Boost Testosterone and build muscle naturally – at any age.

Ok so any age may be an exaggeration, we are looking mainly at men in the 30 to 55-60 range, which is typically when we all the majority of us start to have our second wind at the gym following the jibes about the ‘Dad Bod’ we are now sporting, unfortunately many of us go back to the gym and do not realise that (as sad as it is) the original flushes of youth have left us and our bodies do not react to training as they used to, infact from age 30 it has already started CHECK THIS LINK, but it definitely does not have to be this way.

Discussion

After 30 testosterone starts to decline, this means that where once in our teens or mid twenties we only had to look at a weight in the gym and grow, we now have to think things through and adapt to our the way our bodies need to be trained, more stimulus is required for the same effect and more nutrients are required due to less efficient metabolisms, and this is just taking into consideration natural decline, it is not factoring in any lapse in physical activity that may have crept in due to work commitments and families and so on, The task is to find a way of training, a method that can be applied that would maximise returns, actively boost growth hormone, testosterone production and sensitivity to nutrition, I give you Strongman Training, or large compound movements that require co-ordination from all muscles in the body.

Studies

Studies have been conducted on the subject and the results are nothing less than staggering as far as I am concerned, one study found that after a prescribed set of traditional strongman event exercises there was a 54% increase in salivary testosterone in a group of sixteen men between 24 and 44, even allowing for the small sample size of the study that is an astounding result, and it is backed up by many studies both scientific and anecdotal, as with most of these things the budget for study is limited so they are are never huge, but if you think about the occupations that mimic these types of movements, you see solid fit men well into their 50’s and 60’s, I am thinking about in the construction trade, farmers and road workers, I know that these occupations generally bring their own issues but these are more of a result of the extended period of exertion as opposed to the type of exertion.

Types of Exercise Suggested

As previously stated these are all big gesture compound movements and taken to failure, which is also easier to do with these exercises as opposed to say, Bench Pressing where failure can mean you are trapped under a bar waiting for somebody to let you out !

  • Farmers Walk
  • Chain Drag
  • Atlas Stones
  • Keg Carry
  • Tire Flip
  • Over head Press

These are just a few and I completely understand if you do not have the facility to do these at your gym, but there are ways to simulate the movements, you could use dumbells for the Farmers walk, and a squat bar for the frame carry, also concentrating on squatting and deadlifiting as opposed to leg press or bent over row, basically you are looking to engage the largest amount of muscle participation you can in a movement, it may feel odd after doing a lot of concentration exercise, but you can always put those in at the end, and benefit from the added hormone boost as well.

Conclusion

I have switched to this way of training now (being a man of a certain age) and I have to say that initially it has been brilliant, after a workout I am actually more energised, my sex drive is through the roof and I am normally jumping around like tigger, it doesn’t always make me popular with the wife but all in all it has been a success for me and something I am going to continue, I have added some links below and I am going to do some articles on the different movements in the future, so happy training and remember as cliche as it is age is just a number, there is no reason why we should grow old before our time and start to slow down before we are ready to, with adaptation (a human quality we are all born with) we can continue living how we want to for almost as long as we decide.

Links

Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

Do your Trapezius muscles suck?

Mine do, they are kinda there but not really and they have an annoying flat spot in the middle, I am literally going to the gym today to train back and it got me thinking, should Traps be trained with back or shoulders ?, traditionally I and many others would train them with shoulders, 4 to six sets of standing shrugs at the end of the shoulder workout and then off home for a well deserved protein shake, but hang on are they actually connected to shoulders in any way ? well from a movement perspective yes, slightly, they are attached into the base of the skull and out to the clavicle and then to the spine about midway down your back, this presents a problem when arguing for the mechanical movement of standing shrugs.

You see, looking at this picture, traditional shrugs actually only work a very small portion of the trap muscles, and are more likely to contribute to a slightly wider neck than the big blocks of muscle we are looking for, additionally they also seem to serve no purpose (other than stabilising the shoulder joint against the movement) in any deltoid activity as they are not overlapping in any way.

So I would consider that if we are looking for synergistic training they should in fact be trained along with the back muscles as they play a role in all back exercises, in fact as they are responsible for movement of the scapula ( the muscle fibres both pull back and down toward the spine ) it is fairly easy to see that these play a huge role in everything from bent over rowing to lat pull downs and chins as well as single arm Dumbell rowing.

