There is an old notion of “bulking up” and “cutting down” used by inexperienced weight lifters and aspiring body builders. The notion has been completely blown out of proportion over time however, and leads to potentially terrible fitness goals results. Many people have an unrealistic expectation of being able to gain too much muscle too quickly. When they don’t see the pounds piling on, they quickly turn to a “bulk”, in which its common practice to put on 2 lbs a week. This means if you “bulked” for a year, you would put on 108 lbs. How much of this would you expect to be muscle? 80 lbs? 70 lbs? How about 8-10, if you’re lucky. That would mean, to gain 10 pounds of muscle, you’ve actually piled on a 100 lbs of body mass, and leave yourself with a hell of a lot of cardio and dieting to do.
Of course, this example is slightly exagurated, however the principle applies. Lower your unrealist expectations, to real expectations, and ill explain why the traditional “bulk at all costs” and “cut for summer” is pretty much a waste of time.
A male could aim to gain a maximum of 15 pounds of muscle in just 1 year, however this varies significantly on each individual. There are a number of factors that contribute to this muscle gain such as:
Dedication to training
A casual gym guy, may gain 2-3 lbs a year, whilst an aspiring bodybuilder may gain upwards of 10 lbs. Genetics does also come into play but it’s a case of effort in = results. Remember not everyone lifts weights to be the next ronnie coleman or jay cutler, so a casual gym guy may be thrilled with 2 lbs of muscle over the course of a year, whereas a bodybuilder may be disappointed with only gaining 8.
Assuming were aiming to gain the maximum of 15 lbs of muscle in 1 year, that equates to 1.25 lbs of muscle each month, not quite the 2 lbs a week you’ve ready on the bodybuilding.com forums eah? In order to maintain your body fat levels, along with gaining this amount of muscle, you’ll need roughly 3000 calories extra a month, which works out around 100 calories extra a day. Not much of a calorie surplus, and definitely not in the bulk up diet range you may have read before. Remember more protein does not = faster muscle gains.
Anyone can lose fat much faster than they can build muscle. Fat loss is achieved when your body is in a calorie deficit. This means you burn more calories than your body requires. An average person desiring to lose fat will need to eat roughly 400 calories less than normal, which is around 12,000 calories over the course of a month. This will result in a weight loss of a pound each week.
As we all know, in order to gain muscle, your body needs to have a calorie surplus. This surplus is far smaller than the deficit needed for losing fat.
So how can we utilise this knowledge of a surplus and deficit to gain muscle, whilst also losing fat at the same time?
In order for a human to survive, the body needs two things. These are carbohydrates or fat to use as energy. The second is amino acids from protein to build muscle. The body has many backup systems in place in the event that you’re lacking in either area. Think of your stomach as being the fuel of a car. A persons body fat is back up juice or a spare battery ready to be used when food sources aren’t available. Muscle mass is the absolute last ditch effort, when the body how nothing else to run off. The body can be energised through any of these sources, however amino acids only come from muscle mass or the stomach.
So how can we prevent the body from losing muscle?
The body needs energy to function, that is not from fat sources or in the stomach.
The body requires amino acids in order to stay alive alive
If you calories are reduced by more than 10% of your maintenance, you run a great risk of using muscle as a fuel source. This in turn means you will be losing muscle.
This translates to
10% of energy coming from stored body fat
50% of energy being used from carbohydrates and fat sources that are consumed
40% of energy coming from protein sources
How to Gain Muscle & Lose Fat
Steady supply of amino acids & protein. 1g of protein is sufficient per each pound of lean body weight. I personally eat every 2.5-3 hours, as opposed to eating 3 traditional big meals a day.
Consume the right amount of calories to ensure your body doesn’t think its starving, but not enough to start gaining fat. 10% under your daily maintenance is a good starting point.
Follow a good diet, making every calorie work towards your goal. Make sure to eat unprocessed foods, vegetables, whole grains and carbs low on the GI index. Avoid simple carbs such as sugary sweets, junk food, fizzy drinks or alcohol.
Train with intensity. You can find plenty of workouts right here on shreddybrek.
A lot of noobie lifters wonder if they should cut first or bulk first. These tend to be confused teenagers who have little to no muscle mass or definition. Start as you intend to go on, and do both! For a beginner, this is the easiest time to both gain muscle and burn fat!
Of course some guys will want to add mass & strength regardless of quality lean muscle, if you’re looking to do that follow a mass gain diet like this.
There are of course, like anything, exceptions to the rule. This above article applies more closely to beginner weight lifters. An advanced body builder will plan their goals in phases of adding mass and getting lean. Do not confuse this for the typical bulk and cut that the new starter in your gym is talking about however. Even when bulking, a body builder will maintain a low level of body fat. Beginners to lifting will, for some reason, ignore fat gains and chase the weight.
If you’re the type of person who can’t cain weight, fat or muscle, regardless of what you eat, then I would not worry about sticking to such rigid calorie intakes outlined above. Rather continually add to your calorie intake until you find your sweet spot. Its better to eat clean, but you can eat a little bit dirty from time to time if you’re struggling to pile on weight. I personally would recommend a high carb supplement such as maltodextrin however.
That’s it for today guys. I hope you’ve found the article to be of use. If you have be sure to hit the like and share buttons down below or to the left of your page, and follow us on youtube facebook & twitter.