I’ve been on a 1 month vacation to visit my girlfriend in the US so I’ve been slow at completing this series, however I think this final part of the series will be very useful for many of you guys.
As you can see in the picture below, I lost my abs during my stay in the US. This is what typically happens when I focus on gaining muscle. Losing your abs is no big deal though as long as you stay relatively lean and progress in your training. I made a new personal best on close grip chin ups: 19 reps in a row, so it defnitely paid of to gain some weight. All I have to do now is eat slightly less for 2-3 weeks and I’ll have my abs again.
Let’s get back to what this article is really about:
I’ll start out with cardio since a lot of guys have been asking about the importance of cardio to transform.
Doing cardio burns calories and burning calories can speed up fat loss. So cardio is great for fat loss, right? Well, not necessarily.
I personally dread cardio. I did it for my first year of training 3-5 times a week for about 45 minutes. I burned a lot of calories through cardio, but I still didn’t lose fat. I dreaded every single session. I don’t know a single person that enjoys doing cardio at the gym. I understand if you want to do some exercise when it’s a great weather outside or going for a long walk, but doing cardio at the gym is just a chore.
Enough with my hate for cardio. Now onto the reason why it didn’t work for me:
When I do cardio regularly, my appetite increases
That’s right, cardio was actually counter-productive to me. I might burn 500 calories doing cardio, but I’d just go home and eat a huge amount of food for dinner. Some people are probably going to say: Well, you could just eat less. My answer: I prefer to eat until I’m full.
When I don’t do cardio my appetite is way lower, and I get full easier.
Low intensity cardio is fine though. Riding a bicycle or walking to work/school/the gym or the grocery store is actually great. I do this regularly. I don’t expend much energy on this, since I would have to go these places anyways. The benefits of doing some low intensity cardio are:
- get some blood running to your muscles to aid recovery
- burn a small amount of calories
- keep your heart healthy
Low intensity cardio such as biking to places and going for a long walk is great for your health and to burn some additional calories, but medium intensity steady state cardio for a long time and HIIT (high intensity interval training) can be detrimental to your goals.
Therefore, the conclusion is that even though cardio can be beneficial for a lot of people, it’s not necessary at all for a skinny-fat guy to transform. You have limited recovery capacities already – use those limited recovery capacities intelligently. If you goal is to have a muscular physique doing cardio is NOT using your limited recovery capacities intelligently.
8) Bodybuilding Supplements for the Skinny-Fat Beginner?
If you’re anything like me, you have already researched what bodybuilding supplements are beneficial for you to speed up your transformation.
When I started training I read that it’s a good idea to consume a protein shake post workout, so I bought some whey. I took it post workout for about 6 months and I noticed that whey made me bloated and I got pimples from it. Apparently, my body doesn’t digest dairy well and whey has dairy. When your body has difficulty digesting something and you consume it frequently, you might get acne and/or bloating.
Many skinny-fat guys have poor digestion and get bloated easily. One of the reasons why you’re skinny-fat in the first place is that your body doesn’t use the food you put into it efficiently. If you use artificial stuff like whey on a regular basis it might make you bloated and give you bad skin just like it did for me. Bloating sucks when you’re already predisposed to carry a lot of fat on the lower part of your waist. Finally, you don’t need to supplement with protein.
All you need to do is: always start eating the protein-dominant foods in your meals FIRST. If you have steaks and rice for dinner you start eating as much steak as you have the appetite for. After you finish eating steak, you fill up on carbs. The protein dominant food will make you so full, that you won’t even need to eat a lot of carbs to fill yourself up. By eating 2-3 solid meals a day and always starting with eating the meat/chicken/fish first, you will automatically have more than enough protein to build muscle. As an added benefit, you will only eat the amount of carbs that’s necessary to fuel your trainings. This will reduce the fat gains that typically occur when you try to gain muscle.
After my bad experiences with whey I didn’t use any supplements for a while until I read more about the benefits of creatine. I tried creatine for about a month. That month I gained approximately 40 lbs on my deadlift and I had already been training for a year.
Did I gain this strength because of creatine? No, I gained it because I increased my calories a lot. I ate a lot, thus I gained a lot of fat AND strength. However, along with the increase in body weight and strength I got pimples, just like I did when I consumed whey. So, I quit the creatine and my skin cleared up within 5 days of quitting.
The strength gains I got on creatine didn’t disappear. Actually, I kept gaining strength for a good while after quitting creatine, so I know for sure that creatine didn’t do that much for me.
Other than whey and creatine I’ve tried ZMA (Zinc and Magnesium) and Fish Oil. ZMA made me sleep very well when I took it, so it might be beneficial for you if you have trouble sleeping. Fish oil didn’t do anything for me, even though it has health benefits.
As you can see above, I’ve taken 4 very popular bodybuilding supplements, BUT they didn’t do anything good for me besides the ZMA that improved my sleep. However, there are 2 supplements that I’ve taken during the last 2 years of my training. I don’t take them because I think they will help me with my fitness goals, but because of their health benefits.
First of all, there’s a difference between fitness and health.
Fitness can be defined as improving your athleticism, getting stronger, shedding body fat, becoming faster and so on…
In contrast, health is your longevity. Becoming fit can be good for your longevity, but after you reach a certain point of fitness it can be detrimental. Training hard everyday for a long time and switching between caloric surplus and deficit is NOT good for your health. Your body wants to be at it’s natural bodyweight and get it’s maintainenace calories – not change all the time.
Many supplements are good for your health, but they won’t help you shed body fat or gain muscle!
The supplements I’ve been taking during the last 2 years are:
- Vitamin D + Calcium
I live in Denmark which is located in Northern Europe, therefore I don’t get exposed to sun nearly enough. The vitamin D supplement makes up for that, and I definitely feel better when I take my vitamin D. Calcium I take because I can’t digest dairy well and calcium is usually found in dairy. Finally, I take the multivitamin for convenience since I rarely eat vegetables.
So… should you take any supplements besides multivitamin? Not unless you have to. Everytime you consider to buy a supplement, ask yourself: is this beneficial from a health point of view? If not, don’t buy it. Don’t buy supplements to gain muscle or lose fat. This can be done through changes in your eating habits and hard training. Supplements might help a tiny bit, but they won’t help nearly as much as efficient changes in your training and eating.
Finally, my best gains in training have been made when I made adjustments to my total calorie intake – not when I started using a new supplement.
Cardio and Supplements can be useful but they should be VERY low on your priority list.
Focus on progressing at the exercises you train and eating solid meals that make you full. In the end, this is what’s going to be responsible for the vast majority of the muscle you gain and the fat you lose.
Have a nice weekend,