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Competitive bodybuilding nutrition plans are typically divided into two distinct phases: off-season mass-gaining diets and pre-contest cutting diets. But what if you don’t want to alternate the two eating strategies because competing onstage is not your immediate goal? In other words, you want one plan that combines the best of both worlds so you can look as large and lean as you can year-round. That’s what the 10 tips on the proceeding pages will do.

Learning to work with your body type is a key component in keeping your metabolism in an optimal muscle-building state. On our plan, hardgainers with fast metabolisms will find that they can consume foods, many higher in fat, that will help them achieve their goals. Those with metabolisms that are not quite so fast will find tips to get their engines revving so they can gain muscle without adding extra body fat.

A COMPLETE DIET BENEFITS HEALTH AND MUSCLE GROWTH.

 GET STARTED 

Here’s a rundown of the three basic body types

ECTOMORPH: You are naturally lean, and you find it challenging to add muscle.

What to do: “You need to eat, eat, eat,” says Jonathan Mike, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., N.S.C.A.-C.P.T., U.S.A.W. The best strategy is to increase total calorie consumption, emphasizing slow-digesting carbs, healthy fats, and protein. “Good choices of complex [slow-digesting] carbs are brown rice, brown pasta, bagels, yams, and sweet potatoes,” Mike says.

MESOMORPH: You have an athletic build, and you add muscle mass naturally. But you also add a moderate amount of body fat as you grow.

What to do: “This is where things get tricky,” Mike says. “Guys in this category need to assess their resting metabolic rate [RMR] to determine how many calories they need for basic function.” (See the “Calculate Your RMR” sidebar on the next page to learn how to do this.) “In addition,” Mike says, “be careful not to consume a large amount of sugary foods or drinks, or fried foods, etc., because these increase not only insulin release but unfavorable health markers when consumed often and may negatively impact your ability to burn body fat.” Scheduled cheat meals (one about every three days or so) are OK, Mike says. But the bulk of your nutrition intake should come from wholesome foods: relatively lean meats, vegetables, and complex carbs.

ENDOMORPH: You add weight readily, but much of it is body fat. Your body type can benefit most by boosting your metabolic rate and using stored fat to help fuel muscle growth.

What to do: Overhaul your program, integrating the tips on our list that you currently aren’t following. “Your body type allows you to boost metabolic rate to dramatically improve your year-round appearance,” Mike says. You can reduce calories without going on a rigorous diet. “Bump your protein and healthy fats, and pay attention to your RMR to reduce body fat.”

 

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DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CALORIES. YOU CAN’T BUILD MUSCLE WITHOUT AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF DAILY CALORIES.

 LEARN TO BURN 

The total number of calories you burn every day is called your total energy expenditure (TEE), and it is separated into two parts:

1. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which accounts for about 60% of daily caloric expenditure. These are the calories your body burns just for normal physiological processes.

2. The other 40% of calories burned are due to the thermic effect, the heat and energy released in reaction to exercise and normal physical activity, as well as the thermic effect of consuming food. “Digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients account for about 5–10% of TEE,” Jonathan Mike says. That means your workouts and other physical expenditures account for about 30% of the total number of calories you burn every day. So here’s the good news: You burn more calories from your RMR than you do from exercise every day. Many of our tips help you boost this significant aspect of calorie burning without increasing the work you need to perform during training sessions. In addition, up to another 10% of calories are burned through processing the foods you consume. Of course, we also include a couple of exercise tips to help you increase this important aspect of TEE and boost your metabolic rate.

 REV IT UP 

The 10 strategies on these pages will help you boost metabolism. They also have a couple of other benefits important to bodybuilders:

1. They spare muscle tissue, often broken down while dieting.

2. They may even support muscle building while you’re burning body fat.

 CALCULATE YOUR RMR 

“The Mifflin-St Jeor [1990] equation is the most accurate way to calculate your RMR,” Jonathan Mike says.

1. Multiply your body weight (in pounds) by 4.54.

2. Multiply your height (in inches) by 2.54.

3. Multiply your age by 5.

4. Men: Add the first two numbers and subtract the third. Then add 5. Women: Add the first two numbers and then subtract the third. Then subtract another 161 from this total.

Here’s an example for a 5'10", 25-year-old male bodybuilder who weighs 200 pounds:

1. 200 x 4.54 = 908 2. 70 x 2.54 = 178

3. 25 x 5 = 125 4. 961 + 5 = 966

So the equation becomes 908 + 178 – 125 + 5 = 966

 

Click "NEXT PAGE" for the 10 metabolism boosting tips >>

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1. EAT SIX TO EIGHT MEALS PER DAY

There is a good reason that you see bodybuilders lugging around coolers filled with Tupperware containers of food: “Bodybuilders should consume multiple meals a day to support muscle mass,” Mike says. “Consuming frequent meals will help bodybuilders keep their bodies stocked with nutrients and calories.”

