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Sport weights


You may not want to step up on the platform to tackle a 220kg clean-and-jerk, but by occasionally building in the same kind of training used by these platform athletes, you can reap some of the size benefits.

Olympic weightlifting combines the speed of a 100-meter sprinter, flexibility and explosiveness of a gymnast and the raw power of a linebacker. There’s a lot of muscle activity throughout all muscle fibre types when you train the Olympic lifts. When you’re doing a bench press or biceps curl, less goes into that. Every single fibre must fire at one speed for a successful Olympic lift, which means more total muscle is recruited.


A typical first remedy for people trying to grow legs is to do more: more exercises, more sets, more reps. If you’re having trouble growing, take a page out of the Olympic weightlifting book and do less.

Training more often with less volume can help your body respond with greater size. In a lift like the clean and jerk, you squat down to pull the weight from the floor, then you catch the weight at the top by descending into another squat and then you do a partial squat to explode the weight overhead. That’s one rep. So doing that takes a lot out of a lifter, so understandably, they lower their volume so that they can do it more often. Their legs grow as a result.

When you train a muscle too much, you don’t give enough time for them to rest to allow for growth. If your legs are not growing, train them less. Train 1 to 2 days per week max, with a more tempered approach to volume, then rest. Or stretch your time between leg sessions to 10 days instead of 6 to 7.


This is an important distinction. Some guys insist on adding weight to the bar every single week. That may be a good approach if you’re training for pure strength, but not if your aim is to add size. When I was competing, my best 1RM on the squat was 600 pounds… at a bodyweight of 135. But we were training for strength every single day, never taking any one set beyond five reps.

If strength is the objective, you want to be increasing your loads every 2 to 3 weeks or less. For mass, it’s more about muscle breakdown and recovery. In my opinion, the best approach is to force your muscles to resist and overcome load with greater time under tension. Completely resist it – 4 to 5 second negatives and positives. Don’t need to lock your knees at the top of a squat – you want to keep the load on the muscles. Don’t focus too much on adding resistance but focus on the resistance itself. If the goal is power or explosion, then train for that – but for size, slow, consistent reps are best. Understand that you may not be able to lift as much but that your legs will probably add size much faster.


No surprise here. Whether you’re training for size, strength, athleticism or just to be respected in a pair of shorts, you have to squat. Squat is the king of all exercises and there is no substitute. I understand that some people may have problems with their back or shoulders but there are other options such as dumbbell squats, machine squats and leg presses.

If you’re serious about size, the squat needs to be part of your programme. Because it recruits so much muscle and triggers such a high hormonal response, it can bring about rapid growth – not just in your legs but in your entire body. If you really want to build championship quads, you do need to squat.


People who think they’re just going to lift heavy partial squats and get bigger legs are missing out. To get that sweep, that teardrop, great glutes – you’ve got to go down. This is largely based on the flexibility of your hips but if you practice with the bar (or lighter loads) and learn how to go down and position your body properly at the bottom, that will allow you to use the muscles of your quads, inner thighs and glutes. Drop the weight down a bit. To build muscle, we’ve got to use a full range of motion.

Train the squat often. It’s not true that lifting weights limits flexibility. Lifting through a full and proper range of motion, combined with proper warm-ups and regular stretching, can actually enhance flexibility in the long run. Studies show that deeper squats provide greater size gains without increasing your risk of injury.


Are you one of those guys who’s trying to build bigger legs and a six-pack at the same time? That’s going to be tough because you have to limit how much cardio you’re doing if you expect to get bigger quads.

Remember, recovery is everything and it’s tough to have your legs recuperate if you’re following your leg session with a cardio run. If you’re back on the treadmill the next day, there’s no rest. Bigger muscles take longer to recuperate. I don’t do any traditional cardio.

Take an honest look at your cardio routine. If your legs have been stubborn about growing, then cut back with your duration and frequency a bit to see if that helps. If you keep your diet clean, you don’t need to do as much cardio. Save it for when you’ve added the size you want.


Have you ever gotten halfway through a leg workout, only to collapse onto the floor, dizzy, unable to catch your breath? That may be an indicator of a good workout to some but to me, this is a sign that you haven’t fueled up properly.

The day before leg day I tend to bring my carbs up a little bit – especially the night before. The morning of, I try to eat a high-glycemic breakfast in the morning to bring my blood sugar up because I’m going to be punishing my body in the gym so I need a lot of fuel. I still get my protein in, of course. On leg day, I’ll eat 1 to 1 ½ cups of rice before and after. After a workout, you need to spike your insulin, so I will do something very high in sugar. For me, that means six dates and a protein shake. Dates are very high in sugar.

If you’re going to go hard on leg day, make sure that you don’t skimp on carbs the day before. Also try to take in some fast-digesting sugars the morning of and immediately after your workout.



Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Lift one knee to your chest, lower back to the start, and lift your other knee to your chest. Continue to alternate back and forth.


Lie face-up on the floor with your left knee bent and your right leg straight. Raise your right leg until it’s in line with your left thigh. Push your hips upward, keeping your right leg elevated. Pause, then slowly lower your body and leg back to the start position. Complete the prescribed number of repetitions with your left leg, then switch and do the same number with your right leg.


