Any experienced bodybuilder will tell you that 90% of their gains depend on what happens in the kitchen, rather than the gym. While trying to gain size, you will have two challenges to meet; eating enough food, and making certain that what you do eat is more likely to be stored as muscle tissue rather than fats.
While gorging yourself on ice cream and steaks in the name of improving your health may seem tempting, any excess fat you gain in the process will have to be burned off later and this will walk back a significant portion of your gains.
So what does an effective, muscle building diet look like? Even more to the point, if you want to learn how to bulk up fast rather than temporary ones that fade quickly?
Selecting a particular dietetic strategy, be it macronutrient based, or one of the popular “fad” diets such as keto or the paleo diet will be left up to the reader.
Literally every nutritional strategy has advantages and drawbacks, and this is further complicated by the genetic and environmental differences between individuals.
Finding foods that are nutrient dense, affordable in large quantities, and optimal for your particular tastes will require some experimentation and open-mindedness.
There is no one size fits all.
However, whatever nutrition strategy you develop, there are certain tweaks and tricks you can use to get the most out of your chosen routine.
PRO TIP: Any diet intended to support anabolic workouts and build muscle mass quickly needs to have carbs, at least 40%.
First and foremost, any diet that depletes carbohydrates is poorly suited to building muscle mass.
There are multiple reasons for this.
The brain consumes a full 30% of the calories you consume, and it can really only use carbohydrates. If your blood sugar is too low, your brain will start consuming muscle tissue to rapidly produce the sugars it needs to function at the high levels you demand.
On the other hand, if you consume too many carbs the insulin response will drop your blood sugar like a hot rock and not only will you get fat, but your brain will still have to catabolize muscle and organ tissue to feed it’s need for sugar.
The solution is this.
To source your carbs from foods which are also fiber-rich. So fruits, whole grains, and certain carb-rich vegetables are ideal as they preferentially feed biosystems that promote muscle gain more than fat gain.
Another factor in gaining muscle size is water retention.
This can be incredibly important.
While excess water in the muscle and joint tissue may seem like “fake size,” it’s actually necessary to carry a little extra water to ensure maximum intensity during exercise. Your muscles have nerves that sense pressure and can actually shut down a movement if there is impending danger of damaging connective tissue.
Much of the time, when you hit “failure” during a lift it’s because these nerves override the movement, not because the muscles are out of energy. Intramuscular water retention blunts these nerves and allows for more control when lifting heavy weights.
Designing Your Diet:
Step One: First, determine how many calories you're burning per day. This is called your "base metabolic rate" or BMR.
Increasing size requires that you consume more calories than you’re burning. The amount of calories you burn daily is called your base metabolic rate or BMR.
BMR is calculated by combining several factors into an algorithm, including your age, weight, height, gender, level of physical activity and body fat percentage. Fortunately, several BMR calculators are available online and are surprisingly accurate.
A good one with a simple internet address is bmr-calculator.org
Step Two: Add 200-300 calories to your BMR. This will be your daily calories intake.
Your BMR will be expressed as a number, for most physically active people it will be somewhere around 2000 cal/day.
Plan your meals such that you exceed your BMR by 200-300 calories per day irrespective of whatever macronutrient (protein/fats/carbs) ratio you’ve chosen.
If you’re having a hard time with the tsunami of information available, start with 30% protein, 30% fats and 40% healthy carbs (whole grains and fruits or vegetables) and design you diet around that.
The calculations may seem daunting, but there is another online resource, eathismuch.com, that will do the math for you and is an excellent shortcut in creating your own meal plan.
Step Three: Design a specific meal program that works with both your chosen diet and your daily calorie needs. There are easy to use online tools that accomplish this.
You’re going to need to eat roughly every three hours. This keeps your insulin drive high and your muscles bathed in nutrients so they can continue to grow. Assuming you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep (which is actually hugely important to building muscle,) that means you’ll be eating roughly six times per day.
PRO TIP: A solid, carb and protein heavy meal right after a workout encourages your body into a powerful anabolic state.
The post-workout meal is worth mentioning, as this allows you to activate biochemical pathways (mTOR) that can increase the anabolic effect of your workout, as well as increase carbohydrate uptake into the muscle cells making them even stronger.
If ever you consume sugar directly, the perfect time to do so is within one hour after you lift. The sugar will go directly to your muscles and stay there until you need it.
Plan your meals accordingly, pack the post-workout meal ahead of time, and put it in your gym bag in Tupperware.
Compared to bodyfat-reducing diets, gaining diets are relatively easy to design and adhere to.
Below is a sample 3,500 calorie diet intended to enhance muscle mass, created at eatthismuch.com.
You will notice this diet is high in all three macronutrients, carbs, fats, and protein. You should also take note of the fact that this diet is practically void of simple sugars.
The art of designing a solid anabolic diet isn’t based on what to include but rather what to avoid. There’s a prevalent myth that a diet focused on building mass should include junk food.
Here's the hard truth.
You need to keep eating clean as doing so targets muscle tissue specifically for growth. Any fat tissue that develops in tandem with muscle growth will lower your testosterone and with it the anabolic quality of your program.
Stick to whole, unprocessed foods as best you can. This means raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meats and dairy products.
It is not just what you eat that matters, but when you eat it.
Remember, you need to keep your muscles bathed in nutrients so they will continue to grow. However, eating itself has biological effects that can be detrimental to an intense workout or a recuperative night of sleep.
