You go to GNC and load up your basket with all the latest “Anabolic Technology”. Fresh with weight-gainers, pre-workout stacks, mid-workout shakes, and your post workout amino acid matrix –all clinically proven to maximize your lean muscle gains and get you looking like an NFL Quarterback. Then you see the price. $600.00! At which point you hesitantly hand over your credit card while you silently weep, “There’s got to be a better way!”.
Bulking up is simple in theory and cheap in practice. It all boils down to training and nutrition. If you have the proper training protocol and eat the right foods, you will gain muscle. There is no secret mythical formula on how to bulk up; it comes down to eating enough of the right macronutrients and doing the right exercises. However, like most simple ideas, they come with layers of nuance and complexity (think E=mc^2).
Log Your Calories
In order to gain weight you need to eat over your BMR or Basal Metabolic rate.
Use these formulas to calculate how much you burn:
BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )
BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in years)
Then you have to factor in exercise and whether or not you have an excessively high metabolism. The best way to do this is to log your calories. By documenting what and how much you eat you will be able to see how you should go about bulking. If your BMR is 2500 and you eat 3200 Calories a day and are not gaining weight, then you can start scientifically tweaking your weight gain diet by increasing your daily calorie consumption.
If this happens, increase your daily Calorie consumption by 500 Calories every 3 days until you start noticing weight gain. The idea is to eat 500-750 Calories over your maintenance level so as not to accumulate large amounts of body fat in the weight gain plan.
The best computer based calorie logger is Cron-o-Meter, a free tracking program. http://cronometer.com/download/
However, if you have a smart phone, just search “calorie tracker” in your app store and you will find several free options.
You Don’t Need That Much Protein to Gain Weight
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need excessive amounts of protein to gain muscle. Carbs are far more important for bulking. All you need is 1 gram of protein per kilogram of Lean Body Mass (LBM). This chalks up to about a half a gram of protein for every one pound of LBM. Now lean body mass is not your weight. It is what your weight would be if you did not have fat. If you weigh 180lbs and you are 20% body fat then your LBM would be 144lbs. This would equate to around 72 grams of protein per day. However, formulas are just formulas. I would recommend consuming around 80-120g of protein per day for a 180-pound man to gain muscle. Any more can lead to ammonia toxicity.
As a rule of thumb:
1-1.7g/kg LBM (per Kilogram)
0.5-0.85g/lb LBM (per Pound)
Stock up on eggs, milk, ground beef and chicken for cheap sources of protein. Powders are overrated and overpriced. A dozen eggs provides 84g protein, and costs .99-2.99 depending on the brand. Greek Yogurt is also a good source of protein.
Eat Carbohydrates to Increase your Muscle Glycogen Stores
The good news is that carbs are one of the cheapest macronutrients on the market. A good power carb is rice. Rice is cheap and is considered a safe starch – meaning it does not have anti-nutrients or toxins like gluten.
Sweet potatoes and potatoes are also great, versatile carb sources for bulking.
If you are not Gluten-Free then pasta is also a great addition to the budget carb list.
Focus On Anabolic Muscle Building Compound Exercises
Ditch the isolations exercises. They are of little value to gaining overall muscle mass. They are also much more time consuming than compound exercises. The more you focus on Squatting, Deadlifting, Pressing, Cleaning, and Snatching the more you will see gains.
Exercises such as these require several different muscle groups that work in conjunction and in opposition of each other. By working larger muscles groups such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and core at the same time, your body is forced to adapt to the stress by releasing more growth hormone and testosterone. Heavy compound exercises produce a hormonal response while isolation exercises do not. The synergistic effect of using the major muscle groups is what leads to this adaptation.
As a rule of thumb, the heavier you lift the more muscle you will gain. You do not have to eliminate isolations exercises like curls, however you should save them for the end of your workout. As an alternative, you can do palms facing in chin-ups. Chin-ups work the biceps as well as the back in a great compound exercise. Normal pull-ups are also great for over all muscle development and fitness.
A sample Lifting Protocol Would be:
Snatch 1×5 (75% 1RM)
Squat 5×5 (70% 1RM)
Weighted Over Head Lunges 4x 100ft
Pull-ups 3x max (stop 2 reps before failure)
Overhead Press 3×5 (75% 1RM)
Pull-ups 3x max (stop 2 reps before failure)
Clean 4×8 (65% of 1RM)
Deadlift 5×5 (80% 1RM)
Bench 5×5 (80% 1RM)
Barbell Rows 4×8 (80% 1RM)
Consume a High Carb Insulin Spiking Recovery Drink Immediately After Your Workout
And you don’t need a weight gainer or a protein shake. All you need is some chocolate milk. The sugar will spike the anabolic hormone insulin thus increasing protein synthesis. If you spike your insulin levels at the right time, such as after a workout, it drastically enhances your building muscle potential.
However, keeping insulin elevated throughout the day is not desirable and can lead to insulin resistance (fat gain/high blood pressure/diabetes).
Drink 24oz of chocolate milk and you’ll get a recovery drink with 60g of carbs, 24g of fat and 24g of protein totaling to a whopping 552 calories. At 3.99 a gallon, it is by far the cheapest post workout drink.
GOMAD! Drink a Gallon of Milk a Day
There is a protocol called squats and milk popularized by Mark Rippetoe. You do heavy compound exercises and drink a Gallon of Milk a Day. Spring for whole milk as you’ll get the benefit of the extra calories from it. A gallon of milk a day adds up to 2400 additional calories to your diet with 128g of fat, 192g of carbs and 128g of protein. Cheap and relatively easy to consume if spread throughout the day.
Dietary Fat is Important for Hormone Function
Fat is not necessarily the enemy in the obesity epidemic. While there are some bad fats, the right fats will optimize your anabolic muscle building hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone. Beneficial fats are both Saturated Fats and Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs). These are the most chemically stable and are not easily oxidized like Polyunsaturated Fats.
If you ever noticed the fishy smell after using canola oil, that’s because of the PUFAs have oxidized. When PUFAs oxidize, they become trans-fats. Saturated fats are not the enemy of heart disease. Trans-fats and excessive long chain PUFAs (Omega-6, Omega-9) are.
Cook and fry in fats such as Coconut oil, Olive oil, and Palm Kernel Oil to avoid the unnecessary trans-fat and PUFA consumption.
Olive Oil Shots to Skyrocket Calorie Intake
Now this is only for the dedicated and the brave. If you are having trouble eating the necessary calories to bulk, substitute some olive oil shots. Be sure to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil! Each 2oz shot will contain 480 Calories. If you can stomach this much olive oil then go for it! An easier way to consume all this EVOO is to mix it into your chocolate milk.
Remember that gaining muscle is as simple as eating in a caloric surplus and performing full-body compound exercises. Be Consistent, Persistent and Patient.
Eat in a Caloric Surplus
Carbs, Carbs, Carbs.
Drink Milk (GOMAD), Eat Rice, Potatoes, and Pasta.
Don’t worry about protein. You’ll get enough in your diet and from milk.
Saturated Fats and MUFAs Optimize Hormone Profile
Squat, Deadlift, Press, do Olympic lifts, pull-ups, weighted lunges and barbell rows for an anabolic hormonal response.
Consume Chocolate Milk for Post-Workout Recovery Drink
Olive Oil Shots for 480 Calories a Pop
Supplements and Powders are Expensive and Unnecessary
Stick with it! Save time and Save Money!