Looking at the pros and cons of ready made meals

Ready Made Meals | Looking at the Pros and Cons of Prepackaged Food

I'm a strong believer in cooking fresh, healthy meals as often as possible. I'm also aware that for many of us, that just isn't feasible every single day. Prepackaged food can offer convenience when we have busy schedules but are they healthy? Do they offer good nutrition, balanced meals, and are they worthwhile? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of ready-made meals so we can decide.

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Ready Made Meals | Looking at the Pros and Cons of Prepackaged Food
Always feeling tired and fatigued? Have a look at this list of causes and cures for fatigue in athletes and active people

Always Tired and Fatigued? Causes & Cures for Low Energy in Athletes

Are you struggling to get out of bed in the morning because you're still tired when you wake up? How about when you feel you've no energy to head to the gym or can't make it through your workouts? Well if you're always feeling tired and fatigued, there could be a few things going on. Let's look at some causes (and the cures) for tiredness and fatigue in athletes and active people.

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Always Tired and Fatigued? Causes & Cures for Low Energy in Athletes
How to train for natural growth at the gym and build bigger muscles

Building Bigger Muscles: how to train for natural growth at the gym

With the majority of FIFO guys I've worked with, there's one question on their lips. They want to know how to build bigger muscles at the gym. And most of them want to do it naturally. What's more, I know a lot of women who would also like to grow their muscle mass too. So that's what today's post is all about - training for natural muscle growth.

In an earlier article, we looked at protein requirements for building muscle and just how quickly you can expect muscle gains. However in this post, we're going to focus on gym workout ideas, and training hacks you might like to consider.

We'll look into some of what the research says and how we can apply the science. That way, we can have evidence-based gym protocols to help you build bigger muscles.

Workout variables you can adjust to make your muscle building gym program more effective

One of the reasons I love discussing people's workout programs is that there are so many ways you can customise them.

There are loads of variables and training aspects you can alter and adjust. As a result, there will be an effect on how your muscles respond.

For example, the length of rest you take between workout sets. Additionally, how you combine your sets into the workout itself. Furthermore, the actual weight you lift and the speed you lift it. These variables will all have an effect on the muscle building potential of your gym session.

Essentially, we can decide which variable we will change to give the best results.

Ultimately we are looking for the simplest changes we can make to our gym program that will allow us to build the biggest muscles.

Now naturally when you lift weights, you'll create an 'anabolic' environment. That is to say, resistance training stimulates you muscles to grow bigger and/or stronger.

To achieve this result, your body produces androgen hormones. More specifically, growth hormone and testosterone.

Research shows that certain types of gym workouts produce more muscle-building hormones than others.

How intensity affects muscle growth in the gym

A study in Finland looked at how workout intensity affects hormones. Researchers monitored hormonal responses and recovery in eight strength athletes and eight non-athletes.

Both groups of participants lifted heavy. All 16 participants performed 'forced' and 'maximum' repetition training protocols. These are both intense gym training methods.

The maximum protocol included 4 sets of 12RM squats, with 2 minutes' recovery between sets.

On the other hand, the forced rep protocol had a heaver initial weight. In this method, participants perform around 8 reps on their own along with a further 4 with assistance.

To check testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone and blood lactate levels, the research team analyses blood samples. They noticed differences between pre- and post-workout levels.

They found that hormone levels increased significantly with both styles of gym training. However, forced reps created a higher response than the maximum rep method.

Consequently, it appears forced reps produce greater muscle growth.


Adopting forced reps into your gym workouts may help you build bigger muscles due to the increased anabolic hormone response.

How training history and lifting experience affect your ability to build bigger muscles

Comparing the differences between the athletes and non-athletes gives us an idea of how experience matters.

Looking at testosterone levels specifically, the athletes had significantly higher levels after the forced reps method.

Generally speaking, athletes are better at pushing themselves both physically and mentally. By doing so, they are able to recruit more muscle fibre.

Being able to push your boundaries and adopting mindset you need to push past failure comes with experience.

Researchers believe that forced reps might be a better approach experienced gym enthusiasts to help them build bigger muscles.

