How To Gain 20 Pounds In 28 Days: The Extreme Muscle Building Secrets of UFC Fighters

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Nate Green's muscle building experiment

The following is Part 2 of a two-part guest post from Nate Green, who works with John Berardi, PhD, Georges St-Pierre’s nutritional coach.

Part 1 detailed how top UFC fighters rapidly lose weight before weigh-ins for competitive advantage.

Now, in Part 2, Nate shares how he gained 20 pounds in 28 days, using techniques an elite fighter such as Georges St-Pierre (GSP) might utilize to move up a weight class. This is a very, very comprehensive post.

If you’ve ever wondered how to quickly gain muscle — or how a GSP versus Anderson Silva super-fight could happen — you’ll want to print this out and refer to it often.

Let’s jump into the detail…

Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva: The Superfight

For the past couple of years, there have been rumors of a super-fight between current UFC Welterweight champion Georges St Pierre and current Middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

If the fight becomes a reality, it will easily be the biggest fight in UFC history.

Fans want it. Sponsors want it. UFC president Dana White wants it. The only people who seem like they don’t want it?

St Pierre and Silva.

And it’s easy to see why when you look at the stats:

St Pierre, who’s 5’10″, fights in the 170-pound division. Silva, who’s 6’2″, fights in the 185-pound division.

After reading Part 1, you know how elite fighters use weight manipulation to strategically lower their body weight before official pre-fight weigh-ins. You also know that they quickly rehydrate to get back up to their real weight.

In GSP’s case, that would be about 190 pounds. In Silva’s? 230 pounds.

So for the super-fight to go through, and for it to be a reasonably fair fight, one of two things would need to happen: either St Pierre would have to gain 20-30 pounds to move up a weight class, or Silva would have to lose 20-30 pounds to move down a weight class.

Both are very difficult.

In fact, it’s enough of a weight disparity to make even the most enthusiastic MMA fans chalk up the super-fight to a pipe dream, something that will likely never happen.

But here’s the thing: That kind of extreme weight manipulation isn’t impossible. Far from it.

In fact, it’s entirely possible to gain 20 pounds of quality mass in as little as 28 days.

That’s what Nate did recently with some help from GSP’s nutrition coach, Dr. John Berardi and Martin Rooney, a strength coach who regularly trains UFC athletes.

And in this post, we explore how a guy like GSP could gain 20-30 pounds in a short period of time, increase his power, boost his strength, and maintain his athleticism and (mostly) endurance.

And maybe — just maybe — these techniques will make this super-fight a reality.

Take it away, Nate…

Enter Nate

I recently decided to try and gain 20 pounds of quality mass in 28 days.

Why?

For starters, a lot of people in the fitness world don’t think this is possible without taking steroids. Fortunately, this isn’t true. With the right program and world-class advice, it’s attainable. I wanted to prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Dr. John Berardi wanted a guinea pig to show exactly how someone like GSP could–if he wanted to–gain enough muscle to move up an entire weight class and take on a fighter like Anderson Silva.

I started the official experiment at 169 pounds and 28 days later, weighed in at 190.

This post detailed exactly how we did it.

Nate Green before muscle-building experiement

Here’s a breakdown of the strategies I used to put on 20 pounds in 28 days.

6 Strategies for Rapid Muscle Gain

[Note from Tim: Nate shares the exact meal plan and workout program after outlining the six strategies/principles. Again, after reading once, this is probably a post you’ll want to print out for reference.]

STRATEGY #1: CYCLE THE AMOUNT OF FOOD YOU EAT.

We kept things simple here. My nutrition plan was split into two different kinds of days: High-Calorie or Low-Calorie.

On my weight-training days, I ate more food. This ensured I was getting a huge influx of nutrients on the days where my muscles could put them to use. On the days I did interval workouts or took off from the gym, I ate a little less food. This helped me to add weight without adding lots of body fat.

It’s important to note that even my “low calorie” days still involved eating more food than I was previously used to. So, no matter the day, I was always in a positive energy balance. Except for Sundays. Which brings me to the second strategy.

STRATEGY #2: USE INTERMITTENT FASTING.

Every Sunday I did a 24-hour fast to offset the inevitable fat gain that would normally come with an eating plan like this. The goal was for me to be in a caloric surplus – an anabolic state – six days per week, eating more calories than I burn which would lead to muscle growth.

And then I’d be in an extreme caloric deficit one day per week, which would help reset my insulin sensitivity, boost growth hormone secretion, and help stimulate fat loss while preserving my lean mass.

STRATEGY #3: GIVE YOURSELF ROOM TO GROW.

Making a big change is all about small incremental improvements. You try something for a little while, see how it works, and if you need to, make a small change and repeat the steps.

For this experiment Berardi started me off with a lot of food, enough to where I’d be in a caloric surplus and gain muscle. But he didn’t overload me as much as he could have. Not at first, at least. He wanted to leave a little wiggle room to make changes if needed.

In both Weeks 3 and 4 we strategically added more calories to help push me past a plateau when my weight stalled at 178 pounds. (You’ll see how we did that below.)

STRATEGY #4: EAT MORE FOOD. MUCH MORE.

My weight-gain nutrition plan called for way more food than I was used to eating. So instead of focusing on counting calories — which would have been a nightmare — we turned our attention instead to making sure I was in a positive energy balance.

When you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Dr. Berardi knew all I’d have to do to gain weight was eat more food than I was eating before we started the experiment. And that was easy to do, since I was eating enough to only maintain a 170-pound body.

So how much food does it actually take to gain 20 pounds? I went through and added everything I ate in 28 days. Here it is:

  • 65 pounds of meat
  • 54 bananas
  • 84 scoops of protein powder
  • 72 pieces of bread
  • 36 sweet potatoes
  • 7 jars of almond butter
  • 5 jars of fruit jam
  • 8 jars of sauerkraut
  • 144 cups of vegetables
  • 36 pieces of fruit
  • 72 squares of dark chocolate
  • 8 bags of frozen blueberries and raspberries
  • 7 cans of coconut milk
  • 4 cartons of heavy whipping cream

STRATEGY #5: TRAIN YOUR ASS OFF.

Most guys think the training program is the most important part of gaining muscle. Well, most guys are wrong. If I didn’t eat enough food I could have trained as hard or as long as I wanted and not much would have happened.

Of course, the workout program is important. So Martin Rooney hooked me up with a variation of his Training For Warriors routine that he uses for high-level UFC athletes like brothers Jim and Dan Miller.

Here’s what it looked like:

Monday: Upper Body Strength

This workout focused on compound exercises and used heavy weights to build strength and target fast-twitch muscle-fibers, the ones most primed for growth.

Tuesday: Hurricane Day – Sprints

An intense total-body workout that promoted rapid fat burning and power development. Martin calls them “hurricanes” because the workouts are like a brief, powerful storm that create disruption in the muscular, cardiovascular, and neurological systems.

