I'll admit this title is a bit outrageous but will become
clearer as I go along. One day I was researching for any evidence
of people who had achieved outstanding increases in lean muscle
mass when it dawned on me...the local high school!
Me: Who puts on more muscle and size faster than a teenager
going through puberty? Think about it! Nobody!
So, I ask the ridiculous follow-up question, "What
can teenage boys teach us about getting huge fast?" The answers
will surprise you since they can't tell you a single thing about
hypertrophy 1, rep maxes, burnout sets, or how to isolate a given
So, why the heck do I mention them? Well, It isn't uncommon for
teenagers to put on the same amount of muscle in a summer
that it takes an adult male 2-4 consistent years to
achieve. See where I'm going with this? If we can pick out some of
the things they do differently than the rest of the world, then we
might be able to replicate their once in a lifetime growth spurt
at Tri Games on campus.
Case Study Time!
So what do they do differently?
I know what you're thinking... DUH! But, last time I checked my
'goods' already dropped and my voice doesn't squeak like a
mouse! So this case study warrants a further breakdown on how to
grow like a teenager...again!
Observation 1: Eat Like Machines
There's a reason why every mother of a teenage boy has a story
about doubling her food bills, mysteriously 'disappearing'
food items from the pantry, and never having any milk left in the
fridge. Teenagers are growing and that growth is accompanied by
lots of food.
Guiding Teenager Principle To Body Building:
If you want to get bigger you have to EAT for a BIGGER
YOU. Want to Gain 10 lbs? Eat for a person 10lbs bigger than
My Twist on Optimizing this Principle:
While increasing your food sounds easy, it's not. It
takes a few days (on average 5) of feeling 'uncomfortably'
full before your digestive enzymes, stomach acid, and gut flora
adapt to the increase in caloric intake. Once they do, you will
become a food-processing machine. However, make sure you keep it
low carb, higher fat/protein to optimize how much insulin your body
secretes and therefore how much muscle/fat you pack on.
When I gained 20 lbs of muscle and lost 7 lbs of fat during my
one-month experiment, I ate 60% fat, 23% protein, 17% carbs. While
the ratios don't have to be exact, the simple rule is the more
carbs, the fatter you'll get. The more protein and fat, the more
muscle you'll put on. It's not much more complicated than that.
Observation 2: Favorable Increases in 'Male
When teenagers go through puberty their hypothalamus produces
GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormones), which triggers the
anterior pituitary to release LH (luteinizing hormone), which then
travels in the blood and tells the cells in the testes (males) to
produce testosterone via the Leydig cells. In some studies they've
recorded puberty levels of testosterone surge 50x higher than the
minute amounts pre-puberty. The effects of testosterone, such as
increased lean muscle mass, increased bone density and decreased
fat mass are largely responsible for the incredible growth many
male teenagers experience. Other hormones such as growth hormone,
IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1), and DHEA also elevate in this
phase of development and no doubt play a role as well.
Guiding Teenager Principle To Body
To get bigger, you should optimize (and likely increase) your
testosterone levels. Think that's impossible? Read on.
My Twist on Optimizing this Principle:
DISCLAIMER: First of all you should to go to your doctor and
get your blood tested. Messing with hormone levels can be a serious
thing and if you have a medical condition you should discuss it
with your doctor.
Luckily, I don't recommend doing anything crazy like steroid
injections or topical creams. My testosterone levels started
at 615 and after a month plummeted to 298. Hardly someone you
should take advice from! However, I was overeating flax seed oil,
thinking the omega 3s would increase protein synthesis and decrease
recovery time as a number of reputable studies suggest. Little did
I realize the estrogenic effects of flax have been grossly under
reported. Three weeks of no flax and the recommendations below
later: I doubled my testosterone back to 612. Happy days for my
Observation 3: They are Usually Active
This is the easiest of all of the principles to understand.
Teenagers are usually extremely active despite numerous eyewitness
accounts of Mountain Dew fueled Halo 2 all-nighters. Between
sports, friends, and chasing girls without a game plan, teenage
boys get enough exercise to support their growth spurts.
Guiding Teenager Principle To Body Building:
Get exercise. Duh!
My Twist on Optimizing this Principle:
After reading plenty of research, 'broscience,' and my
own experiences, I can confidently conclude that you can do more to
optimize your lean mass growth than simply exercising.
