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Visual Impact Challenge: Eating for Size

eating for sizeAs most of you know, I’ve embarked on a new mission – a muscle building mission.

My goal of gaining 12-15 lbs of muscle within a 2 month time period has been doubted by some, but I’m happy to say that four weeks into the program I’m already well on my way to achieving what I’m striving for.

I mentioned in the opening post for this series that I’m going to be documenting everything – diet, training, supplementation, and other things that may or may not play a role in my results.

Today I really want to give you a complete overview of my diet. When it comes to putting on size, most experts will simply tell you to eat a lot. In theory this is correct – you do need to eat a lot.

But what is a lot?

I want to dig a little deeper here and give you an understanding of how I’ve structured my diet. I want to show you exactly what I eat and when I eat it.

If you’re aware of the fitness bloomer eating philosophy, you understand that what we choose to eat plays an enormous role in the results we end up with.

You can train like a pro but if you are not providing your body with the raw materials it needs in the quantity it requires at the time it needs it the most, then you are running yourself short.

How to Calculate your Required Caloric Consumption

In the Visual Impact Muscle Building program that I’m using for this challenge, the creator Rusty Moore provides a cool little calculation to help you determine roughly how many calories you should be consuming to build muscle.

Here’s the formula:

Everything in the formula is pretty self-explanatory. Your goal weight (in pounds) is your target weight – the weight you’re trying to reach at the end of your bulking phase. All that’s left is the number of hours you put in the gym each week.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll show you what my numbers were:

After crunching all the numbers, the calculation shows that I need to be consuming roughly 2700 calories each and every day during my bulking phase, regardless if I’m training or not, if I want to put on size.

More generally, the Visual Impact program suggests that you maintain a caloric surplus of 200-400 calories over maintenance. Use the formula above to calculate the actual number for yourself.

How do I know if I’m getting the right number of calories?

To ensure that I’m getting the right number of calories (and other nutritional elements) I need to reach my target weight, I use a cool little online tool called NutritionData – it’s a powerful online tool that you can use for free to break down practically any food item into its nutritional elements.

If you want to learn how to use this tool effectively, check out my post on Nutrition Data.

My Daily Diet Breakdown

I work a 9-5 job at an engineering firm, so my days are fairly structured. I actually find it easier to maintain a strict eating and training regimen when I’m working – quite an interesting paradox I think.

Let’s get into it…

Breakfast ~ 7:15am

For breakfast I have a bowl of my supercharged oatmeal. Oatmeal is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and it really energizes me in the morning. I don’t have plain oatmeal. When I say supercharged, I mean supercharged.

Visual Impact Muscle Building Breakfast

My delicious breakfast

Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • Handful of almonds (protein + source of good fats)
  • Handful of blueberries (antioxidants + vitamins + minerals)
  • 1 tablespoon of baked flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of goji berries (antioxidants, energy)
  • 1 teaspoon of cacao powder (antioxidants)

According to NutritionData, I get about 60 grams of carbohydrates from 1 cup of oatmeal and roughly 360 calories. I also get almost 10 grams of fibre and 12 grams of protein. A handful of blueberries gives me an excellent source of DNA-protecting antioxidants. A solid handful of almonds will give me anywhere from 150 to 200 calories (depending on how much I grab), 6 to 10 grams of protein, and roughly 15 to 20 grams of healthy fats.

Baked flax seeds are a great source of Calcium and they taste absolutely amazing. They will make anything taste incredible. Goji berries and Cacao powder are incredible superfoods that must be eaten daily so I choose to throw them into the mix in my morning supercharged oatmeal.

I am currently working on a video that will show you how to create this breakfast in under 5 minutes.

Overall, my breakfast will give me around 600 calories, roughly 80 grams of carbohydrates, about 25 to 30 grams of protein and roughly 20 to 25 grams of healthy fats.

Morning Snack ~ 10:00am

I keep my snack really simple. I want something high in protein to ensure I get enough protein through the day. I’ll have one banana plus a whey protein shake with milk and two tablespoons of hemp seeds.

NutritionData findings show that one large banana provides roughly 120 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates while giving me a good boost in certain vitamins and minerals.

