Beginner misconceptions aside, major muscle growth isn’t achieved solely by training. If your goal is to gain 10 pounds of muscle mass in just four short weeks, you need to eat a lot of protein, a lot of carbohydrates and even a good bit of fat. But it’s not as easy as eating anything and everything you can get your hands on.
Sure, going to McDonald’s and scarfing down two Big Macs, large fries and a Coke on a regular basis will help you gain weight—but it’ll be the wrong kind of weight. Building quality muscle minus a protruding belly takes a well-formed plan, one that has you eating the right types of foods at the correct times and in optimal proportions. It might seem complicated, but we’ll break it all down for you, nice and simple. Then all you’ll have to do is train, eat and track your results in the mirror.
Timing is Everything
Let’s talk specifics: You’ll need to consume at least 25 calories per pound of bodyweight per day, made up of at least 2 grams of protein, close to 3 grams of carbs and about 0.5 gram of fat per pound of bodyweight. That’s more than 4,500 calories, 360-plus grams of protein, nearly 540 grams of carbs and 90 grams of fat daily for a 180-pound bodybuilder.
For those wanting to pack on quality mass, the most critical window of nutritional opportunity is around the workout. This is when you can put down a plethora of protein and carbs without worrying about them turning into bodyfat since they’ll be used to grow muscle like at no other time of the day. Not only do we recommend the usual pre- and postworkout shakes, but we also advise drinking a shake during your workout to gain more mass. In addition to providing ample amounts of protein and carbs, each shake includes supplement ingredients such as creatine, glutamine and branched-chain amino acids. The more the merrier, since they’ll all be used by your muscles to support recovery and growth.
Another key time for mass-gaining is the first few minutes after you wake up in the morning. Do you like to brush your teeth and shower first thing? Change that habit real quick by incorporating two breakfasts into your mornings—one as soon as you wake up and the second 30-60 minutes later.
In fact, those first few moments of the day can make or break your muscle-gaining efforts. Why? Your body uses liver glycogen for fuel overnight, and when those levels get low, your body then uses muscle protein for fuel. To stop this you need fast-digesting protein and carbs, so your first breakfast should include whey protein and a piece of fruit, white bread or Vitargo (an advanced carb supplement). The aminos from the whey will rapidly enter your bloodstream so your body can use them, not muscle, for fuel. The fast-digesting carbs will quickly restock your liver glycogen and signal your body to stop feeding off your muscle.
Right before bedtime is the day’s last important window of time in terms of bodybuilding nutrition. You’ll want a slow-digesting protein such as casein to provide a steady supply of amino acids to your muscles throughout the night to keep the body from catabolizing too much muscle while you sleep. Another option is cottage cheese, which is high in casein protein. Our meal plan combines the healthy fats from flaxseeds, walnuts, mixed nuts and peanut butter with the aforementioned protein sources at bedtime to further slow protein absorption.