When it comes to building muscle, sleep is a paradox. While quality sleep is needed for the body to rebuild and strengthen itself, it also involves an extended period without food.
It’s also not healthy to wake up abruptly in the middle of the night and prepare yourself a meal.
So what’s the solution? Enter meal replacements.
Having a hard time eating so many clean calories? Meal replacements are a fast and convenient wake to make sure you're getting enough calories to support your anabolic goals.
For increasing size, meal replacements are the most important aspect of your supplementation program.
It is a wonderful alternative to eating all the food that would be required to support your muscle building goals. It also prevents gastrointestinal distress that can come with eating that much food.
When you know you’ll be busy ahead of time but need to keep your muscles bathed in nutrients, meal replacements shakes can be tremendously convenient and helpful.
This includes while you’re sleeping; a pre-made protein shake at 1AM will interrupt your sleep minimally and provide the needed nutrition for ongoing muscle hypertrophy.
Creatine is a popular strength supplement for good reason, it works.
Well. Not only does it provide extra energy to your muscles for faster recovery, but the water retention it causes is muscle specific and adds the appearance of 5-10 extra pounds of muscle.
It has been a staple of the supplement industry for decades, and the fact that some major sporting organizations have banned it from competition speaks to it’s effectiveness.
Our formulators engineered Three-Atine with three different chemical versions of creatine so the effects come on quickly and last for as long as possible.
Creatine itself makes it easier for your muscle cells to regenerate their primary energy source; adenosine triphosphate or ATP. Creatine is naturally produced by the body, but fairly slowly causing a kind of metabolic bottleneck. Loading your muscles with Creatine supplements bypasses this bottleneck, allowing for faster recovery.
As Creatine accumulates in your muscle tissue, it also attracts water selectively to the muscle tissue.
Generally, water retention is seen as bad simply because it creates a puffy, smooth appearance to muscle groups. But when it comes to creatine, the water is stored in the muscle tissue and gives the appearance of bigger, denser muscles. When the creatine is consumed metabolically, this effect quickly fades.
Creatine needs loading time to accumulate in your muscle tissue and also needs to be taken immediately before a workout to assist with fuel expenditure.
These are two very different tasks - building size and building strength. Creatine will either build mass or provide fuel for workouts, depending on how fast it is absorbed and metabolized.
Crazy Muscle’s creatine formulation uses three different ethers to support both size and athletic output in a single product. While ALL the creatine eventually winds up in the muscle, different ethers metabolize at different speeds.
This allows Three-atine to support increased strength during your workout AND post-workout recovery AND long term muscle size augmentation. Additionally, the pyruvate ester releases pyruvic acid which enhances endurance and fat expenditure.
This strategy literally creates a “one size fits all” product that will allow you to get the most out of creatine, very conveniently.
Muscle attack takes a polyfaceted approach to hormone optimization.
First and foremost, it provides a litany of substances, both herbal and mineral, to stimulate testosterone production at multiple points in the HPG axis. It also provides a healthy amount of a prohormone, DHEA.
DHEA acts as a sort of feedstock for testosterone and in fact is a steroidal testosterone isomer itself. Finally, side effect management is built-in, with substances preventing the formation of estrogen or DHT from the resulting testosterone spikes.
Muscle Attack is a testosterone booster that activates several different hormone increasing factors all at once. It is designed to maximize your testosterone, safely and naturally.
Muscle Attack is best taken in three divided doses; one first thing in the morning, another with lunch, and finally with your last meal of the day. The meal should have at least one moderately fatty food with it as this will help your intestines absorb it efficiently.
We recommend a daily dose of twenty grams of BCAAs, spread out to five four gram doses throughout the day.
Three of these doses will be taken with a meal.
The other two are taken right before going to bed, and right before exercise. This will keep your cells nourished with BCAAs all day long with amplified mTOR signaling and the growth and recovery that comes with it.
BCAAs directly effect your DNA, keeping your metabolism at a screaming fast level while also supporting anabolic muscle growth. It is damn near a miracle substance for athletic enhancement.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely already involved in regular workouts and have chosen what is best for you and your goals.
Irrespective of how you train, you need to take advantage of the oxidative stress caused by your workout. By taking BCAAs right before you workout, you ensure that oxidative stress and BCAAs both hit your bloodstream and cause a powerful burst in mTOR signaling.
This will cause you to walk away from your workout feeling energized and allows your muscle cells to eagerly begin building protein that results in better muscle size and density.
You’re also probably following a diet regimen of some sort. It is recommended that while using BCAAs, you operate in a mild calorie deficit. With mTOR telling your cells that you’re in a caloric excess, they will gleefully tap into your fat stores to fuel their metabolic activities.
While some experimentation will be necessary, once your calories and BCAAs are dialed in it should be possible to simultaneously build muscle while burning fat - the holy grail of athletic training!
BCAAs can be taken in pill form, as a powder, or as part of a nutritional shake. We recommend avoiding shakes, as these provide calories along with the metabolism stimulating effects of BCAAs and would ultimately be counterproductive.
Should you choose to go with a powder, amino acids dissolve best in acidic juice - think grapefruit or orange juice.
There will still be some clumps and it doesn’t taste great, so if this presents a significant problem for you capsules are your friend. Even if you go with capsules, still take it with juice so it hits your system as quickly as possible.
Finally, consuming BCAAs with juice not only allows for faster absorption, the juice also causes an insulin spike which makes mTOR even more potent in your cells. Combining all three factors at once will maximize your growth and recovery, even while in a calorie deficit.