Intensity builds immensity.' That saying is posted on my desk, and I look at it daily before a hard workout. It may sound like a slogan, but it's true: Intensity is the key to achieving extraordinary results. Intensity in everything'mind-set, training, dieting and supplementation'makes for amazing results. As another saying goes, 'Only those who see the invisible can do the impossible.'
So don't think gaining 20 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks naturally is impossible. In fact, it's more probable than unlikely if you use some of the latest scientific guidelines. You may be skeptical, but I know it's possible because I did it. Using the latest advancements in training, diet and supplementation, I achieved my goal of 20 pounds of lean muscle in three months. As a sports nutritionist, I had to practice what I preach. (It's like never trusting a skinny chef.)
To do something extraordinary, you need to take extreme measures. You have to force your body to grow, especially if you're a hardgainer like me. The Body Shock system I developed can help you start making gains again fast and produce mind-blowing results that will have your whole gym talking.
First set a goal and create a firm deadline for achieving it. A body-transformation contest, wedding, reunion or other major event can help motivate you. Even so, I learned a long time ago that if you don't have the motivation to start with, no deadline can motivate you. It's also a good idea to announce your goals to people so you have someone to hold you accountable. You have to have the proper mind-set: that you'll achieve your goals no matter what.
The eating plan is vital to your success in gaining lean muscle mass fast. We all know the importance of eating the right foods and of having five to seven small meals daily to increase nutrient absorption, enhance metabolic rate and help stabilize blood sugar (and insulin) levels. Eating small meals throughout the day makes sense, but clinical research has also confirmed its benefits.
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed that increased frequency of feeding helped stabilize insulin secretion.1 The researchers said that 'increasing the number of meals increased thermogenesis and fat utilization.' That sounds good to anyone looking to lose bodyfat. Another study states that increasing meal frequency can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in normal people.2
I took that one step further and ate seven to nine small meals in my program. I was basically eating every one to two hours throughout the day. Keep in mind that some of those meals were a protein shake or meal-replacement powder. That seemed to help me use nutrients more effectively and increase my metabolic rate. I followed and advocate a diet that consists of 45 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates and 15 percent essential fats, and I ate approximately 2,200 calories daily.
Many people are carbophobic, but I believe that eating the right type of carbohydrates is essential to boosting lean muscle and strength. For every gram of carbohydrate stored in the muscle tissue as glycogen, there are about three grams of water stored with it. So carbohydrates can hydrate muscle tissue, not to mention increase muscle pump. Carbohydrates also have a protein-sparing effect, as they're used as the preferential fuel source. If carbohydrates are too low, proteolysis (protein breakdown) may occur.
The type of protein I used in my diet was a mixture of whey and micellar casein protein (Pro-Fusion by Muscle-Link), egg whites, chicken breast, lean sirloin steak (every third day), low-sodium tuna and orange roughy. My carbohydrates consisted mainly of multigrain cereal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, corn, dates, broccoli and cauliflower. My essential fats came mainly from fish oils but also from sunflower oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil. Fiber is an underestimated nutrient that can benefit a muscle-building, fat-burning program. Fiber helps delay gastric emptying, reduces glucose absorption (lowers glycemic index of foods) and has antitoxic effects. Consuming 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily can be very helpful.
One trick I used was to sprinkle cayenne pepper on my food to increase thermogenesis and fat burning, as well as spice up the meals a bit. Water may not seem like an anabolic compound, but it can have powerful implications in your program. Water has many functions in your body, including ridding it of toxins, transporting nutrients, cellular hydration or cell volumization and supporting healthy skin function. According to some research, dehydrating a muscle by as little as 3 percent can lead to a 12 percent decrease in strength. Besides, your muscle cells are about 70 percent water. It's important to drink one to 1 1/2 gallons of pure water daily on the program.
Less is more. That's the key to my training, including both weight work and cardio. My philosophy for maximum hypertrophy is short, intense workouts using maximum weights and including such powerlifting movements as the deadlift and squat. That seems to stimulate the type 2B muscle fibers, which have the greatest propensity for growth.
It's vital to have a workout partner who shares your passion for the gym. I've always had great workout partners in Southern California and Texas. The three months on the program were no different. My partners pushed me beyond any self-imposed mental and physical barriers.
Most people can lift more weight than they think, but fear of failure keeps them from attempting it. The key to optimizing your workouts is mental focus. You might have noticed that when you're not focused on your workout, you end up going through the motions. When you focus on your workout, you usually end up having a great one. The mind is the key to weight training. Whatever your physical state, if you're not focused, you'll probably not be able to maximize your training. Improving focus and the mind-to-muscle connection means optimizing levels of neurotransmitters, and that can lead to great success in your training.
