In part I, I briefly outlined a good training split that someone looking to gain size could follow. Now I will focus on what I feel is the hardest part for people to understand about adding muscle. This is the nutritional aspect.
When trying to gain weight (and especially lose weight) your diet is the MOST important part of making this happen. Unless you are a genetically gifted, you will need to pay very close attention to your nutrition. I feel that some people go into the gym and start lifting weights, maybe doing a little cardio every week and expect to become jacked instantly. This just isn’t the case.
Why You Aren’t Growing
The body likes to stay the same. In order to grow, you need to make two changes. The first, is to fatigue your muscles. You add muscle when your muscles repair themselves. The second is to supply your muscles with the nutrients it needs to repair itself. Many people I see, have the first part down. Unfortunately drinking a whey shake after you hit the weights and then going back to your regular diet isn’t going to cut it in the long run.
If you want to grow you simply need to add calories. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can be transformed. So, you need to ingest the proper foods in the right amounts in order for the energy you consume to be ‘transformed’ into lean mass. If you kept a log of your diet for 3 days, you may be surprised at how little you eat.
The Importance of Protein
Protein is very important no matter what your goal. Generally speaking, folks just don’t eat enough protein. They are doing themselves a great disservice. Protein has a high thermic effect, meaning it will burn more calories during digestion when compared to carbs and fats. So consuming protein will keep your metabolism high. It is also more filling than fats and carbohydrates.
For muscle gain, protein has many functions, including: muscle protein synthesis, synthesis of brain neurotransmitters, synthesis of tissue enzymes and many more functions. The function that matters in this article is muscle protein synthesis. In order to grow (I’m talking muscle growth, not adding junk to that trunk…), we need protein to promote protein synthesis in our muscles.
A good guideline for daily protein intake is 1g/lb of bodyweight. So a 200 lb individual would consume 200 grams of protein per day. Now at the same time, if our diet is in a deficit we will not gain weight, no weight gain = no muscle gain. Carbs and fats need to be added to allow our protein to get where it needs to go.
Feeding frequency really isn’t as important as you have been led to believe. You don’t need 6 meals, to get huge. If you can get a caloric excess in 3 meals, then all the power to you. If you don’t have a big appetite and you find you need more meals to get those excess calories in then add feedings.
Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say someone finds that their resting metabolic rate (RMR) is 2000. They have a pretty active lifestyle, so they factor in a daily activity expenditure of 500. Adding these numbers, you get 2500. If they were to consume 2500 calories a day, their weight would stay at the same level.
For adding weight, you simply need to increase portion sizes, add foods to current meals, or add meals. There is really a ton of variation to increase calories. If you are small, it’s pretty easy to keep your eating clean while gaining weight. In my opinion, slow-bulking is the way to go, if aesthetics is important to you. If you are trying to get as big and strong as possible in the shortest amount of time, then a fast bulk would be what you would want to do. If you bulk up fast, you will gain more fat than if you bulked a little slower.
I’m going to go over bulking in the slower manner. I suggest a caloric excess of 250 calories per day. What kind of foods can you add to a meal on a daily basis to increase your calories by around 250? 2 scoops of protein is pretty close to 250, 2 tbsp’s of peanut butter, 2 tbsp’s of olive oil, 2 peices of fruit, 2 chicken breasts. The list is really endless. I would always suggest you try to use actual food to increase your caloric intake rather than supplements. Food gives your body the micronutrients it needs for basic functions, supplements don’t.
Obviously after 2-4 weeks, you will gain weight. After that, if you keep eating the same foods, you will again reach maintenance weight. So you add another 250 calories. You need to do this over and over again until you reach your desired weight.
Calorie Expenditure Calculator
This expenditure calculator is pretty good. Enter your data and find out what you expend on a daily basis. The accuracy of these calculators could easily be argued. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter. If you have a number, and you repeatedly increase the amount of calories you eat from that number, you will gain weight.
Consistency incredibly important when trying to gain mass. Eating one meal a day every couple days will have your wheels spinning. If you decide to eat 3 meals a day, then you need to get those meals in each and everyday. Remember, you need to ADD calories in order to gain weight, if you miss meals you aren’t adding calories, you are subtracting calories.
If one day you consume 3000 calories over your meals, then the next day you only eat once and eat 1000, you will only have consumed 4000 cals in 2 days. This is most likely lower than your maintenance calories unless you are a small girl. If you continuously eat in this fashion you will LOSE weight.
If you want extraordinary results, you need to put in extraordinary efforts. At first, the effort may seem hard because you aren’t used to it. After a few months, when it is ingrained into your daily habits, you won’t even think twice about it.
Part III will be a short piece on recovery. Stay tuned.