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Gaining lean muscle without fat!?

*My disclaimer, any and all recommendations that arise from this work will likely only be of value to drug free athletes. Additionally, we will only be covering how an individual can implement a calorie surplus to gain muscle mass but may elude to lean body mass gains in a deficit if and when I see fit (my blog, my rules)*

The how to gain muscle and not gain fat conundrum

Put your hands up if you've ever tried to gain muscle / weight without gaining fat? The proverbial "chasing your tail" of the weightlifting/bodybuilding/strength sport world. We've all dreamed of it, and the old school magazines have assured us of the existence of this holy grail of "gainz" but how achievable is it really (if it does in fact exist)?

I hope this doesn't upset anyone but fat gain is a given. More so because we're constantly building and breaking down our fat stores (a.k.a. it's unavoidable) and, when in a calorie surplus, the "building side" outweighs the "breaking down side" creating a net gain of fat storage. It's important to note however that not all weight gain is created equal and we won't simply just gain fat if we introduce a calorie surplus.

So, how much of our calorie surplus will contribute to fat gain? Well, to be as honest as I can, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors actually (most of which we're yet to fully explore in the literature), and the hope that there is a "magic" number for calories, a "mythical" macronutrient ratio or the "one" food source you've not heard of but could be the key to the mystery doesn't (at least to our current knowledge) exist.

But, that doesn't mean there isn't data out there which we can interpret, evaluate and make practical recommendations and implementations from.

This article is going to cover that data and also give an insight into the various factors which can influence how you structure your dietary approach to achieve the utmost efficiency when it comes to "lean" gains.

Just to quickly get this question out of the way as I know it'll appear "Can I gain a significant amount of lean body mass whilst in a calorie deficit / weight loss phase?"

Technically, yes, but it depends on your current level of experience with weight training and or your beginning body composition state. Beginners and people with relatively high fat percentages (i.e. >20% bf for men) can gain muscle mass & strength in a calorie deficit which has been eluded to in multiple pieces of literature. It is possible that those with an intermediate level of experience with weight training may also be able to as well (depending on their given programming, macronutrient split, nutrient timing, supplementation, genetic propensity to gain lean body mass etc.).

For the record, there are no universally defined and or agreed upon definitions for level of weight training/ weight lifting/ bodybuilding experience however most tend to agree that;

Beginner - Typically been training for under one year.

Intermediate - Been training for greater than a year but hasn't achieved certain metrics related to strength in the most popularized, compound movements. These metrics can be interpreted differently from person to person with each holding their own standards for an "advanced lifter" e.g. being able to snatch your body weight for example.

Advanced - Typically been training for several years consistently with a universally recognizable and acknowledged base level of strength across all the major compound lifts and or achieved upwards of 80% of their