Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube

Some people—my favorite people—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 do at least a little better inside and outside the gym.

That’s why I do “best of” episodes that contain a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from the more popular episodes I’ve published over the years. This way, you can learn interesting insights that you might have otherwise missed and find new episodes of the show to listen to.

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

Menno Henselmans on How Genetics Influence Muscle Building

(Originally published 1/21/2017)

How to Make Meal Plans That Work For Any Diet

(Originally published 5/29/2019)

My Top 5 Takeaways from Mastery by Robert Greene

(Originally published 9/15/2017)

And we’ll be starting with number one, Menno Henselmans on how genetics influence muscle building.


0:00 – Pre-order my new fitness book now for a chance to win over $12,000 in splendid swag: 

4:16 – Menno Henselman on How Genetics Influence Muscle Building

13:57 – How to Make Meal Plans That Work For Any Diet

23:13 – My Top 5 Takeaways from Mastery by Robert Greene

Mentioned on the Show:

Pre-order my new fitness book now for a chance to win over $12,000 in splendid swag: 

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


Today is the day my buttes. Today I am leaping out of the plane with the parachute, and I’m hoping there isn’t just raggedy laundry in it. Today I’m belly flopping into the old watering hole, and I’m hoping that there isn’t a pack of piranas seething under the surface. Today. All right, fine. I’m just kicking off the big book Launch Bonanza for my newest fitness book for men and women of all ages and abilities called Muscle for Life, which is releasing on January 11th next year, and it’s currently available for pre-order over at www dot Muscle for Life.

Dot com. Also, if you pre-order the book now, you’ll be entered to win over $12,000 in splendid fitness swag that I’m giving away, including a boflex bike, a hyper volt go smart fit, adjustable dumbbells, all kinds of legion goodies, and a lot more. Now, what is this book all about? I have worked with tens of thousands of people over the years, and the biggest struggle for many.

Is just getting started. It’s gaining enough momentum to reach the virtuous circle phase where achieving results motivates them to keep going, and then that leads to even better results and so on. And that’s especially true of many people I’ve heard from over the years who are in their forties and beyond.

They often think it’s too late to get into great shape, and it’s even harder for them to overcome that inertia and find their stride than younger folk. Fortunately, research shows that it’s never too late. It’s never too late to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy. And in this book, Muscle for Life, I provide a time proven and science-based blueprint for eating and exercising that can help anyone get from wherever they.

To fit regardless of their age, regardless of their abilities, and regardless of their circumstances. So again, go over to Muscle for Life o r life and preorder the book now. And make sure to forge your receipt to the email provided on that landing page and you will be entered into the giveaway and also, Check out the landing page because you can do other things to easily tend to even 100 x your chances of winning the grand prize, which is thousands and thousands of dollars of cool stuff.

Again, that is Muscle for Life Hey there, and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. If you haven’t already, please do take a moment and subscribe to the show in whatever app you are listening to me in so you don’t miss new episodes. And it helps me because it boosts the ranking of the show in the various charts.

Now some people, my favorite people they listen to most, or even all of my podcasts, but my Wang Analytics tell me that while many listeners do tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of the show, and thus they miss out on insights that could help them do at least a little better inside and outside the gym.

And that’s why I do. Best of episodes. These episodes contain a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from the more popular episodes I’ve published over the years. And this way you can learn new stuff that you might have otherwise missed. And you can find new episodes of the show to listen to.

So in this installment of the best of Muscle Life, you are going to be hearing handpicked Mors from three episodes. The first is an interview I did with my buddy Meno Hensman on how genetics influence muscle building. The second is a monologue, how to make meal plans that work for any diet. And the third is also a monologue.

My top five takeaways from the book Master. By Robert Green and we will be starting with number one. Of course, men Hensman on how genetics influence muscle.

Starting with your first question, how much do genetics play? How big is the role of genetics and how much muscle you can gain and how strong you can get? It’s big, to quantify how much researchers for these kind of questions, they often express something as a hereditary coefficient, which is like the percent, it’s roughly interpreted as the percentage that your genetics affect your results.

