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Truth be told, with 20 years of experience and a solid university background, even I lack the ability to peer into some sort of dietary crystal ball and devise an eating plan that promises nonstop results. Problem is, the body is always changing, and what works straight out of the gate for a few weeks may end up causing you to gain unwanted body fat thereafter. The only way to truly put together a mass-gaining plan that works is not to rigidly plan anything, but rather to continually re-evaluate yourself to ensure that what you’re actually gaining is muscle, not bodyfat. Indeed, trial and error is your best bet.
That’s the type of strategy Jay has always used. From the time he won the Teenage Nationals 15 years ago to his more recent victories, he has always been one to analyze, “Am I gaining muscle or fat?” It’s the million-dollar question for many, and one I’ll clear up for you right here and now.
Bottom line, as long as you’re gaining more muscle than bodyfat, you’re headed in the right direction. That’s important, because many are under the impression that it’s possible to gain 100% pure fat-free muscle. Good luck.
In the real world, you’ll always add some bodyfat with muscle, and that’s okay. Here’s why: Think about body composition, your muscle:fat ratio. If you gain 1 pound of fat and 2 pounds of muscle, you’ve actually become leaner. Yet if you add 3 pounds of fat over six weeks without adding muscle along with it, you’re going in the wrong direction. But if you gained 3 pounds of muscle with that 3 pounds of fat, you’re even. Now, if you gain 4, 5 or even 6 pounds of muscle with that 3 pounds of fat, you’ll likely appear both bigger, since you’ve added muscle, and leaner, since you added more muscle than bodyfat. In this case, your muscle:fat ratio has shifted to the positive, the ultimate goal in any mass-gain diet.
What to eat is important, but before mapping out a diet plan, you must know how to measure your progress so you can decide one of two things along the way: 1) whether to stay the course because you are, in fact, adding more muscle than bodyfat, or 2) switch gears because you’re adding equal amounts of fat and muscle, or worse, more fat than muscle.
Here’s where two tools come into play. The first is the bathroom scale. If you’re lean, you should see the numbers increase. If they don’t, you aren’t eating enough protein and calories to push up your muscle weight. The second tool is a skin caliper to measure your bodyfat percentage. This will tell you how much of your weight is fat and how much is muscle mass. What you’re looking for here is a decreasing bodyfat percentage, even if only slightly; any change in the negative direction is promising. Don’t try to use the caliper by yourself or have just anyone take your measurements; you’ll need to find a professional, either at your gym or in another health and wellness-type setting, who has experience administering such bodyfat tests.
Use both the scale and caliper before starting your mass-gaining diet to establish a starting point, then continue to use them on a weekly basis to chart your progress, or lack thereof, and make changes to your diet where necessary.
If your weight on the scale is increasing and your bodyfat percentage is decreasing, you’re gaining muscle mass vs. fat. Stay the course and continue to do what you’re doing diet-wise. If you’re gaining considerably more muscle than fat, consider eating even more. If, on the other hand, you’re gaining more fat than muscle, you’ll have to make an adjustment immediately. Chances are you’re eating too many carbs; more on that in a moment.
So how does a guy like Jay do it? With 15 years of contest dieting under his belt, he’ll jump on the scale and if it goes up, he’ll continue doing what he’s doing. If it doesn’t go up, he’ll increase his carbs and, to a lesser degree, his protein consumption. Bodyfat and skin calipers? This pro doesn’t need ’em. He has enough experience to look in the mirror and determine if he’s adding fat or not. But then again, he was Mr. Olympia and you weren’t. So stick with a skinfold caliper (at least for now) to pinpoint your bodyfat level.
After you step on the scale and have your bodyfat percentage measured, follow the simple dietary guidelines listed earlier and train as you normally would (assuming you hit the gym regularly). Do this for 2-3 weeks, then retake your bodyweight and bodyfat measurements. Write down these numbers and, depending on your scenario, proceed as follows.
The point is, no one really knows how your body will react and respond, which is why you have to continually measure your progress and change your diet accordingly. Come to think of it, the best person to devise a mass-gain diet for you is you.
In this diet, you’ll set aside all mathematical calculations – there’s no recording every last gram of carbs, protein and fat or counting calories. Instead, keep it simple:
Start off eating seven meals a day, with carbs and protein at each meal. Protein-wise, you’ll need to consume roughly 1.5-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Eat one of the following protein sources at each meal (based on a 160-200-pound individual).
As for carbs, keep them coming all day, spread more or less evenly over six meals. Pick one of the following at each meal:
Each meal will be a combination of one serving of protein that nets you about 40 grams and one serving of a carbohydrate source that gives you about 40-50 grams, as listed above. For example, for dinner you might have a 6-ounce chicken breast with a large sweet potato or a cup of rice. The only exception is your immediate postworkout meal. Here, you’ll double up on carbs, so instead of 1 cup of rice, you’ll have 2 cups. The reason for the larger post-training meal is that the body needs the additional protein and carbs to kick-start muscle recovery, growth and repair. If you eat too little here, you shortchange your progress. And don’t turn away from every form of fat. Healthy fats, such as those in eggs, avocadoes, nuts and fatty fish, will help you stay lean, recover from workouts and put on quality muscle mass.
Here’s a basic plan to get the 160-200-pounder started. You can switch the foods around to various meals depending on your personal preferences, but this should serve as the basis of your mass-gaining diet. Every week or so, step on the scale and get your bodyfat measured by a professional. Then alter your portion sizes accordingly, based on the “quick fixes” guidelines below.
Meal 1 – Breakfast
4 whole eggs and 4 egg whites 1,3
2 cups cooked oatmeal 1,2
Meal 2 – Snack
6 oz. canned tuna 3
3 slices whole-wheat bread 3
1 Tbsp. fat-free mayo
Meal 3 – Lunch
7 oz. lean ground beef 3
1 cup cooked pasta
1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
1 cup sliced zucchini
Meal 4 – Preworkout
2 scoops whey protein powder with water 3
2 cups cooked oatmeal 3
Meal 5 – Postworkout
2 scoops whey protein powder with water 1,3
1 cup rice 1,3
Meal 6 – Dinner
6 oz. chicken breast 3
1 large sweet potato 2,4
1 cup broccoli
Meal 7 – Bedtime
1/2 cups fat-free cottage cheese 3
1 cup cooked pasta 2,4
1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
DAILY TOTALS: 3,769 calories, 363 g protein, 433 g carbs, 69 g fat
1 Scenario 2: You’re not gaining weight. Eat twice the amount of carbs and 1.5 times as much protein at two of your meals during the day.
2 Scenario 3: You’re gaining weight, but it’s as much fat as it is muscle. Eliminate carbs at your last two meals of the day, excluding your postworkout meal.
3 Scenario 4: You’re gaining weight and losing bodyfat. Follow the directions in Scenario 2 above at every meal.
4 Scenario 5: You did fine at first, but now your bodyfat has increased. Halve your carbs at your final two meals. If your bodyfat falls in two weeks, increase your carbs.