You are trying to gain muscle, but it’s just not happening.
You train hard. So that’s not the problem. It must be your diet.
Sadly, most discussions about the proper diet for gaining muscle start with “if you weigh XXX pounds and want to gain 1 lb per week, you will need YYYY calories and ZZZ grams of protein every day”.
This completely overlooks the fact that you don’t live your life in a laboratory.
You have no clue what 25 grams of protein or 300 calories actually looks like.
To top it off, even though you put every morsel of food consumed into that app on your smartphone, there is up to a 20% margin of error with calorie counting.
So how does a natural ectomorph (science for ‘skinny dude’) like myself gain muscle?
Pretty simple: EAT!
Ok. Not as simple as it sounds. I don’t thoroughly enjoy eating. Not once have I felt the urge to post a picture of my food on social media. I’m just not a foodie, so when I am trying to gain muscle, I have to make a conscious decision to eat more.
Provided that you are training hard using compound strength exercises 2-4x/week, then your biggest priority for gaining muscle is to load up on good quality food!
Here are 5 of the ‘EAT MORE’ strategies we came up with together:
These recommendations are for people who don’t have an easy time adding muscle to their frame, and really just need to eat more. 1. Eat More Spaghetti (or whatever your favorite healthy meal is): He loves spaghetti, so we talked about adding it into his diet more frequently. It’s easier to eat foods you like. There isn’t anything magical about spaghetti, but having food you like is a HUGE part of adhering to any nutrition plan. If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it. 2. Always use the largest plates and bowls in the house: You tend to eat more if you eat from a larger plate. As an aside, the inverse is also true (small plate=less food) and is one of the recommendations we make for people looking to throttle their food intake. 3. Add a pre-bed meal: The standard breakfast, lunch, dinner routine just doesn’t cut it sometimes. Rather than gorge yourself at each of the three meals, add a 4th (or 5th) to space out your food, and increase your intake. 4. Eat fast: Get as much food in you as you can, before your body tells you it’s full. It takes a lot of willpower to keep eating when you are full. It’s your goal to get as much food in as possible before your body tells you to stop! 5. Drink a gallon of milk a day (or try): It’s an old school bodybuilder trick, but the only time I have had success adding mass to my frame was when I was going through about 16L of milk each week, in addition to my normal meals. No that’s not a typo. Every week I would go through 4 jugs of milk by myself. If you tolerate dairy well, milk is a great source of both calories and protein. Given that it is a liquid, this makes it easy for people like me who don’t thoroughly enjoy eating.
More Strategies for Gaining Muscle:
It’s all about finding ways to eat more (quality) food. This post is long enough as it is, but our list contained 6 more items. If you want the full list, you can download it by clicking the button below and letting me know which email address to send it to. Download: 11 Strategies to Eat More for Muscle Growth I’d love to hear below in the comments what works for you guys when it comes to putting more food in your belly!
If your family’s busy schedule makes eating whole, natural foods difficult, or if your teenager is asking you to buy protein powder and you’re clueless as to where to start, then this post is for you.
You’re here to discover if protein shakes are safe (healthy even) for teenagers.
Unfortunately, much of the information you find online about nutritional supplements come from the people who are also trying to sell you those supplements. If that doesn’t put your consumer spidey senses on high alert, I’m not sure what will.
As I write this, I haven’t sold any food/supplement beyond selling chocolate covered almonds to raise money for my school when I was a kid. For full disclosure, I do coach nutrition to high school athletes.
What’s the point?
Protein is used all throughout the body, most notably in the muscles to help create movement.
A lack of protein results in decreased athletic performance and decreased health.
After sitting down with a number of teenage athletes to talk food, it’s clear that protein intake is inadequate, and robbing them of performance on the field.
…enter the supplement industry to save the day! But the first question we need to ask is:
Are Protein Shakes Safe For Teenagers?
Yes. Protein shakes are safe for teenagers…if you choose wisely. The flashier the package, and the bigger the promise it makes, the bigger the chance that there is something unwanted inside.
As an aside, the ‘mega-ultra-super-pump’ with a bunch of stimulants for your pre-workout is a separate discussion from a powdered protein.
Whey (and casein) protein comes from milk. If you are ok giving your teenager milk, then protein shakes are completely safe!
