When it comes to food and getting in shape, one of the things that continually comes up are cheat meals. So what is the truth about them? Do they really effect your ability to gain muscle mass? Do they help you to lose body fat? Should you have regular cheat meals? There is tons of material out there that you need to eat crappy food in order to “shock” your body back into fat burning and lots of other nonsense (yes that’s nonsense).
But who wants to go forever without occasionally indulging or treating themselves to a night out or to a get cookout, right? But before you just go diving in and start shoveling down the hot-dogs and pizza like the zombie apocalypse is about to happen hold off.
There’s two elements to this if you are striving to gain lean muscle mass. The first is, don’t even think about getting in a cheat meal if you are just starting out on this journey. It takes time to build healthy habits and you don’t need to derail yourself right off the bat with a cheat meal that may lead you down a dangerous path. So if you are less than 6 weeks in, try to avoid a cheat meal.
The second main element here is not getting too overboard with a cheat meal. For instance let’s say you want to go to your favorite restaurant and are scanning the menu. Rather than opting for the 8 oz rib-eye with fried onion rings on the side, maybe grab the grilled chicken with a baked potato. It’s still going to be good, but a better option. You can have an enjoyable meal and it still not be terrible for you. I talk about this more in this week’s podcast episode.
Also think of it in the terms of a must have meal rather than a cheat meal. In other words only go for it if you absolutely must and can’t resist eating something from your old diet, but if you are feeling good, don’t just turn to a cheat meal, because it’s cheat night.
You are getting to eat healthy nutritious food that is packing on the lean muscle, so don’t view it that you need a “cheat” from that. Be smart about it, and be sparing with it, your muscle gains, and low body fat composition will thank you. I just wrapped up a 5 day nutrition video series over in our Bones to Bulk Facebook group, you can check out those here.
Have you ever been guilty of this in the gym? You are catching your breath after a hard set that is pushing your muscle gains to the max and you whip out your phone. You glance at a few funny memes. Respond to a couple texts. Like a couple posts and before you know it you’ve blown five minutes. But in truth you’ve blown more than that.
When we lift to gain muscle we tend to think it’s all about how much we have on the bar, how much we are lifting that truly matters and little else. But in truth that’s one of the least things to concern yourself with, as it is all just about how we look in the gym (hint: no one is watching anyway).
In truth while the speed of our reps and our form is super important, so is time under tension. Time under tension is how much strain our muscles are under, and if we lift an insane amount of weight but rest five minute in between each set, our muscles have time to relax before we even move on to our second set. I talk a lot about this in our Private Facebook Group.
By doing this we are sabotaging our muscle gains. The key is resting LESS time. Rather than using your phone to distract you, set a timer. When you start your first set start the timer. Once you finish your set, don’t rest longer than 45 seconds before moving on to the next set.
Sure you will find that you can’t lift as heavy, but you will be getting stronger because your muscles are working that much harder. If you are really looking to change things up with your workout and push yourself check out this week’s episode of the podcast where we are diving into specific things to do int he gym.
When it comes to eating on point for your fitness goals and in order to get strong or gain muscle, you’ve probably heard about food prep. Maybe you have second thoughts about it and think it’s overkill. But let me tell you why if you are serious about hitting your fitness goals you have to be food prepping, and also how to get it done fast.
The reason it’s so important is because life happens. Work will run late, you will hit the snooze too many times, something will go longer than expected. It’s just part of life, and by prepping your food you are ready for whatever curve life throws at you and are not at the mercy of fast food or take-out.
Now the second part of this is planning it out. Food prep doesn’t have to take all day. First off put just a few more minutes into your grocery shopping planning. Figure out what meals you are going to do what meats you need, what healthy carbs, etc. Then go knock it out. Don’t waste time in the grocery store browsing, walk in there like you are on a mission, stick to your list, get in and get out.
Now when you food prep is up to you. I’ve done both. Sometimes I will shop one day and prep with my wife on another day, this is what I prefer, it breaks it up a little bit.
If you are wondering why this is all so important for gaining muscle and keeping to your fitness goals, you can find out more in this week’s Podcast Episode here.
