Episode 2 | Dr. Wayne Westcott | Drop Everything and Try The ADULT Way to Strength Train


Kathy Smith: You know, I was asked once by Self Magazine if I had to pick between strength training or cardio and not that I would ever want to, but if I had to pick and especially–I think this was probably 10 years ago, when I was asked this question. If I had to pick, which one would I pick. Of course, being the aerobic junky that I was, you would think I’d automatically go to aerobics. But, honestly, I said if I had to pick one, it would be strength training. Because I realize that every year that passes to maintain that shape, the vitality, the stamina, strength training is the biggest component. But let me ask you. Did I pick right or how would you have answered that question?

Wayne Westcott: Your answer was correct that we should do both. But if we had to choose, many of the benefits that improve through aerobic activity can be obtained through circuit style strength training and many through just regular strength training.

But the reason strength training is so important for every adult is that if you are not strength training and if you’re running or dancing or doing other aerobic activities, you are losing approximately six pounds of lean tissue, most of that being muscle every decade of life. Women lose about five pounds per decade. Men lose about seven. So, to maintain the muscles, which really are the engines of the body. The heart is an extremely important fuel pump. The muscle’s where the energy’s released, where power’s produced, where movement originates. The muscles are the real key to doing anything, and everything we do takes a certain percentage of our muscular strength.

So, in the long run for health and well-being, you know, over decades of life, we need to maintain a strong musculoskeletal system so that we can do the important aerobic activity that belongs in that same level. But the choice would be, if I had to choose, I would agree with you. The strength training would be first and, then, I’d try to supplement that with as much aerobic activity as I possibly could.

Kathy Smith: Yeah, it’s interesting how you start that slow decline that’s sort of imperceptible at first. I mean, it really starts, you know, 30ish and you don’t notice it at first. And, then, the next decade hits and, then, the next decade. And, then, all of a sudden, you’re feeling joint pain, you’re noticing the belly fat, you’re noticing the posture. So, a lot of times when we think about strength training, we think about obviously the muscles. But, then, that’s the cosmetic, the shape, the form. And, yet, you wrote a great article about 12 reasons why every adult should strength train. And really, I think only one or two of them were more of the cosmetic reasons. So, why don’t you give us a little bit of a lesson on why strength training is important for the inside of us as well as the outside.

Wayne Westcott: I’d be honored to do that. Thank you, Kathy.  Number one was losing that muscle. And by the way, once women hit menopause or men hit their early to mid-50s, that muscle loss accelerates to about 10 pounds per decade or a pound per year. So, it’s like going from an eight-cylinder engine down to a six to a four-cylinder engine to a motor scooter and it really is debilitating.

But the reason we have, in my opinion, an obesity epidemic is not because most people are eating too much. One out of every two people is presently on a calorie restrictive diet. But they don’t realize the importance of their resting metabolic rate, which accounts for about 70% of the calories that we burn every day that are burned at rest. When we lose five pounds of muscle, seven pounds of muscle, nine pounds of muscle, our resting metabolic rate automatically decreases in parallel fashion to the muscle loss to an average of three percent per decade.

So, when our metabolism slows down, the calories that used to be used 24 hours a day keeping our muscles alive and functioning because they’re very active tissue, those calories now go into fat storage and, so we have an obesity epidemic with about 75% of all Americans being overweight or obese in one of those classifications. And if we looked at body composition rather than just body mass index, that would be almost 85% of all Americans need to rebuild muscle, recharge their metabolism so that they can reduce fat and keep it off.

But in addition to that, muscles produce hormone like substances called myokines that affect every other tissue and organ system in our body. So, when we lose muscle, we’re losing one of our major factors for positively influencing our health and well-being from a truly physiological perspective.

Also, of course, is the musculoskeletal perspective. When we lose muscle, we lose bone. When we lose myoproteins for our muscle, we automatically also lose osteo and collagen proteins for our bones which leads to osteoporosis. Muscles are the largest storehouse of glycogen or sugar in the body. So, when we lose muscle, we have a much higher risk of sugar issues, high blood sugar, diabetes, leading to cardiovascular issues. Strength training is just so important to maintain a strong musculoskeletal system that actually affects every other system in our body – our neurological system, our cardiovascular system, our hormonal system.

