Often people struggle with deciding if they should I build muscle or lose fat first. If you’re one of those people, we have some info for you to consider.
To build muscle first or lose the fat…that is the question. This topic is often debated. The only time that bulking first is warranted is when your body type is naturally lean. Even then there is a protocol for bulking correctly through a clean bulk. For all other situations, the answer is that you should shed the pounds before you decide to add any size.
Not only will you look better year-round, but you also won’t struggle with gaining additional fat that could be a by-product of bulking.
Still not sure which way to go with your training?
Don’t worry because we’ll break it down for you and that’s where things will really get interesting.
There are benefits to getting lean first. Let’s face facts: That lean, muscular, polished body is something that everybody wants. So, start with that body. Here are reasons that shedding the flab first is best for the majority of the population:
Body Fat Percentage: What You’ve Got
Most people who start on a fitness journey have some weight to lose, and that is okay. If you are carrying excess weight and you have never seriously dieted for 12 weeks or more, you will have no clue what your body looks like in a lean state. You may already have wonderful muscle structure under the fat. Once you lose the fat, you might be perfectly content with your physique. You just can’t see what you have when it’s under cover.
If you burn the fat off and you are not satisfied with the physique that you have, you will at least understand your starting point. A good visual is priceless. It allows you to see which of your body parts need additional work and which are on-point.
For example, your quads could be large and solid, but your hamstrings might be lacking. Or, your abs and waistline could need a ton of work even though your shoulders and back are well developed.
Keep in mind that we are all unique. Because of that, we will have different strengths and weaknesses. Genetics do play a role. A fitness journey is a personal journey for you to attain your best body.
Lean Guys Look Bigger And Lean Ladies Look Shapely
For a truly athletic, lean appearance, women should opt for a range from 14 to 20% body fat and men should aim for 6 to 13%. When you are within these ranges, your body takes on a new shape, a new appearance.
Men – Have you ever started cutting fat only to have some dude at the gym say, “Damn Bro, you look huge!” even though you are losing weight? If you have not experienced this, you might soon.
If you have not experienced this, you might soon.
Ladies – Find a picture of a 150-pound woman who is lean and muscular and compare her to a 150-pound woman who is mostly fat. Look around the Internet. These are easy to find. How lean the body will make a tremendous difference in the way 150 pounds looks on varying women.
Leanness provides an illusion for both sexes.
Fat is hiding your muscle shape and definition, and fat just looks, well fat. It also gives the muscles appearance of being soft and flat. Burning off the fat layer will expose the roundness and shapeliness of your muscles, and it may even reveal some striation that comes with being lean. Getting lean is also the only way to see your glorious abs! Whether your muscles are as big as you want them to be or not will not necessarily matter. Lean, shapely muscles provide the illusion of being larger.
You Can Do A Lean, Clean Bulk
The truth of the matter is that if you want to look great while you are packing on muscle, you need to start out lean and complete a lean, clean bulk. You will gain some weight; it is a must, but not anything like bulking with hamburgers, pizza, and donuts, also known as a dirty bulk.
What is a lean and clean bulk?
If you clean bulk, that means you are eating an additional 300 to 500 calories per day, and not just any calories. You need to stick with whole, unprocessed foods. Adding clean carbs (sweet potato or brown rice), healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil) and increasing your lean protein consumption is the best method for clean bulking. Eating your greens is still a must. Go to town eating veggies.
Who has ever gotten fat off of broccoli?
A common formula for calculating your lean protein intake when you are cutting fat is to multiple 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For instance, a 155-pound male would use this equation:
155(pounds) x 1.2(grams of protein) = 186 grams of protein consumption per day
If 1.2 grams per day is not yielding the results you want, you can incrementally increase from there.
Building muscle is a timely process that can take years. That’s why it is called building muscle. It just does not happen overnight. You don’t need to gorge on junk to do it though. With a clean bulk, you will have some fat covering your muscles. Not enough to grab, though, only enough to pinch.
Not only do you have to bulk correctly, but you also must be serious about your training program. You should work out using a focused and individualized training program. Since you already know what your body looks like in its lean state, you can tailor your workouts to hit weaker muscle groups more often in your training rotation.
