Winter is almost here. In some places, it already feels like it is. You need to be ready. Why? With the holidays almost here, you need to get smart and build more muscle & gain more winter mass.
In a 1997 book edited by Pamela L. Moore entitled, Building Bodies, it was stated that “Built bodies are almost absurdly controlled, to the point where flesh no longer is flesh but metal machine, as when builders describe their arms as guns or their legs as pistons. A bodybuilder is the much-touted cyborg even without prosthetic limbs or pacemakers.”
When’s the best time for this rebuild?
Winter. It is the time to build your body, to re-fuel, re-feed and to grow. The process of gaining winter mass should be as “absurdly controlled” as your prep for warmer seasons. Are you ready to increase your muscle and body mass to be stronger and more muscular than ever? If so, then we have some general rules to follow as you build this winter.
Fuel The Machine For Winter Mass
Halloween is the day that starts diet-killing season. Candy and junk food fill the house. Then comes Thanksgiving and Christmas when rampant feasts take place. Even though it seems like a good time to bulk, dirty bulking is just going to make you fat. Most of your bulking should be clean and calculated.
Here Are Notes On Clean And Calculated Bulking
You are going to gain weight, but you don’t have to get straight-up fat. Just getting fat is what I call unintentional bulking.
The more fat you put on, the harder and longer your cut will be in the spring. The weight you’re trying to gain is muscle mass this winter. You will have to move into calorie surplus mode, but without going overboard. Let’s look at it strategically.
Step 1: Figure Out What Your Daily Calorie Consumption Should Be
Step 2: Calculating Caloric Intake For A Clean Bulk
When you begin a bulk, you’re only looking to add 0.5 to 1.5 pounds per week. This allows you maximum muscle gains with as little fat gains as possible. To focus on body mass gains, you need to know your body type to estimate added caloric intake.
You can check out your body type for more info as well.
Mesomorph – This body type is characterized as very well muscled and athletic builds. To calculate bulking calories, multiply your bodyweight by 15. If you weigh 195 pounds, then your calories will be 195 times 15. That equals 2,925 per day.
Ectomorph – This body type is typically viewed as naturally skinny. These people have a hard time putting on weight and muscle. Multiply your bodyweight by 17. If you weigh 195 pounds, then your calories will be 195 times 17. That comes to 3,315 per day.
Endomorph – This body type gains weight quickly. It also has a higher body fat percentage. This body type usually has a rounded build. To calculate bulking calories, multiply your bodyweight by 14. If you weigh 195 pounds, then your calories will be 195 times 14. The total is 2,730 per day.
Now that you have your calories for bulking, you have to break it down to macros, the ratios of proteins, carbs and fats that you’ll consume. You can also eat and train for your body type!
You can research macro calculator and tdee calculator & will let you fill in your daily allotted calories, as mentioned, and then add your own ratios of protein, carbs and fats. It will tell you how many grams of each to consume daily. I would start with a ratio of 40%, 25% and 30% (protein/carbs/fat). From there, adjust according to results in the following weeks.
If you start to lose weight, eat 250 more calories each day. Try this for a week. If your weight stagnates, add another 250 per day the next week. Continue until you are gaining about 1 to 1.5 pounds per week. You can also manipulate the macros ratio. I would only advise one change at a time so you know which variable is the effective one.
On the flip side, if you gain too rapidly, you need to cut in 250-calorie intervals or lower your carb ratio.
Clean Bulking Is Best
Your calories are strategically calculated. The same should apply for the food sources you select. Your bulk diet should look like an extension of your cutting diet. The only difference should be more food. You are not a bear who needs to store enough fat to sleep for four months straight.
Fat storage is not the goal.
It is understandable that you will have some cheat days in the name of winter holidays, but you can be strategic about your cheat days as well. Here are some ideas to help keep your diet clean on feasting days:
Dessert – You can offer to bring dessert. Sneak in a healthier one and see if anyone notices. Or, you could pack Quest Bars. These are known as fitness candy bars.
Alcohol – Drink low-calorie beverages.
Feasting days – It’s easy to find white meat turkey. Gobble that up. Go easy on foods you know are loaded in carbs and sugar.
Don’t get in a routine of eating junk. Right after your cheat day, get right back on track. Cut the alcohol as soon as you can because it ruins gains in many ways.
Eat On The 3s
This is likely a no-brainer for most of you. Still, sometimes athletes resort to old eating patterns when they are not in prep mode. Continue to eat meals every three hours just as you would during a cutting phase. Consistent eating intervals are vital.
They’re vital for stabilizing or increasing your metabolism and maintaining your healthy routine.
What About Supplements?
Here are a few quality supplements that you may want to keep in steady supply to aid in mission winter growth:
You can also check out the best supplements for gaining mass in the winter.
Whey protein – Consume a protein shake about 20 to 30 minutes prior to your workout and right after training to fuel your muscles.
Creatine or kre-alkaline – Everyone who wants to grow, male and female alike, knows that the go-to growth supplement is creatine or kre-alkaline. Take two to five grams before your workout and you can take an added two to five grams after your workout.
