The Pound O' Week Diet
or "Why Johnny Can't Gain Weight"
by Peter Loux
With all the newsprint being devoted to weight-loss diets this time of year, we thought it'd be a good idea to present what we consider the ultimate "anti-diet." Want to lose weight and get ripped? This one ain't for you. Want to gain weight and stop feeling that special kinship with Olive Oyl and Barney Fife? Read on.
Do people even know you lift weights? I'm not counting your wife or anyone else who sees you naked. I'm talking about the people who see you in hopefully normal-fitting clothes on a daily basis. Do your friends refer to you as "the big guy"? Does your mom? Do the guys at the gym call you by a nickname like "Mad Dog" or "Ape"? Do your girlfriends?
Or do people only know you work out because you wear a tank top in the winter, which exposes your vascular, tanned, 13-inch arms.
If you fall into the second group, what's the difference between you and the really big guys in the muscle magazines, besides about a hundred pounds of lean mass? What's that you say? That is the difference? Let me rephrase my question. What did these guys do differently to earn those hundred pounds?
Is it genetics? Some people are naturally more mesomorphic than others, but for every Vic Richards who was over 200 pounds before he ever picked up a weight, there's a Milos Sarcev who looked like a spaghetti noodle when he started out, but somehow got pretty damn big.
Is it training? With a few exceptions, the pros work out with dedication and intensity. But don't you give your workouts everything you've got? Chances are, if you're reading Testosterone, you're not pussy-footing around at the gym. Do they really train that much smarter than you? Not to question the IQ level of your average IFBB professional, but I doubt these guys are exactly Ian King's colleagues.
Supplements? Sure, they may help, but there are no magic bullets to beefdom.
Sure, steroids and physique-enhancement drugs play a huge role, but not everybody who sticks a needle in their ass gets a pro card. We've all seen some guys shoot up thirty pounds with a cycle or two, while other guys stay virtually unchanged.
All that's left is diet. Do you think those giants eat nothing but chicken and rice, even in the off-season? Well, that's what FLEX would have you believe. Sure, and magical catabolic elves that live inside your scale are holding the needle at 135.
Let me ask you a question. Have you gotten big by maintaining 7% body fat year round? Do you think the train ride from ripped at 160 to ripped at 225 involves whistle stops at ripped at 165, ripped at 170 and so forth? NO! It involves a big fat detour to the town of beefy 250 before we reach our final destination. Do you want to reach your final destination? Do you want to finally gain some freaking weight?
Okay, I'll dispense with the motivational talk. If you want to see a diet in T-mag that will get you big, keep reading. On the other hand, if you like spending a hundred bucks a month on supplements to maintain that buffed jogger look, check out MuscleMedia.com.
I'd recommend the following diet to hardgainers who have been training for at least six months. If you can't see more than one ab right now, no matter how intense the light is, this isn't for you. If your nickname is "Puffy" or "Hamhock," I wouldn't try it. If you have some sort of heart or cholesterol problem, you should know better.
Allow me to present the Pound O' Week Diet, abbreviated POW for those of you that look more like a prisoner of war. It's my version of the see-food diet (you know, see-food, eat-it). This diet has helped me to reach my current weight of 200 pounds at 5'6". I'm no colossus, but I started at 125 pounds five years ago. How many of you have increased your bodyweight by 75 pounds naturally? In fact, during one twenty-eight-week cycle, I took my bodyweight from 169 to 197 pounds. True, my body fat increased from 12 to 14%, but it was pretty easy to diet the fat off. I'd rather have to lose a few extra pounds of body fat than fret about being skinny all my life.
It's a little more complicated than taking a fork and cramming things into your piehole, but not much. I've developed a series of guidelines that will help you eat what you need to get big without getting so fat that you're flown over football stadiums. You won't need to spend all day in a kitchen or on the toilet. You won't need a private cook, or to quit your day job. You won't need to obsess all day about calorie counts and macronutrient ratios. I've listed some supplements and foods that should be in every gainer's cupboard. And, I've given four sample diets that work with a variety of lifestyles. I've done everything I could do besides strapping steaks to you to add "lean mass."
1. You will weigh yourself on a reliable scale. You will not starve yourself first. That's cheating. You will not gorge yourself first. That comes later. Note your weight (rounded down), and the day of the week.
2. You will set a goal. I recommend twenty to thirty pounds. Probably two-thirds of this will be muscle, so we want to be left with something after you go on a cutting cycle and shed the body fat.
