Are you fed up with winter after winter of bulking, only to look in the mirror as the spring months approach, to find the same skinny body you started with at the beginning of your 'bulk'? If the answer is yes then this article may be able to help! As I hear you gasp at the thought you won't be skinny forever, try to compose yourself for what I am about to tell you, for it is not complex.
The fundamentals behind gaining weight are simple. Eat more calories than your body burns off.
Nothing new there then. But for us ectomorphs who already seem to be eating the world three times over, this can be tricky. If you don't regularly supply your body with more calories than we need, it simply will not grow. Think of your body as a house being built from bricks. Your food is the bricks you need to build the house, your body. If you don't provide your body with the building blocks it needs, i.e. calories, simply cannot grow! Try building a house with no bricks! Yeah right!
Now that we have discovered we need to eat, eat and eat some more, we cannot however, drive straight down to KFC and order 6 family buckets. No my friends, if only life was that simple. We need to eat the right amount of macro-nutrients for the body to turn them into bulging Arnold sized muscles... or something similar!
There are three main macronutrient profiles we need to concern ourselves with.
Now, carbohydrates have been targeted by the media and nutrition 'experts' as the route of all evil. Not for an ectomorph! Carbohydrates are your best friend. You need to realise however, that not all carbohydrates are created equally.
Carbohydrates come under two main headings, fast and slow releasing carbohydrates. Fast acting carbs, such as white rice, white bread, sweets, sugar, dextrose, etc. are broken down quickly by the body. Once you ingest these fast carbs your liver secretes a hormone called insulin. This spike in insulin is produced by your body for glucose metabolism. Put simply, it had to use these carbohydrates. If you're at rest and you have ingested glucose not needed by your body, it is stored as fat.
However, taken at the right time, directly after your workout in liquid form, the insulin spike can fuel your muscles into accelerated anabolic recovery phase. This is good. As ectomorphs, building muscle is hard. We need to use every opportunity to create muscle and enhance recovery, so we may train again quicker.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, are harder for the body to breakdown. They give us a slower release of glucose when broken down and don't spike insulin. This slow release of carbohydrates is good for building muscle, as we are constantly supplying the body with the building blocks it needs, to stay in a muscle building, or anabolic stage.
Unlike most of the world who seem to be running away from carbohydrates, you will need to consume large quantities in order to meet your required calorie intake. Remember, you are trying to bulk. You need to eat eat eat. And when you're finished, eat some more. Stick to complex carbs such as brown rice, brown pasta, wholemeal bagels, yams and sweet potatoes.
Your exact intake of carbs will depend on your bodyweight but as a rule of thumb, take your bodyweight and eat between 2 and 2.5 grams of carbs per lb of bodyweight. Remember that carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram.
Also, to keep your body guessing add in a day of super high carbohydrates just to trick your body so it doesn't get used to the amount of food you are ingesting. Tricking the body will keep it growing.
Protein is quite simply your most important macro-nutrient. Protein is the building block for the body. It is very important for bodybuilders who are looking to add lean mass. You will need to stick to lean sources of protein if you want to create lean muscle.
Sure you can eat that whole sirloin steak, including the 10cm slab of fat attached to it, but don't complain if you gain a lot of fat and no muscle. Stick to lean protein sources. Turkey, chicken, fish, lean steak and mince, eggs and of course, protein shakes.
Aim to cram down around 1.5g of protein per lbs of bodyweight.
Fats are often overlooked for ectomorphs and I had even fallen victim to the 'all fat is bad' trend before I learned the truth. Fats play a very important role in the body. They lubricate cells within the body, keep skin and hair soft and supple but most important for ectomorphs, they regulate testosterone levels! Without testosterone you might as well pack up and go home. No muscle bound freak ever built muscle without testosterone. Now that we know why they are important, what is the best way to go about getting them? Whoa, steady there don't rush for the nearest bottle of oil.
Know first that fats like carbohydrates are not created equal. Food high in saturated fat needs to be avoided at all costs as they clog arteries, increase cholesterol and increase your risk of heart related problems. The fats you are looking for are high in omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9. Excellent examples are oily fish, avocados, flaxseed oil, nuts or eggs. A mixture of all of these would be the best way to go about it. To our bulking advantage, fats have 9 calories per 1g. Excellent for us ectomorphs, more penny for you buck!
It is also important to eat lots of fresh fruit and veg. In the UK the government recommends we eat 5 portions of fresh fruit or vegetables a day. Seeing as you will be eating more than the standard portion of 3 meals a day, I would recommend you try to double that. Fruits and vegetables are essentially carbohydrates so add them to your total. They also provide anti-oxidants to keep you fit and healthy.
Now I have outlined the macronutrients you need I feel that following a diet composed of 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat. This may look odd but remember, you are a ectomorph your nutritional requirements are not the same as the average bodybuilder. In order to determine exactly how many calories you need, you can also try to take your weight in lbs and multiply it by 17 to 20. For example, a 174 lb man would do the calculation of:
- 174 lb X 17 = 2958 calories per day for a bulk.
Broken down roughly into 370g of Carbohydrates, 220g of Protein and 67g of Fat.
These figures will depends on you activity level during the day but they can be used as a starting point. If after a week you have gained no weight, increase your calories by 600 or 700.
Here is a sample diet including some supplements. The supplements are exactly that, items which supplement your diet. Remember, you need to eat to grow big. Used effectively they can help but by no means are they the be all and end all of gaining muscle.
This diet is just a sample of what has worked best for me. Feel free to change any of the meals round to meet your own macronutrient profiles. Make sure however, your post and pre-workout supplements remain the same.
I recommend you write down everything you eat. This can be difficult at first especially finding the calories in a large potato or a portion of rice but Bodybuilding.com has an excellent food database that can help. This method gives you a base from which you can add and remove calories from your diet, based on your needs.
And there you have it! Basic nutrition for a successful off season Ectomorph bulk!