5 Mass Gaining Nutrition Tips
Gaining mass isn’t as easy as you think. As a personal trainer, I often work with clients who inform me that they “don’t want to get too big.” It’s like I’m adding clay to a sculpture with the intention of making a statue of Batman’s sidekick but it ended up looking like the Hulk. I wish muscle building was a simple and brief process. Hollywood is guilty of this: getting an actor to lose 15 pounds of fat creates the illusion that thirty pounds of muscle was gained in six weeks.
Let me be clear here: gaining muscle is hard work. Doing your first few sets of heavy deadlifts is not going to turn you into a linebacker. If packing on muscle was such a cinch, everyone from dog trainers to UPS drivers would be ripping through their shirt sleeves from picking up heavy objects all day.
What many fail to realize is that mass gaining occurs in the kitchen. Some of my personal training clients have found this out the hard way. You can lift things till your blue in the face but it won’t make a lick of difference unless the body has the nutrition it needs to grow. So with that being said, here are five simple mass gaining nutrition tips:
- Keep a Food Log. I know, I know – you think you’re eating enough. But you’re not. Otherwise your body would be changing. I would write down everything you eat for 3-5 days and then use a fitness app or something like fatsecret.com to track your calories. Then, take your bodyweight and multiply it by 16. If your food log doesn’t calculate to a calorie surplus above your equation, you need to eat more. Every guy that’s come into UEFP has thought they eat enough but a food log shows they’re about 1,000 calories off.
- Try Liquid Calories. One way to sneak some extra calories in is through liquid nutrition. By liquid nutrition I mean the use of protein shakes- not buying extra 12 packs at the party store. Sometimes the sight of food can make you sick to your stomach, so slamming an extra shake a day allows the food to go down much easier (liquid is digested faster than whole food). I wouldn’t do more than 2 shakes a day- including a post workout shake- but one shake can get you 300-500 calories. You want to grow muscles and not your belly, so avoid using ice cream or a ton of sugar in that shake. A tablespoon or two of peanut butter with some protein powder is all you need.
- Have a Hidden Stash. Making your own trail mix and having it nearby can come in handy. Simply combine different nuts – walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are a good place to start-along with some dried fruit. Apricots, apples, and berries work well. A couple of handfuls throughout the day helps add in extra calories. Twenty pounds, and several years ago, I used this technique when my wife and I were dating. Of course, she was creeped out because I kept the stash in my car; I would make her wait outside wherever we were meeting up while I tried to chow down a few handfuls. As it turned out, it just became easier to tell her what I was doing. So make your trail mix and simply tell your partner you’re trying to add muscle mass.
- Use Peri Workout Nutrition. This refers to what you consume during a workout. It helps you get in more calories but it also helps improve your performance in the gym. Your body is destroying yourself during a session, so consuming a protein/carbohydrate concoction helps keep blood sugar levels stable while preventing too much muscle damage and speeding up recovery. Subjects who consumed a protein/carbohydrate mixture during resistance training had less muscle damage (by measuring creatine kinase levels in the blood) than those who didn’t (1). A good place to start is using a scoop of whey protein with a fast digesting carbohydrate like maltodextrin. A 2:1 or 3:1 ratio should work. This means that 24 grams of protein needs 48-72 grams of carbohydrates.
- Use Fish Oil. Fish oil has specific fats in it; these fats work inside your body to promote what’s called insulin sensitivity. What this means for you is that food gets stored where it should. So carbs get placed inside the bellies of your muscle to be used for energy instead of hanging around your waistline. Fish oil is also anabolic. When subjects consumed 4 grams of fish oil a day, they gained 1 pound of muscle and lost 2 pounds of bodyfat in 6 weeks (2).
Is your nutrition matching your workout intensity? Chances are it isn’t, especially if you’re not having to buy bigger t-shirts. Implementing these four strategies can go a long way to speeding up recovery and finally adding some muscle mass to that frame.
1. Baty, JJ. Hwang, H., et al. “The Effect of a Carbohydrate and Protein Supplement on Resistance Exercise Performance, Hormonal Response, and Muscle Damage.” (2007) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21;2. 321-329
2. Noreen, E.E., Sass, M.J., Crowe, M.L., et al. “Effects of Supplemental Fish Oil on Resting Metabolic Rate, Body Composition, and Salivary Cortisol in Healthy Adults.”(2010) Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (7):31