While many individuals come to TFN looking to decrease their body fat, a large number of individuals (men and women) are seeking ways to maximize their muscle mass and performance and need to learn how to EAT BIG. While eating big can seem complicated and expensive, I want to show you how it can be done in a simple, time efficient, and cost-effective way. I will arm you with all the information you need to begin your journey into eating big, including the following:
- How to buy and prepare food in bulk
- How to achieve a caloric surplus
- Recipe for "Dylan's Get Big Drink"
- How to develop a schedule for your eating
- Sample Meal Plan
- Guidelines for hydration and sleep to maximize gains
- Lets get started!
1. Buy food in bulk
One of the biggest misconceptions about eating big is that it is expensive. If you shop smart and buy in bulk when possible it may even be cheaper than your current monthly food bill (that includes all of the eating out you're doing too!)
PROTIP: A Costco membership is a must for eating big on a budget. High quality food (organic options are cheaper here too) and low prices. They even sell supplements at lower prices than most other stores!
In order to simplify grocery shopping you will plan ahead and buy bulk items once per month. Extra items can be purchased on a weekly basis as needed (ex. Fresh fruit/veggies, condiments, additional meat/fish etc)
The "Eat Big on a Budget" Grocery list:
Bulk items at Costco: (shop 1x/month)
- Quinoa/rice/whole wheat pasta
- Frozen mixed berries
- Chicken and ground beef (buy plenty and freeze what you aren't cooking that week)
- Frozen salmon/tilapia/fish etc.
- Check the meat and fish selection for high quality meat/fish at budget prices (the Costco prime ribeye is unbeatable for taste and price)
- Eggs (sold in packs of 36 or even palates of 90)
- Liquid egg whites (if desired)
- Greek yogurt
- Whole milk
- Frozen broccoli, green beans, etc.
- Fresh vegetables and greens
Healthy Fat Sources:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil (mixes great in shakes with little to no taste!)
- Mixed Nuts
- Whey Protein
- Fish Oil
- Gallon Zip-Lock bags
- Tin Foil
2) Prep food in bulk 1-2x/week
Once you have fully stocked your fridge and freezer, make sure to prep food 1-2x/week. Each prep session should last no longer than 30-45min and you can cook a 4-7 day supply of meat/chicken/etc. as well as plenty of rice/quinoa/carb source of choice. Cook a large amount of chicken breasts or ground beef in an extra-large pan, season as desired and store in a gallon zip-lock bag in the fridge. Use a rice cooker (best invention ever!) to cook a big batch of rice/quinoa and store in a zip-lock bag in the fridge. Now you have the basis for making meals each day (or days in advance) quite easily. Just open a Tupperware, add carbs, add protein, add frozen veggies, pour on some olive oil, and you're ready to go!
If you want to add some variety to your meals you can add salsa, varied seasonings, and different combinations of your ingredients. Also, make sure to cook extra food with dinner each night to add additional variety to your weekly meal prep (ex. Steak, fish, anything fancier than ground beef and chicken!).
Here is a sample meal which takes me less than 5min to prepare each night with my pre-cooked ingredients. I consume this meal 1.5-2hrs before training sessions.
Dylan's Pre-Workout Meal:
- 50g Carbs from Quinoa or Brown Rice
- 35g Protein from Chicken or 90/10 Ground Beef
- 15g Fat from Olive oil
- 1/2 Cup Broccoli
3) Achieve a Caloric Surplus
In order to gain muscle and bodyweight it will be necessary to achieve a caloric surplus. For those involved in serious strength training, a serious caloric surplus will be needed. One route of determining how many calories to consume daily is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (google for an online calculator) which will estimate the number of calories your body burns at rest each day. Once you attain this number you can estimate number of calories burned with physical activity and then add additional calories to attain a surplus. Instead of making this too complicated with equations and calculations we are going to take a more simple route. Chad Wesley Smith, of Juggernaut Training Systems, recommends 18-20kcal per pound of body weight for men attempting to gain weight and 15-17kcal per pound of body weight for women. My recommendation is to log your nutrition via the MyFitnessPal app and consume at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight while making up the remaining daily calories with carbs and fat.
For a 170lbs Man this could look something like this:
Protein: 200g (800kcal)
Carbs: 350g (1,400kcal)
Fat: 100g (900kcal)
Log your nutrition daily and track bodyweight by weighing in first thing in the morning 2-3x/week. You should be able to gain .5-2lbs per week if you are eating a solid caloric surplus as defined above. This obviously depends on where you are starting from and your ability to gain. Do not attempt to gain faster than 2lbs per week as a large portion will end up being an increase in body fat. The goal here is to maximize muscle gain with minimal fat gain. If you aren't gaining, add another 250kcal or so per day, if you are gaining too fast decrease accordingly. Once you have the basic framework coupled with logging your inputs (diet and training) and results (weight gain and measurements) all you need to do is modify for desired results. Remember, as you grow you will need more and more calories to continue growing. In order to hit this moving target, you must stay vigilant and not grow too accustomed to only one quantity of food. If you want to be a muscular 225lbs, you're going to need to eat like it!
Tips for easily getting extra calories:
- Drink an Intra workout shake to up carb and protein intake (mine is 35g protein and 100g carbs which is 600kcal just during my workout alone). Mix whey protein and a carb source of choice such as Gatorade or Karbolyn.
