We all want to gain more muscle – after all, this is a bodybuilding site.
So you do some research online and find a solid training program, change up your diet to eat the right foods and hit the gym.
You follow both of these as closely as possible expecting to make some amazing gains.
A few weeks go by and you start to realize your pants are fitting a little more tightly around the waist.
You look in the mirror and notice that although you are gaining muscle you have also put on some fat – what the hell?
You’re Putting on Fat!
How could this happen? While you might be gaining muscle you are also putting on some fat as well!
Not a ton of fat or anything, but enough for you to notice.
So you keep going hoping that this is just a temporary thing.
As weeks go by you notice you are still building some muscle (even if it’s less than you had hoped for) but your fat levels are going up right along with it.
Your physique is all of a sudden not looking as great as you had hoped for.
Those six pack abs you had when you first started are now covered under a layer of body fat.
All that new muscle mass you built on your chest, arms and legs is also covered making it difficult to really appreciate the hard work you have put in.
So while those gains are coming in, you can’t really enjoy them thanks to that stubborn new body fat.
The longer this goes on the more body fat you accumulate.
Rather than looking muscular and ripped you just look big and soft. Some guy calls you fat at a party and it makes you feel like shit.
Overall your physique just doesn’t look as good as it did when you were lean – even if you did look a bit skinny.
This is all a result of gaining too much fat during your bulk.
This Happens a Lot
If this has happened to you before don’t worry – you are in good company.
Everyone has gone through a bulk that ended in a bit too much fat gain.
While those new gains are nice you can’t enjoy them until you get rid of that fat you put on – which leads to the next phase of the program.
This is when you begin your cut to burn off that fat – the only problem is that a lot of guys go ahead and burn off that new muscle they gained along with it.
To summarize, you bulk up but end up gaining fat.
During your efforts to get rid of it you end up burning that new muscle which basically brings you right back to where you started.
This process repeats itself over and over and in some cases results in becoming skinny-fat – the dreaded unaesthetic physique.
At this point you are probably wondering why this happens and how can it be avoided.
Why People Gain Fat During a Bulk
There are generally two reasons why someone would gain fat during a bulk.
The first is a result of not following a good program.
You didn’t do the right exercises with the right set/rep scheme, you didn’t bust your ass in the gym, you didn’t eat the right foods, you didn’t keep track of your calories, you took too many days off, you didn’t let your body recover, etc.
These are all factors that are directly within your control yet you failed to execute on.
The other reason people put on fat?
Well, it actually happens to some degree to everyone.
Remember that in order to build muscle you need to consume a calorie surplus – that means each day you consume more calories than your body needs.
For example, if your body needs 3,000 calories a day just to maintain it’s current weight then you would need to consume 3,250-3,500 calories in order to build mass.
Some people get confused as to why a calorie surplus is needed but the easiest way is to compare it to gaining fat.
When your body has surplus calories it stores them as fat. Similarly, when your body wants to build muscle it needs extra calories in order to do that.
When you are training in the hypertrophy range and overloading the muscle your body needs those surplus calories to give to the muscles in order to repair them and make them grow.
So You Are Saying Surplus Calories Can Be Used to Build Muscle Or Fat?
That’s right – by consuming a calorie surplus your body can use those calories to build muscle mass or to store fat.
This is where calorie partitioning factors in. In other words, your body needs to figure out where the excess nutrients should go when you consume a calorie surplus.
Similarly, when you consume a deficit and your body needs to break down body tissue to compensate – will it break down fat or muscle?
Now when we are on a bulk we would love it it every surplus calorie went towards building muscle but this isn’t always possible.
Each calorie can go towards building muscle. They can also be stored as body fat which is what we want to avoid.
Simply put this is how people get fat – they consume more calories than their body needs and voila – fat person!
When you factor in that these people generally don’t work out or do much cardio (and therefore need fewer calories) and they tend to consume a surplus over long period of time such as months or years you can see how the fat can accumulate.
Finally, it’s also possible for calories to go towards both fat and muscle.
This is obviously not ideal but still better than going 100% to fat.
Most people tend to fall into this category where for every pound of muscle they gain they also put on x amount of fat.
As you can see, not only is putting on body fat during a bulk possible but it actually happens pretty frequently.
Every caloric surplus can end up as muscle, fat or a combination of both.
What we are looking for here is to ensure that 100% of those excess calories end up as muscle.
That would allow us to bulk indefinitely without ever having to cut – but is it possible?
Building Muscle Without Fat Gains
If you want to build muscle without putting on any fat you pretty much need to have amazing genetics and take steroids.
In some cases you can build muscle without gaining fat for a short period if you are brand new to bodybuilding.
Similarly, if you are really fat and also new to bodybuilding you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
However, both of these scenarios are temporary and ultimately you will need to have either amazing genetics or be a steroid user to maintain them.
One other factor to mention is muscle memory.
If at some point in your life you were very muscular but lost some, most or all of it you can get it back much more quickly compared to when you built it in the first place.
