A building phase is a phase where the goal is to build muscle while minimizing fat gain.
It can also be termed bulking phase, massing phase etc.
If you want more information on why everyone SHOULD go through atleast one of these phases then read HERE.
In this blog I want to go over some insights I have gained from coaching clients and going through multiple building phases myself so you are have the awareness you need to work through these challenges when they arise.
To many people give up the second things are a little uncomfortable, but not you.
Don’t rush the process
A mistake I made in the past and a mistake I know many other people have made in the past is trying to rush the process by just eating as much as possible.
You hear bulking so you automatically assume you can just eat whatever when you want.
This has been coined the “see food diet”
I did the “see food diet” once and while I did put on size, I was not happy with how much fat I had put on in the process.
The unfortunate truth is that many of us have found out from doing this is that it does help you gain weight, but more of it is fat than is desired.
While you may build more muscle doing this, the fat you gained in the process probably isn’t worth it.
You are instead better off going at a slower pace, and minimizing fat gain.
You don’t need as large of a calorie surplus as you think. Newer trainees can get away with larger surpluses, but as you advance you really only want to be in a surplus of about 250-500 calories or so.
However, you don’t want to go too slow either, as this may hamper how much muscle you put on, so you must walk a fine line.
For online clients we recommend gaining .25 to .5% of bodyweight per week.
You cannot speed up the muscle growth process by just eating more past a certain point.
As Dr. Mike has mentioned before, trying to speed up the muscle growth process past a certain point is like trying to drive faster in a car that is already going max speed. You can hit the gas pedal harder, but it isn’t going to do anything.
Its still important to track while building
A big mistake I made in the past and see online clients make is once they are done doing a fat loss phase they think tracking is not important.
You can make a good argument that tracking during your building phase is equally as important.
You can totally get away with not tracking during a building phase, and instead just monitor your body weight and focus on habits like making sure you get a lean source of protein at each meal, but you may be risking things a bit, some that I will talk about in a bit like undereating.
If you aren’t tracking you don’t know.
This goes both ways, you could be overeating and this could cause unnecessary fat gain, or you could be undereating which could cause you to miss out on some muscle growth.
Not to mention, since we want to gain at a slower rate, you really don’t need that many calories to gain, especially the more advanced you are.
One other thing to note here, some people have metabolisms that adapt to over feeding. What I mean is that one person may subconsciously increase their activity levels when they increase their calories, so they would need to continue to increase their calories to be in a surplus, whereas some don’t adapt as well and they would NOT need to increase their calories as much.
In this current building phase I have been tracking my macros 90% of the time, and I can say I am the leanest I have been nearing my highest weight in the last 10 years (since I did the “see food diet”).
I still have more body fat than when I was getting ready for my photoshoot, but I am still leaner than I have been at this current weight.
Make sure you are tracking something during your building phases.
Be patient and stick with the process
Too many times people see a little body fat come on and then they switch out and start cutting again.
This sucks for two reasons:
- Muscle takes momentum. By going in and out of building phases to cut, you are hurting muscle growth.
- Since muscle takes momentum, you also need to cement your gains. When you cut to often you are telling your body the muscle you put on isn’t that important, therefore hampering muscle growth.
I know it can be tough to see your body composition not look as great, but it’s just temporary.
You have cut before and you can do it again. Not to mention, more muscle will make this process easier.
A sure way to spin your wheels and never see progress with your physique is by cutting too often.
You will have days you don’t want to eat
There are going to be days where you don’t want to at the calorie amount you have set.
Just like with fat loss you will have days where you want to eat more.
You have to push through this if you want to take your body to the next stage.
When it comes to building muscle we don’t want to have days where you eat more than others. It needs to be relatively stable, within 100 calories or so.
When you are in a fat loss phase you have the luxury of being a bit more flexible from day to day so long as you keep protein up. You don’t have this luxury when building.
One thing that has helped me is including more calorie-dense foods into my diet. These are foods that make it easier to eat more calories, the opposite of what you want on a fat loss diet.
Read HERE on ways to get more calories in.
Training should be tough
I talk a lot about how training sucks when in a calorie deficit.
But training in a building phase should also be challenging.
You have more food coming in, but this means you can push it a little extra AND you can get away with doing more volume.
If your training is easy week over week and don’t feel like you are pushing yourself, then you can expect to be leaving gains on the table.
I don’t think every week needs to be the toughest workouts you have done, but if you never get to that point I’m skeptical that you are building as much muscle as you could be.
Read HERE on how to make sure you aren’t wasting time in the gym.
Don’t neglect sleep and stress management
Too often myself and clients think that we can just brush this part off. “Im not in a fat loss phase so it doesn’t matter”.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Getting quality sleep and managing your stress is just as important during this time.
The less sleep you get and the more stressed you are just means you will be doing less training than you could be, which means you will be leaving gains on the table.
One other thing here, when you get poor sleep the body tends to shift its preferences towards fat gain rather than muscle gain.
Avoid going too long without eating
In a building phase you need to limit how far apart you eat.
Intermittent fasting is a TERRIBLE tool for building muscle for most.
Avoid going longer than 3-5 hours without eating.
When work gets busy I can really struggle with this a times.
But you want to avoid being in a energy deficit as often as possible.
Eating around your workouts is also important to maximize training performance. Try to eat within 1-2 hours before you workout and then 1-2 hours after your workout.
There you have it, my insights into a building phase.
Hopefully after reading this you feel ready to take on a building phase.
It can be a challenge to switch from fat loss mindset to a building mindset, but I promise you it is the best thing you can do for yourself.
If you need more structure and guidance around your building phase, fill out the 1:1 Online coaching application HERE and lets get to work.