Muscle Building MATH
By: Steve Colescott, the Guerrilla Journalist
“There are no shortcuts to muscle development except the intelligent use of dietary principles and the willpower to make it happen,” says John Balik 1 (retired Publisher of Ironman, and one of the first contest prep coaches). You have the willpower. We will provide an intelligent strategy to do it correctly. Get ready to bump your nutrition plan up to a serious level.
Back in the Beginner Program, you kicked things off by watching what you ate, taking in more frequent high-protein meals, adding some more veggies each day, and including some basic supplements. Since you have advanced to an intermediate stage, you are able to push your body to even harder training, so the impact you place on your muscle groups and (more importantly) on your nervous system and metabolism is even greater. Your nutrition needs to be more scientifically directed. We need to calculate starting amounts, test them out, and provide necessary adjustments after viewing the results your unique body has on this program.
“Building a great physique takes time – years, not months,” says Mr. Olympia Lee Haney. 2 “It takes hard work and dedication, both in the gym and in the kitchen.” Grab a pencil, notepad and calculator so we can get to work!
Your maintenance calories
The first decision is your daily caloric level (how many calories a day to encourage muscle growth and workout recovery without causing an increase in body fat). To determine your daily food intake, we must base that on your bodyweight, somatotype, metabolic rate and your goals.
Our starting point will be 15 calories per pound of bodyweight. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds (200x15) that equals 3,000 calories a day. The starting point for women is 13.5. This is a very simplified way to come up with your daily food intake, and it is fairly accurate for many lifters. But let’s look at how we can personalize things. In the following example we are going to use a male is an example, but for females just remember that your starting estimate is 13.5, rather than 15.
1) Your Somatotype: What is your body type? Although nearly everyone is a bit of more than one somatotype, here is a brief explanation of the three types described by William Herbert Sheldon, Jr. in the 1940s.
- Ectomorph (small bone-structure, thin body)
- Mesomorph (naturally muscular build)
- Endomorph (thick bone structure, tendency to gain body fat)
If you feel that you are a skinny ectomorph, add one to your starting point (from 15 to 16 calories per pound of bodyweight daily). If you are a muscular mesomorph, keep the starting point for now at 15. If you are an endomorph, with a slow metabolism and excess body fat, subtract one from your starting point (from 15 to 14 calories per pound of bodyweight). If you lean just moderately towards ecto or endo, you can go with just a 0.5 adjustment (to 14.5 or 15.5).
2) Your Metabolic Rate: Ectomorphs tend to often have fast metabolic rates. Endomorphs tend to have slow metabolic rates. Mesomorphs tend to be in the middle...but if you feel that yours is very fast add oneto your starting point. If you feel it is slow, subtract one. If it is moderate, go with the 0.5 increase or decrease.
3) How physically busy is your day? Genetics are not the only factor that comes into play. As you would imagine, someone that sits at a desk for most of their day does not burn the same calories as someone that loads heavy crates on a truck or chops wood for ten hours a day. Using the list below, rate your physical calorie-burning lifestyle and make the subtle adjustments listed, if necessary.
- (long work hours, very physical tiring work, until bedtime)
- +1 4(pretty busy and tiring at work, fairly relaxing in the evening) +0.5
- 3 (moderately hard work some of the time, relaxing half of the time) −
- 2 (some hard work but mostly easy stuff) −0.5
- 1 (sedentary or just desk work, relaxing at home) −1
Here is an example
Let’s say that you are 150 pounds. You consider yourself definitely a skinny ectomorph. You have a slightly fast metabolism but not enough to feel like you need an adjustment. You do have a hectic warehouse job, which wears you out a bit. Here is your starting point:
- 15 (average starting point in “Daily Calorie Intake”)
- +1 (ectomorph)
- − (metabolic rate not too fast)
- +0.5 (works fairly hard, about level 4)
16.5 x 150 pounds = 2475 calories a day
You have now determined a starting point for your daily calorie level. The chart below should help you with some math.
