The university year is upon us, and once again students from all over Australia are throwing themselves into their workouts and enjoying one last look at their lean, buff bods.
They’re saving up for protein powders and supplements. After all, soon their nutritional landscape will be reduced to greasy noodles and choccie bars at all hours so a lean, mean protein shake becomes a matter of pure survival.
A recent article in the Yale Herald, says it doesn’t have to be this way. “Is it possible to be at the top of your game in academics and have the time to look good doing it?”
Take one look at this group of Yalies to dispel the myth of the unbuff undergrad forever. These gym rats and A+ students insist that if you know what you’re doing and are determined to do it, the goals of building your body while broadening your mind no longer need to be mutually exclusive.
It’s just a matter of adjusting your priorities.
Yale student Craig Kafura, a competitive power lifter, builds his class and tutorial schedule around his workouts, and graduate student and personal trainer, Bill Greene admits that while an undergradutate, “The gym came before school.”
Most universities run a pretty well-equipped gym that keeps student-friendly hours. Few serious lifters need much convincing to ditch the student cafÃ© card game or lazy loll in the sun for the cut and thrust of the Iron Dungeon. Saying no to partying is a bigger ask: more on that below.
After finding the three or four sessions per week at the gym, the next step is to ditch uni sludge in favour of a healthy diet.
While some dining halls and student union cafes offer a pretty decent three squares, this falls way short for the keen lifter.
Steer clear of that mid-morning pie, and head for the sandwich bar. Remember, says the Yale team: love your lean protein, loath your carbs.
Green says he eats the same amount of the same thing every day and has been doing so the whole time he’s been at school. That’s six or seven years of nothing but large portions of chicken, nuts, oatmeal and salads.
Stock up from the sandwich bar. Keep walnuts handy. Buy yourself a personal grille. Perfect for chicken breasts.
Importantly replace your late night cheeseburger or pre-class breakfast muffin with a protein shake. Kafure does. He manages to down 5000 calories on a lifting dayâ€”none from student slop.
Some other options suggested by the experts are subs or other sandwiches on a good-quality bread; hard-boiled eggs (eat only the whites); milk, and fat-free cottage cheese (perfect for late-night nutrition because of the anti-catabolic casein)
As far as supplements go, in addition to creatine and glutamine, if you can still afford them after your textbooks, the Yale bodybuilders recommend Vitamin C. This is one of the most overlooked supplements, not only for muscle recovery, but for general health. Who wants to miss a rare workout day because of a student lurgy? Viral nasties, including glandular fever, are endemic to the student environment.
About that pub-crawl? Serious bodybuilders, whether students or not all say no to post-class partying. Especially when alcohol is involved.
“If you want to reach a high level of fitness, there is no way you can drink,” says Kingley Deslorieux, another Yale lifter and personal trainer.
Limit yourself to drinking once a week, or even better once a month. Get used to low-alcohol beers (the same carb factor but without the metabolism-slowing and testosterone-lowering side-effects of alcohol). But if you want to train competitively, drink water.
Muller agrees. Even though it’s part of the undergrad experience, drinking entails the consumption of empty calories (146 per glass of beer), poor diet decisions and poor sleep decisions. You need food and sleep to get big. It’s that simple. And if you’re hung over, stay away from the gym. You’ll do yourself an injury.
Greene admits that when he’s not working towards his PhD in the lab, he’s almost always at the gym.
“Most of the girls I meet and almost all my friends are from the gym,” he says.
The Yalies agree: bodybuilding requires a unique dedication and the sharing of common goals. You shouldn’t confine your entire social sphere to gym rats, but it helps to hang out with people who understand that modifying one’s entire lifestyle to meet these goals is a small price to pay.