The Top 25 Ways to Pack on Serious Mass
By Anthony Ricciuto
In the first part of this series, I discussed 8 top ways to pack on mass when going up a weight class. In the second part of this three-part series, I will continue with the next 8 tips to take you to success. Most people think that it is easy to pack on weight and they are right if putting on fat weight is your goal. The purpose of this series is to make sure that the weight that you do put on is solid muscle and not just an extra layer of fat around your hips and waist. Putting on the quality weight that will lead to a bigger total is our objective. There are many misconceptions on how to properly go up to the next weight class. What we have to remember as powerlifters is that by going up a class we have to produce a total that is competitive at that new class. What was elite at your old class won’t pull you through in the next division up. With this in mind what we must realize here is that we have to put on as much lean muscle tissue as possible while minimizing any fat gain. This can only be done through a well planned out nutritional and supplementation program. Here are the next 8 tips to pack it on!
Use a Protein Supplement
In a time when most of us live very busy lives and are constantly are on the go, a protein supplement in the form of a meal replacement or protein shake is essential. If we take a look at one of the rules in part one of this series, it was to eat 5-6 small meals per day. Now, eating 6 solid meals of food per day for most people would be a major problem. One way to make this much simpler is to eat your regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have a protein shake in between each of those meals. I just made your life a lot easier, didn’t I? The fact is that we need at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight as powerlifters, especially when we are trying to go up a weight class. Now if you have ever looked at a macronutrient breakdown chart of different foods you will notice that to consume all the protein that you need on a daily basis is almost unrealistic, that is unless you have an appetite like mine. When you look at the protein content of different foods and then you calculate how much you have to eat at your bodyweight, you then ask yourself, “How the heck am I supposed to get in all that protein without feeling like I just inhaled half of the country’s livestock?” Having 2-3 protein shakes per day will help you fulfill your protein needs and will make your life in the kitchen a lot easier as well.
Protein Shakes are a Must!
Consume Fast and Slow Acting Protein Sources
Like most people, you must be wondering what is a fast or slow-acting protein? Fast or slow-acting is in regards to the time your body releases the amino acids into the bloodstream. Now whey protein is a fast-acting protein. It is the fastest to enter your bloodstream and to upload into your muscle cells. The problem with whey is that while it is highly anabolic or growth-producing, it is not very anti-catabolic. A slow-acting protein like casein will do a much better job at preventing you from going into a catabolic or muscle wasting state. Supplement companies are constantly bashing each other saying that their protein whether it’s whey or casein is better than the other. The fact is you have to look beyond all the hype and look at scientific studies. The fact is that you need a combination of both to fully get the job done. Remember the best time to use whey is post-workout so that the amino acids get pulled inside the muscle cell the fastest and during the day and night use a combination of slow and fast-acting proteins.
Eat By the Clock
When trying to put on size, you just can’t eat when you get hungry, otherwise, it will take you a lot longer to get up to your next weight class. You have to eat by the clock, otherwise, you will not meet your caloric and macronutrient needs by the time the day is over. With this in mindset a schedule that you will follow and have a meal or protein shake every 2.5- 3 hours. Not 4 or 5 hours but every 3! This is very important in your quest for size. This will make sure that you get at least 5 quality meals in per day. I know that this sounds a little compulsive but in no time this will just become part of your lifestyle. This will mean that you will have to have all your food prepared the night before so that you will have it ready when you need it. Don’t just think that you will just cook something when the time comes as most likely you will get lazy and you will just skip the meal. Eating every three hours has many benefits. First, it will keep your metabolism elevated. Second, it will keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day and will prevent you from getting those after-lunch energy lows that so many people complain of. Next, it will keep you in a positive nitrogen balance and will supply a constant stream of amino acids to your muscles, thereby keeping you in an anabolic state. As you can see eating by the clock is definitely worth it!
Eat Before Going to Bed
Now I knew I would get a lot of cheers for this one, but hold on a second. Just because I said that you should eat before going to bed doesn’t mean you have a blank check to go on a nightly binge of nachos and ice cream. Sorry to break your heart but we have to make sure that we have specific nutrients that are going to keep you in an anabolic state throughout the night. It is during sleep that your muscles recover and grow from the tough workouts you perform in the gym. So not only is it important to get proper sleep time, as mentioned in part one of this series but making sure that your body has the nutrients available to repair and rebuild lean muscle tissue while at rest. Now you must be asking, what should I be eating before going to sleep? First, you want to make sure that you supply your body with a high-quality protein source. This will keep you from going into a catabolic or muscle wasting state while you are sleeping. It is during your sleep that you go the longest time without food. You don’t want to consume just a fast-acting protein like whey either. Like I mentioned in rule # 10 you have to consume a combination of both in your diet. At bedtime, you want a protein source that is going to stay in the blood stream as long as possible and provide a sustained release of amino acids to your resting muscles. One good example would be cottage cheese with whey protein mixed in. Next, you want to make sure that you provide yourself some healthy fats at this time as well. A nice Omega 3-6-9 formula will do the trick and provide a balanced ratio of the different fats. These fats are involved in many processes including reducing inflammation and testosterone production. What a better time to take advantage of this than when you are sleeping. Fat will also slow down the release of amino acids into the bloodstream even further. Eating the right things before going to sleep for the night is essential to putting on muscle and recovering from your workouts.
