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A 24-Hour Guide to More Muscle and Energy

A morning, afternoon and evening breakdown of exactly what skinny guys should do every day to build muscle and feel awesome. Print it out and stick it on your fridge.

“Give me a one-page bullet-list of exactly what I should do. That’s worth more to me than a stack of books that I have to dig through to get to the good stuff. I may give you 50 bucks for the books. But I’ll pay you $5,000 for the one page.”

That’s a quote from Alwyn Cosgrove, a world-famous strength coach and entrepreneur. When he told me this a couple years ago, I remember thinking he was crazy. More money for less stuff? That’s stupid.

But now I see just how smart his statement is: Information is only as good as the action you take after reading it. 

If you want to get something done, it’s usually more effective to skim the book (or article or blog post), write down what you need to do, and start. In most cases, the one-page cheat sheet is more valuable than the book.

So that’s what we’re gonna do here. Consider this post your “how to build muscle and have more energy” cheat sheet. It’s simple, quick, and incredibly effective.

We know it’s effective because twice a year we open our S2B Coaching Program, and help hundreds of guys build muscular, athletic bodies. Over the course of the year-long program, their day ends up looking something like what we have here.

What to do in the Morning

Get your ass out of bed

Hitting the snooze alarm is a sign you aren’t getting enough sleep. But we’ll take care of that problem in a bit.

Right now, get out of bed when your alarm goes off. A new day is here. Do something with it before it dies.

Drink 20oz of water

Your muscles need water to grow. Your body needs water to live. Right now, you’re dehydrated. Before you get in the shower or do anything else, drink 20 oz of cold water.

You’ll have more energy immediately.

Drink a Super Shake

If you’re a skinny guy who wants to put on weight, you need food and you need it fast. If you know you’re not gonna cook breakfast, you need to make a protein-rich Super Shake instead.

Got a blender and 3 minutes? Good. Here’s your recipe:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana (peel it the night before and stick it in the freezer)
  • 1 handful fresh baby spinach (get the pre-washed stuff at the grocery store)
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 huge spoonful of almond or peanut butter

Blend on high. Drink.

Take your vitamins and fish oil

Even if you’re eating healthy whole foods, you can still have small deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals, deficiencies that can slow your metabolism and impair your ability to build muscle. A multivitamin can help fix that.

Also, take 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of liquid fish oil. It’s full of omega-3’s which help improve mood and motivation. (We prefer liquid, but you can also use fish-oil caps.)

Have a little caffeine

A cup or two of black coffee or green tea can help increase athletic and mental performance.

Don’t like caffeine? No problem. Skip this step and make yourself some herbal tea or have another glass of water.

A good cup of coffee and a Super Shake is the perfect way to start the morning.

What to do at work/school

Drink 20oz of water

Get used to it right now, because drinking water is gonna be a recurring theme throughout your day. Invest in a slick reusable water bottle and keep it wherever you spend the most time throughout your day. (But please don’t carry around a two-gallon milk jug of water. That’s just looks ridiculous.)

Have a Muscle Snack

The rules: protein, fat, veggies.

Food ideas: hardboiled eggs, salami, beef jerky, tuna salad, mixed nuts, peanut butter, protein powder, baby carrots, sliced bell pepper, grape tomatoes, celery, berries, apple.

No bullshit energy bars or any kind of granola, as they’re usually loaded with sugar and unpronounceable ingredients

The easiest snack ever: hard-boiled eggs, carrots, and mixed nuts.

What to do at lunch

Eat a Muscle Lunch

Your normal sandwich and chips isn’t gonna cut it.

In S2B we hate measuring food and counting calories. Instead, we like to use hand measurements to determine how much food to eat. (Why? Well, you may not have a food scale, but you probably have a hand. We hope.)

So take a look the palm of your hand. Act like you’re cupping some water that you don’t want to run through your fingers. To build muscle, you need at least 2 palms of protein (chicken, fish, beef, etc).

Now make a fist. You need 2 fists of vegetables and 1 fist of starchy carbohydrates like sweet potato, qunioa, or pasta.

Still a little confused? Check out the photo below for one of our recent Muscle Lunch meals. Make your meal look like that. Then eat it.

(Lunch tip from Nate: I almost never make my own lunch. I’ve tried before, but it’s just too time-consuming in the middle of the day. That’s why I usually have a few pre-made meals from Whole Foods ready to go.)

Read something

Yeah, this doesn’t really have anything to do with building muscle, but if you’re eating by yourself, you gotta have some reading material. And if you’re eating lunch with friends, put down your phone (or book) and have a conversation. No texting or Facebook stalking. Enjoy your meal.

Drink 20oz of water

Yes, again.

Go with pre-made healthy meals for a quick lunch.

What to do in the afternoon

Have another muscle snack

Stick with the above rules or try our Easy Protein Pudding.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 handful of raw mixed nuts
  • 2 squares of 70% or higher dark chocolate
Stir the hell out of it with a spoon and eat.

Drink 20oz of water

You knew it was coming.

Plan your next day

This is another thing that doesn’t really have anything to do with building muscle. But it will help you be more productive and successful.

