Renowned master trainer, award-winning bodybuilder and Fitternity expertKaizzadCapadia answers questions on bodybuilding, protein intake and weight lifting in the first of our expert Q & A series.
1. I have heard a lot of rumours about weight training affecting your height and flexibility, is this true? Also I wanted to start weight training to build some bulk as I am skinny, so what do you recommend? Male, Weight 60 kgs. Height 5'8". Thanks
I am glad you called them rumours as that's exactly what they are. By the way they are also the longest standing myths surrounding weight training.
Let’s take the first one: "Weight Training Stunts Growth"
This myth stems from the simplistic view that if you carry heavy loads during your growth years, the load will somehow stop growth... seems logical but it is far from the truth & shows complete ignorance on the part of the perpetrators of this myth with regards to the mechanisms that lead to a human’s growth till puberty. What is shocking is that this view is held even by some ignorant doctors.
To further understand why this is NOT possible, we need to first have a basic understanding of the physiological process of human growth.
The human body has a class of bones known as 'long bones' which have a long shaft in the middle ending on either sides with a bulbous head.
- The Upper Arm Bone - Humerus
- The Fore Arm Bones - Ulna & Radius
- The Thigh Bone - Femur
- The Lower Leg Bones - Tibia & Fibula
The joint between the middle Shaft & the Bulbous heads at the extremes is known as the neck of the long bones. This is where a Growth Plate is situated or more technically known as an Epiphyseal plate. The Epiphyseal plate is indicated by the red arrow in the figure below.
Till Puberty (Which is around 16 for girls & 18 for Boys), the Epiphyseal Plates get messages from growth hormones to elongate the long bones, which result in the child gaining height. At puberty there is a hormonal flux that sees a surge in Estrogen, this hormone signals the Growth Plates to fuse, which is technically called as EPIPHYSEAL CLOSURE. This is the end of the growth phase for humans. Beyond this point there can be NO increase in height. Modern Science does not have any solution for increase in height post Epiphyseal Closure that happens at Puberty.
Thus you can clearly see that growth of a human in terms of height is purely dependant on hormones. A dwarf is a dwarf purely because of a deficiency in the growth hormones. The Indian Giant Khalli is not 7 feet tall because he did a lot of chin-ups in his youth, it is simply because he suffered excess release growth hormones as is evident in the shape of his jaw too.
It can safely be said that even excessively heavy weights that have the potential of injuring a child before puberty cannot stop his growth.
Consequently one must also know that hanging from chin up bars etc. also cannot increase the rate & extent to which one will grow. Growth of the skeletal structure cannot be influenced negatively or positively with any kind of physical activity.
Your genetics will determine your hormonal status & that in turn will determine the final height you achieve.
It’s always wise to try & find out why such a blatant lie would become such a widespread myth. The reason is that most people who engage in sports that require heavy weight lifting & are successful in these sports are largely of a short stature.
I myself have always excelled at lifting weights & I am 5ft 4Inches. The reason is simple - short stature provides us with a lower centre of gravity & thus makes us very stable under a weight.
Hence, people like me are not short because we lift heavy but rather we are capable of lifting heavy because we are short. Being short is an advantage with lifting weights, much like how being tall is an advantage in basketball.
Another parallel that we can draw here are Horse Racing Jockeys - they are all without exception extremely diminutive in stature and this is because their sport demands a very light body weight that does not weigh the horse down. Similarly the sports of weight lifting and power lifting demand short statures that have a lower center of gravity & thus more stability.
So stop worrying about your height & start lifting weights to build your body. A well-built body looks good at any height, but a tall stature without a well-built structure does not.
