The pressure is on

The pressure is on

As I mentioned last week, I’ve officially stopped cutting. I’m not looking to specifically begin a gaining stage, but rather just eat slightly above a maintenance level of calories to continue building muscle without gaining too much fat alongside it. It has taken me more than a year to fine tune the macros my body needs to gain size, lean out or maintain, but it’s now fairly easily for me to tweak my diet according to my goals.

I’ve kept my daily grams of protein and fats the same, but increased my portions of carbohydrates because I was sick and tired of carb cycling! Being a bit more relaxed about my diet also meant I could enjoy not one, but two, celebratory meals after finishing work earlier this week.

My colleague picked the restaurant for my farewell lunch and actually told me she chose it because it would be the highest in calories and fat. Nice, huh?! Unlucky for her, the restaurant was really nice and its $35 ravioli only came with four pieces. It was delicious though and I enjoyed every bite!

For dinner Rob and I tried a new sushi restaurant around the corner. It was really good so I’m glad we’re leaving soon or we’d go bankrupt eating there with Rob’s bottomless sushi appetite!

I was pleasantly surprised when Rob, who has been training for many years longer than I have, asked me to write him a diet program. He gained from January until October last year, where he gained around 20 kilograms. He has been leaning out since then, and has lost more than half of that – now standing at 90 kilos.

He still has a few kilos to lose. I’m certainly no expert on the best way for men to gain muscle mass, but it doesn’t sound healthy to spend over a year fluctuating up to 20 kilos and taking on a bunch of unnecessary fat, only to end up perhaps 2 kilos heavier than when he started. Surely there must be a smarter way to gain muscle, without putting your body through all that stress?

I have undertaken a gain/lean cycle myself, and I didn’t like it. I think it’s too easy to use gaining as an excuse to go bananas with your diet, and following a super restrictive cutting diet is a horrible mental experience to go through without a real driving force behind it (i.e. a competition!). I saw huge gains when I cut out cardio and ate big from April to October and, while seeing the fat drop away in the following months was a great reward, seeing some of my hard-earned muscle disappear as well was not.

Although I did retain most of my muscle, I began noticing a difference in my arms. I felt like the weight loss, combined with having less energy to lift heavy, resulted in my arms getting smaller and smaller! I was starting to panic that all the gains I thought I had made were just fat, and at the end of the cut I would end up smaller than when I started! This, of course, was not true but cutting does crazy things to the mind…

I took this two months ago, back when I thought my arms were losing size!

I’m increasingly becoming convinced that I would rather gain muscle slowly and prevent as much fat gain as possible, while also avoiding a traditional gain/lean cycle. Six months ago I was in a hurry to gain as much muscle as possible in preparation to compete in May, but now that my competition date has been indefinitely postponed, I feel as though I can take more time to gain size.

When I expressed these feelings to Rob, I must have convinced him, because he’s now agreed to follow my “slow-gain” approach for the whole month of February. Although neither of us are expecting any earth-shattering results in only a month, if he likes what he sees he may just let me continue his programming.

This is a huge compliment to me. Rob has very specific ideas on what he wants to do with his body, nutrition and training, and he usually disagrees with most ideas I read about. He has been training for far longer than I have, and his is the first program I have written for anyone (except myself!).

I have reduced his protein intake slightly and increased his carbohydrates. During the final stage of his cut, Rob was only having about 20% of the carbs he was having when he was gaining! Instead of increasing his carbs all the way back up to what he used to have – and gaining a lot of fat in the process – I have basically doubled what he has been having recently. Based on his hunger and results, I will gradually increase the grams of carbs he is having every few weeks or so. I have also reintroduced rice and oats to his previously sweet potato-only diet.

As for Rob’s training, I am going to write a program for him this weekend. I don’t know how much he will listen to me about training, because he has so many preconceived ideas of what exercises he must do and, conversely, what ones he won’t do. He also likes making tweaks to his program every single week, so I think the chances of him following my program exactly for four weeks are slim!

Do you follow gain/lean cycles, or do you try to gain muscle all-year-round?

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