Bulking up your frame and putting on muscle mass can prove to be quite difficult, especially if you're avoiding unwanted body fat. Luckily, we've brought in IFBB Pro and 6 Pack Fitness Sponsored Athlete Shawn "Flexatron" Rhoden
to share his wisdom on how to meal prep and train to bulk up.
Rhoden, a two-time third-place winner at Mr. Olympia and former Arnold Classic Europe champion, has made a name for himself as one of the best professional bodybuilders in the world. Competing at 252 pounds and bulking up to more than 285 pounds during the offseason, Rhoden has mastered the cycle of gaining mass and leaning out.
In 2014, Rhoden participated in seven competitions, taking first at the IFBB Australian Pro in addition to Italy's IFBB San Marino Pro. Rhoden also took third at the 2014 Mr. Olympia, matching his best performance at Mr. Olympia in 2012.
Rhoden is currently bulking up during his offseason and will continue to put on mass for another ten weeks. Taking time out of his rigorous training routine, Flexatron shared with us some of his philosophy on training and meal prep to bulk up.
"Don't Worry About Your Six Pack"
With so many competitions to take part in during a single year, Rhoden sticks to a rigid diet and plan to maintain his figure while competition season is in session. However, during the offseason, he's not exactly concerned about his body image and is much more lenient with his diet.
"When it comes to bulking up, I think you have to take away the notion that you need to have a six pack," Rhoden said. "I think a lot of guys get lost with that because they're so used to looking competition ready."
"You can't be afraid to eat up," Rhoden said. "You have to put on fat in order to put some size on."
"Don't Deviate Too Far From Your Pre-Contest Routine"
While bulking up, Rhoden eats more frequently and more per meal, though he tries not to stray too far from his pre-contest diet. He consumes four or five meals per day in addition to post-training protein shakes, and caps out the night with a blend of peanut butter, protein powder, ice, cinnamon, and oatmeal as his last meal of the day.
"In the off-season, I'll try not to deviate too far from my pre-contest routine, but I just eat a lot more food," Rhoden said. "I might start off a day with a cup and a half of oatmeal, 15 egg whites, and three whole eggs."
Using Six Pack Fitness meal management bags for storing meals and regulating his diet, some of Rhoden's usual dishes include rice, potatoes, carrots, and other carbohydrate-rich vegetables, while he regularly eats steak, chicken, or lean ground beef as a source of protein.
"Throughout the rest of the day, your meals should be a little high in carbohydrates," Rhoden added. "Maybe something like two cups of rice, vegetables, and eight ounces of protein that could be steak or chicken. That goes for like three or four meals."
"You Have to Have An On and Off Switch"
Though Rhoden said he's become much more disciplined with his diet and routine since becoming an IFBB Pro in 2009, he still loves to eat and refuses to let bodybuilding control him year round.
"I love food, period, so I tell myself, 'you have to have an on and off switch.' When I'm getting ready for competition, there's no deviation and I'm going to follow my plan to a T." Rhoden said. "But when you're not competing, you've got to be able to live your life and not let this sport control you."
Looking at Rhoden's 252-pound frame of shredded muscle during competition season, it's tough to envision him eating his favorite foods during the off-season.
"When I'm bulking up, I love steak and pancakes," Rhoden said. "I could eat steak all day."
As for his favorite meal during competition season?
"Nothing," Rhoden said jokingly.
[caption id="attachment_5063" align="aligncenter" width="400"]
Shawn "Flexatron" Rhoden in the 2015 offseason[/caption]
"You Can't Go From A to Z"
Due to the transition back to getting in competition shape, Rhoden doesn't stray too far from his pre-contest routine while bulking up. While drastic diets often fail, Rhoden said the same concept applies for switching between bulking up and leaning out.
"In most cases, diets fail when someone decides that they're going to be drastic and go from A to Z," Rhoden said.
While Rhoden isn't afraid to lose his competition figure during the offseason, he advises others not to stray too far from competing weight. He said he often sees bodybuilders set bulking goals that are too high or unrealistic, making it almost impossible to bounce back and compete.
"Last year, I was able to get up to 287 in the offseason," Rhoden said. "It's not good to deviate too far off where you need to drop a whole person to get on stage, but a lot of guys make that mistake."
"I tell guys during the off-season, 'try to keep at least one ab,'" Rhoden joked. "If you're able to look in the mirror and see one ab, you're good. If it gets to the point where that ab becomes a muffin top, you have a problem."
Rhoden will kick off his 2015 competition season with his fifth Mr. Olympia appearance, followed by four or five international competitions to cap off the year. Rhoden will also stay in competition form in the beginning of 2016 and plans to compete in Columbus, Ohio's Arnold Classic. However, Flexatron has one goal above all else for the upcoming year.
"In 2015, my goal is to win the Olympia," Rhoden said.
With three top-five Mr. Olympia performances in the past three years and a rigorous off-season routine ahead of him, he just might.
Looking for more tips on preparing food and maintaining your diet? You can find more articles from our How to Meal Prep
*Images courtesy of the Shawn Flexatron Rhoden IFBB Pro Facebook Page