At its core, the science of supplementation is applied biochemistry and pharmacology intertwined with exercise science.
Crazy Muscle is aware that people seeking to better themselves are bombarded with ads that try to reduce elegant science down to talking points that fit neatly into a banner ad or magazine page. Some of these talking points are honest and useful, some are dubious, and others are outright deceptive.
Without specific academic training, telling the difference can be overwhelming for even the above average consumer.
We’d like to provide our customers with an in-depth look into the most important aspects of performance biochemistry to help you get the most out of your supplementation budget. Our hope is to help you understand how your body grows and performs to help you maximize your results.
You'll learn about good bulking foods and exercises for bulking up muscle, the basics of bulking up properly, a sample bulk up diet plan so you know what to eat to bulk up, and some of the most common questions we get about how to get big muscles and build muscle mass fast. Before we dive in, let’s quickly define lean muscle vs bulky muscle. The primary difference is the presence/absence of body fat.
Before we dive into the sample meal plans, let's briefly cover the science behind insulin and glycemic index.
Carbohydrates are a huge factor in controlling your body composition. You need to learn to strike a balance between insulin and blood sugar levels. This is best done with complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates and the resulting insulin spike can be useful for gaining mass, but should be avoided when you want to lean up.
Controlling your blood sugar and along with it your insulin drive is perhaps the single most important factor in maintaining your body composition and athletic output. This is far from an esoteric fact; the entirety of the fitness industry is obsessed with carbohydrates and for good reason.
The problem arises when self-proclaimed gurus try to apply a one size fits all approach to nutrition, and do so in a simplified manner that is intellectually accessible to a pedestrian audience. A better approach would be to explain the facts without oversimplification and give the reader tools to develop and assess their own dietetic strategy when it comes to carbohydrates.
We are going to discuss three overarching concepts in controlling blood sugar and insulin; the biochemistry of insulin, carbohydrate subtypes, glycemic index, and strategies for leveraging carbohydrates to reach your fitness and performance goals.
We will also briefly touch on gut flora health and ways to smooth the transition as your shift your mass gaining diet meal plan from one phase to the next.
Carbohydrates can exist as a single molecule or be chained together. The longer the chain, the longer it takes for you body to digest it and the slower it enters your bloodstream.
Let’s start by defining what a carbohydrate is in simple terms. They begin with one of five base units; glucose, fructose, galactose, ribose, and xylose. These base units, called monosaccharides, can be consumed directly or can be chemically daisy chained together into increasingly complex chains called polysaccharides. Monosaccharides have a powerfully sweet taste, and as polysaccharides get longer the sweet taste goes away.
Polysaccharides are an incredibly diverse chemical. They can be as small as two monosaccharides chained together, or hundreds or even thousands of monosachrides in a chain. The larger chains are too big to be absorbed by the intestines and need to be broken down in the digestive system, and even then some polysaccharides are so large and twisted that the body is incapable of breaking them down at all.
Polysacchrides that fall in the middle can be broken down, but slowly. These are what are known as ‘complex carbohydrates.’ As complex carbohydrates are painstakingly broken down by the digestive tract, simple sugars trickle into the bloodstream. By way of comparison, monosaccharides dump sugar into the bloodstream. Why are we fussing over the minutia of carbohydrates and sugars? Because carbohydrates cause your body to release insulin, and (read this carefully,) insulin is the primary driver of your body composition.
Insulin, Blood Sugar and Glycemic Index:
The same amount of carbohydrates can stimulate wildly different levels of insulin in response. Complex, long chain carbs generally stimulate less insulin than simple, sugary carbs.
So how does insulin work?
Insulin is a chemical that is released into the bloodstream by the pancreas whenever you eat.
It attaches itself to your cells and commands them to start taking sugar out of the bloodstream, brining it inside the cell itself where it is converted to either glycogen or fat. If insulin concentrations are high, the body cannot use fat as a fuel.