My workouts consisted of a two-days-on/one-day-off program on an eight-day training cycle. I trained one bodypart per workout except arms, training biceps and triceps together. That enabled me to fully concentrate on each bodypart. My workouts consisted of about three exercises per bodypart with a set to maximum failure and sometimes beyond in each one. (See 'Rehan Jalali's 20-Pounds-of-Muscle Program' on this page.) I used explosive movements in my training and focused on the eccentric phase with maximum weights. My workouts lasted from 30 to 45 minutes. I took plenty of rest days, which enabled me to recover much better and create a positive-growth environment. Many natural trainees tend to overtrain, which can, in many cases, be worse than undertraining. Train smarter, not longer.
I also performed lots of stretching before, during and after the workout'and it was not yoga, I'll tell you that. It was sometimes painful to stretch so hard, but it really made a difference in lean muscle mass.
For cardiovascular work I tried something more radical than the traditional moderate-pace walk in the park. I sprinted two to three times a week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach'but I drank plenty of water, of course. I ran for only 12 minutes per session, but again, intensity was the key. I did a 30-second all-out sprint and then a 90-second walk, alternating until I reached 12 minutes. Obviously, if you decide to try it, you'll probably have to work up to that level. I started with six minutes and worked my way up. I decided to try sprinting because research shows that intense exercise can burn more fat than low-intensity cardio work while helping maintain lean muscle mass. Have you noticed that Olympic sprinters are very muscular while being lean, and long-distance runners are just plain skinny? Well, those sprinters are definitely onto something. Try sprinting in your program, and I think you'll see some amazing results.
As someone who specializes in supplements, I put together a complete supplement routine to maximize muscle mass while minimizing bodyfat. I took lots of supplements, but each one had a specific and unique purpose. It may seem like a lot, but it worked. Here's a brief review of the supplements I took:
Creatine. We all know about research showing that creatine boosts muscle mass, strength and size.3,4 I used a creatine supplement (Vitargo CGL from Nutrex or TRAC from MHP) postworkout and first thing in the morning on nontraining days. Studies show the best time to take creatine is after a workout for maximum absorption into muscle tissue. I eliminated creatine the last four weeks of the diet to really get super lean.
Thermogenic/fat burner. Using products containing nutrients such as ephedra, synephrine, caffeine, green tea and coleus forskohlii really helped me lose fat while maintaining lean body mass. I used one serving 45 minutes before cardio and another dose 45 minutes before weight training. I took two doses on nontraining days as well, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Products like Hydroxycut and Lean System 7 were helpful.
Guggulsterones. This underrated supplement was key for losing bodyfat. Guggul helps boost metabolism by normalizing thyroid hormone, enabling you to continue burning fat even after long periods of dieting.5 An added benefit is its effects on acne (always a good thing as a lean body and acne don't mix). Guggulbolic by Syntrax is a good product.
Phosphatidylserine. This phospholipid is a powerful cortisol blocker. It's been clinically proven to help control damaging cortisol levels.6,7 I took 400 milligrams two times a day'one dose after training and one dose 30 minutes before bedtime, as those are two times when cortisol levels may be raised. Cort-Bloc from Muscle-Link is a solid product and a must for hardgainers.
Natural hormone modifiers. Supplements that help boost testosterone and growth hormone levels can promote muscle growth. I used tribulus terrestris, zinc and acetyl-l-carnitine (Acetabolin-2 by MuscleTech) for testosterone levels (one dose 30 minutes before bed) and Alpha GPC from Chemi Nutraceutical for boosting GH levels (300 milligrams one hour before training and 200 milligrams before bed). I also took seven grams of the amino acid L-arginine for anti-catabolic/GH boosting effects 30 minutes before bed.
Insulin mimickers/blood sugar regulators. I used an insulin-boosting 'cocktail' to help balance blood sugar levels while maximizing nutrient absorption into muscle tissue and minimizing fat storage. The ingredients included chromium polynicotinate (200 micrograms four times daily, including 400 micrograms right after weight training), alpha lipoic acid (100 milligrams three times daily), d-pinitol (250 milligrams twice daily) and gymnema sylvestre (250 milligrams twice daily). It's essential to take these nutrients with meals.
Vitamins C and E. These antioxidants are necessary for optimizing recovery and lowering the damage from free radicals. I took 250 milligrams of vitamin C five times a day. Some research shows that the body can absorb only about 250 milligrams of vitamin C at one time. I also took 400 IU of vitamin E twice a day. A good time to take vitamins C and E is one hour before training, to reduce postworkout inflammation.
L-glutamine. The most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue, it can have powerful anabolic effects. Use a glutamine (preferably the better-absorbed glutamine peptide form) supplement especially right after a hard exercise session, for glutamine stores in muscle can be depleted by up to 40 percent after exhausting exercise. I took 35 grams of glutamine a day'five grams one hour before training, 15 grams right after training and 15 grams before bedtime'for seven days at the beginning of the program. Then I cut back to 15 grams a day'10 grams after a workout and five grams before bed time. Try not to take in too much sodium with your glutamine, as sodium entering the muscle cell actually pushes glutamine out of the muscle cell and into the bloodstream. Glutamine Peptide by Sports Science Research is a good product. Muscle-Link's Muscle Meals meal replacement and Pro-Fusion protein powder also have glutamine peptides.