BCAAs – Branch Chained Amino Acids are especially good at muscle repair. Take a quality BCAA before and after your workout.
Glutamine – Glutamine can help prevent muscle fatigue and give growth hormones a boost. It also aids in muscle growth.
Work The Machine For Winter Mass
Your diet is supplemented in your off-season. That means that you’ll have added fuel and energy stores. Put your energy stores to good use. This is the time to go hard in the gym. It’s time to get serious in the gym and pack on the muscle mass while you actually have more calories to consume. Winter should be viewed as prep for the summer.
Don’t Cut Cardio. Go With Muscle Sparing Cardio
Though it would be awesome to drop cardio like a rock, you need to keep it in your routine. Keep two to four sessions per week for 20 to 30 minutes per session. It won’t lessen all your hard earned muscle gains. In fact, some cardio can assist you with gains. For example, there’s high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Picture sprinters. They are very muscular and not slogging out endless miles. They’re machines built by HIIT. No one can deny that sprinter physiques are coveted by most.
The American College of Sports Medicine (2014) states that HIIT is proven to improve insulin sensitivity. This helps your working muscles to use glucose as an energy source. It also helps decrease abs fat and overall body weight while maintaining muscle mass.
Doing HIIT requires activation of multiple major muscle groups at one time. It is an exhausting and efficient muscle building exercise. Take it outside to your local high school track and football field. The weather is perfect for pushing yourself to the max unlike in summer months when the heat makes you want to pass out.
Here are some other HIIT ideas:
- Do 100-yard sprint intervals on the track for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Run bleachers as fast as you can up the bleachers, then walk down.
- Get on the football field. Throw a heavy medicine ball as far as you can. Sprint to it and then throw it again. Go up and down the field a few times.
- Run backward on the straights of the track and build your hams, then sprint the curves.
- Take a friend and compete!
The possibilities are endless.
Understanding Muscle Fibers Is Key
You have two types of muscle fiber. Type-I fibers, or slow-twitch, help you with endurance training. Type-II fibers, or fast-twitch, are large fibers responsible for strength and size. You recruit them when you’re weight training. Your goal should be to tear your type-II fibers so that you elicit growth.
How do you do that?
You may be thinking that you have to lift heavy. While you can lift heavy to tear the type-II fibers, you can also switch to lighter weight, higher reps for almost the exact results. No matter which method you choose, the surefire way to tear type-II fibers is to push yourself to the limits. You should lift until your form is pretty much awful – total technical failure.
Lifting to failure causes small tears in your muscle fibers. Then your body must repair the damage. That all-important fuel that we discussed before now comes into play. Your body uses proteins from high-quality foods to build and strengthen your muscles, and they actually become denser giving you the visual that you’re looking for: Muscle mass.
Vary Your Routines For Rock-Solid Results
Keep your body guessing.
Simple, because the same old thing means you will be stagnant where growth is concerned.
Whatever your norm is needs to change. Just as we’re creatures of habit where diet is concerned, we carry those same habitual routines to the gym. It might be that you are comfortable with the set up of your local gym, so you hit the regular stations for chest day and get out. Maybe it’s not habit. Perhaps it’s how strong you feel on certain lifts and you like being the local gym beast in bench press. Okay show off, it’s time for people to see you struggle.
The saying goes: If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you. It’s true. Consider changing your gym routines at least every four weeks to avoid adaptation. Changing your workouts means your body must adapt to effectively execute new exercises that you require of it. This stimulates a boost in natural hormone release in the form of testosterone and growth hormone. These two hormones are what you need for an increase in muscle mass.
You really need to consider your daily gym routine. For example:
- Do you only hit the gym to throw around heavy weight?
- Are you completing heavy weight circuit training?
- Do you incorporate days/weeks of nothing but full-body workouts?
- How long are you resting between sets? More than one minute?
- Are you doing upper and lower body splits?
- Do you do both high rep training and heavy weight training?
For best results, you need to become well rounded in training styles. If you have been training with heavy weights for a few weeks, switch your routine to full-body workouts and get back to the fundamentals for one week.
If you’re thinking that full-body workouts aren’t ideal for adding body mass, there are some things to consider. Do you recall a time that push-ups and pull-ups became easy? Does your body know what equipment you used to tear its muscle fibers? No. It only knows tear and repair.
After a week of full-body workouts, then switch to lower weight, high rep lifting for the next two weeks. You may find the results staggering.
Rest The Machine For Winter Mass
This is key. If you aren’t sleeping, your body is not recovering and growing. More than that, a study in Sports Medicine (2014) revealed that, “chronic, partial sleep deprivation may result in alterations in carbohydrate metabolism, appetite, food intake and protein synthesis.” Yikes! The last thing a builder needs is interruption in how their body uses the food that they are investing money in and taking the time to prepare each week. Don’t ruin your gains at bedtime.
Rest the machine!
Your winter bulk is equally vital to building your physique as your prep phase is to cutting. To see optimal results in muscle and body mass gains, you need to treat your off season like prep, just a different style of prep. Maybe it shouldn’t even be coined bulking phase. It should be a winter mass phase and you should be religious about it. Now, go get massive!
By Sarah Chadwell, CPT