Loaded barbell heavy weight GettyImages 740518737
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Pssst! Come here. C’mon . . .closer. We’ve got a secret for you — a diet secret that will allow you to add loads of sinewy mass to your physique, the way the pros do. In fact, it’s a secret all the pros already know and the one that, if you ever hope to get to their size, you need to know, too. The secret is . . . there ain’t no secret. Sorry if that disappoints you. But when it comes to eating for mass, there are no clandestine shortcuts or magical elixirs. You just need to eat foods that you’re already familiar with and you need to consume them in large quantities.

However, although there may not be any secrets to eating for size, there are rules — 10, to be exact. Know and live by these rules and you will gain the mass you want. And when we say live by them we mean live by them. Bodybuilding, after all, is a life- style, not a part-time hobby. You shouldn’t expect to grow following a diet only some of the time, any more than if you hit the weights only some of the time. It’s about a commitment to the body- building lifestyle that counts, which means 24/7/365 focus, discipline and drive. Remember: every time you eat a meal, you are bodybuilding. So, eat well and eat often.

Although individual results will vary, you can expect to gain in the neighborhood of five pounds per month, especially if you follow the training precepts set out in the Winter Mass Attack plan. For example, if your goal is about five pounds of quality muscle, stick with this plan for about a month; 10 pounds for two months, and so on. Now, read through our list of rules and then get yourself to the supermarket.


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Jay cutler eating rice_0


When it comes to packing on the pounds, it’s vital that you become a dedicated calorie counter. Regardless of whether the food you’re eating is in the form of protein, carbs or fat, your body first considers them for the fuel they provide to perform basic physiological functions, such as body temperature regulation, muscle repair and even the digestion of food.

If you’re a hardcore bodybuilder who trains at least an hour a day, your body will require 19-20 calories per pound of bodyweight on training days, and that’s just to maintain the muscle you have. You actually need to eat about two or three calories per pound of bodyweight more than this (21-23 calories) to gain mass. On rest days, you’ll need about 16-18 calories per pound of bodyweight to maintain your muscle mass. Sticking with that will ensure that you gain lean muscle without excess bodyfat on rest days.


Carbs are very important for packing on mass. They not only help drive up levels of the anabolic hormone insulin, but they also load your muscles with glycogen (the stored form of carbs), which is important for two major reasons.

First, glycogen keeps muscles big and full. Glycogen pulls water into muscle cells, which fills them up like water balloons. Second, muscle levels of glycogen are an important indicator of whether you have enough energy to build muscle or whether you need energy (by breaking down muscle protein) to fuel your body’s functions. When your muscles are full of glycogen, as happens during a high carb diet, your body has the energy needed to grow; when glycogen levels are low, the body breaks down muscle for use as fuel.

On workout days, shoot for about 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body-weight. On rest days, you won’t need as many carbs — slice your intake in half to 1-1.25 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight. For most meals, choose slow-digesting carbs such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and yams.


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Mr Olympia Brandon Curry holding a knife and fork for The Beginner Bodybuilder’s 4-Week Meal Plan
Per Bernal


No, we’re not suggesting you eat in excess to gain fat. But you must boost your fat intake when on a mass-gain plan. Athletes who eat higher-fat diets end up with higher testosterone levels. Testosterone is one of the most critical anabolic hormones when it comes to pushing muscle growth. Healthy fats, such as those found in salmon, walnuts, olive oil and peanut butter help joints to recover.

When you’re on the Winter Mass Attack plan, you should be training with heavier weights and greater intensity, which can stress your joints. Taking in plenty of healthy fats can help protect your joints and allow them to recover from heavy training. On training days, your fat intake should comprise at least 25% of your total daily calorie intake; on recovery days, move it up to about 35-40% of your total daily calorie intake.


