Q: A nutritionist told me that athletes need a high-carbohydrate moderate-protein diet for optimal performance. Why does FLEX recommend a high-protein diet for bodybuilders?

A: Years ago, much of the research that was done on athletes was performed on endurance athletes, not power athletes such as bodybuilders. No distinction was drawn between the type of endeavors in which each athlete participated. Nutritionists touted a lower-protein sky-high-carbohydrate diet because that was what worked best for marathoners and other endurance athletes. Bodybuilders in the trenches, however, knew they had to eat a much higher protein and more moderate carbohydrate diet to build muscle without adding outrageous amounts of bodyfat. As a bodybuilder, you should strive to take in a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day to support muscle growth.

Q: Smoothies have a lot of sugar in them, but can I drink them after a workout?

A: Sure, that’s the optimal time for such a food. You’re right that they include a great deal of sugar — some have as much as 100 grams of these simple carbs. That’s a lot, even after a workout. But if you’re a big guy or a hardgainer, you probably need the calories to support growth.

To improve the quality of your smoothie, look for versions that have a good whack of protein in them. Often, gyms will add a scoop or two of protein powder. After a workout, your body needs these aminos to repair muscle tissue to aid growth. A drink with 20 to 50 grams of protein is FLEX’s standard recommendation.

Bodybuilders often shy away from soy protein because of the phytoestrogens, but our advice is that some protein is better than none. If soy is the only protein source available at your local juice emporium, opt for it over pure carbs. As long as you’re taking in plenty of protein from other sources, you shouldn’t worry about negative bodybuilding effects associated with a diet high in soy.

Q: My vitamin C is out of date. Can I still take it?

A: Taking expired vitamin C, or most other vitamins, is unlikely to cause any problems but is also likely to be ineffective due to oxidation. Supplement companies put an expiration date on the label to assure you of good potency. We should note that since these products typically remain viable for years, you’ve either been neglecting your C for quite some time or your supplier is grievously derelict in rotating the stock.

If it’s out of date, return it or throw it out.

Although most supplements should be safe if taken after the expiration date, one exception is products that contain fatty acids, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil, because they can go rancid over time and produce potentially harmful free radicals. These products are best stored in a refrigerator. Most other supplements should be stored in a cool dark place and kept tightly closed to reduce exposure to heat, light and oxygen, which may shorten their shelf life. If a supplement has not reached its expiration date but has changed in appearance, odor or taste, it should be discarded regardless of the date.

Q: I’ve been having trouble with my gums, and I haven’t been able to make any bodybuilding gains lately. Do you think the two are related?

A: Yes. A strong immune system is needed for growth, and any stresses to it will undercut your ability to train and your ability to recover. Not only can gum disease limit muscle growth and recovery, but it can also affect heart health over the long haul. Chronic low-grade infections such as gum disease, compromised gut function, sinusitis and tonsillitis can greatly limit muscle growth and recovery. Don’t think that being a hardgainer is limited to those with a fast metabolism. Often, chronic infections are the source of poor gains. The lesson here is that regular dental and medical checkups can ensure that you aren’t compromising your gains because of an undetected infection.