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Maximum Muscularity

Written on January 31, 2008 at 1:41 pm, by Eric Cressey

By Tim Skwiat and Eric Cressey

Typically, whenever a trainee aspiring to improve his physique utters, “I want to gain muscle and lose fat…”, he is immediately greeted by eager critics from opposite ends of the spectrum. First, there are those experts that pounce on the opportunity to suppress such a bold quest. They proclaim that such a task is doomed for failure, and simply respond with an unscientific, “You can’t. Choose one or the other.” In contrast, there are those that say that such a mission is rather simple. While the former cynics are just downright ignorant, the latter faction is just as useless, offering no other advice than one must train hard and eat right. Uh, duh! With that in mind, we’d like to introduce a plan that we feel will lead to what many call the Holy Grail of Bodybuilding: Maximum Muscularity.

The term “Maximum Muscularity” elicits a beautiful vision of the classic physique of someone like Arnold or Serge Nubret. Maximum Muscularity isn’t just about being ripped…yet of beanpole proportions, nor is it just about being huge–yet uncomfortably rotund. Rather, Maximum Muscularity is fusion of the two: being Ripped and Huge; it’s about becoming a walking, super-sized anatomy chart. It’s about pushing the envelope of one’s capabilities to add muscle and lose fat.

In a broad sense, the ultimate goal of Maximum Muscularity is to gain muscle mass and lose fat mass. However, the principles of Maximum Muscularity also apply to gaining muscle while keeping bodyfat constant OR to losing fat while maintaining all hard-earned muscle–both scenarios involve a drop in percent body fat.

The context in which you view the aforementioned goals is paramount to the realization of these favorable scenarios. Rather than asking “How do I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?”, we ask you to ponder, “How do I gain muscle and lose fat in the same training period?” Our reasoning is very simple; at any given moment in time, the body is either in a state of anabolism (i.e. tissue-synthesizing: muscle or fat gain) or catabolism (tissue-destroying: breakdown of triglyceride, glycogen or protein stores). This is not to say, however, that one cannot control the shift from anabolism to catabolism or vice versa at various times throughout the day. With the Maximum Muscularity protocol, you will do just that.

This approach departs from the traditional Bulk and Cut scheme to which so many trainees adhere. This plan is especially well suited to those individuals who tend to store fat easily and gain more fat than muscle during traditional bulking cycles; it can and should be applied year-round and for long-term purposes. In short, there is absolutely no need to deviate from the Maximum Muscularity plan, as it is easily adapted to suit any physique goal and provides great versatility.

Gaining muscle and losing fat in the same training period is the culmination of diligent training and dietary practices. Paramount to achieving this lofty goal is the creation of a superior anabolic state and enhanced insulin sensitivity through various dietary and training measures. From a nutritional standpoint, you’ll be paying specific attention to nutrient timing and energy intake to capitalize on and manage your body’s hormonal milieu in order to promote muscle gain and fat loss. Likewise, your training protocol is of paramount importance to providing the anabolic and metabolic stimuli necessary to accomplish such a mythical feat. That said, here is a summary of the Maximum Muscularity principles:

*(Optional) Kickstart your day with some low to moderate activity (i.e. aerobics) before your first meal of the day. You’re going to watch SportsCenter anyway, right? Why not jump on a treadmill or bike for 20-45 minutes while taking in the “Plays of the Week?” On the other hand, if infomercials and cooking shows suit your fancy, then we recommend you shell out five payments of $49.95 for “Saggy Man Breasts for Dummies;” you probably aren’t cut out for Maximum Muscularity. This activity is, of course, optional and by no means needs to be done indoors. Intensity should be kept at 40-60% of heart rate reserve. At this low intensity, the majority of energy will be derived from plasma fatty acids (i.e. broken down from adipose tissue) (1) and will give your metabolism a brief kick in the pants without sacrificing precious lean body mass (1).

Prior to these low-intensity sessions, one can utilize stimulants (i.e. caffeine and ephedrine) and other fat mobilizers (i.e. yohimbine). These implements will enable you to maximize adipose tissue lipolysis without worrying about any unfavorable consequences in terms of insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal, as these sessions will not be followed immediately by carbohydrate-laden meals. The half-life of caffeine is broadly defined as 3-7 hours, depending on dosage and activity (exercise decreases this time period) (3). Assuming that you are leaving adequate time (i.e. 5 hours) between your morning java wave and any carbohydrate-containing meal, consumption of caffeine in the morning should not be problematic. Also of note, researchers have noted a 3-4% increase in metabolic rate in the 2.5 hours following ingestion of 100mg caffeine (4). We don’t know about you, but we’re all for maximizing our metabolic rates during the time of day where lipolysis is highest!

