Lean Bulking: 5 Ways to Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat
Winter is my favorite time of year. Why?
Because it's bulking season. You know – eat, lift, eat.
Guys love bulking season, but most make the same huge mistake (no pun intended).
What's the mistake? They become fat.
In their attempts to gain muscle, they eat everything in sight which leads to excessive fat gain. You cannot force-feed muscles to grow. It does not work that way.
So, after the typical 6 months of bulking, they need to diet for 6 months to lose all that fat they gained. During those 6 months of dieting, they lose most of the muscle they gained–if not more.
Back to square one.
So, what's the solution to building muscle without getting fat?
Well, I came up with 5 of them.
Implement one or all of them at once.
5 Ways to Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat
1 – High/Low caloric intake days
I love this strategy. It's simple. It works.
The idea is to eat a high amount of calories on your weight training days and a low amount of calories on your non-weight training days.
Your body needs more calories for energy and muscle building when you train.
I would recommend consuming 500 calories over your maintenance on your high days and consuming your maintenance on your off days.
This strategy will help you keep the fat gain at bay.
2 – Get lean first prior to starting your bulk phase
Yea, yea, yea, I know you want to get big.
But, you gotta listen–the leaner you are, the more likely your body will add muscle versus fat.
Conversely, the fatter you are, the easier it is for your body to gain fat.
If you are a man, get under 10% body fat before you start bulking and never ever let yourself get above 20%.
If you are a woman, get under 20% body fat before you start bulking and never ever let yourself get above 30%.
3 – Cyclical Bulking
Let me know if this sounds familiar.
You bulk for 3-6 months, get fat, then cut for 3-6 months and you end up looking the same as you did when you originally started 6-12 months ago.
This is known as “traditional bulking.”
I don't know about you, but the hardest part for me is psychologically having to cut for 3-6 months.
I had to do it when I competed in my bodybuilding contest.
It's a long time to be miserable.
I've got a better idea–cyclical bulking.
Focus on building muscle for 4-8 weeks then follow that with a short cutting phase of 1-2 weeks.
Each bulking cycle will leave you with a little fat to burn off in those 1-2 cutting weeks.
Shorter cutting weeks leads to less muscle loss.
Plus it's easier psychologically to only have to diet 1-2 weeks at a time versus 3-6 months.
4 – Consume the majority of your daily carbs around your weight training sessions.
You can stick to the traditional 3-6 month bulking phase if you want. Try consuming the majority of your carbs immediately after your weight training sessions.
Your body craves carbs post-workout. Carbs will be stored as glycogen which is a source of energy for your muscles. Your body will not store carbs as fat post-workout.
Carbs are beneficial post-workout. This is the only time I recommend consuming simple sugars as well.
Implementing this eating strategy will help you pack on muscle without getting fat.
5 – Perform your damn cardio
I fall victim to neglecting my cardio during bulking season. I mistakenly think that cardio will “burn up my muscle,” or something ridiculous like that.
Let's say you burn about 700 calories a week performing cardio. That's not a lot. Probably like 3 moderately intense 30 minute sessions. That adds up to about 3,500 calories a month or 1 pound.
That's 1 pound of fat less that you do not have to diet off once you start your cutting phase.
So, if your bulking phase is 6 months, you will start your cutting phase with 6 pounds of less fat than you normally would have had you neglected your cardio sessions.
So, do your cardio when bulking.
Ok, so forget about traditional bulking. It's dead. You need to start bulking smarter. Think about gaining muscle while minimizing fat gain.
You'll thank me when summer rolls around and all the fat guys are sweatin' bullets because they have to drop all that fat that accumulated during their dirty bulking phase.
You, on the other hand, will be able to coast to single-digit body fat.