Building Muscle Without Fat: 9 Steps for Building Lean Muscle Mass
Jul 11th, 2012
Building muscle without fat should always be the goal when working towards adding muscle to your frame. But gaining muscle without fat doesn’t come easy.
Like anything else worth striving for in life, it takes hard work, discipline, focus and consistency.
There have been a number of times I’ve personally worked on gaining lean muscle mass, only to end up also adding an unacceptable amount of fat, and then having to spend months leaning out because of it.
This scenario is extremely common among bodybuilders, but is one that can be avoided by implementing the right strategies for building muscle without fat.
We don’t spend hours every week lifting weights and doing high intensity interval training to have a flabby midsection and less than impressive muscle definition.
No. We do it to develop a lean, muscular, athletic physique that we can enjoy and be comfortable in year round. Training hard all year to look lean and muscular only during the 4 weeks that follow a fat loss cycle is simply unacceptable!
I could write an entire book on building lean muscle mass without putting on fat.
Actually I’m currently working on it…
I’m now putting the finishing touches on “Lean Mass Finisher”, my latest book that will be offered with my system for getting ripped to show my clients how to quickly pack on lean muscle mass after getting lean and ripped.
While my book details an exact, fool proof approach for building muscle without fat, here’s a quick and easy 9 step guide for building lean muscle mass that you can start using right now…
Step 1: Time Your Carbs
Carbohydrates are an integral nutrient for muscle growth. They provide energy to fuel our intense training sessions, supply glycogen for our muscle tissues, prevent muscle loss and can even have an anabolic effect after lifting.
But, when consumed at the wrong times, and in excess, the sugar energy produced by consumed carbohydrates as they’re digested will go unused by the body and ultimately be stored in the form of fat.
Building muscle without fat requires timing your carbohydrates so they’re consumed within 2 hours before or after you train.
This will serve to mitigate fat gains, provide you with the energy required for maximal training intensity, replenish your glycogen reserves, prevent muscle atrophy, and provide a post-training anabolic effect.
Step 2: Eat Natural Foods
Processed foods – and those that are contaminated with growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides – need to be avoided by anyone with the desire to build muscle without fat.
These foods contain unnatural chemicals that lead to a wide range of negative side effects related to building muscle without fat.
These chemicals cause decreased testosterone production, increased estrogen levels, slowed metabolisms, decreases in immune system efficiency and a greater likelihood of developing debilitating diseases.
In other words, eating unnatural foods slows muscle loss and promotes fat gain. Avoid them as much as possible.
Step 3: Get 8 Hours of Sleep
Sleep is the time when testosterone levels are at their highest. Muscle growth and recovery are also at their peak during times of rest.
With the hectic schedules we all have, few ever take the time to consider the impact insufficient rest can have on our health.
As it pertains to building muscle without fat, getting at least 8 hours of sleep allows for better growth and recovery and keeps our cortisol levels from spinning out of control, leading to increased fat retention.
I’ll save the other problems associated with not getting enough sleep for another day, but if you want to gain muscle without fat, you need to rest your body – and rest it well.
Step 4: Eat Complete Proteins
Building muscle requires protein. I know what you’re thinking…
Duh! Everyone knows that.
Okay. Okay. I admit that making the point that protein is required for muscle growth isn’t exactly ground breaking stuff.
But what most people don’t know, however, is that not all proteins can be used by the body to build new muscle tissue.
The human body requires all of the essential amino acids to build muscle.
Many of the protein sources advocated by those in the fitness community as being “essential for muscle growth” are mostly a waste of calories for those counting on the grams of protein consumed in those foods to be used for gaining muscle.
Rice, nuts, pastas, grains and beans all contain incomplete proteins that can’t be used by the body to build muscle.
The proteins you’ll need to build muscle without fat should mostly come from beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and whey. All of these proteins are complete and will yield maximal muscle building benefits.
Step 5: Monitor Your Calories
Basic nutrition principles tell us that eating an excess of calories will lead to fat gains. But it’s also true that the fastest muscle gains are achieved by not depriving the body of nutrition (i.e. maintaining a caloric deficit).
Muscle gains are possible under slight caloric deficits, but they won’t be as impressive as when eating like I’m about to describe.