Action Plan: To take in six to eight meals each day, follow a daily schedule along these lines.

Wake-up protein shake: 7:30 a.m.

Breakfast: 8 a.m.

Midmorning snack: 10:30 a.m.

Lunch: 1 p.m.

Pre-workout shake: 4 p.m.

Post-workout shake: 5:30 p.m.

Dinner: 6:30 p.m.

Late-night snack: 10 p.m.

2. YOU CAN EAT MORE THAN YOU THINK

One side effect of decreasing calorie consumption too much is that it also slows the rate at which your body is able to burn body fat. In other words, decreasing calories alone often works against your goal of burning body fat.

“Many competitive strength athletes consume more than 5,000 calories a day,” Mike says. “This helps them grow and keeps their metabolisms running efficiently.”

Action Plan: Consume enough calories to fuel muscle growth without adding body fat. One of the best ways to do this is to keep meals fairly moderate in size but consume many of them throughout the day.

 

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3. DON'T SKIP YOUR CARDIO

“Perform cardio on an empty stomach or after consuming a protein shake—it’s preference,” Mike says. “A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed no evidence that a fasting cardio condition conferred any benefits for fat loss compared with one after consuming calories.”

Action Plan: Concentrate on your total energy consumption and expenditure and the macronutrient ratios (and foods) that work best for your body type.

4. EMPHASIZE HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT) CARDIO

Cardio performed with short, all-out bursts of activity is more effective for burning body fat than longer, steady-state forms. “Increased mitochondria size and number is something the CV system provides and has become a hallmark adaptation to HIIT,” Mike says. In other words, your body produces more of these tiny energy units within your cells when you perform HIIT. This helps elevate your metabolic rate for several hours after the session.

Action Plan: To take advantage of the benefits of HIIT, you need to include only three to five bursts in your cardio sessions (two to three days per week). Each interval should last only 60 to 90 seconds. After each round, take a longer recovery period (usually about two minutes or so) before performing your next HIIT session.

 

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5. EMPHASIZE PROTEIN

“Protein itself won’t increase your RMR,” Mike says, “but it does increase satiety, helps reduce body fat, and enhances recovery and sleep.” Protein also helps fuel muscle growth, and carrying more muscle mass will ultimately boost your RMR.

Action Plan: Emphasize getting in at least 30% of your calories from protein with foods like lean red meat, fish, whole eggs, and egg whites. In addition, protein supplements low in carbs and fats are immensely beneficial for meeting this requirement.

6. TAKE PROTEIN FIRST THING IN THE MORNING 

One of the best ways to prevent catabolism and protect your muscle mass (and thus your metabolic rate) is to take in protein as soon as you wake up.

Action Plan: “You can take in protein sources that are a mix of fastand slow-digesting proteins such as a whey-casein combo,” Mike says. “The whey will be absorbed quickly, and the casein will be taken in slowly, giving you the benefits of both absorption rates.”

 

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7. EMBRACE FIBER

“Fiber holds considerable water and provides bulk to food residues in the GI tract,” Mike says. “This makes you feel full for longer. Fiber also helps the body increase microflora, the beneficial bacteria that support health, muscle building, and fat loss.”

Action Plan: Consume at least 40 grams of fiber per day, from foods like beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and vegetables and fruits. Take these in at every meal except after workouts and with your wake-up shake, as dietary fiber slows down protein absorption.

8. GET IN PLENTY OF DIETARY FATS

Many bodybuilders think that they should reduce consumption of fats when they’re dieting because they equate dietary fats with unwanted fat in their midsections. Guess what? One of the best ways to reduce body fat is to consume dietary fats in lieu of carbs. That’s because dietary fats provide more satiety than carbs, which means that each calorie lasts longer. In addition, dietary fats cause far less insulin release than carbs do. Insulin is the hormone that drives blood sugar and tells the body which fuel source to use.

Action Plan: Of primary importance with healthy fats is to emphasize consumption of omega-3s, which are typically very low in the American diet. Good sources include salmon, sardines, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Saturated fats provide the raw materials for hormones such as testosterone. Good sources include lean beef, dairy products, and whole eggs.

 

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9. CONSUME FAST-DIGESTING CARBS AND PROTEINS AFTER WORKOUTS 

Taking in protein and carbs right after training will provide your body with the raw materials it needs to repair muscle tissue.

Action Plan: Take in about 25 to 50 grams of fast-digesting supplemental protein (whey) with no dietary fats or fiber. Add an equal amount of fast-digesting carbs. The best sources in descending order are dextrose, glucose, and sucrose (table sugar).

10. CHOOSE CARBS WISELY

Not all carbs are created equal. Sugar, bleached flour, and other fast-digesting carbs cause an insulin spike. Slow-digesting carbs cause less insulin to be released, allowing you to use the carb calories for energy expenditure over a greater length of time.

Action Plan: Eat these carbs at various meals throughout the day:

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