9 Biggest Mass Gain Errors
From a nutrition perspective, getting big should boil down to “eating big.” That’s the adage bodybuilders have lived by for years. In reality, for many average-joe bodybuilders, “big eating” which implies packing away tons of food, can be an equally effective fat gaining plan. Therein lies one of the biggest dilemmas facing the bodybuilder, how do I gain mass without getting downright sloppy looking? Read on; avoid these 9 errors and you too can bulk without the bulge.
1) Too Much At Each Meal
This one boils down to portions. When you eat a lot in hopes of gaining mass, your body can only make use of a certain amount of nutrition, including calories, at one sitting. What happens to the excess? It’s packed away as body fat. That’s why I’m all for eating 5-7 “meals” a day.
A meal could be as small as a protein shake, a small turkey burger on a whole grain bun, or a chicken breast with a heaping cup of cooked pasta. Frequent meals, using smaller portions of food, promotes protein synthesis while preventing an upgrade in fat storing enzymes and hormones. A lot of newbies to bodybuildingfind it impossible even ludicrous to eat 5 to7 times a day. That’s why I will often have them rotate a small meal followed by 2 scoops of whey protein a couple hours later and repeat that throughout the day to ensure they actually are providing non-stop nutrition to facilitate growth.
Bodybuilders always ask me how much they should eat at a single meal and I always answer the same way. “How many sets for biceps do you do in the gym?” The bodybuilder answers, “Eight to ten sets.” I follow up with, “Well, why not do 20?” Inevitably, the bodybuilder responds, “It’s too much!” To which I reply, “So, why force food ? You don't force the workouts!'' It's idea worth remembering when you mistakenly think eating a lot at one time will really make you bigger.
2) Calorie Excess
Do you really need 6,000 calories to build mass? Five thousand?Four thousand? No, no and maybe.
For many bodybuilders, building mass requires about 17-20 calories per pound of body weight, which for the 200 pounder comes out to 3400-4000 calories a day. For those with a mediocre metabolism, the number may be even a little less, which means if your metabolism isn’t on par with that of a top pro bodybuilder and you’re eating 5,000 calories a day, you’re going to get extremely fat. Start with 16-17 calories per pound of bodyweight and check the mirror after a week or two. If you’re gaining in the midsection, your calories may be too high. If you’re adding bodyweight and still looking decent in that area, you can increase your calorie intake.
3) Mistimed Eating
If you want to make 100% sure you’re supporting muscle growth – and don’t want to fret about adding body fat – exaggerate the size of three important meals; at breakfast and the meal before and following training. That means more carbs and more protein. Even a little fat is okay, too. These are the three most important meals of the day and determine whether you will gain mass for the day or simply move sideways. When you eat a lot at breakfast you boost anabolic (muscle building) hormones which in turn suppress catabolic hormones, those that try to breakdown and kill muscle tissue. After training, muscles act like a vacuum, sucking up nearly all incoming nutrition which causes muscle growth while impeding the body’s ability to store body fat. The opposite – not eating enough at breakfast and after training – can compromise recovery which can downgrade your metabolic rate. Guess what happens when your metabolic rate is downgraded? It’s easier to get fat! Lastly, I still feel the pre-training meal is the single most important meal of the day. It drives up insulin which to some degree retards muscle breakdown during training and it acts as a “cushion” on energy reserves allowing you to push harder than, say, having eaten only a small amount of calories, carbs, protein and fat pre-training.
4) Eating Diet Foods
To get ripped to the bone, you need turkey breasts, chicken breasts, fish and egg whits.Those are the lowest calorie sources of protein available. You also need lots of veggies to curb the appetite. The problem for many misguided mass seekers; they eat diet foods during the mass gaining phase in hopes of maintaining low levels of body fat. What really happens? They often fail to add any significant amount of muscle mass. Why? Testosterone. Eating zero fat – the lean protein choices listed – can cause a drop off in testosterone levels. Surprisingly, veggies can actually interfere with testosterone metabolism as well, which leads to “so-so” gains rather than “Wow!” gains. Ditch the diet proteins for lean beef, whole eggs mixed with egg whites and don’t be afraid of low fat yogurt and cheese. Your recovery ability, growth and results will be happy you did.
5) Too Much Protein
If eating lots of protein was a guaranteed ticket to massive gains in mass, I would just say, “Take 20 scoops of whey protein per day.” Fact is, there is more to gaining quality muscle then simply overdosing on protein. The point: while protein is the single most important nutrient to determine muscle growth, there is such thing as the law of diminishing returns. It’s called going overboard. You need 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and up to 1.5 grams. After that, if you think you need to go higher due to a lack of growth, you’re just overlooking the bigger picture, which is carbs and how they impact protein. Carbs, and the calories and energy they produce, go hand in hand with protein and make the absorption and delivery of protein into muscle tissue far more efficient. Carbs are the driving force that push proteins into muscles. A lot of bodybuilders mistakenly eat far too much protein but lack the “push” of carbs, which means a lot of protein is wasted and unavailable to makes its way to muscles.
6) The Sleep Fix
The real name of the game in mass building is maintaining what’s called an anabolic state – where the body is constantly delivering amino acids into muscles causing growth. When you sleep, the body can fall out of this precious state but there’s an easy way to get around it. Take GH releasing nutrients and herbs. They can maximize the GH release the body naturally puts out within 90 minutes of sleep. Greater GH release blocks potential muscle breakdown that can occur during an overnight fast. Enhanced GH levels also support the immune system which acts as a spark plug for muscle recovery.
7) Lack Of Anabolic Amino's
I’m not one to drive supplements down the throats of would-be bodybuilders but there are three amino acids that are, well, more important than others. Called the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), they help prevent muscles from falling into a dreaded breakdown state, which accompanies hard training. By taking BCAA before and after training you protect muscles from being catabolized, torn apart and burned. This, indirectly, promotes growth. Of the three BCAA’s, an amino acid called leucine appears to be most important. It drives an anabolic hormone called insulin, which acts as a catalyst for muscle growth by turning on messengers in muscle cells that promote growth. Try a combo of 5 grams of BCAA before and after training or simply take 3-4 grams of leucine before and again after training.
8) Disconnect Between Nutrition & Training
Hardcore training requires knowing how to eat properly. One of the biggest mistakes a lot of bodybuilders make is to fall for the belief that even the best nutrition plan can override the need for proper rest. Rest allows catabolic hormones – those that fight muscle growth – to recede. While good nutrition also suppresses catabolic hormones, there’s a limit to how effective your nutrition will go. From there, it’s all about rest. If you find yourself skipping the mistakes I outlined and still failing to add quality beef, that means you need more rest days. Instead of triggering your body to grow, you’re hammering it too hard and even the ideal nutrition scenario can’t save you. I’d suggest taking a closer look at your training and adding another rest day or two to your current training regimen.
9) No Real Consistency
There’s a book called the Automatic Millionaire where “typical’ Americans become millionaires simply by consistently contributing to their savings. The Automatic Mass Monster requires the bodybuilder consistently eat like he should and implement the 8 tips above. The result? You’ll automatically get to where you want to go; more mass. That’s one of the “secrets” to getting ahead. You have to take small steps, but take them every day and over time you’ll make the gains you really want; more mass and very little body fat.