Left: Caloric Pyramid Ratio shows that bananas are 93% carbohydrates (mostly simple sugars) Right: Nutrition Balance shows that bananas provide a lot of vitamins and minerals

The protein that I use is Gold Standard Natural Whey. It has zero additives (which is very important to me). One scoop of whey protein provides 130 calories and 24 grams of protein with 5 grams of carbohydrates to boot.

100% Gold Standard Natural Whey Protein (zero additives)

Thus, my morning snack combines for roughly 300 calories, 40 to 50 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrates.

Lunch ~ 12:15pm

My lunch is a great mix of protein and complex carbohydrates. It’s a bowl consisting of the following:

  • 1 can of white flaked tuna
  • 4-5 tablespoons of brown rice
  • 4-5 big tablespoons of Quinoa
  • 2 handfuls of cashews
  • A handful of raw spinach
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 3-4 mushrooms
  • ½ tomato
  • (sometimes) handful of blueberris

My lunch is probably my most nutritions meal (and that’s saying something). I use a medium-sized piece of tupperwear to bring my lunch. As you can see, it’s filled with meat, vegetables, rice, and all sorts of other goodies. It’s exceptionally high in protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.

This is what my lunch looks like mixed up.

Using numbers from NutritionData (or sometimes simply reading the label on the food item), I find that one single can of white flaked tuna provides roughly 220 calories and 40 grams of protein. I aim to get unsalted versions because canned tuna is typically high in sodium, and we all know what sodium can do to your body.

Protein Quality shows that tuna is a complete source of protein. Caloric Pyramid Ratio shows that tuna is mainly a protein source.

The majority of the carbohydrates come from the brown rice and Quinoa. Brown rice is an exceptional source of complex carbohydrates. I usually take a bit over a cup and this gives me roughly 220 calories, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fat. Most people don’t know about Quinoa – a power food – but it’s actually one of the tastiest foods I’ve ever come across. When cooked, a cup will give you just over 200 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrates (no sugar), and 8 grams of protein (Quinoa is actually a complete source of protein).

Nutrition Balance shows that Quinoa is off the chain - tons of vitamins and minerals. It's also a complete source of protein.

I eat my spinach raw – a handful of spinach leaves. Although not a great source of macronutrients, raw spinach has a 91% nutrition completeness score, meaning it is one of the most nutritiously balance foods on the planet. Cashews also provide a great source of healthy fats in the mix.

Overall, my caloric intake during lunch is roughly 800 to 900 (healthy) calories. I get about 50 to 70 grams of protein and roughly 100 grams of carbohydrates. My fats are in the low 20 to 30 gram range.

Afternoon Snack ~ 3:00pm

My afternoon snack is typically a sandwich of some sort. I always use whole wheat bread or wraps. I fill it with lean turkey meat or a chicken breast, a handful of raw spinach, yogurt, cucumbers, mushrooms, and any other vegetables we have.

It’s a very simple snack but it’s another great source of complex carbohydrates, protein and good fats.

I usually get about 400 to 500 calories from my afternoon snack. I’ll get 20 to 25 grams of protein and 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Dinner ~ 6:00pm

My dinner is the one meal that varies the most because it is home cooked. Sometimes it’s potatoes, vegetables and chicken. Other days it is fish with cooked spinach. Some days it’s cooked beans. Randomly we’ll have whole wheat pasta with vegetables and turkey meat. Most recently I had peppers stuffed with ground turkey and rice.

Regardless of the variation, my dinners are typically high in complex carbohydrates and protein.

This one is too complicated to use NutritionData because of the constant variation, but I would estimate that my dinners are typically in the 600 to 800 calorie region.

Post-Workout Snack ~8:00pm – 9:00pm

My workout often goes from 7:00pm to 8:00 or 8:30pm. Immediately after the workout I’ll rush home to make myself a post-workout smoothie. The smoothie will be calorically dense and will contain the following ingredients:

  • 1 scoop of Gold Standard Natural Whey protein
  • 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds
  • 2-3 tablespoons of almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon of maca powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons of dextrose
  • Some type of fruit: blueberries, bananas, or watermelon

Almond butter is very thick, but tasty. A single tablespoon of this stuff provides 100 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrates. I usually throw two to three tablespoons into the mix. As mentioned earlier, hemp seeds are considered the single best source of protein in a form that is so easily digested and absorbed by the body. Hemp seeds are extremely powerful and are a great addition to my superfood collection. The purpose of dextrose is to speed up the absorption of the nutrients into the muscle cells.