This is another scenario where you can gain (technically re-gain) muscle without gaining any fat.
So if you have amazing genetics and/or are taking steroids then you can build muscle without gaining fat.
If you are new to bodybuilding or are regaining lost muscle mass then you will be able to do this temporarily.
However, if you are a natural bodybuilder with un-amazing genetics then you will unfortunately need to tolerate some fat gain along with that muscle growth.
We aren’t writing this to make you feel bad, we just want to help you set your expectations.
Some fat gins will happen – it’s inevitable.
However, with that in mind you can revise your goals from “gain muscle without fat” to “gain muscle with as little fat as possible”.
Chances are if you are a steroid user with amazing genetics you aren’t reading this article since fat gains have never been a problem for you.
Therefore, the tips in this article for keeping fat loss to a minimum will definitely apply to everyone reading this.
Gaining Mass Without The Fat
As mentioned, while you can’t avoid fat gain completely you can certainly minimize it.
We can accomplish this by doing certain things that encourage the body to store excess calories as muscle rather than fat.
The more of these things we do, the more our bodies will store surplus calories as muscle which means we won’t need to spend as much time cutting down at the end of our diet.
Now, there are a few factors that we can’t control and we will start with those.
So Why Are Testosterone levels important?
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for muscle growth.
With more of testosterone you are able to build more muscle in a shorter period of time.
It also helps your body to increase strength and drop body fat.
It‘s definitely the most important horomone for muscle building.
Just think about this.
Girls have less muscle than men.
You might be asking “why is that?”
It‘s because men naturally have more testosterone
Therefore they can build more muscle, have lower body fat and are able to get bigger.
As you can see now, testosterone is extremely important.
So you really want higher testosterone levels?
There are natural ways of increasing testosterone
The most straightforward way is taking a testosterone booster.
They are especially formulated to boost the natural testosterone in the body.
This way you can produce more testosterone
You will build more muscle, get leaner and increase your strenght.
We‘ve actually covered this topic.
Look girls – you won’t end up looking like a pro female bodybuilder by doing a few sets of dumbbell curls.
That only happens to women who are taking all kinds of drugs and training with very heavy weights.
If you don’t fall into that category you simply won’t be able to build nearly as much muscle as men as a result of variations in hormone levels
. Men have far higher levels of testosterone which is a crucial hormone for building muscle and keeping fat off.
Now, some women do have high testosterone levels for sure, but for the most part women have testosterone levels that are less than half those of men
As a result, if a man and woman are on an equal calorie surplus with similar training programs, the man is more likely to store those calories as muscle compared to the woman.
No bodybuilding discussion is complete without mentioning genetics.
These are determined at birth and play a role not only in muscle gain vs fat gain but in life in general.
Some important factors that are determined by genetics include your testosterone levels, insulin sensitivity, bone and joint structure, recovery capacity, insertion points, etc.
Unless you plan on taking steroids you won’t be able to change these drastically – in fact, even with steroids a lot of these won’t be able to be changed.
Depending on your genetics, your body will be more predisposed to storing those surplus calories as muscle rather than fat.
If you are unlucky your body might automatically store all surplus calories as fat.
This is why people with great genetics tend to have a much easier time improving their physiques.
For those with average genetics, it will be somewhere in the middle depending on how well they manage the factors that are within their control.
One thing you will notice about people with amazing genetics is that they tend to already be strong and lean before they even start lifting – giving them a great base to build from.
Like genetics, age is a factor that we have no control over.
However, by using drugs we can definitely make ourselves look and feel younger.
If you control all other factors, someone who is younger will generally carry more muscle and less fat compared to someone who is 10 years older.
Nobody likes getting old and this is yet another reason not to look forward to your birthday.
It also means that it’s very important to keep lifting and eating properly as you get older to avoid letting yourself go.
Factors You Can Control
Ok so if you are feeling depressed for being a non-steroid using bad-genetics old guy don’t worry – there are actually a lot of factors within your control.
In fact, if you manage these you can make a huge difference in the way you look.
Just think about all those people who used to be fat and transformed themselves into muscular, lean, aesthetic individuals.
Similarly, think of the people who were in great shape when they were young and then gained 100+ pounds in adulthood – this is a result of not managing the factors within their control.
So what factors are within your control?
- Your daily calorie consumption
- the macronutrient breakdown (protein vs fat vs carbs)
- the timing of your meals
- your weight training program
- cardio, supplements
- lifestyle and dedication.
Look, you can’t control your genetics but there are a number of factors you can control.
Instead of whining about it you should focus on fixing your diet, training routine, reducing stress and getting more sleep so you can be your best self.
Many people are surprised to find that even with average genetics they can build themselves a physique they are very happy.
When you control these factors your body will store more calories as muscle rather than fat. Similarly, your body will cut more fat than muscle when on a diet.
Don’t let the fact that you gained a bit of fat on your last bulk discourage you.
For people with average genetics lifting naturally this is simply the reality. However, by working hard at managing the factors that are within our control and staying consistent anyone can make a dramatic improvement in their appearance!