Putting a diet together to add muscular bodyweight is a lot easier with access to weight gain supplements like Applied Nutrition Critical Mass, but its still easier to get it totally wrong than it is to get it totally right. But like most things, with knowledge and a little bit of preparation, its amazing how good a result anyone can achieve with surprisingly little effort.
The starting point is to get a baseline for your mass gaining calorie needs. To begin pick a number between 0 and 10 to indicate your normal daily activity level (exclude exercise) with 0 being totally inactive (lying down), 3 a typical office job, 6 a moderate activity job being on your feet most of the day, and 10 a hard physical activity being on your feet all day, rushing about, and handling heavy items or hard manual labour.
Add this number to 10 and multipy the result by your bodyweight in pounds.
Now add 250 for every half hour of exercise you do in an average day
and an additional 500 for the stimulus to gain around 1lb of bodyweight
As an example, if we took a 200 lb man, who does 3.5 hours exercise a week and has a stock management based desk job which also includes handling stock in the warehouse for2-3 hours each day.
He would estimate his daily activity level as 5.
His calorie needs would then be 5+10, giving 15 which he multiplies by 200 giving 3000. He then adds 250 for his daily exercise and 500 to gain weight, giving 3750 calories required per day.
This total, 3750, is his base calorie level to gain around 1lb per
week. We'll park this number for a bit and come back to it later.
Protein is the fundamental building material for every cell in our body, and excluding water makes up 90% of muscle tissue. Most sports nutritionists generally estimate that around 0.75 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is the target to support repairing and building muscle for a sports person.
Using our 200lb man this gives a daily protein requirement of
between 150g and 250g. For practical purposes its generally suggested
to use 1g per pound of bodyweight (the mid point), which would be 200g
There are 4 calories per gram of protein, so 200g of protein
provides 800 calories.
For optimum health and to support muscle gain, a person needs around
0.25g of essential fats per pound of bodyweight. Essential fats are
used to build body cell walls and every hormone manufactured by our
body.In this example of a 200lb person, this gives 50g of essentail
fats. Total fats should not exceed 1.5 times this number, which in the
case of a 200lb person represents a total of 75g of total fats. So you
can have upto 25g of saturated fats which will come naturally from
meats, eggs, milk etc.
There are 9 calories per gram of fats, so 75g of fats will provide
Carbohydrates are the primary energy source of our body, and are the only energy source for anerobic exercise, such as weight training and muscle and strength based exercise.
The remained of your calories should come from carbohydrates. So in the case of the 200lb man who needs 3750 calories and who gets 800 calories from protein and 675 calories from fat that remainder would be 2275 calories.
As carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, in our 200lb man example,
this would be 569g of carbohydrates. Ideally most of these will come
from higher fibre, natural carbohydrate sources (generally in the form
of low glycemic carbohydrates) with the remainder coming from simpler
carbohydrates such as fruit sugars, milk sugars, and longer chain
Ok, so we know we need 33750 calories comprissed of 569g of carbohydrates,75g of fat and 200g of protein, so its simple yes?
Well no, the reality is that no-one can stick to such a rigerous
level of eating day in, day out, even if they were prepared to measure
everything they ate. So its a big jump from knowing what to eat, to
actually eating it.
Luckily, for one aspect at least, we dont have to be so rigerous that we eat exactly the right proportions every day, its enough that we average it out over a few days, say a week for example. So for our 200lb man needing 200g of protein per day he might eat 150g one day and 250g the next, but so long as he aims for 1400g per week and gets pretty close he's doing perfectly well.
The second bit of luck is that we are creatures of habit, and that with a little bit of preparation, we can develop a habit that will keep us close enough to these figures to achieve the results you want.
In other words, as I started by saying, a little knowledge and
preparation can turn any problem into a surprisingly easy task.
Recognise that this is an iterative process and that it may well take a few weeks to get it working. It will take even longer to get it dead right, but once you do, it will serve you well for many years with very little effort.
The first part of this process is tedious, but it doest last long, so bear with it.
For the first week, make the changes you think you need to make to correct your diet. Weigh your food, read the labels on packets, and write everything down, calories, carbs, fats and protein.
Once you weigh out a portion, lets use rice as an example, you can pour it into a cup. Remember how full the cup is, and after weighing it a couple of times you'll get to be able to judge your portion without weighing it just be seeing where it comes up to in the cup.
After each day see how close you came to your targets and make appropriate adjustments, continue to measure your foods.
At the end of the first week your overall dietary totals may be
someway off, in which case plan the changes you need to make and repeat
this step of the process.
Once you have your diet fairly stable, with all your regular foods at the point you can judge portion size by eye, the whole process becomes a lot simpler. You're now just going to adjust it to keep your rate of weight gain at a good level of around 1lb per week.
If you gained more than 2lb in a week, make a small adjustment and reduce your calorie level by around 400 calories a day by taking away about 100g of carbohydrates throwout the day.
However, if you haven't gained weight, then the first step is to
make sure your protein and fat intakes are at the high end of their
targets. If thats already the case, then next week, plan to add 100g of
carbohydrates to each days intake.
Repeat this increase each week that your weight doesn't increase.
Clearly, picking the best weight gainers such as Applied Nutrition Critical Mass make lighter work of this whole process as servings are easy to measure and the calorie and nutritional split is easily known.
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