“Should I Take Steroids?” Not ‘til you’ve read this

Back when I was personally asking the question “should I take steroids”, there was plenty of dissuading info being published that would ultimately lead me to answer “no.” One such influence was a letter-to-the-editor of one of the major bodybuilding magazines. It was a long letter. It spoke of the writer’s own wrestling with the “should I take steroids” question; a personal inquiry that ultimately resulted in significant use of those drugs. The letter was written and published in the early 90s, making it of little surprise that the content of its story went down in the relatively heedless mid-80s. That heedlessness ultimately led to the letter writer’s contraction of HIV from a shared steroid needle, a tragic turn-of-event that sounds rather foreign in a contemporary context.

Anabolic steroidsWhat seemed to really punctuate the story for me, however, was the letter author’s parting words:

“The steroids weren’t worth it.”

Did the letter-writer say this out of bitterness for the bigger consequence to which his steroid use led? Or did he have a more all-encompassing, cryptic message for anyone asking the question “should I take steroids”; a message conveying that the physique gains from drugs are transitory against unforeseen pitfalls that are permanent?

“Should I Take Steroids”… or are they ‘psychologically addictive?’

When I was personally confronted with the “should I take steroids” question, I’d been speaking with a military buddy about it. This was roughly 25 years ago. Even so, I clearly recall him advising me that although these drugs aren’t physically addictive, it’s plausible that they’re psychologically so. This hardly sounded threatening to me at that tender age. After all, whether something psychologically “addicts me” should be completely within my control. I scoffed at the notion. If I ever “experimented” with them, I could surely turn away from them whenever I saw fit.

However, thinking back at some of the interviews of (and articles about) steroid users I’ve perused, one of the more salient features is the obnoxious tone of the psychological dependence on steroids that can so blatantly rear its head. That’s what stood out in such an interview of a steroid addict I saw years ago in one of the major offline bodybuilding magazines. It’s also what comes through in this article recently posted in Business Insider.

The Business Insider’ article begins by mentioning the rampant culture of steroid use by both males and females in South Florida. It goes on to introduce a New Jersey guy, opting for anonymity through the pseudo-name ‘Joey O’, who started the drugs when he’d youthfully left the Marine Corp and cycled them regularly ‘til the age of 42. Now facing depressed testosterone levels from years of heavy steroid use, ‘Joey O’ takes his weekly prescription of testosterone enanthate so that he can experience “normal” testosterone levels.  

That is the kind of predicament that’s rarely foreseen by young guys asking the question ‘should I take steroids.’ Whom among us, in our shortsighted youth, stop to think just twenty years ahead and become sufficiently repulsed by the idea of having to depend on an exogenous source of manly hormone to sidestep being “superman” in the moment? And by the time someone’s become as dependent on a substance for being macho as has ‘Joey O’, what’s the big deal in getting a shot of replacement testosterone every one or two weeks? After all, it’s a practice used by aging guys with low T-levels who’ve never even used steroids.

Personally, I’d rather have my ‘endogenous mojo’ intact. Sure, maybe the full benefit of that wouldn’t be realized unless Armageddon goes down and every guy on ‘exogenous T’ finds his pharmacist out of the office and wonders where the rest of us get the drive to simply get up in the morning. Still… there’s just something better about knowing you’ve got enough male hormone made by your own body to produce muscle and anything else. That’s something to at least contemplate if you’re asking the ‘should I take steroids’ question.

Back to the question: Are steroids psychologically addictive?

Maybe for some people they are and others they aren’t. But just read about juicer ‘Joey O’ and then try to convince yourself they can’t be.

‘Should I Take Steroids’… or does Every Shortcut Have a Price?

Steroids are powerful drugs. As with most drugs, I’m sure they can be dangerously abused or utilized in a relatively safe and wise manner. That’s why I’ve conjoined this section of the ‘should I take steroids’ question with the counter question ‘does every shortcut have a price’ rather than “are steroids dangerous.” I’m sure they can be life-threateningly dangerous. They can also likely be administered in a way that makes steroid side-effects no more than a mild nuisance. Potential negative side effects

But most (if not all) drug use comes with the price-tag of side effects. These usually vary in number and severity, depending on the specific drug taken, dosage it’s taken in, and duration of time that it’s used. Obviously, side effects can also be divided into two types: ‘acute’ and ‘chronic.’ And just because a particular drug doesn’t produce an acute (short term) negative side effect in an individual doesn’t mean it won’t cause chronic (long term) negative effects. Conversely, acute negative side-effects don’t automatically equate to the chronic type. 

With these points in mind, it’s interesting that the steroid article cites ‘renal failure’ and ‘liver failure’ in the same sentence, possibly as a mix-up in definition. ‘Joey O’ acknowledges that using the drug ‘Anadrol’ can be like a “bullet right to the liver.” It’s then mentioned by the article’s author:

“The liver is hit so hard by Anadrol that renal failure is more likely than not.”

‘Renal failure’ is failure of the kidneys. It’s possible the author was referring to reduced liver function eventually leading to kidney failure. Or he might have simply been confusing renal failure as a word connoting liver failure. I’m not sure. But it’s probably worth mentioning that there have been cases of kidney failure believed caused by the long-term use of steroids. The liver, however, is more directly stressed by these drugs as it is the filter through which the body’s toxins must be removed. It’s also more resilient than the kidneys in its ability to heal from damage over time. But the kidneys can be indirectly stressed by steroids as these drugs frequently cause high blood pressure which can cause long-term damage to this extremely vital organ. Overall, the chance you’re willing to take with the health of these two vital organs is something to consider when asking “should I take steroids.” 

Something else to contemplate when asking the ‘should I take steroids’ question are the inevitable withdrawal symptoms you’d likely face when coming off the drugs. These are listed in the ‘Business Insider’ article as follows: mood swings, insomnia, restlessness, reduced libido, decreased appetite, and depression. Not a pretty list. ‘Joey O’ is mentioned as finally getting past this phase by being prescribed “raw testosterone” (testosterone enanthate). But this seems a pretty sad state of affairs: Going back on a testosterone drug that will only assure the further dormancy of one’s own testosterone production. The problems are caused in the first place by a shutdown of endogenous testosterone. Seems the ‘testosterone dealers’ win in the end with a sort of locked in dependency group.

Yet another possible price to pay for even just the possession of anabolic steroids is the legal one. In the article about ‘Joey O’, it’s mentioned that what finally got him off the drugs was the legal ramifications: Simple possession of the drugs in Florida is a felony with a five-year prison penalty attached. This makes sense given that in the United States, each state has its own laws on the books regarding steroids. In addition, there are laws at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act of 1990 and reinforced under the Controlled Substances Act of 2004. These U.S. federal laws make steroids a ‘Schedule III Controlled Substance’, meaning anabolic/androgenic steroids are legal to possess and use only with a prescription.

‘Should I Take Steroids’… or would it just make me a desperate Drug Dependent?

Do you want the often fleeting condition of simply being a “person with big muscles?” Or do you want to be a knowledgeable, healthy, lifetime bodybuilder who has the fortitude and know-how to add natural strength and size to your body or that of anyone you train? Wouldn’t you rather have the kind of strength and muscle size that lasts and can be built upon for a lifetime?

These might be the transcendent questions to ask in accompaniment with “should I take steroids.” When I reflect on my ultimate decision to steer clear of those drugs and be a lifetime natural bodybuilder, I’m reminded of the many drug using guys I’ve seen in the gym who’ve just fallen by the wayside. Either this or their inevitable withdrawal of the drugs has produced a rebound effect resulting in muscular development that doesn’t match mine in our middle-aged years.

In reading the article in Business Insider, it’s clear that ‘Joey O’ doesn’t even have the fortitude to get to the gym without resorting to further drug intake. That’s where many long-term steroid users find themselves. It’s not only due to depressed endogenous hormone production from the drugs – it’s because they don’t have a clue how to build muscle without drugs.

The subconscious realization of this might be what’s implicitly surfacing when someone occasionally confesses in hindsight:

“The steroids weren’t worth it.”

“Does Nugenix Work”; does it boost testosterone

The latest “testosterone booster” to be touted in ads all over the Internet is called Nugenix. It’s manufactured for and marketed by GNC. The product’s marketers make the usual claims that are associated with all other ‘natural’ testosterone boosters, i.e.: Improved libido, more muscle mass, higher energy, better well-being… etc.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But ‘does Nugenix work’; does it increase testosterone?

Nugenix-testosterone boosterWhile many of us in the muscle building world are familiar with the product’s ingredients and amplified claims that accompany them, those individuals in the market that this product’s advertising is targeting might not be quite as aware of the hype. Many are middle-aged to older men. They simply want to spike what they perceive as flagging energy and libido. A pill containing natural ingredients is the best way to do it. The appeal is simple: take the tablets, feel the energy and increased libido, watch the body fat go down, watch the muscles expand…  ‘Nirvana’; “who needs to work at this?”

That is… if Nugenix works. But does Nugenix work?

Let’s take an objective look at the ingredients to analyze that.

‘Does Nugenix Work?’ A look at the ingredients

Those asking the “does Nugenix work” question should first know what’s in the product and whether any of those individual ingredients have been shown to boost testosterone. The so-called main ingredient in Nugenix is listed as ‘Testofen™’, a proprietary extract from the Fenugreek plant. Along with this is the plant extract Tribulus Terrestris, an ingredient that’s long been hyped as a T-booster. The other ingredients listed are citrulline malate (an amino acid) along with 50 mg. of zinc and vitamins B6 and B12.

Obviously, the citrulline, zinc, and B-vitamin ingredients were merely included as support additives. They can be acquired in adequate amounts from either a well-balanced diet or a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Therefore, the claim of Nugenix being capable of raising natural testosterone is primarily based on the alleged power of ‘Testofen™’ and ‘Tribulus’ to spur more testosterone production.

I’ve already written my opinion of Tribulus right here, if you care to read it. If not, you can go with this summarization: both the objective and anecdotal evidence for that herb being effective at boosting testosterone in humans are not good.

