Bearded Beast of Duloc
A few questions so we know where to start:
--Do you currently count calories, or know about how many calories you eat each day?
--Do you eat frequent protein meals, every few hours?
--Is your primary goal to gain muscle while minimizing fat gains? Or are you looking to lose fat?
Bodybuilder Brad Borland has these guidelines, based on goals. They are a good starting point, but may need to be adjusted.
For meal planning and ideas, etc., check out this article I wrote:
And also this article:
How to Create a Bodybuilding Diet | Muscle & Strength
Gaining Muscle While Minimizing Fat Gains
Step 1: Keep Protein in Check at All Times
Protein has to remain high on the priority list if you want to gain muscle mass. The more protein stays consistent the more potential for the ideal growth environment. And more muscle mass means more body fat burned. Keep protein intake at 1 to 1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight. This will give your body the adequate building blocks for those intense workouts. Sources include lean meats, turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, whey protein and low fat dairy products such as low-fat of skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt.
Step 2: The Correct Types of Carbs Are Your Friends
Essential for fueling those intense workouts, carbs are also protein-sparing – meaning they will let protein build muscle instead of being burned for energy. Carbs are important for many other functions as well such as the regulation of certain hormones, energy regulation and production, normal everyday bodily functions and recovery. When trying to build muscle the low carb fad diets just won’t cut it! The trick is to know how much and what types to eat.
A good place to start would be to establish an intake of 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight. Stay at this level for 4 to 6 weeks to watch for any significant long-term changes. If you see that you are gaining weight and notice you are as lean or leaner than before then do not change a thing. If you are losing weight and not getting pumps in the gym increase your intake to 2.25 or 2.5 (maybe even 3) grams per pound. If you see your abs disappearing and feel that you are getting that “softer” look then decrease carbs to 1.75 or 1.5 grams per pound.
Remember to stay at a certain level of carbs for 4 to 6 weeks before adjusting – it takes the body a few weeks to notice a change and react to it. Changing your intake too frequently will not allow you to make informed decisions regarding what your body needs. The best carb sources are from wild and brown rice, white potatoes and sweet potatoes, oatmeal (not instant), fruits and vegetables. Stay away from processed and refined carb sources.
Stay at a certain level of carbs for 4 to 6 weeks before adjusting.
Step 3: Reap the Benefits of Fat
No longer a dirty word among the health conscious, fats have a myriad of benefits for the bodybuilder wishing to gain quality muscle mass. Fats regulate testosterone levels, actually help burn body fat, aid energy levels and keep your metabolism churning. Keep fat around 30 to 35 % of your daily total calories. Excellent sources include eggs (yes, the yolks), avocado, olive oil, natural peanut butter, nuts and fatty fish.
One final note: You should be gaining no more than about one pound (sometimes less) per week. If lean muscle is your goal, then slow and steady will win the race. Huge fluctuations in bodyweight will never result in quality muscle gains.
Cutting Fat While Keeping Muscle
Step 1: Protein is King
You have heard it over and over: amino acids are the building blocks of protein and protein builds muscle – period. Without adequate amounts of protein, you will not be able to hold onto that muscle you are trying to reveal to the world. Keep protein levels around 1 to 1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight (for a 200 pound lifter this would be 200 to 250 grams). Good sources include fish, chicken, lean red meat, turkey, skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs and whey protein.
Step 2: Fat is Your Friend
It can not be stressed enough that fat is essential in your quest to keep muscle while trying to lean up. Dietary fat will actually burn bodily adipose tissue and keep your metabolism in check by regulating key hormone levels such as testosterone. Keep fat intake at about 30 % of your total calorie intake. Good sources include avocado, nuts such as almonds, olive oil-based salad dressings, egg yolks, natural peanut butter and fatty fish such as salmon.
Step 3: Cycle Carbohydrates
Having had a bad reputation for the past few years carbs are essential for normal bodily functions as well as fueling those intense workouts. The trick is regulating the amount and type consumed. For our purposes try out around 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight to start (this is 400 grams for our 200 pound athlete). This will be considered your base. Healthy sources include sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, green vegetables, oatmeal, spinach and apples.
Here is the variable in your plan. You will cycle these carb amounts for each week allowing your body to burn fat while still feeding your muscle. This will keep the body off guard to keep burning fat, but enough carbs every few days to keep muscle tissue. This is where a little experimenting on your part will be important. You will have a low carb day for 3 days (0.5 - 1 gram per pound) followed by a medium carb day (2 grams per pound) and finally a high carb day (2.5 to 3 grams per pound).
For our 200 pound example:
* Low: 100 to 200g (3 days)
* Medium: 400g (1 day)
* High: 500 to 600g (1 day)
With a little trial and error you will have to determine if you need more or less low carb days cycled into your week. Do not be discouraged regarding keeping muscle on your frame – keeping protein and fat intakes in check you can be ensured that you will hold onto that hard-earned muscle mass.
You should be losing around 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. Any more than that then take a day or two of low carb days out of the plan or add a medium day. Any less then add a day or two of low carb days in the cycle and/or possibly delete the high carb day.
Destroy That Which Destroys You
"Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado."