Building muscle is a very popular fitness goal for many people. It has huge benefits to your body and life, such as a better shape, more strength, more confidence, more protection for your bones, and a decreased risk of disease.
However, a concern among many people is the potential fat gain that comes with building muscle. Due to the requirement to consume more food over a long period of time, some fat accumulation is inevitable.
Yet how can we limit this? What strategies can you implement to ensure that you add muscle without a large amount of fat gain in the process?
Moderate Calorie Surplus
The most important thing to remember when it comes to limiting fat gain is not to over consume calories. As mentioned before, a beginner without much muscle mass can add it easily without putting on much fat, but a more intermediate lifter with some muscle mass will have to be much more careful.
You will have to consume more food, but this is where knowing your daily maintenance calories (the number of calories required to stay the same weight) is crucial. Once you figure it out, you will then need to be in a slight calorie surplus (consuming more calories than you burn) of around 300-500, dependent on the individual. This is because your body can only use a certain number of calories to add more muscle, before storing the rest as fat, so avoiding over consumption is key.
Structured Resistance Training Plan
To achieve the goal of muscle gain without fait gain, you must have a resistance training programme that is designed specifically to you, your targets, your experience and is realistic. In an ideal world you should be looking to train weaker muscle groups in two times per week so that they have the best chance of growing.
It all depends on the time that you have available. If you can only fit in two to three sessions per week, then a full body workout will be more beneficial. However, if you can fit in more than that, you can then look to change the split to more upper and lower body-focused sessions.
Technique and Intensity
It is vital that your sessions are of high quality. Too many people turn up and get through their session without pushing themselves and focusing on the muscle groups they are trying to hit. So, to ensure that your sessions are worthwhile, you must focus on perfecting exercise execution, concentrate hard during each set, keep going through the last few reps, gradually lift heavier over time and keep your rest periods relatively short.
After figuring out the number of calories you need to consume on a daily basis, you then should go deeper into the type of foods you should be eating. Protein with each meal will be essential for muscle growth and recovery, while carbohydrates are also vital for ensuring that your energy levels are high during the sessions. Aim to also include plenty of fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and water in your diet so that your body receives the nutrients it requires.
Consistency and Patience
Once you have the basics put in place, it then comes down to how consistent you are with your training, nutrition, and recovery over a long period of time. Changing your body shape through adding muscle and losing body fat takes a long time and it comes from ticking boxes daily.
So, you must be very consistent and show up to every session with intent and purpose. You must also be willing to stick to your nutrition plan, which could mean pulling back certain areas of your life which are not conducive to that. Then, you must be very patient – results do not happen over time.
So, if you want to build muscle without gaining fat, there are certain areas that you must prioritise. These include being in a moderate calorie surplus, having a structured resistance training plan, training with good technique and intensity, being on an effective macronutrient split, and having consistency and patience.
Mastering these areas will result in muscle built over time, whilst limiting fat accumulation over time. You will then be in a much better position as you enter a fat loss stage and build a great body shape for yourself.
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