Mass Gain Made Simple

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Step 1: Join a gym and/or procure some at-home resistance-training equipment.

Step 2: Frequently make use of said gym and/or at-home resistance-training equipment.

Step 3: Admire your awe-inspiring physique.

OK, gaining mass isn’t that simple. You need to know how to eat, and you definitely need to know what to take to supplement your diet and exercise program. And that means you need one of our straightforward mass-gain plans, outlined below.

Slow and Steady

Frankly, there’s no real reason to gain weight slowly. This technique isn’t for those who have all the patience in the world. Instead, the Slow and Steady method of mass gaining is for those who gain fat a little more easily: dudes who have aged out of the lightning-fast metabolism that the young enjoy, guys who are born endomorphs and have to be careful about their calorie intake, anyone who is close enough to competition (or just bathing-suit season) to want to put on pure mass without adding extra layers of flab.

Training

We assume you know that training for mass requires mixing things up so that your muscles are continually kept guessing. That process of systematically cycling your training is called periodization. One of the most common variables to cycle is the weight you’re lifting, and therefore the number of reps you can complete per set. Heavier weights yield lower numbers of reps; lighter weights, higher reps.

In this training plan, there are four phases, as follows:

Phase 1: Choose a weight with which you can get 12 to 15 reps per set.

Phase 2: Choose a weight with which you can get 10 to 12 reps per set.

Phase 3: Choose a weight with which you can get eight to 10 reps per set.

Phase 4: Choose a weight with which you can get six to eight reps per set.

In each phase, remain within the prescribed rep range for all exercises, and spend about two weeks in each phase, for a total of an eight-week training program.

Train each body part once per week, breaking it up into a four-day split, like this:

Day 1: chest, triceps, abs

Day 2: legs, calves

Day 3: off

Day 4: shoulders, traps, abs

Day 5: back, biceps, forearms

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

As for cardio, we bet you were counting on us telling you that since this is a mass-gain plan, you don’t have to do any. Sorry! To ensure that you gain quality muscle and don’t put on fat, you should do a little bit of cardio, namely 15 to 20 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) three times per week.

Nutrition

Because this plan entails gaining mass slowly, there is only a small bump in calories on the nutrition side. Aim to get between 18 and 20 calories per pound of bodyweight, which equates to between 3,240 and 3,600 calories per day for a 180-pound man (multiply calories by pounds, or 18 x 180).

Because you can’t build muscle without protein, you should be taking in 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.5 x 180 pounds = 270 grams per day). Carb intake should remain moderate, between 1.5 and 2 grams per pound of bodyweight, or 270 to 360 grams for the 180-pound man. Focus on slow-digesting, whole-grain carbs like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and brown rice, and limit carb intake after dinner. Fat intake should stay low, at .5 grams per pound of bodyweight,

Divide calories into seven meals on workout days:

upon awaking (this should always be a whey shake and a piece of fruit, to speed aminos and fructose into the body to end catabolism)

breakfast

lunch

preworkout

postworkout

dinner

bedtime

Supplements

Whenever you’re attempting to put on or take off weight, supplements pay an important role. Not only do they bolster your attempts, but they also often fill niches that whole foods can’t, either by being faster digesting or by offering higher concentrations of critical nutrients than you could possibly get from foods.

Whey Protein Powder

If we had to pick one of whey’s traits to crown the most critical, we might go with its speed. Yes, it’s a complete protein, with a lot of leucine (which is critical to muscle growth), but it’s the fact that it digests really quickly on consumption that makes it so handy.

Take 20 grams of whey protein powder first thing upon awaking, before and after workouts, and anytime as a snack between meals.

Casein Protein Powder

The yang to whey’s yin, casein is also a complete protein, but it digests slowly, a trait that can also be extremely handy for those gaining mass. The key is when you take it.

Take 10 grams of casein with 10 grams of whey after workouts and 20 grams at bedtime

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Remember leucine, which we mentioned earlier? It’s a BCAA, along with isoleucine and valine. Together, these aminos (which feature a branched molecular makeup) are critical to muscle growth and are even burned as fuel by muscle tissue, providing an extra boost of energy during workouts.

Take 3 to 5 grams with breakfast, immediately before, during and immediately after workout, and with casein before bed.

