Massive Eating: Your Guide To Packing On Muscle Mass
Massive Eating: Your Guide To Packing On Muscle Mass
Part 1: Calorie Needs
- Pop Quiz, Hotshot
- What You're Doing Wrong
- Energy Balance: You might be surprised!
- Step #1: Resting Metabolic Rate
- Determining RMR
- Step #2: Cost of Activity
- Determining Activity Costs
- Activity Factors
- Costs of Exercise Activity
- Step #3: Thermic Effect of Food
- Determining the Thermic Effect of Food
- Step #4: Adaptive Thermogenesis
- Step #5: Putting it all together
- The Secret is in the Surplus!
Part 2: Meal Combinations and Individual Differences
- Now that I know how much to eat, what's next?
- Avoid meals containing fats and carbs
- Avoid meals high in carbs alone
- Eat meals containing protein and carbs (with minimal fat)
- Eat meals containing protein and fat (with minimal carbs)
- Real Meals
- Individual Differences -- Are You Sensitive?
- Insulin Sensitivity -- I Want Your Blood
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Pancreatic Beta Cell Function
- Let's Get Sensitive!
- Individual Differences -- Experimentation
- Part 1: Calorie Needs
Part 1: Calorie Needs
Pop Quiz, Hotshot
Pretend you're back in high school and mean ol' Mr. Berardi has just passed out a pop quiz. Luckily, there's only one question:
Which of the following statements is true?
- Most people succeed in training well enough to grow, but they fail in eating well enough to grow.
- Most people eat well enough to grow, but they don't train well enough to grow.
Pencils down. Okay, which is it? If you said "A," give yourself a gold star. But don't feel too badly if you chose "B." To an extent, both answers are correct. Most people probably train and eat incorrectly! But if I had to pick one answer that was more true than the other, I'd say "A" would be the best choice. If you're not growing, it's probably your diet, not your training, that's holding you back.
With this article I'm throwing down the gauntlet. This is your wake up call if you've ever made any of the following statements:
- "I eat a lot of food. In fact, it feels like I'm eating all day! But I just can't get any bigger." "I can't gain a pound of muscle. My parents are both skinny, so it must be genetic." "I've always had a fast metabolism. That's why I can stay lean but can't get any bigger." "I'm scared to go on a bulking diet because I don't want to lose my abs." "I've tried mass-building diets before and put on a little muscle, but most of the weight I gained was fat."
Sound familiar? Then this article is for you, toothpick legs.
What You're Doing Wrong
Now you may be asking, "If I'm not eating well enough to grow, Mr. Smartypants, what am I doing wrong?" In my opinion, there are three major things that most people do incorrectly when trying to gain muscle mass:
- They don't understand energy balance (calories in vs. calories out).
- They don't eat the right foods at the right times (poor meal combinations).
- They don't learn their physiological responses to nutrients (insulin sensitivity, carb, and fat tolerance).
Below (and in Part II) I'll describe practical ways to fine tune all three. By the end of this series, you should know how much food you need to grow, what combinations of foods you should eat and when you should eat them, and how to figure out your own personal, individualized macronutrient needs.
Energy Balance: You might be surprised!
So what is energy balance? Here's the simple equation:
Energy Balance = Energy Intake - Energy Expenditure
Energy intake is made up of what you eat and drink. Energy expenditure is made up of several factors including resting metabolic rate (RMR), calorie cost of activity, thermic effect of food (TEF), and adaptive thermogenesis (the X factor). The balance of intake and expenditure is an important factor in weight gain or loss. If you have a positive energy balance (intake exceeds expenditure), you gain weight. A negative energy balance (intake is less than expenditure) dictates that you'll lose weight. Simple enough.
Remember, however, that energy balance is only one factor in getting massive (or getting lean for that matter). And although it's the most basic and simplest part of understanding your needs for growth, ironically, most people totally screw it up! So let me be your metabolic guide. Below I'll provide some practical ways to navigate through the harsh jungle of energy balance equations so that you'll emerge ready to tackle the challenge of muscle growth. Pick up your pencils again, class. Better yet, grab a calculator!
