I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following three questions:
- “I burn a lot of calories at work and have a hard time gaining weight and training hard because of low energy levels. What should I do?”
- “I wake up tired even when I sleep 7 or 8 hours. What can I do?”
- “Have you had any long term training beliefs changed by research in the last year or two?”
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].
Recommended reading for this episode:
- The “Hardgainer’s” Guide to Guaranteed Muscle Growth
- 5 Evidence-Based Techniques for Sleeping Better Now
4:22 – “I burn a lot of calories at work and have a hard time gaining weight and training hard because of low energy levels. What should I do?”
28:28 – “I wake up tired even when I sleep 7 or 8 hours. What can I do?”
43:13 – “Have you had any long term training beliefs changed by research in the last year or two?”
Mentioned on the show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello and welcome to Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for a q and a where I answer questions that readers and followers ask me. If you want to ask me questions that I can answer for you and that may be chosen for future q a episodes, shoot me an email Mike at Muscle for Life.
Just. Dot com and let me know what’s on your mind. I get a lot of emails, so it may take me seven, 10, maybe even 14 days or sometimes a little bit longer, to be honest, to get back with you, but you will hear back from me and you will get an answer. And if it’s a question that a lot of people. Are asking or have been asking for some time, or if it’s something that just strikes my fancy and it’s something that I haven’t already beaten to death on the podcast or the blog, then I may also choose it for an episode and answer it publicly.
Another way to get questions to me is Instagram at Muscle for Life Fitness. You can DM them to me, although. That is harder for me to stay on top of. I do try, but the inbox is a little bit buggy and it just takes more time trying to do it, whether it’s on my phone or the Windows app. But there is a good chance you will still get a reply.
Email is better, and I also do post. I think it’s every few weeks or so in my feed asking for people to give me questions, give me fodder for the next q and a. So if you would rather do that than just follow me on Instagram at most for life fitness and send me a message, or just wait for one of my q and a posts.
Okay, so in this episode, I will be answering, I burn a lot of calories at work and I have a hard time gaining weight slash training hard because of low energy. What should I do? And unfortunately I don’t have any note on who this came from, but somebody out there is recognizing their question. Here’s the next one for today’s episode.
I wake up tired even when I sleep seven. Hours. What can I do? Again, no notation on who this came from, but something that I do get asked about fairly often, sleep related issues. And then finally, this one is have you had any long term training beliefs changed by research in the last year or two? This comes from Jeffrey Verity show Field.
Over on Instagram. 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.
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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 health. 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, and you will find the best of them in leg.
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So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you also want all natural evidence based supplements that work, please do consider supporting Legion so I can keep doing what I love, like producing more podcasts like this. Okay, so let’s tackle the first question, which again is I burn a lot of calories at work and I have a hard time gaining weight and training hard because of low energy levels, or just my energy intake.
What should I do? And this is something that I get asked about a lot, especially from young active guys in particular and before. Give them an answer. I make sure that they’re asking the right question. Now, what do most people, especially guys and especially young, active guys, think they can gain muscle and they can gain weight faster than they really can or really should be trying to gain muscle and weight, or more specifically gain weight.
Obviously, if we are in the gym, Pumping weights. We want to gain muscle as quickly as possible, but that only works up to a certain point, and we should not want to gain weight as quickly as possible because of course we can gain a lot more weight than we can gain muscle every week and month and year if we just dramatically over feed ourselves.
So as a general rule, you should aim to gain around one half to. And a half, 1.5% of your body weight per month, and that’s as a natural bodybuilder. If you’re on steroids, things change of course, and if you’re new, then you can shoot for, let’s say if you’re new to proper weight lifting, if you are a guy who has yet to gain his first.
10 pounds or so of muscle, or if you are a woman who has yet to gain her first maybe five pounds of muscle, then you can target about 1.5% of your body weight per month. And if you have maybe a year or a bit more, Of good weightlifting under your belt. So if you’re a guy who has gained his first maybe 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, or if you’re a woman who has gained about half of that, then you should shoot for about 1% of your body weight per month when you are lean bulking, and if you have several years of weightlifting experience and you have already gained quite a bit of muscle and strength, you should be shooting for about a half.
8% 0.5% of your body weight per month. So for somebody around my weight, let’s say 185 pounds, I’m 190 pounds. Let’s just take 185 pounds. That’s about one pound per month. And yeah, that’s not a lot. It’s actually hard to measure unless you carefully weigh yourself every day and then work with your weekly or maybe biweekly averages, and even then it can be.
So what I’m saying is many people struggle, not so much to gain weight, but to accept the fact that after your first year of weightlifting, things start to slow down, and then after your second and third year, they really start to slow down. And again, just to give you some perspective, most guys. Are going to gain, and this applies to women as well actually.
So just most people are going to gain more or less all of the muscle and most of the strength available to them genetically within their first five to maybe six years of proper weightlifting. Beyond that, very little is going to change in the mirror and in the. Now that is not a reason to become demotivated and to fall out of the habit of working out and become completely detrained.