*Stoking the Fat-Burning Inferno…Consume protein and fat meals (a small amount of carbs from fibrous, low-calorie vegetables is encouraged with these meals) in the hours leading up to training. The caloric value of these meals should be at or slightly below what you would be eating at these times during a traditional maintenance phase. This allows you to keep insulin at bay and blood glucose stable, thus permitting an optimal environment for lipolysis. Ingesting a substantial amount of carbs, and the resulting insulin response, inhibits lipolysis both at rest (4) and during exercise (5,6). This same elevation in insulin will also suppress release of growth hormone (GH)), another critical player in our quest for Maximum Muscularity. Since most of you work jobs that demand little high-intensity activity, your energy needs will be most efficiently met by the metabolism of fat. Because fat can provide 2 ? times as much energy as carbohydrate per gram, it is the optimal substrate at low levels of oxygen consumption (e.g. napping at work or during class).

Protein and fat meals with very few carbs are beneficial in several other regards in these low-energy expenditure scenarios. First, such meals keep blood glucose and insulin levels stable, thus ensuring that you avoid episodes of hormonal hunger and dulled mental acuity that are associated with unstable blood glucose, insulin, and serotonin concentrations. In addition, the thermic effect?the amount of calories burned in order to process foodstuffs–of protein is about twice that of carbohydrate and more than three times that of fat (7); thus, by eating more protein, you’ll be burning more calories! Also, protein and fat meals stimulate the release of glucagon (8), which ensures that fatty acids are released into the bloodstream for oxidation (9). Furthermore, protein and fat meals–along with ample amounts of fiber from low-carb, fibrous veggies that accompany these meals–slow digestion and offer far more satiety per gram than carbohydrates. By setting fat intake at a minimum of 0.5g/lb LBM, you’ll be supporting endogenous testosterone levels and all the good stuff (e.g. libido, strength) that goes along with them (10). Assuming that you’re balancing out your mono/poly/saturate intake, you’ll also be deriving some cardiovascular health benefits (among others). While you’re probably at least somewhat cognizant of the myriad of benefits of polyunsaturated fats–namely omega-3s–it is critical that you do not overlook the formidable cardioprotective benefits of monounsaturated fats (i.e. olive oil, mixed nuts, etc.).

Be sure to get plenty of fibrous veggies (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, spinach) with these meals for fiber and other important nutrients. Howarth et al. recently demonstrated a decrease of 10% in daily caloric intake and a loss of 4.2 pounds in subjects that consumed an additional 15g of fiber daily over a period of four months! (11) We encourage you to emphasize whole-foods whenever possible to maximize satiety and the thermic effect of your feedings. We want to reiterate the fact that Maximum Muscularity emphasizes maximizing nutrient intake via whole-food sources.

* Maximum Muscularity and Density…There are countless solid training programs to suit your goals; there’s no excuse for not having the aforementioned anabolic stimulus for impressive size and strength gains. When choosing a program, however, recall that some styles of training are less suitable for improving glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Specifically, the aforementioned carbohydrate metabolism factors are negatively affected by training that focuses on heavy negatives/long eccentrics (12). In light of the fact that we’re constantly striving to maximize these critical factors and use them to our advantage, you’ll definitely want to adapt your training accordingly (i.e. lowering carbohydrate intake during training periods that emphasize eccentrics, if you choose to include them at all). Ideally, you should be in the gym for 3-5 sessions per week. An added bonus of training in the late afternoon is that you increase the likelihood of maintaining constantly high testosterone levels throughout the day. Testosterone levels are typically highest in the morning and gradually decrease as the day progresses; by interrupting this decline with exercise-induced increases, you may be able to overcome this aspect your body’s natural hormonal milieu (13).

The importance of the resistance-training component of the plan cannot be overemphasized. However, it’s beyond the scope of such a comprehensive article to prescribe a new routine or training program. Rather, we direct you to consider the works of Charles Poliquin, Ian King, Don Alessi, Brian Haycock, Charles Staley, Dave Tate, Christian Thibaudeau, Chad Waterbury, Joel Marion, and John Romaniello.

