I carry a lean frame but can’t seem to build muscle. Worse, my friends criticize my skinny look. I feel hurt by their words.
Yet, recently, my belt buckle needed a tighter hole. Two weeks later, an even tighter hole. My clothing sizes slipped from medium to extra small. But, store sizes seem crazy, don’t they? Up a size one item, down the next. That’s what the store clerk said. So, I brushed off the warnings and stayed hush.
I also bench press sixty pounds but get little feedback. Sadly, I can no longer hoist heavier weights, so I lift lighter some days. Maybe my age keeps me from getting stronger. Surely, that’s why.
But a decade ago, I looked super lean—and muscular. Every month, I’d lift an extra 2.5 pounds. I looked fit even when I lost rapid weight. My figure caved in at the stomach, but bulged at the biceps, legs, shoulders, and glutes. So, I rocked a great bod. Aside from the bony rib cage, that is.
So why can’t I build muscle today?
Because I dropped massive weight. I started at over 140 pounds. Then, a few months ago I visited my doctor. She weighed me in at 128 pounds—my leanest in ages. But then I saw my doctor yesterday. She weighed me in at 114 pounds—borderline malnourished.
My doctor asked me if I ate carbs outside of eleven servings of fruits and vegetables. I said just bran. So, she’s sending me to a dietician.
But, wait! I record every calorie on my diet app: the cronometer. According to the app, most days I overeat. So, how could I have dropped eight sizes in eight months?
Well, I noticed I had set my app to sedentary despite exercising nearly two hours each day. Turns out, I’ve been eating daily deficits of four-hundred-calories. Smartly, I reset my app to moderately active.
The lesson? Watch your apps. Diet apps can fulfill—or kill—weight goals.
Anita Bean reveals the skinny on athletes’ diets in her book The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition (8th Edition):
- What should a fit-you chew? Eat these each day:
- 3-5 portions vegetables,
- 2-4 portions fruits,
- 4-6+ portions carbs,
- 2-4 portions calcium rich foods,
- 4 portions protein rich foods (where 3 eggs equal 1 portion),
- And 2-3 healthy fats and oils (where 1 tablespoon peanut butter equals 1 portion) (p. 14).
- Eat more carbs than just a bowl of bran. “The more active you are and the greater your muscle mass, the higher your carbohydrates needs” (p. 7). Four to six portions of carbs a day—minimum!
- Light exercisers don’t need extra “During exercise lasting less than 45 minutes, there is no performance advantage to be gained by consuming additional carbohydrates” (p. 8).
- Moderate exercisers should tease-taste extra carbs: “For intense exercise lasting between 45 and 75 minutes, simply swilling (not swallowing) a carbohydrate drink in your mouth … can improve performance … thus allowing you to maintain exercise intensity for longer” (p. 8).
- Heavy exercisers should swallow extra carbs. “But for exercise lasting longer than about 1 hour, consuming between 30 and 60 g carbohydrate helps” (p. 8).
- Eat protein after workouts. “Experts recommend consuming … 15 – 25 g of protein with each main meal as well as immediately after exercise” (p. 9).
- Why eat protein? “Extra protein is needed to compensate for the increased muscle breakdown that occurs during and after intense exercise, as well as to build new muscle cells” (p. 9).
- And don’t forget fats. “Athletes should consume a minimum of 20% energy from fat, otherwise they risk deficient intakes of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids” (p. 10).
- Good fats contain omega-3s—fats such as walnuts, flaxseed, and oily fish. “Omega-3s may be particularly beneficial for athletes, as they help increase the delivery of oxygen to muscles, improve endurance and may speed recovery and reduce inflammation and join stiffness” (p. 10).
The day after my doctor visit, I gorged three nutritious meals, two healthy snacks, six Lindt chocolate balls, eight tablespoons peanut butter, and one loaded pizza. Still my size four pants sag.
On my way to ripped, my clothes falling off? No problem!
[A lot of what The Voice Magazine provides is advice. Student-to-student advice and connection, perhaps so popular because we don’t have the same spaces to connect with students as traditional universities do. The Fit Student has been providing advice for health, both physical and mental, nearly every week, and this particular article in the series was the one that students have read the most.]