If insulin concentrations are too low, the body is unable to build muscle. Insulin lasts roughly one hour in the body. This makes coordinating exercise, macronutrients, meal times, and sleeping critical,and we will discuss specific bulk up diet strategies below.
The system that senses blood sugar and decides how much insulin to secrete in response to your meal plan is far from perfect. Ideally, it would secrete a given amount of insulin for each gram of carbohydrate you consume. But your pancreas, the gatekeeper of insulin release, is both lazy and prone to panic. So if you consume a large amount of simple sugars, the pancreas assumes MUCH more is coming and preemptively releases too much insulin.
This in turn sends your cells into sugar panic, and they take up as much as they can. This depletes your blood sugar almost completely.
So ironically, eating has caused your blood sugar to drop like a hot rock.
This is a huge problem; your brain needs a certain amount of blood sugar to function, and low blood sugar is the first, best, and strongest driver of hunger. Your cells are full of sugar that they’re daisy-chaining into glycogen, your bloodstream has very little, and your brain thinks you’re starving. So it makes you hungry again and you eat some more.
Your blood sugar is fluctuating wildly due to the biochemical mosh pit your brain has going with your pancreas, and you’re stuck in carbohydrate hell as your eating gets out of control and you get lethargic and chubby.
The phenomenon where different amounts of insulin are released per gram of carbohydrate consumed is called the glycemic index.The follow on pamphlets to this booklet will teach you how to manipulate glycemic index to achieve your fitness goals.
Maintaining proper insulin drive is critical to gain muscle. Insulin is one of three factors that activates mTOR , a biochemical switch that is essentially responsible for putting your body in an anabolic state. We will discuss in detail how to push this critical pathway into overdrive in the next section.
For a typical 30 year old, 6ft tall, 220 pound man, here is a sample diet to bulk up.
Meal 1: Pro/Carb 8 egg whites, 1 scoop of whey protein, 1 cup oatmeal 50g protein / 54g carbs / 5g fat
Meal 2: Pro/Fat lean ground beef, ¼ cup swiss cheese, green beans (or other veggies) 55g protein / 2g carbs / 20g fat
Meal 3: Pro/Carb chicken breast, 1 and a half cup sweet potatoes 55g protein / 84g carbs / 3g Fat **Disclaimer: Meal 3 can be a pro/fat meal if you are ultra sensitive to carb intake.
Meal 4: Pro/Fat 2 cans of tuna, 1 Tbsp full fat mayonnaise, veggies 60g protein / 2g carbs / 13g Fat Workout
Meal 5: PWO Nutrition 2 scoops whey protein / 80g of Dextrose / 40g protein / 80g carbs / 0g fat
Meal 6: PWO boneless skinless chicken breast, ½ cup brown rice (measured uncooked) 50g protein / 70g carbs / 3g fat
Meal 7: Whey protein isolate, 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter 50g protein / 5g carbs / 18g fat
Meal 8: Before bed 3 scoops of whey protein, 1.5 Tbsp. flax seed oil (not olive oil) 60g protein / 3g carbs / 21g Fat
If you were asking yourself how much protein do I need to bulk, that turns into approximately 420 grams of pure bulking diet protein, 270 grams of carbs, and 83 grams of fat. This is roughly 3,500 calories. This number is going to be widely different for everybody. The common pitfall we see over and over is that when people want to bulk up, they don't have a clear goal weight or a plan to get there. They figure that they'll just stop once they hit their weight, but the key to remember is that the body requires good habits to be developed for change. Most people will end up overshooting their desired size and in some cases will lose control and have to work that much harder. Check out a blog post we did a while ago about planning a bulking up diet.
*Reminder: This is a PRIMER. It’s not mean to be comprehensive. Everyone is different, to find out what works for your body takes trial and error.
BCAAs and their target, mTOR are a powerful growth factor with a drug like effect that, when taken properly can accelerate your fitness results and maximize your progress towards your goals.
