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Striving Toward Greatness

I took my first international trip to India when I was seven months old. As you can

imagine, I dont remember much from it. On my later trips to India, I started to notice

physical, dietary and lifestyle differences in India and other places I visited versus the

United States, and more importantly, the impact it has on health, longevity and well

being. One of the things I observed was how my extended family eats as well as their

physical appearance. Three out of my four grandparents are five feet tall and my

parents are both five feet five inches. When I was young, I wanted to be like my parents

and grandparents because they are smart, kind and always thoughtful but if I could

change one thing, it would be their physique.

As I look at them now, it pains me to see them suffer with everyday chores. One

of my grandfathers was extremely active when he was younger, but now he has to

contend with high blood pressure because of his diet and the sedentary lifestyle, as can

be expected at his age. Now that he has stopped exercising, he has lost strength and

energy. My grandmother is diabetic and has severe dietary restrictions. With what I

observe in our own family as well as what I see all around me in the obesity epidemic

we face, no wonder the health care costs are spiraling and the pharmaceutical industry

is soaring. Now, there is a pill for everything. Unfortunately, we live in an instant

gratification culture as well as wall street culture where companies need to show

maximum profits every quarter. So even risky ingredients are not off the table if they


maximize profits. I am able to see that health is one of the most important things in life,

and that exercising and managing diet can lead to a happier lifestyle.

I realize theres no panacea for being healthy. There are many aspects to a

healthy lifestyle such as diet and exercise and it takes a lot of dedication and hard work.

So I took it upon myself to gain muscle and eat right. I knew that gaining muscle,

especially for someone like me who has a fast metabolism would be difficult. I wanted a

significant challenge for my senior project, so it was easy to choose this as my senior

project. This led me to my question: What is the most efficient way to gain weight

without body harm or academic performance degradation?

I began to explore the various ways of making it happen and after some initial

research, I gave myself a goal to gain between five to seven pounds and eat healthy for

the small duration of this project. The first step I took was to join a local gym: Fitness 19.

During my first trip to the gym, I saw people walking out feeling content and exhausted.

When I walked in, I felt like an anomaly because I wasnt as brawny as the average

patron. But as I carefully observed everything the gym had to offer, I saw people of all

ages: students from Northgate to old retired couples, and I felt more at ease. My first

impression of the gym was that it had basic equipment. I had to quickly figure out where

the equipment was and what it was used for. Being inquisitive and asking the gym staff

several questions, I became familiar with the many machines. I took them for a test

drive and my body soon began to feel tired. Even though I only exercised for an hour, I

still got a good workout in. The only downside of going to the gym was that there were a

lot of people there and it took forever to use some of the equipment. The gym is now a


place I hold dearly in my heart. It has become a place where I can put aside all my

stress and just focus on the task at hand. Its a good way to de-stress.

To guide me throughout the project, I found a certified fitness instructor, Ashley

Lamorte through the Next Door app. I interviewed her at the Cal State East Bay

campus. Ms. Lamorte confirmed that working out takes away her stress as well. In order

to successfully gain weight, she said to consume a higher number of calories by

combining more protein with complex carbs. She also mentioned the importance of

limiting cardio while increasing weight training. To recover faster, I now drink 100

percent whey protein shakes just like her. Drinking protein shakes help muscles recover

faster. For my next interview, I interviewed Louis Taylor who is a trainer at combat

fitness. I asked him how to gain muscle mass without body harm and academic

performance degradation and he told me to stay active, have a workout regimen and

consume a lot of food. He mentioned, in order to gain muscle mass, I should be

consuming one and a half to two pounds of protein per pound of body mass and that I

should be consuming three thousand to four thousand calories a day. He also told me to

not take supplements such as creatine because they can be consumed in red meat. He

recommends to not take pre workout shakes. Instead, he suggested that I eat food

before I go workout. For example, he eats a half a banana, drinks some coffee and has

water before he goes and works out.

In order to gain muscle mass, it is important to consume a lot of food. The

American Dietetic Associations RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein is

0.36g per pound of bodyweight (Bergerson) . Along with consuming protein, consuming


the right amount of calories is critical in gaining weight. The best way to consume the

amount of calories needed is to eat three big meals a day and have 2-3 hefty snacks. It

costs 3,500 calories to gain one pound a week (Meija and Berardi, 48). This means

that weight lifters need to have an extra five hundred net calories each day. Eating

fruits, vegetables, and bread is an easy way to consume calories. Try to make sure that

forty seven percent of carbohydrates come from whole grains. Carbohydrates are

essential to gain muscle mass because they provide the body with quick energy

(Mathews, 159).

Most bodybuilders use supplements such as Creatine Monohydrate, Beta-

Alanine and Glutamine to gain muscle. They are popular because they do not cause as

much body harm compared to steroids. Steroid abuse has been associated with

cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including heart attacks and strokes, even in athletes

younger than 30 (National Institute Drug Abuse). An experiment was conducted to test

the effects of creatine on the body. Twenty three volunteers who lifted weights were split

into two groups; the creatine group which had ten guys and the placebo group which

had thirteen. The creatine group consumed twenty grams of creatine for the first five

days while the placebo group thought they consumed creatine as well. The results were

that the creatine group gained two kilograms of muscle mass while the placebo group

did not gain anything. Evidence suggested that creatine supplementation during arm

flexor strength training led to greater increases in arm flexor muscular strength, upper

arm muscle area, and fat-free mass than strength training alone (Becque, Lochman,

Melrose). Two professors at Iowa State University conducted another experiment to test


the effects of creatine with common supplements such as HMB, Chromium and DHEA.

