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muscle/fat percentage while gaining


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I just wondered what a "typical" ratio of fat and muscle gain was likely while lifting hard at a calorie surplus. I see this suggestion all the time here on CC ("to gain muscle, you have to be on a caloric surplus"). But, I never see any suggestions as to how much fat a person would gain along with the muscle. 60/40? 80/20? 30/70?

I'd appreciate any specific anecdotal data from people that know what their own specs have been (time, muscle gain, fat gain), and/or what is a "good" ratio of muscle/fat to hope for. I don't care about specs for steroid users, but am interested in young or old, male or female, and especially in expectations for people in the "middle" ranges of body-fat (12 to 18% for males, 14 -22% for females).

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Here is my timeline.   I am 39yrs old, male.

June 1, 154 lbs and 14% BF via Tanita Scale.

June 6th, completed Half Ironman.

June 15th, started Stronglifts 5X5 with Squat at 105, Dead at 105 and Bench at 105 and 5X3 pull-ups.

Aug 26th, completed 10 weeks of Stronglifts with Squat at 200, Dead at 225, Bench at 170 and 5X9 pull-ups.

Aug 24th, bodyweight at 162 lbs and 16% BF via Tanita Scale.

That is a net gain of 8lbs, 3.6 lbs of muscle and 4.36 lbs of fat in 74 days (45%/55% ratio).

During this time I averaged 150 g of protein per day via Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Milk, Whey protein, Eggs, and pork tenderloin.

I did zero cardio.  Just walking 3mph or less.

Today, 158lbs at 14% BF and completed 11 weeks of Half-Ironman training for race on April 15th.  

 

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BF measurements by bioimpedance are inaccurate.  You're hydration level can affect your reading.  More hydrated, less BF and vice versa.  Skin caliper measurements are supposed to more accurate if given by an experienced BF tester.

To the OP, check out this article:http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/s ports_body_training_performance/the_truth_abo ut_bulking;jsessionid=04F6F6FB5C318F63996B0DA A7036CE34-mcd01.hydra.

Best possible result for a natural male I've seen and heard reported is about 90/10, but that requires dieting down to less than 10% body fat and then doing build/burn at an agonizingly slow pace; trying to prevent fat gain also slows down the rate of muscle protein formation as protein resynthesizes is more or less directly linked to your calorie intake.

 You'll still keep your model abs though, and this can be important for someone who has a job as an actual fitness model and needs to be able to show up for a photo shoot with a reasonable time frame. Even if you're gaining muscle at a frankly infinitesimal rate.

 If you slack off a bit about preventing fat gain you'll gain muscle weight faster, dieting down to ~10% bf and then going on a slow bulk until you're about 15% body fat lets you gain at about 80/20 muscle/fat in the best case, but more usual reported results hover around 75/25 - my personal best is around 76% muscle gain but the testing method has a margin of error you could drive a Tanita scale through so take that with a shaker of salt. And I wouldn't expect to be able to do that at the same speed now, both from being closer to my genetic ceiling and from being a fair bit older now.

 You're still limiting the rate of muscle protein formation though, gain rate should hover at around 0.3-0.5lbs/wk on a "slow bulk" with expected muscle gain about 0.2-0.3lbs where a more traditional body building bulking period will be about double that in both absolute mass and muscle protein gains; 0.6-1LBs/wk, with expected muscle mass gain from 0.4-0.6lbs. And you wouldn't stop at 15% body fat either, usual practice is to keep going until insulin sensitivity and muscle formation drops off, around 18-20% BF for natural males.

 Downside to traditional bulking is that you've gotta diet off that fat you gained, which means more time spent in a calorie deficit, which means taking longer time off from gaining muscle than you'd be doing with a slow-bulk. And your genetic ceiling for muscle mass doesn't change however you choose to go about gaining.

 Which means you'll end up in the same place regardless, but the slow-bulk strategy means less yo-yo dieting and no time spent carrying 15-20% body fat.

 You'll gain less mass week-to-week and a slow-bulk isn't free of periods of calorie deficit so overall, if maximal muscularity is your goal and all other concerns be damned the fast-bulk is still the winner.

 For me personally, my motivation and personality isn't compatible with the fast-bulk method, I've been obese and the higher body fat gains makes me uneasy so I'm willing to compromise the speed of my results for the sake of my own peace of mind.

