How to Gain Muscle Without Fat – OMB 1.1
In this video, Francis and I introduce a lifestyle protocol that will allow you to gain muscle without fat.
How to Gain Muscle – Bulking
Most people are familiar with the term bulking so I won’t drag on about this too much, but essentially if you are bulking you are most likely working out and eating in order to gain weight, more specifically in hopes of adding muscle to your frame.
So before getting into the meat of this post, I want to introduce what can be classified as bulking and how it is done. In order to bulk you need to eat in a caloric surplus. So if you maintain your weight at 2500 calories/day then eating any amount of calories above that maintenance intake would be considered a surplus.
I also use the term gain weight because in a traditional approach to bulking one focuses primarily on stuffing their face, lifting heavy things and making sure the number of the scale goes up.
Flawed? Well, that depends on your goals and what you are hoping to accomplish. If you are looking to just gain pure weight (i.e. fat and muscle) then stuffing your face and lifting heavy things will suit your goals just right.
Your Potential for Gaining Muscle
Next, I want to look into your muscle building potential (this also happens to be the freebie that comes with the blog post – the Muscle Building Potential Calculator, more on that later). First, there is an upper limit of how much muscle you can expect to gain – this depends on a few factors like lifting experience, age, current lean muscle mass, etc. Second, gaining muscle is done over a long period of time with proper nutrition and exercising. Lastly, by eating in a caloric surplus you will give your body the nutrients it needs to support adding lean muscle mass.
How much muscle can you expect to gain?
While this depends on quite a few different factors. A good generalization for beginners is that you can expect to gain about 1-1.5% (0.5-0.75% for women) of your body weight in muscle per month (PS this model was designed by Alan Aragon and for the most part it’s a very good generalization).
For a beginner male lifter at about 150 pounds, they can expect to gain about 1.5 to 2 pounds of lean muscle per month. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, I must emphasize that 2 pounds per month adds up over time (e.g. 2 pounds/month in 6 months = 12 pounds of lean muscle).
Are there exceptions to the 1-1.5% generalization?
Yes, just like with most things there are exceptions. For example, a beginner, someone coming back from large amounts of muscular atrophy (loss of muscle), or even those who are genetically gifted will have a lot more ply in this generalization.
PS I myself was not blessed with the coveted muscle building gene, so I fall pretty nicely into the Alan Aragon model of muscle building. Gotta work with what you got after all.
Translating to Caloric Intakes
Since not all surpluses are designed to add muscle without fat, the degree of your caloric surplus will greatly affect how much additional fat you store.
For example, if you eat 2500 calories to maintain your weight and bulk by eating at 3500 or 4000 calories then it’s very likely that your surplus will be utilized not only for muscular growth but for a large amount of fat storage as well. This is the very reason a lot of guys and even women who are bulking end up getting “thick” because their caloric surplus far exceeds their potential to gain muscle. As I stated before your body can only gain so much muscle in a given time, so any caloric surplus you don’t utilize for muscular growth will be stored as fat.
So how do you avoid fat gain while bulking?
Using the same example, say you ate 2750 calories in order to bulk, a surplus of 250 calories/day – which is a 10% increase in caloric intake, then you are likely to add very little additional fat with this bulk.
This is because you are eating in a surplus that is large enough to support muscular growth, but not so large it promotes fat retention. This, in essence, means you are able to gain muscle without fat, or very limited amounts of fat; this technique is also known as Lean Bulking.
Now, given that you are reading a blog with the title “How to Gain Muscle Without Fat”, I’m gonna go on a limb here and guess that you aren’t interested in stuffing your face, lifting heavy things, and getting heavier on the scale.
So instead of inundating you with benefits of lean bulking, I’ll list a few general themes that you will probably sympathize with if you are looking to utilize lean bulking or are already utilizing it and want some confirmation that it’s right for you.
Are You an Ideal Candidate for Lean Bulking?
