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In the world of weight training, probably the most humbling piece of workout equipment you’ll ever face is the tape measure.
Months go by, you’re hitting the iron like an animal — four, five days a week — pushing yourself to your limits. Your work output is increasing, you're doing your splits correctly, you’re adding plates to the bar, your intensity is on point. And then comes that day when you pull out the tape measure, extend it, and wrap it around your bicep.
You’ve gained 3/8ths of an inch.
It’s enough to send you right back to the couch and the TV and a life of laziness.
Gaining significant muscle mass is the hardest transformational goal to achieve, much harder than simply losing weight or even increasing fitness. There’s a reason for this.
Your body naturally resists muscle gains. It does so because muscle is metabolically expensive to maintain. It requires constant upkeep, whereas fat is easy to maintain. It just sits there, waiting for famine to strike. Of course your body will — reluctantly — add muscle if it absolutely has to, like if your body is constantly encountering intervals of huge physical stress and resistance. That’s called training.
But even then, your body will only add muscle under the most advantageous nutritional conditions. And that’s where most people get muscle mass increase wrong. Many people simply aren’t eating as much as they think they’re eating. And some people are just eating wrong. Either way, your muscle gain plans will go awry.
So, what are the rules of eating right to gain enough muscle to move that tape measure in a positive direction? Let's take a look.
1 Maintain a Caloric Surplus at All Times
This is not as easy as it might seem. And it's vitally important. Your body requires a constant stream of nutritional factors to continue to repair and build new muscle tissue and to fuel the multitude of physiological cellular reactions that make mass increase possible. When that stream is interrupted, your body slips into a catabolic state and starts tearing down muscle tissue for fuel.
This means that three meals, even big meals, per day aren't going to cut it. There's no way you can ingest enough calories in three sittings to drive muscle growth. We'll get into some specifics regarding protein, fats, and carbs in a bit, but just in terms of sheer caloric intake, you should be eating six or seven meals a day, or about once every 2.5 hours. That can be challenging, but we'll also discuss strategies that will make it easier.
In the meantime, if you're training hard and eating clean, the scale will tell you if you're eating enough. If you're just getting started, the needle or digits may not move in a favorable direction because you're losing fat. After that though, if you're not making progress, that's a sign that you need to eat more. You can increase your caloric intake gradually by simply adding a mini-meal to your day and see what happens. Keeping a meal log -- literally writing down everything you eat -- will help make sure that you're being consistent in your eating habits.
2 Protein, Protein, and More Protein
The RDA for protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass each day, but that's for your typical modestly active adult. Your physique goals are a little loftier, so you should be shooting for 1.5 grams to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day. (For a 200-lb male, that's 135 to 180 grams of protein per day.)
That's a lot of protein, and much of it will come from whole food sources like beef, chicken, fish and eggs. To attain these protein intake goals, you're going to want to buy in bulk and cook and store food in sizable batches. For flavor, prioritize spices over sugary coatings or glazes, and of course batter-dipped anything is out.
This brings us back to the topic of mini-meals. Believe it or not, there's only so much steak and fish, so many hard-boiled eggs, you can possibly eat in a day. So adding yet another chicken breast as a mini-meal probably isn't going to be feasible. This is where a high-quality whey protein isolate or advanced whey blend can work wonders.
Whey protein actually has a higher protein biological value (BV) than beef, chicken or fish and it has the added benefit of being portable and convenient. One scoop of protein typically provides 20 to 25 grams of protein and functions as an ideal added mini-meal that won't fill you up too much when you're on the go between meals.
Just make sure it's a high-quality protein like ProSource's own NytroWhey Ultra Elite. NytroWhey Ultra Elite contains the highest-potency whey isolate formulated via an advanced Cross-Flow Microfiltration (CFM) process that yields a product with greater overall protein content, plus higher amounts of essential amino acids like leucine, and does not damage any of the natural biological fractions found within whey protein.
NytroWhey Ultra Elite also contains a cutting-edge whey hydrolysate that is micro-processed to yield extremely low-molecular-weight di- and tri-peptides for immediate amino absorption and assimilation by the body, plus a state-of-the-art leucine peptide technology designed to maximize protein synthesis in the muscle cell. Together these three protein sources, all proudly manufactured in the USA, combine in a state-of-the-art protein blend justifiably celebrated for its light, clean taste and smooth, luscious texture.
3 Avoid Empty Calories
It's hard enough to consume all of the daily calories you need to drive significant muscle growth without cluttering up your diet with useless calories. Every empty calorie you eat -- every potato chip, every cookie, every sugary soda -- takes the place of a restorative, nutrition-packed calorie that could be supporting your muscle gain efforts. In short, it's a wasted opportunity to grow.
The easiest way to avoid the temptation to binge on junk is to always have healthy food choices on hand. At home, you should have meals prepared and waiting for you in your fridge, not to mention plenty of fruits and vegetables on your kitchen counter or in your pantry. Get used to bringing prepared meals with you to work so you don't end up participating in the office-wide lunch time fast food order. Keep a few protein bars or a shaker cup with two scoops of protein powder in your car for when you're on the go. Always be prepared to meet fast-food or junk food cravings head on and defeat them.
