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597: Fitness Myths Debunked and Natural Bodybuilding Strategies to Lose Weight and Build Muscle Over 40 with Eric Helms, PhD

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597: Fitness Myths Debunked and Natural Bodybuilding Strategies to Lose Weight and Build Muscle Over 40 with Eric Helms, PhD

Do you struggle to make sense of all the fitness and nutrition advice out there? With so many internet gurus and conflicting information about losing weight and building muscle, it’s tough to separate fact from fiction.

In today’s episode, Ted interviews Eric Helms, an experienced coach and a pro natural bodybuilder, known for his evidence-based approach to fitness and nutrition.

They discuss how Eric got into bodybuilding and what draws him to natural bodybuilding. They also touch on how ideals of the male physique have evolved and why it’s crucial to set healthy expectations.

Eric dives into the complexities of the carbohydrate-insulin model versus the energy balance model when it comes to weight gain and obesity.

He talks about the importance of looking at weight management from multiple angles, including food environment, behavior, and individual psychology.

He shares practical tips for effective training, talks about misconceptions around testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), the importance of tackling lifestyle factors before considering TRT and more. Listen now!


Today’s Guest

Eric Helms, PhD

Eric Helms is an experienced coach and a pro natural bodybuilder. He is the founder of and reviewer for Monthly Applications in Strength Sport, and is a research fellow at the Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand at Auckland University of Technology, pursuing research in training, nutrition and psychology for strength and physique sport.

Eric has a PhD in Strength and Conditioning with a research focus on autoregulating powerlifting, a masters with a research focus on protein and macronutrient manipulation for dieting bodybuilders, a second masters in exercise science and health promotion, and a bachelors in sports management, fitness and wellness.

As an athlete, Eric is a WNBF Pro bodybuilder and competes in multiple strength sports. He is also the author of the book, Muscle and Strength Pyramid.


Connect to Eric Helms: 



Youtube: @Team3DMJ 

Podcast: 3D Muscle Journey 

Instagram: @team3dmj 

X: @team3dmj 

TikTok: @team3dmj 


You’ll learn:

  • The reality of natural bodybuilding
  • Aging and bodybuilding
  • Debunking fitness and nutrition myths
  • Impact of modern technology on health
  • Understanding set volume and muscle growth
  • Practical tips for effective training
  • The role of testosterone and marketing myths
  • And much more…


Related Episodes:  

Ted Talk 196: Rythmia: How Drinking Ayahuasca Changed My Life (Again) 

Ted Talk 193: Journey Within: Seeking Clarity Through Ayahuasca At Rythmia 

334: How Plant Medicine Can Change Your Life with Gerry Powell 


Links Mentioned: 

Learn More About The Unstoppable After 40 Coaching Program

Join The Unstoppable After 40 Newsletter

Schedule a Strategy Call with Ted

Watch the Body Breakthrough Masterclass  

Connect with Ted on X and Instagram


Want some help building your best body ever? 

Together, we’ll craft a personalized plan to reclaim your health and transform your body in a way that fits your busy lifestyle.

If you want to learn more about our Unstoppable After 40 Coaching Program, click here!

We have limited spots, so click here to book a call now!


Podcast Transcription: Fitness Myths Debunked and Natural Bodybuilding Strategies to Lose Weight and Build Muscle Over 40 with Eric Helms

Ted Ryce: Eric Helms, thanks so much for being on the show today. Really excited to dive into this conversation with you about all things natural bodybuilding.  

Eric Helms: Ted, it's an honor. No, I'm always happy to talk about it. So, thanks for having me on.  

Ted Ryce: Absolutely. And you know, I'll just start out by saying I'm familiar with you, with your work. You're one of the people who's helped bring me out of the, um, let's say the more pseudoscientific approach, pro science approach to building muscle, to losing fat, you're one of those people that I looked up to and have learned from over the years, although this is our first time talking. What I'd love to do is to start out just, could you talk a little bit about how you got into bodybuilding and specifically like this natural route? 

Eric Helms: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so I got into bodybuilding as essentially a coping strategy as a healthier option than a lot of the other coping strategies that we, we lean on, unfortunately, in society. And I think because of that emotional connection and it being a way for me to process emotions and deal with, you know, You know, things I was struggling with as a young man, I think I started lifting weights when I was 21. 

Seriously. I did a little bit in high school for say, track and field and I did martial arts growing up. But when I truly got bit by the iron bug. I was, uh, just finishing my enlistment in the Air Force, got very serious about it and very quickly wanted to do something with it because I was noticing this progression. 

I was, I would say, almost like addicted to progress, if you will, you know, and I, I loved lifting to get stronger and just to try to make my body bigger because I was a skinny guy growing up and not that I ever had any issue with that, but it was cool to see the empowerment of being able to change my body and early on. 

I didn't even know that like, um, well, first, I didn't really know about bodybuilders regularly taking anabolic steroids and performance sensing drugs and aesthetic enhancing drugs until I started, you know, reading the magazines. This is 2004 when I started lifting. So it was pre social media and then I didn't know about natural bodybuilding, which is actually something that is quite large. 

And there's just as many, if not more, uh, competitors who are drug free. In and around the world, uh, is there are those who are using enhancements. And in fact, there's probably more because even some people who plan to use. Format sensing drugs aren't currently there earlier in their, their competitive career. 

So, I was trying to work myself up into the idea of, okay, so maybe eventually, if I want to compete, I'm going to have to think about making this decision to use what is illegal or, you know, like, and potentially as health risks. And I was going through that process and I started becoming aware of natural bodybuilding through the bodybuilding dot com forums. 

And then seeing it in person, I actually got the opportunity to be a test judge at a WNBF show in Georgia, uh, where I was stationed in Augusta, Georgia. And that was a show put on by a multi time heavyweight WNBF world champion from the late nineties and early two thousands, Rodney Hilaire.  

And I watched a guy get his pro card and he kind of reminded me of like a natural version of Tom Platts, just incredible legs and having just kind of started my bodybuilding journey and finding the movie Pumping Iron, I was like, oh, wow. And it really appealed to me that just the idea that there were these drug free shows, that there was this whole other pathway that is not nearly as well publicized. And there's a ton of organizations while I said earlier, there's probably just as many, if not more drug free bodybuilding competitors out there. 

They're not in the big shows. They're not competing on stage in Vegas and winning 400, 000 dollars if they win the Olympia. You know, natural bodybuilders pay for their own flight, and they might get 5 grand if they win their weight class and the world championship and, you know, they have to pay for their own drug testing. Right?  

So, it's, it's definitely something that people do for the love. And I don't think even bodybuilders who are enhanced are doing it for the money because that's really restricted to just the top level. But for me personally, it wasn't about morality, um, although I didn't really want to do something that was illegal, uh, although I know there's many legal ways to get quote unquote TRT, which I'm sure we'll talk about that. 

For me, it was that I knew my personality, that I was a competitive person and that. If I was going to try to become, like, fulfill my potential, and I was training as hard as I could, and I was doing the best I could with my, my nutrition, and I wasn't able to progress, or I plateaued if anabolics were on the table, I knew that I would, I would take them and probably get to the point where I was going past what a safe use model might look like because of the competent competitive drive.  

So having a line in the sand and knowing that I could have a playing field where that wasn't a key component to success. Or it was, it was banned. It was very simple for me. Sweet. I can go drug free. I can compete naturally, that was really appealing because it made it so I didn't have to try to make that concession and it gave me an outlet to, uh, do it in a way that I felt was far more sustainable and aligned with my conception of what bodybuilding should be, which is a lot more holistic, even though I compete.  

So that's why I got into natural bodybuilding, but it was, I think it's something that a lot of people are not even fully aware of or what it means or the implications. So yeah, it's, I think it's, it's, it's obviously a controversial topic too, but it's, I think it's, it's a worthwhile one to discuss.  