When combined with the other two co-factors, exercise and insulin, you can expect mind blowing results from your hard work in the gym. Both affordable and powerful, every serious athlete should take advantage of this biologically powerful supplement.
BCAAs are one of the most popular supplements on the market today. Many serious athletes swear by them, as they seem to improve recovery time in the short term and produce fuller, more dense muscle structure in the long term.
Theories abound as to exactly how they work; some think that by providing the body with extra essential amino acids, (ones your body can’t make on its own,) muscle hypertrophy is accelerated. Others assume BCAAs have anti-catabolic activity, somehow preserving muscle tissue from breaking down during strenuous exercise and preserving lean tissue. Both are well informed, sound assumptions on how BCAAs improve body composition.
However, both are wrong.
In the 1970’s, a series of large-scale experiments were conducted where burn victims were given various amino acids  in the hopes they would recover more quickly from their injuries. The amino acids were characterized as essential vs. non-essential, and non essential amino acid broken down further by chemical structure. By and large, these experiments failed exceptwhen it came to non-essential amino acids with a branched carbon chain.
These three, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, actually did significantly and measurably improve healing times for these patients. Because they had similar chemical properties, these three amino acids were lumped into a category and designated brach-chain amino acids, or BCAAs for short.
Ever since, supplementing burn victims with BCAAs has been the standard of care for recovering burn victims. Because these chemicals are so affordable and innocuous, it didn’t take long for the athletic supplementation industry to catch on to them and start marketing them as performance enhancing materials.
MET-RX was founded in the 1980’s by an anesthesiologist  providing BCAA-heavy protein powders to hospitals to assist both burn victims and patients with muscle wasting conditions by allowing them to retain and gain muscle tissue while recovering from burns or major surgeries. Peer-reviewed data for BCAAs as a major surgery recovery agent didn’t exist at the time, and following an overzealous expose in the press, MET-RX was forced to shift from the medical market to the bodybuilding supplement market.
Despite a lack of peer-reviewed studies, anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of BCAAs as provided by MET-RX was explosive. Surveys among both users and non-users of BCAAs demonstrated an average of 3-4 more pounds of lean muscle mass for BCAA users over a training period of six weeks.
While not a properly controlled “gold standard” experiment, this body of data overwhelmingly indicated the effectiveness of BCAAs. As sales skyrocketed, other companies pounced brining their own version of BCAA enhanced meal plan replacements to the shelves.
Over time, pure encapsulated BCAAs gained in popularity with the supplementation community astounded that the contents of a few capsules a day could result in such pronounced muscle enhancement. However, nobody seemed to have a firm grasp on how exactly this phenomenon worked and this lack of knowledge has made designing an appropriate regimen around BCAAs problematic.
Fortunately, biochemists have uncovered the biological processes underlying the BCAA phenomena quite well. As it turns out, BCAAs are a huge part of the cellular growth, proliferation and recovery picture for most living things on Earth. And would you believe this process of discovery begin with an anti fungal medication?
Nearly every single organism, from yeast to humans, has a biosystem similar to mTOR. It allows for more robust DNA expression when the organism is well-nourished, and fuel efficiency in a calorie deprived state. We can hack mTOR in a calorie deficit to maximize growth effects and stay out of ‘starvation mode.’
Rapamycin, an experimental anti fungal agent, was discovered on a remote Pacific island and showed massive promise for stopping fungal infections dead in their tracks, at least in test tubes. It worked by inhibiting a chemical pathway in yeast that helped it grow. When it was injected into human subjects, a problem arose; the patients immune system was suppressed and they began losing muscle mass rapidly.
Upon further investigation, human beings had the exact same protein with the exact same function as yeast. So when it was used to inhibit the growth of yeast, it inhibited the growth of the person as well. This was a mind-blowing revelation.
As scientists dug deeper, they found nearly every living eukaryote had this pathway in some form or another.
