Fight stress with nutrition

July 23, 2008

Written by FLEX Staff

Let’s dispense with the usual discourse on good versus bad stress. We all know that life’s motive force is good stress; bad stress, on the other hand, can damage and even destroy an organism. For bodybuilders, a mere subclinical (undetectable) amount can bring muscle growth to a dead stop, reverse it or, worse, precipitate a career-ending injury.

Usually, stress is up to you: the more disciplined and responsible you are, the more control you have over your life, and the less stress you will feel. Countering that, though, are your expectations and motivation to succeed, which, while good and necessary for a bodybuilder, carry with them their own burden of stress.

The dilemma, then, is to retain those stresses but manage them. Proper nutrition goes a long way toward that end, but it takes more than sufficient protein and calories. As stress increases, so does your body’s uptake of amino acids, to fortify your blood-sugar increases, which in turn open the floodgates of so many other cascading metabolic consequences. A stress-resistant diet, then, is not as simple as a bodybuilder’s usual chicken-and-rice menu. Numerous nutrients are needed, so see to it that you get a substantial number of selections from the following:

• Vitamin A: liver, carrots, egg yolks, dark-green leafy vegetables.
• B vitamins:
Thiamine (B-1) — whole grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, wheat germ, artichokes, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, peas, oranges, cucumbers. Pyroxidine (B-6) — leafy vegetables, whole grains and cereals, beans, peas, lentils, tuna, bananas. PABA — whole grains and cereals, leafy vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, potatoes.
• Vitamin C: citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, etc.), tomatoes, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, raw peppers, potatoes, raw spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, watercress, black currants, papayas.
• Vitamin E: wheat germ, whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, oatmeal, cornmeal), asparagus, spinach, sweet potatoes, beet greens, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli.
• Drink at least eight glasses of water per day, plus at least eight ounces for every 15 minutes of physical activity.
• A sample menu for bodybuilders doing exhaustive weight training in addition to other stresses could include the following:
Cereal — oatmeal, whole grain, etc., up to one cup a day, topped with ½-cup skim milk.
Fresh fruit — five of your choice per day.
Fresh juices — up to six ounces per day.
Potatoes — up to six per day.
Brown rice — up to three cups (cooked) per day.
Pasta — up to four cups (cooked) per day.
Vegetables — raw or steamed; avoid avocado, hearts of palm and olives.
Whole-grain breads — up to six slices per day.
Meats — up to 32 ounces per day.
Legumes — up to two cups per day.
Nuts and seeds — up to one ounce per day.
Dairy products — an individual choice.