Solid Tips For Mass

Solid Tips For Mass
By: Chris Goulet

Are you trying to gain weight and muscle mass but fight just to gain an ounce or even maintain current bodyweight no matter how hard you train or how many supplements you use? Then this article is for you.

Follow these 6 simple steps and you WILL gain lean muscle mass.

In simplest terms, weight gain is caused by your body storing excess calories (or more calories than your body needs for metabolic purposes). Weight loss is caused by a deficit in calories (not supplying your body with sufficient calories to maintain current bodyweight).

And a constant bodyweight would mean that you are supplying your body with neither too many, nor too little calories, but a sufficient energy intake to maintain your current bodyweight.

Now in order to make sure that weight gain is mostly lean body mass and not fat mass you need to provide an anabolic stimulus (a.k.a. a proper resistance training program) along with sufficient calories to support these anabolic processes.

1 – Consume More Calories

Regardless of whether my new clients want to gain or lose weight, I have them first and foremost perform a 3 to 5-day food record. This is a tedious process and will take a few minutes after every meal or at the end of your day, but the information that it will give you will be crucial in meeting your weight gain goals.

The purpose of this is to give you an idea of how many calories, carbohydrate, fat, and protein you consume on average as well as to increase your awareness of the caloric content of different foods you eat. You can then take this information and build upon it.

So, if you’re steadily maintaining your bodyweight although your trying to gain, you would obviously need to make a concerted effort to increase your caloric intake above what you have normally been consuming.

You need to record EVERYTHING you eat and make a note of how much -
and if you are ambitious you can record how many ounces of water you consume as well. You need to record the macronutrient profile (carbohydrates, fats, protein) and calories for everything.

You can get most of this information from the nutrition panel listed on the product, but food items that aren’t labeled can be found on the internet at sites like Mike’s Calorie And Fat Gram Chart For 1000 Foods or AST Sports Science – High-Performance Sports Nutrition Supplements. It is important not to necessarily measure what you are eating because this will tend to under or over exaggerate your normal amounts.

It’s also important not to change the kinds of foods you normally eat. Just eat the same foods and the amounts that you would if you weren’t doing a food record, except make an estimation or rough measurement of how much it is. For instance how close is it to a cup, how many ounces is it, or how many servings is it?

It’s not rocket science but the more accurate you are with your measurements and recording the more accurate your daily totals will be. After you are finished getting a daily total for at least 3 or 5 consecutive days then you need to find the average. For instance, if my daily calories were 3000, 2900, and 3100 for 3 consecutive days then my average daily caloric consumption would be 3000.

You need to do this with the macronutrients as well, so in the end, you should finish with an average daily PROTEIN, FAT, CARBOHYDRATE, and CALORIE consumption – This is the important information that you went through this process for.

So, if your daily average is 3,000 calories for instance, and you haven’t been gaining any bodyweight, then obviously you need to increase your daily intake beyond 3,000. You may want to start by adding another small meal (consisting of 250-500 calories) into your day to bump up your total to 3,250 or 3,500.

The important thing is to listen to your body and see how it responds. If you begin adding unwanted bodyfat then cut back a little, if you still aren’t gaining any weight then add another 250-500 meal to your day or make the meals you’re already consuming a little bigger. Consistency is the key to progress.

2 – Carbohydrates

Many beginners or “hardgainers” get carried away with the importance of protein. Your focus should be on consuming complex carbohydrates to fuel your workouts. At least 60% of your total calories should be from carbohydrates.

If your focus is on protein and you are not consuming enough carbohydrate to fuel your brain, metabolism, and workouts then your body will take that expensive protein that you are consuming and it will eventually turn it into glucose for energy.

An even worse scenario is the fact that your body will rob your muscles of glycogen (the muscles stored form of carbohydrate) and may also actually break down your hard earned muscle tissue in order to convert it to glucose for energy. So the bottom line is to consume plenty of carbohydrates, with most being the complex variety.

Complex carbohydrates are cheap and a little more convenient in comparison to protein sources. But if you still have trouble consuming enough from whole food sources or are looking for something a little more convenient.

Just make sure you choose one that is low in saturated fat and sugar. I wouldn’t worry much about how many calories per serving the label says, because you can always divide or even split the serving in thirds in order to meet your needs. You could even add some more protein powder to this in order to make it a complete “meal”.

3 – Two Meal Rule Of Thumb (My Own Personal Philosophy)

When I go through weight gain or even maintenance cycles I have a rule of thumb to never train before I get at least Two meals in my body. The reasoning is, as I said before, your glycogen levels are depleted in the morning and your body is in a catabolic state.

