weight gain success

i’m not that big. yet.

I’ve been very slim all my life and struggled to put on weight. In the past year, I’ve put on 30 lbs of muscle and finally figured out what I was doing wrong and wanted to share what I’ve learned with other “hard-gainers” out there looking to gain weight. I’m not a fitness pro and I’m not an expert in this subject, but below is what I’ve learned along the way and has been successful for me.

In February 2006, I joined a gym and hired a trainer. I made a commitment that for 1 year in my life, I was going to change my lifestyle and see an improvement in my life. This is what I’ve learned…

Have a Buddy

Without a doubt, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have if I didn’t have a commitment to go to the gym on a schedule. If you can find a friend who’s willing to go to the gym with you at the same time, it makes things a lot easier. It’s easy to talk yourself out of going to the gym. And once you’re there, it’s easy to talk yourself into quitting early. In my case, I hired a trainer. I wanted to get results as fast as possible and I wanted someone with the knowledge to get me there. Trainers aren’t cheap and it’s been a big financial commitment but it’s also been the difference between success and failure. Mostly everything I know now I’ve learned from my trainer.

Keep a Schedule

This goes along with having someone to go to the gym with. Have a time that you know is always your gym time. I know every morning when I wake up on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday that I’m going to the gym and I don’t have the voices in my head talking me out of it. Each of those days, I go at the same time, so it becomes my natural routine. This also makes organizing your eating schedule around your workout times easier. When you’re tired both physically and mentally, it’s very easy to just go home and crash on the couch. Resist the urge and go to the gym – you’ll feel very good after your workout.

Make a Plan and Goals

Write out what your goals are. For me, it was gaining a certain amount of weight. For some, it is lifting a certain amount, or losing a certain amount of weight. If you don’t have a goal, you won’t know what you’re working for. Physically write that goal out in your training book. The act of writing it out is a very powerful one. Once you have your goal, you need a plan to get there. Your plan should include your workout schedule, eating plan, etc. Once you reach your first goal, set a new goal and repeat the process. Track your progress. For me, it was weighing myself each week. I gained about 1.5lbs every 2 weeks and each time I stepped on that scale, I wrote the date and weight. Seeing progress happen was very exciting and also gave me some extra adrenaline and energy to finish my workout that day.

Change is Good

You’ll need to switch up your program every once and a while. If you do the same routine, the same workout every week for a year, you’ll be very bored and unexcited. You’ll also plateau in your progress. Change your workout every couple months to include different exercises and body parts.

Eat, Eat, Eat!

I learned early on that I wasn’t gaining weight because I wasn’t eating nearly enough, but I always thought I was. I tracked what I ate for a week and showed my trainer. He laughed. I was eating half of what I needed to put on weight. I always ate very healthy, but just never enough. And what I was eating, I was burning off each day with my active life.

Write down what you consume every day for a week. You’ll soon see it’s not very much. Now double that amount and you’ll start gaining weight, it’s that simple. It’s a hard goal to meet, but you need the energy to fuel your workouts and fuel the muscle building process. I use the word ‘fuel’ on purpose. When I increased my eating, I felt like a furnace. My body became a food processing machine, and my body temperature actually felt much warmer.

Doubling your food intake is not an easy thing to do. It’s expensive and time consuming. Start by increasing the quantity you eat at each meal. Going to the gym isn’t your only workout time. Meals will be workouts too. You’ll have to force yourself to eat more, just like you’ll force yourself to do more reps or lift more weight. Next, increase the number of meals you eat. For me, I would eat nearly every 2 hours. Here’s my schedule for an average workout day.

  • 8am – breakfast
  • 10:30am – eat a large snack
  • 12:30 – lunch
  • 3pm – eat a large snack
  • 5pm – workout. sip 1 litre of gatorade through workout
  • 6pm – 1litre gatorade and protein shake
  • 8pm – dinner
  • 11pm – protein/fruit shake

Tip: I put meeting reminders in my electronic calendar and cellphone for my snacktimes so I don’t miss my times to eat when I’m busy at work. It’s easy to delay eating a meal and forget about it altogether.

What you eat is still important. For “hard-gainers”, you don’t have to worry too much about fat, but don’t go overboard. A good burger can be somewhat healthy, but all that ketchup is fat. I could eat pretty much anything I wanted, but thankfully I enjoy eating healthy food. I never watched protein-fat-carb ratios, but I tried to limit the total grams of fat consumed each day to a certain amount. And carbs can be your best friend to someone who needs to gain weight. I love steak and baked potatoes, and thankfully that’s what I needed to eat.

Water Is Essential

Also, throughout the day, drink lots of water. Water keeps your muscles hydrated so you can use them when you need it, and a high protein diet needs more water than usual. Ensure you drink more than 2 liters of water per day.

