After graduating high school this past June, I spent a little too much time vacationing and not enough time concentrating on my diet, but I am glad to say that I have been back on track for about 4 weeks now and my strength levels are high once again. My training partner and I have decided on competing in a show around next April, so the next eight weeks are optimal to try and pack on as much muscle as we possibly can. For this process to be successful, it is going to take a lot of hard work and time, both inside and outside the gym. Building muscle is much more involved then throwing heavy weights around in the gym day after day, and then eating pizza and drinking beer night after night, making excuses as to why you can not begin to see results. Hitting the gym hard a good 4-5 times a week is a great start, but first I want to talk about something even more important: nutrition. So you mean to tell me if I want to grow I have to eat healthy too? Yes, if you want to pack on quality lean mass with as little fat as possible, dieting and supplementing is about 60% of the equation. Sure, you can go in the gym and attack the weights for hours and fatigue all the muscle fibers and hit each head of every muscle to failure, but if you do not eat right, the muscle tissue will not rebuild fast enough and growth simply will not happen. Here are a few key components of nutrition that I have relied on:
- 1. Calories- I like to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to caloric intake. To gain weight, you have to eat more calories than your body uses. That's easy to understand, right? Now if you want the weight to be muscle, you need to be sure that you don't overdue the calories. Try to intake about 500 calories more per day than your bodies uses up, and this will lead to about a 1-2 pound weight increase per week. Anymore than this and you risk a higher percentage of body fat, something not many bodybuilders desire.
- 2. Protein- Protein is the most important source of calories that your body can use. Bottom line: more protein = more muscle mass. That's why, at 235 lbs., I try to pack in between 250-300 grams a day to be sure my muscles have enough protein to grow. Some bodybuilders like extreme numbers, sometimes 2-3 grams per pound of bodyweight, but your body could never use up that much protein. Another important piece of advice: only count sources that carry significant amounts of protein. Don't count the 5 grams you got from those 2 slices of wheat bread. Count the protein from your powders, bars, meats, and dairy products, and watch the numbers on the scale start to grow.
- 3. Carbohydrates- Carbohydrates need to be kept low when losing weight for a show, but in the off season, you can eat enough to keep your body satisfied and stay energized for workouts, as long as you don't go overboard. For me, I have to keep them low, around 300g/day, even when trying to gain muscle. Anymore and I will soon balloon up. If you have a faster metabolism, feel comfortable taking in up to 2-3 grams per pound of bodyweight, but no higher. You have to experiment and get the instinctive feel as to how many carbs your body needs and can handle without gaining fat. The best sources that I stick to are oatmeal, rice, potatoes, vegetables, and whole wheat bread.
- 4. Water- Enough good can't be said about this important drink. But I'll keep it real short…drink lots of it, aim for around a gallon a day.
- 5. Fat- Enough bad can't be said about this. Well, people out there have been successful eating a higher fat diet, so I guess I'm just jealous. But the only fat I intake comes as a byproduct of my protein. My carbs are virtually fat-free, but, steak is not. So protein is where I get all of my fat, and I don't feel the need for any more.
- Meal 1- 7:00 AM- For the days first meal, I usually choose 2 scoops of Nitro-Tech with 12 oz. Milk, and either yogurt or oatmeal. This gets me around 50g protein and 50-55g carbs.
- Meal 2- 10:00 AM- Since I am a college student and have not found a microwave on campus, I am stuck eating cold food. So I throw a packet of grilled chicken strips in a bowl of lettuce and chow down, and usually eat some applesauce or a bagel, another 40g protein and around 40-50 g carbs.
- Meal 3- 12:30 PM- Usually I can make it home in time for some real protein, so I have some grilled chicken or turkey, along with rice or a baked potato and a green vegetable. Greens are usually very low in calories and very high in certain nutrients, so I try to eat these 2-3 times a day. Either peas, lima beans, green beans, or even lettuce, getting another 50-55g protein and 65g carbs.
- Meal 4- 3:30 PM- This meal is usually very similar to Meal 3.
- Meal 5- 6:00 PM- This is right after my workout, so it is usually another 2 scoops of Nitro-Tech, 12 oz. Milk and a banana. 50g Protein and 40g carbs.
- Meal 6- 7:00 PM- This is usually my big dinner, and this meal that varies most since my mom likes me to eat her cooking. She usually cooks clean food, but sometimes I can't eat it. It ranges from steak to chicken, or hamburgers (usually the 96% lean), along with rice and a green vegetable. Usually I can get 50g protein and 70g carbs at the expense of 10g of fat, sometimes a little worse, but you know how mothers are. (Luckily I have already explained to her that I won't be eating much of her cooking at all come precontest diet).
So if your goal is to ring in the new year with 5, 10, or even 15 pounds of rock added to your body, then keep training hard, and consider trying some of my diet advice, and look for my next two parts to this article, focusing on training and supplementation. Until then, eat smart, train hard, and GROW!