Review of Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 

A lot of people ask me what books they should read in order to build muscle the Hardgainer way. My answer is pretty simple – anything written by Stuart McRobert. I first heard about McRobert when I use to frequent Cyberpump. In fact, it was Cyberpump that originally introduced me to High Intensity Training.

What attracted me to McRobert’s writing is the down to earth advice focused on training safely. Not only that, his writing was (and still is) the most detailed you can find on High Intensity Training.

I have bought pretty much everything McRobert has written. His original works – Brawn and Beyond Brawn are classics. I recommend Beyond Brawn to anyone who is looking to get into weight training as it provides everything that you need to know.

When I heard that McRobert launched a new book, I was pretty excited. It arrived the other week and I have been busily reading it so I could provide you with a review. The title is Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great.

The book appears to be aimed at beginners and people looking to get fit rather than those trying to build some serious muscle. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t grab the book if you are a serious muscle trainee. I just think you would response better to Brawn and its content.

However, if you are a beginner interested in getting into strength training, then this is the book for you. In fact, it is essentially a combination of Beyond Brawn and his other book The Insider’s Tell-All Handbook on Weight Training Technique (which provides excellent pictures and advice on how to do weight training exercises correctly for injury-free training).

So, what do you get with this book? Essentially, you get a complete guide to strength training. Everything from what exercises to train, how often, how much, how to do them, what you should look for in a gym and how to recuperate. I’m very impressed with this book and will recommend it to anyone looking to get fit and lose weight.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me personally was his chapter on correcting physical restrictions. This is actually some very relevant to me as I have been struggling with severe knee pain for over ten years. My right hip is higher than my left which leads to a functional leg difference between my right and left. This causes excessive torque on the knees.

I have been to several Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and massage therapists to no avail. McRobert describes his own story and how Active Release Therapy helped him to overcome the problems that he has suffered for many years.

As a result, I have also sought out a Chiropractor trained in Active Release Therapy. At this stage, it is too early to tell but I will keep you update. The Chiropractor doesn’t seem to be taking a holistic view on what the cause is and is instead focusing on trying to treat the knee – and not the root cause, the hip imbalance. This is despite the fact that I have told him that previous treatment focusing only on the knee hasn’t worked. I will need to change to another therapist if I can’t talk to him around. I have also been looking into Rolfing which tends to look at the body from a complete perspective. This may be a good alternative.

How to Count Calories to Lose Weight Sunday, Jan 10 2010 

Back when I was fat, if anyone told me that the way to lose weight was to count calories I would automatically turn up my nose. Even to this day, when I successfully lost all the weight, I do not understand my reaction. Perhaps it was because it sounded complicated and required effort. Or it was too simple – “What do you mean its all I have to do is eat less calories? I’m overweight and its hard and the solution must hard to understand too!”.

Deep down inside, I think it is a combination of both.

On one hand, counting calories is simple in concept. Each food has an amount of calories and to lose weight you consume less calories than you burn during the day. Many people get all excited about the latest diet fad. But if you really think about it, when these diets do work it is because the person is eating less calories than they use. Regardless of whether it is eating only cabbage or things that you can suck through a straw, the way that any successful diet works is by it being low in calories.

So, the question comes to mind is – why bother with all these weird diets when you can just cut straight to the chase and consume less calories?

On the other hand of course, calorie counting reeks of effort. You have to look up the calorie content of each food in a book or the back of a packet. You have to record what you eat during the day and make sure you don’t go over a certain calorie limit. Why bother? Lets just go and do one of these new fancy diets that promise the earth.

As you can see, it is a bit of circular argument, isn’t?

Look, let me be blunt. If you want to lose weight, you have to count calories. Period. No ifs or buts. If you can’t be bothered then you can’t be bothered losing weight. Go do something else with your time and come back to it when you are serious about your health. And I mean, serious.

Now, if you are still reading this I assume that you are serious about your weight loss goals. Let me share with you some ways to count calories the easy way.

Firstly, get yourself a calorie counting book. These pocket sized gems can be bought at any bookstore or on Amazon. Make sure the one you buy one that lists the foods that you like to eat. For example, if you are a sucker for fast food then make sure it has the foods from your favourite take out (yes, you can eat fast food when you are on a calorie controlled diet because it is about controlling your calorie count not restricting certain foods). The one I like is: The Calorie King Calorie Counter (website: Calorie King).

You are also going to have to record what you eat during the day. How do you do that? Step 1: Get an iPhone (you have one already don’t you?) Step 2: Purchase a calorie counting app from the App Store. I like: Tap and Track. Step 3: Use it. Probably the best thing about using an app on the iPhone is that it is with you all day and is quick and easy to put the data in.  (Note: Tap and Track actually has a built database of USA foods so if you live in America there is no need to buy a calorie counting book.)

Ok, ok, ok, you don’t have any iPhone then? Well, you’re going to have to do the old pen and paper trick. Use a small piece of paper that you can put in your wallet and record what you eat on that. Try to avoid waiting until then end of the day because you will often forget what you ate (especially the little snacks in between meals) and won’t always know how close you are to your calorie limit.

The final step, before you implement all of this, is to determine what your daily calorie limit should be. The Tap and Track can do this for you but if you don’t have an iPhone (you’re going to get one now, aren’t you?) you’ll have to use some of the calories counters that are available on the internet. Unfortunately, many can vary widely in what they think your calorie count should be. The one I like is: Weight Gain and Weight Loss Calculator.

One of the best advantages of a calorie controlled diet is that you can eat what you want – with in reason and inside the calorie limit. I even met a guy at the gym who lost weight only eating his favourite food – Kentucky Fried Chicken. Everyday, he simply chose the foods on the menu that kept him under his calorie limit. Now, this isn’t a recommended option because of the higher risk of diseases from such a diet but it proves a good point – you can still enjoy the food that you love with a calorie controlled diet.

Now, lets get on with it and train.