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Nutrition and Weight Lifting

By Dr. Paul C. Eck and Dr. Larry Wilson




At Analytical Research Labs we receive many inquiries regarding the use of nutritional programs to enhance fitness and weight training programs. This article covers these topics, including the important subjects of compulsive exercise, adrenal exhaustion and exercise, dangers of the high-carbohydrate diet and the effect of body chemistry and metabolic type on strength and muscle mass.

Health Versus Strength

It is important to build health first and strength second. This order is at times reversed. Although one may obtain good results for a while, without a basis of good health one is treading on thin ice. We see many people whose bodies are exhausted. They are under the false impression that exercise alone or a basic diet alone will build health as well as strength. Hair analysis research demonstrates that many factors can come into play, including one's metabolic type, toxic metals, carbohydrate tolerance and others.

The High Carbohydrate Diet

Many trainers and books on fitness recommend a high carbohydrate diet for those in physical training programs. Our experience is that no one diet works for everyone. While some may benefit from a high carbohydrate diet, in some people it may contribute to carbohydrate intolerance problems, especially if the diet is high in simple carbohydrates (sugars, fruits, juices, etc.).

Another possible problem with the high-carbohydrate diet is that at times these diets are too low in protein. While a person may do well for a while on such a diet, symptoms of protein deficiency may develop that are not easy to reverse.

Hair mineral analysis allows us to distinguish between fast and slow oxidizers. For the slow oxidizer, the high-carbohydrate diet may work fairly well, provided adequate protein is included in the diet. Most people need between 30-60 grams of protein daily.

For the fast oxidizer, a better source of calories is fats and oils. An excessive carbohydrate intake in these people can lead to irritability, muscle cramps, hypoglycemia and even diabetes. The phytates found in grains tends to lower the tissue levels of calcium, magnesium and zinc, elements which already tend to be low in the fast oxidizer. Therefore, this diet can aggravate tendencies for deficiency. A wise approach is to avoid extremes.

Overdoing On Exercise

While no one doubts the benefits of an exercise program, many of the patients we deal with are exercising excessively. This is not difficult to do because exercise causes an adrenalin high that makes one feel better for a while. As the adrenal glands become more fatigued, one is inclined to exercise more, to keep getting the high associated with adrenal stimulation. Eventually one can become a compulsive exerciser and one can exhaust the adrenal glands and go into what is called adrenal burnout.

People in adrenal burnout find that they are tired, even after exercising. Nothing relieves their feelings of fatigue, even resting for several days. In these cases, the exercise program must be reduced to give the adrenal glands a chance to recover. Several months to several years may be required to recover from adrenal burnout. A scientific nutrition program is needed also.

Specific Minerals And Vitamins

Virtually all the vitamins and minerals are involved in building up muscle mass. Zinc is very important among these elements. Zinc is needed for RNA transferase; an enzyme involved in all protein synthesis in the body. If a training program is not working, zinc may be deficient. In some cases, copper or cadmium toxicity may be excessive. Copper and cadmium interfere with zinc.

Imbalanced levels of calcium and magnesium can interfere with the transport of nutrients across cell membranes. Zinc, manganese and chromium are involved in the burning of glucose in the cells, which is necessary to generate biochemical energy. Chromium is considered an important anabolic mineral. Many toxic metals can interfere with these essential minerals, impairing critical enzyme systems and interfering with maximum performance.

Vitamin E is an important vitamin to protect delicate enzyme systems from oxidant damage. Vitamin E given to athletes has been shown to enhance their energy levels. The B-complex vitamins enhance the oxidation rate. For the slow oxidizer, additional B-complex vitamins may be essential to enhance performance. Fast oxidizers should beware of taking an excessive amount of B-complex vitamins. Vitamin C is excellent for the slow oxidizers, as it enhances adrenal gland activity. Excessive vitamin C in fast oxidizers can cause a copper deficiency that would hinder performance. Vitamin A is synergistic with zinc and therefore is an aid in building up muscle tissue.

All the essential amino acids are needed to build muscle. Some people can obtain their protein needs from protein foods, while others find that protein is better absorbed by taking pre-digested or hydrolyzed protein or single amino acids. One should always take a balance of amino acids. Arginine and ornithine are growth hormone stimulators, that may assist in building muscle.

Oxidation Types and Muscle Definition

Fast oxidizers tend to have poorer muscle definition than slow oxidizers. The fast oxidizer retains more water in the tissues, which contributes to poorer muscle definition. They often have a flabbier appearance, even though they may possess good strength. Fast oxidizers also tend to carry more weight on their trunk and have more slender arms and legs. Slow oxidizers tend to have less mass on the trunk and may carry more weight on the legs.

What About Vegetarian Diets?

Some athletes are moving toward vegetarian diets, often as part of a high-carbohydrate diet. While this may be effective for a while, our experience with total vegetarian diets is not a good one. Some people develop deficiencies in zinc and B vitamins and most develop copper toxicity after a period of time on the vegetarian diet. Iron deficiency may develop because iron is better absorbed from animal foods. While some people can maintain energy levels on a total vegetarian regimen, others develop lower energy levels, perhaps due to protein deficiency or copper toxicity. We do not recommend vegetarian diets for most people.


Our recommendations to body builders are:

  1. Focus on health as well as on body building.
  2. Avoid any extreme diets, including total vegetarian diets and high-carbohydrate diets that may not include adequate protein.
  3. Have a hair mineral analysis to determine your oxidation type, so as to help fine-tune your diet and supplement recommendations.
  4. Don't overdo. Be careful of pushing too hard and make an effort to stay in touch with your body when exercising.

Copyright © 1991 - The Eck Institute of Applied Nutrition and Bioenergetics, Ltd.

2225 W. Alice Avenue ¨ Phoenix, AZ  85021 ¨ (602) 995-1580 ¨ FAX (602) 371-8873


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