Bodybuilders may slather oil over the peaks and valleys of contest-ready muscle for maximum sheen, but it’s the oil they gulp during the off season, and during pre-contest training, that matters the very most.
But while fat is fat is fat when it comes to gaining, losing or shredding, and in terms of how the body sees all fats as mostly equal when it comes to weight gain and fat loss, fats are far from created equal. That’s because some oils serve the body and metabolism much better than others in the long run.
Health may be a six-letter word uttered often by Birkenstock-wearing hippies, but it’s also important to your longevity as a bodybuilder.
Types of fats found in oils:
Monounsaturated fats help lower what health professionals call “bad” fats – those are the low-density lipoproteins known as “LDL” fats. They represent the bad fat in the blood seen and read as cholesterol. “Good” fats – or high-density lipoproteins – can be manufactured by ingesting healthy fat, while bad fats can be diminished. High levels of LDL mean a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. High levels of HDL mean heart protection.
Polyunsaturated fats also help lower total numbers of cholesterol, but shows they may also curtail good cholesterol levels too.
Polyunsaturated fats are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. These have been shown to decrease the risk of blood clotting and inflammation and they help lower the risk for heart disease. Omega-3s are also linked to a reduced risk in Type 1 diabetes – which is also known as juvenile diabetes.
A Primer on Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
In general, Omega-3 fatty acids, and the oils that are rich in them – such as fish oil and flax seed oil – have a protective effect on the cells of the body.
Omega-3 fats have unique properties and are found in distinctly different foods. The three most common Omega-3s are usually remembered by their abbreviations because the names are far too long:
ALA for alpha-linolenic acid
EPA for eicosapentaenoic acid
DHA for docosahexaenoic acid
These three members differ in the length of the carbon chain, and the number of bonds unsaturated with hydrogen (i.e. double bonds between the carbons). ALA has 18 carbons and 3 double bonds and is considered essential, because the body is unable to make it. So you must supplement it or get it as a part of your daily food diet. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found abundantly in flax seed oil, is converted within the body to EPA and DHA – the same fatty acids in fish oil that support heart health, reduce inflammation, and improve the integrity of cellular walls and chains.
EPA has 20 carbons with 5 double bonds. DHA has 22 carbons and 6 double bonds.
DHA is an important brain nutrient that works in tandem with exercise to provide heart protection and heart health.
Benefits of Omega-3:
Promotes healthy cholesterol levels
Supports brain function
Increases learning ability, focus, memory and problem-solving skills
Controls blood pressure
Supports weight loss and balance of blood sugar
Supports healthy hormonal balance, immune function and nervous system
Prevents inflammation and relieves minor pain from inflammation
Supports healthy occular vision
Promotes healthy, youthful-looking skin
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, as well as other marine-based plant and animal life such as algae and krill. It’s also found heavily in nut-based oils, such as peanut, almond, cashew and others.
Balance, Balance, Balance:
But here’s the caveat: Balance is everything. Maintaining an appropriate ratio between Omega-3 and -6 is crucial because they both work together toward health. Omega-3 reduces inflammation and protects the heart. Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. The typical American diet contains around 15 to 25 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3. A more appropriate, healthy balance should consist roughly of 2 to 5 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3s. Some even say that a ratio of 1:1 is more appropriate.
Rating the Oils:
Main sources of Omega-6 fatty acids come from: Corn oil, soy, canola oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. Experts say these are too overabundant in the diet.
Main sources of Omega-3 fatty acids come from: flaxseed oil, walnut oil, fish and fish oils, avocado, and other nut oils, such as peanut and almond butters and oils.
Olive oil, contains little of either, despite being touted as one of the healthiest oils.
Bodybuilders – Why the Fat You Choose Matters
Solid research has emerged over recent years that suggest that EFAs (essential fatty acids) in our diets can exert control over metabolic function at the cellular level. Fat storage and fat burning, along with glycogen synthesis can be greatly affected by the fats we choose to supplement and eat. So while you may not be born with the best of genetic codes, you can make up for it with adequate and correct fatty acid nutrition and reprogram your genetic code.
The best way to begin doing that is to get as much of your fat from flaxseed, nuts and fish as you do from canola oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. Don’t forget to add Omega-6 oils, but make sure it’s 1:1 for metabolic and heart health – something important if you take anabolic steroids.
As Long Chains and Short Chains Go….
Medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, burn fat like crazy. That result isn’t achieved simply because most bodybuilders cut carbs and boost fat intake, along with protein. It’s a conscious choice of the type of fat that causes maximum fat loss and rocket-launch metabolism.
Keep in mind that coconut oil is a saturated fat. Saturated fat is thought to be the devil in the lipid world. Short term use of coconut oil as a supplement can shake loose a stubborn last bit of fat loss and send the metabolism into orbit.
Good Sources of Dietary EFAs
Food Omega-3 (grams per100g) Omega-6 (grams per 100g)
Flax 20.3 4.9
Hemp seeds 7.1 21.0
Pumpkin seeds 3.2 23.4
Salmon 3.2 0.7
Walnuts 3.0 30.6
Rape seed 2.1 9.0
Herring 2.0 0.4
Soybeans 1.2 8.6
Butter 1.2 1.8
Olive oil 0.6 7.9
Wheat germ 0.5 5.5
Sunflower seeds 0 30.7
Almond 0 9.2
Olives 0 1.6
Four Hardcore Training Methods You Could Use
Hyperto-WHO? Periodiz-a-WHAT? Sometimes gaining just seems like hard work – the least of which are the weights that produce the grunts and groans in the gym. So many hardcore mass gaining methods have emerged over the years, it’s hard to keep count.
