Editor's Note: This column began in the 1990s when TC Luoma engaged Charles Poliquin with field questions for the journal Muscle Media 2000. Not long after, T Nation was born and Charles wrote forty-four columns with question of strength for us.
Unfortunately, we lost Charles in 2018, but we want to be sure that no one else will take over his column except his friend and colleague Christian Thibaudeau.
Depression after the show
Q: I recently participated in a men's bodybuilding show. Although I eat more now and have a week off, I am depressed! Yes, I used steroids to prepare for the show, if that's important. What's happening?
A: There might be some things involved here, and it's probably a combination of them – we're going through everything. However, I think that neurotransmitter problems could be a factor. The two major neurotransmitters involved in depression are dopamine and serotonin.
Dopamine is intensely triggered by the competing mindset of a bodybuilding supplement. When you enter this "zone", dopamine is released in heaps. In this way, you can develop a long-term mentality that allows you to delay the gratification or to work / suffer to win later.
For your entire preparation, you are likely to be neurologically supported by an intense stimulation of the dopamine gene receptors. When the competition is over, you no longer have it, or if you do it, it is to a much lesser extent. And lack of dopamine stimulation leads to depression-like symptoms, especially if you've had so much of it for so long.
Many anabolic steroids have dopaminergic activities. Dianabol and testosterone among others. So, if you took steroids during preparation, you probably caused a desensitization of the dopaminergic receptors: they got used to a monster stimulation so that they no longer respond to a "normal" dopamine level (or low level) in your case) ,
Depression among steroid users is getting stronger. It's a real thing, at least if you stop taking it. And this reaction can hit you very quickly because it is not due to psychological reasons (you see yourself smaller), but a neurological (lack of dopaminergic stimulation / dopaminergic resistance).
I am certainly not in favor of taking steroids, but for the case of a bodybuilder competing I would wait a few weeks after the competition to stop the cycle. They already have a crash after the show, it is not necessary to aggravate the whole thing by the chemical retreat effect by stopping the cycle.
And contrary to what some experts say, I would recommend reducing the dose. From a hormonal point of view, tapering is not really effective, but to prevent depression, it can be helpful to gradually reduce dopaminergic stimulation to prevent it from crashing. So you could just start the rejuvenation after the competition and take about 4 weeks to get rid of the juice.
The other neurological problem is a potential decline in serotonin levels. The most commonly prescribed drugs for depression are SSRIs that increase serotonin levels. While this is not the main cause of depression, serotonin plays a role in well-being.
A lack of serotonin increases anxiety, the perception of pain and quality of life. These effects make falling asleep more difficult and less prone to stress and other lifestyle changes (adjustment problems).
Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an amino acid. Without understanding it, you know that tyrosine (another amino acid from which you make dopamine) and tryptophan compete for absorption and transport. If your carbohydrate intake is low, you prefer tyrosine to tryptophan, which will result in a decrease in serotonin.
So, if you've been dieting for 12 to 16 weeks, you're more likely to lower your serotonin levels, which also contributes to your depressive symptoms, usually through an increase in anxiety.
A recent neurotransmitter problem is related to adrenergic (adrenaline) receptors. This is especially a problem if you overstrain stimulants or fat burners. For example, if you are taking clenbuterol, you probably have desensitized adrenergic receptors.
Clen stays "connected" to the receptors too long and makes them resistant. For this reason, "Clen stops working" after 7-10 days, and you must either increase the dose (mute) or turn it on and off.
But if you've been at Clen for more than a couple of weeks, and if you quit after your competition, you still have insensitive adrenergic receptors, which makes you lethargic, unmotivated, depressed, and basically hate life. Why? Because your receptors do not even respond to your natural adrenaline / norepinephrine production.
Incidentally, ephedrine can have the same effect if you take it several times a day.
Then there is the simple psychological reason for depression: you have no more goal. For 12-16 weeks, your life revolved around this contest. And now that you no longer have that, you feel lost.
It's as if your driving force has been robbed! Plus, you're used to getting better and better every day. Now it is getting worse (in thought). Even if you still look great for everyone else, you no longer have the excitement of daily improvement.
Frankly, many people make a mistake by leaving the gym for a week after a show. The workout stimulates dopamine and adrenaline and, so to speak, helps you to get a softer start. You can take 1-2 days off and then go back to the gym to do what you like. For 1-2 weeks after the show, it does not matter what you do in the gym while you have fun.
I would also be looking for a new, completely different destination. Why not a power phase in which you can simulate the preparation of a powerlifting competition? That's only an example. Anything that puts you right back in this competitive mindset will help.
Other Ways to Combat Depression After the Show
I would also recommend the following feel-good stack, and unlike steroids, it is absolutely healthy and legal:
- Brain Candy®, which boosts dopamine levels , and Rhodiola, which increases the duration of the dopamine effect by increasing recycling / reuse. Take both on an empty stomach in the morning.
- Magnesium in smaller doses (about 500 mg three times a day) to restore adrenergic sensitivity.
- Z-12 ™ in the evening to increase both GABA and serotonin
Workout Nutrition and Low Carb Diets
Q: I prefer to low all the time -Carb to eat, so do not get fat. Do I really need carbohydrates during exercise to maximize muscle gain?
