How to Gain Lean Muscle Without Turning into a Tub of Lard

QUESTION: I have your BURN THE FAT ebook; it’s great, but now that I’m lean enough my aim is bodybuilding and muscle gain. I read your information on body types in chapter 5 of your book and it was very interesting. I am definitely an ectomorph body type. I am getting good results gaining about a pound and sometimes 2 pounds a week, but I’m pretty skinny so it’s going to take a while to get where I really want to be, but that’s fine, I’m patient and determined. My question is, can I use all the guidelines in your BURN THE FAT ebook for gaining muscle mass?ANSWER: It’s true that BURN THE FAT, FEED THE MUSCLE is primarily a fat burning program and as you’re reading through the book, you’ll see that the entire manual is written with references to getting leaner.However, with a few simple tweaks, the program can definitely be used for gaining muscle. The primary adjustment would be an increase in the calories.

To gain lean body mass, you need a calorie surplus. The biggest dietary reason most people fail to gain lean muscle is that they’re simply not eating enough. Many times when they come off a fat loss program, they are completely paranoid about “losing their abs.”

Of course, that’s a legitimate concern because it’s VERY easy to lose your abs if you get lazy with your diet or you think that a muscle gaining diet means eating everything in sight. To gain muscle and stay lean it takes continued discipline and dietary restraint, but the fact is, you just can’t gain any muscle if you’re afraid to eat more.The trick in gaining lean muscle without fat gain is to select a small calorie surplus. Overeating, even on clean, bodybuilding foods is going to make you gain fat along with the muscle.

Gaining fat and muscle weight at the same time is commonly known as “bulking up” and that’s the old school approach to building muscle. We don’t want to do that. The whole idea is to Feed The Muscle and build lean body mass only.

Although BFFM is written with a fat loss slant, all the calorie formulas are included in chapter 6, so you can figure out exactly how many you need to lose, maintain, OR gain weight.

A typical male maintains on about 2700 calories per day and a typical female at about 2100 calories, but it’s good to plug your stats into the formulas to individualize, and you need to recalibrate calories anyways, after you come off a long fat loss phase.

What I would recommend for lean gains is to add a 10-15% calorie surplus on top of your maintenance level as your starting point. You will probably need a second increase in calories after a few months or after you’ve begun to add some lean mass in order to keep the lean gains coming.

The only other major adjustments for gaining lean mass would be the protein-carb-fat ratios (covered in detail in chapter 8) and of course, the amount of cardio.

Weight gain programs require more carbs in the macronutrient mix and less cardio. Endomorph types may need to keep 3 days of cardio in the mix to avoid losing their abs. In some cases for ectomorph “hard-gainer” body types, they should cut the cardio completely during the muscle gain phase.

For the endomorph body type who tends to gain fat easily, I recommend continuing to use a carb or calorie cycling method even for the muscle gaining phase. The difference is in the number of calories.

For fat loss, I typically recommend a carb cycle with a 20-30% caloric deficit for 3 days, followed by one full day at maintenance or even maintenance + 5-10%, with ALL the caloric increase coming from carbs.

For lean muscle gain without fat gain, I’d recommend a cycle with 3 days at a 15% surplus, followed by 3 days at maintenance or a small caloric deficit of 5-10% below maintenance.

These are just guidelines. They are not written in stone. I have seen all types of calorie cycling variations work for different people. Any non-linear calorie approach is superior, in my opinion, for keeping the gains lean.

All the other principles in BFFM, such as eating the “foods that burn fat” and avoiding the “foods that turn to fat” apply as equally to weight gain programs as they do to fat loss programs.

In fact, many BFFM “graduates” quickly reached their fat loss goal using these techniques, and then with a few simple adjustments, shifted into a “muscle-gaining phase.” Same program, but one change in calorie levels.

Using the BFFM techniques for muscle mass gains, most people can expect to gain 1/2 pound to 1 pound per week of lean body mass with no increase in body fat, (1/2 to 3/4 of that for women).

It’s not that hard to put on the first 10-12 pounds of lean muscle. After that, gains tend to slow down a bit.

These types of gains can be achieved completely natural – and in fact, natural is the only way I’d ever recommend you do muscle gaining programs.

IF you’d like to learn how to burn fat naturally – without drugs or fat burner pills – visit the Burn The Fat website.

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Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author ofBurn the Fat, Feed The Muscle(BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has writtenover 140 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development,Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for and the nutrition editor for and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.