My friend peter used to be overweight but managed to slim down by changing his diet and moving more. He wasn’t content with only slimming down though, because he wanted to have a more muscular body. For years he tried to bulk up but found it difficult.
He would get more defined at times but he wasn’t really gaining any mass. His core exercise routine would consist of running four times a week anywhere from five to ten kilometres a run and he would go to the gym one time a week or do a few push ups or pull ups in the park.
With all of his efforts he had no luck in gaining that extra muscle. He heard that if he wanted to take himself seriously in building up his muscle mass, he would have to increase his weekly gym sessions. He decided that he would go to the gym three times a week and reduce his running to two times a week. The plan he took on was a split workout, where he would work legs back and biceps on Monday, Wednesdays he would work chest, triceps and shoulders and Friday he would hit a full body workout. He decided that this was the regimen he would continue until he saw results.
After a few months he saw results but it wasn’t the kind he was looking for. He could see the shapes of his muscles more and they seemed to be bigger than before but only slightly. He was doing all the exercises, reduced his cardio but still he wasn’t bulking right. He couldn’t figure it out. This is where one day I went training with Peter and I realised what the problem was. After we had finished working out we went to grab some food and low and low and behold, here lay the problem. His gym sessions were great, he would push himself until failure, keep his form right and the time of his reps prolonged to maximise the muscle’s time under tension but the real problem was that he wasn’t feeding himself right after his workouts.
When we went to grab some food, I went all out on a massive half tandouried chicken with rice and extra kebabs on the side plus a salad. Peter on the other hand just had a salad, a couple of chicken tikka breasts and that was it. He had kept his old mind-set of when he was overweight. He had deemed carbs as the enemy and consuming too many calories as the problem.
He was kind of right in thinking this before, but that’s only because he was overweight and he wasn’t as active as he should have been. Once he started working out and losing the weight, minimising carbs and calories helped speed up his results in getting him thin. But here’s the problem though, when it comes to building muscle the opposite is true and this is why it’s so counterintuitive. You must consume high amounts of calories, proteins and carbs after workouts so that you can feed your muscles and give them the materials to build themselves up… continuously, day in day out.
Peter was afraid to consume too many calories because he thought it would make him fat again, so he stuck to a caloric maintenance, which wasn’t going to give him the results he wanted. Sure, he saw some results but for all the years of training he put in, he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t gaining in size, as all that was happening was that he was getting more and more defined instead of bigger.
When I asked him why he wasn’t eating more after the gym he said it would make him fat if he did. After our conversation over lunch in discussing how the body works and what it needs to grow, he managed to come to the understanding that in order to build a building you need material, and lots of it. To the point where excess material is sometimes even necessary just in case you run out. The body is the same, in order to build muscle mass it’s important to load up on calories so that your muscles can build themselves up. I would like to mention that the quality of the calories matter and that the focus should be on proteins first, carbs second and fats third.
Depending on your goals you can try a bulk up for three months eating in excess of 500-1000 calories a day and that will generate decent results, if you carry this on for six months you’ll see even greater results. Remember though that gaining fat is a natural side effect of bulking. So if you start seeing a small gut form, don’t worry, as you’ll lose it when it’s time to cut, which goes very fast.
Once Peter changed his nutritional approach (still continuing his workout regimen) he saw the results he was looking for and now he has gained an extra 6.5Kg in three months and he’s now thinking about starting a short cut to see more definition.
If we get stuck in old patterns of thought it gets very difficult to progress in new ways.