I’ve read about taking free-form aminos (BCA’s) before a strength workout & drinking a protein shake after. What are your thoughts on BCA’s, and mainly: how are they any different from simply eating or drinking some natural protein pre-workout?
The Branch Chain Amino Acids are isoleucine, leucine, and valine. They are plentiful in food sources, so there’s no reason to supplement other than to make supplement manufacturers rich. Click on each amino acid name to see what food sources you can derive them from (note that all three are plentiful in both plant and animal foods).
I’m starting heavy lifting after this semester is over, and I’m eating in a calorie deficit because I want to lose around 60 pounds. I don’t understand cutting and bulking, and what specifically I should do for body re comp. do I have to eat more to gain muscle? What happens to the fat? It just sits and waits? Or can I eat in a deficit and gain muscle?
When you’re overweight, there’s no reason to worry about cutting and bulking, those techniques are useful for bodybuilders who wish to optimize body composition. At this stage of the game it’s all about getting to a healthy weight while keeping your metabolism healthy! To do that, maintain a small calorie deficit (not more than 1000 calories a day, preferably closer to 500) and continue to lift weights or do some other form of resistance exercise. While in a calorie deficit you won’t build appreciable muscle mass, but resistance exercise will minimize the loss of lean mass as you lose fat, and help keep your metabolism running healthy and strong. Once you are at a healthy weight, then you can begin the process of building mass through a calorie surplus. I wrote more on the subject here.
Thoughts on wine, chocolate, cheese; essentially anything not geared to health and optimal body composition- how often? How structured?
It all depends on your goals. If maintaining ultra-low body fat is a high priority for you, then treats will need to be rare. I prefer to carry a little more body fat and have the freedom to go out to eat, enjoy a glass of wine, have a bit of chocolate with some regularity. My philosophy is: meet your nutritional requirements first (macro and micronutrient needs), and then if you have some room left in your calorie allotment, eat what you want! Your calorie allotment will be partially dictated by how lean you wish to be. For the sake of sanity, I encourage my clients to chose a level of leanness that will support some dietary flexibilty.
I want to eat less processed but not sure where to even start. It seems like everything is processed these days. Any thoughts for side dishes, snacks?
Start slow, change one thing at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed! For instance, focus on one meal of the day for a week or two, like breakfast. Spend a few minutes jotting down ideas for breakfast foods you enjoy that aren’t processed, then head to the store/farmer’s market and get what you need so you’re prepared. Stop buying the processed stuff and you’ll be forced to eat real food. For snacks I rely on fruit and nuts more than anything. If there’s one book everyone making this change should read, it’s The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. Also check out my Getting Started post for more ideas.
How can someone who eats a ton of fruits and vegetables every single day have some vitamin levels that are deficient?
Lots of things could be going on here. Absorption issues, too little fat in the diet (many vitamins are fat soluble and require some fat to be properly absorbed), lack of variety (some vitamins are better absorbed in the presence of other nutrients), plain old undereating…I’d recommend working with a professional dietician on this one.
I spend a good 8-10 hours a day sitting on my bum so I have no idea how to calculate the correct caloric needs for my body.
This calculator allows you to plug in your activity level to give you an approximate idea of your calorie needs, then it’s a matter of trial and error to find the sweet spot. I encourage my desk-bound clients to look into a standing station, and if that’s not a possibility, get up 2-3 times and hour and do something active. A few burpees will spike your heart rate and improve your insulin sensetivity, helping to mitigate the negative effects of spending so much time sitting down.
I know you have an active career life- did you ever have a desk job? If so, how did you make the change?
I’ve never had a desk job, but in the past I’ve spent much more time sitting than I do now. I make a conscious effort to stay off my butt, either by standing to perform stationary tasks, or getting up periodically and doing something to get my heart rate up (see my answer to the previous question).
Lifting heavy, do u still do 3×8 or do u do more sets w fewer reps?
For beginners I recommend the standard 3 x 8 format for the sake of simplicity. Once a client has some basic strength, stability and knowledge of form and mechanics, I begin to mix up the reps and sets. For my own training, I do it all, high rep low weight, moderate reps moderate weight, and low rep high weight.
I know carbs are not the root of all evil. Even when eating all whole foods should you stay within a reasonable “range” of how many carbs you consume a day?
I don’t really count my carbs. I do stay within a rough calorie target, and I count protein to make sure I’m getting a minimum requirement, but otherwise I let my carbs fall where they may. A person’s carb intake should be a reflection of their protein, fat and total calorie intake, IMO. Meet protein and fat requirements and stay within your energy requirements, and your carbs will sort themselves out. The only exception would be someone with an active metabolic issue that involves insulin resistance. Then presumably they would be working with a doctor or dietician to optimize their carb intake specific to their condition.
How did you deal with going from not exercising at all to exercising every day
Slowly. I started out with a goal of 20 minutes 2-3 times a week. I fell off the wagon a few times in those early months, but I always managed to get back on before stagnation set in. I think not demanding too much of myself was key. There were days when all I could do was get to the gym, and I’d end up sitting in the jacuzzi rather than exercising, but I was creating a habit of making time for exercise. I realized about 6-8 months in that I had started planning my days around exercise rather than trying to fit exercise into my day, and it was at that point that it had become a habit. Up until then, making the habit was the priority, not the actual exercise I did.