Ted Ryce: Absolutely. And thanks for giving that background there. It really helps, uh, you know, me see you differently as well as, as one of my, you know, has I'll say mentors, right. Even though it's more reading your information and the studies that you and the work that you've done.  

What's interesting. I think there's 2 things that people don't know about. Let's say this fitness world in general. There's a lot more people. And this isn't just bodybuilders. This is the whole fitness industry. 

There's a lot more people taking drugs than you realize. And there's people who get great results. Who don't take drugs. I mean, for me, I've been accused of being, uh, depending on the angle and the photo, I've been accused of being really in poor shape or on steroids. It's kind of funny.  

Eric Helms: Absolutely. I've had the, I've had the polar opposite comments in the same Host or YouTube. 

I've had people who have accused me of being on drugs or have said, this guy's a bodybuilder. Like he doesn't even look like he lifts, which I think tells you about the silos that people operate and the expectations people can have depending upon what they follow. So, 100 percent, absolutely.  

Ted Ryce: And I wasn't going to go into this, but I think it's something to bring up because of, of this conversation. 

It's like also the, let's say the ideal male physique, what you would ask most guys, let's say on social media, but let's, let's just talk about social media. That's where so many of us are spending time and, you know, learning from, including YouTube. It's like the ideal physique has changed a lot. Even Arnold versus the top competitors today. 

I mean, it's just night and day difference. And do you have anything to say about forming healthy expectations about what someone could look to achieve, especially our, uh, the type of clientele who we work with are over 40. So, could you offer some advice in that?  

Eric Helms: Yeah, I think, um, so I think the main thing to point out is that there's nothing wrong with wanting to change the way you look or change your body, but I think modeling it, setting your expectations based upon what someone else looks like is a very human and understandable thing to do, but it's probably not and nothing wrong with like, oh, I'm inspired by Arnold's physique. I want to put that up there.  

But I think some people like, I get questions like, Hey, how tall are you? You know, what's your arm measurement? I know what they're really asking, it's like, I want to look like you. So let me try to match your measurements or maybe try to directly aspire to that. And I think it's a weird thing when I say, hey, this is going to be empowering and gives you agency to build self efficacy. You don't have that much control over what you look like.  

As much as I love pumping iron and Arnold's like, yeah, you know, I want to add more, more lateral delts, another sculptor, let's do lateral raises. 

It's not that straightforward where you start doing lateral raises and next week you're like, cool, okay, got two inches there. Let me see if I can add another inch to my calves.  

Like I had someone who is commenting on my performance at WMDF worlds and they're like, you're kind of tall for the middle way to be thought about being a heavyweight. You know, as if I could just like snap my fingers and be a heavyweight as though I haven't been trying to be a heavyweight my entire, you know, 19, almost 20 year lifting career. 

Like, I'm holding myself back from how big I'm trying to get. So, you're going to get what you get out of bodybuilding. And I think ideally. The thing that's going to really be the most rewarding and that will ensure you stick with it, which becomes more and more important as we age is that we keep lifting, keep exercising, is focusing on the enjoyment of the process. 

I think when you are, it's great if whatever gets you in the gym is, Oh, I don't like the way I look and I want to get like whatever gets someone in the gym, I'm happy to be like, great. But if it is coming out of a place of, I don't like the way I look, I want to be someone else, and from a very negative place, unless that changes, that almost always results in recidivism. People don't stick with it.  

You know, like, you don't like flossing your dentist tells you to do it every single time and 9 out of 10 people don't stick with it. They go to the dentist. The dentist tells him to floss. They floss for 2 weeks and they stop. And if lifting weights for you is the act of something you hate, like flossing to get an outcome, better dental health or changing the way you look. 

It'll be the same, so I still don't floss regularly because I have yet to find an aspect of the process of flossing that is enjoyable, but I have met many people in my career as a trainer and a personal trainer and just in my life who they started exercising because they didn't like the way they look. 

They wanted to change the way they looked and they found a sense of agency purpose and they liked seeing the numbers go up or they liked the feeling they got in the gym. They like the pump, like, whatever it is, and I think that is really critical. And it doesn't need to be lifting. Of course, I obviously think bodybuilding is amazing. And it's my, my drug of choice, but. I think the perception that exercise is this thing that you're supposed to do for your health and that you get nagged by your doctor to do it. Or maybe your partner wants your blood pressure high seeing seeing exercise as a chore rather than something that for me, it's like play. 

Like, it's my favorite part of the day. Yes. I compete in it. Yes. I take it very seriously. Yes. I push myself to places that I don't want to go. But those are, those are choices that I've made and decisions to take it further beyond it being just this really fun thing. And if and when I stop competing, which I don't think I ever will, it'll go back to just being play rather than this play that I also compete in. 

And even among athletes, you will see this is that once they start this actually psychological research on this, once you start rewarding someone for something that they already like to do, if they're not careful, it can change their motivation around it and actually take away from their, their, their pursuit of that practice. 

And this is very basic developmental stuff. There was actually research done specifically in children going into like a kindergarten class and they would take children who are already drawing and they put them into three groups, a group that was just the control group and they were just drawing and they observed how many of them kept drawing over a time, a period of time. 

And there's other two groups, one group that they rewarded. And they told them they were going to reward. They said, Hey, you know, whoever does the most strong is going to get these gold star stickers and they're going to, you know, you'll get actually ranked and you're now you're drawing for gold stars, right? 

And another group who they rewarded, but they didn't tell them. So, they, at the end of this, the observational period, they just gave them gold stars for who drew the most. And a really interesting thing happened in that the kindergartners who were told they were going to be now drawing and for rewards, they had the highest number out of all three groups who stopped drawing after the reward period. 

So, their motivation to draw, which was intrinsic before for, for just fun, was supplanted in some cases, not all cases, of course, by the desire to draw for reward. And once the reward was no longer on the table, the study period is over. And why would I want to draw?  

And I have, I've met competitors who they love lifting because lifting is typically not something we pick up in high school as it is an independent activity.It's something we do maybe in high school for football or maybe for sport or track and field or what have you or for a weight class. But most of the time it's, it's adults deciding to get into lifting for fitness or for fun as an outlet or something like, like I did. And then they find themselves looking for some way to keep it going to motivate them to achieve new heights. 

So they go, you know, I'm going to compete in powerlifting or CrossFit. Or bodybuilding or strongman or what have you, which is great, but that can sometimes lead to, you know, burnout. They get a little too obsessed. So, they lose their time for it. And then they stop lifting altogether. And I think that's quite tragic. 

Honestly, when you really think about it, it's something that you intrinsically loved. Then you were drawn to take it even further and somehow by the process of taking it further and now focusing on a metal or plastic trophy or a Mr. Whatever title eventually, like, it just lost its appeal.  

So, I think it's really, really important, even if you don't compete or you do compete to really focus on enjoyment of the process, doing it for the love. 

And everything else needs to kind of be seen as like the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself, which athletes often lose sight of and very goal oriented people do as well, especially if they come from, like, a business background, the chasing numbers. And, um, I've heard this coined before by a sports psych or, uh, I should say a body dissatisfaction psychologist, the tyranny of progress and the 1st, couple of years. 

And you lift the newbie phase, you're, you're throwing plates on the bar every single week. You're getting bigger and stronger that inevitably slows down. Yeah. And I think it's, it's just like any new skill you pick up, you're going to see this, this rapid increase. And then it's very asymptotic logarithmic gains where you put in 10 years to make minimal progress. 

And if you're purely focused on what you're getting out of it, extracting from lifting rather than it being as a, a meditative process or a practice. Or something that you're trying to treat as a skill and something that you're, you're, you know, soothing or nurturing yourself or giving yourself an emotional outlet. 

