This post is just an update to my muscle-building / fat-burning progress:
- I'm no longer vegetarian (long story largely unrelated to nutrition).
- I'm heavier.
- I'm stronger.
- I'm older (now 31) :D
- I only work out twice per week now (it used to be three times, but I found no significant difference in progress by dropping to twice and possibly improved recovery of the big lifts - squat and deadlift).
Things that have not changed:
- I'm still an IFer (LeanGains style, although since the whole thing is about convenience, I eat between 5pm and 10pm i.e. when I'm home from work).
- I still get the vast majority of my calories and protein from food (i.e. I don't use shakes).
- I still only supplement with a little whey protein and creatine (along with the obligatory multivitamin).
- I still use a Starting Strength type approach - heavy, compound lifts.
- I still record each workout in a logbook so that I can increase the weight next time (assuming I've managed all reps with decent form).
- I still weigh myself once per week and adjust calories as needed to hit the rate of gain or loss I want.
- I'm still short at 5' 4" =)
This was me before any consistent training (weight probably around 9st):
This was after 7 months of building up my strength and cutting down lots of fat with a Starting Strength type routine (weight exactly 8st 1lb!):
This was after another 8 months of a bulk/cut cycle (weight exactly 8st 8lb):
I'll post a current pic when I've finished cutting - I'm too fat right now, but I'll show the change.
Things I've learned:
- I find it very hard to put on muscle, so I need to bulk slowly. (I'm both very short and small-framed - my wrists measure 6 inches at the widest point, my ankles 7.25 inches).
- At a steady gain of 1/2 per week, I get too fat after about 6 months.
- I would rather gain more slowly to minimise fat gain. My next bulk cycle, I will go even more slowly - aiming for 1/2b per fortnight.
- Patience and consistency is the name of the game!
- Steroid use is extremely common and very few people talk about it. I respect people who are honest, whether they take them or not. I've chosen not to, but for beginners it's very hard to get an idea of what is achieveable without them.
An example of someone whose achievement I respect:
Pham went from 110lb to 160lb in 9 years. This is an average rate of 5.5lb a year! As a small "hardgainer" I can relate to this as a realistic natural rate of growth (I'm assuming Pham is natural, but I'm never certain in this game).
UPDATE - I'm not convinced he's natural after further research. Most of the images on SimplyShredded are "enhanced"...
I also agree with his thoughts on aerobic exercise (i.e. unnecessary to get ripped) and main exercises (weighted chins, bench, squat). I don't think his "eating every 3 hours" is necessary and I found the whole thing a pain when I once tried to do it. Since doing LeanGains, I've found my life freed from the pain of preparing meals and worrying about "OMG my muscles are going to waste away if I don't eat in the next 18 mins". That being said, I'm hardly the next Arnie, so who knows, maybe if I ate every 2 hours, I'd be huge! ;)
Hope some of this is useful for a real-world example of a "hard-gainer". One thing that frustrated me when just starting was knowing how long it would take / how fast I could build muscle. I've tried to provide as many numbers in this post for that reason.
I'll post an update in a few months when I'm ripped again! (I'm much fatter than that last picture right now because I've been bulking for a long time through the dark winter).
Image from this post taken from here.