How to step up your training – increase intensity

If you go to the gym on most days and you do the same workouts day in day out, not only you will get bored of it but your body will adapt to it, too. That means you will not see changes from the same workout after a while.

There are different techniques for the advanced athletes to step up their training and shock their bodies.
Go to failure: muscle failure is when you cannot do any more full reps with that weight. Most people don't go to this extent because this is when the going gets tough. When we say you need to do 8 - 12 reps for muscle hypertrophy that means you cannot do more reps than 8 - 12. So if you could do another 3-4 reps with that weight, increase it.
Drop set: that means you do your regular reps with your weight and when you cannot do any more reps (you reach muscle failure) you drop the weights by 20-30% and continue the set until failure. For eg: you are doing bench press with 100 kg, you rep out to failure and when you cannot do any more full reps you strip off 20-30% of the weight (70-80 kg) and continue the set until failure.
Forced reps: you will need a training partner for this, unless you do certain exercises where you can self spot yourself: for eg one arm dumbbell curl. You do your set to muscle failure and when you cannot do any more full reps your training partner helps you with the concentric part of the lift.
Negatives: again, you will need a training partner for this. You only do 3-4 reps with this technique, not the full 10-12 reps. You load the weight heavier than you normally do. For eg: if you do bicep curls with 15 kg dumbbells for 12 reps, then you will use 17 kg or even 20 kg for this exercise. Your training partner helps you with the concentric part of the lift (ie: curling up) and you lower the weight yourself slowly. We are a lot stronger on the eccentric part of the lift, than on the concentric part of the lift, that's why you need a partner to help you with the concentric part.
These are just a few ideas you could try, if you didn't know about them.
For a personalized training plan please contact me:
hello@tamaramakar.me or KIK: tamaramakar
For personal training/coaching/contest prep FOR MEN AND WOMEN: please book an appointment in advance and see me at True Gym Mohandeseen.
#spacefitness #panatta
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Bye Bye Gold’s

Another year has passed. I arrived to Egypt end of March, started lecturing at Gold's Gym Academy in April and got a job at Gold's Gym Egypt in May. It was a very happy period indeed. I felt loved and appreciated. Then the months passed and things have changed. It is not shocking at all that most people are not what they show themselves to be. With time and age you get used to it and you just move on. In the past few months it has escalated to a level where I started feeling stressed and pushed. It will always be beyond me why certain people feel that they have to do things to try and make others feel less or as miserable as they are, although they haven't got much to show up for themselves. Ignorance? Jealousy? Or just simply bad manners? Not important. It's not worth any more space in my life or on my blog.

The only thing that is important that I have put an end to it yesterday – and I feel free again. It's like a breath of fresh air, a big relief for me. Finally I can focus on something that I actually like doing: body building and teaching body building/fitness to people who are interested and want to learn.

Finally I am free to do body building seminars anywhere and I can have my private clients as soon as I sort out a gym to train them. I am also available for any guest posing or guest appearance in any gym in Cairo/Egypt. Please get in touch for more details: tamara@tamaramakar.me

Watch this space because big things are going to happen very soon. I have a few competitions lined up for 2015, and I also have my plan B.

Keep people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you and make you happy and get rid of the negative shit - job is done, look forward to a happier chapter in my life.

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Muscle Mania registration

Yesterday I went to Balance Gym Tagamo to help register a friend of mine for Muscle Mania, and met a lot of other great athletes there, too.

Balance gym is a very well equipped gym in 2 locations in Cairo: in Tagamo and Sheraton. The Tagamo branch is the newer one with brand new Cybex equipment. I always liked training around in different gyms and I never mind travelling for a good gym to train certain body parts there. In the UK people always thought I was crazy because I used to travel an hour for a good gym for legs - well, probably you can see why... The results talk for themselves. When it comes to my training, I don't compromise.

Muscle Mania Middle East will be held in Cairo next Friday (3rd April) and I really look forward to meeting all these phenomenal Egyptian athletes. Here are a few photos from yesterday:

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Feel free to come and say hi when you see me there!