Lie face-up on the floor and place your lower legs and heels on a Swiss ball. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without pausing, pull your heels toward you and roll the ball as close as possible to your butt. Pause for 1 or 2 seconds, then reverse the motion, by rolling the ball back until your body is in a straight line. Lower your hips back to the floor.


Load the barbell and roll it against your shins. Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder width. Without allowing your lower back to round, pull your torso back and up, thrust your hips forward, and stand up with the barbell. Squeeze your glutes as you perform the movement. Lower the bar to the floor, keeping it as close to your body as possible.


Set a pair of dumbbells on the floor in front of you. Bend at your hips and knees, and grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip. Without allowing your lower back to round, stand up with the dumbbells. Lower the dumbbells to the floor.


Grab a pair of light dumbbells and stand on your left foot. (If dumbbells make this too hard, just use your body weight.) Lift your right foot behind you and bend your knee so your right leg is parallel to the floor. Bend forward at your hips, and slowly lower your body as far as you can, or until your right lower leg almost touches the floor. Pause, then push your body back to the starting position. If this exercise is too difficult, let the toes of your shoe rest on the floor for balance instead of raising the foot of your non-working leg.


Grab a dumbbell with an overhand grip and hold it in front of your waist at arm’s length. (You can also do the exercise while holding the dumbbell with both hands.) Bend at your hips and knees and lower your torso until it forms a 45-degree angle to the floor. Swing the dumbbell between your legs. Keeping your arm straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the dumbbell up to chest level as you rise to standing position. Now squat back down as you swing the dumbbell between your legs again. Swing the weight back and forth forcefully.


Lie on your left side on the floor, with your hips and knees bent 45 degrees. Your right leg should be on top of your left leg, your heels together. Keeping your feet in contact with each other, raise your right knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis. Pause, then return to the starting position. Don’t allow your left leg to move off the floor.


Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at arm’s length at your sides. Stand in front of a bench or step and place your left foot firmly on the step, high enough that your knee is bent 90 degrees. Press your left heel into the step and push your body up until your left leg is straight and you’re standing on one leg on the bench, keeping your right foot elevated. Lower back down until your right foot touches the floor. Complete the prescribed number of reps with your left leg, then do the same number with your right leg.


You walk into the gym, ready for the greatest workout of your life—but will you have enough in the tank to finish what you start? The right food will provide most of the raw energy you need to lift, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Whole food won’t prime your central nervous system, increase nitric oxide, or help muscle fibers contract harder.

You need supplements that can do these things and help you sustain high intensity levels.

Here are six categories of energy supplements you should consider adding to your regimen before you head to the gym:


If you don’t take in calories before you train, your body is like a hybrid vehicle without gas. No matter how much you charge it with other forms of energy, you’re not going to go very far. You need protein and carbs before workouts:

• Protein

Eat a whole-food meal about 60 to 90 minutes before training, then drink a pre-workout shake as you head to the gym. The shake should have about 25 to 50 grams of protein, depending on how much you weigh. Research shows a mix of whey and casein is one of the best choices at this time.

• Carbs

Fast-digesting carbs release insulin, driving the delivery of nutrients to muscle tissue. Take carbs in a 1:1 ratio with protein in your pre-workout shake.


Boosting strength in the short term is possible with these three supplements. Consider them as standalones or look for products that blend them.

• Creatine 

Creatine drives fluid into your muscle cells, blunting soreness and allowing you to lift heavier for longer. Look for creatine monohydrate, the gold standard of creatines.

• Beta-Alanine 

This amino acid boosts muscular strength and endurance by increasing your body’s levels of carnosine, a small peptide formed of beta-alanine and histidine.

• Cordyceps 

This Tibetan fungus helps boost immediate strength by contributing to your ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) cycle. Combine creatine and Cordyceps for greater immediate strength.


Energy boosters work in a wide variety of ways—some stimulate your central nervous system (CNS), while others increase brain activity. Each of these forms of energy allows you to train harder for longer.

• Caffeine Anhydrous 

Research demonstrates that this dry form of the stimulant is the best for increasing energy and strength. Taking caffeine helps reduce the perceived pain of lifting weights.


This group of amino acids includes leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are absorbed more readily into your system, bypassing your liver to go directly to working muscles, delivering fast energy.

• Yohimbe

As with caffeine, this extract from bark helps drive up energy levels by reducing stored body fat you can use as energy.


Muscle pumps provide more than an aesthetic improvement. A good pump delivers blood and nutrients to muscle tissue, helping it recover and grow.

• Arginine 

This amino acid converts in your body to nitric oxide (NO), a gas molecule that allows your blood vessels to expand so that more blood, oxygen and nutrients reach your working muscles.

• Citrulline 

Research shows that citrulline may convert to arginine more effectively than supplemental arginine. Additional research shows that taking a combo of citrulline and arginine may be more effective for increasing NO production than taking either alone.

• Agmatine Sulfate 

This relatively new supplement supports nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that helps produce NO from arginine.


Excess body fat isn’t good for much except this: It’s a great source of workout fuel. The key is to get your body to let go of this stored energy pre- and post-workout. These supps provide a two-for-one, helping fuel workouts with your own fat.