So you can think of it as how much your genetics can predict relative to other factors like environmental factors, in this case being your training program, your nutrition your sleeping, all of those things. Sure. And here we see that there is a very significant influence. We can start with that.

It’s. So big in fact that in research, at least, we have people that are deemed non-responders because on any given training program, they don’t grow any muscle at all, or they gain any strength. We know that different people react better to different programs. We can get into that as well. So we have these people that, at least to that given program, they don’t respond.

And other people, we have, we see rates of increase in those kind of studies of, I think two to free falls. So we have people gaining like 250% strength, which is huge. So they’re more than doubling their strength level and other people they don’t really gain anything. So we have this huge.

That is a fact. But if we look at the hereditary coefficient, we see that it’s around 50%. And I think for obesity, the most recent estimates are actually closer to 40%. So your genes would explain 40% of. Who gets obese and who doesn’t. And that’s actually less 40% at least, than what we see in most other research because for people that dunno, I actually came from a background of economic psychology and statistics.

and I made the career switch from business consultant to working as an online coach. And so I’m familiar with a lot of other research areas as well, and I know that in most other areas, 50% is actually deem normal. So it’s actually just seen as a normal average. Okay. Which is. Almost seems too coincidental, right?

Like you have environmental factors and you have genetic factors, and it seems that Yeah, just there’s a balance there of things. Yeah. It’s about one to one. It’s about 50 50. So it seems too coincidental, but it’s true for a ton of things, including, for example, your personality. So in, in that line, you.

Like you can get screwed over by your genetics more in terms of strength training that you can get screwed over for your intelligence or your personality or your height, Any other such factor. In that line, it’s not that bad. But we do just see these huge variants and I think a lot of people may be a bit thinking about it too, gloomy because they look at the extreme outliers, right?

Yeah. They hear about these non-responders and then they think of stories. Most famous I think, that has actually been verified is Andy Bolton. I often use him as an example in my PT course where as the example of the most extreme outlier, cuz I think he squatted, I think it was 500 pounds the first session he was in the gym or something like that.

Yeah, with and with a 600 pound that left soon to follow, it’s actually really straightforward as to why, This is why we see more variants for strength than for muscle growth. And that is because everything that affects muscle growth basically also affects your strength, right? Because given any certain of neural level, I often use the analogy of your brain being the driver and your muscles being the race.

So given any level of neural development, a bigger muscle means more total force production. Or specifically a scientist would say that a larger cross-sectional area or else being equal always increases total. Potential force output of that muscle tissue. And therefore we see that we have this variance in muscle growth.

Which muscle can you gain? But the variance in strength is even bigger because not only we have we these morphological factors as they’re called factors like muscle size that affect your strength. We also have. Other morphological factors like biomechanical factors, for example, the angle at which a muscle in inserts on the tendon, even a very minor difference in this angle or a pation angle of the muscle, for example, these, which you cannot see at all.

Yeah, visually looking at like degrees and all of this being internal in your body can make a huge difference. , we are talking about these tiny angles that you can have a slight difference in angle that basically doubles the leverage the muscle has on a particular bone or joint. And that basically means that it also can double the force output.

So you can have these two people that have the exact same amount of muscle mass and they also have the exact same level of neural development, but one of them simply has these insertion points of the muscles and the tendons on bone. That make that person a lot more suitable for heavy lifting so they’re actually producing the same amount of internal force, meaning the muscles are doing the same kind of work, but it can be a twofold difference in external force output, meaning they can lift twice as much weight while they only have to do half the work.

So what do genetics, what’s their, how much do they determine how your muscles are going to look or there’s, two parts to that. Like how big can individual muscles get? Obviously with guys it’s a lot of questions about chest and biceps and occasionally cabs and girls don’t usually ask about how big certain muscles can get, but these days it’s about, more than anything else.

So I think this is a good segue in, into. , you can predict, it’s actually hard to predict. You can predict it a bit. Because you cannot change your insertion points. The length of the muscle is not visually, you can actually change the muscle length, but it doesn’t make a lot of visual difference.

