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  1. #1
    Registered User andybb23's Avatar
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    Eating below TDEE but not losing weight

    Hey everyone,

    I'm 24 y/o, 6'0, and weigh 180 lbs. I go to the gym 5 days/week and follow a workout plan. I typically do cardio for 15 mins each day. Besides the 90 mins I spend at the gym, the rest of the day is pretty sedentary.

    I recently had my body fat measured and it was found to be 24% and I'm looking to get to around 15% before I start bulking.
    Here are some photos: imgur.com/a/g9Uo7Xs

    I use a calorie tracker to track everything I eat. In terms of diet, this is what a typical day looks like for me:

    Breakfast: 324 cal
    2 eggs
    2 egg whites
    1 whole wheat English muffin

    Lunch: 540 cal
    Smoothie -
    2 scoops (50g) whey protein
    1 cup frozen berries
    2 tbsp PB2
    1 banana
    1 cup almond milk

    Snacks: 300 cal
    Greek yogurt
    Protein Bar

    Dinner: ~600 cal
    1 Chicken breast/salmon filet/steak
    Side of carbs (rice/quinoa)
    Side of salad

    Total: ~1760 calories
    Carbs: 50%, Fat: 20%, Protein: 30%

    I've calculated my TDEE based on exercising 3-5 days/week and it's listed at 2,651 cal/day, and to lose 1lb/week it's generally recommended to eat 500 cal below that. As you can see for the past few months I've been eating nearly 800 cals below my TDEE (and I imagine I burn some more while working out), but I'm still not noticing any difference in weight fluctuation.

    Given this diet, does anyone have any advice or insight to help lower my BF%? Is my TDEE incorrect? Should I be eating less?

    Thanks in advance!
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    Moderator SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Need to see your weight history over time - accompanied by estimated calorie intake at each time point if possible. Unless you are claiming you ate exactly the above for "a few months"?

    Do you have cheat meals / days?
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    How long has your weight stalled? Less than 2 weeks then give it another week or so. Longer than 2 weeks and you are not in a weekly deficit. This is generally caused by underestimating Calorie intake and overestimating TDEE.
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    You need to track your calories more accurately.

    A "Side of this" and a "side of that", "one banana", "Greek Yogurt", ETC. are not even remotely accurate methods for tracking portion sizes and the calories could be wildly over what you are estimating.

    Buy a food scale and weight literally everything to the gram and calculate and log your calories based upon that.
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    Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    You need to track your calories more accurately.

    A "Side of this" and a "side of that", "one banana", "Greek Yogurt", ETC. are not even remotely accurate methods for tracking portion sizes and the calories could be wildly over what you are estimating.

    Buy a food scale and weight literally everything to the gram and calculate and log your calories based upon that.
    This.

    You could potentially be off by more than 300 calories just by eye balling or using measuring cups vs. a scale. For example, you'd be surprised what an actual banana serving looks like compared to bananas you buy at the store. And that's just ONE thing on your menu.
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    Registered User andybb23's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    You need to track your calories more accurately.

    A "Side of this" and a "side of that", "one banana", "Greek Yogurt", ETC. are not even remotely accurate methods for tracking portion sizes and the calories could be wildly over what you are estimating.

    Buy a food scale and weight literally everything to the gram and calculate and log your calories based upon that.
    I typically measure everything accurately using a measuring cup and log calories according to what's listed on the label.

    For example the greek yogurt is listed at 110 cals and the protein bar at 190. The only things I don't explicitly measure are sides at dinner and things like bananas but I don't have too large of portions at all, maybe about a cup of rice.

    I'll definitely look into getting a scale though, thanks!
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    I'll definitely look into getting a scale though, thanks!
    Yep, you need to. Are your spoons of PB2 LEVEL or heaping? Yes, it makes a difference. Do you put any kind of sauce/dressing on your "side of salad"?

    I know that it might seem like we are "over the top" on some of our questions and responses, but over time, we've seen a guy who eventually realized he was drinking almost 1000 calories a day in sugar and flavorings that he was adding to his coffee. Had one guy who didn't count his protein calories in his daily calories because he thought he read somewhere where protein calories "didn't count". Another guy who wasn't counting "just a handful" of almonds every afternoon (at 7 calories an almond)...
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    Registered User andybb23's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Need to see your weight history over time - accompanied by estimated calorie intake at each time point if possible. Unless you are claiming you ate exactly the above for "a few months"?

