Building muscle without getting fat isn’t complicated, but many lifters search endlessly for the best new method or secret.
The truth is, there’s no secret. The right method or tip can help, but the real way to get bigger, stronger, and leaner lies in sound principles performed with ruthless consistency.
1. Consume Enough Protein
Everybody knows that your body needs protein to build muscle, but how much protein do you need to build muscle?
Consuming enough protein ensures that your body has the crucial amino acids it needs to synthesize its own proteins and enter a state that is called “protein synthesis.”
Your body needs a constant supply of these muscle-building amino acids to repair and rebuild bigger and stronger and these amino acids are found in the proteins you consume.
The big question is how much protein is ideal to maximize lean muscle growth without additional fat storage?
Consuming around 1 gram of protein for every lb of bodyweight has been the bodybuilding standard for years – so lets dive into a few research studies to further evaluate the exact amount of protein needed to build muscle.
A popular study by McMaster University found that between .6 and .8 grams per pound of body weight is needed for stimulating the maximum degree of protein synthesis.
It is important to note that this study also pointed out that more protein may be needed in times of dieting, and frequent or high intensity training.
Another study from the University of Western Ontario cited around the same number – saying that .6 to .8 grams of protein is needed to stimulate maximum levels of protein synthesis.
If you are training frequently and already have a fairly lean body chances are that you will need to consume between 1-1.2 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight to maximize protein synthesis. How do we know this?
Well for one, both studies cited that higher protein intake would be needed:
- If Energy expenditure is high (with athletes and hardcore lifters)
- Training history
- Exercise Intensity
It is also commonly recognized that higher levels of protein intake are needed when someone is cutting to lose body fat while trying to maintain lean muscle mass.
Many bodybuilders who possess the greatest amount of lean muscle mass with the least amount of body fat often consume between 1.2-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.
Keep it simple – you need protein to build lean muscle mass. If you are a serious athlete or experienced lifter then you very likely need at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
2. Use Smart Exercise Rotation
After your first year of training you can’t continually go up on the same basic exercises. So you need to start to rotate in a few variations.
What makes a good muscle building exercise is the amount of loading and the amount of progression you can make on it.
That’s why we always talk about bench presses, military presses, chin ups, squats, 1 arm rows and deadlifts as being so effective. You can use a lot of weight and there is a ton of room to progress.
But eventually you will burn out and stop making linear progression. If that didn’t happen we’d all be capable of benching 1,000 pounds within a few years.
Now, obviously you can start a new training cycle with lighter weights. Then, over the course of 8-12 weeks you try to work up past your previous best. That’s a smart way to do it.
My biggest beef with that, however, is the fact that it can lead to overuse injuries and muscle imbalances.
I prefer to have 5-6 great exercises for each muscle group that you can rotate through. While constantly striving to set new personal records on. That’s a much safer long term plan.
3. Be consistent
Another mistake I see people making with their workouts is they are looking for the newest exercise, or they want to switch up their workout all the time. As with most things, simple is better.
They are compound lifts that utilize several muscle groups at once.
The good thing about using compound movements instead of single joint movements. Is that more muscles are being used so more growth hormones are being released throughout the body.
Obviously releasing the growth hormones are important to getting big. But the other thing that happens when you use compound movements is that you are burning more calories during the workout.
For the person that is looking to put on size, this means you need to eat more. But for the person looking to get cut, it’s a good thing because you will be increasing your calorie burning during and after your workout.
The Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift should be a staple of any good muscle building workout routine.
These 3 lifts are usually the strongest for people which means you are going the heaviest.
This means you are recruiting more muscle fibers when you go heavy with these as opposed to going heavy with single-joint movements. But again don’t sacrifice your form in order to go heavy.
4. Eat Enough Calories
The other aspect of nutrition that you need to focus on is your total calories. Even if your protein intake levels are good, if you don’t get enough calories, you won’t gain weight.
Your body uses a certain amount of calories per day whether you move or not. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR.
When you move your body burns more calories. The calories that your body burns are affected by how much you move. How much you weight, your body fat percentage and a bunch of other factors.
If are eating exactly the same amount of calories as you burn, your weight will stay the same. If you eat more than what you burn you’ll gain weight and vise versa if you burn more calories than what you eat, your weight will go down.
This concept seems pretty basic, but a lot of people forget this and wonder why they aren’t getting any bigger.
Weight gainer shakes can help you increase your calories if it is hard to eat enough food.
These contain a lot of fillers like dextrose or maltodextrin which will give you a lot of calories but will also spike your insulin levels. So watch how much you use these since too much insulin can have negative effects on the body.
Personally, I always found it harder to bulk than to cut because it was harder for me to eat more than to eat less.
5. Go to sleep
Recovery is where the average lifter drops the ball with their results. Your rest and recovery are just as important as your workouts and nutrition.
When you are in the gym you are actually creating micro-tears in the muscle.
The body repairs these while you are sleeping, but only if you give it enough food throughout the day.
Sleep is where most of the actual muscle building actual takes place.
So without adequate sleep your body will have a hard time growing it’s muscles. While you are sleeping you body also releases growth hormones and testosterone into the body.
These are important hormones that help the body build muscle and burn fat.
Your sleep is also when your energy levels are reset to normal. For most people 6-8 hours per day is recommended. This may increase depending on your activity or stress levels.