 As for women, I had the specifics around here somewhere, but I seem to have misplaced them. Off the top of my head I can't give you anything but the general rough guideline that expected rate of muscle formation for women are about half that of men in most circumstances - I think I remember Lyle writing a case study about a female client he trained for a Figure competition some time back where he went into his usual detail, but I'll be damned if I can find it now.

Addendum: Keep in mind that even if you do absolutely zero exercise, approximately 21-23% of weight gain will be in the form of muscle due to nutrient partitioning and the training effect of carrying around extra mass. Resistance training while gaining shifts the numbers around by a lot, but it's still on the same continuum.

Original Post by 8mileshigh:

BF measurements by bioimpedance are inaccurate.  You're hydration level can affect your reading.  More hydrated, less BF and vice versa.  Skin caliper measurements are supposed to more accurate if given by an experienced BF tester.

Yes, it can vary up to +/- 5 percent.  Maintaining static variables are the key to consistency.  Immediate access and frequent monitoring will lead to consistent results.  Given that the 14%/16% may not be accurate, the delta between the two is consistent over a given period of time.     So whether it is 14% or 20%, I am fairly certain that over the 74 days I gained approximately 2% BF with an 8lb weight gain.   

This is all very interesting - I went and got my BF % tested at the YMCA yesterday both by the caliper method and the white nintendo-looking thing you hold in your hands (no idea what you call it).

The calipers gave a result of 14 %, which I found astonishingly high. The hand-held device gave a result of 10%. So I'll call it 12%. That is still double what it used to be as late as April of last year. For the last three years of college my BF % was never measured (key word, measured) to be above 7%.

I wonder if because I am lifting more now than I used to I'm gaining more fat, though I'm doing a fair amt. of cardio as well so I don't understand how my readings could have been so high yesterday.

Oh well. My body looks the same. I'm 6 lbs lighter than I was in college. I think the guy just didn't do a good job with the calipers, and the hand-held device has a huge error margin.

@ Melkor: Thanks a lot for the information. Very logical, and interesting. I'm surprised that muscle building "drops off" as you get to 20% fat. I don't understand that one. I thought fatter people could gain muscle easily.

@anthony: Thanks for all those details. My experience has been similar to yours, gaining at near a 50/50 mix, and losing almost pure fat when I lose.

An interesting sideline to all of this is that a 60/40 muscle/fat ratio is neutrally buoyant in a swimming pool (leaving out some details, and exceptions here). In lieu of what has been said above, that is a really handy ratio.  I have a method to weigh myself underwater, and I got a bit lighter in the water after a weight gain (I've only done a purposeful gain this one time). That means that I gained at a slightly poorer ratio than 60/40 (but it was close).  Calipers agreed with the changes, but had more scatter between tests. Next time I gain, I'll be shooting for a 70% muscle gain, and try to at least maintain my underwater weight.

 

The hand held device was probably an impedance test, which can be thrown off by hydration.  Its margin of error is probably 3-5%.

The tanita scale is a bit more accurate than the hand held ones.  

The one I have access to is a $5000 device that combines hand held electrodes as well as bottom of the feet electrodes.  There white papers on how accurate it is and the best ways to control variables (i.e. fasting and bladder/BM evac).

As for swimming, I am a sinker.  And as a dedicated cardio triathlete/runner in AZ, I have a very small off season.  June to Aug.  I tried my hardest to eat/lift as much as possible during that time, knowing that once training started again, there is very little time for lifting heavy.

Apparently I am an oddball, I can do only cardio and loose weight.  When I lift, I gain weight.  Seems like that is the exact opposite advice everyone gives on this forum.

Insulin sensitivity drops off as you gain body fat; gain enough and you're edging up into metabolic syndrome or even diabetes II which can be viewed as on the same spectrum as the reduced insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscle from gaining body fat above 18-20%. Reduced insulin sensitivity means less nutrient uptake by the muscle, and thus you start to skew towards fat gain.

 On the other hand, it's the same reduced sensitivity that means the obese can in fact gain muscle even in a calorie deficit because their hormone signaling is all whack, yo - which body builders would be all over if it led to overall greater gains but it doesn't make up for the skewed nutrient partitioning where your body will direct a greater proportion of energy surplus into fat storage when you increase body fat above 18-20%.

 There's some individual genetic variation too, if you have decent muscle building genetics - like most body builders competing at any level - your body will skew more towards muscle gain than a more average set of genes will net you. If you're a formerly obese person you will tend to skew towards fat (re)gain at lower levels of body fat than a person with equivalent genetics who've never been obese.

