is an expert on how to use food to build muscle and improve your
health. This topic is also the focus of his latest book, Unlock
Your Muscle Gene, and I've learned a lot from him personally
on how to optimize nutrition to enhance exercise performance.
Like Ori, I
too believe that, as a species, humans are not designed to be overweight
and unfit; we're actually genetically programmed to be lean and
muscular, with potential for extreme longevity. Unfortunately,
most people are not fulfilling this genetic promise due to inactivity
and poor diet. Even those who exercise regularly have trouble reaching
the lofty goals Ori talks about.
Part of the
problem is choosing ineffective forms of exercise.
I learned about the benefits of high-intensity interval training,
which I termed "Peak 8," my physique has changed dramatically
despite the fact that I've been exercising regularly for over 40
years. I used to run, so I wasn't exercising my super-fast, white
muscle fibers. Once I started, the metamorphosis was quite dramatic.
I believe the
excessive focus on cardio may be part of the reason why so many
are not seeing very dramatic improvements in their physique. Ori
that most cardiovascular exercise is "junk exercise." It's like,
they eat junk food, and they do junk exercise. People feel they
are moving but they don't really progress."
belief is that if you want to build muscle, you need to eat lots
of protein and carbohydrates because carbohydrates fuel your muscles.
However, the evidence that has emerged over the past several years
shows us it's not that simple.
one amazing finding in particular that your body has a mechanism
that allows it to build muscle even when deprived of food.
As it turns
out, amino acids and protein serve not just as building blocks for
tissues and muscle. Certain amino acids can also signal genes in
your muscle to grow and to build protein, and they do that even
during times of food deprivation as long as these amino acids are
circulating through your blood stream.
have found that the ratio between protein and carbohydrates is critically
important, especially as you age. Research shows that high-carbohydrate
diets fail to build muscle even in younger people. Again and again,
it's the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that proves
the most effective both for muscle building and weight loss.
So, there are
two primary factors involved in effective fitness nutrition:
must contain certain amino acids, the most notable of which is
A Powerful Muscle Builder
part of branched-chain amino acid found in certain foods. It serves
multiple functions in your body, one of which is signaling the mTOR
(Mammalian Target of Rapamycin) mechanism, which causes protein
to be created and builds your muscle. However, according to Ori,
you need far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of
leucine in order to reap the optimal effect.
need massive amounts of this amino acid," Ori says.
concentrations of leucine and other branched chain amino acids (BCAA)
are found in dairy products; particularly quality cheese and whey
though leucine is relatively abundant in our food supply, it is
often wasted as an energy substrate or used as a building block
rather than an anabolic agent. This means that to establish the
right anabolic environment, you should try to increase leucine consumption
beyond maintenance requirements. This is why Ori states
you need "massive amounts" of it.
that only FOOD BASED leucine can benefit your muscles without side
effects. Using leucine as a free form amino acid can be highly counterproductive.
administration of free form amino acids including leucine has shown
to cause severe hyperglycemic reactions and insulin resistance.
Apparently, when free form amino acids are artificially administrated,
they rapidly enter your circulation while disrupting insulin
function, and impairing your body's glycemic control.
again that we're programmed to benefit from whole food nutritiononly.
So how much
leucine in the form of foods, NOT supplements, do you need to consume
to get results?
Based on nitrogen-balance
measurements, the requirement for leucine to maintain body protein
is 1-3 grams daily. And to optimize its anabolic pathway, it has
been estimated that leucine requirement should be about 8g - 16g
daily. The following chart presents leucine content in common foods:
Content in food / per 100g
that to get the minimum 8 gram leucine requirement for anabolic
purposes, you need the following amounts of food:
and a half of chicken
over a pound
of almonds (over 3000 calories)
over a pound
and a half of raw eggs (16 eggs)
half a pound
of raw cheddar cheese
only 3oz of high-quality whey.
As you can
see, whey protein supplementation can effectively allow you to get
the minimum leucine you need to build muscle without consuming excessive
amounts of food and calories.
Not All Carbs
are Created Equal
You also need
to pay attention to the quality and type of carbohydrates. You can
get your carbs from high fructose corn syrup, or from breads and
pasta, or from vegetables. The source makes a major difference.
why carbohydrates often fail is the glycemic index," Ori explains.
"If carbohydrates are simple, they spike your insulin. Many still
don't understand that after just one high-glycemic meal your insulin
receptors are already becoming less sensitive. So when you have
your second high-carb meal, you don't utilize the carbohydrates
fibrous carbohydrates are best. Nuts and seeds like almonds and
chia seeds also contain carbohydrates, but they're low on the glycemic
index, and they also contain good protein.
Both Ori and
I agree that grains are rarely an ideal sources of carbs
even though there are lower glycemic grains such as oats and barley.
clearly at the bottom of the list, for a wide range of reasons.
For those of you who may protest, saying that fructose is low on
the glycemic index, it's important to realize that fructose adversely
affects insulin (and leptin) signaling, and that is a major, if
not THE most important, factor determining whether a food is good
for you or not.
a critical element in your body. Your liver detects insulin activity,
which helps your body determine how to metabolize your food.
you eat carbohydrates that spike your insulin, your liver knows
exactly how to regulate your sugar metabolism," Ori explains.
"But when you eat fructose, you fool the liver because in nature,
fructose hardly ever appears alone in food. When we isolate fructose…
your liver can utilize only so much and then, since insulin is not
spiked, there is accumulation of by-products from the sugar metabolism
in your liver to the point that it causes insulin resistance
in the liver itself.
liver starts to throw out by-products and your body shifts into
a state of insulin resistance. Worse, your body converts these by-products
to triglycerides… So now you got insulin resistance, high lipids,
and hypertension. The correlation between fructose, diabetes, and
obesity is clear and proven."
