Increasing muscle mass without adding significant physique-obscuring bodyfat requires a rigorous programe. We have laid out basic plans: One is designed to help you add 10 pounds of muscle mass in three months without significantly increasing bodyfat; the other allows you to accomplish the same goal over six months. It may seem like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to add 10 pounds of muscle in three months, rather than six? The answer has much more to do with you and your lifestyle than with the intensity of your desire for more muscle mass. The three-month plan is very demanding; the six-month plan is more accommodating of other segments of your life. How do you know which plan is right for you? Read on, and we will help you choose.
PART 1: PICK YOUR PLAN
In general, increasing muscle mass without adding bodyfat is more easily done over longer time periods with consistency, but if circumstances are in your favor, it can be done quickly with strict discipline. The best time to add muscle mass is when you are under relatively low stress and you have the time to recuperate and grow. Perhaps you’ve noticed in the past that you tend to increase your muscle mass in relatively short spurts, even when you follow a consistent long-term program. Two factors come into play: variables you can control and those you can’t.
Aside from dedication, discipline and hard work, you must also outline bodybuilding goals that are achievable. If your goals are unreasonable, then you’ve set yourself up for failure. Knowing what your body (and schedule) are capable of can help you establish aims that you can reasonably expect to achieve. We’ve listed some physical and lifestyle characteristics that will help you determine whether a shorter or longer muscle-gaining plan is better for you.
THREE-MONTH PLAN If you fit into any of the categories below, you might reasonably expect to be able to add 10 pounds of muscle mass in three months.
Bodybuilders — old or young — trying to add muscle mass for the first time
If you’re a beginning or a less-experienced bodybuilder trying to add 10 pounds of new muscle mass, then you may be able to do so relatively quickly, since your body is unaccustomed to the rigors of weight training and will be shocked into growth.
Bodybuilders who have neglected their nutrition If you have been training regularly, but haven’t put much effort or thought into your nutrition, then you may be a prime candidate to make amazing gains when you start a solid (and new for you) nutrition program geared to muscle gains.
Bodybuilders who have taken a long break from training If you’ve taken off training for a while, you might note astounding results when you return to the gym.
Bodybuilders ready for a growth phase Is your body primed for a growth phase? There’s no way to tell other than to go on this program. Our body rhythms are cyclical, but many people tend to make size gains quickly. This might be that time for you. If not, allow your body the luxury of more time to grow — try the six-month program.
SIX-MONTH PLAN Trainers who don’t fit into any of the earlier categories may find it challenging to add 10 pounds of muscle mass in a short period of time without significantly increasing bodyfat. Keep in mind that most experienced bodybuilders rarely add more than 10 pounds of muscle mass in a year. To do so in six months is still an amazing accomplishment and a more realistic expectation for bodybuilders who fall into one of the following categories.
Bodybuilders who have been consistent with their training and nutrition
If your nutrition and training programs are already pretty good, you can’t make as great a comparative improvement as someone who has nutrition or training deficiencies. That may seem unfair, but keep in mind that you’ve probably already added 10 (or 20 or 30) pounds of muscle mass that they’re trying to add. For you to add yet another 10 pounds of muscle mass, you’re going to have to apply even more discipline, and you’re probably going to have to do it gradually.
Bodybuilders who have busy lifestyles that often interrupt their nutritional and training demands
Many successful bodybuilders have had to make difficult choices, prioritizing their training and nutrition ahead of family, friends, education or career advancement. If you’re able to devote yourself only part-time to bodybuilding, you can still make phenomenal gains, albeit more slowly.
Bodybuilders who are endomorphs
Endomorphs (bigger guys with a tendency toward being overweight) are predisposed to putting on bodyfat more easily than their ectoand mesomorphic counterparts. Increasing calories 20-30%, as both plans recommend, can be a surefire way to pack on fat pounds as well as muscle. Many endomorphs need to increase calories just slightly (about 10% above baseline) in order to add muscle at a pace that limits bodyfat accumulation. For this group, the six-month plan is a more viable option.
PART 2: GETTING PREPPED
If you want to add muscle mass, you must add calories, regardless of whether your plan is to add that muscle quickly or more slowly. Increasing calories can be more challenging than it seems — it’s not always simply a matter of eating more food. It’s a matter of eating the right foods at the right times and in the right quantities.
One of the best ways to increase calories is to carefully calculate the amount of food you eat for maintenance. That’s your baseline. Making this calculation may seem tedious, but it’s the most effective way to establish your nutritional requirements. KEEP A FOOD LOG Keep a food diary of everything you eat and drink and the amounts you take in for a whole week before you start your new program. One of your greatest challenges is to keep an accurate record of what you eat without changing your consumption habits in anticipation of your diet. In other words, avoid making any changes during the first seven days.
Write down all the foods you eat. Keep your meal frequency and food selection as close as possible to your norm. Weigh or measure portion sizes as accurately as possible (a small high-quality scale is a valuable tool for this serious dietary program) so that you can make accurate calculations of calories and macronutrients.
Check out our chart on calories and macronutrients of select bodybuilding foods on page 162. For more comprehensive listings, our site recommends The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne T. Netzer (available in bookstores or at Amazon.com), as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database Web site at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/ cgi-bin/nut_search.pl.
CAREFULLY ASSESS YOUR PHYSIQUE You have to be impartial and nonjudgmental for this to be effective. We recommend that you take pictures, of yourself at various stages of the diet so you can be objective — and accurate — about your physique changes. Also, have a friend scrutinize you (and vice versa, if you are on the diet together).
PART 3: BEGINNING YOUR NUTRITION PROGRAM
THE THREE-MONTH PLAN EXPLAINED The biggest challenge is to eat all the quality foods in the quantity that you need to make gains. Implement these phases as soon as you have completed your weeklong food log to calculate your daily caloric baseline.
