As active weight trainers looking to build lean muscle mass, we all have an idea of what we want our bodies to look like. Whether we want a heavily muscled body, or a lean ripped physique, we want to achieve our goals effectively and efficiently. In doing so, we demand a lot from our bodies so that we can keep improving from workout to workout.
I'll be the first to admit, building a lean, muscular body is no easy task. We have to show up to the gym, day in and day out, pumping our rep after rep until our muscles scream in pain. Always having to keep moving forward and pushing our bodies to the limit - It's the price we all have to pay for muscular bodies.
Our goals and ambitions are what drives us to go that extra mile and push those extra repetitions.
However, for a lot of us, there seems to be a point where we simply stop growing. Our muscle stop getting stronger and all of a sudden, our entire program seems to be going nowhere. No matter what we do in the gym, nothing seems to work. What is going on?
Well, this happens to everyone, including your's truly. This is what I call an imbalance in the “muscle building equation”. Here's a simplified way to look at the muscle building process:
Progressive resistance training + Quality rest + Quality food = Muscle growth
Muscle growth will only happen if all three are present. However, as we progress and get stronger, our muscles demand additional rest and food. This is where most of us go wrong and why hard gainers have such a hard time building muscle mass. We are simply not providing the proper environment for additional muscle growth. More often than not, it's food that becomes the problem. We are simply not providing our bodies with the necessary nutrients for further muscle growth.
There is an imbalance in the muscle building equation:
Non progressive resistance training + Quality rest - Quality food = No muscle growth
To build quality muscle mass, a person needs to consume enough quality calories to stimulate further muscle growth. Please understand that there needs to be a proportional increase in both, food and rest to match that of strength and muscle gains.
This is especially true for hard gainers, beginners, and intermediates because for most, nutrition is more of an after thought when it should be the priority. The concept of quality nutrition to promote further strength and muscle gains is misunderstood by most. This is the very reason why most of us see little or no results in the gym.
Here's the way I look at quality nutrition. I compare it to building a dream home. Nutrition is the foundation on which a house is to be built. Build a home on a shaky or weak foundation and eventually, cracks will start to form. Sooner or later, the entire house will sink into the ground and simply fall apart.
This same concept is true for quality nutrition. Start with a quality nutritional foundation and you will build a very solid and muscular body that burns fat 24 hours a day. This is the missing element that will help build a lean and muscular physique.
What I'm about to tell you is one of the true secrets to building a lean, healthy and muscular physique. Please remember this:
Please note that I mentioned “Quality nutrients”. This is the key and it will be these nutrients that will make the difference in your physique. These are called muscle foods and I will discuss these foods in a moment. To truly understand why it is so important to set a strong nutritional base you need to look at what builds and fuels muscles. Don't worry, I'm no bio chemist so I'm only going to cover the basics.
We all know strength training builds muscle mass. However, in order for this to take place, we need the construction materials to make this happen. By that, I mean we need protein, carbohydrates, and fats to help facilitate the muscle building process. Our bodies break down these nutrients in a process called metabolism that converts the nutrients in to useable energy.
It is during metabolism that proteins are broken down into small building blocks called “amino acids”. Based on our DNA profile, these building blocks are used by the bodies cells to generate new proteins. The synthesis of new proteins is what builds muscle.
Each of us have “metabolism instructions” which tells how much of each nutrient is used. Physical activity such as weight training places our bodies under a certain amount of stress. It is this stress that sends signals to our bodies to use more of each nutrient to combat this new stimuli. By using up more nutrient, such as protein, our bodies “adapt” by getting stronger and building additional muscle mass.
You can understand why it is very important to increase nutrients in order to keep building additional muscle mass. Stop providing the nutrients your body needs to adapt to additional stress (higher exercise intensity levels), it will actually start breaking muscle tissue down for energy. This is what is called a negative state of growth and something all active weight trainers want to avoid.
A steady and constant flow of quality protein ensures that our bodies are always in a positive state of growth (Often called positive nitrogen balance). We are going to find out how to do this in a moment. Let's move onto something just as important as muscle growth, if not more so...
This is the most overlooked aspect of nutrition in weight training. The propagation of protein consumption has overshadowed all other aspects of nutrition in recent years. Protein, protein, and more protein is all anyone hears about when it comes to building muscle. It's not about how much protein a person gorges on but how well the body absorbs and utilizes that protein. Force your body work harder and it will absorb more protein - Simple as that.
With that being said, you can't force your body to work harder if it doesn't have the right fuel to go that extra mile. You can have all the motivation in the world to hit the weights hard but if your body doesn't have the fuel it needs, it will not provide the energy you need for high intensity weight training.
No muscle energy, no muscle growth - You have to provide the right amount of muscle fuel. Why is it so important to provide the right kind of fuel for muscle growth?
