Well, I'd set your standards a little higher if I were you.
They say its possible for a natural athlete to gain 5 to 7 pounds of muscle in a years time. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean 5 to 7 pounds every year. When I first started working out in college I'm guessing I was 5'8" or 5'9" and weighed 130 pounds. So at 5 pounds of muscle a year, I should now weigh about 240 pounds. Unfortunately, I don't. Currently, I'm 5'10" and 210 pounds, with perhaps 7% bodyfat.
A big difference between serious bodybuilders & other athletes and the rest of us is the amount of food they eat. To put on muscle, you have to eat large amounts of the right kind of food. You have to supply that food continously throughout the day.
Not everyone agrees how much protein you should eat. Most people in the US eat about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day. Some athletes eat 1 gram of protein per pound. I have meet serious bodybuilders who eat 2-3 grams per pound.
Using 1 g/lb, lets say you're like me and weigh 190 pounds. That means you need 190 grams of protein per day. If you're eating 5 meals a day, that averages out to be 38 grams of protein per meal. How can you do that and not feel bloated all day, not spend hours cooking, and not spend hours on the toilet ? Especially when you work a 9-5 job. (OK, I work more like a 11-7 job, sometimes a 12-8 job. But you get the idea.) You have to eat efficiently. You have to eat high protein foods, and stay away from excess carbs from things like bread, potatos, pasta and rice.
Here is a one day example of my high protein diet. Its approximately 40 grams of protein per meal. Meals 1 and 5 I fix and eat at home. Meal 2 is from the cafeteria at work. Meal 3 I bring from home in a container, and mix with orange juice from a vending machine. Meal 4 I buy on the way to work and heat up in the office microwave.
|meal 1||Protein shake consisting of banana, plain yogurt, protein powder, water or
bowl of high fiber cereal or oatmeal
|meal 2||turkey and bean burrito or other entre' from the cafeteria, salad|
|meal 3||protein mix in a jar that I add water or juice and shake|
|meal 4||two or three broiled chicken breast sandwiches from Burger King or Carl's Jr., or a half-chicken combo from El Pollo Loco, Boston Market, or Koo-Koo-Roo's.|
|meal 5||a can of soup with added chunks of chicken or turkey, sometimes a
hard boiled egg, or even a half cup of cottage cheese (add the cottage cheese
after you turn off the heat) plus a salad;
or one or two Lean Cuisine frozen dinners & salad;
or sometimes another protein shake.
On weekdays, I really have no time to cook. But on the weekends, I'll barbeque some fish or chicken, or cook a pot of stew or a roast, or bake a pan of lasagna. (I'm a great cook.) Any leftovers are then used for meal 5 during the week.
The secret to eating this much protein is to eat small meals. Don't fill up on empty calories like potatoes and bread. Don't eat or drink sugary stuff (no soda). Don't make the protein drinks too heavy. Don't whip too much air into the protein drinks.
High protein food includes meats, such as chicken, turkey, tuna and other fish, beef, and pork; dairy products like milk, cheese (especially cottage cheese), and eggs; also beans and nuts. Be sure to check out my Protein Cost Comparison page.
Ratio of Carbs to Protein to Fat
Another way to look at diet is by the ratio of carbs to protein to fat. The average American diet is probably 60% carbs, 30% protein, and 10% fat by calories. Many people believe that this is not a healthy diet. I try to eat more along the lines of the Zone Diet, of 40% carbs to 30% protein to 30% fat (by calories).
Note that 1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 Calories, 1 gram of protein also contains 4 Calories, while 1 gram of fat contains 9 Calories. So, my 190 grams of protein per day gives the following:
190 gram * 4 Calories/gram = 760 Calories
760 Calories from protein is 30% of my total caloric intake.
760 / 0.3 = 2533 Calories per day
Carbs is 40% of total calories, so 2533 * 0.4 = 1013 Calories from carbs.
Fat is 30% of total calories, 2533*0.3 = 759 Calories from fat
So every day, I try to eat about 250 grams of carbs, 190 grams of protein, and 90 grams of fat.
If you find this too difficult, you might be interested in a slightly different ratio. A ratio of 41% carbs, 28% protein, and 31% fat by calories reduces to 3:2:1 by grams. That is, for every 3 grams of carbs, eat 2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat.
When you eat that much food, you also need lots of water. Drink a minimum of 2 liters a day. Many bodybuilders will drink closer to 4 liters (one gallon) every day.
Muscles grow in between workouts, not during them. Overtraining occurs when you don't give your muscles enough time to recover. If the muscle is still sore from the last workout, its not ready to be worked again.