3. If you start on Monday weighing 170 pounds, by the following Monday, at some point, you will weigh 171 or more. That's at least one pound. Every subsequent week, on Monday, you will add one pound. If, after three days, you weigh 173, don't consider your goal fulfilled. Hell, you may just be constipated. The important thing is that the following week, starting that Tuesday, you will try to weigh 172.
4. If you make your weight before the deadline day, you will NOT try to go any higher until the following week. You can instead try to stay at this higher weight until the week's deadline has passed. Even though you should easily be able to gain five pounds the first week of a bulking cycle, don't push it. Our goal is to gain a pound a week for an extended period of time; not to add ten pounds in two weeks and then quit because you become nauseated from consecutive days of overfeeding. The plan works because you're able to eat a few more calories each day without extreme discomfort. If you'd like to try the alternate method, bump your calorie intake from 3,000 to 10,000 in twenty-four hours and see how you feel.
5. Cardio should be kept to a minimum. This diet is not for fat-loss purposes. This is not the ABCDE diet. You should try 20 minutes of cardio at about 70 percent of maximum heart rate, and that's maybe once a week,if you've met your goal. This will make sure you don't get out of breath going downstairs to the kitchen. It will also help keep your metabolism working.
In addition to the recommendations I've made about cardio, additional activities outside the gym should also be kept to a minimum. That means no pick up basketball games, no Saturday morning jogs, no household chores. "Sorry honey, I'm on a bulking phase for the next 20 weeks. You know where the mower is." Well, maybe a few chores.
6. Get your rest. If you work a strenuous job for 8 hours a day, you won't be able to gain much weight. If you lasso cattle, stack crates in a warehouse, or deliver messages by bike, there's not enough food in the world to turn you into a behemoth. If that resembles your situation, you might want to try for a half-pound a week. You'll also need 8 hours of sleep a night. I know you've heard that a million times, but if you are eating and training right, don't sell yourself short by staying up on AOL all night long.
How many calories should you consume on this diet? There's only one way to determine this, and this is by what the scale is telling you. Everybody has a different metabolism, different lifestyle, etc. Why would I bother making a complicated equation and table for you to calculate your base metabolic state when the number might be inadequate? The same is true of protein. How much do you need? At least one gram per pound of bodyweight, but probably more.
Not scientific enough for you? I urge you to take an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper and on one side write the following at the top: 5 Day Log. Underneath, make two columns: Calorie Intake and Protein Intake. Underneath, write, in large block letters "NOT ENOUGH" and "MORE." Keep this log with you and refer to it when planning your meals.
Keeping traditional records is pretty ineffective. First of all, any calculation of your daily calorie needs is going to be flawed and dependent on what activities you're doing that day. Second, it's hard to guess exactly how many calories are in each piece of food you eat. If you pack your lunch in Tupperware and eat the same things every day, you'll be fine, but what are you going to do when you go to dinner at your Aunt Tilly's house? Weigh the quiche and ask her how many grams of protein are in it? Are you going to keep tracking your food for 20 weeks? I don't know about you, but if I have a choice between obsessively logging what I eat and just shoveling it in, I'll choose the latter. Gaining weight is hard enough without turning it into a science project.
Timing of Calories
You should be eating every two or three hours throughout the day. This means at least six meals. This is the key to success. Maybe you're superhuman and can eat 6,000 calories in two meals. But that doesn't mean you'll be able to digest them.
Get this through your head. A big day at China Buffet is not going to get you huge. A big week at the China Buffet, a big month, having a booth named after you, now that's something.
Big meals are usually not a good idea. Why? Every Thanksgiving, I go to my parent's house for dinner. I get passed everything last and just finish it off. Even the cat stays a respectful distance away, fearing that in the cloud of smoke he might be mistaken for an appetizer. Three hours later, am I fixing myself a protein shake? No, I'm on the couch, too bloated to move, watching the Lions game. Despite a world-record meal, my total caloric intake on Thanksgiving and Christmas is probably a lot lower than usual.
People should not say "Gee, you can eat a lot." They should say, "Gee, you're always eating."
Should you eat before bed? Yes. Before training? Yes. After training? Yes and yes. A shake and a meal. Even a shake during training if you can. Breakfast? Of course. But not everyone is able to eat a giant breakfast upon rising. One trick is to take a shower first. I still find myself nauseated by food unless I have an hour or so to wake up. So if I have to go somewhere immediately, I'll just have a couple slices of buttered toast and some OJ. Two hours later I'll be ravenous for a high-protein, high-fat meal.
