Eating To Grow: Training Intensity and the Fuel Tank
Let’s face it, there are tons of articles and opinions out there with completely conflicting view points on the absolute best way to stack on quality size. It would leave any lifter seriously confused, but it that doesn’t have to be the case! Why? Because the answer to the best way to pile on size is simple, eat to grow!
Training for quality mass is not as tricky a proposition as many are led to believe. Eat the right kinds of calories, take the best supplements, train with Branch Warren-like intensity, rest wherever possible, and sleep for at least seven hours each night. By doing all of the above consistently over the long term, with the right frequency and duration, steady lean-muscle gains will be yours – guaranteed!
Caution: by reading and applying the following insights you may be accused of switching to the juice, holding out on the secret to miraculous growth, or both. Continue regardless.
Consider this article your blueprint for advanced mass building. We’ll be covering all the factors needed to flesh-out your physique faster than ever before. If you are happy with your progress upon following the advice given below, be sure to share this article around to set your brothers and sisters in iron on the path to similar success!
It’s often said that gym progress can be as much as 60-70% nutrition, with training and rest comprising the remaining 30-40%. It’s this kind of faulty logic that holds many people back from realizing their mass building potential.
In reality, training, nutrition and rest are equally important. One does not outrank the other. Whenever percentages are assigned to a given muscle building mandatory, there’s a tendency on the part of the trainee to hold back in certain areas. Thus, all mass gaining prerequisites must be assigned equal importance. As the great 6-time Olympia winner Dorian Yates once said: training, diet and rest must all be given 100% effort. Few would argue with The Shadow on this point.
While the multitudes of mass building variables are of equal importance, there is a specific order in which they must be applied to ensure the greatest progress. Generally, the order is: train, eat, rest/sleep, and repeat.
Notwithstanding all important pre-workout supplementation, the training needed to build size should be our first consideration. Without an adequate spark, there can be no progress – period.
Simply put, by generating sufficient intensity in the gym, the muscles are forced to super compensate by becoming larger and stronger so as to tackle increasingly more intensive workloads the next time around. The real key to gargantuan size gains is to first ‘ignite’ muscle protein synthesis by training with the highest amount of intensity from workout to workout. The best way to do this is to lower overall training volume and duration while looking for ways to condense training output.
Achieving momentary muscular failure on all work sets is crucial. Provided the final rep on each set is near impossible to achieve, one need not perform multiple sets (two ultra-hard sets is more than sufficient to stimulate an optimal growth response). Train each muscle group once a week for no more than 25 minutes per small grouping or 35 minutes per large grouping, per session.
Achieving momentary muscular failure on all work sets is crucial.
Stimulating the greatest growth response requires the proper amount of rest. This varies from person to person and various lifestyle factors can all impact the length of time it takes for trained muscles to first recover before they can grow. This is a key point. Once the dust has settled and the sweat has dried, the muscles do not automatically begin growing. They first must recover.
The more work we do, the longer this recovery takes. Once the muscles have recovered, and provided sufficient rest and nutrients are supplied, we may then begin growing. It’s a drawn-out process that, in most cases, produces little, if any, results. Why? Because most people train too long and too often and do not get enough rest or achieve the proper ratio of muscle-building nutrients. Giants of the physique world such as the late Mike Mentzer, Dorian Yates and Mr. Mass with Class Lee Labrada all advocated blasting the muscles with ultra-high intensity across few sets before resting them for optimal results. Reduce your workout volume, up the intensity and watch the magic happen.
Mass Tip 1: Control
The single most effective way to ensure that a given muscle is properly primed for maximum growth (the first stage of muscle anabolism) is to emphasize this muscle and not the surrounding areas, an obvious point but one many continue to overlook. The proper isolation of a muscle (and all movements have the potential to isolate) requires a great deal of control though a full range of motion.
Take a full two seconds to lower the weight; really feel the muscles working on the way down. Then transition smoothly from the bottom while contracting the muscles all the way up; squeeze for a one-count at the top, then continue to completion in controlled fashion. Training this way often requires a reduction in training weight, which is more than compensated for by the sharp increase in training intensity.
Training and nutrition work together to produce the results we desire. One without the other renders the mass building process wasteful at best.
Unfortunately for many, nutrition is the one area that tends to be neglected. While training can be fun, meal planning and preparation is, by comparison, boring. Eating, on its own, can be an exercise in drudgery, especially given the kinds of comparatively bland foods bodybuilders must eat to fuel both high-level training and lean mass increases.
