress in the body, and especially when they involve a lot of compound exercises. Exercises that train many major muscle groups and require or stimulate a lot of central nervous system.

And cardio workouts done in addition to the weightlift often place even more stress in the body. Now, if it’s just walking for example, then not really. But if it’s high intensity interval training, then yes, that definitely places an additional load on the body, on the systems of the body. But most people can train quite a bit harder, can spend quite a bit more time beating their bodies up in the gym than they currently do without running themselves into the ground.

My rule of thumb that I use, not just with. My own body and training, but with all the people I work with, and this rule of thumb is really based on my understanding of the scientific literature and my experience. Having worked with thousands and thousands of people, men and women of all ages and circumstances over the last six or seven years is.

Most people can do three to six hours of heavy weightlifting per week and one to three hours of cardio per week, depending on what they’re doing, what their goals are, and if they are looking to lose weight, maintain a calorie deficit. Some are around 20 to 25% and be totally fine. Do. And I know research shows that over-training may be more of a psychological state than a physiological state, but regardless of the ultimate cause, it is real.

The symptoms are real. If you push yourself too hard for too long, you start to feel bad. For example, the first sign is something I mentioned earlier, and that is that your workouts start to feel particularly hard when your body becomes more and more fatigued, just in general. When you fall further and further behind in recovery, the perceived.

Effort of your workouts increases, and how this usually plays out for me at least, is toward the end of a training block, which is usually like a week six or a week eight. The weights just start to feel heavy, and I’ve slept well. I’ve been sticking to my diet but regardless, progression. Stops. So for a couple weeks, I don’t gain reps on really anything.

I’m not adding weight to the bar. And then that weight that I’ve been using for the last few weeks, let’s say it’s on a bench press or a squat or a deadlift, I notice it particularly on the harder exercises, that weight just starts to feel heavier and heavier. Another sign. The second sign is that you lack the motivation to train.

So if you normally look forward to your workouts and you now have no desire to get in the gym, and you have to drag yourself through each rep, each set, that is a red flag that your body may need some extra recovery. That brings me to the next sign, which is feeling depressed. In some people, mood disruption extends beyond just training.

They lose motivation to do anything. The next sign. The fourth one is feeling perpetually sore. So as you probably know, muscle soreness isn’t correlated with muscle growth. I rarely get all that sore these days, regardless of how hard I train. Yet I can continue to progress in my workouts and gain very small amounts of muscle over long periods of time.

But when over. Syndrome has started to set in. Some people experience a persistent soreness that just doesn’t go away, muscle soreness. The next sign is you are not sleeping well because when you’re pushing your body too hard, when the work has way outpaced, the recovery your nervous system become, can become overstimulated and this makes it harder to fall asleep and stay.

So I want to quickly though touch on what you can do to help prevent these symptoms, help stave them off for as long as possible. So one is getting enough sleep. People need, most people need around eight hours of sleep. So if you can prioritize that. Then that is going to help. Another is eating enough food.

If you are in a calorie deficit, your body’s ability to recover is impaired. So unless you are intentionally maintaining deficit to lose fat, it is smart to try to be in a deficit as little as possible if you are trying to really push it hard in your workouts. All right. That’s it for the takeaways from eight signs of Over training that most people don’t know.

And if you liked it and you wanna listen to the whole episode that was published in March of 2019, so you can go back and find it. And now let’s move on to the final episode featured in this episode, which is an ode to the gym. What I’ve experienced is that no matter how smart and hard working and tough you might be or might think you are, the world will figure out ways to break you.

And while some people experience more painful and debilitating breaks than others, we all get broken. And what really matters is what do we do about it? What do we do to heal and come back strong? If you want to read more about that and learn from someone whose story really inspired me, check out Ray Dalio’s book Principles, and a major theme of that book is the process of.

Progress whereby things get better and then get worse, and then you have to figure out why they’re getting worse. Learn the lesson, use it to make things go better again until they eventually go worse again. And then once again, you have to figure out why are they going badly. Learn the lesson. Apply the lesson.

In the book, he has a diagram of how he likes to visualize progress as a series of upward loops. So you’re moving up and then you’re dipping. Dipping. Things are getting worse, You’re going down. But if you handle that correctly, you can then loop back around and make things go better. Until they start to go worse, and then you have to figure out why they’re going worse and things are going down.

And if you do your job well, you loop back around and start doing better again and so forth. A lot of people like to think or want to think or want to believe that success in any area of life or any endeavor is a fairly linear journey. Some peaks and valleys, but on the whole, just a nice upward climb and that is just not the case.

It is messier than that, and doesn’t just have valleys, but has periods of regression and often despair when you’re not sure if you’re gonna be able to get things moving in the right direction Again. All that matters though is that you do get things moving in the right direction. Again, all that matters is in the end, what are you left with?

What results did you produce, how hard it was to get there, or how chaotic it was. Just doesn’t matter in the end. The gym is a lot more than a place to move, grunt and sweat. I think that it is a miniature cosmos of sorts where we can make contact with the deeper parts of ourselves, our convictions, our fears, our habits, our anxieties.

It’s an arena where we can confront these opponents head on and prove that we have what it takes to vanquish them. The gym is also a setting where we can test the assumptions we’ve made about ourselves and the stories underlying them. It calls on us to demonstrate how we respond to the greater struggles of life like adversity.

Insecurity, stress, weakness, and disadvantage. And in some ways, the gym asks us to show who we really are. And in this way, I think that it is a training and a testing ground for our bodies and minds and even our souls. The conflicts that we learn to endure in the gym empower us in our daily lives as well.

The concentration, the discipline, the resilience. That is required to build a great body are also required to build a great life. And I really do think that if you can do one, you can do the other because the way to do anything is at bottom the way to do everything. The gym also calls on us to constantly attempt new things and thus is also a source of.

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, and that is a worldview that is essential for great accomplishment in any area of our lives.

The gym is practical as well, not idealistic. It’s a laboratory that’s open to any and all ideas and methodologies, and it gives very clear, very unqualified feedback. The ideas and methods either work. Or they don’t. So 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.

It can be a world of our own that we create to satisfy our most personal and our most primal dreams and desires and all. This is why the gym can give us so much more than just muscle and strength. It can give us more life. And that’s it for the snippets from an ODE to the gym. And if you want to hear the rest of it, it was published in June of 2018.

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. Our 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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