One of the most common questions we receive is what’s the best way to build muscle without getting fat. Today, we’ll share our best advice.
Bulking is a practice a lot of people use in order to build muscle. But some people think it just makes you fat. While some believe that bulking and cutting is the only way to give you the results you want, others say it’s not ideal and that you don’t need to put on excess fat to build muscle.
So what is the best way to build muscle without getting fat? Find out here, today.
If you ask a bodybuilder what they think a proper bulk diet includes, they’re likely to say about 4,000 or more calories in a day. Some might be a little less intense but in the same area.
On the flip-side, some people believe that intermittent fasting is the answer to getting muscle while also maintaining (or decreasing) your body fat percentage.
So obviously, there’s a good deal of confusing facts around this question and it can be hard to decide which side to be on. People feel like they have to ask themselves if they should focus on bulking, cutting or just focus on building up lean muscle.
We’re going to address this question, along with a few other key points that go along with how diets affect our body’s ability to gain and the best way to build muscle without getting fat.
The Best Way to Build Muscle Starts with Your Diet
You know the whole expression that goes along with someone being pregnant – eating for two? Well, in the bodybuilding world, the phrase is you have to eat big in order to get big.
We know this is kind of a lame saying, but there is actually some truth behind it.
The amount (and type) of food you consume on a daily basis is going to play a hand in the way your body is able to build muscle. Eating excessive and crazy amounts of protein alone each day isn’t the best way to build muscle.
So why does the amount of food you eat factor into the way your body builds mass?
Simple. Every day, your body is working to burn a certain mount of energy. And this energy is measured in the form of calories. Now your body gets energy from 2 main sources – the food that you eat each day and the fat stores in your body.
And if you give (aka feed) your body with a lot less energy than what it burns in a day, you’re putting yourself into a calorie deficit, which is going to cause weight loss in all forms. You’ll lose water weight, fat, glycogen and occasionally muscle.
However, when you give yourself less calories, your body isn’t able to create muscle proteins like it was. In simple terms, you can’t build muscles as effectively as you did before.
And that’s often why you really can’t build muscle and burn fat effectively at the exact same time.
When you’re going full steam ahead and trying to get max muscle growth, no matter what type of diet or system you use, it’s imperative that you don’t go into a calorie deficit. So that’s why the ‘eat big to get big’ saying rings truth.
Regardless of how you eat your food, whether you try carb cycling or just intermittent fasting, when you’re in a calorie deficit for long periods of times, you’re extremely limited in building any muscle, no matter what your current health standing is.
Is Body Recomp the Best Way to Build Muscle?
And here’s where the pitfall starts – body recomp. This is when you’re building muscle while trying to lose fat. Recomp stands for recomposition, which means changes the composition of your body weight by the process of getting rid of fat and adding muscle.
Now, the only people that seem to have success with losing fat and building muscle at the same time are those that have a ton of fat to lose.
If you’re already experienced with weightlifting and have made some pretty impressive muscle gains, you aren’t going to be able do it at the same time. Unless you’re overweight and new to this all, it’s really difficult to lose weight and build up muscle at the same time. Focus on one and then move onto the other in order to make progress.
With that being said, the best way to build muscle through body recomposition is still going to fall primarily onto your diet.
The bulking process basically works like this – you eat thousands of calories on a daily basis and you find yourself getting bigger and bigger and bigger. That’s one sure fire way to make sure you aren’t in caloric deficit.
But to build muscle, where is the limit to the point you’re just adding fat? Do you really have to do all that eating?
Our stomachs, wallets, and sanity are about to thank us, because the answer here is no.
There’s a reason why this approach doesn’t work for everyone. First of all, a lot of people are doing improper training and can’t build up muscle, despite how much they’re eating. And in order to get rid of fat you have to do the “cutting” part of it. But the thing is, the longer you cut, the more likely you are to reduce muscle – and you might not even realize it.
This happens more often than you think, because people don’t know how to cut correctly and they end up losing a ton of muscle during the process.
How to Bulk and Cut to Build Muscle THEN Lose Fat
The usual bulk and cut technique generally works like this – the person gains a ton of muscle and a ton of fat, then they end up taking away the fat and the muscle, so they look the exact same as they did before.
Here’s what you need to do in order to avoid this:
The best way to build muscle without getting excessively fat? Eat enough to create a caloric surplus, but don’t gorge yourself. Next, make sure you train to maximize both muscle growth and strength, not just endurance and pumps. And finally, when the time comes to start cutting, you want to make sure you follow a proper weight loss routine so you can get rid of fat but still keep your muscle.