Now on to the 2nd Myth: "Weight training or gaining muscle makes you inflexible"
Building muscle has no correlation with losing extensibility & elasticity of muscles. If you have seen many examples of muscular men not being flexible, it is only because they don’t do flexibility-specific exercises. In simple words, they do not stretch. Whether you are heavily muscled or not, you will lose flexibility if you do not stretch. Please see carefully the image of a very muscular individual below. You cannot see his hands clearly, but they are flat on the floor with his knees fully extended, displaying above average flexibility at this extreme level of muscular development. This picture should be enough to trash any claims that weight training and gaining muscle makes you 'muscle bound' or inflexible. There is no such thing as being muscle bound.
So my friend, go ahead and embark on a strength training program with absolutely no fear of stunting your height or becoming inflexible. I would recommend you enlist the services of a qualified certified personal trainer who can design a proper training protocol, choose the effective movements for you & teach you correct form & technique.
But the broad guidelines I can give you with regards to your training are the following:
- Stick to a Push-Pull format of scheduling. You will find the Push-Pull routines online
- Do not weight-train more than 4 days a week
- Stick to compound multi joint movements like bench presses & rows and skip the Uni-Joint Isolation movements like flyes & pull overs. Do full body lifts that provide a load through the full length of the Axial Skeleton such as squats, deadlifts & overhead presses. Certain joint actions that do not have a compound solution can be attacked by Isolation movements such as leg curl for Knee Flexion (trains the hamstrings) & lateral raises for Shoulder Abduction (Trains the Middle Deltoid).
- Once you master a movement with regards to technique, always choose a weight that does not allow you more than 6-8 reps.
- Do all movements with full Range of Motion (Another very important factor in maintaining Flexibility & Mobility)
The above will simply stimulate muscle by causing micro trauma to cells and make the body see a need to put on muscle in order to adapt to the increased workload put on it through heavy weight training. But this alone will not help you increase muscle - for that you will have to incorporate a diet plan that includes a minimum of at least 150 grams of first class proteins coming from animal sources (eggs, chicken, mutton, fish, paneer or Whey protein powder extracted from Milk) every day. Each protein meal should be accompanied by a genuine complex carb such as brown rice, jowar/bajra rotis, oats, sweet potatoes & should be cooked in groundnut oil for a good dose of mono-unsaturated fatty acids.
Here again, I recommend the services of a certified sports nutritionist if you want a proper diet prescription (what I have stated are merely guidelines).
Best of Luck.
2. Wanted to know, should I get on Mass Gainers or Protein Shakes, planning to hit the gym next week, but need to gain weight soon. I’m 5'6'' and weigh 54 kgs.
First of all please note that a Mass gainer is also a Protein Shake & if you are taking any reputed brand it will most probably be Whey Protein extracted or derived from milk.
The only difference is that the mass gainer is the same Whey Protein found in protein shakes but with at least twice as much carbohydrates than protein.
So a scoop of good quality Whey Protein Powder may contain 20-25 grams of Protein and about 2-4 grams of incidental carbs coming from the lactose.
But one serving of weight/mass gainer may contain 40-50 grams of Whey protein along with 100-150 grams of Carbohydrates generally coming mainly from a cheap sugar base known as Maltodextrin.
If Budget is not an issue, ideally use both in the following manner:
- First thing in the morning as a kick-start to the day, have about 600mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid (An anti-oxidant with great insulin-mimicking properties) immediately followed by the Mass gainer. This will give a great anabolic start to the day. The Alpha Lipoic Acid will see to it that you metabolize the big quantum of sugar in the form of Maltodextrin properly & do not convert it to fat. The 600mg of ALA will ensure lean gains.
- A solid Breakfast should follow two hours after this - preferably whole eggs.
- Post this if any meal is strictly vegetarian then this meal must be finished off with a scoop or two of Whey Protein in water.
- In between breakfast & lunch or lunch & dinner have 1-2 Scoops of Whey Protein along with 100 grams of mixed nuts (cashews/almonds/walnuts/peanuts)
- Post-workout take 2 scoops Whey protein with about 75 Grams of Dextrose through locally available Glucon-D. To make things simpler you could simply down another serving of the Mass Gainer in the Post Workout phase.