• Raspberry Ketones 

Rising in popularity, raspberry ketones can increase metabolic rate and release fat from storage.

• Capsicum 

Sometimes listed as capsaicin, this supplement from chili peppers helps drive up your metabolic rate so you naturally burn more calories.

• Green Coffee Bean Extract 

This fat burner contains a higher concentration of chlorogenic acid than do roasted beans. This is the chemical that works with caffeine to release and burn body fat.


Increased brain activity means increased focus—and that means more intense workouts.

• Tyrosine 

This amino acid elevates mood, enhances focus and even boosts sex drive. In your body, tyrosine is used to support production of hormones and neurotransmitters that include dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and thyroid hormone.

• Phenylethylamine (PEA) 

A metabolite of the amino acid phenylalanine, PEA helps boost brain chemicals including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

• Choline 

This nutrient is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for signaling muscle contractions and other brain activity. In addition, choline helps improve memory.

Visit your nearest Durbell Pharmacy for our USN BCAA AminoGro or Nutritech Vaso No 3 for the abovementioned pre-workout nutrients.


Sweat and dehydration are the main causes of muscle cramps. During a marathon or other endurance event, your muscles are working constantly and your body temperature therefore rises. To lower it, you begin to sweat, but this leads to a loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which means your blood volume decreases and your heart rate increases. All of this reduces the body’s ability to dissipate heat, which accelerates fatigue and takes its toll on our muscles. The result – they cramp.

Try these five strategies to prevent and manage muscle cramps:

  1. Take time to stretch and pay particular attention to the muscles that are most prone to cramping. Stretch those muscles gently but thoroughly.
  2. Train appropriately for every event. This is especially important for marathoners. On race day, running much faster or farther than you’ve trained will simply overwhelm your muscles and make you susceptible to cramps.
  3. Prepare your body for the elements. If you live in a dry climate, for example, don’t decide to run a marathon in an extremely humid city, unless you give yourself ample time before the race to become accustomed to the steamy conditions. This can take up to a week or more.
  4. Keep a sports drink handy. Though experts don’t know for sure if dehydration causes cramping, it’s still important to stay well hydrated when you run as it may lessen the severity of any cramps you do develop. About an hour or two before you run or race (depending on your tolerance), top up your tank with 500ml of fluid. Then take in between 150ml and 350ml of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during the run. Ensure your fluid of choice contains electrolytes as these salts can help prevent cramps.
  5. Hop to it. Try some leaping, hopping, or skipping drills – otherwise known as plyometrics – as part of your regular training. Such exercises can improve muscle-nerve coordination, strength, and help loosen tight muscles.

Even if you follow all of the above precautions, cramps may still strike during a race. What do you then?

  • Stop running immediately and stretch the affected muscle. This helps relax the spasm. You may have to stop and stretch a number of times before the cramp abates.
  • Apply deep pressure at the site of the cramp to provide relief. Just use your fingers to press into the affected muscle and hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Drink a fluid with electrolytes. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes can help resolve cramps as well as prevent them.
  • Slow down for awhile. To keep a cramp at bay you need to take the stress off your muscles, so back off a bit. Besides, when a cramp hits, you may not have a choice.



General principles

Prevention. It’s always the best treatment.

Here are some key tips:

  • Work yourself into shape slowly. It’s the most important element of prevention, particularly for weekend warriors who may be tempted to go all out without preparing themselves properly. It’s a growing problem, particularly for the baby boom generation; in fact, doctors have coined a new diagnosis – boomeritis – for the phenomenon. Use a graded exercise program to get into shape gradually, and then stay in shape all year round.
  • Warm up before each exercise session and cool down afterwards.
  • Stretch regularly. Exercise makes muscles strong, but they also get tight and short — stretching preserves flexibility and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Use good equipment. It’s particularly important to have supportive, well-fitting shoes for weight-bearing activities.
  • Use good technique. A few lessons or a little coaching can improve your mechanics as well as your performance.
  • Don’t overdo it. Fatigue and dehydration impair concentration, often leading to a misstep or fall. Overuse is the major cause of injuries. Give your body a chance to rest and recover after workouts, particularly when you’re first getting into shape. Alternate hard sessions with easier ones. Vary your routine so that you use different parts of your body. Some people, for example, might walk one day, play tennis the next, and garden the third. A day off now and then doesn’t hurt, either.

Recognition. If prevention fails, early detection is the next line of defense. Be alert for symptoms. A bit of soreness and stiffness is normal, but pain, swelling, diminished strength or mobility, and discoloration of the skin is not. Spot small problems before they become big ones. If your problem seems small, treat it yourself. But if you don’t improve, or if you have a major injury, get expert help.

Many sports injuries feel the same, but there are important differences among them. Here is a glossary of some common problems:

Sprains. Injuries to ligaments, the fibrous connective tissues that connect one bone to another. In first-degree sprains, the ligament is stretched; in second-degree sprains, some fibers are torn; in third-degree sprains, most or all of the fibers are torn. In general, first-degree sprains produce only pain and swelling, second-degree injuries are often accompanied by weakness and bluish discoloration due to bleeding, and third-degree sprains produce severe weakness and decreased mobility.

