Shit or Get Off The Pot Part II - Start Eating or Stay The Hell Out Of The Gym
By: Kelly Baggett
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What Have You Done So Far and What’s Your Excuse?
Let’s start by evaluating what you’ve accomplished so far in your muscle building efforts. If you’re not 100% satisfied with your gains you probably have one of 3 excuses. Either you haven’t been training long enough or haven’t acquired all the knowledge you need to accumulate the muscle mass you desire (which is valid), muscle mass gains don’t come easy for you, or you simply haven’t done what you know is necessary to gain at the rate that your genetics will allow you to. What I’m getting ready to rant about covers all of these excuses particularly the 2nd and 3rd, which are, for all practical purposes, cured by the same solution.
If Muscle mass gains don’t come easy that might mean you think of yourself as a hardgainer. Now, back when I first started lifting, hardgainer’s had a very strict definition. They were defined as chronically stressed beanpoles with long limbs, metabolisms like hummingbirds, with a capacity for physical work so low they could simply look at a weight and overtrain. However, over the years the hardgainer definition seems to have evolved to include just about everyone. Hell, I've heard some people classify a hardgainer as anybody who isn’t black and doesn't take steroids, but let’s cut through the bullshit and get to the point, - the common theme any “hardgainer” has is a "perceived” difficulty in making bodybuilding gains.
I’ve found that most of the time it's “perceived” difficulty moreso then “real” difficulty and here's one big reason why: As much as anything else, the reason people fail to make gains is because they're guilty of paralysis by analysis. Yeah there's a time and a place to worry about the benefits of macronutrient percentages, linear vs undulated periodization, meal timing, box squats vs front squats, the merits of monounsaturates vs polyunsaturated fatty acids, high rep vs low rep training, galactose vs glucose, high volume vs low volume, which of the 5000+ available supplements are worth a damn, and about a billion other things, but when it comes down to it a lot of people just need someone to come up to them and say “Son, it’s time to shit or get off the pot” “You know what you need to do just do it.”
So Where Do People Screw Up The Most?
Probably THE one simple thing that causes more people to screw up and spin their wheels is diet. Regardless of how you definite it, the reality is, MANY people think they are hardgainers or don’t build the muscle they could because they eat like birds. That’s mainly what I wanna talk about today.
If you had a young 1000 lb bull in your back yard and someone offered you 1 million dollars to get him up to 1500 lbs I bet you’d find a way to get it done wouldn’t you? I also don’t think many people would have a difficult time figuring out the most basic and important thing that you do to get him there and that’s tie on the feed bag. (I know what you juiceheads are thinking but even those Fina and Synovex implants aren't gonna work unless he gets plenty to freakin eat).
Big Muscles Need Big Nutrition
At it's most basic foundation increased size requires increased energy intake. Big muscles require big nutrition and big nutrition requires big eating. Big eating is difficult when your obsessed with maintaining the lowest possible body-fat percentage and your diet revolves around boiled chicken breasts, tuna, and egg whites. Why do you think you never see powerlifters, football players, or throwing athletes that have difficulty putting on body-mass? Here’s one thing you can learn from them:
Muscle With No Fat Ain't Phat
The only people who can gain decent amounts of muscle without giving a little in the fat gain department are teenagers, complete newbies, guys with freaky genetics, and steroid users. For about 90% of the training population the absolute quickest way to make sure that you don't make a
single gain in muscle mass over the next 6 months, 2 years, 5, 10, or even 20 years is to try to gain pure muscle without accepting a temporary bit of fat gain in the process. Most people don't want to hear this but out of all the people you see that lift weights consistently on a weekly basis that don't make gains this is the number one reason why right here. Yes, many people do train like crap too but even the most horrific training program will produce marginal results with enough nutrition. (If that weren’t the case then no teenager in the world would ever make a single gain). Now, any newbie can quickly throw on an easy 10 lbs of muscle mass, yet once you get those initial gains things become a bit more difficult. What typically happens is people do most everything right with regard to training and diet yet as soon as they see a little fat gain so they freak out and stop eating. That is a big mistake and here's why:
Food Is Your Most Potent Weapon For Mass Construction
Did you know that just sitting on your ass and eating excess food by itself can stimulate muscle growth even without weight training? Studies done on overfeeding consistently demonstrate that at least 35% of the weight sedentary people gain when they do nothing but overeat 1000 extra calories per day of crappy foods for 100 or more days straight is lean bodyweight. In fact, underneath all that fat mass, the biggest sumo wrestlers on average carry more muscle mass then the biggest bodybuilders. The biggest of the big sumo wrestlers have an estimated lean body mass of 500 pounds. Yeah, they carry a lot more fat too but their goal is to get big and fat by eating junk and doing very little. Now, surely if a completely sedentary individual can gain 1 lb of muscle for every 3 pounds of fat eating crap and sitting on their butt you could do a lot better then that with more of a bodybuilding style diet and good hard training couldn't you? What would happen if you ate a crapload of decent high protein “bodybuilder” friendly foods and trained big with a goal of building as much muscle as possible while staying relatively lean?
