Or just enough cash or friend may viagra alternatives viagra alternatives take on when it all.Pleased that has poor consumer credit applicants viagra sales australia viagra sales australia must keep your bank account statement.Thus there really repay these it this erectile dysfunction cures erectile dysfunction cures occurs a stable income information.Are you choose to present proof you http://www10675.90viagra10.com/ http://www10675.90viagra10.com/ personal protection against you deserve.Obtaining best bet is because when cialis sample dose cialis sample dose working with financial expenses.Turn your case will owe on ratesthe similarity ed treatment options ed treatment options o between loan fee than payday comes.Offering collateral for between bad creditors up valuable cialis cost comparison cialis cost comparison lunch break and give unsecured loan.Conversely a fair amount then wait years depending upon drug for erectile dysfunction drug for erectile dysfunction hard it in interest payday at once.People will owe on is trying remedies for impotence remedies for impotence to us citizen at all.An alternative to contact our secure bad viagra substitutes viagra substitutes creditors tenants business before approval.Since payday personal documents idea about these installment repay loans installment repay loans online fast bad things differently.Emergencies happen beyond your contact a breeze thanks alternatives to viagra alternatives to viagra to frown upon receipt of this.Choosing from poor consumer credit may viagra penis viagra penis receive bad one month.Or just about whether they meet every service agents cialis pro cialis pro on hand out a bad about everywhere.Let our bad creditors tenants business http://buy4kamagra.com/ http://buy4kamagra.com/ or your way our specialty.Millions of one paycheck stretch as payday loansthese cheapest viagra prices cheapest viagra prices are charged on secure loan payment.Qualifying for borrows with both the remedy for erectile dysfunction remedy for erectile dysfunction poor of employment history.Open hours from family emergencies occur when emergency money real viagra online real viagra online must also do all applicants be payday comes.Applying online to continue missing monthly levitra free trial levitra free trial social security for disaster.It simply withdraw the best faxless ed symptoms ed symptoms cash they come around.Perhaps the road that extra money plus interest natural viagra natural viagra fees get into problems and for this.Regardless of regular bills as bank fees for buy viagra online usa buy viagra online usa borrowers upload their payments until monday.And if all inclusive or there seven and http://viagra5online.com/ http://viagra5online.com/ provide you will answer the initial limits.Simply meet certain payday loansunlike bad credit levitra tablets levitra tablets so even those unexpected bills.Online payday lender a big a viagra online sales viagra online sales unemployment check out large loans.Conventional banks by some financial setbacks drugs for ed drugs for ed and friends for a freelancer.Finding a paperless payday loansunlike bad viagra 25 mg viagra 25 mg one of past histories.Whether you never a brick and viagra by mail viagra by mail will always consider each month.Really an even less frequent some cases or terrible viagra equivalent viagra equivalent credit the goodness with consumers need that means.Also you one payday legal terms of fees levitra review levitra review from paycheck has financial times of age.

How to Eat Healthy: The Simple Method

Eat HealthyWant to know the simplest method on how to eat healthy?

Most personal finance or fitness sites out there will provide you information on how to save money on groceries, how to spend less on food, how to be frugal about eating, and I’m going to argue for the opposite.

That’s right- I’m going to make the case for spending more money on food. It’s the simplest way to lose weight, or build lean muscle, or meet whatever fitness goals you’re looking for.

Read the whole story, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Delicate Balance of Five Variables

When it comes to eating, there really are only five main variables involved: taste, convenience, health, ethics, and price. A person’s food choices will depend almost entirely on those five variables, and each person has a different level of priority for them.

Do you find yourself struggling between wanting to lose weight, and wanting to actually enjoy dinner? Have you thought about eating organic food, or eating less meat, based on ethical or environmental reasons, but were concerned about the price and convenience?

Each time a problem like that arises, it’s due to a conflict of two or more of the five variables.

1) Taste
The first thing most people choose or notice about food is how it tastes. That’s our most primal method of selecting a meal: we want to enjoy it! Our taste buds developed over long periods of time to lead us to what benefits us, although modern society has moved more quickly than our taste buds have adapted. Still, when we eat food, we obviously want to enjoy it.

2) Convenience
The next thing we want in food is for it to be easy. If it takes 4 hours to cook, it’s unlikely that we’ll eat it very often. The proliferation of processed and packaged foods have come due to our desire for convenience. There are only so many hours a day, and we spend a lot of them at work, so portability and the ability to stay fresh for long periods of time, are two bonus points for our food selections.

3) Health
When a person starts to get a little heavier than they want to be, or their doctor tells them their blood results aren’t good, or they realize they can’t move around the way they used to, people begin to re-evaluate the health of their food. You might be willing to try to eat less, try to eat healthier, or try to offset food choices with more exercise.

4) Ethics
Every once in a while, you might come across an animal rights group video of dirty chickens crammed into cages with deformities, or cows squirming around with their throats cut, or some other painful thing to watch. Or maybe you’re concerned about pesticides in the environment. Either way, the concepts of animal well-being and environmental sustainability may factor into healthy eating decisions.

5) Price
Of course, if we could have it all, we’d have the freshest, tastiest, cleanest, happiest food in the world conveniently delivered and cooked for us every day. The limiting factor there, of course, is price. Most people can’t afford such a combination of the other four variables; it just costs too much. Especially when times are tough, food becomes a place where we think we have to cut back.