Adjustments Based on Experience
As your diet progresses, we need to see if an adjustment of your body composition requires us to change your caloric level after two weeks. If you have gained weight and it is mostly body fat, reduce your caloric intake by 1 per pound of bodyweight (if you were at 14.5, drop to 13.5 calories per pound of bodyweight). If you are losing weight, and it seems like it may be muscle, then increase your caloric intake by 1 per pound (such as jumping from 16.5 to 17.5 calories per pound of bodyweight). We want your body to experience a noticeable change so a half-point adjustment is not necessary. A one-point change in calories is still fairly subtle.
How much of that daily calorie level should be protein?
Your daily calorie intake is made up of protein, carbohydrates, and fat intake. It is best to think of these as two major nutrition areas – construction (protein) and energy (carbs and fat). Protein turnover (the balance between protein synthesis and protein degradation) is a primary concern. Hard training will increase the breakdown. Protein, quality food, and intelligent recovery will support muscle growth. We’ll start with protein, we need to determine the amount of protein consumed daily. The main factor is your goal as far as body composition.
Which of the following goals fits you?
- Muscle building starting point
1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight
- Muscle building and fat burning
1.75 grams per pound of bodyweight
- Advanced level training
2 grams per pound of bodyweight
“If you train [hard], you are going to absolutely break down the muscle tissue,” says retired pro Milos Sarcev. 3 “You are going to lose all of those amino acids. If you do not replenish it, you are going to get smaller than previously.” One gram per pound of bodyweight is the minimum for the average person involved in weight training. For those trying to build muscle, 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight is a good starting point. Those whose primary goal is to burn body fat or that have found that they have added an exceptional amount of strength and muscle during the beginner program, can consider going to 1.75 grams per pound.
While some experts think a slightly lower protein level is acceptable, Sarcev agrees with some other expert coaches that two grams per pound of bodyweight is required at the advanced level. For now, you should progress at one of the two lower amounts, with 1.5 being the best intermediate level for most.
So, if you are a 170-pounder wanting to continue building your physique as an intermediate, 255 grams of protein daily should be a major goal of your daily nutrition intake.
The energy macros
Once you know your daily calorie intake and your daily protein intake, we need to do the math to see what will be our start-up energy macros (carbohydrates and fats). The balance that we find most efficient is dividing your energy macros into 30-50% carbohydrates in proportion to 50-70% fats.
- Let’s say you are a 210-pound lifter that determined that 15.5 calories per pound of bodyweight was going to be your start-up.
- 210 (bodyweight) x 15.5 = 3255 calories a day
- 210 x 1.5 grams = 315 grams of protein a day
- 315 x 4 = 1260 daily calories made up from protein
- 3255 (total calories)
- − 1260 (protein calories)
- = 1995 >(energy (carb and fat) calories)
Math tells this lifter that they have 1995 calories devoted to energy macros. We need to determine how many of those are devoted to carbs and how much is devoted to fat intake. A good starting point for most lifters would be a 40% carb to 60% fat intake. With this calorie amount, we would get 798 calories from carbohydrates, (divide that by 4), and 200 grams (we will round up) consumed daily. For fat intake, they get 1197 calories from fat (divided by 9, since fat has more calories per gram than protein or carbs), and 133 grams of healthy fats.
- CARB TO FAT RATIO Carb calories (grams) Fat calories (grams)
- 30% carbs / 70% fat 598.5 (150 gr) 1396.5 (155 gr)
- 40% carbs / 60% fat 798 (199.5 gr) 1197 (133 gr)
- 50% carbs / 50% fat 997.5 (249 gr) 997.5 (111 gr)
As you can see, we also list some slightly altered starting point adjustments – one providing slightly lower carbs and the other a slightly higher percentage of carbs to fat. What should you consider before choosing? Do you have a high body fat level (over 24% for men, over 34% for women). If so, then a slightly reduced carb (30/70) energy macro level might be a good idea. Are you sensitive to carbs? Again, this would be a good reason to start at the 30/70 balance. On the other hand, are you lean and thin-skinned with a fast metabolism? Do you feel that you are weak and rundown if you go on low carbs? If those are the case, then you should consider the 50/50 balance as a starting point. Most people should start out with the 40/60 ratio.