In this experiment, they concluded that creatine supplementation resulted in a

significant net strength gain of 1.09%/wk (Nissen and Sharp). Subjects who consumed

creatine gained more muscle mass whereas subject who consumed HMB gained more

strength. These two studies showed that using supplements such as creatine yielded

positive results and that in order to gain a lot of muscle, weight lifters should take them.

Mr. Louis Taylor does not recommend using supplements such as creatine because

creatine is also present in red meat. However since red meat contains a high level of

cholesterol, taking supplements seems like a better alternative. A popular supplement

that weight lifters use is pre workout. Pre workout products are multiple supplements

combined to give the user more strength and endurance while working out. As the name

suggests, they are to be consumed just prior to a workout to maximize the efficiency of

workouts. Some of the ingredients in pre workout are creatine, beta alanine and

caffeine. Beta alanine is the supplement that supports muscular endurance while

caffeine and creatine both provide a source for energy (Lauren, Mark). However pre

workout also has many side effects: high blood pressure, chest pain and cramps.

Because this product has a lot of caffeine, it is easy to get addicted to it. It can also

cause kidney damage when taken in high quantities for a long period of time. It is

recommended that people take it on days they plan to lift heavy and days they are tired.

Many people believe that exercise does not have a positive impact on academic

performance or impact academics at all. However, recent studies have shown that it

positively correlates to relationships and academics. For example, in a study conducted


with 287 Canadian students where they were given a standardized test after a twelve

week period, Children who were academically performing below their grade level and

assigned to the physical activity program were more likely to increase performance on

standardized tests than students who did not participate in the program and just

continued their usual practice (Active Education). While this study mainly focused on

aerobic exercises, the same can be said about weight training. For example, in another

study eighty nine adolescents were separated into two groups; a high-exercise group of

thirty six students and a low-exercise group of fifty three students. The analyses

suggested that adolescents in the high-exercise group had better relationships with their

parents than did those in the low-exercise group. In addition, the high exercise group

had lower levels of drug use, engaged in sports more hours per week and had higher

grade point averages (Field, Diego, Sanders). Some of the sports the high exercise

group played outside of school included football, soccer, basketball. A majority of the

high exercise group used weight rooms for training. This not only shows that using

weights does not hamper academic performance but it increases it. The results of this

experiment were significant as well as accurate because the confidence interval was

90% making this a credible source.

To gain muscle mass, it is imperative to do a variety of compound exercises. A

compound exercise is defined as an exercise that targets two or more muscle groups

fully which will ultimately lead to more muscle. These exercises include but are not

limited to deadlift, bench press, military press, and squats. Many believe that deadlifting

is the king of all exercises because of the impact it has. Deadlifting targets all the core


muscles in the body such as abdominals and glutes. The deadlift also strengthens all

the surrounding supporting muscles of the waist, backside, hips and, of course, lower

back. Core strength is important in terms of maintaining balance, and weight

transference (Robson). Not only is deadlifting helpful because it targets muscles used

for stability, it also improves grip strength. Your fingers are literally the only things

connecting you to the weight of the bar. Your forearms have to work incredibly hard as

you progress in weight to keep the bar from falling out of your hands. Subsequently your

grip strength grows by leaps and bounds (Vales). Squats is another great exercise

which primarily targets glutes, quadriceps and calves. Squats help prevent injuries at

the gym. Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and

connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by

improving your flexibility (Mercula). Squatting also boosts athletic performance by

adding muscle mass and strength. ... squatting helped athletes run faster and jump

higher, which is why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete's training

program (Mercula). Bench pressing is a great compound exercise that works out

chest, triceps and front delts. Bench pressing improves bone density as well as makes

the chest stronger and stick out. Finally, the military press is an exercise that works out

shoulders, trapezius and triceps. This exercise adds mass and rounds out shoulders

which gives it a boulder-like look. Given the information stated above, it is evident that

compound exercises not only help gain muscle mass but that they also have a lot of

other benefits.


The senior project has taught me that anything is possible if you work hard

enough. I set myself a goal of gaining about five pounds and I am elated to say I

accomplished my goal.Completing a full workout before school was challenging, but I

was able to keep my promise and get it done. It was rewarding for several reasons:

First, I learned that I can hold myself accountable and keep my promise and secondly, I

was able to see the results. My desire and determination to make myself healthier is

something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I found out that learning from book

reading is a lot different than practical experience.

This project made me take charge of my life. Empowered with my newly acquired

knowledge, I am now able to make healthier food choices. I was able to buy healthier

foods which helped me achieve more muscle. I went to the gym four to five times per

week for nine weeks. Because of my regimen, I have more energy as well as less

stress. I am a lot more relaxed after working out and it is a feeling that is indescribable.

Just by working out, I am a lot more confident in how my body looks. I learned a lot

about exercises and their benefits by interviewing Ms. Lamorte and Mr. Taylor.

Work Cited


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