They’re also some of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done in my life. (I nearly passed out after my first Hurricane session; I took a 5-minute nap next to the treadmill.)

Wednesday: Off – Recovery

A much-needed rest for my muscles and mind.

Thursday: Hurricane Day – Energy Circuit

A brief, intense workout comprised of five unconventional exercises (like sledgehammer slams, medicine ball work, and rope climbs) all done in circuit fashion.

Friday: Upper Body Hypertrophy

A second upper-body day that used less complex exercises and higher reps to promote more muscle growth.

Saturday: Lower Body Strength

Just like the Upper Body Strength day, this workout focused on compound exercises and used heavy weights to build strength and target fast-twitch muscle-fibers.

Sunday: Off – Recovery

Another rest day.

So when you put it the weight-gain nutrition plan and workout program together, this is what you get:

Monday: High Calorie / Upper Body Strength

Tuesday: Low Calorie / Hurricane Sprints

Wednesday: Low Calorie / Off

Thursday: Low Calorie / Hurricane Energy Circuit

Friday: High Calorie / Upper Body Hypertrophy

Saturday: High Calorie / Lower Body Strength

Sunday: Fast / Off

STRATEGY #6: USE STRATEGIC SUPPLEMENTS.

We like to say “Supplements are supplements.” In other words, they’re ingredients you add to a smart eating and training program. They don’t replace them.

Despite what the supplement ads say, no guy has ever built a good body by taking a weird powder with a stupid name and doing nothing else.

For this experiment, however, Dr. Berardi decided I should use a few supplements strategically to maximize the amount of muscle I could build on such a short time-frame. With only 28 days to gain 20 pounds, I had to look at every opportunity to take in more calories.

The following surely didn’t “make the difference”. But they did help.

Multivitamin: Helps fix small decencies of vitamins and minerals and enhance energy metabolism. I used Optimen Multivitamin.

Protein powder: Makes eating large quantities of protein easier. I used Optimum Gold Standard Casein (for my Breakfast Pudding) and Jay Robb Egg-White Protein (for my Super Shakes).

Vitamin D: Even though natural sunlight allows our body to create Vitamin D, many of us are still deficient, which can lead to loss of muscle strength and mass and low levels of immunity. I used Vitamin D3 by NOW.

Creatine monohydrate: Helps regenerate muscle energy stores and can improve strength, boost performance, and increase muscle mass. I used Biotest creatine monohydrate.

Liquid fish oil: A key source of omega-3 fatty acids that helps improve mood and motivation while boosting fat-burning and dampening inflammation. I used Carlson’s Very Finest Liquid Fish Oil.

BCAA capsules: Helps reduce the chance of muscle tissue breakdown while stimulating protein synthesis, leading to better recovery and preservation of lean muscle mass. I used Optimum BCAA capsules primarily on my fasting days.

Greens powder: Veggies, fruits, algaes and/or grasses that have been compacted and distilled into powdered form and contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. All good things for a growing man. I used Biotest Superfood.

Peri-workout drink: Supplies essential amino acids to help re-build muscle and acts as a performance-enhancing stimulant. I used Purple Wraath by Controlled Labs.

Post-workout drink: A mixture of high-quality protein and fast-acting carbohydrates that helps your body recover and rebuild quickly. I used Universal Torrent.

The Weight Gain Menu – Weeks 1 and 2

Now that we know the strategies, let’s get to the actual menu.

HIGH CALORIE DAY (MONDAY, FRIDAY, SATURDAY)

Breakfast

Breakfast pudding

The following was all put into a blender and blended into a pudding.

2 frozen bananas, blended until creamy
1/4 cup of almond milk
3 scoops casein protein powder
2 squares high cacao chocolate

Side dish

4 pieces whole grain bread
2 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
2 Tbsp jam
multivitamin
3,000 IU vitamin D
1 tsp creatine in coffee or green tea

Immediately Pre-Workout

500ml water
10 grams BCAA’s

Sip During Workout

1L water with
1 scoop of workout drink

Immediately Post-Workout

1L water with
3 scoops post-workout drink

Post-Workout Meal

1.5lb any type of lean meat
3 cups of favorite veggies
½ cup sauerkraut*
2 large sweet or white potatoes
1 Tbsp Udo’s 3.6.9 oil

Anytime Meal

1lb any type of lean meat
3 cups of favorite veggies
½ cup sauerkraut*
2 servings of your favorite fruit
1 Tbsp fish oil

*Your body has a mixture of good and bad bacteria in it. Fermented foods like sauerkraut are rich in enzymes and help increase the amount of good bacteria in your intestines. You’ll notice my diet contained a cup of sauerkraut per day. That’s not in there by chance.

LOW CALORIE DAY (TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY)

Breakfast

Breakfast pudding

2 frozen bananas, blended until creamy
1/4 cup of almond milk
3 scoops casein protein powder
2 squares high cacao chocolate

Side dish

2 pieces whole grain bread
1 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
1 Tbsp jam
multivitamin
3,000 IU vitamin D
1 tsp creatine in coffee or green tea

Lunch

1.5lb any type of fattier meat
3 cups of favorite veggies
1/4 cup mixed raw nuts
½ cup sauerkraut
1 large sweet or white potato
1 Tbsp Udo’s 3.6.9 oil

Dinner

1lb any type of fattier meat
3 cups of favorite veggies
½ cup sauerkraut
1 servings of your favorite fruit
1 Tbsp fish oil

FASTING DAY (SUNDAY)

I fasted every Sunday with the goal to reboot my insulin sensitivity and carb tolerance before another 6 days of big eating. The rules were simple:

Rule 1: Stop eating by 10pm on Saturday.

Rule 2: On Sunday, have 3 “meals” consisting of the following:

  • 1L water with 1/2 serving greens powder
  • 15g BCAA’s
  • 1 cup of green tea

Why have these fake meals? According to Dr. Berardi, we release a hormone called ghrelin about 30 minutes before our normal meal times, which stimulates hunger pangs and gets us ready for the upcoming meal.

So it was psychologically comforting to have some kind of eating routine. The BCAAs and greens powder made it feel like I was still “eating”, which helped curb those hunger signals. (Plus the BCAAs helped preserve my lean muscle mass.)

Also, the caffeine in green tea (or coffee) helped to liberate stored fats. This helped my body eat the “food” that was stored in my love handles instead of requiring me to actually have a meal.

Rule 3: Break the fast at 10pm Sunday night by eating 1 pound of any protein with 3-4 cups of veggies.

Nate Green's high calorie breakfast

Nate Green high calorie lunch

Nate Green dinner

The  Weight Gain Menu – Weeks 3 and 4

My menu on Weeks 3 and 4 followed the same base menu as above but we strategically added calories. In Week 3, we introduced a Super-Shake (basically a fancy protein shake) because by this time I was tired of chewing. Drinking a shake was much easier.

