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Size Wise
By Inbox Fitness
8/14/2013 8:43:00 AM  
Size Wise

The four most common nutrition mistakes hardgainers make — and how to fix them.

The average person tends to scoff at the idea of someone struggling to gain size. How easy is that, after all, when people unwittingly pack on pounds without even trying? In a country where the obesity rate exceeds a staggering 35 percent of the population, then, the athlete who needs to gain body mass won't get much sympathy for his plight.

However, we at Inbox Fitness know exactly what you're going through. To some, a supercharged metabolism would be a dream come true. But for those who'd like to pack on serious muscle, your body burning calories at a faster rate than you can take in is a frustrating battle.

For those trying to gain size and failing, there's hope. What you need to do is take stock of your approach, and see if you're making one of these four common errors. Could be, a simple tweak or two might be all you need to pack on the type of mass that — let's face it — most people could stand to have a little more of in this country: Healthy, metabolism boosting muscle mass.

  1. Underestimating your total calorie intake.

    Studies have shown that people have a hard time estimating how much they eat, usually undershooting the reality by a significant margin. As a hardgainer, the tendency goes the opposite route, as you think you're eating plenty of food. If you're not adding size, however, the simple truth is this: your "calories in" are not keeping pace with your "calories out."

    The only way to solve this dilemma is to track everything you eat, either via the old fashioned pen and notebook method or an app like Calorie Count or Daily Burn, available for Android, iPhone and iPad. To start, keep 3-5 days worth of data, eating exactly as you have been. Calculate the calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat (you can use a calorie book or a source like the USDA nutrient database at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov). With that, you'll have a specific overview of what's not working, and what you need to improve.

    Going forward, increase your calorie intake in steps, 300 to 500 per day (no more), continually measuring your weight and bodypart measurements. You'll know you've hit the right target when you start seeing positive changes — and you'll know you've gone too far if you're getting bigger, but in all the wrong places. (By the way, a good starting point calculation for mass gain is to take your bodyweight and multiply it by 11, which will give you a rough estimate of how many calories you burn per day; start by adding 500 to that total for your daily calorie goal.)

  2. Thinking that "any mass is good mass."

    "Want to get huge? Just eat Big Macs every day, with a side of ice cream!" Some so-called experts will actually tell hard gainers this, and with a straight face to boot.

    And while there is something to increasing your caloric level and "shocking your body," settling for junk will compromise your lean muscle gains (and health) in the long run.

    Moderation is key — on a mass gain diet, you can have foods that would otherwise be off limits to someone struggling to stay lean. But the bulk of your calories should come from lean meats, eggs, protein powder, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

  3. Relying too much on carbohydrates and fat, and too little on protein.

    If you're studiously trying to increase calories, without an eye toward the macronutrients content of your food choices, you'll more than likely end up skimping on protein. It's just a lot easier to get your hands on carb-rich (and in some cases, fat-rich) foods.

    Good protein, to be blunt, just isn't as portable or easy to cook as, say, cereal and pasta, to name but two examples. That's where your nutrition journal (yes, we're saying it again, it’s that important) comes into play. You want to strive for 30 percent to 40 percent of your daily total calories from protein.

    Why? Well, protein is the main building block of muscle, and is necessary for tissue repair after workouts. If you're lagging on protein, your results will suffer.

  4. Not eating enough meals throughout the day.

    Ask a typical hardgainer what he ate today, and he may list a panoply of foods. They may even be good ones, like chicken breast, oatmeal, a veggie omelet, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. Not bad.

    Now, ask how many meals he ate. "Well, I missed breakfast, but made up for it with a big lunch and an even bigger dinner." In other words, the perfect recipe for burning muscle tissue for energy while plumping up your fat stores.

    Meal timing is an often-overlooked element of packing on muscle. You simply have to ensure your body has the fuel it needs at all times, day and night. You can’t "make up" for long stretches of not eating with one massive meal. Your digestive system has limitations on what it can process at any one time, meaning excess is cast aside or stored as fat.

    You want to instead eat 5-7 medium sized meals per day, spaced about two and a half to three hours apart. That ensures a constant flow of nutrients to your growing body.

    And, as your mother told you, breakfast truly is the most important meal, because it actually "breaks the fast" you've been on since you went to sleep. Never, ever, skip breakfast.

There you have it. Four nutritional strategies to put you on track to building dense, powerful muscle, even if your progress has been derailed by a fast metabolism. Now get growing!

Currently rated 4.8 by 6 people

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Beginner's Guide to Fitness Nutrition
By Inbox Fitness
7/16/2013 3:06:00 PM  
Beginner's Guide to Fitness Nutrition

Get started on solid footing with these quick tips and meal plan.

You've made the choice to take control of your diet to build muscle and get healthy. So now what?

So much conflicting advice exists when it comes to sports and fitness nutrition. A magazine or website will tell you that you need to reduce your protein intake in favor of carbohydrates, then another article comes along telling you the exact opposite.

In my experience, there are some simple guidelines that can lead you through the confusion. Three to start with:

  1. Steer clear of any diet that tells you to focus on one food group and discard another completely.

    Instead, create a well balanced diet by choosing a variety of foods from all of the food groups. The key isn't avoiding certain foods, it's the proportions you have of each group. Fat intake should be kept low, while the bulk of your calories come from healthy proteins (chicken, turkey, lean steak, fish, and eggs) and carbohydrates, including whole grains and vegetables.

