Updated: May 18
It’s common for new members of the gym, particularly and almost exclusively the young men, to see muscular guys and immediately want to know the secret to gaining muscle mass. Upon entry these impressionable young men will encounter several, bigger more muscular men, in some cases making a lot of noise, lifting a lot of weight, sipping away at their protein shakes and walking in the most intimidating manner possible. These brutes are often so pumped up from working to failure, that they can’t even walk normally. They strut around the gym as if they own it and are usually accompanied by a group of similar thuggish like barbarians. A lot of guys, new to the gym scene see this and they immediately want a piece of the action.
During the first 3-6 months the new guys try to make inroads, taking any opportunity to ask the muscular monsters for advice and ideas on how they can gain significant muscle mass. They will often discover that despite appearances, some of the body builder types are actually friendly and helpful, although they don’t appreciate being interrupted mid-set. Being young and impressionable, the new ‘future body builders’ absorb any and all of the advice given to them by the bigger guys, because of course these guys have the results to back it up. Always looking to fast track their muscle growth, the new guys are willing to try anything. They are told about set variations, percentages, the anabolic window, macro ratios, de-load days, different programs and exercises, the list goes on. For anyone just starting out, the volume of information can be completely overwhelming and confusing. Only a very small percentage of young men actually adhere to the finer points provided to them in the advice they receive over the course of their first year of training. This group inevitably achieve the results they desire, but as for the rest of the young men, most of them will have given up on the goal of gaining muscle mass and will have already moved on. One of the greatest mistakes they make in the early stages of training is actually one of the most simple and is probably the mistake most responsible for many of them giving up on their goal of gaining muscle. This mistake is diet.
The new guys buy all the shakes, follow all the training tips, go through all the relevant exercises and seemingly do all the right things, but for some reason they frequently miss the important component of diet. You cannot expect to come into the gym environment with the goal of gaining muscle mass, but still follow the exact same diet you’ve always had. Even the macronutrient breakdown is almost irrelevant compared to the principle nutritional component. That component is ingesting sufficient calories. The ratio of protein, fats and carbs will not matter if you aren’t ingesting the necessary number of calories per day. Of course the ratios are an important factor, but as I said, it won’t matter if the calorie count is off.
The simple nutritional rule for new guys who want to bulk up is this-
Eat more calories, mostly carbs, but also proteins and healthy fats.
The ratio of macronutrients is roughly 1:3:6- fat, protein, carbs respectively. This is measured in grams. The total calories depend on the size of the person. In the case of a young man, daily total calories could range from 2200 calories for smaller guys and up to 3000 for bigger guys. The total calories would be broken down into the aforementioned ratios. There are several other factors and of course some variation to these numbers, but the main point is this, you need to have a calorie excess, meaning you need ingest more than you would naturally burn following your usual daily routine. Ensure you also consider what you might be burning during your workout. There are a lot of different approaches out there and many of them work despite being slightly different, but that is beside the point. The point is to keep it simple to start with, then improve and refine over time. If you are serious about gaining muscle you need to train regularly, eat more food than you actually feel like and avoid reaching the point of hunger.
Nutrition for muscle growth doesn’t need to be overly complicated, especially for those just starting out. If you are new to the world of bodybuilding, by all means learn and develop your knowledge, but before you delve into the finer aspects, just ensure you are firstly eating enough and try to have the macronutrient ratios roughly correct. This simple approach to nutrition might just make all the difference in the early stages of your bodybuilding journey.