  1. Write down all the important stuff you need to do tomorrow. Work stuff, personal stuff, everything.
  2. Set a specific time to actually do it.

It may seem like a small, inconsequential step, but it’s incredibly powerful. Now that all your tasks and plans are out of your head and on paper with a corresponding time, you no longer have to stress out about them. It’s taken care of. Move on with your day.

Next day’s schedule and Easy Protein Pudding snack.

What do to in the Evening

De-stress for 20 minutes

Most guys know how to go full-steam but have no idea how to chill out and calm down. Their bodies are in a constant “fight or flight” mode, their nervous system working on overdrive.

In S2B, we have our clients pick one calming task — meditate, nap, read, go for a walk, stretch, listen to relaxing music, sit in a room and do nothing — and do it every day for at least 20 minutes.

This gives their sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system a break and allows their parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system to take over.

The rules: no phones, computers, or outside distractions for at least 20 minutes.

Eat a Muscle Dinner

Same rules as the Muscle Lunch.

  • 2 palms of protein
  • 2 fists of vegetables
  • 1 fist of starchy carbohydrates
Pick different foods and maybe throw in some fruit on the side.

Drink 20oz of water

You know the drill.

Be social

Surround yourself with cool, positive people.  Remember: You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. So don’t hang out with assholes.

Have sex

I mean, why not?

Follow your sleep ritual

You have a sleep ritual, right? No? Here, follow ours:

  1. No caffeine after 2PM.
  2. Turn off your TV and computer an hour before bed.
  3. Make yourself some decaf tea, listen to soft music, and read something light.
  4. Turn off all phones and gadgets and put them in another room.
  5. Set your bedroom temperature to 67-70F [19-21C.] (Ever try to sleep while sweaty? It sucks.)
  6. Take an Epsom salts bath before bed. (The magnesium will help you sleep.)
  7. Have a small pre-bed meal. (Try cottage cheese mixed with chopped apple, and a spoonful of peanut butter.)

Sleep for 7 hours

Getting at least 7 hours of sleep will help your body recover from your workouts, rejuvenate your brain, and improve your life.

Getting less than 7 hours can slow muscle growth and reduce brain power.

Repeat every day

Because this stuff won’t work if you just do it every now and then.

What about the workout program?

We left out exercise on purpose. Why?

When you’re trying to build muscle, working out isn’t as important as you may have been led to believe. 

I mean, yeah, you have to do something in the gym a few days per week. You have to stimulate your muscle fibers and give them a reason to grow and get stronger.

But if you’re more focused on what to do for the one hour you’re in the gym instead of what to do for the other 23 hours of the day, you’re simply not going to build the kind of body you want. Trust us, we’ve been there.

In the S2B Coaching Program, our guys follow our progressive workout program designed specifically for building muscle fast. But the workout program is only a small part of how we help them build a badass body.

Of course, we can’t leave you hanging. So as long as you’re following the below rules when you work out, you’ll be good to go:

  • Train 3-4 times per week.
  • Use compound exercises.
  • Go as heavy as you can with good form.
  • Drink a post-workout shake of fast-acting carbohydrates and protein.
  • Take 10 grams of creatine monohydrate, mixed in your post-workout shake.

For a free 6-week workout program, check out Day 3 of our Free 5-Day Muscle-Building Course.  And if you want to work with us, make sure to get your name on the pre-sale list below.

About the Author: Nate Green is the Program Director for Scrawny To Brawny. You can find him on Facebook or Google+.

  • Cool, pretty much what I do, but with one major exception. Im always on the oats. I have oats for breakfast and in the majority of my shakes. I just cant get the fibre I need from eating bulk foods. Any suggestions?

    • Can you do ground flaxseeds? It is not a good stand-alone meal for breakfast, but great in shakes. I also mix it into my oatmeal when I do that for breakfast.

    • I see no problem with oats at all, honestly. Are you just tired of eating them? Or do you feel like you’re relying on them too much?

      • Thanks Nate and Tom. Not tired of them but its always nice to have an alternative. Without trying to sound like a paleo freak I am sourcing more ‘caveman’ style elements to my diet. Im a scientist you see, I need to experiment.

  • Rohan. S, India

    Great!! Thanks Nate, u rock!

  • Jerome

    Really fantastic. The advice on sleep is very much on target for my life right now.

  • Zac Roggin

    I have to be honest, I am so grateful for what you guys do.

    A guy like me (165lbs, 5’10 and really struggling to gain the good weight) can get caught up in a lot of unnecessary bullshit that most fitness magazines or articles will sell you. I have gone on long enough with my own guidance to know that it doesn’t work. Now I have become teachable again. With the direction of S2B and good people around me, I am getting closer than I have ever been to satisfying results. So, for what its worth, thanks guys.

  • Jon

    Great article Nate. What kind of premade meals do you get from whole foods?

    • Yo Jon. I normally get cooked chicken and steak for protein, sweet potatoes and quinoa salads for carbs, and either salads or cooked veggies (asparagus, brussels sprouts, carrots, etc.)