If you don't develop a deeper connection to the process specifically, it's going to be very challenging to keep doing it even when the progress stops or eventually starts to actually backslide and you're just simply holding back the tide of regression. Which I think is probably the motivation why a lot of guys get on TRT is they, they, they haven't actually gotten to, uh, a healthy place with that. 

In my opinion, I mean, not to say that there aren't clinical reasons to jump on it, but when they're doing it to supplement their, their lifting progress, they're still like, they're still chasing the progress and don't get me wrong. I love progress. I'm still progressing. But I think a lot of guys think that the road is a lot shorter than it is. 

And in natural bodybuilding, there are guys who are winning world titles in their fifties, which is a kind of a cool aspect in natural bodybuilding. There's guys like Marshall Johnson who are highly competitive in the open pro division in the early sixties. And yeah, it's not uncommon at all. If you were to go to WNBF worlds and look at the top 10 and the light, that's the world natural bodybuilding federation. 

And this is the most competitive, uh, you know, uh, natural bodybuilding organization. If you look at the top 10 in the pro division in bodybuilding or men's physique, you're going to see that most guys are 30 plus. And many of them are 40 plus, and some of them are 50 plus. And they're still at their peak. 

So, it's a, it's a pretty cool thing to see that a lot of the things that we associate with age actually have to do with cumulative years of inactivity. And it's not like age one eventually gets you got bad news for your podcast listeners, Ted, we're all going to die eventually. But yeah, it's bad news, but, uh, but, uh, and don't shoot the messenger, but I think healthy aging and a resistance training population is something where you start to see things maybe start to drop off a bit in your sixties. 

Ted Ryce: And when you say drop off, what do you mean drop off? Like you, you can't gain muscle anymore or you regress. Like, what do you mean by that?  

Eric Helms: Well, that's a, that's a good question because it depends on where you're starting. If you take someone who's been inactive until they're 65 and they start lifting weights, they're going to gain muscle. 

If you take someone who's been lifting since they're 20, when they're, when they're in their mid sixties, they might have started to lose a little bit of muscle mass. They might see a little bit of muscle mass related to age, um, and, and the declines that come with that. But if you were to compare, there's still going to be an incredible 65 year old, you know, like, for example, Marshall Johnson, the guy I gave an example of he's won the lightweight title in the I.F. P. A. York and Cup, which is one of the most prestigious titles in natural bodybuilding. He won that title, I think, in his mid fifties. He's still competing now in his early sixties, and he looks amazing, but he was better in his mid fifties. But the cool thing about him being as mid fifties is he was better than he was in his forties. 

So, there is eventually this decline, but I think the perception that people have is that this decline starts in your thirties or forties. And I think a lot of that is driven by TRT marketing, to be honest. Or people who have been inactive and yeah, being sedentary all the way from your 20 to 40 can make you feel like it's quote unquote aging, but it might just be 20 years of being sedentary. 

And as someone who is, you know, turning 41 next month, like I definitely know that I feel different, but this is the best I've ever been. I recently, you know, I turned pro last year, the year I turned 40 and it took me, you know, 19 years of training to get there. And that is not uncommon.  

Ted Ryce: Eric, how did, how is it different? How can you be looking and feeling your best physique wise? What, what's different than for you?  

Eric Helms: I think it's a difference in resilience. That's what I've noticed. So, when I would say, say, 27, 28, and I had built the fair chunk of muscle, it's still not not as good as a physique or strength level as I have done in competition and power lifting or bodybuilding today, and I'd get 4 hours of sleep and I would be little dehydrated and not great with my water and not eating fruits and vegetables for a few days and just kind of getting off track, but still training, you can have me going for a leg day and I'd be good to go.  

I could still do, you know, 8 10 sets in a given leg day. I could do my lunges, my squats, my leg press, RDL, all that good stuff. If I get a night, if I get one night's sleep right now, that's like four hours, I'll be alright. 

But you string together two poor nights of sleep and me being a little dehydrated, and that workout is gonna go very poorly and I'm actually nervous about hurting myself. So it's, it's, it's like my peak is the same height, but the path to get there is a little narrower, which I think actually fits kind of well with the fact that I've been in the game for a while because a lot of the things that are quote unquote optimal. 

But I had to work very hard to do in terms of just the cognitive load that it took for me when I was younger are now just my life because I've been competing in bodybuilding since 2007. I don't think about the fact that I basically have the same lunch every day or that I'm always eating 200 grams of protein or more. 

That's just what I do, you know, or that I have five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Like things that are very abnormal for your typical person who's getting into fitness and wellness are things are habits that I've ingrained. That I don't even know how not to do those things now. So, the odd times when I'm traveling, or it's a holiday, or the grocery store is closed, or someone visits me, or I'm stressed and I get poor sleep. 

I noticed that those disturb my ability to be at my peak more easily. So, it's like, I kind of have to be on my P's and Q's a little more, but if I'm on my P's and Q's. I could crush the 25 year old Eric Helms in competition, which is, which is kind of cool, you know. 

Ted Ryce: I like this conversation because, you know, you mentioned about TRT and people turning to it from your perspective or experience. 

Because they're expecting to put on inch on their deltoids, like your Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. And it's like, well, I've been doing dealt raises. Uh, I've, I've bumped up the volume on my dealt raises for like three weeks. I don't see a difference yet. From my experience, I see people doing really suboptimal lifestyle, living a suboptimal lifestyle, drinking several nights a week. 

Have no idea how much protein they're eating and definitely no idea how many calories they're eating and they're going into the gym and working hard. But as you know, to give your example there, if we did sleep deprive you for 2 days in a row and so and dehydrate you to 2 days in a row, you could go into the gym. 

And that workout would kick your butt and you might say to yourself, not you, Eric, but someone who's in a similar position without your knowledge and experience. Like, oh, I go into the gym. I push myself so hard. I should be getting better results when in reality it's not that you pushed yourself so hard. 

It's that you're so beat up from your lifestyle, your hard workout. It's you could be doing way better. You just, your lifestyle is just in the way. Can you talk a little bit about that?  

Eric Helms: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a lot to be said about making sure that you set the stage for success. A lot of people, like, I'm, I'm taking an interesting angle on your question to where I think a lot of people try to dive into everything at the same time. 

And I understand why they do that because typically by the time someone goes, I'm going to get a gym membership. I'm going to go to GNC to buy 10Billion supplements. And, you know, I'm obviously dating myself. Most people can do that online now. They, they, or they go online and they buy a bunch of supplements online. 

Uh, they go get their workout gloves. They get a nice belt. They're, they're reading reviews on the Addie powers versus the, the Ramalios, you know, and they do the kind of thing like cyclists do. They, they haven't even, you know, cycled yet. The Rio two max is like, you know, and they're, they, they purchased 10, 000 with their equipment, right. 

And this is especially relevant to the audience here who potentially has a disposable income being a little older and all that. They're all in, they're ready to rock. And that passion is a great launching point to really set yourself up for success. And you want to nurture that as a trainer. I can tell you that you don't want to hold people back. 

And sometimes the messaging we get in kind of the evidence based training communities. Oh, like precision nutrition will change one thing. And while on paper, that might be good. Like, I don't want to overload you. I want to give you one habit and we're going to master this basic skill and we're going to put these big rocks in the jar. 

Yeah. Yeah. I think there's a balance to where you don't want to slow someone down, but on the other side of it, you don't want to take on so many new skills that your, your cognitive burden and your ability to master them all is diluted. So, for example, if you're going to start a really hard training program and you haven't started eating fruit and vegetables, or you just have 3 square meals per day that you're actually not eating out on the go stressed and you're, you know, you haven't been able to get yourself up from 5 to 6 and a half hours of sleep per night. Like, some of this low hanging fruit is really important from a recovery standpoint, because what you don't want is to be someone in your 40s who's getting back in the gym and then to get hurt. Right?  