How to best Activate them

As previously discussed the traditional straight backed approach doesn’t actually cut it for this muscle group as you are only activating a small portion of the muscle group, sure due to the nature of the muscle fibre it is easy to move a lot of weight over a small distance, but ultimately once you have fed your ego you must eventually move onto building some muscle, looking at the structure you need to draw the shoulders up and back to completely engage the large mid portion of the muscle ( the one that provides the size ) and for the lower portion of the muscle, you would try and pull down from only the shoulder, these exercises may look a little odd but once your traps start growing people will start to copy I assure you.

Concentration Movements

  • Shrug – Instead of the traditional standing shrug, you should bend slightly from the waist and allow your hands with the Dumbells in them to hang naturally down, obviously you should not lean to far over as you are looking to move the weight with the same shrugging motion just in this modified position, I would also take whatever weight you are using now for shrugs and halve it too, you only have one back let’s make it stronger not damage it completely.
  • Trap Pulldown – This is the one that will get a few odd looks as people will genuinely wonder what the hell you are doing, but seated on the lat pull down keeping your arms straight, you are looking to extend only at the shoulder and the shrug in reverse, so bring the shoulders down and squeeze to the back at the full contraction.

Compound Movements

As a side note and to further illustrate the point, the Trapezius muscles are also heavily involved in the following exercises / movements

  • Bent Over Dumbbell Rows – and to a lesser extent bent over Barbell rows due to the lack of mobility of your hands with the latter.
  • Cable Seated Row – again the pulling back of the arms and squeezing toward the centre of the spine activates the Trapezius.
  • Chin-ups – These hit the lower Trapezius along with their seated counterpart the lat pull down.

So I hope that has been informative and I am open to any questions regarding the above, always be careful when training and always be extra careful when changing a movement / introducing a new position into a routine, as there is only a small difference in the positions it may be easy to think that you can handle the same weight as previously but remember the idea is to concentrate on a muscle group more targeted than before and so this my cause injury if not used to it.

Update After Trying my Own Advice

So often people write these guides and you sit and wonder if that is how they train or if they have even lifted a weight in their life, and of course quite a few haven’t, or at least they do not follow the routines that they put out it is all just for money.

So this, and all other training tips are as a result of considered thought and trying to work out how to do everything as efficiently as possible to achieve maximum results in the minimum time, this the trainee superhuman after all!

So I have updated this post with the findings from last night (at the time of writing)

The action of bent over shrugs feels massively unnatural, this is mainly because we are always taught that we should keep the back straight, in fact the very action of leaning forward immediately puts tangible stress on the middle of the Trap muscles, the important thing to remember here is not to bend to far over, concentration exercises are all about putting the muscle group in a compromised position where they can receive little to no assistance from supporting muscle groups, once in the correct position though the feeling as easy to identify, and the significant drop in the amount of weight I could handle showed just how weak the muscle actually was compared to what I originally thought, the numbers are standing shrug 40 to 50kg for 12 to 15 reps, bent over shrug 24 to 32kg for 12 so as you can see it was significant, today the muscle actually feels sore, all the way from the top of the structure (at the base of the skull) down to the middle of my back and extending out to the scapula, so I am fairly confident that this has had the required effect, it has also occurred to me that the strengthening of this muscle group will counteract office back strain where we tend to sit hunched over a keyboard all day long, by strengthening this part of the Trapezius we keep the top of the back flatter and avoid shoulders naturally falling forward.

So again hope this has been helpful, please let me know if not, or if you have any comment or suggestion on other training routines.

Are Healthy Supplements Killing you?

I am not the first and I most definitely will not be the last to ask this question, it had occurred to me previously that the level of trust we have in the supplement industry far outstrips the trust we have in professional health care, I mean after all when was the last time that you were prescribed tablets and just took them without a seconds thought, or indeed a lengthy talk from the medical professional with regard to possible side effects and dosage levels?

Yet we stream through the doors and surf the websites of health food shops daily spending millions on vitamin tablets, protein supplements and mineral compositions that are sold to us as a healthy alternative to medicine at best and at worst a cure for our ills.

I have recently been experimenting with varying supplementation and have had some mixed results, and some fairly disturbing ones, this has prompted me to write this article to get people thinking about the sheer amount of “supplements” we take and for what reason.