It's clear that specific training allows you to lift heavier. If you train with a partner, use them to help you push past your last rep. Using forced reps gives a better result when it comes to muscle size and strength.

How specific gym lifts can help you build bigger muscles

What difference could power cleans have over squats when it comes to muscle growth?

Indian researchers looked at lactate responses in Olympic weight lifters. Blood lactate gives an accurate picture of how intense the gym session was. Basically, the higher the lactate levels, the greater the workout intensity.

The study looked at the differences between three separate workout sessions using:

  1. One repetition
  2. Multiple sets
  3. One set

Lactate levels remained low in the one set session. After all, the rest period between sets was effectively a full day.

With multiple set training, blood lactate peaks during sets with relatively high reps with a relatively heavy weight. Interestingly, intensity was measurably lower after shorter sets with heavier weight.

Did the actual lift make a difference?

Intensity-wise, the clean and jerk produced more blood lactate than the snatch. However, from a study this small it's difficult to conclude that the Olympic lifts are better for muscle growth than more traditional gym exercises. More on regular gym exercises later.

What is clear that the more intense the weight lifting session, the greater the muscle-building effect.


In effect, using medium to heavy weights (around 75% 1RM) over longer sets in your next gym workout will help you build bigger muscles.

Differences between exercises and their effects on intensity and muscle growth

It's easy to become stuck in a rut. Additionally, humans are creatures of habit and we like simplicity. Generally, we'll stick to a similar number or reps across all exercises in our gym program. (3 x 10-12 anyone?)

Is this effective though?

Research into back squats, bench press, and biceps curls shows interesting findings.

At the same percentage of our 1RM, we can perform more reps of squats before failure than the bench press. Similarly, we can perform more bench press reps than arm curls.

This means the amount of muscle recruited in an exercise determines how many reps we can perform.

This makes complete sense, right?

We can perform more reps of exercises where more muscles are used. This is true whether you're a beginner or experienced athlete.

put it in your program

To keep that all important muscle-building intensity up, do more reps on those gym exercises that use more muscle.

Paul Stokes Perth Personal Trainer Sports Nutritionist Group Fitness Instructor Massage Therapist
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Building Bigger Muscles: how to train for natural growth at the gym
How to order a healthy takeaway without feeling guilty - blog post detailing the best takeout food options for a nutritious diet

How to Order a Healthy Takeaway | Guilt-Free Takeout Food Options

We witness the rise of UberEATS, Deliveroo, DoorDash and a whole range of other takeaway food options. It's easier than ever to have hot food delivered straight to your door at mealtimes. In this article, I'm going to look at different takeout food options you can choose to keep your diet in check. Avoid the blowout and stay sensible. By the end, you'll know how to order healthy takeaway options and not feel guilty one bit.

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How to Order a Healthy Takeaway | Guilt-Free Takeout Food Options
what makes muscles grow? Blog post detailing introduction to hypertrophy and muscle gain

What makes muscles grow? Your introduction to hypertrophy

Whether you're interested in competitive bodybuilding or not, almost everyone who enters the gym is keen to build muscle. At least grow some areas of their body, and perhaps shrink others. What makes our muscles grow though? In a process called hypertrophy, our muscles grow bigger and stronger. But how does this process work, and how can we use it to our advantage?

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What makes muscles grow? Your introduction to hypertrophy
Reverse Flyes

Reverse Flyes | Your Ultimate Guide to Performing the Rear Delt Fly

Your shoulder joints are the most flexible in your body. However, this freedom of movement comes at a price. The shoulder is a relatively unstable joint, which requires a lot of muscular control to maintain stability and normal function. One of the best ways to develop this control and complement the more common shoulder exercises performed in the gym is to incorporate reverse flyes into your routine.

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Reverse Flyes | Your Ultimate Guide to Performing the Rear Delt Fly
What is fat in the food we eat? What makes some oils healthy and other fat bad for us

What is fat? | All you need to know about fats, oils and lipids in food

When it comes to fat, it can be a little confusing with regards to which food to choose and which to avoid. For example, vegetable oils like olive oil are 100% fat. It's literally all they contain. On the other hand, a brownie is only around 23% fat. So how come olive oil is healthy and good for you, and the brownie isn't? What's going on?

