You want more muscle mass – what you don’t want is the fat mass that typically comes along with it. There’s no question if you’ve been reading enough material in the bodybuilding industry, you’ve heard of the ‘bulking phase’ and the ‘cutting phase’. Here is your guide on how to build muscle mass.
Essentially, during the bulking phase, (often called a dirty bulk), you eat, eat, and eat some more. Your main mission, more size. It doesn’t matter if it’s fat or muscle because you’ll just diet off the fat gain during the cutting phase later on.
You want to maximize the amount of muscle you build, so the more calories, the better.
This mindset isn’t ideal, however. If you don’t mind having a body fat that’s higher than normal and keeps your muscle mass quite hidden as you ‘bulk’, by all means, go for the dirty bulk and cruel cut to come after it.
But, you’ll pay the price. When you have to cut hard after a dirty bulking phase, you’ll be at more of a risk of losing muscle mass tissue since your calorie intake is so low.
So not only do you gain more fat as you focus on building muscle, but you lose more muscle as you focus on cutting fat later on. Clearly not a win-win scenario.
Instead, use the following techniques to help you build muscle, without the added fat gain.
Get Out Of The Bulking Phase Mindset
First, get right out of the ‘bulking’ phase mindset. Stop dividing your year up into these phases. You are no longer ‘bulking’, you are focusing on building lean muscle mass and this takes just as much precision as how to get lean.
If you’re lucky, by the time you’re through your lean muscle building phase, you will hardly even have to lean down as you won’t have gained much fat at all.
The minute you shift your mindset from bulking/cutting to year round leanness is the minute you can put more focus on eating right to maintain that target body composition.
This means putting quality calories into your body. No more pizza, ice cream, or burgers just because you need more calories. Eat the same foods you would during a cutting phase only now, eat more of them.
When Is The Best Time To Eat Your Meals and Nutrients
Next, you need to time your nutrients right. Since you are going to be most anabolic as you come out of your workout session, this is when you want to carb load. Really put a high dose – up to 75% of the total carbohydrates you’ll eat during this post-workout period. You can learn more about staying on top of your muscle building diet plan here.
Your body is least likely to convert them to body fat at this time, so when you stand the best chance of lean muscle gain.
Then spread out the remaining carbohydrates equally throughout the rest of the day.
Lower Dietary Fat Intake
To stay leaner, you’ll also want to keep your dietary fat intake on the lower side as well. Now, don’t go extremely low as a very low dietary fat intake means plummeting testosterone levels, which will make it even harder to build the muscle you’re after.
Keep it to around 10-15% total dietary fat. This is lower than standard, but if you want to stay lean, it’s the best route to go. As fat is not the preferred source of fuel for powering you through those intense sessions, nor is it helpful at all during the post workout recovery period, you’re wiser to put more focus on carbohydrates and protein.
Build Muscle Mass With Protein
Speaking of protein, aim to eat around 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. This again is slightly higher than the recommended amount, but it’s going to have a greater thermic effect on the body, meaning it’ll boost your metabolism and help prevent fat gain.
In addition to that, since protein is the nutrient required to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, you want to make sure you are providing more than enough. This intake will meet those needs perfectly. You can obtain tons of muscle building recipes from my guide found here.
Keep the protein coming from lean sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean red meat, egg whites, and whey protein powder.
Eat Clean Carb Foods
Just as we mentioned above, you must make sure that the foods you are eating are clean ones if you hope to stay as lean as possible. This means ditching the white bread, ditching the processed snack foods, and ditching the sugary desserts.
Focus on clean carbs like oats, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and sweet potatoes for your primary energy sources. These are the ones that will keep insulin controlled, thus producing the lean mass building without rapid fat gain. You can learn more about clean carbs from my old article found here.
The only time on this diet setup that you should be eating faster-burning carbohydrates is immediately post-workout when you want that insulin spike to boost muscle glycogen storage and replenishment.
Keep Up Some Cardio Exercises
While you don’t ever want to go overboard with your cardio training, adding an hour or more daily while aiming to build muscle is ok, you also don’t want to stop either like so many people do.
Often people think that adding any additional cardio will just eat away at calories – calories that could have been used to help with the muscle building you’re going for.
And, while this is true to an extent, doing some cardio is still critical. Not only for heart-healthy, but to keep the fat burning pathways open in the body. Doing lower intensity cardio can also help to train your body to utilize fat as a fuel source during lower intensity work, which then means you’ll spare muscle glycogen for when you need it most – during those intense lifting sessions.
Doing 2-3 sessions of 20-30 minutes of this moderate intensity cardio is all that’s needed to accomplish this task.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Finally, it’s also important that you keep your expectations realistic. Will you stay as lean as you were when you finished your last cutting phase while building muscle?
Likely not. Almost everyone, no matter how great they structure their workout and diet will gain a little fat while building muscle and this fat can actually help you lift heavier, thus boost your results.
And likewise, you may build muscle slightly slower while using this approach, than if you did the dirty bulk where you ate as many calories as you could possibly stuff into your body.
But, isn’t it a better trade-off?
Cycling body weight as hard as those individuals do – gaining 20+ pounds in the off season only to have to diet it off a few months later – destroys your metabolism and puts excess strain on the body.
By staying leaner at all times, you can avoid this excess strain, look better and feel better about yourself, and you will end up at that end goal in due time if you work hard.
So make your choice. There is no right or wrong here, but if you prefer to enjoy the way you look 12 months of the year and can sacrifice a little on the speed of mass gains all while keeping a very clean and controlled diet, you can learn how to build muscle mass while staying lean successfully.