Diet tips for increasing lean body mass
October 23, 2008 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Recipe/diet suggestions for increasing muscular bodymass.

I'm a 23-year-old male. I started barbell training with the stronglifts beginner program in June, at 6' and 145 lbs. I've seen largely steady strength increases. My bodyweight went up to 160 in a couple of months, but my mass gains have slowed. I'm currently around 162 lbs. and 11-12% bodyfat and following the practical programming advanced novice program. My current goals are to get my bodyweight to the 170-175 range, and then try and get my bodyfat to 9-10%.

I think it's my diet, rather than my lifting, that's holding me back at the moment. I lift three times a week and don't miss workouts. My current best 3x5 lifts are: squat - 220, front squat - 160, bench - 160, OH press - 115. My best deadlift is 265 for 1x5.

I aim for 3000 calories a day and usually try to log everything I eat, but some days I don't keep track of everything, some days I know I fall short, and I know I could be eating even more than that. I eat very little junk food, but I don't eat often enough and am very lazy when it comes to cooking.

I make myself a protein shake after each workout and usually in the morning on my off days. I make them with a cup of 2% milk, a banana, 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter, and 2 scoops of whey protein.

I'm looking for recommendations for eating tips to help me gain weight. My criteria, in descending order of importance:

1. Fast/easy to prepare
2. Tasty
3. Inexpensive

For instance, cans of tuna and the aforementioned protein shakes work great. But what else? Also, is there any reason I shouldn't start drinking two protein shakes a day? Or am I wrong about this and my lifts just aren't big enough to make me grow more?
posted by ludwig_van to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely increase your protein consumption. You should aim for 1.6-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

I supplement 50 grams each in the morning, about an hour after lunch, after the gym (at about 4pm) and right before bed.
posted by ydnagaj at 11:12 AM on October 23, 2008

second ydnagaj. gaining and ripping at the same time isn't always practical. why not have a gain phase followed by a rip phase?
posted by ewkpates at 11:16 AM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: It sounds like you are working plenty in the gym (and consistently too, that is key). I think you are probably right about your diet holding you back.

3000 calories is a fair amount for your size, but you may want to pay more attention to your macronutrients (Protein, Carbs, Fat).

-You should be getting in 170 or so grams of protein a day (lean meats and shakes).
-There is no reason not to have two (or more) shakes a day
-Creatine or Beta Alanine might help you to get a little more out of your workouts (but don't assume that your increased weight is all muscle, creatine will make you gain a little water weight)
-Fish Oil will help your recovery, and all sorts of other stuff (I use Flameout from Biotest, I swear this stuff has magic faerie dust in it, it _has_ to be magic)
-Good protein and "protein" are two different things (I use Lo-Carb Metabolic Drive from Biotest)
-You might be able to sneak in another workout every week without over training
-You also might have noticed a marked difference because you have quickly accelerated past the easy part, and are now faced with the hard part (keep chugging along, and throw something new at your body every once and a while) animals are adaptive by nature. That adaptation is the growth you are looking for.

Good luck!
posted by milqman at 11:28 AM on October 23, 2008

Try and get hold of the ebook "Burn the fat, feed the muscle" by Tom Venuto. Has a ton of great advice.
posted by fire&wings at 11:54 AM on October 23, 2008

Scrawny to Brawny (both the website and the excellent book) has exercise and diet advice, including menus and recipes.
posted by rocket88 at 12:38 PM on October 23, 2008

You might try a different workout. The one you're using seems like a good basic routine, but you've been doing it for four months now. It's good to change things up every few months. When you first start lifting, pretty much every routine you try will make you gain muscle. When you're more experienced, things get more difficult. Experimenting with different programs will help you find out what works for you. Try reading the articles on T-Nation.

There's definitely nothing wrong with having more than one protein drink a day. The only data I've seen in the literature showing problems with over consumption of protein involved patients with pre-existing kidney or liver issues. I don't think you'd get much benefit from consuming more than ~30g of protein in one sitting, but spread out through the day? Sure. Maybe both before and after your workout, and perhaps some casein before going to sleep.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: I've regained 15-20 pounds of muscle after a pair of hernia surgeries and blowing out my knee, here are a few things I've learned.

Cooking meat on a stainless steel pan is easy.

Brown any 1 inch peice of meat in a little olive oil on medium-high for 30 seconds on each side while adding salt, pepper and garlic; then put the pan straight into the preheated 325 degree oven for 15 minutes and it's perfect every time. Add/remove 5 minutes for each 1/2 thickness difference. I like this a lot for $40

Increase the quantity and quality of the protein you consume.

Peter Lemon of Kent State University did some of the better research on protein requirements in athletes. The consensus seems to be somewhere between 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, so aim for 240-325 grams of protein a day. With two shakes, four 6 ounce pieces of meat or fish give you around 325 grams. Also consider a high quality whey supplement.

Consume BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids) while you train

BCAA's promote protein synthesis through a number of mechanisms, and have been used in burn units for years to prevent the muscle wasting that contributed to patient mortality. They do a number of things from raising net protein synthesis, to providing fuel during workouts, increasing growth hormone and insulin levels, increasing post workout testosterone and reducing post workout soreness. Take 0.2 grams per pound of bodyweight, biotest linked above makes an easy to swallow tablet.

