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A little Muscle and too Much Fat

The common saying goes, “you got to eat big to be big.” There is a lot of truth to this statement, if you want big muscles you have to feed them; but at what cost? For the genetically gifted it’s a very simple task; eat more food, gain more muscle…end of story. Unfortunately, most do not fall into this category at all; far from it. As unfortunate as it is, what’s worse is more often than not, those who long so hard to have a giant awe inspiring frame still lean towards the “eat big” mantra only to find themselves in a worse place then when they started. In short, they are now a fat guy who has a lot of muscle. It’s not too appealing is it?

For many beginners they enter the gym and flounder in failure for a year or more gaining very little success in their training. They train hard, take all the right supplements, and may even begin their own course of anabolics out of desperation. In the end, they may very well find more muscle on their tiny frame from when they started; but the gains are minimal and in all honesty quite frustrating considering all the amount of work. The poor guy is left with three options; first, give up all hope and this is not uncommon; second, continue to flounder day in and day out with the same way of thinking; again, pretty commonplace. We are then left with the final option, seeking out advice, but the problem is, whose advice do you seek?

Inevitably most will search out two avenues, what are the pro’s doing, what’s it say in the magazines and message boards about the pro’s way of thinking? What is the big ripped guy in my gym doing, what’s his secret? For some the advice they get from these avenues will be perfect, it will be just what they needed to hear and just what the doctor ordered.  For so many and these are the unfortunate who make up the strong majority; this advice will crush their dreams of a big rock hard body.

Walk into any gym and ask a random big ripped guy what his secret is and he may tell you he eats enough to kill most men. In fact he’s always eaten this way, he did so even before he began training. Obviously the next logical step is to simply emulate the big dude; if he eats 10,000 calories a day you should to, right? Uh, wrong, not unless you know for fact that you are genetically blessed with a metabolism that burns from the fires of hell and if your past experience hasn’t already told you this, then you do not have it.

It is an excepted way of thinking, if you’re training hard and training to gain muscle, you should be ingesting somewhere in the 1g-1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This has become the accepted standard in most circles. Where does that leave us? No man can live off protein alone and expect to grow. For most they turn to carbs and carbs first to pack on the size. The more carbs they eat the harder they can train; the more carbs they eat the bigger and fuller their muscles look with the increased water and glycogen bursting the seams. As for fats they become an afterthought for some. True, some will eat anything with fats or not; simply eating to eat to gain more muscle is their only concern; but even a child could see how detrimental this can be. The other half runs from fat, after all if it’s got fat in it, it will make them fat too; it just makes sense doesn’t it? No, not hardly and it’s this way of thinking that will lead to a physique that may have more muscle but it’s now covered in the fat that you so desperately wanted to keep at bay.

Carbs are important when trying to pack on size, it is true that you need to eat to grow, but there must be a balance, there must be adequate nutritional intake from all three of the nutrient bases; this includes fats. Like carbs, fats are also an energy source, a slower burning energy source, and in many instances one that will help lead to a more efficient burning metabolism when placed in the diet correctly.

To train with the proper intensity to grow, you do need carbs in your diet; you will need a stored up base of glycogen to pull from. The truth remains, when it comes to building muscle, fats are a critical tool and should not be overshadowed and replaced by more carbs.

So how many carbs per day, how many grams of fat should be ingested to make the proper types of gains? There are several things to consider when figuring out what will work best for you; how much muscle do you have on your frame? How much body fat do you already carry? What are your goals are they simply strength related or are you in fact after a rock hard physique?

With bodybuilding type goals in mind, for a beginner the best place to start with carbs is ensuring that you are getting in approximately 1g of carbs per pound of bodyweight. As you progress this amount may indeed need to increase, but one shouldn’t assume from the start that he will need more; let time and the mirror be your gauge. If you start here and begin to gain too much fat, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, you may need to drop your carb intake down; this should be a given. If you are already at a higher body fat level when you start, and with the additional body fat that will come when trying to gain, again, you will need to start with less than 1g of carbs per pound of bodyweight.

