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Bigger Leaner Stronger – Book Review

If you are new to lifting weights and eating well then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This is EXACTLY what you need to do to gain muscle. For the advanced trainers – you won’t learn much you don’t already know. However, laying it out in such a practical way might highlight a part of your regime that’s fallen off track. It has around 220 pages of high quality content. If you have a good grasp of the basics you could learn everything simply from the summaries at the end of each chapter. I read it all in a day and will continue using the principles for life.

Book six is …

Bigger Leaner Stronger by Mike Matthews

Bigger leaner stronger

PRO TIP: Take notes! When you read a book, use a blank sheet of paper as a bookmark. Write down any interesting facts and information from the book. This condenses a whole book into 3-4 pages of key notes that are important and relevant to you.

My Notes

  • There is no need for 95% of supplements on the market, they don’t work!

  • Magazines and websites over-complicate everything to pad out their money-generating content. The truth is you could summarise everything in 20 to 30 articles.

  • Getting in shape is not about a number on the scale, it’s ultimately about Body Fat % and how you look in the mirror.

  • Working in the 4-6 rep range is most effective for those who train regularly (80-85% 1RM)

  • It can take 2-7 days to fully repair muscle after a workout.

  • The 5 Biggest Fat Loss Myths: Not counting calories at all. Using cardio to lose fat. Fad dieting. High rep weightlifting. Trying to “spot reduce” fat.

    four laws of healthy fat loss

  • It doesn’t matter how many meals a day you have if total calories are the same.

  • Michael recommends eating 30 grams of slow digesting protein thirty minutes before bed to aid muscle recovery.

  • Lack of willpower is the number one obstacle people face in achieving their goals.

  • Control the three aspects of willpower: learning to say no to temptation, learning to make yourself do something and remembering why you’re doing it.

  • Junk food triggers a dopamine release that forces our body to act upon impulse.

  • Dopamine triggered by one action leads us to be more likely to take subsequent actions, making it harder to say no to temptation.

    “When we consider how over-targeted and over-stimulated our dopamine neurons really are, it’s no surprise that the average person is an overweight procrastinator hooked on ice cream, video games, TV shows and social media”

  • The more stressed we are, the harder it is to make sensible diet decisions.

  • Try to get the majority of your carbohydrates from complex, slow-burning foods.

  • Having obese friends and family members dramatically increases your chances of becoming obese too.

  • Simply thinking about people who have high levels of self control has been shown to increase willpower.

  • “Moral licensing” is the act of “rewarding” yourself with something bad as a consequence of good behaviour.

  • Research has shown that following a missed workout or unhealthy binge, it’s better to forgive yourself than be hard on yourself. The latter will make you less likely to get back on track.

  • Another form of moral licensing is doing the bad behaviour first and promising yourself you will be good later. For example, eating dessert and telling yourself you will eat healthy food tomorrow.

  • When you get a food craving, accept that you are experiencing it but remember you do not have to act on it. Try postponing any action for 10 minutes, and see what happens.

  • We can increase our overall willpower by performing regular small acts of self-control.

  • Define your ideal body – find pictures of those with your ideal physique and use them as motivation Bodyspace.

  • Also think of what health benefits you want from exercise – write those down and refer to them for motivation too.

Section 3: Diet

    • Seven Aspects of Nutrition: Calories, Protein, Carbs, Fat, Water, Vitamins & Minerals, and Calcium.

    • One gram of Protein per lb body-weight per day is a bodybuilding staple.

    • Mike recommends slightly more, up to 1.4 times body-weight in lbs. NB: I don’t disagree, but optimal muscle building and optimal health are not the same thing.

    • Best choices of protein are meat, dairy and eggs. Second to those are legumes, nuts, peas, broccoli and spinach.

    • Whey protein is better post workout, Casein protein is better for general purpose.

    • Egg protein powder has great digestibility and is good for pre- and post-workout needs.

    • A diet high in soy reduced sperm count in men and increased estrogen, so avoid soy!

    • Hemp is hard to digest and has low protein %, you are better off with a combination of rice and pea protein.

    • Whey is absorbed at 8-10g/hr, casein 6.1, soy 3.9 (don’t eat soy!), and egg 1.3 (guideline values only).

    • Maximal muscle protein synthesis at 20g protein PWO, so you don’t need more.

    • Some say there’s a limit of protein you can absorb in one meal of around 30-40 grams. This is a myth.

    • Stimulate protein synthesis throughout the day by getting 30g+ at each meal.

    • The danger of sugar is that it’s fast absorbed and leaves you hungry soon after, even in high calorie doses.

    • High, long term intake of simple carbs has been linked to increase risk in heart disease and type II diabetes

    • If you’re overweight and don’t exercise, you shouldn’t eat a large amount of simple sugars every day as your body can’t handle it.

    • “Make sure you don’t eat high carb and high fat in the same meal” is also a myth.

      Low-carb diets inhibit testosterone, increase cortisol (stress hormone) and make it harder to gain muscle and strength.

    • Avoid Trans fats at all costs.

  •  healthy eating
    • Filter your tap water, and don’t think bottled water is healthy, because the chemicals “leach” into the water.

    • Nutrient dense foods: Avocado, Spinach, Peppers, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes, Berries, Eggs, Seeds, Nuts, Whole Grains, Fish and Lean Meat.

    • Most people get too much sodium (salt) which causes bloating.

    • One teaspoon of salt contains your entire day’s recommended intake of sodium (2,300mg).

