Today I want to talk about something that may be holding you back from lifting weights. And that's weight gain. You may assume that because you are now lifting weights you are going to gain weight, or in order to gain muscle, you're going to gain fat. These are just ideas that are thrown around the Internet. But you need to understand the logic behind them.
You may have heard that muscle weighs more than fat. No. 1lb of muscle is the same weight as 1lb of fat. #Math But what you need to understand is that 1lb of muscle LOOKS different on your body than 1lb of fat. So even though you may be gaining weight, your body is looking different, and probably for the "better." I put better in quotations because looks are relative and subjective.
I personally wanted to gain muscle without gaining a lot of fat. Not just for looks, but because fat gain isn't necessarily healthy (but it can be healthy if you are underweight and NEED to gain fat).
So what do you do? How much do you eat?
It's all about experimentation. Measuring and assessing the things below so you can adjust your plan as needed. And you need to understand and accept that during the muscle building process you ARE going to gain weight and some of that may be extra fat. Don't freak out. It's part of the process. It will be okay and it will all even out in the long run. You with me?
Measure and asses your:
I put weighing your self and counting calories/macros as *if you want to* because you don't necessarily have to, especially if you're someone who may easily become obsessed with weight and calories. This is just part of the process because you will be able to look at how much you are eating in comparison to how your fitness goals are going. If you are eating X amount of calories and you're not making progress, then you need to eat more. If you track this specifically, then you know exactly how much you are increasing.
Food and Nutrition
In order to gain muscle and build strength, you cannot be in a calorie deficit. That means you need to be eating at LEAST enough to maintain your weight now.
That is your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) This is the amount calories your body burns in a 24 hour period, sleeping, working, exercising, playing and even digesting food...
Calculate your TDEE by going HERE.
How else can you asses this? Well if you are doing an effective workout routine and after a few weeks you aren't seeing an muscle gains, you probably need to eat more. You can also track calories/macros to identify how much you are eating now and then if you choose to increase calories, do it slowly.
Why slowly? Because if you want to minimize fat gain, then you can't eat a surplus of 900 calories a day and expect it all to go to your muscles. It just doesn't work that way. But what you can do is slowly increase your food intake to increase your metabolism as you're building muscle (which goes hand-in-hand anyways). Everyone is different. We all have different genetics, weights, heights, lifestyles, etc. So the exact amount that you start to increase will differ. Generally, add 50-100 calories/day to start off. Then you can keep increasing as your body adjusts
How to increase food intake?
What worked for me?
I would say that increasing portion sizes of what I'm already eating helped me the most. I already eat like 5-6 times a day so adding more snacks wasn't something I wanted to do. So I went from eating 1/4 cup of oatmeal each serving to now eating 1/2 cup of oatmeal. Increase portions. It keeps you full longer, gives you more energy, more LASTING energy, and increases your strength.
What about cardio?
When I first started "bulking" I did very limited cardio because I wasn't increasing food by very much. So I saw "baby gains" of muscle. Now, I have increased food a lot and have also decided to add SOME cardio into my routine (HIIT cardio and hot yoga). So, I have to be sure to eat more on the days that I lift AND do cardio. Why? Because if I don't, then I'm wasting away my muscle mass, and I don't want to do that. I want to keep it/build it.
Although I have gained weight, I've still been able to keep a slim waist and ab muscle that show because I integrate workouts that keep my heart rate up, keep me sweating and I do train abs. Like I mentioned, I do HIIT workouts 3-4x a week and hot yoga 2x a week. This burns calories like cray and helps you keep a lean, yet strong physique.
So, to summarize:
1. You need to be doing a lifting routine. Fatiguing your muscles, challenging yourself and progressing with weight
2. You need to be sure to eat enough and probably more than you're already eating
Maybe try lifting right now without changing your diet. If you feel completely exhausted, tired and have no energy for workouts, then you need to eat more. If you aren't seeing progress, then you need to eat more.
Stay consistent, enjoy the process and you will get there!
References And Further Reading