My name is Dan, and I am a 27-year-old male NATURAL Bodybuilder. I want to get bigger in order to compete in 2015 in the INBF (International Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Canada Federation) show in Edmonton. I was wondering if you could explain why we have to gain fat in the off season in order to gain muscle mass? Is it possible to keep one’s weight the same and gain muscle by means of a very careful diet?
Thank you for your question. It is nice to hear from fellow bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts who are eager to get after the MUSCLE building game! I know there are many gurus out there that state you can “BUILD MUSCLE AND LOSE FAT AT THE SAME TIME.” I disagree. I am one who believes that in order to gain muscle, one should expect to put on some body fat. However, it doesn’t have to be an enormous amount if you are following an appropriate macronutrient plan which allows you to do things slowly and steadily.
Gaining some fat in the off-season is nevertheless essential for improving your physique. By adding mass you will have a better overall look when it is time for you to step on stage. The goal isn’t to gain fat per se. However, in gaining muscle mass, it is inevitable that you will gain some fat due to the large amount of food you need to eat in order to recover and grow. Also this is the time you should focus on sleep optimization, rest, recovery and minimal energy expenditure through cardiovascular training.
If you stay lean all the time, you probably won’t gain a lot of strength. Weight moves weight, so you will want to add weight (in terms of both fat and muscle). If you continue to focus on staying lean, you probably won’t gain much mass and therefore you will never reach your true potential. Why not look at it this way: When you are heavier, you are able to lift heavier weights, which results in increased muscle mass and strength. If you stay lean year-round, at contest time you will look virtually the same, time after time.
You can indeed stay lean year-round and make small improvements, but is that an optimal approach? NO! If you want results before competing in 2015 (a little over a year from now) you must be willing to add some body fat. I recommend that you consult the great Brooks Kubik’s website and read his articles on mass building:
I wish you the best of luck and health,
Deanna Harder: Fitness Leadership Diploma, CSEP-CPT (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer), and Figure Competitor