Disclaimer: This article is NOT a diet plan. It is a basis for teaching yourself how to gain muscle-mass.
Mass. We all want more of it, whether you're an IFBB pro or an amateur drug-free bodybuilder such as myself. I loved the episode of South Park where Cartman used that "Beefcake 9000" or whatever it was. Even Cartman wanted to look good.
Gaining quality muscle is a long battle. A battle that is won through much mindless, tasteless eating most of the time. Sure, sometimes you go out for steak but most of the time you're choking down you're chicken breast number 8,085 or your 45,883rd can of tuna. Bland? I think so! Results? You betcha.
So what about hardgainers? I would like to discuss a certain myth regarding getting bigger.
There is the myth of the impossible-gainer. Some people confuse this with the term "hardgainer". Certain people put on mass by looking at a picture of a barbell or a burger. I have never seen or known someone like this actually, but I hear of it happening. In my book, all the rest of us are hardgainers.
People use the term "hardgainer" as an excuse for not demonstrating the required amount of discipline to grow. Some people are genetically disposed to carry less body-mass. They must eat. Obviously, the rest of us don't need to eat to grow.
What?! Everyone must take in nutrients to grow. Some people are more sedentary than others and therefore don't require as many calories per day to maintain their mass. Others are constantly moving, frittering away their precious calories and must take in a lot of them to maintain their mass, let alone grow more!
Most people, including undisciplined bodybuilders, don't really remember what they eat each day. If you don't know what you're eating, then you probably aren't eating much. I used to be this way. I would tell people "Man! I have to eat like 6,000 calories per day to maintain my weight!" I was full of hot air. I didn't know what 6,000 calories even looked like. I honestly thought I did though.
I may have had a protein shake for breakfast... OK, so there's 40 to 50 grams of protein and however many carbs are in 14 ounces of milk. Then, I probably had 2 or 3 PBJ sandwiches for lunch with another shake. That's about 100 carbs (depending on the bread and jelly), maybe 20 grams of fat and another 45 (we'll take the average between 40 and 50) grams of protein.
Then I might eat a good sized dinner. Probably around 75 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein and about 30 grams of fat. Now, it's getting complicated to keep track of this so let's write it out properly and see what we have to work with.
- Total carbs: 30 (milk) + 100 (sandwiches) + 75 (dinner) = 205g carbs
- Total protein: 45 + 45 + 40 = 130g protein
- Total fat: 10 + 20 + 30 = 60g fat
Ah HA! So now we now how many grams of this and that I had on perhaps an average day when I thought I was eating a lot. Now, calculating the caloric value of all this is easy. Remember this: carbs = 4 calories per gram, protein is the same as carbs, fat = 9 calories per gram. So let's multiply it out real quick:
- (205 x 4) + (130 x 4) + (60 x 9) = Total calories in hypothetical day
- Further simplified: (820) + (520) + (540) = 1,880 calories!
Now if you ever, ever think that 1,880 calories is going to help you grow, let me say this to you: put up the crack pipe! Man, smoking crack is bad for ya'll. I must've been smoking something when I thought that this was a lot of food. It makes me laugh to even think about it!
Just for grins, let's say I added a high calorie "mass-gaining" shake to all this. What would that do for me you ask? I'll bet some of you are doing this religiously, each and every day. Trying to put on some muscles are ya? (Laughing)
Let's say the shake is a doozy: 150g of carbs, 60g protein and 45 g of fat. So, we're already eating 1,880 calories per day, as I typed out above. Let's add this to it.
- 1,880 + (150 x 4) + (60 x 4) + (45 x 9) =
- 1,880 + (600) + (240) + (405) = 3,125 calories
Now, while this is a great deal better than the previous value, it's still most likely not enough to facilitate the growth you fantasize about (without steroids, of course). Plus, those mass-gaining shakes sit in my gut with all the grace of a baby elephant who just sat on a hornet's nest.
So what should you do to gain mass? First, you need to know the basis of how to calculate what you need to grow. This can be annoying. Step one is to sell your mass-gaining shakes to your friend, unless for some unique reason, you're absolutely convinced that you really have to have them. Maybe you're training to run marathons in addition to being a professional muscle-man. Again, put up your crack.
There are 2 types of bodybuilders: those who grow and those who don't. Now, the sport is extremely difficult at best, so bodybuilders who become champions usually have ways of making things like eating eight billion meals per day more practical than the average person would think. After all, eight billion is a lot of meals. Ok, so it's more like 6-10 meals per day. Depending on your schedule and/or individual needs.
Yes, you've heard it before and now you're going to hear it again. There is no easy road to mass. No $150 bottle of pills that you buy at your local supplement shop is going to make you "big". Wanna know what big guys do? They eat.
They also work out hard and a lot of them take a lot of drugs. However, you can still get reasonably big (not freaky, but big) by learning how to lift and most importantly, eat properly. I'm traveling down this road myself at this very moment. I don't think freaky looks good, so I'm going to be satisfied with big and strong. In my book, that's 260 lbs of bodyweight with 10% body fat.
Now you must decide what you want to look like and have a firm picture of that in your head where you can conjure it up frequently. It'll help you keep eating!
So step two, (step one is having a size goal) is all about the right diet. Dieting to get bigger, not smaller. If you're eating right and lifting like an idiot, you will probably still grow. If you're lifting perfectly and not eating right, you probably will not grow. See the difference?
Remember this: eating right is even a tiny bit more important than your gym time. You have to lift to grow, don't get me wrong. I don't want a bunch of fatties writing me e-mails about how they just eat all the time and don't lift. What I mean is that your lifting sessions can be less than perfect and you can still outgrow a lot of gym morons.
A lot of figuring out your diet is done through trial and error. Start by weighing yourself in the morning, naked and after you've used the bathroom. Then go about your day and workout as normal while writing down everything you eat and at what time you're eating it. Yeah, it's annoying. DO IT. Don't be a moron.
Will you still be whining about how you're a "hardgainer" after finding out that you've eaten less than the recommended daily allowance of 2,000 calories and you're trying to be a BODYBUILDER?!
So, if you stay at the same weight pretty much and you eat the same stuff generally speaking, then I believe it is safe to conclude this: eat less and you will shrink, eat more and you will get bigger. Yes, thank you. I have my bachelor's degree.
Now, if you eat a lot more than you're eating while keeping your workouts more or less the same and you will grow well for a bit and then the fat will come on quicker than you'll probably appreciate. Bodybuilders use cardio to sometimes balance this out. Not running by the way. Running tends to screw up leg development. I like the elliptical machine on a modest setting.
So try this, it works for me. Eat at least every 2.5 hours. Have a protein shake and whatever source of carbs for your first meal (not donuts, you bad bad monkey! Think low glycemic index, or low G.I. as people in-the-know refer to it. Don't know what that is? Look it up.).
Don't know how much protein to have? Start off with 40 grams at meal one. Read the label on your protein tub. Don't know how many carbs to have? Eat a bit, then if you're hungry, eat a bit more. Still think you could pack in some more after that? Well, stop before you do that. Trust me. You want to feel comfortable but satisfied.
You can adjust the values after you determine a trend over time. By trend I mean how you are growing. Use the mirror, not a scale as your basis. Try a digital camera too. If you're too fat, then eat a bit less on the carb side. Maybe do a bit of modest cardio. Now growing at all? Bump up your carbs and protein.
This sport is about applied knowledge. Not guessing. People who guess never reach their true potential. You must approach your quest to gain mass in a logical manner that is based on science, not foolishness. There are so many myths in the world of bodybuilding when it comes to training and diet that I get furious when reading popular muscle magazine articles and advertisements.
How will you know your progress unless you keep track of it?
Champions frequently do these things:
- They keep track of their workouts and progress.
- They eat the right things every 2 to 2.5 hours generally.
- They take top quality supplementation, but don't totally rely on it to get them to the top. They rely on good ol' food and trainin'.
- They don't give up because of hard times, they get back up to fight again ASAP.