My Four Hour Body Mass Gaining Experiment

It feels so cool to have (finally) cracked the code.

It’s been 7 weeks for me on the Four Hour Body “Occam’s Protocol” eating/lifting plan for me, and I’ve got good news. 🙂

Seven weeks ago, I shared my plans with you guys on what I was going to do next physically. As someone who is known in the weight lifting industry as a “hard gainer”, I was curious to test out Tim Ferriss’ “minimalist mass-building” approaches. I wanted to see if I could do for most men in my family’s genetic background, what is almost impossible – add 10 lbs of lean mass.

The results

For transparency’s sake, I won’t hold back on the numbers here. Let’s face it, I’m a lightweight. This post is meant to be a pat on the back for my other lightweight brothas (and sistas) out there who are wondering if putting on weight will ever be possible. I’ll let the results speak for themselves 🙂

First, the circumference measurements:

Left arm, mid-bicep:

  • 10 3/4″ (1/17/2011)
  • 11 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Right arm, mid-bicep:

  • 10 3/4″ (1/17/2011)
  • 11 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Waist (centered at bellybutton)

  • 32″ (1/17/2011)
  • 33 3/4″ (3/5/2011)

Hips (widest point between navel and thighs)

  • 35 1/4″ (1/17/2011)
  • 37 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Left leg, mid-thigh

  • 20 1/2″ (1/17/2011)
  • 22″ (3/5/2011)

Right leg, mid-thigh

  • 20″ (1/17/2011)
  • 21 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Observations from this – I was pretty happy to have gained circumference in every area measured. My thighs surprised me as being different circumferences. Although they did gain the exact same amount (1 1/2″), it’s something I have in mind I may want to get looked at, as left/right imbalances can lead to injury down the road. All in all, I’m pretty happy!

Bodyfat – Good, bad, or ugly?

Rather than giving all of the OCD technical details, I’ll just share some totals here:

Total skinfold measurements (using the Slimguide Skinfold Calipers)

  • 34mm (1/17/2011)
  • 40mm (3/5/2011)

Body fat percentage (Based on the 4-point Durnin/Womersly chart*)

  • 14.3% (1/17/2011)
  • 16.17% (3/5/2011)

*There’s a math chart that comes with the Slimguide calipers, but after week 2 I discovered this VERY helpful online calculator. NOTE: If you’re going to use this, make sure that your measurement algorithms are consistent each time)

Yes, my body fat percentage did go up during this experiment, which I’ll elaborate on in just a moment. I’ll take whatever my body and what I’m eating will give me for this test-run. 🙂

Hitting the big goal (and understanding it too)

My big goal was simple: Gain 10 lbs of lean mass. Not too complex, right? Let’s look at the data:

Body weight

  • 147 lbs (1/17/2011)
  • 163 lbs (3/5/2011)

That’s right baby…16 lbs of meaty man in 7 weeks! Ok, it wasn’t ALL meat, but lemme break it down for you:

Lean body mass (total body weight – body fat in lbs [determined through applying the BF % to my total weight])

  • 126 lbs (1/17/2011)
  • 137 lbs (3/5/2011)

Not only did I gain my 10 lbs, I felt need to add a bonus 1 on there as well! All sarcasm aside, although this 11 lb gain also came with 5 lbs of fat, I’m still very happy. I’ve finally cracked the code on how to put on mass. Here’s the important lesson of how I know I can take those 5 lbs off quickly (and more, to get ready for 6-pack season):

What gets measured gets managed

One thing that became overwhelmingly clear to me during the past 7 weeks was this: It’s important to quantify inputs and results when I’m (or you’re) pursuing change. Because I meticulously measured EVERYTHING (click here to see a sample page from my workout notebook), I can go back and see what changes in diet/sleep/rest helped to add muscle, provide energy, or simply turned to fat.

Thanks once again to DailyBurn (and their sexy iPhone app), I have record of everything that I ate in the past 7 weeks. Because my wife is simultaneously going through the Slow Carb diet from the book, our eating times had to differ (so I wouldn’t tempt her to eat something she shouldn’t). Every Sunday following her Saturday “cheat day”, I was the garbage disposal for all left over goodies that she couldn’t finish the day prior (which is where I think the fat gain came from). Because I have record of that in DailyBurn, I can go back and see when and what I ate to find out how my body metabolized it.

Which got me thinking…

What if we measured the areas where we really wanted to change? I’ll use sleep as my example, because thankfully DailyBurn has a sleep tracker built in also (and I have a cheap app that helps to track sleep also). If I want to get more/better sleep, how will I know when the best time to go to bed or to wake up, or how long I should sleep will be? Many of us have so much going on in our lives that it’s hard to remember what we ate for breakfast sometimes. But if we’re keeping record, it’s not too hard to go back and see.

The next step

So lesson learned, I think I may make every first quarter of the new year my “get big” time, where I seek to add mass. With some looming competitions and more adventures on the way as the snow melts, it’s time to work on strength and endurance (good thing somebody has a guide coming out soon for that).

So for the next few weeks (why not say 28 days-ish), I’ll be joining my brothers and sisters on the slow-carb diet, although it’ll only be a half-slow carb – I’m going to save 1 meal out of the day for whatever I’d like. Don’t want to jump from the Occam’s protocol “eat everything in sight” regiment to a more conservative diet….yet. Don’t worry, I’ll share results with that also.

One last bit of odds and ends

Because I really enjoyed the analytical approach that was gleaned from this experiment, I’ll be highlighting some other noteworthy note-takers and methods on how to quantify. Don’t worry, I won’t make it sound that dorky though.

But my question is this:

What would you like to see more of here at TFS?

Leave your suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking for ideas on what to share/teach/discuss next. When I learn and grow, it reciprocates back. Boo-yah!

Talk to y’all soon 🙂

– JC