Question:

Hi there! I am an LA Fitness member and would love to get some advice from a dietitian regarding my exercise/nutrition plan. 

I’m 31-year-old female and have always been lean – genetics/high metabolism I guess. While I know this is what many women want, my problem is that I feel “too skinny.”  I’m starting to try heavier weight training and increasing my protein intake, while striving to maintain a balanced diet. I have young kids and can only make it to the gym 1-2 days per week. So, my main question is: on days that I don’t exercise, should I still try to eat higher protein? Or is that only on gym days? 

Also, if you could verify my calculations… I’m currently around 120lbs and would like to be closer to 130lbs. So, I’m aiming for roughly 2,100-2,200 calories/day and about 125 grams of protein per day. 

Any other advice is greatly appreciated!  Thanks,  

– Shannon

Answer:

Lucky for you Shannon, carrying and lifting growing tykes is like having a built in progressive resistance program! Well… for a few years at least, until it becomes unnecessary and impractical. While it still works, you should pick up and carry toddlers with proper posture and body mechanics. According to physical therapists and chiropractors, don’t balance your child on one hip but hold him/her in front of you with his/her legs wrapped around your waist.  

In regards to your calculations: functional and structural protein use tops out at around 2.0 gm/kg/day with any excess being used for energy. Consuming about 110 gms protein daily should be sufficient, with a little less on rest days and more on workout days. Following the correct protein timing surrounding your weight training workouts is as important to help stimulate muscle growth. 

You actually need a good amount of carbohydrate and fat to provide the fuel for muscle building. Your total energy goal seems realistic, though your actual metabolism doesn’t follow an equation so your true calorie need may be higher or lower. Why not simply try to add 300-500 calories daily rather than keep track of five times that much? Simple foods like a turkey sandwich or apple with graham crackers and peanut butter could provide this energy. 

If you’re still having difficulty gaining lean mass, focus on energy dense foods (with little moisture or air) to get the most in every bite and consider adding a weight gainer shake. Cleaning your kids’ plates is also a great way to get extra calories! 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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