For years I thought to myself, why on earth do bodybuilder’s ‘bulk’ up. It made no sense. Surely there’s a way to build a ton of muscle without getting fat in the process. I mean, think about it; you build muscle to look good. Do you really think you look good with all that extra blob on your bones? Just in case there’s any doubt in your mind I’m going to answer that question for you; you don’t. You don’t look good when you’re carrying extra meat around your middle especially when it’s by choice. I always found it funny; the guys that worked out the most and spent the most time in the kitchen were the one’s in the worst shape. That ended up being the case 9 times out of 10 and boy do I wish I had some research to back that up but for now my anecdotal evidence will have to do. Here goes, with the death of bulking.
Bulk up, then lean down. That’s the way to do it, right? I’ve disagreed for a long time and it was a real breath of fresh air the first time I heard Vince say you’ve no business bulking until you’ve dropped your body fat to around 10%. Do you understand why though? I mean, did Vince just pull that figure from his head because it sounded good?
Turns out that Vince was dead right and more importantly he wasn’t just making it up so he could sell more stuff. Think about this for a minute; for the most part, really lean guys tend to be able to eat a ton of food but never really gain much fat. You know this right? Well, what if I told you there was a very scientific reason for that? Here’s how it works: the more often you eat, especially when you eat sugar laden carbs you get a large splurge in insulin released into your blood. You need insulin for muscle building though? That’s true, but you do NOT need insulin all day long. In fact, there are only 3 very specific times of the day that large amounts of insulin will be productive for lean muscle building; pre-workout, immediately post-workout and shortly after your workout. Some will supplement during their workout too. (Ivy & Portman, 2004)
Here’s what’s important with insulin though; the more often you’ve got insulin hanging around in your blood the less effective insulin will become. The less effective insulin is the harder it becomes to build muscle and the easier it becomes to gain fat. This is what happens with type 2 diabetics; they’re insulin resistant and as a result it becomes really difficult for them to improve their bodies.
So, what the hell has that got to do with having a low body fat percentage before trying to build mounds of muscle? Like I said, the leaner you are to begin with the more sensitive you are to insulin. Insulin is king. Befriend it, eat the right foods at the right times and your body is going to reward you with some major muscle gains.
To become insulin sensitive you need to get lean but to REMAIN insulin sensitive you have to really focus on what you eat and when you eat it. Think back to what I said earlier; there are only 3 very specific times of the day that your body can tolerate large amounts of insulin without punishing you with a ton of fat gain.
It turns out that taking advantage of your body’s hormones at these three times is the best way to build muscle and burn fat. Your body’s rate of glycogen synthesis is almost 150% its normal rate immediately after you workout. That means your body is 150 times more capable of pumping nutrients into your muscles cells and energy stores immediately after your workout than it is at any other time of the day. Impressive, huh? Get ready for your new jumbo muscles, champ.
Here’s the big problem though; sure 150% is a one helluva percentage but if your body’s hormones aren’t functioning optimally (and they won’t be if you’re carrying extra fat) you haven’t a hope of taking advantage of this muscle building gem. You’ll enjoy maybe half of that percentage if you’re lucky.
How To Control Your Muscle Building Hormones
Fast, starve yourself, just don’t eat carbs. I’m joking. As you probably noticed through 21 Day FMB you don’t really need to diet and diet for weeks on end just to optimally build some muscle. You can in fact diet for short periods of time followed by periods of intense muscle building and see insane results. I’ve been plagued with injuries and two hip surgeries over the past 18 months so my main priority when getting back to training full swing was to get my body fat down, because, well, I looked ugly. In the past 8 weeks though my goals have changed again. I’ve built a whopping 8.5 pounds of mass. I’ll admit I’ve gained about 1 pound of fat, but heck, losing fat is easy. The reason I tell you I gained some fat is because it’s very easy to let yourself go and continue in that fat gaining fashion just because you enjoy the calories and you think you’re packing on some muscle. In reality, if you find yourself gaining fat you’d be well served to cut down on your sugary carbs, and bump up your HIIT for a week or two. This will accelerate fat burning and of course hormonally you’ll be in a much better place from a muscle building perspective.