Here’s what we added:

WEEK 3 ADDITIONS

High-Calorie Day Super Shake (Monday, Friday, Saturday)

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream/whipping cream
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • Handful frozen raspberries
  • Handful frozen blueberries

Low-Calorie Day Super Shake (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 oz coconut milk
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp cacoa nibs or 99% chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp favorite nut butter

WEEK 4 ADDITIONS

We continued to add more food to my existing meals in Week 4.

Additions to High-Calorie days

  • 1 banana to my breakfast pudding (for a total of 3 bananas)
  • 1 chocolate square to my breakfast pudding (for a total of 3 chocolate squares)
  • 1 scoop Purple Wraath to my workout drink (for a total of 2 scoops)
  • 1 scoop Universal Torrent to my post-workout drink (for a total of 4 scoops)
  • 2 Tbsp nut butter to my breakfast toast side-dish (for a total of 4 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp of jam to my breakfast toast side-dish (for a total of 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream to my Super Shake (for a total of 4 Tbsp)
  • 1 scoop protein to my Super Shake (for a total of 2 scoops)

Additions to Low-Calorie days

  • 1 banana to my breakfast pudding (for a total of 3 bananas)
  • 1 chocolate square to my breakfast pudding (for a total of 3 chocolate squares)
  • 1 Tbsp nut butter to my breakfast toast side-dish (for a total of 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 oz coconut milk to my Supe Shake (for a total of 4 oz)
  • 1 scoop protein to my Super Shake (for a total of 2 scoops)
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate to my Super Shake (for a total of 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp nut butter to my Super Shake (for a total of 2 Tbsp)

These were seemingly small changes that made a big impact on how much weight I gained this week.

Workout Program – Week 1

MONDAY – UPPER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

3 sets jumping jacks x 10
3 sets pogo jumps x 50
3 sets of wide outs x 10
2 sets of 20 yard skips
2 sets of 20 yard side shuffle
2 sets of 20 yard carioca
2 sets of 20 yards backward run
1 set of fire hydrants x 8
1 set of forward hip circles x 8
1 set of backward hip circles x 8
1 set of side leg raise x 8
2 sets of band shoulder external rotation x 10
2 sets of band shoulder row x 10
2 sets of band shoulder extension x 10

Weights

Bench Press

Warm-up sets of 5 reps up to the weight of your 5RM (5 Rep Max)
Perform 5 sets of 5RM.

Weighted Chin-up

Warm-up set of 8 reps.
Second set with 25 pounds of 6.
Perform 4 sets of 6 reps with 6RM.

Weighted Dips

Warm-up set of 10 reps.
Second set with 30 pounds for 8.
Perform 4 sets of 8 reps with 8 RM.

Overhead Press

Perform 4 sets of 10 with 10RM.

Barbell Curls 

Perform 4 sets of 10 with 10RM.

Abs of your choice

(I did 3 sets of 8 reps of weighted crunches.)

TUESDAY – HURRICANE SPRINTS 

Warm-up

3 sets jumping jacks x 10
3 sets pogo jumps x 50
3 sets of wide outs x 10
2 sets of 20 yard skips
2 sets of 20 yard side shuffle
2 sets of 20 yard carioca
2 sets of 20 yards backward run
1 set of fire hydrants x 8
1 set of forward hip circles x 8
1 set of backward hip circles x 8
1 set of side leg raise x 8
5 sets of quick steps for 5 yards
5 sets of high knees for 5 yards

Hurricane Category 2

Round 1

Sprint on treadmill at 10 mph and 10% grade incline for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill and perform the following:

1 x 20 regular crunch
1 x 20 table-top crunch

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 rounds.
Rest 2 minutes before moving on to Round 2.

Round 2

Sprint on treadmill at 11 mph and 10% grade incline for 20 seconds.
Jump off treadmill and perform the following:

1 x 20 knee-grab crunch

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 rounds.
Rest 2 minutes before moving on to Round 3.

Round 3

Sprint on treadmill at 12 mph and 10% grade incline for 20 seconds.
Jump off treadmill and perform the following:

1 x 20 bicycle crunch

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 rounds.

WEDNESDAY – OFF

THURSDAY – HURRICANE ENERGY CIRCUIT 

Warm-up

3 sets jumping jacks x 10
3 sets pogo jumps x 50
3 sets of wide outs x 10
2 sets of 20 yard skips
2 sets of 20 yard side shuffle
2 sets of 20 yard carioca
2 sets of 20 yards backward run
1 set of fire hydrants x 8
1 set of forward hip circles x 8
1 set of backward hip circles x 8
1 set of side leg raise x 8
5 sets of quick steps for 5 yards
5 sets of high knees for 5 yards 

Training For Warriors Circuit 

Complete each station of the circuit for 1 minute for 5 total minutes. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat.  Rest for 3 minutes and perform the last round for 30 seconds each station.

1. Rope

Begin standing holding one end of the rope in each hand. Start by performing 10 double arm swings by bringing the arms up and down as violently as possible. Then perform 10 alternating swings by bringing each arm up and down one at a time. Then perform 10 rotations by bringing each arm up and out to the sides and back down. Once all 30 reps are completed as fast as possible, start back at the beginning for the allotted time.

2. Kettlebell Swing

Begin standing with the kettlebell in both hands. Swing the bell between the legs. Extend at the knees and hips and swing the bell forward to shoulder height.  Repeat for 10 reps.  Then perform 10 more reps using each arm (single-handed swings). Once the 30 reps are completed, start back at the beginning with two hands for the allotted time.

3. Medicine Ball Slams

Begin holding the medicine ball in both hands overhead. Fire the ball into the ground as hard as possible. Recover the ball and repeat for as many reps as possible in the allotted time.

4. Sledge Hammer Swings

Begin facing the tire with both feet forward holding the hammer. Bring the hammer back and over one side of the body and hit the tire as hard as possible. Return the hammer over the other side of the body and repeat for as many reps as possible in the allotted time.

5. Ladder

Begin standing inside of the ladder with both feet.  Jump and land with your feet outside of and forward one box. Jump your feet back into the box and repeat for the length of the ladder and back.  Once completed, begin running with high knees using one foot in each box, down and back the length of the ladder. Once this second set is finished, perform side steps through the ladder using two feet in each box down and back up the ladder.  Once the third set is completed, start at the beginning and complete as many reps in the allotted time possible.

FRIDAY – UPPER BODY HYPERTROPHY

Warm-up

3 sets jumping jacks x 10
3 sets pogo jumps x 50
3 sets of wide outs x 10
2 sets of 20 yard skips
2 sets of 20 yard side shuffle
2 sets of 20 yard carioca
2 sets of 20 yards backward run
1 set of fire hydrants x 8
1 set of forward hip circles x 8
1 set of backward hip circles x 8
1 set of side leg raise x 8
2 sets of band shoulder external rotation x 10
2 sets of band shoulder row x 10
2 sets of band shoulder extension x 10

Weights 

Close Grip Bench

Do 3 warmup sets of 5 reps.
Perform 4 sets of 8 with your 8 RM.

