By: Chef Bob (Kupniewski)
As the winter passes by many people are starting to gear up and focus on cutting down to look in shape for the summer, while there will still be those on the other hand who are striving to add some size to their frame. While many people try to add size some of them fail miserably and end up packing on the pounds way too fast and get sloppy and out of shape. In this article, we will discuss three major things that can be changed/varied to help that individual stay in shape, gain lean mass, and prevent themselves from spinning their wheels and having to cut calories again to get back into shape. Many people tend to over exaggerate that since you are “bulking” letting a few things slip here and there will be no major problem, but let’s look at the big picture. All those times you say “I will only have one cookie” and it leads to 4-5 will really take a toll in the long run as calories will add up and fat gain will occur over long stints of straying off your diet. Moderation is the key to life, but moderation for some will have to be in control because some individuals can get fat by looking at a carbohydrate while some “Hardgainers” aka Ectomorphs can shovel down 2-3 cheat meals a week in their offseason and stay very lean while hardly gaining any weight. Lets look at some things to help you next time your in a lean gaining phase to keep your physique in check.
Most individuals either work with a structured diet, or with caloric totals to gauge their caloric intake on a daily basis. Regardless of which one you use, there is a fine line between gaining size and not gaining at all. Individuals can check their progress on a weekly basis by taking pictures and assessing their physique while utilizing the scale to see if they are actually gaining or losing weight. Some people will find trying to gain weight is hard because they cannot eat enough, or they struggle to take down enough food. With that said, tracking your calories or using your structured diet will make life 100x easier! When weight does stall and that individuals is not eating enough there are a few options which can happen.
The first would be to simply bump calories a touch to get the weight gain back on track. By adding 100-150 calories to your daily total this should help give you an extra 700-1050 calories per week. This will help out over time with adding some weight to your frame with a caloric addition to your total. For some it may be enough, for some it will not be. Some people live very hectic lives and calculate a lot of Non Exercise Physical Activity where they are constantly walking around, burning calories, and may need more calories because of how much they expend on a daily basis. Gaining weight comes down to a simple equation: Calories in vs. Calories out. If you are not giving your body more than its burning you will not gain weight, plain and simple!
Another thing the individual could do is add in a cheat meal or a meal that is not counted. Now by a cheat meal I don’t stress eating an entire pizza and washing it down with a pint of Ben N Jerries. I am simply referring to if a social occasion pops up such as a birthday, a dinner out with friends/family, taking a friend out on a date for dinner, going with your brother to go get his favorite hot dogs down by the beach, or enjoying some ice cream with a date after seeing a movie are typical examples of what I am talking about. Enjoying a touch of moderation on your diet by going out and killing a craving won’t set you back especially if you are not in contest prep. A good rule I like to follow is when out for a cheat meal, allow yourself to split an appetizer if eating out with a friend or family. Enjoy an entrée to your desire, and split dessert as well with your guest/guests. This will allow you to get a diversity of food, satisfy your cravings, but also be social while enjoying a meal that is not counted calorie for calorie. Hitting your calories on a daily basis is great, but if you are not competing, or have zero intentions of being a bodybuilder to go through contest prep then there is much more to life than hitting your diet to a T everyday while still practicing moderation. Finding the balance is the true meaning of life between your diet, your workouts, and your social life.
2) Cardiovascular Activity
Diet is not going to be the only problem an individual may run into while trying to add lean mass. There may also be an issue regarding training (tip #3) or doing too much cardiovascular activity in attempt to gain weight but afraid to add fat to their frame. This will vary from every person you talk to because the human body is so diverse and some individuals will need more or less to keep in shape while adding muscle to their frame. Some individuals (think Hardgainers/ectomorphs) may never take a step on a treadmill while pushing down over 3,000 calories a day and barely seeing the scale move and adding little muscle to their frame. While on the other hand, some mesomorphs or endomorphs may have to do cardio 3-4x a week to keep in shape and prevent fat gain even with a much lower caloric intake because of their metabolism and body type.