, Cause it’s internal, it’s muscle, classical length, but the muscle is actually going to change. When you train it and it’s inevitable and you can change it to some extent. Like for example the traps being an obvious part. You can emphasize the upper or lower traps to a lesser extent. You also have different heads of the hamstrings, for example, and a lesser extent still.

You have the different heads of the two hat of the biceps. , you can emphasize you get one bigger, so you have bigger peaks or you get the other bigger and it’s more flat and full. But you cannot really predict that well, how it’s going to change. And to a large extent, especially for a natural bodybuilder where the end goal is just maximum muscle growth in pretty much every muscle group, then, to that extent in a very long term perspective, it’s not really up to your control.

So your muscle size is going to shape is going to change. As a result of the growth, but it’s a limited change and one you cannot really do much about. You have a certain way that you. and either redish it or go cry for the rest of your life. Because , based on the very limited research we have, we know that different muscle groups can have exceedingly different genetic potential.

And again, based on the very limited research that we have. I’m not really convinced of this, but at least in animals it suggested there is in fact almost no relation between different muscle groups and their genetic potential. Now, I’m pretty sure that there are certain genetic factors. Also some that we know of.

Certain genes that you have. , certain systemic factors like how much testosterone you have. Being a very common, although actually overweight. And these determine muscle muscular potential for your whole body. But in principle some core components like how many satellite cells you have, how much myle addition can take place, these very internal components of the muscle tissue itself that you cannot see.

And at very in each different muscle group, they are very influential for how much muscle can be built. And they can vary a lot in different regions of your body, right? So you commonly see individuals that have strong points and weak points. For some people it’s quite pronounced. Other peoples are more like in between everywhere and.

You know what you don’t really see, and this is actually a good example of that where I say I think this is a limited research that we have. Like some people take it to extreme and they say there’s no relation because that’s what the research has. But how often do you see an individual, that has like truly, really impressive?

Upper body or pecks and just no biceps, for example. It doesn’t happen. No. There is a correlation there. It’s just, it’s obvious. But yeah you definitely have strong points and weak points. All right. That’s it for the highlight reel for the episode that I did with Mental Hensons on how genetics influence muscle building.

And if you want to listen to the whole episode, it was originally published in January of 2017, so you can go back and find it. Now. Let’s move on to the takeaways from how to make meal plans that work for any. And let’s start with how meal planning can save you from quote unquote dieting. Because fad diets all have one thing in common.

They have this assertion that theirs is the one true. Way. The Paleo hordes say that you must follow the calls of your ancient cave dwelling ancestors and the anti carb crusaders insist that you subject yourself to trial by ketogenic dieting and the quack out there, swear by cleanses and detoxes and biohacking and.

Nonsense. And unfortunately this can result in your squandering months and even years of time wandering in this swamp defecting from one school of dieting to another, with not much to show for it in the end, In terms of what in the mirror. And what you’ve got in the gym on, you’ll go though certain that the one true diet is out there somewhere patiently waiting for your arrival.

Or the next new fad is going to be the one. The scientists have finally cracked the code, and I have. Good news and bad news regarding this. Let’s start with the bad. The bad is there is no one true diet. There never will be. There are no real shortcuts to losing fat and building muscle. The secret they’re not telling you about dieting is that it’s pretty boring actually.

It lacks the sizzle that’s needed to sell pills, powders, PDFs, and the rest, but there’s good news. And it is this. It is that. The truth is very simple and it’s very workable. It works for everyone. It works every time. It’s like the quote that is often attributed to Thomas Edison, but I don’t think we know who said it.

It is that opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. Dieting is like that. The suckers want glitz and they want glamor, but the real opportunity to build the body of your dreams is fray denim and a rust bitten toolkit. Now, here’s how it breaks down in terms of importance.

The most important aspect is the energy balance that we spoke about. Then macronutrient balance, which is how the calories break down into protein, carbs, and fats, and then we have food choices. And then we have nutrient timing. So nutrient timing when you eat is the least important. Food choices is not as important as macronutrients and energy balance.

Now, when we look at food intake solely through the lens of energy, balance, and weight change. A calorie is a calorie. If you eat too many calories for long enough, you’ll gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than your burning, if you restrict your calories for long enough, you’ll lose weight, Period.

