A couple years ago, I spent a summer as a personal trainer for a really slender college kid who had recently experienced a near brush with death. This young guy had the unfortunate habit of internalizing an enormous amount of stress when faced with his academic workload, especially during finals. There’s nothing unusual about that right? Well, except for the fact that when he would get stressed (which was nearly all of the time), he’d stop eating. This combination of semi-starvation and adrenaline-inducing stress had eventually led him to having a devastating ulcer. When the ulcer opened up like a flood gate one day, he ended up hospitalized after being lucky that the severe internal bleeding didn’t kill him.
Needless to say, he needed a lot of mind training before muscle training could reap benefits. The doctors found him so deficient of protein, he needed a daily iron supplement just to get his levels of this vital mineral up to par. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that protein deficiency is about as conducive to muscle growth as doing uphill summersaults to escape a tsunami. Steady intake of high quality protein is essential to muscle growth. Iron, present in meat, is important for adequate energy levels. If we didn’t first improve his mindset toward healthy eating, none of the physical training would have amounted to even a few ounces of muscle gain.
So what’s my point in sharing this story with you? Well, in my first article aimed at skinny guys, I really drove home the fact that stuffing down mega calories and haphazardly tossing weights around will rarely lead to mesomorphic nirvana. My point was that without having an optimal muscle breakdown/recuperation routine and schedule, all the calorie gorging one could partake in would just cause undue stress to the body and little or no muscle weight.
However, eating too little and too sporadically is detrimental as well. If you train like a tiger and eat like a bird, an optimal training/recuperation system will fail to deliver maximum results. In order to steadily gain muscle, you need to eat four to six meals a day consisting of 30 to 40 grams of protein per meal. You must also eat enough carbohydrates to fuel your daily activity energy expenditures while having a few grams left over for the energy requirements of muscle recuperation. This is not such a tall order. However, it can be somewhat daunting for those who have an aversion to eating like the young man I was training a couple summers ago.
So how many carbohydrate calories above your daily expenditure do you need for gaining muscle? Studies have shown that we need no more than two or three hundred above what would keep us at our present body mass. That’s about equivalent to eating a whopping three bananas or a couple bowls of oatmeal. Of course, you’d be best off by adding those few hundred extra carb calories evenly throughout your day. A meal every three hours with 40 grams of protein and 50 grams of additional carbohydrates is enough to put muscle on anyone, considering they’ve got the #1 key to muscle growth covered.
If this sounds inadequate, consider what I’ve done in the six weeks prior to this writing. I decided to get as ripped and low in body fat as I could. I reduced my calories and increased my activity until I was definitely burning more calories than I was consuming. Making sure to ingest enough protein, I ate a hefty 40 grams (at least) during each of my five daily meals. Not only did I NOT lose any muscle or strength I gained more. I actually built muscle while restricting my calorie intake.
That’s the power of obtaining the optimum muscle breakdown/recuperation routine and schedule. With a few caveats (like eating enough protein), it remains the number one key to muscle growth.