Step #1: Resting Metabolic Rate
Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the energy it costs the body to basically keep alive. This doesn't include the costs of getting your butt out of bed and moving around; those numbers are calculated in later. Although you might not guess it, about 50 to 70 percent of your entire day's calorie expenditure is a result of the RMR. So, let's figure out your RMR right now.
To start off with, you need to take your body weight in pounds and convert it to kilograms. (International readers, please bear with us silly non-metric Americans for a moment.) This is a simple conversion. Just divide your body weight by 2.2.
Next you take your percent of fat and multiply it by your body weight (which is now in kilograms). This will give you your fat mass (FM) in kilograms. Next simply subtract this number from your total weight in kilograms and you'll have your fat free mass (FFM) in kilograms.
Before we go on, why don't we try this out on me. Since I'm an athlete with a body weight of 200lbs at 5% body fat, I'd take my total body mass and divide it by 2.2:
Total body mass in kilograms = 200lbs / 2.2 = 91 kg
Next I'd multiply this kilogram number (91 kg) by my percent of body fat. Remember, percents are really decimals so 5% equals 0.05, 12% bodyfat will be .12 etc.
Fat Mass = 91kg x 0.05 = 4.55kg FM
Next I subtract this fat mass number (4.55 kg) from my total body mass (91kg):
Fat Free Mass = 91kg - 4.55kg = 86.45kg
Therefore my fat free mass is 86.45 kilograms. From that I can determine my RMR. The formula for RMR is as follows:
- Resting Metabolic Rate for Athletes (in calories per day) = 500 + 22 x fat free mass (in kilograms).
Again, for me, I'd multiply 22 times my fat free mass and add 500 to that number as shown below:
RMR= 22 x 86.45 + 500 = 2402
Therefore my resting metabolic rate is about 2400 calories per day. Everyone have their RMR figured out? Good, let's move on.
Step #2: Cost of Activity
The Cost of Activity represents how many calories are required to move your butt around during the day. This includes the cost of walking out to your car, scraping the ice off the damn thing, driving to work, pinching the secretary's ass, going to lunch with the boys, and of course, training after work. These factors make up about 20 to 40% of your daily caloric intake based on your activity level. So let's figure out your costs of activity. I'll use myself as an example again.
Determining Activity Costs
Cost of Daily Activity is equal to the RMR you calculated above multiplied by an activity factor that fits your daily routine. I've listed some common activity factors below:
- 1.2-1.3 for Very Light (bed rest) 1.5-1.6 for Light (office work/watching TV) 1.6-1.7 for Moderate (some activity during day) 1.9-2.1 for Heavy (labor type work)
Note: Don't consider your daily workout when choosing a number. We'll do that later.
With this information we can get back to determining my calorie needs. Since I work at a university, most of my day is pretty sedentary. Even though I run back and forth between the lab and classes, I've selected 1.6 as my activity factor. Therefore the amount of calories it takes to breathe and move around during the day is about 3800 calories as shown below:
RMR x Activity Factor = 2400 calories x 1.6 = 3800 calories
Costs of Exercise Activity
Next, we need to determine how many calories your exercise activity burns so that we can factor this into the totals. Exercise activity can be calculated simply by multiplying your total body mass in kilograms (as calculated above) by the duration of your exercise (in hours). Then you'd multiply that number by the MET value of exercise as listed below. (MET or metabolic equivalent, is simply a way of expressing the rate of energy expenditure from a given physical activity.)
MET values for common activities:
intense free weight training
moderate machine training
So here's the formula:
- Cost of Exercise Activity = Body Mass (in kg) x Duration (in hours) x MET value
And here's how I calculate it for myself:
- Exercise Expenditure for weights = 6 METS X 91kg x 1.5 hours = 819 calories Exercise Expenditure for cardio = 3 METS X 91 kg x .5 hours = 137 calories
Add these two together and I burn 956 total calories during one of my training sessions.
Since my training includes about 90 minutes of intense free weight training and 30 minutes of low intensity bicycling (four times per week), my exercise energy expenditure might be as high as 1000 calories per training day!
The next step is to add this exercise number to the number you generated when multiplying your RMR by your activity factor (3800 calories per day in my case).