Maybe just to experience a new round of what feels like newbie gains. Thanks to muscle memory, it just means that your reasons for training have to change. If the primary motivating factor up until that point is muscle gained and strength gained, and I’ve written and I’ve spoken about, The many other reasons why this lifestyle is worthwhile, and I’ve spoken about some of my personal reasons for why I continue to train hard and regularly.
So I’m in the gym lifting weights five days a week. I am doing cardio five to seven days per week. Not too much cardio, just about 30 minutes per session. Moderate intensity, which is about the maximum that I can do without. Starting to noticeably interfere with my lifting and I don’t have any more muscle to gain really to speak of.
And I can get back to some previous strength prs for sure, and I might be able to go a little bit further. I do think I can hit the 3, 4, 5 milestone, three plates on the bench, 3 15, 4 plates on the squat, 4 0 5 and five plates on the deadlift. 4 95. I got close in the past. I got to, let’s see, 2 95 on the bench for two or three, which if you put that into a calculator, that’s about three 15.
In terms of one rm, maybe a little bit short of that, I don’t remember exactly how many reps I got. I’d have to go back to my old logs and look. But I got to three. Five on the back squat for sets of three or so, which again is getting close to 4 0 5. Not quite there yet. And I got to 4 35 for I believe, two or three on the deadlift, which is approaching 4 95.
It’s, I would guess around 4 55 or so in terms of one rm, and that was a couple of years ago when I was doing the first iteration, the first version of Beyond Bigger, leaner, stronger. Now I’m. BBS 2.0, the second iteration of it, which is in the new second edition of the book that I recently released, and my strength before Ronna was climbing nicely, and then six months of home workouts were not very friendly to my one rms.
I didn’t lose any muscle to speak of, really Not at all. If I look at my before and after pictures, I got leaner during. Down, but I do have dumbbells and bands. The dumbbells go up to 95 pounds, so I was able to train effectively for the purpose of just maintaining muscle and burning calories and getting the health benefits and so forth.
But no barbell meant that I was surprised when I got back. Under the barbell in the gym. My deadlift one RM wasn’t down much strangely, it was down maybe 15 pounds. My bench, one RM, not much, maybe about 15 pounds, which made more sense to me because of course I was doing plenty of dumbbell pressing, but I wasn’t really doing any hip hinge movements.
Because dumbbell deadlifts are just awkward when the weights get heavy, and I didn’t bother. And my squat one M though was down probably 50 55 pounds. And that actually surprised me a bit because I was doing a lot of dumbbell front squats, which are hard if you’ve never done one. Try it. Try it with some weight.
It is a difficult exercise. I was able to, True six rep, eight rep sets, within one rep or so of technical failure. And I was doing a lot of lunges and Nordic hamstring curls. I was doing 12 to 16 sets of lower body volume per week, but not barbell squatting for six months decimated my strength on that exercise.
So I’m coming back now. My onem is probably around 2 95 on the barbell back squat right now. And I’m. Keep going with BBLs 2.0 now that I am back in the gym and see if I can get back to the high 300 s for reps and see if I can approach the vaunted four plate squat. Anyway, my point with saying all that is I am just working back.
To a level of strength that I already achieved in the past and I recognize that I’m not gonna be able to exceed those numbers, those previous prs by much. I do think by a little bit and after another five years, maybe I can add five or 10 pounds to the PRS I hope to set within the next six to eight months.
And that’s okay. I am okay with basically. Progressing anymore because I have found new reasons to keep doing what I’m doing and new reasons to enjoy my workouts and look forward to my workouts, and those reasons include doing stuff that I like. I genuinely enjoy the training, the programming that I am doing, and I enjoy that these workouts allow me to stay in.
Shape and peak health and that I will be able to continue doing them for the rest of my life. Knock on wood, I don’t have wood around me, but I can knock on some plastic without pain or injury. Of course, things can happen, but if you go about your weightlifting intelligently into your middle ages and beyond, you don’t.
Have to get hurt and the biggest obstacles can just be nagging aches and pains that usually go away with a little bit of rest or a deload. I also find that training helps keep the spark alive in my marriage and it helps my kids develop a positive relationship with food and exercise. And hopefully those are lessons they can pass on to their kids too, because of course they see me working out, they see my wife doing exercise.
She’s not really into weightlifting per se, but she likes to do Pilates and yoga and different types of cardio. So our kids see that and they see us eating healthy food, and so they also are willing to eat healthy food. And we’re not neurotic about it. We don’t force them. Only eat nutritious food. We apply the principles of flexible diet.
We make sure they get plenty of protein. We make sure that they do get plenty of nutritious foods, plenty of fruit. They will eat some vegetables, not all, but we’ll feed them the vegetables that they will eat and we make sure they get some whole grains. They like. Oatmeal, for example, and then we let them have treats as well.
Sometimes they are sugary treats. Sometimes it’s some ice cream, sometimes it is some chocolate. Right now, of course, just after Halloween, we let them have a piece or two of candy, and sometimes they don’t want sugary food, but they want a briosh hamburger bun with butter. Not a very nutritious snack, of course, but again, totally fine in the context of their overall.