This should raise good questions in the mind of any thinking person: If Testofen™ raises testosterone, why would Tribulus Terrestris need to be combined with it? Conversely, if Tribulus Terrestris ever had been effective, why would marketers need to jump on a newer claim of the same effects being derivable from the Fenugreek in Testofen™? This second question should be especially salient given that Tribulus Terrestris has been around as a supplement for a long time.

I often wonder stuff like that. The assumption we’re obviously supposed to buy into is that both these extracts have always done what’s claimed about them and that combining them makes them… well, reeeeally effective.

‘Does Nugenix Work’ translates to “Does Fenugreek Work”

With its supportive ingredients being unlikely to boost testosterone and the probable ineffectuality of Tribulus, Nugenix would need to rely on the Fenugreek extract to be effective. Thus, the question “does Nugenix work” is more a question of ‘does Fenugreek increase testosterone.’

There’s only one published study I’m aware of that claims a positive answer to that question. In fact, the study claims a finding of near doubling of ‘free testosterone’ – the bodily form of the hormone that will actually help build muscle, burn fat, and boost libido.  Only drawback – the study was not done independently; it was funded and performed by the company that trademarked and markets Testofen™. That makes objectivity a near impossibility.

BTW… ‘Free testosterone’ runs at about 2-3% of ‘total testosterone.’ So if you’ve got a test result for your ‘total T-levels’ being at, say… 500 ng./dL. , then your free testosterone would be (at best) around 15 ng./dL.

It so happens that the guys used in this study reportedly started with an average free testosterone level of 17.76. This was among 55 healthy male volunteer subjects ranging in age from 18-35. The said purpose of the eight-week study was to discover whether Testofen™ (fenugreek extract) safely increases free testosterone and/or decreases body fat. Of the subjects who completed the study, 29 received two doses of Testofen™ per day at 300 mg. per dose. The other 26 participants received a placebo.

What were the results? Huge Triceps

According to Gencor Pacific (the company behind the study – and product), not only did free T-levels almost double (98.81% increase), but body fat was also significantly reduced in the test group. This was purportedly indicated by a decrease in skinfold caliper measurement within these subjects without an accompanying drop in body weight.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you’d like to read the company’s PDF on the study, you can see it right here.

A 2009 study, however, showed a different result. This one, another double-blind test, was published here in the International Journal of Exercise Science and involved 45 male subjects, half of whom took 500 mg. of Fenugreek extract per day while the other half took a placebo for the eight week experiment. The subjects were all weight trained individuals and underwent a resistance training protocol during the study. This one showed no increase in testosterone (or any other tested hormone) and, in fact, only showed a slight decrease in DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the group taking the fenugreek extract.

‘Does Nugenix Work’… and if so, how would it “work?”

If a product can naturally stimulate more testosterone production, there are a couple of ways by which it could work. That’s because male testosterone production happens through a loop feedback axis. When the hypothalamus in the brain detects blood testosterone levels as being too low, it sends a signal to the testes via lutienizing hormone (LH). It conversely reduces its output of LH when it gets readings that T-levels are adequate. If a substance could stimulate LH output, it could result in more testosterone. If a substance acts similarly to LH itself, thus directly stimulating the leydig cells in the testes, it could result in higher T-levels as well.

There’s an additional, indirect way that a substance could naturally raise testosterone levels. This would be by suppressing the antagonists of testosterone. There are two major ones to be aware of: estrogen and SHGB (Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin).  

Estrogen is created in the male body (in a form called ‘estradiol’) by way of an enzyme called aromatase. The aromatase converts some of the testosterone molecules into estradiol molecules. This is natural and normal as we guys designed to have some estrogen. When too much conversion takes place, however, estrogen can get too high and begin to fill the cell receptor sites where testosterone would otherwise reside. This can adversely affect testosterone levels because the estrogen filling these receptor sites often sends a ‘false signal’ to the hypothalamus – effectively convincing it that the sites possess testosterone and that T-levels are, therefore, adequate.

Bottom line: high estrogen equals lower testosterone. Thus, if a product can reduce estrogen directly, or it reduces aromatase, it could raise testosterone.


Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG), on the other hand, is what directly controls how much ‘free testosterone’ is available. It is a glycoprotein that’s produced primarily in the liver and has 98% of ‘total testosterone’ “bound up” at any given time. Therefore, ‘free testosterone’ – which is the biologically active form that affects muscle, libido, body composition, energy levels, etc. – can be increased either directly or indirectly: It can be directly increased by reducing the amount of SHBG or it can be indirectly increased by raising the production of ‘total testosterone.’

BTW… higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase SHBG levels – another means by which excessive estrogen can lower testosterone.

Given those explanations, there are only a few ways in which Nugenix could work if the “does Nugenix work” question could be answered in the positive:

  • Directly stimulating the leydig cells to produce more testosterone
  • Stimulating more LH release which, in turn, stimulates the leydig cells
  • Reducing levels of estradiol in the body
  • Reducing SHBG levels in the body

Any one of these routes could lead to higher ‘free testosterone.’ If researchers had discovered their proprietary product could effectively double this small percentage of the hormone, you’d think they’d explain the means by which it occurred.

‘Does Nugenix Work’: Conclusion

Personally, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put a wager on Nugenix “working” to increase testosterone. And as recommendations go, I’d tell a guy wanting to raise his T-levels to shift his focus toward high workout intensity, reduced body fat, and better eating habits with an emphasis on more cruciferous vegetables.

However, I realize I’m a bit jaded in my long-ago experience in the dietary supplement-taking department.  Consequently, I’m open to any comments of anecdotal experience in using Nugenix; let us know what you think if you’ve used this product.

Your comments are appreciated.

“How Much Rest between Sets”… and why it DOES matter

If you’ve become utterly confused when asking the question “how much rest between sets” for muscle growth, nobody can rightly blame you. Just take a look at the varied answers among self-appointed experts when addressing this topic. The responses to this question run the gamut; everything from…

“It really doesn’t matter how much rest you take between sets”


“You need to take no more than 30 seconds between sets ‘coz time under tension is all that matters”

Free Weight SquatsHoly cow! How could anyone NOT be confused? If you’re struggling to get past a muscle building plateau and you’re searching for solid answers, such varied opinion on an obviously straight-forward topic is the last thing you need. You can’t use half-assed estimations and ambiguity as is demonstrated by the first answer above.  If you want to know ‘how much rest between sets’, you need an effective answer based on logical reasoning so you can resume moving forward with your muscle building.

This article will be different. I’ll address the question of “how much rest between sets” with the attention-to-detail it deserves. In doing so, I’ll begin by showing you why so much of what’s purported on this topic is confusing and useless.

“How Much Rest between Sets”: Its importance for muscle growth

Let’s start out by making this as simple as possible. We’ll do that with the following microcosmic example.

If you can walk right up to a one-hundred pound barbell, lift it over your head and perform ten good shoulder presses, you have some fairly strong and decently developed shoulders. If sometime in the future you can perform that same exercise for the same strict repetitions with 110 lbs. of weight, you’ll have stronger and even slightly better developed shoulders. The only question is how to best go from point A to point B; we both know you can’t just walk into the gym and make this strength increase overnight.

Just for fun, let’s look at another variable, besides poundage, that could make a difference to muscle size. Let’s say you can lift the original 100 pounds in shoulder presses for ten reps, rest for four minutes, and then do it again. In fact, let’s say at this point, anything less than four minutes of rest will not allow you to get the full ten reps on the second set. Given this scenario, if sometime in the future you can get the full ten reps on the second set with only 90 seconds of rest between sets, you’ll likewise have stronger and better developed shoulders.

With this single exercise example, you could obviously develop slightly bigger shoulders with the manipulation of a single variable – the rest time between sets. You could ever-so-slightly decrease that rest time with each workout. This would provide some increased shoulder development without even needing to augment the workout weight. Obviously, this would likewise be the case with the multiple sets that comprise a bodybuilding workout.

What it really boils down to is this: Muscle size increases are directly correlated to the volume of weight we can lift within a specific window of time. If one person can lift the aforementioned 100-pound barbell for a max of ten reps while another person can crank out the same ten reps using the same amount of time with a heavier barbell, the higher-volume lifter will have slightly better shoulders. Increase the volume lifted while keeping the time fixed will result in increased muscle size. Likewise, keeping the weight volume fixed while decreasing the time used to lift it will result in increased muscle size. What usually won’t result in increased muscle size is lifting higher weight volumes while using more time to make it happen.

“How Much Rest between Sets”: A Missing Variable that’s Key to Success

Years of natural muscle building has made the above insights obvious to me. This makes it especially surprising when I observe how many struggling muscle builders remain oblivious to how much rest between sets they apply.

Case-in-point: A common scene in gyms all over the world is the small band of workout buddies who take turns doing sets of gym exercises (usually the bench press). Unsurprisingly, this type of workout posse often builds much more in the way of camaraderie than any of its members ever build in muscle mass.

“Why”… you might ask?

The reason is that they’re about as far from applying any type of controlled timing to their workouts as one could get. ‘How much rest between sets’ is the furthest thing from their minds as they often pepper their “wait time” between sets with a good bit of unbridled  chit-chat. Pullups

That scenario can go from wasted time to an additional waste of money when the group has hired a physique trainer that puts them through this type of untimed “assemblage workout.” The trainees opt for group training because it’s more economical from a purely monetary standpoint. However, the near inevitability of lackluster results that occur from an absence of time constraints applied to the workout can make this an even greater waste in the long run.

My point is this: Rest between sets is an important constraint to apply in the successful coaxing of muscle growth. There are few muscle building aspirants who measure and manipulate this important variable. I doubt that it’s coincidental that there are also few that are consistently getting the kind of natural muscle building progress they desire.

‘How Much Rest between Sets’: The Theoretical Side

Now that I’ve convinced you that ‘how much rest between sets’ is an important input to your overall training formula, let’s take a look at the more theoretical side of the rest between sets/muscle growth equation.

