Let me be real with you for a minute. Building muscle takes time. So before you go looking through this article trying to find a quick fix to building muscle, let me end the chase now because there is no quick-fix.
When it comes to muscle-building and conditioning it’s far easier to increase your conditioning than it is to pack on t-shirt tearing strength.
I see this over-and-over as a CrossFit coach. Muscle-building and overall strength take time and you have to put in the work to reap the rewards.
I think you know this already so what I want to give you today is a simple 2 step method to help you build muscle, look good, and feel great.
Though the steps are simple, the process is anything but. I can tell you all day long what to do but you have to put the time, energy and effort in to get this done.
Whether you’re 130 lbs soaking wet and need to put on weight or you’re obese and need to lose weight here’s the skinny (no pun intended) on building the body you desire.
You’re wasting your time building muscle if you don’t lose the fat surrounding the muscle first. Seriously, what’s the point in having six-pack abs if they’re buried under a layer of fat?
I’ve been involved with CrossFit for the last 5 years and I can tell you without a doubt that losing weight is the biggest obstacle you will have to overcome when trying to build a good-looking body.
No exercise program on the planet, even CrossFit, can fix a bad diet. Unless you plan to workout 5-6 hours per day, you can’t afford to eat like crap and expect your body to let you get away with it.
I’ve worked out with folks in the past who were way better conditioned than me but their body’s looked like crap. You would have never thought by looking at them that they work out. Which by the way really sucks for a couple reasons.
You’re Not Helping Yourself
If you’re an athlete with good conditioning but your body is covered in fat you’re doing yourself a disservice. Think of how much better all-around you could be in CrossFit or any sport if you weren’t carrying around a load of body fat.
For example, you’re in a workout that calls for pull-ups. Both you and I are equal in strength but you’re 20 pounds heavier than me. It’s the equivalent of doing pull-ups with a 20-pound weight vest. Who do you think will edge the other in this battle?
If you’re now saying that you don’t care about beating me in pull-ups you’re missing the point. You’ve got to get your nutrition right if you want a better looking and more athletic body. There’s no other way around it.
One of the turning points in my life was looking at myself in the mirror after being involved in CrossFit after 2 years. I had put on muscle but it was hidden under layers of fat. I knew then I was going to have to take my nutrition more seriously. All that time I had been putting in the work but it was hardly noticeable. I decided then to make a change.
You Won’t Be Taken Seriously
It takes a lot more self-discipline to control yourself in the kitchen than it does to show up at the gym. We face the food battle everywhere we go. Your self-control has to be in check to get the body you desire. Don’t sabotage all the work and sweat you put in when you leave.
One more tip. Never take nutrition advice from a fat guy.
You might go to the gym every day and work really hard while you’re in there but the truth is if your body doesn’t look like you’ve done the work you won’t be taken seriously if you’re handing out fitness advice.
This is especially true as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in the fitness industry. I hear stories all the time of trainers who don’t look the part. If you’re a fitness coach or personal trainer out there and you’re not practicing what you preach, shame on you.
You’re doing yourself a disservice and sending mixed messages to your clients as well. Get your mind right and get in great damn shape. We can fix the obesity epidemic together.
How Much Fat Loss Is Optimal?
When do you know to stop losing weight and start putting on muscle?
According to David de las Morenas at “How to Beast,” he mentions the optimal fat range for men is 12-15%. I would agree with him but I believe 12-14% is a better range that way you don’t start packing weight on too early.
For females, 21-23% is the optimal range to begin building muscle. This gives you the toned look you’re looking for without starving yourself in the process.
How Quickly Should You Lose Weight?
This is an important step for those of you who are wanting to ensure you don’t lose overall strength when losing weight. This is also where I get really annoyed when people tell me they’re afraid to lose weight because they don’t want to lose strength.
The reason I quickly get annoyed is that the reality of someone actually losing weight and losing strength is fictitious in my opinion. It’s fictitious as long as you lose weight correctly.
