How to Structure a Meal Plan for Bulking | QA

How to Structure a Meal Plan for Bulking | QA

Question:

Hello. I have a couple of questions on diet and nutrition if I may ask. I’m an 18-year-old male. I currently weigh ~143-146 lbs. I want to take on bulking but I’m not sure on what meal plan to use. Would you be able to help me out or point me in the right direction?Currently I have a full-time job with overtime, but I still manage to go to the gym almost every day even though I’m tired. I eat breakfast around 4am before work, pack myself 2 lunches, and also eat dinner around 6-8pm. I greatly appreciate any advice I can get from you guys. Couldn’t be happier with the gyms and the sauna by the way. Thanks

– Joshua A.

Answer:

Thanks for the compliment! A specific meal plan would depend on your lifestyle and food preferences in addition to your anthropometrics and weight gain goals. Working up a meal plan from scratch isn’t daunting – see our article How to Create a Meal Plan. You’d want to focus on increased calories and protein. That said, I realize following an already set list is desirable. If you’re set on that, I’d suggest a mass-building meal plan developed by a sports nutritionist such as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

My top diet tips for bulking include:

  • Increase nutrient density.Get the most out of every bite with high calorie and nutrient-packed choices such as granola, tortillas, dried fruit, nuts and avocados. Choose ground meat over fish fillets (except higher fat salmon, herring, mackerel or sardines). Fill up on starchy vegetables like peas, corn, carrots and winter squash instead of watery veggies such as zucchini. Drink calorie rich shakes and nectars rather than tea and water.
  • Eat a lot, eat often. Consuming more sheer volume boosts calories and usually offsets healthier (lower calorie) choices. When volume is limited, eating quickly before you feel full or splitting a meal in half to eat an hour or two later can mean getting in more bulk. When you think you’re done eating, push yourself to finish a couple more bites. Wait until after you eat to drink your beverage (and make sure it has calories, too.)

Time it right. Fuel your muscles properly pre- and post-workout to capitalize on the surge of hormones driving anabolism. The nutrition window to boost protein synthesis is considered about 30 minutes before and after weight training. Easy to digest lean proteins and low-fiber carbohydrates are the prime choices. Examples are whey shakes, egg whites, poultry breast, bagels, and pretzels.

Resources:

– 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.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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How to Lose Back Fat | QA

How to Lose Back Fat | QA

Question:

What should I eat to help me lose back fat?

– Nicole V.

Answer:

I hear you, sister! Fat that bulges around the bra line or waistband on the backside is uncomfortable to say the least. The fat beneath the skin along the lumbar region isn’t always in proportion to the rest of the body’s subcutaneous fat and may create rolls if thick enough. Bodies with greater overall body fat tend to show more back fat, though it’s possible for someone with an acceptable body mass index (BMI) to be “skinny fat.” Remember that fat distribution among men and women is largely dictated by genetics and hormones.

Most research has been on reducing belly fat since it’s tied to a greater risk of chronic disease. A diet to specifically lose back fact does not exist. Targeting one area of fat, termed “spot reducing,” has long been deemed a fallacy. Dietary interventions will only have effect on back fat if accompanied by exercise. Together they produce metabolic changes in tissues all over the body. Along with a weight reduction diet, greater physical activity and specific exercises for the lumbar region may improve toning and definition.

These top diet tips work to improve body composition and overall health:

  • Get plenty of fiber (25-30gms) – whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, and seeds
  • Avoid added sugars
  • Eat lean proteins – opt for fish and seafood vs. red meat, pork or dairy products
  • Choose unsaturated fats (and avoid trans fat) by adding nuts, plant oils or fish oils
  • Increase your fluid intake, but limit alcohol
  • Drink two to three servings of green tea per day

Resources:

– 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.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Build Your Stack One Supplement at a Time

Build Your Stack One Supplement at a Time

Imagine this scenario —

 “I survived the week-long school trip without getting sick like last time.”

“Wow – with all those kids? Good hygiene, I bet.”

“Maybe, but I safeguarded with echinacea, zinc and high-dose Vitamin C.”

“Didn’t you tell me you started probiotics beforehand, too?”

“Yep – my trifecta plus one! I just needed something to make a difference.”

“Uh, okay. But how do you know which ‘thing’ did the trick?”

silence

Immune-enhancing products are akin to a muscle-building arsenal because many weightlifters try everything all at once like the first person in our story. Starting a thermogenic, pre-workout formula, creatine, NO booster, and recovery drink at the same time is like a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach.

To enhance the effects of rigorous training and a nutritious diet, many people use ergogenic aids to reach top shape or peak performance. And the most popular ergogenic aids are dietary supplements. The term “stack” 15 years ago referred to a product with combined ingredients that had similar effects, such as herbal stimulants or androgens.