 These are all analog processes though, not digital on/off switches; the three different approaches are sort of illuminating probable edges to the phase space of possibilities and to a large extent picking a preferred method is more down to what feels mentally comfortable than what's actually physically optimal.

@melkor

Can you clarify what is different between the slow bulk vs fast bulk strategy?  It sounds like your saying it depends upon increasing your calorie intake.

For example, lets assume you have a 150 lb male with 10% BF.  His intake of protein is sufficient for bulking and he's working out hard with heavy weights.  This same person consumes 3000 calories which just so happens to be the optimal intake to maximize protein synthesis and minimize fat storage.  He talks to guy at the gym who tells him that his intake is too low and he should increase it to 4000 calories.  Since his 3000 calorie intake was the optimum for protein synthesis, wouldn't adding another 1000 calories to his intake, just be stored as fat?

It's a continuum again, on a "slow bulk" (or "lean gain" as some preferred to call that until Martin Berkhan named his particular version of intermittent fasting Leangains) you're aiming for a calorie surplus at around 350-450 kcal/d from maintenance, with a more traditional bulk("Get Fu*** Hyoooge") you'd go with 6-700kcal/d (and up to 1,500 above baseline if you look at some of the really old bulking diets from the days when steroids were legal, but let's ignore that in a discussion of unaugmented humans) The first 100-150kcal tends to get used up by increased activity level and a slight increase in the metabolic activity of your muscle so your actual net surplus is somewhere around 200-350kcal/d on a slow bulk, and 450-600kcal/d on a fast bulk depending on your individual activity level and genetic predisposition.

 Not a terribly huge difference, but in the slow-gain case the variable you're optimizing for is "greatest proportional nutrient partitioning towards muscle growth" and in the fast bulk you're optimizing on "maximal muscle mass gain, proportional be damned". Slow bulk sacrifices maximal rate of muscle gain to ensure that most of the gain is quality mass, the fast bulk/GFH is over on the 'diet later, gain all of the muscle now' side of things.

Original Post by anthony_christianson:

The tanita scale is a bit more accurate than the hand held ones.  

The one I have access to is a $5000 device that combines hand held electrodes as well as bottom of the feet electrodes.  There white papers on how accurate it is and the best ways to control variables (i.e. fasting and bladder/BM evac).

As for swimming, I am a sinker.  And as a dedicated cardio triathlete/runner in AZ, I have a very small off season.  June to Aug.  I tried my hardest to eat/lift as much as possible during that time, knowing that once training started again, there is very little time for lifting heavy.

Apparently I am an oddball, I can do only cardio and loose weight.  When I lift, I gain weight.  Seems like that is the exact opposite advice everyone gives on this forum.

At 14% fat, I'm sure that you sink like a rock (men start sinking around 26-28% fat and below). You should be able to take an empty two liter bottle down and sit on the bottom without any "paddling" to stay down. Try adding another half liter, or 20 ouncer to that. Guys your size can take down three empty liters as they approach 10% body fat. The small sized kick boards are about 2-2 1/2 liters in volume. The big ones are close to 4 liters. I recently tested a guy that could sit on the bottom while holding the largest sized of kickboard! I didn't have enough of my calibrated floats to balance him out (he sunk like a rock while holding the equivalent of three empty liters).

note: you blow your air out to do these tests reproducibly. And once you know "what you can take down," you can check anytime later and know whether you got more or less dense.

"oddball," maybe, but not for that reason, Wink. It mostly works out that way for me as well. Weight training really makes me hungry! If I don't do the cardio along with weights, I'm hungry all the time, and still gain too fast for a good muscle/fat ratio. I think for some people, cardio makes them hungrier than lifting does. 

Original Post by melkor:

It's a continuum again, on a "slow bulk" (or "lean gain" as some preferred to call that until Martin Berkhan named his particular version of intermittent fasting Leangains) you're aiming for a calorie surplus at around 350-450 kcal/d from maintenance, with a more traditional bulk("Get Fu*** Hyoooge") you'd go with 6-700kcal/d (and up to 1,500 above baseline if you look at some of the really old bulking diets from the days when steroids were legal, but let's ignore that in a discussion of unaugmented humans) The first 100-150kcal tends to get used up by increased activity level and a slight increase in the metabolic activity of your muscle so your actual net surplus is somewhere around 200-350kcal/d on a slow bulk, and 450-600kcal/d on a fast bulk depending on your individual activity level and genetic predisposition.

