How To Gain Muscle
Without Gaining Fat
by Tom Venuto
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
I'm 43 years old, on a muscle gaining program, training three days per week, and lifting heavy (at least for me). I'm staying in the 5-8 rep range, resting three minutes after each working set. I weigh 161 pounds. I've lost 17 pounds using the Body for Life program and my body fat got down to about 14%.
After losing the excess fat, I switched to a program for building muscle mass. The problem is, I've gained a little over an inch on my waistline on the mass building program. What calorie range should I shoot for to gain muscle mass without gaining much body fat? (by the way, I'm not doing any cardio at this point).
You can find all the calorie calculations you'll ever need in the Fitness Renaissance library here: Calorie Calculators article
Read the article, crunch your calorie numbers, and if you have any problems or questions, e-mail me again.
Most men need 3200-4000 calories to gain lean body weight, more if they're extremely active. At your bodyweight (161 pounds), you'll probably have a maintenance level around 2600-3000, depending on how active you are. Your optimal calorie intake to gain weight is probably around 3200-3500.
Once you calculate your daily maintenance level (referred to as total daily energy expenditure or TDEE in the "calorie Calculators" article), your calorie surplus should only be 10-20% over TDEE. For most men, this is about 400-500 calories above maintenance. This will give you a good starting point. For example, if your TDEE comes out to 3000 calories per day, then you need about 3500 calories per day to gain lean body mass (3000 TDEE + 500 surplus). If you go too much higher, you'll probably gain fat along with the muscle.
Any time you change your calories, your metabolism will adjust itself like a thermostat in an attempt to maintain some sort of equilibrium in body weight. Sooner or later, you may need to increase your calories a second time to keep the weight gains coming. This explains why many men gain weight initially on 3200-3600 calories a day, but later need to bump it up to around 4000.
Except for extremely active, extremely large and/or "anabolically enhanced" men, very few need more than 4000 to 4500 calories to gain weight (contrary to the stories you read in the magazines about pro bodybuilders eating 6,000, 8,000 or 10,000 calories a day, etc). Eating more and more calories thinking that you'll keep gaining more muscle doesn't work. You'll just get fat. All you need is that small surplus.
Here are my additional best recommendations for gaining LEAN body weight without gaining body fat:
1) Six meals a day is a must. If you eat fewer than six meals a day, you will either; a) be under your calorie surplus level required for gaining muscle, or, b) if you're meeting your calorie requirements, then you're eating too much per meal and this can contribute to fat storage. You might get by with five meals, depending on your calorie requirements, but if your calorie needs are high (say, 3500+, then five meals usually wont cut it.
2) Your meals must be moderately sized. Think about the calories per sitting, not just total calories for the day. If you need 3500 to gain weight, then three 1166 calorie meals won't do. Even though total calories would be right on target, the total calories per meal would be too high.
3) Unless you're the genetically gifted, fast-metabolism type, you need cardio. Cardio should be minimal, but you need some. I'd recommend three days per week, 20-30 minutes -- yes, even on a muscle gaining program. Most people avoid cardio completely, thinking that the extra cardio will cancel out the calorie surplus...which it does, unless you increase your calories even more. So basically, you're eating more and doing more cardio. Does everyone need cardio on a mass gaining program? No, but if you're having trouble gaining muscle without gaining fat, then YOU need cardio
4) Choose high thermic foods and natural foods. Take advantage of foods that boost your metabolism such as vegetables, natural starches and lean proteins. Great carbs for gaining lean weight include yams, oatmeal, whole grains, beans, brown rice, and potatoes. For protein, choose one of the following for each of your six meals: lean red meat, eggs (mostly whites, limited yolks), chicken breast, turkey breast, protein powder, fish, or cottage cheese.
5) Avoid processed foods and junk foods. Many people use a "weight gaining" program as an excuse to "pig out" on anything and everything. Again, unless you're the fast metabolism body type, you can't afford to eat refined junk foods containing white flour, white sugar and processed fats. You simply have to eat larger amounts of the healthy foods. The foods shouldn't change that much between weight gain and weight loss programs, what changes is the calorie amounts.
6) Include at least 1 tbsp/day of essential fats such as flax oil or Udo's choice oil blend supplement, or eat fish (Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, or other fatty cold water fish, etc) at least 2-3 times per week. These good fats help with muscle growth, hormone levels and they even have a thermic effect in small amounts, whereas saturated fats are non thermic and they reduce insulin sensitivity. By the way, these "good fats" are great for boosting your calories too because they are so calorie dense. 3500-4000 calories of low fat food is an enormous amount to choke down. Using the essential fats is an easy way to get the high number of calories you need for weight gain.
That's it - just follow these guidelines for eating, train hard, think big and you can definitely gain pure muscle without gaining any fat.
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