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Book:  Bigger Leaner Stronger

Author:  Michael Matthews

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Matthews, M. (2014). Bigger leaner stronger : the simple science of building the ultimate male body. Clearwater, Florida: Oculus.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Every single controlled weight loss study conducted in the last 100 years has concluded that meaningful weight loss requires energy expenditure to exceed energy intake. If you consistently consume fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight, regardless of how much carbohydrate or sugar you eat. No individual food can make you fatter. Only overeating can. If you consistently consume more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight, even if those calories come from the "healthiest" food on earth. If you eat a lot of prepackaged foods, it's fairly easy to accidentally overeat because the calories counts we're given for various restaurants and packaged foods are often inaccurate. In fact, food manufacturers can under report calories by 20 percent and pass FDA inspection. Make these types of errors meal after meal, day after day, and this alone can be the reason you don't lose weight. (pg. 61)

  2. The most reliable way to gain muscle is to gain strength. Heavy weightlifting produces large amounts of mechanical tension in your muscles and causes greater activation of muscle fibers. Your number one goal as a weightlifter should be to increase your whole-body strength. And the most effective way to do that is heavy weightlifting. The best style of training for gaining muscle over time is heavy, lower-rep work. (pg. 76)

  3. We live in the Age of Impatience. People want four-hour workweeks, six-minute abs, and 30-second meals. I'm sorry, but you can't lose 20 pounds of fat in 20 days or reshape your butt or flatten your belly in a week. Transforming your body is a rewarding process, but it's probably going to feel slow to you. Many guys find they need to lose 10 to 15 percent body fat and gain 20 to 30 pounds of muscle to have the bodies they really want. This can take a couple years. This is why fitness isn't for the weak-minded and weak-willed. You can't slide by on BS. Your body doesn't care about excuses. The only way to undo skipped workouts is to put your butt in the gym and do the work. The only way to overcome screwy dieting is to stop screwing up. If you're going to successfully engineer your lifestyle to help you achieve your biggest goals and dreams, you must learn to love the process and embrace the struggle. If you can do that, then there's nothing that can stop you. (pg. 334)


Other Key Ideas:​

There are right and wrong ways to "cheat." Some people cheat too frequently. If you moderately overeat just a few days per month, your overall results aren't going to be much affected. If you do it a few times a week, you're going to slow down your weight loss considerably. Another common mistake is indulging in no-holds-barred cheat days. If you let loose for just one meal, you can only do so much damage. Your stomach is probably going to be begging for mercy by the 2,000-calorie mark. Another way to screw up a cheat meal is eating too much fat. The worst cheat meal is one that is very high in both calories and fat. Protein and carbs, on the other hand, cost quite a bit more energy to process and are rarely converted to body fat. This is why high-fat meals cause more immediate fat gain than high-protein or high-carb meals. With alcohol, it's not the drinking that makes you fatter, but all the delicious food most people eat with it. (pg. 65)

Fat loss occurs in a whole-body fashion. When you use a calorie deficit, your body reduces fat all over, with certain areas burning out faster than others. This is why studies show you can do all the crunches you want, but you'll never have defined abs until you've adequately reduced your body fat levels. You cannot systematically lose fat from particular areas of your body. (pg. 66)

People with larger bones tend to be more muscular than people with smaller frames. Big-boned people have more genetic potential for strength and size than smaller folk. Two of the best indicators for your overall bone structure are the circumference of your wrists and ankles. People who have wider wrists and ankles tend to be naturally more muscular and have a higher potential for muscle growth than those with narrower ones. (pg. 77)

Sleep plays a vital role in the muscle growth process, because much of what your body does to recuperate and rebuild happens in bed. Studies show that sleep deprivation inhibits muscle growth and can even cause muscle loss. Even a single night of poor sleep can interfere with your performance in the gym, and two nights is enough to ruin it. The athletes who get enough sleep perform their best. (pg. 108)

Aromatherapy is an ancient method of reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Certain essential oils like lavender, bergamot, chamomile, and geranium can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. The easiest way to incorporate this into a daily relaxation routine is to use a diffuser. (pg. 124)

People who use their cell phones heavily were more likely to complain of sleep disorders and depression. People constantly on their cell phones were most likely to experience mental health issues. People who regularly use the computer late at night were more likely to experience sleep disorders, stress, and depression. Frequent computer use without breaks increases the likelihood of stress, sleep problems, and depression. The most time we spend with our devices, the worse our mental state will likely be. (pg. 127)

When you review the daily routines of many of history's greatest thinkers and innovators, you'll quickly notice how many of them value long walks in nature. Just 25 minutes of walking in an urban park was enough to noticeably reduce frustration and improve mood. (pg. 128)

Research shows that exposing yourself to a constant barrage of bad news, scare tactics, and morbid reminders of your mortality increases the likelihood of overeating, overspending, and other will-power failures. If the world seems to be ripping apart at the seams, why should we care about keeping our affairs in order? By reducing our exposure to the daily dose of pessimism and fear-mongering, we can also reduce our stress levels. (pg. 128)

Put a mandatory 10-minute wait time in place before you allow yourself to act on a craving or other impulsive urge (eating) to do something you know you shouldn't. This may not seem like much time, but research shows it can make a big difference in how you perceive the situation. (pg. 135)

Many people worry they've "blown" their diets after a single instance of overeating, not realizing that the absolute amount of fat that they can gain from a single meal or day - no matter how much they've eaten - ranges from negligible in the case of a single cheat meal (a few ounces) to mildly irritating in the case of a day of feasting (.5 to 1 pound). (pg. 144)

