The Red (meat) Menace

I haven’t updated Keentopia in forever, and with the flurry of activity related to the recent “study” that jumped to the conclusion that red meat is bad for you, it’s probably time for some quick thoughts.

First, both Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf have done a good job dissecting the most recent study and showing how silly it is.

For more general inquiries related to the harm of “animal proteins”, the short answer is that there is nothing particularly problematic about them. Far more harmful proteins exist in plants, as dangerous proteins are part of the evolutionary strategy of plants to prevent from being eaten. With animals, their defense against being eaten occurs while they are alive, leaving a safe product once those defenses are overwhelemed. In practical terms, however, eaters of red meat tend to eat things WITH their red meat that cause problems or eat red meat in a form that is unhealthy.

The new Red Scare: 'Are you now or have you ever been an eater of steaks in the United States?'

Now as far as red meat or meat in general causing health problems, there really is no evidence indicating that to be the case and plenty of evidence — and logical deduction — indicating that it should be healthy. There are lots of studies that came to that conclusion, but they are so poorly done as to be worse than worthless. The particular study currently being bandied about was based off of surveys that participants filled out to get data and determine patterns in various food consumption and behaviors. I pay a LOT of attention to what I eat, but I cannot tell you what I ate a week ago, or two weeks ago. Yet the participants in this study were asked to recall, over periods of YEARS, how much meat they had eaten. It’s an incredibly inaccurate way of getting information. Any conclusion based on data that poorly obtained is no conclusion at all.

That being said, there are associative issues with meat consumption that people miss. First, hamburgers. While ground beef is not necessarily problematic, most beef (65%) is sold via retail stores and of that, most of that (60%) is consumed in hamburger form[1]. So you have people eating “meat”, yes, but it’s wrapped in two pieces of wheat, providing a shot of allergernic gluten and 45g of carbs. Then, of course, the patty is slathered in who-knows-what sauce, and consumed with a soda or a side of fries dipped in who-knows-what ketchup. Add in the further problems of most cows being fed corn (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids) and you have altered the natural fat content of beef from one high in omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) to one that is high in omega-6 (pro-inflammatory). And of course when people eat something that SHOULD be healthy, like a steak, you have the same problem: they eat it with a potato on the side, covered in who-knows-what, dip the steak in sugary steak sauce, and start the meal with a roll and end it with dessert.

All of these “problems” can be avoided by 1) not eating garbage alongside meat, 2) eating grass-fed and free range meat when possible, or 3) barring that, get lean cuts of meat so the diet of the animal doesn’t impact you so much.

And, finally, keep in mind that if red meat were unhealthy, you would not be here today and neither would the rest of us. The megafauna on the north american continent didn’t drop dead of their own accord; they were hunted and eaten into tasty, tasty extinction.

As for further reading on what foods you actually should avoid, check out Kurt Harris’ Paleo Diet 2.0, where he talks about the triple threat of 1) gluten, 2) excess omega-6 fatty acids, specifically lineoleic acid, and 3) excess fructose.

Anything by Robb Wolf, including his book, The Paleo Diet Solution is also a good choice. I’ll leave this here for now, but might very come back and add to it. Then again, the people promoting this nonsense aren’t putting up a very good fight. You think they would try harder. Perhaps lack of protein has made them weak.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. USDA beef consumption data: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ldp/Oct05/ldpm13502/ldpm13502.pdf

The new USDA food recommendations aren’t even worse — they are the same.

Some of you may have noticed last week that the government unveiled a “revolutionary” change in the dietary advice they’ve been giving us for years. Instead of the old food pyramid model, they have now given us a “plate” to show what their ideal diet looks like.

Image courtesy of the USDA -- though we all paid for it.

You’ll notice that this new format looks like it’s better than the old food pyramid. Many health blogs — even those who disagree with the recommendations exactly as stated — have still commended the USDA for increasing the vegetable recommendations and generally leading people towards better health. But are they? Or is this the same old garbage just repackaged in a different format?

I’m a bit of a math nerd and the first thought I had when I first saw the new Plate-style recommendation was that it was no different at all from the grain-based pyramid, but was only a different visual representation. Some further investigation reveals that this is not too far off from what’s going on. Let’s examine:

The old food pyramid (ignoring the sliced vertical pyramid which everyone ignored for 3 years) had the following breakdown:

  • 6-11 servings bread/grains
  • 2-4 servings fruit
  • 3-5 servings veg
  • 2-3 servings dairy
  • 2-3 servings meat

If you break all this out, you’ll see that grains equate to 40% of the recommended diet, dairy works out to 14%, meat at 13%, veg at 20%, and fruit at 13%. Now, keep in mind that this is “servings.” So what constitutes a serving?

