Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review: The Metabolism Advantage

The Metabolism Advantage
Published 2006
381 pages

The Metabolism Advantage is written by John Berardi, PhD and CSCS. He's come up on this blog before for his Precision Nutrition system and his 7 Rules.

This book is a diet-and-exercise plan. Some books teach you how to fish, some give you a fish. This book is more of the latter. It gives you a diet and exercise plans, and explains the basic principles behind it, and then sends you on your way. That's enough to get you through the eight week plan and then gives you the tools to modify it afterwards. But you're going to be copying and experimenting, because it's primarily given you a set plan.

The diet information is the core of the book. Basically, it matches the formula seen in Dr. Berardi's materials elsewhere, including a number of other exercise books (Cheat-to-Lose, Maximum Strength, etc.) You eat lean proteins and a good balance of fats and veggies or fruit at every meal. Your starchy carbs, such as oatmeal and breads and yams, are post-workout only. You don't count calories, and the portions are pretty big (one burger recipe calls for 16 ounces of meat, and makes 2 servings at 600 calories per portion - not a small portion!) Your supplements are very simple - fish oil, creatine, milk protein and whey protein powders, and some kind of post-workout drink. He recommends the Biotest proteins and Surge, but then again, he designed Surge (or co-designed it, I'm not sure) so you'd expect to see it. But he's not wedded to those and gives advice on picking out your own.

The recipes are good - most of them are low-effort or low-time. They are centered on healthy foods. They're easy to follow, and each comes with a very complete breakdown of calories, fat (and each type of fat), carbs, protein, and even Omega-3 and Omega-6 breakdowns. Again, they're also big, so you don't get "portion shock" - you won't read some awesome recipe and find it out it makes 8 tiny servings of which you may eat one, post-workout only. You can easily scale them down, or just eat less and keep them as leftovers.

The book emphasizes 90% compliance - so you'll eat about 42 meals a day and 4 of them you can cheat on, and have whatever you want. Since the portions are large, you eat often (and eat well), and don't need to comply 100% of the time, it's not a particularly onerous diet.

The exercises are largely compound exercises with some isolation exercises. The book says about 80/20 compound/isolation. It centers on barbell and dumbbell exercises, plus some that require a Swiss ball. Only one machine exercise - the sled leg press - is included. If you substituted out for that, you'd need a barbell, dumbbells, adjustable bench, rack (with pullup bar and dip bars), and a Swiss ball. No cables, no pulldowns, and only the one machine. Each exercise has a short description of the main muscles involved, how to do the exercise, and a couple of pictures showing good form. No tips on avoiding bad form or substituting if you can't do them (for lack of equipment or ability) are included.

The workouts the book contains are uniformly good. You've got a 3-day a week plan (upper, lower, full-body) plus 3 days of interval cardio. A later chapter provides a two-day a week workout and four cardio days, or four weight days and two cardio days. The sets and reps vary, from very low (singles, triples, fives) to much higher. All of them are centered on compound exercises supplemented by appropriate isolation exercises to ensure a complete workout. They're all good, no need for a "please ignore..." or "please change..." if you recommended these to another person. Expect to do a lot of deadlifts, pullups, bench pressing, rowing, cleans, and so on, with a few isolation exercises (curls, ab exercises) to complete the workouts.

Content: 4 out of 5. The information is all 5 out of 5, but it doesn't provide much in the way of tools for continuing on your own path. If you're missing equipment, it gives no clues on what to do instead for those exercises. You'll need to go to the online forums and make some deductions based on what you were given. That brings the score down to 4.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Excellent information, well presented. Everything is easy to follow, easy to read, and the pictures are clear and accurately depict what's described.

Overall: If you're looking for a diet-and-exercise plan, just pick-up and go, this is a good one. If you're looking for a guide for a lifetime, and you don't want a plan handed to you, this is useful...but not your complete answer.

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