    Do you have cheat meals / days?
    Thanks for the reply! I don't have an exact weight history with calorie intake, but I typically fluctuate between 177-181 depending on time of day. Mornings I'm around 177 and evenings after dinner I'm 180-181. In terms of weight over weeks, it's really just stuck within that range and nothing has changed.

    On the weekends, I typically eat more freely but nothing too unhealthy, and I make sure to keep calorie count the same as during the week. So for example, I may have a donut but eat less throughout the day to maintain my calorie count.

    To be honest, I've been eating this pretty much everyday for about 2 months. With the exception that every other day I swap out the eggs for oatmeal with fruit and have a different type of meat for dinner. But besides that, it's been pretty consistent.
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    Originally Posted by Nicksosure1 View Post
    This.

    You could potentially be off by more than 300 calories just by eye balling or using measuring cups vs. a scale. For example, you'd be surprised what an actual banana serving looks like compared to bananas you buy at the store. And that's just ONE thing on your menu.
    i guess i'm one of the lucky ones to get it right then. no scale, rice and whey are measured with a 1 dl cup, eating grandma's food once a week and estimating the calories, still losing/gaining at my desired rate

    to OP: it is possible without a scale if you know how to do it right, but the scale still wins and most people are better off using one. personally i'd become too "ocd" about weighing everything so there's that
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    Registered User andybb23's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by CommitmentRulz View Post
    Yep, you need to. Are your spoons of PB2 LEVEL or heaping? Yes, it makes a difference. Do you put any kind of sauce/dressing on your "side of salad"?

    I know that it might seem like we are "over the top" on some of our questions and responses, but over time, we've seen a guy who eventually realized he was drinking almost 1000 calories a day in sugar and flavorings that he was adding to his coffee. Had one guy who didn't count his protein calories in his daily calories because he thought he read somewhere where protein calories "didn't count". Another guy who wasn't counting "just a handful" of almonds every afternoon (at 7 calories an almond)...
    That's a great point. I just figured that with me eating nearly 800 cals below my TDEE that these extra calories wouldn't really make a difference, but it looks like I'm wrong. Then again, I can't imagine things like salad dressing and heaping scoops of PB2 could add up to that extra amount.

    All those stories are pretty wild things you don't really think about, so I really appreciate you all being "over the top" and being blunt to help us all understand what's going on.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    That's a great point. I just figured that with me eating nearly 800 cals below my TDEE that these extra calories wouldn't really make a difference, but it looks like I'm wrong. Then again, I can't imagine things like salad dressing and heaping scoops of PB2 could add up to that extra amount.

    All those stories are pretty wild things you don't really think about, so I really appreciate you all being "over the top" and being blunt to help us all understand what's going on.
    Things like fat based dressing and peanut butter are very calorically dense. A level tbsp. vs heaping can be 100s of calories difference. It adds up incredibly quick.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    That's a great point. I just figured that with me eating nearly 800 cals below my TDEE that these extra calories wouldn't really make a difference, but it looks like I'm wrong. Then again, I can't imagine things like salad dressing and heaping scoops of PB2 could add up to that extra amount.

    All those stories are pretty wild things you don't really think about, so I really appreciate you all being "over the top" and being blunt to help us all understand what's going on.
    Some salad dressings can be over 120 calories per ONE level tablespoon (typically just 14g by weight).

    And most people tend to put anywhere from 4-8 tablespoons worth onto their salads thinking that amount is the "portion size" shown on the food label.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    I typically measure everything accurately using a measuring cup and log calories according to what's listed on the label.

    For example the greek yogurt is listed at 110 cals and the protein bar at 190. The only things I don't explicitly measure are sides at dinner and things like bananas but I don't have too large of portions at all, maybe about a cup of rice.

    I'll definitely look into getting a scale though, thanks!
    If you are not measuring sides at dinner and odd snacks like bananas then what you're missing out could easily add up the missing 800 calories and more. 800 calories will not absorb very much error if you aren't tracking properly

    for example a side of rice (even a moderate helping) + 2 bananas can easily be 500 calories. You need to count everything that passes your lips

    Most people dramatically underestimate their calories to begin with even if they think they are tracking well and most people think their TDEE is higher than it is. If you add this to actually leaving out calorie dense food from your track it's not hard to see where that '800 calorie deficit' is vanishing to.
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    First of, I'd recommend changing your diet a bit. Lower your carb intake, and eat more protein if possible. You'll lose weight regardless if you really are in a deficit, but protein helps more with the fat loss, while also aiding preserving muscle. I agree with what the others said. If you haven't been losing weight for a while then you're simply not in a calorie deficit. Meassure everything, even if you think you're not eating that much of it. You'd be surprised how small things add up throught the day. Sauces, oil, etc are things most people forget to track.