What is the best type of exercise for inducing teenager-like
growth? High Intensity, Short Duration Workouts. This will increase
both a hormonal and neurologic adaptation that studies have shown
to increase testosterone levels and muscle mass better than longer
duration 75% of max type workouts. In other words, do 1-2 sets of 4
multi-joint exercises (squat, bench, etc.) with the heaviest
weights you can lift. After that go home, eat, rest, and
Hope you enjoyed it!
Manipulating Evolutionary Biology For Immortality and
Body Redesign Part 2: Intermittent Fasting
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a modified version of the calorie
restriction diet that seeks to capitalize on the physiological
benefits of human deprivation and survival mechanism. More
accurately, what happens to the body when it episodically does not
get food and how it responds following the fasted state with that
of a well fed state. A true IF consisted of about 14 to18 hour
fasts and sometimes an occasional full day or alternating day fast
protocol. The benefits owe their success to the human body's
ability to adapt to a variety of situations in order to survive in
homeostasis. This is the reason you switch up your gym routine
every month or so, because we adapt incredibly efficiently and we
want to shock the system to keep it (the body) on its
A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits,
which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative
damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin
sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.
It also suggested higher Superoxide dismutase levels and higher
resistance to oxidative stress. Remember in Part 1, oxidative
stress = bad = possible shorter life.
Intermittent Fasting, it appears, works! Although the research
isn't absolute and probably will never be considering no drug
companies stand to make money on it and therefore won't back it!
The preliminary research results are hard to argue with and better
yet, many people (including myself) have experimented with
Intermittent Fasting (IF) for our own personal escapades. Does it
work? Well, I ate 4200 calories a day for 30 days and dropped by
body fat percentage 15.7% to 10.3%. I allotted one (rarely two) IF
days a week. Yea, I'd say it works. Besides, even if it only had a
small impact, it's not that hard to do and is essentially free, so
the question begs: Why not?
Evolutionary Biology vs. Broscience
For those trying to gain muscle, common 'broscience' has been to
never have an empty stomach or risk withering away your
hard-earned iron. Your body says otherwise. Furthermore, studies
have refined that it's not the total calorie consumption but rather
the EPISODIC DEPRIVATION that accounts for
intermittent fasting's success. Taking the big picture, one can
understand this by tying in the built-in survival mechanisms in
your body. When you were a caveman, you didn't always have a
supermarket on the corner with fresh eggs and hearty protein for
your post-workout meal. Often times you went hunting and didn't
kill anything. Instead of immediately breaking down muscle for
fuel, your body adapts and uses fat, a higher energy molecule than
a carb. It also up regulates growth hormone secretion and insulin
sensitivity so that when you DO get that prey, your body is in an
advantageous hormonal position to induce growth and repair of your
muscles so that momentary risk in survival won't happen as easily
next time. With that and a host of other favorable effects like
those mentioned before in the study, it's fun to see how you can
manipulate an evolutionary adaptation of physiology to
redesign your body in the modern world.
What Does a Typical Day Look Like?
IF rules state a 14-18 hour fast is optimal to induce positive
results without blending in starvation and catabolic states. I take
the middle road, 16 hours. What does that look like? Once or twice
a week I finish my dinner at 6pm and don't eat again for 16 hours.
That's noon the next day. I essentially skip breakfast and then eat
my normal calories for the rest of the day. Overfeeding and losing
weight? Welcome to utopia. :)
I believe we have a two-fold mechanism for longevity. First,
during periods of fasting the body is better able to repair
and heal, which aids the organism. Secondly, you do get a slight
reduction in calories (without the fear of losing muscle) and
resistance to oxidative stress, which means less chance of DNA and
telomere damage and a premature aging process! Long live randomly
skipping breakfast twice a week!
Manipulating Evolutionary Biology For Immortality and
Body Redesign Part 1: Calorie Restriction and
Man has long strived for ways to live forever. From the Fountain
of Youth to pharmaceutical drugs to calorie restriction, man has
stopped at nothing to achieve the impossible: Living Forever.
So what if I told you there is a way you could increase your
lifespan, reduce your risk for chronic diseases, and improve your
muscle/fat ratio. Sounds like a late-night infomercial doesn't it!
It's not! It's Intermittent Fasting.
