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How to Limit Fat Gain and Maximize Muscle Growth in a Building Phase

One of the biggest reasons you dont ever do building phases is because you are scared of weight gain.

However, what you dont realize is that your methods for building are exactly why you gain more body fat than you need to/want to.

And when you wing it you risk more fat gain. 

In this post I go over how you can manipulate variables to ensure that your body stays primed to build muscle so you can limit fat gain and maximize muscle growth in your building phases. 

Before I dive into these I have two things I want to go over: 

1. Some people can recomp/build muscle at maintenance and dont need a surplus. But at some point, you will if you want to build more muscle. If you want to read more about body recomposition you can read it HERE.

2. You still need to overload your training and make sure your intensity is there. This is what tells your body that it needs to build muscle. Without it, none of this matters. 

With that out of the way, let’s dive into it. 

Have a slow rate of gain. 

The quicker you gain weight, the more body fat you will accrue. What this means is that for every pound you gain, more of that will be body fat compared to muscle. 

You will never get it to be 100% muscle, but you want as much of it to be muscle as possible. 

.25 to .5% of bodyweight per week is a good number to aim for. Anything more than this for too long and you can expect more fat gain than muscle.

This doesn’t mean you wont build any muscle, it just means you will gain more body fat than you’d likely want.

A 170lb person would aim for about .4 to .8lbs per week. 

For building, I like to zoom out and look at monthly trends. So for this person it would be 1.6 to 3.2lbs per month. 

Eat a good base of whole foods for your micros.

Too many people dont focus on food quality during a build, and they end up missing out on key micronutrients. 

These micos will most likely make building muscle tougher if you dont get enough or are deficient in them.

It could result in things like lower testosterone, that are vitally important for muscle growth.

I see two problems here:

  1. someone only eats “clean” foods, therefore making it tough to eat the proper amount of food for building muscle.
  2. someone goes the “see-food” diet route and eats way too many tasty/highly processed foods that are low in micronutrients.

A good rule of thumb is to eat 80% whole foods, and then the rest of the time you can fill it in with tastier foods based on need and preference.

Take lower volume phases every so often. 

Your body adapts to everything you do to it. 

How much you train is no different. 

You probably want to take a period where you drop your volume slightly, every once in a while.  

This is where we will implement a primer phase. Deloads are good to, but at some point you’ll want to take a longer period with lower volume. 

For most clients, this is every 3-6 months. 

Read HERE for more information about how we periodize clients training for muscle growth.

Get good sleep regularly

If you constantly get poor sleep, muscle growth will be tough to come by. 6-8 hours per night is a good amount to aim for. 

Poor sleep will lower your body’s ability to build muscle and recover.

One of the aspects is through insulin sensitivity. Poor sleep can make your body more insulin resistant. Think of this as your body’s ability to handle the food you give it.

If you want to learn more about insulin sensitivity, listen HERE.

If you are getting poor sleep regularly you can expect muscle growth to be tougher to come by and every little bit of weight you gain is going to be more fat than muscle.

Dont go longer than 6-8+ months without a deficit.  

Just like we want to take breaks from fat loss dieting, we also want to take breaks from trying to gain weight.

The more weight you gain and the longer you are in a surplus the less sensitive to muscle growth you get. 

To combat this you will want to get into a deficit for a short period of time every 4-8 months. 

This is where you could potentially implement a mini cut. 

This helps ensure you dont gain too much body fat in your building phases as well. Plus the longer you are in a surplus the more you can expect that weight gain to shift towards fat gain.

Dont let activity levels fall too far. 

Being sedentary is poor for overall health. 

Staying active can help with insulin sensitivity, which will help your body utilize the nutrients you give it much better. 

A good number to shoot for is 6-10k per day. 

I used to think id want to move less during a build, but this probably hurts muscle growth.

Not to mention walking can be great to promote recovery as well.

This will also allow you to eat more food in your building phases.

Dont let protein fall too far. 

If you let protein fall too far in a building phase it is going to hurt how much muscle you can build.

One common mistake I see made is that since you are eating more food, more of your protein will come from trace sources like your carbohydrates. These proteins dont have all of the amino acids you need to maximize muscle growth, so be aware.

What this means is that you might see you are getting enough protein, but you may be low on high quality protein. Just be aware.

You will want to make sure you get atleast .7g per lb of body weight per day. 

Summary

If you follow these tips you will limit how much body fat you gain and will maximize muscle growth in a building phase.

You might not get them all perfect right away, but its important to start focusing on these things.

If you need more guidance and support in your building phase that’s exactly what we work on in my 1:1 online coaching program.

If you are interested you can learn more HERE.

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