  • Grains: Slice of bread, 1oz cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked rice/pasta
  • Fruit: 1 medium apple/banana/orange
  • Vegetable: 1 cup of raw, leafy veg or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables (e.g. broccoli)
  • Dairy: 1 cup of milk/yogurt or 2 oz cheese

Due to the relative nutrient (and physical) density of these things, though, portion size does NOT equate to calorie content or the government’s endorsed portion size — and I think this is what people are missing. The old pyramid equated 2 servings of rice to about the size of a tennis ball, and gave roughly the same size to ONE serving of broccoli. Thus, in terms of volume, one serving of vegetables is equivalent to two servings of grains. This about.com page discusses the government-approved portion estimations.

You’ll note that there really isn’t an example where 2 servings of grains are not equal, in terms of portion size, to 1 serving of vegetables or fruit. A serving of fruit or veg is roughly the size of a fist, whereas the same volume of grains is roughly 2 servings as per the government. Taking all that into account, the OLD usda food pyramid was calling for a plate that looked like this:

The "Old" USDA recommendations -- same as the new ones.

Look familiar? The notably absent “dairy” group would go right next to this as a cup of milk or yogurt with each meal. In other words, the new recommendations are almost identical to the old pyramid. It was wrong then, and it’s still wrong now. Any perceived changes in these new recommendations are in presentation or imagination — but certainly not in fact.

I’m not exactly thrilled my tax dollars are going to fund this type of nonsense.

Which whey?

I’ve written before about the importance of protein. Whether you are looking to build strength, or just lazily keep yourself in decent shape, protein is absolutely crucial for building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscle mass, by the way, is that stuff that comprises the real you. Fat, after a certain point, is pretty worthless. Lean mass is the “real, metabolically active you”, as DeVany would say. Protein is important, but it is woefully lacking in many people’s diets. Carbs and bad fats form the basis of most people’s diets and so trying to get enough protein from whole meals can be daunting. This is particularly true if you’re eating out or traveling frequently, as restaurants cater to the average joe and think that 20g of protein in a chicken breast constitutes a meal. Fun fact: even a CHICKEN needs about 24g of protein a day. As the dominant species, you have a moral responsibility to eat more protein than the animals upon which you are feeding.

That being the case, we still have the problem of trying to get enough protein is a society where protein is an afterthought. Enter: protein powder. There are many kinds — and brands — of protein powder and most of them are garbage. To cover the major types of protein:

Whey Protein

The classic protein, derived from milk, is popular due to its rapid absorption, low allergenic potential, and high bio-availability. Whey is the most popular protein and most of the protein you’ll find will be whey protein. This is the stuff you want to consume pre and post-workout.

Casein Protein

Also derived from milk, casein is the more complete, slower absorbing protein. Casein is whey’s bigger, stronger, older brother. It turns into a gel in the stomach and slowly provides amino acids over a longer time. Many studies also show greater muscle mass gain and retention when supplementing with casein instead of whey or in addition to whey. Particularly, micellar casein is the kind to get. Casein is very thick and you will need about twice the liquid you would use for whey. Some people don’t like the thickness or texture, but I think it grows on you.

Egg Protein

Can’t handle milk-derived proteins? Get some egg protein. You can actually just buy huge tubs of powdered egg whites, which are great for mixing in to meal-replacement smoothies. Egg protein doesn’t mix well without a blender, so keep that in mind. It’s bioavailability is very high (your body can use all of it) so this is definitely something you want around if you stock a few different proteins.

Soy Protein

This stuff is garbage. Don’t even think about it.

Things to Avoid

Some pitfalls for the protein buyer are the excess of crappy, celebrity proteins and cheap blends using dairy-process byproducts and heat-deformed proteins packed with filler and unnecessary ingredients. A disturbing number of proteins contain soy protein, wheat protein (gluten), wheat starch, vegetable oils, and even trans fats! Like many other things, you are better off with fewer ingredients.

