To Whey Or Not To Whey?
Okay I’ll admit it. I may have a tiny obsession with health and fitness. It’s an easy thing to develop when you live in southern California where carbon copies of Ken and Barbie Mattel roam the streets in droves. As if that wasn’t hard enough, add trying to attain what the gay community considers the “perfect” body and before you know it, you’re lying on some shrink’s couch being treated for BDD and low self-esteem. Although attempting to achieve the “ideal body” can lead you down a dark path of insecurity and compulsion (if you don’t keep it in perspective); an active lifestyle can dramatically improve one’s overall disposition. There is nothing more rewarding than taking care of oneself and seeing the benefits of that commitment. Looking good is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to trimming the waistline, healthy eating and exercise releases endorphins, improves heart and brain functionality, increases dopamine productivity while decreasing depression and anxiety and boosts sex drive—to name just a few. Californians are spoiled rotten by our favorable climate. We get copious amounts of vitamin D from the sun. Restaurants and grocery stores serve or carry delicious health food options. Every three blocks there’s a gym or scheduled indoor/outdoor activity designed for body improvement. We benefit significantly from living in a health-conscious culture where there is something for everyone.
The variety of choice can be overwhelming, especially when all of them promise to produce better results than their competitors. Should I Soul Cycle or should I Road Run? Do I lift weights or just focus on cardio? Do I exercise outside in nature or do I take classes at the gym? Do I drink protein shakes and use supplements, or do I leave all of that alone and just stick to a regular diet? Do I eat 3 meals a day or should I eat 5 to 6 smaller meals a day? Bikram or Vinyasa? Cross-fit or Boot Camp? Billy Blanks Taebo or P90X? With so many philosophies and doctrines on the do’s and don’ts of fitness, many people give up, frustrated and confused, with their goals unmet and their motivation decimated. Like any industry driven by profit margins, there are always going to be gimmicks and snake-oil salesman looking to prey upon the vulnerable—those eager to shortcut their way to the body they’ve always dreamed of having. The harsh reality to any life change is that it takes hard work, discipline and determination. There will be plateaus and there will be sacrifices; but in the end, if one wants something they’ve never had, they have to be willing to do something they’ve never done. Often that’s the difference between achieving and not achieving health and fitness goals.
So, as I admitted earlier, I may have taken the chapter on getting “the perfect body” (found in section 1, page 8 of the Gay Man’s West Hollywood/Chelsea Handbook: A Guide to Getting Laid and Being Socially Accepted Within These Sometimes Incredibly Shallow Communities) a little too seriously…However that studious discipline has lead to a wealth of knowledge on products and fitness practices that I am eager to share. My trials and errors in taking the right supplements, eating the right foods and learning the right exercise routines to support my fitness goals have been on-going for the last 15 years. Before I go in-depth about what has worked for me I want to emphasize 2 absolutely critical points. 1. I am NOT a medical physician or professional trainer, and 2. I am only sharing what has worked for me personally. Although I have done extensive research, I do not want to assert that I am an authority on this subject. What works for one person may not work for another depending on the physiology of the individual, so I recommend that everyone seek the help of professionals (Nutritionists, Family Doctors, and Trainers) to discern what works best for their body.
Personally, my fitness goals have always concentrated on building and maintaining lean muscle mass. I am blessed to have a high metabolism, which I know is a happy problem, but for those of you out there who are like me, you understand the dilemma it presents when trying to put on size.
[Very important side tangent for all the ladies with gay best friends: unless your Gusband has verbally expressed that he’s on a quest to shed pounds and reach “skinny bitch” status, it’s probably safe to say that telling him he looks “so skinny” is NOT a compliment. I know, I know…it’s confusing and the intentions are good…skinny is a good thing right?... but as the good-intentions-saying goes, the road to catching hell for commenting on your friend’s body is paved with the word “skinny.” It’s much more pleasing to hear “wow, your body looks great,” or “you’re so fit and toned.” I don’t know…maybe it’s just me and my circle of friends, but thought I’d share that with all my sisters who want to be encouraging to “their gays.”]
The most popular solution to this “dilemma” is increasing protein intake. By consuming one’s body weight in grams of protein, one can build/maintain muscle mass. Increasing size requires eating your goal weight in protein grams. For example, if you are 150 lbs and you’d like to weigh 160, you’ll need to eat 160 grams of protein per day until you reach that goal. You’ll also need to be realistic about the amount of time and discipline this will take to do responsibly (maybe the better part of a year or so). Like kale and quinoa, whey protein has enjoyed a place of prominence thanks to fitness marketing—promising to be the best for building lean muscle. Here’s the problem, for many people (especially brown people) whey protein doesn’t agree with their systems. Lactose-based products can create bloating and clog the colon, which creates an obstacle to losing belly fat and revealing muscle definition. Many of the whey protein drinks (including whey isolate) aren’t generated from reliable, good-quality sources, and contain other binding properties like gluten. We all grab at those couple of inches around our mid-section, frustrated by its resilience; scratch our heads thinking about all the sit-ups and cardio that we’ve done to make it go away. This is where the truth about the 80% diet, 20% exercise ratio of achieving fitness goals really comes into play. Could it be that eating dairy (specifically from cows; sheep and goat milk-based products don’t have the same digestive issues) and drinking whey protein is actually hindering instead of helping your waistline?
