Some things never change.

Man's primal desire to become big and strong has been a part of our evolutionary history. It isn't changing anytime soon.

While the urge to become big and strong hasn't changed, the methods in which we use to become such have. With these evolved methods comes a new standard for muscle building in the 21st century. The new muscle man applies not only dedication, intensity, and consistency to his muscle building endeavors, but he also intermixes cutting edge scientific findings with personal experience.

Bulking Is History

The previous model for more muscle was to gain as much weight as possible with complete disregard for any fat gained. The mantra of "building as much as possible now and just diet it off later" worked for those taking their regular injections of vitamin T. But for the natural 21st century muscle man, this isn't the most time efficient way to sculpt their physique.

Also, as bodybuilding in the form of a competitive sport has become less popular, the biannual contest diet schedule has escaped most trainees, thus leaving them to function in a state of perpetual mass (and not necessarily muscle).

Muscle Building Strategies for the 21st Century

The new approach to muscle building is focused more on the attainment of quality mass and not sheer size. This approach requires a series of mini-cycles of caloric surplus and caloric deficit.

Years ago this idea was proposed in the form of the ABCDE diet. But it was too extreme to be effective, as it was basically a two week cycle of extreme overeating followed by a two week cycle of severe calorie restriction. Cycles this short aren't conducive to proper periodization and gains in strength.

Instead, since the focus is on building more muscle, we should extend the gaining cycle to six to eight weeks, followed by a calorie restriction phase of two to three weeks. During the building cycle we'll accept fat gain at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds of muscle gained for every one pound of fat). Thus, after an eight week muscle building cycle where five pounds is gained, they'd only need to take two weeks to burn off the less than two pounds of fat gained.

Layne Norton

This building and burning cycling is extremely effective and is used by natural pro bodybuilder Layne Norton

By staying lean while building muscle you'll maximize your insulin sensitivity. This will allow for nutrients to be preferentially shuttled away from fat cells and into your muscles. The fatter you get, the worse your insulin sensitivity gets. This is why it's important to get lean first and then stay lean as you build muscle.

New Mass Building Foods

In the past, a common approach has been to consume more calories by any means necessary. We're talking all out wars on Big Macs, KFC, loaves of white bread, bags of pasta, and regular trips to steakhouses that give away "I Survived" T-shirts for finishing your toilet-seat sized hunk of meat.

It doesn't have to be like this. Actually, it can't be this way.


Do you want to be a fat guy with big forearms?


Or do you want to have a head-turning, lean, muscular physique?

Ironically many of the foods that you would eat for fat loss are similar to foods that you'll consume to become massive. The main difference is the amount. The new mass building foods are "clean" foods.

  • Chicken breast
  • Salmon
  • Metabolic Drive® Protein
  • Tilapia
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Lean beef
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Cottage cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Olive oil
  • Fiber One cereal
  • Brown rice
  • White rice
  • Yams
  • Potatoes
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Black beans
  • Chick peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils

As David Barr has pointed out previously, you may need to reduce your fruit and vegetable intake during your mass gaining phase in order to get in enough calories. What makes fruits and vegetables (especially green vegetables) such a fantastic fat loss food is also what can make them detrimental to reaching your calorie goals when in a building phase. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water content; two factors that aid in appetite suppression.

During building phases, the focus has traditionally been on consuming higher glycemic/starchy carbohydrates. These foods provide more carbohydrates and calories than fruits and vegetables, but because of their ability to stimulate insulin they may add to your gut a little faster. The other option, one often over looked, is to increase your legume consumption.

Legumes, or beans, such as black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas are higher in calories, carbohydrates, and protein than most fruits and vegetables. But they're slower digesting carbohydrates compared to starches. This makes them a great carbohydrate to eat throughout the day.

Insulin: To Stimulate or Not To Stimulate

The major anabolic hormone that's going to mediate muscle growth or fat loss is insulin. Proper timing of insulin spikes during building phases will maximize muscle growth. While controlling insulin during fat loss phases will allow you to drop your recently gained blubber, so you can stay lean and get back to packing on muscle.


Insulin: The anabolic hormone

Insulin is predominately stimulated by carbohydrates – especially fast-acting carbs. Fast-acting carbs cause fast increases in blood sugar. The body responds by releasing insulin. Insulin, when used properly, preferentially jams amino acids and sugars into your muscles for maximum growth. When stimulated at the wrong times, insulin is an equal opportunity hormone and indiscriminately stuffs muscle and fat full of sugar.