Recommended Proteins

Taking the above into consideration, I have a few recommendations for protein. My favorite brand is Optimum Nutrition. They have done a good job keeping excess ingredients out of their proteins and even offer natural varieties with Stevia instead of Splenda (sucralose). The best source for protein (And any supplement) is bodybuilding.com. Their selection is huge, their service is phenomenal, and I’m pretty sure they ship their stuff by launching products out of a huge cannon, because my orders arrive within 48 hours. Optimum has excellent flavors of whey and casein, and I recommend getting at least one of each so that you have a more complete blend of proteins and have some flavors to mix and match.

Natural Whey (no artificial sweeteners): http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/opt/natwhey.html
ON Whey: http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/opt/whey.html

Natural Casein (no artificial sweeteners): http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/opt/naturalcas.html
ON Casein: http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/opt/cas.html

The non-natural versions contain splenda (sucralose) so don’t get those if you are trying to avoid that. Also, the “cookies and creme” flavor, while delicious, contains actual cookies (and therefore wheat), so avoid that one as well. You won’t be disappointed with any of the flavors. The natural vanilla — for whey or casein — is excellent, as is the chocolate and strawberry whey. I’d recommend getting a vanilla, a chocolate, and maybe a banana creme casein so you have plenty to mix and match. Make sure you get a whey and a casein for a more complete protein. I tend to have a scoop of each prior to a workout, and if I make meal-replacement smoothies I’ll have about 3 scoops of casein and 1 of whey. I frequently put a scoop of casein on top of some berries and cream/coconut milk for dessert. You can also mix it in with yogurt, Kefir, or cottage cheese for some added protein and flavor. Martin Berkhan at Leangains has a recipe for “protein fluff” on his site, so that may be worth checking out too. Whatever you decide, adding some protein will help you feel full and give some much needed nutrition if your diet is lacking or if you are engaged in heavy weightlifting.

For those of you who aren’t in engaged in heavy lifting, protein supplementation can still benefit you if you replace inferior/junk calories with protein. Some will argue that excess calories from protein will merely make you fat if they are not burned. While true, won’t the excess calories from ice cream, a candy bar, or chips make you fat too? The difference is that ice cream, candy bars, and chips don’t fill you up and will make you hungrier, whereas protein will make you less hungry. Protein Powder mixed with coconut milk or heavy cream and poured over some berries makes a great ice-cream like snack, and of course I’ve provided a recipe for protein ice-cream before. Finally, protein’s true caloric value is likely much less than 4 calories per gram due to a higher Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). Conventional wisdom equates protein and carb calories at 4 calories per gram, but new studies are blowing this notion away, suggesting that protein may only be 3.2 calories per gram. Fewer calories? Less blood sugar spike? More appetite suppression? What’s not to love?

Protein “Ice Cream”

Over the past couple years, I’ve played around with tons of high-protein, low-carb substitutes for common recipes with great success. The biggest things I’ve figured out? 1) Most people don’t notice if things normally full of sugar have a little less total sweetness and 2) You can almost perfectly substitute sugar with some protein powder and honey/maple syrup/coconut nectar or other sweetener of your choice. The texture remains the same, the sweetness is a little less (see point #1), and it holds together roughly the same.

In the case of ice cream, however, you’re really just going for taste and a creamy texture with a little bit of granularity (normally from sugar). That makes things easier, and I’ve found that almost anything you can blend into a smoothie can be turned into a frozen treat with just a little bit of love and an ice cream maker. One of my favorites lately has been almond butter/banana ice cream. I make this smoothie all the time, but lately I’ve been freezing it up a few nights a week and just eating it like ice cream. It’s fantastic.

You’ll need:

    1 scoop Banana Casein
    1 scoop Chocolate Casein (or chocolate cake batter — I use natural chocolate)
    1 scoop Vanilla casein (I use the natural kind)
    1 scoop vanilla (or chocolate) whey — (again, the natural kind).
    1 Banana
    1 Spoonful of Almond butter (2 15mL tablespoons if you measure it exactly — kitchen spoons are not “tablespoons”)
    1 Spoonful of flax seed (option)
    2 TBSP Coconut milk or cream (half and half would probably work too)

Stick all that in a blender with the least amount of ice and water you can possibly use to fully blend the protein and everything together. Put it in your ice cream maker for about 20-30 minutes or until it resembles…ice cream. Eat it. It’s delicious. And for that, you’re getting:

    105g protein
    50g Carbs (10g from fiber)
    30g fat
    900 total calories

AKA — awesome! This recipe will either feed one hungry caveman or provide dessert for about 4 normal people. I’d say that this is probably “4 servings” for most people, keeping in mind that protein makes you full very fast. Compared to the nutrition profile of Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice cream, each serving has 20g more protein, 11g less fat, 10g less carbs (and added fiber), 12g less sugar, and 45 fewer calories. It stores pretty well, so feel free to eat it over a few days or halve the amounts if you don’t want to save some.