    For a general guideline, think about aiming for 40 percent to 50 percent protein, 30 percent to 40 percent carbs, and 10 to 20 percent or less fat on a daily basis.

  2. Don't beat yourself up over food setbacks.

    The thing is, eating "clean" isn't easy. After a while, it does get less challenging (and you even begin to crave healthy foods, trust me) but that doesn't mean you aren't tempted. Have a few slices of pizza? Cake? A bowl of ice cream? The key is, don't obsess over it. Move on. It's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, because over time, if you get back on track, it'll all even out. A slip-up here or there is definitely not enough to sabotage you in the quest for your physique goals.

  3. If you're trying to lose weight, you should monitor your sodium intake, trying to stay under 2,300 mg per day.

    It's not easy in a world where the average serving of Chinese food has that much sodium in one dish, and pretty much everything packaged contains excess sodium. It admittedly may be difficult at first for you — salt adds flavor, and people tend to crave it — but wean yourself off slowly if necessary, over the course of a few weeks.

    For those who'd like a little extra kick start, the following sample diet is built for a 175-pound to-200-pound male new to training who is seeking to add lean muscle mass. You can use it directly for a few weeks to a month, or at least as a guide to create your own diet that includes your favorite (healthy) foods.

    Meal 1: Breakfast

    • 6 egg whites, cooked
    • 1 cup instant oatmeal
    • ½ cup red raspberries
    • 2 medium (7-inch) bananas
    • ½ cup white potato/home fries

    Meal 2: Snack

    • 1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread
    • ½ cup raw carrots
    • 1 protein shake (mixed with water, 35 grams protein)

    Meal 3: Lunch

    • 1 cup instant white rice, cooked
    • 1 medium (2 ¾ diameter) apple
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 3 ounces canned tuna in water

    Meal 4: Snack

    • ? cup almonds

    Meal 5: Dinner

    • ½ cup cooked broccoli
    • ½ lean sirloin steak, broiled or baked
    • 1 cup instant white rice

    Meal 6: Snack

    • 1 medium (7-inch) banana
    • 1 protein shake (mixed with water, 35 grams protein)
    • 4 grams flax seeds

Daily Totals: 2,673 calories, 192 g protein, 69 g fat, 321 g carbs

Currently rated 4.4 by 16 people

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Citrus Chicken Bowl
By Jenna
12/20/2012 9:46:00 PM  

Delicious, affordable, high-protein, low-fat and simple to prepare -- with all this going for it, it's easy to understand why fitness-minded people make chicken their go-to meal of choice. Problem is, you can get in a rut with the same ol' one or two recipes that can make mealtime a snooze. Fortunately, jazzing up chicken -- without junking it up with empty calories -- is easier than you think. Try this fast, simple and zesty recipe that takes about 5 minutes of prep time, and 15 minutes to cook -- complete with side dish!

Nutrient Information

Makes 4 servings
Calories 370
Protein 35 g
Carb 35 g
Fat 10 g


  • 1 pound of chicken boneless breast
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • The juice from one lemon (or the juice from 1/2 orange)
  • The zest from one lemon (or the zest from 1/2 orange)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pepper
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • Your choice of two items from the following list:
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 small bag of frozen peas & carrots
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous
  • Non-stick cooking spray


  1. Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and heat to medium-high.
  2. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes and toss in a bowl with flour, salt and pepper until all pieces are lightly coated.
  3. Add chicken to hot skillet and stir to brown all sides (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add soy sauce and zest of lemon or orange.
  5. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, then add the lemon (or orange) juice, 1 cup stock and cook for 1 minute once the mixture has reached a boil.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, bring the remaining stock to a boil in a separate pot. Add olive oil, stir in peas & carrots and couscous, cover pot and remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  7. Using a fork, fluff up the couscous, tossing in your choice of fresh herbs from the list.
  8. Place a bed of the couscous in a bowl, spooning chicken over the top.

Currently rated 4.7 by 9 people

Tags: Recipe, Chicken, Citrus
Categories: Nutrition, Healthy Living, Recipes
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Country Blueberry Smoothie
By Inbox Fitness
12/20/2012 9:20:00 PM  
Country Blueberry Smoothie

This high-protein treat will remind you of Grandma’s blueberry cobbler!

You can make a smoothie out of almost anything that fits in a blender, but making it truly nutritious takes a bit more than "Load 'er up," and "Liquify." To take the guesswork out of the process, here is a delicious recipe that’s jam-packed with nutrient value -- and as a bonus, the cinnamon will help you stay lean by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels!

Nutrient Information

Makes 4 servings
Calories 353
Protein 36 g
Carb 50 g
Fat 1 g
Fiber 4 g


  • ½ cup of cold water
  • ½ cup apple juice (choose the no-sugar-added variety)
  • ½ cup ice
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup non-fat vanilla greek yogurt
  • 10 grams of unflavored whey protein isolate (You can also use vanilla flavored protein, just replace the vanilla yogurt with unflavored)
  • ¼ teaspoon (a few good dashes) of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)


  1. Place the first four ingredients in the blender and blend for 30 seconds on a medium setting. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for 30 seconds more. Enjoy!

Currently rated 4.7 by 3 people

Tags: Smoothie, Recipe, Shake, Drink, Healthy Drink
Categories: Nutrition, Healthy Living, Recipes
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