Thursday 17 April 2014

Karl Henry answers: I'm 6ft 3in and 11st – how can I bulk up?

I'm a 22-year-old in college in Galway and I'm 6ft 3in and just 11st. I've been really skinny all my life. Is there anything I can do or eat that will help me bulk up and put on a bit of weight and muscle? I don't play any sport but I'm thinking of going back to play badminton.

This is actually a really common problem for so many people, especially for those in their late teens and early 20s. It can often seem that no matter what you eat, you just can't put on weight. At 6ft 3in, 11 stone is certainly very light. In terms of recommendations I would say that you need to do two things.

The first is to get going to the gym and lift weights. You need to challenge the muscles of your body to grow firmer and stronger. Weights is the perfect way to do this, choosing maybe one or two exercises per body part and doing three sets of 12 reps per exercise. By keeping the reps relatively low you will be able to lift a slightly higher weight which will help to break down the tissue in exactly the way that you need.

If you are unsure of what exercises to do, ask the gym staff to bring you through a programme. It should contain exercises for the whole body, such as bench press, squats, lat pulldown, etc and you need to work the whole body instead of doing what so many men do and just work the upper body.

The second is to eat protein/complex carbs on a regular basis. The reason you find it hard to put on weight is down to the fact that your metabolism (the rate your body burns calories) is incredibly high. It just burns up the calories as you are eating them.

To counteract this I would recommend eating every two to three hours. Most meals should contain protein as this is the growth and repair nutrient. It is found in meats, fish, eggs and pulses.

Your complex carbs are important too, such as brown bread, porridge, brown pasta and brown rice. If you find that eating every three hours is too much then I would recommend a protein shake once a day as it's an easy way to get your nutrients in, but only use it if you are having trouble eating such a big amount of food.

I walk a lot but find my legs are the only thing gaining muscle. What is the best exercise for a flatter-looking tummy?

Another great question. Firstly, I am a big fan of walking. It is free, it will work your aerobic system (lungs, heart, etc), it will burn calories and it can be a great social outlet too.

The essential thing is to ensure you are working hard enough to hit the talk-test point, this is where you are slightly out of breath but can still hold a conversation. This point is where you are getting the most benefits out of the session for the body in terms of results and also in terms of endorphin release. So as you get fitter, ensure you are hitting the talk-test point every time.

In terms of getting the stomach down there arae two things I would be recommending.

Firstly, you need to add in some resistance exercise into your training. You can do this on your walks by using a park bench and doing some press ups, squats and tricep dips on it or add in some gym work at home or in your gym.

Resistance work helps to increase the amount of muscle you have on your body, forcing your body to work harder to keep it there. Remember you can't just pick out one body part and try to spot reduce it, you need to work the body as a whole.

The second recommendation would be to ensure that you are making the right changes to your diet too.

All the training in the world won't give you the results you are looking for if your food isn't good.

Especially for the stomach area, as this is where the dangerous fat is. Stomach fat is the most dangerous there is and Irish people tend to store it here. Aim to reduce the sugars in your diet, the white carbohydrates and the processed foods. Increase your water intake, adding in some lemons or limes into it for flavour and also for the effects they have on your body.

By changing your diet and adding some resistance work into your training you will get the results you are looking for.

Irish Independent

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