Physical Culture

Diet, Mass Gain, and Fat Loss Pt. 2

Yours Truly, Gymnastics Flag 2009

In my previous post on this subject, I mentioned that I felt my body was going to add lean mass at its own pace and that I could not force it to speed up by eating greater and greater volumes of food.  Since that blog post, some blogs I follow and highly respect have done a better job expanding on this idea than I ever could.  I’ll share them with you below and then make some comments of my own:

Here, Keith Norris asserts his belief that the hypertrophy response is dependent on the stimulus (exercise) versus fuel (food)

Here, Skyler Tanner discusses realistic mass gain for experienced trainers and likens increasing calories to “pushing with a rope.”

And lastly, in the discussion under Keith’s post, Skyler includes a much more comprehensive post along the lines of the Martin Berkhan post I included in my original post.

I’m going to borrow Lyle McDonald’s graph of expected mass gain based on training years to illustrate my point about caloric intake:

Year of Proper Training Potential Rate of Muscle Gain per Year
1 20-25 pounds (2 pounds per month)
2 10-12 pounds (1 pound per month)
3 5-6 pounds (0.5 pound per month)
4+ 2-3 pounds (not worth calculating)

So we can see that Lyle predicts we can gain as much as 20-25 lbs of lean mass in our first year of serious training.  That’s quite a lot of muscle, although still quite a bit lower than most people seem to expect.  Obviously, increasing that much actual mass per week will require quite a bit of fuel to produce.  But, as we progress in our training careers, the maximum amount of muscle we can put on (drug-free) tapers.  Obviously, as a larger individual, you will need more calories to maintain your size than you did 30 lbs ago.  But beyond maintenance, how many more calories do you need to fuel 2-3 lbs of muscle mass per year?  My thought is, not much.

Yes, its nice to see the scale move upwards along with our strength when we overeat, but the reality is that steady mass gain is mostly fat, unless we’re referring to an undersized absolute beginner.  That being said, I think I’ll stick with my Intermittent Fasting, eating to satiation, and punctuated carb-refeeds/overeating immediately before and after training, as detailed in my previous post.  The muscle mass will come, at its own pace.


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