Every article ever written for gaining muscle is for the hard gainers. The Ectomorph. The body type that can eat anything and not gain weight. The 70kg, 6ft guy in the corner eating KFC and sporting single digit body fat percentages.
These are the guys and girls we all grew up with that can eat mountains of junk food and still throw on the same sized pants year-round.
Eventually, these naturally diced individuals wonder into the gym, attempting to gain some size. Before long, enter generic complaint they can’t gain muscle; largely by the same virtue that kept them lean year-round; A VERY FAST metabolism.
Poor them! However, not all of us are so genetically blessed. And this article is for those who aren’t!
It is for those that can gain muscle with a decent training regimen and a high protein diet.
But we gain equal parts fat along with it, and with that territory comes some pitfalls that must be navigated to prevent you looking like the understudy for the next Michelin Man commercial!
The Yo-Yo Bulking Trap...
After a few months of a dedicated “bulk,” based completely on a program fresh from your favourite bodybuilding website, you find yourself 5kgs heavier, 4 of which appears to be body fat and fluid retention!
And of course, you gained the body fat...Because that program was designed for hard gainers!! High G.I. carbs with every meal, no cardio off season and eating everything in sight to gain scale weight!
Discouraged with your spare tyre, you begin an immediate cut to rid yourself of your perceived 28% body fat percentage.
Cardio 6 days a week and cutting carbs becomes an imminent reality and an unwanted friend.
And so begins the Yo-Yo bulk/cut cycle of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. 12 months on you’ve bulked up an extra 10kg, cut down 12. You’ve gone literally nowhere in a full calendar year of cardio, counting macros and hitting the squat rack daily.
You become resentful. You’re discouraged. How are you meant to gain lean muscle with these genetic traits?!
ENTER LEAN MUSCLE BUILDING FOR THE ENDOMORPH...
At this point of the article, you may well be reaching for the chocolate cake, ready to surrender into a life of sedentary depression.
But fear not! You have forgotten the one true advantage of your somatotype! You can build muscle mass like a freak! If not for the body fat, you would be an unstoppable hulk!
So rather than focus on the negatives of your body type, let’s look at a plan for training and nutrition to gain the maximum muscle mass with minimum body fat!
Fortunately for the Endomorphic trainee, weight training is your best friend in the war to build lean mass! This lies principally in resistance training effects on the body, namely that it is shown to reliably increase insulin sensitivity, place the body in a glycogen depleted state, and thus leave the metabolism elevated with enhanced partitioning of nutrients (particularly carbohydrates!) for 24-48 hours after training.
Therefore, you should focus on making heavy weights, as frequently as you can recover from, the core of your training regime.
Heavy weight sessions with ample compound lifts and high volume accessory work first thing in the morning (especially when fasted) are excellent for torching body fat and keeping the body screaming for calories to repair and rebuild!
This will force your body to better utilise the calories you consume throughout the day to repair and build lean tissue versus storing the glucose as body fat.
The more sessions you can squeeze into a week the better! Well, so long as you are recovering adequately.
Now for the elephant in the room...Cardio!
The Endomorph is not as blessed as their hard gainer counterparts and will, therefore, need to engage in regular cardiovascular exercise to minimise fat gain in their lean muscle building campaign. 3 days per week, 20-30 mins of fasted cardio per session performed upon rising should be perfect to maintain good fitness levels as well as keeping fat gain to a minimum.
So now we have covered training principles, it’s time to look at nutrition!
So the main driving mechanisms that lead to endomorphs gaining more body fat than their other somatotype cousins, comes primarily down to insulin sensitivity along with an often sluggish thyroid.
Depending on body fat percentage and body compositional history, Estrogen dominance may also play into this sluggish thyroid along with Cortisol depending on whether you lead a high-stress lifestyle, either physically or mentally.
Ways to manage Cortisol are discussed in another article (5 Supplements to Conquer Cortisol) and without going too deeply into endocrinology, let us focus on a nutritional strategy to address the insulin resistance issue and make your body partition nutrients for the benefit of muscle growth, not fat storage.
Seeing as dietary carbohydrates are the primary culprit for insulin secretion (to a lesser extent protein can also be insulinogenic but for the sake of this article we will look at carbohydrates) their timing is what we will manipulate to keep your gains love handle free!
Carbs should be restricted to around training times, with lower GI carb sources such as sweet potato, brown or long grain white rice, cereals and whole grains being utilised pre-workout to fuel intense training sessions.
50-60 grams of low GI carbs will be ideal 1-2 hours pre-workout.
Post workout, slightly higher GI carbs can be utilised as in a muscle building campaign as insulin spiked post workout can be beneficial for driving nutrient uptake into depleted muscle cells to fuel growth and repair along with glycogen replenishment.
50-60 grams of carbs from honey, fruit, etc are ideal at this time.
It is currently debated whether the mechanisms of GLUT-4 transporters makes the spiking of insulin in the post workout window irrelevant but until more data is released, it is safe to say it is anabolic at the very least and thus of benefit to a lean muscle building campaign.
After all, if you were only to eat carbohydrates twice a day, pre and post workout would be the ideal times to consume them.
For the rest of your daily meals, the endomorphs should become friendly with healthy fats!
Protein and fats should be the dominant macronutrients consumed throughout the day to keep your body metabolising fat as its primary fuel source, further minimising the impacts of regular carbohydrate consumption and the presence of insulin throughout the day.
So to sum it all up, the endomorph looking to gain lean muscle and keep the spare tyre at bay should endeavour to:
- Train heavy weights as often as possible, twice a day at times so long as you can ensure sleep, nutrition and supplementation will allow adequate recovery.
- Customise nutrition to be heavily revolved around protein and healthy fats, keeping carbs to around workout times only.
- Endeavour to perform 2 to 3, 20-30 minute fasted cardio sessions per week to keep the fat gain to a minimum whilst also sensitising the body to insulin.
Enact these 3 basic principles into your next lean muscle building campaign and you may just be pleasantly surprised how much you can improve your body composition in the coming weeks and months whilst still keeping the muffin top where it belongs... at your favourite cafe!