Nutrition

Gain mass or lose fat, what do I do?

Bob the Skinny Fake. The solution to an effective approach.

In general, when people decide to enter the gym and change their current state, they have one of the following goals in mind:

  • Gain muscle mass
  • Lose fat

No one has ever approached me saying, "I'm going to sign up for the gym, start following a more balanced diet, to maintain my current condition."

I'm not saying there aren't people like that, but it's very unlikely.

Usually, after the first week of attending the gym, the goal is common:

  • Lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously

The probability of achieving both simultaneously, called body recomposition, depends on the size of the caloric deficit, the % of body fat and the training experience.

In this regard, the following should be noted:

Deep down, it can be said that the fatter the person and the more inexperienced the person, the more likely he is to achieve both goals simultaneously.

However, and looking at the objectives mentioned above, it is indisputable that in order to optimize any process of change in body aesthetics, caloric deficits in the fat loss phase must be larger in size than the caloric surplus in a phase of muscle mass gain.

Briefly:

  • Our body is more efficient at losing fat than gaining muscle mass.

    With this, fat can be lost faster than it is possible to gain muscle.

    It should be considered that visual changes for the same time period tend to be greater in the phases of fat loss, than in the phases of muscle mass gain.

  • Gaining muscle mass requires building new tissues and ligaments in our body.

    It is a process that takes time and requires patience.

  • A too large caloric surplus, in phases of muscle mass gain, leads to gains in muscle mass.

    However, combined with this, excessive and unnecessary fat gains arise.

    There are no benefits in this approach, both from an aesthetic point of view and from a performance point of view.

Scale

How much weight can you lose per week?

In theory there is a limit of fat that can be lost per day.

If we exceed that limit, we increase the odds of losing muscle mass.

As mentioned above, the more fat the person has, the greater the weekly/monthly loss.

Next, I present a general guide to the common population:

Current Situation

% Body Fat (approx)

% Body Fat lost per month

Obese

>25%

3-4%

Overweight

20-25%

2-3%

Normal

13-19%

1-2%

Athletic

<13%

≤ 1%

Based on the table made by Alan Aragon.

This table is just an example, in which each person reacts differently to stimuli and adjustments made in diet and training.

Still, it serves as a guide for them to take realistic expectations, even if body weight is not enough to assess progress.

It is not strange, someone considered "normal" to achieve, with a structured plan, in 2-3 months, to present a more muscular body, descending 5-6 % points of body fat over that same time.

Exception made to people who want to take a "short" fat loss diet, possibly embedded in the middle of a phase of weight gain. This particular case typically lasts between 2-6 weeks with larger deficits.

The 3 Rules of Bulk

There are basically three possible choices in a muscle mass gain phase:

  • Bulk quiet. It consists of eating, by instinct, not counting calories/macros.

    In my opinion, it requires years of experience to be able to be done with some efficiency and not turn into an unnecessary fat gain.

  • Bulk controlled (or slow bulk). The idea is to maximize muscle mass gain by gaining as little fat as possible.

  • Lean mass gain only. The idea of this approach is to prioritize low body fat % levels, slowly gaining muscle, avoiding at any cost gaining fat.

All are legitimate, each with its own pros and cons.

Technically it is possible to gain muscle mass without gaining fat.

However, it must be noted that the amount of gains may not be being maximised without having a sufficient caloric surplus.

If you want to grow to the most efficient level possible, you have to accept some fat gain.

This is where usually that person with too much fat, and too much muscle mass, has difficulty defining one of his priorities, that is, if he is to embark on a bulk to gain muscle mass, or move on to fat loss, ending up feeling too thin.

If the option is muscle mass gain, the following table serves as an indication:

Current Situation

Monthly earnings (in kgs)

Started

0,9-1,2

Intermediate

0,45-0,9

Advanced

0,22

 

Based on lyle mcdonald's table of muscle mass gains.

My best rule is to keep fat gains under control in order to remove excess fat more quickly and more easily at a later stage of fat loss.

A 1:1 ratio of muscle mass to fat is perfectly realistic for most people.

In the guide in the table above, if you are an insider who tries to gain about 1kg of muscle per month, with a ratio of 1:1, it means you should aim for approximately 2kg per month.

bulk cut

Bulk/(+)Cut vs. Lean mass gain only

Using the rules defined and described throughout this article, we can conclude a few things:

  • If the priority is to keep the lowest % fat possible all year round, we can hardly optimize the process of gaining muscle mass.

    This is due to the fact that some caloric surplus is needed to build muscle.

    Exception made to some people who inexplicably manage to grow anyway. There are genetic freaks that influence how and how much they earn.

    I'll leave aside the PEDs/Steroids factor.

  • If the priority is to gain as much muscle mass as possible, we must accept some fat gain.

    As mentioned above, we must try to point to a ratio of 1:1, which is quite realistic.

Practical Example

Let's apply the example to an athlete, better known as Bob, "The Culturisca".

Bob has 80kg of body weight and has several options, of which I note:

  • Option 1: Bet on reducing % body fat, gaining muscle mass and betting on gaining zero fat.

  • Option 2: Apply the above rules and start by reducing this % fat, with a fat loss phase, to create a favorable climate for a later mass gain phase.

Bob, in addition to the 80kg, has about 15% body fat and some training experience.

Build

Imagining that Bob chooses Option 1 and decides to gain about 500g of weight per month, let's assume it's 100% muscle mass:

  • Month 1: 80 kg body weight with 15% fat (68 kg lean mass)

  • Month 2: 80.5 kg body weight with 14.9% fat (68.5 kg lean mass)

  • Month 3: 81 kg body weight with 14.8% fat (69 kg lean mass)

  • Month 4: 81.5 kg body weight with 14.7% fat (69.5 kg lean mass)

As you can see, despite the gains in muscle mass, the differences in % fat are few or none.

In addition, assumes that the person manages to gain during the four months 500g of muscle mass, without any fat, which is rare thing.

Assuming now that Bob had chosen Option 2, and decides to spend the same months losing fat and maintaining all muscle mass, pointing to a greater initial loss:

  • Month 1: 80 kg body weight with 15% fat (68 kg lean mass)

  • Month 2: 78 kg body weight with 12.8% fat (68 kg lean mass)

  • Month 3: 77 kg body weight with 11.7% fat (68 kg lean mass)

  • Month 4: 76 kg body weight with 10.5% fat (68 kg lean mass)

This scenario also idealizes that no muscle mass is lost.

Still, it shows the difference in the variation of % fat in the various approaches, and can help give some idea of how to plan them.

In a moment, we see that in Option 1, Bob would lose only 0.3% fat and wasn't even optimizing muscle mass gain for fear of gaining fat.

In Option 2, at the end of the same time period, Bob reduced about 4.5% fat, getting a few sit-ups to make envy! (the example is mine, I can make Bob, the hottaste of the tower beach).

Just as training periodization is increasingly common, also learn to periodize your nutrition.

If you want to see major visual changes in your body, these are always more visible after the fat loss phases.

Growing and getting drier is a very unusual task in so-called "normal" people.

Be objective, coherent and persistent.

The infra-mentioned flowchart also gives an in-section of how these phases can be planned:

Article written by Team Sik Nutrition

About the author

Team Sik Nutrition is a recent group of people passionate about the world of Fitness. Team's focus is to guide, educate and motivate those interested in achieving their health goals, both physical and performance. All this sharing is based on scientific facts and experience of team members.

The CEO of Team Sik Nutrition is João Gonçalves. Amateur powerlifter, passionate about Fitness and writing articles.

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Website Team Sik Nutrition

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