Overall, I get about 400 calories, roughly 40 to 50 grams of protein, and 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates from this powerful post-workout smoothie.

Water Consumption

For the sake of proper hydration and absorption of nutrients into muscle cells, drinking plenty of water is crucial.

I aim at drinking two to three litres of water every day. It’s not easy and yes you’ll be running to the bathroom every 20 minutes, but I think this is one area where people often fail at – your body needs lots of water to function properly.

Conclusion

As you can see, I eat quite a bit throughout the day. I need to.

Overall, from the six meals I’ve outlined above I get (roughly):

  • 3,000 to 3,200 calories
  • 250 to 300 grams of carbohydrates
  • 190 to 210 grams of protein
  • 70 to 100 grams of healthy fats

The reason I’m aiming a little bit higher than what the initial formula suggested (way above) is because I know there is going to be variation. I know I’m not a robot and won’t be able to stick to this every single day. So I’m playing it safe and ensuring that I’m in a caloric surplus most of the time.

That’s the gist of my diet. I eat like this probably 75 – 80% of the time (weekends get a little unstructured – I’m not perfect). But that’s fine. Even Rusty mentions in his program that you should aim at sticking to your diet 75% of the time. If you mess up one day or two, it’s fine – just make sure you stick to your guns three quarters of the time.

If you want to bulk up, you need to get your eating in order. In fact, if you want to get any results at all, you must get your eating in order. It’s crucial.

I hope this overview of my eating structure has given you an idea of how you need to structure your own diets to start building muscle. If you have any questions about it, please ask away in the comments below.

Do you have any dieting strategies to share? What has worked for you when it comes to bulking? What hasn’t worked? Share your stories and suggestions in the comments below.

Raymond- ZenMyFitness - August 23, 2011

That looks like a sound approach to bulking( hate that word eh!) it’s not too over the top and you are eating enough not to go fat! just feed the muscle.
I don’t think you mentioned oils? like fish, flaxseed or olive etc I find when I don’t feel like eating but still searching for calories a tablespoon added into my shakes or breakfast keeps me on target.
Can’t wait to see the photos
Raymond

    Srdjan Popovic - August 24, 2011

    Hey Raymond, I’m not a huge fan of oils. However, sometimes I mix it up during breakfast and make eggs using olive oil. That’s about as far as I go. I don’t think I’m struggling to get any excess calories at the moment so I’m not too worried about that.

    Thanks for the support!

    P.S. I’m not fond of the word ‘eh’ either 🙂

Alykhan - Fitness Breakout - August 23, 2011

Srdjan,

This sounds like a great meal plan for putting on some muscle. My question is are you concerned about gaining excess fat with the grain-based carbs, particularly on days when you don’t workout? I also work a 9-5 office job and while this meal plan is practically flawless in terms of nutritious, unprocessed whole foods, I’d be a little nervous to give it a shot because of the constant flow of carbs. Being in a sedentary job most of the day, I try to keep my carb intake to less than 50g per day during the work week (cheat days are a different story and these are the days I usually hit the weights pretty hard).

Alykhan

    Srdjan Popovic - August 24, 2011

    Hey Alykhan, you bring up an excellent point. First of all, it’s really important to take into consideration what your daily activities are like. While your job is sedentary, mine requires me to be up and about, running around all day – I’m almost always on my feet. The second thing to take into consideration is your individual traits. Some people can simply handle more carbs than others. My metabolism seems to always be in 5th gear so lowering my carb intake hasn’t been so effective for me in the past.

    Taking these things into consideration, I think it comes down to testing what works for you. You make an excellent point that taking in excess carbs may result in gaining excess fat, but it’s important to find out what ‘excess’ is for you.

    Over the past month I’ve put on roughly 10lbs on this diet and my body fat % has remained relatively the same. So at the moment my high carb intake is working fairly well. This obviously doesn’t mean it will work for everyone, but it might give people a good place to start. If you try it and see that you’re gaining excess fat, it’s as simple as cutting back on the carbs (and calories). I think this is easier than trying to find that optimal carb range by working your carbs up and barely seeing any results. At the end of the day, it comes down to testing and making changes until you find what works for you.

