Tuesday, March 5, 2013

First Things First: Nutrition Basics.

Last post I talked at length about how to prepare yourself mentally—which is much more important than most bodybuilding programs say—to begin your transformation. Now, moving on, I need to say there really aren’t any secrets to getting big so you won’t find here the recipe to the Magical and Secret Megahulk Elixir ™, mainly because there isn’t one. However, what you will find here is a good outline of the most important thing people take too long to understand, or never do, and give up on bodybuilding blaming their body or some similar bullshit.

I’m talking about nutrition, a word often wrongfully equaled with diet, a word often wrongfully equaled with getting a hot fire poker in the urethra. It’s not that. Nutrition basically just means feeding your muscles so they can grow after being exercised. To understand this better, let me explain the process of hypertrophy (that’s “muscle growth” in Fancy) in the simplest of terms.

Flex your arm. So maybe your arm is small and weak, but right now you need to ask yourself this: why the hell should it not be small and weak? Your arms have never before needed size or strength so why the hell would they grow? It’s not like they’re ever going to need to pick up heavy stuff, right? Your body has absolutely no reason to think it needs strength.

Remember 6th grade biology when Mrs. Price talked about some dude’s observation of some birds in some island and came up with the theory of evolution? Basically we learned that living organisms adapt to their environment in order to survive. How the hell does the body know how to adapt and to what?

But really, organisms know how to adapt and to what when they find themselves with particular needs. When giraffes needed long necks to reach them tall leaves so they wouldn’t die, they developed longer necks through a painfully slow process. Of course this is an extreme example, but it leads to where I’m going:

You need to trick your body into thinking it needs to adapt, or evolve, by becoming bigger and stronger.

You do this by working out. Your body can’t tell the difference between you lifting a pair of dumbbells for the lulz or you pushing a rock out of your way in order to reach a drink of water. If your body thinks being stronger is necessary for you to not die, and it has the resources to do it, it will become stronger. You need to capitalize on this concept, which is where the concept of “surprising your muscles” comes from. I’ll get to that eventually.

Those resources I’m talking about up there are, basically, the nutrients found in food. You can have the most brutal workout the word has ever known, the kind that would make your body think that you just straight up fought and murdered a wooly mammoth to feed your family, but if you don’t feed your muscles with the nutrients they need, you know what will happen?

Fuck. All.

This is why so many people go to the gym for months, cry, sweat and bleed on the machines, and don’t see any changes in their bodies. Trying to build muscle without eating enough food is like paying fifty dudes to build your house, but not supply them with bricks.

Yes. You need food. More than anything, you need food. Now if you go ask an expert—id est, someone who knows his shit better than I do—what kind of diet you should take on if your goal is bulking—bulking (getting big), as opposed to cutting (getting rid of fat), more on this later—they’ll give you some complicated numbers that will probably make your head spin at first.

Luckily for you, your goal is becoming huge and to become huge, you just need to eat like a monster. Of course, you need to eat the right foods, but don’t bother yourself with the minutiae of nutrition—it’s not important right now. Measuring your food and counting calories is for when you want to cut fat. Right now your body is so desperate to grow it’ll take any decent diet as an excuse to do so.

But let’s not leave it at “decent”. Let’s make a good diet for you in four easy steps.

How To Prepare Your “Phase One” Diet.

Step One. Determine your BMR.
First, you need to figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This basically determines the rough amount of calories your body burns every day. There is no math involved, here, don’t worry. Just go to this calculator here, fill it up, and write the number it gives you. Pro tip: bookmark this because this is a process you’ll have to do more than once.

Step Two. Determine your daily intake.
You have your BMR now. I’m guessing it’s around 2,000 calories? Anyway, you will plot a diet that will give your body more nutrients than it naturally burns; adding this to a workout plan that kicks your muscles’ ass at the gym will only give your body one choice: use the excess nutrients to grow.

Boom. You just became an X-Man. Choose your mutant name.

"Beast" has been taken twice. Watch it. 
To grow, you need to add ~500 calories to your BMR, so take that number and add 500. If it was 2,000, we now know that you need to eat 2,500 calories every day to grow. Sounds scary? Too much? It’s not, don’t worry.

Step Three. Determine your meal plan.
You’re probably eating three meals a day like a normal human being. Well, you’re not a normal human being anymore, motherfucker, you’re a bodybuilder, and bodybuilders don’t eat three meals a day like puny humans do!

No. You’re going to eat at least five times a day. Don’t freak out quite yet, though. It’s not as scary as it sounds. It’ll actually make your life so much easier (since a lot of your life now is eating). At your current BMR, eating five meals means having to eat around 500 calories each.

So are you still on board? At this point you need to eat 5 meals of 500 calories each to grow. This is very, very manageable. Naturally being more active and heavier will mean having to eat more calories a day, so wait until you’re huge and need to pack in ~4,000 calories to get bigger.

Step Four. Determine your meals.
Pictured: you.
2,500 calories a day? Easy! Just two trips to McDonalds and we’re set! Well no, sorry. Naturally it’s 2,500 calories of the right food. Here’s how you find out the right foods: nutrients are largely divided into three groups: carbohydrates, protein and fats. Only one of those sounds friendly (the almighty protein), but truth is we need all three of them. Oh, and here’s the twist:

Protein isn’t the one you’ll be eating the most. Nope. It’s carbohydrates. That’s right. You’re going to be eating nearly twice as many carbs as you eat proteins. Sounds crazy? It’s not. In fact, this is how you’re going to ratio your food:

50% should be carbs.
30% should be protein.
20% should be fats.

This means that at 2,500 calories, 1,250 should come from carbs; 750 should come from proteins; 500 should come from fats. You do your own math.

Knowing what food belongs to what group is tricky at first, luckily there are a billion resources online, not to mention apps for your phone as reference guides, to help you through. Still, I’ll give you a quick summary to give you a broad idea: carbs are fruit, vegetables, pasta, bread; protein is beef, chicken, fish, dairy; fats are seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish oil, etc.

I recommend for this "Phase One", that you focus at least one protein heavy meal to take it right after your workout. As soon as you can without throwing up.

Another thing that is important is that, although you need to keep a surplus of calories, you need to watch out and don't overindulge in certain foods. You might be aware that muscles grow through protein, but you need to know that a surplus of protein will not result in a surplus of muscle. Sadly:

Your body can only process about 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day.

If you take more than that it'll just end up packed into a neat brown trunk floating in your toilet.

A word on cheat meals:

You can imagine what "Cheat meals" means. It means a meal in which you cheat on your diet with a sexier diet, one that generally consists of greasy but delicious shit. As a skinny guy, you can get away with shit other people can't, but you shouldn't indulge too much. I recommend having only three or four cheat meals a week.

No wait, I don't recommend. I encourage it. Cheat meals are great mainly because if taken carefully, they don't work against your growth and they work in favor of your determination. Psychologically, it's very important to have the reassurance that, even if you have to eat this dry chicken breast right now, maybe in two days you'll be able to eat a motherfucking Royale with cheese. Until then, hold the desire; it'll make it taste better.

So there you have it. This is all you need to know to begin. Figure out your meal plan, buy the correct foods you’ll need (I’ll make a post about bodybuilding on a budget later), and get ready.

In case you missed the rest of Bodybuilding 101:

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