Having Two high carbohydrate and protein rich meals in your system prior to heavy weight training ensures that your glycogen levels are fuller, thus giving you a stronger workout, thus allowing for progressive overload which will lead to muscle growth. Try this if it fits into your schedule and notice your strength and gains increase.

4 – Train Big To Get Big

If you were to build a house, you would build a foundation first and then build upon it, right? So in order to be a house, you need to first build a solid, strong foundation and then add concentrative movements to your training program in order to add detail. Your training program should consist of multijoint movements, movements that work multiple muscle groups at once, or movements that allow a maximal overload of the muscle – all other exercises should be extra and done at the end of your training session, if done at all!

Training this way will give you more bang for your buck by working more muscle groups and decreasing the time in the gym that it would take to hit all those muscle groups with isolation exercises. For a list of appropriate exercises for each muscle group see my article on Mass Building Exercises.

Your legs are clearly your largest muscle group, consisting probably around 60% of your total body mass, and your back is easily your second largest muscle group. So it is fair to say that by not short-changing your larger muscle groups you stand to gain more mass and bodyweight because of the area that it covers on your body. I’ve seen clients gain extraordinary amounts of bodyweight by simply prioritizing or training larger muscle groups ahead of smaller ones.

Different bodybuilders use different repetition schemes. Some go heavy like powerlifters and others perform 15 reps or more per set. But two things generally remain the same – high intensity and high weekly volume. Volume (sets * weight * reps * exercises * frequency) means total work performed. So you can get away with not completely taxing and fatiguing the muscle fibers if you were to increase the frequency.

5 – Rest

Sufficient sleep is important! The obvious reason is because fatigue will lower your intensity in the gym, thus hampering your results. But sleep is also when growth hormone levels elevate and your body repairs. Try to get at least 8-10 hours a night.

One reason I find that people have trouble putting weight on or keeping it on is because they are very physically active. I typically find this with athletes, people who enjoy running, or people with physically demanding labor jobs. They may feel like they are eating a ton, but they are also burning off a ton.

This scenario makes it very difficult for them to put on weight because they have to eat so much, sometimes to the point of eating even if you’re not hungry (this may be where meal replacement or weight gain powders help). I recommend cutting out or limiting cardiovascular exercise for a short period of time and then adding it back in when your nutritional program is sound.

More is not necessarily better when talking about training frequency and a goal of weight gain. Again, more physical activity means more burned calories which means you have to compensate by eating extra. I find that a properly tailored program of no more than 3-4 days a week works excellent for people with trouble gaining weight. This means working out every other day. The day off between workouts allows you to rest both physiologically and psychologically.

Physiologically, your muscles can rest and repair and your glycogen levels can replenish giving you more energy for your next workout. Psychologically, you can rest and get yourself psyched and focused for your next high intensity workout. The day off also makes it easier for you to stay in energy balance because you don’t have to compensate for burning extra calories as you would if you worked out.

6 – Avoid Catabolism At All Costs

Muscle catabolism is like a four-letter word to bodybuilders and you want to avoid it at all costs. Catabolism may occur if you go without eating for a while or from long extended workout sessions. Your body begins by robbing your muscle of glycogen and then it may start to break down your actual muscle tissue protein for energy. You need to avoid this by eating regularly and at key times to always stay in energy surplus and provide an anabolic environment.

You may want to consume something prior to working out (low sugar protein shake) and/or while working out (diluted Gatorade, etc.) and also consume something in the middle of the night. When you are sleeping you are basically fasting for 8-10 hours, so your body goes into catabolism. Mix up a protein shake before going to bed and keep it in the fridge or keep a protein bar close to your bed.

Whatever works best for you. I know that some professional bodybuilders go so far as setting their alarm to wake them up in the middle of the night to eat – I eat when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Also, be sure to eat breakfast.

7 – The Weight Gain Frame of Mind

Theoretically it is possible to gain both lean tissue and lose or maintain fat mass but it is a very fine line and much easier said than done. If weight gain is your goal, then you need to not be afraid to gain a little fat tissue – It almost comes with the territory when you are trying to add solid pounds of muscle tissue. You should just monitor your fat gain to make sure you’re not getting carried away with the calories.

Most professionals go through “bulking” cycles in the off-season where they consume massive amounts of calories, don’t perform any cardio, and hit the weights hard in order to gain lots of muscle, strength and bodyweight. Then they go through a “shredding” cycle, which may involve dieting and/or introducing cardio back into the program to get rid of any bodyfat they may have gained from the bulking cycle. I highly recommend this approach.

Final Thoughts

* Every calorie is a good calorie for “hardgainers” looking to put on bodyweight.
* Consistency is the key to reaching your goals.
* Listen to how your body responds.
* Train hard and HAVE FUN and watch yourself grow!


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