You clicked on this article because you want to put on slabs of muscle, right? Here’s the part that scares people… You need to put yourself in a caloric surplus in order to accomplish that. Yes, the same surplus that causes so many to gain dreaded body fat. The question becomes, can you effectively increase muscle mass while minimizing fat gain? To put it simply, yes. You can increase muscle while minimizing fat gain. However, there is a balancing act that needs to take place. So, put your arms out, steady yourself, and let’s jump in.
Below in this article will be some of the best tips and tricks to keep your body fat under control while trying to increase muscle mass. But first, let’s discuss the difference between bulking cycles as they differ significantly.
Clean Bulking vs. Dirty Bulking
If you’re trying to increase muscle and minimize fat gain, you will want to focus on clean bulking. What does that mean? It means keeping your nutrition in check while in a caloric surplus and filling it with healthy macronutrients – clean sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Notice how all three macronutrients are included in the previous sentence? That’s because they are all going to fill a role when trying to increase muscle mass.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is dirty bulking. This approach is where you eat anything and everything in an effort to put on weight (including fast food) – which can lead to massive increases in fat gain.
The tips below will fall under the clean bulking method as the last thing you want to do is put on a ton of body fat (you will gain a little during a clean bulk, though) and then spend the next several months on a treadmill trying to lose all of that weight which in the process could strip away some of your hard-earned muscle.
1. Track Your Nutrition
The goal when trying to increase muscle mass while minimizing fat gain is not allowing your caloric surplus to get away from you. While you need to eat more than you would to achieve your maintenance level, that doesn’t mean taking a 2,000-calorie maintenance and jumping up to 4,000 calories per day, thinking the almighty Gainz God is going to shine down on you.
Take it slow and increase your calories by around 10% and see how you fair after a week. If you notice you’re gaining weight, but when you check your body fat it’s gone up, back it down a little bit to around a 5% increase in your calories. Remember, slow and steady will help prevent fat gain. Strive for 0.5-1.0lb of weight gain each week. Anything more and you’re potentially adding body fat.
At the same time, track your nutrition with something like MyFitnessPal. You don’t know what you don’t know, and while you may think you’re at a sweet spot with your nutrition, you could either be drastically over or drastically under your calories, which will not provide you the results you’re looking for.
2. Prioritizing Protein
Protein is your friend. You need protein in order to help increase muscle mass. Strive for around 1g per pound of body weight. Make sure you have protein in every meal and each snack. Things like steak, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beef, nuts, seeds, legumes, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt, to name a few.
Achieving 1g can be difficult for some who aren’t used to eating a lot of protein. Therefore, it may be wise to consider a protein supplement to help you increase your protein intake without force-feeding yourself.
NutraBio 100% Whey Protein Isolate would be a fantastic and clean protein source that is extremely low in carbohydrates while containing zero fat. This allows you to enjoy a delicious treat while easily increasing your protein intake. With more than a handful of flavors to choose from, you’ll always have a wide selection to choose from, regardless of what you’re craving.
3. Leverage Your Carbohydrate Intake
Where a lot of people go wrong is thinking they need to drastically increase their carbs in a bulk. Not so fast. Instead, what you should do is be specific about when you are consuming your increase in carbs.
Leveraging your carbohydrate intake around your training will be your best bet. Have a carb-filled meal pre-workout (around 60-90 minutes prior) to benefit from the added glycogen and then also post-workout (with a protein powder) to help replenish glycogen and kickstart the recovery process.
4. Keep Healthy Fats in Your Diet
People tend to shy away from fat as they believe eating it will cause them to experience fat gain. That’s not always true. Consuming healthy fats will not only help you feel satiated, but it can also help balance hormones and even boost your testosterone levels (which you would greatly benefit from while bulking).
Look at natural sources like fish, steak, nut butter, seeds, and whole nuts. Add those to your meals and reap the benefits of healthy fats.
5. Train Hard and Heavy
This is pretty straightforward and one that we aren’t going to spend a lot of time on. If you want to increase muscle, you need to lift heavy. Now, that doesn’t mean maxing out each workout. What it means is, using a weight you can achieve 8-10 repetitions with where the last few reps you’re really pushing yourself. Going to failure on every set of every exercise is not going to be beneficial.
If you wanted to hit some isolation exercises at the end of your workout where you lighten the weight, go for it, but make sure if you’re hitting 15 reps where your muscles are on fire before you put the weight down (you want to make sure you are going to failure if using lighter weights to really break down those muscle fibers).
6. Back Off on the Cardio
Now is not the time for marathon cardio sessions. For health and heart benefits, you can still keep some cardio in your routine, but do not be obsessive with it as you’ll be burning off the calories you need to increase muscle mass – which will only force you to eat more food in order to make up for the reduction.
That being said, at least keeping some cardio in your plan will further help you minimize fat gain while you bulk. Just make sure your calories at the end of the day are still around 10% higher than your maintenance.
7. Get Enough Sleep
This section is incredibly important. If you want to see any changes to your physique, you need proper rest and recovery. You should strive for a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. Should you fall short, it could dramatically stall your progress.
Make sleep a priority and change around your schedule to allow for proper rest if you truly want to increase muscle mass.