Bruce Lee was famous for telling to "be like water", and his theory is as applicable to training and dieting as it is to fighting. The quote actually comes from the Dao de Ching, and is even better when looked at in its entirety: "Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves…" That is exactly the way you must approach dieting and training if you want to have success. In most people's minds, dieting is a very cut and dry thing- cut calories to lose weight, and increase calories to gain weight. The key, however, is to lose and gain the right kinds of weight, and not to do so to the detriment of your strength training goals. At that point, it becomes far more art than science, and anyone who tells you differently is a lying sack of shit whose children will hopefully be born blind and crippled as punishment for their forebear's stupidity and general dishonor.
With that in mind, clean bulking isn't easy. Boiled down to its essence, it looks deceptively so, however:
- Eat more.
- Lift more.
Lift more. This could mean any number of things, especially coming from me. My meaning's actually no more obtuse than the actual statement itself, as it means: lift more in terms of poundage, but not necessarily in terms of volume, while at the same time adding extra sessions if at all possible.
Seems a bit contradictory, right? It's actually not. If you're of the mind to, say, train 5x5 on squats with 405 lbs 3 times a week, your total volume for that week would be 30,375 lbs on the squat. I would recommend, if you want to bulk cleanly, that you try to train heavier when you're lifting heavy, but add extra sessions of light work as well. Thus, your workouts could become 2 days of 12x1x500 and 2 sessions of 2x30x135, which means that your total volume would be 28,200. While the training volume's not quite as high in terms of total poundage, it's likely that you're doing far more work per minute, which means that your workout density is improved. Additionally, you'll be facilitating active recovery with your light sessions, which will transport more nutrients (of which you'll be eating more) to the afflicted areas, and will take advantage of the increased protein synthesis you'll be getting from your increased training frequency. (Zatsiorsky, p. 12) As you try to ramp up the number of sessions per week, you'll find that some weeks you can handle more training, and some you can't. As such, you'll autoregulate your growth and recovery by listening to your muscles. If they're cramping so badly during your warmups that your form is absolute shit and you want to die, move on to a different lift. Half of the wacky exercises I've adopted by reading old strongman texts have been to give me something to do when everything hurts (the other half for when I'm bored with what I've been doing, which occurs rather frequently when you're training 10-11 times a week), and they work, as they keep me in the gym and typically stress my body in ways to which it is unused. This theory's in no way new- prior to the adoption of static training programs as a method to sell magazines and books, this is the way people trained. It's far more natural than the mechanical methodology of linear progression, and it's clinically proven to produce better results in trained athletes. (Mann et al) Think of yourself as a banzai tree- you're not going to grow in straight lines, no matter how much you Mister Miyagi your training. You can, however, make tiny adjustments constantly to guide your growth so that it progresses in an manner that is in accordance with your goals. Bear in mind, with autoregulatory goodness filling up your body, that bilateral training produces far greater increases in growth hormone than does unilateral training. As such, focus more on barbell exercises than dumbbell ones, and if you find yourself doing unilateral movements, make them BIG. The amount of muscle mass activated during training is as important to creating anabolic hormone response as Tera Patrick's angry screaming while getting fucked is essential to her popularity.(Kraemer et al.) For those of you who are sadly unaware of Tera's vocal skills, it's essential.
With that out of the way, let's move onto the even harder side of the issue- eat more. For those of you familiar with my blog, you know that I'm a fan of paleolithic dieting, although many of you seem to have a slightly skewed notion of what role paleo dieting actually plays for me. Paleo dieting is a great way to get really lean, really quickly, while sparing muscle. It might also be a good way to clean bulk, but I've never tried, as it requires you to eat cleanly, and it's pretty difficult to get enough calories to gain an appreciable amount of weight in a year without spending your entire day eating and cooking. As such, deviation in necessary. It is useful, however, to bear in mind that consumption of non-paleo foods in great quantities will lead to fat gains, even if they facilitate muscular bodyweight gains as well. I've found the best way to bulk cleanly is to rotate my calories and macronutrients. I don't bother with utilizing a percentage of my BMR, however, in setting my calories, due to the near impossibility of making that calculation. Even were you to determine your bmr for a given day, it will change as you get leaner, or bigger, or fatter, or smaller, or any permutation thereof. It'll deviate further as your daily activities change, ranging from the amount and quality of your sleep to water consumption (and the temperature of that water), your lifestyle activities (do you work sitting or standing? How much did you walk in a given day?), and finally your training style, loading protocols, TUT, and any number of other factors too numerous to mention.
Side note- fucking regularly will keep you lean, and give you a shitload of leniency in your diet. I'm talking 2+ times a day, not the ~3x a week that I've heard various idiots bragging about. Masturbation does not seem to be a suitable substitute, either- it seems that the caloric expenditure during sex plays a part, as does the fact that testosterone levels are more heavily impacted by sex than masturbation also plays a part.