Carb sources are also important to consider when figuring out this equation. You should choose your carbs sources carefully, slow burning carbs are your best bet, such as rice, sweet potatoes and oats. Always limit foods such as bread and anything that has sugar should be an absolute afterthought. If you are already relatively lean, then there is a place for the faster acting sugar filled carbs, such as in the post workout meal/shake, such as waxy maze, dextrose, etc; but if you are an individual who gains fat easily or are already carrying a good layer of fat, forgo these carbs altogether until you reach a better place.

We then come to fats, an important building block to any physique. Unlike carbs, fats carry more than double the amount of energy then carbs; 1g of fat equates to 9 calories per gram; while 1g of carbs equates to 4 calories per gram. When taken in properly, when chosen from the right source of foods, fats can and will provide a slower burning more efficient energy source to your body, as well as provide very important muscle building and repairing qualities that carbs and proteins lack. Yes, fats are essential for proper muscle care and function.

What’s more interesting are those who use fats as their primary source of energy tend to have faster more efficient burning metabolisms. When the body becomes accustomed to burning fat as its primary source of fuel, it will in turn burn more stored body fat. When carbs are the primary source of energy that the body relies on, its natural tendency is to pull energy from the body by converting muscle tissue into glycogen when outside ingested glycogen becomes absent. This is obviously a bad, bad thing for any struggling bodybuilder, especially if he is sensitive to too much carb intake because to prevent this from occurring he would need to eat more carbs than his metabolism can handle; which is the exact reason you see so many bodybuilders gaining too much fat.

What foods are best when it comes to our daily fat intake? When adding fat into the diet you should never simply choose just any random food. Foods that contain fats are needed but it needs to be good fat; yes, like most things in life there is a good and a bad and fats are no exception.

The best sources to pull from when it comes to whole foods are: eggs, peanut butter, salmon, nuts and legumes, filet, top round steak and olive oil. All of these foods are great choices but even when picking these foods there are other things to consider. To get the most bang for your buck, make your eggs Omega-3 eggs, make your peanut butter natural; choose nuts and legumes that are raw, not roasted; and for crying out loud do not deep fry your food!

Other quality sources that should be in all gym bags, the various fatty supplements such as omega-3 fish oil, flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, etc; these are all quality items that will aid you greatly in building and preserving muscle.

For those who are still worried about making carbs your secondary source of energy; the idea of carbs has been so engrained in so many of you that getting around it and hearing what you’ve been told here is hard to do. Because of that some of you will never hear any of this; some of you quit reading several lines ago. But for those that are still here, I recommend at least once per wk having a heavy set carb loaded meal. If it is the off-season I will typically recommend at least one per week, sometimes more and for all my clients one of those meals is actually very dirty and full of all the good junk we love. These meals for starters help keep ones sanity in check. Beyond that and more importantly, they allow for the body to not become to accustom to the new way of eating; that’s the last thing you want. You do not want your body to become complacent with the new way of eating; when this happens progress can come to a halt. These high carb meals that are placed in the diet aid in preventing this from happening. 

Overview for eating to gain in the off-season for a beginner male:
  • Protein: 1g-1.5g per pound of bodyweight every day
  • Carbs: 0.5g-1g per pound of bodyweight every day (adjusts up or down as needed…use the mirror, not the scale.
  • Fats: An exact amount was not mentioned above, because unlike carbs and proteins, fats should not be calculated by one’s bodyweight; you’re going to have to play with this a little to find the perfect match for you. However, for most, this is going to fall into approximately the 100g of fat per day from the sources of food and supplements mentioned above. Approximately 15-20g per meal, spread over 6 even meals per day is a good place to start.

***If you are a hard gainer, a true hard gainer then this type of dieting may not be for you; similar but other measures would need to be taken. However, most who claim they are hard gainers are in fact not; they just don’t know how to eat, they don’t know how to feed their muscles.
***This type of eating will work just as well for those who choose the natural path or for those that use performance enhancing drugs. Nutrients are nutrients guys and that is something many seem to not understand.

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