Another major reason why I continue to get in the gym and push myself is it’s a matter of personal pride and personal responsibility. It’s a matter of physically expressing my values and my worldview, and of producing and presenting my. Best self and I view those things, all of that stuff I just described to you as a privilege and a prize, not a compromise or a come down.
I view it as something to celebrate, not just tolerate. And sometimes I do have to remind myself of that when I don’t really feel like getting into the gym and doing a workout, or I don’t feel like getting on my upright. In my basement to do my cardio. Sometimes I have to check myself and step back mentally and remember why I’m doing it, and recognize that it is special.
It is special that I understand what I understand about all of this stuff and that I am able to. Implement what I understand effectively and reap all of the benefits it has to offer. And so the purpose of that whole tangent was to give people out there who are experienced weightlifters struggling to gain weight.
Something to think about, because again, in many cases there is nothing wrong. There’s nothing wrong with. How the person is eating and how they’re training and how they’re sleeping and supplementing, the only obstacle really is their mindset. Think of it this way, the experience of Lean bulking as a veteran, weightlifter as someone who let’s say is in year three or.
Four is more like getting stronger while more or less looking and weighing the same. The weight does change and your clothes do start to fit a little bit tighter, and maybe you notice slight improvements or expansions in the mirror over the course of several months. If you are lean, bulking correctly, which means that you are in a regular calorie surplus for at least three months, but ideally longer, ideally up to even six months before you have to cut.
That’s what the process is like after your newbie gains have been exhausted and your new motto needs to be, progress. Is progress. Really any progress is a good sign and is a sign that you are doing. Most of the most important things correctly and that you probably shouldn’t change anything. Now, what about the people out there who understand everything I have just explained and are still struggling to gain weight?
They’re struggling to make any progress regardless of where they’re at in their journey, whether they are new or very experienced. This certainly is an issue. It is not as common as the person who actually is doing well. They just don’t. But I have heard from many guys in particular over the years who didn’t weigh very much, let’s say 150 to 170 pounds, and because of their lifestyle, usually they just have active lifestyles.
Usually because of their work they had to. Bring their calories up to 3,500, even 4,000 plus per day, just to consistently hit their weight gain target. So if you are nodding your head right now, and if what I was saying earlier doesn’t resonate with you because you’re like, Mike, no, I understand. I get it.
But I’m eating a lot of food and nothing is changing. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you are not a hard gainer who has no hope of getting big and strong. It is possible that you are a lower responder, that your body doesn’t respond to training as well as maybe somebody else’s, but even that.
Ultimately prevent you from getting to your goal. It just means it might take a bit longer. So let’s talk to those people specifically quickly. There are obviously many benefits to exercising and being physically active, and most people struggle with not exercising enough rather than too much, and if someone is struggling to gain weight, I usually recommend that they figure out how to eat more rather than move less again, unless they have a physically active job.
And I’m thinking of, I remember somebody I was emailing with, I believe he worked in a warehouse, so physically active job, and he played sports. I believe you played basketball just for fun, but like in a pickup league, so there’s a fair amount of basketball. And he was lifting weights. And so in that case, we may look at how can we bring activity down at least a little bit, if nothing else, to help with recovery, but also to help with energy balance.
But usually we are looking at how we can just increase calorie. Intake and not reduce calorie burning. And so I have a simple system that I share with people to accomplish this efficiently. It has several steps, and I recommend that you try these steps in the order I’m going to give them, and to give each step at least two weeks to.
Kick in, so to speak, before concluding that you need to go to the next step. So the first step is to just add another meal to your current meal plan. Just keep doing what you have been doing and add a meal, 200 to maybe 500 calories. And it’s okay if this meal varies from day to day. Could be 200 calories one day, 300 the next day, 400 the next day, back to 200, then two 50, just maybe in the range.
200 to four, 500 calories. And a few easy examples like what I would do, maybe it’d just be a banana and a couple tablespoons of nut butter, or maybe a protein bar and an apple or some strawberries, or maybe a cup or two of Greek yogurt, or if it were me, I would do Icelandic yogurt skier. Cause I like it more than Greek yogurt and maybe a little bit of granola or some berries in the yogurt.
And as far as. To eat the meal, I would say just fit it in wherever you prefer. But do try to make sure that you’re eating at least some protein in carbs within an hour or two before and after your weightlifting workouts. Not super important, but it may make a slight difference over time. And if you’re eating a lot of food and you’re eating many meals a day anyway, you might as well do it.
Now if that doesn’t work, the next step is to start eating more calorie dense foods. So now you have to look your meal plan and you have to see how you can add stuff with more calories per bite, so to speak. And I usually recommend raising your carbs first and raising them as high as you can. Go really as high as you can stomach, literally, pun intended.
For me, that is around six to 700 grams of carbs per day. I can do that. I dunno if I would say comfortably because I am just full all the time and that is not very comfortable. But I can do it without any other major side effects, so to speak. However, if I try to push to eight, 900 or a thousand grams of carbs per day, my body really doesn’t like it.