You can probably get by with fewer flavors of protein if you don’t keep a huge stock like I do. Two scoops of chocolate whey and two of banana casein OR two scoops of chocolate casein and two of banana whey would probably work just fine if you only want to buy two tubs of protein. Keep in mind that some of the protein powders I linked to do have Splenda (sucralose) in them, which I find to be disturbingly sweet in large quantities. I prefer to use the natural protein (with some stevia only) as much as possible to reduce that. If you don’t mind a little extra sweetness and artificial sweetner, you could definitely just use two scoops chocolate and two scoops banana.

One simple rule for lazy dieters

Don’t feel like cutting grains and other modern foods out of your diet? Not big on exercising? Can’t be bothered to cook a single meal yourself? No problem, I’ve got you covered.

This rule won’t provide many of the benefits that you’d get from eliminating modern foods from your diet, intermittently fasting, or strength training and exercising, but if you can absolutely do nothing else, do this one thing:

Every time you eat (or drink), consume more protein than carbs

Ask yourself: What’s the point of eating? At the most basic level, you eat calories to fuel bodily functions and to avoid starvation. Most of us aren’t faced with starvation and therefore don’t have to choose between chewing leaves and dying from lack of food. That being the case, I recommend viewing the consumption of protein as the primary biological purpose of eating. Consuming protein should be your goal, and everything else should just come along for the ride. In short: The purpose of eating is to consume protein.

Here’s the deal: Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate, and Alcohol are the 4 macro-nutrients that are likely to comprise your food. Of these, Carbohydrate and Alcohol are completely non-essential. While bourbon is delicious, you don’t need alcohol and your body can manufacture plenty of glucose (carbohydrate) via a neat process called gluconeogenesis (literally, new sugar creation) from the protein and fat you consume. You could, in theory, eat a zero-carb diet indefinitely and be fine. Fat is also essential, but only in limited amounts. You could get by on just protein for quite sometime. Even trace amounts of fat with your protein would allow you to survive for a very long time. I’m not recommending a starvation diet at all, I am just pointing out that protein is the one macro you can’t cut out and so protein consumption emerges as the major biological purpose of eating.

Not only is protein the most essential macronutrient, it’s also the most satiating. Fat mildly satiates the appetite and carbohydrate increases it. Taking fat out of the equation, you can think of carbohydrate like an appetite accelerator and protein like an appetite brake. The idea is that if you’re braking more than you’re accelerating, you will slow down. When you have carbs, you typically want more calories; there is a reason restaurants bring you bread before you order. Protein, on the other hand, fills you up fast and is all but impossible to overeat. Most people who don’t engage in heavy strength training have a tough time eating more than 100g of protein per day, which is about the amount found in 1.25 pounds (20oz) of meat or a dozen eggs. The USDA recommended daily allowance for protein is a mere ~50-60g for adults. Let’s say someone eats double the USDA recommended daily protein allowance, eating 120g of protein per day. If they followed my one rule above, let’s look at what their day could look like:

120g protein = 480 calories
120g carbohydrate = 480 calories
100g fat = 900 calories

For a total of 1860 calories — a perfectly reasonable amount of food for your average joe (or jane). In my experience, you’d be hard-pressed to find a non-athlete who would not get stuffed consuming 120g of protein per day. To the contrary, I have struggled to get people I’ve trained in the past (especially girls) to consume that much protein. Most people simply aren’t used to it and have no idea how filling it is. If you follow no other guideline, simply consume more protein than carbs anytime you ingest calories. You can get away with simply eating more protein than carbs and just ignoring fat because it’s also difficult to eat pure fat. Most fat comes along with protein and carbs so as long as you keep your protein intake higher than your carb intake you will most certainly keep fat low as well. I eat quite a bit of fat by most people’s standards (butter on steak, anyone?) and my fat intake is rarely more than 100g in a day.