Strains. Injuries to muscles or tendons, the fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones. Commonly known as muscle pulls, strains also come in first-, second-, and third-degree varieties. Like sprains, strains are usually caused by a misstep or fall that places excessive force on a tendon or muscle, so that fibers are stretched or torn.

Tendinitis. Inflammation of a tendon, often caused by overuse or poor body mechanics. Pain is the major symptom, but warmth, swelling, and redness may occur. The pain is typically most severe at the start of exercise. It eases up during exercise, only to return with a vengeance afterward.

Fasciitis. Inflammation of the layer of fibrous tissue that covers many muscles and tendons. Overuse is often to blame. A common example is plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the sole of the foot, which plagues many walkers and runners.

Bursitis. Inflammation of the small, fluid-like sacs that cushion joints, muscles, or bones like miniature shock absorbers.

Arthritis and synovitis. Inflammation of a joint (arthritis) or the membrane that surrounds it (synovitis). Like bursitis, joint inflammation often occurs without being triggered by exercise, but both problems can also result from overuse or trauma. Pain and swelling (water on the knee, for example) are common symptoms.

Dislocations. Often very painful and disabling, dislocations occur when bones slip out of their proper alignment in a joint. A deformity is often visible, and the joint is unable to move properly. Although some athletes attempt to realign (reduce) a dislocation themselves, it should be done by a physician or highly experienced trainer or therapist.

Fractures. A disruption in the continuity and integrity of a bone. Except for broken toes and stress (hairline) fractures, nearly all fractures require skilled medical management.

Contusions. Bleeding into tissues caused by direct trauma — the black and blue.

Muscle cramps and spasms. Unduly strong and sustained muscle contractions that can be very painful (the charley horse). Gentle stretching will help relieve cramps; hydration and good conditioning help prevent them.

Lacerations and abrasions. Cuts and scrape. Small ones can be managed with soap and water and Band-Aids, but larger ones may require special dressings or sutures. Tetanus shots are not necessary if immunisations have been kept up to date with boosters every 10 years.



Injured tissues must be protected against further injury. Protect your small injuries by applying bandages, elastic wraps or simple splints. Something as easy as taping an injured toe to its healthy neighbor can do the job. See your doctor for problems that require precision splints or casts.


Injured tissues need time to heal. It’s an obvious principle, but once you’re hooked on exercise you may be tempted to ignore it. Don’t give in to temptation — you’ll shortchange yourself with shortcuts. You can rest selectively – you may have to give up tennis while your serving shoulder recovers from tendinitis, but you can still walk, jog, or hike. In a curious way, an injury is often a blessing in disguise, forcing you to diversify your workouts and acquire new skills.


It’s the cheapest, simplest, yet most effective way to manage many injuries. Ice is an excellent anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling and pain. For best results, apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes as soon as possible after an injury. Repeat the ice treatment each hour for the first four hours, then four times a day for the next two to three days. Protect your skin with a thin cloth, and don’t allow your skin to become red, blistered, or numb. After 48 to 72 hours, switch to heat treatments, using the same schedule and principles.


Pressure will help reduce swelling and inflammation. In most cases, a simple elastic bandage will suffice and it should be snug but not too tight. Remember that swelling may develop slowly hours after your injury, so you may have to loosen your wrap. Another trick is to place a small piece of foam rubber directly on the injured area before you wrap it. This will allow you to put gentle pressure where it’s needed without constricting an entire joint or limb.


It’s a simple strategy that enlists the force of gravity to drain fluid away from injured tissues, reducing swelling, inflammation, and pain. Keep your sore foot or other limb up on a hassock or put a pillow under it in bed. Elevating an injured area will help you get back to earth faster.


PRICE is the key to the early management of most kinds of injuries, but you may also need medication for pain or inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, other brands) may be the best choice for the first day, since it will reduce pain without increasing bleeding. After the first day or two, consider aspirin or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Advil, other brands). NSAIDs can irritate the stomach and cause bleeding, so for safety’s sake, take them with milk or food. Prolonged NSAID use can lead to other complications, so use the lowest dose that works and always follow directions.

Instead of an ice pack or warm pack, you can rub in an ointment that will make your tissues feel cool or warm. You can also buy liniments, gels, and ointments that contain anti-inflammatory medications. Topical anti-inflammatories are available without a prescription and they are much safer than oral anti-inflammatory medications. Anti-inflammatory ointments are very popular with patients, but doctors have been skeptical.

Liniments can be messy or irritating. Some have an unpleasant odor and many are expensive. If you want to use a liniment, start with one that contains an NSAID. Liniments are not cure-alls. Even if they reduce pain, they won’t help heal injured tissues. For that, you’ll need time, rest, and conventional medical therapy. So if a liniment helps, use it, but only as part of a complete program of protection, rest, and physical therapy.

The next step: Rehabilitation

Your pain is gone and your swelling is down — but your treatment is not yet over. Instead, plan your rehabilitation and return to exercise with the same care that you used to treat your injury. As a rule of thumb, give yourself two days of rehab for each day of inactivity due to injury. Start with gentle range-of-motion exercises, and then gradually increase your weight-bearing activities. When you are comfortable, consider building up your tissues with graded resistance training using calisthenics, light weights, or resistance equipment. If all goes well, you can be stronger than before your injury, thus reducing your risk of re-injury.