Choose a Mass Gainer that is around a 2:1 ratio of carbs: protein. 3:1 & 5:1 preparations are also available but not needed & unnecessarily make an individual gain as much fat as muscle gained.
All the best in your quest for gaining quality muscle mass.
3. I am a 23 year-old female - been weight training for the past 3 years now. The problem is that my upper body has shaped up pretty well but my lower body is still heavy. I do everything from squatting to lunges to leg press and an hour cardio three times a week in an altitude room. Is there anything I’m missing out? I can do about 160lbs Smith squats. Would love some suggestions from you. Thanks.
This problem of yours is not unique to you. You are bottom heavy with a predisposition to gain fat on the lower body & you might just feel better if I tell you that you belong to the 80% of women in this regard. About 20% of women have the reverse problem - A predisposition to gain fat on the upper body.
To understand the reason for this predisposition we must understand that whenever we convert what we eat to body fat, the blood glucose is actually getting converted to Triglycerides which then are stored in Fat Cells known as Adipocytes. The number of fat cells and their distribution all over the body is fixed genetically & cannot be altered through any kind of workout & diet. The number & location of fat cells remain the same... but these same fat cells can either expand limitlessly or shrink completely through fat loss. The only way to rid yourself permanently from fat cells itself is by undergoing liposuction surgery.
For Humans, the distribution of fat cells happens in the following patterns:
Android Pattern for Males - Maximum Fat cells density in the abdominal region (Central)
Gynoid Pattern (your type) for 80% of Females - Maximum fat cell density in the hips & thigh region (Bottom Heavy)
Exceptions to the Gynoid Pattern occurring in 20% of Females - Maximum fat cell density in the areas of upper back, upper arms, bust line (Top-Heavy)
To make matters more difficult, the fat cells in these areas apart from being more in number are also stubborn & resistant to losing fat. The reasons for their stubbornness are twofold:
The fat cells have more entry gates ruled by the enzyme Lipo Protein Lipase & very few exit gates ruled by the enzyme Hormone Sensitive Lipase. Thus they are very prone to the generation of fat (Lipogenesis) and are very resistant to breakdown and release of fatty acids from the Fat cell (Lipolysis).
The fat cells in these areas also have more Alpha 2 Adrenergic Receptors which come in the way of Fatloss & have very less Beta 2 Adrenergic receptors which, when activated encourage loss of fat.
The above reasons makes these areas stubborn, making them the first to come & the last to go.
So what should be done?
First & foremost accept the fact that science provides us with an approach to training & dieting that will guarantee fat loss, but cannot always follow the pattern of fat loss you want.
For instance a bottom heavy woman would always want herself to lose on her hips & thighs while maintaining her bust line. But this is not possible. When you start working out vigorously coupled with a strict diet geared towards fat loss (very low carb, zero starch, high protein & moderate fat diet), the first change such a woman will notice is a loss of fat on the upper body. But you must know that a loss of fat anywhere on the body signifies you are on the right track, you simply have to be on that track long enough to see results in the stubborn areas too.
You might argue that you have seen female models, actresses, pop icons with very lean muscular abdominals & sinewy shapely muscular thighs who are also endowed with a generous bust line. Well then you must be naive enough to believe that they have some secret workout regimen that makes them lose fat everywhere else except on their bust. This is possible because these women who are media personalities have probably gone through cosmetic surgery.
Since breast tissue is fat tissue, you cannot have 10-12% body fat & large breasts at the same time.
YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE OR TARGET SPECIFIC SITES FOR FAT LOSS THROUGH EXERCISE & DIET MEDIATED PATHWAYS.
Fat is simply an inert storehouse of stored energy, it does not belong to any specific body part. In that it is systemic & not localized. Abdominal exercises work the abdominal muscles, they do not burn the fat off the midsection. Similarly doing endless side leg raises is not going to burn the fat over the hips.
