So, after basically getting past that pesky physical therapy shit that left my left leg looking like a soda straw with scars, I decided to make the jump up to 200 lbs. All of that flabby mass that used to wave hello to me in the bathroom mirror as I walked in cooperated and along with the food and leg work, I gained some legitimate mass pretty quickly. Afterwards, I settled into a nice, steady pound-per-week gain and delighted as my upper back began its steady rejection of size medium t-shirts (unless I wanted to sport the skin-tight douchebag look).
That was when I was in Florida. I left around mid-April while the General Contractor I work for proceeded to screw Charlotte County (long story). When I got home, things hit some snags. There was that back issue left over from muscle imbalances from babying my leg, letting my hip muscles tighten up. Then there was that cold that everyone in Florida got that left me with a cough so brutal that if I ate too much and got a coughing fit I'd have to lay down to prevent blowing chunks.
The biggest problem of all was my diet. I had a nice system going down in Florida for eating and I let it lapse when I got back due to lack of time to cook for myself. While I haven't slacked on the high protein nuts for snacks that worked so well seven years ago, I did stop making soups and stews.
- De-naturing and easy-digesting! No, I'm not going to rip off Jamie that latently. Yeah, the meat gets de-natured with such a long, slow and low cook. That makes it more digestible. Actually, it makes everything in the stew more digestible. That's really important because, as Vince Gironda pointed out years ago, it's not what you eat that make you big, it's what you can absorb. Considering that my digestive tract works as well as drunk blind man driving a heavily-abused Yugo in a F-1 Grand Prix, this is extremely important.
- Garlic and Onions! Pick a stew. Any stew. From anywhere. I can almost guarantee you that it either has onions and/or garlic in it. These two vegetables suffer from not being green enough to be considered nutritional powerhouses, or even thought of as vegetables at all, but they have some ridiculously-important benefits to the aspiring muscular man and they all revolve around both having high concentrations of Sulfur-based compounds in both. These have two notable advantages. The first is that they play a role in raising testosterone levels (provided that you're eating a high fat diet). The second is that they play a role in joint health by helping regeneration of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
- Did I mention a lot of protein? It's very easy to get a lot of protein into a single meal with a stew or a soup. Most of my favorite recipes have 60-90 grams of protein in just 8 fluid ounces. Keep in mind that I'll often eat a 32-58 ounces of stew/soup in one sitting.
- Double the meat content, at least, and always
- Triple the spices, at least
- Use fresh herbs, even when they specify dry ones
- Be careful about adding extra vegetables. That will water down the flavors
- Borscht (use the first tip listed above on this one. BIG TIME)
- Bacon, Beef and Lentil Stew (throw a few bay leaves into this one)
Best of all, just about all of these stews and soups can be made on a pretty modest budget too while getting a lot of very easily digestible calories and protein. If you can't grow on a steady of these you probably can't grow on anything.
There's a good reason why despite drastically different cultures with vastly different foods to work with in every corner of the world all have at least one, or several different stews or soups in their cuisines. This is the sure-fire way to get inexpensive, nutritious dishes in the diet. This has fallen into a sewer pipe in the past, several decades in the strength training world. Consider this entry a suggestion and a stern warning that forgetting this style of cooking should be making it into your diet on a regular basis if muscle-building is a concern to you.