A few years ago if you’d gone up to a Gymbro and said ‘hey man, I wanna get jacked – advice?’, you would have most likely heard something along the lines of: ‘eat big to get big’. The idea being that if you wanted to pack on any appreciable muscle mass, the consumption of copious amounts of food – and in turn the resultant fat gains – was not only a necessity, but an expected part of the process.
Fast forward a few years and the pendulum has fully swung to the other end, bringing with it the rise of a new term: ‘lean gains’.
What Is Lean Gains?
‘Lean gains’ is the ‘cute’ name given to the supposed process of gaining muscle, while gaining no body fat.
So, how much truth is there to ‘lean gains’? Can we really gain muscle mass while not gaining any body fat?
‘Lean Gains’: Fact Or Fiction?
The idea that you can gain muscle without gaining any fat is a strong misnomer and quite misleading – it’s also my issue with having this sort of mentality when it comes to adding muscle.
While a many ‘fitness guru’s’ will tout this idea of being able to add muscle while not gaining any fat, if you simply follow ‘their one weird trick’, in reality this just isn’t true.
To gain weight and muscle ; you need to be eating more calories than you are burning. Even with the most optimised nutrition and training plan, there will be some fat gain.
It takes around 2800 calories (roughly) to build a pound of muscle. Calories, however, aren’t exclusively reserved for the job of building muscle as the graph below illustrates :
So if you simply try to consume enough calories to cater to your goal of getting jacked, your body will only attribute a small percentage of those calories towards actual muscle growth (if any) – using the rest for more important functions elsewhere in the body.
Hence the need to create a ‘buffer’ by consuming more calories and aiming for a bit more weight than what we would need to just build muscle with.
To Illustrate this ~
if you’re a beginner and you’re aiming for 2-3lbs of weight gain per month (refer to charts under ‘optimal rate of growth’ later on in the article), let’s say 50-60% of that is muscle (1-1.5lbs) the rest would be water, glycogen and of course some body fat. But, what you’ve done is created a ‘buffer’ and in turn allowed for more growth rather than aiming for say 1lb of weight gain- in the hopes of ‘lean gaining’- and only 0.2-0.5lbs of that being muscle growth, you’ve allowed yourself to gain more muscle by allowing more weight gain overall.
By trying to stay too lean during a gaining phase all that happens is you end up spinning your wheels and not making any gains at all.
The ‘Clean Bulk’ Myth
Before moving on, I want to quickly touch on ‘clean bulking’, the myth that just doesn’t seem to die.
You’ll often hear people claim that as long as you consume your calories from ‘clean’ foods rather than ‘junk’ foods. You will gain lean mass with no fat gain.
This is simply not true. ‘Clean’ or ‘dirty’, a calorie is a calorie – consume more food than your body requires and you will gain fat. Sure, there are some nuances to this and for the most part you should have a diet that focuses on whole nutritious foods, such as whole grains, lean sources of meat, fruits and veggies but don’t think that by depriving yourself of your favourite foods is going to keep you lean while building muscle.
WOAH. ANNOYING RANDOM HEADING.
Hey, internet human. I know you were all up in the article enjoying it and what not. Well, this article has been turned into a complete book and you can download a copy for absolutely free, by clicking the image below.
Now, let’s be clear. by downloading the book you will be added to my email list.
HOWEVER. this isn’t one of those lame email lists where you’re emailed every day being pitched things you don’t even need because that’s lame.
No. This is one of those awesome email lists where you look forward to opening and reading because you learn something new.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what my subscribers are saying.
I asked my email list how they would describe me (and my emails) to a friend. Here’s what a handful said.
“Bro, you’re killing these posts and articles man! Keep doing what you do. You don’t understand how much I look forward to these emails I see in my inbox on a new article or round-up.” – Raj Rajakumar
“Aadam’s writing is entertaining enough you don’t need to find nutrition and fitness entertaining to be entertained…plus he breaks the information down so you don’t need an effin’ degree to benefit from his articles.
To be honest, I think I actually described you this way to my hubby: ‘Dude knows his shit, is entertaining as hell, super helpful, and not a d-bag. Bonus points: has an accent’” – Shauna Emery
“Finally, someone who keeps his fucking feet on the ground (not big-headed I mean)” – Greg
“Physiqonomics (Aadam) is awesome! Straight forward! Doesn’t beat around the bush like most, and give it to you straight! Love reading his emails, quite comical at times, worth the read!” – Rich
“I don’t think I’ve ever consistently kept up with a blogger until I stumbled upon Physiqonomics. The quality is FIRE.” – RJ
“Smart, thorough, funny, and informative!” – Tamara Christie
“Aadam not only talks the talk by producing well-written, science-backed articles that debunk bullshit but he also walks the walk by using himself to experiment with different methods – keto for one. He also makes for a very interesting guest on podcasts” – Rachel H
“Simply put, you’ll absolutely want to sign up for this email list, Aadam brings perspective to situations that will regularly make you say “Aha”. Constantly gives you material that all the industry guys charge for and no marketing filler. I would pay for what he sends out for free” – Hamza
“The best thing about Aadam is that he makes me think and question things while also making me laugh” – Lindsay F
“Physiqonomics is one of the best sites for free, up-to-date, no-nonsense, information on nutrition and training packaged in clever wit. Also, Aadam is one sexy beast” – Mickey N
“Aadam is seriously one of the most interesting and engaging writers out there who you can’t help but learn something from. The guy is simply awesome at what he does” – John Flynn
“I just wanted to say that Aadam is where it is at for health and fitness right now. He is at the top of his game. I have just implemented information I have seen on his site with fantastic results. I can’t imagine the results I would get working with him! He is also phenomenal at answering any and all questions that you may have” – Rob M
So, here’s the link again for your book. And I’ll see you on the flipside.