    • You should have a 1:2 ratio of sodium to potassium, so 4,600mg potassium a day.

    • Potassium is found in: Meats, Fish, Broccoli, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Beans, Bananas, Avocado, Kiwi, Nuts, Dairy.

    • Pre-workout protein helps if you haven’t had a recent large meal, or the last meal didn’t contain a lot of protein. Aim for 30 grams of protein, 30 minutes before the workout.

    • Use a fast digesting protein for pre-workout, as you want it to be in the blood quicker

    • For pre-workout carbohydrate, use low GI carbs for endurance workouts and high GI carbs for shorter, intense workouts.

    • Shoot for 40 grams of carbs 30 minutes before training.

    • Post-workout nutrition should minimise muscle breakdown and maximise protein synthesis.

    • Aim for 30-40 grams of protein Post Workout. Although 20 grams is the supposed limit, factors like muscle mass mean it’s likely much higher in trained individuals.

    • Post-workout carbs reduce muscle breakdown, but don’t impact protein synthesis.

    • Aim for 1 gram per kg of body-weight carbs after a workout.

    • You only need post-workout protein and carbs after cardio if it was over an hour or contained some high intensity work.

seven mistakes made gym

Chapter 14 – The “Diet”

  • It is difficult to build any muscle while in a fat loss calorie deficit. The goal while on a fat loss diet is simply to preserve muscle.

    The more body fat you have, the more “fat storing” effect carbs have in a diet.

  • More body fat also drops testosterone (male hormone) and raises oestrogen (female hormone).

  • When cutting: 1.2g/lb body-weight Protein, 1g/lb carbs, 0.2g/lb fat per day.

  • Being within 50 calories of your daily target is a good aim.

  • Try and aim for losing 0.5 to 1lb a week, any more is likely to include muscle loss.

  • Beware of “hidden” calories you didn’t consider recording: oil you cook with, salad dressing etc.

  • When cutting, 5 x 60 min weights and 4 x 30 min cardio per week is a good max.

  • Eat the same on days when you aren’t lifting (for a cut).

  • For bulking, aim for 0.5-1lb gain a week, any more is likely fat and as it is your gains will be roughly 50% fat.

  • Bulking: 1g/lb Protein, 2g/lb carb, 0.4g/lb fat per day, aim to be within 100 calories of target each day.

  • Maintenance: 1g/lb Protein, 1.6g/lb carbs, 0.35g/lb fat

  • Note down all the foods you currently eat, now note down all the healthy foods you like and should be eating.

  • Consider including a “re-feed” day with an extra ~30% carbs instead of cheat meals.

  • Cheap sources of nutritious food: Eggs, Chicken Breast, Almonds, Low Fat Cottage Cheese, Protein Powder, Avocado (really?!), Oats, Black Beans, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Fruit, Sweet Potato

  • 25-40 grams of fructose will have no negative impact on health (equivalent of 2-3 apples).

weight training

Section 4: Training

  • Train 1-2 muscle groups per day, set of 4-6 reps for nearly all exercises.

  • Do 9-12 Heavy Sets per workout.
  • 50-70 reps performed with each major muscle group every 5-7 days is best for natural lifters
  • Rest 3-4 minutes between sets, keep training to around an hour and de-load every 8-10 weeks.
  • Use cardio as active recovery, note that interval training burns significantly more fat than steady-state cardio.
  • Cap your cardio at 30 minutes, 2-3 sessions is ideal. Also separate lifting and cardio by at least 3 hours, if not more.
  • Warm ups should introduce blood into the muscles being trained and progressively acclimatise the body to heavier weight without fatigue.
  • Try a warm up of 12 reps at 50% of intended weight, rest 1 min then 10 reps faster, rest 1 min then 4 reps of 70%, rest 1 min then 1 rep of 90% intended weight, rest 2-3 mins. Ready to go.
  • Lift weights 3-5 times a week.

three laws muscle growth



  • Take 2000IU Vitamin D a day, mainly on days you can’t get sun exposure.
  • You don’t need BCAA’s if you get sufficient protein pre and PWO from whey etc.
  • Can use BCAA’s for fasted training, take 10g 10-15 mins before fasted training.
  • Take Creatine monohydrate at the same time as carbs to increase effectiveness, 3-5 grams post workout.
  • Glutamine is only good for anti-stess or anti-fatigue, not building muscle.
  • A daily multi-vitamin is only good if you’re deficient. It could be worth having one specifically for athletes.
  • Have 3-6 mg of caffeine per kg body-weight pre-workout. Try to keep daily intake below 6mg/kg.
  • Include no caffeine days so you don’t build up a tolerance to it.
  • Fish Oil increases muscle protein synthesis, reduces muscle soreness, inflammation, anxiety, blood pressure, depression and risk of stroke. It also improves memory and cognitive performance, and speeds up fat loss!
  • 1.3-2.7 grams of omega-3 a day i.e. check ingredients to see how much fish oil provides that
  • Spirulina can be taken 3 grams per day
  • Most important supplements in order: Vitamin D, Multi-vitamin, Fish Oil, Protein Powder, Spirulina, Creatine (and Caffeine for fat loss)

As you can see i’ve made really comprehensive notes on this book. While there’s nothing incredibly technical it is a fantastic overview of the core concepts. This is almost identical to the notes I made at undergraduate level in Sports Science. For the beginner to intermediate lifter with less than 3 year experience, you will find a lot of useful information in this book. If I had this available when I first started lifting at 16 years old it pains me to think how much stronger and leaner i’d have been in my twenties.

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