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The Two Keys For Eating To Gain Muscle While Simultaneously Shedding Fat

I’ve found two specific eating habits that are essential if you want to gain muscle and shed fat at the same time.

This is the 3rd and final installment on this mini-series of how to eat to maximize muscle gain.  Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.  Plus, today I’m including some sample menus!

Before I share them, and conclude this series, let’s get some assumptions on the table:

  • You are not fat now, but still want to get leaner
  • You want to gain muscle AND lose fat at the same time
  • You are willing to have each of those goals progress more slowly in combination than if you focused on only one at a time; but you still want good progress on both
  • I assume you are using a decent lifting routine
  • I assume you are eating healthy food, in a good mix of proteins, carbs, and fats; if you don’t know the basics, then refer to Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle or 3 Months To A New You.

Ok , so rather than tease you, I’ll state the two keys upfront:

a)       Gradually increase your overall calories to a point far above what you think you should be eating

b)       Use the zig-zag calorie method

Last week I shared a 5-step strategy about how to gradually increase your caloric intake.

Now let’s talk about that “zig-zag method”…

The LeanLifter’s Zig-Zag Eating Plan

I first heard of this method from Tom Venuto but I can’t say he was the first to ever come up with it.  And I actually use a modified version of the concept that I believe is easier to follow, but still gets the same results.  It’s amazingly simple.  Here’s what I call the LeanLifter’s Zig-Zag Eating Plan:

  • Lift More Means Eat More – Assuming you are lifting 3 or 4 days a week, then on your lifting days you eat extra calories and on your non-lifting days you eat fewer calories.
  • Frequent Feedings – Set your baseline at an average of 5 meals a day, about every 3 hours, with a total calorie intake equal to your non-exercise calorie requirements.
  • On lifting days, eat 2 additional small meals, before and after your workout.  Read this.  You need to eat slightly over your “maintenance” level on the lifting days, say 300 to 400 calories or so over your baseline.
    • This is easy if you are using protein/carb shakes.
  • On your non-lifting days (including any cardio-only days), eat only 5 mealsbut they should be slightly smaller than usual; you want to eat much lower than maintenance, say 400 to 500 calories or so under your baseline.
    • Often, this is easy enough to do by eating 5 smaller meals (no snacks!)
    • “Small” is relative; my version of small may differ from yours but the idea here is smaller than you would if you were not on this eating plan
    • This certainly means no shakes on non-lifting days!
  • Adjust the actual calorie countsbased on
    • Your current weight and lean muscle vs. target goals.
    • How fast you want to get to each.
    • For example, if you are “more” interested in gaining muscle and less interested in losing fat, then turn up your “over days” and make your “under days” less dramatic.

What if you lift 5 or 6 days a week? Then you lift too frequently to use my method.  You simply need to do 3 or 4 days straight where you are under and then 3 or 4 days straight where you are over.  This is more akin to Tom’s original zig-zag plan.

If your focus now is on running or cycling or some other cardio fitness, and are thus doing cardio 4 or 5 days a week, then it’s going to be nearly impossible to gain muscle.  So you either need to adjust your workout or delay your goal for gaining muscle until your current training period is over.

Now what about some sample menus…

Sample Menus

First off, remember these caveats:

  • There are entire books written on menus; I’m just trying to get you to see how these things work, not trying to be a definitive resource
  • There are infinite combinations of foods you could eat; these are ideas based on foods readily available in the US that are not particularly expensive
  • I’m focusing on ease to prepare in advance
  • These are designed to gain mass primarily, with fat loss secondary; if you are fat, use the guidelines in Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
  • There’s one sample day for the skinny guy (skinny but still has a layer of flab/fat) and one for the average guy; there is no sample meal here for the fat guy
  • They are only suggestions, not rules
  • I’m going to assume a morning lifting routine; if you lift later in the day, I assume you are smart enough to adjust this!
  • I’m preparing a 3-page cheat sheet for LeanLifters to help establish guidelines so you can make your own menus
  • If there is a lot of interest in more menus (as evidenced by lots of comments here or in the forum), then in the future I can write more articles with just menus

Sample Menu 1 – for the average flabby guy trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time

“Average Guy” = ~180 pounds, 5 feet 10 inches, 15% bodyfat

Lifting Day Non-Lifting Day
Meal 1 6:30 am (assuming within 30 minutes of waking)