Protein

Aim for 1gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you’re 150lbs, consume approximately 150grams of protein per day. I try to get as much protein as I can naturally through food, but I use vanilla whey protein powder post-workout and in my shakes as a meal replacement.

Workout Fuel

2 very important parts of the workout are what you’re drinking during and immediately after. During your workout, continually sip a sports drink like Gatorade. You need a sports drink to stay fueled during your workouts. Water is not sufficient. Drinking nothing at all is even worse. After you’ve completed your workout, I think there is approximately a 30-minute window that is very crucial to getting protein into your system to supply your muscles to start rebuilding. A carbohydrate drink with a high glycemic index (such as Gatorade) slows that time period and allows you to get the protein to your muscles.

Every day when I go to the gym, I bring the following:

  • 1litre Nalgene bottle
  • 2 scoops of gatorade crystals
  • 1 ziploc bag with 2 scoops of lemon-lime gatorade crystals and 2 scoops of vanilla whey protein(~25g protein).

I fill the Nalgene with 2 scoops of gatorade crystals and 1 litre of water and drink this during my workout between sets. It’s usually gone by the time my hour workout is completed. After my shower, I fill the nalgene with water again and pour in the gatorade/whey protein mixture. I find the lemon and vanilla mixture to be the best tasting combination. Mix well so no powder remains. Drink this over the next 20 minutes.

An hour before bed, I try to have another shake with some mass building whey protein. In a blender, I mix the following:

  • 1 cup of frozen fruits (mixed berries, strawberries, etc)
  • 100ml of yogurt
  • 2 scoops of mass whey protein (~25g protein)
  • 2 cups of orange juice

Some people might say use milk instead of juice for some extra natural protein, but i find the juice makes it all taste better and easier to drink. This is a good energy supply to your body to keep it fueled through the night as it’s repairing and building new muscle.

Workout Program

Best to consult with a trainer on this, or spend a lot of time trying to learn it on your own. There’s a reason why people go to school to be trainers – because they learn the right way to work out. You wouldn’t read a book to take out your appendix – you go to a doctor who has the knowledge. Likewise for a fitness professional. If you can’t afford to continue with a trainer, hire one to at least design a program for you to do on your own. Although, there is a big advantage of having a trainer there through your workout to spot you on the really heavy weights to lift a little off as you’re finishing your last couple reps. This will get you moving onto bigger weights faster. My trainer designs and adjusts my program to target areas that need to be worked on. And every couple months we switch the exercises around.
One part of my workout plan starting out was “No Cardio”. Since I was already very slim and had a very low body fat percentage, I didn’t do any cardio. Cardio wasn’t a priority for me as a goal and any cardio I did would simply burn more calories that I would have to replace again with even more food. Now I do a fast 5 minute treadmill session to get the heart going to enable fat to burn during my workout and supply energy to the muscles. As I get to my final physical weight, I’ll adjust my program to a balance of cardio and weight training.

Rest, Rest, Rest!

Getting enough rest is definitely important. You’ll feel wiped after a good workout and naps are a good way to get them in through the day. When you sleep is when your body gets to repair itself, so don’t feel guilty that you’re being lazy. Sleeping is one area I need to increase as I only get 7 hours which isn’t ideal if you want to get bigger.

One book I found very helpful and really explained a lot about eating is Power Eating by Susan Kleiner. I would highly recommend it. It really explained a lot about how foods work for your body, what you need to eat when and really made sense.

I hope this information helps some people out there and I’d love to hear some comments from you.

nose bidet

I hate to admit this, but i watched Oprah today. My wife was watching and Dr Oz was on. He always explains the embarrassing questions about the body from a doctor’s perspective. All your pooping, farting, gross questions get answered.

See that little gravy bowl kinda thing above? That’s called a Neti Pot. Also jokingly called a nose bidet. You fill it with some warm salt water solution and pour it into your nose. “WHAT!?” you say. I wouldn’t have believed it either if I hadn’t seen it demonstrated. You tilt your head at an angle, shove it up your nose and pour the water.

The water makes its way through your sinuses and out through the other nostril. I really want to try this when my allergies start acting up this spring. I always imagined something like this when I know I have pollen irritating my sinuses that I just can’t clear. This is the solution for the problem. It’s apparently safe enough to do on a daily basis. Look for them in drug stores and health food stores.

Read here to see how the practise works.

UPDATE: Aviva.ca, an online health retailer, sent me a great Neti pot to try out. Read all about it here.

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real or not real

It looks so much like a photograph, I can’t believe it’s actually a small model. I would never have the patience to do anything like this. Maybe when I was younger, but my MTV-generation training has bred me for instant gratification. Now, Now, Now.