Obviously there are millions of products, and I can’t say that all of them are safe. The hesitation I have with many supplements is not with the protein…but with all the additional additives.
My little man enjoying a protein smoothie on a hot day!
I personally buy a basic whey protein from the Langley Costco and have no problem mixing it into a smoothie for my two year old. It’s been super hot here in the Fraser Valley, so a frozen fruit smoothie treat was just perfect after play time outside 🙂
With the addition of vanilla protein powder, it served as a whole meal!
Are protein shakes healthy?
I’m a huge fan of eating whole foods. Anyone who has looked through my Athletic Meal Guide will attest to this.
One thing you will notice is that I do include whey protein under the 21 Superfoods list included with that report….here’s why:
The families of the athletes I coach are incredibly busy, and eating enough protein necessary for health and performance won’t happen by accident.
Without a concerted effort, most young athletes aren’t going to meet their protein intake for optimal performance. Yes, it would be great if all your protein came from steak, chicken, and other quality meats. Judging from history, that doesn’t often happen.
Protein powder is a very convenient way to obtain your daily protein requirement.
A good protein powder can improve health and boost performance (and you can carry it in your gym bag without worrying about it going bad before the end of the day!)
Choosing a whey protein shake:
Barring a milk allergy, choose whey protein over soy or other options.
Most of the added bonus stuff in proteinpowders is marketing hype. I always have liked the 100% whey protein from Costco or Superstore. (The chocolate tastes better on its own, but the vanilla is easier to mix into smoothies, etc.)
Some protein powders have a bunch of sugars added to them, which can be helpful or harmful depending on the intended purpose for using them (see the different types below).
In general, there are really two different types of proteinshakes that are useful.
Protein Shake Type 1: When your meal lacks a quality protein
If your meal lacks a quality protein, a powdered version can be just the answer. Look for something that is almost completely protein.
The ones that are pure whey/casein without any added sugar are what you are looking for. These are great for adding protein to a meal that is lacking, or ensuring that you get enough protein into your diet throughout the day.
Protein Shake Type 2: As a post workout recovery shake
The second type of protein shake that is beneficial is the mid-workout/post-workout protein shake. It contains a lot of sugar which makes it ideal for restoring energy stores, but makes it a poor choice for outside that window.
Since the sugars are put to use in the body immediately, much of the drawbacks associated with sugary drinks are negated.
Look for something with about 3 grams of carbohydrates for every 1 gram of protein. It should have whey or BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) as the basis for the protein.
Obviously, the ones with the extra sugar are going to be tastier, so if you really dislike the unsweetened ones, then I would stick with drinking nature’s protein shake…milk.
A parting thought:
Don’t let protein powder and other supplements be your excuse for eating poorly. They are super useful, and protein shakes are very safe…but they must compliment a well balanced diet and training program if they are to be of any use.
A great place to start with healthy nutrition is by eating proteins from a variety of sources like those listed in my 21 Superfoods guide below.
I was asked about strength training for soccer following a public speaking event I did recently at Langley Christian School. I figured now would be a good time to put together a blog post outlining what makes a good program when training for soccer.
Like almost everyone, the girl who contacted me wanted to…
Lose fat & Gain Muscle
Look & Feel better
Perform better in the upcoming soccer season
Thankfully these things are all complimentary goals. If done properly, we shouldn’t need to sacrifice any of the above goals when training for soccer. As a bonus, there likely will be a big boost in confidence when the athlete starts to see their body change, and their performance improve!
Some of the barriers to performance for this individual are:
Challenges with eating healthy and sticking to their plan
Lack of confidence that ‘self designed’ training programs will get results
Strategy #2- Build a good strength base when training for soccer
If you read this blog very often, you will know that strength is the basis of all human movement. Gaining muscle boosts metabolism, and enables greater athletic output. I won’t ramble about the benefits of strength today, but will state that it’s a necessary adaptation for all of the goals listed above. Here’s a former client who is now playing at Thompson Rivers University killing it with the trap-bar deadlift.
Strategy #3- Use compound multi-joint movements
Using exercises that require multiple joints saves time, and improves performance when strength training for soccer. You can accomplish a lot more work when you use movements that use multiple joints, and take your body through space.
For example: you could do bicep curls, and then tricep extensions, and then lat pullovers to hit those three muscle groups…or you could do chin-ups and hit all those muscles and more in a single exercise. More work in less time is the definition of efficiency. Spend less time in the gym by training movements, not muscles.