Because that can set you back even further. And I've unfortunately met a lot of scenarios like that. Someone jumps into a CrossFit class and they've got a, you know, a 19 year old trainer who is not really trained anybody except themselves. And you, they don't, they don't really understand your lifestyle, your perspective. 

You know, they go to college when they want, taking classes and they spend most of the time thinking about fitness and that's the lifestyle they can live and think about their own level of recovery. They expect you to, you know, be relatively robotic about things. And kind of all in and it's just not realistic for a father of two who has a full-time job and they won't think to emphasize the things because they don't have the same perspective that I was just talking about. 

So, it's really important to take all that motivation and lay the groundwork. Think about how do I make this something sustainable? It's you kind of have to think about how do I make future Eric happy? Not just how do I jump on this right now? You know, like how do I make sure this is something where in five years? 

I'm going to be better than I am today and still doing it. And that's a great lens to look at, like, your nutrition, you know, like, if you're doing, like, some diet, that's basically just tuna vegetables and whey protein, and you're going to CrossFit classes 3 days a week and then writing your, your, your, your bike on the other 3 days per week and just going all out. 

And this is what you started with. If you, if I'm, if I'm a gambling man, if I'm going to Vegas, they're done in maybe six months, if their body holds up. But if you, if, if I see somebody who did a lot of research, who consulted with some people who watch some, some, some content, who did some critical thinking, who sat down with their friend, who did their master's degree and actually a science, you know, another good thing about being in your forties, you've got a network, you know, you don't have to fall victim to this stuff and you've got a little bit of life experience to think about what, what makes sense, you know, what like, leveraging your common sense and your experiences from being younger is a huge boon to not being hoodwinked, in my opinion, and then going, all right, what do I need to do to make sure that I'm going to be most likely to succeed in this in the long run? 

Because if you're getting back into fitness, or if you were in shape and then you got out of shape, the lesson there is whatever I was doing before, I didn't stick with it. 

And that's the issue, you know, like, most people are good at losing weight. They've done it and they regain it. So going back to the weight loss. Well, I'm going, well, I remember that last that it did work. Well, did it like is losing the same 20 pounds a diet that works? Well, no, you need to think about something that is not what you've done this far, because that has resulted in doing it again. 

We want to have a true lifestyle change, and that doesn't happen from creating a rocky montage that you can follow for 6 weeks, maybe 6 months. If you have, you know, enough goggins playing in your ear. It's actually about changing your lifestyle and finding habits that really mesh with you and loving the process, not kind of flagellating yourself with the whip behind your back as you, as you, as you go forward, that is something that I flip that switch when I'm 6 weeks out from a competition, and then that switch stays untouched on the wall for the rest of my lifting career, you know, and it's good to have that ability to go there and be a dog as an athlete, or as a human in life. 

But that's not a state of being because it's not sustainable for anybody. I don't care what they say or what they portray on social media. So anyway, to answer your question, I think what you want to do is really set up a lifestyle that's conducive to the type of training that will get you to your goals. 

And when you don't lay that ground groundwork, or at least do it in concert with the hard training, it can result in a worse outcome than before. You know, now you're in the same spot, but with. You know, a cast on your elbow or something like that.  

Ted Ryce: Yeah. Thanks for providing all that context. And, uh, I, I say a lot of similar things, so it's good to have someone else like you on the show saying it. And also with your scientific background, which I don't have, by the way, it's also great to hear you say that.  

And another thing I think is important to mention here. Yeah. And I do want to get into some nuts and bolts, like let's talk how many sets and how to optimize volume and all that. But in terms of, I'll use this as an example. 

I was talking to someone on, on Twitter and he was telling me. Like he's super shredded and muscular at the moment. And what he said was like, he shared a photo and you could see the veins on his, on his quads popping out. And, and what he said was I turned to TRT because I couldn't lose fat and the low T must've been stopping me. 

Um, can you help shed some light for the people who are maybe tired of hearing it from me, uh, about like, What the foundation is, especially in this world where people are saying, Hey, look, uh, the carbohydrate insulin model, it's just carbs that are causing you to, you know, and you could, you could eat 10, 000 calories of butter, olive oil and avocado. 

But if you have a teaspoon of sugar, like, that's going to turn into fat automatically. Can you, uh, maybe help clear up some ideas about fat loss in particular?  

Eric Helms: Absolutely. And the beauty of this, and this is where I think scientific rigorous studies that maybe don't even apply to real life. That aren't quote unquote, ecologically valid are actually really helpful because we have what's called metabolic ward studies. 

So big shout out to Kevin Hall. He's a researcher. This is where they have actual money, not sports science money where I have, like, a couple of grand and you know, I get people on a force plate and have max out and train them for 8 weeks and it feels like personal training, but we're talking about, um. 

Basically, a ward where they give you food. Um, you're actually paid to participate in the study. We don't have the money for that here in sports science land, but in in big medical land, you can run studies where, uh, the food is entirely controlled. And you can use a bomb calorimeter to exactly measure the energy intake of the food consumed. 

By the participants, and you can have them in a ward that the whole thing is basically like a respiratory chamber. A metabolic ward is a place where your gas exchanges are measured. So, we can see exactly what your energy expenditure is and then measure exactly what your energy intake is. And then you can manipulate the food intake. 

You can manipulate the activity, you can do comparative trials, and you can actually see what is the mechanism by which human body mass and body composition change occurs. And we've known for decades, quite literally. Uh, that it is the energy balance that manipulates the change in body composition and the right now you'll even see debates in the literature as related to whether it is the, quote unquote, CICO model calories and calories out or insulin model of obesity. 

And the funny thing is that over the 20 years of these debates going on in the research and the evidence being done. Or the evidence being uncovered through controlled trials and even people rigorously debating things is that the insulin model of obesity has slowly shifted closer and closer.  

It's kind of done this lateral goalpost shift to where it essentially sounds like today now, if you were to talk to the people, at least in the literature, not someone on on Twitter or someone who's not in this background, but the actual scientists who are, you know, trying to cling on to this hypothesis that it is carbohydrate mediated increases in insulin that, uh, that result in a weight gain and independent of energy intake.  

What they're basically saying now is yes. It is the energy balance dictates changes in body composition, but because of what happens when you eat carbohydrates, it makes you so hungry and it messes with energy expenditure, it's going to result in a poor energy balance to where you're gaining body fat and probably losing some muscle mass.  

That's basically saying, okay, yes, ultimately, from a mechanistic perspective, it is energy balance, but it's just not reasonable. And therefore we cut carbs. But it's so hard to still hold on to that because the, the model there is stating that insulin is doing all these really, really rough things and terrible things in the body. 

Yet right now, we're seeing the most effective weight loss treatment we've ever seen short of bariatric surgery in these GLP 1 agonists. And what are they doing? They're insulin medics. So, they're basically drugs that are mimicking the effect of insulin in the body. And what are they doing? They're promoting satiety and weight loss. 

So, the function of insulin in the body, yes, insulin is, is a storage hormone, but it does a lot of things. And the mechanisms are often the way that you get hoodwinked. Someone will say, Hey, for example, vitamin D is very important in all these tissues. It's important for immune health.  

And then that's the bait and here's the hook. You should buy my vitamin D supplement or jump on this because it's going to prevent COVID and you don't need to worry about this other thing from an immunology perspective. Or we can shift that to many other things. Hey, if we look at plants, they have these defenses against, you know, insects and predators, right? 

They have these toxins they release. Therefore buy my diet plan where you, you, you don't eat it and go carnivore. And a mechanism is just 1 piece in the research chain. We use a mechanism, then we do that's, you know, bench research or basic research or mechanistic research. And then we bring it into more ecologically valid conditions. 