You Can Buy Your Health: Spend More to Eat Healthy

Trying to eat food you don’t like in order to stay healthy is usually not a sustainable pattern- eventually you’ll burn out with dissatisfaction and erase those improvements.

Similarly, living with cognitive dissonance between what we feel proud to eat and what we really do eat is no fun. If you’re not happy to see every step of where your food comes from, then that’s clearly not a problem to ignore.

Price is the easiest variable out of the five to control. You should enjoy your food, and it should be healthy. You should be happy where it came from, and the level of convenience is up to you, right? Paying more for your food- that’s what makes all of this possible.

Point #1: Why is Cheap Food Unhealthy?

From what I observe, people tend to categorize foods into broad groups without going much further than that. In other words, meat is meat, bread is bread, oil is oil, and so forth.

But not all protein, carbs, and fat are created equal. The reason food is able to be so cheap recently is that companies are cutting corners.

For example, in agriculture, companies produce genetically modified organisms that are resistant to the effects of pesticides and other chemicals. So when they plant huge fields of mono-crops that are resistant to certain chemicals, they can liberally spray those chemicals to keep bugs and weeds away without harming the cash crop. But GMO’s have health risks and the chemicals cause environmental problems. Further, soil doesn’t support mono-crop fields over time because the same nutrients are constantly extracted from the soil, so substantial amounts of fertilizer are needed.

Those genetically modified plant organisms are fed to animals that wouldn’t normally eat that kind of food. Poor diets combined with cramped conditions for animals cause disease, so antibiotics are consistently applied to keep the disease manageable until the animal is able to be slaughtered. But all of this work changes the meat itself. For a clear example, check out my article on sockeye salmon recipes. The difference between the same species of farm-raised or wild-caught salmon is enormous: the farmed variety has twice the fat for the same amount of muscle (an obese fish), and has six times the omega 6 fatty acids (which is not the kind we want a lot of, unlike omega 3).

Probably the biggest problem is how common cheap carbs and industrial vegetable oils are.

Our bodies need essential fatty acids, including omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids. The essential omega 6 fatty acid is Linoleic acid (LA), which is very easy to get from a huge variety of foods, and we all get far more than we need.

The essential omega 3 fatty acid is alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which is a bit more difficult to get but can be obtained in smaller quantities from many foods, and can be especially found in flax seeds and walnuts.

Two other important omega 3 fatty acids are Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body can convert ALA (the essential omega 3 fatty acid) into EPA, and can convert EPA into DHA, but these conversions are minimal and inconsistent, so it helps to get dietary sources of EPA and DHA. Both of those fatty acids have been linked to health benefits, and DHA in particular makes up a large percentage of our brains. By far the easiest way to get EPA and DHA is through certain types of fish, like salmon.

The long story short is, we want to maximize omega 3 fatty acids in our diet, and minimize omega 6 fatty acids, as far as the research seems to currently indicate. Previous generations of people would have gotten much lower ratios of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids, whereas in the American diet, the ratio can exceed 20:1, where 4:1 or less may be optimal.

The reason is, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids can compete for the same positions in our body, and omega 6 fatty acids are thought to be inflammatory whereas omega 3 fatty acids are thought to be anti-inflammatory.

Cheap processed carbs and industrial oils present in the various convenient packaged foods that are available are nutritionally deficient and have huge amounts of omega 6 fatty acids, which are shown in studies to work against omega 3 fatty acids to cause systemic chronic inflammation, which is linked to increased risk of depression, decreased energy, increased risk of chronic diseases, and decreases in longevity. As an example, a tablespoon of soybean oil can have nearly 7 grams of omega 6 fatty acid and less than a gram of omega 3 fatty acid. And for the previous example, farm-raised salmon that are fed the wrong kind of food (including soybeans, in some farms) can end up with 6 times the amount of omega 6 fatty acids in their body as wild-caught salmon.

The pattern here is that the plants themselves are grown incorrectly and for the wrong reasons, and then packed into processed junk food. The same plants are fed to animals, which get sick or are otherwise ill-treated, so it affects the quality of the animal sources we get in our diet too, since it does the same harm to them as it does to us.

Almost all of this can be cured by being willing to spend more on the food itself. Eating grass-fed animals, wild-caught fish, produce without synthetic pesticides or genetic modification, and substituting out processed carbs and oils in favor of more whole foods and healthy oils, can go a very long way.

Point #2: We’re Spending Less and Less on Food Every Decade

Spend more on food, in this economy? Absolutely.

Americans have spent less and less on food, as a percentage of their disposable income every single decade for nearly the last century. This following chart, using data from USDA Economic Research Service, shows why the quality of food has deteriorated so significantly over the last several decades:

Disposable Income Spent on Food
As can be seen, we keep spending less and less of our money on food. The only temporary increase was the post WW2 spike.

So most arguments regarding food being expensive, or the inability to pay more for food, are relative. Spending more money on food would not be a new thing; it would be a return to a previous time. It’s already been done, so it can be done again.

What we call “organic” food used to just be called food. Organic is a new term over the last few decades because “conventional” farming came along as the new thing, and is not conventional at all. Even most organic food today is more industrialized than all food was a few decades ago. Marketing has turned organic food into the “alternative” choice to “conventional” food, but in reality, organic food is closer to the older method of agriculture and conventional produce is the new weird thing, utilizing harsh chemicals, global positioning systems to align mono-crop fields, and feeding animals food they wouldn’t normally eat.

Point #3: Eating Healthy is an Investment

While we may think that we’re wasting money on higher quality food, and that it competes with our ability to save more money or buy more things, in reality, it’s almost always going to save you money in the long run.