Many diet experts recommend that dieters not watch television or read while they eat because they'll eat more. Take some advice from the experts and if you're eating by yourself, get some reading done or watch Teletubbies; you'll find yourself consuming more without being bored by it.
Is the POW diet healthy?
Everybody knows that eating high-fat foods all day isn't healthy. Or do most studies correlate heart disease with being fat? Since most people who are fat eat too much fat, in many cases, the connection is just assumed. Where would the researchers find a population who ate tons of fat and yet were lean and muscular? Whether or not this kind of fat consumption is good for you is a moot point. Trying a diet like this for several months isn't going to kill you.
Twenty foods that should be staples of your diet, in no particular order.
2. Eggs, yolks included
3. Whole milk
6. Ice Cream
7. Protein Powder
9. Sushi and Rice
13. Fried Chicken
14. Whole Wheat Bread
15. Peanut Butter
16. Baked Potato and Sour Cream
17. Tuna and Mayo
19. Brown Rice
20. Any stray dogs or cats
Junk Foods and Fast Foods
As you can see by the above list, just about anything is allowed on the POW diet. However, a word of caution. The nutritional junk you eat should only follow the nutritious foods in your diet. If you fill up on soda and chips, you'll feel like crap. But don't worry about eating a few potato chips with your steak, veggies, potato and apple pie.
You may have also noticed that on this diet you pretty much do the opposite of what you were taught at Weight Watchers, with the exception of eating frequently throughout the day. Most diets don't allow you to eat fast food. On the POW diet, you must eat some fast food every day. I'm kidding, of course, but those 7000-calorie days are damn near impossible without becoming a regular at McDonalds, like Norm at Cheers.
Some items are, of course, better than others. Skip the fries. Some of these burger joints have a 99-cent menu that you can order from. Pick up four of their cheapest burgers and three of those half-pints of milk. At Taco Bell, try six soft tacos, beef or chicken or a bean burrito and a giant iced tea. The chicken and potato wedges at KFC have worked wonders for me. At a diner, enjoy some corned beef hash with your eggs. Remember to get your money's worth at restaurants by choosing high-protein items.
You call yourself a bodybuilder? Where's your gallon jug of water? Don't they issue those with gym memberships? Water definitely has its place in the POW diet. Keep yourself hydrated. After a meal and during your workout are the best times to drink water. Of course most of the day qualifies as "after a meal," so you'll want to drink a lot of water. I find it aids my digestion. One thing to avoid is filling up on water right before you're supposed to eat. Fill your stomach with nutrients and protein instead. Drink water after the meal, jug boy!
Creatine --- Creatine is one of the best supplements for adding sheer bulk. Instead of staying on creatine for months at a time, though, I'd begin to use it when I reached a sticking point. If you have a particularly hard time making weight early in the week, that's a perfect time to begin.
ECA or MD6 --- You should not be using thermogenics during this mass-building cycle for fat-loss purposes. You can use thermogenics occasionally for increased workout stamina or just do stay awake at work, but only after you've made weight for the week.
Post-Workout Drinks --- This is when muscle is built. After working out, and within an hour or two of having slammed down that last weight, make yourself an appropriately formulated post-workout drink consisting of protein and simple carbs. Something along the ratio of 25 grams of protein and 50 grams of simple carbs should do the trick. Don't, I repeat, don't add any essential fatty acids to this particular drink because you want an insulin spike right about now.
Anabolic Substances --- Substances ranging from Tribex-500 and methoxy-isoflavone to steroids will ensure that you put on a higher percentage of muscle as opposed to fat. Are these substances necessary to add weight? Of course not. Are they helpful? Yes. The decision is yours.
Essential Fatty Acids --- Since the bacon cheeseburger will become a staple of your diet, I would recommend supplementing with flax oil, Udo's choice, or other Omega-3 containing products. In addition to vainly attempting to balance out your outrageous consumption of Omega-6 fats (read: lard, grease, and the vegetable oil in processed food), you'll be getting extra calories.
