From Skinny to Built: Part 3

Eat, eat, and eat some more.

When I first started lifting weights, the only sources I had for any information were a couple of mainstream bodybuilding magazines.  I actually still have the first one I ever bought!  These monthly magazines were great inspiration and were filled with useful information for an aspiring lifter such as myself.  The problem with these magazines, however, was that they never spoke much about how to eat properly.  Today, all of the popular magazines seem to cover all of the bases when it comes to training and proper diet.

Since proper diet was never something I thought about until way further down the road in my lifting path, I never gained the muscle I worked so hard to obtain.  From 15 to 19 years old, I pretty much ate everything.  Sadly, I never gained the quality mass I was working so hard for. This was due to a few reasons:

  • I wasn’t timing my snacks and meals as I should’ve.
  • The majority of my meals consisted of bad sugars and carbs.
  • I didn’t take in enough protein and vegetables.
  • Though I felt I ate enough calories, I truly didn’t.

At 20 years old, I was still eating this way.  I had, however, started supplementing with protein powders because I had joined the military and could finally afford to buy them.  This was after boot camp, though.  I had a terrible experience in how a major lack of nutrients and calories can destroy muscle mass, while in boot camp.  I walked into basic training weighing 175 lbs. and walked out 155 lbs., a few months later.  All of the guys that walked in fat and soft came out lean and hard.  There were a handful of guys, like me, that had some decent muscle mass; but lost a majority of it due to the lack of food provided while in training.  Not to mention all of the friggin running they had us doing!  Luckily, shortly after exiting boot camp, I gained most of that weight back with proper nutrition.  I’ll never forget how weak and small I got during that time.

It was also at 20 years old that I got the heaviest I have ever been.  I was training at an Air Force technical facility out in Texas that had a killer gym.  My days consisted of job training during the day and weightlifting in the evening.  The squadron provided a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I would combine those wonderful (free) meals with weight gain powders; creating a temporary anabolic environment within my body.  I got my weight up to 193 lbs., though much of it was fat.

This was a bummer to me, honestly, because I still believed that I could get as muscular as the guys in all of the bodybuilding magazines if I ate a lot and trained hard.  That approach indeed made me big, but I was an unhealthy big.  I felt sluggish and looked terrible with my shirt off.  I bet I would’ve looked much better had I thrown in some cardio, but I felt all of the running we did was enough cardio.  In all reality, I should’ve been doing a TON of cardio!  I held that amount of weight for a couple of months, only to get back down to 174 lbs. when I returned home from technical training.  Returning home, I started back to eating three times a day with some minor protein supplementation thrown into the mix.

For the next 10 years I pretty much stuck to eating 3 meals a day with a little protein supplementation thrown in the mix.  No matter what phase of training I was in, I ate the same way.  This caused me to basically maintain all that I had.  My weight would yo-yo between 170 and 180 lbs., depending on the time of year or current life circumstance, but I never felt truly happy with the way I looked.  I had become a typical “permabulker”.

At 30 years old, I finally landed a job that didn’t require such laborious conditions that I lost my appetite.  Also, I was at a financial level that allowed me to purchase all the food and supplements I wanted.  All I basically did was add more supplements to the mix and healthier snacks (almonds vs peanut butter crackers).  This helped add a small amount of mass to my frame, but the progress was slower than expected.

Over the next two years, I spent a great amount of time researching and trying different diets: low carb, Paleo, Keto, etc.  Finally, I ran across a pot of gold.  I found an article that was full of information on how to use the correct ratio of macro-nutrients to reach one’s fitness goal.  This method of eating is what finally made it all happen for me.  It allows me to manipulate my diet in such a way that I can get shredded, while still holding on to the precious muscle I work so hard for, or bulk up with minimal fat gain.