Typically Sunday is my meal prep day. Around noon after lunch the kids go down to nap. The wife and I will put on some music and go at it. We cook up all the meat, cook things like our brown or wild rice, boil or bake potatoes, cut up veggies, cut up fruit, measure out and place snacks in ziplocks or small plastic containers.
Then once everything is prepared combine things if you are making casseroles. For instance we love doing fajitas with chicken, bell pepper, and onion. We cook all that up, enough for two nights, then put it in a throw away foil tin, cover it and freeze it. So when it comes the day to eat it, we just pull it out and throw it in the oven, add some of our already cut up veggies like lettuce and tomato and put it in some whole wheat tortillas.
It doesn’t have to be these crazy meals, just keep it simple. If you focus it should take you more than 3 hours or so. Now think about it. That’s less time than a football game. And all of your food for the entire week is all set up. Not to mention the hours you save every day not having to cook or try to figure out dinner or what you are going to eat.
When it comes to gaining muscle and getting in shape, there’s probably not much that turns you off like hearing the word “diet”. And it should. Diets suck. Plain and simple. If you are a part of the Bones to Bulk Facebook group, you know that I can’t stand diets. And I’m going to give you 3 reasons why if you are trying to gain muscle, and get in the best shape of your life, why you should ditch the diet.
1. They set you up for failure. Diets by design are a temporary fix to a long term problem. They are set up to be temporary thing. Think about it. If you only temporarily put gas in your car and then stop, what’s eventually going to happen? You are going to run out of gas. Your diets can’t be these 30 day or 60 day fixes and then you just go back to how you ate before.
2.They teach you how to eliminate foods so that you accomplish your goals. Rather than teaching you how to eat and set up a firm foundation with eating, they only teach you what not to eat, so that once you are done, you go back to square one. Eating for true health, muscle gain, and overall fitness has way more to do with the healthy options that you add in to your diet, rather than what you take away.
3. Diets have an all or nothing approach. In other words, for x amount of time completely cut out x, y, and z. Our eating habits are built over a lifetime, and we can’t expect to all of a sudden completely change everything over night. Changing the way we eat takes a long time to fully conquer. It should be approached as a gradual climb, slowly replacing unhealthy foods with healthy foods.
Remember the key to gaining muscle, getting fit, and feeling amazing starts with what you put in your body. You can find out more at Bones to Bulk.
So maybe you’ve changed your body composition and have learned how to gain muscle and get buff. But you are not where you want to be and it seems the muscle growing has slowed down or tapered off completely. What is that next step to build more muscle?
All is not lost and before you get fed up with your lack of muscle growth, just know you can do more to grow your muscles. For starters, the reason things taper off is because you are growing muscle. Your body has become accustomed to this new you which means you’ve already taken great strides.
But now your body is ready for a new challenge in order to grow more muscle and bulk up. It’s a combination of pushing yourself further in your workouts as well as changing things up with your nutrition intake. I talk about this all the time in the Bones to Bulk podcast.
With your workouts, here are three things you can do to really push you body in the gym:
Do 3 new workouts every gym session.
Increase your amount of sets to five on every exercise.
Limit resting time in between each set to 45 seconds.
You will find just these few things can greatly impact your workout.
Second for your nutrition intake, your body needs a lot of clean power packed calories for that additional muscle growth. That means you have to eat more, but not just anything, you’ve got to eat more clean calories. Just increasing your daily intake by 500 calories a day can make a huge difference in the amount of muscle mass you put on.
So don’t get mad and throw in the towel as your muscle gains slow down. Change things up and dig deep.
Have you been working out but just can’t seem to make those muscles grow the way you want them to? Maybe you are seeing some slight definition but the growth just isn’t there. You are considering throwing in the towel and quitting. Maybe you’re just destined to be skinny and not buff.
Well fear not. It’s not just you, it just may take some more serious changes.
First off we have this concept when it comes to lifting weights that we have to lift the heaviest amount of weight possible in order to gain muscles. So we pile on the plates, load up the bar, and find ourselves pumping out a couple reps. And they are either half-assed reps at that, or our form is completely off.
If you want to build muscles it’s not about doing the traditional things.
