My friend Chris is one strong MoFo. He’s too humble to brag about himself, so since he’s not looking, I’ll do it for him. I first met him at the RKC in Orlando in 2010 and could not believe what he could do. It was ridiculous. Picture this: At 160 lbs he performed a fast, easy-looking pullup with the Beast (a 106 lb kettlebell). He then performed a pistol with the same weight! I’d say I was impressed, but that’d be an understatement. Since then he has gone on to do an assortment of ridiculous/extreme/epic things, including tearing phonebooks in half, bending some thick nails duct taped together (which he graciously mailed to me), achieved a BS in Sport and Exercise science, and even holds the coveted CSCS certification. Most magnificently, he has packed literally dozens of lbs onto his frame in record time, and in record fashion – namely, OLD fashioned. Through an epic appetite and hard work, NOT by cowing out and succumbing to the supplement and protein shake frenzy that has a firm squeeze on the strength world’s steroid-shriveled nutsack.
I asked Chris to write this article because he’s every bit as strong as he looks and then some. Since strength is what I love to write about (and what you love to read about), when Chris talks, I listen. And you should, too. His legs are stronger than yours. His back is stronger than yours. His abs are stronger than yours. Hell, his coffee is stronger than yours! Chris’s article is all about what has become the dark side of strength training: mass building. Chris will boldly go where many men have tried to go before, but have failed. If you’re tired of falling short and are ready to slap some serious beef onto your frame, look no further than his sagely advice. If it’s more than you can handle, bookmark this page and come back next week when I’ll write about puppies and kitties and rainbows to keep you safe from the hard truth you’re about to read.
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An Honest Approach To Bulking
By Chris Davis, BS, RKC, CSCS
This is not a healthy article. This is about how to put on size and strength legally and frugally. This will appear to be very radical compared to what we always hear in the health and fitness industry, but I’m a black sheep anyway. What I’m going to suggest to you is not too far off from how the average American eats, but if you want to carry around extra mass and be able to back up that mass I suggest you listen.
If you listen to Atreyu’s song “Lip Gloss and Black”, there is an excellent lyric that has stuck with me since I first heard it, “an emphasis on function, rather than design”. Just think about that for a little bit. I don’t care what anything looks like; I care about what it does. You will lose your precious 6 pack, but gain much needed and wanted strength. I tend to look at people with low body fat as falling short of their potential. “Mass moves mass.” Take a look at bodybuilders on stage; they are at their weakest when they actually look their best. The adage is that “the front side of your body is for show, and the back side is for go.” You’ll look pleasing aesthetically, but aesthetics alone don’t guarantee performance.
To build size and strength you need to up your sugar intake. Increasing your fat intake alone will not simply do it. Yes, there are more than double the calories in fat than in sugar, but remember that a calorie is not simply a calorie. Fat is hormonally neutral, so you don’t get an insulin spike from eating almonds. If you do, it isn’t as significant as sugar. Sugar releases insulin from the pancreas which in turn opens up cells membranes for intra- and extracellular nutrients to pass through the cell membrane. That’s a gross oversimplification of the entire process, but that is beyond the scope of this article. The point being that eating 9 k/Cal of fat per gram does not give you the same hormonal effect as 4k/Cal per gram of sugar.
I remember learning in high school that carbs (sugar) is energy, but if you eat too much energy it will turn to fat. Not only that, but as strength athletes we are working our Type II muscle fibers which rely predominately on glycosis (sugar) for energy. With no sugar in your body how can it be expected to function properly? Put gasoline in your diesel engine and see how far down the road you get. A lot of these scientific terms such as ketosis, glycogen, anaerobic, and gluconeogenesis aren’t just clever and meant to confuse, they each have a meaning and understanding their meaning can make you a better athlete.
For decades a gallon of milk a day (GOMAD) has been considered the best way to add muscle and strength. I happen to agree and consider whole milk to be the “legal man’s steroids”. I cannot afford a GOMAD so I stick with about a quart or a little more, especially right after my squat sessions. Mammals drink milk when we are young so we can grow and gain the strength to walk or hold our own heads up. Keep drinking it after infancy and you will continue to grow too. In Paul Anderson’s autobiography he wrote that he would drink GALLONS of milk each day. Yes, he was a big man, but he was solid. This was also due to how we trained and I’ll talk about that later in this article. I don’t think he could’ve squatted 1,202 pounds for a double raw or set the world record in the back lift at 6,270 pounds without drinking his milk and consuming massive amounts of calories.
