A SMARTER WAY TO ADD MUSCLE IN THE OFFSEASON

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Too many bodybuilders rely too much on carbohydrates when they're trying to add muscle mass," George Farah says. "To add muscle mass, you have to increase your total calories so that you're taking in more than you need for maintenance." The easiest way to do this is through carbs, Farah says, but that can be a mistake.

"When you eat an excess of carbs, they really help you put on weight -- but a lot of that is water and bodyfat." Carbs drive up your insulin release, making it easy for your body to stuff those excess calories into fat stores. Carbs also carry water with them, so they can make you look bloated and soft. You might end up several pounds bigger, but most of what you've added won't be muscle.

Farah says that the secret to offseason muscle gain is to bump up calories, but to keep carbs moderate while increasing healthy fats, which include flaxseed oil, fatty fish, peanut butter, avocados, olives and olive oil. These are beneficial because, instead of being easily stored as bodyfat, they enhance several processes in the body, such as muscle growth and fat loss. They also enhance cognition and mood, as well as heart health, and they help prevent muscle breakdown and inflammation. "You should eat salmon two or three times a week," Farah says. He recommends taking plenty of flaxseed oil, either in pill or liquid form, because it's an easy way to make certain you're getting healthy fats. "I always add flaxseed oil to my protein shake."

Healthy fats are a great source of calories because they protect muscle from breakdown and encourage growth. Providing your body with these anabolic tools makes it easier to add muscle mass. "In addition, you won't have as many pounds to diet off when you want to get in shape," Farah says. "It makes it that much easier to display all your hard-earned muscle mass."

Farah knows what he's talking about. Not only has he helped several top-ranked amateurs prepare for competition, including Dave Palumbo and Erik Fromm, but he has also worked the magic on himself. "I added eight pounds of muscle between the Night Of Champions and the GNC Show of Strength in 2003." Farah weighed 218 at the latter. "I was a little flat onstage, but when I filled out, you could really see the improvements I had made."

GEORGE FARAH'S OFFSEASON MUSCLE TIPS

* Keep offseason carbs between 300 and 400 grams per day. "That's a good range for almost every offseason bodybuilder."

* Try to consume about 100 grams of fat per day, most of it from healthy sources. Rely on fatty fish, avocados, flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds and healthy oils, such as olive and canola.

* Keep protein intake in the moderate to high range. "Eat a gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight each day," Farah says. "But you don't need to push protein as much when you're giving your body plenty of calories. Save your high-protein diet for when you're trying to strip bodyfat. Then you can push it up to a gram and a half per pound."

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