Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Jul

How to Gain Weight and Build Muscle

Muscle 4So you wanna put on some lean muscle mass. And you want to do it within the context of the Primal Blueprint, but aren’t sure where to start. It’s a common question and it’s about time I addressed it head on.

As I’ve made pretty clear, our ultimate goal is to achieve positive gene expression, functional strength, optimum health, and extended longevity. In other words: To make the most out of the particular gene set you inherited. These are my end goals, and I’ve modeled the PB Laws with them in mind. But that doesn’t mean packing on extra muscle can’t happen with additional input. After I retired from a life of chronic cardio and started living Primally, I added 15 pounds of muscle, while keeping low body fat levels without really trying, so it’s absolutely possible for a hardgainer to gain some. The question is how much and at what expense?

I’d be the first to tell you that lean body mass is healthier than adipose tissue. Generally, the more lean mass a person has, the longer and better they live. But to increase mass at the expense of agility, strength, or speed is, in my opinion, counterproductive. What would Grok do – go for enormous biceps or the ability to haul a carcass back to camp? Unless you’re a bodybuilder (nothing wrong with that, mind you; it’s just not my focus), I can’t advise simply packing on size without a proportional increase in actual strength. Those bulging biceps might look good on the beach, but then again, so does the body that comes with keeping up with the younger guys, knocking out twenty pull-ups in a row, and lifting twice your bodyweight. Form is best paired with a healthy serving of function. The two are quite delicious together, and, luckily, following the PB allows us to get both without sacrificing either.

Of course, we’re all built a little differently. The basic building blocks are the same in everyone, but sexual reproduction (as opposed to asexual reproduction) has the funny habit of producing unique genetics and small variations that affect the way we respond to our environments. It’s why some people are short and some are tall, or why some of us respond better to carbohydrates than others. Even though we all pretty much operate the same way, there IS a range of possible outcomes that is proscribed by your direct ancestors. By that same token, some people just naturally have more muscle mass. They’re usually innately more muscular than the average person, and putting more on through resistance training is often an easy task. Then there are those who can’t seem to gain a pound: the hardgainers. They might be increasing strength, but it doesn’t seem to translate into visible muscle mass. Now, my initial advice for a hardgainer is this – don’t worry too much about it! As long as you’re getting stronger, you’re doing it right.

Let’s face it, though. You’ve probably heard that enough already. It’s fun being the lanky guy at the gym who can lift more than most, but you’re dead set on bulking up (who doesn’t like a bit more muscle to go along with that strength?), and you want to do it in a Primal context. Besides, continuing to increase strength will eventually require increasing size. To do so, you have to target the very same anabolic hormones that others use to get big, only with even more enthusiasm and drive. Like I said, we all have similar engines, but some require more fuel and more efficient driving (sorry for the corny analogy). Activating these hormones will work for anyone, provided they work hard and eat enough food.

The main hormones that contribute to muscle anabolism are testosterone, growth hormone (GH), and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). A little more about each and how to utilize them:

Testosterone

Crazy bodybuilders don’t inject themselves with anabolic steroid hormones that are based on testosterone for nothing. Among other roles, testosterone is an important muscle-building growth factor that favorably affects protein synthesis in addition to working with other hormones (like GH and IGF-1) to improve their function (more on this later). If you want to increase strength and build muscle, testosterone is absolutely required (don’t worry, though: no injections necessary!).

Growth Hormone

It’s right there in the name, isn’t it? Growth hormone. It helps muscle grow and, perhaps more importantly, it burns body fat. After all, leaning out is a big part of building muscle (or else you’ll just look puffy) and GH will help you do it.

Insulin-like Growth Factor 1

IGF-1 is extremely similar in effect to GH, as it should be – GH stimulates IGF-1 production in the liver. In fact, it’s suspected that IGF-1 is actually responsible for most of the “growth-promoting effects of circulating GH.”

Anabolic hormones all work together. In fact, to maximize their muscle-building potential, you must have all three present. Testosterone increases IGF-1, but only in the presence of GH. GH promotes skeletal muscle cell fusion independent of IGF-1, but the two are most effective in concert. Luckily for you, the types of exercises that stimulate the secretion of one will generally stimulate the secretion of the others. Funny how that works out, huh?

Enter The Central Nervous System

In order for your body to start pumping out these delicious anabolic hormones, you must first give it a reason to do so. I might even say you should give your genes a reason to express themselves. The most effective way to do this is by notifying the central nervous system. Now, the CNS can be a stubborn bastard, but he’s all you got when it comes to interpreting stimuli and relaying messages to the rest of the body. He’s not easily perturbed, and he won’t bother if you aren’t serious. If you insist on doing nothing but light aerobics or tiny isolation exercises, your CNS will barely notice. If you want to get your CNS’ attention, pick up the intensity. Run some sprints or do some heavy lifting. When you do an exercise like the squat with a heavy weight, all hands are on deck. Your CNS realizes that some serious exercising is going down and notifies the hypothalamus, which in turn talks to your pituitary gland. This tiny – but vital – member of the endocrine system is the gland that dispatches luteinizing hormones to tell the testicles to secrete testosterone. It’s also the gland that synthesizes and secretes GH. IGF-1 is mostly produced by the liver, but its production is facilitated by the presence of GH, so we can see that it all comes down to CNS stimulation. Chronic cardio doesn’t affect your CNS in any meaningful way, so that’s why we tend to avoid it; vigorous sprints, hard and heavy lifting, and anaerobic output will get its attention, so do plenty of these to maximize muscle growth.

