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So this week I had the honor to interview a person who I consider to be one of the best experts in the fitness industry.
A very humble guy and you can really see how passionate he is for what he is doing.
His name is Eric Helms.
Coach, athlete, author, educator and researcher.
Eric has been involved in the fitness industry since the early 2000’s. For the better part of his career, he’s been a coach at 3D Muscle Journey, working with drug-free strength and physique competitors at all levels. A competitive athlete himself, he has pro status with the Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association and competes with the IPF at the international level as an unequipped powerlifter.
Eric has published multiple peer-reviewed articles in exercise science and nutrition journals and writes for commercial fitness publications. He’s taught undergraduate and graduate level nutrition and exercise science and speaks internationally at academic and commercial conferences for fitness, nutrition and strength and conditioning. He has a BS in fitness and wellness, an MS in exercise science, a second masters in sports nutrition, and is a strength and conditioning Ph.D. candidate at AUT in New Zealand.
So I will write down some of the main points from the interview for those of you who prefer to read and not listen:
Lidor: How can you build your power and strength to an Elite level when you are a NATURAL LIFTER.
Eric:All it really takes is dedication, consistency, effort and being smart in your training. You always want to make sure that you use proper form and track your lifts so you can become stronger and better over time.
Lidor: If you are new to weight lifting such as “Obese”, what would be a good starting point?
Eric: It would probably be to take it one step at a time and trying not to do too much at once.
It’s important to ask yourself why you wanna do it? Why you wanna get to that goal? Because it’s gonna make you more connected to that goal. You should never make your fitness goals your one and only priority in life.
Make sure your physical goals are measurable and realistic to where you are now so you can still track your progress. A great starting point would be to start tracking food labels and get an understanding of the macronutrients ratio they eat. Being aware and measure your food, get to the gym at least 1 time per week.
Lidor: What about supplements? Are they really worth the money?
Eric: 95% of Supplements companies just want to make money. You can use www.examine.com to check all of human studies on supplements. This way you can look up at the ingredients and see if it’s useful for you or not.
Also, make sure that the supplements that you are taking make sense for your goals. If you are trying to gain muscle: creatine monohydrate will be great.
If you are trying to lose fat: a good multivitamin ( 1 tablet per day in most cases), fish oils ( for getting enough micronutrients while you are on a deficit) and caffeine. Another good supplement is Beta-Alanine, which has a good research but most people take it when they do sets of 10 or lower and not getting the benefit of it ( you have to be at least under 30 seconds work or longer).
Lidor: What do you think about meal frequency?
Eric: when it comes to meal frequency it really is personal preferences. For the best majority, going below 3 meals or higher than 6 meals per day can results in overeating/ or never satisfied when they eat small meals.
Lidor: Intermittent fasting has been a BIG thing lately, what do you think about it?
Eric: Most intermittent fasting people are usually younger males because of the leaders of the ” Intermittent fasting” and because they are usually not so hungry in the morning.
On the other hand, a lot of women gets up hungry in the morning. So that’s really important to follow a strategy that you eat when you are hungry and not when you’re not.
For those that wants to gain more muscle, 4-5 meals per day will be good enough to optimize protein synthesize during the day.
Lidor: What’s your take on BCAA supplements? And BCAA while doing a fasted training?
Eric:With BCAA or without them, what matters most is your net calories per day and that you are getting enough protein in your day. BCAA are basically more expensive version of whey. For the most part, BCAA are just overrated and most people can handle just fine without them.
If we are talking about vegetarian people, it might help a little more because their daily protein intake might be lower than people who eats meat/eggs/dairy.
If your goal is to sustain as much muscle as possible there is no benefit to fast for too long and you won’t get any bad effects by using a scoop of whey in your fasting windows.
Lidor: What do you think about Time Under Tension?
Eric: I believe time under tension is just overrated. When we talk about gaining more muscle it all comes down to PROGRESSIVELY OVERLOAD.
Tension is important for bodybuilding and muscle growth but it’s not that important like getting stronger over time and increasing your total volume which is REPSXSETSXWEIGHT LIFTED
You always want to control the weights and not letting the weights control you because this way your form will be poor and you can get injured. If you are a physique athlete, you want to have both of the eccentric and the concentric volume and never go to total failure.
I would suggest starting with RDL ( Romanian Deadlift), this way you start with slow eccentric at the beginning of the movement.
Lidor: What about supersets/ drop sets/ giant sets/ strip sets and so on? Are there any benefits with them?
Eric: Again, total volume is the key element of training, and doing those kinds of techniques is really hard to track progression with. If you are serious about improving, gaining more muscle and strength, you have to focus on the bigger picture which is focusing on compound movements, progression and increasing total volume over time. Yes, you can use those techniques but not too much that it can really become hard to track your progress.
Lidor: What about rest periods?
Eric: Unless you have a very limited time, you don’t want to reduce your rest periods. If you rest enough you can produce more volume which means more growth. A great strategy to use if you are limited in time is using an Agonist- Antagonist super sets.
Examples for this will be doing 2 exercise one after another like: back-chest, biceps-triceps, quadriceps- hamstring.
Lidor: One of the biggest issues with people is CARDIO, what do you think about cardio and what would you consider “optimal” for a fat loss process?
Eric: For most people, 30-60 mins, 3-4 days a week will be enough.If you are a large/ obese person, cardio is less optimal. If you do so, 1-2 sessions per week for a start, 30-40 mins each.
Cardio is a great tool but always remember that your main focus is CALORIE RESTRICTION and making sure you put yourself into a calorie deficit.
Lidor: How is HIIT for burning more fat? And does HIIT make your metabolism go higher?
Eric: Hiit might burn a little more calories and make your daily expenditure rise a little but the amounts are small so there is no big different if we look at this from a fat loss point of view.
As a strength/ physique athlete you want to keep your Hiit/ cardio to a degree it won’t interferes to your weight training. A good example for HIIT would be cycling/rowing/ light weight barbell complex. Sprints won’t be good because it has a lot of impact on your hamstrings so instead, you might wanna do hill sprints.
Lidor: What do you think about a “DIET BREAK” or “REVERSE DIET”?
Eric: A diet break is defiantly something you want to do. Every 4-8 weeks you should do a diet break where you go back to your maintenance calorie intake.This way you will have much more energy both physically and mentally and you can go back to your diet after 2 weeks of eating on maintenance.
Reverse diet, on the other hand, is not really necessary.The only way to gain fat is going directly to surplus from a deficit. So if you just finished your diet, you can add your calories back to your new maintenance calories.
By new I mean you will have to eat lower calories because your weight is lighter than before.
That’s it for this interview guys.
Hope you learned from Eric as much as I did.
If you want to check more about Eric Helms you can find him here:
and you can also check his books here:
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