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WHAT DO YOU EAT TO GET BIG, PUMPED ARMS? FOLLOWING OUR TRAINING PROGRAM WILL PUT you in the fast lane to muscle growth, but there’s one major speed bump you must navigate: your nutrition. Knowing what to eat and how to supplement is where the rubber meets the road. Make the right choices and you’ll get to your destination in no time. Go off the beaten path and you become, well, roadkill. The rules are simple: It takes about 10 pounds of mass gain to add an inch to your arms. But you can’t take the scenic route and just scarf down anything, or that tire you see will be the spare around your waist. You want to gain muscle minus the bodyfat by filling your tank with high-octane fuel that gives you just enough calories to boost muscle growth, but not so many that you make gains in all the wrong areas. The two-month dietary road map presented here steers you in the right direction by accounting for macronutrient profiles based on your bodyweight, the best supplements to fast-track gains and a sample daily meal plan.
Before you start, grab a tape measure and take the following measurements: left and right arms relaxed, left and right arms flexed, and your waist (just over the top of your belly button). Write down those numbers where you can refer back to them in a month. The arm size, especially the flexed measurement, will represent your progress in the mass department. Your waist size will signify changes in bodyfat and help you finetune your diet.
The sample diet provided (see “Huge Arms Sample Meal Plan, Month 1”) is for a typical 180-pound bodybuilder. If you’re within 20 pounds of this on either side of the scale, the sample diet menus will work fine for you; if your weight is off by more than that, simply adjust the menus with per-pound standards we provide for calories, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fat.
>> Calories. Your No. 1 goal is to eat enough so that you add muscle, not burn it. To gain mass, you need to get in at least 20 calories per pound of bodyweight while following this program. For the 180-pound male, that equates to a minimum of about 3,600 calories per day.
>> Protein. Protein consumption is paramount for gaining muscle on your arms, or anywhere for that matter. Protein is the most critical nutrient for the bodybuilder as muscle is literally built from individual amino acids. When you eat a steak or chicken breast, you’re eating muscle that your body breaks down into smaller protein chains and finally to individual aminos. They then travel to your muscles where they’re rejoined like bricks to build up your muscles.
To ensure arm growth, you’ll need a minimum of 1 gram and up to about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. For the 180-pound bodybuilder, that comes out to about 180-270 grams of protein daily. Good sources include not only animal muscle tissue such as lean beef, chicken and turkey breast but also fish and dairy sources including low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat cheese and low-fat yogurt. Consuming whey protein right before and after your workouts will also put the pedal to the metal for arm growth.
>> Carbs. While protein is essential for muscle growth, carbohydrates provide the energy that fuels your workouts. If you want massive arms, you have to make sure they’re crammed full of muscle glycogen, the body’s stored form of carbohydrate. Glycogen is not only important for fueling the intense workouts you’ll do as part of this highintensity arm program but it literally keeps your muscles full because it draws water into the muscle tissue.
To ensure you maximize your muscle glycogen levels, get at least 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. That’s at least 360 grams of carbs daily for the 180-pounder. The majority of those carbs should be of the slowdigesting variety such as oatmeal, whole grains, sweet potatoes and fruits and vegetables, which will top off muscle glycogen levels without adding bodyfat. The one time you don’t want slow-digesting carbs is with your postworkout meal(s). Here you should instead consume fast-digesting carbs such as white bread, plain bagels, white rice cakes or a sports drink that can be drawn into glycogen-depleted muscle cells while spiking insulin.
>> Fat. One common but important misconception is the idea that to gain muscle mass and minimize bodyfat you need to keep fat intake low. Don’t make that mistake. You need dietary fat, especially healthy omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, because they’re important for maintaining testosterone levels, a critical hormone directly connected to muscle growth. The healthy fats are also important to aid joint recovery, which is critical when training with heavy loads and gut-wrenching intensity.
Sore joints and low testosterone levels will put you in the slow lane to muscle growth, so be sure to get plenty of healthy fats from sources such as fatty fish (salmon and trout), nuts, olive oil, avocados and peanut butter. You should consume 0.5-0.7 gram of fat per pound of bodyweight (90-125 grams for the 180-pound male) daily.
After your first four weeks on this plan, reassess your diet and your progress. Get out the tape measure and answer these two questions:
1) Have your arms increased in size by at least a half-inch when flexed? 2) Has your waist measurement stayed the same or decreased?
If the answer is “yes” to both questions, maintain the Month 1 diet for the rest of the program. If you answered “yes” to question 1 but “no” to question 2, cut back on the calories by reducing some carbs and fat. In this case, follow Month 2/Plan A for the last four weeks. This alternate nutritional program drops you down to about 17 calories per pound of bodyweight per day (or about 3,000 calories for the 180- pounder, a reduction of about 600 calories daily). It’s important that you keep your protein intake pretty steady but instead drop carbs to about 1.7 grams per pound of bodyweight (or just over 300 grams for the 180-pounder) and trim dietary fat to about 0.4 gram per pound of bodyweight (or about 75 grams per day for the 180-pounder).
If you answered “no” to question 1 but “yes” to question 2, you need to increase your calories slightly. In this case, follow Month 2/Plan B for the last four weeks. This diet plan increases calories to about 22 per pound of bodyweight daily (that’s about 4,000 calories each day for the 180-pounder), which is accomplished by keeping protein and fat fairly steady but boosting carbs to around 2.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (about 450 grams per day for the 180-pounder).
