Eats of Strength

Posted by On March - 14 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Assuming the axiom is true, it stands to reason that if you want to get big and strong, you have to eat with those goals in mind.
Don’t just take it from us , take it from the guys in the trenches. We interviewed four of the biggest, strongest and most successful guys in the iron business: 2006 Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler, three-time Arnold Bench-Press Championship winner Ryan Kennelly, 2006 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic runner-up Branch Warren and 2006 Colorado Pro and New York Pro champ Phil Heath. Then we distilled their eating rituals down to nine strong rules to follow to jack up your power. Keep these handy, and you’ll be able to strong-arm your way to a stalwart physique.


Tomorrow’s workouts are built on today’s fuel. From a nutritional standpoint, it’s not just the day of a workout that matters. Fueling up the right way the day prior to heavy training in the gym is equally important. That’s because it takes time for the body to convert carbs from foods such as rice or potatoes into blood glucose and then glycogen, which is a form of carbs stored in muscles and used as energy when needed.

“I make sure that the day prior I have taken in enough carbs [3-4 grams per pound of bodyweight] to increase my muscle glycogen levels,” Cutler explains. “It’s all the food you eat the day before that’s going to give you energy the day after. Your diet has to be in check 24 hours before a workout.”


If you want strength, you need carbs. The primary fuel sources your muscles use when you train heavy are creatine phosphate (which burns out after about 10-20 seconds) and muscle glycogen (which kicks in heavily after the creatine phosphate has run out, to fuel the remaining reps). So, to be strong set after set, your body requires plenty of carbohydrates, which are stored in muscle as glycogen.

You should shoot for 2-3 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day and as many as 4 g per pound the day before a big lift day. That’s 400-800 g of carbs for a 200-pound guy. Good sources include oatmeal, rice, potatoes, pasta and wholegrain bread.

Don’t limit carb intake to only preworkout. Kennelly, he of the 905-pound bench press, consumes plenty of carbs, especially after workouts. “We go to a buffet [after training] and get all the good stuff: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rice,” he says. “Carbohydrate intake and protein intake are what I focus on. When I bump up my protein I can feel it in the gym strengthwise, and when I bump up my carbohydrates I can see it on the scale. High-protein, high-carb intake is a great combination for strength. That’s a little different from bodybuilding, but in powerlifting, you can eat what you want and be strong.”


Protect your muscle mass with protein. Protein is essential for driving muscle growth. When you lift extremely heavy, protein is critical for several reasons, the most important being to protect your muscles. The heavier you lift, the more mechanical damage your muscle fibers endure, and thus the more recovery they will need. More damage and recovery actually translates to greater growth.

When lifting heavy, ensure ample protein to aid recovery and further enhance muscle growth by getting in about 1.5 g per pound of bodyweight per day. That’s 300 g per day for a 200-pound bodybuilder. Good sources of quality protein include eggs, beef, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products.

As Warren confirms, “In the morning before a workout, I’ll have my bodybuilder meal: egg whites, oatmeal and steak. For the next meal, I’ll have some turkey, some beef and potatoes. The third meal of the day is basically the same as the second, and then I train.”


Dietary fat in moderate doses can be your friend. Unsaturated and saturated fats are important for bodybuilders and powerlifters for several reasons. Research shows that athletes who maintain higher fat intake, particularly saturated fat, have higher testosterone levels than those who eat lower-fat diets. Beef, which contains high-quality protein, is also a great source of saturated fat.

The health benefits of the unsaturated type of fat are numerous, plus it can help you stay lean and assist in joint recovery from the stress of workouts. Good sources of healthy monounsaturated fats are olive oil, mixed nuts, avocados and peanut butter.

For essential omega-3 fats, choose fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and white tuna, or other foods such as flaxseed oil and walnuts. Many trainers, like Heath, get their omega-3s at the sushi bar.

“Offseason, it’s OK for me to go eat a ton of sushi with white rice,” he admits. Aim to get about 30% of your total daily calories from fat, and 10% of those calories from saturated fat.


Load up on calories. There’s no way around this one: you need ample calories each day to power heavy workouts. As long as you follow the previous four rules, you should hit your mark of about 20 calories per pound of bodyweight, or 4,000 calories for a 200-pound man. You need to eat more calories than you burn. Otherwise, your body will enter starvation mode, which doesn’t allow for adequate muscle regeneration and growth. “I’ve been changing up my eating habits, still sticking with mainly clean foods but trying to eat a little differently,” Heath says. “I want to be less restrictive and get more calories while I can in the offseason.”