You should get at least 80 percent of your daily calories from nutrition, relatively unprocessed foods. Most of what you eat should consist of whole foods that you clean, cut, and cook yourself, like lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and ols. Then, if you fill so inclined, you can fill your remaining calories with your favorite treats. (pg. 163)

When cutting, forty percent of your calories should come from protein, forty percent should come carbohydrates, and twenty percent should come from fat. (pg. 185)

You should eat protein before you train if it's been a few hours since you last ate some. It'll get your body building muscle again, and it may even prime it to receive a larger anabolic boost from the training. The research on eating carbs before a workout is clear: it improves performance. Specifically, eating carbs 15 to 60 minutes before working out will help you push harder in your training and may also aid in post workout recovery and muscle growth. 30 to 40 grams of any type of car eaten about 30 minutes before a workout will get the job done. My favorite pre workout carbs are oatmeal, bananas, dates, figs, mellons, white rice, white potatoes, raisins, and sweet potatoes. After a workout, it's a good idea to eat 30 to 40 grams of protein within an hour or two of finishing a workout. (pg. 188)

Feel free to eat the same foods every meal, every day, and you'll be much less likely to over accidentally overeat or undereat. If the thought of a routine sends a shiver through your taste buds, you might be surprised at how easy it is when you're eating foods that you actually like. You didn't get sick of them as quickly as you might think. Furthermore, if you look at your diet now, you'll probably find that you're already eating a lot of the same foods regularly. Most people tend to rotate through a number of staple meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. (pg. 212)

You can "save up" calories if you want to eat a lot in one meal by eating more or less nothing but protein leading up to (and after) it. The tip is great for people like me who like to eat one large cheat meal. For example, my cheat meals are almost always dinners, so throughout the day, I'll eat a serving of protein every few hours but skip the carbs and fats. Instead of doubling down on your favorite fatty foods when you cheat, go high carb instead. This will result in less immediate fat storage. (pg. 220)

Each Bigger Leaner Stronger workout will have you warm up and perform 9 to 15 hard sets. This isn't as minimalist as some programs, but it's a lot less than many guys are used to. Since you will be lifting heavy weight and pushing close to failure each set, you don't need to do as much to produce powerful muscle-building stimulus, and you can only do so much before it becomes counterproductive. I recommend no more than six days of serious exercise per week with one day of no intense physical activity (except for walking). (pg. 230)

A 17 to 27 minute session of high-intensity cardio, which consists mostly of low-intensity cooldown periods, burns more fat than 60 minutes of traditional bodybuilding cardio. Research also shows that this style of cardio is particularly good for getting rid of abdominal fat. The high-intensity style of cardio is significantly more effective for losing fat than traditional low-intensity cardio. During high-intensity cardio you should hit about 90 percent of your all-out effort for 60 to 90 seconds. While you can use high intensity cardio for any type of cardio, if your goal is to preserve muscle and strength, your best choices are biking and rowing. Finally, with high-intensity cardio you should start with a 1:2 ratio (intense vs. non-intense) and work your way toward 1:1 when conditioning improves. (pg. 248)

While walking is not the best way to lose fat rapidly, it's definitely the easiest way to burn additional calories and lose fat faster! If you walk a 20 minute mile you will lose at least 100 calories. While it's not going to impact fat loss like high-intensity cardio, it can make a significant difference over time! While running impairs muscle and strength building, walking can help you burn calories without getting in the way of your progress in weightlifting. (pg. 253)

Of all the workout supplements on the market today, creatine stands out as one of the absolute best. It's the most well-researched molecule in all of sports nutrition - the subject of hundreds of scientific studies - and the benefits are clear: It helps you build muscle faster, it helps you get stronger faster, it improves endurance, it improves muscle recovery. Creatine increases the amount of water in muscle cells. Many people shy away from creatine because they've heard it makes you bloated. This used to be a problem years ago, but it has become a nonissue today since processing methods have improved. You shouldn't notice any difference in under the skin water levels when you supplement creatine. Go with powdered creatine monohydrate as it's the most researched form by which all others are judged. (pg. 323)

For better cuts, eat plenty of nutritious foods. Generally speaking, foods that are "good" for weight loss are relatively low in calories but high in volume and fiber (and less filling). This is one of the reasons why most fruits and vegetables are so helpful when cutting. They add a significant amount of volume and fiber but not calories to meals, despite helping you stay fuller longer. (pg. 337)

Drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep. . The amount of water you drink isn't going to make or break your fat loss efforts, but drinking enough can help. Increasing water intake is an effective way to increase fullness, which helps you fight off hunger and stick to your diet. I recommend that you drink around a gallon of water a day. In terms of sleep, a large amount of fat loss occurs while you sleep. Your body burns quite a few calories while you sleep. You lose about 80 calories per hour while you sleep, and much of it comes from fat. (pg. 339)

Your weight can fluctuate on a daily basis due to fluid retention and bowel movements, so you can expect regular ups and downs. That's why I recommend weighing yourself every day and then calculating averages every seven days. This method of tracking your weight keeps you focused on the bigger picture instead of fussing over meaningly day-to-day variances which can cause unnecessary frustration and confusion. (pg. 384)

Metabolism does NOT crater as you get older. This is very fake news. Research shows that the average adult's metabolism slows by just 1 to 3 percent per decade and the primary reason for this is muscle loss, not genetics. Therefore, if you maintain your muscle as you age, you maintain your metabolism. And if you add muscle to your frame, you can increase metabolism. Why do so many people gain weight as they get older? It's because they don't work out as much and don't eat well. However, research does show that after the age of 50 your muscles recover slower from exercise and you begin to lose muscle over time (if you don't do anything to stop it). (pg. 424)

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