Tate's here to school you on the finer points of bulking and cutting. Get the details on getting jacked and shredded.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dave Tate has been monster huge and freakishly lean. (Now he's both.) Since he knows both sides of the struggle it makes sense that he's the most vocal and opinionated expert on all things food related. (Earlier this year, he told me to pour olive oil all over a large pizza and eat one every night, and that if I couldn't stomach it I was a "fucking wuss.")
I got on the phone with him recently—while he was eating no less—to pick his brain about the old bodybuilding tradition of bulking and cutting.
Tate Talks Bulking
It comes down to calories in versus calories out. If you're having a hard time gaining weight you need a number to shoot for. So let's figure that out quickly. I like John Romaniello's calorie formula for figuring out maintenance levels. It's easy. And I'm all about easy.
(Editor's Note: Here's Roman's formula for those who missed it last week.)
Current Body Fat Caloric Intake
6%-12% 17 calories per pound of LBM (Lean Body Mass)
12%-15% 16 calories per pound of LBM
15.1%-19% 15 calories per pound of LBM
19.1%-22% 14 calories per pound of LBM
22.1% or above 13 calories per pound of LBM
So you find out your body fat percentage and then multiple your weight by that percent. Subtract that number from your weight to find out your lean mass, and then use that number and your body fat percentage to determine your calories.
Using that formula, let's say you figured out you need 2,200 calories just to maintain your bodyweight. Well, let's bump that number up by, I don't know, 600 to 1,000 calories. That's the average you need to hit every single day.
A big mistake a lot of guys make is they'll eat big for three days and then go back to eating like they normally do for a few days. If you figure out the average calories for that week then it's not higher than it was the week before—it's just staggered into different days. That's not going to make a difference at all. So you gotta eat big consistently.
- Even with my past history of eating junk, people are forgetting that I gained weight for many years, all the way from 181 to 255 pounds, by eating relatively clean. But at that point, when the calories were getting around 8,000, I just couldn't eat that much food any more.
- You need more calories per bite. You have to figure out ways to add more calories to the food you're already eating. So throw olive oil on everything. Put it on your scrambled eggs. You won't even know it's there. Put a handful of nuts into your morning oatmeal.
- What I used to do is get a big Ziploc bag and fill it with almonds, cashews, raisins, peanuts, and M&M's. But only enough M&M's to get a few with each handful. And I made sure at least one of the nuts was salted, so it'd make me want to eat more. Let's say you grab a big handful of nuts every hour or so—you're going to end up eating at least an extra 500 calories. The only thing you gotta be careful with is not to get too full from them. Since it's all high-quality fat, you'll get full quickly. Pay attention to when your next meal is and make sure you get it in.
- Have a scoop of Metabolic Drive® in water after every single meal. You can always fit more in, especially protein and water. You do that four or five times per day and you've just added an extra 100 grams of protein and 400 to 500 calories.
- Not everyone will agree with me on this, but immediately after you train, kick back a ton of sugar like Skittles or whatever. Just eat a whole goddamn box. You'll be restoring your glycogen levels, you won't gain a lot of fat, and you'll be hungry five minutes later. And you just added in like 150 grams of carbs. That'll add up quickly. But you have to do it immediately after. Like, in the locker room before you even hit your car. Then when you're driving home have your Mag-10®. Then get home and eat a meal.
- Be sure to brush your teeth or at least drink a lot of water and swish it around after you eat all that candy, though. It's not eating the sugar that's the problem—it's how long it sits in your mouth. And I have the cavities to prove it.
- No, you don't need to eat Wendy's to get big. It won't kill you, so you can if you want, but it's not necessary. Guys are always trying to look for an excuse to eat the shit. The problem is your goal is to gain weight and add in more calories. When you eat things like that—and I made a career out of it – it kills your appetite. Let's say you order two double cheeseburgers and some fries. You probably won't eat for another five hours after you finish that meal. You have to focus on total overall calories, not just shit food.
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter is a good start. Do that twice per day. It still won't affect your hunger.
- Eat a meal during your training session. I don't care if it's a Finibar™ Competition Bar or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Well, the FINibar would be better, actually. Anyway, after your main lift, just down a whole bar. It's not a huge meal and I guarantee you'll still be hungry after your training session. Plus you just added in an extra couple hundred calories.
- Decrease your cardio. Maybe get rid of it entirely. Be lazy. If you can lie down, lie down. If somebody else can do it, have them do it.
- Any hypertrophy program will help you get bigger. So just pick one. You need four to five days of weight training, but they can't last longer than an hour total. Let me repeat that. Your workouts can never last over an hour. But whichever program you pick, take the rest periods and double them. That'll make sure you're stronger for all of your sets.
Tate Talks Cutting
- The number one thing you have to do immediately is increase your water intake. For one thing it's just fucking important. I can't believe how many guys don't get enough water. But the other reason is that it'll help control appetite.