There are many factors in determining how often you should work out.
Size of Muscle
Big muscles take longer to recover than small muscles. Big muslces include those in your legs, chest, and back. Small muscles include those in your arms, shoulders, calves, and stomach. So while your biceps may recover from a hard workout in two or three days, your quads may take a week or ten days.
Your body recovers faster when you are younger than when you're older. You may be able to work a bodypart three times a week when you're 18, but you won't be able to do that when you're 38. In reality, this is due to the amount of natural testosterone in your body. As you get older, your body produces less and less.
Your muscles will recover faster when you're supplementing your natural testosterone levels with steroids than they will without. Its very difficult to overtrain while on steroids. On the other hand, trying to work out the way the big boys do when you're not taking steroids will certainly lead to overtraining. Muscles don't grow when they are overtrained.
One sure sign of overtraining is having to force yourself to go to the gym. If you're dreading going to the gym, take a day off. If you've been working out real hard for months, and just feel exhausted, take a week off. Its OK to take a break now and then. There's more to life than the gym.
Sleep is important for getting big, too. I do best on 8 hours of sleep a day. Some serious bodybuilders I know need 12 hours every day. Listen to your body. When it needs more sleep, make sure it gets it.
Workouts should be intense but short. You should be in and out of the gym within 90 minutes.
Often, because of work or other commitments, I have to miss a day. The next day back at the gym, I'll pick up where I left off. Everything gets pushed back a day, rather than waiting a week to do the bodypart that I missed.
Aerobics is good for the heart, but not the best if you're trying to pack on mass. A good compromise would be 30 minutes, three times a week.
The bodybuilding supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Every bodybuilding magazine is packed full of articles and advertisements (and advertisements disguised as articles) to get you to buy supplements. But which supplements are worth buying ?
The misc.fitness.weights FAQ has a detailed description of many different supplements. But the bottom line is that almost all supplements are a waste of money. Here's some supplements that I feel are a good investment.
Multi-vitamin and mineral
I believe that everyone should take a multivitamin, whether they're athletic or not. You can eat a wide variety of foods, but still not get enough of every necessary vitamin and mineral every single day. I use Twinlabs Dualtab, $23 for a bottle of 200 at Pro Sports, around the corner from Gold's Hollywood. Since you take two in the morning and two at night, it works out to be 46 cents per day.
Its very difficult to prepare, cook, and eat enough protein from meat, eggs, cheese, beans, and nuts. Not to mention that eating lots of bulky foods means you also spend a lot of time on the toilet. So protein powders are a convenient way to get a lot of protein into your diet.
Whey protein is the best, but expensive. Milk & Egg protein is good. Soy protein is the least desirable. (A recent study showed that excess soy in the diet can raise estrogen levels. While this would be good for women, its certainly not good for male bodybuilers.) Avoid protein powders that have lots of added ingredients. Ingredients like Gamma Oryzanol, Inosine, Dibencozide, and Chromium Picolinate, are all a waste of money.
Weight gainer protein powders (which often have a four digit number in the name) are just protein powders with way too many added carbs. If you really want a high caloric drink, its much cheaper to just buy plain protein powder and mix it with your own stuff.
A standard recipe for a protein drink includes some fruit (banana, strawberrys, pineapple, or even a half of a can of fruit cocktail), yogurt, juice or water, a tablespoon of oil, and 3 scoops of protein powder. Mix in blender. You may think its strange to add oil to a protein drink, but you need oil or fat in your diet to build muscle (see below). Also, eating a little fat with all the carbs from the fruit or fruit juice will help limit the insulin response, which some people feel is a good thing to do. Good oils include flaxseed oil (which must be refrigerated), sunflower oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, macadamia nut oil, canola oil, and light olive oil. Bad oil is anything that has the words "partially hydrogenated" on the label.
Meal Replacement Packets
MRPs, such as MetRx, are just a form of fast food. They are not a miracle food. You're not going to get big just by adding 1-5 MRPs to your diet every day. They are just a somewhat balanced high protein meal that is rather inexpensive, and easy to fix away from home. You can even mix it into a pudding in the packet. Add water or juice in thirds. Add a third of total amount of liquid, stir, add another third, stir, add the final third and stir again.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs)
Fatty Acids are just certain types of oils. To build muscle you need fat in your diet, and you especially need EFAs. Two fatty acids are "essential", which means the body cannot make them, but we need them to survive. These are linoleic acid (LA, also called Omega-6) and linolenic acids (LNA, also called Omega-3). Flaxseed oil is high in LNA. Sunflower and safflower oils are also good sources of these EFAs. Some people also feed that you should supplement your diet with gamma linolenic acid (GLA), although most people are able to produce plenty through the first converstion of LA. Hemp oil, borage oil, black current oil, and evening primrose oil are considered good sources of GLAs. Oatmeal also contains GLAs. Stearidonic Acid (SDA) is also important. Again, most people are able to produce plenty through the first conversion of LNA. Black current oil and fish oils contain high amounts of SDA.