  • Jesse Rude

    I mean, why not? Hope you have a great training partner (gymnast/ballerina/yogi perhaps)

  • Another fantastic article, Nate. Could I do some extra super shakes in lieu of the 20oz of water?

    • Sure. But I’d still prefer you drink some water, too. :)

  • Jörg Schwartz

    Nate, your stuff is awesome. thanks!

    Suggestion for Supershake: Mix it with green tea. In case you mixed it with water instead of milk/almondmilk before, you wont taste any difference (for me the frozen berries dominate any taste anyway).

    Thus you’ll get the health benefits from green tea (catechins) together with your muscle building shake.

    Question: Why frozen banana?

  • Dean Phillips

    Loved this so much, was happy to see I hit all the points on the list!

    How do you go about your writing process? Always curious as I loved the last blog and this one man

    • Writing process? Man, it’s just a matter of brainstorming ideas with the rest of the team. Stuff based on our own experience with our own transformations, stuff we’ve learned over the years, and stuff we use with our clients to help them change their bodies and lives.

      Then it’s just a matter of putting my ass in a chair and writing. And editing. And tweaking. And more editing and tweaking.

      We truly feel honored that so many people read the site and sign up for the program. In the end, we’re just writing stuff we wish we would’ve known when we started.

      • Dean Phillips

        That’s why you’re a great guy man. Always stepping up your game with your writing and i’m chucked to see how well you’re doing.

  • Mike

    Great post! If I must workout at 5am, should I lift fasted? (right now I go with having had fiber, green supp, & bring 10g bcca during) What is ideal when 5am is the only time to lift?

    • Mike! I like your pre-workout protocol. I wouldn’t change a thing if it’s working for you. Just be sure to get a big meal in afterward.

  • PopeJonPope

    heres some great ideashttp://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/brutal_complexes

  • jon

    check it outhttp://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/brutal_complexes

  • jon
  • Ryan

    Any recommendations on a multi-vitaming?

    • Personally, I use Opti-men multi. (Yes, it’s a ridiculous name.)

  • Ahmad

    The best advice is to have sex… thanks

  • Chris

    Hi Nate, great read!

    Why do you recommend 10g of creatine mono post-workout? All of the studies done that demonstrate the supplement is safe to use in the long-term is for dosages no more than 5g, even JB recommends this amount in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vBNUjvGHAQ

    So is it safe to use 10g of creatine in the long-run and should we take that much on non-training days as well?

    Many thanks!

    • Hey Chris –

      It doesn’t have to be post-workout. In S2B we recommend guys take 5 grams twice per day. (JB likes to put it in his green tea so it dissolves better.)

      Why 10 grams? Well, we want to make sure as much creatine as possible is taken up by our muscles and actually used.

      As far as safety, it’s a non-issue if you don’t have a pre-existing condition.

      In one study which tracked healthy athletes over a 5-year period, football players who used creatine at levels up to 15.75 grams per day showed no effect on markers of renal or kidney stress.

      So you should be good to go.

      -Nate

  • Alex

    Hey there, great info. Can you recommend a similar program for us “skinny fat” girls who want to put on muscle?

  • Chris McLaughlin

    Thx Nate! Quick question – do you have a particular brand of fish oil that you like to use?

    • Hey Chris –

      I personally use Carlson’s finest fish oil. Lemon flavor.

  • Jimmy

    Can you convert the guide into pdf? Thanks!

  • Pierre

    When you say “have a muscle snack, the rules: protein, fat, veggies”, do you mean it is not recommended to have carbs with it?

    And what is for you the best time to take the creatine, 5gr morning and 5g evening, or 10gr in one shot?

    Thanks again for sharing the knowledge.

    • Hey Pierre –

      No worries about mixing the fat and carbs. You’re consuming a ton of them at this meal, so it’s not really a big deal.

      We prefer our clients take 5grams in the morning with their green tea and 5grams in the afternoon/evening with their post-workout shake.

  • Arash

    You are the best!! Thank you!

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought guys carrying around a gallon milk jug look absolutely ridiculous

  • What here does NOT apply to women. The food measurement, for instance, can’t be one size fits all…

    • Hey Stacey – S2B the coaching program is designed specifically for men, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the above action steps IF you want to gain muscle. All you’d have to do is reduce the amount of food. Personally, I’d halve the ingredients in all the meals.

  • Will_Brooks1

    Good shit! I’ve been following a similar plan and have seen pretty significant results. I never realized how much what you ate it mattered, but from a personal experience I know that it’s extremely hard to gain muscle mass without keeping a good nutrition plan. It’s surprising how many people just don’t even think about that aspect. Sucks to suck I guess. Check out my blog @ peakfitnessblog.wordpress.com. Its just starting up but I could use some support!

  • Guest

    Muscle Lunch photo #1 = an e-reader? Could you update with a tastier example?

  • Colby Knepp

    Nate, sweet daily calendar breakdown in excel – can see an expanded view to use as a template for our daily routine?

  • mateusz kwiatkowski

    this should be downloadable, great stuff, im not skinny bastard but i love this site, clear message easy to read and implement in daily life. i started drinking water in the morning regulary and it works very nice:)