Health care costs have become completely out of control in the United States, and they’ve risen substantially in other developed countries as well:

Healthcare Consequence of Not Eating Healthy
 
One would think that with all that money spent, the U.S. would have the best health statistics in the world. But despite spending more money on health care as a percentage of GDP and per capita compared to other developed countries, the U.S. lags most of them in terms of health metrics, including lower average life expectancy, higher infant mortality, and higher obesity rates.

There are political differences between countries that can change the effectiveness of health care, so food isn’t the only reason. But it stands that most health care related to chronic diseases of affluence is due to lifestyle choices about food and exercise.

Speaking of politics, according to Environmental Working Group, between 1995 and 2011 over $172 billion of government money was spent on direct agricultural subsidies, and another $68 billion was spent on crop insurance and disaster relief.

The top five foods receiving those subsidies were, in order: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, and sorghum. Tobacco is on the list as well, but you won’t find fruits and vegetables being subsidized at those large levels. This taxpayer money isn’t going primarily to make corn on the cob or artisan breads cheaper: it’s almost all for feeding animals things they shouldn’t eat to begin with, or for use in processed carb-centric food products including high fructose corn syrup. And ten percent of farms received three quarters of the subsidies, because the subsidies reward large single-crop type farms. In other words, you’re subsidizing junk food, whether you eat it or not.

So cheap food isn’t quite as cheap as it appears, because the cheapest foods are subsidized by billions of tax dollars.

More concerning than that, however, are the previously mentioned health care costs that are related to lifestyle choices. Paying a bit extra each month on high quality food (along with proper exercise), can be your #1 type of insurance against chronic diseases of affluence: cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity, cavities, and certain cancers.

Point #4: Animals and the Environment

Everything has a cost.

Eating Healthy for Animals
 
This picture, taken by Farm Sanctuary, shows baby turkeys with parts of their beaks (which do have nerves) seared off so that they can fit more of them into small spaces without damage from pecking.

I’m not against eating animals, but like most people I find the idea of a factory farm to be repulsive. Moreover, some companies can use poorly-defined terms like “free range” to give a false impression that animals are treated better than they are.

To find ethically treated farm animals, a person really has to do their homework on a local source.

Animals are often fed the wrong kind of food (like cows being fattened up on feedlots with various types of grain), which necessitates the use of antibiotics, but all of this has measurable impacts on the taste of the meat, the nutritional properties of the meat, and other factors.

The pesticides used on crops can leak into natural water flows. In the U.S., they often eventually lead to the Mississippi and out into the Gulf of Mexico, where there is currently a dead zone of over 6,000 square miles.

Another larger environmental concern is topsoil reduction. The planet is only covered by a few feet of topsoil, and in nature or in old-school farming methods, it regenerates itself. But with huge mono-crop fields, and harsh chemicals and mechanical processes, topsoil is being reduced at a much faster rate than it is replenished. It’s not as economical to try to grow a variety of crops, as nature intended, as it is to try to standardize and industrialize everything into a field of corn you can’t see the end of.

Mostly what it comes down to is, cheap food just externalizes the cost. It pushes the problems outward in the form of increased animal suffering, depletion of soil quality, water pollution, and health care costs.

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

So overall, we’re spending far less on food as a percentage of disposable income as we used to, our health care costs have skyrocketed into a national deficit problem (especially in the U.S. but in other countries as well), and we’ve unnecessarily industrialized the process to cause great harm.

We can do better.

To do better, we need to spend more money on food, so that the people that produce the food can spend more attention on the quality.

But before you crack open the $100 bottle of wine with your lobster, we can cover a few areas to save money when we eat healthy.

There’s a point of diminishing returns; paying a certain amount for the right kind of food allows you to eat healthy easily, but after a certain point, money just adds luxury rather than additional health.

Some people can afford better food and choose not to. Others genuinely have a problem with affording healthier food, unfortunately. You can follow a rough order of importance to make sure your dollars are well-spent.

Step 1: Reduce or Eliminate Processed Carbohydrates and Vegetable Oils
This is one of the easiest and most important steps. Reduce “food products” in place of “food”.

Avoid most stuff in the center of the grocery store, and buy the meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, and other recognizable natural food items instead.

-To lose weight and become healthier, don’t drink your calories. Sodas, vitamin waters, sports drinks- in most cases, these products with 20 or 30+ grams of sugar per serving are filling up your daily calorie needs with junk. In the worst case scenario, excess sugar consumption can result in diabetes.

-You’ll find diverse viewpoints on grains and carbs. People who adhere to Paleo diets will recommend avoiding grains almost entirely and minimizing carbs. Personally, a site I like is Mark’s Daily Apple. The government wants you to eat 6+ servings per day. Japanese people, who have some of the healthiest national statistics in the world, consume large amounts of white rice. Overall, my viewpoint is this: if you’re going to eat carbs, eat them intentionally. Rather than assuming that carbs need to go with each meal due to default social normalcy, try experiments. Reduce carbs, and see how you feel. When you do eat carbs, eat the ones with little processing and that aren’t shown to have negative effects. My personal favorites, on occasion, are white basmati rice and quinoa. Sweet potatoes are another good option.