- Use avocado oil in shakes to add a semi-tasteless fat source, olive oil on meals to add fat content and improve taste. 1TBSP Oil is ~140kcal, that adds up big time!
- Drink Whole Milk (if you tolerate it well). I am not telling you to go for the "gallon of milk a day" aka GOMAD. Just that it can be beneficial to increase calories easily with a few glasses of whole milk per day if it is applicable to your diet and goals.
- Drink a shake before bed with protein and add additional fat and carbs to make up for any necessary additional calories. This will ensure that you are maximizing your anabolic potential while you sleep! If you need an extra boost in your PM shake, try this recipe:
Dylan's Get Big Drink: 1,330kcal (~138 Carbs, 60g Fat, 71g Protein)
- 2 bananas
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 4tbps Peanut Butter
- 24oz whole milk
- 1 scoop Casein Protein if before bed/ Whey Protein if during the day
- Mix w/ ice in blender
Getting into the specifics of what macro ratios are best is beyond the scope of this article. For now, follow the directions above and for more specifics contact us at TrueFN to dial in your nutrition with a 1:1 consultation.
4) Develop a schedule and plan for your eating
All that food isn't going to eat itself! Plan to eat 4-6x/day while eating every 2-4hrs throughout. What I am going to say next is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give someone who is looking to pack on mass: Never leave your home without food. Bring a cooler (Six-pack bags has some great options for bringing food on the go) or just tupperware with you wherever you go. Keep emergency food with you in your car or backpack such as beef jerky, mixed nuts, protein bars (Quest bars are hands down the best).
A sample schedule could look like this:
Below is a sample meal plan containing 4,340kcal (~500g Carbs, ~140g Fat, and ~300g Protein)
- 6 Eggs
- 1 cup dry measured Oatmeal
- 1/2 cup Frozen Mixed Berries
- 2 cups Brown Rice
- 6oz Chicken
- 4tbsp Black Bean and Corn Salsa
- 1/2 Avocado
- 1/2 cup Broccoli
12:00pm Training Session
- Intra Workout Shake (35g Whey Protein +100g Carb Source/Gatorade etc. )
2:00pm Post-Workout Meal
- 5oz Whole Wheat Pasta
- 6oz Ground Beef
- 1 cup Marinara Sauce
- 1 cup Spinach
- 6oz Flank Steak
- 12oz Roasted Red Potatoes
- 1 cup Asparagus
- 2 cups Mixed greens Salad (w/ 2tbsp olive oil and vinegar)
9:00pm- Before bed
- 35g Casein Protein Shake or Cottage Cheese
- 1 Piece of Fruit
- 2tbsp Almond Butter
5) Drink water!
It should go without saying that you will need to consume adequate water/fluids to build your strength and physique to the highest level. Lets make this simple, drink one gallon of water per day spread evenly throughout the day. If this seems like too much, ask yourself where you are in relation to your strength and physique goals, if you haven't met them yet then try it my way and drink the gallon! Once you are accustomed to drinking a gallon of water per day you may drink more if needed surrounding physical activity. Also, any fluids count towards that gallon of water including coffee and milk. Please refrain from drinking soda or pre-made drinks as a source of hydration. Make the majority of your daily fluids plain old water! And if you tell me "but I don't like drinking water," or "I just forget to drink water," then you must not like getting big and you can sure forget about reaching your goals.
Plain and simple, you need to maximize your sleep in order to gain. 8hrs per night may be the recommendation for the average person, but your goal of building a massive and strong physique is NOT average and such will take a lot of sleep to build. If you are currently sleeping less than 8hrs per night, remedy that situation first by developing a more structured lifestyle devoid of late-night TV and distractions. Quit with the excuses, GET TO SLEEP! Your Gains literally depend on it!
If two identical twins could conduct the same exact training program with identical diet and hydration, the one who sleeps more is going to get better results EVERY TIME! Once you are sleeping 8hrs per night, stretch that to 9-10+hrs and you will start to see some real magic happening. Remember to put down a hearty blender full of "Dylan's Get Big Drink," and you will be packing on serious size while you sleep.
7) Develop your eating ability!
Even with the basics outlined above, many individuals tell me "but I can't eat all of that food, i just don't get that hungry!" The answer is simple, you don't need to be hungry to eat! Saying you can't eat to fuel your training because you aren't hungry is like saying you can't train because you felt a little tired. Additionally, the ability to eat great quantities of food is a trainable quality. In order to build a massive physique, one must increase the total volume/workload of training in conjunction with increasing the total amount of nutrition consumed.
If a young boy weighs 150lbs soaking wet at age 15 and has dreams of playing football, powerlifting, weightlifting, throwing the shot put, or just packing on some muscle mass to be stronger, he will need to increase his food intake to that of his goal physique. Simply put, a 300lbs lineman eats like a 300lbs lineman just as a contest ready bodybuilder weighing in at 195lbs at 5% body-fat eats in a way that reflects his physique. On the other side of things, a slender ballerina eats like a ballerina.
Your food intake must match your goals. Eating requires, in my opinion, more effort than strength training because eating is full-time job that does not start and stop when you leave the gym. If you have big goals in mind for your physique you must approach your nutrition with the same level of commitment as your training.