Over the past 10+ years of consulting people about diets, training and muscle building, I have asked every one of them “what is it you are trying to do?” Nine times out of 10, the answer is “well, I want to get big, but I don’t want to get fat”. This, of course, is every male’s objective, to be muscular and lean. Great, so we know what we need to do! The problem is, nearly everyone tries to do exactly this…put on lean mass, and only lean mass. While this sounds great in theory, it doesn’t work with most body types. If you want to put on muscle, REAL muscle, not just a pound or two, you’re going to have to suck it up and eat, a lot.
Gaining muscle involves two inputs, one is training extremely hard to stimulate the body to grow, and two is giving it a calorie surplus in which to build this muscle. Working out hard breaks down the muscle, and the body looks to repair and rebuild it, only bigger and stronger this time so it can better handle the load next time it has to confront the weights it couldn’t do last workout. In order to do this though, it needs lot and lots of excess calories. The other issue at play is the fact that the metabolism is extremely adaptable. So, if you were maintaining weight at 2500 calories, logically, you would bump it to say, 3000 calories and in turn you have an additional 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week to put on a pound of muscle, right? Wrong! What happens in this scenario is that the body quickly adjusts to the additional calories and the metabolism speeds up. We may gain just a little, but overall it won’t be nearly enough to put on any serious size.
What most people are simply unwilling to do is to eat enough to put on the size they want. If you are maintaining weight at 2500 calories, and want to put on 5, 10 or 20+ pounds of muscle, you’ll need to bump total calories up a bunch more, and it’s also a moving target. Here are some keys to guarantee muscle gain, regardless of the numbers:
Weigh yourself every week – The goal is to gain weight, if you weigh 180 this week, you had better weigh at least 181 next week or you simply aren’t gaining. Don’t kid yourself by saying “yea I think I look a little leaner though” This may be true, but ask yourself again, what are you trying to do? You are trying to gain muscle, muscle weighs something, so if the scale isn’t going up, you aren’t gaining any serious muscle
Force the weight on – As mentioned above, if you aren’t gaining weight, it’s safe to assume you aren’t gaining muscle, so force the issue. If you ate 3500 calories all week and gained no weight, don’t wait for it, bump the calories up to 4500 and see how that goes.
Track progress in the gym – Since you are gaining, your performance should show it in the form or strength and stamina. Track your lifts and ensure you are improving and increasing every week, every workout in one way or another. If you aren’t, you probably aren’t gaining much. In this instance, find a way to do more weight, more reps in some way so you are pushing the envelope
You can always take the weight of later – Don’t be scared of a little fat. As the saying goes, “if you are going to make an omelet, you ae going to have to break some eggs”. This is very true in this case. You can’t expect to put on 10 pounds and have 10 pounds of it be muscle. You will be lucky to put on 7 pounds of muscle and 3 pounds of fat. But think of it this way, had you not been willing to put on the weight, you may still be “lean” but you maybe gained 1 pound of muscle. While that’s great too, it’s much easier to strip off the four pounds of fat and be left with more muscle than had you not gained it at all.
Overall, getting big is not a game of finesse, it is a game of big numbers, big weights, big food. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to stay super lean. If the goal is to put on muscle, do it. The chances are you won’t gain nearly as much fat as you think you will either, and it’s worth it anyway.