There are many ways to successfully gain mass, but whichever way you do it, calories always come into play. To gain weight you have to be in positive energy balance, meaning you need to consume more calories from your diet than you metabolise (burn). In order to help you achieve this we have listed (in no particular order) 8 key factors to increasing total body mass, essential in the process of developing full bodied, lean muscle mass. This list is by no means exhaustive, but will guide you on some of the best strategies out there!
The principle behind our first suggestion is echoed by an ex- American president:
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”.
~John F. Kennedy~
1.) Estimate your energy/calorie requirements to know where you need to be, and how much you need to consume to maintain your current weight and energy levels (remember calories= energy)....then add approximately 300-500kcal on top of this.
To estimate your requirements, factor this simple calculation for your age:
Aged 18-30 >>>>> 16.0 x weight (kg) + 545 = ……..
Aged 30-60 >>>>> 14.2 x weight (kg) + 593 = ……..
Aged 60-70 >>>>> 13.0 x weight (kg) + 567 = ……..
Aged 70+ >>>>>> 13.7 x weight (kg) + 481 = ……..
Aged 18-30 >>>>> 13.1 x weight (kg) + 558 = ……..
Aged 30-60>>>>> 9.74 x weight (kg) + 694 = ……..
Aged 60-70>>>>> 10.2 x weight (kg) + 572 = ……..
Aged 70+>>>>>>> 10.0 x weight (kg) + 577 = ……..
EXAMPLE: 26 year old, 80kg male
16.0 x 80kg + 545 = 1825kcal per day (BMR)
EXAMPLE: 29 year old, 60kg female
13.1 x 60kg + 558 = 1344kcal per day (BMR)
(NOTE: ‘kcal’ is commonly known as ‘calories’ & ‘BMR’ = Basal Metabolic Rate)
Using the male example, 1825kcal is the BMR i.e. the amount of energy the above person would require just to maintain his daily bodily functions, such as breathing, pumping blood around the body, thinking etc.
In order to perform physical activity and exercise, the person will need additional calories for energy!
To sustain physical activity and exercise, we must therefore add a ‘physical activity level’ (PAL).
Light occupational activity
Non active= Male- 1.4 Female- 1.4
Moderately active= Male- 1.5 Female- 1.5
Very active= Male- 1.6 Female- 1.6
Moderate occupational activity
Non active= Male- 1.6 Female- 1.5
Moderately active= Male- 1.7 Female- 1.6
Very active= Male- 1.8 Female- 1.7
Moderate/Heavy occupational activity
Non active= Male- 1.7 Female- 1.5
Moderately active= Male- 1.8 Female- 1.6
Very active= Male- 1.9 Female- 1.7
To add a PAL you need to take your BMR i.e. your estimated calorie requirements for resting alone, and multiply it by the appropriate PAL (as shown above).
EXAMPLE: 26 year old, 80kg male
This person trains intensely a minimum of 5 days a week, and also works as a labourer on a busy building site, therefore we would deem this individual to be very active with moderate/heavy occupational activity (use the PAL that best applies to you)…..so apply the appropriate PAL to the above 80kg male example as follows:
1825kcal (BMR) x PAL of 1.9 = 3468kcal per day to maintain this persons weight relative to his physical activity levels.
2.) Have 3 main meals & 3 high protein mid-meal snacks (6 meals a day).
Ensure your main meals contain all food groups in the appropriate proportions, as seen on the ‘Eatwell plate’ (Food Standards Agency, 2012). The importance of consuming starchy carbohydrates and high protein foods cannot be over emphasised in the quest to gain mass! Ideally you should consume a protein shake in the morning to rapidly replenish the amino acid pool to limit your body from stealing nutrients from its own muscles and glycogen stores. A wholegrain breakfast such as porridge should follow in order to deliver a sustainable energy source, followed by a mid- morning snack of oat cakes with peanut butter or cream cheese for example. Lunch should deliver more protein and starch based foods such as a chicken pasta salad with added pine nuts and avocado for protein and essential fatty acids. The mid-afternoon snack might entail Greek yoghurt with honey and fruit, and the evening meal might be something like a 4 egg omelette made up with cheese, ham and fortified milk (add 3 tablespoons of dried skimmed-milk powder to a pint of full cream milk) which effectively doubles the nutritional value of ordinary milk!
3.) Use fortified milk (see above) with teas and coffees, for cereal and with foods such as the abovementioned omelettes, pastas, soups, sauces and mash potato (try adding nuts to this for added protein, fatty acids and calories) to name a few.
4.) Consume quick release carbohydrates such as orange juice with your main meals to induce an insulin surge increasing your absorptive capacity for protein, carbohydrate and fat....basically calories in general. Insulin is a potent anabolic (growth) hormone which if utilised properly, can help gain size and muscle! Also try using dextrose or maltadextrin with your protein and creatine shakes to exert a similar insulin surge.
5.) Creatine is an integral supplement to gaining mass for its ability to enhance training capacity, strength, power and its intramuscular fluid retaining properties.
6.) Without meaning to state the obvious, a strict, structured, well designed training routine is an integral component to any mass gaining goal. Some people are under the impression that a vast intake of calories alongside minimal amounts of activity are required in order to gain mass. Granted, 3 miles on the treadmill each day might burn valuable calories that would otherwise be better allocated to your mass gaining goals, but a controlled resistance training regime will undoubtedly help you to develop that much needed lean muscle mass.
7.) As strict and disciplined as you need to be with your training, the overwhelming majority of actual muscle growth occurs whilst sleeping and resting. So in order to maximise the anabolic (growth) phase of training we recommend getting a minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Try ZMA for its reported sleep promoting properties!
8.) Last but by no means least, we recommend using a mass/weight gain supplement. These do exactly what they say on the tin (tub/bag) through the delivery of approximately 500 and 1300kcal per serving (brand dependant). The added nutrition and calories delivered via just 300ml of mass gainer shake, makes these supplements invaluable additions to your regular dietary intake, and mass gaining goals!