I’m gonna be gassy and bloated and my energy levels are probably going to be a bit volatile and I’m just generally gonna feel disgusted. And I’ve found over the years that most guys who are into weight lifting, especially guys who have been doing it for a while and who have a fair amount of muscle they can eat in the range of, let’s say three to 500 grams of carbs per day without issue.
And then once they start pushing towards six and 700 grams per day and beyond. They reach their limits. And for women, it seems to be about half of those numbers. Now, as you probably know, that’s a lot of calories. Carbs have about four calories per gram. So if you are eating, let’s say 600 grams of carbs per day, that’s 2,400 calories.
Or if you’re a woman and you’re eating. 300, that is 1200 calories per day in carbs alone and some gray calorie dense sources of carbs, like specific foods you could consider adding to your meal plan or bread, pasta, rice, oat potato. Breakfast cereals. If it were me, I wouldn’t go for the sugar laden stuff.
I’d try to get stuff that is relatively unprocessed. Of course, it’s a breakfast cereal, so it’s going to be a processed food. It’s certainly gonna be more processed than oatmeal, but you don’t have to go in for Lucky Charms, for example. Anyways, continuing, We have quinoa. Grits bananas, mangoes, raisins, crass, other dried fruit that can be a great source of carbs as well as granola.
Now, if that doesn’t do it, and in my experience, it’s usually because somebody doesn’t tolerate a high carb diet very well. So let’s say you’re a guy who can’t eat more than, let’s just say, 400 grams of carbs per day before you start feeling bad. Or if you’re a woman, maybe it’s 150 to 200 grams of carbs per day.
And in the scheme of things that plus your protein and your fat, it just doesn’t give you enough calories. You have to keep going. Then I would recommend that you add more protein if. You are okay with that. Ideally, you would, ideally you would raise your protein up to two grams per pound of body weight per day if you had to, just to get in enough calories to start driving that muscle gain, start driving that weight gain while minimizing fat gain.
That is going to be more effective than raising your dietary fat. If, however, the thought of that turns your stomach because you are not a big protein fan, a big protein eater, many. Have pushed back when I’ve recommended this, for example, and I understand. Then you can raise your dietary fat intake, of course, to get your calories up, and I do recommend just sticking to the quote unquote healthy sources of fat that I often recommend like avocado.
Full fat cheese works well. Yogurt high protein yogurt toward just regular lower protein, higher fat yogurt. I like cottage cheese a lot. If you get full fat, cottage cheese, it also has a lot of protein in it. High fat meat. So for example, let’s say you’re eating fish. Let’s say you’re eating tilapia for dinner often, or maybe for lunch.
Swapping that for salmon, maybe eggs are great for this. Chocolate is a good treat if you want to use some calories for that. So long, of course, as. Treat calories don’t exceed 20% or so of your daily calories. And of course, nuts. Nuts are very calorie dense and contain a lot of healthy fat. Now if you do that, if you bump up your healthy fat intake and you are still not gaining weight as you should be in gaining muscle as you should be, then you can look at drinking calories.
I generally don’t recommend this of course, but this would be a situation where I would recommend it. Protein powder mask, gainers, Although I don’t like most mask gainers because they have very low quality ingredients, just cheap sugars and carbs. If you want to check out a high quality mass gainer with food quality ingredients, check out Atlas.
That’s mine [email protected]. It’s in the store, but fruit smoothies. Good for this fruit juices, work. Milk of course works. Go mad gallon of milk a day. No, I don’t recommend that You will shit yourself. Hot cocoa. And if we wanna make it into a desserty kind of thing, higher calorie coffee beverages.
So usually that’s just gonna be coffee or espresso with milk. But hey, it’s it is an easy way to get in some extra calories. I do recommend this as the last. Though, and in my experience working with many people over the years, it’s rare that we need to reach this final point. It’s rare that we need to implement a lot of calorie drinking.
However, there are cases I can remember were just due to circumstances. It was mostly just how their lives worked and what they had to do throughout the day. Why it wasn’t really feasible for them to bring all this extra food with them, and it was much easier for them to figure out how they can drink some extra calories throughout the day and voila, problem fixed.
One other thing I realized I didn’t mention is when you are increasing your calories to try to increase weight gain and increased muscle gain, don’t get to zealous with it. I recommend raising. Daily intake by maybe a hundred to 150 calories, and then staying there for minimally seven days, maybe as much as 10 or 14 days and see what happens.
Weigh yourself every day and take an average over that. Period and compare it to your previous averages and see what happens. What you don’t wanna do is jump up by, let’s say, 500 calories per day. You don’t want to go from where you are at to where you’re at, plus 500 calories because you may only need, let’s say, an extra 200 calories per day to really get the needle moving again and.
Going past that by going up to 500 calories. Yes, you will start gaining muscle and you will certainly gain weight, but you are also going to greatly increase your rate of fat gain, which is not just a problem in terms of aesthetics. It also means that you are ultimately going to have to end your lean bulking phase.