Hopefully you didn’t answer “no” to both questions. If you did, however, you need to reduce your calories somewhat and honestly analyze how you’re following both the nutritional and training portions of the program. Follow Month 2/Plan A, as well as the Month 2 supplement plan, and then redouble your training efforts, making sure you’re hitting the gym with full intensity, especially on arm days. Follow the diet and supplement plans to a T – veering off course is no way to follow a road map.
HUGE ARMS SUPPLEMENTS
TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE GETTING THE NUTRIENTS YOU NEED TO GET ON THE MUSCLE-GROWTH AUTOBAHN, INCLUDE THESE SUPPLEMENTS EACH MONTH
MONTH 1: Start with these basics to maximize arm growth throughout the first month.
>> Whey Protein: Take immediately before and after workouts to quickly deliver amino-acid building blocks to your muscles to maximize growth. Whole foods won’t cut it here because they’re slower to digest. Whey protein powder is one of the highest-quality proteins you can find and the fastestdigesting protein you can get. Go with 20 grams (about 1 scoop) within the 30-minute window before your workout and 40 grams (about two scoops) within the 30-minute window immediately afterward. Using 1-2 scoops also makes a great snack between meals.
>> Casein Protein: Whereas whey protein digests quickly, casein doesn’t – particularly good when you have to go many hours without eating. Despite eating 7-8 small meals per day on this diet, you’re still going without food when you sleep. In fact, it’s so long that your body breaks down your muscle fibers during the night to fuel your brain and the rest of your nervous system. Taking a casein protein shake (cottage cheese will have a similar effect) before bed provides your body with amino acids to use as fuel, which prevents the breakdown of muscle. The aminos that aren’t used for fuel go to your muscles to encourage growth while you sleep. Go with 20-40 grams of casein protein (1-2 scoops) mixed with water (not juice) immediately before bed.
>> Creatine: You’ve heard before that creatine increases muscle mass and strength, but you may not realize it works by multiple mechanisms. Creatine pulls more water into the muscle cells, making them much fuller. New research shows it can also enhance the production of critical growth factors that directly stimulate muscle growth. Get in 3-5 grams with your pre- and postworkout shakes, as well as one dose with breakfast on your rest days.
>> Arginine: This amino acid is the main component in nitric oxide (NO) boosters, because it’s readily converted in the body to NO. Taking an NO booster that provides at least 3 grams of arginine 30-60 minutes before workouts without food will increase NO levels and blood flow to muscles. This boosts your muscle pump, making your arms fuller as well as delivering more nutrients, hormones and oxygen to your muscles, giving them more energy during your workout and aid recovery and growth afterward. Taking a dose before breakfast will help keep NO levels up during the day. Another dose at night can enhance growth-hormone levels. An NO booster with caffeine in the morning is a great pick-me-up; the same combo also works well preworkout. Look for an arginine supplement without added caffeine at bedtime, such as straight-up L-arginine, and try for 5-9 grams.
>> Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): This group of aminos includes leucine, isoleucine and valine. Of the three, leucine appears to be the most critical – research concludes it can stimulate protein synthesis (the process in which muscle cells build up muscle protein and therefore growth). Yet the three work even better together to provide a host of benefits: They further stimulate protein synthesis, driving muscle growth and boosting the release of insulin. This anabolic hormone stimulates muscle growth and drives nutrients such as amino acids, glucose (for restoring muscle glycogen after workouts) and creatine into muscle cells. Taking BCAAs after exercise blunts levels of cortisol, a catabolic hormone that blocks testosterone’s anabolic effects and leads to increased muscle breakdown. Go with 3-5 grams of BCAAs with breakfast and with your pre- and postworkout shakes.
MONTH 2: It’s time to kick it up a notch with your supplement regimen. Change the dosing of your Month 1 supplements as follows and add two specialty supplements to maximize the muscle-building effect.
>> Whey Protein: Continue using whey pre- and postworkout, as well as a between-meals snack.
>> Casein: Stick with 1-2 scoops of casein before bed. If your arms aren’t growing as fast as you’d like after one month, consider adding one scoop of casein to your postworkout shake, so that you’re taking one scoop each of whey and casein instead of two scoops of whey. One study found that subjects who took whey plus casein protein after workouts gained more muscle than those who used just whey protein in their postworkout shakes.
>> Arginine: Use the same dose for Month 2 unless your arm growth is on the slow side. If so, consider boosting each dose beyond 5 grams.
>> BCAAs: During these final four weeks, up each dose of BCAAs to 5-10 grams.
>> Beta-ecdysterone: This plant phytochemical is a powerful anabolic supplement that significantly boosts protein synthesis. Taking it in the final four weeks of the Big Arms program can net you some extra skin-stretching size on your bi’s and tri’s. For beta-ecdysterone to be effective for muscle growth, you need to take a high enough dose multiple times daily: about 100 mg 3-6 times per day with meals.
>> Forskolin: This is an active component of the plant coleus forskohlii, which can both boost fat-burning and increase testosterone levels. Research has shown that forskolin activates the enzyme adenylate cyclase, which then triggers numerous processes in the body such as fat loss and testosterone production. In fact, a recent study showed that subjects taking forskolin for 12 weeks significantly decreased bodyfat and increased T levels. Taking a coleus forskohlii supplement standardized for 20-50 mg of forskolin 2-3 times per day can provide a dual effect – boosting your testosterone levels to aid arm growth and enhancing fat loss to keep your arms big and chiseled. M&F