A personal favorite of mine to eat are Oreo’s, but in all honesty I’m on the “see-food” diet. A Triple Double Oreo is 100 calories per cookie and most of that is sugar. It’s all about cheap sources of calories. Anything with a lot of sugar in it will help you add size and strength. Don’t forget that you get stronger when you rest, so doesn’t your body need a source of energy to repair the micro trauma you inflicted on it during your training session? You also need a store of energy roughly 8 hours prior to your training session to get complete. This is why endurance athletes carb load before an event. You can’t eat something and be ready to go immediately.
Just eat what you see in front of you: Sweet potatoes, pizza, milk, coffee, Monster’s, Snickers, et. al. Your goal here is to put on size and strength. Just eat like the average American. Don’t forget you’re training much harder than the coach potato is.
I know all the “Paleo Police” out there right now are screaming “THAT’S NOT HOW THE CAVEMEN WOULD EAT!!” and throwing out data like “We’re 99.99999999999999999% like the cavemen” and using words like “gluten” and “insulin resistance”. Valid points, but I’m not living in a cave, something will kill me one day, and if we’re so genetically similar to cavemen might they eat a Twinkie if they saw it? You did once in your life. If not I’ll eat it for them and you. More for me. I never said I don’t eat my fruits and veggies, but measures need to be taken if you want to weigh more than 200 pounds and throw some serious weight around.
If you’re going to increase your daily caloric intake by at least 1,000 calories you will need to train like it. My basic list of training looks like this: Squats, kettlebell snatches, loaded carries, and sprints. Paul Anderson wrote (if I remember correctly) that he had an 11 second 100m time and could jump onto a 36” table at will. He was 360 pounds! When I do my squats I go anywhere from 1 to 20 reps, with that being a true 20 rep set. I very rarely pick up anything lighter that a 32 kilo bell to snatch with. Any kind of loaded carry, be it a farmer’s walk all the way to a yoke carry, will do. Your waist will increase, but this is a result of getting stronger. Why are snow shoes so wide? So they can distribute your bodyweight evenly across the snow. The same principle applies with a wider waist line when you squat. You can’t drink a weight gainer shake and spend your hour in the gym isolating your brachioradialis. You have to train the way you eat. The day I am no longer able to train the way I do is the day I stop eating the way I do. I want to be strong, I can’t get that way eating 5 oz of chicken breast, 3 cups of broccoli, and almond slivers. Don’t believe me, ask Hossein Rezazadeh, Andy Bolton, Donnie Thompson or Mariusz Pudzianowski how they eat.
Andy Bolton pulling 1000 + lbs. He eats salad just in case his steak gets hungry.
One of my favorite and easiest ways to take in extra calories is to fill a cup with Oreo’s to the brim. I stuff as many in there as I can and then pour milk into the cup filling it to the top as well and eating the Oreo’s out with a spoon then drinking the left over milk.
Come for the goofy hair. Stay for the awesome recipe.
Yes, I have put on a lot of weight, not all of it has been good, but I have also gotten a lot stronger as a result of eating like this. I am also able to handle much more intense training sessions . The veins in my 6 pack are long gone and if I can flex in just the right way with the right kind of light I can kinda see the linea alba line in my gut, but I’m more concerned with the bar getting heavier then my beach muscles glistening in the sun. Some people are very strong with a very low percentage of body weight, but they lie outside the bell curve and were born with excellent genetics. If we all could’ve been born like that then we would all go to the Olympics. If you’re just another face in the crowd like I am you’ll need to eat dirty. And it tastes better too.
Chris Davis, BS, RKC, CSCS lives with his wife Judy and their adorable puppies in St. Cloud, FL. When not lifting heavy things, he doles out free training knowledge on his public Facebook page, the St. Cloud Institute for Human Performance. Like his page and you will become a better man (even if you're a lady): St. Cloud Institute for Human Performance