First A Word About the Industry

The UK vitamin industry according to https://www.hfma.co.uk/media-events/industry-facts/ was worth, in 2016 £421 million, and the market in the USA is worth an estimated $37 Billion, this encompasses sports supplementation and vitamins, minerals and general health supplement sales over the counter, this means that no matter what the tagline of an advert, you can be fairly sure there is a lot of money behind advertising it, additionally and more alarming from a consumer point of view is the amount of white label supplement companies that will allow you to design and package your own supplements and sell these on Amazon or Ebay or even at the local market, you can tailor the product essentially to meet the amount of profit you wish to receive from the sale and after the company has made the supplement packaged it and then labelled it for you I would imagine that the temptation to drop the more expensive ingredients down is quite strong.

This has another issue though, given the wide spread and cheap entry into the industry through this route, one can only imagine that the amount of actually different supplements on the market is quite small, and this means that we are making choices about which products to buy based on the quality of the label of which person is representing the product to us.

However we can still rely on the big chain companies can’t we ? well I guess from a quality control point of view yes we probably can, after all they will have the buying power to provide the best ingredients at a reasonable price, if they do or not depends on the integrity of the company I guess, but shoudl we even be taking them in first place?

Health food store checkup ?

The health food store shopping experience is a varying animal, occasionally you will encounter somebody who has done some training or is an enthusiast themselves, but ordinarily you are dealing with nothing more than a shop assistant, while they may be very good at serving people and very attentive while you are in the store this does not mean that their advice will extend much past the company line, partially because they probably don’t know better and partially because essentially they are employed to sell stuff for profit.

I made several purchases from my local Health store and was never once asked if I was deficient in what I was buying, or if I had any reason to suggest that I required a higher dosage than I would be receiving from my diet, or what my diet was for that matter, my purchases were simply rung up and I was sent on my way.

I feel that this is the first hurdle to be honest, this is really where there should be some interception and questions asked, for instance take a firm favourite of the health food store vitamin C, this little firm favourite is water soluble and can neither be manufactured nor stored by the body, it is consumed and used and flushed out taking free radical cells with it , it plays a fundamental role in the absorption of iron and has been shown to assist the immune system and has links to helping to prevent some forms of cancer, this is all good news, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is definately something we can benefit from, but at what dosage ?

When walking into a store there are many options, 500mg, 1000mg, 2000mg, buffered, non buffered, tablets, soluble literally the list goes on.

The recommended average daily intake for a healthy women is 75mg and 120mg if pregnant or breastfeeding, already we are way over that stated dose, so it is unclear why they should then go on to sell the higher dosages when 75mg would get the job done and that is the recommended intake, so at that we have not even considered dietary vitamin C (vitamin content present in our daily food intake).

The dosages however do start to have a sense of reason, albeit a little sinister when you consider the tolerable upper limit for adults is 2000mg or 2 grams a day, beyond this the concentration of vitamin C can lead to some pretty unpleasant effects to name a few, diarrhoea, nausea, headache and at the worse end gout, kidney and liver complications.

An accepted amount that is beneficial is around 500mg, this has been found to assist in certain situations on of which was a study on macular degeneration, during an age related eye disease study it was show when used with other vitamins and minerals to slow the progression of the disease.

There is vitamin C in the vast majority of food we eat, and it is added to a lot of breakfast cereals and especially for children as their diets tend to lack whole foods and therefore require supplementation to maintain the balance.

My Experience

Ok so onto the reason why I felt I needed to look further into this, I started looking around for ways to make myself stronger, healthier and more mentally agile, as a result I ended up following a course of the below supplements.

  • Fenugreek – A natural herb linked to the production of testosterone, as a man now in my mid forties, my testosterone levels have been steadily dropping for the last 10 to 15 years, and I wanted to find a way to halt this, fenugreek has been shown to increase levels of free testosterone in males when supplemented at 500mg a day, it does this through its constituent Protodioscin a saponin that may support the production of testosterone.
  • Tribulus Terrestris – Essentially added as it has been marketed as a testosterone booster by itself, it is considered to increase the potency of Fenugreek when taken along side, it is used widely for the treatment of many things but one of it’s reported effects is to increase certain hormones, testosterone is one, although you don’t have to dig to far into the research to see that the evidence is pretty weak.
  • Vitamin B complex – this was both to help with cognitive function as wel as the role that vitamin B plays in energy utilisation and in the muscle building process, by helping with the production of red blood cells directly helps provide more oxygen to muscles, allowing them to work harder and recover quicker.
  • Vitamin C – for recovery and immune assistance
  • Alpha-GPC – A nootropic compound that has been shown to increase brain activity and in fact is used in the medical profession to help treat Alzheimer’s and further studies have shown that when taken before an intense workout can increase growth hormone output post workout by significant amounts.
  • Fish Oil – for the EPA DHEA content again for cognitive function also it does contain omega-3 fats which are absolutely essential and were lacking in my diet as I was trying to cut down on my bodyfat quite drastically and was eating next to no fat at all.

