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The dietary needs of individuals varies with age and their unique bodily chemistry. This article will thus be broken down into two distinct sections, one for 'young adults' and one for 'adults'. Young adults will be defined as males ages 15-25, and adults will be defined as males age 26 and up.
It is often said in bodybuilding circles that diet accounts for 80% plus of one's success. This has to be one of bodybuilding's biggest myths due to how people misunderstand the statement. Of course, like most myths, there is an element of truth to it, but the core message which most people get out of it is inaccurate. The vast majority of people understand this message to mean that if they want to build mass successfully they must consume foods which are bland, low in fat, and high in protein. They think they must follow the typical bodybuilding staple diet of plain chicken breasts, rice, plain tuna, and some vegetables. They feel they must eat 'clean'.
The truth is that if you are natural (and you should be) and want to get big, you need to simply eat more. You also need to train properly. Proper training and the ingestion of sufficient total calories (with sufficient protein) are what will make you huge, not following some overly strict typical bodybuilding diet.
If you doubt the veracity of the above statement do the following experiment. For two months eat the prototypical perfect bodybuilding diet and follow a 6 day per week split routine which involves hitting each body part twice per week with 20 sets per body part. I am willing to bet you won't gain an ounce of muscle and you just might lose some. Now, try something else, eat a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make sure to have some fries with that and wash it all down with a soda. Follow a routine which hits each body part twice per week with 2 sets taken to failure using the major compound movements (bench presses, dips, rows, squats, and deadlifts). Do that for two months and I am willing to bet you will gain 10-15 lbs of mass, most of that being solid muscle. Now, do I recommend such a diet for gaining mass, heck no, but it makes the point that proper training is as important as your diet in gaining size and getting huge!
If size and strength are your goals, then what you need is a boatload of nutrient rich calories combined with proper training. I am sure a lot of you consider yourselves to be 'hard gainers'. You may have been training for several years only to see yourself progress minimally in size and strength. From reading on the net and in magazines you have determined you are a \hard gainer' and the only way for you to get huge is to take steroids. For lack of a better word, that is pure bullshit! The vast majority of those who consider themselves to be hard-gainers are merely under-eaters and over-trainers. I know it is fashionable these days to say there is no such thing as over-training. Unfortunately, there is such a phenomena and anyone who truly understands the human body realizes this. Have you ever heard the term 'worked to death'? It can really happen. You can literally kill yourself if you performed enough hard work without sufficient rest and nutrition. It happened in antiquity to millions of slaves. The body only has a given tolerance for work. Yes, you can increase your body's capacity to withstand and even benefit from hard work, but only to a limited degree. This ability to increase work capacity is far outstripped by the body's ability to increase strength output. Training with loads which are close to one's single repetition maximum ('max') taken to failure (the inability to complete a repetition), or even close to failure, is incredibly stressful to the body. Your ability to benefit from such training in the form of increased strength and size is very limited and you can only train yourself to withstand a relatively small amount of such work. This is why low volume training is a necessity for the natural trainee seeking to add maximum size and strength.
Let's get back to diet for a moment. I stated that you need a 'boatload' of calories to get huge. What exactly is a boatload of calories? Let me first relay a personal story and then I will setup some specific guidelines you can follow. When I was 19 and had been training for close to two years I got stuck at a bodyweight of 190 lbs. Now, I had started training at age 17 and weighed in the low 160s, so I had put on somewhere in the realm of 25 lbs of solid muscle during that period which is pretty decent. It is better when you consider that my first six months or so of training were essentially wasted with a high volume routine. I initially progressed fairly well but quickly stagnated. I eventually got my hands on some books by Ellington Darden PhD, a proponent of low volume training to failure. After reading his books and getting excited about his ideas I completely revamped my routine to a four day per week schedule which hit each body part twice per week with 2-5 sets to failure (post warm-up). I instantly started progressing again until I reached 190 lbs. At this point I tried another reduction in volume to no avail. I was perplexed, I was training right but not progressing. Luckily, I came across yet another latitude changing author who taught me that I just wasn't eating enough. Bill Starr, a great writer whose style I love had written an article about a friend who was in the same predicament as me. The bottom line to the article was that the guy just wasn't eating enough. The article didn't say I needed to go eat 20 chicken breasts a day, it just said I needed to consume enough calorie dense foods to fuel my body to greater growth. Needless to say, I revamped my diet to bump up my calories dramatically. I wasn't scientific about it at all, I just started eating more. I lived at home and my mom did all of the cooking. I ate four meals a day and would absolutely stuff myself at each meal. I also frequented fast food restaurants at the time. Obviously, my diet was high in calories, fat, and protein. I had absolutely zero care about the 'quality' of the food, just the quantity. By all of the bodybuilding standard beliefs and mores my progression should have come to a halt, or at the very least I should have come to resemble the Michelin-Man. Guess what, I didn't. In fact, I shot up to 210 lbs within about two months. The weight I gained was primarily lean muscle and I was not taking steroids (or any other anabolic agent). My strength also went through the roof and everyone in the gym, especially those who didn't know me (and maybe some who did), were convinced I was taking steroids.
