“One should eat to live, not live to eat” – Benjamin Franklin
Sorry Ben, I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. Talk to any bodybuilder at any time in the season, and the first thing on their mind is their food. Most have their food intake so precise that they can break each meal down for you to the calorie. Others are eating anything and everything in an attempt to get bigger. One thing is for sure – to get big you have to eat big.
Sometimes this task is difficult due to time restraints, obligations etc. If this is the case for you, no need to stress. Making use of supplements in your quest to gain size shouldn’t be an afterthought; rather you should make it a staple in your daily routine. If you have ever heard someone say no matter what they eat, they just can’t gain weight, take a minute and educate them with this very simplistic yet effective view on gaining weight. Here it is: If you are not gaining weight, you are not eating enough! Plain and simple. Calories in must exceed calories out and if you keep up with this protocol, you will gain weight.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to take a look at putting on size in an intelligent manner. Remember, you can’t flex fat so why add it to your physique. Let’s take a look at some great ways to put on mass without blurring the effects of your training by adding unwanted and useless fat.
To ensure your mass gaining program is on point with keeping to a bodybuilding lifestyle, there are some foods you want to include in your diet and foods you should probably stay away from. In the past, bodybuilders would try to gain as much bodyweight as possible with no real concern for added fat. The idea was as long as they were in caloric surplus, then muscle was being added and they’d get rid of the fat when the time came. What history proved to show us was that adding all of that bodyweight ended up being counterproductive when it came time to lose the fat.
Either a severe calorie restriction, excessive cardio or both was in the cards for these bodybuilders which caused them to lose a substantial amount of the new muscle they able to add in their mass phase. As well, they were finding that they just couldn’t get into the shape they wanted to be in. So what was the answer to this problem? Stay leaner during the offseason so that you still look like a bodybuilder all year, your prep won’t have to be such a drastic change to what you’ve always been doing and you won’t have to kill yourself with cardio.
The three macronutrient groups bodybuilder’s concern themselves with are: Proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Here are my top three choices for mass gaining foods in each group along with my reasoning behind the choice
Lean red meat – has a high calorie to serving ratio due in part to the higher fat content. It contains many of the amino acids you need and at 27-35 grams of protein per 100 gram serving, it’s a great way to up your protein intake without adding too much quantity in one meal.
Ground turkey/chicken – a great way to add calories to your diet and still benefit from its protein content, this version of poultry kicks it up a notch for mass seekers due to its higher than normal fat content as well. At roughly 25-30 grams of protein per 100 gram serving, this is one food you cannot go without.
Whole eggs – one of the purest protein sources available, whole eggs have been a bodybuilding staple for years. Adding the egg yolk to your meals again ups the calories per serving and gives you a little extra cholesterol kick to help boost natural testosterone levels which all leads to new mass.
Potatoes – this starchy carb is an excellent source of energy for those wishing to bulk up. Because it is considered a faster acting carb source after eating it an increase in insulin levels within the body can be expected and utilized to push protein into the muscle. This is a post workout favourite of many hard training bodybuilders.
Rice – again, another fast acting starchy carb, rice delivers pretty much the same benefits as potatoes do but is a little lighter in the gut which means you can eat a lot more of it before feeling full.
Oatmeal – this slower digesting carb source has been used by bodybuilders in the first meal of the day for a long time. It’s heavy by weight, which means its filling and can sustain energy levels for a longer period of time. The other benefit to oatmeal is that you can easily add sweet spices to it making it seem like a treat to eat each morning.
Avocados – Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fibre, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients.
Walnuts – rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (about 72%) like oleic acid and an excellent source of all important omega-3 essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and arachidonic acids. Regular intake of walnuts in the diet help to lower total as well as LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood.
Cheese – contains the much-needed calcium for optimal muscle contractions along with a good amount of protein per serving, adding cheese to your diet will add some taste to your food with the added benefit of the casein acting as a slow digesting protein so that your body is never in a fasted state.
Cheat Meals – Days
So far I’ve outlined the importance of progressing through your offseason using what’s commonly known as the clean bulk. This concept should not discount the importance of eating “dirty” foods at pre-determined times throughout the process. By consuming foods that you would rarely see on a bodybuilder’s diet such as burgers and pizza, you are providing your body with a quick shot of calories which will add to your mass gaining efforts. But that’s not the only benefit to doing this. Eating the foods that you have been craving will be a huge mental relief to you and allow you to keep going on with your clean bulk diet foods knowing that there is a treat coming to you at the end of the week, or maybe even twice a week.
Finally, and probably most importantly, is the influx of calories will give your metabolism a kick-start so that you can help control the amount of body fat you carry during your mass phase. It’s important to note that this is a planned and calculated event, and gluttony should never take over here. You are doing this cheat meal/day for a reason and not to simply cure your cravings.
AST Sports Science Supplements for Mass
The following is a list of a few supplements I believe should be a part of any mass gaining routine.
MyoGenin – This is a new ‘Active Protein” that signals mTOR. mTOR turns on protein synthesis and muscle growth. This is a must use, super-protein unlike anything else available.
Micronized Creatine – With this product you get faster absorption, a more efficient delivery of a purer form of creatine, no stomach upset whatsoever with ultimate muscle cell hydration.
DHEA 100 – Having the ability to manipulate the naturally occurring hormones in our body is a tool bodybuilders have been using for years. For this reason, using DHEA will increase your IGF-1 levels, reduce muscle wasting cortisol and help control body composition.
Getting big and strong is usually the best part of the year for bodybuilders. It’s in the offseason where improvements are made and champions are born. Attack this time of the season as fiercely as you would a contest prep. Get your food choices in order, use the correct supplements and get plenty of rest. Keep body fat levels to a minimum so you can actually see your progress and set yourself up for success in the future. Remember, you can’t flex fat so there’s no need to carry any more of it than you have to.