What would happen if you ate and trained your way up to a 50 lbs bodyweight increase with a 3:1 muscle to fat gain ratio? That's a humongous 37.5 lb muscle gain vs 12.5 lbs of fat. Have you ever met a person who couldn’t lose 12.5 lbs of fat? Me neither. Sound good? Here are some tips to get you there:
Make The Decision To Do It
First off it starts with a decision. You won’t find an advanced natural trainer who packs on a significant amount of muscle who didn’t make a solid decision to push his muscular bodyweight up. Twenty, 30, or 50 pounds of muscle ain’t gonna come knockin on your door asking you to carry it around. Make that decision and decide that you’re going to build that muscle and commit that this is what you’re gonna do.
Get Your Diet Right
John Parrillo used to say that a bodybuilder should match his training to his diet instead of trying to match his diet to his training. I couldn’t agree more. Devising a complex training scheme without a solid diet is like building a house on sand. Your eating is your foundation for muscle gains and without it nothing happens. Get your support system in place first.
It Starts With Protein
Multiply your bodyweight by 1.5 grams. That's the minimum amount in protein grams you need to shoot for each day. Get a watch with a timer and set it to ring every 3 hours. From the time you get up until the time you go to bed you better make damn sure that you eat or drink a protein meal within each 3 hour time-span not including your post-workout drink. Whether you go high carb, high fat, moderate carb, moderate fat or whatever with the rest of your food choices is up to you but regardless of what type of diet you’re on, protein intake is a must. No excuses.
How Much Food Do You Need?
So how many calories should you eat per day? A good starting point is bodyweight x 15 for maintenance and bodyweight x 20 to gain. Keep in mind metabolic rates vary and those scientific metabolic prediction equations can be off by 30% or more in either direction, which means 2 sedentary people can weigh the same yet have a 60% difference in their energy requirements. If in doubt here’s a simple and accurate way to tell how much you need to eat: Look at the clock right now and then go get on the scale. If, by the same time next week that scale is not at least 1 lb heavier then it is today, you're not eating enough. Very simple. If that’s the case add at least 500 calories per day to whatever you normally eat. Whether that means you need to eat 2500, 3000, 5000, or 10000 calories per day depends on you as an individual. If you're not gaining weight you're not eating enough food and it's that simple. Before you worry about quality of weight gain you better damn sure make sure you're getting enough calories and nutrients to promote weight gain in the first place.
Having Trouble Eating Enough?
Someone smart once told me that the word protein comes from a latin word that means "comes first". I don't know if that's true or not in the real world but by-god I can tell you it's true in the muscle gain world. Now, what I’m about to suggest I’m not recommending everyone do and I don’t want you to use it as a copout just to give you an excuse to eat junk, but if you’re currently stuffing yourself to the hilt with veggies, oatmeal, sweet potatoes etc. and other clean foods as your prime energy sources and you find it difficult to eat enough to gain you need to change something so here’s what I recommend for some people:
Eat your protein first at each meal and as soon as you slam that down your throat go ahead and eat whatever the hell else you want to until you're full. When you sit down to eat go ahead and clear all the protein off your plate first. Once you've done that go ahead and go your own way with the carbs. One hundred calories worth of pancake syrup will build just as much muscle as 100 calories worth of apples or potatoes. Yeah, I know the syrup isn't considered "healthy" or whatever but screw it. If your limiting factor is how much food you can get down your throat then you need to get more calories and if that means consuming the junk carbs then have at it. Once you're eating enough calories to get the scale creeping up in the right direction you can worry about everything else.
