Fat loss is basically math class. It’s no fun, it’s hard, you don’t wanna do it, and it can make you sleepy. Frankly, it sucks.
Building muscle on the other hand, is more like gym class. It’s technically still work, but it’s fun work. It’s a break that you look forward to.
I don’t know if there’s every been anyone in the history of anything that complained about being on a muscle building program. Oh, you mean I have to intentionally eat more food!? Um, no thanks, I’d rather starve. But I’ll put on more muscle AND get stronger? Yeah, I actually prefer the weak, feeble look.
While spending more time in the gym is fun, the best part about putting on mass is getting to eat more food. All of the glorious food.
However, you can’t just eat until your little heart’s content. You have to be smart about it. When building muscle, we’re after quality mass; meaning maximum muscle gain, minimum fat gain. So, therefore, we want to be eating quality foods.
But, if you’re someone who’s caloric needs for building muscle are really high, or you’re just someone who isn’t use to eating a lot, it can be tough to get all the calories you need from quality foods like chicken breast, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, etc. Plus it’s not very fun either.
That’s why throwing in some “lower quality” foods, as some would call them, can be beneficial for helping you reach your muscle building goals. And these are the foods we’re going to talk about today. But first…
The Building Blocks of Mass
When it comes to putting on the muscles, protein and carbs are your bestest friends.
Protein is important because it’s what actually facilitates the muscle-building process, aptly named Muscle-Protein Synthesis (MPS).
During MPS, the body fuses fibers together to form new and/or repair existing muscle tissue. When muscle breakdown (which occurs during resistance training) is greater than the rate of MPS, muscle loss occurs. But, when MPS is greater than the rate of muscle breakdown, muscle growth occurs. The higher our protein intake, the greater the rate of MPS.
A safe recommendation is a daily protein intake of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
So on one side of the muscle building equation, we have protein. But to complete this equation, we need to make sure we’re taking in enough carbs as well.
Carbs don’t have a direct role in MPS, but they still have an effect. Carbohydrates are responsible for providing our bodies with fuel for training. The higher the intensity of our training, the more carbs we need to fuel that training. And if we’re not training with enough intensity, our muscles won’t grow.
So what about fat?
While we want to maintain an adequate intake of fat (20-30% of our total calories) to maintain proper hormone function, we don’t want to prioritize it when our goal is putting on mass.
The first reason being is that fat does not have a direct role in the muscle building process. It’s not used during MPS, nor is it our bodies preferred source of fuel for training. So while it does help provide us with the extra calories we need, it’s not a top priority.
The second, and more important reason we keep fat intake lower while building muscle, is that fat is much more easily stored in the body as…you guessed it, fat.
The body prefers to use protein to build and repair muscle, and carbs for fuel. In fact, protein and carbs are not easily converted to fat within the body, unless absolutely necessary. Because we’re already going to be taking in extra calories to support muscle growth, keeping our fat intake lower maximizes the chances of adding minimal fat.
The Bricks to Your Shit House
Like I said, this isn’t your “eat chicken, rice, potatoes, protein shakes, etc, to build muscle” type article. We know those foods should be a staple in your nutrition when mass is the goal.
This article is about the other, forgotten, or *gasp* forbidden foods. Foods that tend to be overlooked for one reason or another but can be very helpful in meeting your calorie goals.
Let’s take a look…
(Note: The calorie and macronutrient breakdown for each food is taken from the most general example I could find on MyFitnessPal. They’re meant to give you an idea, so please do your own research when tracking your macros.)
Bagels (Calories: 245, Protein: 10g, Carbs: 48g, Fat: 1g)
Despite the “wheat is bad for you” fear-mongering, if you want to put on size, grains are an absolute must. They pack a bunch of carbs with nearly no fats. And arguably the best of the group is bagels.
Ah, glorious bagels. Different flavors, plenty of different spread options to top them with…definitely breaks up the monotony of potatoes, rice, etc. A bagel to start your day is a great way to make a dent in the many, many grams of carbs you’ll be eating, plus will help fuel a workout. Just make sure you’re careful in tracking what you top it with.
Pasta (Calories: 210, Protein: 7g, Carbs: 41g, Fat: 1g)
Much like bagels, pasta is a great carb-dense food. Also much like bagels, it doesn’t carry much, if any, added fats…unless you’re drowning it in alfredo sauce.
Chocolate Milk (Calories: 208, Protein: 8g, Carbs: 26g, Fat: 8g)
Milk is a pretty good source of protein and carbs; and if you drink skim, or 1%, not much fat either. Chocolate milk takes it to next level by adding, duh, chocolate, which not only ups the flavor, but the carbs as well.
Chocolate milk is great to mix with a post-workout shake, and some whey protein.
Frozen Yogurt (Calories: 180, Protein: 5g, Carbs: 35g, Fat: 3g)
Yet another high carb/low fat bulking option (sensing a theme here?). My favorite? Ben & Jerry’s, obviously. They have a great line of delicious frozen yogurts great for helping you pack on mass.
And did I mention they’re delicious?
Subway (Calories: 920, Protein: 72g, Carbs: 84g, Fat: 32g)*
You might be a bit surprised to see this on the list, but Subway is one of my favorite bulking foods. Yes it’s true that a Subway sub may carry a bit more fat than some of the other items on this list, but if you choose lean meat, maybe hold the dressing, you’re good.
And before you ask, no I do not care the chicken is not chicken.
*Macros listed are for a footlong turkey, bacon, with double turkey and provolone cheese, no dressing.
Cereal (Calories: 110, Protein: 2g, Carbs: 22g, Fat: 1g)*
Who doesn’t love the opportunity to go back to their childhood and pound down a bowl of cereal in the morning? Well, during a mass building program, it’s the perfect opportunity.
Most cereals are pretty low in fat, plus when paired with milk, make for a great bulking breakfast or snack.
*Macros listed are for one serving on Honey Nut Cheerios.
Egg Whites (Calories: 25, Protein: 5g, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g)
Seeing as egg whites are 100% protein, it be foolish not to include them on this list. Especially since it’s pretty easy to dump half a carton in a pan and get like 100 grams of protein without much effort.
Don’t fear the occasional yolk though. It’s also packed with a ton of protein, as well as healthy fats.
Wild game (Calories: 128, Protein: 26g, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 2g)*
Wild game is the king of the protein jungle. Animals like bison, deer, elk, and any other animal that you must match wits with in order to eat are fantastic protein options.
Wild game is packed with protein and almost zero fat, due to the fact the animals are not overfeed, just to be fattened up. That and they’re on their feet a lot more, running from predators and such, so they are much leaner due to their NEAT.
*Macros are for 3oz of venison tenderloin.
Pancakes (Calories: 190, Protein: 14g, Carbs: 30g, Fat: 2g)
Pancakes are great bulking food and don’t you let anyone tell you differently. But, don’t just settle for regular old pancakes when you can have protein pancakes.
Now, before you think I’m trying to convince to find an actual good recipe for protein pancakes, or that I have some magical, amazing recipe up my sleeve, let me stop you right there. There is only one protein pancake on the market worthy of your time, money, and macros. Kodiak Power Cakes.
While these don’t get as fluffy as regular pancakes (if someone has suggestions, please let me know) they are packed with flavor, protein, and require no additional butter. Just throw on some syrup (cause sugar doesn’t make you fat) and you’re good to go.
There you have it, a list of some of my favorite, non-traditional mass building foods. Obviously, these need to be eaten in the context of a well-balanced diet. And preferably tracked along with the rest of your calories. But if you know what and how much you’re eating, there’s no reason these foods can’t be a regular part of your bulking diet.
Are there any I missed you would add?