Don’t neglect stretching exercises to improve your flexibility. Use heat or massage to warm up your injured tissues before you start your rehab exercises. Apply ice to the area to reduce inflammation afterwards. The judicious use of aspirin or other NSAIDs may also facilitate your rehabilitation program.

Get help

You can manage many injuries yourself, but don’t be stubborn. If you have a major injury — or if you’re nagging woes don’t clear up — get help. An experienced exercise buddy who’s been there and done that may be all the help you need. Primary care physicians can handle many exercise-induced problems, but more difficult issues require orthopedists, physical therapists and sports podiatrists. In many centers, these specialists come together in sports medicine clinics.

Get going

The most dangerous thing about exercise is not doing it. True, injuries do happen — but don’t let the threat of problems become an excuse for taking to your couch. Instead, take the simple steps that will reduce your risk of exercise-induced injuries, become able to spot problems early, learn how to handle minor injuries on your own, and be prepared to get help when you need it. It’s easy to overcome simple injuries — but very hard to treat the major illnesses that stem from lack of exercise.


What is Body Mass Index and why is it important to my health?

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a method of determining if an adult is over or underweight. The BMI is determined by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.

  • An adult with a BMI of less than 18 is considered to be underweight.
  • An adult with a BMI between 18 and 25 is considered to be of a normal, healthy weight.
  • An adult with a BMI of between 25 and 30 is considered to be overweight.
  • An adult with a BMI of over 30 is considered to be obese.

An elevated BMI of over 25 is just one of many factors that can contribute to the development of chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and heart disease. BMI is only one of many factors used to assess a person’s risk for disease. Other factors that may be important to consider include waist circumference, smoking, physical activity level, diet, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and family history of disease.

A low BMI of under 18 is a risk factor that can contribute to chronic diseases such as malnourishment, osteoporosis, infertility and poor immunity. Being underweight may also be a risk factor, particularly in elderly people, for contracting respiratory disease. In some cases, being underweight or unexplained weight loss may be early signs of underlying disease.

BMI does not measure body fat and it is only one piece of a person’s health profile. Two people can have the same BMI, but a different percentage of body fat. A bodybuilder, for example, with a large muscle mass and a low percent body fat may have the same BMI as a person who has more body fat because BMI is calculated using weight and height only.

The relation between body fat and BMI differs with age and gender. Women, for example, are more likely to have a higher percent of body fat than men with the same BMI. On average, older people may have more body fat than younger adults with the same BMI.

Treatment options:

As with all conditions your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat a weight problem. Your Doctor can recommend a weight management programme to suit your needs and monitor your progress at regular intervals. Your Doctor may recommend a combination of the following:

  • Long-term change in eating patterns.
  • Behaviour therapy – modification and reinforcement, nutrition education, increase in physical activity.
  • Medications.

Diet hints:

  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods including wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables and legumes and fruits.
  • The diet should be low in fat (particularly saturated fat), sugar and salt.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

See the Weight Management – Meal Plan or the Underweight Diet topic on the Healthpoint.


A child’s level of body fat changes over the years as he/she grows. Girls and boys differ in their body fat as they mature. This is why the formula used to ascertain the BMI for children is the same as that for adults, however, the results are interpreted differently. The BMI measurement method for children, also referred to as BMI-for-age, is gender and age specific. BMI-for-age is plotted on gender specific growth charts. These charts are used for children and teenagers from 2 to 20 years of age.

Pharmacist’s advice:

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  • Follow the Diet Hints. A combination of moderate, regular exercise and a sensible diet is the most effective way to achieve your ideal weight.
  • Avoid ‘fad’ diets. These may cause an initial weight loss that is often the result of fluid loss from the body. Losing too much weight too quickly can be dangerous and may cause the body to gain even more weight when normal eating resumes. Eat low fat, healthy food and exercise to achieve long-term weight control.
  • Remember that even a modest weight loss of 5-10% can help to improve and control the complications of an elevated BMI.
  • If you have any queries about medications your Doctor may have prescribed as part of your weight management programme, ask your Pharmacist for advice.
  • Avoid alcohol. The average alcoholic drink contains approximately 500 kilojoules and is of little nutritional value.
  • Have regular exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise, three to four times a week is recommended to maintain fitness and a healthy weight. Before undertaking any strenuous exercise, always start with a complete medical check-up.
  • If your BMI is low, consider reducing cardiovascular exercise and introduce some weight training under the guidance of a professional.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fresh, filtered water each day. The water will help to keep the bowels regular and prevent constipation. Ask your Pharmacist about the different types of water filters that are available.


Protein Supplements have been used by athletes to maintain and increase lean muscle mass. Supplement formulas differ depending on the goals of the sportsperson which can include weight gain, fat burning or improved stamina. Protein Supplements can be a convenient way to increase daily protein intake when protein from dietary sources is inadequate.

Why do we need protein?

Proteins have an enormous variety of roles in our body, both structural and functional. Protein is also essential for the repair and growth of muscle tissue.

Do bodybuilders need more protein than people who are not training?