The key to ongoing muscle gains is to never be caught short in the dietary department. As little as one missed meal can impede the recovery process. To ensure optimal gains, eat six times a day, breaking each meal down to whatever macronutrient balance is sufficient for your individual needs. Larger lifters will need more calories while smaller lifters require fewer calories. It’s important to determine the exact number of calories and the specific macronutrient ratio you will need to achieve your goals (this can be a tricky business but a qualified pre-comp coach can assist).
The three key macros are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Proteins build all tissues (including muscle) while carbohydrates provide energy, spare protein from being used for fuel, and provide a valuable complement of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and assorted co-factors).
Fats provide a different kind of energy that’s more likely to be stored as, you guessed it, fat. Fats also provide valuable fatty acids for cellular biosynthesis and, in saturated form, can aid testosterone production.
The best way to ensure that you have the right nutrients when you need them is to prepare your meals three days in advance, store them in Tupperware containers, and take however many you need wherever you go.
The first five meals of the day must contain some protein (around 30%), carbohydrate (around 50%) and fat (around 20%). The final meal of the day should be pure protein with trace fats/carbs: cottage cheese is perfect at this time as it is a slow release form of protein that sustains muscle growth while you sleep.
Muscle growth simply cannot occur in the absence of quality proteins. The best forms of protein are those that contain all nine essential and 11 non-essential amino acids. It’s important to get the amino acid ratios right. As the building blocks of protein, aminos are reassembled into muscle once assimilated in the body (this is why amino acid supplementation is of vital importance to serious lifters).
Aside from specific amino acid supplementation and whey proteins (which are of the highest biological value of all proteins), the best protein sources include eggs (eat two whole to every five whites), fish, chicken, beef and milk.
The best carbohydrate sources include those of the complex variety: oats, brown rice, sweet potato, beans, quinoa, and kidney beans are several of the best. Complex carbs provide the best training fuel as they are more slowly released into the blood and can sustain physical exertion over the long haul.
Muscle growth simply cannot occur in the absence of quality proteins.
Simple carbs, on the other hand, are more rapidly assimilated and create a greater insulin surge, which may result in higher blood sugar levels, decreased energy and unwanted weight gain. Limit simple sugars such as honey, fruits and products that contain sucrose/fructose to directly after training when muscle cells are more receptive to their uptake and at which point they’ll be less likely converted into body fat.
The best fat sources remain the essential variety (EFAs, or Essential Fatty Acids). Cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are especially beneficial as they are high in the Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are important for driving down post-training inflammation, improving brain health and optimizing blood circulation, among numerous other health and performance benefits.
Omega 6 (also referred to as linoleic fatty acid) is a good secondary source of EFAs. Nuts, seeds and some vegetables are superior sources of Omega 6. Both Omega 3 and 6 are important structural components of cell membranes. Thus, these fats help to enhance the uptake of proteins and carbohydrates into muscle cells.
Saturated fats can be beneficial, but only in smaller amounts. For health and wellbeing, calories from saturated fats should be limited to no more than 10% of total daily calories for average folk, while bodybuilders can get away with eating a little more (15% of daily calories, maximum). Three to four egg yolks (with 1.6g of saturated fat per yolk) and a juicy steak daily will provide sufficient testosterone-boosting saturated fat.
Contrary to what some bodybuilders believe, regular junk food feedings will not boost the metabolic rate to aid fat burning.
While the occasional ‘cheat’ meal (perhaps 1-2 times a week) may provide a welcome break from the routine of regular clean eating and provide a short-lived metabolic boost, regular cheat meals will only serve to derail your mass building progress. Junk foods high in trans-fats (hydrogenated fats which destroy the cells of the body) are especially deleterious and simple sugars such as high fructose corn syrup have no redeeming qualities and are to be avoided.
While all meals are needed to promote recovery and growth, breakfast and pre/post workout nutrition is especially important. A breakfast high in protein and carbs sets you up for the day and gets the anabolic/fat burning processes moving, while the pre-workout meal is crucial for ensuring maximum training intensity. Post workout nutrition could be the most important meal of the day for bodybuilders. Targeted supplementation followed by a whole foods meal high in carbs and proteins is the ticket here.
