I need help to bulk *clap* me up!
March 21, 2006 3:47 AM   Subscribe

What are the best supplements to take to make it to that "next level" of muscle-mass gain?

Ok, so I've been working out for the last 5 years or so... I've seen pretty good gains over the years, sticking with a fairly high intensity/low reps program. I'm a typical hard-gainer, at 6'2 and 175-180lbs I still look pretty skinny (although much better than I looked 10 years ago, at 6'2 and 135 lbs).

However, I'm finding that I've plateaued (plateaud?) over the last year or so, and no matter how much I lift and eat I am unable to gain any more healthy weight. Yes, I've changed up my routine to be doing different lifting exercises, and made sure to up my weights steadily as well. Any time that I put on weight, it tends to be in the gut area, and that's not particularly useful for me :) I'm doing cardio with my lifting, but not an overly large amount (5 minutes high intensity warmup, 5 minutes medium intensity cooldown).

I'm looking to try changing up my supplement intake. Right now, I'm on a fairly generic multivitamin (MultiBionta) and I'm switching from Maximuscle ProMax to Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey.

What I'm interested in knowing is, what else should I be taking in to help gain size? I don't really want to take creatine, as I've heard that not only do you lose the size you gained if you stop taking it, but I also heard it can be really bad for your liver/kidneys (one of the two). Is glutamine important? Should I try different/stronger multivitamins? I notice that this vitamin I'm on doesn't make my pee go neon yellow like previous GNC-branded multivitamins have, but I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Is there anything else I'm missing that I should be considering?
posted by antifuse to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might be overtraining.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 4:04 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: I don't really think I'm overtraining... I only work each muscle group once a week, split as follows:

Day 1: chest/biceps
Day 2: back/triceps
Day 3: shoulders/calves
Day 4: hams/quads

and while I'm aware that my back exercises will work biceps to an extent as well, I'm not really convinced that this is leading to overtraining.
posted by antifuse at 4:18 AM on March 21, 2006

Fair enough. Once per week is eminently reasonable.
So the flip side: are you eating enough?
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 4:32 AM on March 21, 2006

Yeah, food intake. Double it.
posted by Jase_B at 4:39 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I guess that's another good question. I typically have a shake instead of breakfast, two big turkey breast sandwiches at lunch, and a dinner consisting of a protein of some sort (usually chicken breast), potatoes, and a side of baked or string beans, with a shake an hour or two after dinner (and about 2 hours before bed).

The after-dinner shake is on non-gym days. On gym days, that shake is usually right after the gym.
posted by antifuse at 4:42 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: And aside from adding more food (which I grant may be part of my problem), should I bother with adding any other supplements? What do they offer?
posted by antifuse at 4:44 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: And also, should I be increasing my cardio if I'm increasing my food intake? I don't want to end up with a serious gut (which seems to be the only place I put on weight right now) and skinny arms! :)
posted by antifuse at 4:49 AM on March 21, 2006

while I'm aware that my back exercises will work biceps to an extent as well, I'm not really convinced that this is leading to overtraining.

What kind of exercises are you doing? I ask as i'm confused how you isolate bicep on day 1 and then tricep on day 2.
It sounds like you're overtraining the arms and not allowing sufficient recovery time.
posted by the cuban at 4:55 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: Some cardio is fine, but you don't need hours and hours and hours of it.

It's standard to gain fat with muscle, so the idea is to put on a lot of total mass first, and then spend a period of time losing fat. (The bulking/cutting cycle.)

If you lift while you eat, you preferentially build muscle instead of accumulating too much fat. And when dieting to lose fat, if you keep off the carbs and fats, but eat largely protein, you can spare much muscle loss while you drive your metabolism into ketosis and fat loss.

In theory you end up with a lot more muscle for a little more fat.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 5:12 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: I would hesitate to add anymore supplements to your diet. Based upon what you have said, I would wager that your not eating enough. You should be eating 5 to 6 meals a day, and should be eating an actual breakfast rather than just a protein shake. Use a diet tracking website to calculate your daily caloric intake figure out how to eat enough to come up with an excess of calories at the end of the day. Using shakes and vitamins are fine, but they are "supplements" to your diet, and don't represent a major source of gains.
posted by HoldFast at 5:15 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: Biceps: hammer dumbell curl and barbell curl
Triceps: tricep extension (either cable or machine) and dumbell skull crushers.