We all know intuitively that the longer we rest between sets, the more energy our muscles will regain to perform the following set/s. With this in mind, there are three different metabolic energy systems that can be worked when we engage in these resistance exercise sets:

  • ATP-PC System
  •  Anaerobic/Glycolytic System
  •  Aerobic System

According to theory, the ATP-PC System (immediate energy system) is worked when we rest between 2 and 5 minutes between sets. This is widely purported to build strength.

The same theory holds that the Anaerobic/Glycolytic System (lactic acid system) is used when we rest for 1 to 2 minutes between sets. This is the inter-set rest period that’s widely believed to be optimal for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

When resting for less than a minute between sets, we’re using the Aerobic System (oxidative system).

What’s typically used in this energy system model, in conjunction with the recommended inter-set rest periods, are corresponding numbers of repetitions-per-set. For example, using the 2-5 minutes of rest between sets of the ATP-PC System is usually accompanied by performing sets in the 1 to 6 repetition range with heavy workout weights of 85-100% of 1RM (one rep maximum). Resting for 1-2 minutes between sets in using the Anaerobic/Glycolytic System would be coupled with using repetitions in the 6 to 12 range with workout weight at 70-85% of 1RM. And resting anywhere under a minute between sets while using the Aerobic System would be combined with sets of 12 to 20 repetitions using workout weight below 70% of 1RM.

This all sounds very cerebrally academic. So why doesn’t it pan out in such a cut-n’-dry way in the world of practicality?

‘Rest Between Sets’: The Bottom Line

One problem I see with the theoretical/academic explanation of how much rest between sets we should take is that it treats muscle size and strength as if they’re mutually exclusive.  We all know they’re not. An extension of this fact might be what’s played out when we observe how many power lifters so readily transform into bodybuilders. They’ve laid a strength foundation that huge muscles can be built upon. Strength is needed for size and muscle size is a big part of what creates strength.

This fact makes it of little surprise to me that my years of training with a one-minute rest time between sets yielded little muscle growth on my frame. I strictly timed every set. I gasped for air when performing exercises like deep hack squats. I finished my workouts quickly. I gained the admiration of fellow gym members who watched me faithfully begin the next set when I’d nary caught my breath from the previous sets.

I ultimately switched to longer inter-set rest periods because it’s resulted in better muscle growth. This has been the case even as I’ve upped my reps from the 6-8 range to the higher scope of 8-12.

Rest Between Sets
'Rest Between Sets': Using it as a training variable can be as effective as regularly adding poundage to the workout resistance


So, given all this, why do I say rest time between sets DOES matter?

It matters as an important parameter of measurement. Imagine for a moment that you’re back to doing the ten repetitions of shoulder presses with the 100 lb. barbell that we mentioned earlier. Imagine that you could perform 4 sets of those 10 reps with 4 minutes of rest between each set. In this case, you’ll have moved 4,000 pounds of weight in about a fourteen minute time period if we estimate that each set takes you about 30 seconds to complete.

Let’s say you slowly add small amounts of weight to the barbell until you’ve built enough strength to lift 110 pounds for the same 4 sets of 10 with four minutes of inter-set rest. Now you’ve moved 4,400 pounds of volume in the same time period. You’re stronger and you’re bigger.

But now… let’s say you stop increasing the weight resistance for a while and begin reducing your inter-set rest time instead. You slice 30 seconds off. This reduces the number of reps you can perform with that weight on the final set. But you work your way back up to four complete sets of ten. Then you reduce the inter-set rest by another 30 seconds – the reps on the final set drop again until you build them back up. You keep doing this until you’re doing the four sets of ten reps with 110 lbs. and only 2 minutes of rest between sets. Now you’re moving the same 4,400 pounds of volume… but in nearly half the time (about eight minutes of total time).

Do you think you’d have BIGGER muscles as a result of this progress? You bet you would.

But the muscle building tactic would never work without using the ‘how much rest between sets’ measurement as a parameter. Start using it strictly and watch your muscles GROW.

“How can I Build Muscle?” Answer: ATF

If you’re asking the question “how can I build muscle”, I hope I’ve grabbed your attention. After all, the internet is filled with information that attempts to answer the muscle building question. Some of that information is sound. Other bits of it are nonsense. And still some other stuff sits right in-between; it’ll help you somewhat or for a short time, until you stop gaining natural muscle and hit a sticking point again.

Dumbbells Curling (2)My answers to the “how can I build muscle” question will be different than much of what you’ve seen. That’s because a lot of what is considered conventional wisdom in natural bodybuilding is completely useless.

Do I say that just to be controversial or “different?”

Not by a long-shot. I sincerely don’t give a fat rat’s butt if nobody listens to me. I will just keep enjoying the incredible and steady body transformation that I’m making. I’ll keep walking past people in the gym who insist on wasting their time. I’ll watch them pay hard-earned money to “personal trainers” whose only credentials are the awesome physique they’ve built… with the use of steroids. I’ll shake my head in bewilderment as these people spend big bucks for supplements that do absolutely nothing, while at the same time, listening to irrelevant advice that shouldn’t even resonate on a common sense level.

Would you like an example of something that shouldn’t resonate on a common sense level?

Okay… think about this: I just saw some advice given in the comment section of a blog. The commenter subscribes to the wide-spread belief that if you’re asking the question ‘how can I build muscle’, then you need realize that “the body will adapt”… unless, of course… you constantly “change your routine.” He went on to say that a bodybuilder’s muscle building repetitions scheme needs to be changed “every few weeks” in order to… “keep the body guessing.”

Do you really think THAT’S the problem; that you haven’t kept your body guessing?

Let’s just take a look at what a regimen of “keeping the body guessing”, as defined by him, can do.  For the sake of example, let’s say you’re working your biceps once every seven days in order to build your upper arms size. You’ve spent a few weeks performing workouts in which you do 10 to 12 repetitions. Now, in the name of changing your routine, you decide to start doing 6 to 8 repetitions. We’ll illustrate what can happen by first looking at the possible volume of weight you were moving in the 10 to 12 reps range. Your last workout of sets of barbell curls with those reps looked like the following:

70 lbs./12 reps,

65 lbs./12 reps,

60 lbs./10 reps,

60 lbs./10 reps

By multiplying the number of reps by the poundage of weight, we get the weight volume moved for each set. After adding those four set-volumes together, we get a total volume for the exercise of 1,620 lbs.

BTW, keeping track of and improving weight volumes is a big key to answering the ‘how can I build muscle’ question. This sits in stark contrast to the common method that keeps many natural trainees stuck: Simply piling on more workout weight whenever possible.

Now you’re about to start doing heavier sets of 6 to 7 reps for a few weeks. Since you’re reducing the reps by at least 42%, you’ve decided to increase the poundage by nearly the same percentage. Thus, you’ve decided to start your sets with a 90 pound barbell instead of a 70 pounder. Let’s guess that your four sets of the lower reps range workout looks like the following:

100 lbs./6 reps

85 lbs./6 reps

80 lbs./7 reps

75 lbs./6 reps

Now you’ve managed to move 2,120 lbs. of volume on the standing barbell curls.

Sounds great… doesn’t it?

Not necessarily! You see, unless you’re moving a higher volume of weight by the time you get done doing your few weeks of the lower reps, your biceps won’t get any bigger. Moreover, you’d need to move that higher volume of weight without taking any greater amount of time to do it in order that your biceps increase in size.

But here’s a more long-term possible problem: If you manage to move up to a higher volume in the weeks of using the heavier low-reps sets, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be capable of a higher volume movement at the high-reps sets when you go back to them. And in the bigger picture, there’s no guarantee that you won’t slip down in volume-lifting capability on the heavier sets after you’ve gone back to weeks of using the lighter sets for higher reps. If you never move significantly more than 1,620 lbs. of volume on the higher reps, your biceps won’t get bigger. Likewise, if you don’t become capable of lifting substantially more than 2,120 lbs. on the lower reps, your biceps won’t get any bigger. If you move upward in volume on either reps scheme while using substantially more time to perform the workout, your muscle size will also remain plateaued.

Another consideration: Different repetition schemes tear down different muscle fiber types. The heavy lower reps will generally tear down the ‘Type 2b Fast Twitch fibers.’ The higher reps will tear down the ‘Type 2a Fast Twitch’ or the ‘Type 1 Slow Twitch’, or a combination. These different muscle fiber types don’t possess a universal amount of recuperation time after being torn down; the ‘Type 2b Fast Twitch’ fibers often require more rest days for growth. This is a factor often not accounted for by muscle builders who simply “change their routines” in the name of mixing things up.

Here’s the point: Changing your routine is NOT some magic bullet for making muscle building gains. The real answer to the question “how can I build muscle” is in ‘volume overload’ applied during workouts combined with compensative adaption during recovery between workouts.

‘How Can I Build Muscle?’ By Paying Attention to Feedback

What this all points to is a need to apply ‘attention to feedback’ (ATF) to your muscle building regimen.

When I was in the military, the phrase that was pounded into our heads was ‘attention to detail’: “Pay attention to detail, son”… was what we constantly heard as we were going through BUD/S Training.

While ‘paying attention to detail’ is great advice, I want to recommend that you to apply it more pointedly in the context of muscle building. The detail you pay MOST attention to is what can make the difference between making non-stop gains and being stuck in a frustrating plateau. You need to pay attention to feedback. This means noticing the number of rest days between workouts that’s commensurate with the amount of stress you’ve applied to the muscles. It means noticing the amount of volume improvement you’ve made in your past few workouts. It requires seeing any halt or slowdown in that improvement. In a nutshell, it means…


… The question “How Can I Build Muscle” has One Best Answer

That answer is simply the following: ‘Keep a Record of What You Do’

Before you begin rejecting that idea with the notion that it would be “confining” or “limiting” or “laborious”, consider the fact that I once thought the same things. How wrong I was; it’s exactly what UNLEASHED my muscle building potential.  Recording my workouts in a log book is what started making workouts rewarding. They went from being merely rewarding to providing results that were nothing short of EXCITING.