For instance, I lost 17 pounds and came out stronger and better conditioned on the other end. We have a gym member currently who has lost over 75 pounds and is way stronger than at any other time of his life. Not to mention, healthier than he’s ever been.
Don’t use losing strength and muscle as an excuse because you heard it being told by someone. That’s ridiculous and you’re holding yourself back from truly great things. Lose the weight and feel better.
Now that we put that myth behind us, let’s get back to the question of how quickly you should lose weight. Your aim should be to lose about 2 pounds per week until you get to your optimal body fat range. This will help ensure you don’t lose muscle mass and you keep all those strength gains you’ve so rightly earned.
Once you’ve gotten to an optimal body fat range (12-14% guys, 21-23% ladies) you have now earned the right to begin packing on muscle. This phase of your diet is more lenient because you need to now take in more calories.
You can’t add a lot of muscle in a state of calorie restriction so this why taking in more calories is important. Muscle-building requires excess calories but you have to do it carefully. Taking in too many calories at once will lead to you gaining fat which puts you right back to step 1 (losing fat) if you’re not careful.
The trick is to slowly increase your calories and give your body time to turn those extra calories into slabs of muscle.
How Many Extra Calories Do I Need?
Your goal is to put on a pound of muscle per month. Doesn’t sound like a lot but in a year that’s 12 lbs of muscle.
Take that with your now lean body and you’re a machine. To gain a pound of muscle per month you need to add an additional 125-250 calories per day. This isn’t necessarily exact so you’ll need to have some sort of body fat measurement device on hand to make sure you’re on the right track each week.
Now if you’re a lightweight and strength is holding you back in your fitness program, double up those calories to 250-500 per day.
By measuring your body fat you can adjust your calories from week-to-week until you get to an optimal state. As long as your body fat percentage stays at or below your current state you can increase your calories.
If your body fat percentage goes on the rise, reduce your calories. It’s really that simple.
The Benefits of Adding Muscle
Here’s the thing when it comes to fitness. You may be very lean and are a great runner, and in this obese nation, considered “in shape” but If I put a barbell on your back are you able to squat your own body weight?
How fit are you then? You may be fast but you’re not strong. There is a happy medium.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Develop the capacity of a novice 800 meter track athlete, gymnast, and weightlifter and you’ll be fitter than any world class runner, gymnast, or weightlifter.” – Greg Glassman[/perfectpullquote]
Building muscle takes time and effort. It’s definitely a process and if you’re going to do it correctly get your head away from “bulking season” and begin with optimal fat loss.
Rock Star Status
We’ve discussed the steps you need to take to build muscle the right way, but then what. When’s enough, enough? That answer depends on your goals.
For most of our athletes at CF Jacked, they want enough muscle to perform optimally in WODs and that’s it. And that is a great goal. If you’re able to RX WODs on a daily basis without strength holding you back then it’s time to head to rock star status.
You’re at rock star status when men hit 9% body fat and women hit 19% body fat. This is the stage where you can wear whatever you want, you’ll have a flat stomach and most likely abs.
At this point, you’ve reached the pinnacle because there’s really no reason to lose more body fat. You can still perform optimally at these percentages and your goals should shift to more performance-based achievements like 5k runs, obstacle course racing, weightlifting, CrossFit competitions and the like.
- Reduce calories until you get to an optimal body fat percentage of 12-14% men, 21-23% women.
- Aim to increase weight by 1-2 pounds per month by increasing your calories by 125-250 per day. If if you’re a lightweight and strength is holding you back in your fitness program, double up those calories to 250-500 per day.
- Monitor your body fat each week and adjust calorie intake as needed.
- You’re ready for rock star status!
- Receive 2 Free Weeks at CrossFit Jacked this holiday season. Bring in a new, unwrapped toy in its original packaging and receive 2 free weeks. Gifts to benefit the Toys for Tots program. Help those in need and get in the best shape of your life! Schedule your first session today!
Until Next Time…Stay Jacked, Stay Strong!