So 3800 calories + about 1000 calories = a whopping 4800 calories per day! And we're not done yet! (Note: I rounded 956 up to 1000 for the sake of simplicity. If you're a thin guy trying to gain muscle, it's better to round up anyway than to round down.)
Step #3: Thermic Effect of Food
TEF is the amount of calories that it takes your body to digest, absorb, and metabolize your ingested food intake. This makes up about 5 to 15% of your total daily calorie expenditure. Since the metabolic rate is elevated via this mechanism 10 to 15% for one to four hours after a meal, the more meals you eat per day, the faster your metabolic rate will be. This is a good thing, though. It's far better to keep the metabolism high and eat above that level, than to allow the metabolism to slow down by eating infrequently. Protein tends to increase TEF to a rate double that of carbs and almost triple that of fats so that's one of the reasons why I'm a big fan of protein meals.
Determining the Thermic Effect of Food
To determine the TEF, you need to multiply your original RMR value (2400 in my case) by 0.10 for a moderate protein diet or 0.15 for a high protein diet. So this is what the formula looks like:
TEF = RMR x 0.10 for moderate protein diet (1 gram per pound of bodyweight)
TEF = RMR x 0.15 for high protein diet (more than 1 gram per pound of bodyweight)
Since I eat a very high protein diet (about 350 to 400 grams per day), I use the 0.15 factor and my TEF is about 360 calories per day as displayed by the calculation below:
Thermic Effect of Food = 2400 calories x 0.15 = 360 calories per day
Now add that to your calorie total.
Step #4: Adaptive Thermogenesis
I like to call Adaptive Thermogenesis the "X factor" because we just aren't sure how much it can contribute to daily caloric needs. Some have predicted that it can either increase daily needs by 10% or even decrease daily needs by 10%. Because it's still a mystery, we typically don't factor it into the equation.
Just for interest's sake, one factor included in the "X factor" is unconscious or spontaneous activity. Some people, when overfed, get hyper and increase their spontaneous activity and even have been known to be "fidgety." Others just get sleepy when overfed � obviously the fidgeters will be burning more calories that the sleepy ones.
Other factors include hormone responses to feeding, training, and drugs, hormone sensitivity (insulin, thyroid, etc), stress (dramatically increases metabolic rate) or temperature induced metabolic changes (cold weather induces increased metabolic activity and heat production).
With all that said, you don't need to do any math on this part or fiddle with your calorie total. This is just something to keep in mind.
Step #5: Putting it all together
Okay, so how many damn calories do you need to consume each and every day? Well, adding up RMR plus activity factor (3800 calories in my case), cost of weight training (819 calories), cost of cardio (137 calories), and TEF (360 calories), we get a grand total of about 5116 calories! (Remember, that's just my total. You'll get a different number.)
Now that's a lot of food! And I must eat this each and every day when I want to gain weight. Are you surprised at how many calories I need? Most people are. So the next time you complain that you're "eating all day and can't gain a pound" you'd better realistically evaluate how much you're really eating. If you're not gaining a pound, then you're falling short on calories.
The Secret is in the Surplus!
So at this point, the keen T-mag readers that aren't afraid of massive eating might ask the question, "Since this is technically just your maintenance level, how can you get bigger by eating this amount? Wouldn't you need more?" The answer is simple. Since I train only four days per week this diet would meet my needs on those four days. But on my three off days per week I'd be in positive calorie balance by about 1,000 calories per day! (That extra thousand calories isn't being used when training, in other words.) This adds up to a surplus of 3,000 calories per week. And this is where the growth happens!
I especially like this "staggered model" because rather than trying to stagger your calorie intake on a daily basis by eating different amounts of food on different days, I let my training cycle my calories for me. This way I can eat the same thing every day while preventing my body from adapting to that habitual level of intake. Just like we vary our training to prevent adaptation, prevention of dietary adaptation is one of the secrets to changing your body composition.
At this point, I want to stop and give you a week to think about your energy needs. Go do the math if you haven't already, figure out how many calories you need, and take some time to compose yourself. After you've realized that you've been grossly under-eating, start thinking about ways to add calories to your diet.