“Why would that be”… you ask?

Because natural muscle building gains need to happen on the micro level of sets, reps, exercise selection, inter-set rest, workout time, etc…, before they show up on a scale or in the mirror. They have to happen at the micro level before they’ll occur at the macro level.

Likewise, if there’s a problem at the micro level, you’ll feel frustration as you simply generalize that you’ve “hit a plateau” without being able to see what the probable reason is and what should be the likely remedy. Seeing what’s happening at that more detailed level will allow you to quickly identify a solution and get back to gaining muscle.

Muscle Building ATF: Isn’t it Painful?

Many aspiring muscle builders fear that paying ‘attention to feedback’ through workout record-keeping might be a chore. They’re afraid that recording workouts might transform the activity of going to the gym and “releasing stress” into just another stressful endeavor, like work.

I once believed the same thing. In retrospect, it’s no coincidence that at the time that  I believed that, I was constantly asking the question “how can I build muscle.”

One reason for muscle building aspirants to think this is that they’ve never been shown how pleasurably easy it can be. Personally, I use a muscle building system and a method of recording it that’s so simple… it actually becomes easier to keep a record of workouts than to go back to NOT doing it.

Why would I ever go back to asking ‘how can I build muscle’ when I can do it with exciting predictability?

“What is Macro Nutrition”; will it help you get in great shape?

If you’re asking the question “what is macro nutrition”, it’s likely because you suspect or have heard it can play a key role in losing body fat, gaining muscle, and getting into your best shape ever. It does tend to be a more easily applied and less simplistic tactic than is simply counting calories – a practice that not only results in hunger pangs but also in becoming a constant reminder that we’re being deprived of a certain amount of caloric energy.

So ‘what is macro nutrition?’

It’s simply the ratio of the macro nutrients… protein, carbohydrate, fat, and fiber that we apply to our eating habits.  For example, let’s say you and I grab a dish of food from one of those recently-so-popular lunch trucks. After browsing the menu, we each settle on having a mayonnaise-dowsed lobster roll. Unbeknownst to us, each of these juicy little morsels of bread-wrapped shellfish packs about 35 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbohydrate, and 27 grams of protein. With four calories present in each gram of carbs and protein combined with nine calories in each gram of fat, we’d each be getting about 547 calories from these little meals. The question is: what’s the percentage of these calories that we’d be getting from fat?


35g. x 9cal. = 315; (315/547) x 100 = 57%

And what percentage from carbohydrates:

31g. x 4cal. = 124; (124/547) x 100 = 23%

And what percentage from protein:

27g. x 4cal. = 108; (108/547) x 100 = 20%


Rapid Fat Loss (2)This is not a horrible ratio of macro nutrients to eat on an occasional basis. However, if this (or something worse) became our daily habit for most of our meals, we could end up with big problems. Our meals would contain too many calories coming from fat in both relative and absolute terms. This could lead to high cholesterol levels, unhealthy LDL to HDL cholesterol ratios, along with body fat gain and all the problems associated with it.

So ‘what is macro nutrition’ in the bigger picture?

Well, suppose later that day you decide to stop on your way home from work and get a sub sandwich. You’re a lot more conscientious about your eating at this point so you get an oven roasted chicken sandwich on wheat bread. You tell the deli person to hold the condiments and, instead, give you a double serving of chicken with a lot of low calorie/high fiber veggies to moisturize and texturize the meal. Your double roasted chicken sandwich provides 9 grams of dietary fat, 46 grams of carbs, and 36 grams of protein.  You decide to chase it down with 8oz. of low-fat milk that has 4.5 grams of fat, 12.5 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of protein. This comes out to a meal of about 537 calories – very close in total calories to the previous meal.  

But ‘what is macro nutrition’ with regard to this meal?


Calorie percentage from fat:

13.5g x 9cal. = 121.5; (121.5/537) x 100 = 23%

Calorie percentage from carbohydrates:

58.5g. x 4cal. = 234; (234/537) x 100 = 44%

Calorie percentage from protein:

45g. x 4cal. = 180; (180/537) x 100 = 33%


This would be a much healthier ratio in comparison to the meal you and I had (hypothetically) at lunch. Someone could argue that the carbs should be 4 percentage-points lower, the protein 3 percentage-points lower, and the fat 7 percentage-points higher. That would make it into the perfect Zone Diet ratios. However, it can be tough to maintain sanity while being so strict. This second meal has a fairly close-to-ideal macro-nutritional ratio.

‘What is Macro Nutrition’; do the “daily totals” matter most?

In really answering the question “what is macro nutrition”, it might behoove us to add the second hypothetical meal listed above to the first one. That’s because if we eat a more macro-nutritionally ideal meal after one that’s less than ideal, we end up with a new, ‘combined ratios’ total.


Calorie percentage from fat:

48.5g x 9cal. = 436.5; (436.5/1,084) x 100 = 40%

Calorie percentage from carbohydrates:

90g. x 4cal. = 360; (360/1,084) x 100 = 33%

Calorie percentage from protein:

72g. x 4cal. = 288; (288/1,084) x 100 = 27%


With the totals of the two meals combined, we have a more favorably balanced ratio of macro-nutrients.

Let’s say in the early evening of the same day, you decide to have a high protein, super smoothie that you enjoy regularly mixing up in your blender. After pouring two cups of nonfat milk into your blender, you add a couple scoops of whey protein. To this you add some carbs in the form of a banana and a cup of frozen strawberries. In order to get some healthy fat and a bit of fiber, you throw in twenty-four almonds. This 600-calorie blender smoothie comes up with a macro-nutrient reading of the following:


Fat: 14 grams (21%)

Carbs: 72 grams (47%)

Protein: 49 grams (32%)


In adding up the macro nutrient percentages and calories for this smoothie, I used the handy calculator to make it easy. In fact, if you look at the image below, you can see how I quickly and easily added up the ingredients on this macronutrient/calorie meal calculator:

Meal Calculator HardBody Success10

And just to give you an idea of “what is macro nutrition” from an even bigger picture, let’s see what this more favorably balanced smoothie did to your hypothetical ratios for the day.

Calories: 1,694

Calorie Percentage from Fat:

62g. X 9cal. = 558; (558/1,694) x 100 = 33%

Calorie Percentage from Carbohydrates:

162g. X 4cal. = 648; (648/1,694) x 100 = 38%

Calorie Percentage from Protein:

121g. x 4cal. = 484; (484/1694) x 100 = 28%


Notice this final macro nutrient breakdown is very close to that espoused by The Zone diet; it’s just a few percentage points from 40/30/30 (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat).

My point: A day that was begun with a meal that had fattening macro-nutrient ratios was altered with just a couple additional meals. Moreover, if we’re going to eat meals with less-than-ideal macro nutrient ratios, this is the way to do it; eat the more fattening meals in the early day and optimize the ratios toward the end of the day (carb tapering).

Why does Macro Nutrition “Work” for Getting Lean?

Despite claims by some trainers and dieticians who say that shedding body fat is merely an equation of “calories in… calories out”, many people (myself included) have experienced the positive effects of controlling macro nutrient ratios. Its most powerful effect is in producing fat loss with less hunger. That’s a great reason for most of us to give it some credence.

But to answer the “what is macro nutrition” question without providing a theory of ‘why it works’ would be a disservice. So let’s look at a couple of most likely reasons why it contributes to getting in great shape.  

1. Optimizes hormone levels: By eating a more balanced ratio of macro nutrients, insulin levels are kept lower. This effect is due to the lower carbohydrate intake of only 40% of daily calories. It can result in reduced hunger, better insulin sensitivity, and less proneness to store body fat.

However, whether this effect is ‘real’ is not without its controversy. After all, the ‘calories in/calories out’ crowd claims a calorie-strict twinky diet will “work” just as well. I’d bet against that… if only from a ‘health’ standpoint.

2. Protein burns Calories: Many people will lose fat just by raising their protein intake while reducing their consumption of dietary fat. In the example of the first meal described above, the dietary fat was at nearly 60% of calories. When that pattern is followed for the entire day, every day, it typically results in long-term gains of substantial body fat.

Part of the reason for this is the relative calorie-burning effect of digesting each of the respective macro nutrients. The body only burns 2.5 to 3 calories in digesting any 100 calories of dietary fat. In contrast, it burns 20 to 30 calories in digesting and processing any 100 calories of protein. Thus, increased protein consumption with decreased fat consumption turns the body into more of a calorie burning machine. When this effect is combined with the lower insulin levels of reduced carb intake, the synergistically produced result is usually a drop in body fat.

So, ‘what is macro nutrition?’

It’s paying attention to the content of the calories we eat rather than simply the calories themselves. And “yes”… it can help you get into better shape with a lot less deprivation and hunger.

“Do I Need Supplements to Build Muscle”; Can they really help?

If you’re asking the question “do I need supplements to build muscle”, nobody could rightly blame you for feeling confused. That’s because on one side of the coin there are muscle building supplements marketers making outrageous claims for the effectiveness of their products. On the other side, we hear online muscle building gurus claiming supplements are unnecessary while attaching no less a label than “supplement mafia” to the marketers. Talk about being pulled in opposing directions. How could one NOT still ask the question “do I need supplements to build muscle”; given the presence of such polar positions, the question has likely become amplified, much-less provided with a satisfying answer.

Woman BodybuilderBut is there really a simple answer to the question “do I need supplements to build muscle?” For example, think about this: If a person attempting to build muscle has very unhealthy eating habits, a quality meal replacement supplement might do them good. It might help that individual build muscle. The added nutrients in the powdered meal that have been missing from the junk food the trainee has been ingesting could be just what he or she needs for successful inter-workout recuperation. In addition, it could provide satiety that helps displace the desire for junk food. High quality meal replacement mixes can be of tremendous benefit to anyone with a busy schedule who’s attempting to simultaneously eat well enough to build muscle without gaining fat.

In such a case, the answer to the question “do I need supplements to build muscle” would be a resounding “Yes… under certain conditions.”

