Q: I'm currently 200 to 210 pounds at 5'11', but only six months ago I was 280 pounds. I started lifting a year ago, trying all sorts of routines. I never found the right one for me. The problem now is that I look like a lineman. I feel I need to be 170 pounds in order to see some definition. I have decent arms but no real peak. My legs are almost fat free and vascular. My gut is nowhere near a six-pack, but my delts and traps are coming in nicely. I eat six times a day and do cardio. All my max poundages have gone down since I started dieting, but all I did was cut out junk food and start using meal-replacement bars and shakes and eating tons of meat and veggies. What's a good shopping list for supplements? What products should I buy and when should I take them? Are pro-hormones worth the money? I really need a speed boost. I hate my body, and I would love to be able to wear a tank top. No shirt is out of the question.
A: Congratulations on your huge weight loss in the past six months. Unfortunately, you may have sacrificed some muscle in your rush to lose weight. How much muscle vs. fat you lose on a reduced-calorie diet depends on the type of diet you use and what type of exercise program you follow.
You didn't really go into detail about what foods you're eating on your new diet. You mentioned that you've eliminated junk food and replaced it with meal-replacement bars, shakes and a ton of meat and veggies. I think you need to focus on the foods that you eat every day before worrying about what supplements to take.
Instead of shopping at the health-food store, let's go to the grocery store first. It takes more than meat and vegetables to maintain your muscle tissue while you lose bodyfat. Extreme low-carb diets don't work in the long term for most bodybuilders. You need to eat a balance of high-quality protein foods, complex, fibrous carbohydrates and essential fats. The fact that your workout poundages have dropped indicates to me that you've definitely lost some muscle.
Let's concentrate on protein first. Pick up some eggs'lots of them. I normally eat 10 to 12 eggs every morning for breakfast. I'll have one to two whole eggs, and the rest will be egg whites.
Now, push your shopping cart over to the meat section. Pick out some high-protein, lowfat foods such as chicken breasts, extra-lean ground turkey, flank steak and some coldwater fish that's high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon or mackerel). That should satisfy your protein needs. Carbohydrates are next. You need carbs that are high in fiber so they'll be digested slowly and provide you with a sustained release of energy. Pick up some oatmeal (make sure it's just oatmeal, not the kind with added sugar), oat bran, sweet potatoes, brown rice'and don't forget those veggies. I usually buy romaine lettuce, carrots and broccoli for salads.
I also like chili, believe it or not, while I'm dieting. You'll probably find some all-natural turkey chili that's low in fat, high in fiber and protein and contains no artificial ingredients.
I add some simple sugars, such as blueberries and bananas, to my shopping cart. I use the blueberries on top of my oatmeal and oat bran, and I add half a banana to my protein drinks. I also pick up some pineapple juice for breakfast. When I'm dieting, I limit myself to only half a cup, but that little bit of sugar gets me going in the morning and helps me digest those tasty egg whites.
Putting it all together, here's a sample of what I would eat while trying to lose bodyfat:
Breakfast: 1 egg, 10 egg whites, 1 cup oatmeal, 3/4 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup pineapple juice.
Protein drink: 2 cups water, 2 servings Pro-Fusion protein powder, 1/2 banana, 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil.
Lunch: 4-5 ounces extra-lean turkey breast, 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup of lowfat turkey chili.
Midafternoon: Meal replacement drink (2 cups water, Muscle Meals meal replacement, 1/2 banana), 1/2 cup oat bran with 1/2 cup blueberries. Postworkout drink: three scoops of RecoverX with two servings of CreaSol creatine.
Dinner: 4 ounces flank steak or salmon, vegetable salad made with romaine lettuce, broccoli and carrots, 2 tablespoons fat-free dressing. That provides me with plenty of calories, protein, carbs and essential fats to lose bodyfat while still retaining my muscle mass. It also supplies me with enough energy to power through my heavy workouts and enough nutrients to help me recuperate from those training sessions; however, the calorie total of that diet is below what I would need to gain or even maintain my bodyweight. As a result, I lose fat. ALL I often suggest counting all your calories when you're attempting to gain or lose weight. By counting everything you eat on a daily basis, you know exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose bodyfat slowly without losing muscle tissue. To diet any other way is merely guessing and almost certain to fail.
As for supplements, there are quite a few that I think are very important for building muscle mass and losing bodyfat. Protein powders such as Pro-Fusion and meal replacements such as Muscle Meals are ideal because they provide a combination of whey, micellar casein and egg proteins to ensure the best assimilation of amino acids.