Note that there is usually at least one day between day one and day two of my routine, I don't go doing all 4 days in a row :)
posted by antifuse at 5:24 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: Ditto the not eating enough comments. You need to stoke the fires of your metabolism to expect quality intake of calories at predetermined intervals. I would add two snacks to your current meal plan. For example:

- Breakfast (6am)
- Snack (9am)
- Lunch (noon)
- Snack (3pm)
- Dinner (6pm)

I'm also not a big plan of once a week body part training, but that's another story.
I'm a skinny hardgainer, pencil neck and all, and I ascribe to Harley Pasternak's "Five Factor Fitness", which recommends five meals a day, five days of workouts a week.
posted by willmize at 5:27 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: I actually did Pasternak's plan (well, the workout part of it) for 10 weeks, and saw some OK gains, but I frankly just don't have the time to squeeze in 5 days at the gym every week. 4 days is already pushing it.
posted by antifuse at 5:40 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: I recently switched from a bodypart split program to a 5x5 full body program, outlined here: http://www.geocities.com/elitemadcow1/5x5_Program/Linear_5x5.htm

I've only been doing it about a month and a half, but have already seen significant gains in my "big three" lifts (squat, deads, bench).

One of the best ways to gain mass is to do lots of leg work. Your leg muscles make up a major percentage of your lean mass, and working them hard causes your body to release more growth hormone, which helps your other muscles grow. It's often said that <insert muscle here>s are made in the squat rack. This is why.

Also, eat more =)

Some more testimonials here: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpost.php?p=9211294&postcount=7
posted by kableh at 6:41 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: Creatin can lead to quite some gain of strength, if combined with correct suplementation (I used whey protein and maltodextrin) and training (maximum/near-maximum load). I can tell you: in one month, my maximum load went up some 50-80%, and this gain was permanent -- a couch-potatoing year after that creatin cycle and I can still lift about the same loa I was lifting then.

As for mass/volume, it needs some water to get inside the muscles, and its byproduct is creatinin, which takes LARGE amounts of water to be expelled. This is where your two informations come from: muscles absorb some water along with creatin, and get quite water-bloated after workout (I'd be almost an inch bigger around the biceps immediately after training), because of all the creatinin that is generated and needs to be dissolved in water before being expelled. Once you stop taking creatin, water leaves your muscles again, and so the water bloating goes away -- you may end up with a bit more muscle than before, but nothing more impressive than normal training gain. As for kidney damage, anything that takes such large amount of water to be processed overloads kidneys. If you have healthy kidneys, significantly increasing the water intake should be enough to keep them ok for a small cycle (worked for me, not a doctor, blah blah blah), but no, it is not as safe as their makers want you to believe it is. Its sale was actually banned in Brazil some time after I took it.

For gaining volume with few side effects, I've heard some about GH, but I also heard that most "GH-inducing" supplements are kookery, and in most places real GH can only be bought with medical prescription (and it's expensive).

Also, from what I heard, stay away from steroids or your testicles will melt. Of course, you seem to be quite health-aware, so I'm probably preaching to the choir here.
posted by qvantamon at 6:48 AM on March 21, 2006

There is a book called Scrawny to Brawny - you probably will not get much out of the fitness half of the book, but the nutrition half is really interesting and talks about the problem you're having specifically and in detail.
posted by striker at 6:50 AM on March 21, 2006

for me, in a similar situation at 6'1" and 180, i found i gained more when i would mix up my routine, i.e. do 4 weeks of high weight/low reps then switch to 4 weeks of low weight/high reps. for the first time in years i actually had delayed onset muscle soreness. other times i would alternate each week what i did, which seemed to work too. you said you are varying what lifts you do also, which i found important so hopefully you are changing that pretty regularly also.
i'd suggest upping the cardio a bit if possible, perhaps some pretty low intensity running with a few sprints thrown in to get the heartrate up. that will help more keep the fat away.
as far as suppliments, like everyone else said, you just have to eat more probably. i tried creatine for about 2 months and gained quite a bit quite quickly (about 6 pounds in 4 weeks i think). i stopped as i did not want to gain more and did not lose what i had gained. as far as kidney/liver damage, it is possible as it had not been tested long term yet. time will tell.
posted by annoyance at 6:56 AM on March 21, 2006

Ahh, I didn't touch on the creatine issue.

