Follow these seven recommendations to keep you lean while you pack on mass without going through carb deprivation.
Mass Building: Follow the 2-3 Rule
The 2-3 rule dictates that you consume 2-3 grams (g) of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day, spread over five or six meals. A 200-pound bodybuilder has to chow down on 400-600 g per day--3 g per pound of bodyweight (600 g of carbs) is the ultimate objective.
Leaning Out: Follow the 3-2-1 Rule
After completing a mass phase and moving on to a cutting phase, adjust the ratios according to the 3-2-1 rule: 3 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight on day one, 2 g per pound of bodyweight on day two and 1 g per pound of bodyweight on day three. Repeat this cycle as long as necessary to etch in the details. This cutting phase lowers calories and glycogen stores to burn bodyfat without resorting to extreme low-carb diets, which lead to a loss of muscle mass.
Mushy Carbs Are Best for Mass
Soft-textured carbs (fast-acting high-glycemic carbs) such as Cream of Rice, Cream of Wheat, mashed potatoes, white bread and fat-free baked goods are ideal for mass building. A soft texture expedites digestion, which in turn increases insulin levels. Insulin-infused carbs reverse muscle breakdown and help to drive amino acids--the building blocks of mass--into muscle tissue.
Opt for Low-Glycemic Carbs to Get Leaner
Slow-digesting (low-glycemic) carbs have a minimal effect on insulin levels. Favoring these slow-to-burn carbs allows you to keep calories high to maintain mass gains while moderating insulin levels to get leaner. Low-glycemic choices include rye bread, yams, red potatoes, peas, corn, buckwheat noodles and artificially sweetened low-fat yogurt.
Timing Is Everything
The two most important meals are posttraining and breakfast, in that order. These are ideal times to carb load (for a 200-pound bodybuilder, that means 90-100 g of carbs at breakfast; see #6 for posttraining suggestions). It helps restock liver and muscle glycogen stores and promotes protein synthesis. This time-release plan will prevent catabolism (muscle wasting) and minimize the risk that your carbs will be converted to bodyfat.
Load Fast-Acting Carbs After Training
Pack in fast-acting (sugar-laden) carbs after workouts. The goal is to spike insulin levels to ward off muscle breakdown and to stimulate an increase in metabolism. The posttraining meal should be consumed within an hour of the end of a workout. It should include .7 to .9 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight, with 50% of the carbs derived from easy-to-break-down high-glycemic sources: mashed potatoes, sports drinks, fat-free muffins and Cream of Wheat cereal are four cogent examples. A 200-pound bodybuilder should eat at least 140 g (.7 x 200). The exception to this caveat: Limit posttraining carb levels to .5 g per pound of bodyweight during a dieting-down phase.
Fructose Takes a Back Seat to Starch and Fiber
Fruit provides small amounts of vitamins and fiber, and naturally occurring fructose (fruit sugar) helps to restore glycogen in the liver. Bodybuilders should be more concerned with storing glycogen inside muscle, and that's the primary role of staples such as potatoes, rice, pasta, yams, bread and high-fiber cereals. All in all, high-fiber complex carbs offer more benefits than fresh fruit to bodybuilders searching for lean body mass.