Q: I want to get big muscles but not get fat. What should I be doing?
A: In theory, gaining muscle mass is easy: Just increase calories and do resistance workouts. But you need to be careful if you want to add muscle without gaining fat on your midsection. If you eat too much or don’t exercise enough, extra calories will end up stored as fat. Adding an extra 500 calories to your daily diet can yield muscle gains of about one pound per week if you follow a proper nutrition and exercise program.
In order to gain lean mass and not get fat, you need to consume just over what your body needs to maintain itself. In this manner, you provide your body with the calories it needs to build muscle but you won’t give it so many calories that it stores the excess as fat. Remember, anything in excess (even protein!) will be stored as fat.
How do you achieve this delicate balance? Eat well-balanced meals around lean protein — 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from nutrient-rich, low-glycemic carbohydrate sources. Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and used to fuel anaerobic workouts like resistance training.
A lot of guys want to gain all muscle and zero fat. This is basically impossible. If you want to stay lean while gaining weight, you’re going to have to maintain a decent level of conditioning. You don’t need to become a track athlete or do anything crazy (most of the time), but you should be doing some type of conditioning that challenges you and forces you to breathe heavily. Wind sprints, hill sprints and sled pushes are some options. The best way to do these without interfering with your weight sessions is to place them on your days “off” from weight training. You can also do them after you train your lower body, since you’ll already be fatiguing your legs that day.
Getting truly big and strong is a years-long journey. Even with brutally hard training and plenty of rest, recovery and nutrition, your body can only add so much lean tissue in a given amount of time. Don’t worry about exact numbers here; everyone’s body is different, and you don’t want to put limitations on your progress. The important thing to do is to constantly get stronger while eating enough to make your scale weight go up.
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