Be sure to check out my Oil Comparison chart. To learn more about oils, check out Mining Company Guide to Nutrition's three part series on fats and oils: part 1, part 2, part 3. Another good web site can be found here.
The book that started the interest in EFAs is Fats and Oils by Udo Erasmus (Alive:Vancouver,1986) as well as Healing Fats, Killing Fats also by Udo Erasmus (1990).
Again, try to avoid processed foods with partially-hydrogenated oils in it.
Thats it. You don't need to buy any other supplements from the health food store. No chromium picolinate, no HMB, no CLA, no Arginine or any other individual amino acid, no L-Carnitine. Nothing. Save your money.
Whats the difference between a drug and a supplement ? Some people say that supplements are things that are found in food. But there are many drugs that are found in food. A better definition is that a supplement is found naturally in food, but also is used by the body as fuel or a building block for muscles, bones, etc.
A drug is a chemical, either found in nature or manufactured in a laboratory, that effects the body via some chemical reaction or receptor interaction.
Caffine is a drug. Its found in many edible plants, but it has a stimulating effect on the body. It is not used by the body for fuel. (It does not "give you energy". It makes you stimulated and burn fuel from elsewhere in your body.)
Aspirin is a drug. But it is also found in certain plants. Ephedrine is a drug, also a stimulant, and its even regulated in certain US states.
DHEA, Melatonin, Androstenedione, androstene, androdiol and 19-Norandrostenedione are all hormones. They are manufactured in the body, but also found elsewhere in nature. Clearly, hormones are drugs.
Vitamins, protein, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids are all supplements.
It can be argued either way whether creatine is a supplement or a drug.
So what does all this mean ? If you claim to be a drug-free bodybuilder there is a lot more than steroids that you shouldn't be using. If you use caffine, aspirin, ephedrine, DHEA, or Melatonin, you're not drug free.
Steroids, Insulin, and Human Growth Hormone
Steroid use has been common in all sports since the 1960s. We have gotten so use to seeing big athletes in bodybuilding, but also in baseball, football, basketball, and every other sport, that we no longer realize what the natural limit is for humans. Look at Steve Reeves and John Grimek, both considered the best physiques of their time. Today, every gym in the USA has guys bigger than them. This is not due to Designer Whey. (For more photos of bodybuilders from this time period, check out my website's vintage images.
We see big athletes today and think they are a good representation of the size that we can naturally achive. College football players, baseball players, even basketball players, are much bigger today than they were 40 years ago. Compare the arms and legs of pro baseball and basketball players from the 50s to those of the 80s and 90s. Again, this increase in size is not due to better genetic selection from the population, or better training techniques, or better nutrition. Its due to better drugs.
Bodybuilders from the 60s, 70s, and 80s are much bigger than those from previous years. However, the pro bodybuilders of the 90s are even bigger. While some of this recent change is due to using larger amounts of steroids, much of it is due to the increased use of insulin and human growth hormone. These drugs are much more dangerous than steroids. A single shot of insulin can kill you. Human Growth Hormone can cause your internal organs to grow, causing your stomach to protrude. Cartillage in your jaw, ears, and nose can grow due to HGH as well.
Since 1991, anabolic steroids are controlled substances in the United States. They are schedule C-III drugs. It is a felony to posess anabolic steroids without a prescription from a US doctor. Also since 1991, it is illegal for a doctor to prescribe anabolic steroids for cosmetic or athletic purposes. Personally, I think this is wrong. If it is OK for a doctor to change someone's appearance using surgery, then it should be OK for a doctor to do the same using drugs.
Everyone wants instant gratification. But the secret is that the people who have what we want didn't get it overnight. It often takes years to develop an outstanding physique. This may be discouraging, but blink twice and suddenly you're going to find yourself five years older. You now have a choice of being five years older with a great physique, or five years older and still yearning for it.
If you can do everything right, have intense workouts every time, eat the right food, get enough sleep, in a few years you will accomplish your goals. Unfortunately its impossible to do everything right all the time. We all have set-backs. We all get sick now and then. The thing is to minimize these set-backs, especially the ones we have control over. Getting drunk or high takes away from building muscle. Not getting enough sleep and not eating right does too.