I’ll just give you one example. People who strength train–older adults who started strength training, after just three months, they increased their gastrointestinal transit speed by 55%. Well, what does that mean? It means they move food through their system so much more efficiently and quickly, which makes them feel better, function better and also reduces a risk of colon cancer. Who would have thought that strength training would do that? I could go on for an hour. I’m going to stop now, but those are just a few of the reasons that muscles are important.

Kathy Smith:   It’s shocking. It’s so good. I love to hear you talk about it, because it gets me inspired to jump back into the gym and even add another day to my workout routine, my strength training routine. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of strength training.

So, through the years, I’m going to throw out some terms that we’ve used. The audience might know some of these terms or not. But there’s been a debate of do you do lighter weights and more repetitions? Do you do heavier weights and fewer repetitions? You know, there’s functional training where we’re using our entire body compared to where we isolate muscle groups. There’s been studies, and I know you’ve talked about this through the years. But whether the speed of the movement is fast or whether it was super slow.

I have to tell you, one year, I went to one of the conventions and it was when the super slow was very, very popular. I can’t even remember the number of seconds, but it just this long–it was just like, you know, the bicep curl, the weights going up, up, up, up. And I think it was maybe you. But it was really one of these things like, yes, science has proven that this is a very good technique and you get more bang for your buck with it, except that people are so bored after doing it, nobody could maintain it because it’s such a boring approach.

But in general, now we are here. We’ve come through all of these different concepts and for the – not the bodybuilder, not the elite athlete but for the average woman who is getting in her 40s or 50s, what would you recommend as light weights? Let’s start with light/heavy, because I have a little bit of a pet peeve here and I just want to hear what you have to say about it.

Wayne Westcott: Sure. Thank you. That was probably me with the super slow. We had 150 people in the study. And they had great results. There were actually two studies. There were 75 in each. Out of the two studies, only one person said I’ll ever do it again because they hated it. So, you’ve got to do something that people like they will continue to do.

We’ve done a lot of studies with several thousand people actually, and we post in the major medical research journals. And the first one I’m going to mention is the frequency, because it’s not something that you need to do every day or should do every day or really could do every day. Because muscular training does cause a little bit of microtrauma to the tissue and it needs some time to remodel and rebuild and restructure. So, in our studies, we have shown that two or three days a week – either one – produces essentially equal results in terms of rebuilding muscle with women like you just said – middle aged women or young women or older women. They add about three pounds of muscle every three months or a little over one pound (about a pound and a third) every month regardless of whether they’re doing two or three days a week. Now, if they do they do three days, they get better blood pressure results, they lose no more fat. But for building muscle and bone, our studies are showing that two days is sufficient and three would be the most you’d want to do with a day rest in between.

In terms of the amount of resistance and repetitions which, of course, is an inadverse relationship. The heavier the weight, the fewer repetitions you can do. The lighter the weight, the more repetitions you can do. And actually, the most recent studies, the meta-analysis of these studies shows that there’s quite a range that you can do, but the body, the muscles themselves, they don’t really respond to the number of repetitions. What they respond to is the time under tension or the length of the set that you’re working. And unlike the aerobic exercises where you are the expert for sure and I am certainly not. But unlike the aerobic exercise system, to train muscles, to build muscle strength and to increase muscle size and muscle function and to increase bone density, you need to fatigue the target muscles.

And I like the major muscle exercises like let’s say leg presses or squats or bench presses or chest presses or pull downs or seated rows – things that work several muscle groups together. But you need to fatigue those muscles involved in that exercise within the anaerobic energy system, just the opposite of the aerobic, the endurance and cardio activities. You need to use a weight heavy enough that it fatigues the muscle somewhere in practical terms between 30 seconds and 9o seconds.

If you’re fatiguing at less than 30, the weight may be a little heavier than you need to do, and it may cause some, for older individuals and middle age with some joint problems, so do it for at least 30 seconds, which would be at least five repetitions that are at a controlled pace. But you probably shouldn’t do a weight that takes you beyond that 90 seconds.