Does following this rule require a little bit of work, in terms of getting to know what foods contain how much protein and carbs? Yeah, it does. But it’s easier than anything else you’re going to do diet-wise. This is as easy as it gets, and if you pay any attention whatsoever to what you put in your body you should get the hang of this in a week or two. If you’re doing serious strength training or engaged in heavy exercise, this will likely not work for you. If you are a typical gym-goer who just does some cardio and basic weight-training on machines and bosu balls, this would be fine as you aren’t doing enough to require more nutrients. For your average joe office worker, this would work fine and would definitely keep you out of trouble.

Just to cover a few examples:
-Soda: Not OK. Don’t even think about it. Diet soda is OK occasionally with food. Not by itself.
-A Sandwich/Sub: Nope. Anywhere from 20g to 60g of carbs. Good luck finding that much meat on a sandwich.
-Wraps with lots of meat in them: probably a good substitute for a sandwich or sub as you might get 40-50g of protein and only 20g of carbs.
-Pretzels/chips/nuts: If you have a small amount with a big piece of chicken or steak, sure. By themselves as a “snack”? Nope.

Most restaurants provide pitiful amounts of meat in their dishes. If you get something like a chicken Caesar salad, you will invariably have to request double (or even triple) chicken. Keep this in mind when ordering at restaurants and try to stick to whole cuts of meat with defined sizes (e.g 8oz chicken breast, 6oz pork chops) and vegetable/carb accompaniments to meet the rule. You will have to lookup the carb content of a few things like fruits, vegetables, and anything else you eat and start to get a sense for how much volume contains how much carbohydrate and, of course, do the same for meat.

Remember: the point of eating is to consume protein. If you aren’t eating protein, you shouldn’t be eating. If you make a point to always eat protein when you eat and then always eat more protein than carbs, you will keep yourself out of trouble. What about drinking? Stick to liquor and sometimes wine — stay away from beer and sugary mixed drinks. For aspiring professionals, Martin Berkhan has some good advice about how to get drunk, not fat.

Pyramid of Strength v1.0

What’s the most important factor necessary for getting strong? And what’s the order of importance? Is it diet or training? Is training 3x per week better than 5x or 10x per week? Squats or deadlifts? Here is your answer, subject to future revision because I — unlike the pope — do not claim to be infallible:

Pyramid of Strength

Keenan's pyramid of Strength v1.0 - Progressive Overload & Protein are key

Notice what is NOT on this list: 20 reps of bosu-ball curls, tricep kickbacks, or anything involving a shakeweight. Also not here is “whole grains”, soy protein, or the newest superberry from the amazon.

Progressive Overload

Heavy, progressive Overload is the most important factor in gaining strength. I don’t care what you’re eating, how often you’re training, or what training protocol you are following — if you aren’t lifting more weight, you will not get stronger. At least, not enough to matter. When I say Progressive Overload, I mean lifting more weight for less than 8 reps and continuing to increase your real or estimated 1 rep-max.

What about workout frequency? Irrelevant. Lift as often as you want and can physically handle — as long as your strength is going up, you are making progress. If you are lifting too often and your strength starts to plateau or backslide for a couple consecutive weeks, lift less. HOW you get to lift more weight is much less important than actually lifting more weight. If 5×5 works for you, great. If reverse pyramids are your thing, awesome. But progression is everything, and if you aren’t putting more weight on the bar as fast as you can without injuring yourself, you are just wasting your time.

Protein

You can get strong in the face of a crappy diet, provided you focus on progressive overload. It’s not recommended, but it can be done. For this reason, protein comes in 2nd in importance. Remember: this article is about strength, not fat loss or quality of life. I think you should eat a diet that facilitates maximum strength AND quality of life (read: A high-protein paleo diet) but just in terms of pure muscle development, you need to get yourself some protein.

Protein IS food. If you aren’t eating protein, you aren’t really eating and you will be hungry every couple of hours. Protein from plants doesn’t count and protein from grains/bread/beans make you bleed internally. Complete proteins — from animal sources — should be the focus of each and every meal AND snack. Protein should form the base of your food pyramid as well, but that’s a different post for a different day.