In contrast, consider the thousands of muscle building aspirants who see online advertisements for unproven products like ‘nitric oxide.’ These ads will often display something like the following ad copy:

‘Scientists at Cambridge have discovered an Incredible Muscle Building substance…’

Hey… you and I are NOT stupid. We know that while we’re sitting at our computers or with our mobile devices, all that’s required to find out the validity of such a claim is to go to Google Scholar. Once on that search page, we could simply type in “Cambridge”, “nitric oxide”, and “muscle growth.” If any scholarly research were done on nitric oxide as it relates to muscle growth/hypertrophy, the results would likely show up in a scholarly paper indexed by Google.

As it happens, a search with those keywords on that page turns up nothing about improved muscle growth, hypertrophy, or strength as a result of supplemental nitric oxide. Surprise-surprise… there are marketers in the physique enhancement industry willing to say anything to sell a pill or potion.  So, again, the question:

“Do I need supplements to build muscle?”

You definitely don’t need THAT supplement. Unless you get your jollies spending your hard-earned money on a placebo effect (at best), then you’d likely waste it with a purchase of a “supplement” like Force Factor.

‘Supplements for Muscle Building’: Only two ways they could “work”

In answering the question ‘do I need supplements to build muscle’, it’s important to first note that there are only two ways they could be of help:

  1. Improved workout performance
  2. Improved recuperation

That’s it! In order to be effective in helping add muscle, a dietary supplement needs to improve one or both of these two vital muscle building inputs. That’s because building muscle is a matter of implementing a long series of successful workouts that are intermittently combined with a long series of successful recuperations between workouts. It’s as simple as that. A muscle building supplement can only be effective by improving one or both of these two alternating endeavors.

But here’s an insight that no other fitness writer appears to be mentioning. If you successfully improve your workout performance, you’ll likely need to enhance your recuperation or lengthen the inter-workout time that you recuperate in order to keep building muscle. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? If a muscle is pushed into better performance during a workout, it will likely acquire greater tissue breakdown in need of recovery after that workout. Muscle Building Supplements

Case in point:  Creatine is a performance enhancing supplement; its positive effect is in augmenting the amount of work a muscle can do within a set of reps. However, this increased work output can further tear down muscle tissue during a bodybuilding workout routine. With more “damage” requiring post-workout recuperation, the bodybuilder using creatine will likely need to enhance post workout recovery or add inter-workout rest days in order to maximize (or even realize) the greater long-term muscle building benefits of creatine.

Some claim that creatine enhances post-workout recovery. But just a bit of common sense is required to question this notion. Why would creatine, a component in the formation of energy-enhancing ATP, be a recuperation enhancer? In order to do this, it would need to accelerate protein synthesis (directly or indirectly). Again, to find a study that supports such a notion, one only needs go to Google Scholar and type in the key words ‘creatine’, ‘muscle’, ‘recovery’, ‘protein synthesis’. If a legitimate study has ever shown creatine to act in a way that speeds post-workout recovery, the scholarly paper will show up. I’ve personally never found one, marketing literature notwithstanding.

Here’s the takeaway: With only the two ways listed above in which muscle building supplements can work, effectiveness of the first way demands more of the second way and the second way holds the most questionable legitimacy. Muscle workout performance can be enhanced rather easily; the caffeine in a cup of coffee can do it. Improved post workout recuperation is a different story. If anyone’s found a supplement that can do that better than good nutrition from food, I’ve yet to hear about it.

‘Do I Need Supplements to Build Muscle’… if they’re the “right ones?”

Now that we know that there are only two ways a muscle building supplement could actually “work”, let’s identify the MOST important formula for muscle building success:

Training Intensity/Recuperation time 

My twenty-five years of natural bodybuilding experience has taught me that nothing is more important than this ratio. You have to apply the exact amount of recuperation time required for a given amount of training intensity or muscles won’t grow. If this ratio is off, your perfectly timed and meticulously measured “eating plan” won’t work. And of course, if it’s off, any supplement that promises to improve performance or enhance recovery will be completely wasted.

Assuming you have this base covered – you’ve got a great workout/recuperation routine – let’s look at a few supplements that MIGHT improve workout performance or improve inter-workout recuperation.

Workout Performance

  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Beta Alanine

Creatine Monohydrate: Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years, you’ve likely at least heard of people using this supplement. Creatine has become the most popular sports performance supplement because users can actually feel its results. Creatine substantially improves muscle workout performance by providing raw material for the body to produce additional ATP. In short, when used properly, creatine allows working muscles to lift more weight for more repetitions than it might without creatine supplementation.

Since I’ve written an entire article on how creatine works, I won’t bog you down with the details in this one.

Beta Alanine: This amino acid is demonstrated in studies to be involved in increased muscle buffering activity. This has been shown to allow higher work volumes with delayed fatigue onset during anaerobic exercise. Furthermore, the same study showed a combination of beta alanine and creatine to be more effective in enhancing anaerobic workout performance than creatine alone.

Muscle Recuperation

  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (2012 study shows they accelerate post-workout recovery)
  • Whey Protein Powder (quality protein with convenience)
  • Multi Vitamin/Mineral Supplement (Can provide what’s missing or deficient in diet)
  • Glycine (shown to improve sleep and reduce cortisol levels)
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil (reduces inflammation and helps strengthen the cardiovascular system)

The short list of supplements that could help accelerate recuperation is by no means proven. Neither is this an exhaustive list of possibilities. 

Consider, for example, a commonly listed recuperation supplement like the amino acid Leucine. Do you need a leucine supplement to build muscle? Many supplement marketers will claim you do because it’s such a prevalent amino acid within muscle tissue. But foods like egg whites, fish, and beef are high in leucine. The whey protein listed above is high in leucine. A branch chain amino acids supplement is loaded with leucine as well. Bottom line: if your body already has enough leucine, the addition of it as a stand-alone supplement will likely not accelerate recuperation or muscle gains.

So whether or not you need an individual daily dose of ANY purported recuperation enhancer is what becomes muddled when asking the question “do I need supplements to build muscle?” It depends on how clean your eating habits are. It depends on how many anti-oxidative vitamins you’re getting from your daily diet. It’s dependent on whether the protein you’re eating regularly has a vast array of essential and non-essential amino acids.

‘Do They Really Help?’ The Crux of the Matter

If asking the question “do I need supplements to build muscle”, there’s one take-away you need above all others. It is this:

No muscle building supplement can compensate for a suboptimal workout/recuperation system. If your workout/recuperation ratio is optimized, a well-chosen supplement or two could provide a noticeable boost. If not optimized, even a stack of the most proven supplements could be completely wasted.

‘How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity’

Knowing ‘how to improve insulin sensitivity’ could be the key to enhancing your health and prospects for long-term fat loss. That’s because the flip side of improved insulin sensitivity (‘insulin resistance’) is a major cause of spiraling health problems. Insulin resistance causes blood sugar to become constantly heightened. This can lead to tissue damage in organs and subsequent health problems that result from such impairments. Insulin resistance can also lead to increased body fat gains as elevated insulin transports more glucose and fatty acids to the fat cells. These implications make it clear: Knowing ‘how to improve insulin sensitivity’ and taking action to make it happen is one of our best defenses against many health maladies.

What is Insulin Sensitivity?

The first step in knowing how to improve insulin sensitivity is getting clear on the answer to the question: “What is insulin sensitivity?”


'High Glycemic Meal': Regularly starting your day with a breakfast like this can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and could contribute to eventually developing insulin resistance


Insulin’s major role in the body is to regulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Without this hormone, a spike in blood sugar from simply eating a meal would cause a shellacking to our organs that could be lethal. This peptide hormone, released by the pancreas, causes blood glucose to be taken in by the liver, muscles, and fat cells. This has the effect of lowering blood sugar and providing energy fuel for our bodies.

How does insulin do this?

When released by the pancreas due to a blood sugar rise, insulin normally binds to the body’s cell receptors. This is where it activates the cell by opening portals on the cell’s surface so that glucose can enter it. Once inside the cell, glucose can be converted into bodily energy. This function of insulin works rather seamlessly if the cells remain “sensitive” to the insulin; that is, they respond easily to the insulin’s attempt at opening the cell’s portals. If the cells become “resistant” to insulin instead, they end up deprived of energy while higher levels of glucose build up in the blood. If blood glucose levels remain constantly high due to the insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes can result.

Of course, there are different levels of insulin resistance. A diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes is the extreme of this negative condition. Being maximally insulin sensitive is its healthy opposite. And given the increased fat gains and long-term tissue damage that can result from above-normal blood glucose levels, it becomes obvious why finding out ‘how to improve insulin sensitivity’ is in our best interest.

Increased Insulin Sensitivity: The benefits

When we learn how to improve insulin sensitivity and actually make it happen, less insulin is needed by our bodies to convert glucose into energy. This leads to overall lower daily insulin levels. That’s a good thing. Since insulin is basically an energy storage hormone, requiring minimal amounts of it to do its job is a sign that our bodies are using carbohydrate and fat energy efficiently. This can result in higher bodily energy and less proneness to fat gain. It can also reduce the odds of our cells becoming resistant to insulin and developing the cascading negative effects of that condition.

Increased insulin sensitivity results in more glycogen uptake by the body’s muscle tissue. This makes it less likely that carbohydrate calories will be taken up by fat cells – a process referred to as lypogenesis. In simpler terms, learning how to improve insulin sensitivity helps enhance body composition (muscle-to-fat ratio). Incidentally, that works in reverse as well; improved body composition can lead to better insulin sensitivity. So there’s likely a mutually reinforcing mechanism in place here that makes improved insulin sensitivity a beneficial causer and effecter in both better health and a leaner, more muscular body.

‘How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity’: Some steps

With the benefits of improved insulin sensitivity being clear, let’s go over some steps for making it happen. We’ll first cover the more proven measures. After that, I’ll list a few possible (yet unproven) ‘supplemental’ additives to these actions.

