It’s Monday night – early in the week – and my mind is already all over the place.
As usual, my day was pretty hectic; Only today started with a dreadful text from my husband saying that he was sick and coming home for the day. All I thought was, “YIKES! How on earth am I going to keep the kids quiet for him to rest?!?” Lucky for him (and me) the gym daycare was there to save the day!
Because it’s Monday, otherwise known as National Chest Day in most gyms, I wonder how many of you made your way to the bench press? I did, of course. However, I’m not going to talk about my workout today. We’ll save that for an upcoming post.
LET’S TALK ABOUT GAINS
After mulling it over all day, I decided to talk about the question I get asked the most: “How can I put on size?”
Now, I said “size” because that’s the word that almost everyone uses when referring to adding muscle mass to their frame. You know, gainz.
Do you know what I ALWAYS answer with? The simple to say, hard to act on verb phrase: “eat more”.
I know, I know… Like everyone else typically tells me, you probably feel like you already eat “a lot”. I also know that even if your caloric intake per day day is high enough, most people aren’t ingesting the HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS calories it takes to gain muscle mass most effectively.
They’re piling on the empty calories that lead to more fat gain than muscle gainz.
I know you’ve heard it before and I’m about to say it again: YOU NEED MORE PROTEIN! You also need clean carbs (not processed, sugary junk) and veggies!
HOW MUCH DO I EAT?
Most people look at me and think because I’m so lean that I don’t eat very much. Truth be told, I’m not eating a whole lot at this moment in time, as I’m in the middle of cutting fat for my contest prep.
This isn’t the norm, though. The whole year and a half I spent gaining some “size” was nothing but eating. If you love to eat (like I do) you should be happy about needing to eat more to achieve your muscle gaining goals.
It’s always easier to eat when you’re not hungry than it is to be self-disciplined enough to not eat when you are. So, what you need to be prepared for is not being hungry enough to eat your meals but making yourself eat them anyway.
When someone tells me they already eat a lot, that all they do is eat, all day, the reality usually looks something like this: that person waking up, eating a bowl of cereal, or maybe a piece or two of toast with butter and jelly. Then a few hours later they might snack on a handful (or two) of potato chips.
A few hours after that it’s lunch time, which could mean a million different things, so I’ll just say what’s most typical here. They didn’t prepare for anything but failure. The person was too busy to pack their lunch the night before, so they either went through a drive-thru or the closest gas station for something quick to fill their belly.
After work they grab another fast food meal, or go home and make themselves a sandwich. If it’s a family meal, maybe it’s something more like spaghetti. Then they might have a snack before bed.
This may sound like a lot of food. At the end of the day, however, this person mostly ate fatty, empty calories that would contribute far more to fat gain than muscle gain. That doesn’t sound very effective if what you say you want is more muscle.
I’m going to tell you how much and how often I ate when I was “putting on size”. For starters, I ate six meals a day. That’s right! Six meals! SIX. FULL. SIZE. MEALS.
As Craig has rightly pointed out here, there isn’t any fat burning or muscle building benefit associated with eating that often compared to eating less frequently. The benefit is that it’s the easiest way to get in the number of quality calories you need to grow.
To give you a better idea, here’s what each of my six daily muscle building meals consisted of:
6oz of protein – Chicken, turkey, tuna, tilapia; basically, any white animal meat. Two days a week I’d substistute the white meat with red meat (seasoned to taste). I would always cook steak on red meat days (just because I love it so much!), but any red meat will do.
1 cup of carbs – Usually rice (white or brown, whichever you like better), sweet potato or regular potato.
1 cup of veggies – Usually broccoli, green beans, salad greens, or asparagus for me.
Below is a pic of one of my meals. Instead of 1 cup of broccoli with this meal, I did 1/2 cup of broccoli and 1/2 cup of green peppers.
I generally keep my meals the same throughout the day because this makes it easier for me to cook in bulk for the week and pre-package most of my meals.
