Q: You once wrote that whey protein is by far the best protein and has the highest biological value, hence the best muscle-building power. I agree with that, but I find it difficult to get my protein from drinks and shakes only. Isn’t it okay to eat egg whites, chicken and steak once in a while just to give the taste buds something different for a change?
A: Oh, brother! A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I’ve never said that bodybuilders should use whey protein for all their protein needs. It’s an example of how my true belief’that mixing proteins is best for muscle repair and growth’got twisted in some of my columns for another magazine. I believe it’s best to eat a variety of proteins every day’whey, milk, eggs, poultry, fish and red meat. You need a mix of fast- and slow-assimilating proteins in your system. Whey protein is assimilated much too quickly to be your only protein source. I always mix my whey-protein powder with milk, not water, so as to have the milk protein and the whey, and to slow the digestion of the proteins. The only time you really need a fast-assimilating protein is immediately after a workout.
Get 40 to 60 percent of your protein from animal sources’eggs, red meat, fish, poultry and dairy products’and the rest from whey-and-casein protein drinks. Definitely mix your proteins. When I was 16 or 17 and training in my basement with just a bench press, squat racks and a 200-pound barbell/dumbbell set, I used to have a postworkout meal of three boiled or fried eggs, a can of sardines and container of cottage cheese. I made good gains from that, and since then I’ve always felt that a mix is best. Try to get at least half of your protein from food, but use a protein powder or meal replacement for the extra protein you need. I’ve always said it’s easier to drink protein than to eat it, so if you have difficulty eating as much protein as you need, then definitely make up the difference with protein shakes.
Q: Like everyone else, I’ve seen those infomercials about belts that electronically tone the abs and other muscle groups. I was getting ready to buy one until I saw a feature on the news that basically said that electronic abdominal slimmers were totally ineffective, if not an outright scam. Are those belts really a scam, or do they have some merit?
A: I’ve seen those infomercials (I’m amazed so many people can talk for half an hour with their stomachs sucked in), and I also saw the news piece. I thought the so-called experts were really kind of ignorant of the facts. Of course the abdominal stimulators work, if stimulating and contracting your abdominals is what you mean by ‘work.’ An obese person with a 50-inch beer belly can’t slap on an ab stimulator and expect to get the abs of a champion bodybuilder in a few months while stuffing his face full of junk food in front of the TV every night. But the stimulators do work (my abs were sore the day after I first wore one for 20 minutes at the highest setting). They don’t replace dieting and abdominal workouts; however, they can be a great addition to ab workouts. You can wear them before ab training, as a preexhaust method, to force your abs to work extra hard when you do crunches and kneeups and leg raises, or after an abdominal workout to further exhaust your already tired abdominal muscles.