BodyWorks: Just Get Fit.

Can You Furnish An Example Of How Genes Influence Choice of Training Programme Design?

Is it Mind Over Matter? Or, just Genes that matter?

Great question, I was hoping that somebody would ask me one like it!

People struggle with all the conflicting ”expert” training advice that they are so often exposed to. Champion A tells us that 3 hour training sessions, twice a day, are the way to go; while Champion B let’s us know that Champ A’s training methods are laughable and that only 30 minutes every other day are required. As long as you train like a bat out of hell, the way that he trains.

The simple answer may be that both could be right. Each champion might actually be telling us the truth that, as long as you have his genetics, training like him will provide his results.

There is one particular Gene designated ACTN3 R577X  that is highly involved with whether you will respond to heavy weight/low rep volume vs. light weight/high rep volume.

If you ar a member of the majority of the population possessing either of the two versions of this gene that remain functional, you’re in luck (roughly 2/3 of world population).

The lucky individuals who possess RR and RX variants are very likely to respond well to low volume with heavier weights or, alternatively to get more from HIIT type of workouts and be better at sprinting. This is because they will often have a preponderance of Fast Twitch Type II Muscle Fibres. Along with these features, RR and RX variants will suffer less muscle damage and require less time to recover from their training sessions.

Now the rest of the world (roughly 1/3 of our total population), and I am one of these, who have the XX, or knockout allele will not respond favourably to heavy weights or HIIT type of training. We will have to use other strategies (High Volume/Lower Weight or LSD, Long Slow Distance) to achieve their fitness goals.

Are you doomed to failure, if you are one of the unlucky XX Knockouts? Who never might develop herculean strength and size and may have to put longer hours in at the gym and see fewer results?

No, not outright. You may still have a relatively good chance to be successful. As long as you are willing to try harder, work harder, learn more and make maximum use of your smarts.

Footnote Reference:

A Gene that affects the quality and quantity of muscle fibres and response

How to train?
Consult your DNA.

Is Morning, Afternoon or Evening the Best Time to Train?

Here is an instance where ‘’knowing yourself’’ is advantageous.

Are you one of these people who throw themselves out of bed at the crack of dawn and yell ‘’HELLO WORLD!’’ at the top of your lungs, going from 0 to cruising speed in a heartbeat?

Then taking advantage of what early risers inevitably like to call the ‘’best part of the day’’ will be the option you choose as your hour of power to maximize your potential.

On the other hand, if like me, you’ve got everything it takes to be a Rock & Roll Star (except the ability to sing or dance) and the only way you will ever see the dawn is by staying up all night to do it, perhaps later in the day will be best.

If you are a square peg, my advice is to keep your edges nice and sharp and not round them off in order to succumb to a fashionable belief that round holes are better than square ones.

If you try to maintain a schedule that doesn’t suit your particular style, predilection and aptitude…failure, fatigue and disappointment will be the likely outcomes.

Looks pretty uncomfortable.

Everyone says that Sugar Alcohols are OK on a Keto Diet if you’re looking for that sugar fix but also want to maintain Ketosis. Is this right?

Caveat Emptor.

Everyone is usually a damn fool.

Whether the sugar alcohols (polyols) will kick you out of KETO or not depends on which one(s) and amounts that are in the ingredients list (this goes for those delicious ”No Carb” Protein Bars, too).

For instance, Malitol, the most ubiquitous of the commercial grade polyols has about a 35/100 value on the glycemic index (glucose rates an even 100) and this polyol will certainly boot you out of KETO.

However, due to the way a particular sugar alcohol is called Erythritol is metabolized (it isn’t, your body excretes it virtually unaltered) it is one that won’t affect your KETO in any appreciable amount. Some manufacturers will incorporate Erythritol in their product, but along with it, will usually use others, as well.

There’s quite a bit of false or misleading advertising when it comes to these ‘’non-carbohydrate’’ carbs, so watch it.

Cooking with Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) is the way to go for Bodybuilders, Health & Fitness People, right?