Earlier than you would otherwise, because eventually you are gonna get fat enough to where you have to cut. So if you’re a guy and you are now pushing 18, 19, 20% body fat, it is really time to stop, lean, bulking, and start cutting, or you are going to dig yourself into a deep rut that you are going to regret when you do finally wanna see your abs again, trust me.
And if you’re a. I think a fair cutoff is probably around 25, 26, 20 7% body fat. Once you go beyond that, you are setting yourself up for a long and unpleasant cut to get back to the toned, athletic type of look that you are probably after.
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. Okay. Let’s move on to the next question, and I will get through this one faster.
I promise you this one again, is I wake up tired even when I sleep seven or eight hours. What can I do? So let’s talk about improving sleep quality. Let’s talk about the big levers and buttons that you need to pull and push immediately to ensure that you are doing at least the fundamentals that contribute to good sleep.
Avoiding coffee and nicotine and alcohol, that’s a key one because while it does have a sedative effect, it then can have a stimulatory effect. So drinking late at night, certainly before bed, is likely to mess up your sleep and avoiding any other type of stimulants four to six hours before you go to bed.
And for me, six hours is not enough. It needs to be more like eight plus hours because my body tends to metabolize caffeine for example. And toxins slowly, so it takes quite a bit of time for the chemicals to be fully out of my body, even though I won’t feel the caffeine. For example, when I go to bed, if I have it at, let’s say three or 4:00 PM I’ll have no problem relaxing and falling asleep.
But chances are I am going to wake up several times that night. So again, for me, I go to bed around 10:00 PM and I have all of my caffeine actually at about eight 30 in the morning. Sometimes I will have a little bit of extra around 12, but never later than 12. I have learned that lesson. So if you suspect your body is like mine, sensitive to caffeine, and if you tend to be a light sleeper, which I do, I recommend the cutoff being 10 or even 12 hours before bed, which means that you’re gonna have to consume really all of your stimulants within the first few hours of waking up, which I understand is not ideal, especially for people who experience the mid-afternoon slump.
Most of us do experience it to some. Usually around three or 4:00 PM energy levels start to sag normally. That is a great time to have a little caffeinated pick me up, but do not do it if you are sensitive to caffeine and if your body processes it slowly like mine does, and if you are having trouble sleeping, try getting rid of that.
To afternoon dose of caffeine and see if it helps. It probably will, again, if your body’s like mine, it certainly will. Another key point is to get off electronics, so no TVs, no phones, no tablets, no laptops at least 30 minutes before you sleep. Give yourself a 30 minute digital detox before you go to bed because these devices emit blue light and research shows that avoiding them before bed can significantly decrease the amount of time that it takes to fall.
and it can improve the quality of your sleep. You should also make your bedroom as dark as possible because even dim light that’s coming through the window can negatively impact your sleep quality. So go for blackout blinds or use an eye mask if necessary, and get rid of any electronic light in your bedroom.
You also wanna make your bedroom. Quiet as you can because research shows that environmental noise, like the noise that’s caused by traffic on nearby roads, for example, can wake you up at levels as low as about 48 decibels. And that’s as loud as my voice right now. That is a normal conversation.
It occurs around 50 decibels, and not only can this noise, this sound, decrease, Total amount of time that you spend sleeping. It can reduce the amount of time you spend in REM and deep sleep. So you have three sleep phases, right? You have the light sleep, and then you have REM sleep, and you have deep sleep, and your brain is doing different things in each of these phases.
And you need to make sure you are getting enough of each of these three types of sleep. Simply being in bed long enough, or even being asleep or unconscious long enough is not enough. For example, if you are not getting enough REM sleep because of maybe disruptions that are not waking you up, but they’re bringing you out of REM and let’s say into light sleep, you might find that your memory is fo.
That you are having trouble remembering things and that you are more forgetful than usual, and if you are getting enough light sleep and ream sleep, but not enough deep sleep. Some of the symptoms can include fatigue and irritability and mood swings, difficulty focusing and remembering reduced sex drive.
And again, you can experience those symptoms despite going to bed at a reasonable time. Being in bed for maybe eight hours, minimally seven hours, and being asleep for most of that time. So if you are someone who is regularly in bed for seven to eight hours and who doesn’t usually have trouble falling asleep and who may wake up once or twice, maybe even three times at night, but who is mostly.
But who is not feeling rested in the morning and feeling tired throughout the day, especially at that three to 4:00 PM slump. If you have trouble staying awake at that time, then the problem may have to do with the quality of your sleep, not the quantity. And if you have not implemented the simple strategies I am sharing with you here, you should, and you may notice a big difference.
So let’s move on to the next little tip, which is to keep your bedroom. Cool but not cold. Research shows that somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 and 19 degrees Celsius is ideal for most people. I also recommend that you eat light at night. Do not have a big meal before bed because this can make falling sleep, take longer, and research shows.