 Not a terribly huge difference, but in the slow-gain case the variable you're optimizing for is "greatest proportional nutrient partitioning towards muscle growth" and in the fast bulk you're optimizing on "maximal muscle mass gain, proportional be damned". Slow bulk sacrifices maximal rate of muscle gain to ensure that most of the gain is quality mass, the fast bulk/GFH is over on the 'diet later, gain all of the muscle now' side of things.

What ratio of macronutrients should you consume when doing a slow bulk? And how often should you lift? My fiance is a hard gainer and has recently put on about ten pounds. He would ultimately like to gain ten more, but is scared because he is practically gaining pure fat. He started out gaining really rapidly and then it slowed down. He eats a lot of carbs and fat (almond butter sandwiches) because he doesn't have access to a refrigerator or microwave at work. I eat low carb, so his dinners are usually high fat/low carb. Any ideas?

Original Post by melkor:

It's a continuum again, on a "slow bulk" (or "lean gain" as some preferred to call that until Martin Berkhan named his particular version of intermittent fasting Leangains) you're aiming for a calorie surplus at around 350-450 kcal/d from maintenance, with a more traditional bulk("Get Fu*** Hyoooge") you'd go with 6-700kcal/d (and up to 1,500 above baseline if you look at some of the really old bulking diets from the days when steroids were legal, but let's ignore that in a discussion of unaugmented humans) The first 100-150kcal tends to get used up by increased activity level and a slight increase in the metabolic activity of your muscle so your actual net surplus is somewhere around 200-350kcal/d on a slow bulk, and 450-600kcal/d on a fast bulk depending on your individual activity level and genetic predisposition.

 Not a terribly huge difference, but in the slow-gain case the variable you're optimizing for is "greatest proportional nutrient partitioning towards muscle growth" and in the fast bulk you're optimizing on "maximal muscle mass gain, proportional be damned". Slow bulk sacrifices maximal rate of muscle gain to ensure that most of the gain is quality mass, the fast bulk/GFH is over on the 'diet later, gain all of the muscle now' side of things.

I still don't see how increasing your intake above that would promote faster protein synthesis.  Even with slow bulk, you're gaining fat as well, so you have an excess in intake = meaning you've reached your max protein synthesis rate.

Original Post by caitlinelise10:

Original Post by melkor:

It's a continuum again, on a "slow bulk" (or "lean gain" as some preferred to call that until Martin Berkhan named his particular version of intermittent fasting Leangains) you're aiming for a calorie surplus at around 350-450 kcal/d from maintenance, with a more traditional bulk("Get Fu*** Hyoooge") you'd go with 6-700kcal/d (and up to 1,500 above baseline if you look at some of the really old bulking diets from the days when steroids were legal, but let's ignore that in a discussion of unaugmented humans) The first 100-150kcal tends to get used up by increased activity level and a slight increase in the metabolic activity of your muscle so your actual net surplus is somewhere around 200-350kcal/d on a slow bulk, and 450-600kcal/d on a fast bulk depending on your individual activity level and genetic predisposition.

 Not a terribly huge difference, but in the slow-gain case the variable you're optimizing for is "greatest proportional nutrient partitioning towards muscle growth" and in the fast bulk you're optimizing on "maximal muscle mass gain, proportional be damned". Slow bulk sacrifices maximal rate of muscle gain to ensure that most of the gain is quality mass, the fast bulk/GFH is over on the 'diet later, gain all of the muscle now' side of things.

What ratio of macronutrients should you consume when doing a slow bulk? And how often should you lift? My fiance is a hard gainer and has recently put on about ten pounds. He would ultimately like to gain ten more, but is scared because he is practically gaining pure fat. He started out gaining really rapidly and then it slowed down. He eats a lot of carbs and fat (almond butter sandwiches) because he doesn't have access to a refrigerator or microwave at work. I eat low carb, so his dinners are usually high fat/low carb. Any ideas?

For muscle gain:

1. Protein requirement (1.25 - 1.5gr/lbs of bodyweight)

2. Total calorie intake (at least 500kCal/day above maintenance).  If you aren't gaining at least a pound of bodyweight a week added in a few quarter pounders or a couple of quarts of milk. 