The key to feeding the body for building muscle without fat is to monitor the number of calories you’re eating and make slight adjustments when needed.
When starting out you always want to be conservative to eliminate the risk of eating too much and putting on fat.
If you’re a man, start by eating 2,000 calories per day (1,700 for women) and then measure your results every seven days.
If after seven days you don’t measure an increase in size (more on measurements in step 6 below), you should increase your daily allotment of calories by 200 and continue the process of taking measurements every 7 days and adjusting your nutrition when required.
When trying to gain muscle mass it can be tempting to simply eat whatever you want whenever you want. This will cause you to get bigger (and gain some muscle mass), but it will also make you fat, which you obviously want to avoid.
Step 6: Measure Your Progress
The only way to know if what you’re doing is producing the desired result of building muscle without fat is to measure your progress.
I alluded to this above, but didn’t get into the details of exactly how to measure your progress. When building lean muscle mass you should use a combination of measurements:
- Flexed biceps measurements
There are others you can use, but these are sufficient to determine gains in muscle mass.
You’ll want to take these measurements every 7 days, and if any of them have increased, this is an indication that your caloric allowance is sufficient for building additional muscle mass and you should continue using the same amount of nutrition.
If you’re already gaining size, no matter how slowly it may be happening, never increase your calories in an attempt to build muscle faster.
The additional calories will only lead to fat gains – not faster muscle growth – and will compromise your ability to build muscle without fat.
Your weekly results measurements not only serve as a way to gauge when it’s time to modify your nutrition, but they’ll also encourage you when several weeks later you can look at your starting numbers and see the progress you’ve made.
Step 7: Add Weight to Your Lifts Frequently
If you’re not currently keeping a training log, it’s time to start.
Your time spent weight training should be a time to challenge yourself and reach for new milestones. Oh yeah, and force your muscles to grow!
Muscles require progressive overload to continue growing larger and stronger. The best way to monitor your progress and ensure that you’re continually growing stronger is to keep a training log.
Track the amount of weight you use with each lift and periodically add a 2.5lb or 5lb plate to the bar. This will keep you moving in the right direction.
Remember, muscles that aren’t getting any stronger aren’t going to grow any larger.
Step 8: Train with High and Low Reps
I won’t belabor this point because I’ve already gone into great detail explaining the muscle building benefits of training with low and high reps in my posting on muscle hypertrophy.
Mixing in high and low rep ranges provides optimal muscle gains by stimulating the growth of new muscle tissue, along with increasing the size of your muscle cells.
Too many lifters stubbornly lift with similar weights, using the same number of reps, for months on end, cheating themselves out of gaining the most muscle size possible from their time spent training each week.
Step 9: Never Do Cardio Before Weight Training
It’s okay to do a light warmup before lifting to loosen up your muscle fibers and get some blood flowing to your muscles before training them. But you never want to perform a full cardio session of 20+ minutes before lifting weights.
Doing cardio before weight training will zap your glucose levels and glycogen reserves, which will take away from your intensity while lifting, and negatively impact your ability to sufficiently overload your muscles.
It’s also important to note that cardio is much more effective at inducing fat loss when performed after weight training, when the body’s glucose and glycogen stores have been depleted, and the body is forced to oxidize excess fat for energy.
Also, never make the mistake of thinking that cardio isn’t necessary when building muscle. This line of thinking will make it impossible to build muscle without fat.
Building muscle without fat requires regular cardio and conditioning work (3+ sessions per week) in order to keep your body fat percentage in check while you’re packing on pounds of new muscle. Any type of cardio will work, but for the best results you’ll want to implement high intensity muscle building cardio.
Regardless of the specific cardio training you choose to use, never make the mistake of ignoring cardio altogether, because it’s absolutely essential for building muscle without fat.
Building Muscle Without Fat is Possible
Building muscle without fat doesn’t happen by accident.
It takes a continual, conscious effort to maintain a specific caloric intake, get adequate rest, measure your progress, keep a training log, and commit to training hard week after week.
Following the steps I’ve provided in this posting will mean the difference between packing on 20lbs in 2 months (with 15lbs of that being fat) or adding 5lbs of pure lean muscle – without the gut and lackluster muscle definition to go along with it.
This is what it takes to build muscle without fat.
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