When it comes to building muscle, many people assume that gaining weight and putting on fat is an inevitable part of the process. However, with the right approach, building muscle while minimizing fat gain is possible. In the gym community, this is known as "lean bulking."
What is lean bulking?
Lean bulking involves a combination of strength training and nutrition to promote muscle growth while keeping body fat levels in check.
Here are the seven steps to getting big without getting fat:
Calculate Your Calorie Needs
First, in order to build muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus, meaning you consume more calories than you burn. However, you don't want to overdo it and end up gaining excessive amounts of fat. To find your ideal calorie intake for lean bulking, start by calculating your maintenance calories using an online calculator called the TDEE calculator. From there, add 250–500 calories to your daily intake.
2. Focus on protein
Protein is essential for muscle growth, so it's crucial to make sure you're consuming enough of it. Aim for at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Good sources of protein include chicken, turkey, fish, beef, eggs, dairy, and plant-based options like tofu and legumes. If you are interested in diving deeper, we wrote an article here on Six Pack Center about the top 10 list of foods for lean bulking.
3. Eat nutrient-dense foods
While you want to be in a calorie surplus, it's important to focus on nutrient-dense foods rather than just eating anything and everything. Opt for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to fuel your body and support muscle growth.
4. Don't neglect carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are essential for proper energy during your workouts, and they even help to level off glycogen stores in your muscles. Don't shy away from carbs, but aim for complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, whole grains, and fruits rather than simple sugars.
5. Lift heavy weights
Now that you have all the energy necessary from the first four steps, it's time to build muscle quickly. In order to do so, you have to push your muscles with heavier weights week after week. Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows, which work for multiple muscle groups at once. Aim to lift heavy weights to fatigue your muscles within 8–12 reps.
6. Incorporate cardio
Cardio is still important during a lean bulk, as it can help keep your heart healthy and improve your endurance. However, you don't want to overdo it and burn too many calories, which could hinder your muscle-building progress. Aim for 2-3 sessions of moderate-intensity cardio per week.
7. Be patient
Being patient is the most important step, by far, because most people stop this process after a week. In today's society, with attention spans shrinking more than ever and everyone wanting things instantly, building muscle properly takes time. You won't see results tomorrow. So stay consistent with your nutrition and training, and trust the process. The goal is to aim for gaining 0.5–1 pound of muscle per week and to always remember that all good things take time.
Is Lean Bulking A Good Approach?
Yes, lean bulking is a smart approach to building muscle without gaining excessive amounts of fat. You can achieve your muscle-building goals while maintaining a lean physique by focusing on your nutrition, lifting heavy weights, and staying patient. But, as always, it is important to seek your doctor's advice before changing your eating habits. We are not doctors here at Six Pack Center; we are just two gym bros with lots of personal experience in muscle building.