    If this doesn't help, then eat 100 less cals, and see how that works for you
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    Hey everyone,

    I'm 24 y/o, 6'0, and weigh 180 lbs. I go to the gym 5 days/week and follow a workout plan. I typically do cardio for 15 mins each day. Besides the 90 mins I spend at the gym, the rest of the day is pretty sedentary.

    I recently had my body fat measured and it was found to be 24% and I'm looking to get to around 15% before I start bulking.
    Here are some photos: imgur.com/a/g9Uo7Xs

    I use a calorie tracker to track everything I eat. In terms of diet, this is what a typical day looks like for me:

    Breakfast: 324 cal
    2 eggs
    2 egg whites
    1 whole wheat English muffin

    Lunch: 540 cal
    Smoothie -
    2 scoops (50g) whey protein
    1 cup frozen berries
    2 tbsp PB2
    1 banana
    1 cup almond milk

    Snacks: 300 cal
    Greek yogurt
    Protein Bar

    Dinner: ~600 cal
    1 Chicken breast/salmon filet/steak
    Side of carbs (rice/quinoa)
    Side of salad

    Total: ~1760 calories
    Carbs: 50%, Fat: 20%, Protein: 30%

    I've calculated my TDEE based on exercising 3-5 days/week and it's listed at 2,651 cal/day, and to lose 1lb/week it's generally recommended to eat 500 cal below that. As you can see for the past few months I've been eating nearly 800 cals below my TDEE (and I imagine I burn some more while working out), but I'm still not noticing any difference in weight fluctuation.

    Given this diet, does anyone have any advice or insight to help lower my BF%? Is my TDEE incorrect? Should I be eating less?

    Thanks in advance!
    The answer more likely than not is that your input data is corrupt. Getting one's numbers right is a mix of art, science, patience, and observed adherence over time. You can't just go with whatever an app says is your TDEE and assume it is gospel. You may be feeding the app incorrect or flawed information about yourself. Likewise, your input data and adherence with regard to tracking food must be spot on and checked over time for accuracy as well.

    I can't begin to tell you how many times I've gone back to the drawing board to get my numbers right. I still check and tweak my numbers on occasion just to make certain they are as finely tuned estimates as possible. I hope that helps.
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    Originally Posted by faithbrah View Post
    i guess i'm one of the lucky ones to get it right then. no scale, rice and whey are measured with a 1 dl cup, eating grandma's food once a week and estimating the calories, still losing/gaining at my desired rate

    to OP: it is possible without a scale if you know how to do it right, but the scale still wins and most people are better off using one. personally i'd become too "ocd" about weighing everything so there's that
    Oh it's absolutely doable, probably even better if you can reach your goals without precise tracking. However, I would recommend everyone go through a period, even a short one, tracking and weighing their intake. It's a great learning tool to allow you to be able to not track in the future while eating a healthy amount relative to your goal.
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    Thanks to everyone on this forum I started measuring and I found today that my daily serving of PB2 was nearly double what I was recording, and my coffee creamer added 35 calories that I previously didn't have. These little calories really do add up.

    So right now my main goal is to lower my BF%. I understand you need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, but is it possible to lower your BF% by gaining more muscle in a surplus? Or is it totally necessary to be in a deficit? I've seen a lot about recomposition. Is it all BS or is that a viable option?

    Here are photos for reference: imgur.com/a/g9Uo7Xs. From this, I think the best course of action is lower my BF% and then start bulking, but I'd like to hear others input too.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post

    So right now my main goal is to lower my BF%. I understand you need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, but is it possible to lower your BF% by gaining more muscle in a surplus? Or is it totally necessary to be in a deficit? I've seen a lot about recomposition. Is it all BS or is that a viable option?

    Here are photos for reference: imgur.com/a/g9Uo7Xs. From this, I think the best course of action is lower my BF% and then start bulking, but I'd like to hear others input too.
    You aren't in terrible shape (around 22-23% BF) but really have no developed muscle so at this point you might be able to gain a few pounds of lean mass while in a deficit due to your muscles being a bit underdeveloped if you hit your protein requirements and push hard weight training in the gym.