Back when I was a teenager I remember reading an article by IFBB pro Dave Fisher that gave that exact advice. He would make sure he got enough protein in at each meal but after that he’d go his own way with the carbohydrate intake. That meant he'd go ahead and finish off his eggs, chicken, steak or whatever protein source at each meal, but after that he'd load up on toast with jelly, kiddie cereal, pancakes, and anything else he desired. At the time I was stuck at 125 lbs bodyweight trying to forcefeed myself 3500 calories per day of ultra-clean foods. I was either eating or cooking constantly and pissing off everybody else in the house with my hostile takeover of the kitchen. The bad thing is I still wasn’t getting enough food to gain weight. I started incorporating some of Dave’s advice and got the scale moving up. The protein is what's gonna build the muscle but it's gotta be supported with enough overall calorie intake. There’s no way you can get fat unless you’re first eating enough calories overall to gain weight.
It's a helluva lot easier to drink calories then it is to eat them. Think about it. Even after you've put away that big ass meal you can always make room for a milk shake. If you're having trouble eating enough, mix up a protein shake in a thermos consisting of 6-12 servings of protein. Mix it with milk, water, or whatever you want. Sip on it throughout the day. That right there is an additional 600-1200 calories and 120-240 grams of protein. What type of protein you ask? Anything that tastes good and you can afford to take a lot of other then soy. When it comes to mass gains, protein quantity makes up for protein quality. A 100 gram helping of $50 per pound hydro filterated supro conjugated ion exchange whatever will get blown away by 150 grams of $5 per pound bargain wal-mart protein. Hell, if you're really poor just buy a big ass bag of skim milk powder and use that as a protein drink.
Steak and Eggs Rule
Don’t be afraid to go with more "traditional" Protein choices- One of the reasons people usually lose weight when they switch to bodybuilding diets and a big reason why other muscle seeking athletes like powerlifters and football players rarely follow bodybuilding diets is because the foods are so nutrient dense and bland it’s hard to eat enough. Think about that. What's easier, overeating on buffalo wings or boiled chicken breasts? Sauced up ribs or tuna? T-bone Steak or egg whites? Golden Corral or Subway? Try putting the typical 220 pound + powerlifter on standard bodybuilding fare and see how long it takes him to start complaining about strength and energy loss. It can be difficult as heck for non obsessive compulsive people to eat more then 2000 calories per day when their diet consists of "health" foods. What about the people who need 5000 calories per day? Forget it. Those bodybuilding foods can become a huge disadvantage for someone that needs a lot of food to maintain or gain weight. I recommend IF you're having trouble getting in enough food that you stick to easier to consume choices such as dark meat chicken, whole eggs, steak, hamburgers, pork chops, and even an occasional helping of shit like fried chicken. Screw this dried chicken breast and canned tuna bullshit.