And we test if it works out, we observe things and if a mechanism doesn't fit the bigger model, if we can't support the supposed mechanistic outcome with data, then we know that it's more complex than that. And that is not the major driver. So, for example, when we look at blue zones, people who lived over 100, ubiquitously, they're all consuming massive amounts of fruits and vegetables. 

It doesn't matter whether we're looking at any point part in the world. So, if vegetables were really killing us, if that mechanism was, maybe, maybe the mechanism is true and it's in the milieu, it's, it's, it's affecting your body somehow, the overall net effect is insufficient to prevent people from living longer than anyone else in the world when they consume a huge amount of fruit and vegetables, right? 

So that's a really steep uphill climb. And the same thing you can, you can use if you're not convinced by, you know, metabolic ward data. If you look at the diets of drug free bodybuilders who are getting absolutely shredded and getting on stage, they all put themselves into an energy deficit somehow. 

Some of them use a ketogenic diet. Some of them are dieting on 300 to 400 grams of carbohydrates, and they just have a high energy expenditure. They, you know, naturally, they just, they do. They have a, uh, you know, a high NEAT or a pretty revved up basal metabolic rate, carry a lot of muscle mass, but they're also doing cardio and lifting weights, and they have a relatively low fat diet, moderate protein, and they still have a lot of carbs in their diet, and they're getting shredded. 

I've worked with some of them. You know, you observe it all the time when you're out in the wild. I've coached people for years, and you see people get shredded on 50 grams of carbs or 500. When you start to really go out, you know, 3 standard deviations from the mean, which you see in bodybuilding because those people are going to rise to the top. 

So, when it really comes down to it, energy balance is the mechanism by which body composition changes. Now the issue, and this has been acknowledged by everyone who promotes and says, Hey, this is the mechanism. Is that that's not a solution. Identifying the mechanism is not saying here in applied setting is what you need to do. 

If you go yell at somebody, move more, eat less, you know, that hasn't fixed the obesity epidemic for 40 years and it won't in the future. But if you understand that our society, which has increased the palatability, affordability, and energy density of foods, and the ease at which they can be consumed, mass produced, and the access and that we have reduced the need to move to get food.  

And with COVID, it's only gotten even more so where everyone now has actually gotten quite comfortable working from home COVID's over, but. You know, I'm a bodybuilding coach. What do I do all day? I sit in front of a computer, you know.  

So, it's exactly right. You know, so working in the fitness industry in 2024 for me, it means I have to purposely take 2 walks per day to get out of the sedentary range of step counts, you know, on days I don't actually lift. So, there are so many things about the modern built environment in a westernized post industrial food environment, which are stacking the chips against us. 

And it's not that that is violated the energy balance model, it's that behaviorally, if you just quote unquote live your life and you just do what is normal in most Western societies, unless they've really kind of engineered their culture a little bit to be more active, like you see in some Scandinavian countries, the result is just kind of a slow slide towards obesity, or at least gaining weight from wherever you are as you get older and older with a little bit of sarcopenia. 

And, and that's, that's unfortunate, but it all makes sense when you look at it and it's a multifactorial model. And while humans crave simplicity and simple answers seem more truthy to us, they often are not the case. It would be lovely if we could say, and it is fat and it is carbs or and it is sugar. 

What's the silver bullet? And when it comes to physiology and especially physiology layered on top of. Sociology and individual psychology and behavior, there's never a silver bullet. You've got a like a full clip of various bullets that are that are all contributing to the same issue.  

And sometimes they're additive. Sometimes they're synergistic. Sometimes they're complimentary. Some things are going for you. Others are going against you, you know, and if you try to boil it down to one thing more times than not, you're wrong, regardless of what that one thing is.  

Ted Ryce: Yeah, that was a great breakdown of what's going on in the world of, I guess, the research between, you know, the two camps and how the carbohydrate insulin models kind of shifted over and also to bring it back to the real issues facing us, which is the average American gets 5, 000 steps per day and eats around 3500, 3600 calories. 

And what you said about the foods being more energy dense, more affordable, more available, and we literally can just get on our phones and order food to be delivered, whether that's from the grocery store, Uber Eats. It's it, people don't appreciate it. One thing I would, uh, also say there is like, things are a bit more stressed. 

I'm really excited about all the changes in society and the technology in general, but at the same time it's created, well, for example, people spend more time on social media than they should. And one of the things that happens is people think that they're doing something because you'll hear people on social media, at least I do people say, well, I'm eating pretty healthy. 

I'm like, yeah, but how many calories are you? Well, it can't be that many. And it's like, okay, what'd you have for dinner last Thursday? Uh, I have no idea. Right. So, to bring it back to the technology, we have all this technology that can make it, you know, you can track your food on My Fitness Pal. When I first downloaded it after talking to, uh, Lee Norton on the show, Uh, I was going to give it a try. 

I was like, I can't be bothered. This is too annoying to do, but now it's super easy and we can track our steps. Yeah. So, so it's just a really good reminder. Like, Hey, modern life, despite the power that let's say the economic system has on our lives. We've got to go to work and got to get to work, come back from work and make sure we're doing enough work. You know, it kind of takes away from the physiology.  

So, Eric, um, thanks for sharing that and let's let's switch gears a little bit because I'd love to get into. Okay, so we need those calories. Right. And if we want the cow, if we want to put on muscle, we need to be in some, a little bit of a surplus. If we want to lose fat, we have to be in a deficit. 

Let's talk about training a little bit. People are confused and I even have some confusion about this. So, I'm asking for personal reasons as well, you know, exercise selection, it really targets the muscles. And certainly there are some advantages over some exercises and others biomechanically, or maybe someone’s individual frame, but when it comes to, you know, the sets, how many sets should we do, how do we start to think about for someone who's already been training, how do we start to optimize that? So, we can look more like a natural body builder.  

Eric Helms: Sure. Yeah, I think, um, set volume is something that people are really interested in right now. 

And volume gets a lot of attention because it is pretty consistently related to hypertrophy. There's a general trend where you see a higher volume, uh, like if you were just to do like, uh, a binary analysis of, okay, if there was a study that compared to lower to higher volume and that we don't care what, whether it's 1 set versus 3 or 10 sets versus 20 or 30 sets versus 50. 

When you meta analyze all of that, and that's been done a couple of times. The most recent 1 is by bass Val in 2021. and there's a meta regression soon to come out where we'll get even more specific data on this. Generally higher volumes are associated with greater muscle growth. Like I mentioned earlier, sports science is not a well funded field of research and neither sports nutrition. 

So, we're often plagued by small sample size studies. So, the reason why I'm mentioning meta-analyses is you might have 20 studies And 10 or 11 of them have no results. There was no significant difference between high volume or lower volume. And it's very easy for them, you know, someone who is, uh. Kind of dogmatic about high volume or low volume to to pick which, which 1 supports their bias. 

But when you add all these studies up, and you do statistical corrections, and we do meta regression or meta analysis, which are the statistical techniques where we can pull data that are similar enough. And have weighted averages and look at kind of a point estimate with a certain amount of confidence in what it is, we see that there are advantages to higher volumes, but it is by no means a linear relationship. 

So, for example, when we look at some of these meta analyses, uh, 1 was broken down into 3 different categories, 1 to 4 sets per muscle group per week, 5 to 9 and 10 plus. Now, these are hard working sets. Almost all these studies were to either volitional failure or momentary muscular failure, but the people in the studies thought they at least could not do another rep in the vast majority of them. 

So, these are quote unquote hard sets. It's also important to note that these are counting direct and indirect work. Most of the data we have. It's where it's easiest to do ultrasounds, are on biceps, triceps, and quadriceps. There's no reason to think it would be different for other muscle groups, but that's just a limitation that's useful to talk about. 