Chow down frequently. One way to make sure you’re taking in enough calories is to eat many times per day at relatively regular intervals. This will keep your metabolism and energy-producing mechanisms working consistently. When training for a big powerlifting competition, Kennelly says he would “eat every two hours,” which meant as many as nine meals a day.

That kind of schedule may be excessive for an average bodybuilder, but a minimum of five or six meals a day (spaced out no more than every three hours) should be doable. “Offseason, I eat five bodybuilding meals a day,” Warren says. “Eating that frequently not only ensures you get in adequate calories, but it keeps your body fueled, supplies amino acids to your muscle fibers continually, and keeps your metabolism running at full speed.”


Eat before you hit the weights. Consider the meal you eat prior to training to be an insurance policy. It is your last chance to adequately fuel your body before the big effort to follow.

Right before training, protein is the most critical nutrient, as it will help prevent your existing muscle mass from being broken down for fuel. It will also stimulate muscle growth immediately after the workout. Many guys choose a whey protein shake before workouts, as it is the most convenient form of protein and the most easily digested.

Other bodybuilders prefer whole foods before workouts. When Cutler was asked what he eats beforehand, he answered, “Definitely beef. I usually have egg whites for breakfast, and then my second meal [before training] is some kind of red meat.” Aim for about 20-40 g of protein before workouts, either in the form of a protein shake or a whole-food meal.


Eat after you hit the weights. Immediately after your workout, you must refuel with fast-digesting protein and carbs. The protein will provide your muscles with an immediate source of amino acids for building muscle protein, and the carbs will restock depleted muscle glycogen stores, blunt the release of cortisol (a catabolic hormone) and boost your levels of the anabolic hormone insulin. Insulin drives nutrients like glucose, amino acids and even creatine into muscle cells, and also kick-starts the molecular processes that turn amino acids (from a protein shake) into muscle.

Postworkout, your best bet is 40 g of protein in the form of a shake, along with 60-100 g of carbs from sources such as dextrose, maltodextrin, Vitargo or sugar. You can also obtain fast-digesting carbs from white bread, plain bagels or white potatoes.


Cut the junk food. When asked what foods he stays away from, Warren is quick to answer: junk food. “For me personally, if I eat junk food, I don’t feel good. I feel sluggish and tired. That’s why the first four or five meals of the day are good meals. If I do eat something bad, that’s just my mental break; I’ll only do that at night.”

Calories are important, as we state in rule number five, but they shouldn’t come from low-quality foods like candy, chips, pizza or French fries. Such foods pack an overabundance of what are often referred to as “empty calories,” which provide sugars and fats with little if any redeeming nutrients. Many contain trans fats, which are not only associated with cardiovascular disease, but also can limit muscle growth and encourage muscle breakdown.

Although a fast-digesting carb like sugar is good after a workout, it’s horrible any other time of day for the same reason “it increases insulin levels. Boosting insulin while at rest encourages fat storage and leads to pangs of hunger and drops in energy. A particular problem is high-fructose corn syrup “ muscles can’t use fructose for fuel, so it’s sent to the liver where it is converted to glycogen. Once the glycogen levels of the liver are full, fructose is converted into bodyfat.


If we were to add a 10th rule to this list, it would be this: be consistent in following the other nine rules. Don’t go wrong by being inconsistent. Sometimes the inconsistency is in missing training days here or there; but more often, it’s in nutrition, where a lack of focus can put you off-track in a hurry. You can’t eat great one day and then poorly for two and expect to get stronger and build muscle.

Crafting a better and more powerful physique requires more than one great workout or a few random days of perfectly balanced, perfectly timed meals. It takes the complete execution of your training and nutrition plan, day after day, week after week. That type of consistency is what built the champions we quoted in this article, and it can work for you, too. FLEX

COPYRIGHT 2010 Weider Publications

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What are hardgainers?

Common belief says people who can eat anything they want without gaining weight. They say hardgainers have a “fast metabolism”: they burn everything they eat. Or they don’t digest what they eat. Myths. Gaining weight is all about eating more than you’re doing now. I know you think you eat a lot, but you don’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be skinny. Your metabolism & genetics have nothing to do with it. Read on.

8 Reasons Why Hardgainers Aren’t Gaining Weight.

Let’s start with the 8 most common mistakes hardgainers make when trying to gain weight.

