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3 Months to Mass

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

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D. & Mark Thorpe

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 plans - or 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.

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

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