Winter Season Mass Gain Diet - Part I

Every bodybuilder and powerlifter should have goals, especially with their diet. My focus here will be the macronutrient cycling and how to break it up between a fast and slow metabolism. Learn more...

When designing a new mass building diet, the first factor that you must address (that most trainees do not) is your physique goals.

With your new diet you must decide what you want to do: is your goal to gain weight as fast as possible for strength purposes, or do you want to gain only lean body mass at a slow and steady rate in an effort to compete in a contest in the near future?

Do you want to eat more calories and perform cardio to keep your metabolism elevated? Or do you want to not have to perform any cardio at all and keep your calories at a moderate level?

After addressing your goals, which by the way is very important, every bodybuilder or powerlifter should have short term goals and long term goals, not only with their training but with their diet as well.

This will help you make progress at a faster rate over time, and not have you wasting precious time that you could have spent achieving your goals.

If you are not completely focused with your diet, I can almost guarantee you are not completely focused with your training as well.

Determining Body Type

The next step in designing your diet is deciding what type of body you have. This aspect of your diet mostly has to do with your carbohydrate intake, so you must decide whether you are carbohydrate efficient or carbohydrate sensitive.

If you are carbohydrate efficient, this usually means that you store the majority of your carbohydrates as glycogen in your muscle cells, and rarely store excess carbohydrates as fat.

Most people that are carbohydrate efficient are naturally very lean and do not have to do much cardio at all to stay at a low body fat level. However, this is the group of people who have the hardest time gaining serious muscle size and must consume massive amounts of calories in order to do so.

The second group of bodybuilders are the group that have a slower metabolism and have to pay very strict attention to their diet (specifically carbohydrate intake) and also perform cardiovascular exercise in order to stay in decent shape.

This group also stores every single excess calorie in the form of body fat, and an over indulgence in junk food will cause their body fat to rise before the food even enters their mouth.

So in this second step you must first, through trial and error, decide which type of body you have if you do not already have a basic idea. Once you know how your body reacts to carbohydrates you can then proceed to eat according to your body type coupled with your physique goals.

One thing I would like to point out is that you do not try to convince yourself you are carbohydrate efficient if you are really carbohydrate sensitive.

If you do this and decide to start eating massive amounts of carbohydrates and calories without performing any cardio you will begin to gain body fat faster than the guy on Super Size Me! So be honest with yourself when identifying which type of body god gave you.

Okay, so you have now come to the conclusion that you are a hard gainer.

Looking back you were always a very skinny kid, naturally, no matter how much junk food you ate; you have always had a hard time gaining size and strength, and if you added 15 min of cardio every other day to your current program you would drop 5lbs of muscle in the first week. Great!

You're in luck since this first segment of Mass Gain articles will only focus on the dietary guidelines for the bodybuilder with a fast metabolism.

The second segment will focus on the dietary guidelines for a bodybuilder with a slow metabolism, with the third segment focusing on the training schedule that should be used to gain the most size this coming off season.


Now that you have identified which type of body you have, we must discuss the three macronutrients:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats

In order to set up the ideal mass gain diet for your body type we must address a few important issues regarding these three macronutrients, how much you should consume, when you should consume them, and also why you should consume them. The first macronutrient that we will discuss is protein.

Before you read this article you should have a good understanding of this macronutrient profile and what is an optimal intake for your body type, so this will be a quick review before we get into carbohydrates and fats.


When setting up your protein intake for gaining mass it should be somewhere in between 1 gram and 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Your daily diet carbohydrate intake will dictate whether you will consume a moderate amount of protein or a high amount of protein in your diet.

For instance, if you have a very fast metabolism and you must consume 600 grams to 1000 grams of carbs. To gain mass you will only need to consume 1 gram to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight since the carbs will illicit a protein sparing effect on your body.

On the other hand if you have a slower metabolism and tend to get better results following a lower carbohydrate protocol, you should adhere to the higher intake of protein to compensate for the reduction in carbohydrates.

This is how bodybuilders such as Jay Cutler and Chris Cook can consume upwards of 1,000 grams of carbohydrates a day wile only consuming 300g - 400g of protein. Since their carbohydrate intake is so high they are better able to stay in an anabolic state without eating an outrageous amount of protein.

