It’s a big dilemma that faces even the most avid lifters: “How do I bulk up without adding the unwanted pounds of fat?” But when it comes to bulking up, the rule of thumb is you have to maintain a positive caloric balance by consuming more calories than your burn, yet eating too many calories can lead to an increase in body fat levels. So is there a way out of this dilemma? Yes, and fortunately, there are smart and proven strategies to get bigger without inflating the waistline. These strategies have been consistently and effectively used by many professional bodybuilders and nutritionist to add muscle mass while maintaining muscle leanness.
1. Increase your calorie intake gradually
The biggest mistake most people make when bulking up is that they consume more calories than their body needs in order to recover and build muscles. This results unfortunately in the body storing the extra calories as body fat. An effective and proven method, however, is to gradually increase your daily calorie intake by 15%-20%. For example, if you are currently taking in 2,500 calories per day, you would increase this caloric intake by 15%-20% which comes to between 2,875 and 3,000 calories.
- A gradual increase almost exclusively builds lean muscle, while a larger boost in calories will build a combination of muscle tissue and fat. In general, your calorie surplus should not exceed 500 calories per day. This surplus is enough to produce lean muscle gain.
2. Consume most of your calories in your first meal and after workout
Meal timing is the other key to staying lean while bulking up. The amount of calories you take in plays a pivotal role in controlling your bodyfat levels. If lean quality muscle is what you are after, increase your calorie intake at breakfast and after training by consuming the bulk of your total calorie intake for the day. These are two times of the day when your muscles crave more calories and nutrients. And that’s because at breakfast you are nutritionally depleted after a night’s sleep, and after training your muscle are broken down and are in dire need of calorie-dense nutrients to kickstart the muscle building process.
- Take in of most your calories in your first meal and after your workout. Providing your body with the calories it needs during these two windows facilitates maximal growth and keeps your body fat levels down.
3. Eat a small balanced meal every 2-3 hours
After your account for your large substantial breakfast and postworkout meal, evenly divide your remaining calories into small balanced meals spread over two to three hours. This way you can boost your total caloric intake and ensure that those extra calories are available when your muscles need them. Additionally, keeping your meal size and carbs controlled also helps regulate blood sugar levels and prevent insulin spikes at the wrong times of the day. Smaller meals also do not stretch out the stomach and they keep the waist looking thin and tight, as opposed to thick and bloated.
- Eating small balanced meals every 2-3 hours supplies your muscles with nonstop nutrients without setting off fat storing hormones and enzymes associated with infrequent meals.
4. Focus on protein
Protein is critically important when it comes to making muscle gains and should be the backbone of all your bulking meals, after all, it’s the stuff your muscles are made of. Eating protein also directly raises your metabolism, a good way of minimizing fat gains. Ideally, you will want to use a high-quality protein source. The best protein sources to include in your diet include chicken, beef, turkey, tuna, salmon, eggs, and low-fat cottage cheese. High-quality protein supplements are also very important and convenient for reaching your daily quota.
- Consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily to support lean muscle growth and high metabolism. The total amount of protein intake should spread out over your 6-7 meals. For example, if your 180-pound guy, you will need 180-270 grams of protein total, that’ll mean he should be having 30-40 grams of protein per meal.
5. Cut carbs at night and on off days
You need carbs to build muscle but consuming carbs increases insulin production, and if your body produces too much insulin, it can cause excess fat storage especially at the wrong time. So managing your carb intake is critically important when it comes to packing on muscle mass without gaining unwanted fat. First, avoid consuming carbs at night and focus on eating only proteins. During this period you are most likely to sit around being fairly inactive, therefore carbs consumed at this time might end up as body fat. Second, cut your carb intake in half on your off days from training. The demand for carbs can be reduced considerably because you are inactive.