* You may find it advantageous to follow up your resistance training session with 5-15 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, preferably a full-body mode (i.e. Elliptical trainer or jogging). The purpose of this aerobic session is to gorge those muscles that were just trained with blood. This massive blood flow will assist recovery by: 1) removing waste products from the muscles, 2) transporting nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, and 3) shuttling metabolic by-products (i.e. lactic acid) from the muscle to the liver for recycling (i.e. gluconeogenesis). Two added benefits: more energy expenditure and glycogen utilization, which creates a greater glucose economy, allows for more carbohydrate to be eaten in the recovery period, and enhances glucose uptake and skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity- critical factors for improvement in body composition. Be forewarned, though, that even at low and moderate intensities, if the aerobic components cause the exercise sessions to carry on too long (i.e. greater than 75 minutes), they may very well do more harm than good over an extended period of time. As such, it’s important to keep you resistance training sessions to 60 minutes or less. Several factors, however, are contraindications (in most cases) to performing post-training aerobic activity; most notable among these factors are excellent pre-existing insulin sensitivity and high volume strength-training programs.

* The High-Octane Refuel- Resistance training can be heavily reliant on muscle glycogen and carbohydrate for fuel (14), while intense interval training can be even more taxing on the body’s carbohydrate reserves (15). Therefore, during and after the training bouts are the most opportune times to capitalize on excellent insulin sensitivity and enhanced glucose uptake where you desire it most: skeletal muscles (16). Here’s where individual differences strongly come into play; this portion of the plan needs to be altered according to one’s training and physique goals, as carbohydrate recommendations are going to be vital to achieve optimal results. Most individuals either handle carbs well or poorly. Likewise, most individuals are primarily geared toward fat loss or muscle gain. With respect to the latter case, we have stated that the primary goal of this plan is to accomplish both. Nonetheless, choose from the following recommendations relative to your primary training goals and carbohydrate tolerance.

For those individuals with poor insulin sensitivity and a predisposition to easy fat storage, a single meal of protein and carbs should be consumed following training. While it is well established that liquid nutrition (e.g. Relentless, Vendetta) is an excellent choice as a post-training recovery meal, this meal can be either whole-food (i.e. solid) or liquid (i.e. Relentless). Due to the fact that carbohydrate is restricted to a single meal, one may opt for a food source over a liquid source. In the event that the whole-food route is chosen, one should consume BCAAs and glutamine (i.e. ICE) during training. This meal should contain approximately 50g of carbohydrate (about 0.6-0.7g/kg lean body mass) and adequate protein to meet daily needs.

Alternatively, if you are looking primarily to pack on slabs of ripped muscle and/or handle carbs very well, then we recommend you approach the mid/post-training window more aggressively. It goes without saying that nutrition during and immediately after training is optimal for building muscle. With this in mind, we recommend that you consume a serving of Vendetta or 1/2 serving of Relentess during and another one-half serving of Relentless immediately after training. You lean folk have already established outstanding insulin sensitivity and are in the quest of the optimal anabolic/anti-catabolic environment. Therefore, approximately one hour after the post-training liquid meal, we recommend an additional protein and carb meal. This meal is not for the timid or carbophobics; rather, the carbohydrate content of this meal should range from 1.0-2.5g/kg of lean body mass. This is a rather large range, but our recommendation is to push the envelope; if you are hesitant to utilize such a carb intake, begin with the lower end of the range and gradually add over a few weeks if fat gain is not apparent. The protein content of this meal should be 0.5-1.25g/kg of lean body mass.

The carb sources in all of the whole-food protein and carb meals (either one or two) should be comprised of low to moderate GI/II sources (i.e. oats, yams, whole-grain/mixed-grain bread, beans, fruits, etc). Also of benefit to lower the glycemic and insulinemic response to the carbohydrate would be to include extra fiber (i.e. veggies) and a high quality vinegar or lemon juice. Consume plenty of water with your high-carb meals?as well as throughout the day?because for every 1g of glycogen stored in the muscle, 2.7g of water are stored along with it. We advise you to drink at least 24 oz. of water/fluid with each meal. Adding lemon juice to your H20 is also a good idea, as doing so will not only offer flavor without calories, but also because it may act as glycemic modifier (i.e. lower glycemic response). Drinking decaf green tea may also help to slow down carbohydrate absorption (17), as well as provide other excellent benefits (see below). We offer further advice in the supplement section as to how you might be able to further increase muscle glucose uptake and improve the insulin response to the meal.

* You should consume protein and fat meals following the last protein and carb meal and continue them until the next training session. Make sure that at least two hours have elapsed after your last protein and carb meal before resuming protein and fat meals. However, there is no problem in ending the day with a protein and carb meal. These carbs will not interfere with fat loss (18) and will actually decrease recovery time. Contrary to popular belief, there seems to be NO inhibition of sleep-induced growth hormone release with acute hyperglycemia (19). Nevertheless, if you are still concerned over the issue of growth hormone release and insulin, then allowing about 90 minutes after eating the meal to go to sleep should be adequate to calm your nerves. To these individuals who train later and consume the protein and carb meals as their last (i.e. going without a meal for 90 minutes before sleeping), we strongly recommend a serving of Ultra Peptide upon awakening in the middle of the night. There’s no need to set an alarm, though. Just drink an extra liter of water before you hit the sack and you-ll wake up on your own.