Although this is rule number 4, it’s not fourth in importance. Usually, we put protein above carbs or fats on our lists, but we wanted to make sure you understood how important getting in ample carbs and healthy fat is for mass gain. For mass gaining, we ratchet up the protein intake to 2 g per pound of bodyweight on workout days and 1.5 g on rest days.

Now that we’ve made our point, taking in ample amounts of quality protein is just as critical for mass gain, if not more so. Of the three macronutrients, only protein builds muscle, plain and simple. Protein sources such as eggs, beef, chicken, fish and dairy products are your best bet, along with the addition of protein powder, when you just can’t take another bite. Get- ting protein from whey and casein shakes is a convenient way to boost your intake, and at certain times of day it’s the best source of protein for your needs (see rule 7).


Reaching for protein shake in bed


In the previous rules, we call for cutting back food intake on rest days. Calories drop by about two to three per pound of bodyweight and carbs are slashed in half. Even protein drops a bit (mostly due to the fact that you’re not drinking a pre- and post-workout shake).

You need to watch calories and carbs on rest days because your body requires less energy when it’s not working. Simple enough. If you ingest the same amount of calories and carbs on rest days as you do on workout days, you run the risk of gaining some fat with that newly developed muscle.

However, increase your fat intake on rest days, so your body doesn’t compensate for a perceived calorie deficit. If you focus on getting extra healthy fats (see rule number 3), you will not only help to keep bodyfat off, but will enhance joint recovery.


When you wake up in the morning, your body is in a catabolic state. In other words, your body is literally eating your muscle protein for fuel. To halt this process you need to eat, ASAP. There’s no time for showering or brushing your teeth. Head straight for the kitchen and don’t even think about eating whole foods — they take too long to digest. You need two things: the fastest-digesting protein and the fastest-digesting carb.

For protein, that means whey protein isolate, or whey protein hydrolysate, which is even faster-digesting than isolate. This will rapidly supply your body protein to use for energy, sparing your muscles from further breakdown. The amino acids from the whey that aren’t used for fuel will get to your muscle fibers and rebuild what was broken down at night, and that will put you in an anabolic state.

For fast-digesting carbs, the answer is waxy maize starch. Research shows that these carbs digest even faster than sugar. Getting carbs into your bloodstream fast is as important as protein for stopping the catabolic onslaught when you wake in the morning. With your liver glycogen totally depleted by your night’s fast, waxy maize starch will rapidly signal your body to stop cannibalizing itself. This is why we suggest you get in a liquid breakfast as soon as you wake, and then 30-60 minutes later, a whole-food meal — your “second” breakfast.


Mixing protein shake


Within 30 minutes before workouts, you need rapidly digesting protein such as whey. Research shows that quick digesting proteins like whey taken immediately before workouts maximize muscle protein synthesis. In addition, whey contains peptides (small protein fragments) that enhance blood flow to your muscles. This can increase delivery of nutrients and hormones to your muscles during workouts and enhance your muscle pump. 

Also consider adding some soy to your pre-workout shake. Not only is soy protein isolate fast-digesting, but research shows that genistein, a soy phytoestrogen, increases nitric oxide levels. And since soy is very rich in arginine, it is a great way to further boost blood flow to your muscles during the workout.

After workouts, whey protein is king. Research shows that whey protein taken immediately after workouts rapidly ramps up muscle protein synthesis and, as a result, muscle growth. The spike it causes in insulin levels not only helps to further boost protein synthesis, but also blunts cortisol levels. This catabolic hormone competes with the anabolic hormone testosterone and increases muscle breakdown. Blunting it keeps you in a more anabolic state and promotes faster recovery from the workout and better muscle growth.

You should also consider mixing some casein protein into your post-workout whey shake. Although casein is as slow digesting as whey is fast, it also has been found to boost protein synthesis after workouts. In fact, researchers from Baylor University (Waco, Texas) found that trained lifters who, for 10 weeks, took a post-workout shake that combined whey and casein protein gained significantly more muscle mass than those who took a shake sans the casein.