So, that means when we're counting direct and indirect sets, a row and a bicep curl in the literature are counted the same way. So sometimes when you hear about these really high volumes, like, oh, I'm going to, I need to do 20 sets or 30 sets based upon this new study, you know, 30 sets for triceps. It sounds like a ridiculous amount. 

But when you're counting your shoulder, press your incline, press your dips, your bench press, and all of your direct tricep work on a 1 to 1 basis. You can get that done in not too challenging of a way with a typical body part split, you know, if you have like a shoulders and arms chest and back, you know, those 2 days of your kind of indirect and direct will probably get you to 20. 

So, I think that's an important caveat to understand as well. So, With that background, we see that there is a benefit to going higher in volume, but it's, it's definitely skewed towards the initial sets being the most productive and important ones. If you kind of compare the effect sizes, which is just a measure of the magnitude of change and how variable it is, the largest effect size. 

On its own, where you get about quote unquote 60 to about 2 3rds of the maximum gains observed in this one 2017 meta analysis happens when you do 1 to 4 sets per week. So that's out of and then if you're comparing that to doing 10 plus sets, yes, you're only getting 2/3rds of the gains. But if I told you that you had to triple or quintuple your volume to get a 1 3rd return on investment, I know your audience. 

A lot of these guys are businessmen. That's a poor ROI, right? At least, it depends on what your goal is. Now, the difference between a natural bodybuilder and someone who wants to look like one but has three days per week for an hour where they can fit in training is the natural bodybuilder is very willing to invest in shitty ROIs. 

If you tell me I can get 5 percent better by putting in twice as much work, I will seriously consider that. But if, if you pitch that to me and I was, you know, like, uh, I'm, I'm, I'm a VC and you're telling me, Hey, here's a, here's a great thing you should fund. I'm like, absolutely not. So, when someone says what's “optimal”, you really need to consider your audience. 

What is optimal for someone who has three hours per week needs to fit within the constraints of those three hours. What is optimal for someone who is trying to go from placing seventh to top five at WMDF worlds in the middle weights. This guy right here. Yeah. If you go follow my vlog on 3d muscle journey, yeah, I'm doing 20 to 30 to 40 sets depending upon the muscle group. If we count indirect or direct work a little bit less for my legs. That's just kind of the way I'm built, but even I think my leg volume for most people would be high if they were thinking about, you know, 15 to 20 sets is it's a fair amount, you know, like if you have limited time. 

And that can be discouraging, like, fuck, like, I got to work out all, like, you know, 10 hours a week to look like these guys? Well, listen, I mean, are you really trying to look like these guys? I think that's the first question. Are you trying to, when you really interrogate what you think you need to do? It's, I want to get the most out of what I'm willing to do. 

So, having an honest conversation about yourself, what are you willing to invest? I think is an important one. And then going back to what we talked about earlier, it being sustainable. So that's a lot of disclaimers to just say, listen, you know, doing four sets per week for a given muscle group. If that gets you, you know, 60 percent of the gains of doing 20 to 30 sets, that's worthwhile considering. 

And then when we go to that five to nine category, now we're up into the low 80%. So, it's more important to consider what can you do and then optimizing within those constraints than it is to kind of think about where can I go and what should I do to be optimal or to maximize because most people don't really want to maximize. I think that is something that sounds right. It sounds like, you know, like psychologically satisfying, like, Oh, of course. But when you really think about what you want and what you're willing to do, it's all about what can you adhere to long term and what's going to be worth it. You know? 

And another thing to consider is that you are not an average. A meta analysis tells us the truth about what's going on in a population. The whole statistical model of most inferential statistics that are used in science. We get p values, so p less than 0. 05, you probably, you might have heard of that if you've followed any of this research. 

That just means that there is less than a 5 percent chance, if we had a sufficient sample size, that this difference between these two groups, averages, not individuals, was due to chance.  

And then when we look at the actual magnitude of change, if you have a really, really large sample size, so for example, let's say you're doing a drug trial on a blood pressure reducing drug, something that's supposed to drop blood pressure, and we have 10, 000 people in this clinical trial.  

Because we have so much statistical power, even a very small change can be significant. Now, let's say it drops systolic blood pressure two points. That's really actually not clinically meaningful. You know, that's not enough to shift someone and a drug company will not invest in that drug because it's, it's not worthwhile. So, with a large enough sample, any difference between means becomes significant and significance, not the same thing as meaningful. 

So, you will often see the, uh, in, in large powered studies and medical research, they predefine what is a minimum clinical change that's worthwhile. So not only do we need to see statistical significance, but clinical significance in terms of the magnitude of the effect, and we can't do that with small sample size studies that we have sampling variants because we don't know that this, these 20 men, women or mixed sex sample is representative of all the people they're sampled from every person who lives on the planet, right? 

Like when I do research on bodybuilders or powerlifters, if any bodybuilder or powerlifter is listening to this podcast and they weren't in my study, you know that I didn't sample the entire population because I didn't have you in it. So, you're hoping that the group I got is similarly representative, but not even to you. 

I mean, you might be hoping that to your listener, but in reality, what I'm hoping as a researcher is that it's representative of the global population. And we can only know that when we start to meta analyze things in sports science. But then it's telling us about the average response. But it's very normal to be one standard deviation above or below. 

That describes two thirds of people. And if we want to go out to 95 percent of people with two standard deviations, that's still really normal. And in fact, those people often get overrepresented because they're seeking out coaching. The people we see as trainers are people who are not responding quite well. 

And if you're like, going, man, I'm trying, you know, these typical programs, it's not working well for me. Maybe you're not that typical. So, there's other research. For example, there's a study by DeMoss and colleagues, uh, 2019, where they used the within subject design, which just means that each person was their own control because one leg did a certain amount of sets and the other leg did another number, right? 

So, one leg was doing six to nine sets of leg extensions and leg press. And the other was doing 15 sets. Now, if we thought that every single person responded the same way that meta analytic data suggested, we would think that there'd be very clear differences, and that all the legs that did 15 sets grew more than the legs that did 69 sets. 

That's not what happened. And these, I think, 19 individuals there was roughly a 50 50 split with some of the legs doing better on lower volume, some on the higher in reality, many of them did the same. And there were differences that were probably just statistical noise. And it was like, kind of a, you know, a quarter of them got stronger with higher volume, a quarter of them got got bigger with higher volume, a quarter of them got stronger with lower volume, a quarter of them got and sometimes it didn't match.  

Like, what made you stronger might not be made you bigger. Right? So individual variation is huge and it's a big thing. And just because on average saying that you should do 10 to 20 sets per muscle group to maximize games. 

The caveats are very important that you can get the majority of those games that you might need to do, you know, 12 sets to get by doing 5 and even more. So, while 10 to 20 might be where the majority of people fall, you could be left shifted or unfortunately, right shifted if you want to maximize your progress, like people sometimes think of me as I'm a high-volume proponent because they watch my training. 

But I would love to be a low volume proponent. Like I, I, I want it to be true that Eric Helms grows off of six sets. That I'd have three times as much, much time in my day. I don't necessarily love doing, you know, 40 sets for my arms. When you count direct and indirect work, I'm doing that because that is what I have seen over 20 years is required for me to make progress at this stage. 

But your early stage gains, you don't need a super individualized program. The first year you get into lifting, I'm very confident you can give almost everybody five sets and they would make some progress. Some people five sets per week per body part. Yep, exactly. A very low volume protocol because. 

Progressive overload is all built upon where are you now, you know, if the heaviest squat you've done is your butt coming off of the toilet seat, you can put on 50 percent of a 1 RM on a barbell and start squatting and you'll get remarkably stronger. And we have data on that untrained individuals training with 60 percent of 1 RM, which is considered light, that's something most people can do 30 reps with on a squat. That is just as good as a heavier load for building strength in untrained individuals.  

