Bulk, cut, repeat. This is the age old recipe for packing on some mass to your frame. It has to be done. We accept that we have to say goodbye to our six packs and hello to a caloric surplus for half of the year, in order to pack on some lean muscle.
Building muscle without gaining fat, and even losing fat at the same time. This is the dream, the myth, the catchy headline of click bait fitness advertisements, the task reserved for the genetically elite, the impossible challenge for even the most advanced lifters.
let's look at the science behind this.
Muscles are made up of up 70% protein, which explains why it's essential to muscle growth. Without any protein, there's no growth. We need protein to get huge, there is no way around that. Consuming enough protein for adequate recovery creates what is called a positive nitrogen balance. Nitrogen is a compound that is unique to protein, meaning we can only consume it through protein. When the body achieves a positive nitrogen balance we are in our optimal state for muscle growth, and vice versa, when we are in a negative nitrogen balance, we are in a poor state for muscle growth. A positive nitrogen balance puts us in an anabolic state, and the greater the nitrogen balance, the faster we recover. As we all know, optimal recovery is essential for muscle growth.
How do I achieve a positive nitrogen balance?
You can probably answer this one yourself, protein. Simply put, if you eat enough protein to support your recovery you will gain muscle. There is a few other factors that I will discuss later on though. Lean protein sources are more ideal for a positive nitrogen balance because they include the essential amino acids that your body needs for recovery. Look to get the majority of your protein through:
Easy enough. What's the point of carbohydrates then?
Nutrition wise, lacking complex carbohydrates will put you in a negative nitrogen balance because your body needs the energy that they provide. Your body will have a very hard time sustaining energy and muscle growth through just protein. Your body can begin to rely on protein intake for energy if it's lacking energy sources, but it's not an ideal source. We want protein to sustain muscle growth. Complex carbohydrates are especially essential because they are the most optimal source to allow for glycogen to store within the muscles. This is the energy source your body uses in order to lift heavy, and is the body's preferred energy source. When this is depleted, your body breaks down muscle for energy, which puts you in a negative nitrogen balance and your body is physically losing muscle. This is also the principal of overtraining, because if muscles are depleted of glycogen (energy), they are then forced to break down muscle to sustain themselves. A muscle-losing state you want to avoid.
Aim to eat unrefined carbohydrates through:
• Whole grains
• Uncooked vegetables
Cool, what about fats?
As for fats, there is such a thing as good fats. These are great for repairing and sustaining cells, brain function, and absorbing various vitamins.
Aim to eat good fats through:
• Natural Peanut Butter
• Certain Breads (Check label)
Okay, let's talk 'bulking'.
Bulking is the act of eating in a caloric surplus. This means I'm going to eat more calories than I need, and inevitably gain body fat, as my body has no other option than to store the calories for later. Contrary to some beliefs, this fat does not turn into muscle later, or allow for excess muscle gain.
Bulking came about because people wanted to ensure that their body's were getting enough energy & nutrients to sustain muscle growth. Which makes sense, and you can pack on good mass this way, but now that we've discussed what your body needs for muscle growth, surely we can figure that bulking simply makes putting all the nutrients into your body easier, but it absolutely does not have to be done. When we bulk, considering we are eating so much food, it's pretty feasible that we are supplying it with the energy and nutrients it needs to grow and recover, especially if we monitor our protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake.
But I want to ensure I'm getting my nutrients, so bulking seems like the way to go, right?
Look at it this way. If I eat an adequate amount of nutrients, I'm sustaining muscle growth, energy wise, and recovery wise. That's just it, nutrients, not calories. Now, if I eat in a caloric surplus, all that is doing is storing excess fat. Not helping myself achieve a positive nitrogen balance, not providing me with any extra energy, not storing fat to be turned into muscle later, not even adding excess muscle. It's just storing extra calories as fat. It's just providing me with fat to be burned off during cutting season. Yes, it's an easier way of ensuring energy/nutrients are there, but it's not ideal for aesthetics. Fat is fat.
Since we know that excess calories are stored as fat for later, this tells us that the body can use fat as energy, otherwise it would be impossible to lose fat. Knowing that, we can conclude that if I eat in a caloric deficit, the act of eating less calories than my body needs to sustain energy, my body will then use my body fat as energy. This absolutely busts the theory that we cannot build muscle and lose fat at the same time, or build muscle and maintain body fat. It all comes down to energy, and nitrogen balance. In other words, complex carbs, good fats, and protein. If we can design our diet in a way that sustains our energy through complex carbohydrates, and eat adequate protein, we will put on muscle without putting on fat, and even in some cases burn fat whilst putting on muscle.
Results 1 to 10 of 10
02-11-2016, 09:36 AM #1
You Don't Need to Put on Body Fat to Gain Muscle
Last edited by BeamJ; 02-12-2016 at 12:41 PM.
03-06-2016, 04:55 AM #2
07-20-2016, 01:00 PM #3
07-21-2016, 08:16 AM #4
- Join Date: Jul 2016
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Great article. This information needs to become more known as too much bulk/cut/repeat articles exist which are not accurate.
08-05-2016, 02:31 PM #5
Hi I'm a 14 year old male 5'5 and I've been gyming for about 1/2 a year now trying to cut body fat (62kg-47kg) which worked but now I want to build lean muscle and I am really struggling I'm gyming 3 times a week doing a full body workout all thoes 3 days I was eating like 1600 calories to burn all that fat away now I want to lean bulk but like I said I'm struggling macros wise and calories wise I'm thinking of going 2250 calories but I think that is a bit much Any help I would like all the help I can get like what macros to eat and how may calories to eat. I am also a big believer of IIFYM so please help I want to build lean muscle with of course ( minimising fat). All help/advice is appreciated.
08-15-2016, 11:16 AM #6
Fat tissue can't lift weights.
10-11-2016, 12:24 AM #7
we can do bulking and cutting parallely. good post. thanks
10-12-2016, 07:09 AM #8
Good post, but basically explaining a recomp strategy (which I happen to agree with btw)We're all gonna make it.
10-12-2016, 04:08 PM #9
Yeah, I'm convinced that I've put on a slight amount of muscle during my cut. However, there will always be people who deny that this is possible.= Formerly obese crew =
Total weight loss June 06, 2016 - April 17, 2017: 52.4 kg / 115.5 lbs
My completed journey to 10% BF: https://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=173909811
10-16-2016, 10:13 AM #10
I'm sorry but go up to anybody in the gym who looks like they've had even just a little bit of success building muscle and ask them if they eat in a surplus when trying to build muscle and every single one of them will say yes.. 100% of them.
I've never come across anybody who has even made reasonable gains and them be in a deficit.
This is like something you'd read in Men's Health lol.
Has anybody ever met anyone aesthetically pleasing who has never been in a surplus?! Imagine if I went into work tomorrow and told all the other PTs to just eat enough protein and some complex carbs. I'd get laughed out the gym.
If there's anybody who has actually done what you are saying and been successful naturally then fair enough but I'd challenge the point that they don't actually know their tdee and just think they're not in a surplus.
Also... at the end of your post it says that your body will just burn fat when in a deficit for energy, but what happens then when you run out of fat to burn for energy?!
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