Cortisol: A Hormone to Avoid

Promoting muscle and strength growth also requires avoiding excess amounts of catabolic (muscle wasting) hormones like cortisol. Cortisol is the major stress hormone, and it exists for a very legitimate reason (dealing with “flight or fight” incidents, inadequate sleep, anxiety), but in large amounts cortisol increases serum amino acids by breaking down muscle, inhibiting protein synthesis and reducing amino acid uptake by the muscles – all awful things for muscle growth. Compounding the problem even further, the broken-down muscle is converted into blood glucose, which then raises insulin secretion and increases insulin resistance while promoting fat storage. And we all know how great those muscles look with a nice layer of adipose tissue covering them up! On a serious note, most people following the PB already minimize cortisol by getting plenty of sleep and reducing stress, but if you’re preoccupied with building muscle mass and engaging in extended workout sessions to achieve it, avoiding excess cortisol can get tricky: excessive exercise without enough recovery time actually increases cortisol. It makes sense (think of it like your body’s telling you it needs a day or two off), but the desire for more muscle mass drives many to work out to the point of counter-productivity. Just be careful, and give yourself at least a day of rest after a particularly grueling session.

Lift Really Heavy Things

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If you haven’t figured it out already, you’re going to be doing some heavy lifting in order to put on lean mass. The foundation of your routine should be the big compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, presses (bench and overhead), pull-ups, rows, dips, snatches, power cleans, clean and jerks. These engage multiple muscles while triggering your hormonal response systems. Bodyweight stuff, while valuable, simply isn’t going to get you the strength and mass increases you’re looking for. Testosterone, while useful, only gets really anabolic when you start lifting. You need to get under some decent weight, enough so that your CNS and endocrine system are blasted, but not so much that you can’t maintain proper form.

A popular routine is the 5×5 method. Popularized by programs like StrongLifts and Starting Strength, doing compound lifts for five sets of five reps allows you to strike a balance between strength building and superficial muscle hypertrophy. Done this way, your hypertrophy won’t be purely sarcoplasmic, which results in fluid-filled muscles that look big but don’t see a corresponding increase in actual strength. Instead, the 5×5 method promotes myofibrillar hypertrophy: hard, dense muscle fibers that increase strength and size (with no puffiness). That’s real muscle that would make Grok proud.

If you’re lifting heavy and lifting hard, keep your workouts spaced at least a day apart and don’t lift more than 3x/week. Three exercises per session should be perfect. That may not sound like much, but it’ll be plenty if you do it right. Remember, you’re doing big compound movements that will really shock your system, with an emphasis on intensity and power. You don’t want to overwork yourself, release a bunch of cortisol, and set yourself back a few weeks.

Squats and deadlifts are absolutely required. No excuses. They engage the most muscles and produce the biggest hormonal response. They will be the bedrock of your mass building campaign. Most programs recommend doing squats every session, and I tend to agree. You can handle it. Deadlifts are a bit more taxing and so should be relegated to every other workout. So, one week you’ll deadlift once, the next week twice. You can also sub in power cleans for the occasional deadlifts (or do them in addition) if you’re comfortable with such a complex movement. Presses are paramount, both overhead and bench. I’d alternate both types of presses every session. Pull-ups are great, but weighted pull-ups are even better. Same goes for dips. Just try to get one pulling, one pushing, and one squatting exercise in each session.

An example for beginners, with sets coming first in the sequence:

A
Squat 5×5
Pull-ups 5xFailure (add weight if “Failure” is becoming more than 12 reps)
Overhead Press 5×5

B
Squat 5×5
Deadlift 1/2/3×5 (your choice; deadlifts can be incredibly taxing, and with exhaustion comes poor form, so be careful; sometimes it’s better to do a really heavy load for a single set)
Bench Press 5×5

C
Squat 5×5
Pull-ups 5xFailure
Overhead Press 5×5

Do this sequence every week (maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and steadily increase the weight each session. Once you’re making progress, feel free to add in other exercises like dips or more Olympic lifts. For more mass, more lactic “burn” (and more GH secretion), reduce your rest periods between sets or even superset them. If you feel like doing some cardio, stick to sprints once weekly, or even a Crossfit-style metcon (metabolic conditioning) workout, maybe some Tabata burpees. The key is conserving strength and giving your body time to rest and recover for the next round of squats, deadlifts, and presses.

This “program” can be tweaked and altered. Just make sure you’re doing big movements while maintaining extreme intensity and great form. Oh, and always make sure to squat and deadlift. Always. They produce the most testosterone, GH, and IGF-1.

Eat Lots (I Mean Lots) of Plants and Animals

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No one would ever call the Primal Blueprint a protein-sparing plan, but you’re going to have to eat even more than before. Stuff yourself. I always say that body composition is 80% diet, and that goes for putting on mass as well as losing fat. You need to provide plenty of protein for all those hormones to synthesize, after all.

