How To Gain Muscle, Not Fat

Aug 9, 2016 //

Are you trying to put on some extra muscle without gaining weight from fat?

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We all know that building muscle requires extra calories to fuel the rebuilding (a.k.a growth) of muscle fibres. But how do we prevent those extra calories from turning into fat, instead of muscle?

The simple guidelines below will help you focus more on building lean muscle, while avoiding gaining fat.

Remember: It’s more about how you look in the mirror or how your clothing fits you than it is about the number on the scale. Muscle is more dense than fat, which means that you may weigh more even if you look smaller and leaner. Go by how you look and how your clothes feel, rather than some arbitrary number.

Studies have found that a low-calorie, high-protein diet in combination with a weight lifting regimen lowers body fat and increases muscle mass. Here, we outline seven easy and simple steps to ensure you gain muscle, not fat.

1. Lift Weights (Duh)


The first rule of muscle building is to lift weights to gain muscle mass (duh). Lifting weights puts stress on your muscles and breaks down muscles fibres. When you rest and recover, those muscle fibres build back stronger, resulting in — you guessed it — bigger muscles. This is why it’s so important to give yourself a recovery period after each lifting session — so that your muscles get a chance to rebuild and gain mass. A solid beginner’s routine is to perform a full body lifting routine three times per week (non-consecutive days). Once you progress, you can try splitting up your workouts between your upper and lower body in order to lift more often throughout the week. A good range to shoot for is about three sets of each exercise with 12 repetitions in each. You should feel fatigued as you near the last repetition. (If not, it’s time to switch to heavier weights). Important lifts to include in your routine are squats, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, and barbell rows.

If lifting weights isn’t for you try using your own bodyweight to challenge yourself (yoga and Pilates are famous for building lean muscle through bodyweight exercises). Gain muscle without free weights by utilizing plyometrics and bodyweight exercises such as squat jumps, jumping lunges, pushups, triceps dips, and planks.

Which exercises are the best for gaining muscle? Focus on the main lifts, which include squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, and rows. These lifts will hit all of the main muscle groups that you need to gain muscle from a functional standpoint.

2. Balance Your Macronutrients


Nutrition is extremely important when it comes to gaining muscle mass without fat. Gain muscle and lose belly fat by simply eating the right foods. It’s all about balancing your macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, protein, and fats. There are many ratios you can allot for yourself, but the key is to maintain a balance.

Which foods are best for gaining muscle? Unsurprisingly, it’s all about clean eating, so be sure to include plenty of lean proteins, lots of healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.

3. Avoid Processed Carbs


Processed carbs contain chemicals, additives, and an overall higher sugar and calorie content than other foods. All of these factors makes eating processed carbs an easy way to add extra fat to your waistline, covering up those muscles you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Opt for whole grains and avoid prepackaged cookies, cakes, and granola bars. Cutting sugar from your diet is one of the easiest and most drastic ways to lose fat (and show off those muscles!).

4. Don’t Overdo It On The Alcohol


Alcohol slows down your metabolism, rendering it essentially useless when you are trying to lose weight while putting on muscle. In addition, alcohol has tons of empty calories, so think twice before boozing if you’re serious about gaining muscle mass and getting lean.

5. Include HIIT Workouts Twice A Week


High intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts will help decrease fat and facilitate muscle growth. This is because they don’t involve chronic cardio (like jogging for hours on end), which could decrease both muscle and fat. Try sprinting for 30 seconds, resting for 90 seconds, and repeating this sequence eight times.

6. Walk Daily


It may seem silly or obvious, but walking every day really does do wonders for the body — especially when you’re trying to increase muscle without extra weight. Aside from burning calories and helping you de-stress, walking can help with lactic acid buildup, which means you’ll be able to move better during your next lifting session.

7. Get At Least Eight Hours Of Sleep Each Night


Lastly, sleep is critical for not only mental functioning, but muscle rebuilding and fat loss. You need extra sleep in order for your muscles to grow and build back stronger than they were before, so give yourself an extra hour or two per night if you’ve embarked on a gruelling muscle building regimen Additionally, countless studies have linked a lack of sleep to extra calorie consumption, making the need for sleep all the more critical.