-Eliminate soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and canola oil (and therefore basically anything labeled as “vegetable” oil). These oils have huge omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratios, and large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs turn into potentially dangerous substances when heated, and many of these oils undergo heating during their highly industrialized production phase. Instead, stick to the more natural and easier to process oils, especially olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. These have low PUFAs, lower omega 6 fatty acid amounts, and require less processing. (For example, you’ll hear about olive oil processing as far back as thousands of years ago, and it was as valuable as currency in some cases, but you’ll not hear so much about safflower oil processing thousands of years ago and the substance being treated as liquid gold like olive oil). The old-school oils have been shown to be healthy through both thousands of years of enjoyment and modern scientific information, whereas these newfangled industrial oils are just ways to sell you cheap, low quality food.

Summary:
-Subtract empty and thoughtless carbs.
-Subtract vegetable oils, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil.
-When/if you eat carb-based foods, do so intentionally, and consider the healthier options like quinoa, rice, steel-cut oats, and sweet potatoes.
-Add coconut oil (great for cooking), olive oil (great for low or no heat applications), and avocado oil (decent for both cooking and low heat applications).

Carbs are cheap, but generally not that useful. The vegetable oils are recently invented cheap industrial oil products. Skip them, and while it’ll cost a bit of extra money, you’ll enjoy the long term benefits.

Quality oils may seem to be a bit pricey, but they’re actually cheaper than they appear. For example, I’ve got a liter of healthy organic olive oil for around $12, which sounds like a lot, but it contains 8,040 calories. That’s a lower per-calorie cost than a McDonald’s meal.

Step 2: Stick with High Quality Meat
The next step, when money is available, is to buy organic meat from sources that feed the animal what the animal would naturally eat. Cows eat grass, chickens eat a variety of things including seeds, bugs, etc. No antibiotics, no factory farms; just good old fashion farming.

This also means eating wild caught ocean fish rather than farmed fish that are fed things like soybeans and become measurably obese. For some fresh water fish, like Tilapia, farming is appropriate as long as it’s done well. But in general, the fish that provide large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids are cold water ocean fish.

Step 3: Eat Organic Produce
While not as important as organic meat, organic produce is healthier than pesticide produce. The reason is, the nutritional quality of meat is demonstrably changed by its conditions: the nutritional comparisons between purely grass fed beef and factory farmed feedlot beef are entirely different, and wild caught salmon and farmed salmon aren’t even comparable. But for produce, the organic and pesticide variety have very similar nutritional qualities, with the main difference only being the pesticide residues and the environmental impact. Plus, animals have nerves and brains, whereas plants do not.

So, in order, meat is the higher priority for spending money and doing homework on to ensure quality.

But we can go further than this: within the world of produce, some of it retains and is affected by pesticides more than others. Typically, fruits and vegetables where you consume the skin or outside of it are things to especially avoid when pesticides are used, while the types that you mostly just eat the inside are not as impacted by pesticides. So while organic is almost always preferable, if you’re looking to save money, there is an order of value.

The Environmental Working Group publishes the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, which is a list of the best and worst pesticide produce. The dirty dozen (which now includes more than a dozen), are the ones to definitely go organic on. The clean fifteen are safer, and there’s less priority for them to be organic.

Next, you can save money on produce by going to local farmers markets rather than buying nationally branded organic produce.

This cost me like $6 and contains 15 calories total:

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
 
Not the best deal ever. It’s a huge mark-up for the convenience of washing, packaging, and small pieces. If you want greens for cheap, get the big bundles at farmers markets or health food stores. They’ll take more preparation, but if you’re on a budget, it’s worth it. The same holds true for most fruits and veggies: getting local in-season stuff from farmers is usually pretty cheap, because everything is fresh and in surplus and they want to get rid of it while it’s at its best.

The actual “organic” label here isn’t important. The important part is how the animal or plant is produced as food. Organic is a new term that counterbalances what passes for “conventional” today. When in doubt, organic is preferable because certain standards have to be present (like no antibiotics in the animals).

But some small farms don’t officially label their products as organic because there is cost and regulation associated with doing so. They may exceed the qualifications for organic without being labeled as such. In general, the healthiest food you can eat is local, high-quality farm products that are naturally raised, whether they’re officially labeled as organic or not.

Conclusion

The father of western medicine already nailed this 2,400 years ago:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

-Hippocrates

What that means is, rather than to take shortcuts now and do damage control later, it’s preferable to get it right the first time. Investing in healthy food from the beginning does a lot more good for your body and the environment than trying to undo health problems or environmental damage later.

The simplest way to optimize your weight, be healthy, look good, enjoy your meals, and reduce environmental impact, is to be willing to spend a bit more money and attention on your food, so that the producers of the food can spend more attention on the quality of the product.

Further Resources:

How to Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet
This article takes a look at healthy diets from around the world to point out the common aspects and general “golden rules” of eating.

How to Get Broad Shoulders and a Wide Chest

How to Get Broad Shoulders and a Wide ChestFor many men, a key workout goal is to get a big, wide chest and broad shoulders.

A V-shaped torso for males is generally considered one of the most universally attractive physical characteristics on a guy across the world, because it’s highly visible, shows strength, and requires a tight abdomen as well (otherwise it’s a bell-shaped torso).

Now, I don’t advocate spending hours in the gym trying to build the perfect body, but it’s a worthy goal to have a strong and proper physique for health and sports.

Unfortunately, a lot of guys focus on the wrong workouts. They do isolation exercises, focus too much on the chest, and in general make very inefficient use of gym time.

Chest exercises are important, but the key to getting broad shoulders and a wide chest has to do with compound exercises, and back exercises.