For the bodybuilder, the goal is to keep muscle breakdown to a minimum and stimulate muscle growth and repair. There are many factors which influence the rate of muscle breakdown and repair, including the availability of amino acids for muscle cells, the energy available from other sources such as carbohydrates and the presence of certain hormones (such as human growth hormone and insulin). Studies have shown that the amount of protein required by athletes performing strength training is almost certainly greater than for sedentary people (people who have low levels of physical activity).

How much protein is really necessary?

It is difficult to know exactly how much protein a person needs to maintain and increase their lean muscle mass. It varies based on a person’s genetics, their activity levels, the type of exercise they engage in and so on. Experts are still unable to agree as to what the optimal protein intake for strength athletes is. Most studies, however, recommend a daily protein intake of between 1.0 and 2.0g of protein per kilogram per day. For example, a 90kg man should be aiming to eat between 90 and 180g of protein per day.

The time when protein is ingested may also be important. In order to prevent muscle catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue for use as an energy source), it is important to keep the body in positive nitrogen balance. Nitrogen is a chemical marker used to measure protein breakdown. Positive nitrogen balance is when more muscle is being synthesised than broken down. To keep in positive nitrogen balance, it is recommended that 6 to 8 small meals are eaten per day (every 2 to 3 hours). This ensures there are always enough amino acids entering the bloodstream to replace those lost through muscle breakdown or other metabolic processes. So for a 90kg man eating 1.5g of protein per kg, the daily total of 135g of protein should be split between 6 and 8 smaller meals. For around 1 to 2 hours after heavy exercise there, is a “window of opportunity” when proteins are used more efficiently by muscle. Most experts recommend a recovery formula containing a balance of carbohydrates and proteins within the two hours following a workout.


Meal Replacement/Protein Powders

Meal replacement powders are designed to provide a mix of high quality, highly concentrated, rapidly digested amino acids. It is often difficult to eat the 6 to 8 meals per day required to keep the body in positive nitrogen balance and eating the same foods can become very monotonous. Meal replacement powders are used by many bodybuilders as a convenient, low fat, palatable and reliable way to meet their daily protein requirements. Meal replacement powders come in a variety of different formulas and most contain additional vitamins and minerals. The choice of formula depends on whether the weight trainer is trying to gain mass or become leaner.

Amino Acids

Amino acids come in a range of forms with different levels of bioavailability. Bioavailability is a term that describes the amount of a substance that actually reaches its site of action or utilisation in the body. Factors influencing the bioavailability of proteins include cooking, health of the digestive system, and metabolism in the liver before transfer to the general circulation. Taking amino acids stimulates the transport of amino acids into muscle and promotes muscle protein synthesis

Free form amino acids are thought to be the most bioavailable protein supplements. Small amounts are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream because they do not require digestion (i.e. do not have to be split into smaller units before they can be taken through the intestinal walls). When demand for amino acids is high, these supplements may help prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue for muscle growth, repair and energy during heavy, high intensity exercise.

Hydrolysed amino acids have been pre-digested to some degree, but do contain some longer protein chains (sequences of amino acids) that must be further broken down before absorption can occur. Whey protein and lactalbumin (proteins from milk) are examples. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) have a chemical structure that allow them to be converted to energy. It is thought that by taking supplemental BCAAs, muscle levels of these proteins remain high even during intense exercise, which prevents the body from breaking down its own muscle tissue to create energy.

Di-Tripeptides are amino acids that are in chains of 2 or 3. They require some digestion before absorption and are relatively cheap compared to other forms of amino acids. Protein Bars are also a convenient way to meet daily protein needs. Some writers warn that protein bars contain variable amounts of carbohydrates and fat, some as high as those found in lollies bars. Weight trainers should be careful to assess the bar’s nutritional profile (found on the wrapper) to ensure it fits into their dietary regime.

Pharmacist’s advice
Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  1. Protein needs of active people are different from those of inactive people. Recommended protein intake for healthy people ranges between 0.8 and 1.6-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram per day. Most people on a Western diet get more protein than is required for maintenance of normal metabolic processes, although some elderly people may be at risk of protein malnutrition because of inadequate dietary intake.
  2. Protein requirements may be higher in athletes, children, pregnant women and people with chronic disease, injury, infection or diabetes.
  3. Check with your Pharmacist before taking any Protein Supplements. Some people may have health conditions (e.g. kidney disease) which require low protein diets.
  4. A range of Protein Supplements are available in powdered or tablet form for athletes and bodybuilders. Your Pharmacist can help you choose a product appropriate for your needs.

Eating to Compete!

The foods and fluids consumed close to competition can have an important physiological and psychological effect on sporting performance.


For short duration events (less than 90 minutes) and intermittent events, the priority is to begin exercise with full muscle glycogen stores (carbohydrate) and in a well hydrated state. This generally involves ensuring an adequate carbohydrate intake during training i.e. approximately 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrate per kg bodyweight each day and on the day prior to the event, in addition to plenty of fluids.

Prior to endurance events, it has been demonstrated that the dietary technique of ‘carbohydrate loading’ can be beneficial to prolong time to exhaustion. Today’s regime of carbohydrate loading involves 3 days of a very high carbohydrate diet (between 8-10g/kg bodyweight) in conjunction with tapered training. This allows for glycogen stores to be almost doubled prior to competition, therefore providing a greater fuel base for the exercising muscles. The majority of carbohydrates should come from nutrient-rich carbohydrate foods such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruit and vegetables. Many athletes will also require carbohydrate in the form of honey, jam, glucose confectionery, sugar, jellies etc. to meet their elevated carbohydrate needs. The day prior to competition should include low fibre foods to minimise stool bulk. Fluid intake throughout the three days should be increased significantly.