Quite a few people appear to think so.

But as far as most of its health benefits, particularly for VOO or X-VOO, in practice doesn’t really work for anything other than dishes requiring relatively low level cooking temperatures. Especially when frying at high temperature, as it has a relatively low smoking point temperature.

Even at lower temperatures, levels of oxidation are great enough to make the reasons for cooking with it, other than perhaps taste, invariably disappear.

Cooking with Virgins is usually a tricky business.

Canola (rapeseed here in Europe) oil, which uses expeller methods of processing, on the other hand, is fairly robust, even at high cooking temps (194-235 Centigrade) and resistant to significant levels of oxidation (unless you tend to overcook and burn things like I do).

Although, I’ll be the first to admit, perhaps not quite as tasty as VOO & X-VOO. It is usually much less expensive and a better tool for searing and quick cooks when you want the griddle nice and hot for a quick fry up.

Virgin Olive oil (along with true balsamic vinegar) is best saved for those cold, raw and the more delicate dishes and served cold.

*To set regular readers of this blog minds’ at ease, Alex’s Corner is NOT turning into a cooking blog.

The last few questions we’ve received have been on cooking and nutrition related topics.*

Amateur Keto Cookery PT. 2. Why You Should Do It.

The main complaint goes something like this:

Keto seems to be the rage and appears to work, but it’s so boring, all that fat is disgusting, you’re food selection is limited, making it dull and hard to stick to and yada, yada, yada….

Yeah, ok I get it.

Carbohydrates are party foods, release serotonin, so you feel good, all that fat is disgusting and yes, does take some getting used to, and life is hard. So what?

You’ve got to do something, you’ve got to change something and that change ain’t racing towards your email box, as we speak, to be delivered free of charge.

Keto is just the least disagreeable way to sort out some of that unsightly candle wax stored just beneath your chin like a turkey goblet, surrounding your midriff like a piece of albino inner tubing and melting down your thighs like tallow.

Man Up, princess life is hard and so is dieting.

Yes, but it’s not impossible!

Fortunately , the majority of us live in relatively well-to-do countries and can usually afford to indulge our culinary whims and aren’t forced to go that involuntary diet route known as “”starvation”.

Keto living tests out your culinary skills and makes you put on your thinking cap, sure. This is just bound to make you more self reliant!

Besides, by dropping all your takeaways, it won’t cost you more than you’re already putting down for munchies.

Keto Meal Plan: Lunch

  • Organic cucumber with broccoli. Turmeric, cayenne and aged balsamic vinegar flavoured hummus.

  • Steak mince mixed bean goulash with egg, tomatoes, organic lemon pieces, marmite, onions and spices. Topped with feta and Guernsey butter.

  • A variation of bulletproof coffee: Freshly ground and brewed coffee bean, Sri Lanka cinnamon, MCT Oil, lecithin, collagen, ground coconut and raw cocoa.

And look, you even get some nice leftovers for work, care of Mrs. Tupper(ware)!

The Cooking Amateur’s Keto Cooking Corner.

So, one of the best things about running your own business and scripting your own website for that business is, that you get to do what you want to do when you want to do it and write what you want to write. (Although, if you don’t get it right often enough, you are sure to eventually go out of business).

I don’t know about the readers that peruse this website and how they feel about the results that they must often come up with after searching Google for something that they might be interested in and coming up with nothing but predictable reams of junk.

Personally, I get bored, fed up and become hungry for something a little more informative, even perhaps individual and unique, without just being crazy or idiotic. Is this really hoping for too much?

Anyone who has read much of my News & Views here is familiar with the interest of the writer in Ketogenic Nutrition related topics. Only my closest acquaintances are aware of my attempts to cook. Usually, pretty unsuccessful ones. But, as I am often heard saying to say, “Every Day’s A School Day!” And hopefully, I get a little better as I go along.