Ted Ryce: I just want to interject for a second, Eric, because if that's such an important point, if, because if you're out of shape and you're wanting to get back in shape and you have this idea, like I got to go in, I got to crush myself with the workouts that I used to do 10 years ago, you're just, what you just said is so important. 

You start out with a lighter load, push yourself less than you would, and you're going to get big gains quickly just from right. Getting yourself literally off the couch anyway. So really important for those of you listening right now who think you got to get back in and you got to crush yourself. Like what you said, that was just such a powerful takeaway. 

Could we talk about, like, you talked about how you figured out, Hey, I got to do, I think you said 40 sets for arms, both the compound and isolation exercises, how, how would someone figure out, are they, do they need to do less, do more, are they right in the middle, how would someone figure that out? 

Eric Helms: I think that, that, that is the challenge. And this is where science is a lot less helpful and the scientific process is key. You know, when, when I, when we, when I do a study, which is something that I did after my career as a trainer, and I'd been an athlete for a long time, this ended up informing how I then went back to training and back to as an, being an athlete of taking the scientific process into coaching and good coaches do this already. 

They realize that if they give you creatine, if they put you on a surplus, if they increase your protein intake, if they clean up your diet and add fruits and vegetables, if they get you on a training program with the new amount of volume or a new frequency or a new exercise selection, and you start making great progress, they don't know which one of those levers made the biggest difference. 

That's a complex system, right? They know all of that together, the shotgun approach, and those are all good things, right? None of the things I described are potential. You know, like red herrings, they all could be why you're making really good gains. We have good data on all those things being helpful from a muscle building perspective and a health perspective. 

So, I'm not saying you should only like, oh, no, I'm not going to eat fruits and vegetables because I started creatine or something like that. But it's very important that once you've kind of set up your initial conservative approach to getting back in the gym, like, let's say, you know what I'm going to do 3 days a week in the gym for an hour. 

I'm going to look at those constraints and that's going to inform how much volume and how many hard sets I'm going to do. And that means I'm doing. 6 to 8 sets per muscle group per week, counting direct and indirect work. And you know what? I listened to that podcast Eric was talking about to get my old strength levels because I haven't trained in 10 years. 

I don't necessarily need to be pushing failure with 3 plates like I used to do back in the day. I'm going to start conservative. I'm going to stop my sets pretty shy of failure. And I'm just going to watch my numbers go up each week as I kind of rebuild these skills and rebuild that old muscle mass. 

That's a great place to start. Now, what is going to eventually happen is you'll plateau. Maybe you won't. You know, maybe you are someone who responds really well to low volume and you find that out immediately. But I think the mistake that a lot of young eager guys or even some older eager guys is that they think if I can do more, I should do more. 

And if I do more, I'll benefit from it. And you, it might be true. Like if you put a gun to my head and you said, okay, go to Vegas. And you've got a person in front of you who used to train and they're making good gains right now on five sets and they're regaining lost tissue. Do you think if they went to 10 sets, you had to bet on, on red or black, are they going to make better gains doing 10 sets or are they going to make better gains sticking with five sets? 

I'm probably going to bet that if they did 10 sets, they'd make better gains because that's just statistically what's true on average, but I don't have to do that. And neither do you, right? You're, you're, you're not an average.  You can actually just accept the fact that, you know, I'm going to make good gains, maybe not optimal gains with this approach until I don't. 

And once you start to plateau, maybe you haven't fully reached your old level of muscularity or strength. That's when you assess, okay. Why am I plateaued right now? And this is the diagnostic process a good trainer goes through. All right. Am I plateaued because maybe my lifestyle, all the supportive things are not in order for me to recover from the level of training I'm currently doing, or this is the most I can get with this relatively poor lifestyle supporting this training. 

Am I sleeping 5 hours a night? Am I under eating protein? Um, am I, you know, not able to consistently be in a high enough calorie intake to support this muscle regrowth? And it could be the opposite. Someone might be dieting, right? Maybe I need to take a break from dieting. Is it something outside of the gym? 

And then if it is okay, then I'm going to try to correct that. Also, is it something qualitative about the work I'm doing? Not quantitative, not the number of sets I'm doing, but is my, is my technique gotten sloppy? Am I cheating the weights? Am I actually at a much further proximity from failure than I think I am? 

Maybe I'm not actually pushing relatively close to failure. Maybe I need to kind of recalibrate. You know, get a trainer for a while, have them push me and see where my actual limits are. Fix those qualitative things, fix those lifestyle things, and then are you making progress? If you're still plateaued, then the question is, all right, am I recovered or not? 

Is this easy for me to get this work in? Do I feel like it's challenging my system? Am I getting DOMS anymore? Delayed onset muscle soreness. Uh, do my dreading my workouts, all those things. And if the answer is no, this is just, yeah, I go in and I train and I'm just not progressing and I could do more. 

It's not a problem. Um, there's no recovery issues. Then that's where you would pull the volume lever and you go, okay, I'm only doing 5 sets. That's half of what is supposedly optimal or higher. I could be a low volume responder, but it doesn't look like I am. So let me make an increase. And as far as how much to increase, I think somewhere in like a 20 or 30 percent increase for a given muscle group per week, a number of sets is a good way to go. 

So, one to two sets if you're starting low volume, I recommend most people start just a little bit below kind of that 10 plus set range where we think optimal comes from. Because there's a big plateauing area where you're doing more and you're not getting anything out of it for most people. And you don't know whether that's right or left shifted, but it's pretty unlikely that six to eight sets is going to be too much for you at least longer than a temporary period of time. 

Six to eight hard sets might be too much for you if you're completely sedentary right now, because that's, that's more of like a cardiovascular issue. Um, you know, the repeated bout effect isn't there for you anymore. You might get really sore off of just doing, you know, you do three sets of bench, you haven't done it for forever, you're going to your, your pecs, your triceps, your shoulders are going to be sore for a week. But the next time you do it, the week after, quite literally, you will find you're only sore for 3 days and you're only sore for 2 days. And eventually you won't even get sore from 3 sets of bench, even if it's pretty close to failure. 

Once you kind of readapted, re acclimated and got some re training from being in a detrained state, once you've kind of milked those gains that you can get out of, uh, kind of retreading some of your old muscle memory, which is absolutely a real phenomenon, that's when you need to assess, like I talked through, is this the point where, for me to keep progressing, I need to do a little bit more? 

And that's when, you know, if we're talking about starting with 6 to 8 sets, do 1 to 2 more sets per muscle group per week, and you might find that eventually the constraint is not not progressing. It's how much time do I have in the gym? And there's options there too, you know, there's antagonist paired sets where you rest after you do your bench and then your row because basically, while you're benching your back musculature is resting while you're doing your row, your chest musculature is resting. 

So, there's really useful ways out there where you can do time efficient training. You can do for your isolation work, you can do drop sets or rest pause, and those, the data there would indicate that can be just as good as straight sets.  

So, obviously, that's a tangent, and we probably don't have time to get into how to program antagonist paired sets, rest pause, and drop sets, but for a lot of busy people, once they find they've plateaued and they want to take it further, sometimes they make sacrifices they don't have to. They will try to really cram in things and they'll get stressed by the process of trying to do what they “think” is optimal or think they're trying to do these high volumes when they don't even need to do that level of volume yet. But I would say, increasing volume is something to, it's a lever, it's the last lever to pull, and it's when you've turned over every other stone and when you've kind of been like, all right, I've really tried to make the quality as good as it can be, and I haven't gotten anything out of it. 

You know, I would say for most people making those 6 to 8 sets that they start with incredibly effective, good exercise selection, good technique, taking them as close to failure as they're comfortable and getting better and better at that, making sure they're safe.  

You know, they have a spotter or they're using equipment where they can go to failure, not like a barbell back squat or something like that, you know, and and then also making sure their lifestyle is very supportive of it. 