3. A proper lifting program (I recommend starting with Starting Strength but Stronglifts, Greyskull Linear Program or Stripped 5 x 5 will all work)

Be dedicated, consistent, bust you @ss in the gym and log everything you do and NEVER EVER use the term "hardgainer" again. 

Original Post by 8mileshigh:

Original Post by melkor:

It's a continuum again, on a "slow bulk" (or "lean gain" as some preferred to call that until Martin Berkhan named his particular version of intermittent fasting Leangains) you're aiming for a calorie surplus at around 350-450 kcal/d from maintenance, with a more traditional bulk("Get Fu*** Hyoooge") you'd go with 6-700kcal/d (and up to 1,500 above baseline if you look at some of the really old bulking diets from the days when steroids were legal, but let's ignore that in a discussion of unaugmented humans) The first 100-150kcal tends to get used up by increased activity level and a slight increase in the metabolic activity of your muscle so your actual net surplus is somewhere around 200-350kcal/d on a slow bulk, and 450-600kcal/d on a fast bulk depending on your individual activity level and genetic predisposition.

 Not a terribly huge difference, but in the slow-gain case the variable you're optimizing for is "greatest proportional nutrient partitioning towards muscle growth" and in the fast bulk you're optimizing on "maximal muscle mass gain, proportional be damned". Slow bulk sacrifices maximal rate of muscle gain to ensure that most of the gain is quality mass, the fast bulk/GFH is over on the 'diet later, gain all of the muscle now' side of things.

I still don't see how increasing your intake above that would promote faster protein synthesis.  Even with slow bulk, you're gaining fat as well, so you have an excess in intake = meaning you've reached your max protein synthesis rate.

You're thinking of it as a binary on/off switch, but the curve resembles a horizontal asymptotic function like this - the curve fit isn't exact if you were to test and graph yourself so don't take my numbers as more than theoretical examples of how the curve would look if you were to graph your own results.

 On a slow bulk you're looking for a calorie surplus that lands you somewhere between 1 and 2 on the graph where the rate of protein formation is very high but not maxed out because then you're not maxing out the rate of fat formation as well. A fast bulk can land you anywhere between 4-6 since your express goal is to maximize muscle protein formation and ignoring that the rate of fat gain is also going to be a lot higher.

 Same general principle as cutting calories really, people create too large calorie deficits and ignore that the rate of fat loss as physical limitations for how fast your body can move fat out of the fat cells in an effort to lose weight faster, composition of the tissue lost be damned.

 Lyle has written about this is his usual thorough fashion here - this is the start of a multi-article series.

I think I need to speed some time reading over more of his articles.

How is anyone doing with this? On June 19 I hit 170.6 pounds. That's just too low. I'm about 5'10" tall. I've been doing NROL since January 1. I completed break in, FL 1 & 2, HT 1 &2 and am now doing Strength 1.

When I got down to 170 pounds I decided to gain. I've gone from about a 600 calorie/day deficit to maintenance and just this week decided to go to about a 100-200 calories per day surplus. I know that doesn't sound like much but given my margin of error is skewed to a higher calorie intake it is probably more like 200-400 calories per day.

I've put on about 4 pounds in the last 6 weeks. This seems like a pretty good pace. I'd like to get to about 185 then start reducing my calories and get back to about 175 by the holidays and use that as my "results" for a year of NROL.

I'm 51 years old, doing strength 1 from NROL (4 workouts a week) and biking about 100 miles (+/-) per week. At this point the biking is strictly a way for me to regulate my caloric surplus.

Pointers? Suggestions? Crituque?

Is 2/3 pounds per week too much?

Does it make any difference if I get my caloric regulation from limiting food or increasing activity?

Thanks.

I have similar question to this, however, I'm wondering about calorie deficit.

I have body fat of 20.7% (according to one of those online calculators where you input waist and weight measurements) which is probably not very accurate but I'm pretty sure it's not far from truth.

I started doing Stronglifts program couple weeks ago (before being active with cardio), in order to maintain my current "form" I should be consuming around 2500 calories (probably even more), however, my daily intake of calories is closer to 2000.

Obviously, because of calorie deficit I should be losing body fat, but how I my muscle and strength gains are affected by calorie deficit?

I read that beginners will gain muscle and strength until certain point even with calorie deficit, does this mean that at the moment I'm losing fat and gaining muscles/strength?

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