Take a look at the table below (Ivy & Portman, 2004). It shows you exactly what your 4 key muscle building hormones are responsible for. Combining the right foods at the right times is the best way to take advantage of them. Notice that insulin has a role in almost everything. It really does need to be your best friend.
|Testosterone||Blocks cortisol and stimulates protein synthesis|
|Growth Hormone||Stimulates bone and cartilage growth and protein synthesis|
|IGF-1||Stimulates growth of bone cartilage and muscle|
|Insulin||Several effects on muscle protein synthesis, protein breakdown, and glycogen replenishment.|
Muscle building and fat loss are two really confused topics. Granted you need to eat a ton to build muscle but as I said earlier, to really build muscle fast you need to time your meals perfectly. The beauty of good meal timing is it will get you working with your hormones (Ferrando et al. 2003; Gleeson et al. 2001). Just as you saw in the table above, working with your hormones can have huge effects on your muscle growth. Don’t underestimate it, especially if you want to build muscle fast.
P.S. remember that I’ve been training for years. Building 8.5 pounds of muscle in such a short period of time is a big achievement.
Reiterating the key point; my body fat was low, my body was (and is) very insulin sensitive and my workout nutrition was on point. As a general rule, the better your health the greater chance there is for you to build muscle fast and burn fat. Once you’ve got your body fat to a decent level you can get right in to everything I talk about below.
Meal Timing For Fast Muscle Building
Note: this is based on a mid-afternoon workout.
* W – Workout Day
** NW – Non Workout Day
*** P+F – Protein and Fat
**** P+C – Protein and Carbs
|Mon (W)||Tue(W)||Wed(NW)||Thur(W)||Fri (W)||Sat (NW)||Sun (NW)|
An important point of note is that you do NOT have to eat 6 meals per day. So long as you take full advantage of your pre-workout windows of opportunity and you’re making up the necessary calories each day you can choose how many meals you want to eat. Having said that, your pre-workout drink, post-workout drink and your meal after you workout are not optional.
Rest days are a little easier to manage. You might choose to have just 4 meals on these days. This is completely up to you based on your personal preference.
The table below (Ivy & Portman, 2004) gives a breakdown of what you should eat, when you should eat it and how much you should eat. Please note that these figures are not a one fits all. However, notice the quantities of carbs to protein. Based on your macro needs for the day keep these differences in mind.
|Nutrient||Energy Phase||Anabolic Phase||Growth Phase**|
|15 Mins Pre||15 Mins Post||Next 4 Hours|
|High GI Carbs*||20-26g||40-50g||1g/kg body mass|
|Whey Protein||5-6g||13-15g||1g Protein:3-4g Carbs (ratio)|
|Vitamin C||30-120 mg||60-120g||n/a|
|Vitamin E||20-60 IU||80-400 IU||n/a|
|* higher sugar carbs** This phase and the prescribed macronutrients only apply to those looking to gain weight. If you do not wish to gain weight then you will not follow the ratio of carbs to protein. Rather you will start to limit your carbs for the remainder of the day with the bulk coming at breakfast and immediately post-workout.|
Muscle building is simple but it’s not easy. Sounds like an oxymoron right? It’s not. Think about it. Muscle buidling definitely takes work and dedication but it’s simple because you know the steps. You know exactly what you need to do to really build thick muscle. From a diet perspective, it really is that simple. Focus your carbs around your workout. The death of bulking is real. No more getting fat. You work out to look good.
Happy Muscle Building Champ,
Andrew was born and bred in Ireland. Having the stature of a leprechaun he forced himself to learn how to build muscle, burn fat and excel at his sport. As a muscle building and fat burning expert he studies the most cutting edge nutrition and training practices to deliver the best results to both to his clients and to YOU.
He runs his own personal training business in Ireland and works online with many more clients.
You can also feel free to check him out on Facebook here.
Ferrando, A.A. Sheffield-Moore, M. Paddon-Jones, D. et al., “Differential anabolic effects of testosterone and amino acid feeding in older men”, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 88: 358-362, 2003.
Gleeson, M. Lancaster, GI. and Bishop, NC,. “Nutritional strategies to minimize exercise-induced immunosuppression in athletes”, Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26 (Suppl): S23-S35, 2001.
Ivy J. & Portman R. The Future of Sports Nutrition: Nutrient Timing, Basic Health Publications, 2004.
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