I threw a lot of information your way, and it gets a bit complicated because you need to do the math since I want it to be as personalized as possible. When you are done jot down your number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Multiply the grams of protein (x4), carb (x4), and fat (x9)...and add them all together. Does this equal your estimated calorie starting point? Hopefully, you added it all up correctly!
Best protein sources
With that formula, you should now understand the basis of a starting diet program. The next step is planning how the grams of protein, carb and fat will be spread throughout your menu. “Eat more but smaller meals throughout the day,” says Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates.4 “I eat 5-6 small meals spaced every 2.5-3 hours apart.” This strategy obviously worked for him and hundreds of thousands of other gym-goers.
The number one rule will be to consume protein frequently throughout the day in multiple doses. “To grow, you need to maintain a constant surplus of growth nutrients in your system,” says IFBB pro Henderson Thorne.5 “This means tipping the scales towards protein, with support from adequate carbohydrates for energy to avoid the scavenging of protein for that purpose.” Protein will be the most important nutrient to each of the meals, regardless if your primary goal is building muscle in the off-season or maintaining muscle while dieting off body fat.
Common whole food sources for protein at each bodybuilding meal includes red meat (beef, buffalo/bison), chicken, turkey, fish, eggs or protein shakes. Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, yogurt) are also protein sources but need to be limited for some people, due to intolerance (milk allergies).
Protein shakes serve two primary purposes. They provide higher quality protein sources (if made by a trustworthy company) and allow high-protein intake with less time spent in the kitchen. At the very least, you need to include one protein shake a day, although at least two shakes daily makes more sense. You should go with either Ultimate Muscle Protein (UMP) or Muscle Provider.
Muscle Provider is a whey protein hydrolysate and isolate blend that is very quickly absorbed. This makes it perfect for right after your workout. “Hydrolyzed, what does it mean?” says retired IFBB pro and contest prep expert Milos Sarcev.6 “Hydrolyzed is broken down. Hydrolyzed whey is very rapid. It is high quality and I would use it immediately after a workout and you can use it anytime you need quick amino acids.” UMP is sustained-release 80:20 blend of casein:whey (this means it provides some immediate quality protein and also a slow, extended protein source which is good before bed or anytime during the day).
Swedish and Scandinavian Champion/IFBB pro Mats Kardell says,7 “All serious bodybuilders follow high-protein diets, and most also supplement their diets with amino acid capsules or concentrated protein powders.” This should come as no surprise since a high level of essential amino acids in the bloodstream limits muscle breakdown and boosts muscle growth.
The customer-base of Beverly International has experienced great results by adding desiccated liver and amino acids intake throughout the day. This philosophy goes back decades driven by ahead-of-his-time contest prep trainer Vince Gironda.8 “Keep your body constantly supplied with protein so you are in an anabolic or growing state,” said the Iron Guru. “That means that you should keep your body saturated with protein...and the way you do that is have liver tablets every three hours.”
Mr. America winner Dale Adrian agrees.9 “Desiccated liver, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable supplements a person can take, not only for bodybuilding but for anyone, especially those involved in strenuous sports.” The advancement of amino acid tablets, with the highest being peptide-bonded aminos for maximum absorption, allows for great results from a small serving of 3-5 Ultra 40 desiccated liver tablets with 3-5 Mass Amino Acids.
The ideal protein intake daily would include two to four whole food protein servings, and two to three protein shakes, backed-up by liver and amino tablets (3-5 tablets, 5-6 times a day). This obviously varies by how often you can, need to, (and prefer) to eat daily. The other addition would include free-form amino acids (Density, Muscle Mass or Muscularity) during and after training in order to encourage optimal growth and Glutamine Select sipped during training.
