Maxwell Strength & Conditioning Blog
Enjoy a peek at the world through Steve's eyes as he delivers sermons on everything from training to peace of mind.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The question comes up from clients on how to eat for increased muscle mass. The answer is to improve digestion and assimilative capacity.
Slamming protein shakes and eating too-frequent meals throughout the day is a sure way to overwhelm digestive capability. This brings on toxemia, illness, and decreased vitality.
Taking digestive enzymes to compensate for eating beyond your digestive limit is irrational and only enriches the supplement vendors. The most efficient way to improve digestive power is fasting. Weak digestive capacity indicates the fuel isn't burning efficiently. This leaves undigested food residues in the system. Burn these off by limiting fuel/food intake.
For the athlete desiring increased size, there are some important things, amounting to ethical issues, to consider.
As a coach, you want the athlete to meet his training goals and achieve his best performance. Still, coaching athletes is analogous to aspects of animal husbandry--and everyone knows you don't work your breeding stock!
There is a conflict between coaching someone for optimal health and longevity and coaching them for muscular size and strength. A coach needs to be clear on this and also be straight with the client. In short, best health and long life generally belong to the lean and wiry frame. There are constitutions who are genetically larger built, with a bit of subcutaneous fat, and while it is a disservice to encourage them into an unnatural (for them) leanness, neither is it in their best interest to encourage them into super-sizing, just because they can.
In short, and crudely put, it's a trade-off. What does the athlete want most: glory or an investment in long life?
In my opinion long life is overrated. A man comes here, does what needs to be done in his lifetime, long or short, and then it is done. While here, all he can do is live. The obsession with long-life belongs to family people, who are obsessed with perpetuating the family line, because they mistake this for immortality. But this is not the way to immortality. The only doorway to immortality is death.
The children are not the future. The living truth is the future. Time and people do not make the future. Retrogression is not the future. Fifty million children growing up purposeless, with no purpose save the attainment of their own individual desires, these are not the future, they are only a disintegration of the past. The future is in living, growing truth, in advancing fulfilment.
D.H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy
Back to the athlete. You do them a service to increase their understanding that building maximum size and strength is not the same as building best health, but instead accelerates the expenditure of their vital life force. This may be a fair trade but understand it's a process of progressive enervation. If they were another kind of animal stock, they would be slaughtered when their performance peaked. Strongmen, bodybuilders and power athletes are not known for their long lives, nor graceful aging. The strenuous nature of their lives comes back to haunt them, usually in the form of degenerative joint ailments and pain.
Even athletes who don't wish to increase size should understand that maximizing athletic performance in general is counter to conserving life force and longevity goals. Athletics at a competitive level is enervating, period. It is a high level exertion of life force prioritized over other life experience. When you exert nerve energy at a rate faster than it can be replenished, this is enervation and reduces immunity. The depleted nerve energy weakens digestion. In this state, eating even a "normal" meal is too much, because the eliminative function is not up to task. I see this all of the time with hard-training, competitive athletes. They suffer from chronic colds, various infections and recurring malaise.
That being said... how do you build a specimen? First, you get their digestion in order and lean them out. This will prime them for the anabolic process. If their digestion is poor, then they are already in a state of toxemia and building on this merely poisons them. Eating excess protein and gulping whey shakes only builds up so much waste in the gut. It's a self-inflicted state of food poisoning. This digestive offense is a common cause of inflammation.
You want to keep anabolism in perspective. Tumors are anabolism. You want to increase the desired tissue (muscle) while minimizing unhealthy tissue growth. Leaning the athlete out as much as possible first will ideally clean up any waste residues in the system, stoking the cellular metabolism. Then the refeeding phase has the same effect as eating after a long fast or after training--it takes advantage of optimal macronutrient partitioning and minimizes fat gains. When bulking, aside from increasing the toxic load on the body, the biggest problem is the concurrent fat gain with any muscle.
Once the client's digestion capacity is brought to potential, they can eat. They do not overeat or make pigs of themselves, but eat in accordance with their digestive capacity. They follow the same food guidelines: one gram protein per kilogram of body weight. They do heavy resistance work, and they rest between bouts. An analogy is like how a baby grows: they grow while they sleep.
It is the heavy work that signals to the body it needs to build strength in order to do the required work. The body will then assimilate what it needs from the diet. The trainee should eat high-quality food in order to build high-quality tissue.
Someone in good health i.e., not overly fat, can eat desserts 2-3 times a week. I suggest they be eaten as a meal in itself, or at most, a serving of ice cream or custard after a simple dinner.
Remember that steroids work by enhancing the body's ability to recover. With steroids, the body can be put through more work (the athlete still has to do the work!) but he's able to recover from the work at a faster rate. The anabolism/growth is accelerated through synthetic recovery.
Drug-free athletes must realize that recovery cannot be hurried. Recovery ability is set at the cellular level and completes in its own time. It cannot be wrangled into a rush-rush agenda. Recovery ability varies from person to person, and with each person, varies even day to day according to circumstances and mental states.
On an objective level, the more advanced athlete, because he is stronger and can push himself harder, requires more recovery time than the beginner. The beginner isn't capable of pushing himself systemically the same way the advanced man can, and so his training capacity is limited. And so, the advanced-level athlete should be training with less frequency than the lower-level.
If you overfeed, that is, feed beyond digestive capacity, you will get sick. The athlete may be so ignorant and so ambitious that they do not care. This is the appeal of steroids.
With improper diet and feeding, there will come a decline in good health, problems with mucus, recurring colds and/or inflammations, depending on the person's constitution and proclivities.
Keep in mind that a normal person in good health, even if he achieves 100% digestive capacity, would still not eat to that 100% capacity--to do so would build them bigger than is reasonable.
For heavy-eating athletes, it's the training that keeps them in good health--especially outdoor training in fresh air. It is the massive amounts of oxygen they take in while training that neutralizes the toxins from the heavy eating. Once they stop the training, if they don't scale down the food intake, the food turns into a cesspool in the system.
This is how the arctic explorers and fur trappers, etc, managed to thrive on all meat and coffee diets. Living outdoors and doing heavy work will compensate for all kinds of imbalanced diets.
As far as food measurements, I recommend 1 gram protein per kilogram of body weight. If the client is significantly overweight or over-fat, then I suggest1 gram protein per kg of lean body mass.
Other than this, I recommend fresh fruit and a large raw vegetable salad every day. If salads and roughage are a problem, a fresh-made green juice is acceptable.
No more than three meals a day. These are some general guidelines, but each person has different dietary needs and abilities and the diet should be individualized, just like the workout program. If the client is adept at tracking calories and macros, it can be helpful and provide some diversion, but I've found it's unnecessary for most.
I realize this sounds radical -- heretical -- but these views come from a long-range perspective of trial, error and 45 years of observation in myself and trainees. The biggest frustration most people experience is accepting its simplicity.
Yours in Strength & Health!
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