I was a tad skinny as a kid. You could say that I was the runt of a litter of one. And that didn’t change for a long time – I stayed skinny until my mid-twenties. Being skinny isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it isn’t the best thing either. And isn’t that what we’re here to do; become the best versions of ourselves we could possibly be? To become more alpha…
For me, that meant, at least in part, developing a stronger, more muscular, more athletic, and powerful body. A body that I have now, but one that I could have had much earlier if someone had simply shown me what to do, and what not to do. That’s what this blog post will do for you.
Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty. We’ll take down some myths. I’ll show you how to not waste your money on the wrong supplements, and finally, I’ll tell you how to eat the right foods at the right time to maximize your results.
Note: For the purposes of continuity, we’re going to assume, for this article, that you’re working out in the afternoon or evening. If, however, you’re working out in the morning, that’s all good. Simply follow the same principles, focusing your carbs around your workouts, and your fats away from them.
Bulking Can Ruin Your Gains
Most of us, myself included, will follow a bulking protocol when trying to build muscle. Essentially that means eating a ton of carbs and proteins in every meal. However, “conventional” bulking doesn’t work as well as we’d like it to because it results in lowered Testosterone levels.
Testosterone is the most important hormone you have in your fight to gain lean muscle, and when you gain fat, your T levels typically drop. Bulking makes you gain a lot of fat. There is a better way to go about it. A method that will still have you eating a lot of carbs and proteins, but with a bit more strategy involved. We’ll discuss this as we get further into the article, but before you read on, check out this article for a detailed explanation as to why “bulking” doesn’t work:
We’ll get the topic of supplements out of the way. You ideal body won’t come from supplementation. No matter how much you spend, supplements won’t give you your ideal, muscular body. But they will help if you take the right ones at the right time.
BCAAs pre + during workout: branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are vital to your lean muscle gains. By taking them before and during your workout (10 grams 25 minutes before, 10 grams half way through) you’re going to stop your body from burning muscle during your workout.
Recommended BCAA: BCAAxd
Vitamin C + Zinc post workout: BCAAs will help slow the release of cortisol during a workout, and vitamin C will do the same. Take 1,000 mg post workout. 25 mg of zinc after a workout will help blunt the production of estrogen by stopping your body from producing aromatase, a building block of estrogen.
Protein Powder Post Workout: Protein powder is a great supplement for guys trying to build muscle because of its convenience. I start my “post workout” shake halfway through my workout with my second dose of BCAA’s, just to ensure I experience optimal recovery. We’ll discuss protein a little further, but it can help you keep your gains consistent and optimal.
Creatine In Spurts: Creatine can be a great addition to your supplement team. But don’t use it for more than 2 months. It will help you recover faster and improve strength, but use it on a 2 months on 1 month off schedule as to not halt your body’s natural creatine production.
Recommended Creatine Supplement: PurBlue Creatine
Note on cortisol: One of the ways we measure testosterone is in relation to our cortisol levels. If you T levels are high, our cortisol levels are low. And we want to keep them low. When cortisol levels are high our bodies use proteins and muscle as fuel. Avoid this by taking BCAAs and Vitamin C after your workout.
Your Macros for Muscle
How much protein do I need? What carbs should I eat? When should I eat carbs and when should I eat fats? Do I need to eat fats when I’m trying to gain muscle?
These questions flood my inbox on a daily basis, it’s about time I answer them all in one article. In the following section we’ll break down your macros, what the best sources are, and when the best time to consume them may be.
There are two kinds of proteins, complete, and incomplete. Incomplete proteins don’t have the amino acids that complete proteins have, obviously making them incomplete. Many of the incomplete protein sources you’re going to find come from vegetables – like soy – and from nuts and legumes.
Meats are packed with the amino acids you need to see optimal recovery and avoid muscle loss while you’re in the gym. Fish, fowl, beef, bison, moose, bear, eggs. Eat them all.
How much protein should you eat?
You can eat too much protein. It results in your body storing the unused protein as fat rather than using it to help you repair muscle tissue. While the magic number is often contested, from what I’ve seen anywhere around the 1.5 grams per desired lean muscle mass is a good route to take.
What about protein powder, is it good for you?
The right kind of high-quality whey protein is one of the best protein sources you can have. It’s packed full of the essential amino acids that we find in our meats. It’s also incredibly convenient. After a workout we have a 15 minute window to feed our muscles with the nutrients we want to feed them with, namely protein and good carbs. Having a shake with you during your workout is a great way to take advantage of that window.
Quality, however, is important. Make sure you’re using a protein powder that has both whey, whey isolate, and casein protein. High highly recommend the ISO SMOOTH protein powder that Bluestar offers.
Note: Variety is very important with protein. You want to have as much variety in your diet as possible as to avoid becoming allergic to the foods you’re consistently consuming.
Carbs are incredibly important in our fight to build lean muscle. However, with carbs and fats not playing well together, where do fats have a place in our diet?
