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If you are seriously involved with weight training, bodybuilding, or any athletic endeavor involving muscle mass and strength, then you surely have pondered the question “How do I gain the most size in the least amount of time?”
The first and most commonly practiced approach is to “bulk up“ by eating any and everything you can get your hands on, with, of course, a priority on protein. But dietary fat and carbohydrate control? Forget about it! This approach could be extremely effective for an ectomorph somatotype with a blazing metabolism and forgiving insulin sensitivity. However, for the mesomorph and especially, the endomorph somatotype, this method could be a complete detriment to their goals.
POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS
From previous heavy off-season weight-gain phases:
The second protocol for size would be a slow and gradual approach involving “dieting” all year long, staying lean, and in a single-digit body-fat range. This involves crunching caloric values, macronutrient values, and constant manipulation to your nutrition and training regimen. Usually the folks who can’t stand losing their abdominal muscles and sharp facial features utilize this approach, which is effective, but will not truly maximize their muscle mass potential.
The third approach to building lean muscle mass is what I refer to as “the decondition to condition” method. This train of thought requires one to dramatically reduce weight training to two to three times a week. Weight training should involve minimal free weights and place an emphasis on safer machine and cable movements for joint and ligament healing and rejuvenation. You want to keep the muscles stimulated, but far from overloaded and severely broken down. You will also need to reduce your protein and food intake, and consume only small, infrequent meals. Discontinue all muscle building supplementation to get your body flushed out and cleansed. One would follow this deconditioning phase for two months or longer, depending on what your goals and lifestyle permit for properly executing the next phase. This practice primes your body for a huge growth spurt when you “fip the switch” and do the opposite approach.
When making the switch to the “conditioning phase” or muscle growth period, the trainee would begin weight training again, meaning four to six times a week. Begin consuming copious amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids to induce anabolism. Begin a supplementation plan and regimented sleep schedule to ensure recovery is optimized. This method should allow a person to do the “impossible” and gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously if the nutrition is strict with smart food choices, training is brutally intense, and no deviations manifest. Of course, you will be gaining back lost size from the layoff, but often times you will supersede your previous size with a lower body-fat percentage.
This sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Well…it’s not quite that easy. The key to making this protocol work for you is having substantial muscle mass from previous “bulking phases,” where you have already been through the rigors of excessive, gluttonous eating, and performed basic, heavy exercises to have put on solid size, setting the stage for your physical foundation of muscle mass. After reaching ultimate size, you can implement the unorthodox protocol of deconditioning and shrinking in size, then flling back out with lean muscle mass gains.
Every individual will differ in how they respond to each method of gaining muscle mass. Listen to your body, and keep records of how each approach works. If you get blood work done and can ensure your health is not in danger, forcing extreme caloric intake is probably the fastest way to accrue appreciable muscle mass.