  • 1 banana
  • 1 low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt (so it can have sugar)
  • 1 small bowl oatmeal, no sugar
7:00 am (assuming within 60 minutes of waking)

  • 1 banana
  • 1 low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt (so it can have sugar)
  • 1 small bowl oatmeal, no sugar
Meal 2 7:30 am (before workout)

  • Protein and carb shake, in skim milk
11:00 am (this is the biggest meal, and hardest to prepare)

  • 5-egg omelet, with at least 1 cup of veggies, no cheese, salsa or other low calorie sauce ok
  • 1 whole grain bagel or 3 pieces of whole grain toast
Meal 3 9:30 am (after workout)

  • Protein and carb shake, in skim milk
  • 1 piece of fruit
2:00 pm

  • Two 4 oz chicken breasts (baked, skinless, no bun)
  • 1 apple
  • 2 cups broccoli, raw or microwaved, no sauce
  • 1 glass of skim milk
Meal 4 12:00 pm (this is the biggest meal, and hardest to prepare)

  • 5-egg omelet, with at least 1 cup of veggies, no cheese, salsa or other low calorie sauce ok
  • 1 whole grain bagel or 3 pieces of whole grain toast
6:00 pm

  • 1 large lean beef patty or 2 small patties
  • 1 cup asparagus or Brussels sprouts
  • Handful of almonds or even peanuts
Meal 5 3:00 pm

  • Two 4 oz chicken breasts (baked, skinless, no bun)
  • 1 apple
  • 2 cups broccoli, raw or microwaved, no sauce
  • 1 glass of skim milk
8:00 pm

  • 2 cups cottage cheese, ¼ cup of fruit
Meal 6 6:00 pm

  • 1 large lean beef patty or 2 small patties (we’re talking lean beef, not McDonald’s!)
  • 1 cup asparagus or Brussels sprouts
  • Handful of almonds or even peanuts
none
Meal 7 8:00 pm

  • 2 cups cottage cheese, ¼ cup of fruit
none

Sample Menu 2 – for the skinny-but-flabby guy trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time

“Skinny Guy” = ~140 pounds, 5 feet 10 inches, 15% bodyfat

Lifting Day Non-Lifting Day
Meal 1 6:30 am (assuming within 30 minutes of waking)

  • 1 banana
  • 2 low-fat fruit-flavored yogurts (so it can have sugar)
  • 1 large bowl oatmeal, no sugar
7:30 am (before workout)

  • Protein and carb shake, in skim milk
Meal 2 7:30 am (before workout)

  • Protein and carb shake, in skim milk
11:00 am (this is the biggest meal, and hardest to prepare)

  • 5-egg omelet, with at least 1 cup of veggies, no cheese, salsa or other low calorie sauce ok
  • 2 whole grain bagels or 6 pieces of whole grain toast
  • 1 apple
Meal 3 9:30 am (after workout)

  • Protein and carb shake, in skim milk
  • 1 piece of fruit
2:00 pm

  • Three 4 oz chicken breasts (baked, skinless, no bun)
  • 1 apple
  • 3 cups broccoli, raw or microwaved, no sauce
  • 1 glass of skim milk
Meal 4 12:00 pm (this is the biggest meal, and hardest to prepare)

  • 5-egg omelet, with at least 1 cup of veggies, no cheese, salsa or other low calorie sauce ok
  • 2 whole grain bagels or 6 pieces of whole grain toast
  • 1 apple
6:00 pm

  • 2 large lean beef patties
  • 2 cups asparagus or Brussels sprouts
  • Handful of almonds or even peanuts
Meal 5 3:00 pm

  • Three 4 oz chicken breasts (baked, skinless, no bun)
  • 1 apple
  • 3 cups broccoli, raw or microwaved, no sauce
  • 1 glass of skim milk
8:00 pm

  • 2 cups cottage cheese, ¼ cup of fruit
Meal 6 6:00 pm

  • 2 large lean beef patties (we’re talking lean beef, not McDonald’s!)
  • 2 cups asparagus or Brussels sprouts
  • Handful of almonds or even peanuts
none
Meal 7 8:00 pm

  • 2 cups cottage cheese, ¼ cup of fruit
none

Oh, and no, eggs are not bad for you.  Watch this:  http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid17217221001?bctid=48787235001

Menu Questions?

If you have menu questions, or any questions on this series, you can post them either under this article or on the forum.

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