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This week, M&F is kicking some serious wisdom. With Olympia Weekend right around the corner (Sept. 27-28), we have enlisted an all-star panel of experts and industry leaders to answer your most burning questions on physique-building – both digitally and in the flesh.
This weekend at the M&F booth in Vegas, you can put your queries to some of the biggest names in the industry, up close and personal. And in the first of three pre-Olympia online seminars, David Sandler – who has appeared on shows such as Sports Science and Stan Lee’s Superhumans – addresses questions from his inbox and Facebook on how to eat and supplement properly to maximize your results in the gym.
Q: I’m 14 years old and I’ve got pretty good muscle size but how do I get my muscles to be more noticeable?
A: At 14, you still have plenty of growing to go. Muscle protein synthesis is really just getting started and your body is beginning to adapt to the increase in testosterone. Along with developing muscles, it is not uncommon to add a little extra fat as your body is naturally trying to retain fuel for the increased muscle mass. To get your muscles to pop and be more noticeable, you will need to drop just a few sugar and fat calories from your diet. Basically, drop a snack here or there and you will likely see your muscles take on a more defined shape. Instead of sweet snack or fried or fatty snack, you can add a protein-based shake to your diet on daily basis and you should find that your body will respond to your training by giving you more defined muscles as you lean out but allow you to keep your strength up. Additionally, a good protein-based snack will keep your appetite down. Rather than drop calories and try to diet, you should substitute your snacking with better foods because you are still in the developmental and growth stages and want to be sure your body has adequate calorie intake and nutrition to fuel that growth.
But remember, before beginning any exercise program and supplement and nutrition program, you should consult your physician and make sure that your parents are on board and support your training.
Q: Do we need to shuffle workouts to maintain a certain body fat level? Or what should be the ideal workout schedule to reach 5-6% bodyfat?
A: To stay lean or to get lean, you need to keep the exercise level maximal. That does not necessarily mean that all exercise needs to be calorie-burning intensive, rather, heavy duty volume training will keep muscle dense and active which will keep your metabolism high as you cut down on fats and carbohydrates. Switching up your routine is always recommended to prevent burnout, however, you should stay on a program for at least 4-5 weeks before you change things up so that your body can adapt to the training stimulus and maximize the gains from that program.
But – and this is important – the workout alone will not help you achieve the lower body fat percentage. A solid eating and supplement routine will. If your protein intake does not account for at least 30% of your calories, it should. In fact, you should push that up to 40% and even hit 50% on a couple of days per week. But one thing that you should not do is cut calories around your workout. In fact, the smart choice would be to add your calories around your workout and cut at other times of the day. You should have both a pre- and post-workout supplement comprised of amino acids (or protein) as well as making sure you have a good supply of creatine for maximizing muscle growth. Adding a thermogenic and/or some caffeine (according to recommended dosages and your own tolerance) during the day will help control some of the fat accumulation as well as help with mobilizing it during exercise. Oh, and don’t be afraid of sugar, just time it. Don’t consume sugars later at night, but hitting some carbs throughout the day will help your body keep its energy up while muscle protein synthesis is going on, thereby reducing your body’s want to utilize protein while you are restricting your calories. If you cut calories too much, you will simply lose that muscle you worked so hard to get.
Q: Settle the debate for us on eating often (5-6 meals a day) versus eating three times a day like a normal human! Frank Zane said that he would only eat when he was hungry. Experts say that eating more often keeps metabolism high? What’s best for keeping lean muscle?
A: There are always those who defy the odds and can literally put the science to shame by doing something completely different. But even those with a fast metabolism will eventually find that larger meals have nowhere to go but to the storage depot. If you choose to eat less frequently and then cut the size of the meal down to try to cut calories, you will simply burn off your muscle tissue as the body will preferentially store fat and sugar for energy. So either way, fewer meals tend to reduce your metabolic rate and encourage storage rather than utilization. While a rare few can go that route, you need to eat more frequently to prevent your metabolism from slowing down. Why? A continual source of fuel is necessary to increase metabolism but also to allow for continual muscle protein synthesis. When you are exercising hard, especially hitting the weights more frequently, your muscles need a constant supply of protein and vital nutrients to fuel the process.
An approach that has proven to be effective is to have five or six or even more smaller meals per day thereby ensuring that fuel and protein is always available. All meals should include protein, fat and carbs where possible and should be around a few hundred calories every 2-3 hours. This will teach your body how to regularly burn the energy it consumes. Take your daily calorie total and cut it in eighths, then double up two of your meals and you will find that your body should perform maximally. In fact, with a good plan, you will likely be able to increase your total calorie count even when trying to seriously cut your weight. Don’t starve your muscle otherwise your hard work will go to waste.
