Q: I would like to lose bodyfat and, if possible, build a little muscle at the same time. I’m 39 years old, 6’, 242 pounds and 42.5 percent bodyfat (using a Tanita scale). I had back surgery 11 years ago, and the doctor made a mistake that left me in extreme pain 24 hours a day, and I use a cane when I walk. I’m no longer on meds (none of them helped), and I am bedridden most of the day. When I say bedridden, I mean the only time I’m out of bed is to fix my meals, go to the bathroom and, if I’m able, work out. Here is the workout I try to do: Monday: chest, back; Tuesday: quads, hamstrings; Wednesday: off; Thursday: biceps, triceps; Friday: calves, shoulders, traps; weekends: off. My questions:
1) You say to take in more carbs than protein, but how many calories and how much protein, carb and fat should I take in at my current weight?
2) Should I have carbs with my last meal before bed?
3) I work out first thing in the morning. What should my calories, protein, carb and fat be after my workout?
4) I’ve read so many different answers to the question how much protein a person should take in. What is the right answer? Is it one gram per pound or one gram per pound of lean-mass weight?
A: I’m sorry to hear about your back and the constant pain that you are in. I don’t know anything about your situation, but I suggest you get some medical advice from other doctors or health specialists. Being in pain all day is going to make following any type of exercise program, not to mention living a full and productive life, very difficult.
As for your diet, it sounds as if your primary goal is to lose bodyfat. The two factors that are important here are the number of calories you take in and the amount of carbohydrate. You should be eating plenty of protein to feed your muscles, but your calories should be just below maintenance so you lose fat.
Determining exactly how many calories you need depends on your activity level during the day, your age, your metabolism and your goals. Since you are very limited in your activities and your primary objective is to lose bodyfat, you will be eating fewer calories than if your goal was to gain weight.
Let’s begin by figuring out how much protein you should be eating on a daily basis. As protein is the only macronutrient that is responsible for building muscle tissue and it is the most difficult of the three macronutrients to convert to bodyfat, you should eat a substantial amount of protein.
You mentioned that your bodyfat percentage is 42.5 percent according to the Tanita scale. I wouldn’t put a lot of weight in the different methods of measuring bodyfat. The most reliable method is and has always been hydrostatic weighing, in which bodyfat percentage is measured by weighing the body in water and comparing the result to your normal bodyweight. The reason I bring it up is that 42.5 percent bodyfat seems very high, even if you are limited in your activity.
I would recommend eating one to 1.25 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight, which would amount to 242 to 302.5 grams of protein each day. Focus on eating high-quality but lowfat protein foods such as egg whites, chicken breasts, lean ground turkey and turkey breasts, fish and lean red meat like flank and round steak. You can also include in your diet protein drinks consisting of whey, micellar casein and egg protein for maximum absorption and assimilation.
You will want to keep your carbohydrate intake moderate due to your low activity. I recommend eating between 150 to 200 grams of carbs each day. Eat low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrate sources such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes and vegetables. Never eat too many carbs at one sitting, as that will cause the insulin to rise and potentially store many of the calories you eat as bodyfat instead of being stored in the muscle cells as glycogen.
You can prevent feeling depleted by slightly increasing your fat intake. Take essential fatty acids that contain healthy omega-3 fats. I like to add a tablespoon of flaxseed oil two to three times a day to my protein drinks to help increase my essential fatty acid intake. I also get monosaturated fats from foods such as salmon and peanut butter. Fats contain nine calories per gram compared to only four calories per gram in protein and carbohydrate. The extra calories from fat will help keep your calories from dropping too low and will give you the energy you need to get through your day.
If you were to eat 300 grams of protein per day along with 150 to 200 grams of carbohydrates and 60 grams of healthful fats, your calories would add up to 2,340 to 2,540 per day, depending on how many carbs you eat. You should eat the greater amount of carbohydrates on the days that you weight train. If you have a postworkout drink such as RecoverX, that would give you the extra carbohydrates, as it contains 60 grams of fast-acting carbs to replenish muscle cells.
You asked if you should take in carbs with your last meal before bed. The answer to that is a resounding no. You don’t want to consume carbohydrates later in the day, particularly as you’re training first thing in the morning. I recommend eating the majority of your carbs before and after your workout, as that is when you will use them. There is no need for extra carbohydrates during the rest of day, especially in this case because you are bedridden most of the time.
You should eat a good breakfast before training to give your body the amino acids and carbohydrates it requires for a good workout. You can have a whey protein drink or egg whites and combine them with a low-glycemic complex carbohydrate like oatmeal. The reason the protein drink should be whey is that whey is digested very quickly, so the amino acids will be more readily available in time for your training session.
Immediately after the workout you should drink a post-workout shake to help replace the protein and carbohydrates that you used up during your training session. The fast-acting carbs will be quickly absorbed by the muscle cells, whose glycogen stores should be depleted after a hard workout.
During the rest of the day you should keep your carbs low by eating primarily vegetables or small amounts of low-glycemic carbs such as sweet potatoes and oatmeal with your protein. Eat plenty of protein with moderate amounts of carbs and good fats, and you should lose bodyfat consistently. Best of luck to you, and take care of that back!
Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Check out his Web site at www.NaturalOlympia.com for more information about how you can be a part of his exciting, new Natural Olympia Fitness getaway. Send questions or comments to [email protected] Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse, www.Home-Gym.com. IM
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