Top Mass-Mustering Tips

In your quest to get big you’re hitting the weights 4, perhaps 5 or even 6 times per week. You’re getting your eight hours sleep a night and you’re trying your best to eat the much publicized and extolled 2,5g protein per kilogram of body weight per day. But somehow the anticipated gains are just not there! Could it be that somewhere along the line you’re missing a vital link in the chain of muscle-building know how that could hoist your muscle gains to the next level?

Well read on then because amongst the following 14 training and nutritional tips might just lie that missing link, which you require to take your physique into the anabolic zone and thus catapult your gains beyond what you might have ever expected.

1. Calories are anabolic

“Hard-gainers” often make the mistake of eating enough protein but not enough calories. What we need to remember is that when caloric intake is high (slightly exceeding daily energy requirements), the body can more efficiently use protein to build muscle. Following a high carb diet and “force feeding” yourself is thus what is often required to fuel a hard gainers muscle gains. Start with 350-450g of carbs daily (depending on your size and daily activity levels) and then use the scale to make the necessary modifications. If your weight doesn’t show an upward trend every two to three weeks then you should increase your daily carbohydrate intake by an additional 50-100g each day and then re-evaluate again after a couple more weeks before deciding whether any further increase is necessary. To get sufficient calories to fuel the gains you are after, try focus on carbohydrate dense foods such as pasta, rice, raisins, honey, oats, bagels, banana’s, semolina, mealie meal, wholegrain breads. The two most important times of the day to emphasize a high carb intake are around training and at breakfast. As such use of pre & intra-workout shakes containing Vitargo or Waxy Maize such as SSN’s Cytomaize followed up immediately post-workout with a high carb, muscle building protein shake (eg. SSN’s Anabolic Muscle Builder) is an effective strategy for maximizing your muscle mass building capabilities.

Note - Reducing carb intake at night might be necessary to keep body fat levels in check.

2. Post-Workout is critical

Training with the degree of intensity required to stimulate muscle growth provides a quandary of sorts. On the one hand without sufficient stress being applied to the body you will not provide muscle with the stimulus required to signal muscle hypertrophy. On the other hand extreme stress from intense workouts damages muscle tissue, depletes muscle glycogen stores and can cause a surge in catabolic hormones such as cortisol, glucagons and catecholamine. That’s where post-workout nutrition providing fast digesting carbs and protein can be vital. High glycemic index carbohydrates such as Vitargo, waxy maize starch, maltodextrin and glucose combined with easily digested, fast acting proteins (whey protein being the singular best fast acting protein source), consumed immediately after training helps counter catabolic hormones and stimulates a surge in insulin levels, which provides an anabolic drive by shuttling glucose and essential amino acids into stressed & depleted muscle cells thereby rapidly initiating post-workout recovery and subsequent muscle growth. During your mass building phase look to make a habit of consuming a post-workout shake containing 100-150g of carbs and 30-50g of protein immediately after each session.

3. Creatine & Glutamine to the mix

I’m sure that every aspiring bodybuilder knows by now the incredible muscle building power of creatine. Scientific studies have consistently shown it to increase power and strength, delay muscular fatigue and increase protein synthesis (muscle building) better than any other supplement on its own. In short used correctly creatine works!

Another supplement which often demonstrates remarkable benefits to hard training athletes is L-Glutamine. Glutamine is clinically proven to support the immune system, promote post training recovery, support muscle glycogen synthesis, control cortisol and promote muscle anabolism. A great time to consume both creatine and glutamine is immediately post-workout. For enhanced muscle gains try adding 5-10g of each to your post-workout shake.

4. Protein is building material

You can’t build a building without bricks and it’s the same thing with building muscle. Amino acids (derived from the digestion of protein) are commonly referred to as the body’s “building blocks” because they are used to build and repair various kinds of body tissue…especially muscle! Amino acids supply nitrogen and nitrogen balance is the scientific measure used to determine whether we are gaining or losing muscle. Simply put then, if the body is holding more nitrogen than it is excreting, you’re on track to adding muscle. That being said, in order to maintain the positive nitrogen balance required for muscle growth, aim to consume at least 2,5g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, evenly spread over 5-7 small meals/shakes each day. In other words an 80kg weight training enthusiast should look to consume at least 200g of protein per day, which would equate to close on 35g in each of 6 daily meals / shakes. Obtaining this amount of protein on a consistant daily basis from whole foods alone is extremely difficult, if not impossible for the average person to achieve. The use of pure protein powders such as SSN’s 100% Whey Protein (1 or 2 shakes per day), certainly makes the task a lot easier to accomplish.

