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Part 3: 4 more common questions I get about building muscle with one kidney

As a bodybuilder with one kidney, I often get asked the same questions from kidney cancer survivors or people with kidney health concerns about protein, exercising, supplements, and water. I posted my first and second roundups here and here. Now, check out part 3.

Q: Do you primarily only do strength training? I like strength training but is wrong for it to be the primary focus? 

A: I strength train and do cardio. If I were competing and in a bulk phase, I would do just strength training or mostly strength training. But it’s not wrong for it to be your primary focus. It all depends on your goals. Even if it’s not the primary focus, it should still be part of a workout regime in some way.

Q: What has been some of the more important things you do/look out for in terms of how you approach fitness and nutrition now?

A: How you handle your nutrition really does depend on your kidney function and overall health (not just creatinine). Although I have good kidney function, I still try to be conscious of my salt intake, I use an egg whites-based protein powder, and I’ve incorporated more plant-based proteins into my diet. I’ve also cut down on the amount of protein I eat, and very rarely do I use workout supplements, beyond the aforementioned protein powder and vitamins. I try to rely as much on my diet as possible. But I’m not overly cautious. A lot of nutritional and fitness advice that is pushed is based on outdated guidelines and research done on people with two kidneys who have sedentary lifestyles. So, I focus on what feels good for my body, what will be easier on my kidney, and what keeps my labs normal.

Q: Does having one kidney and watching your protein levels prevented you from gaining muscle? Do you have any recommendations at all on gaining muscle?

A: Watching my protein intake has not prevented me from gaining muscle. What really changes is the rate of progress — when you have one kidney, and you are a natural bodybuilder, it may take you longer to build up the same muscle mass as someone with two kidneys and no restrictions. But the key is less about how much protein you eat and more about when you eat it. Also, if you have excellent function with one kidney, you don’t have to watch your protein as closley. Protein intake recommendation is very individualized.

Q: I will be having surgery soon to remove one of my kidneys. Will I lose any progress?

A: You won’t lose your progress. You may have a slight setback because you will be recovering from surgery, and therefore, off of your feet and out of the gym. But as long as you are intentional about your nutrition and your workout program, you will see results.


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