Off-season; a bodybuilder’s favorite time of year and the favorite words whispered after a recent contest. So the time is here, what are you going to do about it? First step is to determine what you want to do and set some goals. You cannot achieve anything without a plan. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. So let’s set some clear cut goals. You are going to need all the tools at your disposal before you begin. You are going to work on written goals, nutrition, training, and finally the hardcore cycle.
Write down your goals. Have everything written down and in plain sight as a reminder of what you are trying to achieve. So write down your target weight, your training days, your daily calorie goals, your cycle, etc. Keep a master log book of everything you are trying to do. Like I stated, you must plan for success.
First thing is to determine your target weight and body fat goals. Don’t be overly concerned with fat. This is, after all, the off-season, but there is no need to go above 13-14%. At that point you can still see some abs if you flex them hard enough and you will have acquired the mass point necessary for massive gains. Picking a target weight is very dependent on your level of experience. Since this series of articles is targeted primarily at advanced lifters, I recommend trying to achieve 20lbs of pure mass; some fat, mostly muscle.
So now that you know you are trying to get another 20lbs of size, how do you go about doing this? First and foremost is diet. You cannot make gains if you are not feeding yourself at the goal you want to achieve. So since you know you are trying to get 20lbs, you are going to eat as if you you’re already at that weight. The best way to achieve this is to take in a total daily calorie intake of 30 kcals per pound of bodyweight for ectomorphs, 25 kcals for mesomorphs, and 20 for endomorphs. So for the 230lb average size ecto/meso bodybuilder, he is going to need to eat almost 7500 cals per day. Sounds incredible, I know, but it can be done quite easily. During the off-season you will eat calorie dense foods, some fast food, and some bulking shakes.
I am not going to outline an exact diet for you, but I will give some general guidelines that I highly recommend. Variety is very important in bulking, eating the same foods over and over is boring and there is no reason to. Save the tuna and rice for show time; you can get very creative when bulking and actually enjoy eating. So let’s look at some calorie dense foods that fall in the category of bulking and are acceptable bodybuilding foods.
I love cheese when bulking it is high in protein, goes on everything and it is a very easy way to add calories to every meal. I don’t mean Velveeta or cheese in a can here; I am talking about quality cheese, like Tillamook extra sharp. My other favorite is milk. I love milk with every meal and protein shake when bulking. Oh, and don’t forget my extra special, super bulking treat……natural peanut butter. Tons of calories, high in complete chain protein and essential fatty acids.
So now you have my favorites, let’s go shopping. Grab a pen and paper and write down a shopping list. Don’t just go in the store and wing it. Remember earlier I stated you are going to write everything down. This includes shopping. You write down your weekly shopping list, your training schedule, your cycles and your goals. So back to shopping, you are going to need a lot of food to get to 7500 cals per day.
Here are my shopping list recommendations:
7-10% lean ground beef
Honey Nut Cheerios cereal
Natural peanut butter
Now remember, I am not going to set up a diet for you, just give you some ideas of my favorite calorie dense foods. It is up to you to plan some meals and make sure to eat 5-6 meals per day. I don’t see a need to eat more than that because you are not trying to speed up your metabolism; you are trying to slow it down by eating more food at each meal and eating less often. I am a huge proponent of high calorie shakes during the off-season. I personally belong to Muscle Milk anonymous! All kidding aside, they have the most incredible flavors and are highly addictive. Instead of the usual 2 scoops, I use 4 scoops in 16oz 2% milk for a 900+ calorie shake. I have two of those per day, plus my 3 solid meals and then my night time snack.
My favorite night time bulking snack is 4 graham crackers spread with tons of natural peanut butter and then made into two sandwiches, 2 string cheese and a huge glass of milk. It is totally yummy, and I highly recommend it. You probably won’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. The peanut butter will hold you over until you get up for breakfast.
People are always highly concerned about percentages of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. I am not so concerned, so long as I am getting 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight that I want to be, the rest will just naturally be carbs and fat. So for our hypothetical diet of 7500 calories per day to get to 250lbs, I need 500 grams of protein, which is 2000 calories of protein. That still leaves me 5500 calories of fat and carbs to enjoy. You must eat protein first in every meal, if you are going to get full while eating, it better be on protein and not anything else. It is always easy to squeeze in extra carbs, and needless to say, fat is too easy.
So for our 6 meals, of which 2 are already Muscle Milk and have 170 grams of protein, you don’t have far to go. The next 4 meals just have to have about 80 grams per meal. One glass of milk at each meal is 10 grams, so now you have just 70 grams. See how easy this is? Carbs add up real fast, especially with dense foods like cereal, bread, bagels, and rice / pasta.
