It started as a challenge to myself. If I took all the knowledge I had about weight gain and put it to work all at once, how much weight could I add to myself in one week? What would my upper limit be? I had some vacation time coming up where I could do nothing but eat, sleep and train so I decided to do it. This is my story...
I knew from the start that this weight gain certainly wouldn't be all muscle. In fact, it's impossible to gain that much weight in muscle in only one week (unless you're a baby elephant!). I was going to gain a combination of muscle, water and most likely some fat as well. That rapid of a weight gain, however, was going to force a lot of nutrients into my muscles quickly, resulting in some permanent muscle gains.
To start my maximal weight gain adventure, I first had to set myself up for it by dieting down. Why diet down to gain weight? Your body adapts most rapidly to extreme changes in environment. I knew I wanted to gain weight quickly, therefore I had to first subject myself to a restricted-calorie diet. When I would reverse my goals and begin to feed myself again, my body would react by rapidly sucking up every available calorie and holding onto it.
To further set myself up, the diet I went on was a two-week carbohydrate-restricted plan, much like the Atkins Diet. For two weeks, I ate less than 30 grams of carbs per day, sticking to meats, eggs, cheese and vegetables. This cleared out all the glycogen I had stored in my body as well as reducing the amount of water I was carrying (water attaches itself to carbs in your body - when you clear out the carbs, several pounds or more of water will be flushed out with it). It was kind of like squeezing out a sponge - you can fit more water into a sponge that's been squeezed totally dry than a sponge that's already moist.
It's important to note that I didn't restrict my water intake at all. That will give you exactly the wrong effect. If you restrict your water intake while dieting, your body will actually hold onto more water. If you give your body plenty of water, it will have no reason to hold onto every drop you give it and will flush it out regularly.
For training during this phase, I did three high-intensity cardio sessions per week for about 20 minutes each. This cardio was extremely tough and designed to burn as many calories as possible as quickly as possible. This would make my body extremely hungry for nutrients and ready to absorb as much as possible. I did high-volume, high-rep weight training (12 to 15 reps per set), 6 sessions per week with very short rest periods to further set up this effect.
After 2 weeks of this training and dieting, I was ready to start my weight gain. On Saturday evening, after my final training session for the week, I weighed in at 192 pounds.
On Sunday morning, I woke up and immediately took my first serving of creatine and glutamine. My focus on this day was to eat as much as possible, load up on creatine and glutamine and drink as much water as possible. Both of these supplements are excellent for forcing water into the muscles. Taking creatine alone can result in a 5 to 10 pound increase in weight over the loading phase of 5 days. To further maximize this effect, I had been off creatine for 3 months prior to this.
I took 4 servings of creatine and glutamine this day, along with eating as much as I could (for example, eggs, oatmeal, meats, potatoes, fruits, rice, etc.) and drinking buckets of water. I would continue loading creatine for the next 4 days, taking glutamine only after each workout from then on rather than with my creatine loading. I would start my weight training program on Monday. I was going to be doing a very demanding program, doing 12 total-body training sessions over the next 6 days.
My theory with doing multiple total-body training sessions is this: every single bodypart was going to get as much breakdown and stimulation as possible to maximize the amount of nutrients being taken up over my whole body. I would do more sets for the larger parts like chest, back and thighs and fewer sets for the other smaller parts. Every part would get worked twice a day for six days straight. This type of training is not appropriate for a long-term program as it would rapidly lead to overtraining in a matter of weeks. This was a one-week shot for me and I was putting everything into it.
After taking my creatine, I made breakfast, which consisted of 10 eggs and a bowl of oatmeal that would feed a family of 4. For flavor, I mixed in some fruit yogurt. To gain weight effectively, you really need to eat big.
I got to the gym for my first session that day and weighed myself. I had gained 10 pounds in the first day. Not a bad start! All that eating, drinking water and supplementation was paying off. My body was extremely primed for gaining.
My training session lasted about 45 minutes, during which I worked every bodypart. After the workout, I immediately took a mixture of whey protein (40 grams), creatine (5 grams), glutamine (10 grams) and Tang (sugary powdered drink mix) as well as some vitamins and minerals (multi-vitamin, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and an anti-oxidant). It's critical to provide your body with nutrients and raw materials to rebuild with as quickly as possible after training otherwise your body will just be breaking itself down.
I got home and set to work making lunch, which consisted of 2 large chicken breasts and a big bucket of spaghetti and meat sauce. Several hours later, I had a couple of cans of tuna, a sandwich and some ice cream. Please note, these meals are just samples of what I ate and not specifically what you should eat.
All during the day and evening, I was constantly drinking water. When I say constantly, I mean I got up every 10 to 15 minutes and drank a full glass of water over the course of the whole day. I was very well-hydrated, which is extremely important for weight gain. If your muscles don't have enough water, they simply can't grow.
My evening training session was also a total-body workout. At this point, my body was so flooded with carbs and water from having come off a low-carb diet, everything I did was giving my muscles an incredible pump. I was focusing on heavy weights for sets of 6 to 10 reps during my sessions and stretching out thoroughly after.
After the workout, I had another supplement and vitamin mix then went home. I had 4 eggs and a bowl of cereal for a post-workout meal, then a protein shake right before bed. I mixed up a protein shake and set it beside my bed so if, in the middle of the night, I woke up, I could drink a protein shake. This would provide extra calories and protein and reduce the amount of time I went without food during the night. And believe me, with the amount of water I was drinking during the day and during my training, waking up during the night was a given!
I repeated this type of schedule over the next days, continuing with my creatine loading, food loading and water loading. By the end of the second day, I had gained 15 pounds of bodyweight. By the end of the third day, I was up 18 pounds.
When I finished my creatine loading after the fifth day, I began taking a protein shake first thing in the morning instead. Taking protein immediately upon waking is the best way to start the day. It instantly reverses the catabolic state your body is in after fasting during sleep.
My training was going well and my body was sucking up everything I was putting into it. My strength gains were rapid and my fat gains were actually quite minimal. I was in the home stretch now. On Saturday afternoon, I went over to a friend's house and had a huge meal of Shepherd's Pie, which is basically a big pile of ground beef, potatoes and corn. Great weight gain food.
I went to the gym that night for my final training session of my weight gain week and tipped the scales at 217 pounds. In only one week, to give you an idea of the amazing strength and size gains I got, I was able to increase the amount of weight I could bench press for 8 reps by 30 pounds and I had added a full inch to my arms.
The best part is, this rapid weight gain was excellent for stretching the fascia of my muscles, giving them more room to grow, leading to permanent gains in muscle size and potential muscle size.
Using all the knowledge and techniques (and appetite) for weight gain at my disposal, I had gained 25 pounds of bodyweight in only one week!
Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of BetterU, Inc. and has been inventing new training techniques and exercises for 17+ years. Nick has written many training books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass" & "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss" - http://www.fitness-ebooks.com