The different body types – mesomorphs and endomorphs

When you first start going to the gym, any changes you make to yourself: your nutrition or just working out will show results because you're changing your routine. If you pair your training with a solid nutrition plan or just clean out your diet you will see even better results. In the gym, whether you do resistance training or cardio, start with a steady pace, let you body adjust and recover. Start with 2-3 days a week and gradually work it up to 4-5 days a week. You will see and feel how much time you need to recover. Your recovery time will heavily depend on your nutrition and your rest time though. If you're not eating the right food your recovery will suffer.
The right food could be different for everyone. Something that works for someone might not work for the other. It also depends on your body type – as I said that in my previous post.
I've talked about the ectomorphs – the hardgainers – in my previous post.

Let's see what the characteristics of a mesomorph:
Those are the people who don't have to put much effort into their diets or training, they naturally have an athletic physique. They put on muscle (and fat as well) easily but they lose fat easily, too. They have well defined muscles, round muscle bellies – the best body type for bodybuilders, but for any athletes really. The best advise for them is to have more discipline. If they paid more attention to what they're doing in the gym or what they eat, they could take their physiques to a completely different level easily.

The endomorphs are the people I talk to most: the people who put on fat very easily and have a hard time losing it. They have slow metabolism, they are soft and round, usually short and stocky. They put on muscle easily though so it's not too bad for an athlete if they have the discipline to eat right. Endomorphs also need cardio all year around to keep in shape. They usually have insulin resistance to an extent therefore they really need to know when, how much and what type of carbs to eat to turn it to their advantage.

Personalized training and nutrition plans are available, contact me for details: hello@tamaramakar.me

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The different body types – ectomorphs

When it comes to training and nutrition, it is very important that you know your body type. The different body types need different nutrition and they respond to training in different ways.

There are 3 different basic body types:
* Ectomorph
* Mesomorph
* Endomorph

Generally people are not just one clear type, but a combination of 2 or sometimes even all 3 body types.
Let's look at these body types one by one:
Ectomorph – the hardgainer
Characteristics:
* small frame
* small joints
* usually tall with small waist
* very low bodyfat
Ectomorphs usually lose weight very quickly if they skip meals or their caloric intake is too low. They have very fast metabolism, they burn up everything quickly.
Ectomorphs are hyperactive, therefore if they want to put on some muscle they need to slow down, and get some extra sleep/rest. They need to reduce stress – don't we all? They definitely have to avoid overtraining. They respond best to brief workouts and they have to allow plenty of recovery between training sessions.
Generally they don't need to do much cardio, and they should really keep that to a minimum. They should make an effort to keep their caloric intake high with a moderately high carb intake and never miss a meal. Using additional supplements is highly recommended for ectomorphs to help gain and keep muscle.

Personalized nutrition and training plans are available, plese contact me for details: hello@tamaramakar.me

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Dehydration – water retention

Your body dehydrates if your fluid intake is less than what your body puts out. You lose fluids by breathing, sweating, exercising, urinating, vomiting etc so when your body doesn't have enough fluids to carry out its normal functions, you get dehydrated.

The common causes of dehydration are: vigorous exercise or exercising in hot weather, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating. It is very important to replace any fluids that you've lost before you get dehydrated.

The symptoms of mild dehydration are:
* thirst
* dry sticky mouth
* sleepiness or tiredness
* decreased urine output
* dry skin
* headache
* constipation
* dizziness

When the colour of the urine is darker, it can be an indication that you're getting dehydrated.
What to do? Increase the fluid intake! Pay attention when the hot weather comes that you need to drink enough water throughout the day. When you exercise, always drink water to replenish the fluids you lose by sweating.

It's worth mentioning that sometimes water retention can be an indication that you're not drinking enough fluids. When you drink less water than what you put out, your body is trying to balance it by retaining some water to prevent dehydration. When you experience mild dehydration what you need to do is start drinking more water slowly to replenish the lost fluids.

This is not the only cause of water retention though. It could be just as simple as having too much salt, spices or sugar in your diet.

