If you have ever asked yourself, can I build muscle in a caloric deficit, you have come to the right place. Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of knowing your daily calorie intake and what can be done about building the muscle that you want to grow.
For a little bit of background, I spend many years meandering around the gym and doing different exercises. I kind of was just hoping that I would wake up one day and be jacked. It never happened.
What did happen was that I spent years growing my knowledge that I can pass on to you.
I can tell you that within my many year journey, there were days or weeks where I would lose weight. I thought I was eating enough and working out enough. It turns out, it’s not that simple, and there is more to it.
Why can’t I build muscle in a caloric deficit?
The term in itself, caloric deficit, should be a massive indicator as to why you can’t build muscle. A caloric deficit is when you consume less calories than your daily maintenance calories. Learn how to calculate your maintenance calories for building a better body.
According to WebMD, you need to consume less calories than you burn each day in order to lose weight. You heard that right. To lose weight. This means that if you are eating in a true caloric deficit, there is no way that you should be putting on weight.
And unfortunately, that means that muscle goes first. According to the Cleveland Clinic, your muscle gets sacrificed before your fat does. This means that there is ZERO chance of building muscle in a caloric deficit.
I know this first hand. Working out was something that I did very consistently, but I wasn’t building muscle. I had no idea what I was doing wrong until I started eating at a caloric surplus. This helped me build 20+ pounds of muscle in one year.
Eating at a caloric surplus is a necessity for building muscle, and if you are not willing to do that, you aren’t going to build muscle. I am sure you could find some information online claiming to have a “secret formula” for building muscle and losing fat at the same time. It is simply a lie, and it cannot be done.
If you are overweight and want to shed fat, I recommend eating at a caloric deficit and doing beginner HIIT workouts at home a few times a week. If you want to build muscle, eat at a caloric surplus and take a look at the next section.
Are you following a muscle building workout plan?
I have been asked the question so many times before. Can I build muscle in a caloric deficit if I am working out hard and lifting heavy weights? Unfortunately, the answer is still a painful no.
It is time to make a choice. Look in the mirror and decide what your first order of business is. Do you want to lose fat, or do you want to put on muscle?
I am going to say something unpopular. Losing fat is easy IF you are eating at a caloric deficit AND working out plenty. Gaining muscle is easy IF you are eating at a caloric surplus AND doing weight training.
All you have to do is follow those guidelines consistently over a period of time, and you will see results. It is important to note that every person is different when it comes to how many calories they should be eating.
But what should your workout plan be for building muscle? If your core focus is building muscle, I recommend weight training 3-4 times per week. I personally only worked out 3 times per week for my first year when I gained 20+ pounds of muscle.
If you are interested in that exact plan, it’s called 3 DAY OVERLOAD and it is exclusively available on our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). There are plenty of FREE workout plans and features to get you started on your journey to building muscle.
All in all, I highly recommend eating enough food, getting enough sleep, working out consistently, and doing this all over a period of months or years. If you can keep it up, you will absolutely hit your goals.
Do you know how many calories you eat per day?
If you don’t know how many calories you eat per day, then you are missing the main point of this article. Everything needs to be measurable when it comes to building good exercise habits.
Calculating your maintenance calories is imperative when it comes to hitting your fitness goals. Once you calculate your maintenance calories, you can now decide if you want to build muscle or lose weight. Remember the question we came to answer. Can I build muscle in a caloric deficit?
Even though the answer is no, it doesn’t mean that we can’t slowly build muscle over time. For beginners, if you are eating at a caloric surplus, you should be gaining up to a half pound of muscle per week. That is 26 pounds per year!
If you could put on 26 pounds of muscle in one year, what would your life be like? Would you be more confident? Happier? I know for a fact that it made me happier and more confident.
The key here is deciding which journey you are going to go on first. Weight loss or muscle gain. It is that simple. Make a decision first, and then re-evaluate down the road.
Let’s say you decide to build muscle, and put on 20 pounds in the first year. Maybe you like your muscles but want to lose a little bit of fat. That is when you can go into a caloric deficit and shed fat while still maintaining your muscles. It’s all a delicate balance, but it is worth it!
Main Point: Can I build muscle in a caloric deficit?
By now, we know the answer to the question we came to ask. The answer is clear, you cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit. You might encounter some online gurus trying to tell you that you can. They are probably just trying to sell you something.
The key here is to choose between losing weight and gaining muscle. If you can choose between the 2, things will be a lot simpler. Remember that eating in a caloric surplus and doing weight training 3-4 times per week is best for building muscle. Eating in a caloric deficit and doing HIIT 3-4 times per week is best for weight loss.
You need to know how many calories you are eating on a daily basis. I know most people are opposed to calorie counting, but it is a blessing that we can measure all of our intake like we can now.