by Sandy Dover / @SandSeven

In the NBA world, athletes in that particular universe are subject to physical rigors that most laypeople cannot comprehend. For the elite basketball player, his/her body is his/her literal temple and principal livelihood, and while the roughly 400 players in the NBA put their bodies and minds to the test daily and yearly, those outside of that realm (in the so-called real world) also have become just as conscious about their fitness and health. The FIT is a series that will concentrate on the Fuel, Information and Training (F.I.T.) that it takes for both NBAers and laypersons to be at their very best in the world, as well as focusing on the literal Food, Intelligence and Technology that also comes into play in our physical fine-tuning—because after all, without having the vital fuel, guidelines and tech advancements to feed our bodies, help us better absorb and process what’s necessary, and make the labor efficient and effective, we don’t have much to advance our collective health and performance. The FIT is here to bring to light what can make us all the uniquely tuned creatures that we presently are and can continue or aspire to be.

In the NBA, the vast majority of the work done for the official 82 games is in the three months of the offseason. That means that when players have gotten bigger, leaner, and otherwise, the growth is made in the majority of those 90 days. When former NBA top-10 pick Larry Hughes arrived in Golden State in the early 2000s, he spent the first offseason before his first full season with the Warriors weight-training to add much needed muscle (being only 185 pounds at 6-5, it was necessary for him as an above-average defender to gain a little more size and get wider in the shoulders); at the time, “Silky Smooth” had put on an additional 10 pounds and was set to work when training camp started…however, at the end of the first week of camp, Larry lost the same 10 pounds he gained and was back to Square One. Enter CytoSport’s CytoGainer.

From the makers of the much-beloved Muscle Milk, CytoGainer is essentially a whey protein supplement that is formulated particularly to add needed muscle with its unique complex carbohydrate composition. Each serving contains 54g of protein, 3g of creatine (a naturally occurring compound in the body that aides in muscle development), 2g of glutamine, and is 98 percent lactose free and 97 percent fat free. The great thing about CytoGainer is that it contains the whole gamut of minerals and nutrients that you find in breakfast cereals and multivitamins and comes in a variety of tasty flavors (my favorite is chocolate malt). Also there are no simple sugars and no reportedly harmful aspartame, so it’s pretty safe in moderation for workouts and can be modified to replace a meal as necessary.

When I was young and playing ball in middle and high school, I didn’t weight-train much, but I did a lot of calisthenics to shape my body; one of my problems, though, was that I was not training and eating effectively enough to add the muscle that I had wanted to be strong. It wasn’t until after I stopped playing the rec leagues in college that I started to spend more time focusing on nutrition, and I learned how to effectively train my body for the musculature I was looking for and the added strength that comes with it. As I’ve used CytoGainer off and on in the past three years, I have been greatly impressed with it and it is very similar to Muscle Milk (though the Milk is leaner and less dense of a product). Of course, eating right and consistently doing so should be the basis of body development, along with continual goal-oriented exercise.

Not that these particular NBA stars have used CytoGainer, but with the right sort of mix of nutrition, supplementation and exercise, it is proven that there can be really good examples of body growth…and some less-than-stellar results. One great example can be seen in future Hall of Famer LeBron James, who came into the League already with an NBA-ready body being 6-8 and 240 pounds…five years later, in the summer of 2008, he decided to actually commit to weight training (and likely with a focused diet) he gained 25 pounds and became even bigger, even stronger, and has appeared to get quicker. In the case of Tyreke Evans, star guard of the Sacramento Kings, he gained mass in the summer of 2010, after he celebrated his Rookie of the Year award-winning season of ’09-10; after going up to 228 in the offseason with training, he came into the 2011 season with big plans, only to suffer a season-long bout of plantar fasciitis, which may or may not have been an effect of gaining unnecessary weight in the prior offseason.

The point? With any sort of fitness goals, train and consume your food with specific goals in mind and a good understanding of where you’re starting from and where you want to go. You may not need the help to get to where you want to be, but if you do, consider CytoGainer, because it’s a well-rounded health product and a worthy investment if you’re looking build muscle with purpose.

For more information, go to cytosport.com or musclemilk.com.

Sandy Dover is a published novelist/writer, artist, and fitness enthusiast, currently working toward obtaining board certification as a fitness trainer. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook and Twitter.