I hope the above story about my life strikes home the point that both diet and training are equally important to gaining mass, and you must eat a lot of food if you want to pack on the mass. Now, I don't want people to get the wrong idea, I do not advocate eating in the manner I did to gain weight. I ingested way too much salt and saturated fats. I was not eating a healthy diet, but I did get the job done. These days I eat in a more rational and health-promoting fashion. As someone recently said on a site I frequent, life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The desires of our youth should not compromise our health as we age. It is necessary to consume a large quantity of calories for most young men who wish to gain muscle mass, but those calories should come from the right foods (for the most part).
Specific Dietary Recommendations for Gaining Weight:
Ok, let's get to specifics. I recommend 25 calories per pound of bodyweight. This equates to a 200 lb man consuming 5000 calories per day. The following is a partial list of recommended foods:
Lean cuts of beef
Fish of all sorts
Beans of all types (especially soy)
Rice (white rice being the least desirable)
Salads with minimal dressings
Vegetables of all types
Fruits of all types
Skim or 1% milk
Cheeses of all types
There are many other good, healthy foods one can consume; the above is only a partial list. You should make your best effort to consume minimally processed foods. The processing of all foods robs them of some of the vital nutrients they naturally contain. Overly processed foods also tend to be very high in sodium and usually contain excessive amounts of chemicals used to promote taste, shelf-life, and the look of the food. If possible, organic foods are a preferable choice. They are not perfect, but should contain less harmful agents than non-organic foods.
Refined sugars are to be avoided. This does not mean you cannot have the occasional treat, but that you should make that treat the exception as opposed to the rule. Refined sugars rob the body of B vitamins and spike insulin levels. Spiked insulin levels promote the deposition of fat.
Use the 25 calories per pound rule to start and then monitor your progress. For a natural trainee, the addition of some fat is a necessary evil when maximizing the addition of lean muscle tissue. The gurus may say differently, but it is simply the way we are programmed and to be so perfect in one's calorie control as to have the excess calories required for growth at the exact moment when they can be used and no other is simply beyond the scope of anyone's ability.
If you feel that you are gaining fat at too quick a pace (obviously individual metabolisms vary) all you need do is back off of the calories a bit. If you are in that position, simply drop 200 calories per day and track the results for ten days. If you are still gaining muscle, but the fat gain is reduced then maintain that level until your gains stagnate. At that point, up the calories by 200 and proceed for another ten days.
There are three macronutrients of which you are to consume. They are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. You should strive for a consumption of roughly 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Using the 25 calorie per pound total calorie rule, this will work out to 32% of your calories coming in the form of protein. Carbohydrates should constitute 40% of your total calories and fats the remaining 28%. Saturated fat ingestion should be minimized and unsaturated fats (plant fats especially) should be the bulk of your fat intake.
It is difficult to consume 25 calories per pound of bodyweight by simply eating food. This is where food supplements are important. AtLarge Nutrition's Opticen and Nitrean are both excellent additions to your mass gaining diet. Nitrean is a protein only powder which mixes wonderfully even in water. Opticen is a meal replacement powder which contains protein, carbohydrates, a very small amount of fat, and various vitamins and minerals which also mixes easily. It is a simple thing to drink 500-1000 calories, much simpler than eating the same quantity of solid food. For those who find consuming sufficient calories difficult, I highly recommend you supplement your meals with at least two shakes per day.
You should consume four meals of solid foods plus two shakes throughout the day. Your meals should be highest in calories in the morning and taper in calorie content throughout the day. I recommend one shake in the afternoon between meals two and three and one directly before bed.
Let's summarize the dietary recommendations:
1.) Consume 25 calories per day per pound of bodyweight (i.e. a 200 lb man will consume 5000 calories per day).
2.) Eat four meals per day combined with two shakes (one shake between meals two and three, and one right before bed).
3.) Calorie content of your meals should be heaviest in the morning and taper down throughout the day.
4.) Your macronutrient consumption should be 32/40/28 (percent protein, carbohydrates, and fats respectively).