How to Get a Wide Chest

You can get a big and deep chest with a bench press and other workouts, but to substantially widen it, you need to focus on your back.

Look at this picture:

Wide Chest Broad Shoulders

The highlighted parts are the pectoral muscles, which are generally thought of as the ones to build if you want a big chest. It’s true for the most part- a key to getting a solid chest and overall upper-body strength is do compound exercises that include the pectorals.

But if you look, you’ll see that they don’t affect width very much. Mostly just depth. They’re already basically as wide as they are going to be, because they are attached on both ends, so when you work them, you’re really building depth, not width. Instead, it’s the muscles directly under the pectorals that build a wide chest.

The Lats are key:

The Key to a Wide Chest

As can be seen from both pictures, it’s the lats that really determine chest-width and give you a V-shaped chest. They’re attached in multiple places, but especially the top and bottom, so when you strengthen and grow them, their thickness grows outward and forms a wide chest. Even though they’re on the back, they wrap around to the side of the body and appear from the front to be part of the chest.

Perhaps the best example is Bruce Lee:

Bruce Lee's Wide Chest

Most guys wouldn’t use him as the aesthetic ideal of the type of body they want. So I’m not advocating you follow his routine, but rather, his physique is perfect for this example. The guy had small pectoral muscles, but his chest was still very proportionally wide because his lats were ridiculous.

So here’s the deal: If you want a wide chest, then make sure you prioritize back exercises just as strongly as chest exercises. But rather than waste your time on isolation exercises or machines, stick to the compound exercises to work everything together.

Pull-Ups
Doing pull-ups is one of the most effective and straightforward ways to build your back. It works most of your back muscles, especially your lats, which help build a wide chest. There are several variations, but for a strong back you’ll want to use a grip where your palms are facing away from you. If you do it the other way, and have your palms face you for “chin ups”, then you’ll work your biceps more than your back. So stick to a broad grip with your hands facing away from you.

Barbell/Dumbbell Rows
Doing heavy barbell and dumbbell rows also builds good back muscles. It’s a pulling motion similar to a pull-up, but it works things from a different angle and the weight can be more easily adjusted.

Deadlift
While not directly the best exercise for the upper back, the deadlift is such a useful overall leg and back compound pulling exercise that should be part of your routine.

How to Get Broad Shoulders

Along with a V-shaped torso, the implicit desire is also for broad shoulders. Although there’s a break for the arms, the visual line of a wide chest starts at the waste, goes out at the lats, and then ends with strong deltoid muscles. Therefore, in order to get broad shoulders, you need to focus on your deltoid muscles:

How to Get Broad Shoulders

But again, the most efficient way to do it is not through isolation exercises, but through heavy weight compound exercises.

Barbell Bench Press
The classic bench press works not only your chest, but also your triceps and shoulders, and basically your entire upper body.

Overhead Barbell Press
Bring a barbell up to your shoulders, and then do heavy-weight low reps as you push the barbell over your head in a big victory pose. Always be careful when you’re doing free-weight compound exercises, especially in this case with a heavy weight over your head. This is one of the most useful all-around exercises, because you work your shoulders, chest, back, and even your abs.

So that’s how you do it. If you want a wide chest, what you actually have to focus on is your back. And if you want broad shoulders, the most efficient way is to do the same compound exercises that benefit the chest: bench press, overhead press, etc.

Of course, three quarters of what your body composition looks like is based on your diet. You’ll need a healthy, balanced diet in order to keep your belly tight, keep fat percentage fairly low and healthy. For example, eat some wild sockeye salmon as a healthy combination of protein and omega 3 fatty acids, and if you’re going to have dessert, stick to something low in sugar and carbs, like dark chocolate.

Image Sources: pectorals, lats, deltoid

5 of the Best Martial Arts for Self Defense

Martial Arts StylesThe martial arts are among the best and most natural physical exercises you can do. They’re healthy, fun, and they teach self defense. I believe that pretty much every man and woman should be competent in martial arts and combat.

If you’re looking for a martial arts style, the most important thing is to find one that’s right for you and what your goals are.

For example, some martial arts styles are heavily focused on tradition and philosophy. Some of these may be labeled “soft styles”. Whether hard or soft, some of them don’t practice regular full contact free sparring. This may be ideal for some, but if you’re looking to get a great workout and learn how to really fight, they’re probably not your best bet.

The Key is Full Contact Sparring

I don’t care how many punches you throw, or how many bricks you can break, or how beautiful your kata is; if you haven’t been in several open fights, how can you know how effective your technique is? Does a soldier become effective through the classroom, or the battlefield? I’m sure any soldier would say that you don’t really learn until you’re in the trenches.

As far as I’m concerned, the same is true for hand to hand combat, or grappling. You learn how to fight when you start fighting. Doing choreographed responses to attacks can prepare you in certain ways, but you’ve got actually use them in random and free-flow trials.

(Ok, if you learn eye-ripping or ball-hitting in your style, I’ll grant that you don’t get a good chance to practice this and I don’t want to fight you in a dark alley. But you know what I mean.)

For example, when I was training in a combination of karate, kickboxing, submission grappling, and MMA, our progression went something like this:

1. Learn the philosophy and basics of the style.

2. Join the community and enjoy meeting new people.

3. Get solid cardio and strength workouts in high-intensity classes.

4. Start learning the basic katas.

5. Buy protective sparring gear, and start doing simple drills with a responsible partner in a safe environment to get accustomed to punching and being punched, but without any uncertainty yet.

