If you've read my articles, then you know that the goal of each and every integrated training, nutrition, and supplement program I design is to find the intersection of the habits that lead to optimal body composition, optimal health, and optimal physical performance. I call this the "Sweet Spot."

Once I've found it, my next step is to make it practical for everyday use by giving you strategies for making it happen in the framework of 9 to 5 jobs, significant others, weekends at the cottage, tournaments on the road (for yourself or your kids), and any other scenario that presents a challenge to your health and nutritional habits.

To this end, for all of you guys and girls transfixed by big muscles, today I'm gonna get as practical as we can. No fancy science here. Just one real-world eating plan straight out of the nutritional journal of one of my most successful clients. This guy, in 20 weeks, packed on 20 pounds of lean body mass, with more to come.

Ok, 20 pounds in 20 weeks is a big friggin' deal. I imagine you're trying to guess what sort of "prescription" ol' Dr. John put this client on. You may even be wondering where you can buy some. Shame on you, my cynical friend. This client simply followed the training and supplement ideas laid out in my muscle-building guide Scrawny to Brawny and the recipes provided in Gourmet Nutrition.

That's right, he did this without drugs. He simply came to me at 5' 10" and 155 pounds (at 10% body fat), fairly un-trained (or under-trained), committed to training hard using the Scrawny to Brawny principles, and committed to eating big.

So, if you're looking for a real-world example of how he accomplished his goal of gaining 20 pounds of lean mass, I'd like to outline his starting nutrition plan: exactly what he ate for the first 4 weeks. Of course, within four weeks he outgrew this plan, and needed a new one with more total energy. But this is the one he followed from the start, without more than 10% deviation (the other 10% came from a combination of other meals in the Gourmet Nutrition book, and pizza, his favorite cheat food).

I know, it's hard to believe that someone would eat the same menu 90% of the time for 4 weeks, but this guy did it. You can follow his example, if you like, or add some variety in there. His example of steely resolve isn't the only way to build muscle, however it is the most fool-proof. Eating the same menu nearly every day tends to help you develop patterned behavior, and if those patterns are good, good results follow.

This menu contains about 3500 kcal of muscle building nutrition (with about 360g protein, 180g carbohydrates, and 150g fat). In addition to the 27g of fiber the meal plan offers, he was getting a fairly even breakdown of the 3 types of fats, and a ton of micronutrients. All in all, a healthy plan that's good for muscle building too!

Also, keep in mind, that this is the plan for workout days. During this training phase, the client trained with weights 4 times per week, after work. The menu below represents the meal schedule for these workout days.

  • Breakfast: The Bulker's Omelette
  • Snack: Mixed Nut Bar
  • Lunch: Chicken with Squash in a Cream Sauce
  • Snack: Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake
  • Post-Workout Drink: Biotest Plazma™
  • Dinner: Dr. John's Chili
Bulker's Omelet

Tired of the standard 500 calorie egg white omelet with fat free cheese? If so, it's time to bulk up your omelet.


  • 6 egg whites (1 cup), plus 3 whole omega-3 eggs, beaten
  • 6 oz lean turkey sausage
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Colby cheese
  • 2 teaspoon butter, coconut oil, or Smart Balance spread


In a large skillet, sauté turkey sausage and onions in 1 teaspoon butter/spread for about 5 minutes, until brown. Add tomato and coriander, and stir for about 3 minutes, until tomatoes become soft but not entirely dissolved. Remove mixture from skillet, add the remaining butter/spread, and pour in the egg mixture. Flip the omelet, add the sautéed mixture and shredded cheese, fold the omelet and serve.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty Level: Medium
  • Servings: 1

Nutritional Information, Per Serving

  • Calories (k/cal) 953
  • Protein (g) 107
  • Carbohydrates (g) 13
  • Fiber (g) 2
  • Sugars (g) 7
  • Fat (g) 50
  • SFA (g) 22
  • MUFA (g) 16
  • PUFA (g) 11
  • omega-3 (g) 1.3
  • omega-6 (g) 8.7
Mixed Nut Bar

This recipe combines the good fats and nutrients in various nuts, together with whey protein for an easy-to-make bar that's low in carbs, high in protein, and full of healthy fats.


  • 3/4 cup pecan meal
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 whole omega-3 eggs plus 2 whites, beaten
  • 6 scoops vanilla Metabolic Drive®
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Splenda, to taste (optional)


To make the pecan and almond meal, process the nuts in a blender. Mix everything together in a large bowl, and continue stirring until all of the ingredients have mixed together thoroughly. Spread the dough into an 8X8-inch baking dish coated with olive oil cooking spray, and bake for 15 minutes at 350-degrees F.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Servings: 6

Nutritional Information, Per Serving

  • Calories (k/cal) 379
  • Protein (g) 32
  • Carbohydrates (g) 9
  • Fiber (g) 4
  • Sugars (g) 2
  • Fat (g) 26
  • SFA (g) 3
  • MUFA (g) 14
  • PUFA (g) 8
  • Omega-3 (g) 0.4
  • Omega-6 (g) 7.4

This recipe has a down-home goodness that will quell any cravings for Mom's or Grandma's home cooking. It also provides a delicious way to enjoy a major helping of protein and vegetables.