Again, testosterone is still the most important hormone for muscle building. It’ll help you repair your muscle tissue and recover from the tough workouts you should be doing in the gym. Testosterone comes from cholesterol. We need to be consuming a hefty amount of good fats to ensure that our bodies are producing naturally high testosterone levels.
When to have them:
Don’t consume fats with your carbs. So pre and post workout are a no-no for fats. Fats also inhibit your body’s ability to absorb protein, which is another reason why you don’t want them around your workout. Breakfast, however, is a great time to consume fats. Your T levels are highest between 4-6am, so taking advantage of that window with a high fat meal before bed, and again upon rising, is a great way to go.
Some good fats:
Get a lot of your fats from meats and eggs and nuts. Have nuts with every “fats meal” – Brazil nuts and almonds are a great option. Also, take fish oils with each of your fats meals. Make sure the fish oils are high quality! OMEGA BLUE is a great option if you’re looking for a high-quality fish oils supplement.
Carbs are possibly the most important macronutrient in your battle to build lean muscle. But if you eat them too often, you’re going to gain fat and hurt your insulin health, blunting your body’s natural testosterone production. Yes, it’s another fine balance you’re going to have to find. Timing your carbohydrate intake will help with this.
Keep your carbs focused around your workout. A pre workout meal with lean protein and good carbs is always recommended. But the post workout meal is where you really want to load your carbs.
Have a post workout shake that’s at least 1:1, carbs:protein – I like coconut water with assorted berries. Follow that meal up with 1-2 more high lean protein, and high carbohydrate meals. This is where you can cheat a little. While whole carbs are the best, you can have high-glycemic carbohydrates as well (white rice, bread, etc…). Your body processes them much faster than slow carbs, which is especially important for the skinny guys who find it hard to eat enough food. You’ll get hungry faster after a meal with fast carbs than you will with a meal containing slow carbs.
Breakfast: Fats + proteins
Eat meat for breakfast. It’ll slow the rise of your blood sugar, giving you a steady elevation in energy throughout the day. This is your main testosterone meal.
Meal #2: Fats + Proteins
Your second T meal. Eggs are great here, depending on where you are and what you have access to. Remember, have veggies with every meal. Being that you’re consuming a fair amount of protein, you’re going to want to balance that intake with veggies to ensure that your pH levels remain alkaline.
Pre Workout: Lean Protein + Slow Carbs
Don’t consume fast carbs for this meal, the ensuing spike in insulin will result in an energy crash right before your workout. Quinoa and chicken salad is a great option. Or tuna. Keep your proteins lean for this meal.
Don’t forget BCAA’s 20 minutes before your workout.
Post Workout Shake: Lean Protein + Carbs
I like having coconut water with my protein powder and assorted berries for my post workout shake. It’s filled with potassium that’ll help with recovery. Don’t forget your BCAAs half-way through your workout.
Post Workout Meal: Lean Proteins + Carbs
This is your “freedom meal”. If you want to cheat, cheat here. Just eat a lot. I love sushi for a post-workout meal, with a ton of rice, along with tuna and rice sashimi. You could go the steak and potatoes route, or yams. Just eat a lot.
Before Bed Snack: Optional
This meal is optional, depending on when you’re working out and how much you’ve consumed up to this point. You can make this high in carbs and proteins if you’re an extreme hardgainer, or high in fats and low in carbs if your gains are coming along fine and you want to keep your T levels high.
Note: We’re not limiting you to a gram amount with your fats or carbs, simply eat a lot of them. With skinny guys, you’ll find that there is no magic number when it comes to calories. Yes, you want to consume more than you burn, but I did that for years to no avail. Structure your meals, first. Test a daily caloric intake for 2 weeks. If you’re not gaining, eat more. If you’re gaining too much, eat less. More often than not, you’re going to want to consume upwards of 4,000 cals for muscle building routines, often more.
Eating Effectively to Build Muscle
Where many of us fail in our goal to build lean muscle, is with our diets, and often the result of eating the same boring, bland, and ineffective meals. A guide is what we really need. A way of eating that will show us not only what to eat to build muscle, but how to prepare our food as well.
Enter, The Anabolic Cookbook.
A good buddy of mine, Dave Ruel, created this cookbook for guys like you and me. Guys who find it tough to add lean muscle mass to our skinny frames. But it’s not just a cookbook with 200 awesome, tasty, anabolic recipes. He’s also created a meal guide for you to follow.
If you’re struggling, wondering what to eat, in what amounts, to see your desired body, The Anabolic Cookbook is the best resource you can find. I use it, and I love it. This cookbook will be one of your greatest ally’s in your quest to be Legendary, and build slabs of powerful, ripped muscle.
If you’ve set out to build lean muscle, you’ll know that it’s not simply a matter of eating a lot of food. I did that, and I got fat. And I’m sure you experienced the same thing.
What you need is strategy. You need to feed your muscles the nutrients they crave, when they need them most. But you also need to keep your hormones working as they should. This is where many fall off or get confused. If your T levels are lowering, your body won’t be able to burn fat and build muscle and recover from your workouts. Hopefully this article clarified some things for you moving forward.