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How Much Weight To Gain In A Building Phase

Have you dieted for fat loss for a while? Do you need to add some muscle?

If so a building phase might be for you.

Read HERE about a building phase.

One common question I get is how much weight should I gain.

First, you might fall into the body recomp category, read that HERE.

If that’s the case you can likely get away with not having to gain weight in your building phase.

But the longer you have been training and the more muscle you have the more likely you will need to gain some weight to put on more muscle.

So let’s dive into some things to consider for your building phase. 

This is the exact process we go through with clients to figure out their calorie surplus if they need one. 

When deciding what to do for your building phase keep these things in mind

Fat is easier to lose than muscle is to gain. 

Muscle is tough to come by. This is why we are ok with some fat gain during a building phase. Any small amount of fat you gain (if done right) will be taken off during your next fat loss phase. This is a trade-off we are willing to make.

To maximize muscle growth and minimize fat gain you’d want to gain about .25 to .5% of your bodyweight per week.

While we are ok with some fat gain, the goal is to make sure you dont add too much in the building process. You cant speed up muscle growth past a certain point, so just adding weight too quickly will ensure extra fat gain. You will still gain muscle, but more of the weight you gain will be body fat.

The more muscle you have/the longer you have been training then the more likely you need to be in a surplus to gain muscle.

You can get away with recomping for a bit, or being at maintenance, but once you are training for a while and dial in your training, nutrition, and recovery, at some point you need to move into a surplus to build more muscle.

A few other things:

If you are 170lbs, this is what .25 and .5% come out to: .25% =.4lbs per week, .5% = .8lbs per week.

With building you want to zoom out and see longer trends. So it might be a better idea to focus on a rate of gain per month versus per week. So you would take those numbers and multiply by 4.

One other note on weight. Take the average for the week. I have clients weigh in 3x per week, first thing in the morning post bathroom pre food/drink and then take the average for the week.

What happens if you gain more than .5% per week?

Will build a little more muscle, BUT more of it will start to be fat versus muscle. 

This is fine, especially if you want to maximize muscle growth, BUT you will just have a little more fat to lose later.

A study from Garthe et al. shows this.

There were two groups in the study, one group was counseled and had a meal plan that had them in an energy surplus, and the other group just ate as they normally would. The group that was on the meal plan gained more weight than the group eating as they normally would because they were in a larger energy surplus.

Both groups gained lean body mass, but the group that was in a larger surplus added that extra weight as fat mass.

AKA gaining more weight did not equate to more muscle growth. Just more fat mass.

Not great for your overall look.

You can find that study HERE.

Pros of this approach:

Cons:

What if you gain less than .25% per week?

You will likely slow down muscle growth, especially the further away you get from this number and the more muscle you have. So if you are maintaining or barely gaining you are likely lowering the amount of muscle growth that is occurring, especially if things like training, nutrition, and recovery aren’t dialed in.

But you will gain less body fat. 

You just have to be ok with less muscle growth for a little less body fat.

Pros of this: 

Cons: 

Summary

There is no right or wrong way here. 

You just have to weigh out the pros and cons and see what is and isn’t worth it to you.  To be safe .25-.5% per week is a solid rate of gain.

If you need more help on how to make adjustments during a building phase if your weight is going up too quickly or too slowly, read HERE

One last caveat, just because you aren’t maximizing muscle growth, doesnt mean you won’t see any muscle growth.

If you need more help/guidance with this, check out my 1:1 online coaching program HERE.

References:

Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P. E., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2013). Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletes. European journal of sport science13(3), 295–303. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2011.643923

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