During your building cycles you'll want to stimulate insulin first thing in the morning and during/following your workout. During your burn cycles, you want to limit major boosts in insulin to the workout period. This will help facilitate recovery.

Strategic Supplementation

Because the Build and Burn diet is a combination of both muscle building and fat loss, you're going to need to modify your supplementation regimen slightly between cycles.

First let's look at the basics. These supplements should be used during both cycles.

  • Low-Carb Metabolic Drive: This is such a staple in my daily routine that I almost don't even consider it a supplement.
  • Plazma™: You should use Plazma as your workout drink during both the build and burn cycles.
  • Flameout®: The benefits of long-chain omega-3's have been discussed extensively on this site so I won't beat you over the head with them here. Take 'em.
  • Low-Dose Multi-Vitamin: One-half a Daily One for men will give you the insurance you need against vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Women should use a women's formula with the addition of calcium if you don't consume three to four servings of dairy each day.
  • Creatine: Add five grams of creatine to your workout shake.

Cycle Specific Supplementation

During the building phase, your supplementation strategy should be to boost work capacity, nutrient partitioning, and Testosterone as much as possible. To do so, you should add Alpha Male® to your arsenal. It's also beneficial to take 100mg of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) at each carb-heavy meal.

During the burn phase, you can switch out the Alpha Male, and ALA for Hot-Rox® Extreme, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's), and Brain Candy®.

Hot-Rox will help stoke your fat burning furnace, while the BCAA's will aid in the protection of your muscle. The Caffeine-Free Spike will give you an energy boost, as you may find yourself lacking in the energy department when switching between phases until your body adjusts.

Putting It All Together

Let's put the entire program together with sample menus for both building and burning phases.

Building Phase

Meal One

  • Steel cut oats
  • Metabolic Drive®
  • Blueberries
  • Flameout®, Alpha Male®, multi-vitamin, and 100 mg of ALA

Meal Two

  • Chickpeas
  • Chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Olive oil
  • 100 mg of ALA

Meal Three

  • Lean ground beef
  • Tomatoes, onions, and peppers
  • Butter

Meal Four (Workout)

  • Plazma™

Meal Five (Post-Workout)

Meal Six

  • Chicken
  • Brown rice
  • Spinach
  • Olive oil
  • Alpha Male® and 100 mg of ALA

Meal Seven

  • Pork loin
  • Mashed yams with plain yogurt and crushed pecans added
  • Side salad
  • 100 mg of ALA

Meal Eight

  • Cottage cheese
  • Metabolic Drive® Protein
  • Raspberries
  • Almonds
  • BCAA

Burning Phase

Meal One

  • Egg white/whole egg omelet (3:1 ratio)
  • Spinach
  • Diced onions
  • Chicken sausage
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Flameout®, Hot-Rox® Extreme, and a multi-vitamin

Meal Two

  • Chocolate Metabolic Drive®
  • Cherries
  • Walnuts

Meal Three

  • Chicken
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sliced red onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms
  • Feta cheese
  • Olive oil and red wine vinegar

Meal Four (Workout)

  • Mag-10®
  • Creatine and Hot-Rox® Extreme

Meal Five

  • Salmon
  • Asparagus

Meal Six

  • Metabolic Drive® Protein
  • Peanut butter
  • Flaxmeal
  • Add minimal water and mix

Note: Consume three to five Biotest BCAA tablets between meals.

You're Ready to Build and Burn

Now you have all the tools to get started developing your lean, muscular physique. Here's a recap of some important points of the Build and Burn approach:

  1. Get lean before you start your journey to become massive.
  2. The goal is lean and muscular. Not fat and huge.
  3. It's okay to gain some fat while building your physique (3:1 muscle to fat gain).
  4. Opt for longer building cycles to allow for progressive overload and progress. Then switch to a fat loss phase to burn off whatever fat you've gained.
  5. Controlling insulin is extremely important.
  6. Metabolic Drive®, Plazma™, Flameout®, creatine, and a multivitamin are your base supplements. You can then add others depending on if you're in a building or burning phase.
Mike Roussell's academic background in nutrition science, coupled with his broad range of experience with clients, gives him the unique ability to translate scientific findings into relevant, understandable, and actionable strategies that get results. Follow Mike Roussell on Facebook