  • Never let your protein intake go lower than 1g/lb of body weight when you are aiming to add long-term muscle. It’s the building block of muscle, and your body is going to be starving for it.
  • Eat plenty of saturated and monounsaturated fat. Fat blunts insulin secretion while increasing testosterone production. Insulin may be useful for stuffing your muscles full of glycogen, but that’s not what you’re going for… right?
  • Dietary fat, in conjunction with all the GH you’ll be producing, also spares muscle wasting.
  • You may have heard of the popular GOMAD method – Gallon of Milk a Day for easy mass-building. It undoubtedly works, but a gallon of milk isn’t exactly Primal and I can’t recommend it. Instead of milk, why not a dozen eggs a day? ADEAD? If you can manage it, eating them on top of your regularly scheduled meals is a great source of affordable protein, fat, and vitamins (Vitamin A in particular may have pro-anabolic effects).
  • Eat often. If you’re going for pure size and strength, fasted workouts and skipped PWO meals may not be the ticket. You’ll burn more fat with the extra GH secretion and existing muscle will be spared, but you may be missing the chance at prime protein synthesis when you fast. A PWO meal of protein and fat will still blunt the insulin secretion and provide fuel for your muscles.
  • Increase caloric intake. You’re going to be expending so much energy on the lifts (and you’ll continue to burn through it even on rest days) while eating clean, Primal foods (and keeping insulin low as ever) that fat accumulation shouldn’t be an issue at all. Eat!
  • On those days when you do expend a ton of energy – maybe on your metcon or sprint day – having a Primal-friendly starch, like squash or sweet potato, is a decent way to replenish depleted glycogen stores.
  • Eat a big piece of fatty meat every single day. Steak, whole chicken, lamb leg, organs, whatever. Just eat a solid piece of animal flesh for a powerful protein infusion on a daily basis.
  • A hardgainer is often someone who doesn’t eat enough. Sure, genes play a role, but you can ultimately have a significant say in how those genes rebuild you. To a point. Eat more and lift harder to grab the reins.

I’m a firm believer in the body’s natural ability to achieve proper homeostasis, provided we supply the right environment and the right foods. For some of you, that might mean lower body mass, lower than you’d like. In my opinion, that amount of muscle is probably “right” for you and I wouldn’t recommend going above and beyond to achieve more of it… but I also wouldn’t condemn it, especially if it’s pursued in accordance with the Primal Laws. As for me, I am comfortable where I’m at and tend not to seek added mass (I’m also at a point where lifting heavy increases my risk of injury, and I HATE downtime). But if you are a hard-gainer looking to add a few, as long as it’s not just show muscle and you can actually lift some decent weight and at the very least manipulate your own body weight comfortably, eat those dozen eggs and gain that weight.

Gio JL Flickr Photo (CC)

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Have lost 50 pounds in the last 2 years, feel great. Am working on building mass. As I gain mass I gain weight in the stomach. This has been a challenging area. I have cut out processed foods for apprx 6 months now, drink plenty of water, exercise (push ups, sit ups). Frustrated and looking forward to some ideas.

    Eric wrote on August 4th, 2012
  2. I love this for the background, but for a simple game plan, I’ve been following http://www.paleobulkingcutting.com/site/10-step-guide-to-bulking-on-paleo/

    Has anyone tried something similar? Good results?

    PrimalQueen wrote on August 4th, 2012
  3. This is a great post. I wanted to read through all the comments but this thread goes back to 2009. I’m a tall guy at 6″5 and eating primal for 18 months has me down to 168lbs and I have maintained that weight for months. I would really like to add 5-10 pounds of lean muscle mass but my body seems very happy to be in the lean 160′s. I’m going to start with more food supplemented with dead lifts and other compound movements to see if I can accomplish this goal. Thanks for another great post! I love your blog!

    Scott wrote on August 7th, 2012
  4. Hi Mark, picked up you book on a trip to Toronto recently. Thrilled to read it and have started on the Primal diet. My concern is that I have a BMI of 21 and I may loose more weight with the diet. I have always lived on a heavy carb diet since childhood and my family is worried sick that I might tip to the anorexic side. I certainly think that there are a lots of good in your system.
    Any advice on a slim person like me who is launching into this major dietary change? Would be great to hear fro you. Regards Sanjay

    sanjay wrote on August 10th, 2012
  5. I’ve only been eating primal for a week and I can honestly say I am already reaping the benefits. I don’t really have any “weight” to lose. I switched to the primal lifestyle so I didn’t have to “work” so hard at maintaining my weight, so I didn’t have to embrace hunger, and to rid myself of inflammation and random bouts of arm eczema. I already look way more cut since I don’t have all those useless card stores taking up space under my skin and with all the extra fat I’m eating my skin looks amazing (first time in my life I have not had to put lotion on) and (excuse my bluntness) I am pooping the best I ever have!! Who knew it was grains reeking havoc on my body. Thank God I gave up that unhealthy vegan diet. Why do people do that to themselves?

    topshop online wrote on August 13th, 2012
  6. I read somewhere that cortisol has the opposite effect, and it is involved in protein synthesis.I don’t agree with this affirmation, I also think that cortisol must be avoid.We must do the exercises and have the nutrition that stimulates the secretion of testosterone and GH.