In the next installment we'll discuss how to design an eating program that's individualized for your own needs. We'll also get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about what kinds of foods you should and shouldn't be eating. I'll meet you back here next week!
Part 2: Meal Combinations and Individual Differences
Now that I know how much to eat, what's next?
Eating to get massive is a juggling act between three important concepts. As I stated in Part I, energy balance is only one. In focusing only on energy balance, individuals are ignoring the acute effects of eating on hormones, metabolism, and energy storage. So someone who argues that calorie balance is the only determinant in changing body composition is making the situation too simplistic.
One of the goals of eating to grow should be to maximize the muscle gain to fat gain ratio. Basically you want to pack on the most muscle with the least amount of fat gain. To do this you need to understand which meal combos to pursue and which to avoid. The foundations of my recommendations in this area are based on the avoidance of a nasty scenario. The worst case scenario for someone trying to pack on muscle while minimizing fat gain is to have high blood levels of carbs, fat, and insulin at the same time.
This is nasty because chronic elevation of insulin can increase the rate of transport of fats and carbs into fat cells. Although initially insulin shuttles nutrients into muscle cells, chronic insulin elevation will cause the muscles to become insulin resistant and refuse to take up nutrients. The adipose tissues, however, are greedy little pieces of cellular machinery and continue to take up nutrients at a rapid rate. So if you always have high levels of blood fats and carbs in the presence of insulin (the kind your body makes, not the kind that comes in a syringe), your muscles will slow their uptake of nutrients and all that fat and carbs will feed the fat cells. Can you say Shamu?
Before you make a rash decision and try to eliminate insulin, I've got to let you know that insulin is very anabolic. It's responsible for carb and amino acid delivery to the muscles for recovery and growth. So you need insulin, but you need to control it. And when you eat to promote insulin surges, you've got to be sure that you have the ideal profile of macronutrients in your blood to ensure that this insulin surge leads to muscle gain and not fat gain. This is where meal combinations come into play.
Let's start with some meal combinations to avoid.
Avoid meals containing fats and carbs
Unfortunately, this is the typical meal of the Western diet. As a result, it's no wonder that obesity is an epidemic. Meals with a high carbohydrate content in combination with high-fat meals can actually promote a synergistic insulin release when compared to the two alone. High fat with high-carb meals represent the worst possible case scenario.
Now, some people have argued that fat lowers the glycemic index of foods and should therefore be included in carb meals. But remember, the glycemic index only gives a measure of glucose response to a meal, not insulin response. And sometimes the glucose responses to a meal and the insulin responses to a meal aren't well correlated. So although you might be slowing the rate of glucose absorption into the blood by adding fat to your meals, you'll promote high blood levels of fats, carbs, and insulin. And that's a no-no!
Avoid meals high in carbs alone
Ironically, since the liver converts excess carbohydrates into fats, a very high carbohydrate meal can actually lead to a blood profile that looks like you just ate a high carb and high-fat meal! That's why high-carb diets don't work any better than ones rich in fats and carbs. High carb meals easily promote high blood levels of fats, carbs, and insulin, too.
Okay, so now that we know which meal combinations are evil. Let's be proactive and talk about what meal combinations to concentrate on.
Eat meals containing protein and carbs (with minimal fat)
It's well known in the research world that eating carbs and protein together also creates a synergistic insulin release (much like the fat and carb meals above). But in this scenario, that insulin release is just what we want. By having a few meals per day that cause high blood levels of insulin, carbs, and amino acids (as long you don't have chronic high blood levels of insulin all day long), the body tends to become very anabolic, taking up all those carbs and amino acids into the muscle cells for protein and glycogen synthesis. And since there's no excess fat for the fat cells, fat gain is minimized.
Obviously this combination is beneficial during the post-workout period, but in addition you might want one or two additional insulin spikes per day to promote anabolism during a mass phase. Again, as long as you aren't elevating insulin all day long, you won't become insulin resistant.