1. Lack of Food. Track your daily calorie intake using fitday. You’ll see that you’re not eating as much as you think you are.
2. Wrong Food Choices. Foods like salad & spinach are healthy but won’t make you gain weight. You need calorie dense foods like pasta & nuts.
3. Too Much Activity. A very physical job will burn much of the calories you eat. Without massive amounts of food, you’ll never gain weight.
4. Training Wrong. You won’t gain weight doing isolation exercises like Curls. But you will with compound exercises like Squats & Deadlifts.
5. Avoiding Fat Gains. Gaining weight without gaining fat is slow & hard. Usually it leads nowhere. Better: gain weight first, then lose the fat.
6. No Consistency. No approach will work if you miss workouts, neglect to meet your daily caloric needs and change your approach all the time.
7. Limiting Beliefs. You believe you have bad genetics, a fast metabolism and that you’ll always be skinny because everyone else is in your family.
8. No Faith. You’ve given up all hope because everything you tried failed. You believe you’ll be skinny the rest of your life.

How to Gain Weight For Hardgainers.

Eat more, eat the right foods, train hard, believe you can do it and most of all be consistent.

To gain weight:
* Set Goal Weight. Rule of thumb: 1kg for each cm above 1m. Check this table for example goal weights based on your height.
* GOMAD. Drink 1 US gallon (4 liters) of whole milk each day. Every single day, no matter what. Read the GOMAD guide for more info.
* Eat Every 3 Hours. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, post workout and 2 snacks. Prepare your food in advance so you don’t skip meals.
* Eat +5000kcal/day. How much calories you need depends upon the individual. But 5000kcal/day will make most hardgainers gain weight.
* Use Fitday. Track everything you eat so you have accurate feedback on your daily caloric intake. Eat +5000kcal each day, no matter what.
* Get Stronger. Increase your Squat to 1.5x your body-weight for at least 1 rep. With hips going lower than knees. Check Stronglifts 5×5.
* Track Results. Take pictures front/side/back, measure body fat using a fat caliper and weigh yourself every 2 weeks. Keep a training log.
* Believe. You’re not a hardgainer. You were just not eating enough and eating the wrong foods. You’ll do it right this time.
* Be Consistent. Eat 5000kcal every single day and never skip workouts. Persist until you’ve achieved your goal weight.

For “Stubborn” Hardgainers.

If you’re really active, doing a very physical job or commuting to work with your bike each day for 20miles, then 5000kcal per day might not be enough for you to gain weight. Solution: eat more. Keep using Fitday and weigh yourself every 2 weeks. If you don’t gain weight with 5000kcal/day, eat 6000kcal/day. Still not gaining weight: 7000kcal/day. Still not? 8000kcal/day. It’s a lot of food, but once you’re used to 5000kcal/day, 6000kcal will be easy. Same when going from 6000 to 7000kcal/day. Read Bluestreak’s story: he ate 9000kcal on some days. Result: 25lbs weight gain in 25 days.

Best Foods to Gain Weight.

Calorie dense foods are the best ones for weight gain. Go to NutritionData and search for calorie dense foods. Here are some of the best foods your weight gain diet should include:

  • Whole Milk. Rich in proteins, saturated fats & carbs. GOMAD gets you 2400kcals/day. Whole milk is the best food to gain weight fast.
  • Pasta. 250G pasta equals 1000kcal. Pasta is easier to eat than rice or oats. Although less healthy, white pasta is even easier to eat.
  • Mixed Nuts. Can be expensive but 500kcal/100g, lots of protein to build muscle and easy to take with you. Peanut butter also works.
  • Bananas. The only fruit that really works to gain weight is the banana. Apples come second. Go heavy on bananas.

Meal Plan for Hardgainers.

1 gallon of whole milk and 500g pasta totals for 4500kcal. Eat every 3 hours and you’ll easily get 5000kcal/day. Here’s an example weight gain diet. It’s repetitive but simple & efficient.

  • Breakfast: whole eggs, veggies, orange, green tea.
  • Snack: 1 liter whole milk, mixed nuts, banana.
  • Lunch: 250g pasta, tomato sauce, ground round.
  • Snack: 1 liter whole milk, mixed nuts, apple.
  • Post Workout: 1 liter whole milk, oats, banana.
  • Dinner: 250g pasta, tomato sauce, ground round.
  • Pre bed: cottage cheese, berries, ground flax seeds, 1 liter whole milk.

If you were only eating 2000kcal/day before: persist. It gets easier each day. If you really struggle: build up to it. Start with ¼ gallon whole milk the 1st week and add ¼ gallon each week. You’ll be drinking 1 gallon in week 4. Eat like that for 3 months and train hard and you’ll realize that you’re not a hardgainer. There’s no way you won’t gain weight if you do the above. Be consistent and you’ll get rid of your skinny look forever.


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