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Ask the Doc :: More Muscle!

by Jason Faulhaber, M.D.
Contributor
Tuesday Jul 12, 2011
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Question:
Dear Dr. Jason,

Can you help solve the mystery on anabolic supplements? I walk into GNC and it seems that there are 5,000 products screaming at me at once. I want to build muscle and trim fat - but I don’t want to become an expert on every chemical in every protein shake or protein bar. Help!

Want Muscle

Doctor Jason’s Response:

Many companies make a killing on developing supplements to try to build muscle or lose fat. Some are beneficial and produce results, but a fair number do not necessarily provide the best approach to reach your goal.

The physiologic premise is simple: in order to build muscle, you need to provide the building blocks for muscle, and you need to work the muscle; in order to trim fat, you need to work the fat to cause it to dissolve. To build muscle, you need protein and energy. The energy comes in the form of calories; it is generally accepted that a surplus of 500 calories per day is required to build an extra 1 pound of muscle per week. It is also recommended to increase your daily protein intake to approximately 1.5-2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight.

To calculate your kilogram weight, take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2. This is a lot of protein in one day, so supplements that are rich in protein could be used to boost your intake. There are many different supplements available, all with varying concentrations of protein amongst other ingredients. There is no proven additional benefit of individual amino acids, such as valine, leucine, or isoleucine; so, a whole protein supplement should be sufficient.

In order to lose about 1 pound of fat per week, you need to increase your energy expenditure so that you are at a deficit of approximately 500 calories per day. This is typically achieved by increasing your aerobic activity during the week, but also by decreasing the amount of fat in your diet. As you may have noticed, there is a bit of a conundrum here: in order to gain muscle, you need a 500 calorie per day surplus, and in order to lose fat, you need a 500 calorie per day deficit. By increasing your aerobic activity, you burn fat calories; by increasing your muscle-building activity, you increase calorie expenditure and gain muscle. Ultimately, you will need to increase the caloric intake in order to build the muscle since you are burning calories through aerobic activity.

Stay healthy,
Doctor Jason

Dr. Faulhaber is a graduate of Tulane University in Psychology and Cellular and Molecular Biology and received his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He performed his residency training in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, where he then served as a Chief Resident in Internal Medicine. He completed his fellowship in Infectious Diseases at New York University, where he specialized in HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and fungal infections. Since fellowship, he has been working as an Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases physician at Fenway Community Health in Boston. He is a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and he is affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has been the lead author or co-author of several journal articles and textbook chapters on infections with HIV, other viruses, bacteria, and fungi. He is also accredited by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

This article is part of our "Ask the Doc" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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