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To get v-line abs/firm abs, eating protein powder, eggs whites and boiled chicken breast are necessary? And why people dehydrate themselves for muscle building? What is dehydration?

Written by: Ms. Sylvia Lam, Accredited Practicing Dietitian APD, Accredited Dietitian HKDA

In recent years, many men, also women are very eager to train up their muscles to achieve the v-line abs (for men) and firm abs (for women). They often ask what can they eat to build muscle mass or make their abs more pronounced. In fact, having adequate muscle mass and lower body fat not only make your body shape looks better; but also helps improve health by reducing risk of chronic diseases.

In order to build muscle mass, besides having a structural resistant training plan, it is very important to consume enough protein and carbohydrates.  According to the Position Statement of Nutrition and Athletic Performance by Dietitian Canada, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American College of Sports Medicine in 2016, people who are at early stage of body building should consume 1.5 to 1.7 g protein per kg body weight. In other words, a 60 kg man should consume about 90 to 102 g protein. While 85% of recommended protein intake should come from high quality protein, therefore he needs to consume 77 to 88 g protein which is equivalent to 11 to 13 serves of meat per day. Each serve of meat provides about 7 g protein.

Referring to the table below, if he only relies on boiled egg whites as protein source (i.e. 2 eggs whites provides 7g protein) to meet daily protein requirement, he has to eat about 22 to 26 boiled egg whites a day or eat about 4 boiled chicken breasts every day. If he wants to use protein powder as a major source of protein, he has to drink about 4 – 5 scoops (each scoop provides 20-25 g protein) of whey protein powder a day, which makes diet very bland and boring.

Besides eggs whites, chicken breasts and protein powder, high quality protein can be found in other food sources including lean meat, fish, seafoods, dairy products such as low-fat milk and yogurt and soy products such as tofu, low sugar soy milk, bean curd sheets and vegetarian chicken etc.

Each of the following items provides about 7 g protein:

Foods Weight (g) Easy reckoner
Meat and poultry (e.g. pork, beef, lamb, chicken, duck, goose (meat only)) 40 4 small slices or

Size of a Mahjong

Chicken thigh (skinless) 30 1/3 thigh
Egg 60 1 large
Egg whites 75 2 large
Low fat Greek yogurt 90 1/3 cup
Fish fillet (raw) 45 1 piece (6 x 6 x 1 cm)
Golden threadfin bream (raw) 45 1/3 tail (23 cm or 9 inches long)
Grass carp (raw) 45 2.5 m or 1 inch in width
Canned tune in spring water 90 ½ small or 1/3 large can
Prawns (raw) 85 4 medium
Scallop (raw) 40 4 medium
Hard tofu 100 1/3 block
Soy beans (cooked) 42 4 tablespoons
Vegetarian Chicken 50 ½ roll
Bean curd sheet (dry) 15 1.5 sheet
Bean curd stick (dry) 14 1 piece (20 x 20 cm)
Low sugar soy milk 240 ml 1 cup

 

Many also thinks that the more protein you eat, the more muscle you will gain. However, scientific studies showed that our body might not be able to absorb all protein if you eat too much in one go. Therefore, it is recommended to consume about 25-30g protein per meal to enhance absorption. It should also be reminded that one should evenly distribute their protein throughout the day. In order words, protein rich foods should be included at the three main meals every day.

Nevertheless, you should also replenish protein within 2 hours after resistant training. Studies showed that consuming 25-30 g protein together with adequate amount of carbohydrates can reduce muscle loss after exercise. Below are examples of foods for muscle recovery:

  • 2 boiled egg or 4 boiled eggs whites with 1 cup low fat milk
  • 350 g low fat Greek yogurt with berries
  • 1 bowl rice with steamed chicken (no skin)
  • 1 tuna fish sandwich (270g tuna) or chicken sandwich (150 g chicken meat)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (contains 25-30g whey protein per scoop) or a protein bar with a fruit

The use of protein powders depends on the loading of training, training target, energy need, appetite after training and its cost-effectiveness. If you cannot find suitable foods after training or having time-constraint and poor appetite, then you can choose protein powder as supplement alternative. Whey protein powder has high biological value which can be absorbed efficiently, especially branch chain amino acids such as leucine.

Lastly, when you shop for protein powder, it best to choose products with simple ingredients with minimal addition of vitamins, minerals and herbal substances. As most nutrients can be obtained from a regular balanced diet, users should beware not to over consume protein powder as it will increase energy intake leading to unnecessary weight gain. If you do not perform regular resistant training as exercise, taking protein powder as a supplement will not help any muscle gain.

 

Why people dehydrate themselves for more pronounced muscles?

Besides increasing intake of protein, many people choose to dehydrate (“dry out”) the body purposely to make their body muscle or body shape more pronounced. There are many different methods of dehydration spreading on the Internet, such as recommending body builders to reduce salt intake as salt may make the body stores more water. Some suggest to reduce the intake of carbohydrates as one gram of carbohydrates will carry 2.7 grams of water, and reducing the intake of carbohydrates will also help to lose weight.

Another more aggressive recommendation suggests body builders to drink a large amount of water (e.g. 10 litres of water a day) for a few days to a week to increase the rate of “fluid drainage’ from the body. Then, on the day of dehydration (such as the day before the bodybuilding competition), drink no water at all. As the body is used to the rate of fluid drainage, the body will continue to drain. Even no water is going into the body, this will result in further dehydration. Some even recommend people to take diuretic medications and go to saunas to help with dehydration.

However, these methods can lead to adverse effects or lethal to the body. If our body is dehydrated by 1-2%, exercise capacity will be reduced; 5% dehydration will weaken our mental capacity, increase restlessness, reduce blood volume and induce cramps. Mostly seriously, dehydration of 6% or above can lead to shock, kidney and heart failure and even coma or death. In 1992, professional bodybuilder Mohammed Benaziza died after participating in the European competition. Autopsy showed that he was severely dehydrated, leading to heart failure and death, when he was only 33 years old.

Water is very important to health and essential for our organs to function properly. Drinking enough water also helps digestion and can even increase calorie burning. According to the US Institute of Medicine, men should drink 3 litres of water per day (13 cups) and women should drink 2.2 litres (9 cups). The Hong Kong Healthy Eating Pyramid recommends that adults should drink 6 to 8 cups of liquid drink (i.e. about 1,500 to 2,000 ml) per day for proper hydration.

People who are physically active need to increase their water intake further. Fluids include water, tea, milk and soup; however, coffee and alcohol are not included. Some popular beverages in the summer, such as sports drinks, bottled tea, fruit juice, coconut water, tetra-box lemon tea and soda should be carefully selected as some contain lots of sugar. It is recommended to choose beverages containing less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres; however, water and sugar free beverages are preferred.

For people who sweat and have high intensity physical activity, sports drinks can help speed up hydration. One should always pay attention to the colour of the urine. If the colour of the urine appears yellow to dark yellow, it might indicate dehydration. Remember not to wait until you are thirsty to drink. In the hot summer, it is best to drink half a cup to a cup of water every ½ to 1 hour.