I remember back in the day when Joe Weider developed a series of “training principles” – like the Instinctive Training Principle, or the Pre-Exhaustion Training Principle. Janet Jackson even got into the act back in the 80s with the Pleasure Principle, but I’m pretty sure she was talking about something altogether different.
An outcropping of that, it all just grew from there.
Now, there are German and Bulgarian training methods, methods that employ super-slow fluid movements, and others that are clean, but still include a jerk. Where to begin, you sigh, as you look across a sea of iron and wonder how to make sense of it all.
What happened to the days of “I’ll see you at the gym for leg day, Bob” and whatever happened, happened? You still did squats and leg press, and had 21 inch thighs back then, right?
Some say the many training methods that have emerged are the exact things most of us used to do in the gym, but never put a name to it. Others say they are refined, well-thought-out, training methods responsible for creating a generation of muscular freaks – the likes of which were never seen in the 80s and 90s.
Here are just a few and what they stand for:
#1 GERMAN VOLUME TRAINING:
Goal: To complete 10 sets of 10 repetitions with the same weight for each exercise.
How to do it: Begin with a weight you could lift for 20 reps to failure if you had to, says Charles Poliquin. That’s about 60 percent of a person’s one rep max (1RM) load. If you can bench press 300 pounds for 1 rep, that means you’d use 180 pounds for the set with GVT.
Pros: Supersets and tri-sets allow you to perform a lot of work in a short period of time. The rest-pause method allows you to use heavier weights so you can recruit higher threshold muscle fibers. Eccentric training enables lifter to overcome strength plateaus
Cons: Knowing when to increase weight is largely instinctive; no forced reps, negatives or burns with this method; deep muscle soreness can cause even a seasoned pro to limp for 5 days straight, Poliquin says.
#2 HYPERTROPHY SPECIFIC TRAINING:
Goal: A method of mechanically “loading” the muscle to hopefully induce hypertrophy, HST is based on physiological principles first discovered in a laboratory.
How to do it: Mechanical Load, Acute vs. Chronic Stimuli, Progressive Load, and Strategic Deconditioning are phases of the program, that include principles such as: Higher reps for lactic acid to prepare muscles and tendons for future heavy loads, using compound exercises to maximize effects of loading on as much muscle as possible, using two week blocks per rep range to accommodate loads without injury, and limiting the number of sets per exercise per workout to just two. Repetitions will decrease every two weeks during the cycle.
Pros: Scientific, linear method of training that employs logic and common sense when it comes to injury prevention of muscles and tendons.
Cons: Too complex for a lot of people, and too much to determine prior to a workout.
#3 DUAL FACTOR HYPERTROPHY TRAINING
Goal: To supercede regular training thought by looking at big picture fatigue and exertion, rather than day-to-day exertion, fatigue and rest.
How to do it: Using higher frequency/ loading weeks, and reduced frequency training weeks, Dual Factor Hypertrophy Training looks at big picture growth, fatigue and rest. Unlike the “supercompensation” theory of bodybuilding (Single Factor) training that believes training is catabolic and depletes substances such as glycogen and protein synthesis, DFHT relies upon the idea that there are both positive and negative effects of training. Timing of individual workouts (such as organized splits) is unimportant in DFHT. It’s peaking and unloading of fatigue and strength that matters. Supercompensation views one workout as a period of fatigue. In Dual Factor HT, as much as six weeks might represent a period of fatigue, while up to four weeks may represent a period of rest. (Not four weeks off, but four weeks difference in intensity and frequency).
Pros: Counter-intuitive to bodybuilding’s supercompensation theory, which says all things must rest after being depleted, it follows the leader of traditional channel strength training in mainstream sports that pushes through both rest and fatigue as if there were no walls.
Cons: Complicated for average Joe. Big thinkers, this is esoteric heaven!
#4 POWER – REP RANGE – SHOCK TRAINING
Goal: Purports to stimulate growth without workout plateaus by stimulating fiber types within muscle bundles, and says that the pathway to muscle hypertrophy is via variation.
How to do it: The POWER phase focuses on attacking high-threshold Type IIA and Type IIB muscle fibers with heavily weighted compound exercises, in a 4 to 6 reps to failure range. Three to five minute rests between sets characterize this phase. Week two is the REP RANGE phase, which targets fibers that lie in “intermediary” places between Type I and Type II fiber. Rep ranges on exercises (which predominately utilize machines or cables), increase from 7 to 9, 10 to 12, and 13 to 15 in successive sets of one exercise. Rest times decrease to 2 minutes. The SHOCK phase of week three employs intensity-driven techniques of pre-exhaustion, super sets, drop sets and anything that will shock the muscle into growth. Free weights, cables and machines are all used in this week. No rest times during this phase, just cardiovascular workouts in between.
Pros: Can be utilized by, and tailored to, a beginner, intermediate or advanced level bodybuilder. Perfect for off season and pre-contest, but particularly suited to pre-contest; good for women.
Cons: Finding enough weights and weight stations available to stage your attack during the SHOCK phase may be challenging – and annoying to fellow lifters.