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Ghrelin – the hunger hormone in a nutshell

Ghrelin is produced by ghrelin cells which are found in the stomach, lungs, pancreas and kidneys. It is a hormone that regulates hunger. When the stomach is empty, ghrelin is released. When food is eaten ghrelin secretion stops. Ghrelin increases appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.
Ghrelin also promotes the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland which breaks down fat tissue and helps building muscle tissue.
When people go on 'yo yo' diets – extreme calorie cutting diets, the weight they lose during dieting comes back on quick when the diet stops. One of the reasons why this happens is because the ghrelin levels are dramatically increased. The hormone levels stay like that for some time after the diet has stopped. The body reacts as if it went through starvation – which effectively it did, and to protect itself from future starvation it produces more ghrelin. In layman terms: you go on an extremely low calorie diet to lose weight. Your ghrelin levels increase so you feel more and more hungry. You are effectively starving on the diet to lose weight, and when you finally stop the diet, the body – to protect itself from further starvation – produces more ghrelin. Because you stopped the diet you go back eating normal and because you feel hungry you eat more and more – hence you put more weight back than what you've lost.
Ghrelin levels are primarily regulated by food intake. Levels of ghrelin increase when fasting (with increased hunger) and are lower in people with higher bodyweight than in lean people.
The different nutrients effect differently the release of ghrelin: protein and carbs slow down the production of ghrelin to a greater extent than fats – eating protein and carbs will make you feel fuller.

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A calorie is NOT a calorie – Part 2

The thermic effect of food shows how much calories your body uses for digesting and processing the different macronutrients. The thermic effect of the different macronutrients is different. There is no exact numbers, researches show slightly different numbers, but the ballpark numbers are:
Protein is around 20-35%
Carbs 5-15%
Fats 0-5%
What does this mean? If you eat 200 kcal of protein, 40 – 70 kcal your body will use just to process and digest protein. So effectively you'll only get about 65 – 80% of the protein you eat. For carbs it's between 75 – 95% and for fats it's 95 – 100% that the body will get.
It is very important if your goal is to build more muscle and you're a hardgainer (ectomorph). Your body burns off an excessive amount of calories as heat because of your metabolism being inefficient. You need to make up for it in your nutrition. Since protein has up to 5x higher thermic effect than carbs or fats you should add more carbs or fats into your diet.
Body composition is another important factor here because the leaner you are, you show greater thermic effect.
The thermic effect of food is also higher post exercise. So if you're a hardgainer, you should consider adding more calories (predominantly from carbs and fats) into your nutrition outside of the post workout window.

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About fat loss and supplements

Let me spare some thoughts on weight loss and supplements. I've heard this several times: I want to lose weight,I can't take supplements. It depends on what supplements we are talking about. Whey protein? Well I believe that you can get away with not taking whey protein. If your main goal is to lose bodyfat then I would say try and stick to real, clean food. Why? Because the main aim of any whey protein is to get digested and absorbed quickly and easily. You see where I'm going with this? If it is easily digested then the body don't need to put effort into digesting it = it won't use much energy (calories) to digest it. However when you eat clean food – ie chicken, tuna, turkey etc – your body will burn more energy by just simply digesting the food. So I would say if you need to lose a lot of weight you can stay away from whey protein. Where will you get your protein from you may ask? First of all from your food – that should be the main source. Clean food: eggs, chicken, tuna, fish, red meat, turkey etc The second most important source should be amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks for protein. There are 20-22 standard amino acids, 8-10 of which are considered essential. That means you need to supplement these because your body cannot synthesize them. There are around 14 non-essential amino acids and a lot of other metabolites that are derived from these 8 essential amino acids.
Amino acids can be used for energy. When they're used for energy, they cannot be used for building tissue and performing their other metabolic functions. Ladies, you don't need to put on too much muscle, but you still need to understand that the more muscles you have the higher your metabolism is, which means you burn more energy even when resting. So some muscles will not only look good on you but will increase your metabolism which also means you will need to eat more, too. Quite handy, isn't it?
During starvation the body releases amino acids from muscle issue to be used for energy. This also occurs during exercise and when the body runs out of carbs fuel from the diet or from glycogen stored in the muscles and liver. Unless proteins are present in the diet aminos are released, even if the body has fat for fuel.
BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) are used by muscles to supply a limited amount of energy during strenuous exercise. These are isoleucine, valine and leucine. Leucine is depleted the most frequently. Trained person's muscles use up some amounts of leucine even at rest. Complete proteins are proteins that contain the essential amino acids in amounts that are sufficient for maintenance. Incomplete proteins are usually deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids.
So my advice: regardless of your aim in training (losing weight or putting on muscle) supplementing with amino acids and BCAAs is essential.

