Calorie Meal Plans

Why 'High Calorie Meal Plans' Are Natural Bodybuilding Nutrition Nonsense

You see them all over the Internet – 'high calorie meal plans' purported as necessary for going from skinny runt to 'muscular he-man' with the simple application of a one-workout-per-week bodybuilding training routine. "Experts" tell you to pump heavy iron, eat every three hours, and take in 3,000 to 5,000 calories per day and, voila, those massive quantities of excess calories will miraculously be converted to slabs of powerful and shapely muscle. This simple-minded prescription is one I personally adhered to twenty years ago. The result? I ended up with more body fat than muscle and an eating addiction more intense than what it had been prior to my having official approbation by the "high priests of bodybuilding" for being a downright pig.

Do you need to "eat a lot" in order to build muscle? Are 'high calorie meal plans' a necessary component of natural bodybuilding nutrition? Or is there a low threshold to the law of diminishing return in this context: Too much food ingestion requires processing energy by the body; energy traded from the reserves necessary to undergo the muscle building recuperation process itself? If the latter is the case, then body fat accumulation might be the lesser of detriments from excess calorie consumption; the greater being a hindrance to the very muscle building progress that the under-developed natural bodybuilder is seeking.

My Bad Experience with 'High Calorie Meal Plans'

In the late eighties and early nineties, very high calorie meal plans were the rage in bodybuilding. As high as 10,000 calories-per-day consumption were being encouraged in certain bodybuilding circles. This simple-mindedly ridiculous eating protocol was the fuel behind the marketing machine that promoted "weight gainer powders" that eventually reached the excesses of packing around 1,400 calories in a single serving. Smack-center on the receiving end of those marketing messages was… Uh… Well… "yours truly." I was more than happy to hear that my gluttonous habits were justified by the earnest and worthwhile endeavor of building muscle and strength. Consequently, many of these high-calorie, sugar-packed "meal supplements" sat on a shelf in my pantry right next to the high-calorie foods that competed with them for space in my stomach.

Of course, I hit the weights like a madman. I did "compound exercises" (squats, bench presses, dead-lifts, T-bar rows) because these movements were supposed to make me big. Well, actually, it was the combination of these so-called "testosterone releasing exercises" and all the high-calorie healthy protein and carbohydrate foods I was consuming that had been promised to make me "big."

Did the 'high calorie meal plans' put weight on me? You bet they did. But it wasn't the kind of weight that was typically associated with bodybuilding. I managed to eventually brandish a 38-inch waistline and a tipping of the scale that exceeded 230 pounds. As if the food addiction I'd already had wasn't bad enough, now I had one that included 1,000 calorie bodybuilding smoothies and a lethargy-inducing, incessant food coma problem; not good.

An Example of Why 'High Calorie Meal Plans' don't make sense for Natural Bodybuilding Nutrition.

I'll never forget an answer to a question I heard at a bodybuilding seminar back in 1990. The two-hour presentation had attendees asking personal questions of a Mr. Olympia competitor who had placed as high as second in that biggest of bodybuilding contests:

"How much muscle can you gain in a year?" asked one of the audience members.

Keep in mind – this was asked of a genetically gifted athlete who admitted to all of us that he was on regular cycles of anabolic steroids and growth hormone drugs.

"When I was in my teens, I could gain up to ten pounds of muscle per year." He answered. "Now that I'm twenty-seven, I'm lucky if I add on two pounds of muscle per year."

So with his genetics and pharmaceutical enhancement, he gained ten pounds of 'solid weight' (muscle) in a year. This was his fastest rate of muscle growth. When we divide those ten pounds of muscle per year by 365 days, we get nearly.03 pound of muscle per day.

Ask yourself: How many extra calories does it take to activate tissue recuperation for gaining.03 pound of muscle each day?

We know the formula for gaining body fat. With 3,500 calories being present in each pound of fat, a mere 500 calories above maintenance is required each day to gain a pound of body fat in a week. That's a gain of.14 pound of fat each day. If we assume we need as many calories to gain muscle as we need to gain body fat (big assumption), we can subtract.03 from.14 to get.11 and then multiply.11 by 500. This gives us 55, which we can subtract from 500 to get 445.

If we need as many calories each year to gain ten pounds of muscle as we do to gain ten pounds of fat – we'd need approximately 445 daily extra calories (above maintenance) to make it happen.

Wow… Approximately four-hundred fifty calories each day? That's about half a serving of dessert at the 'Cheesecake Factory.' More nutritionally speaking, it's a small can of tuna, a half cup of oatmeal, a banana, and an apple; not exactly a 'high calorie meal plan' if you're currently maintaining your weight on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet.


Energy is required of the body to digest and process the mega calories from a "high calorie meal plan." This is often wasted energy that could have otherwise been utilized to actually build some muscle. When we consume food that amounts to 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 calorie per day "meal plans", the simple fact that muscle tissue grows at a slower pace than these calories can be utilized for their contribution to its growth makes the meal plans prescriptions for fat gain.

Twenty five years of natural bodybuilding has shown me this: Utilizing an effective muscle building schedule/routine is higher in importance for progress in "solid weight gain" (muscle) than is following a supposedly tailor-made plan of natural bodybuilding nutrition. After all, if your muscle breakdown/recuperation timing ratio is not optimal, all those well-timed bodybuilding meals will contribute little to that.03 pound-worth of recuperation needed each day. In other words: the calories could end up on your waistline while your solid flesh remains underdeveloped.

That's from a guy who's speaking from experience.

Scott Abbett is the author of HardBody Success: 28 Principles to Create Your Ultimate Body and Shape Your Mind for Incredible Success. To see his personal transformation, visit Http://

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