Choosing carb sources
“You need to earn your carbs,” says top training expert Charles Poliquin.10 “Various factors will determine how many grams of carbohydrate you can afford to consume. The most relevant are: your levels of muscle mass, the volume and intensity of your training, your percentage of body fat and your insulin sensitivity.”
We will divide our carbohydrates into three categories: starchy carbs, fibrous carbs and fruit/berries.
Common diet choices of starchy carbs include potatoes, rice (white, brown, basmati, jasmine or wild), yams or sweet potatoes, oatmeal, cream of rice, or grits. Starchy carb choices are best placed near training. Red beans and rice are a good combo since the lentils lower the glycemic index and the combo of the two provides a better amino acid balance. Quinoa is an ancient grain that blends protein with a carb source. Couscous tends to be lower in calories than rice or quinoa, contains protein, and is a good flavor variety. Sweet potatoes and yams have a lower glycemic index (particularly if boiled rather than baked).
Fibrous vegetables are also beneficial due to being major sources of vitamin, minerals, and fiber while having psychological value (you can eat a lot if you wish!). “Raw and steamed vegetables are basically free calories for bodybuilders,” says Ms. Olympia, Kim Chizevsky.11 “The benefits they give your body more than compensate for the calories and carbohydrates you’re adding to your daily nutrition.” Common choices include broccoli, green beans, Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, cabbage, and green salads.
We mentioned the final carb category as being fruit and berries. These need to be chosen wisely. Avoid fruit juice as they remove the fiber, decrease nutrients, and make it an extremely high glycemic index beverage. Fruit that should be limited for this reason includes: apples, oranges, bananas, cherries, grapes, mangoes, pears, melons and pineapples. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are low in carb calories, high in delicious flavor, and provide an antioxidant reward. Tomatoes (which we often forget are fruit) and grapefruit also are low in carbs and high in nutrition.
Healthy fat consumption
It seems that eating fat would make us fat. However, the truth is that using fats as an energy source does not necessarily promote the storage of fat. High calories and carb levels often encourage body fat increases. Consuming high calorie intakes of both energy macros (carbs and fat) together will also encourage an increase in body fat. Proper fats are needed for health (hence the phrase essential fatty acids).
Excellent fat sources
Beverly’s EFA Gold will ensure that your essential fat needs are covered. Three softgels per serving (once or twice daily) will ensure a healthier balance of proper fats. EFA Gold includes fish oils (EPA and DHA), flaxseed oil, borage seed oil, and a great supply of vitamin E, omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids.
Other healthy fat sources are avocados, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, organic red palm oil, healthy nuts (macadamias, almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts and cashews), grass-fed butter, and extra virgin olive oil.
Prepping and scheduling your meals
We will be putting the same type of planning into our food intake. When we categorize different food combinations here are the most common meal groupings.
Lean Protein/Starchy Carbs/Fibrous Vegetables: This common meal involves mixing together a protein source, some starchy carbs, and fiber-rich veggie sources while keeping it fairly low in fat. Some examples would be:
- grilled chicken, rice and broccoli
- sirloin steak, sweet potatoes and asparagus
- ground beef, quinoa and steamed kale
Lean Protein/Healthy Fats: Quite simply, this is often a typical nutrient-rich but low-carb meal (often to kick off your morning) to drive your daily growth while continuing your fat-burning. Some examples would be:
- steak and eggs
- omelette (with turkey bacon, cheese, and mushrooms)
Serious supplements to increase your gains
In addition to the meals and protein shakes, other supplements should be placed in your schedule. A basic multi-vitamin/mineral such as Super Pak or FitTabs should be a part of your breakfast. EFA Gold should be included at least once daily (with breakfast is a good idea) to balance your essential fats. Glutamine Select is a great workout beverage to be sipped between sets, containing not just glutamine, but branched chain amino acids in a powdered form to mix with water.
