Gain Mass

3 Months to Mass

This 12-week meal plan offers three different approaches to eating to get big.

Anyone with experience in the mass-gain department—and we mean muscle mass, not the lumpy kind that accumulates around your midsection—knows the biggest obstacle to getting big isn’t always in the gym. No one is saying heaving heavy weights is easy, but what’s even harder is making sure all that work isn’t for naught. That means eating, then eating the same thing again, day after day.

Many mass-gain meal plan—sor any diet, for that matter—seem to drag on with no end in sight as you cut into another chicken breast, masticate the last spoonful of your 47th bowl of oatmeal and chug yet another protein shake on the 60th day of your 12-week get-big sentence.

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Our strategy, on the other hand, gives you options and changes things up in Month 2 and again in Month 3, depending on your progress, which is the key to this plan. Because nothing beats an eternally drab diet like seeing bona fide results.

The Fundamentals

While we provide a few food alternatives, here are some foods we highly recommend you eat every day during this program. For one, three whole eggs and three egg whites for breakfast are critical to mass gains. One study from Texas A&M (College Station) found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day for 12 weeks while weight training almost doubled their muscle mass gains and more than doubled their strength gains, compared to those who ate no more than one egg per day.

And salad for lunch, you ask? That’s right. Research shows a green salad with a meal can enhance blood flow to muscles during exercise. Of course, you can’t do without your whey protein. Taken before a workout, whey has been found to elevate energy levels while in the gym (allowing you to get more reps) and boost muscle growth after. Better still is mixing whey with casein postworkout. Researchers at Baylor University (Waco, Texas) found that this combination better stimulates muscle growth than whey alone. Before bed, casein protein is a must, particularly one containing micellar casein, which can take up to seven hours to digest. That means your body gets a slow and steady source of amino acids through most of the night, preventing it from breaking down your muscles for their amino acids, which are then converted to fuel for your brain during sleep.

Walnuts, peanut butter, mixed nuts, avocados, salmon and olive oil are all important as well because they provide healthy fats that help your joints recover after grueling workouts. Keep unhealthy fats to a minimum.

We’re not breaking new ground here; the foundation of this plan is a fairly typical mass-gain diet. After the first month, you’ll assess your progress and either stay the course with the original meal plan (Mass Plan A) or switch to option B or C, depending on how much you’re gaining and where. Before you start, however, you’ll need to take measurements of your biceps, thighs and waist. Gains in these areas will be the basis for your dietary changes each month

Mass Plan A (Month 1)

With this plan, you’ll consume more carbs and protein, as well as more overall calories, on workout days than on rest days. Your fat intake, however, will be slightly lower on workout days since fat can interfere with the flow of blood to your muscles. Specifically, you’ll eat 20-21 calories per pound of bodyweight, or about 3,700 calories, per day. (Note: These diets are designed for a 180-pound guy but should suffice for those between 160 and 200 pounds. If you’re above or below this range, use relative amounts to adjust the food intake for your bodyweight.) Your protein consumption will hit almost 2 grams per pound of bodyweight, or about 360 grams, and your carbohydrate numbers will match this. Your fat intake, on the other hand, will be about 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight, or about 90 grams.

Rest Day Meal Plan

On rest days, your calorie consumption will drop as you throttle back on carbs and protein. Your fat intake, however, will go up, specifically healthy fat, which is important for joint recovery. Moreover, when you’re trying to add mass and drop bodyfat at the same time, you have to trick your body into getting bigger. These variable-calorie days do just that, preventing the body from adjusting to the same intake levels. On these days, you’ll eat about 16 calories per pound of bodyweight, or just less than 3,000 calories. Your protein numbers will be slightly more than 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight, or about 300 grams, while your carb intake will plummet to less than 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, or about 170 grams. Fat levels rise to just more than 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight, or slightly more than 100 grams.

Month 2

Assessment time. Take your waist, arm and thigh measurements again and compare them to your starting numbers. While the diet is designed to work well for the average 160-200-pounder, you may need to do a little tweaking to accommodate your personal physiology and biochemistry. Regardless of which meal plan you follow on workout days, keep your rest-day diet the same. With your new measurements, use the following criteria to guide you during the second month:

  • If your biceps and thighs have increased in size but your waist has stayed the same, keep following the diet outlined for the first month.
  • If your biceps and thighs have increased in size but your waist has decreased, switch to Mass Plan B.
  • If your biceps and thighs have stayed the same but your waist has decreased or stayed the same, switch to Mass Plan B.
  • If your biceps, thighs and waist have all increased, switch to Mass Plan C.

Month 3

Time to assess your progress again. Get out that tape measure—you know the drill. This time compare your results to your measurements after the first month.
If you followed the original diet in the second month and:

  • Your biceps and thighs have increased in size but your waist has stayed the same, keep following the same diet as in Months 1 and 2.
  • Your biceps and thighs have increased in size but your waist has decreased, switch to Mass Plan B.
  • Your biceps, thighs and waist have all stayed the same, switch to Mass Plan B.
  • Your biceps, thighs and waist have all increased in size, switch to Mass Plan C.

If you followed Mass Plan B in the second month and:

  • Your biceps and thighs have increased in size or stayed the same and your waist has stayed the same or decreased in size, keep following Mass Plan B.
  • Your biceps, thighs and waist have all increased in size, switch to Mass Plan C.