Muscle cells run on a high energy compound known as adenosine triphoshpate (ATP). This is the stuff that makes muscle contract and provides the energy needed to lift weights. ATP is made by the muscle cells by combining oxygen and nutrients such as carbohydrates, fat, and protein. However, carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy by the body. Fat is stored and used for other metabolic functions while protein is used for growth and repair.
The body uses three energy systems to generate ATP. The first is the phosphagen system, the second is the glycolytic system, and the third is the oxidative system.
The phosphagen system replenishes ATP by generating a compound known as creatine phosphate. For the first few seconds of exercise, most oxygen in the muscles are used up and it's at this point that creatine phosphate kicks in to supply an additional energy source. This system usually lasts anywhere between 3 and 15 seconds depending on the amount of creatine phosphate in the muscle cells.
Once the phosphagen system is exhausted, the glycolytic system steps in. This system ensures that glucose is made available to the muscle cells. It does this by breaking down carbohydrates (glycogen) to a usable form of energy by the body, glucose. This process replenishes ATP stores for additional energy use by the muscles. This system provides enough usable energy for two to three minutes.
The third energy system is called the oxidative system. This system is used for all endurance exercises involving aerobic activity. Although not a direct source of energy, oxygen is used as an ingredient in a series of chemical reactions to produce ATP. Once stores of glucose have been depleted, oxygen is used to help produce additional stores of ATP.
All three energy systems are used in strength and endurance exercises. However, the first two are primarily used for short bursts of energy such as strength training while the third is used for high endurance exercise.
Think of it this way:
1) Phosphagen System (3 to 15 seconds) 2) Glycolytic System (2 to 3 minutes) 3) Oxidative System (Onward)
The more efficient your body is at utilizing quality nutrients, the better your performance is going to be. If you're lacking the necessary dietary nutrients, your going to have sub par performance in the gym. Sub par performance in the gym equals little, to no muscle growth.
This is where most beginners and intermediates go wrong with their weight training programs. It's not the weight training that goes wrong, it's the diet. As your body gets stronger and stronger, it demands more quality nutrients to 1) Build additional muscle mass; And 2) Increase the necessary energy needed for higher intensity levels.
Give your body what it needs to grow and you'll have a muscle building, fat burning machine.
How do you improve nutrient uptake? It is simple. You have to re-program your body to eat more quality nutrients on a consistent basis. By re-programming your body to eat more nutrients, you will provide more quality muscle building protein and high octane muscle fuel.
What I'm about to tell you is something that needs to be done if you want to take your body to the next level. You need to improve your appetite . This is something that doesn't happen overnight and like anything else, you need to start small. The idea is to provide your body with a nutritional blueprint so that it can follow a consistent plan. Over time, you will gradually add more and more quality nutrients to the plan. Remember this very, very important rule:
The important thing here is to implement a nutritional plan and stick with it. Consistency will be the success factor here. What type of plan am I talking about? A successful nutritional plan will include those elements that will allow your body to perform at it's peek. Here are the success elements to a successful muscle building nutritional plan.
1) Consume Enough Quality Calories
You simply won't build the kind of muscle mass you're looking for by not providing your body with enough calories. Quality calories will provide your body with the necessary fuel it needs to power up the heavy weight and improve overall performance.
Simply put, you need additional calories for additional muscle energy. Depending on your age, sex, activity levels, and metabolism ( body type ) will determine how many calories a day you need. To build muscle and strength, generally, 20 to 23 calories per pound of body weight is needed. For example, if you weight a 150 pounds, you will want to consume between 3,000 and 3,400 calories per day. For more detailed information, please see this page here:
The body relies on a consistent pattern of eating. An inconsistent diet will produce inconsistent results. By following a consistent meal schedule, your body will adapt to this level of eating by utilizing an optimal level of nutrients throughout the day. When it comes time to hit the gym, your body will be topped up with quality protein and carbohydrates which will inflate and energize your muscles. You will also be much more focussed.
Read my personal story of consistent eating at:
3) Meal Timing
This ties into element 3. Timing your meals to match that of your lifestyle, job, workout times and school life is very important. Meals should be spaced 2 and a half hours apart. Mind you, these meals don't have to be huge meals. Breaking down your daily caloric intake (Element 1) into 6 meals per day is needed. If you are consuming 3,000 calories per day, try breaking it down into 6 small meals per day. Each meal will therefore be around 500 calories.
I personally take in about 4,000 calories per day. I break this up with about 6 or 7 meals per day. I actually eat 2 to 3 times in the morning. I've tried many meal combinations and this one, without a doubt works the best. This takes a bit of work but if you're serious about building a truly, healthy and muscular body, you will take the time needed to plan your meal schedule. Plan your meal schedule around your current lifestyle.