Cable High Pull

Do 4 sets of 10 reps after a warmup set.

Band Triceps Pushdown

Do 4 sets of 15 reps.

Cable Rows

Do 4 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

Dumbbell Curls

Do 3 sets of 8 each arm.

Abs of your choice.

(I did 3 sets of 5 reps on each side of half-kneeling chops.)

SATURDAY – LOWER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

3 sets jumping jacks x 10
3 sets pogo jumps x 50
3 sets of wide outs x 10
2 sets of 20 yard skips
2 sets of 20 yard side shuffle
2 sets of 20 yard carioca
2 sets of 20 yards backward run
1 set of fire hydrants x 8
1 set of forward hip circles x 8
1 set of backward hip circles x 8
1 set of side leg raise x 8

Weights

45-degree back raise

Perform 1 set of 10 with bodyweight.
Perform 1 set of 8 with 25 pounds.
Perform 1 set of 8 with 45 pounds.
Perform 1 set of 8 with 70 pounds.

Barbell Squat

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

Deadlift

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

SUNDAY – OFF

WORKOUT PROGRAM – WEEK 2

MONDAY – UPPER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

Same as Week 1.

Weights

Bench Press

Warmup sets of 6 reps up to the weight of your 6RM.
Perform 5 sets of 6RM.

(The goal is to use heavier weight in last few sets than Week 1 at 5 reps.)

Weighted Chin-up

Warmup set of 8 reps.
Do second set with 25 pounds for 8 reps.
Perform 4 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

(The goal is to use heavier weight in last few sets than Week 1 at 6 reps.)

Weighted Dips

Warmup set of 10 reps.
Do second set with 30 pounds for 10.
Perform 4 sets of 10 reps with 10RM.

(The goal is to use heavier weight in last few sets than Week 1 at 8 reps.)

Overhead Press

Perform 5 sets of 6 with 6RM.

Barbell Curls

Perform 5 sets of 8 with 8RM

Abs of your choice

(I did 3 sets of 10 weighted crunches.)

TUESDAY – HURRICANE SPRINTS 

Warm-up

Same as Week 1.

Round 1   

Sprint on treadmill at 9.5 mph x 10% grade for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, grab a 65-pound barbell and do the following:

Push Jerks x 10
Close Grip Snatch x 8

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Rest 2 minutes before performing Round 2.

Round 2   

Sprint on treadmill at 10.5 mph x 10% grade for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, grab a 65-pound barbell and do the following:

Wide Grip Bent Over Row x 10
High Pull x 10  

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Rest 2 minutes before performing Round 3.

Round 3  

Sprint on treadmill at 11.5 mph x 10% grade for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, grab a 65-pound barbell and do the following:

Biceps Curl x 10
Cleans x 10

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Curl into a ball and try not to throw up.

WEDNESDAY – OFF

THURSDAY – HURRICANE ENERGY CIRCUIT 

Warm-up

Same as Week 1.

Training For Warriors Circuit 

Complete each station of the circuit for 1 minute for 5 total minutes. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat. Rest for 3 minutes and perform the last round for 30 seconds each station.

1. Farmer’s Walk   

Begin standing holding a heavy dumbbells in each hand with the elbows extended. Walk for 20 yards down and back as many times as possible in the time allotted.

2. Sandbag Drag   

Begin facing the sandbag while gripping the bag with both hands.  Drag the bag backward for 20 yards, using a toe-heel foot contact. Repeat for the distance as many times as possible in the time allotted.

3. Hand-Over-Hand Rope Pull 

Begin standing with the single rope in each hand. Pull the rope to the hip with the far hand and then grab further down the rope with the opposite hand. Repeat for as many times as possible in the allotted time.

4. Prowler Push or Sled Push

Begin using the high grip on the Prowler. Taking as big of steps as possible, push it 20 yards. Run around to the other side and push it back using the low grip. Repeat for as much distance as possible in the allotted time.

5. Tire Flip 

Begin facing the tire. Bend down and grab both hands under the bottom rim. Using the legs, lift the tire onto one side while keeping the elbows extended.  Turn the hands over and push the tire down as hard as possible. Run to the opposite side of the tire and flip it back to the other side. Repeat for as many reps as possible in the allotted time.

FRIDAY – UPPER BODY HYPERTROPHY

Warm-Up

Same as Week 1.

Weights

Close Grip Bench

Do 3 warmup sets of 5 reps.
Perform 4 sets of 10 with your 10RM.

Cable High Pull

Do 4 sets of 8 reps after a warmup set.

Band Triceps Pushdown

Do 4 sets of 20 reps.

Cable Rows

Do 4 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

Dumbbell Curls

Do 3 sets of 8 each arm.

Abs of your choice.

(I did 3 sets of 6 reps on each side of half-kneeling chops.)

SATURDAY – LOWER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

Same as Week 1.

Weights

45-degree back raise

Perform 1 set of 10 with bodyweight.
Perform 1 set of 8 with 25 pounds.
Perform 1 set of 8 with 45 pounds.
Perform 1 set of 8 with 90 pounds.

Barbell Squat

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

Deadlift

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

SUNDAY – OFF

WORKOUT PROGRAM – WEEK 3

MONDAY – UPPER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1 and 2.

Weights

Band Bench Press

Warmup sets of 5 reps up to the weight of your 5RM.
Perform 5 sets of 5RM.

(I used mini-bands. Here’s a video of how they work.)

Alternating Grip Weighted Chin-up

(One hand using a overhand grip, and the other hand using an underhand grip.)

Warmup set of 8 reps. (4 reps with each grip.)
Do second set with 25 pounds for 8 reps. (4 reps with each grip.)
Perform 4 sets of 8 reps with 8RM. (4 reps with each grip.)

Weighted Dips

Warmup set of 6 reps.
Do second set with 40 pounds for 6 reps.
Perform 5 sets of 6 reps with 6RM.

Overhead Press

Perform 5 sets of 5 with 5RM.

Barbell Curls

Perform 4 sets of 8 with 8RM

Abs of your choice

(I did 3 sets of 10 of reverse crunches.)

TUESDAY – HURRICANE SPRINTS 

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1 and 2.

Round 1   

Sprint on treadmill at 9.5 mph x 10% grade for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, grab a 65-pound barbell and do the following:

High Pull x 10
Bent-over Row x 8

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Rest 2 minutes before performing Round 2.

Round 2   

Sprint on treadmill at 10.5 mph x 10% grade for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, grab a 65-pound barbell and do the following:

Close-Grip Snatch x 10

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Rest 2 minutes before performing Round 3.

