By Fitness Manager Matt Struemph
You may be thinking “Are you kidding me?”
With all of the health problems that come with being overweight, why should we discuss how to gain weight? Athletes young and old prompt this discussion. Whether gaining weight to become more successful at a sport or simply for personal vanity, being bigger, faster, and stronger is a concern for some.
There are controlled substances notorious for helping athletes become bigger….faster. You would be kidding yourself if you think these substances are only used in professional sports. Due to the competitive mindset of athletes and the occasional weekend warrior, they are always looking for an edge.
Discussing the proper way to gain weight without the use of illegal substances may help answer a question or two from a young athlete.
Muscle Building Basics
There is some basic physiology to know behind how muscle size is increased. When strength training, the body circulates higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone, creating an anabolic (protein synthesis and muscle building) state. This occurs while training and between workout sessions of a trained individual. There is an opposite effect hormone working at the same time. Cortisol has a catabolic (protein degradation) effect and is released when the body is under stress. In this case the stress could be the strength training itself. This is the body‟s cruel joke on those trying to gain muscle size. There are ways to make sure the catabolic effects are held to a minimum.
It makes absolutely no sense for anyone to workout on an empty stomach…...especially those trying to gain muscle size. When choosing pre-training meals and snacks, one should vary little from a general healthy diet. Protein is important in that amino acids in the body during exercise can optimize the muscle building process. Carbohydrates are important to provide energy for the muscles to perform. Including some dietary fat will help in the production of hormones including the all important testosterone. The key is to include some protein (for amino acids) instead of getting a quick snack of just carbs.
There is no more important time than after a workout when it comes to building muscle size. Either eating a meal with carbs and protein or using a supplement containing both within an hour of training is the goal. Consuming these nutrients immediately after training will have several effects. First, replenishing carbs will stimulate an increase in blood insulin levels. Insulin stimulates glucose and amino acid transport to muscle, enhancing the anabolic state. Secondly, there is evidence that those consuming a carb and protein supplement immediately after training have higher amounts of growth hormone circulating. Thirdly, cortisol (the „bad‟ hormone) is also released in higher amounts due to the stress of a training session. This can be reduced by replenishing muscle glucose levels (eating carbs). If choosing to use a supplement for postworkout nutrition, make sure to use one that includes both protein and carbohydrates. Another point of interest is that nutrients in liquid form may be absorbed faster than those from a „normal‟ meal.
So far the discussion has focused on when to eat. How much to eat is also an important factor. In order to gain muscle, one must maintain a positive energy balance. Simply put…..consume more calories than you use on a daily basis. This is where supplements in the form of shakes, drinks, and energy bars can be helpful. In general real food is sufficient and actually preferred, but it can be difficult to eat enough to create the positive energy balance (a problem some of us would love to have). If using a supplement, try to mix it with juice or lowfat milk instead of water if you need extra calories.
No matter what your muscle building/ weight gaining aspirations are…..what, when, and how much to eat in addition to a well designed strength program are the factors on which to focus. Over the years there has been plenty of reports of professional athletes using controlled substances and taking the easy way out.
Here are three considerations observed from those reports should the thought cross your mind.
1) It is against the law
2) It apparently immediately causes you to lie
3) It seems to affect your intelligence to the point that you repeatedly stumble over your words.
So, if you'd like to become a lying criminal that is not very smart, then controlled substances such as HGH and steroids may be an option.