Charles Poliquin says, “In the recent past, I found that 40 grams of essential aminos with an additional 40 grams of BCAAs worked best to increase my gains in the gyms,”12 Famous nutrition guru and protein expert Dr Eric Serrano recommends consuming BCAAs during your workouts. He suggests a dose of .25 – .35 grams of BCAAs per Kg of bodyweight.
This is why some of the optional supplements, if you want to take Intermediate training a bit further..., would include branched-chain amino acids during training and before bed...either Muscle Mass or Muscularity. Density are high-quality essential amino acid tablets (and are definitely even more useful to those on a lower calorie diet). Muscularity has some added compounds in order to help spare muscle loss from hard training and reduced calorie dieting. If fat loss is a primary goal, Quadracarn is also a great addition providing four different versions of carnitine which helps fat loss, testosterone production and physique enhancement.
Supplements to Increase Your Gains beyond the Intermediate Level
Aminos & Liver Throughout the Day
Mass and Ultra 40 (aminos and liver)
Take 3-5 tablets of each with (or between) meals. The goal is 1 tablet of each for every 10 lbs of bodyweight daily.
Optional: Density (essential amino acids) – 3-5 tablets three times a day.
BCAAs During Workouts
Muscle Mass – Take 3-5 tabs every 10-15 minutes during your workout until you reach your target goal. 1 tablet per 10 lbs of bodyweight will give you the .25g dosage recommended by Dr. Serrano.
Glutamine Select – Mix 2-3 scoops in your water bottle and sip throughout your workout. Can be stacked with Muscle Mass, 3 scoops of Glutamine Select equates to 10 Muscle Mass tablets.
Fat Loss, Testosterone Production and Physique Enhancement
Quadracarn – Take 3 tabs three times daily on training days and 3 tabs twice daily on non-training days.
Super Pak – pack per day with breakfast; or FitTabs – 2 tablets with breakfast and 2 tablets with dinner.
EFA Gold (essential fatty acids) – 3 softgels with 1 or more meals daily.
So there is a very comprehensive diet, explained in detail, to take you from the Beginning Bodybuilding Phase all the way up to the Advanced Phase in your future. As an Intermediate bodybuilder, you will learn the precise amount of protein, carbs and fat to get in the best shape possible. Keep in mind that you need to check your bodyweight and composition every two weeks. This will tell you if you need to increase or decrease your Daily Calorie Intake. As you pack on more muscle, you will need to keep each powerful muscle fiber well fed. You may also learn that you need to adjust the balance of your carb-to-fat ratio to find out what works perfectly for you. This diet gives you a great starting point.
- 1) Balik, John. “The Nutrition Counselor,” Muscle Builder/Power, May 1979
- 2) Haney, Lee. “Ask Lee,” Flex Magazine, February, 2017
- 3) Sarcev, Milos. “Secrets of the Pros” video series
- 4) Yates, Dorian. “Get Lean (Supplemental Guide),” Muscle & Fitness, September 1993
- 5) Thorne, Henderson. “Eat for Growth,”
- Flex, December 1994
- 5) Sarcev, Milos. “"Sports Nutrition Seminar” (YouTube 7/28/13)
- 7) Kardell, Mats. “Flex Notes: Protein Supplements,” Flex, December 1989
- 8) Gironda, Vince. “Vince Gironda Nutrition Copyright Robert Torres” (YouTube 3/7/2014)
- 9) Adrian, Dale. “Dale Adrian Raps on Developing Symmetrical Legs,” (not certain of publisher or date)
- 10) Poliquin, Charles. “My Take on Carbs” www.StrengthSensei.com
- 11) Chizevsky, Kim. “Ask Ms. Olympia,” Flex, January 2001
- 12) Poliquin, Charles. “Protein Intake for Strength and Mass Gains – Updated” www.StrengthSensei.com