Do you have trouble gaining muscle?

There are those types who can stay lean no matter what they seem to eat or drink. Certainly a blessing in the eyes of many, especially among that other segment of the population that seems to develop a spare tire just looking at a piece of cheesecake, but when the shoe’s on the other foot it can sometimes appear as a curse.

So for those guys who religiously work-out but still have the physique of a fifth grader, take note.

Emphasize nutrition around training. Weight lifting and sports activities are catabolic in nature. In the simpliest terms, you’re essentially destroying the muscle with resistence training. If you don’t feed yourself proper nutrition during or afterwards, how can you expect the muscle to recover and grow BIGGER than it was before? Use nutrition around/during your training to  keep the muscle damage to a minimum.

At the very least, dillute Branched-Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs for short, in a litre or two of water you drink during your workout. Leucine – a key amino acid in BCAAs – turns on m-TOR (google it) with mechanical tension – and you can’t grow without turning on m-TOR.

If your workout exceeds an hour or you’re going into the workout on an empty stomach, add in carbs alongside the BCAAs. There’s some high-tech stuff available for this purpose, cyclic dextrin, karboload etc., but plain old gatorade will serve your purposes for now. Eating carbs equals a rise in insulin levels. Insulin is anticatabolic and helps shuttle nutrients into the muscle cells.Start with 40 grams of carbs from gatorade and 10-15 grams BCAA, dilluted in a big jug of water. Dilluting in lots of water is key here… you’ll get nauseous if your water intake is sub-par.

Cliff notes:

PRE-WORKOUT (whole meal two hours prior) –  I prefer NO carbs in this meal… usually eggs or grass-fed beef with veggies
INTRA-WORKOUT – 10-20 grams BCAA powder and 40-80 grams of low osmolality carbs (gatorade is OK)
POST-WORKOUT – (whole meal one hour post) Lean grass fed beef or chicken with 1-2 cups of white rice

If you DON’T take in carbs during the workout, it’s important to shuttle them in post workout. A quick shake with whey protein and a banana or two, followed an hour later by a whole food meal of chicken and WHITE rice will do the job.

You can improve your insulin sensitivity by limiting carb intake at certain times of the day and/or by using glucose-disposal agents – a fancy term for supplements and/or herbs that help you absorb carbs the right way, e.g. cinnamon, alpha-lipoic acid (not alpha-linoleic acid), chromium, etc. but that’s a topic for another blog.


Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.