Before I delve into what intermittent fasting is (stay tuned for
Part 2) we need to understand a few theories and few important
concepts about the human body and the aging process. To start, one
of the theories on aging and many of the most diabolical chronic
disease centers on a concept called oxidative stress. Scientists
have identified this wonderful cellular component called a telomere
and they have correlated life expectancy with the length of these
bad boys. Without going into the complex mechanisms, the basic idea
is the longer they are the longer you live. Simple enough? Moving
Now wouldn't it be great if you knew what shortened them. Ah ha,
we do! ROS! ROS?? Reactive Oxygen Species or 'free radicals' can
and do damage these telomeres that guard our cell's DNA and can
reduce our lifespan.
The next question you may ask is how do we get rid of these free
radicals? Wouldn't we then live forever? Maybe, although it's not
quite that simple. Obviously, a diet rich in veggies
(antioxidants), quality meats, and no junk is a great way
(according to the newest literature) towards living a longer life.
The more antioxidants ('killers' of free radicals), the less chance
the free radicals have to run wild and damage the telomeres and
DNA, and the better chance you have at living longer and healthier!
I won't bore you since the literature is LITTERED with research on
antioxidants and free radical scavenging for disease prevention and
Another way around this problem of reducing inevitable oxidative
stress revolves around calorie consumption. In order for the food
you eat to be broken down and turned into energy (ATP), it must be
exposed to oxygen and become oxidized. This is fantastic for the
organism since it gets its everyday energy for functions like the
Na K pump, muscle contraction, biosynthesis, repair, and numerous
other cellular processes. The one major consequence of making ATP
is free radicals (superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxy radicals)
are formed and if your diet doesn't have many antioxidants or your
body is low on glutathione or CoQ10, then they can freely damage
the cell, organelles, and possibly telomere length.
So the conundrum is that this happens every time you eat a
calorie of food. You need to eat to stay alive but is eating slowly
killing you? In fact, what makes it more interesting is if you
graph the species of animals with the slowest metabolic rates
(rates of oxidizing food into energy) it is inversely related to
lifespan! The Less you Eat the Longer You Live!
SIDE GEEK NOTE: They say your mother's genes determine your
lifespan. This old wives' tale is actually partly true in the sense
you inherit your mother's mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA
(unlike nuclear DNA) is unrepairable, so if free radicals damage
that particular DNA that cell suffers. If that happens to enough
cells you won't live as long. Sad face. Give Mom a hug.
To Eat or Not To Eat?
So I'm here to tell you about another solution that a group of
scientists have looked into for manipulating life expectancy. If
you live longer when you eat less... why not eat less? Wow, these
doctors are brilliant (DUH! lol). When man is faced with
immortality or rationality, what do the movies pick? Immortality.
See there is, in fact, a whole society of people willing to
chronically cut calories and underfeed their bodies despite their
tummy's best attempts at gurgling. Rational? No. But It's for the
chance at living forever so wisdom is shot out the window! What
became of these studies you ask?
Cut Calories for Longevity = Better in Theory than
Moral of the story here is it's a nice story that when you eat
less you'll have less oxidative stress and therefore you'll
live longer. The science backs it up. No doubts here. But often
what gets lost in translation is the real life application.
The first attempt at this was a study in mice where one control
group ate till they were full, and the other group of mice were
then given 40% less that the control group. They did this for the
life of the mice. The data does show the mice on 40% less calories
lived longer. Hurray! We did it! Longer Lives for Everyone. Wait a
minute. What happened to those mice? Did they enjoy their longer
lives and smile all the way to their cheese laden deathbeds? Not
quite. All the mice in the calorie restricted group featured
irritability, quickness to anger, inability to procreate, decrease
in cognitive abilities, and only reached 50% of the size of the
fully fed mice.
Based on numerous animal studies, researchers calculate you
could live to 120 years old!....BUT...you'll be pissed off, can't
have kids, be about the size of a 10-year-old when full grown, and
won't be very smart. Where do I sign? Apparently, that still hasn't
stopped a few groups of people to try it out for themselves. Me?
I'd rather be well fed and smile for the remainder of my years.
Eating Your Cake, Too
This brings me to my final tease. What if you could get all the
longevity benefits of a Calorie Restriction (CR) diet without
all the fuss and side effects? We may just have found a way. It's
rooted in evolutionary biology, the will to survive, and it's
called intermittent fasting!
Part 2 will explain how to incorporate it into your life!
What is Self-Experimentation?