Even if you are a true hardgainer/ectomorph, incorporating some forms of walking or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio will still be beneficial. The things that adding in cardio can do includes increasing appetite, keeping conditioning in good shape (even if you are not a bodybuilder some people strive to be athletic and like to be in shape), improve recovery and help ward off some fat gain that may happen given time and multiple caloric bumps along the road. Last but not least, this helps keep the fat burning metabolic pathways running so that when dieting is resumed fat loss will tend to occur faster.
Let’s look at the other side of the spectrum now, how much is too much, and what can too much do to those while trying to gain mass? Doing too much or striving to keep walking or doing higher intervals of cardiovascular activity can interfere with muscle recovery, burning too many excess calories where the individual will just have to eat more to gain size/mass, and it may cause overall fatigue on top of weight lifting to gain muscle. There may be a fad with trying to do more to keep more fat off your body, but this will interfere with leg recovery and trying to gain size on your frame. In my opinion, while trying to gain mass cardio should be limited to two to three LISS (low intensity) sessions per week with at least one complete off day from weights and cardio. Those sessions should run for a maximum of 30 minutes and at least 10-15 minutes. If individuals want to do one session of Higher Intensity cardio, that can be the overall replacement for the 2-3 LISS sessions they would perform. 10 minutes of HIIT (High intensity Interval Training) such as sprinting, jumping rope, sled dragging or tire flips will help increase heart rate and keep the individual in great cardiovascular shape.
Most individuals when picking a program for the weight room stick to what they read in magazines or find in the first link they search for on google with “muscle building routine”. The common reply is the typical one body-part a week workout for being in the gym 5x a week (Arms, Chest, Back, Legs, Shoulders). For most that will give them great results given dedication and consistency to their diet and program over a prolonged period of time. Most of the individuals who do run their group end up not seeing the results they want and start to scratch their head at what can be done to help improve their gains in the gym. Most people try to kill a bodypart, train it to failure day in and day out and start to wonder why they are constantly sore, constantly tired, and not seeing the gains in the mirror that they may desire. For some it may work, but for some it may not work. Let’s look at an alternative they can help bring up your lagging muscle groups.
Most research being done on training (through pub-med studies and from many other authors out there who research training and nutrition) I have found that a weekly training frequency of three to four times per week for many trainees is optimal. Now there are many variables to put into the equation before selecting a routine, such as how much experience that individual has in the weight room and if they have been lifting serious. For those just starting out, three to four times per week would be the absolute maximum amount of time. For those who have lifted with two, three, four or five good years of training experience may find a higher volume or a 5-6x a week program to suit their needs because they understand what works best for their body over time through trial and error.
Most are finding that while starting out or becoming an intermediate to lifting that hitting each bodypart twice per week, or at least once every five days gives the most optimal results. Very popular workout programs to consider would be a generic Upper/Lower Routine, WestSide for Skinny Bastards (I, II, or III), Lyle McDonald’s Generic Bulking Routine, 5/3/1 by Jim Welder, Starting Strength, or Madcow 5×5 Routine.
These routines thrive off of a moderate number of sets for each bodypart (think starting out doing less is more optimal instead of doing more because you can always add more starting out depending on how you feel energy, mood, and the amount of strength you are gaining in the gym). Typically 4-8 sets per bodypart or 3-6 for smaller bodyparts like arms with 40-60 reps has been shown through research to provide enough muscle stimulation to provide optimal gains. An example would be 4 sets of 10 reps, 8 sets of 8 (2 exercises for four sets of eight) and giving the individual a good 60 minute routine to help give them adequate time out of the gym to grow and recover. Working out will provide good stimulation towards your muscle, but if your diet and recovery (time out of the gym) is not in check then the whole equation towards gaining lean mass will not balance and there will be a problem.
Most people neglect budgeting in one single day off or time off of the gym resulting in feeling run down, or not getting enough time to let their muscles recover after hitting them last. The common phrase “you grow out of the gym not in the gym” can be applied to this situation. I always recommend at least one full off day from the gym unless you are towards the end of a contest prep where you may need to be in the gym seven days a week doing cardio or weights to help get your body into the best conditioning possible.