    That said, don't expect any major changes as we are talking about the potential to add maybe 3-6 pounds of lean mass in total spread across your entire frame. And if that occurs, it will happen over the first couple of months, after that any "gains" in increased lifts will likely just be from developing better form and nervous system adaptation.

    As to gaining muscle but dropping body fat while in a surplus, that is basically the definition of the perfect "lean bulk" while in a very small (150-200 cal/day) surplus over many, many months and frankly only works for experienced people that have their diet and workout routines dialed in perfectly. Because if you don't all you end up doing is adding at least as much (or more) fat than you do muscle and then having to spend months working to cut all the fat again.

    And since we have established that you do not have everything dialed in 100%, it is probably not the best idea for you to try going that route.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post

    So right now my main goal is to lower my BF%. I understand you need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, but is it possible to lower your BF% by gaining more muscle in a surplus? Or is it totally necessary to be in a deficit? I've seen a lot about recomposition. Is it all BS or is that a viable option?
    you won’t lose fat in a surplus. Some (very few ) will gain muscle in a small deficit however there are many factors involved so it’s best to either concentrate on fatloss with muscle maintenance or concentrate on muscle gain.

    Recomp for the most part ends up being an exercise in futility. Pick 1 goal and stick to it until the desired goal is met then review the outcome and then proceed to the next level
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    Originally Posted by Tommy W. View Post
    you won’t lose fat in a surplus. Some (very few ) will gain muscle in a small deficit however there are many factors involved so it’s best to either concentrate on fatloss with muscle maintenance or concentrate on muscle gain.

    Recomp for the most part ends up being an exercise in futility. Pick 1 goal and stick to it until the desired goal is met then review the outcome and then proceed to the next level
    Maybe I should have worded this question better. If I were to just gain muscle in a surplus, wouldn’t that increase the muscle to fat ratio and in turn lower my body fat percentage since there would be more muscle?

    To be fair, I’m not too concerned about my actual weight but more so my body composition and BF%.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    Maybe I should have worded this question better. If I were to just gain muscle in a surplus, wouldn’t that increase the muscle to fat ratio and in turn lower my body fat percentage since there would be more muscle?

    To be fair, I’m not too concerned about my actual weight but more so my body composition and BF%.
    Muscle gain is slow and you tend to gain some fat along with it - so the process you describe is theoretically possible, it would be so slow that anyone with body composition goals would at some point just diet for a while...
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    Maybe I should have worded this question better. If I were to just gain muscle in a surplus, wouldn’t that increase the muscle to fat ratio and in turn lower my body fat percentage since there would be more muscle?

    To be fair, I’m not too concerned about my actual weight but more so my body composition and BF%.
    I suppose in theory, yes to some extent, however, do bear in mind just how slow and difficult it is to actually add lean muscle tissue. Keeping that in mind, the percentage ratio to which you allude is rather insignificant.
    Without proper diets and effective meal plans dialed in, you might well be spitting in the wind.
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Muscle gain is slow and you tend to gain some fat along with it - so the process you describe is theoretically possible, it would be so slow that anyone with body composition goals would at some point just diet for a while...
    Do great minds think alike, or was that just a coincidence? ha-ha...
    Without proper diets and effective meal plans dialed in, you might well be spitting in the wind.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    Maybe I should have worded this question better. If I were to just gain muscle in a surplus, wouldn’t that increase the muscle to fat ratio and in turn lower my body fat percentage since there would be more muscle?

    To be fair, I’m not too concerned about my actual weight but more so my body composition and BF%.
    You'll gain some fat along with some muscle so you won't be accomplishing much. Best to decide if you want less fat or more muscle and have a diet that will support that goal.
    If you don't get what you want you didn't want it bad enough
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    Originally Posted by Tommy W. View Post
    You'll gain some fat along with some muscle so you won't be accomplishing much. Best to decide if you want less fat or more muscle and have a diet that will support that goal.
    I think less fat would be a good start first. Then I can eventually go into a lean bulk. My priority is more looking leaner than getting bigger.
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Need to see your weight history over time - accompanied by estimated calorie intake at each time point if possible. Unless you are claiming you ate exactly the above for "a few months"?