Again, if we’re looking at, say, a six second repetition which is what the American College of Sports Medicine recommended, then you’re looking at 15 repetitions. So, if you can do between five and 15 reps, 10 being pretty much the average, you’re doing just right for building muscle strength, muscle endurance and remodeling that muscle, rebuilding the muscle that was lost and maybe building some more. But if you’re going beyond 15 reps or fewer than five reps, you may be, you know, maybe a little outside the ideal or the optimal training range for time under tension.

Kathy Smith: So, time under tension, it’s interesting. I see different classes that are popular right now including things like a bar workout where you’re at a bar and you’re doing lots of repetitions, and it’s many more than 15. Let’s just–you probably wouldn’t know this term, but it’s more of a plié. A plié is a version of a squat but your legs are turned out. But if you’re doing something like that and you’re doing–let’s just say we’re doing 30 of them, a variation. We’re doing 30 of them and we’re in that zone for a period of time, which you’re saying it’s not bad for the body, but we’re now going into more of an aerobic training as opposed to this anaerobic and more of the strength training.

Wayne Westcott: Well, Kathy, very, very brilliant training as I always get from you. But there’s this range for maximizing and optimizing muscle development. You want to be between, let’s say, under two minutes, ok? At the most two minutes. And, then, for aerobic training, you know from being an expert at this, the people say, well, you have to at least 10 minutes of aerobics to get any benefit or 15. Now the American College of Sports Medicine says up to 20.

So, what’s between that two minutes and the 10 minutes? What’s that? That’s no man’s land. Well, of course it is. That’s a great way to train. And there’s no problem with that. I’m not questioning the bar. But let’s say that Body publishes the most popular group of exercise program for strength training in the world. And they’re doing the same exercise for three, four, sometimes even five minutes. People love it. It’s done to music. They have great instructors. They get excellent results. They get great muscle definition. But what they’re really building there, maybe some degree of cardiovascular endurance, but mostly what we call muscular endurance. So, they’re going for maybe two minutes, three minutes, four minutes. That’s muscular endurance. There’s nothing wrong with muscular endurance.

That’s like someone who runs the mile or the half mile – a half mile in two minutes and 30 seconds or a mile in five minutes. That would be that range. Those are great athletes. Those are wonderful athletes. That’s a great way to train. But it’s kind of going to maximize your muscle development. So, if you were a bodybuilder or a weight lifter or a powerlifter, you wouldn’t train with that many reps. To maximize, you would want to be within that anaerobic energy system. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with doing what you just said in the bar class or the body pump class. Those are very effective musculoskeletal conditioners. They’re just not quite as strong in muscle–they don’t emphasize quite as much muscle strength, emphasize more muscle endurance.

Kathy Smith: Yeah, and you know what I’ve learned for myself through the years is I like to combine a little of each. I do like heavier weights, and I’m always encouraging women to not be afraid of the poundage or how much weight they’re lifting. I remember when I first started teaching and, to this day, I still see women picking up two and three-pound weights. And these are sometimes women that just have had babies, and I would say, “You know, your baby weighs eight pounds when it’s born and just grows from there.”

So, you’re carrying your luggage. I travel big so my suitcase is usually about 40–I always put it on the scale and it’s like 47. Yes! I made it under the 50 pound, but I’m lugging that bag in and out of the car.

And so, really with this aging thing, what I try to encourage women, you want to be functional, you want to be able to participate in life to the fullest and walk those stairs and whatever, so not to be afraid of going a little higher with the weights. But, then, I also noticed that just to get into more of what you’re talking about, this muscular endurance, helps me with perhaps stabilizing muscles, balance muscles, core muscles, things like that. So, I like to mix it up and I’m always encouraging people to do that.

Wayne Westcott: I could not agree more – 100% support exactly you said. You know, we have several systems in the body and they’re all very important. But they’re all very specialized. They’re all very specific so the person who does the 10 repetitions with a heavy weight. Normally, you can do about 75% of your mass which is very safe and effective for 10 repetitions. That’s one way to train. It’s very important.

