The New year is approaching fast and there are a lot of you out there that are going to be making resolutions aimed at improving your health. I did the same thing at the beginning of this year, but my goal wasn’t to lose weight, it was to stop looking like a malnourished refugee. Anyway, it wasn’t until I figured out some key habits that I started to really see a change in my physique.
From the below picture you are probably thinking to yourself, “That guy looks like if Bane and Hulk Hogan somehow had a baby, and then that baby did steroids for 28 years.” But nope, I saw way too many after school specials about how steroids make you punch holes in walls and throw your dad down the stairs, so during this time I stuck to pre-workout, BCAA’s, and protein.
Overall, I’m very happy with the balance that I was able to maintain between all of the muscle groups. This not only looks better aesthetically, it also prevents one muscle group from overpowering the others which can quickly lead to injury. But enough about me, let’s talk about what you can do to get similar results.
Note: The below tips aren’t just for the guys. For all of my female readers, I know many of you are worried about getting too big or bulky, but believe me, it is VERY difficult to put on muscle to the point that that will happen. This is true for a number of reasons, but it is primarily because women naturally have much lower testosterone levels than men (avg adult male 270-1070 ng/dL. Avg adult female 15-70 ng/dL).
- Stop binge drinking alcohol – The rule of thumb I have heard is that anything over three standard drinks (1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor or a 12 oz 5% beer) will begin to impact protein synthesis. From my own “experiments”, I would say this is pretty accurate. So go ahead and enjoy a beer or two, but more than that and you’re going to lose some of your hard work from the gym. I have only been doing this part for roughly 2 months and the results have been amazing! Alcohol really is not your best friend when it comes to building muscle.
- Get on a meal schedule – The human body is amazingly adaptive, but this isn’t always a good thing. Part of the problem with drinking a lot is that I would sleep in on weekends and not eat breakfast. For all you early risers, no, getting up at 8:30 instead of 8 is not sleeping in. Getting up at 8:30 pm is sleeping in. Anyway, drinking more than any human being or large mammal ever should would result in me eating less over the next few days. My body grew to think of this as the norm, and I would never be hungry weekend mornings or Mondays. Since I have been sticking to a meal schedule I have found that my appetite has increased dramatically and I am now able to take in the calories that I need to effectively build muscle and not get mistaken for a homeless woman when I wear a raincoat. You should also be eating things that taste good. A diet that you hate is a diet that isn’t going to last.
- Do your best to adhere to a dedicated lift schedule – There are a million different lift plans on bodybuilding.com. I have personally had a lot of success with Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Size. BB.com monetized all of its workout plans about a week ago, but you can find the workout and a log for it here (Suck it, bodybuilding!) Anyway, Jim’s method of resting for 15 seconds on the last set of every exercise and then doing max reps is especially effective at breaking down stubborn muscles that have plateaued on your current lift cycle. It’s also important to listen to your body. If your schedule means that it is chest and triceps day, but your chest is very tired for some reason, do something else. Not listening to your body leads to injury. One of the most common is the dreaded pec tear. Believe me, you don’t want that.
- Rest more – This one was counter-intuitive to me, but I found that if I lifted 3 days on, 1 day off I was able to push my body a lot harder and avoid over-training or breaking down my muscles like I had been when I was doing 5 on, 1 off. Sometimes less really is more…except when it comes to food…and money…and a lot of stuff… whatever, it sounded wise in the context.
- I changed up when I take protein – One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever heard for building muscle is to take a serving of protein first thing in the morning. I learned that from the article I referenced here. Your muscles are absolutely starving after a full night of rest, especially if you worked out the day before. Anyway, taking a quick serving of protein in the morning immediately gives your muscles the fuel they need to grow and repair. In addition, taking protein prior to and immediately after workouts is also ideal for giving muscles a constant and ready source from which to grow. The goal of all of this is to avoid going catabolic. Basically, the second that you feel hungry you are catabolic. This isn’t the scientific definition, but catabolism means that your body is eating itself in order to function. It would be nice if our bodies targeted fat first for this, but muscle is a much more readily available source of nutrients, so that is what gets targeted first. As you can imagine, your body eating itself is counter-productive to gainz (I know how I spelled it).
Aside from sticking to a lift and meal schedule, all of these things are very easy to do. A lot of them are common knowledge to a lot of hardcore lifters, bodybuilders, and people who wear affliction t-shirts, but I’d never heard of some of them, so hopefully they help some of you as much as they have been helping me. That’s it for this post. I plan on doing a bulk over the winter and will post results from that sometime in spring. For those who don’t know what the bulk cycle is, it basically means that I am going to cover everything that I eat in gravy and eat an entire herd of cattle every day. And yes, of course I will be covering the cattle in gravy. I said everything!
Thanks for reading.