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Staying lean all year round is an endeavour that many aspiring fitness models, physique athletes and, even, bodybuilders try to adhere to for the purpose of looking good at any time. However, the mainstream idea in the fitness industry is that you absolutely cannot get bigger if you stay lean throughout the year. Typically, the people who say this are the ones that don’t care about putting on excess fat during the off-season and, sure, some people are ok with that. Good for them.
Nevertheless, adding a bunch of excess body fat in the off-season or during a bulking phase will yield absolutely no good. If anything, it means that you will most likely have to diet for a lot longer than normal with the added bonus of the diet getting harder and harder just to get rid of the additional body fat when contest season approaches. This will inevitably lead to more muscle loss during your diet and result in you eating like a ravenous pig once the contest season is over because extended periods of dieting have left you starved. This cycle then plays over and over and it becomes very difficult to break out of.
So, what should we do to prevent this vicious cycle and make gains that we can keep when we shred down?
In other words, be patient with yourself and your body while you’re moving further into the depths of a caloric surplus (please note how I do not use the term excessive surplus). As any bodybuilder worth their salt knows, results do not happen overnight. This applies to everything muscle gaining related and that includes the effects of being in a caloric surplus.
If you think about it from a practical perspective, you have to be quite patient while you’re in a calorie deficit and cutting down for a shoot or show. You have to be quite meticulous and remove calories slowly as the weeks go by so as not to lose any hard-earned muscle. Bulking is no different and when you shift yourself into a calorie surplus, you want to slowly add calories in from your macronutrient numbers each week while not putting on excess fat during your muscle gaining expedition. If you decide to pig out and eat everything in sight in the name if bulking, you’re setting yourself up to look like the Oros Man and it’ll take eating like a rabbit to get you back down to normal again.
Therefore, when trying to gain muscle, try shifting your mindset to this idea:
It literally does feel like death when you’re trying to rectify the additional fatty layers you’ve packed onto your adipose tissue. Yes, I get that many of you want to fill your sleeves as soon as possible and some gurus might even chant the chorus: “Eat big or you won’t look big”. Sure thing. That just depends on what type of big you’re looking for and I’m quite sure that the result won’t be the image that you had originally envisioned for yourself.
A truly intelligent approach to gaining muscle and eating in a calorie surplus is to aim for a weight gain of around 0.3-0.5kgs a week. By doing this you can rest assured that you are putting on mainly muscle and not excess fat.
It’s important to note that gaining 0.3-0.5kg of muscle per week consistently is never a guarantee. You will put on some fat at a point throughout your bulk. However, the amount of fat gained during this slow bulk will be minimal compared to a dirty bulk, not to mention manageable and is easy to eliminate. As with everything results-related in this game, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
As a result of following this approach, the time it takes for you to get into the really lean condition is drastically shortened, the calories you need to cut are minimized and the chances of you retaining all the hard-earned muscle you gained during your slow bulk is all but assured. So always remember that eating without restriction will inevitably result in you having to extremely restrict yourself to get back to where you were. Try showing as much discipline during your bulks as you would during your cuts and you’ll find that making progress becomes a relatively simple and straightforward task.