That, particularly in the case of high fat meals, so high calorie and high fat meals, it can also reduce the amount of REM sleep that you get. Another helpful tip is to create a simple and relaxing pre-bed routine that helps make you sleepy, that brings down stress levels, that calms your mind down and gets you ready to fall asleep.
Stuff like taking a bath. Book, listening to calming music, classical music, for example, and stretching our popular choices. Aromatherapy is as well, like lavender. A lot of people like to smell lavender because it calms them. For example, next on the list is going to bed at the same time every night.
Research shows. That maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help you stay asleep longer, and it can reduce the amount of times that you wake up during the night. And it’s important to do that regardless of when you wake up. So if you wake up a bit earlier than usual, just go to bed at your same time.
And the same goes for the accidental or the intentional oversleep. If you wake up a bit later than usual, don’t stay up later that night. Just go to bed when you normally go to bed. And I saved the best for last, and that is sex. Have sex before bed because research shows that in most people, it’s going to help them get to sleep faster and sleep better.
That’s not everyone. That’s not my wife, for example, without getting into too many details, if we have sex too late, chances are she’s going to be wired afterward and have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. So we have to figure it out. And sometimes that takes some doing because we have two kids who are eight and three, and so who cannot be listening to this podcast, which means I can talk about this and they.
Get to bed around eight, maybe eight 30, and sometimes the three year old takes her time falling asleep. Sometimes it takes her an hour to fall asleep, and thus my wife and I can be on the clock if we want to. Netflix and chill. There’s usually not much time for Netflix. Anyway. If you are someone who has already done all of the things that I have just described, and you are still waking up tired or finding yourself very tired throughout the day, again, usually in the middle of the afternoon, that’s when people who are not getting enough sleep will usually notice it the most.
You might just need more sleep. The seven hours that you’re getting, or maybe even the eight hours that you’re. Might not be enough because sleep needs do differ from person to person. And several studies have shown, for example, that when athletes increase their sleep from seven to eight hours per night to nine to 10 hours per night, their performance improves in many ways.
And other research has shown that athletes who do sleep nine to 10 hours per night tend to perform better than others who sleep less than that. And so you. Be someone who just does best with a bit more sleep than average, and that is totally fine. Now, if that is the case, if you do need more sleep than you are currently getting, if you conclude that but you can’t sleep more at night, maybe you can try napping.
Research shows that taking a nap can improve performance and reduce fatigue, and more or less undo the negative side effects of not sleeping enough at night. Now, of course, you can only work up to a point if you are sleeping three or four hours at night. You’re not gonna be able to take a 30 minute nap in the afternoon and feel great.
But if you are just a little bit short then. Can get you to sufficiency. That said, I do recommend avoiding naps after 3:00 PM or so, and I also recommend that you nap for no more than 30 to 45 minutes because if you take a nap too late and if you nap too long, it actually can make it harder to fall asleep that night, and that kind of defeats the purpose, right?
For me when I take a nap, which isn’t often, I only take a nap if I didn’t sleep well the night before, or if I didn’t sleep enough and I’m feeling it, I will set a timer for 60 minutes and what I find is it usually takes me 10 or 15 minutes to fall asleep and then I’m asleep for. 30 to 40 minutes and I wake up before the timer goes off, before the alarm goes off.
And if you have been following me in my work for some time, you might be surprised that I would be willing to get off my computer and go take a nap. And my view on napping has changed as I have gotten a little bit older. So I’m 36, Yeah, 36. And 10 years ago if I slept five. Five and a half, six hours. I might feel it a little bit.
I might notice a little bit of lethargy later in the day, but nothing that was even all that distracting. I remember sometimes not sleeping enough, knowing I didn’t sleep enough and being surprised. Come four or 5:00 PM that I. Didn’t really feel under rested, just a little bit, but I still did my workout early in the morning.
I worked all day, and then I go home, do cardio, go back to work. Basically just have a normal day at maybe 90% instead of 100%. Now, if I were to sleep five or five and a half hours, even six hours. Back then, I would sleep six to six and a half hours consistently for many years and didn’t have really any symptoms.
Under six was not enough, but six and a half was my sweet spot for a while. Now if I sleep five, five and a half, six and a half, I can get by. I will notice it. I will notice it by about 12:00 PM I have less energy. I find it harder to focus in my work. I’m more easily distracted, and so the smarter decision.
More productive decision is to just get in bed for an hour and then feel refreshed and be able to work at full capacity as opposed to being slightly incapacitated for the entire day. And I also really don’t like the feeling of being under slept, especially when I’m working and I’m having to write or accord a podcast.
This or do phone calls that I really have to be present for. It is noticeably harder for me to do that stuff now as I’ve gotten a little bit older, when I am under rested and it takes noticeably longer for me to produce work that I’m happy with. So again, I just remind myself that. Taking a 60 minute break is taking one step back for two steps forward.
Now, one final little tip I wanna share with you is having some protein before bed because research shows that low fat dairy before bed may improve sleep. Quality and another study, a research review. So a review of a bunch of different studies found that people who eat a high protein diet are more likely to be good sleepers than people who eat a low protein diet.
