For years I tried to gain muscle. I weighed 145 pounds and no workout plan I tried, even when I stuck to it perfectly, seemed to work. That all changed when my friend and coach, Dick Talens, put me on his diet and workout plan. The missing component was an enormous quantity of food. I always thought I ate a lot, but while following his program to the gram I realized that I ate inconsistently. One big meal here, then a small meal for the next one.
Following his program I gained about 15 pounds, getting up to 160 total with the same body fat percentage.
But then I began to travel, which made it hard for me to keep up the program. Gyms aren't always easy to find and protein is expensive when you buy it all at restaurants.
When I booked a 24 day cruise from Sydney to Seattle, however, I came up with a plan. I would try to gain as much lean mass as possible, taking advantage of the convenient gym on the ship as well as the unlimited quantity of well-prepared food.
Over twenty-four days I gained 10 pounds of muscle and 2 of fat. Since then I have cut all of the fat as well as a three pounds of muscle, giving myself a noticeable seven pounds of muscle gained.
First, the gym schedule. I decided, since weekdays are irrelevant on cruises, to work out every other day, for a total of twelve workouts. Each workout was only 35-40 minutes.
Workout A - 8-10 reps deadlift, x2; max pullups x3; cable rows 8-12 x2
Workout B - 8-12 dumbell bench press x3; 8-12 dumbell incline press x2; dumbbell curl 8-12 x2
Workout C - 8-12 leg press x3; 4-6 straight leg deadlift x2; crunch machine 20 x2
This was a workout similar to the one Dick prescribed to me, modified to use dumbbells. The deadlifts were much lighter than I'd usually do, since the ship only had 70lb dumbbells and no olympic bar, so I increased reps a bit.
For breakfast I ate either 3x 2 egg omelets with veggies, bacon, and cheese, or 8-10 eggs over easy. On workout days I also ate some muesli and pastries or potatoes.
For lunch I typically went to the buffet and made huge plates of vegetables and meat. This was my smallest meal, but would usually consist of a very large salad full of vegetables as well as a pound to a pound and a half of meat. On workout days I would also sometimes eat dessert or carbs like bread.
For dinner I ate whatever I wanted in as large quantities as I could handle. That would consist of 4 to 9 appetizers, one or two salads and soups, and three or four entrees. On workout days I would eat some rolls as well as some of the potatoes that came with the meals. On rest days I might eat one roll and one dessert, but would skip all of the potatoes served with the entrees.
I didn't count my macros, but rather tried to eat as much as I possibly could at all times, focusing on protein first and then on vegetables.
The weight came on very quickly, as I averaged just under a pound a day for the first ten days. At that point I found my appetite decreasing and really had to force myself to keep up the same level of consumption. Over the final two weeks I gained only four pounds.
Eating that much food did feel like a bit of a chore sometimes, but it's only so much of a burden to eat free steaks, fish, and chicken every day. The workouts were sometimes intense, but short enough that they didn't really take a big chunk out of my day. I particularly liked that I could just take the elevator upstairs and be working out immediately, rather than having to interrupt my day for the gym.
If you are looking to make some gains in a short focused time, consider using a cruise to do it. It's a perfect combination of free time, easy access to a gym, and unlimited free food. The larger ships tend to have much better gyms with enough headroom for pullups and heavier dumbbells. In my experience Costa has the most crowded gyms by far, suggesting that maybe Europeans are more diligent about going to the gym.