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Guide for ectomorphs, or how to gain volume

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There is a minority whose problem is the opposite. What they need is to gain volume, and it seems that whatever they do they cannot. Those who fight against obesity may seem a happy problem. But I can assure you that it is very frustrating.

Just as eating determines a large part of your results when it comes to losing weight, the food you eat will also be key to adding muscle to your skeleton. And if you’ve been ectomorphic all your life. You’re probably going to have to eat more, much more, than you’re used to.

BULK & CUT, AND THE ALTERNATIVE

gain volume

For a long time, the main strategy  that existed, and with the first one that I experienced is the famous Bulk & Cut, very used by bodybuilders.

The method is simple: first perform a volume phase where the main objective is to gain weight without worrying too much about the accumulated fat. Once you achieve the desired muscle level. You start a Cut phase, where your mission is to eliminate as much fat as possible while maintaining the maximum muscle gained. It is like dedicating yourself first to put a lot of clay, to mold it later.

PROBLEMS WITH BULK & CUT

Following a traditional Bulk & Cut approach, you could gain 10 kilos in a volume phase of 4 months. Of these 10 additional kilos, let’s say 6 are muscle and 4 fats. In the next 2 months. You concentrate your efforts on burning fat. Suppose you lose 4.5 kilos of fat and only 1 of muscle. The final net result is that you have gained 5 kilos of muscle and only 0.5 of fat in 6 months, not bad.

But now quoting Einstein In theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice not. Many times this ideal scenario is not given. And what ends up happening is that you gain much more fat than muscle in the volume phase. To free yourself after it, in the definition phase. You end up with a good part of the muscle created.

Summary, 5-6 months of work to stay the same or worse. Because it is shown that once you accumulate a lot of fat, your physiology changes. And predisposes you to accumulate fat more easily in the future, even after losing the extra weight.

Therefore, every time I lean more toward a more gradual approach, which allows you to gradually gain muscle, but keeping the fat at bay throughout the process.

This ‘new approach’ is based on making phases of volume / definition much shorter, a few months, weeks, or even within the same week if you are already very close to your final goal .

Perhaps this strategy requires more patience than a Bulk & Cut, but in the long term it usually gives better results with less risk of incurring permanent metabolic damage.

Forget about the headlines of ’10 kilos of muscle in a month ‘style, it will not work. A sustained progress between 0.5 and 1 kilo per month of muscle is excellent. In total weight you can upload something else, but the idea is to minimize the% of this increase that is fat.

MINI PHASES OF VOLUME-DEFINITION

gain volume

My proposal is to establish the volume and definition phases based on your% fat. We know that a high percentage of fat spoils the metabolism, and therefore the partitioning of calories.

The focus would therefore be on volume while the level of fat is below a certain percentage (for example 18% in the case of men and 22% in the case of women, although there may be variations), moving to definition once that maximum is reached.

How much remain in definition? Up to a level of approximately 15% in the case of men and 18-19% in the case of women. Going below these thresholds could compromise muscle gains.

Once you achieve a level of muscle and fat that you feel comfortable with, you can use a carbohydrate and calorie cycling strategy within the same week.

WHY LOSE WEIGHT BEFORE I WANT TO GAIN MUSCLE?

Given that we are talking about gaining volume. It seems logical that we should orient ourselves to eat more from the beginning, right? Not necessarily. Not all ectomorphs are the same. Some are ‘solid’ (left) and others ’round’. Dresses look alike, no shirt are quite different. But the main difference is under the skin, in its hormones.

If you are skinny, but with fat, with high probability you have less testosterone  than you should and a certain degree of insulin resistance, a terrible combination if your goal is to gain clean muscle. Insulin resistance makes your muscle cells more reluctant to accept nutrients and therefore you are more likely to end up accumulating these nutrients in the form of fat.

In summary, if you have more than 16-17% of body fat (22-24% for women), your initial goal is to lose fat, not gain muscle, and this implies that you should not raise calories too much yet. Start your training with a slight definition phase.

And the best, if you’re a rookie you can build muscle while losing fat, since the fat you burn is used as energy to build muscle. Once you have a good level of body fat, start the difficult, eat a lot!

YOU MUST EAT, A LOT!

If you have trouble gaining volume, I bet the main reason is that you are eating little. There is not a magic amount. Some people can gain muscle with 2,500 calories, others need 5,000.

Remember that when cycling carbohydrates you are also cycling calories:

In the volume phases, increase your calories by 10% compared to your maintenance level. If you need 2,500 calories to maintain your weight, try eating 2,800-3,000. If in a couple of weeks you do not gain weight, increase an additional 5%, mainly carbohydrate. And so on until you gain weight consistently.