There is more to consider though, because as I mentioned earlier, we do not want to manipulate our weight so much as our body composition and particularly our body fat percentage. In other words, we want to lose fat and not muscle, and when we are lean, bulky, we want to gain as much muscle as possible and as little fat.

As possible. And when those are the goals we have to consider more than just calories because if we eat too little protein, we will forever struggle to gain and preserve muscle. If we eat too little carbohydrate, we are going to make it harder to gain muscle and strength and to make progress in our workouts.

And if we eat. Too much fat. We are gonna have to dramatically reduce protein or carbon intake to compensate. Now, if we get our macronutrient balance right, though everything comes together, then we can gain muscle and lose fat with ease. We will have. High energy workouts. We won’t have any major issues with hunger or cravings.

It really makes a huge difference. It makes the experience of getting and staying fit much more enjoyable and much easier, Really. It really is the closest thing you can find to dietary magic. All right, so now let’s talk about how to create meal plans for losing. Wait, because you now have the basic theory under your belt, it’s time to put some rubber on the road.

And I wanna start with weight loss because that is on more people’s minds than weight gain. So as the key to losing fat is maintaining a calorie deficit over time. So the first step is working out how many calories you should be eating, and that first means that you need to. Work out approximately how many calories you are burning every day.

Now, I did recently record a podcast on this, so if you wanna dive into the details of how to determine this, then listen to that podcast. If you want to just go straight to a calculator, that’ll just do the math for you. Make it nice and easy. Google Legion Athletics Diet. Meal plans and you’ll find an article that this podcast is based on.

And in that article, there is a calculator. This does the math for you. And the resulting number from the calculator is a fairly accurate measurement of the total amount of energy your body is burning every day. And this is generally known as your total daily energy expenditure or T D E E. And what that means is if you ate that amount of calories every day, your weight.

More or less remain the same. Sure, it would fluctuate slightly up and down over time, but more or less the average would remain the same. And that means then to reduce your weight, you’re gonna have to eat less than that number. How much less though? I recommend a moderate aggressive calorie deficit of about 20%, maybe as high as 25%.

Anything larger than that can cause unwanted side effects associated. Starvation dieting. So what this means then is you want to set your daily calorie intake to somewhere around 75 to 80% of your total daily energy expenditure. And for example, my total daily energy expenditure hovers around 3000 calories.

So when I wanna lose weight, I set my intake to about 2,300 calories. That’s usually where I start. Once you have your calories worked out, the next thing is your macronutrients. It’s time to turn those calories into protein, carbs, and fat targets. And here’s an easy way to do it. I want you to eat one to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

And if you are very overweight, so if you’re a guy over, let’s say 25% body fat, or a woman over 35% body fat, modify that to 40% of. Daily calories. I want 40% of your daily calories to come from protein. And to calculate that, all you do is multiply your total daily calories that you have to eat by 0.4, and then divide that by four.

That number is your target for protein, and you can just round it up or down so it’s easy. If it’s 173, you don’t have to go for 173, just go for 170. And the reason why that works is there are about four calories in a gram of protein. Okay, next. I want you to eat about 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day.

And again, if you are very overweight, you can simply modify that to about 25% of your daily calories should be coming from dietary fat. To calculate that, simply multiply your total daily calorie target by 0.25 and then divide it by nine. That resulting number will be. Fat target for the day in grams.

And the reason why that works is a gram of fat has about nine calories and then get the rest of your calories from carbs. Once you have your numbers, it is time to turn those numbers into a meal plan that you will actually enjoy. And to do that, you can start by just making a list of foods that you would like to eat.

Every day and then head over to Calorie King to learn their macronutrient profiles. And many people like to use Excel for this listing the foods and their protein, carb, fat, and calorie numbers in side by side columns. And then, You just need to start piecing together meals using those foods until you’re happy with the setup and until you’re within, let’s say, 50 calories of your daily intake target, if you’re cutting in a hundred, if you’re lean, bulking, or maintaining.

And if you wanna see some examples of these types of meal plans, again, just Google Legion Athletics, meal plans or diet meal plans. Find an article that this podcast is based on, and it has some examples of meal plans. So once you’ve made your plan, you now just stick to it every day, and then if along the way you get tired of certain foods or meals, you simply replace those foods or meals with other things that you would like to eat that fit your numbers.