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What is fat? | All you need to know about fats, oils and lipids in food
How to Stay Hydrated When It's Hot | Practical Tips for FIFO Workers

How to Stay Hydrated When It’s Hot | Practical Tips for FIFO Workers

FIFO mine sites can be hot, sweaty and dusty places. Similarly, offshore platforms get hot and humid. To the point, it feels like you've been smothered in a wet blanket if you train outside. Likewise, even if we're at home and the weather is unseasonably hot, we run the risk of dehydration. It's helpful to know how to keep well hydrated. That's whether we train outdoors in summer or just spend much of our time under the air conditioning.

It makes sense that hotter weather means a bigger risk of us suffering the effects of dehydration.

Our bodies are trying to keep everything cool. It loses fluid in doing so.

And that's just when we're going about our day to day activities.

Throw in some exercise and a hard training session or two and we really run the risk of becoming dehydrated.

Dehydration has a variety of symptoms and can be mild to severe

Surprisingly, just dropping 2% of our body weight through water loss can have a massive effect.

For example, for me being 73kg, would equate to just under 1.5 litres of fluid loss. Not that unrealistic when you think of how much you can sweat from an extended exercise session in the heat. Don't forget, you'll be breathing heavier too, and there's moisture expelled with every breath.

Effects of fluid loss performance and bone health include:

  • Lapses in concentration
  • Harder to perform and acquire skills
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Impaired reaction times
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

Using urine colour to monitor your hydration level

Perhaps the easiest way to check how hydrated we are is to look at the colour of our urine.

Basically, the darker it is, the more dehydrated we are.

Additionally, you might notice you aren't going to the toilet as much as usual. This can be another indicator that your body needs more fluid.

Check the chart below and use it to gauge your hydration status.

Urine Colour Chart - How the colour of your pee can tell you about how hydrated you are

Checking the colour of your urine is one of the simplest ways to monitor your hydration levels

A proactive approach to maintaining optimal hydration

Like many things, consistency is key.

If we want to look, feel and perform our best we want to remain consistently well hydrated.

We don't want to wait until we are dehydrated before we then take action to fix it. The best strategy is to avoid becoming dehydrated in the first place.

Healthy hydration habits

We can set up cues in our daily activities to remind us to drink. The more we are reminded, the more likely we are to take action.

Consequently, the more likely we are to form a habit of drinking more water.

Keep a water bottle in your bag. Get in the habit of checking your work bag to make sure it's there. When you grab your bag, you'll have your bottle.

Consider obtaining a CamelBak or other hydration backpack. These make it really easy for you to sip away while you work, and can even operate hands-free.

When you have breakfast, smoko, lunch or dinner - have it with a glass of water. As you collect your food, grab a cup and fill it up.

Keep a drink bottle in your room, next to your bed. You can sip away at it while you watch your Netflix series or Skype the family.

If you feel like a change, give soda water a go every now and then. You can even flavour it. Grab some fresh lemon, lime, mint or cucumber from the crib section and add it to your drinking bottle. Your water will infuse with flavours and fresh tastes.

Consider drinking tea too but look for varieties with little to no caffeine. For example, peppermint or camomile are good choices. Each cup still counts towards your daily fluid intake.

Customising your fluid intake

Everybody is different and our fluid needs will indeed be individual. Depending on your activities, health, weather conditions and fitness levels you'll require varying levels of fluid each and every day.

Remember, your needs will vary day-to-day.

So keep on top of things, adopt some new hydration habits and you'll always be good to go.

Paul Stokes Perth Personal Trainer Sports Nutritionist Group Fitness Instructor Massage Therapist
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How to Stay Hydrated When It’s Hot | Practical Tips for FIFO Workers
30 minute whole body workout using single set training

30 Minute Whole Body Workout | Effective Single Set Weight Training

This one set 30 minute whole body workout will give you lots of the benefits of a full-blown workout in a fraction of the time. We'll use an effective single set training protocol to train your muscles when time is limited. Perhaps you're looking for something quick you can do at camp on those long FIFO days. Maybe it's during your lunch break at work.

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30 Minute Whole Body Workout | Effective Single Set Weight Training

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