It’s the ideal silhouette to have. A wide set of shoulders that taper dramatically into a tiny waist. Then, below the waist, the physique bellows out once more into an inverted V, courtesy of a wide-swept set of quads. The look is polished off at the upper and lower extremities by beefed up forearms and calves. You could follow the best program to get wide in all the right places, but, as with all pursuits of muscle, your diet has to be kept in check. These 10 tips will help you put on the mass you seek in the places you seek it without stretching your beltline.
Calories will be critical when trying to add mass in all the right places while still losing it in the wrong places. Eat too few calories and you’ll not only whittle away your waist, but your muscle mass too. Eat too many calories and you’ll not only pack on shoulder width, but waist width too. So how do you find the proper calories that will put on lean muscle while allowing you to keep your midsection ripped. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
However, for most guys, shooting for somewhere between 16-20 calories per pound of body weight will do the trick. We suggest you start with 18 calories per pound (that’s a little over 3200 calories per day for the 180-pounder). Keep an eye on your progress. If you’re not gaining enough muscle but are getting ripped abs, bump up your calories toward 20. If you find that 18 calories is also packing mass on your waist, drop down toward 16.
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2) Focus on Protein
Protein provides the amino acids that are literally used as the building blocks of muscle protein. Although the RDA on protein is set at less than half a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight for the typical person, research shows that athletes, especially those concerned with muscle mass and strength, need roughly double that amount. At M&F, we recommend that every bodybuilder consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a day.
When trying to put on mass you should actually try to get in about 1.5 grams per pound. For the 180-pounder, this means 270 grams per day at the outset and a bare minimum of 180 grams thereafter. Your protein choices should come mainly from animal proteins such as chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs and dairy, as these are your most complete protein sources, meaning they provide your body every essential amino acid, defined as those your body cannot manufacture on its own.
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3) Shake it Up
There are two times of day when the whole-food protein choices listed previously in #2 are not ideal: 1) within 30 minutes before workouts and 2) within 30 minutes after workouts.
Whole food protein sources would take too long to digest to offer any benefits at these important windows of muscle growth. Instead you need fast–digesting protein sources, such as whey protein powder, which will provide your body the amino acids it needs (to protect from muscle damage and provide energy during the workout and to provide the building blocks for muscle growth after the workout) as fast as possible. Drink a whey-containing protein shake with 20 grams of protein before and another 40 grams within 30 minutes after.
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4) Watch the Carbs
Carbs are essential nutrients for packing on mass, but getting too many carbs is a fast way to build muscle mass and waist mass. That’s the last thing you want for building an X-frame.
Going lower in carbs is the best way to do this. A diet that is less than 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight or less will keep insulin levels steady, which will allow you to keep burning fat throughout the day while still putting on lean muscle. We suggest you keep carbs even with protein and go with about 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (270 grams for the 180 pounder).
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5) Go Slow
No, we don’t mean to chew slowly when you eat, although that’s good advice too. What we mean is to go slow in your carb choice. That is, at most meals, including your preworkout meal (go with about 20-40 grams with your preworkout shake), you should select carbs that are slow-digesting or low glycemic index (GI) carbs. Foods like whole-wheat products, most fruits, and sweet potatoes digest slowly and therefore help to keep insulin levels steady despite consuming carbs.
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6) Go Fast (Post-Workout)
Immediately after your workouts (within 30 minutes) you need to forget about all that slow carb stuff and reach for fast-digesting, or high GI carbs. This is the one time when you need to spike insulin. Having high levels of insulin after workouts will not blunt fat burning. It’s the only time of day this is possible. At this time, insulin will also boost muscle growth and drive the glucose from those fast carbs, as well as the amino acids from your postworkout protein shake, into your muscles. Shoot for about 40-100 grams with your postworkout shake.
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7) Get Fat
When trying to strategically build muscle while losing midsection fat, you may be tempted to eat a very low-fat diet. But that is the last thing you’ll want to do. About 30% of your total daily calories should come from fat (about 120 grams for the 180-pounder). And unlike the sedentary, general population who are recommended to eliminate their saturated fat intake, 5%-10% of your fat calories should be saturated, as research shows that higher fat diets (particularly those higher in monounsaturated and saturated fats) appear to maintain testosterone levels better than low-fat diets. Maintaining optimal testosterone levels is paramount to building muscle mass and strength and avoiding fat gain – exactly what you need to build an X-Frame.
Go with red meats such as steaks and ground beef, for your saturated fats (these also provide quality protein), while avocados, mixed nuts, olive oil, olives and peanut butter will provide you ample monounsaturated fats, and fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines), flaxseed oil and walnuts as good sources of essential, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.
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8) Frequency Counts
Eating steadily throughout the day helps you both gain mass and stay lean. It provides you ample calories to grow muscle and keeps your metabolism revved up so you stay lean. Eating a meal that contains quality protein and carbs every 2-3 hours ensures a steady supply of energy and amino acids for muscle growth all day long. Each meal should be approximately the same size.
Aim for at least six meals per day, and shoot for eight total. For the 180-pounder, eating about 3200 calories per day, 270 grams of protein and 270 grams of carbs and about 120 grams of fat would provide a little over 500 calories, 45 grams of protein, 45 grams of carbs and 20 grams of fat per meal (pre- and postworkout meals will be slightly different) over six meals.
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9) Munch at Night
When you sleep, you essentially fast for 7-9 hours (or for however long you sleep). With no food available, the body goes to your muscle fibers for amino acids to fuel your brain. For the individual looking to get bigger and leaner, this breakdown of muscle tissue is not a good thing. The answer is not getting less sleep, but rather eating the proper foods immediately before bedtime.
Going with slow-digesting proteins and healthy fats is your best bet. These types of foods help slow down digestion and provide a steady supply of amino acids for fuel, thereby minimizing the body’s tendency to use muscle. Casein, the major protein in milk is a good option, with casein shakes or cottage cheese being the best options. Before going to bed every night, consume 30-40 grams of a casein protein shake (look for ones containing micellar casein) or 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese, as well as 2-3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil, 2 ounces of mixed nuts or 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter. This is one meal where you’ll want to avoid the carbs.
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10) Use Supps That Build Mass & Burn Fat
There are several supplements that can help you simultaneously gain lean muscle while shedding body fat. Stack the following for optimal results: Arginine (3-5 grams in the morning before breakfast, 30-60 minutes before workouts, 30-60 minutes before bed), creatine (3-5 grams with your pre- and postworkout meals), beta-alanine (1-2 grams with your pre and postworkout meals), branched-chain amino acids (5-10 grams with breakfast, your pre- and postworkout shakes, as well as with your last meal), glutamine (5-10 grams with breakfast, your pre- and postworkout shakes, as well as with your last meal), and ZMA (take a ZMA product that provides about 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium, and 10.5 mg of B6 about one hour before bed on an empty stomach).