In the definition phases, try to be 10-15% below your maintenance level. If you do not lose fat in a couple of weeks, you reduce calories by an additional 5%.

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS ON MACRONUTRIENTS

As a general rule, you will have to eat a lot of the three in the volume phases. It is not the time to take ketogenic diets, low in carbohydrate and much less low in fat.

Since we want to increase muscle, let’s start with protein. There are countless studies that try to answer the question of how much protein we should consume. Many of these studies are based on finding the nitrogen balance. Or the protein that we should eat to avoid deficiencies. It is a way of seeing it, but it will give you a minimum value, perhaps valid for someone sedentary. This, coupled with fears about possible kidney damage to proteins, makes most people eat less protein than they should. The recommended minimum is 1g / Kilo a day.

When the goal is to gain muscle mass, you must increase this number. Some studies  show a better result in body composition by increasing the protein to 1.6 g / Kilo, especially compared to low protein and high carbohydrate. A study  that reviewed multiple previous analyzes concludes that for athletes who train strength  the ideal amounts of protein are between 1.7-2 g / kilo.

Not all the protein is the same. The animal protein is more similar to ours. And therefore we process it better than the vegetable. But all the protein counts.

The fat, with its 9 calories per gram is your ally to gain volume, apart from being necessary to optimize the production of testosterone. Remember that eating fat does not cause you to accumulate fat. In any case.It is advisable to reduce fat intake on days that increase carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates produce the highest insulin response in the body, and when your goal is to gain volume, you need to carry nutrients to the muscles, and insulin is the main vehicle. A low carb diet is not ideal for gaining muscle, although you can gain muscle with any approach.

The rice, sweet potatoes / yams and potatoes (not fried, of course) are good choices for weight gain. If you like them, also use oats and legumes. Start at an intermediate level and increase carbohydrates little by little if you cannot increase volume.

IDEAS THAT CAN HELP YOU

For an ectomorph who survives on a 2,000-calorie diet (while wondering why he does not gain weight), it’s not easy to eat 3,000 or 4,000. You must accustom your stomach and your head.

Can you gain volume with strict Paleo or ketogenic diet? Yes, but it is more difficult. Someone with good insulin sensitivity can afford a reasonable amount of ‘non-Paleo’ or ‘keto’ foods without mismatching their hormones.

What’s in 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of milk? Nothing less than  2.432  calories  (128g of protein, 192g of CH, 128g of fat), with quite adequate ratios (21% protein, 31% carbohydrate, 47% fat).

Personally I think that GOMAD (literally ‘go crazy’) should be used as a last option, only if everything else has failed.

If your goal is to gain volume, and you do not care about ‘the consequences’, this method works, always. But it has its drawbacks:

  • Possible intolerances to milk, according to your genes.
  • It is easy to gain fat with this method. It is a recommended technique for the typical puny teenager, who is starting to train and wants to increase muscle fast. If it is not your case, surely you should moderate.
  • There are many studies that demonstrate the ability of milk to synthesize protein, and therefore it is generally a good option to gain muscle.
  • In any case, the measurement of a gallon does not stop being arbitrary. If it seems very wild 1 gallon a day, you can start taking 1 liter of milk per day (which is already 600 calories), and test how your stomach feels. Depending on your results, you adjust.

Another option used by many bodybuilders is DEAD, that is, eating a dozen eggs a day, which represents 700-800 calories, with very few carbohydrates.

If you think that 12 eggs a day is a lot, look at this interesting study  of a man who at 88 years old is still eating 25 eggs a day and without signs of cardiovascular disease. The eggs are good for your heart.

Including a good portion of nuts per day, in meals. Or as snacks, is another simple way to increase calories. One hundred grams of nuts provide about 400-600 calories.

To make it easier to increase the calories, you can eat the nuts in the form of butter, either purchased or prepared at home.

To eat many calories efficiently you can increase your ‘liquid calories’, especially while you get used to it. A protein shake can provide you with 400-600 calories of rapid absorption, which taken after a workout will help build muscle.

VOLUME FOR WHAT?

As I said at the beginning, I know how frustrating it is to be excessively thin. And in these cases it is highly recommended to gain volume. However, just as it is detrimental to your overall fitness to put excessive focus on cardio, gain muscle beyond the necessary to achieve good strength. And balanced physical, it is also a mistake. When the additional muscle makes you lose agility or speed, without becoming stronger. It is no longer useful. As I always say, the form must follow the function, not the other way around.

The author is an expert on occupational training and a prolific writer who writes extensively on Business, technology, and education. He can be contacted for professional advice in matters related with occupation and training on his blog Communal Business and Your Business Magazine.

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