Sleep is Critical for Growth!
Take a Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Formula
During times of hard strenuous training, the body needs optimal amounts of micronutrients. These are your fat and water-soluble vitamins, major minerals, trace minerals, and electrolytes. These micronutrients even though small in their dosages are very important for your performance and strength. Taking a multivitamin and mineral pack is essential in making sure that you don’t have any deficiencies in any of the above categories. Optimal intake of vitamins and minerals are essential for life. If a deficiency occurs, the body will not function optimally which can lead to illness and even death in severe cases. Vitamins act as co-enzymes that perform many roles and functions in our body. They work as catalysts to release energy from the foods that we consume. Minerals play a role in many processes. These include muscular contractions, fluid regulation, the production of energy, nerve transmission, and protein metabolism. Do you remember the last time you cramped up at your competition after you weighed in? That most likely was caused by an electrolyte imbalance due to your method of losing water weight so close to the competition. Not taking a multivitamin and mineral formula as a strength athlete is like driving a race car without a seat belt.
Micro Nutrients are Needed for Optimal Health!
Never Skip Meals
What’s the big deal about skipping meals? If I didn’t mention it then you wouldn’t fully understand the consequences of skipping meals. I know, I have heard it all before. You get busy at the office or taking the kids to their soccer game. A few hours go by and boom. You forgot to eat your fourth meal of the day. You get a little busy picking up the dry cleaning and now you have missed your fifth meal too. Now let’s take a look at what happens to you when you skip a meal. First off when you skip meals it slows down your metabolic rate. When you slow down your metabolic rate by skipping meals, two wonderful things happen to you. First, you go into a catabolic or muscle wasting state. When this happens your body breaks down your lean muscle tissue and converts it to glucose to provide your body with energy. Next, since your brain thinks that you are starving to death it will tell your body to store any food that it does receive in the form of fat. So now you are losing valuable muscle tissue (and strength), as well as priming your body to increase its fat stores. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So this is why I tell my clients not to skip meals and always plan ahead. When you have a major competition like nationals or worlds right around the corner you don’t want the above happening to you.
Don’t Skip Meals!
Eat a Big Breakfast
You must be thinking that the only thing on this guy’s mind is food. Being a sports nutritionist, I usually eat 6-7 meals per day and in between, I am discussing and counseling my athletes about proper meal planning. Yeah, I guess you are right. All I think about is food! Breakfast is no doubted one of the most important meals of the day. You should always eat a large breakfast as it is the base that will fuel you for the rest of the day. You have gone 8 hours during your sleep without food, so now is the time to fill up the tank with fuel once again before another long day of work and training. A lot of people either skip their breakfast or eat such a skimpy breakfast it makes you wonder how they can even think and function at their job. Having a cup of coffee and a muffin is not considered a breakfast, especially not for a strength athlete. At breakfast time you have to supply your body with a hearty source of complex and simple carbohydrates, and a nice portion of lean protein. A good example would be a large bowl of oatmeal with an apple and an egg-white omelet. This is a breakfast, not that muffin and coffee joke that so many people fall into the trap of. The quality of your breakfast will have a direct effect on how efficient your metabolic rate works for the rest of the day. With this said, make sure that you eat a true powerlifters breakfast.
Big Breakfast for Big Gains!
Make Sure Your Meals are Balanced
“What type of balance are you talking about?” This refers to your macronutrient breakdown in each meal. Just as a refresher your macronutrients are your proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. Each of your meals should be balanced in its proportion for each of the “Big Three”. Now don’t think that there is only one macronutrient ratio profile that is going to be optimal for everyone because there isn’t. This is where a customized nutritional plan comes into play. Each person’s metabolic rate, energy expenditure, insulin resistance, and insulin sensitivity level are different, just to name a few variables. These all play a major role in designing a customized nutritional plan that is right for you. I can give one athlete a specific ratio of macronutrients and he will get ripped by following it. Yet another individual that I give the exact same plan to will cause an increase in his body fat level. With this stated, I will at least give you something to start with as a base. First off, never just eat one macronutrient and consider it a meal. This means in layman’s terms, don’t go out and eat a pasta dinner with a nice half loaf of Italian bread. As you can see you are lacking protein and healthy fats in the meal. At the same time don’t scarf down a can of tuna and call it a meal either. A good example to follow for dinner would be a lean steak, a yam, and a serving of broccoli with olive oil. This is a balanced meal. Now, I would play with the ratios of the macronutrients to exact specifications and amounts to help you achieve your future goal according to your personal data for the different variables. See, I know how to make it look easy!
With this installment of the Packing on Mass series, you now know that going up a weight class isn’t as easy as you once thought. It takes planning and precise calculations to go up to your next class without looking like you gained all your weight from binges at the local buffet. As you can see, there is a science to proper weight gain, not simply stuffing your face with all types of fattening and sugar-laden foods. In the next installment of this series, I will give you the last 9 tips to help you pack on serious mass!
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write me at