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If you're ready to GET BIG FAST; if you want to put on pounds of powerful, rippling muscle; if you want to build broad shoulders, a wide back, a thick chest, huge arms and legs; let us show YOU how get to there.
Putting on lots of muscle is not rocket science. But it takes work and the right program. If you make mistakes... you get no results and waste precious time. Labrada can take the guesswork out of it for you.
Take that important first step NOW and GET BIG FAST-- start by reading below!
Gaining weight isn’t exactly hard to do: unless you’re a true “hard gainer” (rare), an endurance athlete or have a physically-demanding job, you shouldn’t have any trouble eating enough food to bulk up!
Gaining quality weight is another matter, however.
In the old days, bodybuilders ate indiscriminately in the off-season. Sure, they added muscle… but they also packed on a lot of extra fat – which would then have to be laboriously dieted off.
Needless to state, this isn’t a very healthy way to go about it. Regularly gaining and losing large amounts of weight (aka “weight cycling”) is also problematic.1
Nowadays, bodybuilders focus on staying in shape during the off-season. It’s still a time for gaining weight, yes, but our goal is to gain lean muscle weight, without adding a lot of excess fat. This requires us to be much more discriminating about what – and how much – we eat year-round.
This applies to the guy who’d like to build a better beach body, too. You may not aspire to be a professional bodybuilder, but the same “tricks of the trade” will help you in your quest to build more muscle mass and improve your physique.
As the comment about “staying in shape during the off-season” implies, it’s a good idea to have your body fat under control before focusing on gaining weight/mass. From a purely visual perspective, there’s not much point to adding muscle if it’s buried under a layer of fat! You’ll look bigger all right, but not in a good way. In addition, if your dietary discipline is weak, you’ll end up with even more body fat than you started with… not good.
In general, men should have no more than 14% body fat (18% for women) when embarking on a mass gain program.
If you need to lean out first, check out the Lean Body Promise or my 12-week Lean Body Challenge for guidelines and recommendations.
A calorie (actually a kilocalorie) is a unit of energy. Scientifically speaking, it's the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1°C. Since your body maintains a core temperature of roughly 37°C, 24/7, it’s obvious that you need a certain number of calories just to exist. The number of calories needed to perform basic life functions (like breathing and thinking) is known as your resting energy expenditure (REE).
Activities such as walking, talking, eating and – yes – exercise require additional energy. So, your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is your REE, plus the energy used for physical activity and digestion (aka the “thermic effect of food”).
To put it another way…
Your TDEE is the total number of calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight.
Not surprisingly, this is the starting point for any plan designed to chisel off body fat, including this one. So forget about ads for books, programs or supplements that claim you can "eat all you want and still lose weight." If you want to reduce your body fat, you need to reduce your calorie intake, too – that’s the bottom line.
Your TDEE is the total number of calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight.
Not surprisingly, this is the starting point for any plan designed to gain lean mass, including this one. It takes surplus calories to build muscle, but not so many that they add to your love handles, rather than your quads, pecs or biceps! Thus, the number of extra calories you consume each day needs to be tightly controlled. Unless you’re still in your teens; are highly active (competitive sports or physical labor); or are “hard-wired” to be thin (ectomorph) – no-holds-barred eating is a recipe for disaster.
Obviously, there’s more to gaining mass than just eating the right number of calories: you also need to consider where those calories come from. For lean gains, you need the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
You need to consume high-quality, lean protein to build muscle. A good amount of protein to aim for is 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. This is more than most dieticians recommend, but it’s perfect for strength/physique athletes wanting to add lean body mass. Your protein sources should be low in fat, as fat is a highly concentrated source of calories! The “hidden” calories in fatty meats, cheeses and restaurant/fast foods can easily tip the scales in favor of fat, rather than muscle gains.
|Optimal Protein Sources||Sub-Optimal Protein Sources|
|lean beef (flank steak, beef tenderloin, 96% lean ground beef)||deli meats|
|skinless chicken breast||hard cheeses/processed cheese|
|turkey breast||lunch meats/hot dogs|
|fish/shellfish||whole milk/milk drinks/milk substitutes|
|pork tenderloin||fried chicken/fish|
|non-fat cottage cheese||ground beef with >4% fat (by weight)|
|nonfat Greek yogurt (plain)||cuts meat with visible fat/marbling|
|water-packed tuna||buffalo wings, bbq ribs|
Note: don’t be fooled by front-of-package labeling! This may come as a surprise, but more than half of the calories in 15% “lean” ground beef come from fat! This is because the label is based on the percentage of fat by weight. Since fat is a concentrated source of calories, even small amounts of fat can add a lot of unwanted calories.