From a training perspective you are quite on the right track & looks like you enjoy training heavy; and you should too. Intense training is what spikes your resting metabolism enough to cause a significant contribution to fat loss. But even this significant contribution is not enough to get you the results. YOU will only see optimal results if you combine your efforts in the gym with discipline on the dinner table.
Since you have only mentioned your training & not your diet, I am going to presume that you do not fully understand the huge role diet & nutrition has to play in a successful fat loss approach. Once you couple your efforts in the gym with the diet geared towards fat loss (which can only be given to you by a qualified sports nutritionist & not the tonnes of dietitians out there) you will see a big difference even in your stubborn areas.
In your training, a few words of advice are to STAY AWAY FROM THE SMITH MACHINE & EMBRACE THE SQUAT RACK and the FREE BAR for you squats. Squats are an awesome exercise when done with a free bar & quite useless a movement when done on a Smith Machine. Free squats are great for the knees but the Smith Machine can cause huge strain on your knees and can also be damaging to your lumbar.
I know you may have heard the exact opposite of what I am saying, but trust me as I have bio-mechanical reasons to support this, but it would involve going far too much into detail.
All the best in achieving your ideal body composition.
4. How do I bulk up on a budget? I have a lot of milk, eggs and bananas in addition to the regular diet. I'm an ectomorph with a high metabolic rate.
Your question is incomplete with regards to the following:
‘On a budget’ means how much? Everyone is on a budget. You need to specify your outer limit in terms of a spend.
What is your definition of a LOT? How much milk, how many eggs and bananas?
You height & weight would also help me determine what kind of an ecto you are.
However, given the above limitations, I will still attempt to give you a low budget gain plan:
The best way to start your day off would be half a serving of a weight gainer such as the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass
Second meal of the Day should be 2 hours later & would constitute 6 whole eggs made in any form you like, eaten with whole wheat chapatis or better yet, with jowar/bajra rotis.
Lunch should be brown rice, lentils and 200 grams of any meat (chicken/fish/mutton/beef). If you’re vegetarian then replace meat with 200grams ofpaneer.
Mid-evening snack could be 100-200 grams of Mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, etc.) + a glass of milk with two scoops of Whey Protein (Best Economical choice would be Gaspari Nutritions MYOFUSION)
Post-Workout consume the other half serving of the Weight Gainer
For dinner, have any cooked vegetable of your choice with 2-3 Sweet Potatoes + 200gms of any meat (chicken/fish/mutton/beef). If vegetarian, replace meat with 200grams ofpaneer.
In terms of supplementation, I have only given you one serving of a Gainer and two Scoops of Whey Protein per day. This much according to me will be a low enough spend for anyone who prioritizes sports nutrition to build his body.
I always say, "Old clothes look great on a well-built body and new clothes on a bad body are a sheer waste of money". In short, prioritize and you will be able to spare cash for your bodybuilding workout goals.
All the very best with your Bodybuilding on a budget :-)
5. I have been working out since the last 5 years. I am really into weight lifting and I really love it. But the problem with me is every time I have reached a certain level with regards to my body and workouts I have had to take breaks from working out due to exams, work etc. During these breaks I almost seem to lose my body structure and muscle and when I join the gym again it’s like starting from scratch. I have been told to continue having protein shakes during these breaks. What would you suggest, does it make sense to take protein even when I am not going to gym?
Incomplete info in your query. I need to know on an average, how long the gaps or breaks from workouts are.
If it is work then I am guessing around 10 days, and if exams then I am guessing anywhere between 15 days to a month.
What surprises me the most about your query & also pleases me immensely, is that for once, I have come across someone in the gym who’s being guided correctly.
It is completely true that maintaining the bodybuilding diet plan even when you are not working out will considerably lessen the muscle loss through detraining.
If the lay-off is lesser than 30 days, there should be absolutely NO reduction in Protein. Only eliminate the post-workout protein shake.
Hope this has helped. And of course the best option is to be as consistent as possible with your workouts and diet. But I bet you already know that :-)
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