Post lockdown in many parts of the country, gyms are opening this week and many of us have missed going to the gym during lockdown! Haven’t we? Men desire to have a 6-pack ab or girls crave size zero or a perfect hourglass figure. Whether it’s a personal trainer, a body builder, a sports personality or a Hollywood or a Bollywood star most of men adore or desire to get that muscular, lean body which we call a six-pack ab body. If more defined, it is a lean, athletic and a slender body. Many men work hard in the gyms, stack up eggs, chicken other protein rich foods like soy chaap (a local Delhi favorite for sure!) followed by 4 hours minimum exercise at the gym both morning and evening. It goes without saying that desire for such body gives a psychological boost through body positivity. Many people strive to get those packs due to social or peer pressure which can also be overwhelming for them. This often result in a fad diet- reliance on workout supplements or protein supplements and high protein diets.
Supplement industries in the name of protein supplements and performance boosters have stacked some huge profits. In 2016, in United States alone, the dietary supplement industries contributed $122 billion to their economy. I am an International Sports Dietitian, an Accredited Sports Dietitian from Melbourne, and we often reject most of the supplements which do not comply with the standards as outlined on the products. Most of them, specially which are bought over the internet and over the counters have several ingredients added which are not only unhealthy and detrimental to health but are also loaded with ingredients that lack quality. Remember Magic bullets” for six pack abs, will come and go, but any successful muscle building programs are based on hard training and a well-planned daily intake of food. Muscle mass is influenced by an array of factors including genetics, training program, training history and dietary intake. If all are optimized, gains of 0.25-0.5 kg per week may be possible initially, but this will depend on genetics and training history.
So, the question is – if there is a NO to protein supplements and a NO to pre workout product or a post workout product, what do we do to get those good-looking abs?
Do not ignore carbohydrate
To get a lean body you need to have carbohydrates which acts as a fuel to give you energy. If you continue to stack proteins, how will you build that muscle mass? We all know three pillars of energy- carbohydrates, fats and proteins, all the three sources are primary sources of fuel in the human body. A low-fat diet is needed to cut the fat percentage. If you reduce carbohydrate as well, all the proteins required to build muscle will be used in providing energy. So, respected readers, please add a moderate carbohydrate diet in your meal plan, this includes, sweet potato, a small portion of brown rice or brown basmati rice, quinoa, fresh fruits and grains like jowar and ragi. These low GI carbohydrate foods will give you energy and at the same time provide abundance of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Ideally a post workout meal should have a serve of protein of (about 30 gm post workout) and a small serve of carbohydrate with vegetables.
Protein is an essential nutrient required for muscle gain. A person needs a maximum 1.5 gm/ kg/ day protein per day to build muscles, hence if your body weight is 70 kgs, you need a maximum 105 gm protein a day. The idea behind building muscle is not the quantity of protein, it is an even distribution of protein throughout the day. Most people, consume protein supplements or protein rich foods post workout or pre-workout and the rest of the day they take it easy and go without protein. So, if you need 105 gm protein in a day to build muscle, you need to have 25-30 gm protein per meal and have small snacks in between your meals. By Protein, I don’t mean to say protein powders, it includes nuts- almonds, walnuts, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, tofu, soya, paneer, milk and milk products like curd, chickpeas, rajma, daal, eggs white, chicken and so on. Also, please find below in the table – following foods indicate the total amount of protein, example 1 glass of milk is 10 gm of protein. A protein powder or supplements which is pure in whey and casein is ideal to consume if you are not able to meet your requirements through diet alone. You can of course go for a protein powder, but make sure it meets the standard guideline. And “No you don’t need to consume extra amounts. Excess protein may or may not impact your kidney (there are mixed reviews on this) but it will certainly add to your high grocery bills. As simple as adding – paneer water (whey water- during making paneer – can be added to your daals, gravies and kneaded in the dough to enhance protein intake), what about adding daal to your chappati’s - it is a great way to increase protein in the diet.
BCAA’s - Branch chain amino acids have been proposed to benefit performance in several ways. It acts as a stimulant for protein synthesis (through leucine). If you are considering BCAA powder about 2-3 gm leucine per day is appropriate as a pre workout supplement. BCAA prevents muscle protein breakdown and reduce muscle damage. So, what are BCAA- they are a group of proteins- isoleucine, leucine and valine and are essential amino acids which are not formed by the body and needs externally through the diet. If you ask my personal favourate pre workout drink – I would choose Ragi malt (1 tablespoon ragi powder in 1 cup warm milk) or egg nog and some handful of roasted chickpeas and some nuts as a protein rich pre-workout snack. Our ancestor body builders didn’t consume BCAA but they ensured their diet was balanced. Eggs, cheese, tofu, fish are some rich natural food sources of BCAA.
Creatine supplementation is particularly popular in body building. Creatine monohydrate should only be consumed for about first 28 days of beginning of the program. Research shows it increase muscle mass. But let me tell you a glass of milk with a fistful of almonds do an equally good job in preventing muscle breakdown. I am not an advocate on protein supplements and synthetic performance enhancer powders and I look for natural ways to enhance the right nutrients in the diet. As simple as sattu water made in curd or buttermilk and handful of almonds will do a great job! Remember, our ancestors, did not know about creatine, they had probably never heard about it but I am sure they knew benefits of sattu and almonds.
Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or a non-vegetarian, a well-balanced diet with right amount of nutrient distribution is important in getting an aesthetic body. Remember Magic bullets” for six pack abs, will come and go, but a successful muscle building programs are based on hard training and a well-planned daily intake of food. Your plan should be designed in such a way that meets your requirements and it must not compromise at the expense of your basic nutrition and health.
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