Creatine

Where to begin with this near-miracle supplement? Creatine is produced naturally in the body, but taking it as a supplement maximizes circulating levels. That’s good because creatine’s job is to create energy in cells, which can help you work out longer. It also pulls water into muscle cells, physically stretching them and forcing them to grow.

Take 2 to 5 grams immediately before and after workouts.

Fast and Furious

It’s not that you’re any more dedicated or in a bigger rush than those who are following the slower route to mass. In fact, your journey might actually be more difficult, filled with more hard work in the gym and more careful caloric calibration. That’s because guys who need to take this path to mass are most likely hardgainers, natural stick people (aka ectomorphs), young dudes with fast metabolisms who struggle to gain any weight or those who plan to spend the next few months wrapped in sweaters and jackets and therefore don’t care about how defined their abs look.

Training

You gotta hit the gym, and you gotta hit it hard. Get ready for some intensity techniques. Here’s how.

You’ll follow the same four-day split as the Slow and Steady crew:

Day 1: chest, triceps, abs

Day 2: legs, calves

Day 3: off

Day 4: shoulders, traps, abs

Day 5: back, biceps, forearms

Day 6: off

Day 7: off

However, instead of cycling weights, you’ll pick a weight you can get eight to 12 reps with. Do one warm-up set per exercise, then go to muscle failure on every set except the last one or two. On those, really stress the muscle by doing either a drop set or the rest/pause technique.

On a drop set, go to failure on the original weight you’ve been using to get eight to 12 reps. Then immediately drop 10 percent to 20 percent of the weight and go to failure again. With rest/pause, you smash three sets into one. Go to failure with your chosen weight, rest for 15 seconds, then try to get more reps, then rest another 15 seconds and try to eke out a couple more reps. That’s one set.

Nutrition

The overarching goal of this nutrition plan is to bump insulin levels and keep them high. Sound scary? The truth is, hardgainers don’t have a problem with their insulin levels, and because it’s an anabolic hormone, we’re going to put it to work for you with fast carbs and (down in the supplement section) an insulin booster.

But first, the calories. You gotta eat more to gain, so Fast and Furious trackers get between 21 and 23 calories per pound. Let’s say our typical hardgainer tops out at 150 pounds. Multiply that weight by 21, and you get 3,150 calories; multiply it by 23, and you get 3,450. Protein intake remains critical, so we recommend you eat between 1.5 and 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (i.e., between 225 and 300 grams per day). Carb intake is also increased, to between 2.5 and 3 grams per day. Fat remains low, at .5 grams per pound. (Those grams should be primarily of the healthy, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated variety).

Divide daily calories into eight meals, with the carb intake looking a bit like this:

upon awaking (whey shake and a fast-digesting carb, like white bread, or just add sugar to your shake)

breakfast

lunch

preworkout (fast carb, like sorbet, jelly beans, white bread with jelly, angel food cake, etc.)

during workout (BCAAs mixed with sugar)

postworkout (more fast carbs)

dinner

bedtime (slow carb, like brown rice, whole-wheat toast, oatmeal, sweet potato, etc.)

Supplements

Even though your biology is different from someone following the Slow and Steady plan, you have one thing in common: You both need whey, casein, BCAAs and creatine. Start with those, but be sure to add these supplements to your regimen.

Mass-Gainer

Thanks to ultra-considerate supplement companies, you now have a one-stop scoop (or three) of perfectly balanced powder to help you attain your mass goals. The benefit of a mass-gainer is that sometimes it’s hard to consume all the calories your growing muscles require through whole foods. A mass-gainer goes down easy and guarantees that your muscles stay fueled between meals.

Follow product dosing instructions.

Beta-alanine

Bodies that get a lot of beta-alanine can produce more of a compound called carnosine. They can also work out longer, lift heavier weights and gain way more lean mass.

Take 1 to 3 grams immediately before and immediately after workouts.

Gymnema sylvestra

More commonly used as an appetite suppressant (gymnema appears to suppress the sweet tooth), this extract from an Indian vine increases insulin secretion, which, as you might recall, is among the goals of this nutrition plan. Insulin is an anabolic hormone, which is why we recommend taking this supplement after workouts, when higher insulin levels aid in muscle growth.

Take 250 to 500 milligrams one to three times a day, with one dose immediately after workouts.