Q: I am a vegetarian. In your opinion, what are the best protein options for me when trying to put on size and do I still keep to the 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day guideline?
A: A true vegetarian definitely has a more difficult time building good solid muscle. If you eat fish or eggs, you will be able to get some much-needed complete proteins to help improve you muscle-building capacity. For those who are true egetarians, it is not just a protein issue, but also making sure that adequate fat consumption is maintained. For men, fat plays an important role in maintaining good testosterone production, so it may be wise to take a good testosterone booster that has a combination of at least some of the following ingredients: fenugreek, tribulus teresstris, zinc, magnesium, and d-aspartic acid.
On the protein front though, a combination of protein sources from soy, rice, and pea may be a good solution. Research does show that vegetable-based proteins are effective at increasing muscle size albeit not as effective as animal proteins on a gram per gram basis for building muscle. Therefore, it may be beneficial to increase your protein consumption to ensure all the essential components of protein (such as amino acids) reach the muscle to help improve the chances of solid muscle building. Along with good total nutrition, a true vegetarian can see solid gains from training, however, it may take a little longer than those who consume fish, poultry and/or meats.
Q: What are some of your favorite low-carb snacks to support anabolism?
A: Let’s be honest, there are few low-fat, low-sugar foods that make truly satisfying snacks. But, if you want to see those hard lines, defined muscles and the six-pack abs, you need to get used to suffering a little. In general, snacks do not help with building muscle as much as well-timed complex carbs along with protein. However, a good snack keeps metabolism rolling and prevents catabolism, or muscle wasting. So rather than consider snacking as a builder, consider it a satisfier and preventer. Snacking on fruit, while not always the slowest acting carbs, are generally low on total carbs by volume which will help you feel full while giving a sweet treat. Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydews are good choices since they are large volume per gram of sugar. In other words, you will likely get full or even bloated before the fast sugar will accumulate too much. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries also make great snacks as they have some other benefits as they are rich in antioxidants and fiber and reportedly have some additional fat-burning benefits.
If savory is your choice, in general, you cannot go wrong with vegetables if you tolerate them from a digestive standpoint. Additionally, some of the nuts and grains work well although you should be careful not to go crazy as they pack quite a few more calories per gram then most fruits and vegetables. Dry popped popcorn, with your favorite seasoning also works well, and if you can tolerate the rather bland taste of rice cakes, have a ball. Jerky also works well as a high-protein snack but you have to be careful of having too much because of its high sodium content. Just enough feeds your muscles…too much makes you bloated!
Q: Protein, BCAA, glutamine, etc. We all know these are great for gaining mass. Are there any less common supplements that you would recommend for putting on serious size?
A: You should never forget to make sure that your protein intake, especially those that are rich in BCAA concentration, are high if you truly want to build muscle. The more pure your protein sources, the more likely you will find some of those essential aminos making their way to your muscles. Additionally, creatine and beta alanine, while not directly responsible for muscle protein synthesis, are great choices as they will increase your work capacity allowing for longer workouts at a higher intensity thus increasing your overall workout volume. Greater volume means better building long term.
Recently there have been some new developments in supplementation as scientists have been able to isolate the bioactive components of proteins for muscle protein synthesis. Extracting these bioactive components is not new and has been a part of the medical community for quite some time. For the sports supplement industry these bio-active peptides, BAPs for short, have been slowly finding their way in to the mainstream protein market. Interestingly, it is the bio-active component of the protein that makes it work and gives each protein its specific function. BAPs can come from any protein source however those found in colostrum and other milk-based proteins typically have the highest concentration of those important muscle protein synthesis activators. Bio-Gro by iSatori was the first true BAP product and has had solid reviews in helping people build muscle. The future of BAPs is strong will likely continue to push the envelope for muscle building compounds.
Q: Is there any “common sense” nutritional advice out there that you think is hurting people’s progress?
A: By far, the most common problem I see is that people cut carbs too drastically and too soon when they are trying to lean out. While carbs present a problem when consumed in high quantity and without adequate energy expenditure, they present an equally damaging problem when too few are consumed. True, carbs hold water. True, carbs when not used will convert to fat or some other non-functional mass of goo. But it’s also true that proteins, which comprise your muscle mass, will be utilized when energy sources are low. If you starve the carbs from your body, you will inevitably lose muscle. The trick is to keep your carb and protein ratio the same while decreasing your overall calorie consumption and/or spreading your calories out over several smaller-sized meals.