Another benefit of ‘movements not muscles’ is the added carryover to athletics. Joint and muscle isolation exercises have minimal carryover to athletic performance. If you want to perform better, use exercises that use multiple joints, and require you to take your body through space.
Chin ups, squats, lunges, skipping, sprinting, push-ups, bench press, rowing exercises (strength based) etc. all are beneficial when training for soccer.
Strategy #4- Emphasize ACL injury prevention
Non-contact ACL (a ligament in the knee) injuries are very prevalant (especially in females). This is where an ACL is torn without the occurrence of body contact. In soccer, it often happens when an athlete plants their foot, and then pivots in the wrong direction.
This ends in a crying athlete sitting on the sideline, missed playing time, and questions about whether we are pushing our kids too hard.
Single leg balancing drills, and Nordic Hamstring Curls are awesome for establishing good control and reducing the risk of ACL injury. The band assisted variation shown below works awesome for younger female athletes and anyone else training for soccer who lacks the strength to do the non-assisted version.
Strategy #5- Train only 2-3 Days Per Week
You often hear stories of people training 5-6 times a week, but for most people that is neither practical, nor effective when training for soccer.
Nobody get’s stronger in the gym. Everyone get’s stronger when they rest in between workouts at the gym. If you train too frequently, you don’t give your body time to adapt. If you are training hard for 2-3 sessions each week, and aren’t seeing results, the first place to look is at your recovery habits:
Sleep (Athletes training hard need 8-9+ hours of sleep each night)
Diet (Are you getting enough quality food)
Stress (work/school/relationships etc.)
Work hard, and then rest and recover. A training session should last approximately 45 minutes, plus warm-up and cool down.
Strategy #6- Keep conditioning specific, yet general (NO JOGGING)
Soccer is made up of a series of sprints, alternated with periods of lighter activity, or rest.
Strikers need fast breakaway speed to shake off defenders. Likewise, defenders need speed in order to follow their man. When the ball is on the other side of the pitch however, the constant jockeying for position occurs at a much slower speed, and the demand to be glued to your man lessens.
The conditioning portion of training for soccer must match this tempo: alternated periods of high intensity activity with periods of low intensity activity or complete rest.
That said, conditioning can take many forms. Sprinting, pushing/pulling sleds, jumping, burpies or basically any other kind of movement that requires the use of a bunch of different muscle groups can be considered conditioning.
Conditioning is a great place to add variety to your training.
Running slowly for a long period of time, only makes people good at running slowly. So stop jogging unless your sport is distance running. Instead, work as hard as you can for 20-60 seconds for your selected exercise. Rest for a minimum of 2-4x as long as you just worked. Repeat for 5-25 minutes.
Conditioning can be done at the end of a strength training for soccer workout, or on a separate day. If you have multiple practices and games that week, it can be omitted entirely as you are likely getting enough of a training stimulus from that.
Strategy #7- Keep the nutrition plan simple
People way over-complicate nutrition in many cases. The tendency is for people to ‘major in the minors’. They end up worrying about counting calories, limiting gluten, and obsessing over carb to protein to fat ratios, and overlook the most basic nutrition advice: Eat natural food, not processed junk.
If you eat food that has roots or parents 80% of the time, you likely will meet all your nutritional goals! Read your food labels. If it has more than 3-4 ingredients, or you can’t pronounce the ingredient names, find something else to eat.
Strength training for soccer program:
For athletes who are training for the first time, we will keep everything really simple with a basic, yet balanced training program. Exercises in this program include:
Single leg multi-planer hops
TRX inverted row
Nordic Hamstring curls
Chin ups (use a band for assistance, or just do the lowering portion if needed)
Side plank with reach through
Enter your email below to download the full training program in printable format:
It makes me pull my hair out when people say ‘I have a low/high metabolism’ without having any clue what it means. Good or bad, it’s most often it’s used as an excuse for why this person is skinny, and that person isn’t.
How many times have you heard this:
“Oh Jane can eat those cookies because she has a really high metabolism!”
Its even more troublesome the number of companies who prey on the lack of understanding of the term metabolism. There are lots of people selling all types of magic beans designed to make people skinny with no effort. A quick trip to Google will show you what I mean.
