Most articles you read on fitness sites and magazines the next couple months will be geared to losing weight or toning up for summer. So instead of writing another version of all those articles you are probably going to come across this month, let’s talk about bulking up but without losing your six-pack or gaining any fat during the process.
Keep in mind this is very difficult to do and some people, even bodybuilders will tell you it’s “impossible” however it is certainly possible but does require some attention to detail. Basic nutrition principles tell us it’s simple. If you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight and if you burn more than you take in you will lose weight. When you’re trying to gain more size and muscle mass, you need to eat more but it’s going to be all about eating the right things and eating at the right times.
Everyone’s metabolism and genetics are different, so some of this will vary. For this example, I will use a subject that is lean genetically but wants to fill out more without losing definition. The most important thing here is consistency in the gym and training hard throughout this process. To gain size you need to take in an adequate amount of carbs but at the same time don’t want too many which can eventually lead to an increase in body fat. Carb timing may be the single-most important part of this diet. You need to eat a breakfast high in carbs because it’s so early you have all day to burn them. I would say around 60 carbs and 30-40 grams of protein in this meal.
The next meal that should be high in carbs is your pre-workout (you will not only burn them but need them for energy being that you are about to do some heavy lifting to gain size). For this meal, I would say another 60 carbs (complex carbs: brown rice, wheat bread, etc) with 30-40 grams of protein.
Then the final and highest carb meal of the day should be your post-workout. This is the time of day your body needs the most carbs to grow and will burn quite a few. This meal should be 100-120 carbs with about 60 grams of protein. You should be doing about six meals so for the other three I would keep the carbs moderate with protein around 30 grams. Your last meal before bed should be mostly protein (30g) but under 10 carbs.
Next Up – The Training
To gain size and mass, you need to lift heavy and give your muscles plenty of rest to rebuild and come back stronger. To stay lean or get lean you have to do a high amount of reps with good intensity and limited rest. So being that we want to gain size and stay lean, you need to do a little bit of both. So what I would recommend (and what I almost always recommend) is split targeting each major muscle group 1-2 times a week with 4-5 exercises per muscle with 3-4 sets for each exercise on a given day.
When choosing the right amount of weight, you want to select a weight where you are getting around eight reps but where the 8th or 9th is pretty much failure with 3-4 heavy sets and maybe one per exercise where you are getting more of the 4-6 range.
When it comes to cardio, this is going to be very specific to your body type and genetics. When I am trying to gain weight, I do cardio 1-2 times a week but sometime not at all. I do a minimal amount of cardio because it is difficult for me to gain weight but easy to stay lean so this is something that I’d say is on a case-by-case basis. If you are unsure, start with 2-3 days of light 20-30 minutes and assess it from there.