Not only does Joe Tonge, a hairdresser from Southend in Essex, manage to fit in his cystic fibrosis treatment with full time work, he also manages to find time to compete as a body builder. As one of the CF Trust’s ‘Activity Unlimited Ambassadors’, Joe aims to inspire other people with CF to help manage their condition through being active. Some background of his life can be found in this Activity Unlimited article. Here, we talk more in depth on subjects such as the benefits of bodybuilding for CF, how to start out and diet & supplements.
Martin) As well as keeping you at a good weight, how has weight training helped other aspects of your CF, such as your lungs? Have you noticed a difference in lung function or frequency of IVs since you started?
Joe) The weight training has indeed kept me at a good weight and yes, due to the heavy weight training I definitely see better lung function results. I have to concentrate on my breathing with my reps and with heavy sets we focus on my breathing technique, This not only trains my visible muscles but my organ strength too.
M) Have you completely cut out cardio from your exercise regime?
J) No I have not, at the moment my cardio is at a minimum so I do about 2 to 3 days of cardio. I will normally do roughly 10 to 20 minutes in the morning about 30 to 45 minutes after my breakfast.
At the moment I do fast walking, incline fast paced walking and sprinting on my treadmill or a running track. As I get closer to competition my calories will go up so my training partner/coach will add in more cardio exercises accordingly. This means I keep my body fat to a lean healthy percentage and that I put on pure lean muscle, not fat.
M) You work out 6 days a week. Do you find this much exercise without breaks weakens your immune system? If so, do you do anything to strengthen it (e.g. sleep more, take supplements, etc)
J) No I don’t think it weakens my immune system, yes I do get tired, but I think that’s down to the fact I work 5 to 6 days a week,
Even if I am tired, it doesn’t really effect me, I don’t even think about it because I love to train so much. I know that my body needs to have enough energy if I want to give my all to my training session, so I make sure I have the appropriate meals and snacks with me.
M) What supplements do you take (e.g. protein, L-glutamine, vitamins, etc) and how does each one help?
J) I have taken a range of different protein and amino acid supplements over the years and I don’t really notice if one works better than the other. I normally just go by whatever flavour I fancy which at the moment is Optimum Nutrition’s Banana Whey.
I take protein shakes, BCAAs (Branched chain amino acids) and a range of vitamins.
Your body uses protein to build and repair muscle tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
Branched-chain amino acids (particularly leucine) stimulate protein synthesis, and might do so to a greater extent than a normal protein on its own. BCAAs also increase synthesis of the cellular machinery responsible for carrying out the process of protein synthesis.
Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin found as either preformed vitamin A or provitamin A carotenoids in the diet, plays an important role in the growth and development of several systems in the body.
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is abundant in vegetables and fruits. A water-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant, it helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including bones, blood vessels, and skin.
Vitamin D – It does so by helping the body absorb calcium (one of bone’s main building blocks) from food and supplements. People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy.
M) As a person with CF, does your bodybuilding training regime differ from people without CF? If so, how?
J) No it doesn’t, mine and my training partners workouts are the same.
M) You taught yourself over time the best way to train. Knowing what you know now, can you recommend any resources (videos, books, websites) that would be a good starting point for someone with CF to learn how to train effectively?
J) The most useful information I can recommend is just to watch as many training videos as you can, there are thousands on YouTube and Instagram. My training partner and I even upload them ourselves on Instagram – @Tongejoe @Chrisbexfield
There is so much information you can find on weight training, how to train with proper form, powerlifting, cardio exercises. You name it there’s a video for it!
M) Diet is a massive part of any healthy living regime. Details of your typical meals can be found in your CF Trust ‘Activity Unlimited Ambassadors’ article. Do you snack in between meals? If so, what do you snack on?
J) Yes, I snack a lot actually, I generally try and eat as much as I can, I love food! For snacks I normally have nuts, fruit, malt loaf or protein shakes. I try and have snacks that are not time consuming, foods that I can grab quickly in between haircuts while I’m at work.
M) Do you eat healthily all the time or do you allow yourself junk food once in awhile?
J) I’m most definitely not always eating healthily! Yes I am strict with my nutrition, but like I said, I love food, I love to eat out. At the moment I limit myself to one or two cheat meals a week but as I get closer to my competition I’ll restructure my meal plans. I’ll move onto one cheat meal a week and then eventually none.
M) As a hairdresser you’re constantly in close contact with lots of people each day, many of whom will have colds and bugs – do you take any precautions to make sure you don’t catch them?
J) Yes I do, I take all my prescribed medication regularly. I normally take my nebuliser and Colobreathe around 6am before my morning cardio session, but unfortunately sometimes you can’t always avoid bugs.
A huge thank you to Joe for sharing his expertise with us. You can find out more about Joe by following him on Instagram at @tongejoe
*ALWAYS ENSURE YOU SPEAK WITH YOUR MEDICAL TEAM BEFORE MAKING ANY HEALTH RELATED CHANGES TO YOUR LIFESTYLE*