If you want to gain lean muscle mass, it comes as no surprise that you need to increase your caloric intake. But the biggest concern for natural bodybuilders is that gaining muscle mass is tricky – if you don’t follow a proper guide you can easily start to gain fat and not muscle.
Every bodybuilder wants to gain staggering muscle mass in order to bulk up. However, bulking up is no child’s play because if you do have a tendency to gain weight you can very well gain body fat percentage if you get careless with your nutrition. To bulk up, you need more calories. And for aspiring bodybuilders, that means pigging out. And that is where they make a mistake, because for many bodybuilders the very meaning of ‘bulking up’ turns into ‘getting fat’. The trick is to increase your size without gaining body fat, and for that you might need to incorporate a few strategies. Understand your metabolism and create a carefully charted nutrition plan that helps you build lean muscle and not add fat to your waistline.
Here are four strategies you need to adopt of you want to get big, not fat.
1. Alternate Between Bulking Up And Cutting Calories
This one is a sureshot way to stay in shape. Through the year, you will need to alternate between bulking up and cutting back calories. You cannot go for a whole year simply bulking up with high protein and carbohydrate diets and not gain any body fat.
The ideal way is to bulk up for three months and cut calories for the next three. Make a simple arrangement – check your body fat percentage every month. Decide on a limit, so that the minute your body fat percentage has crossed the said limit you can start the calorie cutting diet.
2. Stagger Your Carbohydrate Intake
By staggering your carbohydrate intake in accordance with your energy needs, you will be able to maintain a healthy body fat percentage. On the days you need to train hard, increase your carbohydrate intake in order to have sufficient fuel to burn during workouts. On the days you don’t go to the gym, you need to lower your carbohydrate intake because you don’t need as much energy and the extra calories will simply convert to body fat.
Another must for you is to take in a higher number of carbohydrates earlier on in the day. This is because as you lead an active lifestyle with work, activities and gym, you end up burning all the calories ingested through carbs more easily in the mornings and afternoons. Once you finish gym, have a protein shake with added carbohydrate to give your body the necessary fuel to repair and recover. But there is no reason to load up on carbohydrates later on in the day, especially after 7pm, because you will not be doing any extensive activities. Remember, you need a good source of carbohydrate in your breakfast and before and after workouts. The later meals of the day, especially dinner, must revolve around proteins and healthy fats.
3. Get Lean And Prime Body For Adequate Gains
In order to ensure that all the extra calories you intake don’t go to your waistline, you need to become lean first. There really is no way around this; before you bulk up you must lose weight. If you aren’t lean, your body will immediately start turning any extra calories you ingest into additional fat. Remember, your body is a machine that likes to stay the way it is and will resist most well-intentioned changes. So, if you start adding more calories without finding a way to burn them all, it is guaranteed that you will gain body fat percentage.
The better option is to first get a good training programme in place so that your body gets used to it. This way when you start adding more calories to your diet from proteins and complex carbs, these will go towards muscle building. However, the minute your body gets used to the training programme, it will start storing those calories as fat and muscle development will automatically go down. This is especially true is your body fat percentage is around 10 per cent. The simple way to avoid this is to keep challenging your body constantly, changing workout routines and making them more intense as you start to increase your caloric intake for bulking up.
Also, a period of calorie cutting increases your body’s hunger towards nutrients. This is the ideal period of bulking up, where most of the calories you intake will go towards muscle development because you are training hard and you can make best use of the anabolic process in your body after you have followed a calorie restricting diet aimed towards fat loss.
4. Making Sure Your Caloric Intake And Exercise Outlines Are In Sync
The best way to gain mass without gaining fat is to cycle between bulking up and cutting down. The best way to do that is to have two weeks of high calorie diet, where you bulk up, followed by one week of cutting back where you eat a low calorie diet.
For example: The first two weeks, your calories will come from 50 per cent carbohydrates, 30 per cent proteins and 20 per cent fats. In the next week of low calorie diet you need to get calories from 50 per cent proteins, 30 per cent fats and 20 per cent carbohydrates.
Now, so that your exercise routine is in sync with your caloric intake for maximised gains, you need to increase volume and quantity of exercises when you are on a high calorie bulking up diet, and you need to increase weights but reduce volume during the low calorie cutting back week.
Remember, if you want to avoid gaining body fat, cardio is important. Most gym instructors will tell you that for bulking up you don’t really need cardio sessions, all you need is strength training. But that is not true if you want to get big but not get fat. The only way to keep body fat percentage in check is to do two cardio sessions of 45 minutes each twice a week during the two high calorie weeks. This is because this time is dedicated to bulking up and gaining muscle mass, so more time should go in to strength training exercises and weight lifting. However, during the one week of low calorie cutting back, you must do cardio six days of the week to keep body fat levels in check without affecting your muscle mass.