How do you put on muscle without risking gaining fat? You need the right workout, enough protein, and a gentle caloric surplus. Watch the video for more details!
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This is how to gain muscle without gaining fat.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismastrjohnphd.com, and this is
Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we have a question from Christopher shown on the screen. Christopher asks, “How do I build muscle without getting fat, starting from a healthy ideal weight, that is, after having lost fat for metabolic health?”
If you’ve recently lost fat for your metabolic health, then your goal if you want to gain muscle is to gain muscle without gaining any of that fat back, and what that means is that you need a caloric surplus that is gentle enough that it does not exceed what you can use for muscle growth because any leftover would get stored as fat. But you need the caloric surplus if you want to optimize for muscle growth. The principles providing muscle growth are the same principles that protect muscles during fat loss, which we talked about in a previous episode. The only difference is that during fat loss, we had a caloric deficit.
During optimizing for muscle growth, we have a caloric surplus. So the three principles are: Number one, provide an exercise routine that has a sufficient anabolic stimulus. Number two, get enough protein. Number three, get the right gentle caloric surplus.
In terms of the exercise routine, you want to get into the gym at least three sessions a week. Three sessions of a full-body routine is the best way to save time, but if you’re going four sessions or more, you can break your full-body routine up into different body parts. So for example, you could do two upper body, two lower body days or something like that if you’re doing four workouts. But you want to get at least three one-hour sessions in.
When you’re in the gym, you want to do a mix of strength training at complex movements, such as squats and deadlifts with long rest periods, where your focus is on completing the movement correctly, and you’re doing fairly low reps, so 4, 5, or 6 reps with 3 or 4 minutes rest between sets.That optimizes for mechanical tension. It’s good for your body to get that strength training in, but also to be able to optimize for the mechanical tension is one stimulus that helps you grow your muscles. It’s good to get the diversity of rep ranges, and it’s good also to get in sets where you’re having low rest so you can maximize metabolic stress, which is a different stimulus for muscle growth. And having a diversity of rep ranges also helps target different types of muscle fibers and probably is better for total muscle growth.
So in addition to the strength training, also include rep ranges around ten reps per set and rep ranges around 15 reps per set, and in those sets, try to reduce your rest time to 40 seconds or so, and in those exercises, focus less on completing the movement and more on the mind-muscle connection, making sure that you’re always throughout the entire exercise feeling the muscle and that you’re squeezing and that you’re holding it at the end to really flex and feel whatever muscle you’re trying to target.That’s the exercise routine.
Number two is the protein. Estimate where you want to be at the end of three or six months or whatever you’re going to use as your target to hit your goal. Then take that and eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight. It’s okay to go higher providing you don’t have any negative, like you know, negative symptoms in response to eating more protein. If you don’t feel well when you eat that much protein, you can cut back a little bit. But ideally you want to at least hit a gram of protein per pound of target body weight.
Then number three, you want to provide a gentle caloric excess. I would start with 100 calories per day over what you’re eating to maintain your weight. But you can test this because if you have measures of body fat, you may have a bioimpedance scale at home, I would at least use waist circumference, keeping in mind that your waist circumference can be affected by holding water or bloating or other things like that. But if you measure consistently, your waist circumference is a pretty good indicator of the amount of fat you’re holding in your abdominal region. So if you can verify that your waist circumference is not consistently increasing and to whatever extent you have access to other measures of body fat you can verify, you can corroborate that your body fat is not increasing, then you can start to push the caloric surplus a little bit higher and go as high as your body seems to tolerate without gaining that fat.
But if it’s really important to you to hold on to your fat loss gains, then you really want to do this slowly and gently so that you don’t overshoot. If you do overshoot, start cutting back. to the surplus that you can maintain over time that does not produce any fat gain for you. Now, where should that caloric surplus come from? Well, the easiest thing to turn into muscle is protein, and you never really know whether the protein that you’re eating is actually the protein load that would maximally support muscle gain given the anabolic stimulus that you have.
So the safest thing to add is protein. If you’re trying to add 100 calories, add 100 calories of a protein-rich food. If you’re trying to see if you can push that to 200, add 200 calories of a protein-rich food. If you have to use something else, it’s better to use carbohydrate than fat because fat is most easily turned into fat. Carbohydrate is more easily—most easily stored as glycogen. Carbohydrate is somewhat protein-sparing more than fat is. But the safest thing to add in this context is the caloric surplus entirely as a protein-based food.