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You want to gain body weight but only the right kind of weight. Building lean muscle mass without gaining body fat (particularly in our middle section) is what every lifter desires.
But what is the best way to do it?
How do I increase muscle mass without gaining body fat?
Have you heard the terms ‘dirty bulk’ and ‘cutting phase’?
This is where someone deliberately puts on significant body weight to supercharge muscle growth, then drastically cuts their calories to lose the fat.
This can work for very dedicated athletes and it can result in a shredded physique, but we all know yoyo dieting really isn’t good for you in the long run. You also have to spend a number of months with a much higher body fat percentage than you would ideally like.
Instead, you should be aiming for body recomposition - building muscle mass without gaining body fat.
This method might mean taking a little longer to get your muscles to the size you want, but it is a much more sustainable method. It also means you can look great all the time instead of just for a couple of months at a time.
So what’s the key to gaining lean muscle mass?
Moderate calorie surplus
Unlike with a dirty bulk which really means eating whatever you want, we recommend a controlled increase in calories which you regularly monitor and reasses.
Men could start with an extra 500 per day, women an extra 350 (or an extra 20-30%) on what you normally eat.
If after a few weeks you start to see the results you want, keep going. If you aren’t seeing muscle growth, you need more calories. If you are experiencing mostly fat gain, reduce your daily calorie intake.
Increase your protein intake
If you are increasing your calorie intake, make sure it’s the right kind. The extra calories should come from high protein foods which contain healthy fats, such as chicken, nuts, red meat and eggs.
Alternatively you can use supplements such as whey protein shakes and mass gainer. If you are struggling to eat enough calories to stimulate muscle growth, you may benefit from using both.
To stimulate significant muscle gain, you need to be getting as close as possible to consuming 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Without a protein supplement, this is pretty tough. If you are looking at your overall macro ratios, aim for around 30% of both protein and fat with the remaining 40% consisting of carbohydrates.
And remember that not all carbohydrates are the same, slow release carbohydrates found in oats and whole grain bread, give you much better workout fuel when compared to refined sugars.
- Related content: The best at home gym essentials
Maingaining, Lean Bulk, Slow Bulk
There are lots of different phrases used to describe the process of gaining muscle while gaining minimal body fat and they all claim to be slightly different. Some of the ones you’ve maybe come across include: maingaining, lean bulk and slow bulk.
This can be confusing and you could find two very experienced trainers, who have both got great results for their clients, yet who have very different opinions on the subject.
The reality is that both could be right and different methods will work better for different people. However, there are a few things they all agree on:
- The newer you are to both weight training and monitoring your nutrition, the easier it is to gain muscle mass without gaining fat.
- You might be able to gain muscle for a short period of time by following a calorie maintenance programme, but eventually, you will have to create a small calorie surplus.
- Dirty bulks aren’t healthy - what you eat is just as important as the number of calories you consume. High protein, high fiber, plenty of fruit and vegetables are best.
- In order to see sustained progression, you have to keep increasing the intensity or volume of your workout.
- Proper rest, good sleep and keeping hydrated are vital prevent fat gain and gain muscle
What is the best exercise for muscle growth?
Well then you will love this phase of your workout program! While we would never recommend ditching cardio altogether, (your heart is your most important muscle!) excessive cardio will break down muscle tissue.
So for a few months, focus mostly on weight lifting, particularly compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench press which are the best exercises to encourage muscle growth while burning body fat.
How do I increase my body weight without gaining body fat?
As always, good nutrition comes first. A daily protein shake and/or mass gainer, combined with a healthy and balanced diet is a simple way to encourage body recomposition.
Yes, calculating your macros and weighing out your food portions will help you achieve the best results. But if you don’t have the time (or the motivation) for that level of precision, then follow common sense: no junk food, consume protein with every meal, plus a daily protein supplement.
If you have a good training plan but you aren’t gaining any muscle mass, increase your daily calorie intake by a couple of hundred calories every few weeks until you achieve the desired outcome.
If you need a good quality, delicious protein we recommend checking out our Tri-Protein, here