Lean to Mean, 30 Days / Video 1

Muscle May is the first part of a four month bodybuilding experiment: Lean to Mean. What we’re doing is trying to pack on lean muscle mass in the most efficient way that we can, and learn as much as possible during the process.

We’re experimenting with many different workout and diet approaches to see what works best. We’ve looked into Arthur Jones, Anthony Ellis, Timothy Ferris, Sean Nalewanyj, Mike Mentzer, Vince Delmonte and JP Clifford. Many of their approaches conflict with one another though, making the research process quite challenging.

We’re really pleased with our results but we know we still have a long way to go and a lot more research and experimentation to do. We’ve already made several changes for our next video segment, Jacked Julune, which takes place in June and July.

If you have any suggestions or questions please leave a comment. This is an ongoing process and we’d love to get feedback. You may have noticed that there are (quite) a few cuts in the dialogue. Um. We’re working on it.

Check out the final results here.


  1. Sunny on July 2, 2010 at 2:47 am

    Ahaha, you guys are freaking awesome. More of a lifestyle than just to bulk up but take a look at http://www.marksdailyapple.com/ or Primal-related stuff. Might get some ideas from there.

    Keep it up guys.

  2. Jared Polowick on July 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Thanks for the comment Sunny. Mark’s Daily Apple actually quite reminds me of Tim Ferriss’s stuff. There was definitely some cool lifestyle posts on there that caught my eye.

  3. Chris on August 12, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    This is pretty awesome, I just did the full P90X program – diet included, so seeing this is all to similar/familiar. Keep it ripping guys.

  4. Dean on September 15, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Hey guys, I just had a couple of questions that came up while watching this…

    1) Did you come across any info/experience any difference when you ate certain foods at certain times? (for instance i’ve heard that eating carbs is not recommended but my guess was that’s just because people are generally less active once they come home from work or something)

    2) did you ever experiment with working out at different times of the day/if so did it affect any results?

    That’s all I can think of for now but it’s actually pretty convenient that I came across your video because I’m just getting back into a routine with some of my activities (no bodybuilding though lol) and I’ll definitely be referring to your blog every so often.

    • W. Shane Duquette on September 15, 2010 at 9:23 am

      Hey Dean,
      1) You’re talking about nutrient timing. It’s a loose science. Since the food lugs around in your system for so long you can’t be THAT exact with it—but you’re right. You should be eating differently depending on the needs placed on your body at different times of the day. You should be eating most of your carbs (along with protein, of course) in the morning. The first meal of the day should be a protein/carb meal (with small amounts of EFAs). All the middle meals should be balanced (40/30/30, protein/fats/carbs) Late at night be eating mainly protein and fats (with small amounts of low glycemic index carbs). Right before a workout you want carbs and protein, and right after a workout carbs and protein again. The general rule is carbs when your body needs lots of energy ASAP and fats when your body needs sustained energy (such as overnight).

      2) Cardio is optimal in the morning, while weight training is optimal at 6pm. Cardio in the morning because that’s when energy levels are highest. Weight training at 6pm because that’s when testosterone levels are optimal. It’s a widely accepted fact, so we never really experimented with it. We finish our workday at 5 and try and be at the gym by 6 on days that we work out.
      My best,

  5. Aaron on September 22, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Hey guys,
    The video is great, I really like your attention to detail.
    I just had a few questions that I was hoping you could clarify for me.

    1. When you’re doing heavy sets are you doing a pyramid style, and if so what reps?

    2. After some of the exercises you throw in a single superset, when exactly do you do that set?

    3. Finally, this may be a silly question but again just wanted clarification, on your warm up sets how many reps did you shoot for?

    I am planning on starting this routine in the near future, just want to be prepared.


  6. W. Shane Duquette on September 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    1. Pyramid style indeed. We list the reps in the video, actually, although after we list it the first time we only list where we deviate. Generally it went like this: 6-8 reps, 4-6 reps, 2-4 reps, 1-2 reps.
    2. When exactly do we do the set? We do it as quickly as we can—before we’ve even caught our breath.
    3. Warm up sets we did 8-10 of. 2 sets.

    We’ve since tried new workout routines, but this one worked really really great. I think you’ll see massive improvements.

    Good luck!

    Let us know how it goes!

  7. dave on October 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    great vid guys, it was very inpiring specially to all of the scrawny guys like me,. i just want to know what creatine do you use powder or capsule? what is the brand and how method do you use in taking it? thanks

    • W. Shane Duquette on October 31, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      I don’t personally use creatine. I have in the past, but I’m one of the unlucky few that it is has no effect on. I’m a non responder, as they’re called. Jared, on the other hand, sees massive changes when on creatine. This may be due to my body naturally producing high levels of creatine, but it’s been shown that people with more slow twitch (type 1) muscle fibers and less fast twitch (type 2) muscle fibers and with a genetic pre-disposition towards lower levels of musculature have a higher chance of being a creatine non responder. It is still, however, rare, so you should certainly give it a try. It’s effective, safe, cheap and one of the most tested supplements out there.