They named this protein mTOR, an acronym for “mammalian Target Of Rapamycin.”
mTOR is not a single protein. It is actually a cluster of three distinct proteins that live inside every cell in your body that work as a sort of biological switch.
What does this “switch” turn on and off?
The answer is some of your most powerful genes to gain muscle growth and recovery.
When you take BCAAs, you are manipulating mTOR directly, hacking your body and directing it to do what you want. What you want to do is build lean muscle, burn fat tissue, all while keeping your metabolism healthy and chugging along. mTOR unlocks and activates genes to do just that.
There are three factors that activate mTOR. mTOR directs your muscles to grow based off the caloric surplus you’re consuming and how much exercise you’re getting. To maximize your mTOR signaling inside your muscles, you need to hit all three at once. Read on:
Here's a free downloadable chart that you can print out and track your results every month. Click to download it.
Your body type plays a crucial role in your ability to pack on mass. Here's a brief primer on the various body types :
Ectomorph - Skinny, rectangular body
Mesomorph - Upside-down triangle body
Endomorph - Square-shaped body
Whether you're a true mesomorph and easily build muscle or an ectomorph who has to fight for every muscle fiber gained, let's talk about androgens and hormone balance as this applies to everybody.
Androgens are the hormones that make your body physically male or female.
They include androstenedione, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (abbreviated as DHT,) and synthetic derivatives for medical use. The systems that produce and regulate your hormone levels are an elegant array of checks and balances called a ‘feedback loop,’ an array that Crazy Muscle will teach you to hack so you can get your serum testosterone into the high end of normal.
Androgens, including testosterone, causes your body to change in ways that distinguish a male. They are also powerful confidence building psychological agents.
Androgens have a grab bag of biological effects, signaling nearly every cell, tissue and organ in your body. They are surprisingly powerful psychoactive substances as well, increasing your confidence, perception, libido, and aggression. It will fortify both your muscles and bone density, increase the thickness of your blood so it carries more oxygen, and rejuvenate your skin.
This doesn’t mean it’s a universal remedy, however. Androgens also result in hair loss on the crown of the head, hair gain everywhere else, increase the likelihood for violence and unnecessary risky behavior, and of course acne. This is why we speak of hormones in terms of balance rather than blindly regulating them upwards.
Understanding the effects of androgens, not just as a muscle building substance but rather as a progenitor of more masculine traits can help you determine both your general testosterone levels as well as your testosterone levels in the moment. Long term exposure to testosterone causes changes in the skeleton. Take a look at the structure of your face. Do you have a large brow and jaw? Is the bridge of your nose broad?
A quick note about circadian rhythms. Your testosterone is highest early morning  and is monitored by a sophisticated yet hackable feedback loop.
Testosterone levels cycle every 24 hours with peak production occurring during late night sleep. We’re going to go over testosterone production step by step to help you understand ways to hack your testosterone production which we will go over in detail in subsequent papers.
The process is a feedback loop, meaning that a detectable uptick in hormone levels signals the system to stop testosterone production. It is called the HPG axis, with HPG standing for “hypothalamus pituitary gonad” Here’s how it works:
Understanding the HPG axis allows you to manipulate to do what you want by way of raising your testosterone. It also helps you avoiding pitfalls that interrupt this process.
Sleep, exercise, and solid nourishment are factors that alter your testosterone levels, thus are critical to maximize your testosterone naturally.
Of course, there are ways to naturally raise your testosterone and improvements you can make to your daily habits that will nudge your hormone levels higher without any supplementation at all. The first and best thing you can do is get more an better sleep. As we’ll see in the next section, testosterone is released while you’re sleeping. Testosterone levels are at their peak between 3-5 AM, which is immediately recognizable as high libido as you wake up.
Exercise, specifically lifting heavy weights, is another way to raise testosterone. Your body releases testosterone as a response to oxidative damage in the muscles, which not only results in hypertrophy, but also repairs micro tears in your connective tissue and broadens your joints, allowing them to bear more weight.