This list shouldn’t be all comprehensive, rather it should give you confidence that you are looking into the right muscle building protocol for your goals. So let’s go ahead and see a few defining factors for an ideal lean bulking candidate.
If you want to consistently gain muscle without fat, then the easy answer would be, yes, Lean Bulking is right for you.
All that being said there are a few more reasons you might want to look into lean bulking outside of the obvious.
If you are patient enough to gain muscle at a slow/moderate rate.
Contrary to a lot of the stuff your face, get big protocols. Lean bulking can be quite a laborious, not only that, but it also takes quite a bit of time to see the results. This is why patience is so important when it comes to lean bulking. Eat in too large of a surplus and you have more work to do once you’ve reached your goal lean muscle mass (i.e. you’ll have to cut calories to try to lose the fat you gained during a traditional bulk – which will likely also result in muscle loss as well, especially if you follow a very aggressive approach to fat loss).
What is a slow/moderate rate?
Now, I want to introduce a more in-detail Alan Aragon Model, which will help you determine how much muscle you can expect to gain in a month. PS You can also download the Muscle Building Potential Calculator (scroll to the bottom of this post) and in a few easy step find out how much lean muscle mass you can expect to gain.
- Beginner lifters can expect to gain 1-1.5% of their body weight in lean muscle mass per month (0.5-0.75% for women)
- Intermediate lifters can expect to gain 0.5-1% of their body weight in lean muscle mass per month (0.25-0.5% for women)
- Advanced lifters can expect to gain 0.25-0.5% of their body weight in lean muscle mass per month (0.125-0.25% for women)
If you are fed up with the cyclical and non-stop repetitiveness that is traditional lean bulking and cutting, then Lean Bulk. AKA you won’t have to stuff your face to “gain muscle” and starve yourself to “lose weight”. Not only does this put a lot of strain on your body, it’s exhausting.
PS I’ve done traditional bulking and cutting. Most of the time I spent frustrated with one of two things. I was either upset because I was gaining far too much fat and felt like I was digressing rather than progressing or I was upset because I was freaking hungry all the time! All in order to gain muscle and then get “ripped”. It was exhausting and I cannot in good conscious recommend dirty bulking and aggressive cuts to anyone who wants to enjoy having a life or has the patience to play the long game that is lean bulking.
Finally, if you want to master your nutrition and have your surplus work for you rather than against you. This means you can enjoy not having your face glued to a Tupperware container or have to count down the hours to your next meal. Because you will be following a moderate approach to bulking and when/if you so choose a moderate approach to cutting you won’t have to worry about gaining fat when bulking or losing muscle when you are cutting.
6 Keys to a Successful Lean Bulk
Now I want to address a few key topics that will provide you with the recipe to successfully lean bulk.
In the Gym:
1) Track Your Workouts
Why? Because you need to keep yourself accountable in the gym.
2) Push Yourself in the Gym
This goes hand-in-hand with number one. If you don’t hold yourself accountable to your workout program and constantly strive to better yourself in the gym then you will give your body a reason to not gain muscle.
This point is also related to the term Progressive Overload which is the gradual increase in training volume, intensity, frequency or time to achieve a specific goal, in this case gaining muscle.
If you want to gain muscle you need to give you body a reason to do so. Even more so when lean bulking because you are eating very near to your maintenance caloric intake. So if you don’t progressive overload during each of your training sessions then you are much more likely to maintain your weight.
In the gym, this translates to you squeaking out that next rep, pushing yourself each and every session, and striving to consistently get stronger even if it’s by a single rep or adding 2.5 pounds on the bar. Every bit counts and it all adds up in the long-term.
3) Workout for Muscular Growth (Hypertrophy) NOT “Annihilation”
Contrary to some of the insane bodybuilding workouts you see out there, annihilating your muscles day in and day out can easily become contraindicated.
Not only are a lot of these bodybuilders taking some next level stacks (pre-workout, post-workout, in some cases trenbolone – tren), but they’ve also been training at a very high intensity for quite a long period of time and thus need that kind of stimulus to keep progressing in the gym.