At this point some may argue that although this scenario might not promote fat gain, those high insulin levels will prevent fat breakdown (lipolysis). And they're completely correct! But you have to understand that most meals (unless they contain only certain types of protein) will elevate insulin levels to the point that lipolysis is prevented. So you can't escape that unless you eat a ketogenic diet with only specific types of low insulin releasing proteins. But since ketogenic diets don't put on muscle mass and there are all sorts of problems associated with them, I think they should be avoided. Since muscle gain is the goal, two or three meals per day of anabolism are necessary to get bigger and that means protein plus carbs with minimal to no fat.
Eat meals containing protein and fat (with minimal carbs)
Although it's desirable to eat some meals each day that release lots of insulin, upregulate protein synthesis, and fill up carb stores, it's advisable to avoid too many such meals. I discussed the reasons for this above (reduced insulin sensitivity and prevention of fat burning), but also, since we all know that essential fatty acids are so important to health and favorable body composition, eating protein and carb meals all day will prevent the ingestion of healthy fats. And that's no good.
In an attempt to balance out your two or three carb plus protein (minimal fat) meals each day, you should be eating an additional two to three meals consisting of protein and fat with minimal carbs. Taking in 30% of each major class of fatty acids (polyunsaturates, monounsaturates, saturates) is a good mass building tip when thinking about which fats to consume.
Taking a step back, the purpose of protein plus fat meals is to provide energy and amino acids without causing large, lipolysis-preventing insulin spikes. In addition, after fatty meals that contain no carbs, the body oxidizes less carbs (more carbs are stored and retained in the muscle as glycogen) and burns more fat for energy. So basically you'll be burning fat for energy and storing carbs in the muscle after such meals.
I hope that it's clear now that by properly combining meals, you can use the acute effects of food to your advantage. Eat protein plus fat during some meals and you may be burning fat during certain portions of the day. Eat protein plus carbs for some meals and you may be growing during other portions of the day. Although I know some will think this is blasphemy, this type of eating may actually help you get bigger while reducing your body fat during the same training phase.
Don't you hate it when you read a diet article only to find yourself asking, "So what exactly do I eat anyway?" Well, here are some examples of typical meals to consume when following this program:
Protein plus carb meals (minimal fat -- <5g)
- 2 scoops of protein powder mixed in with 1 serving of oatmeal
- 1 sliced banana
- 1 cup of regular or lactose free skim milk
- 1 serving Grow!
- 1 can tuna fish
- 1 cup of regular or lactose free skim milk
- 2 pieces of whole grain bread
- 8 egg whites
- 1 scoop of protein in 1 serving of oatmeal
- 1 slice of whole grain bread
- 1 piece of fat free cheese
- 2 cups of regular or lactose free skim milk
- 1 scoop protein
- 2 pieces of fruit
Here's a list of good carbs and protein for the protein plus carbohydrate meals:
Carbs: apples, oranges, oatmeal, all bran cereals, vegetables, mueslix, white pasta, flax bread, yams
Protein: chicken, whey, casein, turkey, egg whites, skim milk, tuna, cottage cheese
Protein plus fat meals (minimal carbs -- <10g)
- 1 can salmon
- 1 scoop protein powder in water
- 1 tablespoon of concentrated fish oils
- 8-12 oz lean beef
- Fat free cheese
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 can tuna fish
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tablespoon of concentrated fish oils
- 2 scoops protein powder in water
- 1 tablespoon flax oil
Here's a list of good fats and proteins for the protein plus fat meals:
Fats: Concentrated fish oils (PUFA-omega 3), flaxseed oil (PUFA-omega 3 and 6), olive oil (MUFA), canola oil (MUFA and PUFA), fat from nuts (MUFA and PUFA), fat from beef and eggs, animal fat (SFA)
Proteins: beef, salmon, whey, casein, turkey, whole eggs, pork
Individual Differences -- Are You Sensitive?
In the last section I recommended splitting six daily meals up into about three protein and carb meals and about three protein and fat meals. This plan works well for most people in terms of maximizing muscle gain while minimizing fat gain when overfeeding. However, just like different training programs are necessary for different individuals, individual responses to nutrition are varied. So rather than telling you that there's one program for all, I hope to give you some tips so that you can determine which eating plan is best for you.
