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The Skinny on Bulking: How to Gain Muscle Weight for Scrawny Guys

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We are saturated with information about fat loss. But not all of us are dieting. What about gaining slabs of muscle?

After a quick search online, I have concluded that the advice given to underweight guys to gain weight is utter bollocks. Piffle. Poppycock. Balderdash. Most of the articles have obviously been written from armchair experts who have made no results of their own, or from somebody that obviously has no trouble gaining weight.

The advice tends to revolve around:

“Avoid starchy carbs”

“Eat 6 small meals per day”

“Eat 300g+ protein” (WHAT!)

“Eat turkey breast for protein, potato for carbs, and broccoli for vegetables.”

Looking at the above chart, you’d have to eat almost 1.5 KILOGRAMS of both turkey breast and potato just to hit 2800kcal. That’s barely maintenance for the underweight young man. That’s expensive, boring and vomit inducing. Eating foods you enjoy within a sensible macronutrient/calorie target will not damage your progress.


‘Bulking’ is a waste of time: Don’t aim for weight gain!

I’ll explain this paradox. Despite the title of this post, we do not want to be aiming for big changes on the scale. Shooting for weight gain for its own sake is just likely to gain fat.

Muscle gain is too slow a process to be observed in weekly changes on the scale. Instead, shift your focus towards your strength progress and bodyfat (weekly photos), and the muscle gain will take care of itself.

Alan Aragon - Maximum rate of acceptable weight gain to ensure muscle gain with minimal fat
Alan Aragon – Maximum rate of acceptable weight gain to ensure muscle gain with minimal fat

I learned this lesson the hard way. In 2006, I weighed 59kg. I gained 50% of my bodyweight to a fat 90kg in 2008 (mainly eating oats, oil and casein.. very unpleasant). Since then, I cut the fat, gradually dropping to 75kg and now am back to a lean 80kg. Cutting so much fat wasted a lot of time spinning my wheels and restricting progress in the gym.

No need to get fat. Could have done this in half the time..

So the mistake was from reading too many muscle-mags and thinking I needed to go through a ‘bulk and cut’ cycle.
Don’t make the same mistake, and follow tenets of the Protocol: eat only a small calorie surplus to support strength gains, and using weekly photos and adjustments to keep bodyfat under control.

 

Myths:


– ‘I can eat anything and I just can’t gain weight. I just have a superhuman metabolism’.
Track your calorie intake every day this week. Come back and tell me that. You aren’t special. The most likely reason you are underweight is not fast metabolism, but low appetite. At least more likely than the idea that you are breaking the laws of physics on a daily basis.

– Appetite is key

If you’re having trouble gaining weight, determine the cause: e.g. appetite, and there will cease to be a problem, rather than trying to swim upstream.
Read this for tips to increase appetite.

 

The 11 Commandments

1) Starting out, make sure you are as lean as you’d like to be. If not, your bodyfat will only serve as a distraction and hold you back from committing to a calorie surplus.

2 -Forget notions of ‘clean food’ and focus on total calories.

3 – If you struggle to hit your fat targets, cook with more butter. Add it into mashed potato, put it on your vegetables. Add olive oil to your pasta.

4- Track your daily morning bodyweight and take weekly photos. Keep the weight gain within the acceptable range.

5 – Cook your own meals, and make them appetising! Remember to use calorie-dense foods, like fatty cuts of meat, pasta, rice, even cheesecake.

6 – If you’re really struggling to hit your daily targets, make one of these post-workout

7 – Be consistent. If you ate 3000kcal 3 days of the week, but only managed 1500kcal for the remaining 4 days, you would lose weight!

8 – Don’t be afraid of carbs. Complex, simple, it doesn’t matter. Just get them in.

9 – Train with high volume. Don’t forget this one. I’ve heard it’s important for gaining muscle :P. The crucial part of this is training with sufficient volume to earn your calories. If you have consistently low appetite, it could be partly due to lack of training volume. I gained too much fat in the first portion of my bulk from lack of training volume while overeating. More volume = more appetite. For example, include a couple of higher rep back-down sets after your main work-sets.

10 – Set protein at 2g/kg. Any more than that is unnecessary while in a surplus and that stomach-space would be better reserved for delicious carbs, which are protein sparing and less filling.

11 – Steadily increase your portion sizes to get more comfortable with larger amounts of food. I couldn’t stomach 100g rice in the beginning, now I’ll eat 250g without much trouble.

Summary
– Track your intake + bodyweight
– Manage your appetite
– Don’t stress the details
????
– Profit.

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