Sure, this isn’t as exciting. But it keeps me on point and progressing toward my goals, which is the most important thing.
I also kept this particular meal pretty plain. I usually like to put a little terriyaki sauce on my chicken and a little soy sauce on my broccoli and rice. It’s just like eating take out Chinese food – well, close anyway – only healthier!
If you still don’t think my meals sound like a lot to eat, I can tell you that my husband sat down with ONE of my meals and couldn’t finish it. He’s 6’3″ 245lbs and probably loves food more than anyone I know. 🙂
Trust me. That’s a lot more food than can be gleaned just by looking at the picture. It’s healthy, satisfying, nutritious. Everything you need to succeed.
And I was eating that every 2-1/2 to 3 hours, with a small snack of almonds in between meals 3 and 4 each day. If you’re not used to eating this much, or this often, I wouldn’t recommend a major increase in food right away. Start smaller and work your way up.
Give your gut time to adjust to the higher digestive demands. I started at 4 oz of protein, 1/2 cup of rice, and a whole cup of veggies and moved up from there. Taking digestive enzymes before your meals is also a good way to keep your digestion system running strong.
What about cheating? I would give myself one cheat meal each week. I usually made this a Saturday evening cheat meal when I could go out to dinner with my husband. I would even include dessert. Why not? It’s a cheat meal, right?
Now that I’m just a couple of months away from my competition, I haven’t been allowing for a cheat meal anymore.
Man, have I been craving some carrot cake! I’ll be honest. I can’t wait to have my cheat meal return to my weekly eating schedule!!
Cheat meals once or twice a week are generally fine. I am prepping for a contest and have to be more disciplined than the average person. For those not preparing for a physique competition, indulging in the foods you love that aren’t the most healthy choices is okay, as long as it’s in moderation.
READY? SET? LIFT!!
Yep, I know you saw this one coming. Obviously, if you want to build muscle, you have to lift weights. I know first hand that lifting can be intimidating at first, but I promise those heavy plates and dumb bells will soon become your friends.
You’ll hear and read a million different opinions on the “best” way to lift, for gaining muscle. If you disagree with my method, you don’t have to use it, but you’ll be choosing to not use a method that works extremely well.
I lift heavy to maximize strength and to get “bigger”. And let me tell you, I LOVE IT! And it works.
Lifting heavy has given me a sense of power and confidence I never thought was possible just from weight training. This isn’t a form of “ego lifting”, trying to prove that you’re stronger than the guy or gal next to you to make yourself feel better.
If you’re wondering what I mean by “lift heavy”, I mean that for each set your rep range should max out at around 6. If you can do 10-12 reps, you need to move up in weight.
If the next weight up is 5 lbs on each dumbbell (which doesn’t sound like a big difference, but is) and you can only get 3-4 reps, that’s fine! I personally like to add a drop set on my last set. I find that I get a crazy pump doing this.
Here is an example of one of my favorite bicep movements – EZ curl bar preacher curls:
Warmup: 30lb bar for 10 reps
Set 1- 50lb bar for 8 reps
Set 2- 60lb bar for 6 reps
Set3- 60lb bar for 4 reps
Set 4- 60lb bar for 4 reps, drop to 40lb bar for as many as I can rep out, drop to 20lb bar for as many as possible.
Note: I’m currently training with lighter weight for higher reps. This is a great technique for burning fat! Your training and nutrition should both always be aligned with your personal goals.
AND… GOOD NIGHT
Woah! This posting ended up being much longer than I anticipated… And it’s now 2:15 in the morning! I REALLY enjoy writing about the subject of gains and I hope you enjoyed reading it – and that you learned something you can use in your own routine.
I’m guessing being long-winded also has to do with the fact that I’ve been cutting for a while and REALLY miss lifting heavy right now!
If you have any questions, or want me to write about a certain topic in an upcoming posting, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help!