    Do you have cheat meals / days?
    So thanks to everyone here, I've got a little more data now that I've been tracking my weight and measuring my food intake with a scale. Based on this, does it seem like I'm losing weight at all? I'm on a 500 cal deficit at 1600 cals. My main goal is getting to ~15% bf.

    Weight history over the last week at 11am before eating:
    Tues. 9/1: 178.7 lbs, 23.5% bf
    Wed. 9/2: 178.1 lbs, 23.6% bf
    Thu. 9/3: 177.4 lbs, 23.8% bf
    Fri. 9/4: 177.6 lbs, 23.3% bf
    Sat. 9/5: 177.2 lbs, 23.6% bf
    Sun 9/6: 178.5 lbs, 23.3% bf
    Mon 9/7: 179.5 lbs, 23.8% bf
    Tues. 9/8: 178.0 lbs, 23.5% bf

    After weighing my food for about a week, here is a more accurate representation of my diet. This is what a typical weekday looks like. I don't normally count calories on the weekend, but I might start needing to:

    Breakfast: 472
    - 1 eggs (70)
    - 1/3 cup egg whites (44)
    - 1/2 cheese slice (18)
    - 1 English muffin (120)
    - 2 tbsp coffee creamer (70)
    - 1 scoop of protein (150)

    - Workout -

    Lunch/Smoothie: 405
    - 1 cup mixed fruit (55)
    - 1/2 cup almond milk (30)
    - 2 tbsp PB2 (60)
    - 2 scoops whey (260)

    Snack: 120
    - 1 greek yogurt (120)

    Dinner: 405
    - 6 oz chicken breast (180) OR 6 oz salmon
    - Side of salad (105)
    - 1/2 cup rice/quinioa (120)

    Nighttime snack: 190
    - 1 Protein bar (190)

    Total Cals: 1592
    With this, I'm at: Carbs: 138g, Protein: 183g, Fat: 39g

    I typically try eating ~50g protein per meal.

    I'm a little concerned that this diet has my cholesterol at 535mg per day and the recommended is 300mg per day. Does anyone think this is a reason for concern? Two eggs have nearly 300mg already, so I imagine it would be difficult to hit the protein goal without going over.

    Any feedback would be great
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    With Monday 7th left in, you are gaining 0.5lbs a week

    It could be an outlier though.

    If I put 178.2 in to Monday 7th and it shows you are very slight deficit (1/8th lbs a week). Certainly not 500 cals.

    This is why we need more data than that.
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 09-08-2020 at 10:22 AM.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    I'm on a 500 cal deficit
    There's a fundamental concept you're not grasping. The only way to determine your caloric balance is from your weight change. Every method you've used are generic estimates that are only useful to guide you in the right direction.
    I can tell time. Time cannot tell me.

    Formerly LactoseTolerant. I'm not very imaginative.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    Maybe I should have worded this question better. If I were to just gain muscle in a surplus, wouldn’t that increase the muscle to fat ratio and in turn lower my body fat percentage since there would be more muscle?

    To be fair, I’m not too concerned about my actual weight but more so my body composition and BF%.
    To do that you would have to consistently gain more muscle than fat, which is difficult to do for people that are experienced bodybuilders who have had years to try to perfectly sort out their diet and macros.

    For someone like yourself that is having problems with something a lot more basic, like simple fat loss, that scenario isn't going to happen.
    ~ Like Tae-Kwon-Leap, my goals are not a path to a door, but a road leading forever towards the horizon.
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    Originally Posted by andybb23 View Post
    Maybe I should have worded this question better. If I were to just gain muscle in a surplus, wouldn’t that increase the muscle to fat ratio and in turn lower my body fat percentage since there would be more muscle?

    To be fair, I’m not too concerned about my actual weight but more so my body composition and BF%.
    Revisiting this question once again.

    Think of it this way...

    -

    Just as you cannot spot reduce fat via diet or exercise, nor can you put on "only muscle" in a surplus. There is simply no way to just add muscle in a surplus.

    At pristine-perfect maintenance with perfect training, perhaps - but otherwise, just like flawed fantasies of "spot reducing," you're truly kidding yourself to think that you can add only muscle while gaining weight in a surplus.

    Finally, if you were successful in the above scenario, the rate of observable/measurable muscle growth would be like watching grass grow in super-slow motion.

    I hope that better answered your question.
    Without proper diets and effective meal plans dialed in, you might well be spitting in the wind.
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