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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Column: Debunking ‘Bro-Science’

So it’s been over a month since you promised yourself you would get those six-pack abs and a pair of python-sized biceps. You’ve probably tried everything from dieting to going hard five times a week at the gym. Six weeks later, getting that perfect body for Houseboats or spring break seems hopeless.

Every once in a while, I have friends asking me about my routines and dieting. Some people say that diets and exercise routines sound ridiculous. But we should remember that quote by Thomas Jefferson, which is “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” Well, it’s time to break the bad habits and step out of your comfort zone. It’s time to get some results.

Diet is probably the easiest path to losing weight. Let’s forget about working out to attain that perfectly sculpted serratus or those Adonis abs. Take the time to figure out your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories required for the body to function normally at rest.

BMR can be calculated simply in two ways: using some sort of BMR calculator online (Google it), or just actively counting the calories you eat throughout the day while maintaining a stable baseline weight. This process takes longer and is done over a few days or even weeks. Don’t worry about how accurate the figure is; just think of this as a reference point. From there, you figure out the calorie deficit or excess that’s right for you.

The next step is to find a realistic diet you can stick to. Don’t look at a dieting template and think “wow this sucks”; that sort of mentality will only hinder your progress over the long haul. Find a diet that is easy to maintain depending on your daily schedule and how much effort you’re willing to expend. Make sure your diet is reasonable. Don’t try something like limiting yourself to 500 calories a day while also working out.

The other key aspect of a successful diet is to stick to it even if it sounds counterintuitive. If the diet calls for cheat days (days with excess carbs or calories), allow for cheat days. A successful diet is essentially a change in lifestyle. View it as a long-term change to your habits, and not simply a quick fix.

Once dieting is properly executed and maintained, you may consider incorporating a workout routine.

A workout routine is a huge investment of time and calories. While getting fit and strong isn’t exactly a survival necessity in today’s society, good physical health and a strong physique has beneficial effects on other aspects of your life. Point is, don’t waste your time on useless routines; do something that can provide benefits in your everyday life.

If you’ve been to the weight room lately, you’ll see there are more people than usual (I call them the “Resolutionaries”). After a few months, the gym clears out again and the only ones left are the “regulars.” This phenomenon happens every year and is usually due to people giving up after not seeing the desired results fast enough.

That is the first problem. People are quick to give up when patience and persistence is key. The bodybuilder greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane didn’t get their mind-boggling aesthetics over night.

The next bit of advice is simple, yet effective (it’s also the only advice I feel comfortable actually giving): lift heavy, lift heavy and lift heavy. Unless you know what you’re doing, you should forget about burnout sets, supersets, crossfit etc … Develop a strong base to work from. By lifting heavy with few reps per set (3-5), you’re building myofibrillar hypertrophy, which is essentially building denser / true muscle mass.

This works both ways, for weight loss and gains, when combined with the appropriate diet. Don’t skimp out on squats, deadlifts and bench press only to become a cardio bunny. Running helps maintain weight, but lifting helps with building definition.

The benefits of lifting heavy are insurmountable. By lifting heavy, you’re automatically increasing your base strength, which is usable throughout daily life. The mechanisms behind myofibrillar hypertrophy also correlate to better muscle coordination through increased motor neuron stimulation (think of pro-athletes and how coordinated they are).

Lastly, lifting heavy helps keep fat off better. This works in two ways. Your body’s hormone concentrations will change. Testosterone, a naturally produced steroid, will increase, resulting in lower body fat percentage and quicker recovery times. In one study, scientists compared the serum testosterone levels of a male before lifting and after lifting an extensive period of time. The end result was a 27 percent increase in serum testosterone levels. Your body’s basal metabolic rate will also increase just to maintain the newly developed muscle mass. This combination of increased testosterone and muscle mass will help keep body fat relatively low with little effort.

So what should you take from this article? Basically keep things simple, be knowledgeable about the diets and routines, be patient, and most of all stay safe.

ALLEN GUAN can be reached at science@theaggie.org.



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