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Gaining Muscle While Losing Fat: The Truth

It’s a common question you hear in every gym and see on every message board; “What can I do to get bigger and leaner at the same time?”  Or my personal favorite, “I need to drop some bodyfat but I want to gain a lot of muscle at the same time, how do I do this?”

Is this possible? Sure, to an extent. Is it a probability? No, unfortunately it’s not. We’ll discuss all the options as we go along; explain how things work, etc. But to start let’s keep it simple.

To Gain Muscle Mass:

    •    Your total calorie consumption must be above maintenance
    •    Your muscle tissue must be stimulated properly in a manner that uses the extra fuel it’s taking in
    •    Your body must receive adequate recovery time
    •    You must supply your body the proper nutrients to accomplish your goals

To Lose Bodyfat:

    •    Your total calorie consumption must be below maintenance
    •    Your muscle tissue must be stimulated properly in a manner that calls upon stored bodyfat for fuel
    •    Your body must receive adequate recovery time
    •    You must supply your body the proper nutrients to accomplish your goals

When looking at the two lists above you’ll notice some similarities, but the key differences are simply what make the key difference. The second thing you’ll notice is that if this list is true then gaining muscle and losing bodyfat at the same time is going to be one strenuous, arduous task.

It’s hard to dispute facts; to grow you need extra calories, to lean out you need fewer calories. This isn’t exactly quantum physics, yet so many choose to ignore these simple rules and squander their time in the gym chasing a white rabbit.

But Is It Possible?

To an extent. As a newbie, any stimulation you force onto your body is going to form new layers of muscle tissue, and as someone who is more seasoned, with a proper diet (and we’re talking perfect) a slight degree of growth in muscle tissue may be possible. Your own genetics will play a huge role in this.

Let’s Examine

If you’ve ever seen a pro bodybuilder, be it in person or on the cover of a magazine, there is a good chance you were witness to one massive ripped piece of human granite! Big news flash, (for those that already know this, understand that there are many who still don’t) pro bodybuilders do not look like they do on stage or on the covers of magazines year round -- and there is a reason: They are human beings. And just like all human beings who wish to gain more muscle mass, they have to have a “growth period.” It is during this period that their daily caloric intake will be higher than maintenance level. Just like you, in order to grow they must give the body fuel and the resources to grow from. Take a look at your favorite pro bodybuilder when he is off-season; there’s a good chance that he is a lot smoother, “puffier” than he is when he is stage ready.

Now a good pro bodybuilder knows that success relies on the off-season period to grow and recover. He also knows that although he will gain some bodyfat, if he stays as relatively close as he can to his “leaner” weight, the easier and more successful he will be. He knows and understands that if he gets too heavy during the off-season, he will have to diet harder, and he will risk losing some of the muscle tissue he’s worked so hard to gain.

You’re no different. True, the odds are slim, very slim that you possess the same genetics as your favorite pro, but the way in which things work are the same. Repeat after me: “To grow I must eat more calories than I need to maintain my weight. To lose bodyfat I must consume fewer calories than I need to grow.”

Your Options

If you want to gain new lean muscle tissue you are going to have to eat. If you are extremely worried about putting on any bodyfat that’s OK; you can still have some success. A slight increase in calories above maintenance levels, a solid training plan, both weights and cardio, along with adequate rest can yield some good results. If you choose this route, you need to understand that you are NOT going to gain massive piles of muscles. Don't expect to sit at 250lbs and be ripped to shreds if you use this method.  This doesn’t mean it’s not a solid plan, it may in fact be the plan you need to follow to reach your goals. Not everyone wishes to be ridiculously huge and ripped, and that’s OK.

Whatever your goals, a good place to start is by following the official training and nutrition programs. Examine the programs and find the one that suits you best. You will  need an understanding of where you are in your training regimen in relation to your goals, as well as a sound understanding of your caloric needs based on these goals.

Once you’ve established these things, take the training and nutrition programs and tailor them to fit your needs.

The Final Verdict

A solid quality physique is within everyone’s reach. It will take a lot of work,  but it is possible for everyone. But the truth remains: to be really big, you have to eat really big. If you eat big, you will gain some bodyfat. Sorry, but that’s the truth. How much bodyfat will largely depend on genetics, your metabolism etc. Just remember, there is a difference between fat and “bodybuilding fat.” Be smart, eat clean, eat enough and watch yourself grow. Be smart, eat clean, eat less and watch yourself lean out.

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