Dreaming isn’t going to get you the body you want. If you want to be shredded, you have to be completely committed to that goal 100 per cent of the time. I’ve been dropping weight steadily since I began cutting in October, but this week I relaxed my diet a little bit. I still ate mostly whole foods, but a lot more carbohydrates than I should have – and I gained 2 kilos as a result! I know when I tighten up my diet this week the weight should fall off (I assume most is carb-related water weight) but it will also push my progress back two weeks. Every little thing counts.
In my experience I’ve found that while men and women struggle relatively equally when it comes to leaning out, women seem to give themselves a harder time when it comes to gaining size. If you want to gain muscle, you will put on weight. There is no way around it.
When people say they want to be the exact same size as they are now, only with very low body fat, they often forget that they would need to gain a significant amount of weight to achieve that. Picture yourself in your current state dieting down to 8-12 per cent body fat. Most people have more fat on their body than they realise, meaning they would become quite small. Therefore you need to gain some weight – most of it hopefully in the form of muscle mass – before beginning the dieting process.
You can either do this very slowly – basically just training and eating a greater proportion of protein, which will make you lose fat and gain muscle at the same time – or you can fully commit yourself to a gaining phase. This involves eating a larger amount of food in general and often dropping cardio. A lot of people assume that if you’re gaining as a bodybuilder you can eat whatever you want. Nope. If it was as easy as that, every McDonald’s loving dude would be buff. Your excess calories should come from complex carbohydrates and healthy fats – not beer and burgers.
If you choose to do a gaining phase, you must then follow it with a cutting period, to maintain the muscle and drop as much fat as possible, often repeating the entire cycle several times. Whatever approach you take, remember it’s a time-consuming process – one that is likely to take years, depending on how much muscle you wish to gain.
I typically follow a gain/lean cycle. Many are surprised that gaining also presents its own mental battles. You often have to eat when you’re not hungry and, because your energy intake is above your energy output, you will gain weight. And, unless you’re very genetically blessed, that weight will include fat.
I often think how difficult this process might be if I didn’t have a supportive partner. When I was single I wanted to be as lean as possible all the time. If you had told me four years ago that I would have had to gain seven kilos to get the body I want now I would probably have never picked up a dumbbell. I’m lucky that Rob is following a similar process and is aware of the end result we are striving towards. He isn’t bothered by a little extra fluff, and neither am I.
If you’re serious about gaining muscle and becoming stronger, you cannot be afraid of gaining weight. It’s damn hard to be lean and expect your muscles to grow simultaneously. Contrary to other popular advice, I’m not going to tell you to throw out your scales. I use a scale to monitor my progress and alter my diet or training if necessary. When I’m gaining, I try not to put on more than one kilo a week (note: I don’t necessarily gain weight every week, I just try not to gain more than a kilo in a single week or I know too much of it will be from fat) and when I’m cutting, I try not to lose more than a kilo a week (conversely, this will mean I’m losing precious muscle).
Think of the end goal and remind yourself why you’re doing this. On days when I feel a little blah about my body, or wondering why I am eating the exact same meal for the 20th time that week, I think of how much muscle I have already gained, how much stronger I am and how much more confident I feel. I keep my dream body in sight, which I know is attainable, and I push myself.
Have you tried a gaining phase? Do you struggle with the mental aspect of gaining weight?