Okay, it's been a while since I posted anything, and for that I apologize. So, I'll get back to work with a nice long post about one of my most popular topics on this blog...
I've always been really surprised that the popularity of my blog took off pretty much on the success of my entries regarding mass-gaining with BW-only exercises. I've been re-reading Randy Roach's excellent book, "Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors," and as I sat reading it, it really shouldn't have been a shock that, even now, a lot of people ask me about it. The whole notion that I could pack on 23-plus pounds of muscle using no supplements and no weights flies in the face of much of what anyone who tells you how to bulk up for the past 50-or-so years.
As I thought about it, I've got a lot of new readers since then and, like me, I'm sure that they don't like looking back in archives for information. Since I never started tagging my posts (sorry about that), I thought it would be an opportune time to share with my readers my thoughts and experiences about my mass gaining experiences.
The story: If I told you that the winter of 2006-2007 was an easy work season, I'd be lying to you. I was doing a lot of physical labor, most of it out in the cold. As a result I fried my bodyweight down to 157 lbs (at the time, my normal was just under 164 lbs). This was galling since I started training to GAIN muscle, not to lose weight. Even so, my efforts weren't serious enough. So, at the dawn of 2007, I decided to really get with it, settling on 180 lbs as my target for the year.
I did what a lot of you probably did who don't have the luxury of training with a "pro" in a gym environment: I started reading up. I probably found out what a lot of you found out: most of the literature written about mass gain after the 1960's is BULLSHIT. The magazines, and the books published by the owners of the magazines, flourished for one reason: to sell their protein supplements. Protein supplements made the strength industry as we know it. They exist to make money first and to get you big second.
Just in case you're totally new (or hopelessly naive) to the strength training world, most of the physiques you see selling supplements are built with steroids. The publishers of the magazines (and the owners of the supplement lines, sometimes the same entity) viciously guard this "secret". How much to they guard it? Remember this guy interviewed by Chris Bell on Bigger, Stronger, Faster? Well, he got fired for admitting to steroid use in that interview by the supplement company who had hired him to model their product. No strength-publisher or supplement-maker sells steroids. All of them sell supplements. So they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by letting everyone know how these guys really get so big.
So, If I really wanted to find out how to put some meat on myself, I'd have to look back a little further. It's not that protein isn't crucial to getting muscle. That fact has been well-known to strength trainers even before they knew of the word protein and long before the protein supplement boom of the 1950's. If you look back at what they were eating before the strength training world became dusted with protein powder, you'll find a two foods coming up constantly in the diet of body cultivators: eggs, whole milk, and (to a lesser degree) nuts and seeds.
If you grab yourself a basic textbook on nutrition and study the macronutrient content of food (and I suggest that you do), you'll find that most foods are overwhelmingly high one macronutrient over all of the others. Grains, fruits and veggies are mostly carbohydrates. Most meats are overwhelmingly high in protein. What's interesting about the three that I just mentioned is that, by contrast, these three have more even split of the macronutrients.
A little comparison...
Beef Tenderloin, 4 oz
Total Fat 7.5g
Total Carbs. 0g
Banana, 3 oz
Total Fat 0.2g
Total Carbs. 18.5g
Milk, 8 fluid oz
Total Fat 8.1g
Total Carbs 12.9g
Total Fat 5.3g
Total Carbs. 0.6g
Pistachios, 1 oz
Total Fat 12.7g
Total Carbs. 7.9g
See what I mean? The more I thought about it, I realized that these three foods that we eat have another purpose: they're designed by nature to provide the need of a growing organism. While birds, mammals and trees are all quite different forms of life, they actually have surprisingly similar macronutrient needs to grow.
Humans are no different. My research into Vince Gironda turned up so much mass-gaining gold. I remember reading that fat is needed in the diet. While the body makes muscle out of protein, it still needs specific hormones triggered to initiate the process. Not surprisingly, most of the hormones in our body are fat-based chemicals. So, the fat gives the order to the body to start building and the body responds by taking the protein and making something out of it. It's an over-simplification but it works for our purposes.
I also recall reading that steak and eggs was Gironda's favorite muscle-building meals. Even went so far as to eat it for every meal, every day, for six months on end. In the process, he claimed to have gotten in the best shape of his life with this diet.
Plus, look at it this way: I just dropped into your lap a good excuse to eat one of the best-tasting MAN dinners ever! It sure beats the hell out of drinking down a snotty-flavored protein shake that probably won't work and might be laced with toxic metals.
If there's one thing that I've inherited from my old-time mass building research, it's the notion in giving out guidelines rather than exact formulas to follow. I didn't follow a strict regimen of eating that you might see in most literature these days. I'm just like many of you in the sense that I need some flexibility in my diet. So, if I were to give my starting points for diet, based on what worked for me, I'd go with an even 1/3 split between protein, fat and carbs. Eggs, whole milk, and nuts are awesome foods for getting bigger so plan on throwing more of these into your diet. I'd keep the calorie consumption above 3,000 calories, but you can tailor this to your present bodyweight and how high you want to go. As I've already said in the past, I was well over 4,000 calories per day, at times. A good rule of thumb is to never feel hungry. If you feel hungry, then you're not gaining. You might even be losing if you're a hard-gainer.
This isn't going to be easy. I firmly believe that muscle gaining is every bit as hard as losing fat. It requires a very dedicated effort to eating the right way. Dedication that most might consider a fanatical obsession. I think it's even more important than the exercise that you do. I found out that it's easier to make up for the mistakes in the gym by getting it right in the kitchen than the other way around. Be prepared for some aches (like growing pains in puberty), more clothes shopping(right at the top of every guy's least-favorite thing to do), and some steroid use allegations (yes, I was accused of steroid use!).
So, how did I fare in my mass-building? I started out pretty good for a while. In a reasonably quick period of time (for a hard-gainer), I went from 157 lbs to 172 lbs once I got armed with the right information. Then, work became extremely busy and stressful. Once that happened, I hit a major plateau. It was all I could do to hold at the mid-170's for months. If I were to do this all over again, I'd make sure that I got enough sleep. Without a doubt, this was my biggest screw-up.
By August, 2007, things slowed down and I made it up to 180 lbs. Then, I got to do it all over again! I went to Peru for three weeks in September, got a violent case of diarrhea, and lost 14 lbs. Then, work resumed its frenzied pace in the dead of fall and winter. Anyone who works hard outside in the cold can tell you that it's easy to fry weight off the body in these conditions. Still, I toughed it out and got back up over 180 lbs, even flirting with 190 lbs. By this point I was getting fat and I wasn't as quick on my feet in BJJ class. So, I let my weight gradually descend down to 175 lbs. Presently, I hover between 170-175 lbs and I'm happy right there.