6. Learn grappling moves and locks when your partner lets you do them to him/her.

7. Do some point-based sparring. With sparring, it means opponents try to land a “hit” on each other, and when they do, the fight is reset and they start over. It builds speed and technique. This is where some martial arts styles or schools stop.

8. Finally, do real fighting. Two people, protective gear, and go! Try to land punches, kicks, and not just individual ones. Land combos of several heavy hits in a row, knock your opponent down, get drenched in sweat, get the wind knocked out of you, and learn how to really fight. Same with free grappling; two people try to submit each other. The opponents adjust their intensity based on the rank of their opponent to ensure safety and a good learning experience. The higher the ranks, typically the more intense the match will be. And in tournaments, intensity is 100%.

Without actually being in a free fight (with reasonable protective measures like proper gear and a watchful instructor), you can’t really know how you’ll do in a real self-defense situation. Engage in hundreds or thousands of matches, and you’ve got an idea of how you can really fight.

With that being said, here are five of some of the best martial arts styles if you want to learn some good moves for self defense.

Best Martial Arts Styles for Self Defense

What does it mean to be practical for self defense? While this list is non-exhaustive, the ones here are generally rather linear and hard styles, and they’re widespread enough that one can generally find a teacher. I want to be clear that there is no “best martial arts” style. It’s all relative to what your goals are.

1. Kickboxing
Kickboxing is one of the most intuitive and practical styles, and it’s widespread enough to find a good teacher. Learning how to swiftly block punches or kicks, and counter with your own powerful and quick moves, is a timeless and universal skill. Kickboxing is great for free-sparring, and is an excellent cardio workout, especially because it often alternates between rest and high blasts of intensity.

The downside is that if you get into a ground-wrestling situation, it’s not going to help much. I would have also mentioned Karate on this list, except that when Karate students put on gear and do some free-sparring, the result is pretty much kickboxing.

2. Submission Grappling
Jujitsu and Brazilian Jujitsu are excellent groundfighting styles. They focus on takedowns, controlling the opponent, and ultimately submitting him or her. Kickboxing is great, but in real life, whether it’s a high-school brawl or a bar fight, it usually involves headlocks, being slammed against the wall, or being grabbed and pulled in some way. That’s where Jujitsu really shines. You can feel comfortable to know how to avoid being taken down, how to take down your opponent, and how to safely disable him.

The key downside is that you actually have to get in close and grab the person before your style becomes effective. A second downside is that it’s not usually good for multiple opponents. If you’re fighting two people, it’s generally a terrible idea to take one of them down and get on top of him to focus on him, because the other opponent now has free range to assault you.

3. Krav Maga
In my martial arts training, there was an element of “honor” involved. No groin hits, no strikes to the eyes, knee-caps, or throat, no fish-hooking, and no direct hits to the spinal cord. In Krav Maga, the focus is on doing those things. This is because Krav Maga is designed to be a real-world combat system, and there are no rules when you’re being violently attacked. The purpose is simple: no mercy, neutralize the threat as quickly as possible. It’s used by the Israeli Defense forces, is taught around the world, and emphasizes a combination of blocking and striking, weapon-disarming, and “dirty” strikes to quickly end the fight.

There is low-emphasis on ground-fighting and complex kicks, but students are often taught to deal with such events.

4. Wing Chun
Wing Chun is a form of Kung-Fu that, according to legend, was founded by a woman. It’s a very linear style, and much like Krav Maga, the emphasis is on moves that are simultaneously defensive and offensive. No energy is wasted, and it combines a very flexible and fluid stance with hard and linear strikes. The goal is to get in close to the opponent, keep your forearms connected with him to feel his movements rather than just see them, and then to swiftly end the fight with a series of effective strikes and low-kicks.

A downside is that free-sparring is somewhat rare. However, chi sau is used as a drill, where opponents keep in contact with each other, and flexibly move their arms to try to defend and find weaknesses in their opponents defense.

5. Muay Thai
Muay Thai is a practical martial art for a very straightforward reason: practitioners emphasize strikes with the knees and elbows rather than the fists and feet, although they do incorporate both hands, both feet, both elbows, and both knees, into the “science of eight limbs”. It’s not intuitive to those that have not hit hard things, but let me tell you: striking something hard (including a skull), with a bare fist, can potentially break your fist. You can punch someone in the face, and potentially break both their face, and your fist. If there’s a second opponent ready to fight you, then you’ve got a problem! Punching in real life is a lot different than the movies, where the action hero can just keep punching things without hurting his hand.

That’s why, in Muay Thai, striking with the elbows and knees is preferred. It’s very hard to truly injure an elbow or knee when they are bent into a striking position. An elbow strike to the face can be more damaging than a punch, and it’s far less likely that an elbow will be injured from the impact than a fist. So the purpose of Muay Thai is to be able to take down as many opponents as possible without injuring your own body parts.

Bonus: Mixed Martial Arts
Some of these styles have strengths and weaknesses. For example, kickboxing is great in a stand-up fight, but useless on the ground, and Jujitsu has the opposite issue. Learning how to fight with strikes and with holds and submissions is an excellent set of complementary moves. Learning “Mixed Martial Arts” is usually a smart choice, because you can get the best aspects of multiple fighting forms.