Now that may seem like a long list, and I suppose actually that it is, if my calculations were correct I should have been a quick thinking, strong quick recovering masterpiece of an individual, instead the opposite was actually true, I was becoming tired, and I mean falling asleep at the steering wheel tired, on several occasions I had to pull over and literally have a quick nap before continuing my journey home from work, I had headaches, really big ones, not stress headaches these were different, as if my blood pressure were elevated during a big deadlift or some kind of heavy compound exercise like that, my balance was of and I had to bail out of several workouts due to fatigue and generally feeling unwell, I had become confused as well at work easy repetitive tasks needed concentration more than before, the answer took a while but it was fairly obvious I needed to stop the tablets !

I stopped taking them on a Monday, and immediately the headache that I would develop while driving to work did not materialise, it took about a week for my imbalance to stop and go back to normal and my workouts took around 3 weeks to stabilise and only now (some 5 weeks from stopping ) am I able to truly push myself at the gym again.

Conclusion

I feel that I got out just in time, the detrimental effect that all the tablets was having was becoming intrusive it had affected my home life, my work and my training, I even took some time away from this website as a result of struggling to concentrate, but all the time I was convinced that these things were safe to take, why? because they are sold that way, the shops are bright and on the high street, websites are not seedy http affairs that you need a special browser for and pay only in bitcoin, so you think that all will be well, but the truth is that anything we put into our bodies is a balancing act, it can be hugely beneficial in small doses and poisonous in large, or it can be wholly ineffective in a small does and only worth taking more than is recommended, the supplement / health food industry is vast and does help billions of people make better choices, get healthier and live longer, but we have to remember that it is an industry, and it is going to make profit as and where it can see it, unfortunately that means that if they can sell something that won’t harm you unless you take a lot more than they recommend then they will because you will be a repeat customer, in exactly the same way as a supplement company will sell you a weight gainer loaded with sugar instead of protein because it is cheap and you will feel great when you start using it because you muscles will fill out with the extra calories and you will have boundless energy, at no point will they inform you that you could have got the same effect from eating a large quantity of doughnuts.

I am definitely not saying that we should not buy supplements, simply that we should use the intelligence that I lacked when I embarked on my rampage and dose ourselves accordingly, remember that you are putting extra something in your body, and in the case of vitamins and minerals the irony is that the majority of people that consider taking these things will also give consideration to their diets and as such probably are not deficient in the vast majority of the products they buy, they just don’t notice any side effects because they stay within a limit set to avoid any detrimental feeling.

The supplement industry is not evil or malicious, it is just profit driven, and anything profit driven has the potential to weigh potential for comeback against the profit made by selling the product in the first place, and that is where the consumer misses out if they don’t stop and clarify the claim of the companies on their products and also their own individual requirements.

Before embarking on any supplementation regime you should always look at your diet first, and make the adjustments there where you can, the clue is in the name supplement, the human body is an amazing thing and it knows what it needs from food and drink to help us to grown and thrive doing the tasks that we choose, it will adapt and grow or shrink as required, you will get faster or stronger through repetition and all through the bodies own devices, majority of supplement advice is to take that delicate system of hormones and proteins and hit it with a sledgehammer, if you imagine trying to fit a square peg in around hole, using a lathe to turn the peg and make it fit will take time and patience but the end result will be perfect, the peg can however be made to fit with a large hammer and enough brute force, but it will be ugly and weak broken and unreliable, life is a marathon not a sprint.

Over 40 ? You need more Protein

I actually turned 40 sometime ago and have struggled to regain the growth of my youth with little to no success, you see the problem is that although we all age we don’t like to think that it has happened and therefore very few of us adjust our lifestyles and nutrition especially to accommodate the changes.