Lately, I've come across a resource that makes meal planning very simple. Whereas it used to take me hours to figure out a quality nutrition plan, it now takes me minutes. I will discuss this resource a little later.
4) Vary Your Diet
Plain chicken breasts, asparagus and steak and potatoes day in and day out will wear down your taste buds and before you know it, you'll be back to eating poorly. A variety of fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, starchy carbohydrates is the key to a successful muscle building diet.
A variety of foods will ensure you have all the necessary vitamins, minerals, anti oxidants and all round muscle building nutrients needed to build a healthy and muscular physique.
Also, this will be one of the primary aspects of increasing your appetite. Eat meals that taste great with a variety of flavour and you you'll be consuming the necessary calories needed to build large, lean muscle tissue.
5) Meal Planning
You need to take the time to sit down and plan your meals. I usually do this on Sunday mornings and will adjust any nutrient or calories according to my current body weight or tastes. I have a one page schedule with a 5 day meal plan with meals for that week. I make two copies, one for my binder and one I stick on the fridge. Here's a snapshot of my sample meal schedule:
|Day 1||Day 4|
|7:00 AM - Dave's blueberry oatmeal||7:00 AM - Vanilla cream oatmeal|
|9:30 AM - Mexican breakfast scramble||9:30 AM - Turkey spinach omelette|
|12:00 PM - Tuna casserole||12:00 PM - Chicken fajitas|
|2:30 PM - Protein drink||2:30 PM - Protein drink|
|4:15 PM - Beef stroganoff||4:15 PM - Spaghetti|
|9:30 PM - High protein jello||9:30 PM - High protein granola bar|
|Day 2||Day 5|
|7:00 AM - Reese's style oatmeal||7:00 AM - High protein pancakes|
|9:30 AM - Breakfast fajitas||9:30 AM - Country breakfast|
|12:00 PM - Roast chicken sandwich w/salad||12:00 PM - Curry chicken and almonds with salad|
|2:30 PM - Protein drink||2:30 PM - Protein drink|
|4:15 PM - Chicken quesadillas||4:15 PM - Beef fajitas|
|9:30 PM - Zucchini bread||9:30 PM - High protein jello|
|7:00 AM - Nanny's apple pie oats|
|9:30 AM - Spinach scramble|
|12:00 PM - Roast chicken breast w/spinach and walnuts w/ Strawberry turkey spinach salad|
|2:30 PM - Protein drink|
|4:15 PM - Steak, sweet potatoes and asparagus|
|9:30 PM - Granola yogurt snack|
Most of the recipes are from Anabolic Cooking.
Once I have my schedule, I get the recipes needed for the meals and I place these recipes in a binder. I usually make two to three days worth of meals so that they're ready at meal times. For example, I'll cook 2 days worth of meals on Sunday and store them in tupperware containers. When it comes time to eat, I simply heat them up in a microwave. I'll repeat this process on Wednesday night. On the weekends, I'll take the time to cook the meals.
I have two cheat meals on the weekend. Saturday morning breakfast and Sunday dinner. These two meals I eat what I want (mind you, they're still healthy). For my Sunday dinner meal, I will usually have a glass of red wine and cook something from “Bon Appetite”. We all have to keep are sanity in the iron game and this is how I do it.
I realize that meal planning can be somewhat difficult because for most of us, we don't know where to get this information. You can get some of the meals from the building muscle 101 website located at:
However, I strongly recommend you go over to Dave Ruel's website called “Anabolic Cooking” and get his cook book. It has over 200 recipes dedicated to building lean, muscle mass. I've been waiting a long time for this type of resource and it's finally here. I've downloaded a copy and it is absolutely fantastic. You can read my review of it at:
Not only does it comes with 200 tasty and easy to make recipes but there are calorie specific plans for 1,200 up to 5,000 calorie plans. This takes all the guesswork out of nutritional planning. Simply pick a plan and follow it. It couldn't be easier because it has all the recipes included so all you have to do is prepare the meals. Click here to check it out.
The point I'm trying to make here is to re-program your body to consume more quality nutrients. This comes down to improving your appetite. By doing so, you will improve both, your performance in the gym and your muscle building efforts. Planning is the big thing here and if you take the time to do it, and follow it on a consistent basis, you will be well on your way to building a lean, muscular physique.
Based on the conversations I've had with beginners and intermediates, nutritional habits are the number one reason why they don't build the kind of muscle their looking for. Take action today!
Here's a sample menu to give you an idea of what you should be eating on a consistent basis:
Remember, go over to Dave Ruel's website and get your copy of “Anabolic Cooking” and plan your own custom meal plan.
All the best,