Watching the scale go up can be nerve racking and upsetting when it’s the wrong kind of weight gain, also known as adipose fat. Nobody likes to see body fat accumulate, which is why when gaining weight, the majority of weight should consist of muscle mass. Fat will increase when bulking muscle, but not in unreasonable amounts or proportion. There’s many different methods to gain muscle and I’m a huge fan of eating clean to grow muscle. Eating junk food and gaining a bunch of weight hoping there will be more muscle gains than fat is haphazard and tends to create more weight management problems than actual muscle. It’s important to take into consideration the kind of body type that you naturally have – a naturally thin frame will have more difficultly adding mass. But, eating more calories and lifting heavier will add mass to any frame. It’s a matter of consistency and the amount of time it will take to gain muscle.
Eat to Grow
Eating clean is typically the lifestyle when trying to keep a trim and toned physique. There’s no reason to completely leave the reservation and start eating like an offensive lineman when starting to bulk muscle. Body fat will go up from increases in calories but, should not be from excess like junk food or utter indulgence of overeating. Increased calories should be derived from increases in the clean food that you are already eating. Muscles love carbohydrates and this macro nutrient plays a key role in feeding muscle tissue what it needs to grow and repair. Increasing the amounts of carbs eaten throughout the day and post workout is a great way to increase caloric intake and help grow muscle mass.
Naturally thin people or individuals that find slight increases in calories is not very effective, overall caloric intake increases might be necessary. Instead of eating two-thousand calories per day, for example, increase the daily intake to two-thousand-four-hundred calories per day. If you’ve been eating 30% protein, 50% complex carbohydrates and 20% healthy fats, then your daily grams of intake will rise with the caloric increase. Slight fat increases might come, but the added food will help add muscle too!
Asking your body to do two things at the same time isn’t the wisest decision and typically won’t get anything accomplished. It’s the extremely rare individual that can put on muscle mass while cutting fat at the same time. Simply put, ask your body to gain muscle mass, then work on losing the gained fat by getting lean. While increasing calories that you are eating, make sure to limit the amount of cardio that you are doing. Steady state cardio tends to tear down muscle tissue and is counterproductive when working on gaining muscle. If you insist on doing steady state cardio, limit yourself to twenty to thirty minutes and no more than four to five days per week.
HIIT cardio is a great way to retain muscle mass and maintain cardiovascular health while working on muscle hypertrophy. The intensity really gets the heart rate high and is short in duration – about twenty to twenty-five minutes if you’re doing it right. HIIT helps to keep the increase in fat at bay while bulking muscle mass without tearing it down as much as steady state cardio.
Hit the Weights Harder
Full body workouts and group fitness, like CrossFit, can be fun and useful when limited on time, but they are not the most effective method to build muscle. Create weekly splits that isolate different muscle groups daily and choose at least four to five different exercises to target those muscle groups. For large muscle groups, like leg day, increase the number of exercises to be sure to work different muscles efficiently and equally. Such as, exercises for quads, like front squats and walking lunges, exercises to target glutes, like barbell back squats and hack squats, and hamstring exercises, like strait leg deadlifts and laying curls.
Free weights are going to be your best friends during this time. Machines are great too, but free weights produce much more opportunity to create more control and use of secondary muscles. If there are existing injuries that prevent the use of free weight, make sure to use a machine that accomplishes the same motion without aggravating any problems. Graduate the weight during each different set, doing about three to four sets per each exercise. The reps per set should be low! Keep them between ten to twelve for the first set, eight to ten for the second set and six to eight on the last two sets. Lifting weights between 70 to 85% of your one rep max will be the best weight to help build muscle mass.
Patience is going to be crucial to this process, give your body time to respond to the new regime of eating and lifting. This is much easier said than done, especially when you start to see the increase in body fat. I’m completely guilty of wanting to start cutting weight as soon as I see the scale go up by increasing my cardio and decreasing my caloric intake. But, constantly remind yourself that some body fat isn’t a bad thing! It means that your body is doing what you’re asking, and you will accomplish the goal of muscle weight gain.
It’s important to give your body ample time to gain muscle – three weeks is not going to be enough. Allow for ten to twelve weeks of time to pass before you start the hunger of leaning out to see all the gains you have made. Bodybuilding is an art that has cycles of bulking and leaning. Do not try to be the exception and the rebel that tries to do things differently. Follow specific lifting plans and diet, give your body time to do what you’re asking and see the results of your hard work when you lean out after the bulk.
Written by: Samantha Meinrod