Now of course, that doesn’t mean that protein makes you sleep better. This could just be a correlation and not a causation, but there may be something there. Protein may actually. Sleep. And while a high calorie fatty meal before bed certainly can negatively impact your sleep quality, it’s unlikely that a high protein meal, which just means let’s say 30 or 40 grams of protein will.
And also there are a couple of studies that suggest having some protein before bed, 30 ish grams. Can enhance muscle gain over time by giving your bodies muscle building machinery, so to speak, raw materials to work with while you are sleeping. If you have your last serving of protein for the day at, let’s say 6:00 PM and you go to bed at 10:00 PM and you sleep eight hours, that is a lot of time that your body.
Has to wait for amino acids to start building muscle again. If your dinner is, let’s just say it’s moderate, it’s a mixed meal. It’s not huge, it’s not tiny. Your body’s probably done processing it. Come 11:00 PM give or take, maybe an hour. And so now you have another six ish hours. Let’s say give or take an hour of no amino acids present.
Your blood, and when that’s the case, your body simply cannot build and repair tissue. It has to wait for your first serving of protein the following day. However, if you have, let’s say, 30 grams of protein right before you go to bed, it could be literally right before you get in bed, or maybe it’s nine 30 or 9 45, and if it is a slow digesting protein, like maybe cottage cheese or Greek yogurt or skier or casing, Or pea protein than even better because now amino acids are gonna be in your blood throughout most of the night, which means that your body’s muscle building machinery can run throughout most of the night.
Okay, let’s get to the third and final question for this q and a. And this one comes from Jeffrey Verity Show Field over on Instagram. And it is. Have you had any long term training beliefs changed by research in the last year or two? Absolutely. The main ones would be related to cardio, weightlifting volume and weightlifting rep ranges.
So as. For cardio. I used to be bigger on high intensity interval training, and there was a time when research was suggesting that it is far more effective for burning fat per unit of time than lower intensity cardio. Now we know that. Is probably not the case. And the main benefit of high intensity interval training seems to be just the extra calorie burning, which is great.
Yes, you will burn more fat in a minute of hit versus a minute of low intensity or even moderate intensity cardio because you’re gonna burn more calories. But high intensity cardio places, larger recovery demands on the body. So you have to limit. The amount that you do Now, I did have that right previously.
I did recommend that people limit themselves to no more than maybe an hour to an hour and a half of high intensity cardio per week and limit it to 20 to maybe 30 minutes per session. But I. Was just bigger on hit then than I am now. I do think it has its uses still. Obviously if you want to maximize fat loss, then you do wanna include some hit in your regimen.
If you want to increase your endurance as much as possible, you are gonna wanna do some hit as well. And you could probably even say if you want to, All of the health benefits that cardio has to offer. You want to be doing some high intensity. Most of your cardio should be low or moderate intensity, but it would make sense to include one or maybe two sessions of hit per week.
Again, 20 to 30 minutes per session. Now, as far as weightlifting volume goes, the main change that has occurred is I now have more clarity about the importance. Volume as it relates to muscle gain, and of course how that then relates to strength gain. If I rewind to 4, 5, 6 years ago, I wasn’t sure how much volume was optimal.
I knew that, for example, people who are relatively new to. Proper weightlifting can do very well with nine to 12 hard sets per major mouse group per week. But beyond that, I didn’t know what was the sweet spot for the intermediate weightlifter. What was the sweet spot for the advanced weightlifter and what was the upper limit that nobody should exceed in less?
They have freak genetics or are on steroids. It wasn’t clear, and in my defense, the research has progressed quite a bit on this topic in particular, and I can credit my understanding of this now to people like. Dr. Eric Helms and Dr. Mike Zardos and Greg Knuckles, you should definitely check out their research review.
If you like to get into the nitty gritty science of getting more Jacked, you can find it [email protected], and I’m not getting paid to say that. I just really like the work that they do and so am passing that along to you. But anyway, if I fast forward to. Now I feel like I have a good handle on volume and how much volume is optimal depending on how experienced of a weightlifter you are.
So for example, I was correct that if you’re new somewhere around 10 hard sets per major mouse group per week, with a hard set being defined as a set, taking close to failure, maybe one or two reps shy of failure is gonna be enough. You really don’t need to do more than that. Oh, I should also mention James Krieger too.
James Krieger has done some great work on. Looking at all of the research that we have on volume and figuring out how much volume does it really take to reach that point of diminishing returns. That’s really what we are looking for, right? We are willing to get in the gym and do the work and spend the time, but if we can.
Let’s say lift weights five hours per week and do just as well as eight hours a week. I dunno about you, but I’m gonna go with five hours. Cause I have a lot of other things to do. So it’s nice to know where the sweet spot is. And so now for an intermediate weightlifter for somebody who let’s say is in year two or maybe three of their journey, And they’ve been doing things more or less correctly.
Of course, along the way, eh, probably around 15, maybe 13 to 15 hard sets per Major Musk group per week is gonna be the sweet spot. And in some people they will not need to do more than that. That’s gonna be enough to get them to their genetic finish line, so to speak, for muscle and strength. But there are people who may need to eventually do a bit more to squeeze out every last ounce of muscle in their dna.
