There is a magical unicorn everyone is after in the world of fitness, gaining muscle without adding fat. Excess body fat isn’t anything anyone sets out to gain. Muscle is what you want. It makes you look bigger, stronger, and sexier and who doesn’t want that?
What no one wants is the fat accumulation that often happens while bulking. On two separate bulks I’ve gained anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds of excess fat. Sure, I gained muscle but I also went full on Stay Puft Marshmellow Man a couple of times.
Adding 20 pounds is awesome, except when you realize half was muscle and the other half was fat. Everyone knows how much fat loss sucks but is it possible to gain muscle without the fat?
This is the style of training and diet created by Martin Berkhan. Using the power of carb cycling, intermittent fasting, and heavy compound movements like squats, deadlifts, weighted chin-ups and pressing movements, Lean Gains can over time help you pack on muscle while sparing fat.
On a Lean Gains protocol you’ll fast for 16 hours and consume all your calories in an 8 hour window (i.e. 12pm-8pm). Along with practicing intermittent fasting you will also calorie cycle as well. This means you will consume about 300 calories over maintenance on workout days to fuel your workouts and then consume around 500 calories under maintenance on rest days. You’re in a surplus when you need the food to build muscle and in a deficit on the days you are resting to prevent excess fat accumulation.
Lean Gains won’t magically add 10 pounds in a few months but over the course of a year or more you will see muscle built while fat is staved off.
How many times have you ended a cut and the next day found yourself knee deep in a buffet? Did you stop at just one meal or have you found yourself continuing to gorge on food for a week or more post diet? This is a dangerous place for many people and the weight rebound can be HUGE. Reverse dieting can prevent the rebound effect and instead of storing fat help you build more muscle.
As an example, if you ended your cut at 2000 calories, consuming 180 grams of protein, 175 grams of carbohydrates and 65 grams of fat a day, in a reverse diet you would slowly bring up your fats and carbs by anywhere from 2-5% per week. After a couple of weeks, you’ll notice more energy from the increase in calories as well as an improvement in overall training. The biggest benefit to reverse dieting is it allows you to maintain your prime insulin sensitivity.
Maintaining high insulin sensitivity will help prevent your body from shuttling excess calories off for fat storage and instead shuttle those excess calories off to your muscles for added growth. Initially on the Reverse Diet you’ll still be in a deficit, so don’t be surprised if you see some continued fat loss, but this is a method you can use to slowly find your proper maintenance level. Over an 8 to 12 week period as you work back towards maintenance calories, you’ll keep the lean look you worked for and even slowly begin adding lean muscle and instead of fat.
Before you bulk, make sure to get lean. The better your insulin sensitivity, the better chance you have of your body shuttling nutrients off for muscle instead of fat storage. Muscle growth takes time and these two methods can help stave off the unwanted bodyfat most bulks seem to pack on.
You won’t wake up overnight with massive amounts of muscle added but the time invested into either Lean Gains or Reverse Dieting can help you stay leaner far longer.