Monday, March 11, 2002

Personal Trainer

Protein alone won't help weight gain

By David Patania

        Question: I have a thin frame and am trying to build muscle. Everything I read tells me to eat lots of protein, but there is no way to eat the (amounts) talked about. What should I do?

        Answer: When someone with a thin frame has trouble adding lean muscle mass, they are known in the world of fitness as “hard-gainers.” You can definitely eat higher amounts of protein, under the right circumstances, but there is more to consider than just protein.

        Most hard-gainers fail in their attempts to add muscle because they don't train hard enough and/or use proper form, don't eat properly or not enough, take the wrong types and/or amounts of supplements or a combination of all of these.

        If you want to add muscle and you are not training at levels that will force your body to grow, you will fail. If you add bad form/technique to the equation by lifting too fast, out of control and with improper body positioning, you will fail.

        Lift with slow, strict form, taking the muscle through its full range of motion and try to isolate each muscle group as much as possible. Tossing a bunch of weight on a bar and yelling at the top of your lungs only to barely move the weight 4 inches isn't going to get the job done. You must choose weights that will exhaust the muscle yet at the same time allow for proper form.

        Once you get your lifting technique in order, you must combine that with proper nutrition or, again, you will fail. This is because many hard-gainers train heavy but eat too light. You must support your hard training with proper nutrition in order to add muscle. This means eating lean protein, such as white meat poultry, fish and egg whites; “clean” starchy carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes; fibrous carbohydrates, such as leafy green salads, broccoli, green beans and asparagus, and unsaturated oils, such as flaxseed or safflower oil.

        Try to eat five to six “clean” meals a day, (two-three hours apart) consisting of these types of foods and you will be amazed at your results. Many people say that they are eating right but forget to mention “just a few french fries” at lunch or “just one slice of pizza” at dinner.

        Training hard doesn't exclude you from adding body fat; if you eat “bad,” it will come back to haunt you. If you keep sneaking in junk food or fast food, you will not gain lean muscle mass but rather body fat. There are people who eat 3,000-10,000 calories a day and are as lean as can be; it is all in the quality of your food choices, spacing of meals and smart supplementation.

        Protein is used by the body to build and repair muscle tissue, carbohydrates are used to fuel the muscles and their contractions, vitamins and minerals help to support all bodily system functions and unsaturated fats help with many bodily functions and they help strengthen connective tissues and joints.

        As the body gets more efficient at using the food from a proper diet, the amount of food needed to add more lean muscle mass through training increases. When you have proved that you can eat clean foods in a disciplined and consistent manner, then you are ready for supplements that can add extra nutrients (in your case protein) and calories to your meal plan. A taco and a protein shake is not proper supplementation.

        Consult a fitness professional for tips on proper supplementation. Get consistent cardiovascular training as well, and you will be on your way. Open your mind to the possibility of doing things never before thought possible.

        Contact certified personal trainer Dave Patania by e-mail:


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