Try to shoot for 1g per 1lb of bodyweight each day at a minimum. It is almost impossible to overeat protein, so go to town, especially if you are getting it from lean sources. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that protein’s Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is higher than previously thought and it should only count for 3.2 calories per gram instead of 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrate, by comparison, counts for 4 calories per gram, alcohol counts for 7 calories per gram, and fat counts for 9. Because protein is also the most satiating macronutrient, it makes sense to start there. Protein powders are a good addition to your diet, particularly a good Micellar Casein or Egg protein. I have started to use less whey as I have read more research suggesting that Casein and Egg protein result in greater satiety and greater strength/muscle gains. My own experience in recent months provides further credence to these claims. Whey is still fine, but look at Casein and Egg protein to comprise the bulk of your protein supplementation and, of course, eat plenty of good quality meats.

Sex, Supplements, Sun

In this category belongs anything you can reasonably and naturally do to get your testosterone levels up. I don’t take — or advocate taking — steroids, but there are plenty of good ways to get your T levels sky-high without resorting to the juice:

  • Eat more meat, eggs, and butter: Cholesterol builds testosterone
  • Get more sun: Specifically, with the help of the sun, cholesterol builds testosterone
  • Get more vitamin D: 5,000 IUs a day is a good place to start, though you can get by with less if you get more sunlight. Vitamin D is a very safe supplement and you’re better off having too much than not enough. That being said, home tests are readily available to check your own and make sure you have enough. Vitamin D is a testosterone booster, fights cancer, and makes you feel better.
  • Sex: Boosts testosterone. Get some or take care of yourself.
  • Girls: Testosterone isn’t just for guys. The amount of testosterone in your body is minuscule compared to a guy’s levels. An average female level for girls in their late 20’s is about 60-70ng/dL. For guys the same age it is 10x as much: 600-700ng/dL. There is absolutely no comparison. Even if you boost your T-levels by 20%, you would still have 1/8th the testosterone of an average guy. You will not get masculine unless you start taking steroids — really. Because of that, you should aim to increase you testosterone levels, naturally, through sun, sex, and supplements just like a guy would. It will improve your athletic performance, even out your mood, and generally make you feel more awesome. There is absolutely zero chance that taking such measures would make you become masculine. You would have to take steroids for that.

    Guys: You can’t have too much Testosterone.

    Death Metal

    I think Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer are responsible for more max lifts than steroids. Why? Aggression & Focus. Music (or anything) that increases your aggression and lets you get in “the zone” will remarkably improve your lifting performance. People in the gym listening to pop and chatting on their cell phone while using the leg curl machine aren’t getting anywhere. Weightlifting requires intensity. If Death Metal provides you that intensity, use it. This block in the pyramid could also read “anything and everything you can do to get yourself amped up for a lift.” Find whatever that is for you and use it.

    Types of muscle growth and Final Thoughts

    “But, Keenan, I don’t want to get stronger, I want to get bigger!” I hear you guys saying. First, you have to understand that there is a difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy. These scary-looking terms define different types of hypertrophy, or muscle growth. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the lean-looking, dense muscle that olympic lifters have, exemplified by Bulgarian lifter Ivan Stoitsov on the left. Note the stark comparison to Pro Bodybuilder Jay Cutler — showing extensive sarcoplasmic hypertrophy — on the right:

    Photo courtesy of Stronglifts.com

    Stoitsov shows Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

     
    Jay Cutler

    Cutler exemplifies Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

     


    Granted, Cutler’s physique is almost certainly enhanced by drugs, but he really just looks silly. Stoitsov, on the other hand, is lean, dense, powerful, and has a better look than most bodybuilders. He’s not “all show and no go”, either; all his mass has a purpose and isn’t just hanging around. Think about it this way: strength yields dense muscle, volume (and usually drugs) yields puffy muscle.

    While the guys complain about not getting big enough, I hear you girls complaining that you don’t want to get “too big.” Getting strong will not make you “big” unless you’re taking steroids. That being said, if your idea of “big” is anything larger than an anorexic skeleton, then there’s probably nothing I can do to help you and you should probably just go get a Curves membership and read Cosmo while running on the treadmill for 2 hours and then go home and eat some granola and yogurt. If you have more reasonable notions of what women are capable of doing, then work on getting strong first and foremost.

    Strong chicks

    The horrible bodies that await girls who get "too strong"

    Regardless of your long-term goals (sports, bodybuilding/figure competition, general health, etc) focus on getting strong before anything else. Incorporate this pyramid into your strength program and if your overall progress and development stall, address each of these things in order. You will not be disappointed.