    Andrew wrote on August 15th, 2012
  7. I found this kind of confusing because I didn’t realize until halfway through that this particular article was directed at men and didn’t apply to everyone (the reference to testicles clued me in :) ). Why not put a sentence at the beginning clarifying that? (I don’t think the ‘hardgainer’ reference means anything to most readers). It’s not just confusing (since I don’t know what’s specifically male and what’s a basic human thing), but it’s also unpleasant and discouraging to be always reading so many fitness-related things that just assume that the reader is male (disturbingly often when reading about strength training). Otherwise I do enjoy reading your blog and appreciate all the time you put into it!

    TO wrote on August 18th, 2012
  8. Mark….when you talk about hardgainers and protein intake….1gram per lb of bodyweight! Don’t you mean 1gram per kg of bodyweight?

    Roger Sherman wrote on August 19th, 2012
    • I am almost positive he means per pound of weight, if you are 150 pounds you should be eating 150 grams of protein.

      Azret wrote on September 2nd, 2012
  9. But if you take extra testosterone, than you’d have more DHT which causes hair loss. So yeah, you can get bit, but with a bald head. But I definitelly agree with the rest. Too bad if you’re a vegeterian.

    Adam wrote on September 3rd, 2012
  10. Hi Mark
    What about recent research that links high Proetin diet and high levels of IGF-1 to a significantly higher risk of cancer , is having Protein as the bottom of the food Pyramid really as healthy as the advocates say ? The latest research seems to indicate the opposite

    Ben Rau wrote on September 18th, 2012
  11. Hey Mark, great blog my friend. From personal experience I achieved the best gains through strict and disciplined exercises. This often meant sacrificing weight on the individual exercise I was performing, however, focusing on the actual technique gave me the best and fastest muscle gain.
    Also interesting are your comments on generics. This is by far the most important element of all. By understanding how you are made up will help you achieve far more in a quicker time than trying to achieve what you may not be capable of.
    Once again great blog, glad I stumbled across it!
    Cheers
    Darren

    Dazzla wrote on September 25th, 2012
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    1000s of men endure with impotency, frequently turning to potentially risky drugs. That�s why the Blakoe Ring is revolutionary. It�s verified to be the safest and most efficient solution to these difficulties.

    This increases blood circulation towards the sexual organs, helping the physique to regain its natural capabilities. It also improves conditions for example: low sex generate, reduced sperm count, underdeveloped genitals, and premature ejaculation.

    Male impotence remedies are an extremely well-liked subject right now because many men are treating their erectile dysfunction naturally.

    Simply because male impotence is triggered by a lack of blood flow below the belt, these remedies may assist you to by tomorrow.

    Begin your exercise program these days! Keep in mind the rush following a good work out? It’s proven that exercising has thousands of benefits such as: boosting
    circulation, flushing cholesterol, reducing tension and growing endorphins happy chemicals.
    Begin at 30 minutes a day and function as much as an hour.

    Practice breathing techniques like only breathing via your nose for five minutes.
    You are able to do this at your function desk and you’ll be decreasing stress and boosting flow levels.

    Start your physical exercise program today! Remember the rush following a great function out? It’s verified that
    exercising has 1000s of benefits such as: boosting flow, flushing cholesterol, reducing stress and growing endorphins happy chemicals.

    You’re one from the couple of but there are 1000s of males who suffer from youthful male impotence. Don’t be discouraged because
    you will find numerous methods to increase circulation downstairs and
    increase your libido.

    Erectile dysfunctions are usually a actual problem like poor flow.
    You will find a range of causes for ED but most people suffer from this common illness simply because of poor flow.

    Lower flow levels could be caused by too much stress, a poor diet, bad
    way of life choices or even a lack of vitamins or nutrients.

    Vitamin therapy can also be well-liked with this remedy
    for erectile dysfunctions. Research is showing a strong
    correlation that most males who suffer from this disease are deficient in vitamin A.

    There are many points you should know about your eating
    habits however the greatest rule of thumb would be to maintain your diet simple and fresh.
    Attempt to prevent fattening foods that are fried.

    Avoid certain points like alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine.
    All of these listed items are medicines which alter the physique
    in exact same shape or form. Investigation does
    show that avoiding these can help increase circulation downstairs.

    There are also lots of herbal remedies which have been shown to have a good impact.
    For instance, horny goat weed is a typical and efficient herb that’s shown to become a testosterone booster, aphrodisiac and also tension reducer.

    Deep breathes Did you know that merely trying deep breath exercises every day can assist increase circulation amounts and reverse impotence? Start with large exhales and inhales for 5 minutes and do this three times daily.

    All males over the age of 30 encounter impotence as least once within their lifetime. Estimating the numbers is hard because less than 2 men in 10 seek remedy for impotence problems. The conclusion is impotence is a very common issue in men.

    The big problem is it seems that for a big quantity of men, their ability to obtain an hard-on and have sex is viewed as an integral part of their masculinity and potency and can be debilitating to his mental health.

    First reaction of the guy dealing with impotence is to make excuses or avoid sexual circumstances with his partner in an effort to forget about the problem. This tendency can often leave the partner feeling unloved, unattractive and unwanted.

    Encountering this issue, men must think first that this is a very common male issue. He is neither alone nor unusual. You will find more than hundred million partners of impotent males.

    consequence, the man’s failure to communicate his problem may contribute to frustration,
    tension or depressive disorders in his partner, or even cause relation failure.

