Building muscle while maintaining a lean physique is a big controversial topic in the fitness world. Many believe against it for many valid reasons, but I’m here to tell you why I think it’s possible to achieve both concurrently.
Here’s a quick breakdown of why this topic is arguable: In order to gain muscle it must be supported by additional calories. The surplus of calories, which are consumed during a bulking phase, allows extra energy for muscle growth. Therefore, being in a lean/cutting phase (calorie deficit) will not allow you the extra energy to support muscle growth.
A typical protocol for muscle building is 4-8 (or more) months of “bulking,” where bodybuilders take advantage of consuming a surplus of calories to pack on a good amount of muscle, but along with that comes a good amount of fat. Then spend 3-4 months being in a caloric deficit to lean out. While this concept works, it does not leave you looking cut the entire year.
Why not avoid this drastic cycle and look good year round?! It’s a matter of finding a middle ground with training and nutrition, which will allow for both to happen with very minimal fat gain during the bulk phase. This can be done through shorter cycles of bulking and cutting, with phases varying from 1-2 months. I’ve watched my husband do this for years and he constantly gets asked what he does to look “big and cut.” Below is a quick breakdown of his approach to nutrition and a training regimen example.
Bulk: 1,000 calorie surplus; 6-8 weeks. Consume quality nutrients for lean muscle gain, rather than processed meats and sugary carbs, which make you look bloated and soft.
Cut: 500 calorie deficit; 6-8 weeks. Follow an IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) diet (80/20 or 90/10). This approach eliminates feeling deprived while still achieving great results.