It really is that. And that’s it for the featured snippets from How to Make Meal Plans That Work for Any Diet. If you wanna listen to the whole monologue, it was published in May of 2019, and now let’s move on to the final episode featured in this episode, which is my top five takeaways from the book Mastery by Robert.

This is one of my absolute all-time favorite success slash self-development books, and one that I regularly gift and recommend to others because I attribute much of my own success in my work and business and other areas of my life to the lessons found in mastery lessons that I believe can transform anyone’s life for the better if they are truly taken to heart.

Now, the premise of this book is very, It is that any one of us can become an elite performer in a skill or field if we simply embrace and embody the established attitudes and behaviors that have produced past and current champions, and more importantly, that every one of us should strive toward greatness if we want to lead fulfilling lives.

All right, let’s get to my takeaways. Here is the first one. People who do not practice and learn new skills never gain a proper sense of proportion or self-criticism. They think they can achieve anything without effort and have little contact with reality. Trying something over and over again grounds you in reality, making you deeply aware of your inadequacies.

And of what you can accomplish with more work and effort. And my note here is that confidence is definitely important, but if it’s not based on a realistic appraisal of who we are and what we can do, it’s really nothing more than smugness and delusion. Self-esteem is a very hot topic these days and especially in the fitness space.

And that’s something I don’t think that we. Conjure up in ourselves by thinking the right thoughts or saying the right words, and we can’t give it to others through coddling or osmosis. Really, the only way any of us young or old can develop self-esteem is by working hard at things that we can’t do until we can do them, and then repeating the process.

Next takeaway. Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge. And my note here is that many people mistakenly think that Masters have relied mainly on inborn talent, ingenious to produce extraordinary works. But this couldn’t be further from the.

As green illustrates in this book and as is illustrated by modern scientific research, there’s actually very little connection between natural aptitude and mastery. The reality is, with enough deep or deliberate practice, even the most modest beginner can become a virtuoso. Okay, Take away number four.

Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short circuits. The learning process, the pain is a kind of challenge. Your mind presents, will you learn how to focus and move past the boredom? Or like a child, will you succumb to the need for immediate pleasure and distraction?

Much as with physical exercise, you can even get a kind of perverse pleasure out of this pain, knowing the benefits it will bring. In any event, you must meet any boredom head on and try not to avoid or repress it throughout your life. You will encounter tedious situations and you must cultivate the ability to handle them with discipline.

And my note here is that, Our culture no longer promotes the development of discipline through seeking out challenging situations, enduring the initial wave of confusion, frustration, and boredom that they produce, and then continually sacrificing our present lives for the benefit of our future lives.

Instead, we actively avoid whatever’s difficult and uncomfortable. We decry life’s challenges as unfair and people’s criticisms as hurtful. And even our self-help books speak in soft tones, telling us what we want to hear instead of showing us starkly how far we still have to go, if we’re gonna have any hope of living a good life.

So the fifth and final takeaway is, If you’re doing something primarily for money and without a real emotional commitment, it will translate into something that lacks a soul and that has no connection to you. You may not see this, but you can be sure that the public will feel it and that they will receive your work.

In the same lack lu spirit, it was created in. And my note here is that every line of work has its share of drudgery. Mine does. Yours does. Everybody’s does. But if you can’t get fired up about the essence of your work, the writing, the programming, the selling, the personal training, whatever it is that you’re doing, it’s gonna show in the details.

The best work in every field is always produced by the people that are absolutely obsessed with their crafts. There certainly are things about their work that they are not obsessed with and they would rather not have to do but do because it just has to be done. But there’s something about their work that they are obsessed with.

And I also think that every one of us can find something we can do, something valuable that we can. That we can be obsessed with as. And that’s it for a few of my favorite talking points from my top five takeaways from the book Mastery by Robert Green. If you want to listen to that whole episode, it was published back in September of 2017.

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. 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 o r, and let me know what I can do better or just what your thoughts are. 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.

View Complete Transcript