Gaining muscle while staying ripped can be a tall order. Keep these tips in mind.
Anthony Bevilacqua, C.P.T., for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 16
Make Gains and Stay Lean Too
You want to be big AND you want to stay ripped—join the club!
There are plenty of lean mass schemes out there for a reason: Your body doesn't want to stay lean. In fact, our bodies tend to like being heavier. It's much easier for our bodies to store fat than it is to build muscle. Being massive and lean is a tough task for your body to accomplish. It is going to take time and patience. These 15 tips will help keep the extra pounds off and help you add slabs of beef to your frame.
Flexible dieting has a lot of benefits, but a common misconception is that guys who follow the "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM) method just eat candy and junk all day. IIFYM isn't a diet. Rather, it's a system that can be very useful. Some 80 percent of your diet will come from whole food sources that are loaded with plenty of micronutrients; these include all your typical "bro" foods. The biggest benefit to IIFYM is that you can be flexible with your food choices. Basically, you can still eat out with friends, have birthday cake, and go to parties while still getting results.
You don't need to be stuffing your face at every sitting to gain size. Muscle tissue is synthesized at a slow rate—much slower than most guys think. The average man can gain a quarter of a pound to five pounds of muscle per week while the average woman can gain .12- to .25 pounds per week. That is not a huge amount; therefore, you don't need all those extra calories. Staying in a small caloric surplus of anywhere between 200-400 calories per day will get the job done, as long as you're getting enough protein to fuel that muscle growth. Your body will put on fat if you take in any more than that.
Mini cuts—when you slightly reduce your caloric intake for a short time—are great because they allow you to burn off added fat from your body rather quickly. A mini cut from two to six weeks is appropriate, depending on your current conditioning. It's okay to be aggressive, as long as you're experienced with modifying your diet. Say your current intake is 3500 calories—drop your intake to 2500. By doing that, you'll take advantage of your body's naturally elevated fat-burning hormones like leptin and T3.
So your goal is to be as big and lean as humanly possible—how can you get big without going heavy? By lifting heavy, you signal to your body that there's a demand to build and maintain more lean mass. Make sure you're avoiding your plateaus by progressing your routine and striving to add one more rep, five pounds, or one more set to every workout if your body can handle it.
There's no way around the basic compound exercises, which stimulate more than just one muscle group. In addition to hitting multiple muscle groups, you'll also build overall strength. You can stimulate all your fiber types and help release surges of testosterone and growth hormone naturally. The more taxing the movement, the greater the release.
If you've ever completed a long cut, you know that by the time you're done, you're ready to eat a house and more. Whenever you push your body past your bodyfat set points (getting to new bodyfat lows), your body responds by increasing the hunger feeling. The best thing you can do after finishing your fat loss phase is to slowly build your metabolism back up. Let's say, for example, that at the end of your cut, you're taking in 220g of protein, 150g of carbs and 45g of fat. Those are the numbers it'll take to maintain your current physique look. If you add 10% to your carbs and fat every week or every week and half, within a couple of months, your macro numbers would look something like this: 220g protein, 350g carbs and 70g fat. By slowly adding the calories back in, you help your body adjust to each new calorie level. It's not uncommon for bodybuilders to maintain their contest shape while doing this. In addition to the benefit, you'll also improve your metabolic capacity and your ability to handle more macros.
Despite popular thinking, you can gain fat from one meal. Binging can ruin a lean physique. Some bodybuilding competitors can gain 15 pounds in a weekend when they really let themselves go.
Besides the physical downfall, however, binges also wreak havoc on your mental state. Post-binge, a lot of guys feel a huge sense of guilt, which can, in turn, can lead to depression and more binging. That's why following a flexible diet is essential: By following a flexible diet, you can fit in little treats here and there without compelling yourself to binge or feel guilty.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of cardio that is ideal for staying lean and getting big. HIIT involves performing 15-30 seconds of high-intensity work. This may include car pushes, 400-meter sprints, battle ropes, and barbell complexes. This form of cardio can actually help you gain muscle. Skeptical? Compare a marathon runner to a short-distance sprinter. Marathoners are adapted to long-distance endurance, so they're all slow-twitch fiber. Short distance sprinters, on the other hand, are packed with explosive type-II fibers to power through their sprints.
Alcohol in moderation—meaning one or two drinks a week—is okay. A high alcohol intake can slow muscle gain and increase fat storage; tack on all the drunk munchies you eat, and your diet can go off the rails fast. Alcohol is worth seven calories per gram, and that's not even accounting for the added calories (mostly from carbs and sugar) in drinks. Alcohol can also dehydrate you, which can lead to reductions in strength.
As long as you're in good shape beforehand, don't be afraid of the overtraining monster. Muscle growth is directly related to overall workout volume. Keep track of your workout volume—if you’re not making any progress in a certain area, then add more volume. Don't add too much too fast; slow and steady wins the race. You can increase workout volume by adding more weight, more sets, more reps, and even by adding more frequency.
Creatine is one of the tried-and-trusted supplements on the market today. Creatine has been shown to increase muscle size and strength. I recommend taking five grams daily for 8-12 weeks with a two-week break. Creatine increases intracellular water retention in your muscles, which leads to an increase in strength, resulting in more muscle growth.
Always strive to break new records in the gym. Remember, no one's body wants to be lean and muscular. We need to force our bodies to adapt and build muscle. We do this by always pushing the bar higher and higher.
For a lot of guys, it can be hard to find nutrients—particularly protein—in the right proportions. And if you're trying to add muscle mass without getting fatter, that means huge quantities of protein without much else. That's why bodybuilders often turn to shakes, which can supplement your protein intake without forcing you to buy expensive steaks or constantly bake chicken breasts in your tiny apartment.
The best time of day to consume your carbs is around your workout. Consuming carbs before exercise will provide your body with energy for your workouts. I usually consume a workout shake that contains carbs as well, which helps me get more calories and help keep me anabolic during a workout. I will consume a balanced meal with protein and carbs to help with muscle repair 20 minutes following a workout.