A: I've been like you for a long time. I ate a strict low-carb diet for the best 6 years, during which I built very little muscle. Like most of the older fat boys, I was carbohydrophobic.
Science, however, is clear. Carbohydrates do not make you fat; EXCESS carbohydrates do. There is a difference. The thing is, we're used to seeing average people over-eating carbohydrates every day. And since it is normal for normal people to be overweight, it is easy for us to denigrate everything in their diet.
But remember, most people get fat from carbohydrates because they overeat the low-saturating species and can not control themselves as soon as they start eating. But eating the right amount of carbs will not make them fat ,
From Keto to Carbs: A Story
One of my new coaches (I have 20 coaches working for me) was a hardcore keto lawyer, a map-leading member of the Keto Klan! He complained that his fat loss had stopped and that he had never felt his muscles full – even though he had increased his calories. He did not gain muscle last year either.
I told him the carbohydrate science and could convince him to add exercise carbohydrates to his diet, but for the rest of the day no carbs (to decrease the psychological shock). When I saw him a week later, he looked like a completely different animal – fuller, heavier and slimmer, and he was in a much better way of thinking.
A week later, he decided to add carbohydrates in the evening. Then his girlfriend even started to ask if he was on steroids!
The Mental Aspect and Muscle Mathematics
Eating carbohydrates is a mental barrier for many of us, especially for those who have a hard time getting lean. Then it became lean by cutting carbohydrates. But it does not have to be that way.
As long as your muscle glycogen stores are not nearly full, the carbohydrates you eat are not stored as bodyfat but as muscle glycogen. Only when these supplies are full, you will begin to convert carbohydrates into fatty acids.
Again, most people eat too many carbohydrates, and most people are sedentary. An average man can store about 300 to 400 grams of carbs in their muscles.
If you are sitting, use about 100 to 150 grams of these carbohydrates per day for energy. So, if that person consumes 500 grams of carbs per day, it will not be long before their muscle stores are full. But even with just 300 grams of carbs per day, they are full in less than a week.
If you work hard, you use a lot more muscle glycogen. Instead of using the normal 100-250 grams of carbs per day, use 300 grams per day. So if you eat less than 300 grams of carbohydrates a day, they will not turn into fat.
How can you just add 45-60 grams of carbs to your workout to make you fatter? It can not be in your condition. Shit, if you've made a low-carbohydrate diet, you probably will not even get out of the ketosis. But it will make your training more productive.
You have more energy, which helps you to make more effort, you have a better pump and you can recover faster. They also reduce cortisol production, which helps you build more muscle.
Carbs Do Not Stop Fat Loss
If you're a carbohydrate-avoiding person, say the following: "Yes, but what's really important to me is getting leaner."
Well, adding carbohydrates can Even help you to become leaner. As? First, if you get more exercise, you can improve fat loss, and lowering cortisol levels can also increase your metabolic rate.
The metabolic rate is influenced by the T3 thyroid hormones. The body does not manage it directly; it does it by converting T4 to T3. This transformation can be inhibited by chronic cortisol elevation. If you overproduce cortisol, you can (in the long run) lower the metabolic rate. But carbohydrates during exercise reduce the amount of cortisol produced during your session.
The end result is that adding carbohydrates does not get fat during exercise. If you're tracking your macros, you should lower your fat intake to make up for the 45-60 grams of carbohydrates you would get. Reduce the fat by about 15 to 20 grams, but that may not even be necessary.
By introducing an appropriate amount of carbohydrates from the right source, such as Plazma ™, your muscles will get harder and you'll recover faster, you'll be better trained and feel like a million dollars.
Win without squats
Q: Dumbbell squats never felt right for me. I know every strength coach says they are a staple, but I never seem to make any progress, or I get hurt. Yes, I have looked for good trainers and have been trained by them. Did I really restrain myself by doing NO squats? And what is the best alternative? I mainly just want bigger legs.
A: There is no compulsory boost unless you are a competition aircraft. There is no doubt that the back squat is a great exercise. It is one of the "big basics" that should be the meat and potatoes of a workout program.
Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, high pressure press, rowing and pull ups are your money lift they have passed the test of time. Apart from injuries, you can never handle them wrongly … but they are not necessary to build a good physique.
Now the most important movement patterns in a program should be trained. They are:
- Squatting Pattern
- Hip Joint Pattern
- Horizontal Pushing
- Horizontal Pulling
- Vertical Pushing
- Vertical Pulling
But that does not mean you need to do your back squatting , It means that you need to train the squatting pattern, which has a variety of variations. Here are some of them:
People with long legs relative to the torso, especially if their tibia is short compared to their thighs, will have a hard time getting something out of their hind legs when it comes to leg growth. However, front squats, especially with raised heels or squat squats, can be a solid option.
Can you achieve a good size without any form of squat without weights? For sure. Bulgarian Split Squats and Machine Hack Squat will work well if you are strictly interested in leg size.
However, I still believe that you should train the squatting motion pattern with a variation that suits your type, and complement the session with the split squat and hack squat machine.
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