The key to lifting is making sure your muscles are working hard. That they are under a lot of tension for a good amount of time. If you perform bench presses with 135 pounds and go to failure with 4 sets. You are doing way more for your muscle growth than if you get 1 rep of 225 up. Sure you had to exert some extra strength to get that 225 up but it doesn’t have any long lasting effect or a constant strain on those muscles. So get out of the mindset that you have to lift as heavy as possible.
Use less weights, but lift longer with that weight, so more sets, more reps, and slow down. Make sure your form is on point and that you are not speeding through the reps.
Another key element is making sure your rest times don’t outweigh your lift time (pun intended). It’s so easy to get lost on our phones or talking to someone on our rest. But I challenge you to start setting your timer on your phone or on your watch and limiting yourself to rests that are 45 seconds or less. You’ll find this to be much more challenging. Remember it’s that time under tension that really matters here.
The next thing you’ve got to make sure you are not neglecting is your nutrition intake. I hate when I hear people tell me they are bulking, or they are cutting. What this translates to me is, “I don’t want to eat right all the time.” That’s literally what it is. “I’m bulking” is a translation of: “Please excuse the fact that I’m downing a ton of unhealthy food every day.”
You want to grow your muscles? You have to feed them properly. You have to give them what they need, and loading up on empty calories with no nutritional value is not the thing you need to be doing, because that’s not aiding the growth of muscle.
Focus on eating right every day, and focus on eating the right amount. Enough can’t be said about this.
Finding that right amount can take work. It’s not easy finding the magical number that you need in order to get the most out of your muscle gains. Start out using a calorie tracker as a baseline. Plug in your information and go from there. You may need to adjust it and that’s okay, that’s part of it. If you are lifting hard, eating right and still not gaining, then increase your calorie intake by a couple hundred calories.
Fitness isn’t a one size fits all for everyone so it takes some time to really discover what works best for you. Don’t be afraid of this.
Something else that keeps us from gaining muscle in the gym is not working hard. If you’ve been going to the gym for some time you may be in a routine. Maybe you do the same exercises every day. Maybe you do 5×5’s every day. Maybe you do drop sets every day. If you truly want to grow muscles and break out of your skinny body, you’ve got to do what is uncomfortable. That means you do the exercises that you really hate, and change things up so that you are having to work really hard. So hard that you hate going to the gym. I There are many days when it’s not fun, when it’s not enjoyable or motivating or any other bull crap pie in the sky feeling that you think you should have every day.
I get it the gym is my 2nd home is it feels like, and I want to enjoy it. I want to have fun there, but I know that if there isn’t a little bit sense of dread for the workout that I’m about to do then I’m not working out hard enough.
That may sound harsh but in truth how much you hate your workout is a good measurement for if you are working out hard enough.
Gaining muscle takes work, that’s what makes it valuable. Because of the effort that has to be put into it. So don’t give up when it’s hard, because it’s going to be hard most of the time. You are responsible for you.
So don’t sell yourself short. Work hard. You’ve got this.
Have you ever found yourself saying, ‘tomorrow I’ll go to the gym’? How about the infamous, ‘I’ll start my new workout plan after the holidays’. In truth there will always be some reason to put off working out and going to the gym. It will never be convenient, there won’t ever be ample amount of time, and you won’t be less busy next month.
So why tell ourselves these little lies? Because it makes us feel better about ourselves thinking that we are going to do something, even if we truly have no intention of starting.
When we talk to people we can tell them how ‘we are going to be starting soon’. It allows us to save face.
Let’s face it, if you are not actually doing it, no one cares about your talk.
So what do you do? Quit putting it off. Quit making excuses. Quit waiting to feel like it. You will never feel like it and if you wait for that, the next decade will pass you by with no change. I mention in this week’s podcast how the excuses we create in our minds can keep us stuck forever if we continue to let them have their rule.
Just go. Get your ass out of bed. Go after work regardless of how tired you are. Don’t come home and sit on the couch. Change and immediately leave again. Don’t give yourself any opportunity to fall into an excuse. If you need some accountability check out our private Facebook group and get plugged into our community.