Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Survival Series: Healthy Winter Weight Gain

For many people, winter seems to bring a certain degree of weight gain. The introduction of cold weather comfort foods, sugar laden warm drinks, holiday party overload combined with the tendency for decreased physical activity can lead to the packing on of a few extra pounds. However, it's not necessary to succumb to these "natural" tendencies. My preference is to retrain my mindset: Instead of focusing on the possible causes of unhealthy weight gain during the winter months, use the off-season and crummy weather as an excuse to hit up the gym more and put on some muscle mass!

Quick tips for building muscle in the gym:

1. Strive to lift 2-4 days per week.

2. Establish a rotation of muscle focuses for each workout

3. Use supersets to add a cardio component to your lifting routine, rev your metabolism, and get the most of your workout in a short time period. I recommend using a jump rope between sets if you really want to get your heart rate up!

4. Alternatively, focus on shorter, heavier sets with full rest for the best muscle gains. By that I mean reps below 10 per set with rest of 60 seconds or more.

Quick tips for building muscle in the kitchen:

1. Focus on protein intake, specifically after your workouts! Without adequate protein intake, your workout gains will go to waste. Standard recommendations are 1.0-1.2g protein per kg body weight. A little more won't necessarily hurt you, but anything above 1.5g/kg is excessive in my book.

 [ Body weight (lbs) / 2.2 ] x 1.0 - 1.2 = Your protein needs

2. As mentioned in #1, be sure to eat a high protein snack within 60 minutes of finishing your workout! Your muscles need fuel to recover and rebuild stronger, make sure you're getting it in! Time your workouts so your recovery meal corresponds with breakfast, lunch or dinner to taking in too many extra calories.

3. Carbs are important too! Each meal and snack should consist of a complex carbohydrate and lean protein source. Examples may include: Rice and beans, yogurt and granola, PB sandwich, protein shake with mixed frozen fruit.

4. Stress quality of foods in your diet, not quantity. Choose whole foods more often than not. Overall diet quality along with hard work in the weight room are two components of muscle gain.

5. Take good notes! Write down each workout that you do, and keep a food journal too.

Best protein sources: Again, it's definitely NOT necessary to eat animal products to gain muscle mass. Here's a breakdown of some of the best (whole foods) protein sources from both categories:
  • Plant based protein sources: beans, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, edamame, quinoa
  • Animal based protein sources: salmon or tuna, talapia or halibut, shrimp, boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork chops, lean cuts of red meat, turkey, and dairy products (cottage cheese and greek yogurt being highest).

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