So if you’ve ever followed a typical bodybuilding split its probably been chocked full of volume and intensity sets (drop sets, giant sets, etc.) which end up preventing you from pushing yourself day in and day out because your body is too busy trying to recover from its last workout to be able to push itself during this one.
On another related side note, these types of workouts, in the long-term, often result in a cyclical breakdown of your muscle fibers which can also lead to injuries. And injuries are the death of progress – I’m being dramatic – but still… injuries that are entirely avoidable, should be entirely avoided!
Outside the Gym:
4) Track Your Body Composition
I’ve gone over this concept quite a few times in the AFL (Accelerated Fat Loss) Series, however, in regards to muscle building, it can be equally important.
This is because gaining weight does not always equal gaining muscle.
For example, if you are following a very, very dirty bulk and happen to gain 10 pounds in a month. I can assure you that the majority of that weight is not muscle. Most likely you’ve gained 2-2.5 pound of muscle and tacked on an additional 8 or so odd pounds of fat. Ouch!
So by tracking your body composition regularly – about once a month – you are able to regularly see how the composition of your body is changing quantitatively. AKA You can see if your program is actually working!
Not only that but for beginners that go through recomposition – a beginner that is able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, without even trying – you could easily gain muscle and lose fat without evening knowing it.
5) Eat in a Caloric Surplus
This should come as a big duh to most of you… But it needs to be stated none-the-less.
If you want to gain muscle you need to provide your body with the recipe to gain muscle. In the gym that means your workouts should be designed to gain muscle and in the kitchen this means you need to fuel said muscle building with additional calories.
6) Vary Your Surplus
Since beginners, intermediates, and advanced lifters all have a different potential to gain muscle they shouldn’t eat the same caloric intake to support muscular growth.
For example, a beginner eating 250 calories above maintenance would primarily support muscle growth, whereas an advanced lifter could be at risk of gaining additional fat with a 250 caloric surplus.
A good rule of thumb is as follows:
- Beginners should consume 10% above their maintenance intake (5% for women) – e.g. 2500 to maintain | 2750 to bulk
- Intermediates should consume 7.5% above their maintenance intake (3.75% for women) – e.g. 2500 to maintain | 2690 to bulk
- Advanced lifters should consume 5% above their maintenance intake (2.5% for women) – e.g. 2500 to maintain | 2625 to bulk
Now while this is a good generalization for most, everyone has a different body type (e.g. Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph, or any combination of the following). Thus your caloric surplus should be fairly flexible as well.
If you find that your workouts are on point, but you still aren’t gaining muscle then you may need to increase your caloric intake slightly – not drastically, but enough that it supports muscular growth (i.e. 2.5 – 5% at a time).
Contrarily, if you find that your caloric surplus is too large and you are starting to gain unwanted fat then cut down on your caloric surplus (i.e. decrease your surplus by about 2.5-5%).
Wrapping up, we looked into how you can gain muscle, what your potential is for building muscle, and how lean bulking can be utilized to meet this potential – in terms of a caloric surplus – without exceeding it and gaining unwanted fat.
Then, we went through a few ideal candidates for lean bulking, such as those who want to gain muscle without fat, Duh!
Finally, we looked a bit more into the ideal recipe that comprises a successful lean bulk.
Next, the freebie that comes with this post is the Muscle Potential Building Calculator; this calculator was specifically created to help you determine what your genetic potential is for muscle building and how much muscle you can expect to gain in a given period of time.
Finally, I want to thank you for taking the time to go through this OMB post. I wish you the best of luck with your muscle building endeavor and I hope this post has given you some more incentive to either take up Lean Bulking or that it has given you more confidence to continue to do so.
In the next OMB post, I will be going into more detail with why you should be lean bulking.
In the meantime, gain muscle without fat and enjoy the wonder that is Lean Bulking!