There are also factors that diminish your testosterone levels.
Generally speaking, these can be called “stress.” For example, recent graduates of the US Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection course or the Navy SEALs BUDS program have testosterone levels consistent with castrated hospital patients. This is due to simultaneous sleep deprivation, malnourishment, and a regimen of deliberate overtraining.
Remember that testosterone production entirely depends on you being asleep.
Beside stress and sleep deprivation, you need to be particularly aware of phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based chemicals which are very similar to circulating estrogen.
The brain detects and categorizes these as the output of testosterone production and shuts down the HPG axis early in response. Phytoestrogens are most commonly found in soy-based products, and your body is incredibly sensitive to it with microgram level doses able to significantly reduce testosterone levels.
Q: What about dairy?
A: This is totally dependent upon your goals. If you don’t mind the bloat from milk then go for it. Skim milk is a better choice as far as mixing fats and carbs go. Remember you are on a bulking diet so you have more freedom in your dietary choices.
Q: What is a good whey protein to take and how many shakes a day should I take?
A: Bulking up requires a lot of protein to get the job done so our recommendation is to select a high quality whey protein powder (like our new Whey Better Protein) that has a high protein per serving count as well as little to no fillers because that’s just wasted money. During a bulking phase, it is generally recommended that you consume roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight gain. So if you are 200 lbs, you’ll want to be consuming around 200 grams of protein. This protein should come from both food that you consume and supplemented by whey protein shakes. A good rule of thumb is to get at least half of your protein from animal meat and the other half from whey protein.
Q: How often should I eat?
A: You’ll have to do the math to see how often you will have to eat to get your 7-8 meals a day in. If your up for 16 hours a day, then every 2 hours is how often you need to eat.
Q: Is sodium an issue when it comes to bulking up?
A: Outside of the bloating issue, or if you have high cholesterol, no.
Q. How do I make my bulking meals not taste like cardboard?
A. Be creative. Mix in some sugar free jam or splenda in your oats, some hot sauce or soy sauce on your meats, or pick up some sugar free ketchup.
Q. I don’t like old-fashioned oats. Can I eat the pre mixed oats with fruit?
A. No. Be a man. Those mixes have ridiculous amounts of sugar.
Q. What about fruit?
A: Go for it, like with dairy you are on a BULKING diet. You have more freedom in your dietary choices.
Q: What are some good sources of lean protein?
A: Egg whites, fish, chicken breast, steak, ground beef, whey protein, turkey… the list goes on forever. You'll find a ton of other people’s diets for ideas on protein via a simple Google search.
Q: What are the best carbs for bulking up?
A: Complex carbohydrates like rice, pasta, whole wheat bread, yams and oatmeal (steel-cut of course).
Q: Should I eat white or brown rice?
A: With all things considered, we would recommend brown rice unless you are going to be eating white rice within 30 minutes of completing your workout. We haven't seen much evidence proving that one is better than the other for bulking up, but given that brown rice has more fiber, that would be our top recommendation.
Q: Can I eat fast food while bulking up?
A: Fast food exists for two reasons. It is quick and it is cheap. While most Americans consume fast food several times a week, adding quality pounds to your frame will have to be done going through the drive-thru in light moderation. Cheat days would be a great day to scarf down a few cheat meals, but pound for pound, you are going to add the best balance of nutrition from taking in the more quality meats, vegetables and fruits at home.
Q: I know diet is the biggest factor when it comes to bulking up, but do you recommend any workouts?
A: Absolutely, here are some fundamental workouts to get bigger. Also, here are some other exercises to get pumped up.
Q: Got any additional bulking up tips?
A: The main thing is deciding what your specific goals are and measuring everything. Anybody can technically "bulk up" fast, but most people don't do it the right way.
Q: What are your best supplements for bulking up?
A: While all of our mass gaining supplements are selectively chosen for bulking up, our top recommendations are: