That’s probably the most asked question in bodybuilding history.
I came across of Evan Centopani article and decided to share it with you, as it’s very simple and very true. And it suits to beginners and to advanced guys.
Here it is.
You Cheating Son of a Bitch: My All Time Top 8 High Calorie Meals By Evan Centopani
One of the smartest guys I know once told me that if I went through life always playing by the rules that I could expect to get nowhere. He claimed that most of the time, the only way to get shit done is to get your hands dirty, to break the rules when necessary and to do whatever you have to do to make it. Nice guys finish last and so do the suckers who follow the rules. The older I get, the more I realize my father was right. We all grow up believing that if we just do what we’re supposed to do and follow the rules, everything will be alright. Then we come to realize that isn’t always the case.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize in bodybuilding it’s that there pretty much are no rules and the ones that do exist are subject to interpretation. And when I say interpretation I mean deciding whether or not those rules are worth following. That, of course, is based solely on what works and what doesn’t. I remember growing up with some commonly accepted rules. Don’t eat carbs after 5 p.m. Cardio must be done first thing in the morning in a fasted state. You only put on muscle if you’re over 10% bodyfat. It’s okay to eat protein with carbs and protein with fats but never all three together. White rice and white potato will make you fat but sweet potato and brown rice will help you get lean. I could go on all day listing all the ridiculous yet universally accepted guidelines. But you guys get the point; for each and every “rule” out there, there is someone who is a living contradiction to its validity.
Anyways, I’m here to talk about cheating on your diet. When I first began competing, it was my strictest belief that you do not fucking cheat on your diet. Cheating on my diet was in the same room as missing workouts; it didn’t happen. Then, under the direction of my trainer at the time, I began having a planned “cheat meal” once a week. Further down the road I implemented cheats or “re-feeds” more often as suggested by a friend and mentor of mine at that time. Paying close attention to how my body would change in response to these strategic deviations, I began to realize how important cheating was. In fact, I would go so far as to say that cheating on the diet is equally as important as following the diet. What kind of sense does that make? It makes perfect sense when you consider that the purpose of nutrition is to supply your body with what it needs to accomplish a specific goal. When dieting for a show, the goal is fat loss, muscle retention and possibly even muscle growth. In the offseason, mass is the goal. Simply put, you need what you need when you need it. That can be anything depending on the circumstances. Looking back on my earlier years as a bodybuilder, there were some food combinations/meals that I believe helped me pack on the pounds. Just the same, there are some meals that I currently use most often when I’m prepping for a show to bring my body back to life once I’ve pushed it too hard but also in my offseason when I need to get some extra calories.
First up: the early days. When I first began trying to gain mass I tried a lot of different things. I started off eating chicken breasts and sweet potatoes and found my gains to be marginal at best. I avoided dietary fat and pretty much always opted for low fat options even if it meant higher sugar. Once I got away from that and began to add more dietary fat, my size and strength increased dramatically. And while I always made it a point to make quality food the foundation of my diet, I always added some meals here and there that were calorie dense. Some of them include the standard bodybuilding fare and some include foods that many bodybuilders might stay away from due to the fat or refined carbohydrate content.
1. Fig Newtons and cottage cheese. I liked this combo because it tasted good, I could get in a lot of calories and it was easy to eat on the run. If ever I found myself without food, I could run into any grocery store, grab both items along with a spoon and get it done. 10 Fig Newtons gives you 550 calories and just over 100g of carbs. The standard 2 cup container of 1% fat cottage cheese gives you around 350 calories over 50g of protein. But if you want the full calorie dose, there’s always full fat cottage cheese… Tasting great doesn’t hurt either.
2. Pasta and Meatballs. I’m only half Italian but we always had pasta at least once a week when I was growing up. I found a big ass bowl of pasta for dinner usually equated to good workouts the next day. If my mother didn’t make meatballs to go with the sauce I would throw in a few pork chops or a piece of steak to cook in the sauce. That way, I got a nice big carb load, a good portion of protein and still got to eat with my family. I still find a big bowl of pasta a good option for filling up on glycogen.
3. Weight Gainer Shakes. I was never a huge fan of super gainers when I was younger because they just seemed like a lot of carbs and not much else. So I always opted to make my own. I would take the standard meal replacement shake with 25g of carbs (from maltodextrin) and around 40g of protein and I’d work off that. I’d add a cup of instant oatmeal, a banana, 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter and an extra scoop of whey. I never figured it out exactly but I probably ended up with around 100g of carbs, 65g or protein and 20g of fat and just over 800 calories. You can always throw in whatever you want to meet your needs. If you’re a hardgainer, the high calorie super gainers aren’t a bad option.
4. Tuna sandwiches. When I was younger I never had a problem woofing down a couple tuna salad sandwiches. I’d dump a couple cans of tuna in a bowl and mix it with some mayonnaise and make two sandwiches using whole grain bread. About 80g of protein from the tuna, another 80g of carbs from the bread and about 20g of fat from the mayo. I never had any problem with mayo considering the fat comes from eggs and soybean oil; I never understood why mayo got such a bad rap. Besides it helped me put that shit down so I never cared. Coming in at around 800 calories, that wasn’t bad. Wash it down with a glass of chocolate milk and it’s on.
