Optimising my fitness regimen

All Woman

Dear Donovan,
I recently restarted going to the gym two days per week, and am looking for ways to optimise my fitness regimen. I am a 6'2” male, and weigh 181 pounds, and my goal is to build muscle and lose some of the flab — I need a six pack. I have started buying protein powder which I make into shakes in the mornings, but I am worried that I am not taking in as many other nutrients as I should. I have lost a few pounds since I started working out, and I do understand that I have to lose, then gain. I regularly eat a 100 per cent vitamin-fortified cereal. Should I also take a multivitamin pill? Or should I be specific and take pills for specific conditions — like focus on iron and, say, B12. What are the benefits to taking multivitamins for someone who works out? And would taking a liquid pre-made shake be better than the powder I'm currently using?

Bodybuilders, trainers and fitness experts all agree that muscle building is more than 50 per cent nutrition. Research shows that paying attention to your macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), calories, and meal timing will have a great effect on the results you get.

For people who want to grow muscle, it is important to focus on your protein intake. It is suggested that at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight should be consumed. Protein will provide the amino acids which are the building blocks of muscles.

While protein is the most critical macronutrient for muscle growth, carbohydrates is in a close second. Carbohydrates are usually stored in the muscles as glycogen and used as the fuel during workouts. For people building muscle it is suggested to stick to the slow digesting carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, oatmeal, sweet potato, beans, fruits and vegetables. For muscle building it is suggested that you consume about 20 calories per pound of body weight per day.

It would be interesting to get a nutritionist to check the amount of calories you are consuming on a daily basis. If you burn more calories than you consume, muscle growth building may not happen. Eating fewer calories than you burn could tell the body to put your muscle building on hold. The fact you are losing weight might suggest that your calorie intake might be too low. It is a common mistake of people who are building muscles to focus almost solely on their protein intake and neglect carbohydrate intake. But carbohydrates provide sugar and sugar is very important for the body to absorb protein. Carbohydrates are also a major source of energy and help to fuel your workout to grow muscles.

Is the base of your shakes water, or is it milk? Do you put anything else in your shakes like nuts or fruits? This would be a factor to determine if you are getting enough nutrients. Also, look to see if you are using whey protein or a protein from plant sources. Studies have shown that whey protein might be the best commercial protein source to grow muscle.

Using a commercial liquid shake in some cases might be better. In most cases liquid protein shakes provide more than just protein. They may also provide the body with usable energy and micronutrients. These shakes can be used as a filler before or after workouts to provide amino acids which can be used in the building and repairing of muscles.

However, I must tell you that if you are eating enough protein you might not need to drink these shakes. To build muscle you need a steady supply of energy and amino acids. It is usually recommended to have at least six to eight meals per day of 500-600 calories each. Meat with brown rice, sweet potato, yam, whole grain, etc, could also help.

Micronutrients are also important for muscle growth. Important micronutrients include calcium, biotin, vitamin A, vitamin B12, copper, magnesium, riboflavin and zinc. I would suggest that you get these nutrients from the foods you eat or drink instead of pills. Note that biotin B7 is important in cell growth. Vitamin A is an antioxidant, and it also promotes the growth of new cells. Calcium builds muscle function. Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds will provide more if not all these nutrients.

There is no need to target specific micronutrients — just make sure you are eating a balanced and healthy diet. In addition, it is also important to couple your diet with progressive strength training workouts. These workouts will provide the stimulus to trigger muscle growth. To grow and develop muscles you should do muscle building exercises at least three times per week. And make sure you are getting enough sleep. As you sleep your muscles are working hard to repair and rebuild themselves.

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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