As with any supplement, I'd think checking with your doctor would be a good idea of course. Maybe get bloodwork done and make sure your kidney function is up to par.

That said, creatine is one of the few truly effective supplements, and one of the most studied supplements ever. There is a large body of scientific literature out there covering the benefits and effects of creatine supplementation. Regarding kidney issues, I found a related study here: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpost.php?p=7945920&postcount=3

To expound on the eating more suggestion, are you keeping a log of your lifts/gains? If you're having trouble gaining mass, you may need to take a more scientific approach (think Hacker's Diet in reverse). You won't grow iwithout a caloric surplus, so calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), add a few hundred calories per day, and start from there. Keep a log of your intake vs. your gains and tweak from there. The calculations (usually 15xlean body mass) are just a rough guesstimate, and only time will tell what _your_ needs are.
posted by kableh at 7:14 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: I'm surprised that no one has mentioned genetics. I don't know a huge amount about this, but I'm pretty sure that whilst you can make some huge personal gains, you can't cheat genetics. What I mean by this is that you're 6'2' and you're 180lbs, you've gained 45lbs of muscle since starting. I started strength-training 18 months ago. When I started I was somewhere near 200 lbs and now I'm 170lbs. I'm 5'10'. We're the same bodyweight but obviously have different genetics in terms of the shape of our bodies.

I was fat and out of shape and now I have muscle and I'm in pretty good shape. I'm not a total gym-head but I take it seriously and go three times per week and I find it pretty easy to loose weight and gain muscle mass. You were obviously thin and have had to fight against that to bulk-up in the first place.

I don't want to dissuade you from doing anything, and I understand your frustration but I think that your muscle gain (given your build) is good. Maybe you should take a reality check in terms of your natural body-type.
posted by ob at 7:43 AM on March 21, 2006

Stick with the whey protein supplement. It'll help retain water in your muscles and build the illusion of bulk the way other supplements (except creatine and steroids) won't. Multivitamins will help your general nutrition, but they're not going to help with muscle gain any more than a regular balanced diet would.

My friend got me started on a weight-training plan and the gains have been ridiculous. Granted, I've just started in the past few months so I may not have hit my plateau, but it might be worth a shot. Especially since this is the weight-training plan he used when he was a redonkulous weight-lifter/wrestler in high school and looked like a freakin' gorrilla.

Do five exercises of each (except for Biceps/Forearms - do four bicep exercises, two forearm)

Day 1: Biceps/Forearms
Day 2: Shoulders
Day 3: Triceps
Day 4: Back
Day 5: Chest
Day 6: Legs
Day 7: Rest

If you just want bulk, don't do cardio. Also, make sure you're getting about 0.7-0.9 g protein/pound of body weight (about 125-165 for you). It is a crazy amount of protein, but that's what my sports nutrition book said and it works. I have been muscleling up in ways I never have in my past serious exercise regimens.

Keep in mind that you may also just not have the Charles Atlas body type. Some guys and girls are built slender. Others are big-boned and prone to building muscle. Me, I put on bulk pretty easily (for a woman). My weight-training friend is built like a brick wall. I have another friend who's very, very strong, but he's thin as a wire--it's all density. If at five years you've found your bulk has plateaued, there's a good chance without the help of steroids that's where you're always going to be.
posted by Anonymous at 8:00 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: HST.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:40 AM on March 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

i_am_joe's_spleen posted what I was going to suggest-- HST has worked very well for a number of people I have known. I would not think working each body part once a week is enough, personally.
Eat more, eat more protein, and lift heavy. Don't worry about gaining some fat along with the musle.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:29 PM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: Wow... some great answers in here. And I'm certainly not worried about gaining some fat along with the muscle, but I find that the ONLY weight I gain right now, if I gain any, is in my gut. My arms will still be toned and slim, but I start to get a nice little paunch growing in the gut area.

I think the genetics answer is probably pretty close to bang on as well... and I should have mentioned that the 45 pounds I've gained has been over the last 10 years, and I've only been working out for the last 5, during which I've gained maybe 15-20 pounds.

I'm just going to try upping my food intake, and maybe adding in a couple cardio-only days to my regular lifting routine to help offset the gut area. Maybe I just need to really start varying my routine as well, the HST principle looks to provide some interesting readin. Thanks everybody!
posted by antifuse at 2:27 AM on March 22, 2006

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