Reduce High Glycemic Carbs: The tendency for cells to eventually become insensitive to insulin is likely due to the bombardment of the hormone that occurs from constantly eating high glycemic carbohydrates. Consumption of sugary and starchy foods causes the cells to be hit with too much insulin, too quickly. Over time, this repetitive blood sugar inundation takes its toll; the portals on the cell’s surface become desensitized to the insulin.

The remedy to this is to improve one’s habits of carbohydrate intake.  This involves switching from primarily eating high glycemic carbs to eating more of the low glycemic type. Remember, even some carbohydrates that are considered “healthy” are often high glycemic.



Eat Protein First: I personally never eat carbohydrate foods without protein. I’m constantly surprised at how many people will eat carbs by themselves while wondering why they have trouble losing body fat. Many will eat a pastry and gulp down some fruit juice in the morning and unknowingly send their blood sugar and insulin up to stratospheric levels. Even something like a big bowl of Grape Nuts cereal, saturated with only a cup of milk as a protein source, will unnecessarily spike blood sugar and insulin. The same bowl of cereal or pastry would create a significantly slower blood sugar rise if combined with a decent serving of protein such as a bit of lean meat or some egg whites scrambled with a whole egg or two. Any lean protein will do the trick. Even better, get in the habit of consuming the serving of protein prior to eating the carb items.  

Exercise Regularly: It might seem redundant to mention the benefits of exercise within a blog dedicated to bodybuilding fitness. However, even if it’s an obvious recommendation within this context, the link between exercise and improved insulin sensitivity is important to understand.

The reason regular exercise is critical to the ‘how to improve insulin sensitivity’ equation is that exercising increases the amount of a protein called GLUT4 inside muscle cells. GLUT4 is the insulin-regulated glucose transporter that works in conjunction with insulin to fill muscle tissue with glycogen. In simple terms, increasing the presence of GLUT4 within skeletal and cardiac muscle tissues helps these cells become more sensitive to insulin. An increase in this protein is one of the benefits of regular, intense exercise.  

Get Enough Fiber: A healthy amount of soluble fiber in the diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. This is reminiscent of the admonitions we heard from our mothers: “Eat your vegetables.” Good advice.

That said, some lists of tips on how to improve insulin sensitivity will over simplify this tip by claiming “the more fiber you get, the better your insulin sensitivity.” In contrast, I’d recommend ‘getting enough fiber’ as opposed to advising that you should definitely increase the amount. It’s possible for us to get too much fiber. Most know the negative side effects of that. A lesser-known side effect is that excessive fiber intake can flush too many essential trace minerals from the body. So make sure you get enough daily fiber, but don’t overdo it with the “more is always better” mentality. 

Eliminate or Reduce High Fructose Corn Syrup: It seems to be in vogue these days among health and fitness writers to attribute nearly all of humankind’s ailments to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). You’d think this stuff is the ultimate food scourge of the world. While I won’t counter by claiming it’s not unhealthy, my opinion is that, like many things, it can be consumed in moderation without heightened health risks.

That said, if you want improved insulin sensitivity and you’ve got the sugary soda-drinking habit, this would be the first thing to eliminate. These beverages, along with many fruit juices and flavored waters, contain concentrated doses of HFCS.

Reducing your intake of HFCS obviously goes along with the first recommendation – reducing high glycemic carbohydrates, of which HFCS is definitely one. However, being aware of where this stuff gets hidden in processed food is important enough to make reducing it a worthwhile tip of its own.



How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity’: Supplements that might help

R-Alpha Lipoic Acid: The powerful antioxidant ‘Alpha Lipoic Acid’ has been shown to significantly improve insulin sensitivity. Among other studies, this one from the University Hospital of Endocrinology in Sofia, Bulgaria provides evidence of ALA improving insulin sensitivity among subjects with type 2 diabetes. After four weeks of ALA intake at 600 mg. (twice daily), there was no significant difference in insulin sensitivity “in terms of glucose disposal rate” between the diabetics and the control group. The R-isomer version of the product is believed to be the more bioavailable version.

Cinnamon: This spicy cooking condiment, extracted from inner tree bark, has been shown to improve fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity. Numerous studies have demonstrated this in vitro, in animals, and in humans. Researchers aren’t sure whether it’s the naturally-occurring polyphenols or chromium present in cinnamon that can create this positive effect, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that taking daily doses of cinnamon just prior to carbohydrate-rich meals might be worthwhile.

Vinegar: In this research study, done at Arizona State University, vinegar was shown to be effective in reducing post-meal glycemia and insulin resistance in subjects with varying degrees of insulin sensitivity. The experiment consisted of subjects with Type 2 diabetes, subjects with moderate insulin resistance and a control group with no insulin resistance. All three groups showed improved insulin sensitivity after taking vinegar within 60 minutes of consuming a high carbohydrate meal. Thus, a pre-meal shot of apple cider vinegar might be a worthwhile practice in one’s ‘how to improve insulin sensitivity’ repertoire.

Berberine: This plant alkaloid has demonstrated potent capabilities in increasing glucose uptake in insulin-resistant cells. A recent study suggests that berberine creates this benefit by modulating key molecules in the insulin signaling pathway. This apparently results is an insulin-sensitizing effect. Regardless of the exact mechanism of its actions, the supplemental form of this plant alkaloid might be worth considering in your “how to improve insulin sensitivity” strategy.

Fenugreek: The seeds from this plant, cultivated extensively in India, have been shown to decrease insulin resistance and improve glycemic control. In this study, it likewise demonstrated the positive effect of lowering high blood triglyceride levels, which tend to get elevated in people with Type 2 diabetes.


  1. Martin O. Weickert MD, Matthias Möhlig MD, Christof Schöfl MD, Ayman M. Arafat MD, Bärbel Otto MD, Hannah Viehoff, Corinna Koebnick PHD, Angela Kohl, Joachim Spranger MD and Andreas F.H. Pfeiffer, MD. ‘Cereal Fiber Improves Whole-Body Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight and Obese Women’ (American Diabetes Association Journals; April 2006 vol. 29 no. 4 775-780)
  2. Jacob S, Ruus P, Hermann R, Tritschler HJ, Maerker E, Renn W, Augustin HJ, Dietze GJ, Rett K. ‘Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial’ (Hypertension and Diabetes Research Unit, Max Grundig Clinic, Bühl and City Hospital, Baden-Baden, Germany; Aug. 1999)
  3. Carol S. Johnston PHD, Cindy M. Kim, MS, Amanda J. Buller, MS. ‘Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes ‘ (American Diabetes Association Journals; January 2004 vol. 27 no. 1 281-282)
  4. Liu LZ, Cheung SC, Lan LL, Ho SK, Xu HX, Chan JC, Tong PC. ‘Berberine modulates insulin signaling transduction in insulin-resistant cells’ (Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong, China; Dec. 2009)
  5. Gupta A, Gupta R, Lal B, ‘Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a double blind placebo controlled study.’ (The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India; 2001, 49:1057-1061)

“Which Muscles do Women Like”… and what’s the BEST way to build them

Well… here we go again. ‘The Postgame’ has published one of those ‘which muscles do women like’… “the MOST”… type of article. These lists draw attention, for sure. Some guys who see this stuff are probably spending a few more seconds in front of the mirror wondering if they’ve got enough ‘pec meat’ or ‘biceps bulge’ to catch (or keep) a woman’s eye. Still others likely have the following questioning thought:

Inshape Couple‘Okay… are the ladies visual… or are they NOT visual? I keep getting opposing messages.’

The answer probably lies somewhere in between. If there’s anything implicit that these ‘which muscles do women like’ studies reveal, it’s that we guys tend to project our own notions of what “being visual” means onto women. We’re visual at a level of “immediacy”; a trait that bodes well for serving our brief role in reproduction before getting the hell out of “the cave” and becoming providers. They’re visual in a more instinctively strategic sense; a trait that serves well for picking a mate that will likely be the best provider for offspring.

Given those distinctions, the study findings of ‘which muscles do women like’ tend to make sense. What women find appealing are muscles that most easily prove a guy’s physical provider capabilities (in a primitive sense) with just a quick glance. Big upper arms are a easily observable sign of strength and physical prowess. ‘Six-pack abs’ are a sign of “hunter endurance” as they signal that their owner has mid-body strength and the stamina that comes with low body fat. Responding to these is an instinct from the past; a throwback to the nomadic days of mankind. It seems superficial only in the surroundings of our contemporary hunter/provider environment, which often consists of desks, office cubicles, and water coolers.

With that preface, let’s go over the list of ‘which muscles do women like’ along with some better tips on how to develop them.

‘Which Muscles do Women Like’… and how do you best build them?

The following is a list of ‘muscles that women love’ according to a study from Western Illinois University cited by ‘The Postgame.’ They’re in order of most to least important, according to the alleged findings.

  1. Abs
  2. Biceps
  3. Chest
  4. Obliques
  5. Triceps
  6. Butt

What I find really lacking in such lists is their accompanying workout advice for developing each of the body parts. For example, this piece by ‘The Postgame’ links out to supposedly relevant articles on how to best build these muscles. As if to add confusion to half-heartedness, they link to an article on how women should build their butts after revealing that women like men to have nice posteriors. The result is more of a hodge-podge of workout advice sources that, by my estimation, will provide mediocre results… if you’re lucky. No wonder the internet continues to build a reputation for being a repository of half-assed snippets for ‘info-junkie’ entertainment.

In contrast, I’ll briefly go over each of the allegedly desirable muscles and provide (what I think is) more cutting-edge advice to produce better results.

Abs: No surprise that this is the top answer in the ‘which muscles do women like’ category. We’ve been hearing that women love abdominals on guys (ad nauseum) for at least a couple decades. The problem here is that, if you’ve got genetics like mine, the abdominals are a difficult muscle group to build and even harder to make visible. A ‘six-pack’ seems miles away when you still haven’t landed a decent four-pack (Geez… what ever happened to “washboard abs?”)