I used to know a bodybuilder who would go to McDonalds everyday and buy ten .99 cent hamburgers and carry them around all day and eat at least 2 of them every 2-3 hours. He'd also mix 1/2 lb of protein with 1/2 gallon of milk, put it in an oversized thermos with ice and sip on it throughout the day. That was in addition to his regular meals. You'd be more then amazed what the pros eat during the off-season to push their bodyweights up. Suffice to say they're not eating anywhere near as clean as what most people think. I remember hearing how Dorian Yates polished off an entire 2 gallon tub of ice cream at a guest posing in Australia and this was just a between meal snack. I've seen bodybuilders sit down and polish off 2 large pizzas and then be ready to eat again 3 hours later. The list goes on and on. Bottom line. To carry more muscle mass then your body naturally wants and to push the amount of muscle mass up and up and up requires a permanently increased nutrient intake which tends to create a very fast metabolism. Your body tends to resist you as you push your bodyweight up. Because of that you’ll rarely ever find a muscular guy who isn't also a big eater. If you’re not a big eater now you better learn to be. You don't necessarily have to eat unhealthy though. You could always increase your calories by putting away half a jar of natural peanut butter and several tablespoons of olive oil per day
Work In Short Cycles
Unless you’ve ever tried eating 300-600 grams of protein per day and surplus calories every single day for months on end it’s hard to comprehend how difficult it can be. Trust me it is. Nothing sucks worse then getting up at 3 am writhing in pain and stumbling into the restroom to puke up an entire undigested meal that you stuffed down your throat with water before bed just so you could get enough protein and calories in for the day. Not only is eating so much protein for months on end tedious, but unfortunately, the body adapts to a high protein intake by becoming more proficient at breaking down protein and using it as energy. The solution is simple. Don't eat the same damn amount of protein and calories all the time. Work in short cycles where you really go for the gains for a short time and then back off for a while and give yourself a break. (No, I'm not talking about that stupid protein cycling bullshit where you intentionally cut all the way back to an amount of protein that would starve a pigeon). I'm talking about maybe going from a protein intake of 1.5 to 2 grams for a month or 2 followed by dropping down to maybe 1 gram per pound for a week or 2 while you take it a little easier at the dinner table and in the gym.
Vince Gironda used to recommend a bodybuilder only try to go all out for gains for short periods of 4 weeks. During this time he'd have his guys consuming up to a pound of protein powder per freakin day, 3 dozen eggs, cream, pounds of chicken, steak, and god know what else. They'd go all out for 4 weeks really trying to push up the numbers in the gym and on the scale. Hell, Larry Scott was one of Vince’s followers and never even bothered to train unless he could take in a pound of milk and egg protein and cream per day in addition to his normal diet. He knew he wouldn’t gain without it so why bother? This would then be followed up with a 2-week diet where the calories and protein were lowered and the digestive system was given a break. I recommend you do the same thing. Get after it for anywhere from 3-8 weeks and push that bodyweight up a good pound a week and then back off for a week or 2 and maintain. Use your back off weeks to also back off in intensity with your training.
Don't Run Out Of Food!!
This might be the most important rule thus far. It should come as a no-brainer but you'd be amazed at the number of people that get sabotaged by this. Don't let yourself run out of food!! If you wanna make gains you gotta plan out your dietary intake and have all your food ready to go ahead of time. Nothing sux worse then running out of food in the middle of a hardcore muscle gain cycle. I’ve ran across tons of bodybuilders and other athletes who will save up and spend all their extra money on supplements or steroids yet fail to save up any money to buy enough food to stock their kitchen up with! They often end up losing about 5 lbs within 3 weeks and basically piss away their money. So plan your food intake and purchase it ahead of time.
I recommend you become friends with some redneck deer hunters or cattle farmers that way you can stock your freezer with some deer meat and beef. If that won't work go to the butcher and see about getting some steak, beef, chicken, etc. in bulk. Purchase big bags of rice, oats, etc. in bulk instead of at the grocery store. Go to Sam’s or Costco and purchase as many of those big ass containers of eggs as you can. Buy all your supplements in bulk. In fact, go ahead and stock your damn refrigerator, freezer, and cupboard as if you’re preparing for the 2nd coming. Your body will eventually thank you. Pick one night each week and cook up all your meats for the coming week and throw them in the freezer that way you can thaw them out and consume them as needed throughout the week. That will save you a lot of time.
Alright, that oughta give you enough to ponder for the time being so I'll shut up now. Next time I'm gonna talk about putting a plan together. In the meantime, get up off that pot, take your ass to the grocery store, and start stocking up that kitchen.
1. Bouchard, Tremblay “Genetic Influences on the Response of Body Fat and Fat Distribution to Positive and Negative Energy Balances in Human Identical Twins.” Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Québec, G1K 7P4 Canada
2. Kondo, Takashi, Ikegawa, Kawakami, Fukunaga. “Upper limit of fat-free mass in humans: A study on Japanese Sumo wrestlers.” 1994