BOOK REVIEW
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LIFE

Lou Schuler's fitness guide The Lean Muscle Diet offers sensible advice

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 December, 2014, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 December, 2014, 3:43pm

The Lean Muscle Diet

by Lou Schuler and Alan Aragon

Rodale

Dieting may do more harm than good. While you can lose up to 10 per cent of your body weight by following a diet, the ritual itself is heavily implicated in future weight gain, according to fitness journalist Lou Schuler. The reason, Schuler writes, is that eventually everyone quits.

His fitness guide, The Lean Muscle Diet, claims to fix the sustainability glitch, and offer instant results - a cocky assertion. Still, drawing on vast experience, he talks sense on every topic from gluten to squats.

"Squats can do more for total mass and body strength than probably all other lifts combined,'" Schuler writes, quoting a strength coach.

The squat is the one exercise consistently linked with sports performance, Schuler adds: improve your squat strength and you will boost your speed and the height of your jumps.

This guide is a no-nonsense round-up of the best exercises to do, the best food to consume and, more originally, the silliest tips to ignore. Beware of hysterical claims that wheat can kill you, he says.

The book also tells how to distinguish a crackpot nutritionist from a scientist. The way to do this is by taking note of the research used to bolster the source's arguments, he says. The older the study, he says, the more insane the idea.

A solid premise can usually be supported by research published in the last five years. "A nutty premise assumes that only studies published before you were born are worth considering, and everything since then is part of a conspiracy," he writes.

He is equally caustic about the claim that pain is weakness leaving the body. In fact, he says, pain is a protective mechanism that, when ignored, will just turn up the volume until you must pay attention.

Squats can do more for total mass and body strength than all other lifts
Lou Schuler

He then addresses a related adage you hear even more often: "no pain, no gain". Denouncing the double-negative as "only slightly less insidious", he adjusts it to say that you will fail to get the results you want if you never push yourself outside your comfort zone.

Born in 1957, the droll, logical disciplinarian has sold more than one million copies of his fitness books worldwide, according to the blurb. The technical know-how that The Lean Muscle Diet contains must owe a big debt to his aide, nutrition adviser Alan Aragon.

Their advice on how to eat is mostly familiar. Skip trans fats. Moderate alcohol consumption. Eat heaps of fibrous vegetables, ensuring you also ingest plenty of omega-3 oils.

Still, Schuler presents some surprising ideas. For example, simple carbohydrates are not necessarily bad. After all, an apple is a simple carb, as are many healthy, nutritious foods, he claims.

Another strong point he makes is that bicep curls and other dinky moves are a bit of a waste of time.

"Most of us instinctively prioritise arm development without stopping to ask why our biceps, triceps, and forearms would grow out of proportion to the chest, shoulders, and upper-back muscles - the ones they're designed to work with," Schuler writes.

In fact, your arm muscles will grow without you targeting them, he continues, adding that presses, rows, and chin-ups let you work with much heavier weights than you can use for curls or triceps extensions.

If you are comfortable looking eccentric, you could also try the "farmer's walk". The agricultural exercise simply consists of carrying a heavy weight in each hand across the gym, but the pay-off is big - among other perks, your abdominal muscles fire repeatedly to keep your body stable, he points out.

Even if, like the fitnessplans that Schuler criticises, his own attempt fails to give you the perfect body, The Lean Muscle Diet should hold your interest because of its frank approach.