I hear questions every day about “getting big,” “swole,” “large,” “jacked” and my answer to them are usually: “So what do you want to do?” And their typical answer is to repeat what they said as if I didn’t fully comprehend. When this happens I know that they are not generally prepared for my next answer: “Getting big is not just about lifting weights and it’s not a quick fix.”
Gaining weight and muscle can not just be something that you only do in the gym; it takes time, effort and dedication in nearly every facet of your life. For example I remember being a skinny guy at 6-foot tall and only 159 pounds! I thought I was doing everything I could in the gym. But I just wasn’t seeing that muscle gain. Now two years later, I’m floating around 200 lbs and I see what it takes to gain muscle mass. This is more than a process. It’s a lifestyle!
If you’re serious about gaining muscle mass you’re going to have to eat. And eat! And eat and when you’re tired of eating you’re going to have to eat some more! The days of waking up in the morning and just eating one bowl of your fruity pebbles or skipping breakfast in its entirety isn’t going to cut it anymore. Now I use to hear people say “Don’t eat till your full eat until your tired.” And that sounds like a plan if your goal is too look like a beluga whale and not that athletic body type (body fat anywhere between 8-12%). As any fitness professional will tell you, you must be smart about what you eat, just because you’re going to be eating a lot doesn’t mean you hit “Mickey Ds” and bless the dollar menu as often as you can. You’ll need to make sure you’re eating good quality protein lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, to name a few. Lets not forget veggies are important as well. I always try to make sure that if someone’s trying to make gains, they’re realistically going to have to consume anywhere between 3-5000 calories a day. I tend to make my calorie intake by eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack between the meals.
“Sergio can I eat my Oreos and milk for a snack? It’s my favorite!” My answer is simple: “NO!” All you’ll be doing is placing empty calories in your body. One of the best snacks for gaining mass is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and protein shakes with health fats, like flax, safflower or extra virgin olive oil. You should eat two sandwiches a day (and if you are allergic to peanut butter you can always use almond butter) and drink one of your shakes before you go to sleep.
Which leads me to one of the most neglected factors in muscle growth in my opinion: Rest. One of the primary benefits of sleep in terms of muscle growth is recovery time. When you exercise, you are tearing muscle fibers. Your body needs to repair this damage and, in turn, build muscle mass. We build muscle faster and more efficiently when our bodies are allowed to do so.
Another problem with failing to get sufficient rest is stress. When you don’t sleep, your body (and your mind) becomes stressed and this can have negative effects including weight loss, and negative weight gain. Sleep also helps with your digestive system because it metabolizes the foods you eat while you’re at rest. So not only does sleep help your body recover from the rigors of everyday life but it ensures your body will carry out normal metabolism that provides the foundation for building muscle.
“Hey, Sergio, I can still kick back and have a taste of Gentleman Jack in the evening right?” I hate to say it because we all enjoy a little libation from time to time but alcohol when taken too often will undoubtly have a significant NEGATIVE impact on muscle building results. To quote Arnold Schwarz egger said in his book Arnold Goes Crazy (because he’s right and used to be the definition of jack swole): “Why take something the body doesn’t need right now?” And he was talking about soda but it still holds true with alcohol. Now alcohol can and will impede your progress if you use it in excess. Your protein synthesis is negatively affected (Protein synthesis is the process by which amino acids are joined together to form complete protein). By drinking too much this can slow down the process by 20% and what are muscles made of? You got it, Protein! So you see this alone is counter-productive.
Alcohol also decreases testerone and raises estrogen, which means you drop your man hormones and pick up more woman hormones. Testosterone is needed to be free flowing for maximum muscle gains.
Alcohol also depletes the body of vitamins and minerals which keep every process in your body functioning properly and a lot of these processes include muscle growth and maintenance. And lastly it increases fat storage. Per gram of alcohol it is 7 empty calories so how much are we storing if we go out 3 and 4 times a week.
If you’re trying to gain muscle mass make sure you’re doing what you need to do to actually receive proper gains. Don’t party and drink all the time. Use your head. Once in a blue moon is okay I understand. But every day? Absolutely not. Every week? Honestly, not if you’re serious about your progress.
Just remember to be smart and be patient because muscle gain is not a race. It’s a lifestyle.