So when I set off back to the gym I was training and eating exactly as I did before, and the results were mediocre at best, the fat refused to budge and the muscle wouldn’t come back for love nor money, a lot of the reason for starting this blog was to share the learning process with like minded people as I try and work out some of the most difficult things to nail down if we are all to live free with happy lives.

Please take a look at my Protein page here where I have included the section on protein over 40 and how the requirement changes, it is truly my intention to educate and assist with my blog and site and welcome any questions at all, I will endeavour to answer them either through a post or as an update on the site.

Photo by Modernista Magazine from Pexels

Nature has an answer for everything – Fenugreek

If you have spent anytime pursuing any kind of sport you will have definitely been exposed to the myriad of pills and potions to help enhance physical performance, from sports drinks laced with sugar for running all the way through to steroids and growth hormone for bodybuilding, the supplement industry is a multi billion dollar industry and it is not difficult to see the motivation behind the glossy advertising campaigns and influencer posts.

Meanwhile for the vast majority of us the availability of the base ingredients of these hyped products never crosses our radar, sitting anonymously on a shelf in a health food store waiting for the inquisitive and informed person to notice just how much cheaper they are compared to the big company names pushed on us from any chosen publication as we pursue our sport.

One of the things I and men all over the world have to deal with is the decline of testosterone from the age of 30 and all the negative symptoms this brings, lack of energy, lack of sex drive, lack of intensity, and as a consequence lack of activity can increase bodyfat and without testosterone to keep the levels down estrogen will rise and cause more weight gain, this is a cycle that many men find themselves in and are looking for a way to increase testosterone without going down the slightly risky route of testosterone replacement therapy or even worse trusting the local dealer to sell good quality steriods.

So while researching testosterone boosting supplements I noticed Fenugreek came up over and over again and so I looked into it further, there is a plethora of information out there and lots of scientific studies proving the effectiveness of this herb (1) and the thing that caught my eye again was the dosage levels, this particular study cites 500mg of Fenugreek as an optimal dosage, most of the supplements I had seen were around 350mg, so far below, it is also widely accepted and shown in this study (2) that the combination of Fenugreek and protodioscin (Tribulus Terrestris) had a significant effect on testosterone, libido, strength and mental alertness.

So rather than purchase the sports manufacturer product that contained only one of the ingredients required and at a lower dosage level than is effective, I set out to buy them separately and see if I could get the results that the study showed.

I began with 600mg of Fenugreek and 300mg of Tribulus as these were the strengths that the tablets came in, and I have been doing this for nearly a week now, I can report with some confidence that my strength has increased and my focus at work has very much improved, one of the effects of higher testosterone is the reduction of bodyfat in general and I think I am seeing some changes but in fairness it is too early to really tell and as far as timelines is concerned I have only just started, I did go up to 600mg of Tribulus but I am not sure if i will continue this as I did start to feel a little odd but this could be just the body getting used to the new substance.

I will monitor my progress for 12 weeks and report my findings as I go, but it is looking really positive so far…

Nature truly does provide for nearly all our requirements, sure it takes more looking and the results are rarely instantaneous, this doesn’t sit well in our on demand society and so natural products often get overlooked in favour of synthetic drugs that hit the system like a steam hammer, but you should always balance the benefit you are looking to achieve, as there is nearly always a detriment to drugs and very rarely to normal dosages of natural products.

As always I will provide links to the products I am writing about, if you are interested and would like to buy through my link please do so, but if not simply google Fenugreek or Tribulus and you will find a whole load of places where these are available.

This is What Your Overactive Brain Needs to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/this-is-what-your-overactive-brain-needs-to-get-a-good-night-s-sleep?utm_source=pocket-newtab

During all the activities we undertake to increase physical well being, financial gain or simply to educate ourselves further the one thing we need on our side is cognitive function, sleep is by a long way the most important aspect of this.

Now one thing that does annoy me and I assume annoys or at best confuses others is the sheer dichotomy of advice that is given, we have people shouting that the only way to get ahead is to stay up and work 20hrs a day and people shouting that you need 7 to 8hrs sleep a night, well the maths just doesn’t work, the good thing about this article is that it goes into ways you can improve the quality of your sleep, this really is the only way we can satisfy the best happy medium of the two messages, so enjoy and I hope that it helps at least a little bit.

You dont always have to increase your output if you can make it so much more effective, and improving your ability to solve problems and be creative will definitely improve your chances of success.

Till next time……