Weight Training Can Make You Smarter and Happier
July 27, 2017
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August 10, 2017

How Much And What You Should Eat To Maximize Muscle Gains

Some bodybuilders view bulking as a free pass to eat as much junk food as they require. As long as the scale in the bathroom and lifts in the gym are going up they consider it successful. But is it really worth gaining 10 lbs of fat to gain 1 lb of muscle? “Dirty” bulking will only make it harder to get shredded when you are finished. The truth is it’s not necessary to gorge yourself every 2 hours to build muscle. Even if fat gain is of little concern, you will be missing out on potential muscle growth by doing this.

If The Goal Is To Gain As Much Muscle As Possible, Why Not Eat As Much As Possible?

In the old days, almost all bodybuilders would put on 50+ pounds of weight during the offseason. Some of them seriously looked like different people with their bloated guts and puffy chipmunk cheeks. In addition to the traditional “clean” foods like sweet potatoes and chicken, the occasional burger and fries or entire pizza was not uncommon. More was simply seen as better in terms of gaining mass with many pro bodybuilders consuming over 8,000 kcals a day in the offseason.

Now we know this is not an optimal approach for a couple of reasons. The first is pretty obvious … eating excessively will make you fat. This is bad not only because you won’t look your best (or fit into any of your existing wardrobe other than sweats), but also because it will make it more difficult when you decide to cut down. Excessive calories and carbs result in not only filling all of your current fat cells but in the creation of new ones through the process of adipogenesis. These fat cells usually form in the areas where you naturally tend to store more of your body fat, typically in the gut and low back for men. This makes these problem areas even more stubborn once you begin dieting. As the body fat levels climb, anabolic resistance occurs making your body more likely to store body fat while inhibiting protein synthesis meaning all those excess calories are enlarging your waistline and not your muscles.

Another problem with “dirty” bulking is the increased levels of insulin circulating in the blood. Over indulging in carbs causes an increase in blood sugar causing your body to respond by releasing the hormone insulin. Insulin is a great thing for muscle growth in small doses, but when chronically elevated, your muscle cells can become desensitized. Once this happens, it’s far easier for the body to store nutrients as body fat rather than try to force them into desensitized muscle cells. At a certain point, you begin to get diminishing returns when it comes to consuming a caloric surplus, so it’s important to find the sweet spot that allows you to pack on the most muscle possible while limiting the amount of body fat gained.

How Much Should I Be Eating

We have established that the eat anything, and everything approach is not optimal, so how many calories should you be consuming?  The first step in finding this is to figure out your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is the amount of calories needed to support your basic metabolic needs as well as daily activities and exercise. Here’s how to estimate:

  • 12-14 kcals per pound of body weight for someone who is extremely sedentary. This could be a typical office worker who does not go to the gym on a regular basis.
  • 14-16 kcals per pound of body weight for the individual who engages in light to moderate activity 3-5 times a week. This could be someone who goes to the gym a couple times a week and enjoys a weekly hike.
  • 16-18 kcals per pound of body weight for people who participate in vigorous activity 3-5 times a week. This could be an intermediate level bodybuilder or even a construction worker.
  • 18-22 kcals per pound of body weight for those that engage in 15-20 hours of intense training per week. An example would be an advanced bodybuilder.

Once you have established your TDEE, simply add an additional 10% of calories on top of that. For example; let’s say you are a 190-pound intermediate level bodybuilder who works out 4 times a week.

190 x 17 = 3,230 = TDEE

3,230 x 1.1 = 3553

This individual would do best to start around 3,553 calories for a bulking phase. If you are gaining a pound a week or more, you can be sure there’s some unwanted fat gain so cut back on calories.  Now that we know the number of calories to consume, next let’s determine how to split them up among fats, proteins, and carbohydrates

Protein

Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to adding muscle mass. Without it, our bodies would not be able to build and repair muscle tissue through the process of protein synthesis. During a bulking phase, slightly less protein is needed than during a cut since you are in a calorie surplus and positive nitrogen balance. Aim for 1-1.4 g/lb of body weight from high-quality sources such as wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, whey protein, etc.

Carbohydrates

If you are starting your bulk after finishing a cutting phase, then you probably haven’t been able to enjoy any significant amount of carbs for some time. Well now that’s all changed, and carbs will make up the largest part of your diet since. Carbs will provide you with the fuel needed to blast through those intense sessions in the gym. During the offseason, the intensity needs to be upped which will be impossible without adequate glucose and glycogen from eating carbohydrates. Aim for 2-3 times your body weight based on preference and how well you tolerate carbs. These should come mainly from complex sources (except post workout) such as sweet potatoes, rice, and oats.

Fats

Healthy fats are essential to having healthy hormones and are a component of every cell in your body. During a bulk, carbohydrates are high so fats will have to be lower to avoid gaining excess body fat. Whatever calories you have left after calculating your carb and protein requirements will go to fats, but make sure it is at least a minimum of .3 g/lb of body weight. Fats will come primarily through your animal protein as well as avocados, coconut/olive oil, and raw nuts.

Putting It Together

Sticking with our 190-pound intermediate bodybuilder, let’s calculate total macronutrient needs.

Protein. 190 x 1.2 = 228g

Carbs. 190 x 2.5 = 475g

Fats. 228 x 4 + 475 x 4 = 2812

3553 kcal-2812 kcal = 741 kcal  741/9 = 82g of fat

Our example of the 190-pound intermediate bodybuilder could be consuming a diet consisting of 228g of protein, 475g of carbs, and 82g of fat.

Some Final Notes To Keep In Mind

  • Aim for 5-7 meals 2-4 hours apart.
  • Consume most of your carbs in the first half of the day. At night consume higher fats and lower carbohydrates
  • Pre and post workout nutrition are the most important meals when it comes to gaining muscle. Make sure to consume a high carbohydrate meal about 1-2 hours prior to training. This meal should be low fat.
  • Post workout – you want to consume a meal with large amounts of simple carbohydrates such as breakfast cereal or new potatoes. Fats should remain low, and protein should come from whey isolate.
  • Monitor your weight and adjust as needed. If you have been bulking for a few months, you have probably gained 5-10 lbs. This increases your TDEE so if you want to keep gaining you may need to recalculate your macros.
  • Despite all the formulas and calorie counting, remember it really is only a tool for you to gauge your body’s response. If you have counted calories before and are in tune with your physiological needs, it is not 100% necessary to count calories to have a successful bulk. However, if you have no idea how much food you are putting into your body, it’s very easy to over or under eat so for beginners it is essential.
  • You can consume all the calories you want, but you won’t grow without adequate sleep. Make sure to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep by turning off all LED lights and sleeping in as dark of a room as possible. Sheer Sleep contains nonhabit forming ingredients that allow a deep sleep and refreshing wake up. During REM sleep the body is producing higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone, so we definitely want to get the best sleep possible.
  • Your workouts must be intense, especially for more advanced lifters. If you are not pushing your body to the brink of its capabilities, it will feel no need to adapt and become stronger or bigger. A supplement such as Sheer Pre-Workout can help you get into the right mental state while providing nutrients to enhance your pump and get the most out of your workout.

1 Comment

  1. One who is on muscle building is the one who should stick to healthy fats diets, great read!

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