    Couples who can talk openly about this problem have a great advantage.
    Sharing fears and worries is a very first step toward feeling much
    better.

    Woman’s emotions regarding the impotence of her partner could be complex as well. But she must not forget that the male partner is going through comparable strong emotions.

    Woman’s help and understanding of situation is really important.
    Inside a spirit of friendly cooperation, she must provide her support in solving partner’s issue going together to see a physician.

    Male impotence is really a condition whereby a man isn’t capable of sexually pleasing the woman in his existence.
    This may be because of a weak erection a lot more popularly recognized as erectile dysfunction.

    When you think about it for a while you slowly realise that a
    big portion from the male population prides itself for becoming effectively dangerous in bed.
    And while some of those allegations might be true a big whole lot
    of them are false.

    These substances greatly decrease the circulation of blood close to the body simply because of the deposition of fats in major arteries.

    The moment blood pressure decreases the veins within the penis are starved from the
    rapid circulation they have to erect a penis that’s stiff enough for successful sexual penetration.

    Substance abuse has been cited as a cause of erectile dysfunction. Alcohol; cigarettes; and difficult drugs like cocaine must be gotten rid of right way.

    Not so long ago it was discovered that impotence and diabetic issues go hand in hand. This means decreasing ones intake of foods with a lot of sugar is one way of fighting impotence.

    When you have diabetic issues and continue to abuse sugar your diabetes will worsen and so will impotence have an effect on you a lot more adversely. Should you do not know for those who have diabetes it would be a great tie to know so that you head straight into insulin remedy.

    The following time you have sex be sure to become calm and confident. Sometimes sexual intercourse related difficulties are attributed to anxiety and nervousness. Possibly you’re too
    embarrassed about showing a particular part of the
    body you think she will laugh at.

    Overlook about everything and attempt to possess fun.
    A carefree attitude is essential when it comes to sex.

    Viagra is a pharmaceutical drug that is used by a lot of males
    to trigger and preserve a stiff hard-on. For some men this works
    really nicely but you will find people who do not have that a lot success with it.

    But sometimes the problem of getting a hard erection stems from getting too
    much intercourse within a short period of time. To have the ability to get a quick and difficult erection you
    should have the space of about three days until you’ve sex again.

    Impotence is happen when a guy can not accomplish or maintain an hard-on inside sufficient time to please himself and of course, his partner. Impotence is frequently only though of affecting older men, however it is quite typical location in youthful men as well.

    Impotence in youthful men can be very stressful and it can also turn out to be a downward spiral due to the fact that 1 poor encounter can cause a large amount of self doubt and anxiety.

    Impotence in youthful men can cause further problems with low self esteem and other life issues in themselves as nicely as their relationships. But, possibly simply because impotence isn’t some thing which can be openly discussed.

    Most males will develop impotence at some point within their existence.
    But in the majority of cases it is a 1 off occurrence, not
    a lengthy term one. When impotence occurs more than the lengthy term it’s deemed a problem and this is when professional advice and testing is required.

    The options for impotence treatment in youthful men are generally not to take strong prescription medicines. An option is herbal remedy as these are gentler and don’t
    cause side results.

    A youthful male is also extremely unlikely to want
    to take Viagra as they consider becoming an older mans impotence drug.

    The following choice is to have a wholesome way
    of life. Avoid high consumption of alcohol and drugs. Exercise frequently to make your blood circulation smooth.
    Take a healthy and balance eating habits.

    Impotence in young men usually disappears as they gain encounter and
    confidence in sexual circumstances and is
    very rarely triggered by a severe actual issue.
    At the exact same, practicing a wholesome lifestyle is much better choice
    then to cure the impotence later.

    Physical exercise has literally hundreds of advantages but
    one particular 1 is that it will boost flow amounts to the penile regions.

    It has also been shown to reduce stress.

    Homepage wrote on September 30th, 2012
  13. Seriously Mark THANK YOU for this post. I had no idea that testosterone affects weight and muscle gain! As far as caloric intake what would you recommend for me?

    I’ve been able to go from 135lbs to 175lbs so far but I’ve hit some roadblocks. I need to know how many calories I should focus on daily to help me get to my goal of 195lbs by end of the year.

    I posted some of my progress on http://www.weightgainformen.org but I definitely need some more assistance. Thanks!

    Romell wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  14. I have news for you. Anaerobic cardio=sprinting=muscle gain. When you sprint, you are using all the different types of muscle fibers in your legs for a short time.