The factors governing your response to different nutritional intakes are pretty diverse, but one major factor I've been focusing on lately is insulin and glucose tolerance. In my mind, insulin sensitivity seems to be the most important factor dictating how the body will handle carbs. For those who have high insulin sensitivity, the body responds to carb intake with small insulin surges. Although the insulin surges are small, the cells are very responsive to that little amount of insulin and do a great job of becoming anabolic. Since lots of insulin can inhibit fat loss, the ideal scenario is to become very insulin sensitive so that only small amounts of insulin are required for anabolism and so that those small amounts of insulin don't prevent fat loss.
In my experience, individuals who have high insulin sensitivity maximize their muscle to fat ratio on diets that are high in carbs and lower in fat (50% carbs, 35% protein, 15% fat). Those with moderate insulin sensitivity tend to do best on diets that are more isocaloric (30% carbs, 40% protein, 30% fat). And those with poor insulin sensitivity do best on diets that are low in carbs (50% protein, 35% fat, 15% carbs).
So within the framework of this article, if you're highly insulin sensitive, more than three of your daily meals would be carb plus protein meals. If your insulin sensitivity isn't so great, more than three of your meals will be protein plus fat.
Insulin Sensitivity -- I Want Your Blood
So the next question is how do you know if you're sensitive or not? Did you cry at the end of Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio's character sank like a blue Freezer Pop into the North Atlantic? Well, there you go; you're sensitive. Me? I cried like a baby. Okay, okay, actually there are several methods.
The easiest thing to do is just think about what types of diets you respond to best. If low carb diets work great for you, then you're probably insulin insensitive. If you can eat a lot of carbs and not get fat then you're probably insulin sensitive. If you'd like something more concrete than that, read on.
Some experts use very simplistic recommendations for testing insulin sensitivity, methods I disagree with. For example, I've heard the statement that if you have an apple-shaped physique or if you get sleepy after a carb meal then you're insulin resistant (insensitive). In my opinion, these are way too non-specific and tell you very little about your nutrient needs or if you're making progress.
Instead, I prefer methods that, although more time consuming, are objective. The first is an oral glucose tolerance test. For this you need to go to your local pharmacy and purchase a glucometer, some glucose test strips, and a standard glucose beverage (ask your pharmacist about this because it has to be a specific kind. Pepsi won't work). Once you've got the goods, you'll plan your test.
After going at least 24 hours without exercise (do this test after a day off from training), you'll wake up in the morning (fasted at least 12 hours) and you'll take a blood sample from your finger tip. Write down this number. Then drink your glucose beverage and continue to take blood samples at 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes. Record all the numbers at each time point. Here's a little chart of what you should expect:
Normal Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Tolerance
Excellent Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Tolerance
Fasted Blood Glucose
Peak Blood Glucose
<180mg/dl at peak
Time to Maximum Blood Glucose Level
Time Back to Fasted Glucose Level
The second test that I like to recommend for assessing insulin sensitivity is a fasted glucose and insulin test. For this you need to see your doctor. This test is simply a blood draw in the fasted state. It's easy to do. Just schedule an appointment, the nurse will do a single blood draw, and then the lab will measure the levels of insulin and glucose in your blood at this time. Using one of the following equations, you'll have both an insulin sensitivity score and a pancreatic responsiveness score:
Insulin Sensitivity =
- Fasted Insulin (mU/L) / 22.5 x E to the X e-ln(Fasted Glucose (mmol/L))
Pancreatic Beta Cell Function =
- (20 x Fasted Insulin (mU/L)) / (Fasted Glucose (mmol/L)-3.5)
If you're not a math whiz or don't own a calculator, have your doctor do the math for you. Remember, you have to go to his office to get the test done in the first place. Once you have these values, compare your numbers to the following to see how sensitive you are:
Lower score = more sensitive
- Normal insulin sensitivity: score should be below 2 Excellent insulin sensitivity: score will be around 0.5
Pancreatic Beta Cell Function
Higher = better pancreatic function and insulin release
- Normal pancreatic function: score should be about 100 Excellent pancreatic function: score will be above 200
Once you've collected these measures, you'll have a better indication of what type of diet you need to consume. I recommend doing these tests at least once every few months to see how your diet and training is impacting your insulin sensitivity.