Round 3  

Sprint on treadmill at 11.5 mph x 10% grade for 25 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, grab a 65-pound barbell and do the following:

Cleans x 10

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.

WEDNESDAY – OFF

THURSDAY – HURRICANE ENERGY CIRCUIT 

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1 and 2.

Training For Warriors Circuit 

Same exercises as Week 1 but with different time parameters  Complete each station of the circuit for 30 seconds for 2.5 total minutes. Rest for 1 minute and repeat. Do 4 total sets.

FRIDAY – UPPER BODY HYPERTROPHY

Warm-Up

Same as Weeks 1 and 2.

Weights

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Do 3 warmup sets of 5 reps.
Perform 4 sets of 10 with your 10RM.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Do 4 sets of 8 reps after a warmup set.

Cable Triceps Pushdown

Do 4 sets of 12 reps.

Bent-Over Reverse Fly with Dumbbells

Do 4 sets of 8 reps with 8RM.

Dumbbell Curls

Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

Abs of your choice.

(I did 3 sets of 8 reps on each side of half-kneeling chops.)

SATURDAY – LOWER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1 and 2.

Weights

45-degree back raise

Perform 1 set of 10 with bodyweight.
Perform 2 sets of 8 with 45 pounds.
Perform 2 sets of 8 with 90 pounds.

Barbell Squat

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets x 6 of 6RM.

Deadlift

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets x 6 of 6RM.

SUNDAY – OFF

WORKOUT PROGRAM – WEEK 4

MONDAY – UPPER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1, 2, and 3.

Weights

Band Bench Press

Warmup sets of 8 reps up to the weight of your 8RM.
Perform 5 sets of 8RM.

Weighted Pull-Up

Warmup set of 8 reps.
Do second set with 25 pounds for 8 reps.
Perform 3 sets of 6 reps with 40 pounds added.

Weighted Dips

Warmup set of 6 reps with 25 pounds added.
Do second set with 40 pounds for 6 reps.
Perform 5 sets of 6 reps with 80 pounds added.

Overhead Press

Perform 4 sets of 8 with 8RM.

Barbell Curls

Perform 4 sets of 10 with 10RM

Abs of your choice

(I did 3 sets of 12 of reverse crunches.)

TUESDAY – HURRICANE SPRINTS 

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1, 2, and 3.

Round 1   

Sprint on treadmill at 10 mph x 10% grade for 30 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, and do the following with light weight:

Cable Row x 10
Cable Triceps Pressdown x 8

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Rest 2 minutes before performing Round 2.

Round 2   

Sprint on treadmill at 10.5 mph x 10% grade for 30 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, and do the following with light weight:

Cable High-Pull to Chin x 10

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.
Rest 2 minutes before performing Round 3.

Round 3  

Sprint on treadmill at 11.5 mph x 10% grade for 30 seconds.
Jump off treadmill, and do the following with light weight:

Cable Lat Pull-Down x 10

Repeat from beginning for a total of 3 sets.

WEDNESDAY – OFF

THURSDAY – HURRICANE ENERGY CIRCUIT 

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1, 2, and 3.

Training For Warriors Circuit 

Same exercises as Week 2 but with different time parameters  Complete each station of the circuit for 30 seconds for 2.5 total minutes. Rest for 1 minute and repeat. Do 4 total sets.

FRIDAY – UPPER BODY HYPERTROPHY

Warm-Up

Same as Weeks 1, 2, and 3.

Weights

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Do 3 warmup sets of 5 reps.
Perform 4 sets of 6 with 6RM.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Do 4 sets of 8 reps after a warmup set.

Cable Triceps Pushdown

Do 4 sets of 10 reps.

Bent-Over Reverse Fly with Dumbbells

Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Dumbbell Curls

Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

Abs of your choice.

(I did a basic plank for 3 sets of 30 seconds.)

SATURDAY – LOWER BODY STRENGTH

Warm-up

Same as Weeks 1, 2, and 3.

Weights

45-degree back raise

Perform 1 set of 10 with bodyweight.
Perform 2 sets of 8 with 45 pounds.
Perform 2 sets of 8 with 90 pounds.

Barbell Squat

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets x 10 of 10RM.

Deadlift

Do 3-4 warmup sets.
Perform 5 sets x 8 of 8RM.

SUNDAY – OFF

Girth, Body Fat, and Performance Metrics After Gaining 20 Pounds

Nate Green after muscle-building experiment

So let’s say Georges St Pierre wanted to put on 20 pounds to move up a weight class to fight Anderson Silva. (Granted, he probably wouldn’t do it in 28 days.)

What would happen to his performance? Would he get slow and fat? Or even more powerful and agile?

We can only speculate with GSP, but here’s what happened to me.

Baseline After Weight-Gain
Weight 169.6 190.2
Girth Measurements
Neck 15.25 15.38
Shoulder 48 49.25
Chest 41.5 44
Upper Arm 14.75 16
Waist 31.5 32.25
Hip 38 39.5
Thigh 23.13 24.25
Calf 15.5 15.38
Body Fat Measurements
Mid-Ax 2.8 3.8
Cheek 2.8 5.7
Chest 2.8 4.7
Ab 7.6 3.8
Subscap 5.7 7.6
Triceps 2.8 3.8
Suprailiac 2.8 4.7
Knee 5.7 2.8
Hamstring 3.8 4.7
Calf 9.5 6.7
Body Fat (%) 3.03 (probably ~6) 4.1 (probably ~7)

GIRTH MEASUREMENTS

Expected: We were confident every part of my body would increase in size, and for the most part, that was true.

Surprised: My calf measurements actually went down. We believe it had something to do with the resultant fat loss from doing the Hurricane sprint days.

BODY FAT PERCENTAGE

A quick note about the body fat test: We used calipers and a 10-site skinfold test. All measurement days were done at the Missoula Underground Strength Training Center and performed by trainer Mike Scialabba.

When testing body fat with calipers, there’s always a 2 – 3 percent margin of error. Mike, who’s done this same test on hundreds of his clients, ended up with skinfold measurements that indicated the obviously wrong numbers of 3.03 and 4.1 respectively. Adding a 3% margin of error, the real numbers were probably more like 6-7% and 8-9%.

All of this to say, my body fat percentage went up, but very minimally.

Surprised: I expected to gain more body fat than this (but was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t). Also, while most of my individual sites increased, there were a few that went down (ab, knee, calf). Those were three of the places that had the highest body-fat percentage on the initial Day 0 test.

And here are the performance metrics:

STRENGTH TEST: DEADLIFT MAXIMUM

Baseline: 405 pounds
After Weight Gain: 475 pounds

POWER TEST: VERTICAL JUMP

Baseline: 28 inches
After Weight Gain: 31.7 inches

STRENGTH ENDURANCE TEST: 225-POUND BENCH PRESS

Baseline: 8 reps
After Weight Gain: 15 reps

ENDURANCE TEST 1: MAX VELOCITY ON TREADMILL (VMAX)

Baseline: 9 minutes and 32 seconds of sprinting at 8mph, working up to an incline of 8%
After Weight Gain: 7 minutes and 38 seconds of sprinting at 8mph, working up to an incline of 6%.