  • 1 pound roasted chicken breast, chopped or torn into chunks
  • 3 medium yellow squash, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup whole plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, coconut oil, or Smart Balance spread
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


In a large skillet, heat the butter or spread over medium-high heat and add onions, squash, and mushrooms, stir-frying for 5 minutes. Add pre-roasted chicken breasts chopped into small pieces or torn into chunks (similar to what you find in homemade chicken pot pie), and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then stir-in yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the spices and cheese, and stir until achieving a thick consistency. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese over top before serving (ca. 1/8 cup total).

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Servings: 2

Nutritional Information, Per Serving

  • Calories (k/cal) 693
  • Protein (g) 89
  • Carbohydrates (g) 24
  • Fiber (g) 7
  • Sugars (g) 14
  • Fat (g) 27
  • SFA (g) 13
  • MUFA (g) 8
  • PUFA (g) 4
  • omega-3 (g) 0.56
  • omega-6 (g) 2.7
Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

This shake is a great one to satiate a sweet tooth, without getting a big dose of fats and sugars together. Instead, a healthy dose of protein and monounsaturated fats is provided in a nice frosty package.


  • 2 scoops chocolate Metabolic Drive® Protein
  • 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cup ice
  • Splenda, to taste


Add all of the ingredients to a blender and process on medium to high for 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Servings: 1

Nutritional Information, Per Serving

  • Calories (k/cal) 402
  • Protein (g) 35
  • Carbohydrates (g) 17
  • Fiber (g) 3
  • Sugars (g) 8
  • Fat (g) 23
  • SFA (g) 7
  • MUFA (g) 9
  • PUFA (g) 6
  • omega-3 (g) 0.02
  • omega-6 (g) 4.6

Post-workout shakes are more science than artwork, and they should consist of high-GI carbs like dextrose and maltodextrin and a quick-digesting protein like whey hydrosylate, at a ratio of 2:1 to 3:1. Of the workout drinks, Plazma™ tops the list.


  • Plazma™, 2 rounded scoops


Add 1 scoop to a shaker bottle together with 500 ml cold water, shake, and sip during and after workout.

  • Prep Time: 1 minute
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Servings: 1

Nutritional Information, Per Serving

  • Calories (k/cal) 210
  • Protein (g) 15
  • Carbohydrates (g) 38
  • Fiber (g) 0
  • Sugars (g) 13
  • Fat (g) -
  • SFA (g) -
  • MUFA (g) -
  • PUFA (g) -
  • omega-3 (g) -
  • omega-6 (g) -

Chili is one of the best ways to get a massive helping of protein from ground beef, together with a healthy dose of fiber from beans, our wonderful legume friends. Add a bunch of spices and vegetables, and you've got yourself a nutritive meal that can be made in bulk and stored for the week.

Many of the best chili recipes use corn meal to thicken-up the dish. This is great for the taste buds and texture, but we'd rather not have the added carbs from corn. Instead, we use cashew meal, which serves to thicken the chili, as well as adding a unique taste. Not to mention a healthy dose of monounsaturated fatty-acids.

This pot of stew could feed a village in Ethiopia for a week, so be prepared to store about 4 day's worth.


  • 4 pounds extra lean ground beef (96%)
  • 4 cans kidney beans (15.5 oz per can), drained and rinsed
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 bell peppers: 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Two 46-fl oz bottles V8 vegetable juice, spicy hot
  • Cashew meal
  • Spices: 4 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (for a quicker version, you can use 3 packages chili seasonings mix, but it won't quite be the same!)


In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, one pound at a time, over high heat together with the garlic and onions. If your skillet is large enough (i.e., a wok), you can brown the beef all at once to save time. On the last batch, add the spices after the beef is browned, and continue frying for another couple of minutes. Add the browned beef to a very large pot with a lid, and then add the beans, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and V8 juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

To make the cashew meal, process the cashews in a blender in short bursts, until a grainy meal is formed. Do not process for too long or you will have cashew butter. Stir-in the cashew meal, cover, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Servings: 10

Nutritional Information, Per Serving

  • Calories (k/cal) 637
  • Protein (g) 71
  • Carbohydrates (g) 53
  • Fiber (g) 11
  • Sugars (g) 18
  • Fat (g) 13
  • SFA (g) 4
  • MUFA (g) 6
  • PUFA (g) 2
  • omega-3 (g) 0.1
  • omega-6 (g) 1.1

So there you have it, a muscle building meal plan that gets results.

John Berardi, PhD, is the founder of Precision Nutrition, the world's largest nutrition coaching and education company. Berardi advises organizations like Apple, Equinox, and Nike. He's coached the San Antonio Spurs, the Carolina Panthers, US Open Champ Sloane Stephens, and 2-division UFC Champ Georges St-Pierre.