The truth of this became clear to me the minute I found Plant Fusion Protein Powder. This non-dairy, GMO free, gluten-free protein is made up of pea, artichoke, amaranth and quinoa. Digestive enzymes are added to its recipe to ensure the body’s ability to break it down. It also has loads of amino acids to help repair muscle tissue. I think it taste fantastic (much better than I expected) and it mixes seamlessly with liquids such as almond milk and water. It’s light but packs 22g of protein in one scoop. It is by far the best protein I have ever had, and it’s just as effective as those whey-based proteins out on the market. In addition to chocolate, vanilla and cookies n’ cream, they offer a flavorless protein for those customers that don’t want to be restricted by flavor profiles. I was so afraid that a non-animal based protein would set me back in the gaining department but Plant Fusion has proven me wrong for the last year.
Let’s face it; food in this country has dramatically changed since the days of our parents and grandparents. The business of food has rendered the natural thing unrecognizable to the human body. Whether it’s genetic modification, added hormones or chemicals in our water and soil, the nutrients that once upon a time were found in “regular food,” no longer exist. Unless one is eating local, organic or sustainable food products, we no longer can rely on the mass-produced products available to provide food with digestive enzymes. By supplementing these enzymes along with probiotics, my ability to capitalize on the benefits of what I put into my body has grown exponentially, thus improving my overall health. I use MRM Digest All Vegetarian Capsules and Enzymatic Therapy Gluten Defense supplements (which also helps breakdown casein protein found in milk and cheese) to aid in this process. Because the average body can’t break down more than 30 grams of protein at a given time, in order to maximize on all of the extra protein I put in my body, I give my digestive system help. This also regulates my colon function. There is a 30 to 60min window after a high-intensity workout when the body is able to absorb up to 40 or 50 grams of protein max. With the aid of Digest All, you ensure that every gram of that protein is used in rebuilding the muscle tissue.
In my building phases, I do a limited amount of cardio (a short run once a week). I lift heavy and don’t take long breaks between sets to keep my heart rate up. Many people shoot themselves in the foot by overdoing the cardio workouts, especially in a building cycle (where burning too many calories impedes feeding the muscle). It’s also a misconception that women should not lift weights. Women who do light weight training in conjunction with their low-impact cardio workouts, double their fat loss and tone their bodies at the same time—making their dream of having Michelle Obama arms a reality. It’s also important to get specific about your goals when integrating cardio into your routine. If you want to lose a considerable amount of weight, then yes, you’ll want to increase your cardio to capitalize on your healthier eating habits. But be careful to stay in the “burning fat” sweet spot—low-impact cardio that keeps the heart rate up but doesn’t go into cardiovascular strength training (also easier on your joints). Another great way to get the most out of cardio training is doing intervals (jog, then run really fast for a few minutes, then slow down to a brisk walk, and repeat the variation). It keeps things interesting. For indoor cardio I “enjoy” the Stairmaster or treadmill. Raise the treadmill incline to the highest you can tolerate (I’m dying at 12) and see if you can walk fast or even lightly jog uphill. After 10 minutes you’ll be sweating buckets and your ass will be singing to you! The abdomen engages more and the gluts get toned. It works!
I do a high amount of repetitions with the heaviest weight I can stand, however, I certainly didn’t start there. For the unseasoned weight lifter, start out with lighter weights that can be controlled. This will help in safely reaching the goal while keeping injuries at bay. One should never compromise form for weight. Slowly overtime weight is added so that every workout builds on the last. There really is no gain without pain. The soreness is encouraging because it lets you know what you’re doing is working! I never workout sore body parts. Soreness signals that the muscles are still repairing themselves, and working them out during that period could delay the gains taking place in the healing process.
Another great defender against soreness is BCAA amino acids. I rely on drinking BCAA powder throughout my workout. Not only does it keep my mind alert and focused during exercises while delaying muscle fatigue, but it also helps to increase muscle growth and speed-up fat loss. I used to take BCAA pills after my workout until someone suggested I get a powder based one and drink it during exercise. This helps my recovery time and keeps my energy up when lifting heavy and hard. It was great advice that has produced fantastic results, which is why I am passing it along.
I use USP Labs Modern BCAA Powder because I like the taste and it mixes very well (best with room temperature water, but cold will do too). I definitely feel the difference when I don’t have it on hand.
I believe in the intelligence of the body and the importance of being in-tune with it. We should be working with our bodies, not against them. It behooves us to pay attention to what the body is trying to tell us. From a practical standpoint, implementing a fitness plan saves tons of money in health costs down the line. Who doesn’t want lower insurance premiums and less health hassles as they approach the fall and winters of their lives? Optimal fitness is achievable at any age but it requires a mental commitment and the willingness to adjust accordingly. Again, I am only sharing what has worked for me, which I will continue to do by and by. Give these products a try and see if they make any difference in your fitness routine.