    dennis p wrote on November 5th, 2012
  15. For people who want to lowercortisol, cut out most fruits, (cept avocado/rasberries/grapefruit/cherries) eat more low glycemic foodsRaw Carrots
    16
    Red Peppers
    10
    Broccoli
    10
    Onions
    10
    Cauliflower
    15
    Cabbage
    10
    Mushrooms
    10
    Onions
    10
    Chillies
    10
    Lettuce
    10
    Green Beans
    15
    Red Peppers
    10

    dennis p wrote on November 5th, 2012
  16. This is a great article. If you ask any competitive body builder or fitness model out there who actually works for their physique and doesn’t cheat or have stellar genetics, everything this article says is 100% legit. The only thing I would add is variety. 4×4, 5×5, heavy basic movement workouts 3-5x’s a week is going to pack on the pounds in terms of lean muscle, provided you follow a diet that enables your body to grow. Diet is the biggest thing, something I’ve always struggled with. Then again, I didn’t really pay that much attention to what I was actually eating. My diet consisted primarily of protein and unsaturated fat. I was missing a very important component – carbohydrates. Ever since I started incorporating good carbohydrate sources (vegetables), in large portions, into my diet along with lean protein, I really started to gain. But of course, with your 4×4 or 5×5 workouts you eventually hit a plateau. Hence the need for variety in your workout routine as well. One of the best workouts for gaining size and strength I have come across is what I like to refer to as the 3-way. It last 6 weeks and can be modified into a longer term workout. Here’s the basics: Week 1 – 4 sets of 10-12 reps. Week 2 4 sets of 12-16 reps. Weeks 3&4 – Circuit training or HIT. Go from 6-8 reps of one compound movement to failure of another compound movement, preferably a complimentary movement. For example bench press followed with bent rows, or squats followed with leg press. And weeks 5&6 are pure power. 4-5 sets of 4-5 reps. Pure bodybuilding basics. Day one chest, day two back, etc. The muscle group(s) you exercise one day should be sore until you exercise it again. You cannot eat enough during these weeks. Your muscles need all the nutrients they can get during this period. After this cycle is over you can start it again and modify it to keep your body guessing. You can do it in reverse or change weeks to suit your goals. It’s really one of the best workouts I’ve ever done for aesthetic purposes. You will look great and feel great if you do it once or modify it into a routine.

    Hard Gainer wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  17. Mark, I’ve been Primal now for 3 years and lost 40lbs. Recently a friend let me know about a documentary “Forks over Knives” which is available on Netflix instant download. I don’t know how to respond to folks except to show them my blood work which improved drastically on Primal. Would you consider an article responding to that documentary?

    Gary wrote on December 15th, 2012
    • Denise Minger wrote a kind, funny but devastating review of Forks over Knives, which I had seen and almost became a rabbit over. Thank God for her article. It actually led me to MDA. Here’s a link to the forum thread with a link to the article. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread38463.html

      Dano wrote on December 15th, 2012
  18. Hi, I always thought I am a bit underweight. Recently I decided to start doing something about it and now I’m trying to hit the gym 3 times a week with some heavy training. I am more concerned about the diet though – it’s hard to manage to eat much more than I do now so I have been doing some research into dietary supplements. I know there are these whey powders that are also high in calories – for both protein intake and body mass. I am thinking about trying out one of those but I can’t decide if it’s a good idea. What is your opinion about these products?

    Michal wrote on December 30th, 2012
  19. great read
    but what about those of us who enjoy going to the gym every day? I like the get up and go I get from a good workout before work.

    I’ve found that hitting the major muscle groups 1-2x per week is the best. For me this looks like

    M: legs
    tues: chest
    wed: shoulders
    thurs: deads
    fri: upper back/lats/pullups
    saturday or sunday: sprint day

    David Hill wrote on December 30th, 2012
  20. Bodybuilders require more protein and fat than most people. These increased needs are due to the intense physical demand placed on them through hard workouts. Protein and fat sources are especially helpful during the thirty minutes after a exercise to help repair and build additional muscle.

    Alex wrote on December 31st, 2012
  21. great article! I like the cortisol part, though a bit doubter if i inhibit the cortisol by medicine it would give some side effects. Also I like the egg part, milk is even costlier than eggs and eggs are more pure than milk..a good amount of pure protein I guess..

    Shubhajit wrote on January 12th, 2013
  22. Schwarzenegger has wrote that having too few carbs when bodybuilding induces meridian, which he says can cause the body to cannibalize muscle tissue…Mark, is this true and should I worry about it. I eat under 100 g per day already. I like the PB, but I also respect the greatest bodybuilder of all time and his advise. Any help?

    Jake wrote on January 24th, 2013
    • *ketosis, not meridian, lol,

      Jake wrote on January 24th, 2013
  23. I’ve looked at the comments to make sure this wasn’t asked already it seems like it hasn’t. So I decided to make my own workout for Tuesday including Tabata Sprints, crunches, push-ups, and jumping-jacks but what should I do Thursday? I know many of you will say rest but I really want to know what else is there to do and add?

    Rafael Vergara wrote on March 6th, 2013
    • If your goal is to gain weight or build muscle, then why are you adding things?

      Eating and rest will help the existing program build muscle; adding more work won’t. Go ahead and walk or play around, but you’ll also have to eat more to make up for the energy you burn. There are limits, and getting tired and beat up is one quick way to stop gaining.

      Roland Denzel wrote on March 6th, 2013
      • Thank you, I’ll slow it down and take things off. It’s just i’m so used to doing so many things often with having wrestling practice everyday and doing things that just don’t get me tired anymore.

        Rafael Vergara wrote on March 6th, 2013
  24. My problem is I work till 5 or 6 pm. And when I go home, I’m already tired and only want to sleep or take rest. I want to try to do weight lifting, but I cannot imagine I can do that when I’m tired.

    Any suggestions?