Rhodiola Rosea. This adaptogenic herb really helped reduce muscle breakdown and enabled me to increase workout performance. I took 100 milligrams three times a day, one dose after a workout.
Milk thistle (silymarin). Used to support liver function, this herb helps with detoxification. Having a healthy and optimally functioning liver can also help other supplements you take work more effectively, as most supplements are processed in the liver. I took 250 milligrams two times daily. Multivitamin/multimineral formula. Because vitamins and minerals have numerous important effects in the body, this is an important safety net for hard-training athletes. Opti-Pack by Super Nutrition is an excellent product. I took one packet daily with breakfast.
Paying the price day in and day out meant I realized the fruits of my labor: At the end of the program I was in my all-time best shape ever! But constant improvement is a must for me, so here's hoping I'll be writing about my next 20 pounds soon. Now that you're armed with the tools it takes to achieve maximum results fast, it's up to you to use some or all of these tips in your own program. Always remember that intensity is the key.
Rehan Jalali's 20-Pounds-of-Muscle Program
Start each workout with a 10-minute warmup'usually walking on the treadmill
Incline barbell presses 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Dumbbell bench presses 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Dumbbell flyes 1 x 15, 1 x absolute failure
Weighted dips 1 x absolute failure
Deadlifts 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Bent-over barbell rows 1 x 12, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Seated cable rows 1 x 15, 1 x absolute failure
Wide-grip pulldowns to the front 1 x absolute failure
Thursday : Shoulders
Seated barbell front presses 1 x 15-20, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Barbell shrugs 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Lateral raises 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Bent-over lateral raises 1x 15, 1 x absolute failure
Friday: Biceps and triceps
Standing barbell curls 1 x 15-20, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Preacher curls 1 x 15, 1 x absolute failure
Incline dumbbell curls 1 x absolute failure
Lying triceps presses (EZ-curl bar) 1 x 15-20, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Triceps pushdowns (straight bar) 1 x 15, 1 x absolute failure
Triceps pushdowns (rope) 1 x absolute failure
Free-bar barbell squats 1 x 15-20, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Leg presses 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Leg extensions 1 x absolute failure
Stiff-legged deadlifts 1 x 15, 1 x 8, 1 x absolute failure
Leg curls 1 x absolute failure
Standing calf raises 1 x 15-20, 1 x 12-15, 1 x absolute failure
Tuesday: Day Off
Note: The tempo on the absolute-failure set should always be 2:0:X; that is, two seconds on the eccentric phase, no pause, and as fast as possible on the concentric part of the movement. That set is with the heaviest weight possible for at least six repetitions. Rest time after each set is two to 2 1/2 minutes between sets. Incorporate interval sprinting three times a week.
Rehan Jalali's 20-Pounds-of-Muscle Diet
10 egg whites, boiled, with pepper and one teaspoon flaxseed oil
1 cup cooked multigrain
cereal with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 packet Muscle Meals in water
6 oz. chicken breast with one teaspoon olive oil
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup broccoli and cauliflower
8 oz. orange roughy (baked)
1 large cup broccoli and cauliflower
1 serving Pro-Fusion in water
6 egg whites, boiled, with pepper
Note: See text for supplements.
Editor's note: Rehan Jalali is president of the Supplement Research Foundation (www.tsrf.com). A nationally recognized biochemist and sports nutritionist, he's published more than 250 articles on nutrition and supplementation. He's been studying the science, efficacy and safety of sports supplements for some 10 years. He can be reached via the Internet at [email protected].
1 Le Blanc, J., et al. (1993). Components of postprandial thermogenesis in relation to meal frequency in humans. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 71.12:879-883.
2 Arnold, L.M., et al. (1993). Effect of isoenergetic intake of three or nine meals on plasma lipoproteins and glucose metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 57.3:446-451.
3 Kreider, R.B., et al. (1998). Creatine supplementation: analysis of ergogenic value, medical safety and concerns. J Exerc Physiol Online. 1.1.
4 Kreider, R.B., et al. (1998). Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 30:73-82.
5 Nityanand, S., et al. (1989). Clinical trials with guggulipid. A new hypolipidaemic agent. J Assoc Physicians India. 37.5:323-328.
6 Monteleone, P., et al. (1990). Effects of phosphatidylserine on the neuroendocrine responses to physical stress in humans. Neuroendocrinol. 52:243-248.
7 Fahey, T.D., and Pearl, M. (1998). The hormonal and perceptive effects of phosphatidylserine administration during two weeks of resistive exercise-induced overtraining. Biol Sport. 15:135'144. IM