Stretch marks can occur from a variety of conditions, including pregnancy and muscle growth. “When your skin expands at a rapid rate, damaging changes occur in collagen, which makes up the bulk of your skin, and elastic fibers, which allow the skin to stretch and then return to its original shape,” explains Frank Wang, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan. Stretch marks are like scars—the body can’t adequately repair the tissue, so the marks become permanent. There aren’t a lot of proven options for preventing or reducing stretch marks. Lasers are expensive and won’t typically fully erase the marks. Some research has shown that tretinoin, a cream used to treat acne, can help reduce stretch marks when they first occur, but you need to use it for six months (and not during pregnancy), and it can be irritating, he adds.
BETWEEN STRENGTH WORKOUTS?
“Proper rest allows muscles to grow and become stronger. If you shortchange yourself, you’ll hamper results while increasing injury risk,” says Hers technical adviser Gino Caccavale. You need at least 48 hours between each body part to fully recover from training. If you lift every day, focus on one muscle group each workout and train the opposing muscle group the next day. And don’t forget actual rest! Muscles repair during sleep, so it’s just as important to get enough rest at night.
Try this sample schedule:
DAY 1 back, glutes, abs (rectus and transverse)
DAY 2 chest, abs (obliques and transverse)
DAY 3 legs
DAY 4 arms, abs (rectus and transverse)
DAY 5 shoulders, abs (obliques and transverse)
CARDIO: Add 30 minutes on any strength day but legs
TO THE GYM AFTER HAVING A BABY, BUT I’M STILL BREAST-FEEDING. DO I HAVE TO CHANGE HOW MUCH PROTEIN I’M CONSUMING?
Calculating how much protein you need while nursing can be tricky. Lactation expends energy just like exercise does. “A nursing mother needs to have adequate calories to support lactation. Extra protein helps prevent the body from using protein stores to meet energy needs,” says Leslie Bonci, R.D., a sports nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice in Pittsburgh. Protein isolate powders can be a great tool for nursing moms, adds Bonci, because they can be easily added to a variety of foods, from smoothies to oatmeal to muffins. “Choose a whey protein isolate because it’s highest in leucine, which is best for muscle protein synthesis. If you have a dairy allergy, go with either a soy protein isolate or a veggie based protein such as pea or rice powder.” Her favorite brands: Twinlab Clean Series (whey, soy, and veggie protein isolates); Bipro USA (whey protein isolate); and Klean Athlete (whey protein isolate).