Before moving forward, I really feel the need to express some thoughts on IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).  This approach has people believing that the body treats all calories and carbs the same.   It’s been my experience that the body does not treat the calories from a candy bar the same way it would a grilled chicken tender.  This is a terrible way of approaching nutrition, if approached poorly, and I do not recommend it.  I was doing this, in my early days, way before it was popular and I ended up a bit soft.  Not all of my daily calories come from ultra-healthy sources, but I promise you I’m not downing cake and ice cream to reach my macros for the day.  The buff bros on social media stay ripped by eating this way because they are on loads of steroids.  They will never admit this because they would lose their legions of sheeple and endorsements.

DO NOT LISTEN TO THE SOCIAL MEDIA BROS CONCERNING YOUR DIET.

If you decide to go the flexible dieting route, learn how to do it correctly.  I’m a flexible dieter, but I choose my calories wisely.

It’s not rocket science.  It’s just a matter of finding your numbers and then finding the right foods to eat.  I use MyFitnessPal to track all of my food, and love it!

Protein (4 calories per gram)

Take in one gram per pound of your desired body-weight, every day. This means that if you want to weigh 190 lbs. and want to be 200 lbs., your intake will be 200 grams per day.  I’ve had success adding more than a gram of protein per pound of body-weight; but each person is designed differently – figure out what works for you.  Below, a graph is provided displaying information on protein requirements.  

DO NOT GO LOWER THAN 1 GRAM PER POUND OF DESIRED BODY-WEIGHT.

Good protein options include:

  • Eggs
  • Liquid Egg Whites
  • Skinless Chicken Breast or Cutlets
  • Lean Ground Turkey
  • Top Round Steak
  • Filet Mignon
  • Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Cod, etc.)
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Lean Ground Beef
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Pork Tenderloin

graph

Photo Credit: www.nutritionexpress.com

Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)

Carbs will need to be adjusted to fine tune whatever your current goal may be.  Ours is to put on some mass, so we will aim for 3 grams of carbs per pound of body-weight.  If you find yourself getting chubby, swap to maintenance mode for a couple of weeks and see how that treats you.  Make sure the carbs you eat are complex in nature (rice, oats, potatoes, vegetables, fruits).

Fat loss: 1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of desired body-weight.

Maintenance: 2 grams of carbohydrate per pound of desired body-weight.

Mass: 3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of desired body-weight.

Good carb options include:

  • Steel Cut Oats
  • Fruit
  • Oatmeal
  • Vegetables
  • Sweet Potatoes/Yams
  • Brown Rice
  • White Rice
  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Cream Of Wheat
  • Cream of Rice

Bad carb options include:

  • Cereal
  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Ice Cream
  • Soda
  • Sugary Juice
  • Anything delicious, honestly

Fat (9 calories per gram)

Healthy fats (Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) are set at .5 grams per pound of desired body-weight. So, if you are the above individual and striving to be 200 lbs., you’ll need to take in 100 grams of healthy fat per day.

Good Fat options include:

  • Olive Oil/Flaxseed Oil
  • Fish Oil
  • Almond Butter/Cashew Butter
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Natural Peanut Butter
  • Avocados

Bad Fat options include:

  • Anything fried
  • Butter and Margarine
  • Palm Oil and Coconut Oil
  • Vegetable Shortening

These calories can be split amongst 3 – 6 meals per day. Devise a plan and stick with it for 4-6 weeks.  Make adjustments after you have assessed the results delivered during this time frame.  A cheat meal is acceptable, every now and then.  Do not eat crap to get your caloric intake up!  With proper planning, you can hit your daily numbers with ease.

Quick Example

190 pound individual wants to be 200 pounds.

Protein = 200 grams (x 4 = 800 calories)

Fats = 100 grams (x 9 = 900 calories)

Carbs = 600 grams (x 4 = 2400 calories)

Total calories = 4100 calories

Moving Forward…

Make sure you weigh yourself every other week and make any needed adjustments to these numbers. Your weight may fluctuate every few weeks, prompting you to adjust your macro-nutrient and caloric numbers.

Also, PLEASE make sure you are following a sound training plan.  If not, you will only put on a ton of unwanted fat with very little muscle.  Most importantly, understand that it will take a while to put on 10 solid pounds of muscle.  It’s normal to only gain a pound or two, of lean mass, a month.

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