Fall means football games, tailgate parties, shorter days, and cooler weather. For better or worse, it also means going back to school. While we can't help you pass that econ exam, we can suggest a few ways to help keep your workouts on track so you can avoid the dreaded "Freshman 15" and focus on the kind of weight you want to gain—muscle!
Between a heavy class load, limited dining options, and must-attend social events, making real gains in the gym is next to impossible, right? Wrong! If you've got the right drive and determination, you can make some serious progress in both your grades and your physique.
Here are 5 pro tips for making gains during the school year!
1. PREPARE PRIOR TO CLASS
When it comes to changing your physique, what you eat is 80 percent of your success or failure, so why not plan for success? It's tempting to just roll out of bed and head to class, grabbing whatever food you can on the way or—gasp—not eating anything until lunch.
The better choice for gains is to throw a few quality foods into your backpack before you head out the door. Depending on your body type, you might have to consume a lot of calories to grow, and those calories have to come from somewhere. Make sure you have a good stash of muscle-building foods like protein bars, jerky, and other clean snacks.
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2. BUDGET FOR CLEAN, HIGH-QUALITY FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Let's face it: most students are broke. After tuition, room and board, books, and a variety of other daily expenses, it can feel like ramen and peanut butter are your only friends in the world.
The struggle is real. However, if you sit down and actually write out everything you are spending money on, chances are there are plenty of things you can eliminate to afford the food and supplements you need to grow. While you might not be able afford everything on your supps wish list, a good quality protein powder, pre-workout, and creatine are all great places to start.
As for grocery shopping, remember that some of the best high-protein foods are the simplest ones—milk, eggs, chicken—all of which are easy to find good deals on. Buy in bulk if you can on things like rice, potatoes, nuts, and oatmeal, and remember that a little fat goes a long way. If you learn to spend your money wisely, you'll see the results you're looking for. Muscles go a lot further on a quart of milk than they will on a six-pack of beer.
3. PRIORITIZE GAINS IN YOUR SCHEDULE
Not only do you need to plan time for the gym in your already hectic student schedule, you need to have a solid plan when you get there. Lifting a few weights here and there won't be enough to build muscle.
Look for a muscle-building plan to help you stay focused and on track at the gym, and make sure you schedule in training sessions just like you would any other important appointment. If you don't, you'll almost always find something to do instead. If you have a set schedule, it's easier to stick to it, and consistency is what gets results.
If you can, find a dedicated workout partner from school to make it even easier to overcome other tempting activities. Getting to the gym is easier when you know someone is waiting for you and you don't want to let them down.
Gain the Right Kind of Freshman 15
Designed specifically for students, bodybuilder Steve Cook's college muscle-building plan will teach you how to lift, eat, supplement, and grow while you study. You'll learn the muscle-building basics, gain mass, and build strong habits for life.
4. KNOW YOUR DAILY TOTALS
Just because you're finally out of the house and have unlimited food options in the dining hall and at the grocery store doesn't give you a free pass to eat as much as you can of whatever you want. Changing your physique for the better is all about the numbers, and if you want to gain muscle, you're going to have to do a little extracurricular math.
Start by calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and your macronutrients to get a sense of your daily totals, then divide by the number of snacks and meals you eat each day and budget accordingly.
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At the end of the day, what you eat is the most important factor determining your results. Sometimes it's hard to know what you're getting when eating cafeteria-style, so choosing lean proteins, fresh fruits and veggies, complex carbs, and healthy fats, and avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts is an easy place to start. Resist the temptation to eat junk foods—don't let cravings rule your food choices.
5. FOCUS ON YOUR FUTURE
More than anything else, your mindset will help you stay on track in your studies and your physique goals. Enjoy yourself, but realize there are plenty of good times to be had after you get your diploma. Plus, those good times will be much more enjoyable when you have a physique you're proud of and you receive lots of well-deserved attention.
You've got enough to worry about without trying to build your own program from scratch. Try one of our popular muscle-building programs today!