I want to take a moment here to provide a clear definition of metabolism. Next time your friends say the word ‘metabolism’ feel free to correct them, and point them in my direction if they have questions.
Everything that happens in the body is driven by chemical reactions. Each chemical reaction requires energy to kickstart the process. This includes the creation of energy from foods. Some reactions will use more, and others less.
The real Definition of Metabolism:
As defined by the world leaders in nutrition coaching at Precision Nutrition the definition of metabolism is:
“The sum of reactions that take place to build up and break down in the body.”
Therefore every action you take that causes a chemical reaction to occur in the body will boost your metabolism. This includes obvious things like exercise, but also includes things like eating food. Certain foods require a fair amount of energy to digest and can be considered a metabolism boosting activity.
The National Strength and Conditioning offers this definition of metabolism:
“A measure of the calories required for maintaining normal body functions such as respiration, cardiac function, and thermoregulation”
Metabolism therefore is all of the reactions occurring within the body to keep it alive. Of note, is the fact that significantly more activity is occurring in muscular tissue than in fat tissue. Therefore the absolute best way to boost your metabolism is to gain muscle mass! That way, you’ll burn more calories even when you are at rest.
Yes. Some people naturally have a higher metabolism, and others have a lower metabolism. If you understand the definition of metabolism, it becomes clear that you can control it!
At some point, you need to take ownership of what’s happening to you, and resolve to make it better (like Dan JVD did here). If you are overweight, or have low energy levels, it’s within your power to change it! In most cases, it doesn’t take much, so put the excuses aside (even if they are completely valid) and decide to be better tomorrow, than you were today.
Take the first step by following the athletic meal guide which you can download below. For more guidance book a free consultation and I’ll help you come up with a concrete plan of action to help you reach your goals.
Below is a guest post from Dan Jansen Van Doorn a pro volleyball player for Tourcoing in France and former teammate of mine. He shares his story about a simple mindset shift that within a few months:
fixed his knee pain
added 6 inches to his jump
helped him lead the TWU Spartans to back to back national championships
earn a living as a pro athlete
helped him lose 27lbs
Daniel Jansen Van Doorn
I was always a kid who could eat whatever I wanted, and get away with it. I paid little to no attention to my nutrition…
My priorities when it came to eating were:
The nutritional value of the food I was eating was dead last,
That all changed sometime in my second year at TWU. I never realized it was a problem, until it was pointed out by a few people. At the time, I was struggling from a plethora of minor injuries.
Shin splints had plagued me for a few years already, and my knees had gotten exponentially worse recently. My back was starting to hurt regularly, and my shoulder and ankles were often injured.
I blamed it on a combination of over training, and bad luck. Looking back on it now, I was simply in denial and had nobody to blame but myself.
I hit my heaviest point at 235 lbs which was about 20 lbs above a comfortable playing weight, and 30 above my ideal performance weight as a 6’8″ middle.
I was sick of running jokes among teammates, but was more sick of being seen as a joke; a player whose injuries were so frequent that nobody believed me anymore. I wasn’t performing well, and was never feeling 100% healthy, or fresh. It was late in my second year and over the following summer that I decided it was time to change.
I started slow, as I still didn’t know how to eat healthy. There was way too much fat and sodium in my diet. I cut down bit by bit, and noticed a difference. It was never anything drastic, as I found that dynamic diet changes are hard to maintain. It started with a month without McDonalds.
Then a few months without fast food. Then it moved past simple rules for myself, and changed into me paying attention to every meal, snack, and beverage I put in my body. Salads were not just something I took instead of fries with my meal, salads could be a whole meal. I worked really hard to eat clean. I was lucky, and it was fairly easy (or at least it got much easier the more I did it).
My results paid off immediately. When we weighed in at the beginning of my 3rd year, I had come in at 208 lbs (down 27lbs), and had increased my spike touch by 6 inches!
That’s a big block!
It was literally as if I had been jumping with a dumbbell tied to my waist and suddenly lost it. What an incredible feeling, and even better was the difference in my daily life. I was feeling fresh when I showed up for training, and I didn’t have to pop a handful of ibuprofen just to be able to play!
I was sleeping better, training better, and overall living better. My improvements were seen in the weight room with regular PB’s in every exercise, and on the court as well.
