Nutrition to grow big and strong

Of course, your nutritional needs will depend on your sport. The nutritional requirement of an Iron Man competitor are far different than those of someone competing in bodybuilding. An Iron Man triathlete who bikes 112 miles, swims 2.4 miles and runs 26 miles all in one day can use 7,000 to 10,000 calories on competition day.

That type of athlete needs most of their calories fast, in the form of carbohydrates to maximize their performance. They likely will consider carbohydrate loading the days before their event so that their muscles, liver and blood are full of readily available energy for the race.

However, most of us would never undertake such an ordeal and our diets can be more moderate. For those who want to put on lean muscle mass and keep relatively lean while doing so, the following may be of assistance.

A good nutrition program for those who want to build up their muscles and stay lean starts with eating small, frequent meals. When you eat more frequently, you actually speed up your metabolism, burn fat, stay leaner, and keep your muscles fed. Depending on your gender and how big you are, you would want to eat four to six meals per day, spread out every 2 1/2 to 3 hours. These are mini meals, not full, big meals!

Every meal should have the proper balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats — otherwise it is not a meal. Every macronutrient must be present for proper assimilation.

The balance for bodybuilders and others who want to maximize their muscularity and strength should be 40 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent good protein that is well absorbed, and 20 percent fats. To put it in an easy way to visualize, the volume of carbs might look like the size of your fist and the volume of the protein the size of your palm.

Another great way to get the right proportions is to use a well-balanced protein shake that is certified as a meal replacement. It will have the 1-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein and the proper amounts of healthy fats. Isa-lean shake is what I use. You can get it at

To stay lean and yet build mass, the calories should be cycled. This means that the amount of calories should be changed daily. Some days eat a few more and other days a few less so that your body doesn’t get “used to” the same amount of calories and “expect” that. Your body is really good at adapting, so you want to keep the metabolism guessing, so to speak, so that your progress doesn’t plateau.

Carbohydrates are the body’s most ready source of energy. This can be a good thing as we talked about in the Iron Man example. However, if you overdo the carbohydrates and do not partner them with protein, your energy will crash and you will store the excess carbohydrate as fat. The best source of carbohydrate is complex carbs. These are starches and fiber rather than simple carbs such as sugar.

Complex carbs maintain an even energy level because they take longer to break down into energy. Some good examples of starchy complex carbs are: oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice, or whole grain/vegetable based pasta. Fibrous carbs include: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, spinach, zucchini and other veggies. These foods will give you long-lasting energy. Simple carbs are sugar (not a good choice) and fruit, which can be beneficial because of the nutrients. Just don’t overdo the fruit.

Protein for muscle growth and to keep your metabolism heightened include: eggs or egg substitute, chicken breast, turkey, lean red meat and tuna. You might consider how much you weigh and how much resistance training you are doing, then compute the amount of protein that you require.

No one should consume more than 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. So, for example, a 100-pound person who is 20 percent body fat has 80 pounds of lean mass so they would require about 80 grams of protein a day if they are actively lifting weights and trying to build up their muscles. Six ounces of chicken or 6 ounces of tuna contains 35-40 grams of protein, so 2 ounces at a time spread out over six meals would equal 12 ounces or about 80 grams of protein.

Healthy fats are the other component of a nutritious meal. Because all of your cells have fats in the membrane, and because fat lubricates your joints and builds hormones, and you require fat soluble vitamins, you need fat — just the right type and not too much.

Saturated fats are the ones found in fatty meat. They are also the ones that clog up your arteries and lead to stroke and heart attack. An artificially produced fat, hydrogenated fats (transfats) are also saturated and cause these diseases as well. You find hydrogenated fats in packaged convenience foods and junk foods. Poly-unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils are for the most part fairly healthy choices as long as they are not GMO.

The best choice for fat is the mono-unsaturated oils found in fish oil, virgin olive oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil. These fats actually help reduce cholesterol levels as well as they provide antioxidants. The level of fat that you take in should be steady at around 20 percent to be healthy and lean.

The other macronutrient that is essential for good health and maximizing your muscular growth is water. Your body is 65 percent composed of water. Water helps you eliminate toxins from your body. It is the medium in which all chemical processes in your body occur. It helps lubricate your joints, and keeps your body temperature appropriate. If you weigh 100 pounds, divide that by two and you know that you require 50 ounces of water per day. Especially, now that we are into summer, keep hydrated!


Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at or (808) 212-8119 and


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.