Self-Experimentation is the unique act of single-subject
scientific experimentation where the experimenter hypothesizes and
performs the experiment on him or herself. In this article I want
to show the value of self-experimentation as a tool to improve your
life, without sacrificing your safety. One of my long-term goals is
to level the playing field of well-funded modern research and speed
up the time it takes the average person to get cutting-edge
information that will meaningfully impact their lives.
Take John Paul Stapp. He was known by many as the fastest man on
earth. When John started his research back in 1947, most physicians
believed that the body could withstand 18g of thrust before
suffering fatal trauma. John Stapp shattered this belief and proved
the body could withstand 40g of thrust--in one daring
How did he do it? Like any reasonable man would. Jumped in a
rocket sled, revved it up to 421 mph, and preceded to slam on the
brakes! (Johnny Knoxville would have been proud!) Remarkably, he
survived and through his continued testing and research he suffered
two broken wrists, retinal hemorrhaging, and broken ribs. Was he
sent to the loony bin? No. He changed his field and helped science
understand how the body reacts to extreme forces--research that has
undoubtedly saved human lives.
Human history is full of these jaw-dropping stories with
everything from a doctor catheterizing his own right arm to men
creating their own vaccines against snakebites by injecting
themselves with pure venom from several species of mambas and
cobras. While those examples are of the extreme variety, and I
highly disapprove you trying those sorts of things, you don't in
fact need to put your life on the line to self-experiment and
improve your life. There are many examples, including my own, where
you don't necessarily accept the 'status quo' and decide to modify
things in a responsible, yet fun way.
I was in middle school the first time I came home to my Mom
complaining of horrible stomach aches. She thought I had a 'bug'
and asked how long I had been having them. I replied, "for a
while." Not one to settle for a vague answer from her children, Mom
repeated, "How long is a while?" With a shrug I replied, "a couple
months?" The answer caught her off-guard as she tried to hide her
shocked face by going to the fridge to flatten some ginger ale, the
only thing that seemed to settle my stomach those days. (I hated
soda, so flat was the only way it was going down).
My mom, fortunately for my future career, was ahead of her time
as far as nutritional awareness goes. Instead of giving me the
nasty pink stomach syrup or chalky antacids or the usual modern
medicine band-aid approach, she brainstormed much like any natural
doctor would, "Why do you think that's happening?" "Are any of your
friends getting sick?" "Did you eat something different?" The
answers weren't so clear at first and thus a few weeks went by.
Given it was around 10 years ago, I couldn't recall how Mom
arrived at the conclusion that I might be lactose intolerant. I
think it was because I used to tell her I loved getting
cheeseburgers for my school lunches! See, somehow she must have
noticed a correlation between when she packed my lunch (no dairy /
no stomach complaints) and when she gave me a special treat (let me
buy school lunch / stomach aches). Sherlock Holmes would have been
Given the nutritional status of school lunches (horrendous) we
could not completely show I was lactose intolerant from that
finding in my 'history.' Plus, when I went to my pediatrician he
said it was normal to have stomach aches (whaaat?) and I was
probably just working through a bug. (For months??)
Alas, there was only one thing left to do! Self-experiment! I
cut out dairy (with help from mom of course) and any source of
lactose from my diet and noticed an IMMEDIATE reduction in stomach
aches from an average of once daily to once every other week. Not a
perfect cure, but then again (when mom wasn't looking) my diet
wasn't exactly perfect either! That, my friends, was my first
real-life experience in how foods can affect human performance, and
more importantly, taught me the valuable lesson of "you are what
I quietly fostered a level of curiosity about the human body for
years while tracking and completing self-experiments on noticeable
changes in my weight, muscle, acne, sleep cycles, gallstones,
digestive issues, energy levels, and immunity to name a few. I
mainly did it by challenging commonly held belief systems and
modified and attempted to optimize everything in my diet,
lifestyle, sleeping habits, supplements, detoxing, etc.
While I've had plenty of setbacks--thinking whole grains were
good for me (they're not), and believing multi-week juice fasting
was the cure for anything (I turned orange for 2 days!)--I've also
had plenty of successes (gained 20 lbs of muscle in 30 days,
cleared most of my acne naturally, eliminated my gallstones without
surgery, no longer have stomach aches, went a year without getting
Enjoying part of the
weekend with NUHS friends.