On the topic of what sources of protein to consume on a mass gain diet; pretty much any kind will work. The list includes:

  • Steak
  • Ground Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Some Dairy Products
  • Protein Powders

For the bodybuilder with the faster metabolism your protein sources should mainly come from the higher fat sources, and the bodybuilder with the slower metabolism should stick to the leaner sources.

For the bodybuilder with the fast metabolism they need the extra calories from fat in order to keep their calorie intake high enough to gain mass.

The bodybuilder with the slower metabolism must be particular with where their calories come from, and they are better off keeping their protein sources lean and getting their fat intake from high quality essential fatty acids.


The next topic of this article will be carbohydrates, which is the most mis-understood macronutrient out of the three.

For a topic on carbohydrates, I believe that you can pretty much break carbohydrate requirements for bodybuilders into two separate categories: Bodybuilders who have genetically gifted metabolisms, and bodybuilders who have genetically slow (a better word for "cursed") metabolisms.

The first group of bodybuilders are a very special group of people (metabolically speaking) who can basically eat however they please without gaining an ounce of body fat. The only trouble is that in order to gain a noticeable amount of size they must go to extreme measures regarding calorie intake in order to do so, and this is where most bodybuilders will fail in their journey.

Most people like to forget that your bodybuilding diet is over 70% of the puzzle in achieving your results. Anyone can go into the gym for an hour each day and train hard, but only those that properly supply their bodies with the proper nutrients for the rest of the day will actually reap the rewards.

Now that we have established how much protein should be consumed, we must figure out how many carbohydrates a bodybuilder who has a genetically fast metabolism should consume.

The best rule of thumb of where to start for a baseline carbohydrate intake is at 2 grams - 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body mass. So the 200 lb bodybuilder should be consuming anywhere from 400 grams to 600 grams of carbohydrates on a daily basis.

Yes, that is indeed going to be a large amount of food on a daily basis, but I never said gaining size was going to be easy, which is why a very small majority of men who workout are actually in good shape.

Since this will be a large amount of food on a daily basis it is very effective to cycle the amount of carbohydrates you consume throughout the week. This method works much better when you are carbohydrate cycling to lose weight rather than gaining weight, but it can be employed to give your body a break from the massive eating once and a while.

When I have a bodybuilder carb cycling I like them to design 3-4 different daily diet intakes which are correlated to their training split. For this example, we will use the 200 lb bodybuilder above.

We'll design a low carbohydrate day, where he'll have 200 grams of carbs with 350 grams of protein. Then a moderate carbohydrate day, where he will have 400 grams of carbs and 300 grams of protein.

Next, a high carbohydrate day where he will have 600 grams of carbs and 300 grams of protein. And finally, a very high carbohydrate day where he will have 800 grams to 1000 grams of carbs with 200g of protein.

What you will notice from this outline is every time we adjust his carbohydrate intake his protein intake will also be adjusted up or down depending on his intake of carbohydrates, and as you can see when his carbohydrate intake increases his protein intake is lowered and vice versa.

Each of these days will also have a direct correlation to which body part will be trained on that given day as well. For instance, when training large body parts such as legs or back, he will follow the high carbohydrate day, and on an off training day he will adhere to the low carbohydrate day. So now let's see an example of how this would look over the course of the week.

Day Workout Carbs Protein
Day 1 Quads, Hamstrings, Calves 600g 300g
Day 2 Chest, Triceps 400g 300g
Day 3 Off Day 200g 350g
Day 4 Back, Biceps 600g 300g
Day 5 Shoulders, Traps 400g 300g
Day 6 Off Day 200g 350g
Day 7 Eat Day 800g 200g

This carbohydrate cycle is one basic outline of how you can cycle your carbohydrates for the best results. You can use a different training spilt, or a different carbohydrate cycle if you chose.

I feel that this is one of the most effective ways to cycle your carbs; slowly reducing them in 200 gram increments over the course of three days with the last day being a rest day before increasing them again.

With this schedule I incorporated a Sunday "eat day" where you can consume upwards of 800 grams of carbohydrates throughout the day.

Using this carb-up technique will put your body in a state of anabolic growth after cycling your carbohydrates over the course of the week. This schedule is only one of the many different schedules people are using to gain new muscle tissue with minimizing body fat gain.

