Flex Nutrition: Ask the Doc!

Jim Stoppani provides expert answers to your nutrition and supplement questions.
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Q: I am a hardgainer and I feel bloated a lot of the time and don’t have much definition or muscle hardness. I believe I have gained water weight and not fat. Do you recommend using a diuretic? I heard that diuretics can result in loss of strength and muscle. Also, I slack off on breakfast and was wondering if taking a weight-gainer shake in the morning would help me.

A: A natural diuretic won’t fix the issue. Water weight tends to be a transient thing. If it’s chronic, make sure you are not consuming excessive amounts of sodium. Although we don’t typically recommend cutting back on sodium, you may be more sensitive to sodium than most. In that case, if you are getting in more than 4,000 milligrams per day, consider cutting back. High sodium culprits include deli meats and other cured meats, and canned and packaged foods. Certain medical conditions can also cause water retention. So if you think the water weight is a bit excessive, see your doctor. I only recommend weight gainers for those who are really on the thin side and have difficulty adding weight. I would suggest a meal replacement shake for breakfast.

Q: I work out late at night and have a postworkout whey shake right after training and, one hour later, a casein shake before bed. Although I am trying to gain mass, I avoid postworkout carbs because I don’t want to gain any fat. How do I take ZMA before bed? There is no real time when I can take ZMA on an empty stomach.

A: Since you finish your workout so close to bedtime, you can combine 20 g each of whey and casein into one postworkout shake. I would also suggest having some fast-digesting carbs at this time. Insulin sensitivity is lower at night and I typically recommend avoiding carbs, but since you have worked out, any carbs you consume at this time, regardless of how late it is, will be used for recovery and to boost musclegrowth — without adding bodyfat. One hour after your postworkout meal, take your ZMA and hit the hay.

Q: Does alcohol interfere with fat loss?

A: Yes, alcohol can aid fat gain. It does this by increasing the production of a metabolite in the body that creates more fat. Alcohol also can blunt muscle growth by decreasing testosterone. Plus, it messes up your sleep, causing you to release less growth hormone, and GH is not only important for muscle growth but also encourages fat loss.

Q: As I am getting older, I find it harder to lose the fat that I gain during pure mass phases. I heard it was not possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Is that true?

A: Most trainers will tell you that you can’t build muscle while losing fat, but that is not entirely true. It’s just that when you’re doing both concurrently, you won’t maximize results for either. But who wants to gain fat on purpose, anyway? The best way to build muscle while keeping fat off is to keep protein high and carbs low most of the time, and cycle ina few high-carb days per week. Whether you are on a low-carb day or a high-carb day, keep protein at 1.5–2 g per pound of body weight.

Q: I do cardio right after weights. Should I have my postworkout shake and carbs before cardio or after? If I wait until after cardio, will I miss my postworkout window to stimulate muscle growth?

A: You should wait until immediately after the cardio is over to consume your protein and fast carbs. This is especially true for the carbs, which would blunt fat burning during the cardio workout. Don’t be worried about missing your postworkout window . . . as long as you prepared properly with a preworkout protein shake. The preworkout protein shake provides energy during the workout and also serves as a postworkout protein source to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Q: I was thinking of loading glutamine, protein and creatine in my morning preand postworkout shakes with fruit juice and greens. Is it true that you can’t mix creatine in fruit juice?

A: You actually can mix creatine with fruit juice — and for preworkout, it is fine. But fruit juice doesn’t spike insulin like faster-digesting carbs, and creatine needs help from insulin to get into muscle cells. So don’t use fruit juice postworkout, as this is when you definitely want to spike insulin for muscle recovery and growth.

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