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About the different diets: Keto, Atkins and Paleo

Women in the locker room constantly keep asking me for diet tips, telling me what they do and what they heard they should do. They're doing different diets, mostly fad diets. I believe that once you change your lifestyle and eating habits for the better and you start seeing results, you will never look back. However unfortunately many women seem to think that they can have a 'quick fix' to lose some weight by a crash diet and then go back to 'normal' which unfortunately causes all the weight and fat to come back, too.
In the following few days I will sum up some of the most popular diets, which could be a basis of how you change your eating habits.

The Ketogenic (keto) diet:

This diet is high in fats, low in carbs and moderate in protein. This diet causes the body's metabolism to shift from glucose to fat utilisation. Ketones are produced by the liver. This diet can improve several health conditions, like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy and even cancer because healthy cells can use fats for energy, however cancer cells cannot so they starve to death. When you eat high carb foods your body produces glucose and insulin. Insulin is responsible to down regulate the glucose levels in the blood stream. Insulin is also responsible for storing fat in the body. If you produce too much insulin, you put on weight – simple.
There are different types of keto diets:

  • standard keto diet: you eat 20-50 gr of net carbs / day This is the same as the induction phase of Atkins diet.
  • Targeted keto diet: you eat carbs 30-60 mins before exercise. This is an old approach however you can give it a go because not everyone is the same and what works for one might not work for others and vice versa. But just for the records: you don't need carbs before your workout.
  • Targeted keto diet alternative with no extra carbs: the idea of this approach is that your body may not need extra carbs before exercise to perform well. Again, you need to try this approach to see how you feel on it.
  • Cycling keto diet: what many bodybuilders use. You alternate keto dieting with high carb days – effectively you do carb loading. Use about 50 gr of carbs on the keto days and 300-600 gr on the high days – obviously depending on your needs and bodytypes. This is only for professional and high performing athletes, not for people wanting to lose a bit of weight.

 The Atkins diet:

The idea is that when you cut back on carbs your body turns to your fat stores for fuel. The result is that you burn body fat and your body releases a by-product called ketones that your body will use for energy.

This diet starts off as a keto diet in the induction phase. You drastically reduce your carb intake down to 20 gr, you cut out pasta, bread, potato or any starchy carb and dairy, and you only eat certain vegetables (fibres). No alcohol, no caffeine, no nuts, seeds or legumes.

After this comes the 'ongoing weight loss' phase when you add back slowly more vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, berries and other fruits and eventually wholegrains.

Then comes the phase when you might be able to add more carbs and foods back into your diet depending on your body's needs.

Because of the food limitations in this diet, especially at the beginning, you will need to supplement vitamins especially potassium, magnesium and calcium.

The paleo diet:

This diet is based on our ancestors' diets. Back in the days humans were hunters/gatherers. Then became farmers. So instead of loading up on meat, vegetables and seasonable fruits, we eat bread, pasta and grains. Back in the days grains were not part of our diet. Grains are composed of carbs and turned into glucose to be used for energy. Any glucose that isn't used for energy will turn to fat. Our modern diet is full with refined food, trans fat and sugar which leads to diseases like: obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's etc. There is a big difference between the fat content and quality of our modern grain fed animals vs grass fed wild animals. Wild meat is remarkably lean, and has relatively low amounts of saturated fats, while supplying significant amount of beneficial Omega-3 fats.

The foods that are OK to eat on a paleo diet are:

  • Grass fed lean meat, fowl (chicken, turkey, hen, duck, anything with wings), wild fish (not farmed fish), eggs, vegetables (not deep fried), oils (olive, coconut, avocado), fruits, nuts and seeds, tubers (sweet potato, yams)

If you stick to the foods you are allowed to eat on this diet you should not get fat because these foods are very nutrient densed foods so it's almost impossible to overeat.

The foods that you need to avoid on a paleo diet are:

  • Dairy, grains, processed food & sugar, legumes, starches, alcohol

 The health benefits of paleo:

  • more efficient workouts,
  • stable blood sugar,
  • burn off stored fat,
  • reduce allergies,
  • balanced energy throughout the day,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • better skin and teeth,
  • improved sleep patterns