4 Be Smart About Carbs
To gain mass, you need plenty of carbs. Carbs are your primary source of calories required for growth and they'll restore depleted glycogen levels in muscle tissue to ensure you have the energy you need for intense weight training. Fifty percent of your diet should be made up of carbs, but not just any carbs.
Your body loves high-glycemic carbs. Potatoes, white rice, processed foods with added sugar. Specifically, it loves to store them directly as body fat. These are the carbs of energy spikes and crashes, not the carbs that should be forming the foundation of your dietary regimen. Rather, you should emphasize low-glycemic carbs: oatmeal at breakfast, leafy green vegetables with lunch and dinner, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain breads, sweet potatoes, good fibrous vegetables like broccoli and carrots. Just like protein, you should have at least one serving of low-glycemic carbs at every meal.
5 Precision Target High Glycemic Carbs Directly After Your Workout
Now that we've expressed the importance of sticking to slow-digesting, low-glycemic carbs, we're going to break that rule in one specific instance. Immediately after your workout, your muscle fibers are ravaged, your glycogen levels are on E, and your body is screaming for fuel to begin muscle repair and trigger the growth that will help your muscles survive the next physical onslaught. You have a remarkably short period of time to shuttle vital nutrients to muscle tissue and begin this process.
This is where high-glycemic carbs suddenly become your friend. They will help spike insulin levels, which drive the carbs into muscle cells, restoring glycogen levels for your next workout. Insulin also helps shuttle amino acids into muscle cells to build new muscle proteins. This process in the foundation for growth.
Now, do we suggest that you gulp down a couple of spoonfuls of table sugar after your workout? Absolutely not. Instead, here again is a time of day when a super-premium supplement can be of great help. The best post-workout mass builders are designed to provide your body with the precise nutrients your muscles need to survive and thrive in the immediate growth window that exists after a high-intensity workout.
One such mass builder, MyoZene from BioQuest, represents the state of the-art science in this category. MyoZene's protein component is comprised of a blend of highly specialized hydrolyzed whey rich in essential di- and tri-peptides for ultra-rapid absorption into the muscle. It is also fortified with an advanced leucine peptide technology to enhance muscle protein synthesis.
Just as importantly for our purposes here, MyoZene contains an advanced carbohydrate matrix designed to raise blood glucose levels, potentiating insulin release, which in turn plays a key role in skeletal muscle protein synthesis by activating ribosomal activity and growth initiation factors within skeletal muscle.
Finally, to ensure that MyoZene is your one-stop shop for post-workout muscle growth, MyoZene contains creatine monohydrate for cell volumization and strength support, taurine and glutamine for recovery support, and L-carnitine L-tartrate for additional hormonal support. If your not taking a high-quality mass builder of some sort, you're undermining your growth potential.
6 Eat Before Bedtime and As Soon As You Wake
Believe it or not, there are bodybuilders who set their alarms for 3am so they can get up and eat a meal and thus break up the fasting interval we call sleep. We don't suggest you do this, for reasons we'll get to soon. We also don't suggest that you tuck into a turkey dinner with all the trimmings at 11pm. But there are ways to shorten the longest famine of your day -- the eight hours you spend asleep.
Before you go to bed, mix and drink a shake composed of slow-absorbing proteins. Casein in particular is ideal for this. Casein sits in your stomach and dissolves very slowly, providing a slim and continuous stream of aminos necessary to keep your muscles in a growth environment. Night-time is also an excellent time to ramp up your intake of healthy fats. Add some flaxseed oil to your shake or eat a handful of walnuts or cashews, or just take a couple of high-quality Omega-3 gels.
When you wake up, it is critical that you eat right away. And not a breakfast bar on your way out the door either. Make and eat a real breakfast with portions of protein -- eggs, bacon, ham -- and low-glycemic carbs like oatmeal made from steel-cut oats. Never, ever skip breakfast.
7 Drink Plenty of Water
Our species may be far removed from its seaborne origins, but we still carry the sea inside us wherever we go. Water is essential to every physiological reaction in our bodies, and just a 2% reduction in bodily hydration will negatively impact every aspect of performance and recovery including endurance, strength, and muscular response.
And yet many of us walk around dehydrated all the time. We don't drink enough water while we lose moisture to sweat and diuretic substances like caffeine and diet soda. When you go out onto the gym floor, make sure you bring some water with you. Drink water before, during, and after your workout. In general, try to drink the equivalent of 3.5 liters of water a day.
8 Get Sufficient Restful Sleep
No, this isn't dietary advice. But no article on jump-starting muscular growth would be complete without mentioning the third leg in the three-legged stool of mass gain success. The first leg is training, the second is diet, and the third is rest.
Without proper rest, all the eating and training in the world isn't going to help you achieve anything. Your body executes most of its repair and growth while you sleep. Establish a firm sleep schedule with a consistent bedtime. Draw the blinds and keep the room comfortably cool. Clear your room of electronics (yes, that means your TV) and put your phone out of reach. Consider supplementing with a sleep support compound like ZMA or melatonin. Your body -- and your muscles -- will thank you.
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The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.