Some recent research suggests that there may be some benefit in manipulating fat intake prior to endurance events to improve the body’s ability to utilise fat during the event. A sports dietitian is able to provide more information regarding this and how to apply it to an individual pre-competition eating plan.

Pre-competition meal:

The foods you eat before your event are the final step in preparing fuel stores and maximising gastrointestinal comfort. It is important to always experiment with a variety of foods before training to determine which foods are most suitable prior to exercise. Some guidelines to consider include:

  • Eat between 2 to 4 hours prior to the event to allow time for the stomach to empty.
  • Eat enough food to feel comfortable – not overfull.
  • Keep fat intake low – fat slows food emptying from the stomach.
  • Make the meal high in carbohydrate.
  • Eat carbohydrate foods rather than protein foods.
  • Moderate dietary fibre intake to avoid bloating, diarrhoea and discomfort during the event.
  • Include plenty of fluids. A person may feel more comfortable with a liquid meal (e.g. smoothie or commercial liquid meal supplement) if they cannot face solid food.

There has been some research suggesting that low glycaemic index foods included in the pre competition meal can assist in delaying fatigue during endurance exercise. More studies are required to confirm this. However it may be useful to experiment during training by including low glycaemic index (G.I.) foods before exercise and monitoring the effects. Some low G.I. options to try include pasta, baked beans, rolled oats and multigrain bread.

During competition:

In events such as long distance triathlons, ultra endurance marathons, some cycling events and cross-country skiing, supplementing with carbohydrate during the race becomes an important priority. High glycaemic index foods are the best choice at this time, although food selection will be very much individually based. In events lasting more than 90 minutes, the aim should be to have between 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour of exercise. This can be achieved through a combination of food and fluids, although fluids are often preferred as these empty more quickly from the stomach. Again, during training, practise with different foods and fluids to find the foods that do not cause discomfort. In situations where there are several events over the day, it is important to consume high carbohydrate foods and fluids at intervals between competitions.


It has been shown that ingesting carbohydrate within approximately 15 minutes after strenuous exercise can greatly facilitate muscle recovery. This is important to remember and plan for after long training sessions and competition. Although there may be food and drinks provided after a race, it may be inappropriate, there may be a long wait, or it may not be what you feel like having at that time. Bringing your own recovery food to training and competitions is always advisable. The same is true after long training sessions unless you are able to have breakfast, dinner or another meal very soon afterwards. Ideally the aim should be to have between 50 to 100gms of carbohydrate from high-glycaemic index foods soon after finishing exercise.

Some examples of high-glycaemic index recovery foods include bread, rice bubbles, cornflakes, scones, rice cakes, baked potatoes, steamed rice, jelly confectionery and watermelon.

Pharmacist’s advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  1. Low fat commercial liquid meal replacements and sports bars may be useful prior to, during, or between some events.
  2. Sports drinks are useful to consume before, during and after strenuous exercise, and when exercising in warm conditions to help maintain fluid and electrolyte levels.
  3. Oral rehydration solutions are appropriate for rapid rehydration after exhaustive exercise where significant dehydration has occurred.
  4. It is important to test different foods and fluids during training to find the most appropriate foods for your individual needs.

Learn more about Obesity and how to control it

Obesity is the term used to describe the accumulation of excessive body fat. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to measure Obesity. BMI is calculated by dividing the weight of a person in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. A person with a BMI between 25 and 30 is defined as overweight and a person with a BMI over 30 is defined as obese. There are three classes of Obesity. Class one Obesity is moderate and is diagnosed in a person with a BMI between 30 and 34.9. Class two Obesity is severe and is diagnosed in a person with a BMI between 35 and 39.9. Class three is very severe and is diagnosed in a person with a BMI of 40 or above.

Which factors influence Obesity?

  1. Environmental:
    A number of environmental factors influence Obesity, including socioeconomic status (people from lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to be obese), a large food intake and lack of exercise. Other factors influencing Obesity include pregnancy, an increase in fat cells and fat tissue mass during infancy and childhood, brain damage, certain medications, psychological factors (leading to eating disorders such as binge eating disorder) and hormonal disorders.
  2. Genetic.
    Genes do play a role in how the body stores fat and how hungry a person feels or how long it takes to feel full.

Health risks associated with Obesity:

Obesity can reduce life expectancy by up to nine years. It also increases a person’s risk of developing a range of health-related problems, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallstones
  • Infertility, depression Combined with a lack of exercise, Obesity contributes to one third of cancers of the colon, breast, kidney and stomach.

Obesity and Pregnancy:

Women who are obese prior to pregnancy may be at increased risk of birth defects developing in their children. Clinical studies have found that babies born to obese women are more likely to suffer from neural tube and heart defects. The reason for this increased risk amongst obese women is unclear. There are several possible mechanisms which include development of the foetus being adversely affected by abnormalities in glucose metabolism, insulin or other hormone levels. Overweight and obese women are also at higher risk of gestational diabetes which has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects. Research indicates that obese women may require additional nutrients, such as folic acid, to prevent birth defects.