5. Waffles and cottage cheese. I had a waffle iron my parents got me for Christmas one year and I used the shit out of that thing. I’d take the standard pancake mix, just mix with water or milk and throw a few eggs in the mix. I’d take berries or slice up bananas and throw em in there too. A couple giant waffles topped with a container of cottage cheese gives you a pretty potent calorie punch and enough protein, carbs and fats to load you up.
Over the years, I’ve paid close attention to my body and taken note of the foods that digest well for me and illicit a positive response in my physique. One change that I’ve made is to limit intake of dairy. I’ve gotten away from dairy only because it doesn’t digest as well for me as it did when I was younger. That sucks because dairy is a tremendous source of quality protein, its cost effective, tastes great and is highly available. Above all, I do believe that when trying to grow, dairy will do the job like no other. If digestibility was not an issue for me, I would still consume it regularly. Anyways, the following are a few meals that I consider my go-to meals both in the offseason when I need extra calories to grow and when prepping for a show when I need to refill my body should it flatten out or when I feel I need to give my metabolism a kick in the ass.
6. The breakfast spread. To this day, this is probably one of my favorite, most effective and most utilized meals. When gaining, it packs a hell of a punch and when dieting, it will fill me back up if I’m flattened out and then some. A big fat porterhouse steak yielding anywhere from 12-16 oz of trimmed meat, 4 eggs, a baked potato, a few slices of toast and maybe some pancakes with syrup if I’m going big. Washed down with a tall glass of O.J., this meal can make a wall pop. If you’re still flat after this meal, you’ve gone way too far!
7. Calories on demand. Back in the day it was two Wendy’s triple classics. I’ve since upgraded to 3 Five Guy’s burgers, some fries and a Coke. Wendy’s packed the calories but always made me feel like shit. Five Guys on the other hand can’t be beat when it comes to taste and the food NEVER fucks with my stomach. Top quality. Why not make yourself a burger at home you ask? Why not use lean ground meat and wheat bread so that you can “clean up” your cheat? Because it’s a fucking cheat! Besides, my burgers taste like shit compared to A Five Guys burger. The food is meant to be loaded with calories and heavy on the fat, sodium and simple carbs. When you’re dieting hard and you go too far, you need to eat something that packs a serious punch. A few burgers from Five Guys plus a Coke will give you close to 2500 calories. That’s how I roll.
8. The carb load. When dieting for a show I sometimes find myself in need of a carb load. I may not be so depleted that I need to go out and stuff my face with calories so instead, I load up on the carbs. I do this in the offseason here and there but it’s more of a pre-contest thing. It will usually consist of me having my typical first meal which for example might be a pound of ground turkey breast and 2 cups of white rice. After that meal, if I determine I need to load up I’ll have something like the following: 1/2 cup (dry measurement) cream of rice prepared with 2 tbsp raw honey and 1 tbsp coconut oil and then I may have 5 or 6 granola bars and a few cups of breakfast cereal. Then I’ll go train and see what kind of effect the meal has. Aside from filling you back up if I find myself depleted, I find that doing this stimulates my metabolism dramatically and also enables me to see how my body responds to the increased carbohydrate intake. Reaching condition a few weeks out from a show allows me to run carb-ups and take note of how my body reacts so that I have a much better idea of how my body will respond to a carb-up just prior to the show. Even more, I really believe that doing this improves how well my body responds to carbs in terms of digestion/assimilation. One thing I can say with certainty is that the times when I did extremely low carb diets, carbing up before a show was very unsuccessful. Severely limiting carb intake for a prolonged period of time creates an unfavorable response to increased carb intake. In short, your body responds best to carbs when you include them regularly during dieting and subject yourself to large amounts (amounts which you plan to carb-up on) at times during your diet. You can’t eat 100g of carbs a day for 16 weeks and then hope to load on 600g a day before a show. It doesn’t work. At least from my own experience, the more accustomed I am to handling heavier doses of carbs, the better a time I have carb loading for a show.
From the time I began weight training and bodybuilding until now, I’ve tried a lot of different things when it comes to diet. I started out the way I think most aspiring bodybuilders do; they read in the magazines about the diets that the top pro bodybuilders use and they base the framework of their own nutrition off of that. That’s great and all but I remember reading those diets and I swear every meal was either chicken breast and sweet potatoes or steak and rice. But I can guarantee you that the guys in the magazines, me included, did not make it there by eating chicken breasts and rice 6 fucking times a day! And even then, you don’t often hear about the strategic cheating that goes in when guys get ready for a show. And while I can’t say what everyone else does, I can tell you that I find it extremely effective to deviate from my diet when necessary. Remember one thing; the only rule is to look your best. How you go about it is up to you