Most people think of two main objectives when wanting to get fitter. They want to lose their excess body fat and get bigger muscles. Are these two ideas worlds apart?
Building muscle mass is going to require you to take in a surplus of calories because, well, let’s face it, you can’t build muscle out of nothing (unless of course you have some chemical help going on). Losing fat mass on the other hand is going to require you to be in a negative calorie balance because that is what will get your body burning off additional body fat as fuel for its tissues.
Striving to accomplish both goals at the same time is rarely a good approach because more than likely you will just end up spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
Most weight lifters will have to accept some fat gain when they are looking to gain weight, however how much fat gain they need to add is questionable. It is this variable that we are hoping to influence.
And so again…can you really bulk up your muscles without getting fat? There are two ways of adding muscle mass…
Some take the approach of just eating as much food as they can possibly cram into themselves. Their life suddenly becomes one long 24-hour buffet in their quest for muscle mass as they are under the thinking that the more food that goes in, the more muscle synthesis that will go on.
This plan is wrong for one simple reason. Once your body has used up all the calories that it needs in order to produce this lovely muscle tissue…the excess calories still need to be stored…how? BODY FAT!
Many guys who begin their training with the ‘bulking up’ theory of a massive intake of calories each day (five thousand and over) will find that after three to six months that they are carrying a fair amount of excess fat weight.
A far better direction to go is a much gentler approach to calorie intake. Eat enough to support your muscle gain, but without over-feeding yourself so that you end up with a whole load of unwanted body fat.
So now you want an answer? How many calories can I eat (over what I normally do to keep a stable weight)?
There are many factors that influence how your body will react when you try to gain muscle. You see an advertisement showing that Joe Bloggs has added 20 pounds of muscle in six weeks, which is not impossible. The truth is he is brand new to weight lifting, has a fantastic genetic background, and he used a top-notch training and nutritional system. The honest truth is that generally it is very difficult to put on this much muscle mass.
A naturally trained individual can hope to achieve about half a pound to one pound of muscle per week – if he’s doing everything correctly. If he doesn’t have the greatest genetics or isn’t feeding himself optimally, this will decrease even further. So as you can see, at a measly two to four pounds of muscle growth per month, you aren’t going to be needing to eat insanely high calorie intakes.
The higher your intake is, the more you risk putting on additional body fat. As a general rule, keep it to about 250 to 500 calories above maintenance in hopes of putting on mostly muscle without too much body fat. Keep track of your current body fat levels and appearance and if you see that too much of your weight gain is coming on as fat mass, reduce your calorie intake slightly.
Don’t take any notice of articles that tell you how many calories a day you should be taking, as everyones metabolism is different so your body will react differently to someone elses. Stick to the general guidelines as written here and you shouldn’t go far wrong.
The moral of this tale is simple…take it nice and slowly with the muscle build up. If you do this, it will save you putting on excess body fat that you will then have to diet to get rid of…and you don’t want that!