Back to rotating your macros and calories. Start by doubling your bodyweight in lbs, and making that your baseline for grams of protein, daily. As you grow, up your protein. Thereafter, you're going to have high, medium, and low carb days, which will be inversely proportional to your fat intake (unless you choose a paleo day instead of a keto day). Thus, protein remains static, while you'll have high carb/low fat, medium carb/medium fat, and low carb/low fat or low carb/high fat days. Into the mix, you'll throw two cheat windows- and don't throw them in on your low/low days. The low/low days are important, in my mind, as they serve to give a sort of protein fasting day- they're for all intents and purposes a paleo day. That's the day where you're kicking up fat metabolism, forcing your body to change your output of leptin on a daily basis, and prevent your body from settling into homeostasis of any kind. Since leptin is the hormone responsible for controlling your appetite and plays a role in fat deposition and utilization, fucking with it by doing the metabolic equivalent of poking it in the eye with a sharp stick is key. Should you find that you're staying lean with no problem, you're incredibly hungry, or you simply want a keto day, take one. Bear in mind that those days are high calorie days, so they're tricky to fit into this system if you are really trying to rotate your calories. You could, however, cheat on these days by simply eating a massive amount of fatty meat for the three hours- hitting an all you can eat steak house or rib place (and only eating ribs coated in a dry rub). Experimentation is the word of the day here, and you're going to be like a mad scientist, tinkering with your diet until you've turned yourself into a massive, world-destroying robot bent on nothing short of the subjugation and destruction of the entire human race.
To define high carb and low carb: low carb means under 75g of carbohydrates for the purposes of this dietary regime. Thus, you'll be able to eat a handful of nuts, some veggies, and whatever carbs are in your protein shakes. That 75g does not include your postworkout meal, either, which should include at least 20g of protein and 40-75g of carbs. Play with the levels and see what works for you. I found Trio-Plex cookies and the occasional Met-Rx Big 100 brownie to be perfect for this. Otherwise, I avoid eating carbs in the form of grains or starches on these days. Medium carb days are usually those where I'll have my cheat window, which I almost invariably had at dinnertime. I make this a forcefeeding of epic proportions, and eat hard for 3 hours, whatever I want. At three hours, anything I haven't finished goes into the trash, and I have shakes for the remainder of the evening. I'll generally follow cheat days with a medium or low carb day, and then go high carb or cheat again. Never cheat on
consecutive days, if it's in a forcefeeding sort of way. If you know you're going to cheat multiple days in a row, make it a bit sensible, and don't gorge yourself- your body will absorb the excess without hurting your bodyfat levels. For the high carb day, I keep the fats low, generally eat 40-60g of carbs at 4 or 5 of my meals, which will give me 200-300g of carbs (1-1.5g of carbs per lb of bodyweight). Total meals per day will be between 6 and 10, depending on exactly how long I'm awake, how full I am from one meal to the next, etc. I never go more than 3 hours without eating, and I always leave a shake sitting on the back of the toilet to drink while I piss in the middle of the night. Obviously, I make my shakes with water- don't make the evening one with milk unless you like your milk sour.
But I still haven't explained how to fine tune this motherfucker into a steamy sexpot of high octane awesome! I guess you'll have to wait for the next installment...
1) Mann JB, Thyfault JP, Ivey PA, Sayers SP. "The Effect of Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise vs. Linear Periodization on Strength Improvement in College Athletes." J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jun 10. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ampedtraining.com/exercise-science/research-review-autoregulatory-training-linear-periodization#more-1476 Posted 6/21/2010. Accessed 8/19/2010. - "Autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise demonstrated greater improvement in 1RM bench press strength, estimated 1RM squat strength and the
number of repetitions performed at a weight of 225 lb compared with the [Linear Progression] group over the 6-week training period." Their "findings indicate[d] that the APRE was more effective than the LP means of programming in increasing the bench press and squat over a period of 6 weeks."
2) Zatsiorsky, Vladimir. "Intensity of Strength Training Facts and Theory: Russian and Eastern Approach." Biomechanics Lab at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, and Central Institute of Physical Culture- Moscow, Russia. - Zatsiorsky shows that the heavier one's training rate, the higher one's rate of protein degradation, which means a corresponding increase in protein synthesis.
3) Migiano, Matthew J; Vingren, Jakob L; Volek, Jeff S; Maresh, Carl M; Fragala, Maren S; Ho, Jen-Yu; Thomas, Gwendolyn A; Hatfield, Disa L; Häkkinen, Keijo; Ahtiainen, Juha; Earp, Jacob E; Kraemer, William J. "Endocrine Response Patterns to Acute Unilateral and Bilateral Resistance Exercise in Men."Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 24(1):128-134, January 2010.