The Path to Lean Mass

If you want to gain the right way, expanding your lean muscle mass instead of your waistline, you'll need to really focus on eating right, training hard, and keeping a realistic goal in sight. Once you attain your goal, it'll be time to think about bigger and better things. However, you don't want to get ahead of yourself. So, for now, let's focus on eating for lean mass gains.

If you haven't been gaining the way you want, you'll need to consume extra calories to fuel muscle growth. This doesn't mean that you can get away with eating Halloween candy. There are good and not-so-great calories, and you'll want to focus on high-quality proteins from dairy, lean meats and fish, and supplements. As a general rule, hard-training athletes are going to need about a gram of protein per pound of body weight each day divided across 5-7 meals. So if you weigh 200 pounds, a good way to start your natural lean mass day might be with eggs for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and chicken breast for dinner.

Do the math for those three meals and you'll soon realize that you're likely to end up short of your daily protein goal of 200 grams unless you eat way too much food at every meal. You've got to watch your portion sizes if you want to keep the fat off, because those eggs and lean meats also include saturated fats. This brings us to the lean mass eating plan. Add another 2, 3, or 4 meals to breakfast, lunch, and dinner spaced approximately 2 to 3 hours apart and you've created a daily program that keeps your metabolism going while offering ongoing opportunities for protein refueling. Use energy bars, shakes, and protein-rich snacks to fill the gaps.

We've covered proteins, but you can't exist without carbohydrates and fats. Carbs play an important role in muscle growth by serving as the fuel your body burns for physical energy. They are also protein sparing meaning that if you are consuming sufficient carbs throughout the day your body will be more likely to use the protein you take in for growth and repair. Carbs should also be part of your training recovery plan, as carbs post-workout replenish the glycogen your muscles burn for energy during intense weight lifting and cardio sessions. And just as there are good and bad calories, the same is true of fats. The good unsaturated types, like Omega-3s from fish, are essential to numerous bodily functions. Just try and stay away from saturated and trans fats.

Try to keep all your meals proportional and consistent. If you start gaining more fat than muscle, don't skip out on breakfast – especially since it's one of the most important meals of the day! Cut back slightly on the quantities you're consuming at every meal. Then step up the intensity of your exercise. Do the opposite if you aren't seeing any gains at all, adding quality calories while cutting back on your time in the gym. Every body is different and everyone responds to diet and exercise differently. About the only thing we all have in common is the need for 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep. Keep that in mind, especially since the colder weather is very conducive to sleep – and the majority of muscle recovery takes place while you're snoozing.

If all this seems hard to swallow – meaning you might have trouble keeping track of what you eat from one meal to the next – the answer is to sit down and make a weekly eating schedule. Concentrate on the protein rich, energy-dense foods used in our sample schedule. Don't go with egg whites when you can eat the whole egg. Turn that ham sandwich into a ham and cheese sandwich.

In the gym, you'll be going back to the basics, concentrating on heavy compound movements such as the squat, bench press, and the dead lift. Nothing fancy. Use free weights instead of machines. A good rule of thumb is to focus on exercises that require both hands. Limit your workouts from 45 minutes to an hour at the very most. And keep your cardio to a minimum.

As a final point, be sure to stay on top of your progress. Make the previously mentioned adjustments in eating and working out every couple of weeks or so. Most importantly, stick to it. While adjustment will always have to be made here and there, and you'll need to change your lifting routine every 6 to 8 weeks to keep muscles guessing and the lean gains coming.

Resources to help you along the way:

Lean Mass Timeline (pdf)

Lean Mass Nutrition Facts (pdf)
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Comments
#1
Janelle
Nov 09, 2011
God, I feel like I shulod be takin notes! Great work