So now, the next topic we must discuss is what kind of carbohydrates should be consumed, and lastly what time.

When choosing the best carbohydrate sources for a bodybuilder with a fast metabolism I like to combine carbohydrates that burn very fast along with carbohydrates that burn very slow at certain meals through out the day to achieve the best results. This list below shows which types of slow burning carbs to chose from and also which types of fast burning carbs to choose from.

Slow Burning Carbohydrates

  • Oatmeal
  • Rice (Brown & White)
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Whole Grain Pasta
  • Fat-Free Yogurt

Fast Burning Carbohydrates

  • Applesauce
  • Raisin Bran Cereal
  • Granola
  • Bagels
  • Rice Cakes
  • Honey
  • Raisins, Other Dried Fruit
  • Fat-Free Muffins
  • Simple Sugar Post-Workout Drinks
  • Strawberry Jam

So now that we know what types of carbohydrates to consume, our next step is to discuss the most effective way to combine the two groups of carbs to achieve maximum results.

The two meal times where it is most effective to combine slow burning carbs with fast burning carbs is first thing in the morning (your breakfast meal) and post-workout where your glycogen stores are depleted.

The rest of your daily meals should be composed of only slow burning carbohydrates with your last meal of the day coming from only protein with a small amount of fat. In the two meals where you are using a combination of carb sources I like to use a ratio of around 50% to 70% slow carbs to 50% to 30% fast carbs.

As an example, your morning carb meal could consist of 1 cup of oatmeal, 2 pieces of whole wheat toast, a few handfuls of raisins on your oatmeal, and a banana or a bowl of fruit. This meal would consist of roughly 75g of slow burning carbs to around 35g of fast burning carbs.

To complete this meal you would also have to add protein to it, but I am just trying to give you a basic example of how you should combine fast burning carbs with slow burning carbs to make your meals.

A post-workout meal could consist of 1.5 cups of rice, a few rice cakes, and maybe a 1/2 cup of applesauce. The way you combine your carbs to make your meals is highly individual, however I recommend that you try to keep the 70% slow - 30% fast carbohydrate ratio.


Now that we have fully covered your dietary carbohydrate intake we must now look at the best types of fats to consume to help your body gain size. For the bodybuilder with a fast metabolism you must consume an adequate amount of calories from fat in order to get your calories up to an anabolic level.

If you look at your protein and carbohydrate intake in the diet presented above, on your 600 gram carb day, with 300g of protein that only adds up to around 3,600 calories. Most bodybuilders who weigh 200 lbs and have fast metabolisms must consume around 4,500 calories in the off-season to make any respectable gains in new muscle mass.

So where will the rest of the calories come from? Healthy fat sources such as:

  • Whole eggs
  • Flax seed oil
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Low fat cheeses
  • Small amounts of saturated fats from your lean meats.

Depending on how fast your metabolism really is will dictate how many grams of fat you should eat for the day. I would start off gradually by adding small amounts of fat to all of your meals except for your two post-workout meals.

Having fat with your post-workout meal is a bad idea because it slows down the digestion of food and post-workout is when we need an immediate rush of nutrients into our muscle cells.

Fat is also very easy to add to a diet so you could start off by adding a few egg yolks into your whites and maybe a small amount of butter on your toast.

With your shakes you should be adding a combination of olive oil and flax oil or peanut butter to increase your healthy fat intake. Add a few servings of steak throughout the day and snack on some nuts later on at night, and you will be up to 100 grams of fat in no time.

Be careful with adding the oil to the shakes though since they can lead to gastric distress the first few times you have them. Start off with 1 TBSP of each and then go up from there, or else you will be running back and forth to the toilet all day.


With this first installment of the MASS GAIN series you should be able to construct a very effective diet with the proper macronutrient ratios to gain some serious size as long as you are consistent with the program.

This article is specifically designed for the bodybuilder who has a fast metabolism and has an incredibly hard time gaining muscle size.

This article should help you put together a weekly diet that will work along with your training split and recovery abilities to break through a previous body weight plateau.

In the next installment of our series we will map out the off-season dietary recommendations for a bodybuilder with a slower metabolism. If you have any questions or comments about the diet program please feel free to E-mail me at