If you’re facing such mid-body challenges, advice like that cited by The Postgame write-up is nearly laughable. They link to a Men’s Health article on ‘stability exercises.’ While there’s nothing inherently wrong with stability exercises, I’d classify them more as overall ‘core exercises’ than abdominal developers. They’re great for older people and/or as “topping off” techniques after you’ve actually performed a ‘spine-hinging’, movement-centric abdominal workout.

The following are 4 keys I’ve found to be extremely useful in building six-pack abs:

  1.  Work lower abs before upper abs
  2.  Hinge at the waist (not the hips) when working abs
  3. Use ‘progressive overload’ to build abs (as with any muscle)
  4. Fat loss through better eating and cardio workouts are key to making abs ‘visible’


Biceps: Okay, now these are on the list of ‘which muscles do women like?’ Twenty years ago, forearms were on the list and these were not. Maybe we should just be balanced body-builders and build... uh… all the muscles? Maybe we ought to develop them in a balanced manner?

Anyway, much like the advice for getting abs, the Men’s Health article that’s linked to is devoted to “new” biceps moves, as if ‘new’ means “better” and the tried-and-true methods of bodybuilding’s past aren’t trendy enough for the contemporary metrosexual (whatever).  One-Armed Biceps Curl

Okay, enough with the cryptic blasting of pop culture fitness trends. Bottom line: If you want bigger biceps, you’ll get better results by “hyper-isolating” the muscle than by combining it with some ‘core exercise’ that would have you taking a rest-pause between each repetition. 

How do you isolate the biceps better?

Rather than bog you down with unnecessary written words, I’ll just link to a video in which I demonstrate this kind of ‘hyper-isolation.’ You can find it right here.


Chest: ‘The Postgame blog’s recommendation on building this muscle is pretty frustrating. That’s because it’s nearly worthless. After being revealed as one of the “muscles that women like”, there’s no advice in the written piece other than “psyche yourself up before bench presses.”

First off, this assumes that heavy bench pressing is a universally great pectoral building exercise. That falls into the category of absurd. It doesn’t require exceptional observational skill to see that some great bench pressers (including many power lifters) possess terrible pec development. The extent to which bench pressing contributes to developing a guy’s chest depends on three factors:

  1. How the exercise is performed
  2. Genetic predisposition to pectoral muscle recruitment on this exercise
  3. The effectiveness of the entire  pec-building routine as it relates to muscle breakdown/muscle recuperation

I learned from a great magazine article back in 1988 about how bench pressing can pale in comparison to flye exercises for building pectorals. It was written by legendary pro bodybuilder Scott Wilson. If you’re having lackluster chest building results from using bench pressing, I suggest you consider his insights and begin using ‘flye-centric’ workouts for your pecs.


Obliques: I find it peculiar that this is on a list of ‘which muscles do women like.’ I’ll bet most people don’t even know what an oblique is, much less be inclined to point them out on a person’s body. What’s probably mistaken for “nice obliques” is a small waistline with little to no fat in this area. What women probably like more than anything is an absence of “love handles.”

My advice to guys (and gals) is to focus on better eating habits if you’re concerned with improving this area. That, along with some intense, spine-hinging abdominal workouts will do more for your obliques than performing endless, isometric ‘side bridges.’

The article recommends “offset” lunges and squats for the obliques. This is a lunge or squat done with a dumbbell in one hand and nothing in the other. While that’s not bad advice for putting stress on the muscle, an important caveat should be mentioned about such ‘stabilization’ type exercises: If other muscles (or the body) get fatigued sooner than the muscle you’re targeting (in this case – the obliques), then you’re likely not working the intended ‘target muscle’ as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Translation: Weighted side-bends might be a better choice, since you’ve already got dumbbells in your hands anyway.


Triceps: Another new one on the latest list. As I alluded to before in regard to ‘which muscles do women like’: We might as well just build all of them… in a balanced manner. Whatever’s not on the lists now will likely be there next time.

The Postgame article goes on to mention what many of us know already – that the triceps contribute to two-thirds of upper arm size. It then recommends doing “pushups (with hands) on a stability ball” because research shows it produces “30% more triceps activation” than a standard pushup.

This, of course, assumes that pushups are a good triceps builder in the first place.

Do any other guys find this advice slightly insulting? Is it assumed that we’ve all lost our friggin’ mojo? Who really attempts to build decent triceps size with pushups (other than the Tony Horton crowd)? Nothing against Tony Horton, but I wouldn’t follow his routine for getting triceps to pop to an appreciable degree.

Bottom line: If you want bigger arms, get some decent resistance, do some triceps extensions, and increase the resistance in a systematic manner.


Butt: This one’s no surprise as an item on the list of “which muscles do women like.” It might have been a mini-bombshell a couple decades ago, but we’ve heard it repeatedly since then.

I won’t mince words: Whether you’re male or female, you really need to effectively target the glutes and increase resistance volume if you’re ever going to improve your butt. The best way to do that is with deep squats or deep leg presses with a wide foot stance.

Again, it’s only by volume overload that you can actually build the muscles back there. If you decide to do lunges for a better butt and you’re still using the same weight in the future as you are now, your glutes will not change. It’s only through higher volume workload capability that muscles are augmented.

“Somatotypes for Muscle Building”: Don’t let this idea hold you back

If you find yourself looking up information on ‘somatotypes for muscle building’, it’s likely someone’s told you it might be important. They might have convinced you, either vocally or in writing, that ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ is a concept that’s possibly working against you while it could be working in your favor if only learned and applied correctly.

If that’s you, I want to start out by proposing a question in relation to ‘somatotypes for muscle building’:

Is it possible that it describes and labels your muscle building starting point while having no bearing on your destination or the rate at which you’ll get there?

Slender Guy_Mesomorph Bodybuilder
'Somatotypes for Muscle': Your body type will determine where your muscle building quest begins. But there's no evidence that it influences your rate of progress when you train intensely and intelligently


I want you to really think about that. Consider the fact that muscle is nothing more or less than slabs of contractile tissue. It doesn’t have a “type”; at least not of any classification that would make it easier or more difficult to gain. It’s simply tissue made up of protein and fluid. It possesses basically the same physiology whether you’re beginning your physique building quest with a slender build or husky one. Whatever your weight, height, and body composition, you’re starting out with genetically-determined greater or lesser amounts of muscle dispersed in a hereditarily unique ‘topographical layout.’ But that’s only a factor in how far you need to go to reach your muscle building goals; it has nothing to do with how quickly or easily by which you’ll build the muscle.

‘Somatotypes for Muscle Building’: Where’d this notion come from?

The ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ idea is derived from the largely discredited work of psychologist William Herbert Sheldon. Along with the dubious distinction of being a eugenicist, Sheldon believed people’s personality characteristics were determined by three basic body types that he’d identified: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. To put it in everyday vernacular, an ectomorph is a lanky, underweight type of person. Mesomorphs have medium-sized, muscular, athletic-type builds.  Endomorphs are the soft and pudgy types that tend to gain fat easily.

Before we even get into the question of whether ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ is a viable fitness concept, let’s look at how flimsy Sheldon himself was on the notion as it relates to psychology. He said that nobody belonged to any one of the three classifications. He claimed that everyone had overlapping distinctions of each of the three somatotypes.

Okay, what does that mean? Should we call this “playing it safe with ambiguity?” If most people don’t belong solely to any of the three classifications, the theory is nullified to the point of becoming nearly meaningless.

He apparently attempted to clarify this with a scoring system. He used a scale of one to seven in order to label a pure ectomorph as a 7-1-1. A pure mesomorph would be a 1-7-1. And, of course, a pure endomorph would be a 1-1-7. Upon analysis with this numbering system, he claimed that many people fell about even among the three with a score of 4-4-4.

If reading such a relativistic and meaningless description doesn’t raise your inherent ‘quackery detector’ in the realm of psychology/physiology, it might at least give you pause with the idea of applying it to sports and bodybuilding.

So how’s it being applied to those? Let’s analyze it.

‘Somatotypes for Muscle Building’: Are you a special case if you’re skinny or fat?

The following is a paraphrased description of an ectomorph excerpted from a ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ article:

“Ectomorphs are small-boned, extremely slender, and tend to be hard-gainers. They possess fast metabolisms and are able to eat as much as they want without gaining any body fat. Unfortunately, they also tend to have a very difficult time gaining muscle.”

Let me propose a fair question: Why would an ectomorph’s tendency not to gain fat have any bearing on his or her ability to gain muscle? To make that claim is to assume that fat and muscle are gained in a way even remotely resembling the same manner. They’re not. And making this assumption is almost comedic when considering that many who do will also repeat the following claim:

“Fat’s fat and muscle’s muscle; they’re two completely different tissues and one can’t be changed into the other.”

That’s true. And they’re each gained for a different reason. But that doesn’t seem to create any reservation in ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ believers as they label endomorphs with the following (paraphrased) descriptions:

“Endomorphs tend to be short with bigger bones and a propensity to carry more fat cells. They tend to have an easier time gaining muscle, but at the price of gaining fat more easily too.”

“Easier time gaining muscle”; are these guys serious?  When was the last time you heard an overweight person say anything like the following:

“Gee… my metabolism’s so slow that I practically gain ten pounds of fat just looking at a piece of cheesecake. But boy… that sure has its payoff; the muscle just starts packing on as soon as I hit the gym and pump some iron.”

If this were the case, and given that muscle burns calories, every fat person in the world would have a built-in counterbalancing system that would make them naturals for speeding up their metabolisms. Thus, they’d likely have an eventual advantage in losing body fat that they had once found all too easy to gain. 

Of course, it’s not the case. And the best evidence that you’re not at a muscle gaining disadvantage if you’re a skinny individual is the realization that nobody appears to be at a muscle gaining advantage by being fat.

‘Somatotypes for Muscle Building’: Are “Mesomorphs” at an Advantage?

Proponents of ‘somatotypes for muscle building ‘are quick to claim that mesomorphs possess an inherent advantage in building muscle. Mesomorphs are said to be stocky with slightly muscular builds and bigger bone structures. It’s claimed that they have naturally smaller waistlines and broad shoulders.