They're going to have more runway than they expect on a low volume program, and then if and when needed, they can, they can turn up the volume notch. And like I said before, I would love to not have to do that for myself. You know, I do a lot of volume, but there's a big difference between trying to be competitive on a pro natural bodybuilding stage. And getting just to, to a physique that, that, that is something you'll, you'll be proud of. And then other people will, will want to ask you about what your diet is, you know, when they go to the gym.  

Ted Ryce: So you're doing keto, right? Or are you doing that carnivore? What supplements are you taking? What do you eat? Pineapple?  

Eric Helms: Like, so yeah,  

Ted Ryce: you're on that TRT.  

Eric Helms: man.  

Ted Ryce: Yeah. So, who's your doctor, Eric? This was such an amazing conversation. I learned a ton. I really want to get you back on to talk about like, well, how do we program those drop sets and rest pause? How do we program that? And, you know, to get into some, I have so many other questions that came up, we just don't have time to get into. But yeah, we got to get you back on the show, man, if you're up for it, we got to get you around too. 

Eric Helms: I would love to be back on. There's so much to talk about in this arena. Like, just, um, 1 statistic that really blew my mind and helped me realize how much, like, the TRT push is largely driven by marketing. 

Is there's research out there. I think your audience will like this. There's a, uh, a study that came out in 2017 marketing and testosterone treatment in the USA, a systematic review, and it looked at all the various research up to July of 2017 and relevant publications on. The market size, economic costs, and the trends in TRT prescription, and the reality is that the vast majority of men are not actually getting diagnosed properly. 

You're supposed to get like 2 to 3 serial measurements. And also have qualitative symptoms before you're then given testosterone therapy, and it needs to be actually below the reference range, resulting in something that's negatively affecting your life. It's not caused by something else because, you know, there's a reason why your testosterone might be low. 

It could be a marker for some other issue. You could have cancer for Christ's sake, you know, and it's not just something that is a target to fix for better health, but it could be a marker for for something else going on in your body. Right now everyone's being told like, you know, the, the reason for all of your issues, you're, you're, so, that wasn't your divorce, that is leaving you depressed. 

It's 'cause your testosterone's low, bro. You know? Right. Exactly. Or, Hey, she probably divorced you because your testosterone's low. She's going after those young men. You know, they, they're playing on our insecurities as men and, and who are, who are moving into our, our, our midlife. But, um. Or hey, maybe your testosterone is low because you're inactive, right? 

Or you've been inactive for a long period of time. Because some of the data on men in their 50s and 60s who stay active indicates there's actually not a significant drop off until they're in their 60s. The idea that you hit 40 and your testosterone veers off a cliff, it's just not true, when active men. But anyway, I think the most telling statistic is that in this specific study, 80 to 85 percent of men after a year of testosterone replacement therapy, discontinue testosterone therapy. 

Why exactly? That is the question. Why aren't they sticking with it? And I can't speak to the specific reason. But I can tell you this, if 80 percent of people who are promised the solution to their problem don't get it, they're going to stop, right? So  the promise of TRT, of it being this fountain of youth, that it's going to bring you back out of this issue. 

And the fact that most men are being prescribed TRT without actually getting a proper diagnosis means that it's probably like in, in the 10 to 15 percent of men who, who, who stick with testosterone therapy long term, presumably, it's doing something that is worth the cost and inconvenience of staying on TRT. 

But for the 8 to 9 out of 10 men who don't stay on it, that means that wasn't the problem. They need to prioritize their mental health. They need to be active. They need to reassess their goals in life. They need to look in the mirror, like Michael Jackson said. So, I think, I think there's, there's, there's, there's a lot that's going on. 

Obviously there, there is a market for people who want to change their life who are in their thirties and forties and fifties. And I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. I mean, it is, as someone who's turning 41, you, you kind of look in the rearview mirror and you're going like, Oh, am I happy with where I am? 

And sometimes the answer is no, but I think. Just like supplements and other things, these quick fixes that we're told are just that they're, they're quick fixes. They're not a true solution to what's going on here. It's the same thing, you know, and because it's a powerful drug and there is solid marketing behind it, and it will make an impact, I think people expect a lot more out of it.  

But the reality is, is that it's simply not delivering or people would be sticking with it. So, I would just encourage people to, to think a little more deeply and to not just get sucked in by all of the hype that they hear online. Because a lot of the people who are very, very pro TRT, they're making money. 

There's affiliate links out there for TRT clinics. You know, there's big advertising. You know, if in advertising, if someone is talking about a TRT clinic on their podcast and that podcast has millions of views, that's not exactly completely unbiased source.  

I mean, to say that I'm not claiming that they're saying anything that's that they're being unethical, but I will say that that's not the same thing as getting a proper diagnosis and ruling out everything else and seeing your doctor.  

And I'm not against clinically prescribed TRT for hypogonadal men. That could be exactly what you need, but I just think that's, that's rarely in modern times, the reason why men are going on to your team. 

Ted Ryce: Powerful way to end this interview. And thanks for bringing it back around to that. Get your training dialed in for everyone listening, your training, your nutrition, get the basics dialed in, and a lot of those problems might just disappear.  

Eric, such a powerful interview today. And as I said, I can't wait to get you back on and talk a little bit more, uh, training details and all the things that we didn't get into. 

And also which supplements aren't a waste of time and money for those people who are looking to. Take up there, you know, to get their physique and health to the next level. I didn't also get to ask you about VO two max, the thing that's so popular. So we'll save that for round two.  

And if you're listening right now and you were as blown away by Eric and his amount of knowledge and the way he delivers it. You got to go to his website, And on the website, they have an about section. You can read more about. Eric and the team, they have education, they have products and they have coaching. 

If you are looking to take your body to that level, you know, there's all that available to you. Also, they're on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and with a world full of pseudo scientific, just people saying things without a lot of backing. Eric is one of the trusted sources I've used to up level my own skills and knowledge for my clients. 

So definitely someone that, uh, you should be following online as well.  

Eric Helms: Thank you so much, Ted.  

Ted Ryce: I really appreciate that. Yeah, absolutely. Well, we need to, one thing I do here is I try to promote people like yourself to. Uh, fight again, or at least for those people who are willing to, you know, listen to more of a rational evidence based perspective on things. 

I try to can't make them force them to listen to you, but I can certainly have you on the show and, you know, it's, it's been such a pleasure to do that. But, uh, is there anywhere else that you'd like people to go?  

Eric Helms: Yeah, no, I just first just want to say thank you. And, and, uh, that that's perfect. I think that's a great one stop shop. 

From, you get to choose your level of nerdiness. Basically, like you mentioned, we have links to my books, which if you want to read, I mean, they're, they're written in plain English, but they've got a few references in there. Let's put it that way on on training and nutrition. If you're a reader, that's a great place to go. 

We have links to our YouTube. If you want to watch if you're really nerdy and you want to stay up with the published research as it comes out, there's also mass research review dot com, which we have a link to. Where it's me and other enthusiast coaches slash researchers who are active in academia as well as the practical side. 

We have a monthly research review that comes out where we cover the latest data as it relates to fitness, health, strength, physique, the whole 9 yards, nutrition and training.  

Ted Ryce: Well, there you go, folks, Eric. Thanks again. Really appreciate your time today and, um, what you do for the health and fitness industry. 

Eric Helms: It's a pleasure. And I really appreciate you having me on. Thank you for lending me your, your ear and your platform.  

Ted Ryce: Thank you. 

Ted Ryce is a high-performance coach, celebrity trainer, and a longevity evangelist. A leading fitness professional for over 24 years in the Miami Beach area, who has worked with celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Rick Martin, Robert Downey, Jr., and hundreads of CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. In addition to his fitness career, Ryce is the host of the top-rated podcast called Legendary Life, which helps men and women reclaim their health, and create the body and life they deserve.

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