In this edition of What Readers Want to Known I'll answer a question about fats in the diet and also talk about the importance of variety, oatmeal, and eating whole foods. In the second question I tackle the questions and concerns of a hardgainer.
[ Q ] When I'm really disciplined in what I eat, I usually just get my carbs from oatmeal and fruit, and my protein from straight up whey protein powder. However, I realize the importance of getting fats in my diet. My question is, what is the best supplement for fats? I've heard flaxseed oil is good, so I'm anticipating that will be your answer. If so, in what form do you take it (pill form)? Thanks.
A: Great Question!
It is good to hear that you get your carbohydrates mainly from oatmeal and fruit, but don't neglect vegetables! Oatmeal is an excellent source of low glycemic energy. One of the things that make oatmeal so great is its fiber content.
Oatmeal contains a fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan has been shown in to reduce the glycemic rating of a sucrose based meal by up to 50%! That's what I call controlling blood sugar. Oats are also a good source of soluble fiber, which the people at Quaker Oats will be quick to tell you, has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.
In regards to your protein intake; it's good that you are using a whey protein supplement to meet your protein needs (surprisingly many people don't get enough protein). But I caution you against getting all your protein from mainly one source.
I would seek out a variety of whole food protein options, chicken, turkey, eggs, pork, fish, and lean cuts of red meat. Protein supplements are wonderful but whole foods protein sources should be the corner stone of your nutritional plan.
Finally fats. Flaxseed oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (FA). As I've discussed in previous articles there are 3 main kinds of fat: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Omega-3 FA fall under the polyunsaturated category. Personally I like flaxseed meal over flaxseed oil.
I don't particularly like the taste of flaxseed oil. Flaxseed meal has the additional bonus of fiber (which just about everyone could use more of) and it can be added to protein shakes, yogurt, cottage cheese, or even salads. You should aim to get 2-3 TBSP of flaxmeal a day.
If you are going to use flaxseed oil then you can use either the pills or the oil; personally I would just buy a bottle of the oil. Remember flaxseed, meal or oil (from a bottle), needs to be kept in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.
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The other polyunsaturated fat that is totally essential is fish oil. A high quality fish oil should be the base of everyone's nutritional plan. Once you start taking 2-2.5 grams of EPA/DHA you will wonder how you ever went on without it.
I think that there are few supplements that you can actually feel difference after taking (stimulants aside) and fish oil is one of them.
Quality is the key with fish oil so don't go for the cheapest one you can find. Check out www.ifosprogram.com for more about fish oil quality or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for some recommendations.
So what about saturated fats and monounsaturated fats? Saturated fats are often marked as the black sheep of the three but it doesn't mean you should eliminate them (just minimize them). You can tell if a fat is "saturated" if it is solid at room temperature.
Examples are butter, cheese, meat fat, or coconut oil. Monounsaturated fats are considered the "heart healthy" fats. These fats can be found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts. I get the bulk of my fat intakes from these sources. Olive oil is a very versatile food as it can be used for cooking, on salads, or in protein shakes.
In regards to total fat intake you should aim to get 30-35% of your total calories from fats. The low fat craze is over and fats play a very important role in the success of your physique development and overall health.
If you are still looking for more information about fats check out my article, A Look At Four Common Fat Myths.
[ Q ] I am regular reader of your articles. Like so many other hardgainers, I am also trying to add up a few pounds to my lean physique. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing at 165lbs and I would like to gain about 20lbs.
I have bought Optimum's Serious Mass and 300 grams of creatine which I've started taking since I've been working out more regularly.
Here are some of my concerns:
- I usually overlook legs exercises and rarely train abs.
- I'm concerned that eating more will cause bodyfat gain instead of muscle gain.
- I usually have light breakfast and heavy dinner.
- I've heard that to be large, one needs to lift large. Is this true?
Help! I'm 24 yrs old and very eager to see results, I just need your guiding words.
A: Okay, let start at the beginning. In order for you to gain 20lbs you are going to need to eat, A LOT. People that stay "hardgainers" usually stay that way because they aren't eating enough. "Increase Total Calories" This needs to be your theme. Write it in on a piece of paper in big letters and tape it to your refrigerator.
Taking the Optimum Nutrition's Serious Mass will help you get in lots of calories. I would start with taking 1/2 a serving at a time (this is about 600 calories). You might find a better bang for your buck just purchasing a bulk protein powder blend and then adding your own carbs and fats.
When it comes to 5lbs containers of protein I like Syntrax's Matrix 5.0. The creatine is a good idea also - 5g/day after your workouts (with your post workout shake).
Let's look at your concerns:
Training abs not very often isn't that much of a problem; especially if you are doing heavy compound movements (your abs will get a lot of stabilization work). Overlooking leg exercises is a HUGE problem. Squats and Deadlifts are an essential component of every weight lifting routine (there are a few exceptions).
If you are concerned about gaining too much bodyfat while packing on muscle then it is important that you are very methodical about your diet. Creating meal plans and following them to the "T" is very important so in the future you will be able to tweak your nutritional plan to minimize fat gain.
Eating a light breakfast and heavy dinner is not conducive to gaining lean mass without a lot of body fat. You should actually flip it around so that you eat bigger meals early in the day and smaller meals later in the day. This will aid in your attempt to minimize fat gain.
If you aren't familiar with those two movements then it is important to learn from someone who is. Teaching yourself to squat and deadlift can be a long injury filled road. Ask around your gym and I'm sure you can find someone who knows what they're talking about and will be willing to help you out.
The answer here is yes and no. You are going to have to lift heavier weights but not initially. As you build more muscle your body will be able to handle heavier and heavier weights. Everybody starts out squatting 135lbs but as you get stronger that 135lbs will become 225lbs then 315lbs and then 405lbs or more. In other words, with consistent effort and work, weights that seem heavy now won't be in the future.
To sum it all up, the key is consuming a lot of clean calories and doing a lot of compound movements in the gym. Good Luck!!!
That is going to wrap it up for the second edition of What Readers Want. Remember, if you are having nutrition or supplementation questions that you can't get answered or are just looking for the truth, drop me an email at email@example.com. Your question could be featured in the next installment.
Don't forget to check out my new no nonsense nutrition blog www.streetsmartnutrition.com.
- 1. Tappy, L., et al. Effects of breakfast cereals containing various amounts of beta-glucan fibers on plasma glucose and insulin responses in NIDDM subjects. Diabetes Care. 1996 Aug;19(8):831-4.