Eating for mass can be exhausting. Physically consuming the volume of food required to hit your daily calorie target is often the hardest part of a mass-building diet.
Recommended calorie intakes for those looking to gain significant size, particularly hard gainers, often exceed 3500 calories a day during a mass building phase, which is an enormous amount of food.
It obviously isn’t too difficult to hit this number when your diet consists mainly of junk food. However, conventional wisdom is changing. The so-called ‘dirty bulk’ is out as serious bodybuilders look to add more quality muscle during a bulk than an unhealthy fat mass.
A clean and lean bulking diet
This requires a different approach to bulking – one where higher quality foods from natural and organic sources, and supplements formulated with the quality ingredients to replace hollow calories.
While the quality of your food sources will increase, the total amount of food that you’re required to eat is still substantial. For this reason it is best to eat the most nutrient-dense foods, which contain the greatest combination of macronutrients, and combine this with a suitable mass builder supplement.
Achieving monster mass in your diet
To help you make more educated food choices for your mass gain phase, include these calorie-dense, natural foods in your diet, together with a suitable mass gainer product to get the biggest bang for your buck and your bite.
1. Red beans
Red beans, the most common of which are red kidney beans, packs a double whammy as they’re a great source of carbs and protein. A one cup serving (177g) of these legumes contains 16g of protein and 40g of carbs, and packs a whopping 210 calories. When these beans are combined with whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, they provide a high quality complete protein that has an amino acid profile comparable to red meat.
The protein in eggs has the highest biological value of whole food, which means they deliver more protein per gram than any other protein source. And, at 7-8g of protein per egg, they are also one of the more affordable sources of protein available today. The cholesterol found in the yolk of eggs is also an essential building block for important anabolic hormones to promote muscle growth.
3. Sprouted grain bread
Sprouted bread is made from whole grains or legumes that have been allowed to sprout (germinate).
When the grains are allowed to sprout they become ‘living’ food, which significantly boosts their nutrient-density, as well as their protein and enzyme content. A comparison of nutritional analyses shows that sprouted grains contain about 75% the energy (from carbohydrates), a slightly higher protein content, and about 40% of the fat, compared to whole grains. One slice of a sprouted bread that contains a variety of whole grains can contain up to 80 calories, with 15g of carbs and 4g of protein. The protein content is also highly bioavailable, and contains up to 18 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids.
Nuts are a calorie-dense, nutritious food source, many of which are rich in protein. A serving (28g) of cashews or almonds, for instance, contain 150-170 calories, and offer a perfect blend of protein, healthy fats, and fibre. Almonds are also a great choice as they have one of the highest protein contents of any nut, and are one of the more inexpensive nut varieties.
5. Full fat Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a must-have dairy item on your mass gain shopping list as it’s a muscle-building powerhouse. It contains both whey and casein protein, which ensures a burst of amino acids in the bloodstream directly after a meal, and a steady supply of them long after the meal has ended, thanks to the slow digesting nature of the casein.
Lentils are another member of the legume family that should be included in your mass gain diet. With about 30% of their calories derived from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. They’re also a great source of carbohydrates. One cup of cooked lentils contains 18g of protein, including the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine, and 40g of slow digesting carbohydrates.
7. Sweet potato
Sweet potato is a better starch option than white potato as it contains more energy, and is more nutrient dense. This sweet-tasting, tuberous root vegetable is also rich in complex carbohydrates.
8. Red meat
When it comes to adding quality muscle few things beat good quality red meat. A steak has a complete amino acid profile, and contains all the essential amino acids, as well as B-vitamins, and a good dose of creatine to boost strength. Beef also contains a mixture of saturated fat, which can support healthy testosterone levels, and monounsaturated fat, for heart heath. It is also a major source of iron and zinc – 2 crucial muscle-building nutrients.
The chickpea is another legume that offers a beneficial amount of amino acids. The protein comes from the seeds, while the chickpea itself contains 45g of slow-digesting carbs per cup.
Add a mass building supplement
An effective mass builder supplement should deliver 400-1000 calories per serving, which are provided by a combination of quality complex carbs and protein, with moderate amounts of fat. An ideal macronutrient ratio is 50% of calories from carbs, 30% from protein and no more than 20% from fat.
A single serving of a mass builder should supply 30-45g of protein with a blend of protein sources to sustain the muscle-building process for as long as possible.
In terms of carbs, complex and high molecular-weight carb (HMC) sources such as Vitargo and waxy maize starch are always better than simple sugars such as glucose and fructose. , are rapidly digested and absorbed into the blood.
Ensure any fats included are derived from healthy sources, such as essential fatty acids (often from and MCTs. Try to avoid products that contain hydrogenated fats.