ENDURANCE TEST 2: MAX TIME ON TREADMILL (T-MAX)

Baseline: 3 minutes and 11 seconds of sprinting at 8mph with 6% incline
After Weight Gain: 3 minutes and 14 seconds of sprinting at 8mph with 6% incline

STRENGTH/POWER/MUSCLE ENDURANCE TESTS

Expected: We expected to improve performance dramatically in all three of my non-endurance tests (vertical jump, 225-bench, max deadlift).

Surprised: No surprises here.

V-MAX AND T-MAX

Expected: I wasn’t too sure what to expect here, honestly. I felt like I was in better shape than on our baseline testing day, but I didn’t know if my short duration Hurricane sprint training (25 second sprints) would translate to better endurance.

Surprised: What surprised me about both the VMax and the TMax was that I actually felt like I had more endurance. However, I was much heavier and I felt it during the endurance testing. Perhaps I didn’t have enough time to adapt to my new body weight.

Now, this is something GSP may not have to deal with, since he’d likely gain weight over a longer period of time and his body would have more opportunity to adapt.

Closing Words

During each phase of my experiments, I pushed my body to its physiological limits.

I ate as much as I could for 28 days straight. I fasted for a full 24 hours multiple times. I purposefully dehydrated myself and robbed my body of water. I lifted heavy weights and sprinted as fast as I could.

I proved that it’s possible to for a regular guy to gain 20 pounds of (mostly) lean mass in a month. That it’s possible to then lose those 20 pounds in a week. And that it’s possible to gain them all back in a day.

In the process, I hope I’ve demystified the process of muscle building, weight cutting, and rehydration. In the end, there’s no voodoo and witchcraft here. Just the right advice, expert guidance, and a ton of hard work.

+++++

For more about Nate, Dr. Berardi, and their work on building muscle and gaining strength, check out Scrawny To Brawny.

Additional resources: You can download the entire weight-gain nutrition plan Nate used here: Muscle-Building Nutrition Plan. And you can download the entire training program he used here: Muscle-Building Workout Program.

Posted on: May 11, 2013.

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298 comments on “How To Gain 20 Pounds In 28 Days: The Extreme Muscle Building Secrets of UFC Fighters

    • This is a ridonkulous amount of information. So detailed and chalk full of key information. I’ve always wanted a look inside the programs of professional athletes, especially MMA.

      I can’t wait to start eating a buttload of food!

      Like

      • Glad you like, Benny. If you’re interested, check out our free 5-day course for building muscle (google Scrawny to Brawny and you’ll find it). There we spell out a more sane and sustainable protocol. Remember, this is actually a pilot project for a specific goal: move up a weight class in a hurry, as if your job depended on it.

        Like

    • David, you might want to check out our free online book “Bigger Smaller Bigger” (www.biggersmallerbigger.com). We detail everything from this two-part article series in painstaking detail. We also talk about whether you SHOULD copy this and follow it exactly (probably not). And what you might do if you wanted to do something like this in a more healthy, sustainable way. Remember, this is a weight gain crash course designed for a fighter who might have to go up a weight class in a hurry. Because it’s, like, his job :-)

      Like

    • It’s a good question, stretch marks are actually dependent on elasticity of the skin. Some of this is genetically determined. And some can be controlled by a regular moisturizing regimen. My wife, who’s had 2 children, used a regular routine of moisturizing her tummy with almond oil and a special lotion for pregnant women. And no stretch marks. So, my advice to anyone interested in gaining muscle mass in a faster way, do the same. Almond oil and/or a good lotion daily, after showering.

      Like

  1. Was very excited to read this as soon as I read the headline. I am a health junky and for my entire adult life I have had a great deal of trouble adding on mass. While I was not totally surprised that the key is to eat lots and train accordingly, I have tried this but not with such a comprehensive plan. I was very pleased to read about the supplements section, certain ones like vitamin D3 for example I have promoted on my site for health conscious individuals. I currently take a total immune supplement that is directed towards boosting glutathione levels, among acetyl l-glutathione it has other ingredients targeting tissue and cell repair. I hope to implement an eating and workout schedule very soon, combined with this supplement hopefully I can gain some much needed healthy weight.

    Like

    • Very cool…best wishes with the protocol. If you’re interested, check out our free 5-day course for building muscle (google Scrawny to Brawny and you’ll find it). There we spell out a more sane and sustainable protocol than this one. Remember, this is actually a pilot project for a specific goal: move up a weight class in a hurry, as if your job depended on it.

      Like

  2. The deception from this article comes from its subtle ambiguity; “20 pounds of quality mass”. What does this even mean? How much was water weight? I assume a lot seeing as bf% is claimed to have increased by only ~1%.
    Fact of the matter is that its nigh on impossible to gain 20 pounds of lean mass in 28 days even ON a heavy dose of steroids, growth hormone and insulin (and this is coming from a competitor and user).

    I do love the blog, but its posts such as these that really grind my gears.

    Like

    • Thanks for the note, man, but there’s certainly no deception here.

      I weighed in every morning after 8-9 hours of fasting (sleeping) and did all my bathroom business beforehand. So I was as dry as possible every morning.

      I’m sure my body was holding on to a little bit of water…but so does every healthy body that’s not dehydrated. That’s just being a human. :)

      Again, check out the girth measurements and body-fat differential. We added 20 pounds in 28 days with only a slight increase in body fat.

      Take care,
      -Nate

      Like

    • I totally get where you’re coming from…in an industry (fitness) that’s been dominated by hucksters and charlatans for years, it’s easy to see bold claims as more of the same. As Nate said, however, we’re not trying to sell anyone anything here. We did this as a pilot project for a very real world application (helping a UFC fighter move up a weight class in a hurry). And we decided to share our protocol here with Tim’s audience. Further, we documented everything in even more painstaking detail than we could here in a free online book called Bigger Smaller Bigger (www.biggersmallerbigger.com). If you’re interested in getting even more information about the protocol – and perhaps ungrinding your gears a little – we’d love you to have a look.

      Like

  3. Love Scrawny to Brawny. It’s been a classic reference guide that i’ve gone back to over the years. Definitely the best weight gain book on the market.

    I’m impressed man – your abdominal skin fold % went DOWN by 50%? Is that right?

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback on the book, Alexander. Everything we’d done with the Scrawny to Brawny brand, I’m really proud of. From the book to the website to the coaching program. We’ve helped thousands of guys build muscle, strength, and live a bigger life. Feels good.