Although, not still alive and trying to get away, this thing was devilishly hard to keep on the spit

Recently, because the old stove in the loft had a nervous breakdown as it presumably just had had enough of my ridiculously amateur culinary antics, I bought a portable rotisserie convection oven.

And I was dying to try it out, if for no other reason, than to avoid another microwaved omelette.

Murphy’s Law applied to Keto Rotisserie Chicken:

  1. Don’t untruss or score the chicken. This just destabilizes the damn thing on the spit;
  2. Coating the splayed unbalanced chicken with your special seasoned tahini & mustard dressing before the match makes it awkward to wrestle with. By the time you finally convince it (about 45 minutes later) to stay put on the spit, less is on the chicken than on you and across the rest of your kitchen.
Once it had been convinced to remain on the spit, things went well.

Wrestled Spicy Organic & Cashew Stuffed Rustic Rotisserie Chicken swathed in extra virgin organic Kalamata Olive Oil, Tahini, French Mustard, Balsamic Vinegar & spices.

  • Cook in a convection/rotisserie oven @ 190C for 110-120 minutes if, like Alex, you like it extra crispy. To get it proper crisp, set temp to 210C-220C for the last 10 mins. Otherwise, 100 mins should do (1.3kg) most normals. (Alex is just squeamish, doesn’t want to hear it squawk when he sticks it).
  • Serve hot & crispy with roasted onion wedges, broccoli, mushrooms, a cold Greek Salad & houmous. These can be thrown into the oven under the chicken during the last 10 minutes of cooking time with a little olive oil and seasoning, if required.
  • Wash it down with icy sparkling mineral water and freshly ground coffee on a sunny day.
  • Serves 2-4 normals or 1-2 hungry bodybuilder types.
The Payoff.

What are core exercises and what are some good ones?

The Deadlift. Considered by most as a classic core exercise.

I’m an old school guy, so this will be an Old Skool Gym answer.

Firstly, a few points. They may or may not be familiar points, but they are necessary to state for a basic understanding of why core movements (also often mislabeled as functional exercises) are different from isolation movements and why (or why not) they be preferable.

Scoop out the internal organs, slice the upper human body transversely and you get something that looks like this.

Above is a simplified representation of a cross section of a human torso. What you see have here is basically a space (where your internal organs would go) surrounded by concentric bands of muscle with a spinal column thrown in.

If you apply force by way of an exercise anteriorly, dorsally or laterally (from the front, back or side) for a period of time to this torso, it is likely to develop these muscles and be considered a core exercise.

Core exercises often are difficult, relatively complex, involve multiple joints and multiple muscle groups (obviously, centered around your core) sorts of movements. The opposite of what most bodybuilders would call focused or isolation exercises.

Core exercises can also be placed in a higher risk category. This means that they will offer you more injury opportunities, not least because core exercises will be done with heavier weight loads than isolation exercises and usually utilize free weights rather than machines (which offer more supporting structure and are therefore ‘less core’ ).

The following is a list of good gym core exercises:

  1. Squats (Both Front loaded & Back Loaded)
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Dumbbell Press (Various bench angles).
  4. Unsupported Dumbbell Rows
  5. Pull Ups
  6. Push Ups

*And if it’s a nice day, you might want to get yourself outside and do some tyre flipping and/or sled or prowler pushing/pulling.*

Now, are these the only good core exercises out there? No, of course not.

The above short list are just the most accessible ones for most people and probably require the least amount of time to master (as opposed to the Olympic Lifts, etc).

Should you carry out some form of training every day?

This is where lifestyle context and knowing yourself comes in handy.

I dislike saying what’s expected of me and normally try to avoid telling people what they’d like to hear because it might be too awkward not to. To not do this, to follow the herd or be politically correct in all things, at least as far as I am concerned, is not a kindness but rather a weakness.

So, I will answer this question in as simple and as straightforward manner as I can. Irregardless of of the fact that I make my living running a gym and being, I suppose in general, a fitness professional.