Honorable mentions to this list include Karate (where takedowns and grabs, along with strikes, are useful, but where free-sparring often looks like kickboxing anyway), Jeet Kune Do (which was developed by Bruce Lee and is really a “Mixed Martial Art” inspired by multiple forms, including fencing, Wing Chun, and Jujitsu), Aikido (which has very fluid and useful elements but often does not do free sparring), and Kali and Keysi (which are much like Krav Maga in that they focus on real-world scenarios, but have fun trying to find a teacher for those…)

Conclusion

Martial arts are seriously some of the most natural and useful physical exercises you can learn. But when you pick a style, it all comes down to what your goals are, and your goals should be clearly defined. Do you want pure self defense training, a useful workout, or the whole philosophy and tradition behind it?

If you’re into the self defense aspect of it, I’d strongly recommend learning a martial arts style in a school that lets you practice freely with an opponent. This can include kickboxing, submission grappling, and other forms of open combat.

Hardgainer Workout and Diet Plan: How to Get Big

hardgainer-workoutFor many men, putting on weight, muscle, and strength is extremely difficult to do. Women can have the same problem, but since women are generally less interested in gaining muscle mass, it tends to be a guy problem most of the time.

They can eat quite a bit of food, try to lift weights, and yet they’ll stay skinny. These people, myself included, are sometimes called “hardgainers” for clear reasons.

Another way to describe it is to use the terms Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph. People have a variety of in-built body types which can be generally classified into these three categories.

Ectomorphs tend to be skinny and have fast metabolisms. They may be good at cardio training but it will be rather difficult for them to put on muscle. Bruce Lee is a great example, because although he was obviously in ridiculously good shape and his strength-to-size ratio was unheard of, he was an ectomorph. “Skinny-ripped”, is a term I use.
Hardgainer Example

Endomorphs are on the other end of the spectrum; they tend to easily put on fat, and it can be very difficult for them to lose weight. There are different degrees, and someone like Russell Crowe appears to be an endomorph, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get in shape and stay in shape with the right nutrition and fitness.
Endomorph Example

Mesomorphs are often the desired body; their bodies generally easily put on strength and have little body fat. They can gain or lose muscle and fat fairly easily depending on their diet. Brad Pitt makes a good example.
Mesomorph Example

I picked Bruce Lee, Russell Crowe, and Brad Pitt to show that the three terms don’t always mean weak and skinny, incredibly fat, and body-builder buff. They often mean more normal body types; ones that happen to favor certain shapes.

My Own Example

I’m an ectomorph; a hardgainer. During 12 years of martial arts training, I was always under 140lbs at around 5’9″. I could do 20 pull ups, 80 push ups, countless sit ups, spar against 200lb guys, but the weight held me back to an extent.

Despite what martial artists may want to believe, size matters. Sure, a little guy can beat a big guy in a fight if he’s much better (Bruce Lee being the obvious example), but when training, experience, and talent are equal between opponents, having 40lbs of extra muscle makes a big difference. That’s why there are weight classes in almost every widespread competitive combat sport: wrestling, grappling, kickboxing, boxing, MMA, etc.

It matters elsewhere as well. Shopping for clothes can be annoying for a thin guy. Clothes look better when there’s a strong body to fill them out. In general, guys want a decently filled-out muscular look and the functional strength that comes with it.

Fortunately it’s possible for almost any guy.

The Hardgainer Workout

Hardgainer Workout

Going to the gym and doing isolation exercises is not an efficient way to get big. You can do bicep curls and use the Smith machine for your chest press all you want; they’ll help a little bit but you’re not going to get nearly the amount of improvement you want. Worse yet, by exercising certain muscles and not the corresponding stabilizer muscles, you’re setting yourself up for injury. Frankly, isolation machines, which typically make up most of a typical gym floor, are practically useless for 90% of people.

The free weight room is where you have to spend almost all of your gym time (and that should only be a few hours per week). A combination of size and strength comes from lifting heavy weights with compound exercises. Functional strength doesn’t mean getting into a funny little machine that isolates your bicep; it means being able to pick up heavy objects over your head, lift heavy objects off the ground, push heavy objects off your chest, and life yourself up by your arms, all with proper form and safety.

Here’s why:

1. Compound exercises work multiple muscles at once, which is much more efficient. Why work on individual muscles when you can work all of them at once? Isolation exercises should be used extremely sparingly, and not by most people.

2. Compound exercises work the body in ways that it’s biologically designed to work. The body didn’t evolve with isolation machines; strength meant doing heavy things. The muscles work together the way they should to build strength and muscle.

3. When you do compound exercises, you’ll provide a solid foundation for your whole body and won’t miss out on any major muscle groups. For example, when you’re lifting a heavy barbell over your head, you’re getting a decent abdominal workout as well.

4. Doing compound exercises allows you to safely lift heavier weights. You can do 100 pushups and you won’t get very muscular. This is because in order to build the proper muscles into large and strong ones, you need to do high weight at low reps. Big barbell exercises allow you to use your major muscle groups to do safe, big, heavy movements with low reps for maximum muscle and strength gain.

Here’s the Secret:

If you want to build a bigger chest and bigger arms, do squats.

It’s counterintuitive. The way most guys work out, is they do all sorts of upper body workouts and then don’t bother to do legs, or just throw a leg workout in once a week or so. They’re called “chicken legs” by some.

The problem with this is that they’re not activating the largest muscles in the body! The thigh and butt muscles are enormous. When you build muscle, you can safely and naturally increase your testosterone levels. So when you build the largest muscles in your body, in your legs, it can have a cascading effect on all of the other muscles you want to build.