Treatment options for Obesity:

As with all conditions, your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition. Your Doctor can recommend a weight management programme to suit your needs and monitor your progress at regular intervals.

Your Doctor may recommend a combination of the following:

  • Long-term change in eating patterns.
  • Behaviour therapy – modification and reinforcement, nutrition education, increase in physical activity.
  • Medications.
  • Surgery.

NOTE: Obesity is a key risk factor for chronic kidney disease. Please ask your GP for a Kidney Health Check.

Diet hints:

  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods including wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables and legumes and fruits.
  • The diet should be low in fat (particularly saturated fat), sugar and salt.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

See the Weight Management Diet topic on the Healthpoint.


Always consult your Doctor before taking any supplement or herbs.

  • Multivitamin supplements can be beneficial for people on a restricted diet.
  • Chitosan is a shellfish product, which has been found in some studies to result in weight loss following supplementation. It may not be suitable for people with shellfish allergies and pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Chromium may assist weight loss as it can improve blood sugar balance and reduce sweet cravings.
  • Essential fatty acids may assist weight loss as these are required by the body to burn fat as fuel. A good example is Flaxseed oil or fish oil.
  • Some herbs are used in non-prescription weight loss preparations. These include Gymnema sylvestre and Green tea.
    • Gymnema sylvestre can assist to regulate blood sugar levels, therefore can be beneficial as a weight loss supplement. A study found that Gymnema sylvestre facilitated a reduction in excess body weight and BMI, while promoting healthy blood lipid levels.
    • Green tea has been shown in studies to increase thermogenesis, the body’s ability to burn energy.

Pharmacist’s advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  • Follow the Diet Hints. A combination of moderate, regular exercise and a sensible diet is more effective in the treatment and prevention of Obesity than either alone.
  • Forget the ‘fad’ diets. These may cause an initial weight loss which is often the result of fluid loss from the body. Losing too much weight too quickly can be dangerous and may cause the body to gain even more weight when normal eating resumes. Concentrate on low fat, healthy food and exercise to achieve long-term weight control.
  • Remember that even a modest weight loss of 5-10% can help to improve and control the complications of Obesity.
  • If you have any queries about medications your Doctor may have prescribed as part of your weight management programme, ask your Pharmacist for advice.
  • Avoid alcohol. The average alcoholic drink contains approximately 500 kilojoules and is of little nutritional value.
  • Thirty minutes of moderate exercise, three to four times a week is recommended to maintain fitness and a healthy weight. Before undertaking any strenuous exercise, always start with a complete medical check-up.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fresh, filtered water each day. The water will help to keep the bowels regular and prevent constipation. Ask your Pharmacist about the different types of water filters which are available.

Why do you need Protein?

Protein is essential for growth and development. It provides the body with energy and is required by the immune system for hormone production, growth and maintenance of tissues and is a component of blood. Protein takes up approximately 20% of body weight and is also a component in muscles, hair, nails, skin, eyes and internal organs. The amount considered necessary for the body varies, depending on growth, illness and other factors such as stress and physical activity.

What you need to know:

  • Proteins are part of the living tissue of all plants and animals.
  • Proteins are molecules made up of 22 amino acids.
  • Amino Acids are the building blocks of human cells and tissues.
  • Nine of these amino acids are considered essential.
  • Essential amino acids must be included in the diet as the body cannot make them on its own.
  • These nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
  • Cysteine and tyrosine can be manufactured by the body from methionine and phenylalanine and are considered to be semi- essential.
  • Adults require 15 percent of their total protein intake to be in the form of essential amino acids. Protein is critical to the following vital bodily functions:
    • Cell growth
    • Energy production
    • Enzyme, hormone, neurotransmitter and immunoprotein production
    • Maintenance of normal pH balance in the body. The body uses all 22 amino acids and a small amount is stored in the liver and cells of the body. Any excess protein in the form of amino acids is converted into energy or stored as body fat. Protein is contained in vegetable and animal sources. Complete protein is most abundant in animal foods such as beef, pork, lamb, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

Vegetables and fruits contain adequate levels of some essential amino acids but may be low in others. Soybean products such as tofu and soymilk are complete proteins. Grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts and seeds need to be combined with other foods to form a complete protein.

Combining to form a complete protein:

Grains + Legumes = complete protein. Grains + Nuts = complete protein. Legumes + Nuts = complete protein.

• Grains include wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, corn, flour and bread.

• Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, tofu, tempeh and peanuts.

• Nuts include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds and cashews.


Protein deficiency is uncommon in Western diets. People who may be at risk of protein deficiency are those on calorie restricting diets. A diet that is not balanced and is low in energy (calorie) intake can cause the body to convert existing protein stores into energy. This means that there is less protein available for other vital bodily functions. A deficiency in protein can adversely affect the immune system and increase the risk of infections.

Protein deficiency may lead to:

  • Abnormal growth.
  • Lack of vigour and stamina.
  • Weakness.
  • Mental depression.
  • Slow healing of wounds.
  • Slow recovery from disease and low resistance to infections.