Now, it’s about stacking multiple supplements (often with proprietary blends) within the day. Most often targeted for gaining muscle and losing fat, stacking various supplements is promoted for gains in the weight room. The idea is that by grouping supplements together there may be a synergy of certain ingredients that combine to create greater advantages.

For single-ingredient preparations, it makes sense to take more than one dietary supplement, as they have different methods of action and are useful at different times. But by starting several compound supplements at once, it’s more difficult to determine which are effective – particularly if there are 6-8 products on the list! I recommend taking no more than four while ProResults® Master Trainer Geoff Fox advises avoiding performance-enhancing supplements (your wallet will thank us).


For those of you that are stacking your supplements, here are some tips for evaluating product effectiveness and safety:

  • Continue your normal diet and exercise routine.
  • Maintain consistency with your multivitamin/mineral, fish oil, protein, and other basic dietary supplements.
  • Wait at least two weeks before adding another supplement to your stack. Take the time to observe for any side effects.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Continue step-wise until your stack is complete.
  • Follow all safety guidelines on each product’s instructions for use.
  • If stacking supplements with the same ingredients, check for guidelines on absolute maximums. (e.g., 400 mg caffeine/day per U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Health Canada, and European Food Safety Authority)

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Eating the Right amount of Protein | QA

Eating the Right amount of Protein | QA

Question:

Hello! I was wondering if you could help me determine how much protein I should be eating everyday. I’ve heard so many things. I am 24yo female, I strength train 4 days a week and do yoga 1x a week to break that up. I may be switching that up a bit, but wanted to get a good idea on how to calculate it (if that’s how it works). Thank you.

– Erol B.

Answer:

The headlines (and advice) are confusing! Between “most healthy adults already get enough protein” and “US adults do not consume enough protein” there is a grey area of observation, based on how the research is interpreted. On the one hand, people that meet energy needs probably meet protein needs, while those that are dieting, recovering from illness or are aging may need more.

For a fit, healthy young adult who is consuming adequate calories to maintain weight, use the protein RDA of 0.8 gm/kg body weight as the guide. Using a range for percentage of calories from protein is less precise. From pounds, divide weight by 2.2 to get kilograms then multiply by 0.8 to get your target amount of daily protein. If you are looking to add lean mass then increasing protein to 1.2 gm/kg is suitable.

To determine if you’re meeting your goal, use a reliable source to count up your protein intake. Check that a diet app or website you’re using relies on the USDA Food Composition Database.

Resources:

– 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.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Member Spotlight | 121 lbs. Lost in a Year!

Member Spotlight | 121 lbs. Lost in a Year!

“Seeing the changes that I’ve made already has just helped me make sure I never ever want to go back to the person I used to be and am so much happier and more confident in my own skin.”

Jordan L.

LAF Member, LA Fitness

The Slippery Slope

After high school, I accepted a soccer scholarship to a big university to play soccer, and early on in my freshman year, I ripped my rotator cuff, basically ending any chance I had of playing. I lost my scholarship and eventually left the school with no backup plan because it had always just been “sports”.

While the injury healed I didn’t have a chance to work out or stay active and began to gain weight, and by the time my shoulder was fixed I had no desire to stay in shape at all and just kept sliding further and further up the weight chart.

Eventually, I just accepted that this was me now and gave up on caring. My diet was mainly fast food and whatever junk I thought sounded good from the store, but hardly ever anything proportioned or healthy.

The Wakeup Call

At the beginning of 2018, I woke up and realized I couldn’t even put my own shoes on and knew something had to stop. With the help of one of my good friends, who is an actual fitness nut, I began researching new diets and exercise routines and we hatched a plan.

On May 1st, 2018, I stepped on the scale and saw it said 378.6 lbs. I nearly fell over.

I knew I was heavy but to see a number that high instantly put true fear into me. I was worried about life, longevity, health issues, and multitudes of other things. So on May 1st, the journey began, and I prepped my first few days of meals and then everything else so that I couldn’t be tempted to have just a quick little snack or anything else.

It was about this time that my fiancé had gastric bypass surgery and was on a limited food intake as well, so we thought it would help both of us. The weight came off fast, and I nearly threw a party when I lost my first 50 lbs.


 

The Real Change Begins

By this time my clean strict diet was 2nd nature and I rarely had urges to cheat. Every 3-5 weeks I would go have sushi, a big steak, or Korean BBQ of some kind as a reward meal, but for the most part, I was content with the diet I was eating.

I would (and still am) eating two meals a day consisting mainly of lean ground beef, chicken, eggs, turkey bacon, avocados and organic peanut butter for a snack. It is insanely strict, but I look at it like this: I had fun eating whatever-whenever I wanted, and it got me overweight. So it was time to do whatever was required to get it off and get myself back to a place where I was happy with who I was.