The best way to build muscle and lose fat during your cutting cycle is through high intensity interval training.
Now when it comes down to how much food you need to get the most amount of muscle growth, we have a few tips you can follow. First, stride to eat about 10% more calories than what you burn every day. This’ll help make sure you are working toward growing muscles and cutting back on fat storage.
This way, you are in a slight calorie surplus, and making sure your body is able to synthesize muscle proteins full speed ahead, so you can minimize fat storage. There is, of course, going to be some fat surplus but that’s just how our bodies work.
Here’s a simple way to calculate how much 10% surplus in calories will be.
First, use the Katch McArdle formula in order to determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate). From there, if you exercise from 1 to 3 hours a week, multiply your BMR by 1.2. If you do about 4 to 6 hours of exercise in a week, multiply your BMR by 1.35. And, if you’re over 6 hours of exercise in a week, multiply your BMR by 1.5.
The results of these calculations will give you an idea of what your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), the total amount of calories you burn on a daily basis.
From here, you want to multiply your TDEE by 1.1 and there you go, you’ve got somewhere to start.
Let’s say you weight about 190 pounds and your body fat is in the 7% range. If you exercise 5 to 6 hours a week, your BMR is going to be around 2,200 calories on a daily basis. So multiply that number by 1.4 in order to get your total daily expenditure. This will end up being around 3,000 calories. Multiply that by 1.1 to get your bulking calories, which will have you around 3,400 calories for a regular basis.
So that’s a theory. Does it actually work? Well, the range from 3,300 and 3,500 is your body’s sweet spot for gains. What this means – you’re going to build muscle without having large excess amounts of fat stored.
The Best Way to Build Muscle and NOT Get Fat: Watch Your BMR
Like we said, BMR is a good spot to start. There isn’t exactly one way that’s going to work for everyone. It depends on the way your metabolism is, whether it’s slower or not, so various types of adjustments might need to be mad.
This is yet another reason why you need to stay on top of your measurements and keep an eye on your body. Stay on the scale, keep an eye on the mirror, look at your body fat percentage and watch your waist as you go about bulking.
If you aren’t really getting anywhere near where you want to be for muscle growth, you might want to alter the diet so that you’re gaining anywhere from half a pound to a pound and half each week. However, if you gain more than two pounds in a week during the first couple of weeks of weightlifting, you know that you’re eating too much, so you should cut back, because you’re gaining too much weight.
On the other hand, if you’re gaining less than a pound each week, and you’re still working hard to get 20 pounds of muscle, you could use to eat more.
Do you know how much protein you should be eating per day to support muscle growth?
A clean-filtered whey protein supplement is one of the best tools to have in between meals and after your workout to ensure that you are reaching 1 gram per pound of body weight. That means 1 gram per pound of body weight you want to weigh.
And that’s how bulking is done right. You have to eat a pretty moderate amount of food in order to put your body in a slight calorie surplus. That simple equation is going to give you more muscle than fat.
But there’s one other topic we want to cover – we thought you might want to know when you should start bulking and when you should cut – and why the heck should there be a difference.
Here’s how you can tell – your body fat percentage. If you’re a dude, and your over 15% with your body fat (245% for the ladies) you need to focus on cutting fat.
Being overweight comes with a wide variety of health risks and it also speeds up the rate in which fat is stored. When you’re fat, it’s easier to store fat and stay fat, so all that fat is going to get in the way of building muscle.
Because the fat levels in your bodies are rising, your body is going to become more resistant to insulin, and your ability to burn fat is going to decrease. So you’re going to start storing more carbs as fat. Plus, it’s going to be harder to add to your muscles because of the insulin resistance.
So if you’ve over 15% body fat, you don’t want to focus on bulking, you want to focus on cutting. On the other hand, if your body fat percentage is around 10-12%, you should start working towards bulking up.
Because of this, you’re going to want to go back and forth between cutting and bulking to stay within the realm of 10-17% body fat range until you’ve reached a point where you’re completely satisfied. After that, you can focus on getting your body fat percentage below 10%. Though the differences may seem small, you may be happy when you’re at 10% (with your size and look), but when you hit 7%, it gives you a look you aren’t as satisfied with.
The most important thing you can do is keep track of your measurements, keep an eye on the mirror and make sure you’re handling one area before you jump into another!
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