I have covered building phases extensively (read HERE), however, just as a refresher a building phase is a phase we use for online clients who are looking to build muscle.
It can also be coined “bulking” or “massing” phases but I try to stay away from these phrases as they end up pushing many people away because of those names.
The main goal of a building phase is to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain.
How to know if a building phase is for you?
Well, a lot of people would benefit greatly from losing body fat/weight, but if you are someone who has tried to diet down multiple times and haven’t been satisfied with your look then you need to do a building phase at some point.
This is someone who always thinks they need to be smaller to look and feel good. Because of this, you do protocols that involve things like low calories (which hamper training and risk lean body mass) and/or excessive amounts of cardio. Again, doing things that get you into a calorie deficit for a period of time is good for pretty much everyone….
BUT it becomes an issue when thats all you do.
Building Phase Overview
A building phase is a phase where your nutrition goes to maintenance calories or a calorie surplus. And the overarching goal is to build muscle as I mentioned earlier.
The more muscle you have and the longer you have been training, the more likely you need to be in a surplus to build muscle. You can stick at maintenance but the gains will be super slow. Like you won’t even notice anything.
If you are new to training or have had a long layoff, you may be able to get away with some body recomposition. Read about that HERE.
You need to be at least at maintenance for a few reasons:
- Gets you body away from a calore deficit (whihc can be a stressor on the body)
- Your body isnt a big fan of adding muscle and because of this if it isnt getting enough food it will priotiize using those calories for other more important things. So you have to give it a reason to build muscle. These extra calories give it a reason.
- The extra food will also help you recover and be able to do more training, which in order to build muscle you MUST lift weights.
Because you need to eat more calories and at least be at maintenance or in a surplus, and the thought of gaining a few pounds scares people away, this has created a lot of misconceptions around what a building phase is and what happens when you do one.
Let’s dive into those.
Misconception 1: You will get overly fat
This is the biggest reason why you won’t do a building phase, even though it will be best for your appearance long term.
You hear surplus and automatically think that it means you will gain excessive amounts of body fat and are going to look like a sumo wrestler.
But this is far from the truth.
Remember the goal is to build muscle and minimize fat gain, with this goal in mind, most of the weight you gain will be muscle rather than body fat.
If a building phase is done correctly, the fat you gain will be hardly noticeable, if at all.
You only get yourself into trouble if you gain weight too quickly and eat everything and anything in sight.
Plus fat loss is MUCH easier than muscle is to build. Any small amount of fat gained can easily be shed in a subsequent fat loss phase. But muscle is much tougher to build, so this small fat gain is worth the tradeoff.
How to limit fat gain?
- Smaller calorie surplus (aim for .1 to .25% of bodyweight gain per wee, if you are ok with a little more fat gain you can do .25-.5%)
- Have a good base of nutrient dense foods.
- Track your food.
Misconception 2: You will get leaner/put on no body fat
On the opposite end of the first misconception, it is the thought that you will put on no body fat or get leaner in the process.
Unless you are a newbie or are coming back from a long layoff, this will NOT happen.
Remember a building phase doesnt mean you will balloon up, but expecting to stay just as lean or leaner is not feasible, especially the longer you have been training.
You have to give up the mindset of always being your leanest. This is a fallacy.
Read my blog on my insights into my most recent building phase HERE. In this article, you can see that at the top of my building phase I do not have my best look, but I know long term it will be better for my physique.
Misconception 3: You can do it for short amounts of time
The next misconception is that you can do a building phase for a short period of time. AKA mini bulk.
To me this is just a classic one foot in one foot out mentality where the second you see any amount of body fat, you switch out and get back into a deficit.
Remember a big reason why we do building phases is to simply get you out of a deficit because it’s a stressor on the body. Going back into one periodically defeats that purpose.
Secondly, building muscle takes time and momentum. Going in and out of building phases hurts both of those.
You must commit to ATLEAST 12 weeks of building. And honestly, it should be closer to 16-20 weeks.
Misconception 4: You can just wing it
The next misconception is that you can just wing it by not tracking and just eating whatever you want.
Again if you want to limit fat gain, then you cannot just wing this process. As this will surely lead to either:
- You overeating OR
- You undereating.
Both of these go against the end goal.
A lot of people think that because they aren’t in a fat loss phase that they dont have to track, maybe you dont have to be as rigid tracking during a building phase as you do in a fat loss phase, but you still need to track things.
Some things you can track
- How many meals you have per day.
- Traning sessions.
Misconception 5: Training will be easy
Another big misconception is that because you are eating more food that the training will and can be easy.
Training should and will be tough if you want to build more muscle.
The extra food will allow you to do more volume, and because of that, the training will be tougher.
Dont just lollygag through training during a building phase. Again, this is where you can really change your physique.
Training can be easier if you want it to be, but chances are you won’t be changing your body.
Put those extra calories to use.
Misconception 6: It’s easier than a fat loss phase
A lot of people think that fat loss phases are very challenging, and for some they are, but a building phase done right, can be more challenging than a fat loss phase.
With fat loss, you can have a little more flexibility in your day-to-day calories, but with building phases, you have to pretty much eat the same day in and day out calorie-wise, which can be monotonous.
Plus, eating in a surplus consistently over long periods of time can be more challenging than you think in terms of hunger.
But the main thing here is that just because you aren’t in a fat loss phase doesnt mean you can take your foot off the gas pedal.
Hopefully going over these misconceptions has steered you in the direction of trying a building phase.
If you are interested in doing a building phase and need more structure and accountability, fill out the link HERE and let’s get to work.