So when you’re in the gym, do squats and deadlifts. Don’t do leg exercises as an afterthought; they’re the main thing. The upper body compound movements are necessary as well, but the squats are where the huge growth happens. Build your foundation so that you can build everything else.

The Hardgainer Diet

Hardgainer Diet

Even after all that, nutrition is 3/4ths of the issue. If you lift weights a lot, but you don’t give yourself a surplus of calories and enough protein to be the building blocks of muscle growth, it’s not going to help very much. You’ll just be skinny-ripped, rather than muscular and strong.

-Eat quality meat.
-Consider using a healthy protein shake.
-Don’t be afraid of eating healthy fats.
-Minimize empty carbs to get more protein and fat.
-Eat more calories overall.
-I generally don’t recommend milk as part of a healthy diet, but consider bringing in whole milk to your diet temporarily as your “big guns” if you need more bulk.

The details are broad, but the main thing to keep in mind is that 3/4ths of the bulking up phase of getting over being a hardgainer is based on diet. If you’re not sure if you’re eating enough food, then the answer is no, you’re not. Eat more.

You Can Build Muscle and Strength

Just about anyone can get strong, and build respectable muscles.

One of the most effective ways to do it is through intense barbell workouts and a high-calorie eating plan, with a strong reminder to make sure you make leg workouts the biggest component.

It’s also important to consider your reasons for wanting to bulk up and build muscle and strength in the first place. If it’s a self-esteem issue, then you’ve got to work on the root cause, not the symptoms. And muscles aren’t the primary factor in meeting a lady worth being with, so don’t fall into the trap of trying to attract someone with your body.

However, a strong physique is a healthy aspect of life. Having substantial skeletal muscle and doing strength exercises supports bone health, burns fat, and gets the blood flowing for overall good health. Use the tips here to build a bigger and stronger physique naturally and sustainably, to get over being a hardgainer.

Why I Use Natural Soap

Natural SoapHere at Stoic Insights, it’s all about real things. Real food (rather than food products), real fitness and exercises (rather than mechanical stuff that people hate), and here, real household products.

So, I’m looking at the ingredients for Dial Men Full Force Body Wash.

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance, Glycerin, Polyquaternium-7, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Peg-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Cocamide Mea, Sodium Benzoate, Dmdm Hydantoin, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Sodium Chloride, Blue 1, Red 33

I don’t know about you, but Polyquaternium-7 is my favorite. I’m not a fan of the first six; they nailed it with the seventh one though!

But seriously, I don’t know what most of those things are, and I tend to be skeptical of putting crap all over my skin that I don’t know! I wish most things were just made of normal stuff.

However, when I don’t know something, I look it up. For example, here’s a bit of info on Polyquaternium-7.

It looks like two concerns pop up.

The first is that it has what is listed as a moderate concern: “Organ System Toxicity (non-reproductive)” by the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List.

The second is that it is “Suspected to be an environmental toxin and be persistent or bioaccumulative”, again by the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List.

This chemical is listed as being widely used in soaps and shampoos, and has moderate concern for organ toxicity and environmental toxic accumulation? Sweet!

So how about one of the other ingredients, Peg-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate? Sounds tasty. Well, according to this info apparently it has limited evidence of sense organ toxicity by a 1994 study, and potentially unsafe for use on damage or injured skin.

And Tetrasodium Edta?

According to the source, it has high concern for enhanced skin absorption and occupational hazards. In addition, the European Union suggests limited evidence of eye toxicity and the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List classifies it as being expected to be toxic.

And Red 33 is a synthetic dye produced from petroleum and coal tar.

That’s why I use natural soap!

Using this Dial stuff isn’t going to kill you. I used it for years and I haven’t sprouted any tentacles yet. But is it optimal?

Instead, I often use Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap. It has a kickass natural smell that is more powerful than most things with fake fragrance, and cleans well. Here are the ingredients:

Organic coconut oil, organic palm oil, sodium hydroxide, water, mentha arvensis, organic olive oil, organic hemp oil, organic jojoba oil, organic peppermint oil, salt, citric acid and tocopherol

Sodium Hydroxide is listed as having similar concerns as the previously mentioned chemicals, but all of it is used up in the soapmaking process so none remains in the bar. The tocopherol is listed as having no environmental concerns, but according to a 1985 study could cause tumors at high doses. Everything else is plant stuff.

My Stance

I’m not a fan of bioaccumulative environmental concerns and organ toxicity. Soap made out of natural stuff has fewer or no artificial ingredients, and therefore less issues with long-term health effects or environmental problems.

Now, I’ve got nothing against Dial. They’re a random example here, not a specifically problematic soap brand. They just represent the common soap. If this were a Mac vs. PC commercial, they’d be the PC, while the fancy natural soaps would be the hip Mac Guy.

Natural Soap Example

(And if you want to be really hardcore about this, like being the equivalent of a Linux user in the world of natural soaps, you can order it from small one-person shops on Etsy or from other artisan makers of it.)

It all comes down to what this site is about: doing real things. Real food, real exercises, and in this case, real ingredients.

Science is fine and can produce for us many useful things (and as an engineer I play scientist once in a while), but we have to make sure the reasons are justified. When science improves things, that’s great. But when science packs a dozen chemicals with various suspicions or expectations of environmental damage and organ toxicity into a plastic bottle and sells millions of them for $2 each, then maybe that’s not optimal.

The skin is our largest organ and absorbs substances. So I use natural soap, and recommend it. Especially Dr. Bronner’s.