As you can see from the table, an optimal source of protein is…
Meat, fish, poultry, egg and dairy proteins are not only concentrated sources of protein; they’re also rich in the essential amino acids (EAAs) that our bodies cannot make. One of these, leucine, is especially important for muscle protein synthesis.2 By contrast, plant foods contain less protein (and leucine!) overall; and may be deficient in one or more EAAs.
Meat and fish are concentrated sources of protein and essential amino acids, so it’s not hard for omnivores to eat the recommended amount of protein. Vegetarians, however, may have a tougher time. If you're a lacto-ovo vegetarian, the void left by meat can be partially filled with eggs/whites, lower fat dairy foods like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt and - of course – high-quality protein supplements like Lean Pro8 or Lean Body®.
But vegans can also manage, if they choose their foods and supplements wisely. Vegans should focus on plant foods that contain the highest amount of protein, such as lentils, soybeans, split peas and other legumes; peanuts/peanut butter, spinach, oatmeal and whole grains (including products like whole wheat pasta and bread). Certain specialty products (like “Quorn” or "Gardenburgers") and plant-based protein supplements (brown rice, pea, soy and hemp protein powders) can also be used, although whole/minimally processed foods should form the core of your diet.
Vegans/vegetarians may also come up short in certain food elements that omnivores take for granted: vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, creatine, vitamin D (assuming lack of daily sun exposure),3 EPA/DHA4 and carnosine.5 Certain supplements in my line are perfect for vegans, such as my BA-Endurance, EFA Lean Gold, CreaLean, Kre-Alkalyn, BCAA Power and HICA-Max, as they restore the carnosine, EFAs, creatine and certain essential amino acids that may be lacking in a vegan diet.
As noted above, fat can contribute a lot of extra calories to your diet. Nonetheless, some dietary fat is important for good health and optimal anabolic hormone levels. A little goes a long way, though, since fat contains 9 calories/g vs. 4 calories/g for protein & carbs. Because of this, limit your fat intake to small servings of natural, whole food sources and unrefined/supplemental oils, such as the ones listed below.
|Optimal Fat Sources||Sub-Optimal Fat Sources|
|almonds/walnuts/pistachios||commercial cooking oils|
|ground flax seed||margarine/butter|
|hemp/sunflower/sesame seeds||commercial salad dressings/mayonnaise|
|avocadoes||whole milk/half & half/cream|
|extra-virgin olive oil||shortening/lard|
|fish oil||ground beef with >4% fat (by weight)|
|EFA Lean Gold||cuts of meat with visible fat/marbling|
Note: be especially wary of foods containing “partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Partially-hydrogenated oils contain harmful trans-fats, which are linked to heart disease and strokes. 6
What makes the fat sources on the left better choices than the ones on the right? The ones on the left provide heart-healthy monounsaturated and/or omega-3 essential fatty acids. Foods like nuts, seeds, avocadoes and salmon also supply valuable nutrients in addition to the fat. On the other hand, the fat sources on the right contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, trans-fats and/or pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.7
Carbs are not the enemy, despite what low-carb advocates claim. Complex carb sources like fresh vegetables/fruits, legumes and whole grains provide energy, vitamins/minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber - which are important for both athletic performance and long-term health. When you're training heavily, complex carbs - taken at the right times in the right amounts - can be your best friend!
|Optimal Carb Sources||Sub-Optimal Carb Sources|
|sweet potatoes/yams; white potatoes||french fries/potato chips|
|brown/wild rice, barley, quinoa||white rice|
|old-fashioned/steel-cut oatmeal||packaged, ready-to-eat cereals|
|100% whole wheat bread/pasta||bread/pasta made with “enriched” white flour|
|legumes (beans and dried, split peas)||baked beans; canned bean/pea soups|
|fresh and frozen (unseasoned) vegetables||sauced/buttered frozen vegetables|
|fresh and frozen (unsweetened) fruit||dried fruit/”fruit snacks”/juices/juice drinks|
|Rye Crispbreads||commercial crackers and tortilla chips|
|corn tortillas; air-popped popcorn||jams/jellies/honey/agave syrup/sugar/maple syrup|
|Power-Carb||candy, cookies, snack cakes, breakfast bars|
|sweetened coffee drinks, energy drinks, Gatorade, sodas, “Vitamin Water”|
Note: don’t be misled by front-of-package terms like “organic,” “natural,” “healthy,” “made with whole grains,” or “low fat.” Organic sugar and “natural” unbleached white flour aren’t any better for you than their conventional counterparts. Likewise, many products “made with whole grains” are simply white flour products, with a few grams of whole grain flour added to justify the label claim.