If you are a student or desk jockey, the discipline of a schedule with some form of activity on a daily basis will have positive multifaceted effects on not only your body, but your mind and soul as well. It will allow you to be more productive, deal with the stress, boredom and dissatisfaction of daily life and furnish you a support system allowing a modicum of self control. In other words, it will enable you to be happier just being alive.

On the other hand, if you are a day labourer, furniture mover, agricultural worker or stone mason, you must measure and weigh the cost of the extra manual labour training requires against the balance of your energy reserves and make your decision off the back of that. You’ll have to factor in the risk of burnout against what you hope to achieve and how much you want to make that achievement happen.

In summary, there are certain contextual variables of fitness to consider when bringing together your training philosophy including: frequency, intensity, duration, other lifestyle factors and time commitments.

The combination of these concepts will be dependent on and influence your progress, the results you achieve and the status these achievements hold in the context of your daily life and how they make you feel about yourself.

When should I do flexibility/stretch training?

My advice would be to approach flexibility training with some respect and as a completely separate entity from either resistance or cardiovascular work, as it is a closely related to neither.

Too many fitness enthusiasts treat flexibility as an vague afterthought, half-heartedly allocating a few minutes at the end of a workout before boredom sets in and they’ve had enough.

To be an effective strategy, budget at least half an hour 2 or more times per week and experiment with various forms of stretches, static, assisted and dynamic activities.

If it is not possible to schedule flexibility training into your schedule in its own slot, due to time restraint, a passable alternative option would be to slot it in after your cardio activities. The current consensus of scientific opinion is flexibility training is not advisable pre or post your resistance element, even if this is tempting and most people’s SOP. Recent research suggests that it is not effective utilized in this manner and perhaps, even counterproductive.

Sexy Stretch GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
If you’re gonna do it, give it some respect and take it seriously!

HMB: What Is It? Does It Work? Should I Use It?

*NOTE* Ah, one of those 3-in-one shotgun questions, again.

I try to avoid, whenever possible, addressing more than one question at a time. This is just sort of one of my practical rules, as I, unlike most people I know, don’t consider myself a very competent multitasker. I can do only one-thing-at-a-time well. And sometimes, not even that. But I think that I may be able to answer these related questions in one go. At least, I’ll try to do my best.

What is it?

Briefly, HMB is a downstream metabolite of one of the more popular BCAAs.

It has been kicking around the retail marketplace since the late 1990s and seems to be on some sort of inexplicable fashion cycle of mass usage followed by disusage. Perhaps this is the result of disappointed expectations fostered by overhyping and then, as the masses forget, a further upswing in interest ensues, due to another round of overhyping and the cycle repeats itself.

Does it work?

In a heuristic (practical, through experience) sense, over the last 20 years or so, we’ve found HMB to be of some value, especially as an anti-catabolic. It really needs to be used in conjunction with creatine and BCAAs (particularly leucine, as this amino acid appears to be more anabolic than HMB), under the right conditions.

What are those conditions?

  1. During a rigorous dieting phase to reduce the catabolism and loss of muscle tissue that inevitably occurs, particularly when you don’t have the patience to do it right and lose weight too quickly;
  2. (With the addition of glutamine) to accelerate recovery and healing from surgery after injury;
  3. With middle aged and older clients to ameliorate age related sarcopenia.

All in all, from our experience, within the limits of a reasonable set of expectations, a nice, useful little supplement, indeed!

Should I use it?

Probably yes. But give it a little time and discipline yourself not to expect extravagant gains or miraculous increases in strength. Afterall, HMB is not a steroid, it’s just another nutritional too (and TBH, even steroids rarely live up to the hype).

In combination and conjunction with creatine and BCAAs.

In optimal dosage levels (about 3 grams, once or twice per day).


β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate and its impact on skeletal muscle mass and physical function in clinical practice: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

The Effect of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on Sarcopenia and Functional Frailty in Older Persons: A Systematic Review.

The Potential of β-Hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate as a New Strategy for the Management of Sarcopenia and Sarcopenic Obesity.