Change things up every 4-8 workouts

The body responds to exercise as a physical stressor, see selye's general adaptation syndrome. You've made good progress for 3-4 months, but you're not varying the stressor enough and your body adapts less each time. Modify one or two of the following: reps, sets, speed of movement, rest between sets, rest between reps.

Change up your rep brackets

The stronglifts program looks to be based around 5x5, a good balance of size and strength. Try some other rep brackets, 8x3 and 6x4 are very effective for building strength through neurological mechanisms while 4x8-12 and 3x20-25 are effective at increasing size, mitochondrial density and capillary density. Wave loading like 8-6-4 and 7-5-3 is also very effective, as is 10x10 and ladders.

Consume more omega-3 fatty acids

Aside from the reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, omega-3 fatty acids help athletes increase lean body mass while reducing bodyfat, probably through a reduction in insulin sensitivity.
posted by zentrification at 3:53 PM on October 23, 2008

linked the wrong pan
posted by zentrification at 3:55 PM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: The StrongLifts program is an excellent program, definitely stick to it until you stop making linear gains. At four months and with lifts at those weights, you are still solidly in the beginner stage of lifting. That's not a bad thing, it means your gains will come easily for a while yet.

However, the StrongLifts program borrows -heavily- from Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength (an excellent book, which you may want to purchase). Rippetoe suggest that any beginner looking to increase in size and strength drink a gallon of whole milk a day (GOMAD). Many, many people (myself included) have done this and it works incredibly well. You'll add some body fat, but you can shed that later when you are happy with your gains.

Rippetoe claims that it works better than steroids for beginners and you know what? He's right. You will be surprised at your results if you just eat a normal, healthy diet and add a gallon of milk a day to it. You could even drop the protein shakes. I'll be honest, most of the advice above me is good, but isn't great. You don't need supplements yet, or to worry too much about your calorie intake, and you aren't adapting to your program other than getting stronger while the weight gets heavier! Keep things simple, lift heavy and eat more. You'll get big and strong.

If you have any questions, feel free to MeFiMail me.
posted by Loto at 7:15 PM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips so far. As I said in the question, I'm trying to gain weight right now, after which I will try to lose bodyfat. I'm not following the stonglifts program anymore -- I switched about six weeks ago to the practical programming advanced novice program, which is also a starting strength variation, but is 3x5 rather than 5x5. I'm still steadily increasing my squat and deadlift despite stalls in my other lifts, so I see no reason to change it up, although I feel like I'm close to stalling on the squat.

I've certainly heard of the GOMAD idea, and I've been trying. I drink about a half-gallon of 2% milk a day. I guess I could try and go for the whole gallon a day if it'll really make a difference.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:57 PM on October 23, 2008

Best answer: Rippetoe claims it makes a difference in this thread, I think. Something about the extra fat eliciting an insulin reaction or something.

I have had great success with preparing things in advance. If you can cook once or twice a week, in large amounts, you can solve the laziness/no time problem.

My wife bought and "omelet maker" for $10 a few months ago, and I've discovered that omelets keep very well in the freezer. So on Saturdays I'll make 2-3 dozen eggs worth of omelets. Brown some sausage, chop some onions and peppers, mushrooms maybe. Mix with the eggs and throw them in the omelet maker. While I wait for them to finish, I grill some chicken breast or turkey patties. Throw them all in the freezer.

The omelets are awesome with some sour cream and salsa. Good for breakfast, second breakfast or elevensies with a protein shake. My @ work shake usually consists of while milk, whey protein and nesquick in a shaker cup.

I've been wanting to try the chili recipe here (on the second page of the article), but haven't yet. Make a big pot of this stuff on a Saturday, and that would keep you for a while.

Tuna is great, but it gets old fast. Another issue there is the mercury content. Although, Jonny Bowden in 150 Healthiest Foods implies that the mercury problem isn't a problem if you are eating the light or light chunk varieties. It's the albacore and tuna steak that are high in mercury.

A gallon of milk a day would be great too, but it makes me gag if I drink it straight (I'm a wimp), and chocolate milk has way too many carbs. If you can drink it straight, go for it.

Watch for when chicken breast goes on sale and buy as much as you can. Same with high quality ground beef or ground turkey. Prepare it in advance. Put it in the freezer.

Also, hard boiled eggs are great. Easy and tasty and versatile. You can do tons of stuff with them (salt, pepper!).

I don't think drinking an extra protein shake or two a day would hurt you. Good luck to you. Don't stop at 175, though! At 6 feet, you could easily get to 200-215 of pure-lean ass-kicking! :)
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:25 AM on October 24, 2008

Sorry, also, check out this recipe for homemade protein bars. They're full of protein and um, fairly edible. But at least you know what went into them.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:28 AM on October 24, 2008

Okay, I'll stop after this one (that I just read):

2 cans drained Tuna.
2 cups orange juice.

Add one can of tuna to blender with the O.J.
Pulse the O.J. and tuna at low speed for about 15 secs.
After the first can is in liqiud state add the second can and pulse for another 15 secs.
Increase speed to liquify and blend about 45 secs.
Serve in your favorite beverage container and enjoy!

From here.

I think I'll try this after my squats tonight!
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:47 PM on October 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas Barry. Tuna and OJ, huh. Sounds interesting.

And I squatted 230 today, woohoo!
posted by ludwig_van at 6:08 PM on October 24, 2008

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