In truth, many so-called "healthy" food products aren't good for you at all: they're just less unhealthy than the “regular” versions. A truly healthy food will make a strong, positive contribution to your diet, not simply contain fewer "bad" ingredients.
It should be easy to see the differences between the optimal and sub-optimal carb sources in the table above. An optimal carb source…
Eating 2.0g of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight should be just about right for most people looking to limit fat gains; although men with physically demanding jobs or activities may need up to 3.0g of carbohydrate per pound.
It goes without saying that you should strive to eat more than 3 meals a day! For most people looking to add quality weight, 5 – 6 meals a day is ideal. Eating frequent, smaller meals helps gainers feel energetic, rather than stuffed and sluggish. This system helps prevent overeating, keeps insulin (a fat-storing hormone) levels lower,8 and provides a steady supply of protein to your body throughout the day.
Note: you don’t have to be a slave to the kitchen to manage 5 – 6 daily meals! While eating frequent, protein-packed meals is important, you can rely on specially-formulated products – like Lean Body® Mass 60 or my Lean Body® – to fill in the blanks.
Putting it all together...
Use the Calculator to figure out what your intake of calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates should be, and divide it between 5 – 6 meals. Each meal should provide a balance of lean protein, “good” carbs and healthy fats.
Here’s a simple meal plan for a 200 pound man:
|Meal||Protein (g)||Carbs (g)||Fat (g)||Calories|
|Breakfast: Veggie/Eggbeater omelet, 1 cup oatmeal, 8 large strawberries, EFA Lean Gold||24||48||11||387|
|Mid-morning: 1 scoop Lean Body® Whole Foods shake; 1 large banana||37||62||6.5||455|
|Lunch: 3 oz. sliced chicken breast; 1 whole wheat sandwich roll broccoli florets/baby carrots/low-fat dip||37||55||14.5||499|
|Mid-afternoon: Cookie Roll Snack Bar; large apple||26||66||8.5||445|
|Pre-Workout: Super Charge Xtreme, 2 scoops of Power Carb||0||58||0||232|
|Post-Workout: 3 scoops of Lean Body® Mass 60||45||57||5.5||458|
|Dinner: 4 oz. grilled orange roughy, 1 c. steamed brown rice pilaf, steamed green beans, spinach salad w/1T olive oil-vinaigrette dressing; EFA Lean Gold||33||57||12.5||473|
Note: pre- and post-workout supplements have been added to the above plan. Although they’re not formal meals or snacks, they still count toward your total calories, protein and carbohydrates. You will not need these supplements on days when you’re not training, so the calories/macronutrients should be divided amongst your regular meals/snacks.
As you can see, each meal features a solid amount of lean protein, a source of healthy fat, vegetables, and a starchy/complex carb source or fruit. While leafy green/fibrous veggies and fruits don’t provide a lot of calories, they’re still important for your health and well-being.
Keep a journal. If you're serious about your training, you already keep records of your exercises, sets, reps and loads. If you're serious about gaining muscle, you'll do the same for your meals. There are a number of online programs and mobile apps you can use to make this simple, although even pencil-and-paper will do. If you need to tweak your program (and most people do, at some point), your journal will provide you with valuable insights on how to do it.
Measure your food. The “normal” portions we’re used to eating and drinking have expanded over the years... and Americans have been expanding right along with them! "Portion distortion" is one reason why people add excess body fat: they're eating many more calories than they think they are! Take peanut butter for an example: a "serving" is two LEVEL tablespoons. Most Americans use heaping spoonfuls, which are equivalent to 2 - 3 servings. Even small underestimates, over the course of day can add up to a lot of extra calories.