      What you should be looking to buy is a creatine monohydrate. If you’ve got money to burn feel free to buy one of the more expensive creatines, but creatine monohydrate is the most tested form of creatine out there and will do the job just as well as the fancy stuff, so long as you take it right. When buying your monohydrate look for “Japanese micronized creatine” and “Creapure” when reading the package. We buy Allmax creatine, which has “Creapure” displayed prominently on the front. It’s cheap and does the job.

      As for how to take it I recommend doing a google search. There are many great scientific articles out there on how to maximize creatine absorption. You’ll want to go through a loading phase which involves taking 5g four times a day. After a week of that you go into a maintenance phase for a couple months. Just to be on the safe side you’ll want to stop taking it after a few months to let your body produce it naturally. Studies haven’t shown that creatine supplementation shuts down natural production, but most people like to play it safe anyway and do the on/off cycle. After a month off you can restart the process with the loading phase.

      Creatine is absorbed best if you can cause an insulin spike, so you’ll want to be taking it on an empty stomach with something really sweet, like a glass of grape juice or a scoop of dextrose (corn sugar). First thing in the morning is ideal on days when you aren’t working out, and right after a workout is ideal on days when you are. When taking it four times a day during the loading phase do it 30 minutes before meals. Studies have also shown that having a quickly digesting protein with creatine helps, so have a protein shake after you down your sugary juice/creatine mix. You’ll want that protein to be hydrolized, as it digests the quickest. Isolate will do the job too. Don’t be having anything like meat or milk or casein powder, though, as it will cause everything to digest slower and mitigate the insulin spike.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to be having a lot of water. Upwards of a gallon a day even. Creatine causes water to be drawn into the muscles, so you’ll want to give your body plenty of water. Similarly coffee and alcohol, as they are diuretics and pull water out of the body, can be detrimental. The first creatine studies were done while mixing the creatine with coffee, though, and it was shown to be an incredible supplement. So don’t freak out about it. Just don’t let yourself get dehydrated if you want maximal results.

      Good luck!

  8. Stan666 on November 6, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Hey guys, awesome stuff – I emailed you a little while ago if you recall too, I was just mentioning the eating part of it all, so on that topic, I was curious about the whole eating right before the gym vs. waiting until you digest all your food before going.

    Did you guys experiment with that at all? Like in the video you do shakes beforehand, did you find those have a significant advantage over eating something solid before?
    I know personally whenever I’ve gone to the gym without waiting for whatever I ate beforehand to digest, there’d always be some point during the session where I’d come close to puking it up!

    Also what is the general advantage of having either food or a shake right before going? Is it just for that extra boost of energy you can use to push a bit futher, or is there more to it than that?

    • W. Shane Duquette on November 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm

      Hey Stan,
      We’ve tried working out on an empty stomach and drinking water, we’ve tried whole food, we’ve tried blended whole food (oatmeal, berries, whey and bananas, etc), we’ve tried dextrose+hydrolized whey, and we’ve tried store-bought pre-workout drinks (NO2, SuperPump, etc).
      Whole food was a bust. I agree. I got a little nauseous, especially after the tough guys like deadlifts and squats. Same with the blended mix. Energy was fine throughout the workout though.
      2 hours after eating with water during the workout: no nausea but no energy either, and in that sort of state your body will break down whatever it can to feed itself, so your muscle gets eaten away. Your workout becomes extremely catabolic. More so than usual.
      Dextrose+whey works great. Minimal nausea if any, even after 5×5 deadlifts. Energy is high. And that combined with sipping on the same mix (60g dextrose + 30g hydrolized whey + 5g BCAAs) minimizes the muscle your body will break down during and just after the workout. This is what I’d officially recommend.
      The pre-workout stuff, like NO2 is a ton of fun. SND’s been giving out tons of the stuff for free (SuperPump) so we’ve been using that lately. We’ll have that and an energy drink beforehand (we dig caffeine). We love it. We sip on dextrose and whey during the workout and our energy levels stay high. After the workout we’ll chug another dose of dextrose and whey, head home and start in on eating real food. This is the most fun, although if you actually have to buy the stuff, it can be pricey.
      How’s your progress been?! My strength has been going up by leaps and bounds in the past month. Going to try and figure out exactly what’s caused it and share it.

  9. Stan666 on November 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Cool, I’ll give the dextrose+whey combo a try, seems like whatever is close to just being a liquid would cause the least digestive issues during the workout.