5.) Avoid overly processed foods and refined sugars.
Specific Recommendations to Train for Mass
Training for mass is really a very simple proposition. It requires hard work and plenty of rest. You may get confused as you peruse some of the magazines or internet sites. You might read about various forms of 'wave loading' this or 'cybernetic periodization' of that. You might even read about mysterious Russians who will tell you the Russian secrets of getting huge and strong. Don't buy into the hype. There is really only one way to train in order to get huge naturally. That way involves hard work and not too much of it followed by plenty of rest.
I recommend a four day per week split which hits each body part twice per week:
Bench Press: 2 sets x 5 reps
Weighted Dips: 2 sets x 10 reps
Skull Crushers: 2 sets x 8 reps
Calf Raises: 2 sets x 20 reps
Full Squats: 3 sets x 10 reps
Full squats are defined as squats with a shoulder width or narrower stance during which the trainee squats down as deeply as possible. This style ends up with the trainee's buttocks being very close to the floor at the bottom of the movement. Great care must be taken with this exercise to not bounce out of the bottom of the movement. The connective tissues of the knee could be injured if this were to occur. You must either use a spotter for this movement or have safety catches setup which will allow you to rack the bar if the movement is taken to failure (the catches should be setup just below the depth the bar will reach during the movement).
T-bar Rows: 3 sets x 6 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Presses: 2 sets x 6 reps
Barbell Curls: 3 sets x 8 reps
Bench Press: 2 sets x 8 reps
Incline Press: 2 sets x 8 reps
Skull Crushers: 2 sets x 8 reps
Deadlifts: 3 sets x 3 reps
Calf Raises: 2 sets x 20 reps
Wide Grip Chins: 2 sets x as many as possible
Curl Grip Chins: 2 sets x as many as possible
Dumbbell Shoulder Presses: 2 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 2 sets x 8 reps
Each of the sets listed above are what I call 'working' sets. These sets are to be taken to concentric failure (you get stuck on the rep) or very close to it. I strongly recommend training to failure, but some trainees benefit from stopping 1-2 reps short of failure.
For the first exercise per body part (with the exception of chins), you should perform 2-3 warm-up sets prior to your 'working' sets. For example, on Monday you would perform at least 2 warm-up sets of bench presses. These sets should not be taxing enough to reduce the weight you use on your working sets, but they should be sufficient to prime the body for the subsequent sets of hard effort to come. So, if you can bench press 250 lbs for 5 reps you might warm-up with 135 lbs for 10 reps followed by 195 lbs for 5 reps.
The bench press is your first exercise for chest, thus you should perform the warm-up sets. Once you have finished with the bench pressing you will not need to perform a warm-up for the dips if you choose not to do so. The pressing muscles of your upper body will be fully ready for any subsequent work. You still may wish to perform 1-2 warm-up sets for each specific movement that is up to you.
Take care to use controlled form on every set. Do not get sloppy or injury may result. The best results will be derived from injury free training.
You must train with laser-like focus. You must work as hard as possible to squeeze as much work out of yourself as is possible with each working set. The volume here may seem insufficient, but it will only be so if you allow it to be. If you train as hard as possible you will not be able to, or want to perform more work each day.
My recommendations for adults will parallel that of young adults with two notable exceptions. First, adults will have markedly slower metabolisms as a rule, thus I recommend they consume 19 calories per pound of bodyweight. Adults will also find that as they age they become poorer at absorbing nutrients. This makes increased protein ingestion as a percentage of one's diet a requisite for adults. I recommend a macronutrient breakdown of 35/40/25 for protein, carbohydrates, and fats respectively.
Adults may also find they require more rest than young adults. Adults may wish to perform the above referenced routine with two or even three days of rest between each two days of training (as opposed to the two on, one off, two on, two off routine for young adults). You will quickly realize if this is required of you. Summary
Follow the above recommendations for diet and training and you will increase your size and strength to a greater degree than you ever thought possible!
Darkhorse on 06-28-2006, 01:48 AM
Just had to post this. Surprised that an actual supplement company got it right. Things I took away from the article:
1. Recommends FULL SQUATS
2. Training muscles more than once a week
3. "Clean bulking" is fucking lame
4. Avoid high volume
My favorite part:
Eddie0206 on 06-28-2006, 08:02 PM
I thought this article was pretty good, before I read this I was under the impression that clean bulking was the way to go, in my situation I am just looking to put on muscle and strength, it put a new perspective in my eyes. I think I might give it a shot and see how it turns out
Darkhorse on 06-30-2006, 06:27 PM
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