Gains! Gains! Gains!
If I gained 1 pound of muscle for every time I read, or heard someone mention some kind of gains they are currently inducing from some random food type, I would be walking around like Dorian Yates at the 1996 German Grand Prix. However, bodybuilding is our chosen sport and gains are what we’re about. Muscle gain that is, not fat gain or water gain. Can we make gains eating cereal…… maybe!!
So how do we know if we are actually gaining muscle and not just fat? There are a couple of ways of doing this, if you are a competitive bodybuilder you will more than likely diet for a show tracking your weight and maybe body fat on a weekly basis, have an offseason, and then when you diet again you can compare measurements from the previous time you have dieted. Another way to track your gains is by calculating your LBM (lean body mass) and keeping track of this over time.
In reality, gaining 1lb of muscle is a lot harder than people think. Yes some people may be able to gain muscle easier than others through various genetic factors, but for 99% of us mere mortals muscle gain is a tough job. To most seasoned professionals a weight gain of 2-3lbs would be a very good offseason achievement. In this article I will cover some ways we can maximise our muscle building potential.
Intra Workout Nutrition
It is imperative that we take in the optimal fuel sources for our body around workout time. This will ensure we are prepared for the physical activity we are about to undertake, perform during the workout whilst preventing catabolism, and recover after the workout. As we are talking about gaining muscle we all know the body needs to be in a caloritic surplus to gain muscle. It also needs to be constantly topped up with essential and none essential amino acids to make new muscle protein.
This may sound complicated but believe me if there is one thing I have learnt from more experienced guys it’s to keep it simple. Pre workout I take BCAAs, creatine and glutamine. Intra-workout nutrition is something that I have recently added during this offseason and it is massively helped with my recovery enabling me to train more, harder and recover faster. My intra-workout drink consists of branch cyclic dextrin (found in Gaspari Glycofuse), peptopro, BCAA’s and creatine, for more information on these look at my previous article in the resource (Click Here For Previous Article).
In a nut shell the cyclic dextrin is a carb source, so when it enters the body it creates an insulin release which when combined with the peptopro and BCAA’s drives them straight to the muscle. The constant feeding of these supplements during you work out will leave you feeling as if you didn’t train hard enough the next day. You did!! You have just recovered a lot quicker. And as everyone knows you are only growing when you are recovering.
Change Your Angles
This is so important, especially for lagging body parts. Let’s face it, if you are using a neutral grip for your bench, your benching 140kg and your chest ain’t growing…. guess what, no matter how much more weight you add to the bar your chest is still going to be a lagging body part. Yes for beginners adding more weight to the bar is probably the fastest way to make gains even if your form isn’t the best, your body will still adapt.
But I’m guessing if you’re benching 140kg or squatting 180kg you’re not a beginner. Changing the position at which you hold the bar, position your elbows, how wide you have your feet or the angle your toes point will put the working muscle in a position it’s not used to, forcing it to adapt and grow. This will most defiantly feel uncomfortable at first which is the whole point, the comfort zone is a beautiful place - but nothing grows there.
Get Control of Insulin
Insulin is one of the body’s most anabolic hormones and the only hormone we can control. Manipulating insulin at the right times WILL lead to massive muscle gains providing you're feeding your body with the right nutrients. Insulin is a transporter, it is released from the pancreas and drives glucose from the blood stream into cells making it crucial for building muscle. It also has a downside as it can increase fat storage, so the challenge is learning how to spike insulin at the optimal time to ensure the nutrients we are taking in are getting stored in the muscle cells and not the fat cells.
From the pancreas insulin enters the blood stream and travels to various tissues, but the one we are mainly concerned with is muscle tissue, these muscle cells are lined with insulin receptors. Once in the insulin molecule attaches to the muscle cell, tells it to open up and allow glucose, amino acids and creatine to enter the muscle. This is why insulin has huge muscle building potential. Whilst in the muscle insulin sets of a chemical reaction that increases protein synthesis, which is the building of new muscle out of amino acids. If that isn’t a good enough reason to utilise insulin response it also decreases muscle breakdown, which further enhances muscle growth.
The single important time we can use insulin response to our maximum advantage is post workout. This is the time were we must take in some form of high GI carbohydrates along with protein and amino acids. The common misconception is that high GI carbs will get stored as fat, well yes if you are constantly consuming high GI carbs when your muscles are in a resting state it will lead to fat gain over time. Post exercise our muscles are starving for nutrients to fuel protein synthesis, but a large serving of simple carbohydrates puts our muscles in an optimal anabolic environment and increases nutrient uptake and storage, ideal for rapid muscle gains.
"The only meal as a note that requires a rapid and high spike in insulin is the post workout"
Keep It Simple!
This applies to both training and nutrition. This means training at least 5 days a week, more if you feel your recovery rate enables this. With regards to training you MUST lift heavy weights, this is a training variable that will 100% cause your body to adapt and grow providing you are using correct form, dropping your reps to the 3-6 rep range on compound exercises will cause more growth hormone to be released stimulating faster muscle growth. If you want to gain muscle compound movements for various muscle groups should be the staple of your workouts. Do include some higher rep exercises in your workout to make sure all muscle fibres, fast and slow twitch are being stimulated.
With regards to nutrition, protein provides the raw building blocks to grow new muscle tissue, so make it your priority. Aim for around 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Divide that number by 6 if you’re eating 6 meals, that’s how much protein you should consume at each meal. The rest of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. To gains muscle you must always be in a calorie surplus, which means eating more calories than your body is using throughout the day. Simple as that!
"Eat big, lift big, get big. Simple!"