First Things First

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Here's What I Would Do



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I’m sitting in the gym minding my own business and a guy comes over and asks what I’d do if I wanted to gain some bodyweight, say 10 pounds over the next month. The inquiry is an easy one. He’s 40, healthy, knows how to lift, has the discipline and the time and 200 has been his goal for years.

“I just never put my mind to it and now I’m ready.”

I’m never just sitting unless I’m about to do my next set or I’m gasping for air from my last set; and I’m never minding my own business, my eyes and ears are secretly in motion picking up stray sights and sounds. It’s mid-afternon, the gym’s empty, and I just finished the last set of another sustaining workout.

Seated at the bench press within earshot is a high school kid, 160, amped and lean. He, too, wants to gain 10 pounds in 30 days.

“I’m ready, too.”

This is not an easy one. He looks like a toppled can of question marks and exclamation points.

They’re ready. I’m thinkin’ I’m not. Beyond hi, I don’t say much at the gym. Come to think of it, I don’t say much at home or on the street, either. What’s to say, nice day, I’m fine or some other dumb thing? And the telephone? Forget about it.

The answers to the questions are clear in my mind, but before I say a word, I want them to be clear in my mouth as well. Have you ever considered how much damage we cause when the mind and mouth are not in sync: wars between nations, marriages, divorces, failed business partnerships and broken hearts?

I feel like a time bomb.

Another thing: Perhaps you noticed I referenced questions and answers in the plural, whereas only a single question was asked. Therein lies another dilemma. One question, two inquiring minds (and their bodies), two very different answers. I’m beginning to lose my pump.

Where do I begin? Eat more, train harder and pray is the fundamental answer and I magnanimously throw it out there -- a stink bomb when they were expecting dynamite. Disappointment fills their faces and I wonder which of the three instructions they don’t understand. They want details.

10 pounds in a month... First of all, men, you can do this, but I don’t advise it. You’ll be eating all day long, ice cream, soda and fries will be your staples. The weight will ring your waist like an inner tube and glaze your skin like lard. Your legs will rub and you’ll waddle when you walk and your face will resemble a pumpkin. Your heart will pound, your lungs will gasp and your arteries will squeal.

People will not call you Big Guy. They’ll call you Fatso.

A 10-pound increase in bodyweight in 30 days is ambitious; it’s also gluttonous, frantic, unhealthy, all-consuming, expensive, wasteful and dumb. What’s the rush? Instead, think of 10 pounds in three months, or about a pound of sound bodyweight a week. This can be done wisely and well.

Here’s what I would do if I was either of these two.

Don’t approach the endeavor to gain weight as a whim. Only whimsical things will happen. Make it a mission to which you are committed. It’s serious business and serious things will happen. You have hard and joyful work ahead of you; you will apply and develop discipline and muscle; you’ll enjoy steps forward and endure steps back. You’ll be consistent and thorough, eating and training whether you want to or not; you’ll nurture a positive spirit as you focus on your sound and exciting goals. Be who you are becoming, a stronger, bigger, more muscular lifter with more courage and character, savvy and spirit. Why wait?

And, most of all, be humble, or humility will bind your ankles while you dance like a clown.

You’re gonna eat more of the right food. Listen closely, guys, especially you, lucky young high school teenager with your whole life before you who’s crossing the bridge too few adults have the brains to notice or approach. You’ll be attending your muscle-building nutrition by increasing your protein intake and limiting your fat and carbohydrate intake to those that are valuable and needed, and not excessive or noxious. I prefer a 50, 25, 25 percentage balance of protein, fat and carbs. Some smart lifters advise a 40, 30, 30 ratio. Either is good, and you determine your favorite ratio as you become familiar with your metabolic and mental idiosyncrasies.

We’re all a little crazy, ya know, and no two metabolisms are alike.

Eat regularly throughout the day, six smaller meals rather than one or two snack-supplemented larger meals. I believe this affords better nutrient absorption, a consistent feeding of the tissues for repair and building, a regular supply of fuel for energy, and it prevents catabolism. You can do this, though it will require some daring sacrifice: preparing meals ahead of time and storing them in Tupperware for travel, eating tuna (did he say tuna?) from the can and stirring Bomber Blend in whatever liquid is handly (yummo!) while on the road or at school.

And there’s no going about the busy day without breakfast, unless you want to perform like a slug and leach your existing muscle tissue as a source of energy.

Protein builds muscle and just about everything else in the body, from huge biceps to healthy hormones. You want all you can get, and the best musclebuilding sources are red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and milk products. You can take out a pencil and underline red meat. It does it best! Of course, there are some folks who would rather eat a moss-covered rock. I understand. Vegetarians head for the nuts, legumes, grains and soy and anything else that’s healthy and edible and grows from the earth’s soil. It works. Lacto-ovo vegetarians have an easier job of it by including milk products and eggs in their vegetarian menu.

Balance your meals sensibly throughout the day. Some meals, by their timing, will be larger -- lunch and dinner, usually. A protein drink can have as much protein as 60 to 75 grams of the golden ingredient with plenty of EFAs and complex carbs, yet it’s a simple, convenient and easy-to-digest meal. Shakes ideally serve musclebuilders for breakfast, before and after a workout, when on the run or before retiring -- key times for musclebuilding, weight-gaining meals.

Remember: The robust eating supported by basic and sound training puts on healthy, hard and strong weight. The undertaking must not be occasional, hit or miss, part-time or in any way short of devoted. If so, the undertaking is no undertaking at all, but another half-hearted passing fancy. I think of persistence and patience producing power and promise, and powerful, promising people.

Do this: Total up the food you eat in one average day, and using a simple food conversion chart, calculate the calories, protein, carbohydrate and fat values. Review the ratio between protein, carbs and fat and the total calories. With this basic information you can intelligently decide where you’re lacking or excessive in your daily food balance. And then you can balance the arrangement accordingly. You can also determine how many calories to increase your food intake and of what food groups the increase should be comprised.

This is a bit heady for a kid with a skateboard and a pierced ear. I can dig it. I’ve always taken the shoot-from-the-hit approach, myself; that is, I...

~ increase the protein intake from all sources

~ reduce -- big time -- the sugar and junk food and don’t eat fried stuff

~ eat lots of fruit and loads of salad

~ eat some good bread and grain and nuts

~ eat some more protein. This works wonders.

~ weigh the growing body on the same scale at the same time each day. It’s an impartial gauge that helps regulate progress. Don’t fret -- it goes up and down as it goes up.

~ drink water regularly till you float.. and eat a little more protein

I could go on and on, but I’d go alone. Your training needs close attention too. Knock out some squats and deadlifts before we meet again, and carry a pair of heavy dumbbells around the gym until you drop. Get in the mood.

Are you ready for this conversation? Hey, dude, long time, no see. You’re looking -- I dunno -- bigger, fuller, healthier. I can see it in your shoulders... thicker, more power. You been hittin’ the juice?

Just kiddin’! Make a bicep. Golly. You’re also calmer, cooler and more sensational.

Listen to me, guys. By the end of summer you’ll have your wings and you can fly with us. We’re authentic bombers.

Go with God’s strength... Dave

*****

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