And in their anatomy. And for those people it might be as much as 20 hard sets. I wouldn’t say per major muscle group per week because that is very difficult to do. Just fiddle in Excel and try to program that out. 20 hard sets per major muscle group per week. Usually what these people do is they have some major muscle groups at 13 to 15 hard sets per week, and then they target one to maybe.
Major muscle groups with 20 hard sets per week, and they’ll do that for a couple of months and then bring those muscle groups down to the 13 to 15 and bring one, two, or three others up. And you would also only do that when you are lean, bulking, or minimally. Maintaining while ensuring that you are more often in a slight surplus rather than a slight or a larger deficit.
For example, if your maintenance diet has you in a significant deficit throughout the week, so you can be in a huge surplus on the weekend, that’s not gonna work well for muscle and strength gain. It is not going to work well. You’d be much better off doing it the other way around slightly. Overeating throughout the week, a slight surplus during the week, and then a sizeable, and by that 15 to 20, maybe 25% deficit on Saturday and Sunday to try to undo the fat gain of the week, so to speak.
That would work a lot better for the purpose of. Getting bigger and stronger. And so that is now my current position on volume. Somewhere between 10 and 20 hard sets per Major Musk group per week is all most of us natural weightlifters ever need to do to get to where we want to be. And there is one person I know of who has been saying that for a long time, and I didn’t come across it until more recently.
He has been saying it for a long time and that is Lyle McDonald for many years now. Lyle has been saying just that, so kudos to Lyle. And last there is rep ranges. My position on rep ranges and the quote unquote best rep ranges has changed a bit. The long story short is when I wrote the first edition of Bigger Than or Stronger, I emphasized the four to six rep range, double progression, and really just had people do that on all exercises and it works, and the proof is in the pudding.
There are many success stories out there from that first edition, and you have many. Similar types of programs, mostly in the strength space, right? You have a lot of sets of five out there, for example. So I haven’t abandoned the four to six rep range and I haven’t abandoned heavy weightlifting for much higher rep ranges, hypertrophy rep ranges of 10 to 12 or 12 to 15, for example.
But I better understand now the value. Of higher rep range work and how to include it in a training program in a workable and evidence based way. So what we’re talking about here is puritization. Now what has not changed my position is as a natural weightlifter, we need to focus on heavy. Weights. We need to be focusing on 75, 80 plus percent of one rep max, especially on our primary lifts.
And we need to be focusing on gaining whole body strength. And we know that heavier weights are better for getting stronger, but as we enter our intermediate phase, and certainly as we enter our advanced phase, research shows that we will make better progress. If we work in a variety of rep ranges, so long as we program it correctly.
And if you wanna learn all about that, and if you want to see how to program it correctly, read my newest book Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, because it has a whole section on periodization and the program itself is periodized. So for example, over each 16 week training block, you move from. 10 on your primary lifts, on your big compound lifts, two sets of two and even an amap set at the end of a training block to see if you have gotten stronger.
And that’s amap with 95% of one rep max. That is very heavy. Now, all that said, if somebody were to ask me if I could only train in one rep, What would it be for all exercises? I probably would say four to six, five to seven, maybe six to eight. It would be in that lower, more strength centric end of the spectrum.
It would not be eight to 10, although that wouldn’t be a terrible choice. It would certainly not be 10 to 12 or 12 to 15 or beyond, but that does not mean that. Absolute best way to train. If somebody is new to weightlifting, they can do very well. Just keeping it simple, four to six and then maybe six to eight on accessory exercises or some accessory exercises that are awkward with heavier weights.
Just use double progression, and they will do great for their first year, maybe even two years, probably not three years. Eventually, they will find that what has gotten. That far is not enough to get them to where they want to be. And the two major changes that most people need to make in their training is they just have to work harder, more volume, more hard sets per major muscle per week.
And then they will find that in order to do that, they have to periodize their training or their body and especially their joints just get beaten to shit. And again, I talk about. All of that, and a lot more in beyond, bigger than stronger. So if I have your ear, if I have your interest, check the book out.
You won’t be disappointed. All right, friend, That is it for this episode. I hope you liked it. And if you wanna reach out to me and let me know what you thought, or if you have questions, just shoot me an email, [email protected]. And definitely keep an eye on the podcast feed because next week I have a monologue coming on partial reps.
Should we be including partial reps in our routines? Will they help us get bigger and stronger faster? And I have an interview with the CEO and founder of Zero Shoes, Steven Sachen, on the underbelly of the running Shoe racket, which reminds me a lot of the supplement space, a lot of marketing bullshit, and very little good science.
And then next Friday, the next q and a, because I’m doing one Q. Per week and probably will keep doing this more or less indefinitely because people have been asking me to do more q and As and the q and a episodes tend to outperform many of the others. So more Q and ass. It is. All right. That’s it for this episode.
I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility, and thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier As.
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And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.