My journey is still developing and while the story has a much
longer (and sometimes comical) tale I will leave you with this: If
there is something in your life that you'd like to
change/improve/eliminate, I encourage you to do some research. The
internet has allowed for the transaction of information in ways
never known to the human race and has leveled the playing field for
the average Joes unable to afford 'personal coaches,' 'expensive
treatments' and the like. If you have a problem, there's always a
solution, and usually someone has already figured it out. Find
like-minded people and figure out how they got their results. You
might just learn a neat trick that will help you change your body
(and your life) for the better!
"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make
the better." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
1 month. 20lbs. 6hrs. No drugs.
It was Tuesday afternoon, about 3 o'clock, my stomach was
gurgling and the anxiety of waiting was killing me. Beep, beep,
beeeep indicated the bioelectric impedance machine had finally
begun to print out my results.
"Oh my god. I've never seen these numbers before. Wow!"
exclaimed the intern in charge of the machine. She was standing
next to my intern comparing my before-and-after results of a
lifting experiment that I engineered for the last month. I unhooked
the cables, rushed over, and peered over their shoulders to see the
two numbers that made me grin from ear-to-ear. 164 and 10.3%, I had
"Congratulations buddy" my intern proclaimed as he realized that
my ridiculous goal was just achieved despite practically nobody
thinking it was possible and academia saying it was theoretically
I wanted to test out if it was possible to gain 20 lbs. of
muscle in 30 days with no drugs or crazy lifting supplements (like
Creatine, NO xplode, etc.) and do it by eating 4,500 calories a day
and only lifting every 3 or 4 days for a total of 8 workouts and
about 6 hours of TOTAL gym time. The rest of the time I'd be eating
and resting… I was putting the second law of thermodynamics and
protein synthesis (among others) to the test.
I thought it was possible and I had found a few people who had
similar results, but they used Creatine and expensive body
enhancing supplements that by athletic standards were perfectly
legal and fine, but I wanted to change it up and do it the natural
I basically ate between 3,400-5,000 (4,100 avg.) calories per
day on an anti-inflammatory diet. I hypothesized this would not
only help me heal and recover faster, but would also stress my body
the least and give it the most nutrient dense calories possible so
that it would have adequate "building blocks" to reset my
neurologic system and pack on muscle without putting a sweet tire
of fat around my waist and butt!
My actual gym time, which was .0083% of the hours that month
(6/720), was spent just trashing my muscles to complete failure in
4 multi-joint exercises. I first completed a really heavy isometric
hold-to-failure and after a 3 min. rest I completed a 7
reps-to-failure set of that same exercise focusing on 4 seconds up
and 4 seconds down to optimize my "Time under Tension" around what
the current literature deemed to be optimal for muscle
There were a few odd and end extra things like taking an adrenal
supporting herb that I had researched because in the simplest terms
possible, Stress = Anti-Growth. Ironically, the reason for such a
long wait between exercises was the little known fact that gym rats
often plateau because they've burnt out their adrenals and nervous
system and haven't let them recover. In real life examples, it's
the reason why you can't lift as much when you try to bench after
doing heavy squats. It's not because somehow you used your upper
body during the leg lift; it's because you used a lot of neural
input into your neuromuscular junctions and your body needs time to
reboot. As for the adrenals, they control cortisol and DHEA and
blood sugar among other things. If you don't control those hormones
you will have an increased chance of putting on fat instead of
muscle and you will be tired a lot.
I laugh because most lifters will say, "Today is Upper Body and
Wednesday is Lower Body." In real life, "Every Gym Day is Organ
Day." You don't just tax part of your body when you lift; you need
to account for that and rest extra days when needed. I upped my
lifts EVERY single time I went to the gym. I averaged about 35%
increases in my lifts (ex. Lat Pulldown 135-180 lbs.) in one month.
I attribute that to eating A LOT and resting 3 days between lifts.
Why go to the gym every day when you can get better results every 4
In addition to all of these steps I also made sure I took before
pictures, before measurements of all of my limbs and body parts,
and before blood tests of cholesterol, vitamin D, and
Yes, you read that correctly, I managed to gain 20 lbs. of lean
muscle doing almost nothing but studying for my classes, eating
2.5x my resting metabolic rate, and lost 5% body
The game has changed, my friends; I just have to figure out how
exactly lol. Next week, I'll have my before and after blood tests
to report and some more information.
Quote of the Day
"You see things; and you say "Why?" But I dream things that
never were; and I say "Why not?" -- George Bernard
Enjoy The Short Week!
• MPI Gait Seminar
• Trimester Wind Down
• Chiro Games
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