But the person who’s doing the safe trunk curls or bar work, whatever, for a longer period of time, that would emphasize the muscle endurance. And that’s another very important aspect of physical conditioning.

And then, of course, the person who, then, takes, you know, in the old days one of your most popular aerobics classes or just goes out and runs or cycles like I love to do, not being very coordinated for dance or activities like that, you know, that’s important for your cardiovascular so I love it when people do a combination of activities. In our studies, we always, even though they’re strength training studies, we always include cardio and flexibility as well just because I feel it’s important that we don’t want to just overspecialize. So, 100% agreement, Kathy.

Kathy Smith: Ok, so, let’s switch gears. What do we eat in this whole thing, especially when it comes to strength training and protein. And I just wanted to get your thoughts on when to eat, before or after your workout? Probably the three biggest questions I get about eating as it relates to working out and strength training is, “Do I eat before or after? Do I need more protein and are protein shakes a good way to get protein?”

Wayne Westcott: Oh my goodness. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Yes. Number one, the research shows that if you take in the RDA, which is basically about four grams per pound of protein per day that if you’re over age 50, you will still lose muscle even if you’re strength training. You need at least 25% more than the RDA which would be about five grams per day to maintain your muscle. And to rebuild that muscle we’ve lost we need 50% more than the RDA, which would be about six grams per day. In our studies–

Kathy Smith: Can I just interrupt for one second so I have it clear. You’re saying six grams per pound. Ok.

Wayne Westcott: Did I not say that? Six grams per pound per day. So, if you weighed–

Kathy Smith: I weigh 130. Can we calculate that? Six times 130, that would be 78. Thank you.

Wayne Westcott: Seventy-eight grams of protein per day. Exactly. Now, yesterday, I just did a webinar for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I’m not a nutritionist, but they asked the same questions you did and these are nutritionists of course. And the response has been very, very favorable whenever we present our research on this. Because as we age, we don’t process protein as well as when we were younger. In fact, a 65-year-old processes protein about half as well as they did when they were 35. So, we certainly don’t need less protein. We need more.

In our studies with the Harvard groups have shown that about seven grams of protein per pound per day is about optimal for most purposes and most people. But one of the times you really want to take that protein because your muscles are most receptive to amino acids, assimilating amino acids and rebuilding the muscle, also rebuilding bone – we’ve done research on that too – within one half hour before to one half after your workout – and that’s where we take a protein shake. And that protein shake typically should have somewhere between 20 and 30 grams of protein, and you can have some carbs in that as well or make it yourself of buy a commercial. But that’s when you get the most benefit – 30-minute window before to a 30-minute window after your strength training session.

If you are going to eat a meal right after your strength training session, then obviously, that could be part of that meal, or it doesn’t need to be. But I personally recommend, and I do this myself. I do my protein shake, and we’ve done a lot of protein shakes in our studies. I do my protein shake before I work out. It feels good. I get some hydration, I get the protein. It’s circulating so I don’t go into a negative protein balance, which I would. And everybody else on the planet would if they didn’t have that protein within that half hour. You’d have a period after your workout where in a negative protein balance where your muscles are degrading faster than they’re building.

Now, after a couple of hours that will reverse. But why have that couple of hours where you’re downgrading instead of upgrading. So, we like to have the protein shake before, a reasonable shake. And then again if you want some more, if you’re hungry after and you want to be satiated, it’s better to take a protein shake or half a protein shake than stopping at a fast food place or getting something like a milkshake, something like that. So, before, after, during but within that half hour timeframe before you have to work out is highly recommended to enhance not only muscle gain and bone gain, but our studies have also shown significantly greater fat loss for people who do that. It works, the carbohydrates as well as the protein.

Kathy Smith: Ok, that’s my big take away for the day. You know I always love talking to you because I get something that actually is almost like lifechanging for me. And that one, even though I know some of those facts, it’s really important to hear from you about the timing, because I do a protein shake probably every day. But I kind of got out of the habit of doing it before I worked out, and I would save it for after and, then, I’m realizing that sometimes I’m just not getting it right within that window.