For me, it didn’t have to be one drastic change. It was simply a change in my mentality. If i really wanted to be the best, that meant that volleyball didn’t stop at 8:00 when training was done. The better I was eating, the more of an edge I was gaining on everybody else. I realized that being an athlete was a 24 hour job, and an enormous part of that job was done in the kitchen.
I love Dan’s story since he went about things the right way…first he fixed his mindset, and then made a few small changes that end up in big results. If you need to fix your mindset, or need guidance on nutrition and training Request A Free Consultation ($97 Value):
I see coaches, athletes and other individuals make a lot of BIG mistakes when it comes to training and nutrition, but none bigger than NOT TRACKING RESULTS.
The effectiveness of exercise programs, nutrition programs, fitness programs, etc. should all be determined by one thing:
“Is this drawing me measurably closer to my goals?”
Key word is ‘measurably’. What is measured is improved. Don’t assume the program that worked for others, will work for you. Nothing has accelerated the results for our clients like the implementation of regular physical testing.
Here’s why tracking results is important:
Soreness and fatigue are terrible indicators of a quality workout. “Any idiot can make someone tired. Make them do 10’000 jumping jacks and they will surely be exhausted and sore the next day. On the other hand, not everyone can make someone better”- Unknown
Numbers don’t lie- Feeling like you are leaner or faster is great, but if the measurements disagree, you are only kidding yourself.
Ongoing motivation- On the flip side, many of the real significant changes in the body are slow to take hold. It’s great to see snapshots of how far you have come!
Objective analysis- If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing!
Want to jump higher?Every 4 weeks you should test your jump.
Want to improve body composition? Every 4 weeks snap a photo of yourself from the front and side.
Want to deadlift really heavy weight? Every 4 weeks record your best effort!
Test. Train. Repeat.
You tell us the goal. We’ll provide objective proof that our training system is working and taking you towards that goal.
Get Stronger + Leaner → Get faster → Make the team → Win the championship.
Spinach is the quintessential gross, but good for you food. I think it often get’s a bad wrap when it comes to flavor but I won’t start that discussion here.
Even the adorable little kids in the video above the value of veggies, but eating the recommended amounts everyday can be tough. Here are 3 ways to sneak an all star of the veggie world (spinach) into your every day meals.
#1- Scrambled Eggs
Cut up spinach leaves into small chunks and add them to your scrambled eggs in the morning. If you go overboard, of course your eggs will begin to taste like spinach (which may not be a bad thing). As long as a little color in the eggs doesn’t bother you it’s a great way to get an extra serving of veggies in every day.
#2- Anywhere you have lettuce
Upgrade the nutrition value of any meal simply by replacing lettuce with spinach. Spinach is one of the most nutrient dense foods around. It’s like upgrading to business class on a flight. It’s just better all around.
Lettuce is a good choice. Spinach is a great choice.
Salads, burgers, wraps, sandwiches etc. all can be made with spinach rather than lettuce.
Frozen fruit + water or juice + Blender = Delicious post workout snack
Add a little spinach and some Greek yogurt to create a powerhouse smoothie. Just a word of warning, the addition of spinach to your smoothie will probably turn it brown, but the flavor will remain unchanged.
Spinach is a super food that has the following benefits*:
Contains high levels of Iron (athletes, especially females, are at higher risk of iron deficiency).
Low Iron levels =Low energy = poor performance
It’s full of vitamin K which assists in bone growth and structure
Full of anti-oxidants
correlated with a reduced risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
* Reference: 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Dr. John Bowden
Your body is a complex system that operates on the ‘Garbage in –> Garbage out’ principal. By putting low quality food into your body you are negating the effects of your training. However, putting good food in, your body composition will improve. Eating healthy can be tough, and monitoring it can be a burden. I urge you to not log your food intake or count calories until you have followed the guidelines below for a couple of months. (more…)
Chocolate Milk is receiving rave reviews from the athletic community lately and rightfully so! In addition to tasting delicious, chocolate milk can help you recover from an intense workout. Chocolate milk isn’t your only option as a recovery food but it is a great fit based on the criteria for recovery food outlined below.
The timing of when to eat food makes a difference on the effect it has on our body (see Pre-Game Nutrition for more). While eating quality food at all times of the day is vital, there is a crucial window immediately after exercise that you should take advantage of. (more…)