      Like

    • Can’t speak for Tim but I am very familiar with both protocols and I think that the fasting day can work with Occam’s protocol as long as you eat enough on the other days of the week. If not, the zero calorie fasting day will lower your weekly caloric intake and make it harder to gain weight. That being said, if you do eat enough on the other days, the fasting day is a great strategy for hormone management, as discussed in the article.

      Like

  4. Some truly amazing results here! Can’t wait to implement parts of it into my own program. Tim – I love your work and love testing it in my own life, keep up the great work!

    Like

    • Best wishes trying some of this stuff out. For now, if you’re interested, check out our free 5-day course for building muscle (google Scrawny to Brawny and you’ll find it). There we spell out a more sane and sustainable protocol than this one. Remember, this is actually a pilot project for a specific goal: move up a weight class in a hurry, as if your job depended on it.

      Like

  5. What?!? Something doesn’t feel quite right.

    From the weight gain post: “I started the official experiment at 169 pounds and 28 days later, weighed in at 190.” Then from the weight cut post: “I started at 190.2 pounds and had 5 days to lose 20 pounds.”

    I don’t dispute what Nate did with his body, I think that it is pretty dang amazing what our bodies can do. I am just curious about the timing of both experiments, his age, and a few other things…

    How far apart in time is Nate doing this to his body?
    It appears that Nate gained, then lost? Is that right?
    What does Nate walk around at (from his bio, do we assume 185ish?)? Nate is already fit…does this hurt the expectations of someone who is trying for the first time? Either losing or gaining? Maybe someone older…who is not a teenager…who is not already fit?
    Did Nate have any goals outside of add/lose weight for this experiment?
    Is this just an experiment for the sake of manipulating body weight?

    Like

    • Yep, this is a great question to ask and I suspected some people would be skeptical unless we were painfully detailed about the timeline.

      The weight gain experiment actually came FIRST. So, Nate started at about 170 pounds. Then he proceeded to:

      -Gain 20 pounds of lean mass in 28 days (detailed in this article)
      -Lose 20 pounds in 5 days (detailed in part 1)
      -Gain 20 pounds in 24 hours (detailed in part 1)

      In the end, I know some people will be skeptical about these experiments, not knowing us. But we’re trustworthy guys and have documented everything in painstaking detail in our free online book “Bigger Smaller Bigger” (www.biggersmallerbigger.com).

      Like

      • Hey Dr.Beradi, I was wondering, does this work for women as well or is it different for them.

        Like

      • Good question – the principles here would work for female fighters too. Of course, it’d have to be adjusted to their body size and body type. Remember, this is actually a pilot project for a specific goal: move up a weight class in a hurry, as if your job depended on it. If a woman simply wants to build muscle, there are safer and saner ways of doing that. Check out our free 5-day course for building muscle (google Scrawny to Brawny and you’ll find it) for more on those.

        Like

    • JB summed it up nicely here.

      As far as age, we’ve helped TONS of guys from age 17 to 60+ gain muscle and get stronger.

      Also, I know I look like a teenager…but I’m actually 27 years old. :) I think I need to grow a beard.

      -Nate

      Like

    • To some of your more specific questions, we answer some of them in our free book. We also talk about whether you SHOULD copy this and follow it exactly if you’re younger, older, less experienced (probably not). And what you might do if you wanted to do something like this in a more healthy, sustainable way. Remember, this is a weight gain pilot project designed for a fighter who might have to go up a weight class in a hurry. Because it’s, like, his job.

      Like

  6. Thanks a lot for this greatly detailed post! As an ectomorph, I really enjoy seeing this type of detail showing how its truly possible to gain a large amount of muscle mass over a short period of time. I really appreciate you including the diet and workout routine used. (IMO, there are way too many posts on how to lose weight out there)

    In each of the weight lifting days, it always says to go to your #RM; did Nate achieve this without a spotter? Should the #RM on the last set for these be one that the individual can do without needing a spotter?

    Is there any reason why you didn’t want to spread out the food intake over something like 6 meals every day? Is that to keep the metabolism down and not continually burn calories, thus allowing the individual to gain more weight?

    Like

    • Thanks for the note, man.

      I didn’t have a spotter on every day, but 90% of the time I had a friend with me in the gym to help me out and make sure I didn’t drop anything on my head. :)

      Regarding the RM stuff, don’t worry too much about it. As long as you’re using enough weight to challenge you, you should be fine. As a good rule of thumb, I made sure my last set of every exercise was tough…but doable.

      As far as the food stuff and 6 meals per day, it’s a common misconception that eating more frequently throughout the day increases metabolism. It doesn’t. So eating 3-4 BIG meals a day was more of a convenience thing than a metabolism thing.

      Make sense?

      -Nate

      Like

    • Thanks for the questions…Nate did this without a spotter. When it says 3RM or 6RM, that means his true 3 or 6RM. In other words, what he can actually lift without a spot.

      As far as spreading out the food intake, after a little trial and error, we decided this would be best for Nate (preference-wise). You could try spreading the meals over 6 feedings or whatever you prefer. I don’t think it would make a huge physiological difference. What we were after is what Nate felt like he could handle best with his lifestyle.

      Like

  7. Always great to see what professional athletes go through in order to compete at their best, with this post highlighting just what some people will do to have a competitive advantage.

    Working with athletes and bodybuilders our results for gaining lean mass in a short duration, and cutting weight (fat and water) in a matter of days have been similar, but this is a whole new level of weight maniupulation outlined above. Great results, many principles can definitely be tailored to the individual to achieve amazing results.

    Been following Dr Berardi for a long time in terms of his research and methods, loved this post.

    Trevor Degen
    Certified Sports Nutritionist.

    Like

  8. Dr. Berardi,

    I have a question regarding rest time between sets.
    As a general rule: the longer the rest, the more the strength gain, right?
    So conversely, the shorter the rest period, the more (sarcoplasmic) hypertrophy?

    These posts are very intriguing to read. Very cool!

    Like

  9. Great post – thank you!

    However, eventhough he looks pretty lean, he doesn’t look to be 6-7% and 8-9% (could just be the pictures though).

    Like

    • You’re right…skinfold testing isn’t always accurate in terms of the absolute number, even with a trained tester. That’s why in this article, and part 1, we’re more interested in the change in skinfolds over time (which indicates change in body comp) than the absolute number. With an experienced tester, skinfolds are more reliable (able to detect change over time) than they are accurate (exactly correct in terms of the absolute number).

      Like

  10. Sounds awesome. I’ve been meaning to do Occam’s Routine again, since it’s the only thing that ever got me over 160 pounds. Looks like Nate is reasonably mesomorphic. Tim, would you recommend this or Occam’s for a skinny guy who finds it nearly impossible to gain weight?

    Also, I was thinking about using IF to maintain insulin sensitivity, but the way I was thinking of doing it was with 16 hour fasts, about a couple times a week, each fast ending with my workout and a shake consumed during the workout. I’ve read from a lot of places that fasting raises growth hormone levels, and so putting a workout at the end of a fast capitalizes on that. Anyone want to comment on this strategy vs. 24 hours once a week on a non-workout day?