    Jamu wrote on March 8th, 2013
  25. Excellent and informative article as always Mark.

    I sit at a desk most days. However, I’ve a timer set and after each 30 min desk work I do my 5 minute workout sessions, which are mostly body weight exercises and I spread these throughout the day.

    Each exercise focuses on specific muscle groups. As I’m in my mid 40′s I focus a lot on my back as this is so important for posture. For me this is better than cramming one intensive program into one 45 minute session.

    Sarah Newman wrote on March 19th, 2013
  26. Hi,
    I recently read a book by well-known nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, called The Beauty Detox Foods, and in it she says “digesting animal protein creates all sorts of bi products in the body, like purines and ammonia products. These are absorbed into your blood stream and circulate through the body. When your blood is clogged with toxins it cant circulate as many beautifying minerals, and these toxins can age and clog the skin cells of your face. Furthermore, excessive protein consumption overworks the lvier and kidneys. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of a high-flesh food diet, is a direct toxin to the body. It has been found to create free-radical damage and cross-linking (a process associated with wrinkles and ageing). Ketosis, which may result out of a low carb diet, makes the blood acidic. An acidic body tends to age faster. Take a look at people who are on high protein, low carb diets and see for yourself. These people tend to look “hardened” and older than they are, which is what I call the “old-skinny” look when the skin has lost all its youthfulness.”

    Kimberly says that if you must eat animal protein, eat it once a day at the most and at dinnertime, so that during the day your body’s energy is not wasted on digesting animal protein and can be used for detoxing, cleansing and free to create beauty and energy.

    I just wondered what you think of this? I know that the Primal diet is all about balance, but a lot of the meals at breakfast and lunch and dinner do focus on animal protein and I just thought i’d raise this controversial issue….!

    sarah wrote on April 2nd, 2013
  27. Dear Mark,

    I recently read a book by well-known nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, called The Beauty Detox Foods, and in it she says “digesting animal protein creates all sorts of bi products in the body, like purines and ammonia products. These are absorbed into your blood stream and circulate through the body. When your blood is clogged with toxins it cant circulate as many beautifying minerals, and these toxins can age and clog the skin cells of your face. Furthermore, excessive protein consumption overworks the lvier and kidneys. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of a high-flesh food diet, is a direct toxin to the body. It has been found to create free-radical damage and cross-linking (a process associated with wrinkles and ageing). Ketosis, which may result out of a low carb diet, makes the blood acidic. An acidic body tends to age faster. Take a look at people who are on high protein, low carb diets and see for yourself. These people tend to look “hardened” and older than they are, which is what I call the “old-skinny” look when the skin has lost all its youthfulness.”

    Kimberly says that if you must eat animal protein, eat it once a day at the most and at dinnertime, so that during the day your body’s energy is not wasted on digesting animal protein and can be used for detoxing, cleansing and free to create beauty and energy.

    I just wondered what you think of this? I know that the Primal diet is all about balance, but a lot of the meals at breakfast and lunch and dinner do focus on animal protein and I just thought i’d raise this controversial issue….!

    sarah wrote on April 2nd, 2013
    • There are also many pictures comparing wrinkly, unhealthy looking vegans to people who eat meat, so don’t buy into that argument.

      While purines are certainly a biproduct, your blood doesn’t get ‘clogged.’ Both sides can come up with all sorts of interesting ways, that in theory cause skin damage, but I’ve never seen anything concrete.

      On the primal side of things, there’s a manual/book called Skintervention, by Liz Wolfe that you can check out.

      You might have better luck in the forums, because this blog post is four years old, and Mark doesn’t check back on them that long.

      Roland Denzel wrote on April 2nd, 2013
  28. Thanks Roland for your reply,

    I definitely don’t want to cut meat out of my diet – I tried that once and ended up really low energy and anaemic. I’ll check out Skintervention, thanks for the tip! I have noticed that since being primal I have lost facial fat and my face does look a little “harder”, how Kimberly describes it, and my cheekbones are much more pronounced, which is something I’ve not welcomed because I prefer the old youthful look I had with fuller cheeks. Have you found that? But I don’t know whether I have simply not been eating enough carbohydrates and fats…

    Sarah

    sarah wrote on April 2nd, 2013
    • Having been fat, myself, when I lose enough weight to be happy with my belly, my face looks a little shrinky (as my wife puts it). I’ve found a happy medium, but I will continue to hope that things balance out over time. :)

      Roland Denzel wrote on April 7th, 2013
  29. Mark, awesome article :) great way to break the stigma that it is impossible to gain weight while eating primal/paleo. Only thing I found I disagreed with was the statement about bodyweight exercises not being effective. Of course, endless amounts of pushups won’t get you anywhere. The key is doing something that’s difficult to complete for between 3-10 reps. Pushups wouldn’t be effective, but parallel bar dips, ring dips, pullups, muscle ups, pistol squats, planche pushups, one arm pushups, these are all difficult exercises that will absolutely blast the CNS and can be scaled to any strength level.

    Ace wrote on April 13th, 2013
  30. Hi Mark,
    I am 45 years young and just starting using the system. However, I am juicing green veg with lemon or lime. Then I cook a curry with the greens, i.e. cabbage, cauliflower, with meat. No other sugars and I have eliminated most of the carb intake bar a few chunks of chocolate that I will shortly remove completely (after I finish the bar).

