The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Get Muscles for Christmas

Readers have been e-mailing me to ask what supplements to buy for holiday presents to get muscular and slim. This post will cover a bit about protein supplements for exercising.

Advertising for protein supplement products wants you to believe that eating more protein builds muscle and causes you to lose more fat. Neither is true. When you exercise more, you use a small amount more protein than when you are not exercising. It takes very little protein to build more muscle. Most of the rest of muscle weight is water. Drinking extra water also will not build more muscle. All you need to do is healthy exercise. On an average Western diet, you do not use all the protein you eat, even when exercising hard and lifting weights. You break down unused protein, excrete the byproducts, and store the extra calories eaten as fat.

Protein supplements made with whey, dairy, and unfermented soy are a major cause of a bloated uncomfortable gastrointestinal tract. (Unfermented soy also is also increasingly being found unhealthy, and recommended to be limited.) Many protein supplements have sweeteners like sorbital and corn syrup, which produce more painful gas. More serious, high protein diets contribute to several major health problems. Eating high protein is long known to be a contributing factor in reduced bone density and osteoporosis. Animal protein, including the animal protein in dairy, increases urinary calcium loss. New studies are showing that high protein diets may increase risk of cancer and shorten life span.

In a study, published in the Nov. 29 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that eating diets of low carbohydrate and high protein was associated with "increased mortality and risk of cancer." Another study, published in the December issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that a low-protein diet may protect against certain cancers. lead author Dr. Luigi Fontana stated that if people ate more whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables and far fewer animal products, they would be healthier.

Good quality protein is available without meat, dairy, or supplement powders. Try oats, brown rice, beans, lentils, sesame seeds, nuts, chickpeas, muesli, peas, seaweed, kelp, brewers yeast, hummus, tahini, and spirulina. These have protein, antioxidants, many nutrients, and fiber. It is not true that you need to carefully mix specific foods in each meal to get complete proteins from vegetables, grains, and legumes. Proteins combine on their own in the body over the day of eating a variety. It is another food myth that you must avoid eating protein with starch (carbohydrate), or not eat one food group in combination with others. Nutrients usually work better together.

You can build much strength and muscle without eating any supplements or high protein diets. Many are not "fit." In short, save your money. Do honest exercise in healthful ways. You will be healthier and wiser and look better. Take the money you save and make a real gift of the season by donating to impoverished areas or going to a shut-in neighbor and doing their vacuuming. That is the spirit of the season and fitness as a lifestyle together.

Photo model - Paul Plevakas, vegetarian athlete, who uses the natural exercise in my books and on this blog. This copyright photo is on the cover of the book Healthy Martial Arts.

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Photo © copyright Dr. Bookspan from the book Healthy Martial Arts
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.