    Like

    • IMO, this isn’t the best strategy for guys who simply want to get bigger. You might want to check out our free online book “Bigger Smaller Bigger” (www.biggersmallerbigger.com). We detail everything from this two-part article series in painstaking detail. But we also talk about whether you SHOULD copy this, which in your case, I think probably not. Which is where some of our more healthy, sustainable protocols kick in.

      As far as the IF thing, 16/8 fasts work great for fat loss and very slow muscle gain. You can check out our other free online book “Experiments with Intermittent Fasting” for more on this (http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting). The weekly 24h fast works much better for ectomorphs trying to gain 15 or 20+ pounds of lean mass, as long as the other parts are included (calorie cycling, etc).

      Like

    • Good question…fattier meats come in on lower calore/lower carb days while leaner meats come in on higher calorie/higher carb days. We generally like to take fats and carbs in opposite directions. In other words, we increase fats when carbs go down and decrease fats when carbs go up.

      Like

  11. This is awesome, though it doesn’t hurt that the dude started being pretty ripped/fit to begin with (baseline 405 lbs deadlift?! goddamn…).

    Still, very cool, very scientific, and kudos!

    Like

  12. I’m curious to know what the maximum weight is that Nate has been in the past. In my experience it was more difficult to gain weight the first time I tried, than it was to gain the same weight, after having lost it, a few years later.

    Can anyone else comment on this issue? Is it a real thing?

    Like

    • Great question. Yes, regaining muscle mass (vs. building it from scratch) does seem a bit easier. Some people call it muscle memory. But I’m not sure if it’s a physiological phenomenon (what some call muscle memory), a psychological one (the confidence of knowing that you’ve been bigger and can get there again), or a little of both. As far as Nate, I’m not sure what his max weight had been in the past or how long it’s been since he was that weight. I’ll let him respond to that.

      Like

    • Hey Jared –

      The heaviest I’ve ever been was about 185 pounds, but that was back when I was 19-20 years old. (I’m 28 now.)

      I’ve weighed lower than 180 for the past 5 years or so, and right around 170 pounds for the past 2-3 years as I started focusing more on my relationships and work than time in the gym.

      So when I started this experiment I was a legit 170 pounds — and had been for 2-3 years.

      Thanks for the note!

      -Nate

      Like

  13. I was pretty excited to try this up until I read that he used creatine. Creatine was responsible for at least half of what he gained.

    Like

    • Thanks for the note, man. However I’ll have to disagree with your assertion that “creatine was responsible for half” of what I gained.

      The thing is, we all have creatine in our muscles already (about half of which is derived from eating creatine-rich meat).

      Supplementing with creatine can have huge positive effects on your body (something Tim has written about in detail before), the most notable being increasing maximal force production of your muscles. (That means you can lift more weight more explosively.)

      In the end, the creatine obviously helped a little. (That’s why we used it.)

      But the real reason I gained all that weight was due to the sheer amount of food I was eating, smart nutrient-timing, and a progressive weight-training program.

      Like

      • At least half the weight gain from creatine? Where did that statistic come from? That’s a little ridiculous. If creatine could put 10lbs of lean mass on a dude in under 30 days we’d all be damned monsters!

        Like

      • Weight gain is not the same as muscle gain. Creatine facilitates water retention in the muscles, hence increased appearance of muscle size and overall mass. I am pretty sure creatine was heavily responsible for Mark Wahlbergs look in Pain & Gain. Nate and John must know this very well, don’t they :-) At least, I know John does :P So, definitely would be a nice disclaimer to include.

        Like

    • If you want to make big gains you need to take creatine. It’s completely safe. You get more energy in your muscles so you can lift more. When you stop taking it you’ll lose water for sure but the gain you’ve made will stay.
      And it’s very cheap. There’s no reason not to take creatine.

      Like

      • Thanks Dr John Berardi and Nate for this detailed post and your answers to the queries below. A ton of useful information in the blog and the comments. I am 26 yrs old, 5′ 11″ and 204 lbs and trying hard to pile on the muscles. Sometimes all this information sounds confusing to a newbie like me. As I gain more insights I learn that there are many paths to achieving my goals.

        Like

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts…although your assumption is a strong one. Usually creatine-related gains (which can be in the neighborhood of 5-6 pounds) come in novices who aren’t taking creatine to begin with. Nate was not a novice. And he was previously taking creatine. So I’d be surprised if 2-3 pounds of his 20 were creatine related.

      Like

  14. That’s an awesome case study, and I think it might be an improvement over Occam’s. I did Occam’s for myself once. It worked (10 lean pounds in 4 weeks) but boy was it unpleasant. I would have killed for a fast day.

    The real trouble I had was keeping it on. Within a year I was back to my pre-Occam’s equilibrium weight. How long do you have to maintain the routine to establish a new homeostasis?

    Like

    • You might want to check out our free online book “Bigger Smaller Bigger” (www.biggersmallerbigger.com). We detail everything from this two-part article series in painstaking detail. We also talk about whether you SHOULD copy this and follow it exactly (IMO, probably not). And what you might do if you wanted to do something like this in a more healthy, sustainable way. Remember, this is a weight gain pilot project designed for a fighter who might have to go up a weight class in a hurry. Because it’s, like, his job. Since it’s likely not yours, you might want to try things in a more sustainable way. Again, we talk about all this in the free book. Check it out.

      Like

      • So far (I’m on day 9) Nate’s struggle to eat sounds a lot like mine. Thankfully my wife was willing and able to prep my meals for me during the month – you’re right that I would not have been able to do it with a whole foods approach on my own within my job’s constraints. Eating was by far the worst part of the effort. The exercises, while intense, were brief and did leave you feeling good about yourself. Constantly stuffing your face is an exhausting grind. I’m looking forward to learning more in the book.

        Like

  15. Tim and Nate:

    How does degree of training affect the total potential mass gains? From the baseline numbers, it seems like Nate was already pretty trained and had good strength and muscle mass.

    I am guessing (though not certain) that GSP is closer to his genetic potential in terms of strength and mass.

    I don’t know his physique precisely though. How much would his current degree of training be a limit to GSP gaining enough mass to enter a new weight class?

    And conversely, could someone less trained than Nate gain even more than 20 pounds if they followed a similar program?

    Not asking to start an argument or for any practical purpose of my own, just genuinely curious.

    Graeme

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    • These are all good questions. But the answer is: it doesn’t really matter. You see, the protocol listed above is one that we developed and then adjusted on a weekly basis for Nate. I call it outcome-based decision making. You essentially start with a baseline and then adjust based on the results each week or two weeks. So, whether someone was a slower or faster responder is really irrelevant as we’d simply tweak the protocol based on their response to drive toward the desired goal. Make sense?

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