Now you are beginning to see how easy bulking while eating clean is. A couple of days per week, I recommend you head over to McDonalds and get 2 or 3 Big Macs or double cheese burgers. Go to In and Out, Burger King, or whatever your favorite is, and do a major feast. You can easily get in 3000 cals in one sitting with 3 Big Macs, a large fry, and a shake. So if you do that 2 times per week, you are going to have two days of about 10,000 cals per day, something that is really going to help with the metabolism and bulking.
We also need to address the very important issue of post-workout (pwo) nutrition. I cannot stress enough how important it is to consume the majority of your daily calories in the first 3 meals pwo on training days. The primary source of energy when training is the conversion of glycogenesis in the formation of glycogen from glucose. Glycogen is synthesized depending on the demand for glucose and ATP (energy). If both are present in relatively high amounts, then the excess of insulin promotes the glucose conversion into glycogen for storage in liver and muscle cells.
When you have completed a workout, your muscle cells are depleted of glycogen and it must be replenished as quickly as possible to promote recovery, and cell repair. Protein cannot be utilized for cell repair if we don’t first address the depletion of glycogen. The best way to replenish depleted glycogen stores is to use a very high glycemic carbohydrate in conjunction with a rapid and easily digested protein to shuttle into the cell for repair.
I personally use a custom made shake that costs me literally pennies to consume. I shop at the local beer brewer’s store and purchase bags of pure glucose or dextrose which they use for home beer brewing. I mix 40 grams of glucose with 16oz (84g) of grape juice and 3 scoops (66g) Nectar whey protein. Nectar is an ultra high quality, flavored whey isolate. This is one of the fastest digested proteins on the market, so in conjunction with my high glycemic pure glucose and grape juice, I have just made a super high quality, muscle repairing shake that costs literally nothing to make. I also recommend you throw in 10 grams of creatine and 10 grams of glutamine at this time.
Your muscles are sponge’s pwo and this is the optimal time to feed them and prepare the tissue to utilize the nutrition for primary protein absorbtion instead of feeding the intestinal tract, a primary scavenger of ingested proteins, especially glutamine.
Your next two meals of extremely important because you are still within the so called “window of opportunity” for muscle repair with nutrition. Your pwo shake should not leave you feeling full for long; it is easily digested and is intended to be so. You are going to want to eat again one hour after you drink your shake. At this time, you still want an easily digested, low fat protein but you should move into moderate glycemic carbs as we are still “filling the tank” so to speak but no longer need fast carbs as most of our glycogen was replenished with the glucose.
This meal should be preferably a light, white fish, or chicken breast. I consume mahi-mahi, tuna, or chicken with broccoli and rice or a baked potato. Eat a large portion of protein, the carbs are just a means to an end to shuttle the protein, so fill up with protein first, then eat your carbs to shuttle the amino acid chain into muscle cells.
Our third and final pwo meal of importance while bulking will finally include some essential fatty acids which are also necessary for tissue repair, primarily tendon and ligament tissues. So now we get to really consume the calories and have fun with this meal. I like to eat 8-10 whole eggs, avocado, 6 pancakes, bacon and a glass of orange juice. Another favorite is 1lb lean ground beef in tortilla shells with avocado, salsa, cheese, a baked potato or rice and some milk.
So there you have the three most important meals of your day on training days. It is critical to watch your nutrition at this time, especially since you are trying to repair damaged muscle tissue, replenish glycogen stores, repair connective tissue, and cells. I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat, your body is willing and able to consume massive amounts of calories pwo without spilling into excess body fat storage.
Another critical issue we need to address is the use of insulin and nutrition pwo. The three meals I have outlined fall well within the acceptable specs for humalog use, not humulin-r so that cover pwo nutrition. I will cover the use of R in later articles, as well as proper eating if you choose to use it. For now just use 10-12iu humalog pwo only following the former meal guidelines and you will be utilizing proper protocol and nutrition to maximize your growth.
As stated, look for a future article on insulin use and proper nutrition with it for maximum off season bulking. Insulin is going to be one the greatest products we can use when bulking, especially since you really can’t go hypo if you are going to be eating that many calories each day. We will address multiple use per day on training days to maximize your gains, especially how to super-charge your diet.
I have said it before and I will say it a million more times until you get it through your thick heads. Without nutrition, no gains are possible. Bulking or dieting, it doesn’t matter what your goals are, nutrition is about 80% of our battle. Training and drugs are a means to an end. I can entirely change my physique from fat to lean, from thin to bulk all with diet manipulation. Try doing that with just training and a cycle but only eating 2 or 3 meals per day. Nutrition is your greatest anabolic agent; everything else is just the icing on the cake.
In the next installment of this series we are going to tackle hardcore training principles and eventually what you are all dying to know, the hardcore bulking cycle. For now, read and re-read the information presented before you. Learn to eat right and you can easily put on another 10lbs without even touching a weight or sticking a needle in your glute.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article….