Let's Get Sensitive!
So let's assume that you've done the tests mentioned above and you weren't happy with the results. You're insulin insensitive and, dammit, you don't like it! Well, instead of resigning yourself to a flabby midsection for the remainder of your days there are some things you can do to increase insulin sensitivity.
Both aerobic and resistance training greatly increase insulin sensitivity through a variety of mechanisms. So include both in your program. I've seen tremendous increases in insulin sensitivity with three to four intense weight training sessions per week lasting 1 to 1.5 hours per session. These sessions should be coupled with at least three or four aerobic sessions lasting 30 minutes per session. To really target insulin sensitivity, you'd want to perform weight training and cardio separately.
In addition, supplements like omega 3 fatty acids, fish oils, alpha-lipoic acid, and chromium can increase insulin sensitivity. I typically recommend starting out with 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and concentrated fish oils containing a total of six to ten grams of DHA and EPA (the most active omega 3 fats in fish oils).
On the flip side, stimulants like ephedrine and caffeine can decrease insulin sensitivity due to their effects on metabolism. Furthermore, the low carb, high-fat diets that have become popular can also lead to decreased insulin sensitivity. That's why my trainees don't take stimulants or go on no-carb diets (unless they're dieting down for a show and then they'll do occasional no-carb diets every few months for a maximum of three weeks at a time).
So if your insulin sensitivity isn't ideal the first time you measure it, try the approaches I listed above. Then go back after a month or two and re-test. You'll see that the numbers look much better.
Individual Differences -- Experimentation
Even though the last section will help you better define where you stand with the insulin issue, probably the most productive way of determining which eating program is best for you is to experiment on yourself. So for eight weeks, I encourage you to follow a 50% carb, 25% protein, and 15% fat diet that exceeds your energy needs (as determined in Part I of this article). During this time, record your gains in terms of muscle mass and fat mass. This will give you a muscle:fat ratio.
Then go back to your normal eating for eight weeks. After those eight weeks, try a new diet of 30% carbs, 40% protein, and 30% fat for eight more weeks. Again record the muscle:fat ratio.
After these 24 weeks you should know which type of diet is more effective for your body type. I know it seems like quite a bit of time to devote to figuring out your eating needs, but assuming that you've been training for years or plan to be training for years to come, 24 weeks is only a small period of time. In addition, the results of your efforts will be applicable for the rest of your life.
Remember, however, that when constructing your eating plan you must realize that just because you're following a diet with 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fat or a diet 30% carbs, 40% protein, and 30% fat, that doesn't mean that each meal is made up of these proportions. In fact, the meals should not all be of these proportions because this will mean undesirable blood levels of fat, carbs, and insulin. So using the techniques I taught you during the meal combination section, design a plan that has different proportions of macronutrients during different meal times but that achieves the optimal proportions of (40-30-30 or 50-25-15) by the end of the day.
Here's a quick and dirty summary of the Massive Eating plan:
- Read Part I and determine your daily caloric needs.
- Eat meals consisting of fat and protein together with very little carbs. Also eat protein and carbs together, but with very little fat in those meals. Don't eat carbs by themselves and don't eat carbs with fat.
- Determine your macronutrient ratios based on your level of insulin sensitivity. You can do this with the tests I explained or you can just try different diets consisting of different rations of protein, carbs and fat. If you're insulin insensitive you can do something about it by following my suggestions above.
Remember, if you aren't putting on muscle while following a good weight training program, then it's probably your diet that's to blame. With Massive Eating, your problem is solved, so no more excuses! If you ever find yourself making statements about your genetic limitations or your unreasonably fast metabolism, revisit these articles for a wake up call. "Limitations" can become challenges to work through or just weak excuses that keep you down.
Now, shouldn't you go get something to eat?
John M Berardi is a scientist and PhD candidate in the area of Exercise and Nutritional Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He also serves as a nutrition and training consultant to numerous athletes including US Olympic and NCAA track and field athletes, world-class endurance athletes, collegiate and professional football players, strength competitors, and bodybuilders. You can contact him for professional consultation at JMBMUSCLE@hotmail.com.