    What are your thoughts on that?

      Alykhan - Fitness Breakout - August 24, 2011

      Srdjan,

      I agree testing and tweaking certain things such as carb intake is a must when trying out a new eating plan. I’ve found that I’m quite prone to fat gain if I eat a lot of carbs, so I try to monitor that pretty closely. It definitely helps that you’re up and on your feet most of the day.

      Alykhan

Hiit - August 25, 2011

Great post about diet, thank you for publishing it. Love your site

Dave - Not Your Average Fitness Tips - September 2, 2011

It looks like you have a good approach to eating…instead of excess calories coming from junk food, it seems like you’re eating mostly healthy foods. How is the mass building going lately? Are you finding that you’re gaining weight/fat too quickly?

    Srdjan Popovic - September 6, 2011

    The mass building is going really well man. My weight gain started off fairly quickly (I think mostly because my body was shocked with a burst of excess calories in the first week), but then it slowed down to a solid 2lbs/week. I can also happily say that my body fat percentage has remained relatively the same over the past six weeks.

    Most people don’t understand how I’ve managed to gain weight but not fat. Although my diet has been highly-caloric, the truth is most of these calories have been clean. No junk, nothing highly processed, no ’empty’ calories.

Michael- The Underwear Body - September 3, 2011

Hey Serge,

nicely outlined, eating this looks like a job in itself, it takes some commitment to stick to this! Were you already eating a similar amount before or have you had to adapt to it? I remember trying a mass gaining diet and at first it was a real struggle as I just didn’t have the appetite.

Michael

    Srdjan Popovic - September 6, 2011

    Hey Michael. Thanks for the comment man!

    I won’t lie, sometimes it actually does feel like a job! It definitely takes work and you have to be committed for sure. My diet before this was similar in quality but not in quantity. I always try to eat clean – that’s a no brainer. But for this challenge my quantity consumed really shot up. I usually average somewhere in the 1800 to 2000 calorie range. The past six weeks (and counting) have been in the 3000 to 3500 range (sometimes higher). It’s definitely taken some getting used to.

    I know what you mean when you talk about lack of appetite. I definitely have those days. You just have to learn to eat through those phases. I remember reading in Tim Ferriss’s 4Hr Body book how he helped Neil Strauss gain 15 pounds by telling him to eat through his ‘no-appetite’ phases. And it worked after nothing else did.

David @ The Natural Health Service - December 15, 2011

Your diet is amazing. Really nutrient dense. I couldn’t handle that amount of carbs either though, but if you are lean and active and looking to gain muscle size rather than get lean, then it is definitely the way to go. Also I’ve moved away from eating 6 times per day. My recent research suggests you can do just as well with three good meals, plus your post workout shake on training days. And it’s healthier too. But I know some people swear by 6 meals per day.

It’s good to see you only have a moderate amount of dextrose in your post workout shake too. So many people say you need a lot more. But I put on a lot of fat when I was using 50g of dextrose in my post workout shake. It’s just not necessary.

    Srdjan Popovic - December 17, 2011

    David, when you are consuming 3500 – 4000 calories per day, it doesn’t matter too much whether you consume them in 3 meals or 6 (although the former is much harder in my opinion). I’ve tested both throughout my phase 1 and haven’t noticed any differences.

    As for dextrose, I think you’re absolutely right. I see people with more dextrose than protein sometimes! I like to keep it small enough just to get that quick insulin spike so my body can flush the nutrients into the muscle cells. 2-3 teaspoons should do the trick.

Suleman - June 6, 2012

Serge, for the meals with pics/recipes – did you actually eat those same meals EVERY DAY?

    Srdjan Popovic - June 10, 2012

    Suleman, that’s pretty much what I ate every day. My meals did change from time to time, but my caloric intake stayed consistent.

Felipe Silveira - February 22, 2013

Greetings from Brazil! This post is amazing! It show us how nutrition can be tasty and healthy at the same time. I will use your examples in my next time on the supermarket. You really knew how to combine protein sources from a good nutrition, specially from green sources, with your supplement. Here is something that I have to learn. Tnks for the good information.

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