THE BUILD MUSCLE, STAY LEAN MEAL PLAN

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THE BUILD MUSCLE, STAY LEAN MEAL PLAN

Bulking up: It’s a scary thought for many guys at the gym because it seems like there’s always a string attached. Everyone wants to add lean mass, but—and it’s a big but—a lot of us don’t like the idea of gaining body fat, even as little as a couple of pounds, which is the norm with most mass-gaining meal plans.

Seriously, what’s the point of gaining 20-30lbs if a good portion of that is fat? If you can’t see the muscle you’ve added, is it even worth having? In this case, we say no, which is why we provide you with the tools you need to add muscle while maintaining, not increasing, your current level of body fat.

So the question is, how do I bulk up without adding unwanted pounds of fat? The answer: By being careful, precise, and paying close attention to food timing. Whether on this page or on Instagram memes, you’ve heard the expression “bodies are built in the kitchen, not the gym.” Too often, you associate lifting weights and doing cardio with crafting a great physique—and don’t get us wrong, that’s an important aspect of it, too.

But if we were to compare bodybuilding to building a house, our diets are the foundation, walls, and support beams. Without those, it doesn’t matter how pretty we make our bedrooms and living rooms—you need to start from the ground up. To use another cliche, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

That’s why we’ve laid out this simple and effective meal plan to help you put on mass while staying lean.

Smart growth

Building muscle requires an increase in calories; that is, to gain weight you must eat more calories than you burn each day. But if you go overboard and eat too much, you’ll kick-start the fat-storing process. So the key is to eat just enough to facilitate the muscle-gaining process but not so much that you’ll add fat along with it.

One way to do this is by controlling portion sizes at mealtime. For most meals (not including post-workout), aim to get 40-60g of protein and 40-80g of carbs, depending upon your size; bigger guys weighing more than, say, 225lbs will shoot for the higher end. The meal plan on the following pages gives a guide to particular food portions that will get you to these gram targets. Dietary fat should be as low as possible, except for healthy fats(from nuts, olive oil, fatty fish), which can amount to 5-10g per meal.

How to Eat on Nontraining Days

Muscles require rest days to grow, but you shouldn’t scarf down the quantity of carbohydrates you do on training days since the demand for carbs can fall considerably when you’re inactive. This is where people often get into trouble—they continue to maintain a high-carb intake on days they don’t hit the iron and aren’t burning through a lot of carbohydrates. The end result? A rise in unwanted body fat, especially around the lower back and midsection.

The basics of our lean-mass meal plan sum up what you’ve just learned. As far as portion size goes, the diet delivers a roughly equal amount of protein and carbs for most meals. You’ll eat six times per day to supply your body with critical nutrients, especially aminos, for driving muscle growth, and meal timing focuses around workouts and time of day. On training days, you get to eat more carbs overall (almost 2.5g per pound of bodyweight) and your post-workout meal is loaded with them—the meal plan on page 3 includes 177g of carbs after training. Try this at another time of day and it could lead to fat gain; here it will spur muscle growth.

You’ll get most of your carbohydrates early in the day (up to nearly 100g at breakfast), while your later meals are mostly protein. This gives your body the amino acids it requires and negates the carbs it doesn’t necessarily need at this time of day. Since insulin sensitivity tends to be lower later in the day, avoiding carbs helps prevent fat gain. Protein intake stays the same on both days (almost 2g per pound of bodyweight, roughly 330g in our sample meal plan), so the drop in carbs also means a much-needed drop in calories. On workout days you need about 18-20 calories per pound of bodyweight, but on rest days you require only about 12-14 calories per pound. Swapping these days will spur muscle growth without seeing your midsection grow as well.

The Science of Timing

Three cups of rice, pasta, or even a couple of bagels at a single sitting? Sounds like it’d make you fat, right? Not if you consume it along with lean protein immediately following a training session. Carbs remain the mismanaged nutrient. While they have the ability to be stored as body fat, they’re crucial to the muscle-building process. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates after training, it sets off a cascade of hormonal changes that favor the rebuilding of muscle mass. This includes a rise in insulin, which not only forces protein into muscles for growth but also stabilizes testosterone levels, which often fall as a result of too few carbs after training. On the flip side, if you eat too many carbs and just sit around being fairly inactive, some of those carbs might end up as body fat. That’s why you should eat fewer carbs on days you don’t train. While you need them to grow on days you work out, your need for them goes down considerably on days when you don’t hit the iron.

These are examples of the types of meal plans you should follow when you want to build muscle without gaining fat.

* If you have a hard time staying lean, eat the smaller portion of carbs at this meal.
** Optional. If you start the plan and find you’re adding body fat, drop this menu item.

 


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