So, today I’m getting back onto before. Because you’re right. It makes me feel great and it’s interesting to get that, just to drive home that point, that these muscles are like a fountain of youth in a way. I mean, to have your muscles–you think about having a bank account full of money, but in some ways, having these muscles on your body are the things that you want to preserve. And we always think about or we talk more in our society about how do I get rid of the fat? And so many things we do to get rid of fat were sabotaging our muscles. And as we know, over the years, it really backfires. So, I’m glad that I got that. I’m on my shake a day again.

Wayne Westcott: And I like the bank account. I’m going to use that if I have your permission to use that.

Kathy Smith: Oh, yeah, for sure, I mean it’s just–you know, because I usually close off my talks a lot of the times when I’m on stage and I say, “Health is not your greatest asset, but without it nothing else matters.” And we tend to think about our health when things go wrong and, yet, I really encourage our listeners if they’re–whatever age. I mean, start this young, because it is one of these things will pay dividends. And I think it’s one of the reasons why for me and my vitality, and I’m doing a bike ride across America next year and some of things–

Kathy Smith: Well, part of it, but it has to do with maintaining that strength so in the few minutes that we have left, I guess I just see from everything that you’ve told us that we see the super heroes out there. We have all these super hero movies and we see the body-beautifuls, especially in the women now. There’s the Black Widow and Wonder Woman and the Scarlet Witch and all of these super heroes and, yet, it’s time for all of us to kind of drop the excuses and start the strength training, get on the strength training bandwagon. But let me give you a couple of the biggest excuses that I get from people and see if you have any other brilliant suggestions. One of them is, “I hate it. I hate to strength train.” So, what do you tell people when they say, “I hate to strength train,” besides what you’ve already told and the benefits. But is there any other suggestion you have?

Wayne Westcott: Right. Yes. Well, number one, it’s like they’re going to start running and their first race is going to be a half marathon. They have to use the resistance that’s right for them and just start with one set. That’s all you need to do. All of our studies have been ones that I personally like doing most because I love strength training. But time is a factor.

And, so, in our studies, we have hour classes all day long from six in the morning until eight at night. And they have to do their stretching and they have to get their cardio. So, we do one set of about 12 exercises. So, by the time they do this and that and move to the next exercise, it’s two minutes. It’s 24 minutes, 25 minutes max to do that. It doesn’t take a lot of time twice a week. So, we try to dispel that myth that you have to spend hours in the gym.

Now, once they do it and they realize the process isn’t that bad and the product is awesome, then they may want to spend a lot longer and say, “Hey, I don’t hate it as much. I really like this. This is good. I’m going to do more.” But we start–you know, just like if you started running, you’d start with–if I’m going to try and run a mile. My wife was all the time–years ago, she first ran a mile. And, then, you’d do a 5K and whatever. But you start where you’re at and see the results and hopefully enjoy the process along the way.  Don’t try and do too much too soon and don’t compare stuff with other people. Just enjoy the process.

Kathy Smith: Ok. And, then, the last question which we got off of Facebook. And I get this question all the time. Obviously, we’re not answering any medical questions here. And people have to check with their doctors and such. But people say, “I have bad knees, so can I still strength train?” How do you respond to that?

Wayne Westcott: Right. We always want a written doctor’s permission and guidelines especially if they have heart issues or surgery or things of that nature. But when I work with the professional football teams, the collegiate football teams, regardless of the injury unless it’s a concussion, but I shouldn’t say regardless, but most often if they have an injury, they don’t stop coming to the weight room. In fact, they come even more to work around that injury.

And if one of the shoulder muscles is injured, we do the other shoulder muscles to keep the blood flowing, to keep that area well-lubricated and well-supplied with nutrients and we do stretching for that and we do strengthening so that we work around the injury. We don’t hurt the injured part, but we maintain strength in all the other muscle groups. And as that part comes back, we start strengthening it with little baby steps and getting it strong once again.