Measure your progress. Don't rely solely on the scale, as simple changes in weight can be deceiving. Since you’re trying to limit fat gains, you need a method for assessing changes to your fat and lean mass. The simplest and best method is to pick up an inexpensive caliper, Accu-Measure™.
Plan ahead! Shakes and bars can be lifesavers, but you still need to eat real food! To make this easier, you should prepare certain staples in advance. It's easy, for example, to put together a quick, healthy stir fry, if you have pre-chopped veggies, grilled chicken breasts and pre-cooked brown rice already stored in the fridge or freezer.
Pack a cooler. There are a lot of simple to prepare-and-eat foods you can take with you to work: sliced pre-cooked meat or poultry, raw veggies/grape tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, wholegrain crispbreads, cottage cheese/Greek yogurt (plain), foil tuna packets, pre-made (deli or home) tabouli and hummus are some examples. If you have access to a microwave, you can also bring leftover chili, stew or other entrees from home.
Don’t forget to pack some healthy snack foods too! Raw (or lightly toasted) nuts/seeds, jerky, Rockin’ Roll Bars or Cookie Roll Bars need no refrigeration and fit easily into a pocket or backpack: perfect for munching on-the-go.
Limit your alcohol intake while you’re trying to gain mass. At 7 calories per gram, alcohol contributes more empty calories than pure sugar! You should be consuming (mostly) quality calories to gain quality weight!
Absolutely! While you don’t need many different products, a few, carefully chosen ones can make a big difference in your results.
A well-made weight gainer. For guys on the go, it can be tough to get enough calories in from solid food meals. This is where a product like Lean Body® Mass 60 comes in: one serving delivers 60 full grams of high-quality lean protein and 610 calories. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and creatine, yet is non-bloating and easy to digest. It’s complete enough to use throughout the day, in-between your regular meals, to make it easier to get the calories, protein and nutrition your muscles need to grow.
A solid pre-workout formula to enhance focus, training drive and workout performance. A lot of guys hit the weights after work, when they're fatigued and high on stress. The right pre-workout supplement can make a world of difference in the ability to give it 100% in the gym.
Unfortunately, all too many pre-workout formulas are padded with "label decoration" - irrelevant and/or poorly-researched compounds that look impressive on the label, but contribute little or nothing to its effectiveness. This is why I developed Super Charge: ALL of the ingredients in this clinically-proven formula have been thoroughly researched... and it tastes great, too!
Pre-workout carbs. A supplement like Power Carb is high octane fuel for your muscles. Taken before, during and/or after your workout, Power Carb provides you with the energy you need to pound the weights.
A good anti-catabolic. A lot of trainees focus on muscle protein synthesis (MPS); but when it comes to building muscle, MPS is only half of the story. The other half is reducing muscle protein breakdown! High-quality protein provides the building blocks for new muscle fibers, while a clinically-validated supplement like HICA-Max keeps catabolism at bay.9
Optional extras... Humanogrowth naturally supports healthy testosterone levels: a must when you’re trying to add size and strength. Likewise, a beta-alanine supplement like BA-Endurance can reduce muscular fatigue so you can power through more reps.10 CreaLean™ is a perfect source of creatine to augment what you get from Lean Body® Mass 60; while BCAA Power will help boost muscle protein synthesis AND reduce fatigue when taken before (or during) your workout.
You can get it on my new forum! If you hit a stumbling block, have questions or want to share your progress, log into labrada.com/forum! We want to hear from you!
Check out the Lean Body Promise, which is packed with motivational tips, recipes, workouts and detailed advice on getting lean and mean. And if you hit a stumbling block, have questions or want to share your progress, log into the forum at labrada.com! We’d love to hear from yo
win.niddk.nih.gov. “Weight Cycling.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, May 2008. 9 Dec. 2011 [Publication]
Harris RC, Jones G, Hill CA, et al. The carnosine content of V Lateralis in vegetarians and omnivores. FASEB. 2007;21:769.20. [Meeting Abstract]Heart.org. “Trans Fats.” American Heart Association, 29 Oct. 2010. 3 Nov. 2011 [Site]
Heart.org. “Trans Fats.” American Heart Association, 29 Oct. 2010. 3 Nov. 2011 [Site]
umm.edu. “Omega-6 Fatty Acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center: Complementary Medicine, 17 Jun. 2011. 5 Nov. 2011 [Site]
Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, et al. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res. 2008 Jan;28(1):31-5. [PubMed] [Abstract]