It may sound obvious, but if you want to gain muscle, you need to do more than lift weights and drink protein shakes. You need to follow a meal plan too, and track your calorie intake.
In order to make gains of any description, you need to be a calorie surplus, meaning you consume more calories than your burn, and which also needs to be a higher figure than your BMR. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate; the number of calories you need to consume just to maintain your current weight.
But, of course, life gets in the way. You may enjoy a few beers every now and then, or like to reward yourself for a good week with a calorific cheat meal – although this can potentially provide more negatives than positives.
So what is the best plan to follow in order to see consistent gains throughout the year? Personal trainer and online fitness coach James Kew may have the answer.
Taking to Instagram, James posted an image detailing what happens if you try to shed any excess body fat by following strict diets, as opposed to consistent training and eating sensibly.
If you’re someone who is overweight, your natural instincts are going to be diet. This means you’ll cut out meals entirely, or swap out previous junk food favourites with much healthier options, all the name of eating clean. But as we said, life happens. These healthy foods can become boring over time, and you’re more likely to gorge on sweet treats or foods high in fat, because you feel it won’t make too much of a difference in terms of your goals.
Bingeing regularly – say every other weekend – can have serious detrimental effects and in most cases, will completely reverse the work you’ve put into eating clean, says James.
On the contrary, James says that eating in a “moderate calorie surplus, somewhere between 200-300 calories over the maintenance” for most of the year (around 9 months) in combination with cutting for 2-3 months to remove body fat, can provide more beneficial and more sustainable results.
This figure can potentially change depending on your body type: ectomorphs, for example, may find they need to consume a larger number of calories to see similar results to mesomorphs. Just make sure you don’t make the same bulking mistake as this guy, who put on too much body fat too quickly in the pursuit of muscle gains.
Let it be known, eating more food sources such as carbohydrates (commonly associated with weight gain) can actually help you lose fat, just as long as you eat the right foods and the right amount.
In a separate post, James adds that these foods should include high amounts of protein, plenty of fruit and vegetables and carbohydrates, and shouldn’t include all the ‘wonder miracle’ fat loss supplements and food products that fill up supermarket shelves. When you’re in your ‘cutting’ phase of the year, as long as you are in a calorie deficit, you are going to lose body fat.
For the remainder of the year, go into a caloric surplus (ensuring you consume plenty of protein) and watch that muscle grow. Just don’t expect results overnight.