But here’s another fair question on behalf of any thinking person:

‘What would bone structure have to do with muscle growth? Why would it be a factor?’

Let’s say you had two people of equal height, equal weight, and the same level of body fat. As a hypothetical, let’s say they also happen to possess the exact same volume of non-muscle soft tissue and body fluid. Let’s just say the only difference is that ‘person A’ has ten pounds less bone mass circumference than ‘person B.’ To make their body weight equal, however, person A has ten pounds more muscle than person B.

As you picture that, you can easily imagine how person A would have a noticeably more developed muscularity than person B while possessing a mere ten pounds more muscle.  It wouldn’t matter that person B has a bigger bone structure. This is why someone standing 5’- 9” and weighing 175 pounds can appear much more muscular and in-shape than someone standing two inches taller and weighing 200 pounds. This can be the case even if their body fat percentages are within a few percentage points of each other. The taller, 200-pounder is undoubtedly of bigger overall size. However, as the late Vince Gironda once said, bodybuilding is about “creating an illusion with your body”; it’s not about just being “big” or mindlessly putting on any type of mass.

Muscle Tissue of the Back

'Muscle Tissue': It responds to the same principles of tear-down/recuperation, regardless of how much or little with which you start out


So, another question: Why would a mesomorph have any easier ability to gain muscle than either of the other two body types? This question doesn’t imply that a mesomorph doesn’t start from a better place. If a person of this body type starts his bodybuilding quest with a naturally-occurring twenty pounds more muscle than his ectomorph buddy, he won’t have as far to go if they have identical goals in terms of sought-after muscularity. But to think this gives him an advantage in adding the new tissue is to confuse a genetic gift of a static nature with goal potential of a dynamic nature. 

This is because successfully gaining muscle is dependent on, more than anything else, getting a workout/recuperation formula correctly customized. I’ve seen so-called mesomorphs get this wrong and make no progress. Conversely, I’ve seen so-called ectomorphs get it right and build muscle fast by any reasonable standard.

‘Somatotypes for Muscle Building’: Don’t let it take your eyes off what matters

If you’re thinking about the ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ theory and you want to apply rational thinking to it, I’d like you to consider a question:

‘Do you really think a muscle building guru or personal trainer is more brilliant than a scientist?’

Why ask that question? Because that’s what he’d need to be in order to know exactly what you need to eat and when you need to eat it given the individual variables that affect your body and recuperation rate. My point all along in this article is that the rate of your muscle growth is dependent on successful workouts coupled with adequate inter-workout recuperation. These two things are NOT dependent on a label by which someone classifies your body when you start.

Think about this for a moment. A proponent of the ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ theory will typically assert that a mesomorph has “better” recuperative ability than an ectomorph or endomorph. But there’s a logical reason for theorizing the opposite; that such a body type will actually take longer to recuperate than either of the other two types. Why? With more muscle already present on the mesomorph’s body, he has more tissue that requires post-workout recuperation. A larger amount of tissue requires more time to recuperate than a lesser amount.

So there are two main takeaways I want you to get from this article:

  1. ‘Somatotypes for muscle building’ could potentially divert your focus from what really matters for building muscle to that which doesn’t matter at all.
  3. If you’re labeled either an ectomorph or endomorph, ‘somatotypes for muscle building’ could have you unnecessarily adopt a limiting belief about yourself that could inadvertently hold back your progress.

Remember that a big key to success in anything is to identify and absorb what’s useful and hastily dump and forget what’s not.

Your comments and opinions are welcome and encouraged.

“Does Andro 400 Work”; does it increase testosterone?

Anyone asking the question “does Andro 400 work” might want to first ponder a relevant question:

“Does higher testosterone result in lower body fat or does lower body fat result in higher testosterone?”

That question’s relevant because the marketers of Andro 400 are angling their Ageless Male-like product at guys who are middle-aged and older with the notion that if we boost our testosterone, the fat will start falling off.

Andro 400But if you’re one of the guys asking “does Andro 400 work”, you should know an important fact first: A high fat level results in lower testosterone. Body fat, especially the kind accumulated in the belly area, raises estradiol levels. This heightened amount of endogenous female hormone can squelch testosterone in a man as likely as would the accidental ingestion of a handful of women’s estrogen pills.

But testosterone, if marginally raised by a high enough amount, can help burn calories and fat stores as well. This might turn the whole issue of testosterone and body fat into the quintessential “chicken and egg” question of which comes first. Thus, to answer the question “does Andro 400 work”, one must really ask a two-fold question:

  • Does testosterone appreciably lower body fat when raised by any degree that can be accomplished endogenously (inside the body)?
  • Is Andro 400 effective for raising endogenous testosterone?

The answer to the question “does Andro 400 work” basically boils down to whether there’s any plant extract in the world that somehow stimulates testosterone production in the body.

‘Does Andro 400 Work?’ The Research being cited

To address the question ‘does Andro 400 work’, we first need to analyze the ingredients of the product. The company’s website claims that each capsule of Andro 400 contains 300 mg. of “pure eurycoma longifolia.” It also claims that dosage instructions for the product are “2 tablets per day for most men.” It goes on to say that some men “with very low testosterone” might need 3 to 4 capsules per day to see results they desire.

First off, eurycoma longifolia is nothing new; it’s a product that’s been around for a while. It’s the name of a flowering plant native mostly to Indonesia and Malaysia, but is found in smaller amounts within other Southeast Asian countries. The roots of the plant are often boiled in order to remove the extract that’s claimed by some marketers to be a testosterone booster. In marketing or street vernacular, the product is referred to as either ‘Tongkat Ali’ or ‘Longjack.’

On the Andro 400 website, it’s interesting to see that the first study cited is one in which exogenous testosterone was administered. The website claims (without references) that a Swedish study showed 9 of 11 men who received “supplemental testosterone” for six weeks experienced reductions in waist and hip circumference. What’s important is that this was an outside-the-body source of testosterone that was administered to the research subjects. It hardly adds direct credibility to the idea that Andro 400 will be effective in burning body fat. The obvious question is whether the eurycoma longifolia present in Andro 400 will raise testosterone enough (if at all) to produce similar results.

Trainer and Client (2)

'Low Testosterone': Is it really due to aging or is it more a result of carrying excess body fat?

Undoubtedly, there’ve been studies demonstrating that dosage-dependent increases in testosterone can make a significant difference in the ease with which body fat is shed. That’s the good news. When T-levels go up, existing body fat is more easily lost and adipose tissue is less easily deposited. In one such study, 54 healthy young men were put through a 20 week, randomized, double-blind test in which five different doses of testosterone enanthate were administered. The men, ranging in age from 18 to 35, were given a weekly dose of 25, 50, 125, 300, or 600 mg. of the exogenous testosterone. Although the study delved into such particulars as to the regional distribution of adipose tissue as related to increased testosterone, the takeaway is that there was a correlation between the dose of testosterone increase and the amount of fat loss; the guys getting 600 mg. per week lost the most fat.

But a positive answer to the question ‘does Andro 400 work’ depends on whether 300 to 1,200 mg. of eurycoma longifolia will raise natural testosterone to any similar degree.

The Andro 400 website points out a rat study for its claim that eurycoma longifolia will do exactly that. This study is often cited by those promoting ‘longjack’ as a testosterone booster. It was done back in 2000 at the University of Malaysia. In the experiment, the castrated male rodents were given orally administered doses of ‘long jack’ at 200, 400, and 800 mg. /kg. of body weight, twice-per-day. Results showed that the rats demonstrated improved sexual performance from the eurycoma longifolia extract in a dose-dependent manner.

What never seems to be pointed out about this study by product marketers is the dosage used. Even the lowest dosage given to the rats (200 mg. /kg. – twice daily) would equate to a daily intake of well over 30 grams of the extract for a 180-pound man.

What? The rats got the equivalent of thirty grams daily of the extract? Nothing on the market containing ‘longjack’ even comes close to that. Andro 400 provides a whopping dosage of 1,200 mg. at its highest recommended usage. Even if someone downed thirty grams, the possibility of toxicity would likely become an issue.

‘Testosterone Boosting’: Evidence Provides the First Step

Many guys asking the question ‘does Andro 400 work’ should probably take note of a recent study released by the Endocrine Society. The research, done over five years on nearly 1400 men with an average age of 54 years, showed no significant age-related decline in testosterone. Instead, researchers observed that changes in habits and health caused declines in the hormone more than did aging itself. One of the negative changes noted in the study was obesity; a significant gain in body fat.

This makes sense given that body fat increases the amount of a testosterone-to-estrogen conversion hormone in a man’s body. Once higher estrogen levels begin occupying the receptor sites where testosterone once resided, the loop-feedback that signals more testosterone to be produced is sort of “put to sleep.”

Can a product like Andro 400 awaken it and cause body fat to drop via higher testosterone?

Or does lower body fat need to first exist for testosterone to have a hope of being raised in the first place?

If I were a betting man, I’d wager on the latter being the case.

However, if you’ve tried Andro 400 or any other eurycoma longifolia product and you think it “worked” for you, we’d welcome your comments.


  1.  LINDA J. WOODHOUSE, NIDHI GUPTA, MEENAKSHI BHASIN, ATAM B. SINGH, ROBERT ROSS, JEFFREY PHILLIPS, AND SHALENDER BHASIN ‘Dose-Dependent Effects of Testosterone on Regional Adipose Tissue Distribution in Healthy Young Men’ (The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism) February 1, 2004 vol. 89 no. 2 718-726
  2.  Hooi Hoon ANG1,  Hung Seong CHEANG1,  Ahmad Pauzi Md. YUSOF1 ‘Effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali) on the Initiation of Sexual Performance of Inexperienced Castrated Male Rats’ (School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University Science Malaysia) Experimental Animals, Vol. 49 (2000) No. 1 P 35-38
  3.  Gary Wittert, MD ‘Declining Testosterone Levels in Men Not Part of Normal Aging’ (Endocrine Society) 6/22/12