[This is an article written by Chris Aceto that I thought was relevant to the trainers on here who think they must become fat-asses in order to 'get big'. While I definitely feel you need to eat slightly more than is necessary to ensure better conditions for growth, sometimes I see people just get way out of hand. - Stu]
I have always been told that you must take in more calories than you expend each day to build muscle. Is that really true?
On paper, in a text book thatâ??s true. In reality, thereâ??s more to it than that. Certainly, calories are extremely influential in promoting gains in muscle mass. However, other factors play a role such as protein, fat, and carb intake, meal timing, and hormonal levels.
Many nutritionists will argue that you have to eat more calories than you burn to build additional muscle mass. That idea is limited in that you always have to consider other factors; specifically those listed above. PEteCalories, say from carbohydrates, provide fuel for the muscles to do work. That is, you need calories-- or energy-- to train. But ask yourself, can a car drive 100 miles per hour on only Â½ a tank of gas? Does the gas tank have to be entirely full for that car to drive as fast as possible? Of course not! The same concept is true with training. The bodybuilder can easily train as hard as he can with an all-out high level of intensity without overloading on calories (fuel). Specifically, muscle glycogen-- the collection of stored carbohydrates located in muscles that support training-- does not have to be at peak levels to support hardcore training sessions. In addition, when you constantly attempt to consume more calories than you need on a daily basis, youâ??ll invariably end up storing a lot of body fat. So; by eating a lot, you might get big, but youâ??ll also store a lot of unwanted body fat. As Dave and I discussed recently on the Guru Q&A segment of our show, added body fat tends to drive estrogen levels, and added estrogen can impede testosterone uptake by muscles. In other words, as you get fat, estrogen often rises which can rob you of muscle growth.
Besides calories, protein is immensely important and plays a huge role in growth. Itâ??s just as important as â??total caloriesâ?? or eating more calories each day then you require. Protein serves as the foundation for muscle growth. Protein (specifically amino acids) is the â??bricksâ?? to build a bigger body. Calories (energy from carbs and dietary fat) are simply the energy that allow the body to use those bricks. Without enough protein, you wonâ??t grow- even if you eat a lot of calories. So the idea that you have to eat more calories on a daily basis than you need is somewhat faulty if, in fact, you fail to eat enough protein. In this case, eating a lot of calories â?? without eating enough proteinâ??will result in an increase in body fat while simultaneously resulting in a failure to gain muscle mass.
Meal timing-- how many times you eat daily-- also impacts muscle growth and is equally important as â??eating more calories than the body needs.â?? Eating multiple times throughout the day-- 5, 6 or 7 times- helps pave the way for muscle growth by maximizing nutrient absorption (though textbook nutritionists argue differently). Additionally, eating a large meal before training and again after training can offset muscle breakdown associated with hard training. One of the paradoxes associated with training is that it tears the body down. Nutrition, rest, and recuperation help repair the body and build it up stronger than it was before. Specifically, timing your meals so that you are eating larger meals 90 minutes before training and again right after training are essential to preventing the muscles from being broken down too severely; to the point where youâ??re doing damage to the muscle rather than stimulating muscle growth. You could eat more calories each day then the body needs, yet if you fail to eat the right size meal before and after training and also neglect to structure your meals so that you are eating 5, 6, or 7 times a day, then you might just gain body fat and fail to grow.
The last part of timing has to do with what you eat before bed. In general, you want to time your meals so that you are not eating a lot of carbohydrates before bedtime because an excess carbohydrate intake can interfere with natural growth hormone output which occurs within the first 90 minutes of sleep. Ultimately, GH is responsible the release of IGF-1 from the liver which causes muscle cell hyperplasiaâ??a creation of new muscles cells that never existed before. When new muscle cells are synthesized, the bodybuilderâ??s genetic potential dramatically increases. It also boosts the bodyâ??s metabolic rate. So, by eliminating carbs before bed and using a GH releaser like GH Accelerator, over the long haul, can keep you growing even when calories are not excessive.