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There was a time not so long ago that a bodybuilder in mass-gain mode resorted to a high-protein, high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet to increase muscle and add pounds. A common mantra was, “I’ll put on all the weight I can, then whittle away the fat later.”
Thankfully, we’ve come to understand the fallacy underlying that method. Getting big on a super high-calorie diet might result in some added muscle, but it will certainly pack on even more fat.
And face it, once the fat’s on, it’s much more difficult to take off.
Today’s bodybuilder is interested in not only the quickest, but also the smartest and healthiest way to add mass. FLEX, ever ready to serve, has answered this call for an efficient mass-gain strategy by constructing a program that will help you, the average reader, gain five solid pounds of muscle in five weeks, without an accompanying layer of lard around your middle.
What does it take to add one pound of muscle? One oft-cited standard has it that to gain a pound in a week, over the course of that week, you would have to take in 3,500 calories more than you burn via activity and normal metabolic processes.
That’s the measure of a pound of flesh, with its accompanying muscle and fat; a pound of pure muscle is a tougher nut to crack. Not only do you need calories above and beyond what you burn, but those extra calories must contain a higher percentage of protein to provide the raw materials for muscle growth, as well as carbohydrates for energy to train—and to fuel muscle building—during recovery periods. You’ll also need those calories at precise times throughout the day: if you don’t eat every three hours, your system could slip into a catabolic state, where muscle tissue is tapped for energy. Lastly, you need to train consistently to break down muscle tissue and initiate the chain of events that prompt them to come back a little stronger and a little bigger.
Before embarking on your journey to five new pounds of muscle, you need to plan for the trip, and you need to determine your specific bodytype to tweak the diet to your particular needs. With those pieces in place, you’ll be ready to follow through to the end without faltering.
As you probably know firsthand, a bodybuilder can be his own worst critic when it comes to assessing his appearance. It’s a constant pursuit of perfection, and part of it involves keeping a stern eye on the smallest details. To stick with this (or any) specific diet, such a mindset can come in handy. Turn this negative attribute into a positive, and engage in some forward thinking to fuel your motivation.
How? Setting a realistic short-term goal, such as completing the tasks laid out within this article, is an easy and forward-thinking way to stay focused and not become frustrated or give up. Make sure to never skip a meal or a workout, and that consistency will coalesce into results over time.
With such a positive mental outlook, you can settle in and attack your mass-gaining assignment aggressively. You have a deadline and a specific target: gaining five pounds of muscle in 35 days. Focusing with this goal and time period in mind should enable you to get the most out of your workouts. Now is not the time to hold back—push yourself to your absolute limits in your training, always aware that the finish line is within sight.
The diet detailed on the following pages is a mix of whole foods, including lean cuts of beef, skinless chicken and turkey breast, certain types of fish, some legumes, eggs and low- fat dairy. When following a strict meal plan such as this, variety helps you avoid ruts that lead to urges to cheat, and may help you dodge development plateaus caused by your body’s incredible ability to adapt.
Supplemental protein sources such as protein powders and weight-gain powders are included for the sake of convenience throughout the day and as a must around workout time. Typically, protein powders are high in protein and low in carbs, fats and calories; meal replacement powders strike a balance of carbs and protein.
Protein provides the building blocks for your body, and carbs give you the energy required to build new muscle and to work out while keeping all your systems humming. Lacking the proper kind and amount of carbs in your nutritional plan can result in disaster—your body will tire quickly and will strip your muscle tissue for energy. In this diet, we keep it simple, recommending basic foods such as rice, whole-wheat bread and fiber-rich vegetables, as well as fast-digesting carbs such as white breads and sports drinks after workouts.
Once you reach the five-week mark and marvel at your progress, remember that the base diet can be used year-round. Consider your ultimate goal (losing more fat or gaining more muscle), and then simply alter the food amounts—a little less, coupled with more cardio during training, to cut up, or a little more, coupled with hard-and-heavy weight training, for more muscle.
Now that you’re headed in the right direction, building a more muscular, leaner you is just a few weeks away.
The nutritional program outlined here is a one-week diet based on an ecto-mesomorph, who happens to be a 150-pound male of average build—i.e. skinny with a little bit of muscle. Included are two sample plans for meals on workout days and rest days. Spread your meals throughout the day, as suggested by the times given in the charts. Instructions included in the “Adapting the Program for You” section explain how to adjust this program to suit your own specific bodytype.