    I just want to make sure that juicing is okay? As I hate eating veg and without juicing I wouldn’t be able to eat any. So can juicing or does it bridge the gap of eating veg?

    I’d like to ensure that I am doing it right.

    Stephen wrote on May 15th, 2013
  31. Since women have much lower levels of testosterone than men, how would we adjust this program to get the same effects. Do we have to do more reps/more weight, mmore reps/less weight? I eat strictly paleo and I am having a hard time with getting to where I want to be regrding muscle mass.

    Thanks for the article!

    Luzmín wrote on June 26th, 2013
    • You’re going to have eat more to gain muscle. Are you gaining any weight already?

      Assuming not, try adding in things that are easy to overeat, but don’t conflict with any gut issues you might have. My personal choices are sweet potatoes or potatoes, cooked with butter or another fat (bacon, coconut, etc.). Mashed potatoes are the easiest to overeat for me.

      Personally, I would eat white rice when gaining weight, since I don’t have a gut issue with it. I would eat it with butter and sunny side up eggs, like my Hawaiian step-father served me as a kid.

      Get plenty of protein, and cook your protein well, so it’s processed better by the body and easier to chew.

      Training: I would keep reps in the 8-12 rep ranges for primary exercises, but don’t be afraid to do some sets of 20 at the end. Muscle needs to be worked to grow.

      Make sure that a set of 12 reps uses weight for 12 reps. If you could have done 14-15, then it was too light. Go heavier. Push yourself.

      Please don’t let me find you on a Bosu ball, doing curls or overhead presses. or doing any one legged balance training ‘for the core,’ because it works ‘every muscle in the body.’ It doesn’t. All it does is lower the weight that you can use and dissipate force throughout the body until it’s no longer a stimulus for muscle growth.

      I recommend Lou Schuler’s NROL series of books. The best one is called New Rules of Lifting Supercharged, as it’s the latest and most up to date as far as exercise selection, movement quality, etc. It is for men or women.

      I hope this helps!

      Roland

      Roland Denzel wrote on June 27th, 2013
  32. If I wanted to get the puffed up look using srasplsmic way, what do I need to do?

    Steven wrote on July 8th, 2013
  33. Do you have a nutritional plan I could follow to build muscle?

    Steven wrote on July 27th, 2013
  34. When doing this workout routuine, do you suggest you go 5 straight sets of squats then 5 straight sets of pull ups or 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1

    greg wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  35. Squats AND deadlifts are some of my favourite exercises but I go sets of either once a week. If I don’t get adequate recovery, it’s all downhill.

    Paul wrote on August 3rd, 2013
  36. I’m 62 and have been lifting since I was 12 years old. I was a wrestler in school and coached for over 30 years.

    Squats are absolutely the best overall bodybuilding exercise you can do! They actually will help lean out the whole body better than jogging, while maintaining muscle mass.

    I do 5 sets: 20, 15, 10, 5 and 5, increasing the weight with each set. And sometimes I’ll do a warm-up set and do 5, 5, 10, 15, and 20, reducing the weight each set. Be religious about the rest period between sets. You might start out with 2 minutes and cut it 10 seconds each week until you’re resting 60 or less seconds between sets. This builds endurance and stimulates the CNS more that resting too long.

    One last thing, for those who can’t hold the bar on your back (never the back of the neck!) because of old shoulder injuries, or because you want to prevent them, you need to check out the Top Squat, by Dave Draper. I’ve had one for about a year and it attaches to the bar with two handles to the front so you can easily hold and stabilize the bar in the proper position on your back to prevent injury. It keeps the work in the hips and legs where it’s supposed to be, not in the low back. You can lift more weight with proper form and get more out of this #1 exercise.

    You’ll find that doing squats with perfect form will actually strengthen your back
    when combined with spinal flexibility exercises.

    Hope this helps, and stay Primal!

    Ed wrote on September 1st, 2013
  37. Your suggestion of a push, pull and lower body exercise three times a week are correct. But, squatting three times a week is too much. You will overtrain and risk injury to your lower back and knees. Do leg presses, or lunges one of the days and trap bar deadlifts or regular deadlifts the other day.

    Wythe Peyton wrote on September 16th, 2013
  38. I think the admin of this web site is actually working hard in favor of
    his website, for the reason that here every information is quality based data.

    gain muscle mass and lose fat wrote on September 16th, 2013
  39. that’s a great information but there for me as a Personal Trainer i think that the strength training should start from 3-5 reps and it will make hypertrophy too but not as if u did 8-12 reps ,, that will make a great hypertrophy in the muscle …… for me i do 3 sets in each single exercise but in the first set i do 12 reps for the right weight and increase the weight and do 10 reps in the second set , then increase the weight more and do 8 reps in the third set ,,,,,, so that i improve both hypertrophy and muscle endurance ,, since i started this i feel good :)))

    omar essam wrote on October 19th, 2013
  40. How for you gain weight when you eat all the time and my weight just stays the same. I’ve tried to gain muscle mass and weighy. I just think that its in my gens not to be big. I’m tall and slender, and I have muscle tone but not where I want to be. I want to get big and ripped. What can I do???

    Kyle wrote on October 23rd, 2013

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