    My progress has been hitting a lot of snags, just because of midterm times (and my college workload is huge since I go for 3d animation) and after that I just got really bedridden, but I”ve been taking the time to read up on the nutrition aspects – I got the exercises part pretty much down for where I am at, but I generally struggle with the peripheral stuff like what to eat/drink before and after the workout. Which is why I found your site to be a really useful resources, since I really dislike asking for advice on web forums.

    Currently I need to standardize my eating, since there’s been days where I’ll go to the gym and burn through a session with no problem, but on other days I can’t even do 5 reps on a bench press, which clearly has to do with what I eat beforehand!

  10. Jared Polowick on November 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    If you have to remember to do something, the majority of the time you will forget to do it. So building a routine with your diet is the best way to keep it consistent. And diet consistency is a huge part of getting great results. The only downside to keeping your meals on routine is it becomes a bit boring but that’s why it’s good to have a couple staple meals that have all the right combination of protein/fats/carbs that you need so you can substitute once in awhile.

    Shane’s a big fan of his special home-made turkey chili, he must eat it 3-4 times a day.

    • W. Shane Duquette on November 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      Well sometimes I use extra lean ground beef instead of ground turkey breast, so I’d hardly use that an example of repetitive eating 😉

      As for why you do terribly in the gym some days, also watch your sleep patterns and what time of day you go. 8 hours of sleep is recommended and testosterone peaks at around 6:00pm making it a popular time to work out. Being tired’ll make you weaker. Being hungover or sick won’t help either.

  11. Stan666 on November 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Good point – I guess if I set out 10-15 meals that have some interchangeable components to them it’ll make it easier.

    The testosterone peaking at 6PM – Is that based off of like a 10-7 sleeping schedule, or does it happen regardless of when you get your sleep during the corresponding 24 hour period?

    • W. Shane Duquette on November 27, 2010 at 8:03 pm

      The circadian rhythm is based on external cues, such as sunlight. You CAN alter it by doing things like sleeping during the day but in a pitch black room and exposing yourself to fake sunlight upon waking. You can make your own external cues. Just going to bed late and waking up late won’t really do it though. Would that alter when your testosterone peaks? Probably. I’ll look into that.

  12. Stan666 on November 26, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Oooh also guys one thing, from looking at your site and other literature on the subject, it occurs to me powerlifting is pretty much essential to a good mass gain program. Since they all qualify as full body exercises though, do you still incorporate one on a specific day? (that is with the three-day breakdown of legs, chest/shoulders/triceps and back/biceps)

    • W. Shane Duquette on November 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

      You’re right, they do qualify as full body exercises. Put them in on the days of the muscles they most work. Squats go with legs, bench goes with chest (push movements), deadlift goes with back (pull movements). Deadlift could fit with legs too, I know, but it works well with back. I’d throw chest between legs and back on your triple split. So, for example, you’d do squats on Monday, bench press (and military) on Wednesday, deadlifts (and pull-ups/chin-ups) on Friday, rest Saturday and Sunday, and hit legs again on Monday. The rest days in between the big lifts should give your central nervous system enough time to recover. Make sure they’re the first exercises in your line-up that you do, too.

  13. Rob on June 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Hi guys,
    Your site is very inspiring I must say. I’ve been working out for over 2 years now and gone from 140lbs to 167lbs so far. Although I’ve only really been bulking the last 6 months. I’ve recently been doing Stronglifts 5×5 and looking now for a slightly more varied, enjoyable routine.
    I came across your site and have been looking far and wide for some of the routines/methods you have used and not found a great deal more than very inspirational pictures!

    Do you have any routines I can look at or are you intending on uploading this video again soon? I would love to try out what you have done as you are looking greater than me in a much shorter space of time!

    • W. Shane Duquette on June 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm

      Check out http://www.bonytobeastly.com! That’s where we’ve been putting all our workout stuff. We’ve actually got a workout program for ectomorphs fully developed, and it works fantastically well 🙂

  14. Spencer on August 26, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Hey guys. Do you think you would have seen these kinds of gains without supplements and just the diet? I am starting my own journey and don’t have the kind of budget to be buying expensive powders and everything else. I’m more of a chicken, beans, rice and homemade bread and vegetables guy. I know most foods out there don’t have a large protein content naturally. Either high in fat or high in carbs but I know you’re recommending 40/30/30 and it seems like it may not be possible with diet alone. But I figured I’d ask to be sure since you guys seem pretty well read on the subject.

    • W. Shane Duquette on August 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Yeah of course! You can do just fine without any supplements at all, although some, like whey, actually save you money. Whey’s cheaper than chicken!

      Also, luckily for skinny guys like us (I’m not sure how you’re built) we don’t need as much protein as other body types. We tend to thrive on carbs when eating at a surplus of calories. More of a 50% carbs, 30% fat 20% protein diet while trying to build muscle.

      Check out our new blog—we’ve learned a lot since this video!

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