In October of 2018, I ran my first Tough Mudder in Northern California. I was running about 8-10 miles a week on the treadmill at the gym and lifting weights 5 days a week and I felt phenomenal. But I very quickly became aware that I was still too heavy and had much progress still to achieve when I was on the course. I ran the race with my best friend and fiancé, and together we crossed the finish line in a little under 4:30. It was an amazing experience and sort of re-lit my desire to push harder and farther in my training.

I kept up with the training and increased to 12-18 miles a week running, but this time I was doing it outside on trails and in the hills to incorporate realistic elevation changes and to get some fresh air. Many people dislike treadmill miles and once I began to run outside I understood why.

I live a little over a mile and a half from my local LA Fitness so I started to wake up and run to the gym, sit in the sauna and stretch out for 20 minutes, and run back every morning. It was the perfect split that I needed and combined with 6 nights of weights per week I went solo into my second Tough Mudder in April of 2019 and managed a race time of 2:56 on one of the tougher courses in the Tough Mudder line up in the country.

The race is at Glen Helen off-road park and the hills there are absolutely insane. My Garmin tracker registered almost 2,600 feet of elevation gain over the 9-mile course. It definitely pushed me to my limit.

One Year Later

On May 1, 2019, with 1 year of life change under my belt, I stepped on the scale and it read 257.7 lbs. I had lost 121 lbs. in a year and had gone from a size 54 “loose fit” Dickies to size 36 501 Levi’s and from 4XL-Tall t-shirts to XL t-shirts.

I felt accomplished but knew that I had so much more to go. I’ve kept up on everything and plan to for as long as I possibly can. Seeing the changes that I’ve made already have helped me make sure I never ever want to go back to the person I used to be and I’m so much happier and more confident in my own skin.


 

What’s next for Jordan?

I would still like to lose another 30-50 lbs. I don’t necessarily have a goal weight, but more of a performance goal. I am fairly hooked on running obstacle course races (mainly the Tough Mudder series) and for now, I know that I will need to be down closer to 200 lbs. to be able to run the time and distances I want.

My short-term goal is to be able to run either the 8-hour “Tougher Mudder” race and complete somewhere in the area of 17-20 miles in those 8 hours. Or to be able to run the 10 miles “classic” race both Saturday and Sunday in one weekend with both race times being under 3 hours.

My long-term goals include a sub 1-hour 10K on road, as well as completing the 24 hours “World’s Toughest Mudder” and managing 50 miles. 

How Training Changed His Life

The training was really the missing part of my routine, and I feel what has helped me stick to my diet and help achieve my goals. When I started this journey, I changed my diet and not really my activity level. I started eating really clean, whole foods that were calorie deficient and since my job has me working mostly on my feet, I didn’t really need to train much.

I was walking 5-6 miles per day at work, so my activity levels were already fairly high. But after about 3 months, I realized I was getting soft and had no muscle development and that my skin wasn’t really shrinking. And the thought of looking deflated scared me, so I stopped on the way home from work one day and signed up at the gym.

I started with a 3 day per week routine just to get everything used to moving and working again and eventually ended up in the gym 6 days per week. Once I started to see muscle growth and my body actually changing shapes rather than just shrinking, I was hooked. I used the gym as the place to go whenever I was craving something off-diet, or down on myself about something, or thinking I should have been making more progress.

It turned into the place I went when I just needed everything to go right, and because of that some of my initial weight and performance goals got knocked down quicker than I expected. When I ran my first Tough Mudder I was on course for almost four and a half hours, and while I never stopped moving on course it was clearly a snail’s pace. Once I dove harder into my training my race time dropped to 2:56!

Jordan’s Advice

Don’t give up, anyone can do it. Honestly, I think the hardest part of everything was to get started. Not cheating on your diet or giving up when you’re having a rough week is obviously a challenge. But one of the biggest and hardest things to overcome is that fitness and diet advice is usually given by people with single digit body fat, cut physiques, and years of discipline and dedication under their belt.

While it is easy to think this is motivation, it really was intimidating at first. A few friends that have jumped on the get healthy bandwagon said it best. A lot of the advice or influencers or even coaches don’t understand that you can’t just “stop being fat”, and it’s hard to take advice from someone who looks like they’ve never had the same struggle or barrier of entry that you are currently facing.

Changing your life and body is a long-distance race, not a sprint. But so much on social media makes it seem like if you don’t lose 150lbs in 6 months that you’re a failure and clearly weren’t drinking enough of their special cleanse they’re promoting.

I have a friend who helped me a lot the first few months and made me check in every day. He said it didn’t matter if there was progress or not. As long as I had a better day eating/exercise wise than I had been having, it was a good day, and that really is what pushed me through until I was able to stand on my own and be my own motivation.

I’ve had people reach out to me on social media after posting my story that said they were also too intimidated by a lot of the people in the fitness world to start, and that seeing my story had helped them want to get back at it. I’ve helped them the best I could, but I think the biggest problem for heavy people currently is that there just aren’t enough not-perfect-physique people in the industry to ask for advice. 


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