Phase One: Days 1-10 On each of these days, you’ll augment your baseline diet by 300-500 calories daily. To compute how much you should add, follow these broad-based recommendations. All bodybuilders should increase consumption by 300 calories. Those who normally eat 3,000 or more calories a day for maintenance should add another 100 calories per day. Those who consider themselves to be hardgainers should consume an additional 100 calories per day beyond that. (Hardgainers who eat 3,000 calories a day for maintenance should take in 3,000 + 300 + 100 + 100 = 3,500 total calories per day.)
By eating 300 to 500 more calories a day during this first phase, you allow your body to gradually accommodate to an increased nutritional level. Continue to keep your food log, and check your numbers to make certain you’re eating as much as you think you are.
Note that the meal plans accompanying this article list intakes of 3,700-3,900 calories daily. If your requirements are lower (as for a bodybuilder who requires fewer than 3,000 baseline calories per day for maintenance), reduce some of the suggested quantities of foods slightly. Try to lower protein and complex carbohydrate consumption equally. For example, eat slightly less oatmeal, eat one less egg in the morning, reduce meat portions slightly for your evening meal, and eat a smaller baked potato. By making three or four small adjustments, you can easily adapt the 3,700- to 3,900-calorie daily meal plans so you’re taking in 3,300-3,500 calories daily. Eat six meals a day, regardless of your level of calorie consumption.
After 10 days, carefully evaluate your physique in a mirror. Does it appear that you’re adding bodyfat? It shouldn’t. You should be fuller, harder, heavier and stronger. If you appear to be adding more bodyfat, take the longer (six-month) approach to adding muscle mass. Phase Two: Days 11-21 During this stage, most bodybuilders should add another 300-500 calories daily, totaling 600-1,000 calories more than needed for maintenance. Use the same formula as in phase one to determine your needs. (Everyone adds at least 300 calories; hardgainers add 100 more to that amount; and those who normally take in at least 3,000 for maintenance consume an additional 100 calories.) Bodybuilders who noticed increases in bodyfat levels after phase one shouldn’t add calories during phase two.
After 21 days on this dietary program, again carefully evaluate your physique to determine if you are adding too much bodyfat. If you are, scale back on your food consumption, reducing carbohydrate calories rather than fats or protein. If you are pleased with your progress, continue to eat this quantity of food on a daily basis as you move into phase three. Phase Three: Days 22-90 The first day of every week, starting with day 22, should be a higher carb day. Increase complex carbs from the best sources, such as yams, brown rice and oatmeal, taking in approximately 200 extra calories (50 g of carbohydrates) from these foods spread out over the first four meals of the day. However, don’t increase calories much — reduce protein and fat consumption somewhat to keep from driving total calorie consumption too high.
If you are content with your bodyfat levels, you can eat higher carbs twice a week. (See the “Carbohydrate Intake” sidebar on page 165.) But don’t overdo it — consuming more carbs once or twice a week may help promote muscle building in the presence of training and protein, but overeating carbs can lead to greater bodyfat storage. Keep a careful watch on your physique so you can make dietary adjustments and avoid adding too much bodyfat.
If you need to reduce bodyfat, drop 200 calories worth of carbs two to four days a week. If you believe your body has accommodated to the three weekly 30-minute cardio sessions you’ll be doing for this program, then increase those sessions to 40 minutes each. Keep them at three times a week, though, as performing too much cardio can undermine muscle gains.
THE SIX-MONTH PLAN EXPLAINED The biggest difference between the three-and six-month plans is that you don’t need to be as intense to add 10 pounds of muscle over the longer time period. For both plans, you’ll essentially “overeat” nutritious foods that help stimulate muscle growth. The longer program, though, doesn’t require you to be as rigorous with each day’s nutrition plan. The six-month plan still requires discipline, but it permits you to include “cheat days,” allowing you to eat nutritious but less-than-ideal bodybuilding foods, such as lasagna, hamburgers and pizza.
By adhering rigorously to your diet five days a week, allowing for one cheat day and perhaps another of unintentional undereating or dietary straying, you can still make progress, as long as you stay devoted to your long-range goals. This is a much more usable plan for those with busy lifestyles who want to make bodybuilding gains, but feel they can’t make it the central focus of their lives 24/7.
Phase One: Days 1-10 This is the same as for the three-month plan — increase calories by 300-500 per day. Phase Two: Days 11-20 This is also the same as for the three-month plan. Increase calories by another 300-500 daily. (Based on a 3,000-calorie baseline for bodyweight maintenance, a trainer would be eating 3,600-4,000 total calories per day at this point.) Phase Three: Days 21-180 Phase three of the six-month plan differs from that of the three-month version in the following ways.
* You eat about the same amount of calories each day, but take in slightly more calories from carbohydrates.
* It includes one cheat day a week. On that day, follow your bodybuilding diet for the most part, but you can incorporate a cheat food or two and a cheat meal. The best bodybuilding cheat foods are high in protein (pizza and hamburgers) rather than just high in calories (doughnuts, sodas and French fries). Keep this in mind as you make your food choices. Cheat foods allow more than just a psychological break — they can help you fill out and recover from the rigors of training and dieting. But they do increase the risk of storing bodyfat.
* It also allows a cheat food, if you want, on one other day a week.
* It requires you to evaluate whether you need to make shifts in your diet. If you believe you are overdieted, include a “recharge” week, during which you modify the basic plan of the diet. (See “Weekly Carbohydrate Strategies” described in part 4.)
Continue to evaluate your physique every seven to 10 days to determine whether you need to make shifts in your diet, either in terms of total calories or in macronutrient ratios.