Lean Bulk – Build Muscle Not Fat
In this article, we will talk about how to lean bulk. The world of fitness is full of all kinds of myths, rumors, and pseudoscience that sometimes makes it very hard for an individual like you or me to achieve certain fitness goals and results that we have set our minds to. At this point, the fitness world is an industry main goal is to sell you as many products as it can, and therefore achieve the maximum profit possible while not essentially caring whether their “solutions” to your problem will actually help you or not.
If you really want to lose weight, pack on muscle and start improving your strength and your health, the first thing you’re going to have to make peace with is that you’re going to have to research and learn a lot before you even start getting serious about lifting weights and eating right.
When I first started being serious about fitness, I wanted to get fit, lose some weight and pack on some muscle, which wasn’t too hard to achieve since I wasn’t going for a lot of bulk; I just wanted to get stronger and keep the fat at bay, not to compete in a bodybuilding competition.
However, as soon as I started gaining muscle mass, a few of my guy friends were thoroughly impressed with how I managed to pack on the muscle without actually gaining any fat. And I’m not talking about people who spend their free time in front of a TV set, munching on Oreos; these people work out every single day trying to get as big and strong as possible, but their approach has always been the following: first they pack on as much muscle mass and fat as they possibly can, and then they start dieting intensively in order to lose the fat that they’ve gained during the process.
So what was I doing differently from them? How come I managed to find a shortcut without actually looking for it and got my results a lot faster than they could?
The ‘Bulking’ Myth
You see, one of the most prominent myths in the fitness world to date is that you have to eat as much as you possibly can in order to gain muscle steadily. I’m talking 4000+ calories a day, gallons and gallons of milk, eggs, supplements, and all that other stuff that is supposedly very good at helping you get huge as fast as possible.
And this makes scientific sense, to a certain extent; our bodies are very good at rationing the energy that we give them via the food that we eat. They use it first and foremost to take care of that which is most important within our organism; the activity of our brain, our heart, our kidneys and the rest of our internal organs that we would quickly feel if something was wrong.
Surprisingly enough, our muscles are pretty low on this list, and in a situation where the body isn’t getting as much nutrition as it is usually used to, it will actually start to degrade and metabolize our muscles along with our fat. Based on this fact, it’s a really good idea not to let your body starve under any circumstances, and so it’s easy to see where this massive-eating myth comes from.
However, the problem is that people overcompensate; they start overeating (no one needs 4000 calories per day unless they’re like three hundred pounds of pure muscle), and this leads to a lot of weight gain and can actually be quite counter-productive. It can also be very, very hard to achieve if you don’t have a big appetite, and it can be very stressful for your organism to process that amount of food.
Another problem that you’ll likely run into when using the traditional method for bulking (eating as much as you can in hopes that it will end up as muscle mass) is that you’ll mess up your body’s response to insulin.
Put simply, insulin is a hormone that your body uses to regulate all sorts of things, like your appetite, the amount of sodium in your bloodstream, and the rate at which your body can break down fat.
As you eat more and more, your body has to synthesize more insulin, so ironically it becomes resistant to its effects. The result of this is that your body can no longer metabolize fats so efficiently, and your appetite goes out of control, telling you that you’re hungry when you really aren’t. In other words, the more you eat, the more you’ll want to eat and the harder it will be for your body to metabolize it.
Dialing down the amount of calories you eat daily can quickly fix this and return your body to a healthy level of insulin sensitivity, so it can process all that stuff normally – as it should.
A little-known fact in the fitness world is that the amount of sleep you’re getting significantly affects how easily you’ll be able to achieve your fitness goals. Realistically most of us live in an environment where it’s pretty hard to get enough quality sleep every night; whether it’s because of the natural environment itself (lots of noise and exposure to street lights) or something more man-made; perhaps your work very long hours, have a lot to do around the house and simply can’t afford to get more sleep, or your spouse is a passionate snorer (my case, more on how I solved that particular problem here).
Whatever it is, you need to remedy the problem and get as much sleep as your body needs. A lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to the insulin sensitivity problem which I discussed above, so not getting enough of it can lead to fat retention, and that’s definitely something you don’t want for yourself if you want to bulk up as much as possible and not gain fat in the process.
Furthermore, a lack of sleep has a very serious effect on your physical strength and endurance. You get tired a lot quicker when you don’t get enough sleep, so a normal workout might seem a lot more intense, challenging and difficult if you didn’t get your Z’s beforehand. In short, not sleeping enough makes it harder to burn fat, and it makes it harder to exercise properly. It also affects your mental focus in the gym, making it more likely for you to perform with poor form and injure yourself, or simply not have as efficient a workout as you thought you would.
When it comes to cardio, again there are all kinds of opinions out there related to how well it goes together with bulking. I’m of the educated opinion that you do need cardio in your workout if you want to lean bulk, but don’t overdo it.
Your body will need those extra calories you’re eating to rebuild your muscles after an intense workout, so if you get rid of them by hitting the treadmill for two hours, it’s just going to be counter-productive.
My suggestion is to incorporate about 25 to 30 minutes of cardio into each of your training sessions after you’re done with all the heavy lifting. Don’t do it before your workout because you’ll need all the energy you need for your strength training.
Finally, I’d like to say a few words about all the different kinds of supplements you can use to speed up the bulking process. Of course, supplements are in no way a replacement for a healthy diet, and you need to start eating right if you want to bulk up – there’s just no way around it.
However, when used correctly supplements can be an easy way to give your body all that it needs to go through the transformation you want. Creatine is one of the most popular, safest and most effective supplements that you can get, and if used in moderation it can really help you get your results a lot quicker. There has been some controversy around it not being very good for your kidneys due to the ketone residue it leaves in your body, but this has been disproven time and time again and, if you have genuinely healthy kidneys, there’s no risk that comes with using creatine as a supplement.
Another thing you should probably look into is whey protein. Whey is a protein extract derived from milk, and since it is in concentrated, powder form, you don’t need a lot to meet your body’s daily protein needs, so your body doesn’t have to do as much work to digest it.
There are other supplements you can look into, but from my personal experience, I feel that these two are all that you need if you want to get big, fast.
That’s about all the advice I can give you about lean bulk. To sum up, don’t believe everything you hear about fitness because there’s a lot of pseudoscience out there, don’t overeat, get enough sleep and consider using supplements if you need them. Good luck!
Monica Nichols is a 32-year-old fashion designer and freelance writer from Omaha, Nebraska. She’s been writing for www.diet.st since 2014, and in her free time, she likes making pottery and playing with her pet cat.