Because the worst that can happen is you have an injury, have bad knees or a bad hip and, so, you stop exercising and that results in just a vicious cycle of more atrophy. So, it’s hard to exercise. So, you don’t exercise and you get more atrophy. Then, you have a real serious or chronic condition. So, with the doctor’s permission and guidelines or orthopedists or a podiatrist or a physical therapist, we almost never say stop strength training. We have to stop this exercise but we’ve got a substitute that won’t hurt. We’ll keep that, in general, somewhat strong and prevent you from atrophy and losing muscle and bone.

Kathy Smith: Brilliant, brilliant. Well, ok, for everybody out there, if you haven’t started a love affair of strength training, the time is now. And it’s just not for the shapelier bodies but for the whole host of reasons we talked about today including avoiding bone loss, increasing metabolic rate, improving glucose metabolism, strengthening your heart, reducing lower back pain, increasing bone mineral density and the list goes on and on.

And by the way, the great thing about it, it’s going to keep you at the top of your game both physically and mentally. So, Wayne, as we’re going out here, where can people find more of you?

Wayne Westcott: Oh goodness.

Kathy Smith: On your website?

Wayne Westcott: I don’t really have a website. I always answer my emails, my phone calls. I am at Quincy College. I’m a professor of exercise science at Quincy College, and if anybody wants to talk to me, I’d be honored to speak with them by phone or email.

Kathy Smith: Do you know what? Actually, before you go, I’ll put it up there. We’re just going to put it on the notes that are going to accompany this so this will be great. But that’s great. You’re such a doll. And I love, love, love everything you do, and it’s such a delight talking to you. You made my day. So, thank you so much, Wayne.

Wayne Westcott: You make my day always. Thank you, Kathy. Privileged.

Kathy Smith: It was such a pleasure having Dr. Wayne Westcott with us today. I have to tell you, I am such a junkie when it comes to strength training. And to hear all this latest information was a real privilege for me.

You know, I couldn’t help but thinking that through an average day, we make hundreds of demands on our strength. Yet, there’s kind of an unspoken assumption with women that they won’t take the time or the trouble to understand the benefits of weight training and to learn how to do it properly. And, frankly, if we took that same timid approach in other areas of our life, we would still be back in the 1950s doing housework in our high heel shoes.

Today, women are running corporations, they’re going into space, they’re supporting families. Heck, they’re sitting on the Supreme Court. And we’ve proven over and over again our capabilities. So, for us to shrink away from the idea of lifting weights, it’s really just an old-fashioned concept.

Even the word strength is still waiting for women to claim it. Until now, we’ve kind of embraced the terms like tone or defined, but why not strong? It’s time for women to discover that we can be strong without sacrificing our feminine traits. It’s true. Softness and strength can co-exist, and when they do, that’s when you get to live life to the fullest.

Ok, so, the take away today besides not shying away from the weight rack is also the part about incorporating protein into your strength training routine. Now, that was a real eye opener for me. It’s amazing to learn that we don’t absorb protein the same way as we age. So, that’s why it’s critical to eat or drink protein as Dr. Westcott said either 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after a workout. So, get that into your brain, because that’s the window right there. So, I’m telling you, for me I’m pulling out the frittatas, the eggs, the tofu scrambles and, of course, the protein shakes, because I love them.

Remember, if you want to reach out to me and let me know what your thoughts are about this episode or ideas for future episodes, all you have to do is go to iTunes and leave a written review for the show. And I would so much love to hear what your go-to protein options are for before your workouts and after your workouts. Those kinds of things really help me, because I can write about them, I can share them with other people and we can start to just build even recipes for one another. So, I’d love that.

And, of course, I’d really appreciate if you would go and give a review for the show and, of course, five stars is–I wouldn’t be upset about that. And, honestly, your reviews are so important in helping us to grow. The show is one of the things that I love to do because I love to give out the latest and greatest information on health. And I’d love for more people to be able to hear the show. And just one review really bumps the show up higher on the iTunes charts so more people can find us. So, if you promise to write a review, I promise to read them every single morning. I can’t wait hear what you have to say. Ok, see you next week.