A postworkout supplement such as RecoverX is absolutely invaluable for taking advantage of the anabolic window that occurs immediately following an intense training session. I also add creatine and ribose to my after workout menu. [Note: See IRONMAN Research Team on page 120 for a special deal on that triple-threat postworkout blast.]
If you're trying to lose bodyfat, you could also try a fat-burning supplement such as Hydroxycut. It won't take the place of a good diet, but it does help when used in conjunction with one.
I also get plenty of glutamine in my diet. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the muscle cell, and it helps build the immune system. I take the peptide form before and after my workouts as well as when I wake up and go to bed. It really helps preserve muscle mass while dieting to lose bodyfat. [Note: Pro-Fusion and Muscle Meals contain glutamine peptides.]
In general, I think you need to add more real food to your diet to help build your muscle mass while you continue to diet to lose bodyfat. Cut down on the bars and shakes and replace them with egg whites, turkey and brown rice. Your body will respond by adding more muscle and shedding more fat.
As for your training, continue to train heavy and hard. Don't make the mistake of cutting back on your poundages in the belief that light training will help you add definition. If you do cardio, don't do it more than three days per week. The combination of low calories and excessive cardio will eat up your muscle tissue faster than a bodybuilder wolfing down a deep-dish pizza after a contest.
Q: I've been lifting seriously for three years, but I've made only minimal gains. I've also been a vegetarian all that time. My question is, Do I need to eat meat to get big? I use supplements, as I've been told that as long as I get enough protein, meat isn't an issue. I work out five to six days per week for 1 1/2 to two hours, and I do five sets of everything and keep it logged in a notebook.
A: You ask an interesting question. I'm not a vegetarian, so I can't answer your question from experience, but I do know of a few bodybuilders who were able to build incredible physiques and win several big international titles as vegetarians.
The most famous vegetarian bodybuilder is the legendary Bill Pearl. Bill won the Mr. Universe title four times. His most noteworthy victory was at the '71 NABBA Pro Mr. Universe in London, at the age of 41. Bill beat the Myth himself, Sergio Oliva, as well as Reg Park and Frank Zane. He weighed 242 pounds at a height of 5'10', and his arms measured 21 inches. Bill also claimed that he was not using steroids for that competition since he'd stopped using them in '61.
Another famous vegetarian bodybuilder is Andreas Cahling. Andreas competed in the late '70s and early '80s and was renowned for displaying incredible muscularity every time he stepped onstage. I saw Andreas win the IFBB Mr. International title, and I vividly remember his sharp definition. Andreas attributed a large part of his fat-free physique to his vegetarian lifestyle. Both Pearl and Cahling were lacto-ovo vegetarians, which means they ate eggs and dairy products as part of their bodybuilding diets. I think that's important because eggs and dairy products are complete-protein foods'they contain all of the essential amino acids that are not supplied by the body. The only way to obtain the eight essential amino acids is through your diet. If you're not eating foods from the meat or dairy food groups, you won't be able to get any complete sources of protein from your diet.
If your diet allows you to include eggs and dairy products as well as protein powders and meal-replacement powders, I see no reason you can't add a substantial amount of muscle mass to your physique. In order to get enough protein in your diet (1.25 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight), I include some type of complete-protein food with each meal. You could alternate eggs, egg whites, skim milk and protein powder. Red meat does offer some distinct nutritional advantages. In addition to being a great source of complete protein, it also offers plenty of iron, B vitamins and creatine. I usually include it in my diet every day, as do many other bodybuilders. The fact that Pearl and Cahling were vegetarians, however, should show you that it is possible to build a great physique without meat.
You mentioned that you've made only minimal gains the past three years. You should look at your workouts closely and see if that's where the problem is. The initial stimulus for muscle, after all, comes from training. You need to keep adding more resistance. If the workouts aren't intense enough, even the most perfect bodybuilding diet won't add any new muscle tissue.
Begin by cutting down your training sessions from six to four days a week. That will enable you to recuperate better and make more gains. Remember, you grow during rest, not during training.
You said that you do five sets per exercise, but you didn't say how many exercises you're using for each bodypart or how many total sets you are performing. Concentrate on using the basic exercises for the fewest number of sets it takes to get the job done. The basic exercises give you more bang for the buck, so you don't need to do endless sets.
The intensity you bring to each workout determines the amount of muscle you add to your frame. Many bodybuilders spend too much time looking for a magic supplement that will transform their physiques when they should be simply training harder.
Editor's note: John Hansen is the '98 Natural Mr. Olympia and a two-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Visit his Web site at www.naturalolympia.com. You can write to him at P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561, or call toll-free 1-800-900-UNIV (8648). IM