Okay, you did it. You didn't listen and you became too enthusiastic. You practically doubled your calorie intake this week and now you feel like garbage. In fact, you just puked on my new shoes! What you had better do is take some time off. Don't eat for four hours. Take some ECA and do a little bit of cardio. Go to the mall and walk around. Now start again, slowly. Remember, small meals, don't fill yourself up, and include a little fat so that everything tastes good, but not so much that you get that "larded up to the gills" feeling.
I try to eat the same things on non-training days. Note that these are advanced diets that are designed for someone who weighs about 200 pounds. If you weigh less than this, you'll probably require less food. Weigh more than 200, you'll need more. Many of these diets call for a large amount of milk. If this causes digestive problems, you'll need an alternative, like Lactaid.
The Professional --- for someone who does actual work for a living
8 AM: 8 strips bacon, 4 eggs, 2 English muffin, orange juice and milk
11 AM: Protein bar and banana
1 PM: Go out for lunch, Burger King or somewhere you can get your calories quickly and get back to work, keeping your boss happy.
3 pm - Now eat the lunch you brought to work while you're sitting at your desk: tuna with mayo, fruit, precut bits of steak, pork or chicken, yogurt, and of course, sandwiches are all good choices.
5 PM: 2 pieces of pizza on the way home
7 PM: Dinner with the family
8 PM: Train
9 PM: protein shake (see recipes below)
11 PM: Anything left in the house: cheese, nuts, veggies, peanut butter, sardines, etc.. Pack your lunch for tomorrow!
College Student --- where the only real meals to be found are at a dining hall with limited hours
8 AM: Protein shake
11 AM: Dining hall meal: fruit, meat, pasta and salad, 24 ounces of whole milk
2 PM: Quick snack, 4 hard boiled eggs, banana, 16 ounces of milk, dessert
3 PM: Train
4 PM: Protein shake
6 PM: Dining Hall dinner: meat, starch, salad, dessert, milk and iced tea or fruit juice
9 PM: Protein bar or pizza and wings (hey, you're in college)
The Hardgainer --- for the people like me
This is what I ate to gain those twenty-eight pounds. Do not attempt this at home unless you have a lightning-fast metabolism. Then again, this might be just what you need.
8 AM: Bowl of raisin bran with milk, 10 ounces of orange juice
10 AM: 2 donuts, croissant filled with cheddar cheese, 2 eggs and bacon, 20 ounces of whole milk
2 PM: 6 ounces of steak, salad, 16 ounces of whole milk, baked potato, sour cream
4 PM: 2 cheeseburgers, mozzarella sticks, slice of pie, 16 ounces of whole milk,
6 PM: Protein shake "Minty Goodness" (see below for recipe)
8 PM: 1 can solid white tuna, mayo, 1 yogurt, banana, protein bar, PowerAde or fruit juice
9 PM: Train
10 PM: Protein shake ("Mr. Peanut Butter"), banana
Midnight: 2 slices New York style pizza with extra cheese and toppings, juice or iced tea, and anything you can find in the fridge
The Clean Eater Diet --- for those who don't like eating fat, and have a decent appetite
This will show you how tough it will be to eat even reasonably clean.
8 AM: 4 eggs, 6 ounces of steak, 16 ounces of orange juice, 2 pieces whole wheat bread
11 AM: 2 roast beef sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and cheese on whole wheat, 24 ounces of whole milk, celery and carrots
1 PM: 6 ounces of chicken breast, 1 cup yogurt, brown rice until you're full
4 PM: Banana, 16 ounces whole milk, bagel with cream cheese or sandwich
6 PM: Train
7 PM: Protein shake made with whole milk, but no ice cream
10 PM: 6 ounces of steak, salad, iced tea, 2 baked potatoes
Protein Shake Recipes
24 ounces of whole milk
3 scoops chocolate Grow! or protein powder
To the base, add
1/2 pint of Breyer's Chocolate Ice Cream
2 tablespoons of Peter Pan peanut butter
Blend and drink
To the base, add
1/2 pint Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Blend and chug, trying to get those anabolic chocolate pieces into your mouth without having to dig them out with a spoon.
This system is a tried and true way of gaining muscular weight. Yes, you'll put on some fat weight. And don't worry. Your girl won't notice that two of your abs are missing. She'll be too impressed with the two inches you put on your arms. If you're skinny and ripped, give it a try. Maybe after the POW diet and a cutting phase, you'll qualify as medium-big and ripped instead of skinny and ripped.
What have you got to lose? Remember the movie "Coneheads" and start "consuming mass quantities."