Let me guess…
You spend hour after hour, week after week, month after month, year after year in the gym.
Yet you put so much effort.
The good thing is that you already have the discipline to actually workout consistently. You only need to adjust a few things on your nutrition and training to improve your body, strength, and confidence.
Up for that?
The reason you’re still weak and look unimpressive is probably that you haven’t dedicated yourself to building muscle.
By dedicating I mean changing your training program and diet to actually make your body grow.
5 Cool Things That Happen to You When You Build Muscle
- Your metabolism accelerates — The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn while resting (which means you get to eat more food :-). One pound of muscle burns 6 calories per day, whereas a pound of fat only burns 2 calories per day. 
- Your bones get thicker, your joints get stronger, and you become more of a badass in general — As you age, you tend to become weaker, more fragile, and your metabolism slows down. A great way to avoid the age-related effects is to carry a lot of muscle mass.
- You’ll look better naked when you get leaner — When you gain muscle, you also gain fat, that’s just way it is, but once you get rid of the fat and get to show off your new muscle, you’ll look amazing. Even if all you want is to be really ripped, the more muscle you carry the better and more defined you’ll look at lower body fat levels.
- Your potential to get stronger will increase — If you like lifting heavy, then you should probably focus on building muscle for at least 1–2 years. The more muscle you carry the stronger you can get in the long term.
- You’ll become more useful in general — To quote the great Mark Rippetoe, “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” There are two kinds of people, the ones that can get the lid off of the jar, and the ones that ask for help. Which one will you be?
Most people, especially women, are scared of gaining muscle because they think they’ll get too “big or bulky.” But the reality is that gaining muscle is really hard, and if you’re scared of getting too big.
I’ve got good news for you, you’ll not get too big.
Gaining muscle will only make you look more awesome, so if you don’t want to look more awesome you can stop reading now.
Otherwise, read on.
The Number One Thing You Need To Control To Gain Muscle
You might think that to gain muscle you just need to eat more protein.
That could be true, depending on how much you’re eating right now.
In reality, if you want to gain muscle the first thing you need to worry about is the number of calories you’re eating.
A calorie is a measure of energy. You use calories and to move and to perform body functions.
Depending on how many calories you eat on a daily basis, there are 3 states that you can be at any given time, and they are mutually exclusive :
- Negative Calorie Balance (hypocaloric diet): Occurs when you consume fewer calories than what you use in your daily and weekly activities. A negative calorie balance ALWAYS leads to weight loss.
- Calorie Balance (eucaloric diet): Occurs when you consume the same amount of calories than what you use in your daily and weekly activities. When you’re in calorie balance, your body weight remains the same over time.
- Positive Calorie Balance (hypercaloric diet): Occurs when you consume more calories than what you use in your daily and weekly activities. A positive balance creates an energy surplus and the excess calories are stored in three ways: fat, muscle, and glycogen.
Calorie balance is the most important variable that you can control when you want to manipulate your body weight.
To lose weight, you have to be in a negative calorie balance.
To maintain your weight, you have to be in calorie balance.
And to gain weight and build muscle, you have to be in a positive calorie balance. Which means that you’ll be eating more calories than you burn on a daily basis.
The extra calories will provide the materials your body needs to build muscle.
Why You Need to Get Fat to Gain Muscle
When you’re on a muscle gain diet, three things will happen (assuming your training is on point):
- You will gain muscle
- You will gain fat.
- You will get stronger.
Every time I work with clients, I make sure that before they start a muscle gain diet, they’re lean enough so that they feel comfortable putting on some extra fat.
If right now you can’t stand the thought of adding more fat to your body, then you should first focus on losing fat (link to my article about losing fat) before starting a muscle gain program.
Either way, you need to be willing to put on a bit of extra fat for a period of time while you’re gaining muscle. Later on, when you lose that fat, you’ll look freaking awesome.
It’s like when you put the cake in the oven, it’ll come out looking and tasting better.
So if you want to get a great physique, you need to start thinking long-term and be willing to do some short-term sacrifices.
They’ll be worth it.