With these recommendations in mind, a sample day’s diet might look something like this:

Breakfast: Eggs/Egg whites with Salad, olive/flaxseed oil, fish oil, vinegar, lemon juice

Mid Morning: Turkey, broccoli, nuts, vinegar, lemon juice

Lunch: Tuna, spinach, olive/flaxseed oil, vinegar, lemon juice

Mid-Afternoon: Steak, green beans, fish oil

Train: Appropriate pre/mid/post training drink (e.g. ICE, Vendetta, Relentless)


For those prioritizing growth and those with good carb tolerance:

Chicken, Yams, Salad, vinegar, lemon juice


For those prioritizing fat loss and those with poor carb tolerance:

Steak, salad, olive/flaxseed oil, vinegar, lemon juice

Before Bed: Cottage Cheese, Xtreme Ultra Peptide, Natural Peanut Butter

2AM trip to the can (optional): Xtreme Ultra Peptide

*Note: Protein intake should be set at 4.0-4.5g/kg of lean body mass

In Part 2, Tim and Eric will discuss how to integrate training into the dietary considerations outlined above.


1. Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, Gastaldelli A, Horowitz JF, Endert E, & Wolfe RR. Regulation of fat and carbohydrate metabolism in relation to exercise intensity and duration. Am J Physiol 1993 Sep;265(3 Pt 1):E380-91.

2. Rasmussen BB, Holmback UC, Volpi E, Morio-Liondore B, Paddon-Jones D, Wolfe RR. Malonyl coenzyme A and the regulation of functional carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 activity and fat oxidation in human skeletal muscle. J Clin Invest 2002 Dec;110(11):1687-93.

3. Sweetman, SC (ed). Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference. Pharmaceutical Press: London, 2002.

4. Dulloo AG, Geissler CA, Horton T, Collins A, & Miller DS. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):44-50.

5. Horowitz, JF, Mora-Rodriguez R, Byerley LO, Coyle EF. Lipolytic suppression following carbohydrate ingestion limits fat oxidation during exercise. Am J Physiol 1997 Oct;273(4 Pt 1):E768-75.

6. Montain SJ, Hppoer MK, Coggan AR, Coyle EF. Exercise metabolism at different time intervals after a meal. J Appl Physiol. 1991 Feb;70(2):882-8.

7. Nair KS, Halliday D, & Garrow JS. Thermic response to isoenergetic protein, carbohydrate or fat meals in lean and obese subjects. Clin Sci (Lond). 1983 Sep;65(3):307-12.

8. Day JL, et al. (1978). Factors governing insulin and glucagon responses during normal meals. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1978 Nov;9(5):443-54.

9. Schade DS, & Eaton RP. Modulation of fatty acid metabolism by glucagon in man. I. Effects in normal subjects. Diabetes. 1975 May;24(5):502-9.

10. Dorgan J, et al. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr 64(6): 850-855. 1996.

11. Howarth, NC, E Saltzman, SB Roberts. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Review.

12. Lowery, L. Temporal Nutrition, Part 1. Testosterone Magazine. 21 Mar 2003. http://www.t-mag.com/nation_articles/253temp.jsp.

13. Baechle, TR, & Earle, RW. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning: 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics, 2000.

14. Essen-Gustavsson B, & Tesch PA. Glycogen and triglyceride utilization in relation to muscle metabolic characteristics in men performing heavy-resistance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990;61(1-2):5-10.

15. Keizer HA, et al. Influence of liquid and solid meals on muscle glycogen resynthesis, plasma fuel hormone response, and maximal physical working capacity. Int J Sports Med. 1987 Apr;8(2):99-104.

16. Bourghouts LB, & Keizer HA. Exercise and insulin sensitivity: a review. Int J Sports Med. 2000 Jan;21(1):1-12. Review.

17. Zhang J, & Kashket S. Inhibition of salivary amylase by black and green teas and their effects on the intraoral hydrolysis of starch. Caries Res. 1998;32(3):233-8.

18. Lee YS. The effects of various intensities and durations of exercise with and without glucose in milk ingestion on postexercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1999 Dec;39(4):341-7.

19. Parker DC, & Rossman LG. Human growth hormone release in sleep: nonsuppression by acute hyperglycemia. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1971 Jan;32(1):65-9.

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