- Now you're working under your baseline of calories. So take the calorie formula listed previously and take away a few hundred calories. That's your new goal, and you have to hit it consistently.
- When you work under your baseline of calories, macronutrients become more important. When you're bulking and eating more than you need, you have room to screw up because you're eating so much you're probably going to get all of your protein and fat in. When you're below your maintenance level of calories you don't have that margin of error. You have to be exact.
- I'm sick of dancing around this subject: If you don't know what you're doing, hire someone. If you're serious, figure out a way to pay them. Look across the board at how many people fail trying to get lean. It's nearly everyone. Yeah, getting lean isn't rocket science. I understand that. Exercise more and eat less. But if that shit worked wouldn't everyone be lean?
- You have to increase your protein. Most people don't take in enough. How many grams per pound of bodyweight? I don't know and I don't care. Just eat more protein.
- Figure out your strategy, whether it's low carb or carb cycling or whatever, and stick to it. Don't change it every week.
- Remember with bulking how we wanted more calories per bite? Well, now we want more bites per calories. So eat a bowl of broccoli with every meal. Increase your greens. It'll fill you up because there's more there. Eat more fish and more chicken. Take your time with your meals.
- Take weekly progress pictures, record your measurements, check your body fat and buy a damn scale and weigh yourself every day. I have my body fat checked every two weeks by the same person. Don't use the bullshit three-site caliper formula. Use the seven or nine-site one. That'll give you an idea of where you're going since we all lose fat in different places at different times.
- When you're getting lean it's a little awkward because there are blind spots where you're losing weight but you look worse. It's like the chicken growing inside the egg. It looks the same on the outside but there's a lot of shit going on inside.
- If you can stomach it, eat the same thing every day.
- Whatever you normally have for carbs, cut that in half and replace half the calories with high quality fat. So let's say you're taking in 400 grams of carbs per day. That's 1600 calories. So now you need 800 calories from fat. That's about 88 grams of fat you need to take in. Get it from nuts, avocadoes, and oils.
- Add fiber to your diet. Trust me. You want to be able to shit properly.
- With training I want you to use higher volume and really increase your reps. Not because higher reps "chisel" muscle or any bullshit like that. More activity equals more calories burned. So the more reps you do, the more calories you burn.
For the most part, guys enjoy weightlifting more than cardio. So let's do 15-20 sets per larger body part and 10-15 for smaller muscle groups. I want everything in the 8-12 rep range. The goal is to not lose muscle. Let's face it: you're not going to gain any muscle while you're cutting. If you claim you can then you're either selling an e-book or you're full of shit.
Tate Talks Trash
You ever go out with a bunch of people for dinner when you're dieting? Isn't that a fucked up situation?
Let's say you're at a table with seven people and everyone's ordering their food. You're at the end so you're ordering last. They're getting ribs, chicken strips, spaghetti, and whatever. No one in the group cares what they're ordering. The conversation stays the same. Then it comes to you and your first question is, "How do you prepare your chicken breasts?"
People start looking at you.
Then you order two plain chicken breasts with a side of broccoli with no butter or seasoning. The waiter writes it down and off he goes to the kitchen. Now everyone's looking at you like you're a freak.
They didn't care that your other friend was eating ribs. They didn't say shit when the guy ordered his chicken strips. So how is your meal selection any different? It blows my mind.
If you ordered something that was complete shit, no one would say anything. But because you ordered something to help you achieve a goal, it's a problem. And now for the next ten minutes you're having that stupid fucking conversation.
"It's so easy for you to lose weight," they say. "I can't do it."
And you're thinking, really? Here I am at Outback Steakhouse ordering two plain chicken breasts and broccoli – which is gonna cost me 40 bucks by the way – and it's easy? This is something I want to do? You think I want to sit here and watch you fuckers eat wings and ribs? I'm here for your company, not to give you dieting tips you're not gonna listen to.
And the same shit happens when you're bulking, too.
Let's say you're at the same restaurant. They order their food. Then it comes to you and you get three racks of ribs and two sweet potatoes. They say, "Holy shit, do you eat like that all the time? I wish I had that kind of metabolism!"
And you want to say, do you seriously think I want to sit here and eat 36 fucking ribs? Do you think this is going to be pleasant for me?
Three-quarters of the way through the meal you're sweating with napkins piled by your plate, the bones are stacked and are the size of the Eiffel tower. There's a heartbeat in your stomach. Then you finish eating and they say, "Well, I guess you're going to order dessert now."
All you're thinking about is how the hell you're going to get back to the car. Then you get to go home an hour later and make a fucking shake before bed. Then wake up the next day and do it all over again for however long it takes.
That's why there's so few people who are doing this shit and why it helps to be around people with similar goals. They understand. It's a rare breed, man.
Yeah, you can stay in the middle, take some supplements here and there, take time off for whatever reason, change your program every other week and stay absolutely the same as you are now.
But that's bullshit.