I got invited to a party recently and ended up talking to a fellow hardgainer who was struggling to gain weight. He described his training routine and weight gain diet to me and asked if i could offer some suggestions for improvement. We had a long discussion, but for the purpose of this post, I just want to share what I shared with him about empowered nutrition and having a healthy weight gain diet.
I think it is fairly common for many hardgainers to fall into the trap of unhealthy eating. Because they are “eating to gain weight”, they eat anything and everything, without any discrimination as to what’s in the food or what potential effects they could have on their health. In their minds, as long as it’s food, it has the potential to make them gain weight so they will eat it – lots and lots of it.
And just because they struggle to put on weight, they equate this to being immune to health risks. This is insane. Of what use is looking good if inside you are as healthy as a 9-stone old man?
So in this post I’d like to share some of the harmful ingredients commonly found in packaged foods, because these foods are often staples of normal weight gain diets of skinny people who don’t know any better.
Most packaged grocery foods contain one or more harmful chemicals that can undermine your health. We are going to look at four ingredients here: trans fats, artificial colorings, artificial flavorings and MSG.
If you eat cereals for breakfast like most people in the West, why don’t you go and take your cereal box out now. If you look at the back of the box, you’re going to find the list of ingredients. Read each ingredient out loud and if there is anything there that you cannot pronounce, chances are is that it’s not good for you.
So let’s find trans fats here. If you look at the top of the bag where it says Nutrition Facts: you’ll see ‘Trans fats’ on the left column. What number is on its right? Does it say zero?
Here’s where it gets interesting.
If it says ‘zero’, it doesn’t really mean there is no trans fat in this product. The Food and Drug Admin (FDA) allows certain amount of trans fat in the food without requiring food manufacturers to mention it in the food label!
But don’t worry, there’s one way to still spot it. Just go down and look at the “Ingredients” and look for the word: “Hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils” – which actually are trans fats!
If you don’t know it yet, trans fat is the worst kind of fat – much worse than saturated fat. It really increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
So now let’s look at artificial and natural flavorings. Most of the processed foods that you buy today come with artificial and natural flavorings. Basically, if you are buying something in a packet or a box, it is most likely highly processed food (what I call fake food).
Next time you go to the supermarket, go down the Cereal aisle and look for fruity cereals. You know – the ones that claim to have “fruits” in them? Pick one up and look at the ingredients list. You might see it says, “blueberry, cherry, orange, lemon” (or whatever) and some other artificial flavorings or “natural flavorings”.
Artificial flavorings are simply a mixture of chemicals that mimics the flavor of natural, real food. And they have taste and smell components designed to make processed food taste and smell like real food.
Interestingly again, the FDA does not require food manufacturers to disclose the ingredients of artificial flavors itself. And natural flavor does not really mean healthier or better flavors. Natural flavors and artificial flavors are manufactured at the same chemical plants now.
Another element to watch out for are artificial colorings. Again, if you look at cereal labels you will often find it on the ingredient list – yellow 6, red 40, yellow 5, etc. Those are all artificial colorings which are approved by the FDA and they are derived from petroleum, acetone and coal tars.
Many of these additives were banned by the food standard agency in Europe after many parents complained that their children suffered from mood swings after consuming bright and colorful sweets, cakes and drinks. The researchers of Southampton University had warned that were at least 7 additives as harmful as lead in petrol which was banned after it proved to lower children’s IQ by 5 points.
The research in magazine called Lance found evidence that artificial additives worsen the behavior of normal children as well as those diagnosed with ADHD. Thankfully, many colorings are already banned in US even after being used for many years because they proved to be carcinogenic.
MSG, or monosodium glutamate is usually found in the “Ingredients” section. Most of the processed food has MSG, commonly found usually in canned foods, Chinese food, soups and processed meats and as a processed product.
I can go on and on about the harmful effects on this one, but the FDA has a different opinion about it. After having scientific data about safety of glutamate, it came to the conclusion in 1995 that MSG is safe for human consumption. But the FDA acknowledged that some people have short term reaction to MSG and even has a name: MSG Symptom Complex and it includes:
- sense of facial pressure or tightness
- numbness or burning in or around the mouth
- rapid fluttering heart beat (heart palpitations)
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- lack of energy / fatigue
Don’t adopt a weight gain diet solely for the purpose of gaining weight per se, with no regard to the potential health risks you are placing yourself in. Educate yourself, read about sound nutrition principles, be aware of harmful ingredients lurking in the foods you buy, and start eating real, unadulterated foods!