As stated in rule 2, for most meals you should select slow-burning carbs. This also pertains to the pre-workout meal. Research shows that when athletes eat slower-digesting carbs, they not only have more energy and less fatigue during exercise, but they burn more fat during training and experience less hunger throughout the day. Within 30 minutes of your workouts, eat slow-burning carbs, such as a piece of fruit, wholegrain bread or oatmeal, along with your protein shake.

The meal you have immediately after your workout, on the other hand, should consist mainly of fast-digesting carbs such as waxy maize starch. This will spike levels of the anabolic hormone insulin, which drives the carbs you eat into muscle cells, where they’ll be stored as glycogen to be used for your next workout. Insulin helps amino acids get into the muscle cells to build muscle protein. It’s also critical to the delivery of creatine to the muscles (see rule 10) and increases muscle protein synthesis, one of the major processes by which muscle fibers grow.

Normally, you want to keep insulin levels in check for a variety of health reasons, but immediately following a hard training session is one time when an insulin spike is desirable.


10 Rules to Eating for Mass


When you sleep, you’re actually fasting. As we mentioned in rule 6, when you have no food in your digestive tract, your body turns to your muscle fiber for protein (the amino acids from protein to be exact) to fuel your body. A slow digesting protein such as a casein protein shake or cottage cheese (also rich in casein protein) and healthy fats, such as walnuts, are your best choices just before bed. These foods help slow digestion and provide a steady supply of amino acids for fuel, thereby minimizing the body’s tendency to use muscle.

A protein shake containing micellar casein can take up to seven hours to digest. This means your body gets a slow and steady stream of amino acids through most of the night, preventing it from breaking down your muscles.


In addition to using whey protein, casein protein, soy protein and waxy maize starch, there are certain specialty supplements you need to take to ensure that you gain the mass you wish during this wintertime program.

  • Branched-chain amino acids: The BCAAs comprise the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, which happen to be the three most important amino acids for repairing and building of muscle tissue. Leucine is the most critical of the three, as research shows that this amino acid can turn on muscle protein synthesis by itself. It’s still best to take all three together though, as they work in synergy to provide a multitude of benefits that include muscle growth, increased energy during workouts, blunting of cortisol (a catabolic hormone that inhibits testosterone and increases muscle breakdown), and decreased delayed onset muscle soreness. Take 5-10 g of BCAAs with your first breakfast (protein shake), your pre-workout and your post-workout shakes and dinner.
  • Creatine: Research confirms that one of the most effective supplements you can use is creatine. Plain and simple, taking creatine can help you gain upward of 10 pounds of lean muscle and boost your strength in the gym by at least 10%. Go with 3-5 g of creatine with your pre- and post-workout shakes.
  • Beta-alanine: In the body, the amino acid beta-alanine is combined with the amino acid histidine to form carnosine. Research confirms that when muscles have higher levels of carnosine, they have more strength and endurance, and that athletes taking beta-alanine increase muscle strength significantly, allowing for heavier lifting and, thus, more muscle growth.  New research indicates that when trained subjects take beta-alanine in addition to creatine, they gain more muscle (and simultaneously lose some bodyfat, as well) as compared to those taking just creatine alone. Take 1-2 g of beta-alanine or carnosine with your pre- and post-workout shakes.
  • Carnitine: Once considered just a fat-loss supplement, carnitine is now known as an anabolic supplement, as well. That’s because it helps to enhance muscle growth through a number of mechanisms. For one, carnitine increases testosterone levels after workouts, as well as the number of testosterone receptors inside muscle cells, which allows more testosterone to stimulate more muscle growth. In addition, carnitine supplements have been found to increase the ability of insulin-like growth factor-I to stimulate muscle growth. If that’s not enough, it can also increase blood flow, which means it provides similar benefits to NO boosters. Take 1-3 g of carnitine with your first breakfast (protein shake), pre-workout shake, post-workout shake and dinner. – FLEX