You can add
heart disease to that list of likely inevitabilities too, because
fructose raises triglycerides and lowers HDL ("good" cholesterol),
and the triglycerides to HDL ratio is one of the most potent predictors
of cardiovascular disease we know of.
Leads to Muscle Wasting
multiple functions in your body. It helps mobilize or signal a certain
kind of protein to mobilize glucose from outside your cells, and
it's a satiety hormone that affects your hunger. It's also closely
inter-connected with another hunger-regulating hormone: leptin.
it's part of the mechanism mentioned earlier called mTOR, which
is part of the insulin pathway. The mechanism that builds
protein in your muscles is part of the insulin cascade pathway as
well. It cannot be bypassed.
in order to build protein in the muscle and grow muscle, must activate
the mTOR mechanism, which activates what's called the "eukaryotic
initiation factor" that…signals the muscle to build protein. If
your insulin receptors are insensitive, like with type 2 diabetes,
muscle wasting is inevitable. So you must keep your insulin receptors
can also activate the mTOR mechanism, such as testosterone (the
anabolic effect of IGF-1) and, indirectly, human growth hormone
(HGH) as it relates to IGF-1.
Between Human Growth Hormone and Hunger
hormone is an anabolic hormone that also plays a role in hunger,
along with the other hunger-regulating hormones, insulin and leptin.
say you are on a vegan diet, you eat a lot of whole grains, some
pea protein, and some nuts," Ori says. "I can tell you
now, your chances to build muscle are very slim. In fact, your chances
to burn fat are also very slim. This is a serious problem.
against veganism. If it's done in a smart way it could be effective.
In fact, I highly recommend the lacto-vegetarian diet. If you don't
want to eat meat because of humane reason, I respect that. But the
lacto-vegetarian diet has proven to be the most effective…
more science about the anabolic effect and the health benefit of
milk protein than any other protein group in the world, more than
meat, fish, and eggs. It's important to eat a high protein diet
to build muscle along with low-glycemic carbohydrates."
remembering here that your ancestors didn't eat pasta or refined
carbs. They ate animal products, dairy, nuts, seeds, fruits and
vegetables. So why would you suddenly need those types of carbs
to grow muscle today?
is, how did our ancestors manage to be so physically active while
resisting hunger and sometimes lack of food, yet be in such great
shape? We evolved to compensate for that," Ori says.
the interesting things that happened is a process in your liver
that converts amino acid to glucose. It's called the glucose-alanine
cycle. It's one of the most efficient, primitive, and strong mechanisms
in the human body.
is so efficient in converting amino acid to glucose for energy that
it… releases to your blood exactly the amount of glucose you need
during times of lack of food or physical activity."… [W]hen you
exercise on an empty stomach, your body will use amino acids for
breakage of tissue."
muscles are not the primary or only source, despite the fact that
they are reservoirs of protein, so you don't need to worry that
you're breaking down muscle.
other peripheral tissue will try to break mostly the inactive muscle,"
Ori explains. "In the active muscle, there's a preservation mechanism
a very interesting phenomenon of "muscle shifting." If you
know how to eat and when to eat… your body becomes very efficient
in redesigning itself. The active muscle will build. The less active
part will be recycled.
will be recycled.
going back to glucose during that condition of semi-fasting
and exercising, or if you just eat protein before exercising, your
body will be extremely efficient in using exactly the amount of
glucose that you need and no more. It's perfect efficiency.
you eat a carbohydrate meal you shut down this mechanism; it doesn't
exist anymore. Most people eat carbohydrate meals before exercise
and then they hit the wall."
of INTENSE Exercise
most people engage in the least effective type of exercise.
Jogging and endurance training typically does not involve sufficient
intensity to effectively shed excess fat and build muscle. You'll
burn calories, yes, but you're not developing your body and regular
aerobic training can even cause your testosterone levels to decrease;
sometimes dramatically, according to Ori's research.
This is just
as important for women as it is for men.
female, unlike other females in the animal kingdom, is ready to
mate all year round. When you look at the human size, there's not
a big difference between men and women, as you see with other animals.
Take the male gorilla versus the female gorilla, for example; the
difference is huge. Same with the chimpanzees, tigers and wolves.
But with humans, the females are sometimes as big as the male, or
not that far away.
high testosterone, which is a potency or libido hormone for women
… So we
are a testosterone driven species. We cannot allow losing this hormone.
Yet we live in an environment that femininizes us with chemicals,
with the wrong foods, and with the wrong exercise.
is not always beneficial. Sometimes it can be counter-effective.
If exercise uses your testosterone; if it creates bad body composition,
meaning wasting of muscle and building of fat; if it exhausts you,
then it's not good for you.
age, you really need to be smart with the way you exercise. You
can't just waste energy… You really need to know what to do, how
to exercise, how to eat and what to eat."
To sum up the
subject of carbohydrates, Ori says:
is nothing wrong with eating carbohydrates if you just want to enjoy
them, as a certain kind of a fuel that is very efficient for glycogen
reserve. But it's not a necessary food to build muscle, and it could
become problematic when it's overused in ratio to protein.
foods are mostly grains, potatoes, starchy food, the endosperm of
the grain and stuff like that. That is a carbohydrate food. Beans
and peas are arguable whether they are really carbohydrates. They
are more protein food in my opinion. The carbs are very complex
seed like chia seeds, which I really like by the way… have very
good composition. At the end of the day, this is a protein food."
also have the highest omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of any of the seeds
out there and could easily be called a super-food. As for
protein, one of the best sources of high-quality protein is whole
whey made from grass-fed cows. As discussed above, it's also a marvelous
source of leucine, which you need in abundance if you want to boost