Eating To Grow Out Of Your T-Shirt
Before telling you how much food you’ll have to eat to put on weight, let’s start by getting clear on the number of calories you have to consume to maintain your current bodyweight.
Steps 1 through 3 explain how to calculate your calories and macros. If you don’t want to do that, jump straight to step 4 which tells you how much you have to eat to gain weight.
Make sure you read, steps 4, 5, and 6 because they tell you how to track your progress and adjust your diet for long-term accordingly.
Step 1: Your Maintenance Calories
Before starting a muscle gain diet, you need to know the number of calories you need to maintain your current body weight: Your Maintenance Calories.
The numbers in this chart are rough estimates, and they can vary depending on individual differences and activity levels:
Once you know your maintenance calories, then creating a caloric surplus will be very easy as shown in step 2.
Step 2: Your Caloric Surplus
Now that you know how many calories you need to eat to maintain your body weight, let’s talk about how many calories you’ll add on top of that to gain weight.
To gain weight you’ll have to create a calorie-surplus, that means that you will have to eat more calories than what you burn on a daily basis.
The hypothesis is that in order to gain 1 lb per week, you need to eat an extra 3500 calories per week because that’s equivalent to the number of calories in 1 pound of muscle mass.
With this diet, we’ll aim at gaining between 0.5 to 1 lb per week. This seems to be the number for which the muscle to fat gain ratio is acceptable. Anything higher than this and you’ll probably be gaining too much fat, and anything lower and you’ll probably be leaving some muscle gains on the table.
So, you’ll start by creating a 500 calorie surplus per day, I made it easy and did the math for you in the following chart:
Step 3 — Calculating Your Macros
Now that you know the number of calories you’ll be eating on a daily basis, it’s time to break them down into proteins, carbs, and fats.
In this case, you’ll do a high-carb massing diet (why high carb?), which means that after we cover the minimum required amounts of proteins and fats, the rest of the calories will be consumed in carbohydrates.
I’ll work with a 200 lbs individual as an example here. This person has to eat 2500 calories on non-training days, and 2800 calories on training days.
1. How Much Protein?
Protein contains 4 calories per gram.
You’ll be eating 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
Our 200 lbs individual will eat 200 grams of protein on both training and non-training days.
Calories of protein = (Grams of protein * 4)
That means that this person will eat 800 calories from protein.
2. How Much Fat?
Fat contains 9 calories per gram.
You’ll be eating 0.3 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Our 200 lbs individual will eat 60 grams of fat on both training and non-training days.
Calories of fat = (Grams of fat * 9)
That means that our 200 lbs individual will eat 540 calories from fat.
3. How many Carbs?
Carbs have 4 calories per gram.
You’ll be eating the rest of the calories after subtracting proteins and fats from your massing calories in carbohydrates.
Grams of carbs = [Muscle Gain Calories — (Calories of protein + Calories of fat)]/4
Our 200 lbs individual will consume:
Grams of carbs for non-training days= [2500-(800 + 540)]/4 = 290 grams.
Grams of carbs for training-days = [2800-(800 + 540)]/4 = 365 grams.
Done for you
To save you the trouble of doing all the math, I calculated the macros for all bodyweights:
Step 4 — Your Customized Meal Plan
After your macros are ready, it’s time for you to divide them into daily meals.
It’s up to you to decide how many meals you want to do per day, I recommend between 4 and 6 meals. Decide how many you want to do and divide the macros by that number.
This image below tells you how one meal for a 4 meal/day nutrition plan looks like for every body weight. So, you can just grab it from here:
Step 5 — Breaking down the macros into food
To do this diet, you’ll need a food scale.
Just pick the one you like the most from Amazon and you’ll be good to go.
Here is a list of the foods I recommend:
This image tells you how many grams of different foods represent 10 grams of each specific macro.
For example, to achieve 10 grams of carbs you’d have to eat 125 grams of strawberries. So, if you have to consume 45 grams of carbs, just multiply that number times 4.5.
125 * 4.5 = 562 grams of strawberries.