If you followed Mass Plan C in the second month and:

  • Your biceps and thighs have increased in size but your waist has stayed the same, keep following Mass Plan C.
  • Your biceps and thighs have increased in size or stayed the same but your waist has decreased, switch back to Mass Plan A.

Mass Plan A

TOTALS: 3,731 calories, 359 g protein, 380 g carbs, 86 g fat

BEFORE BREAKFAST
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 medium banana

BREAKFAST
3 whole eggs + 3 egg whites
2 cups cooked oatmeal

MORNING SNACK
8 oz. low-fat cottage cheese + 1 cup sliced pineapple
6 whole-wheat crackers + 1 Tbsp. peanut butter

LUNCH
8 oz. turkey deli meat
4 slices whole-wheat bread (make sandwiches; feel free to add low-fat mayo and/or mustard)
2 cups green salad + 2 Tbsp. low-fat balsamic vinaigrette

PREWORKOUT SNACK
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 large apple

POSTWORKOUT SNACK
2 scoops whey protein +
1 scoop casein protein (mix in water)
1 medium plain bagel + 2 Tbsp. jelly

DINNER
8 oz. top sirloin
1 large sweet potato
1 cup chopped broccoli
2 cups green salad +2 Tbsp. salad dressing (olive oil and vinegar)

NIGHTTIME SNACK
1 oz. English walnuts
2 scoops casein protein (mix in water)

Mass Plan B

TOTALS: 4,017 calories, 386 g protein, 415 g carbs, 90 g fat

This meal plan increases your caloric intake to just more than 22 per pound of bodyweight, or slightly more than 4,000 for the day. Protein goes up to a little more than 2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day, while carbs peak at just more than 2.25 grams per pound. Fat stays the same at about 0.5 gram per pound. Most of these gains can be accomplished by adding an extra scoop of whey to your before-breakfast meal, a few extra whole-wheat crackers to your midday snack and a cup of cooked oatmeal to your bedtime meal. The extra calories from the protein and carbs will keep you growing in the next month. 

BEFORE BREAKFAST
2 scoops whey protein (mix in water)
1 medium banana

BREAKFAST
3 whole eggs + 3 egg whites
2 cups cooked oatmeal

MORNING SNACK
8 oz. low-fat cottage cheese + 1 cup sliced pineapple
9 whole-wheat crackers + 1 Tbsp. peanut butter

LUNCH
8 oz. turkey deli meat
4 slices whole-wheat bread(make sandwiches; feel free to add low-fat mayo and/or mustard)
2 cups green salad + 2 Tbsp. low-fat balsamic vinaigrette

PREWORKOUT SNACK
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 large apple

POSTWORKOUT SNACK
2 scoops whey protein + 1 scoop casein protein (mix in water)
1 medium plain bagel + 2 Tbsp. jelly

DINNER
8 oz. top sirloin
1 large sweet potato
1 cup chopped broccoli
2 cups green salad + 2 Tbsp. salad dressing (olive oil and vinegar)

NIGHTTIME SNACK
1 oz. English walnuts
1 cup cooked oatmeal
2 scoops casein protein (mix in water)

Mass Plan C

TOTALS: 3,246 calories, 345 g protein, 313 g carbs, 66 g fat

If your bodyfat levels tend to rise easily, then mass plan C will help lean you out without compromising your muscle gains. This plan drops your daily calorie count to about 18 per pound of bodyweight, while keeping protein at about 2 grams per pound and dropping carbs to about 1.75 grams per pound. Your daily fat numbers dip below 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight. Removing some bread from your lunchtime meal, cutting out carbs at dinner and dropping the walnuts before bed can achieve these reductions. 

BEFORE BREAKFAST
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 medium banana

BREAKFAST
3 whole eggs + 3 egg whites
2 cups cooked oatmeal

MORNING SNACK
8 oz. low-fat cottage cheese + 1 cup sliced pineapple
6 whole-wheat crackers +1 Tbsp. peanut butter

LUNCH
8 oz. turkey deli meat
2 slices whole-wheat bread (make sandwich; feel free to add low-fat mayo and/or mustard)
2 cups green salad + 2 Tbsp. low-fat balsamic vinaigrette

PREWORKOUT SNACK
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 large apple

POSTWORKOUT SNACK
2 scoops whey protein + 1 scoop casein protein (mix in water)
1 medium plain bagel + 2 Tbsp. jelly

DINNER
8 oz. top sirloin
1 cup chopped broccoli
2 cups green salad + 2 Tbsp. salad dressing (olive oil and vinegar)

NIGHTTIME SNACK
2 scoops casein protein (mix in water)

Rest Day Meal Plan

TOTALS: 2,941 calories, 303 g protein, 172 g carbs, 113 g fat

BEFORE BREAKFAST
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 medium banana

BREAKFAST
3 whole eggs + 3 egg whites
1 cup cooked oatmeal

LATE-MORNING SNACK
1 scoop whey protein (mix in water)
1 cup cooked oatmeal

LUNCH
1 can white tuna + 1⁄2 cup cottage cheese
2 cups green salad + 1 Tbsp. salad dressing (olive oil and vinegar) 1⁄2 cup granola

MIDDAY SNACK
1 scoop whey protein + 1 scoop casein protein (mix in water)
1 oz. mixed nuts

DINNER
9 oz. salmon
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups green salad + 1⁄2 avocado + 1 Tbsp. salad dressing olive oil and vinegar)

NIGHTTIME SNACK
2 scoops casein protein (mix in water)

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