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How To Eat If You Want To Pack On Muscle

By Sal Di Stefano on Jan 29, 2019 1:47:00 AM
9 Minutes Reading Time

Wanna maximize muscle growth without getting fat? Obviously. When you eat fewer calories than you burn per day, you're in a calorie deficit. You'll lose fat, but the shortage of makes building muscle much harder.
When you eat more calories than you burn per day, you're in a calorie surplus. A calorie surplus is optimal for muscle growth, as your body now has excess calories to shuttle towards building more muscleThis is the concept of "bulking". Intentionally eating more, in order to build muscle quicker. (If you're feeling a bit too bulky, check out: The Fat Loss Guide) There a generally two ways people go about bulking:

1. Dirty bulking- No worry about calories or food quality. Just eating whatever. You're most definitely in a calorie surplus.
2. Clean bulking- Eat traditionally "healthy" foods. Keep a closer eye on calories. Much better long-term approach.

Do You Need To Eat "Clean"?
“Clean bulking” implies because you’re eating healthy “clean” foods, you won’t gain much fat. As opposed to a fattening “dirty bulk”: cheeseburgers, candy, etc. all in the name of more calories. Thing is, you don’t gain fat from eating specific foods. You gain fat from being in a calorie surplus. Fat can come from “clean” or “dirty” foods. Eating strictly "clean" foods won't keep you leaner. But, food quality does still matter.
Highly processed foods, the ones we label as “unhealthy” don’t contain many nutrients. Your body needs many different micronutrients to function properly. We take these in primarily through our food.
If you’re short on nutrients, your body won’t function at its best. Your hormones will be out of whack. Your gym performance will suffer.
Recommendation: get 80-90% of your daily intake from whole, unprocessed foods. Fill the other 10-20% with whatever your heart desires. Given you're within calorie and macro goals (more on that below) your progress won't be affected.

How To Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat
The biggest bulking mistake is thinking...More food = more gainz. This isn't how it works. It's fun to use bulking as an excuse to eat everything for a few months. Until you realize how much fat you've gained. You experience diminishing returns rather quickly when it comes to increasing calorie intake. You’ll gain the same amount of muscle eating in a 10% surplus as a 50% surplus.

You’ll gain a lot more fat with 50% surplus. But no extra muscle. To bulk without putting on too much fat, go with 110% of your maintenance calories/total daily energy expenditure. Don't know your maintenance calories? Use this for a rough estimate: https://tdeecalculator.net/ This should put you in a calorie surplus of a few hundred calories. Not a ton. You won’t be able to eat everything in sight. You also won’t get fat.

Setting Up Your Macros
The three macros:
-Protein: 1 gram of protein contains ~4 kcal
-Carbohydrates: 1 gram of carbohydrate contains ~4 kcal
-Fat: 1 gram of fat contains ~9 kcal

To apply this to building muscle...
1. You need to know what your calorie intake should be. 

Use this to estimate your maintenance calories, if ya don’t know already: https://tdeecalculator.net/ Now multiply this number by 1.1

Gerald- a 200 lb man, has a maintenance intake of 2,800 kcal per day.
To determine starting bulking calories, he simply multiplies his maintenance intake by 1.1.
2,800 X 1.1 = 3,080
Gerald's maintenance intake is 3,080 kcal per day.

Now let's figure out how to divy up these calories.

2. Calculate protein intake.

When you’re bulking, you don’t need quite as much protein as when cutting.
.8 grams per pound of body weight will give you all the benefits of protein.
Just multiply your bodyweight X .8. That's how many grams of protein you'll be eating.

200 lb Gerald needs 160 grams of protein.
200 X .8 = 160
(Remember, protein contains 4 kcal per gram).640 of Gerald's 3,080 kcal/day will come from protein.
160 X 4 = 640 kcal

3. Calculate fat intake.

For optimal hormonal function and health, at least 15-20% of your daily calories should come from fat. It's absolutely fine to go higher than 20%. Protein intake stays fixed. Adjust the percentage of carb and fat intake by personal preference.

Back to Gerald, with a goal intake of 3,080 kcal.
3,080 x .25 = 770
Gerald will be eating 770 kcal of fat per day.
To determine how many grams of fat this is, simply divide by 9. (Remember, fat contains 9 kcals per gram.)
770/9 = 86 (Well, 85.56)
Gerald will be eating 86 grams of fat per day.

4. Calculate carb intake.
All that's left to do is simply fill the remaining calories with carbs.

Gerald has a goal intake of 3,080 kcal per day. 640 kcal will be coming from protein
3,080 - 640 = 2,440 kcal
770 kcal will be coming from fat.
2,440 - 770 = 1,670 kcal
Gerald has 1,670 kcal remaining to fill with carbs.

To determine how many grams of carbs to eat, simply divide by 4. (Remember, carbs contain 4 kcal per gram.)
1,670/4 = 418 (Well, 417.5)
Gerald will be eating 418 grams of carbs per day.

Gerald's final macros:
Total calories: 3,086
Protein: 160 g | 640 kcal
Fat: 86 g | 774 kcal
Carbs: 418 g | 1,672 kcal

How To Be Sure You're Not Getting Fat
When you’re bulking, you'll gain weight. Ideally, this is mostly muscle. If you're gaining weight too quickly, you're likely putting on excess fat. At the start, you’ll gain a few pounds pretty rapidly. This isn’t fat, this is your glycogen stores being replenished, and increased water retention. After this:
Men should aim to gain 1 lb or less per week.
Women should aim to gain .5 lb or less per week.

If you're gaining faster than this after the first few weeksYou're likely gaining excess fat. Decrease calories by 5%.

If you're not gaining weight-
Is strength increasing? (Can you do more reps, more weight, etc. than last week?) If so, you're still improving. You're likely also dropping fat. An increase is fine, but not a must. No improvements in the weight room, or scale increases? Time to increase calorie intake. Increase your calories by 5%.

Dirty bulking doesn't lead to more muscle. Just more fat. Play the long game. Keep your calories in check.

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Sal Di Stefano

Sal is one of the hosts of the Mind Pump Podcast. At the age of 18 his passion for the art and science of resistance training was so consuming that he decided to make it a profession and become a personal trainer. By 19 he was managing health clubs and by 22 he owned his own gym. After 17 years as a personal trainer he has dedicated himself to bringing science and TRUTH to the fitness industry.

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