Since during a muscle gain diet you’ll probably have to eat more than you want, so focus on eating lower volume foods. So instead of strawberries, eat white rice, or kid’s cereals for your carbs.
Step 5 — Tracking your bodyweight
How do you know if you’re making progress?
By tracking your bodyweight, and calculating a weekly average.
In order to this, you’ll have to weigh yourself 3–7 times per week, and average out the numbers.
To make this as controlled as possible, weigh yourself first thing in the morning as soon as you get up from bed. Make sure every time you weigh yourself is under the same circumstances (before going to the bathroom).
You should be gaining around 0.5 to 1 pound per week on average.
Step 6 — Adjusting your diet
A couple of things can happen when you start following these guidelines to gain muscle:
- You will gain weight
- You will maintain your weight
- You will lose weight
Before making any adjustments, you need to do the diet for a minimum of two weeks. And when you adjust your diet, wait two weeks to adjust again if needed.
1. If you gain weight:
It’s really important that you track your body weight to know whether you’re on track or not.
If on average, you’re gaining 1 lb per week, then continue the diet until you stop gaining.
If on average you gain more than 1 lb per week, then you need to reduce the number of calories you’re consuming.
Start by subtracting 250 calories per day from carbohydrates, and track again. Remember, wait two weeks before making any adjustments.
Repeat as needed.
2. If You maintain your weight:
If this happens you’ll have to add more calories to your diet.
Start by adding an extra 250 calories per day from carbohydrates for two weeks.
Track your body weight, and if you still aren’t gaining, repeat and add another 250 calories.
Repeat this as many times as needed.
3. If You lose weight
In this case, you’ll also need to add more calories to your diet.
If you lose weight, you’ll add an extra 500 calories per day from carbohydrates.
Track your bodyweight for two weeks before adjusting again.
Step 7— How Long Should You Stay on This Diet?
To get on a muscle gain diet you have to create a calorie surplus.
In order to do this, you should start by adding 500 extra calories to your maintenance calories.
A muscle gain diet should last somewhere in between 8–12 weeks.
Anything less than this, and you’ll probably not gain enough muscle to make it worth it.
Anything longer than this, and you’ll probably gain too much fat.
Assuming you’re starting this diet lean enough, putting on 12 extra pounds should allow you to keep your abs visible (if you’re gaining at the recommended rate, 0.5–1 lbs per week).
So plan to stay on this muscle gain diet for at least 12 weeks.
Muscle Gain Hacks and Tricks (Must Read)
High Glycemic Index Carbs
There’ll be a point when you have to eat so many carbs that you’ll get a bit sick, especially if you try to consume nothing but “healthy” carbs.
A hack for those times when you have to consume a big meal of carbs is to use high glycemic index carbs because they have a higher concentration of carbohydrate per gram than any other carb.
Kids cereal is a great choice. It contains a high concentration of carbohydrates per gram, so the amount you’ll have to consume to hit your numbers will be less than if you eat white rice or fruits.
For example, if you want to eat 100 grams of carbs, you can do so by consuming either 1250 grams of strawberries or 120 grams of Fruit Loops.
Eating 1250 grams of strawberries might leave you feeling full for the rest of the day, whereas anyone can eat 120 grams of fruit loops and have another meal a couple of hours later.
How To Be The Coolest Person At The Gym
Being lean is cool.
Being lean and strong is cooler.
Being lean, strong, and muscular is way cooler than cooler.
Don’t be one of those that spends years going to the gym, and still looks the same. Commit to doing what it takes to improve your body composition and your health.
If you’re investing time on it, might as well do the best possible job. Stop half-assing your workouts and your nutrition and start following a plan that will get you results.
Gaining muscle is part of getting a great body. You just need to plan your year accordingly so that you’re leaner when the summer comes along (link to article).
Just imagine how you will look with a bigger chest, bigger arms, bigger legs, or a bigger booty (ladies). Or all of them.
Your confidence will go up. You’ll get stronger. You’ll look better. Your bones will get thicker, you’ll become more useful in general, and you’ll probably need a new wardrobe.
You will become a better version of yourself.