Mass Tip 2: Advanced Supplementation
When it comes to supplementing a sound bodybuilding diet, many bodybuilders will throw in a whey product and perhaps a daily multi-vitamin. Both great choices but far from sufficient for advanced muscle building results. To really engage muscle anabolism to enhance muscle protein synthesis and promote fresh muscle gains, a steady supply of key performance supplements is warranted.
Aspiring bodybuilding champs the world over judiciously use a full spectrum supply of key performance products to boost training success. Creatine, whey protein, amino acids, pre-workouts, vitamin/mineral/electrolyte products and carbohydrate formulas are among the supplements to be found in the training arsenals of serious lifters. Without them, intensive workouts, complete recovery, and quality muscle growth is a difficult task indeed.
Rest and Grow
Once your muscles have been blasted with full-force intensity and the foods and supplements needed to turn your efforts into results have provided the raw materials for growth, then it’s time for the next, though no less important, mass building factor: rest.
Without proper rest and recovery, muscle growth is not possible. Take 10-15 minutes, three times a day, to lay back and fully rest the mind and body. Think of your body as a battery that needs to be recharged on a regular basis. Once a battery becomes depleted, continuing to use it will only cause it to run dry. The same is true for the body.
For the average person, rest is essential for cellular regeneration. For the bodybuilder, planned respite from the rigors of daily living is doubly important. As well as resting wherever possible, be sure to get a minimum of seven uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. It is during sleep (and, to a smaller extent, during intense training) that most of our growth hormone (an anabolic hormone of critical to constructive metabolism) is released.
Without proper rest and recovery, muscle growth is not possible. So get to bed early and keep the ZZZ’s coming for a good 7+ hours.
In fact, up to 75 percent of this key hormone (which bolsters muscle growth and bone density, leads to performance increases and aids general health maintenance) is released. To ensure GH reaches its peak, sleep should be of the highest quality. Slow wave, or stage 3 sleep, which we fully enter into only when our slumber is sufficiently long and uninterrupted, is the prime GH release period. So get to bed early and keep the ZZZ’s coming for a good 7+ hours.
That other key anabolic hormone, testosterone, also reaches its peak during sleep. As with GH, testosterone is of critical importance to replenishing the body and priming the muscles for vigorous activity. Thus, massive amounts of T are released when we sleep. This ensures that peak levels are reached during the early hours of the morning, when we need them most: to prepare us for the day ahead.
As each day nears its end, testosterone levels gradually plummet and we become tired and less physically capable. However, once we put head to pillow and enter the different stages of sleep (most crucially for T release, REM sleep), our endocrine system kicks into high gear and test levels are thusly restored. Without the full restoration of T, there’s really no sense in killing ourselves in the gym, so crucial is this hormone to signalling protein synthesis and muscle growth.
Mass Tip 3: Eliminate Negative Stress
We all encounter stress. In fact, without sufficient stress of the right kind, physical, emotional and intellectual growth would not be possible. Then there is the negative stress: unnecessary arguments, a barrage of impending deadlines, heavy traffic, irrational thinking and the Jerry Springer Show can all be considered negative forms of stress. To relax fully and recharge, negative stress must first be eliminated.
Negative stress kills productivity and, for bodybuilders, can put the brakes on energy output and muscle gains. Such stress causes a massive influx of the catabolic hormone cortisol. Cortisol impedes testosterone production, limits muscle growth and encourages the deposition of unsightly body fat.
Negative stress can also keep us awake at night. By ruminating on negative events, getting into heated arguments and/or watching/listening to negative news reports/violent movies in the hours before bed, we lower our chances of entering the GH and testosterone-releasing deep sleep discussed above.
Negative stress also sidetracks us from what is important in life. For bodybuilders, the gym takes centre stage. However, a mind full of negativity can stifle the focus we could otherwise be using to lift maximum poundage and visualize positive results.
The disadvantages of negative stress are endless. Whenever negative stress is presented, do yourself a favour and cast it away. It will drag you down faster than anything else.
Train, Eat, Rest/Sleep and Repeat
Building more muscle than ever before need not be a two steps forward/three steps back exercise in futility. Provided the correct steps are religiously followed, the body will respond as commanded.
Our muscles, like the rest of our body, will either deteriorate or grow depending on how they are programmed. Intense training, optimal nutrition, targeted supplementation and proper rest/sleep are all forms of programming needed to stimulate mass increases. However, one without the other will amount to very little in the way of impressive results.
All of the muscle building factors must be engaged synergistically, consistently and with great effort. Follow the steps presented above, be patient and real results will be yours!