Staying Lean Helps Avoid The Roller Coaster Of Dirty Bulking And Cut Diets
There are many who swear by leaning out and bulking with dirty bulking phases to put on mass. The definition of a dirty bulking phase is when a person eats anything they wish and as much as they can in order to build size.
For instance, a guy may eat 1,000 calories of donuts to obtain fats instead of 1,000 calories of avocado. The nutritional values are vastly different, and it shows on the body. With dirty bulking, all clean eating principles are thrown out the window. The constant ups and downs of this process can have adverse effects on your body.
Just think about this for a second: You diet, diet, diet to get super lean. You decide you need 10 more pounds of muscle. A dirty bulking phase sounds nice because, well hell, you’re sick of eating right anyway and this is how bodybuilders do it, right?
Anyone who bulks this way has not thought about what is occurring in his or her body.
If you lower your body fat to the point that your body believes you are starving, survival instincts kick in. Your body says, “Whoa! I need to store all the excess calories you give me.
We are dying here.” So, then you bulk and it stores, stores, stores (in the form of fat), especially if you are giving it junk. What you end up with at the end of your bulk is some new muscle, if you have been busting ass at the gym, and a bunch of new stubborn fat to burn off. The fat gains are typically greater than the muscle gains. You don’t want that!
This type of harmful cycle not only lends itself to extra fat but also puts you at risk of developing diabetes. All in all, the goal is to get lean the healthy way. Do not lose sight of this goal. Always stick with the nutritious bulk.
How To Get Lean First?
Exercise and proper diet go hand in hand. There is a saying, “You can’t outrun the fork.” This could not be any more true because what you put in your mouth matters. You might train to run a marathon and stalemate with your weight because you did not change your diet.
So, where do you start?
Eating Well Is A Key
The first step is getting your diet on track. Some great advice is to shop on the outskirts of your local grocery store. In other words, shop the most outward aisles in the store. These are the ones against the walls.
Simple, because all the fresh produce, meats, seafood and non-processed foods are usually available on the outside aisles of the store.
Tracking your calories is also of the utmost importance when you are losing fat. You need to be in a calorie deficit of at least 500 calories per day. This will allow you to lose about one pound of fat per week. This may not seem like much, but it really is the healthiest way to lose weight and keep it off.
You Need A Good Exercise Regimen
If you are just getting into a workout routine, you should work out five days per week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Make sure that the workouts are cardio based because the goal is to increase your heart rate. You should increase your workouts or the intensity as your body adapts.
If you are not a beginner, you should add high-intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT, to your workout regimen at least two times per week. It really spices up your cardio! Who wants to spend hours on the treadmill each week or run past the neighbor’s house for the millionth time at 3 mph?
These are plenty of benefits when using HIIT. For example, HIIT is highly effective at incinerating fat storage, especially belly fat. As well, you are burning tons of calories during and after your workout. In fact, you can actually cut the amount of time that you do cardio and have better body results compared to those who use steady state as their form of cardio.
These are some of the best HIIT workouts:
- Track work – Sprint the straights, walk the curves. Better yet, race the PUMA robot and add some really fast technology to your workouts.
- Hit the bleachers – Clock yourself to the top and slow jog to the bottom.
- Put together heart-pounding circuits.
- Complete the WOD with your local Crossfitters.
If You Have The Lean Genes
Honestly, the world would just sing together if we could all just start out lean, right?
Well, those who are naturally lean may argue that it’s just as hard to pack on pounds of muscle, as it is to lose pounds of fat. It’s true. The struggle is real no matter what side of the coin you are on.
Even if you are Mr. or Mrs. Lean Genes, you should only clean bulk to add size to your body. It will require time and dedication just like those who have to diet for 12 or more weeks. You will get there, though.
Don’t send your body on a roller-coaster diet. Find a healthy lifestyle that you can adapt to, because diets are temporary. A lifestyle is the adoption of habits that you routinely stick with.
You can adjust calorie and macronutrient intake for the times when you need to grow and the times when you wish to cut and have the lean, mean beach body. Just be smart about it, and only put yourself through clean bulks.
Eating well 24/7 can only yield positive returns as far as your body image is concerned, but the number one benefit is being healthy overall.
Here’s to health!
By Sarah Chadwell