Sometimes, if you want something done, you just have to man up and do it. I'm sorry ladies, but I don't believe this article will too strongly apply to you (there's always the occasional exception, but I'm speaking to the majority here). I know a ton of guys out there wanting to get all big and strong, burly and beefy. It's a common goal, one that many males wish to accomplish as soon as they possibly can. Unfortunately, getting big isn't so simple, and there are thousands out there doing it wrong, or not doing it at all, day in and day out. Getting big the right way takes work and commitment. It takes sacrifice and determination. And above all else, it requires a lot of food, and, as Ronnie Coleman (7 time Mr. Olympia) so famously put it, "lifting heavy ass weight."
What does eating big really mean though?
Well, in most general bulking terms, eating big means eating around 500 calories OVER your maintenance calories, or the caloric value at which you can maintain your weight. There's a lot of room for little nuances here and there, but this is the most general formula. And most of the time, it will relate to about a one pound increase in body weight per week. Later, I'll describe what else you need to be doing to make the most of those extra calories, and ensure to a certain degree that you're putting on as much muscle as you can.
Where should these extra calories come from?
Well, the uneducated meat-head would most likely scream out...PROTEIN!!! While there's value in that statement, and while you should consume more protein, the calories should really be a mix of nutrients that fit into your macros (remember macros? If not, here's my article about these wondrously useful little things: http://foodguru802.blogspot.com/2011/10/macros-what-they-are-and-how-to-use.html ). I would suggest starting with macros that are pretty close to around 55/25/20 (55% of daily calories come from carbs, 25% of daily calories come from protein, 20% of daily calories come from fat). You'll need to determine the actual amounts yourself, depending on the calories you calculate you'll need to take in. Here's a free calculator that can help determine your daily caloric needs:
Here's the deal. Bulking requires experimentation to determine what your body responds to best. If you go a few weeks on a new diet and find you aren't gaining weight, YOU HAVE TO CHANGE SOMETHING!!!! You won't gain weight if you don't find the right diet. Either eat more, or change around your macros. Sometimes something as simple as a few more daily carbs can kick start the weight gain.
If you gain for a while on a certain diet, then stop, most likely you need to increase your calories. Go slowly, add another 100 or 200 every day and see what happens after a week or two. Also, keep your macro ratios consistent. They were working...right? Don't bulk too fast, or you'll end up putting on unwanted bodyfat. Though that's another point I should probably cover. DON'T BE AFRAID TO PUT ON A LITTLE FAT. To get big and strong, sometimes you need to sacrifice that perfect six pack. If you're depressed about this, remember that if you're as skinny as a pole, abs don't count anyway. You can always cut fat later, and with a higher muscle density, it will be much easier in the long run if you ever do decide to lean out. If you're eating big, a little fat will inevitably show up. Keep an eye on the mirror as well as the scale, and if you feel like you're putting on too much, either change your caloric intake, or your macros.
What are the best bulking foods? Well, I like clean, slow bulks. That's what I've been on for a few months now. I'm not looking to pile on the weight, I just want a slow, steady gain. So I eat big, but I eat as clean as I can. My favorite bulking foods are:
Sweet Potatoes: A great complex carb source, and without a doubt will help to put on quality mass.
Peanut Butter: If you want to put on weight, peanut butter is your best friend. It's easy to eat, and very dense in calories. Get the natural stuff, and you'll get a whole heaping of healthy fats and proteins as well as a bunch of quality calories. Quality calories=quality mass.
Mixed Nuts: Same deal here, lots of calories for not that many pieces. Easy to eat, and will help the weight come on nice and steadily.
Oatmeal with Whey Protein: My favorite breakfast food. Lots of complex carbs with a whole heaping of protein, will fuel those muscles and help them grow quite quickly.
Chocolate Milk: Packed with calories, simple carbs, and an awesome blend of whey and casein protein that will feed your muscles for long after a workout. Drink a glass with lunch, or more optimally, after a heavy workout. You can even add some whey in there. If you have a blender, you can add some peanut butter too. Get creative!
What about meats? Well I still eat very lean meats, like fish, chicken and turkey, but you can throw a few more caloric meats in there if you want. Enjoy some steak, or pork every now and then, especially after a tough workout. It'll really add mass quickly due to the high caloric value and protein density. Not to mention it's amazingly delicious.
To finish off the diet section, I just want to say one more thing about clean bulking. It's a great idea, and a noble one, but for some, it just doesn't work. Honestly, if you're a hard gainer (gain weight extremely slowly if at all, no matter how much you seem to eat), you may need to throw a few "questionable" foods in your diet. Enjoy a heaping plate of pasta with meat sauce a few nights a week, chow down on that burger or pazo, and have a big glass of chocolate milk a few times a day. And keep spooning that peanut butter down your piehole. There isn't a person on earth that can't eat enough to gain weight, so stop complaining that you can't put it on.
I will suggest clean bulking every day of my life, but "dirty-bulking" has its place, and has been known to work wonders for the impossibly skinny. My advice? Stay as clean as you can, but don't be afraid of a big, greasy, meat packed burger once in a while. You're trying to pack it on...right?
Now I don't want to make this section quite as long, however it has the potential to go on forever. Let me start by saying this: If you want a serious mass building routine, head over to bodybuilding.com, or look at some of Mark Rippetoe's stuff, or...well basically you HAVE TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. I don't have the perfect routine for you. Chances are no one does, you'll have to improvise, and see what works best. But I'll give you the general gist of things.
THE BEST MASS BUILDING EXERCISES ARE COMPOUND MOVEMENTS
What does this mean? It means squats, deadlifts, standing presses, bench presses, and more squats. You want to use every muscle in your body in every single rep, with heavy weight. The mass building rep range is generally 5-8 reps, though I've seen people recommend as little as 1-3 (though this is more strength training territory.) Load up the weights, and push yourself with every set. This is the only way to ensure that all those calories you're consuming go to where you want them to: your muscles.
Why are compound movements the best? First of all, they use a TON of muscles. Second, they activate your biggest muscles (leg and back muscles) which in turn release testosterone which encourages maximum muscle growth. Keep those weights heavy, and the intensity high.
|Anatoly Pisarenko squatting as deep as possible|
|Franco Columbo completing a deadlift with textbook perfect form|
So there you have it. The most basic ideas behind getting big. As you may have seen they're not even close to one-size-fits-all, but like anything, it's a start. Head over to bodybuilding.com if you want some real great mass building tips, and DO YOUR RESEARCH. Like I said, getting big takes commitment.
Eat big, lift big, be the beast. Good Luck!