5. Fat is essential

Whilst dieting bodybuilders often control caloric intake by restricting fat intake, for those trying to gain muscle mass, the right kind of fat is important. Essential fats for example are important for hormone regulation and deficiency can thus result in suppressed testosterone levels. This is counter productive considering testosterone is vital for muscle growth. Furthermore “healthy fats” (i.e. monounsaturates, polyunsaturates, omega 3’ & 6’s) provide extra calories, which spare muscle glycogen stores, assist with the absorbtion of fat-soluble vitamins and enhance insulin sensitivity. The best sources of healthy “muscle friendly” fats are cold water fish (trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines), raw nuts, seeds, olive / macadamia / flax / hemp seed oils and essential fatty acid supplements generally available as flax and/or fish oils in soft gel capsules.

6. Train no more than four or five times per week

Doing so is not only unnecessary but can actually be counter-productive to most hard gainers and may lead to over-training, especially if you are doing other physical activities or partake in other sports on a regular basis. When in a mass-building phase, recovery time is vital and at least as important as training time. Remember that muscle growth occurs outside of the gym not within!

7. Train for an hour max and do no more than 15-20 total sets per workout; 12-15 may often be even better!

If you can’t get the job done within 50-60 minutes of intense concerted effort, there is a good chance you are messing around and not training with the focus and intensity required to stimulate muscle growth. Consider too that workouts are most productive when energy and mental focus are high and for most of us that is generally during the first 30-45 minutes of our workout. After that mental focus and physical intensity can begin to fade.

8. Lift heavy and focus on basic compound exercises

Rows, Chins, Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Presses, Dips, Bench Press etc should always form the foundation of your mass building workouts. Show me a guy who can deadlift 200 kg’s and chances are I will be able to show you a guy with a thick well developed back. Someone who can squat 150kg’s for 15-20 reps is likely to have good legs and similarly someone who can overhead press 100kg’s for reps is going to have pretty good delts. Spending too much time over emphasizing isolation type exercises can be a waste of energy and is one of the more common mistakes you are likely to witness in gyms across the country.

9. Keep a training journal and constantly try to get stronger and lift heavier weights

Progressive resistance is the most basic principle of muscle building. Ignore it and your muscle building efforts will go nowhere fast. If you are squatting 100kg’s at the moment, then you need to be aiming at hitting 120…130 or even 140kg’s by this time next year if you want your legs to grow. Without keeping a daily record of your workouts you are unlikely to have a clear picture of what previous weight and/or rep records you are trying to beat and what goals you are aiming to achieve, unless you have a really great memory…..which unfortunately I don’t! A training journal can thus serve as an invaluable tool in your quest for muscle building progress.

10. Utilize a multitude of rep ranges that target both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres to maximize muscle hypertrophy from all angles

Reps from 4-15 (and sometimes even as high as 20-25 for lower body) should be used to target both fast twitch (which respond to lower rep ranges) and slow twitch (which respond to higher rep ranges) fibers respectively. The important points to remember is that even when training with higher reps (i.e. 12-20), the weights must be as heavy as possible for that rep range and all working sets should ideally be taken to, or as close to, failure as possible.

11. Change your routine from time to time

Often our bodies eventually adapt to the same stimulus and thus changing things up a little once in a while is often the trigger we need to keep growing. Beginners can often get away with sticking to the same program for months on end, however if you have been lifting for a few years you may find that changing programs every 6-8 weeks might just help kick start some renewed gains.

12. Sleep at least 8 hours per night and take daily naps whenever possible

Sleep is when you recover and grow. Deep sleep boosts natural anabolic hormone levels such as growth hormone and testosterone and also helps to keep your body’s main catabolic hormone level, cortisol, in check. Without sufficient rest & sleep your muscle gains will be minimal to non existent.

13. Team up with a good training partner and select a good environment to train in

Doing so may just make all the difference in the world to your progress. When you have someone there to motivate and drive you on beyond what you’d typically push yourself and you are able to train in an environment conducive to the intense, focused workouts you will need to endure on a consistent basis, your progress will be amplified tremendously.

14. Protect your gains C & E

Intense physical stress, as in weight training, raises free radical production. Left unchallenged elevated free radical levels in turn ravage muscle tissue, suppress the immune system, devastate recovery and exasperate post workout muscle soreness (DOMS). Vitamins C & E are amongst two of the body’s most important anti-oxidants whose function it is to counteract the debilitating effects of increased free radical production. Furthermore vitamins C & E have been shown in scientific studies to lower cortisol levels and counter muscle fibre injury respectively. For enhanced immunity, decreased muscle soreness and more rapid recovery and subsequent muscle growth look to supplement daily with 1000-2000mg of vitamin C & 800-1200 IU of vitamin E.