The Problem: Building Lean Muscle without too much Fat:
The holidays are long gone and your new year’s resolution to add some new body armor in the form of lean muscle mass hasn’t worked out so well. You’ve added decent size but not all of it was solid. So what’d you do? You went on a diet and did tons of cardio to get ready for beach season. Luckily, the diet worked and you are right back where you started and are looking for the right way to do things. Well my friend, you made it here, to FIT-EDGE, where we do things the right way and backed up by science and experience so do not worry because after reading this article you will have enough new knowlEGDGE to build muscle without all the fluff!
What needs to happen: Increase Calories slightly above maintenance to lean bulk
The most effective way to build lean muscle mass is to find your maintenance calorie level. After that, you will need to add calories slightly above maintenance to provide your body with enough nutrients to facilitate muscle growth but not so much that you accumulate unwanted body fat.
On top of being in a slight caloric surplus, I think the most effective way to add lean muscle mass while keeping body fat gain to a minimum is to alternate between a bulking phase and short cut phases interspersed throughout known as “periodic” or “cyclical” bulking. I also like to manipulate 4 factors to ensure I reap the most from the plan and they are nutrition, training, recovery and cardio.
How to do it:
To be in a slight caloric surplus you need to first find out your maintenance level. To do this I recommend using a food tracking app such as My Fitness Pal or My Macros Plus. If you prefer the old fashion way, keep a food journal and look up the nutrition facts of the macro nutrients (macros) of each item. The apps will be easier as all you have to do is enter whatever you eat and it will track the calories and macros for you.
So, get the app, track your food for 5- 7 days to get an average of your caloric intake and then that will be your maintenance level. Next up, entering into a slight caloric surplus to start building muscle. I suggest a modest amount such as 150-300 calories above your maintenance. One more thing to note is the macros that your calories are made up of should be divided into ratios that is ideal for your body type or life-style. For example if you tend to burn carbs for energy easier than fats, that can be a higher ratio. If you have questions about this leave a comment below and I or someone from the FIT-EDGE community will help. Or feel free to contact me directly and I will follow-up with you asap.
When it comes to Cyclical bulking, I typically divide it into cycles of 3 phases. A strength phase, a mass/hypertrophy phase and a short cut phase. Ex: If you want to do a 4 week cycle= 1 week strength, 2 week mass, 1 week cut. I do 8 week cycles which are 3 week strength phases, 4 week mass and 1 week cut. After two-8-week cycles I will take one week off from the weights (optional, but a de-load week should be structured in at some point to maximize recovery). By implementing the cut phase it allows you to lose a little bit of body fat prior to continuing on building muscle. During the cut you will want to be in a slight caloric deficit which will allow your body to use fat as fuel.
So there you have it, that is the correct way to gain lean muscle mass while not reducing the chance of excessive fat gain. Notice I said excessive fat gain as not gaining any body fat while in a surplus is near impossible naturally but it can be so negligible, and the muscle gains so great, that you wouldn’t notice. Give the slight surplus and cyclical bulking a try next time you set out to build muscle and let the FIT-EDGE community know how it goes!