Dutch artist Edwin Zwakman produces large-scale photographs by painstakingly reconstructing objects and landscapes from memory. The pylon pictured above is 50cm tall, made from approximately 400 pieces of copper soldered together, the cables are made from vinyl and cotton wool is used in background.

the holy grail of lazy

convergence has arrived

this week at work, we had an interesting package arrive. my dreams have been answered! the tv-microwave-computer is here. it must be a secret stealthy development operation. a partnership to make people as lazy as possible. i’d never have to go anywhere. wait a minute…I’ll have to wait for the next upgrade, the tv-microwave-computer-toilet. i’m sure it’s in the works

why Apple is the best retailer in America

apple store

Apple’s New York City store

a very interesting article at CNNMoney about how well Apple’s stores are doing and how much effort was spent on perfecting the shopping experience.

“People haven’t been willing to invest this much time and money or engineering in a store before,” says the Apple CEO, his feet propped on Apple’s boardroom table in Cupertino. “It’s not important if the customer knows that. They just feel it. They feel something’s a little different.”

And not just the architecture. Saks, whose flagship is down the street, generates sales of $362 per square foot a year. Best Buy stores turn $930 – tops for electronics retailers – while Tiffany & Co. takes in $2,666. Audrey Hepburn liked Tiffany’s for breakfast. But at $4,032, Apple is eating everyone’s lunch.

“One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn’t work,” says Jobs. In other words, design it as you would a product. Apple Store Version 0.0 took shape in a warehouse near the Apple campus.

The most striking thing, though, is what you don’t see. No. 1: clutter. Jobs has focused Apple’s resources on fewer than 20 products, and those have steadily been shrinking in size. Backroom inventory, then, can shrink in physical volume even as sales volume grows. Also missing, at the newest stores, anyway, is a checkout counter. The system Apple developed, EasyPay, lets salespeople wander the floor with wireless credit-card readers and ask, “Would you like to pay for that?”

why aren’t there viruses for the Mac?

i always wondered about this as well. and most people always stated that it’s due to market share. why write a virus for <10% (my guess) when you can hit 90% of the market instead with a virus for the PC. an article at The Mac Observer claims that’s not the real reason anymore and is due to a very secure unix base.

The core of Mac OS X is BSD Unix, and that OS has been around for two decades in open source form, inspected by all concerned. That’s why Mac OS X is more secure than Windows, according to InfoWorld.

For a long time, apologists for Windows have been arguing “security through obscurity.” However, if it has a CPU, hackers will try to attack it, and Mac OS X has been a big target for a long time.

“The difference isn’t market share, it’s the foundation of the operating systems. Given that most virus authors and hackers are in it for the ego, don’t you think that there would be a huge incentive to be the first one to write a widespread OS X, Linux, or FreeBSD virus?” Paul Venezia asked.

The key is the foundation of the OS. If the OS is designed on a shaky foundation, everything on top will suffer. When Apple moved its customer based from Classic Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, they did so consciously with the idea that they needed a firm foundation for the future. But that meant leaving every Classic app behind in the long term.

Microsoft has never been able to make that commitment and retained the backwards compatibility with Win32 apps. That has put a strain on their whole Windows OS. “Simply put, Microsoft had the chance to beat Apple to the punch and make a giant leap back in 1997 or so, killing off the existing Win32 platform in favor of an NT-based client and server that did not have to run legacy applications natively. They didn’t, and we are still paying the price for it today. Even if you’re not running an MS OS, most of the spam in your mailbox came from zombie Windows systems in the control of spammers,” the author noted.

While Microsoft was reaping the rewards of this compatibility, Apple took the time to move its entire customer base to a highly secure BSD Unix OS. “Microsoft didn’t. They’re faced with massive-scale exploits like the spreading ANI vulnerability, Mr. Venezia concluded. “That affects every Microsoft OS, server and workstation alike, across the board. This gives us a glimpse into the code shared between generations of Microsoft OSes, and it’s not a pretty view.”

ruby on rails diagram generator – RailRoad

I came across RailRoad today on another blog. Very cool idea. When I had done some work in the past, I found it hard to remember class names and method names. I’m used to a Java IDE like IDEA to do name completion, but that largely doesn’t exist for the Ruby world, or it may be available now. Generating diagrams from your code should help things a lot.

RailRoad is a diagram generator for Ruby on Rails applications. Actually, it’s a simple Ruby script that loads the application classes and analyzes its properties (attributes, methods) and relationships (inheritance, model associations like has_many, etc.) The output is a graph description in the DOT language, suitable to be handled with tools like Graphviz.

RailRoad can produce:
* Model diagrams, showing both inheritance hierarchy and models associations. You can choose to show the model “content columns” and its types.
* Controller diagrams, showing inheritance hierarchy. You can include the controllers’ methods, grouped by its visibility (public, protected, private.)

an example Model diagram