For those cutting for contest and/or some specific event, reducing your water intake to match your carb consumption will continue to keep muscles full and provide the much needed energy for your body. Increasing your protein intake just slightly will help fuel muscle protein synthesis and keep your muscles full. If you reduce carbs too much too soon, you simply won’t have enough energy to power your workouts and inevitably you will lose, not gain. Don’t be afraid of carbs, just be carb smart. Consume an adequate supply of carbs just split them up over the day and don’t consume faster carbs too close to bedtime.
Q: My workouts are generally very intense, so I don’t like to eat much before the gym but I feel like I end up hitting a wall early because of it. What’s your take on pre-workout choices and timing for high-intensity trainers like me?
A: Much lore has been created in the notion that not eating before you exercise will help utilize your fat stores for energy. While there are those that live by this mantra, there has been no evidence suggesting that it is a good method. But whether you believe it or not, sometimes eating before a training session just doesn’t feel too good. Timing is everything, and your workout certainly needs to be fueled. Rather than try to choke down a meal or even a thick shake, having a pre-workout drink with some specific ingredients will make a dramatic difference in both your overall energy and your long-term results from training.
Some folks prefer a mixture that gives a burst of energy, increases heart rate, metabolic rate, and generally gives an overall stimulant effect. Others prefer a non-stimulant approach that packs essential muscle building ingredients. I prefer the latter. While caffeine and other stimulants are both euphoric and may help with fat-burning, pre-workout powders that contain amino acids will help stimulate protein synthesis and early recovery while also reducing muscle soreness. Adding ingredients like beta alanine will help prevent early fatigue and products that contain nitric oxide promoting ingredients have also proven beneficial. Finding your exact combination may take a little experimenting but whether you need the immediate boost or not, you need amino acids for muscle building so do yourself a favor and get used to taking a pre-workout beverage. Several great products exist and most work best when consumed about 30 minutes prior to exercise.
Q: Don’t ask why but I don’t eat eggs. What’s my best alternative option for morning protein?
A: If you can handle meat or fish in the morning, then your options are bountiful. Besides the breakfast sausage or ham, most of us don’t like to eat heavy-duty “dinner-time” proteins early in morning. A great source of protein is Greek yogurt. You can fortify it with additional protein and even make a nice meal combining yogurt and oatmeal. Or, take your oatmeal and add some additional protein. But oatmeal alone generally does not contain much protein, and some actually are pretty high in carbohydrates.
A solid, can’t-miss choice of course is a protein shake that also has some carbs and even a little fat. If your protein is low in sugar then adding a banana or some other fruit should help it out. Peanut butter is a common choice, but remember the protein-to-calorie ratio against total volume may not be the best solution as you can get high on your daily calorie intake quite early if you eat too much. When in doubt, just add some protein to yogurt or oatmeal and get a good start to your day.
Q: You’re stuck on an island with a barbell and some iron and a lifetime supply of three different supplements. What are those supps and why?
Protein, creatine, and beta alanine. This is a tough question as there are plenty of good choices and each has desired benefit. But given the unlikely event that someone would be stuck on an island that had weights (wink), while I like a few other things to compliment a training regime, the big three will allow you to get most out of your training provided that you had at least the basic foods for regular body function and survival.
My choice of protein could be further refined to the BCAAs if I had plenty of other protein sources for food. BCAAs are an absolute must for both increasing muscle density and preserving it. If regular protein is being consumed throughout the day, then BCAAs will enhance muscle protein synthesis, reduce muscle soreness and preserve lean tissue. Creatine not only provides a mechanism to prolong workouts and increase long-term strength and power, but also provides some fullness to muscles and has some protective benefits that improve recovery. Beta alanine buffers lactic acid, reducing fatigue and improving work capacity. Not only will that help fuel and prolong workouts, but will also help with endurance for other activities that you may encounter while stranded on the island.
David Sandler, MS, CISSN, CSCS*D, RSCC*D, HFD, HFI, FNSCA, FISSN has been a consultant, educator, researcher, and strength and conditioning coach for the past 25 years. He is the Director of Science and Education for iSatori and the President of StrengthPro, a training and nutrition consulting group.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our online seminar on getting shredded! You can go to our Facebook page today to submit questions to our expert, fitness model Mehmet Edip, and check back tomorrow for his responses.
Going to the Olympia Expo this weekend? Don’t forget to stop by the M&F booth for live seminars featuring, among others, reigning Ms. Figure Olympia Erin Stern, bikini pro Katie Chung Hua and Stan Efferding, the world’s strongest bodybuilder. For a full schedule and to see what other industry standouts will be attending, click here.