After a workout, it’s critical to get nutrients within 30 minutes.
Determine your bodytype. Science has observed three primary somatotypes, or varieties, of the human physique: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. Knowing which category you generally fall into will help you determine your metabolic makeup.
An ectomorph is usually a hardgainer—an individual of slight build and skeletal structure, possessing a very quick metabolism. An ectomorph carries little bodyfat coupled with a slight amount of muscle, and finds gaining weight difficult.
A mesomorph is usually the most athletic bodytype, possessing a naturally well-developed, muscular build. This person can radically alter his or her physique, gaining muscle or losing weight quickly with the help of a moderate-to-fast metabolism. This type is ideal for quickly building lean muscle mass.
An endomorph has a preponderance of bodyfat. This individual also has a characteristically slow metabolism, which, on a good note, leads to quickly adding muscle. The downside is a higher chance of acquiring more bodyfat while adding that muscle.
Some people might fall neatly into one of these three categories, but most individuals are a cross between two categories (such as an ecto-mesomorph or an endo-mesomorph). Honestly assess yourself and make the appropriate adjustments; if you don’t take this crucial step, the diet as it appears will not work optimally. The program as outlined, including the changes made from week to week, is based on an ecto-mesomorph bodytype. Here’s how to adapt it to your own bodytype.
Increase your protein an extra 10-20 grams at each meal. In addition, your carb and fat intake will need to be much higher. Start off with 20-30 g of carbs per meal. Fats can be increased to approximately 15 g per meal. Monitor your physique changes closely when radically altering your program. If these amounts turn out to be too much, back down to an amount at which you’re still making gains while remaining somewhat lean. The primary concern for this particular bodytype is to stay on a strict eating schedule—every 2 1⁄2-3 hours. Not staying on a rigid eating schedule and missing meals is the root of ectomorph weight-gain problems.
You’ll need to monitor your diet more strictly. If your weight falls in the range of 150-200 pounds, your protein levels should stay the same each meal. Carbohydrates will need to be lowered to 10-30 g per meal, and fats should stay under 6 g per meal. This particular bodytype will need to stay on the base diet for at least three weeks before indulging in free days.
Although the sample program has a 150-pound male in mind, the diet may also be adapted for a larger person. If you’re in the 200-250-pound range, the foods within the base diet will remain the same, although the amounts of protein, carbs and fats will increase. For example, your protein intake should go up by about 10-20 g per meal; carbohydrates, depending on your bodytype, can go up by about 10-20 g per meal for endomorphs and by about 20-30 g for ectomorphs and mesomorphs; fats should range around 9-15 g per meal.
Adhere to the base diet for the first two weeks of the program (with alterations based on your bodytype; see “Adapting the Program for You”). During this time, keep track of what changes your body goes through: Are you gaining weight or losing weight? Are you looking leaner or softer? Also jot down how you feel between meals: Are you still full when it’s time for your next meal, or are you hungry long before that point? This information will help you manipulate the diet in the following weeks.
For the last three weeks, tweak the base diet, depending on how you’re progressing. Changes to this program will vary for everyone—alterations should be made to suit your specific bodytype needs. Here are some situational examples.
If you’re quickly losing weight during weeks 1 and 2, and you’re extremely hungry more than 30 minutes before your next meal, increase your protein and carb intake, either with bigger portions of foods or by adding a protein and/or a carb food to some meals.
If you’re rapidly gaining weight and beginning to notice a softer appearance to your musculature, cut out some carbs while maintaining the same amounts of protein. Do this by reducing portion sizes of carb-rich foods, and/or cutting carbs from one or two meals per day. Reduce slowly—not drastically—and stop when your fast weight gain levels off.
If you’re making steady progress, implement the following changes to the base diet (these changes do not carry over week to week).
Week 3: Add 30-40 grams of carbs to meals 1, 2 and 3.
Week 4: Add 10-15 g of protein at meals 1-5. Also increase your carbs by 20 g in meals 1-4. Follow these changes on Monday through Thursday; follow the regular base diet on Friday and Saturday.
Week 5: Increase the carbs in meals 1-4 by 20-30 g.