This seems to be a common question that must be understood in order to successfully gain muscle. Why do you need fat to build muscle?
In short, it is because eating at a caloric surplus is going to add weight to your body. When you workout in conjunction with your caloric surplus, those extra calories will theoretically turn into muscle.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
With that being said, we must understand that if we are trying to gain muscle, we are going to be adding a little bit of fat along the way. But if we do it right, we will gain more muscle than fat. This will ultimately improve our muscle to fat ratio and make it easier to lose fat in the future.
In this article we are going to discuss the different things that you should be aware of while building muscle.
Before we get started, I urge you to download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). If you are trying to build muscle, you will find multiple FREE workout plans to ensure that you build solid muscle.
Common muscle building misconceptions
The fitness industry would have us believing that all we need to do is take a pill and next thing you know, we are going to be shredded. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the majority of the world does not have realistic fitness goals.
If you committed yourself to one year in the gym, you would see massive results. But it’s not just gym time that is going to change your life. I spent 7 years going to the gym without seeing any meaningful results.
It wasn’t until I understood nutrition that I realized I was not eating enough calories to build muscle. This of course is a major problem. You cannot build muscle while in a caloric deficit. The media will have us believe that all it takes is hard work at the gym.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are going to focus on one thing, focus on eating at a caloric surplus before anything else.
Another misconception, and the whole entire reason I am writing this article, is that people can just build muscle without gaining fat. Sure, there is the concept of a lean bulk, but even with a lean bulk, you will still put on fat.
A lean bulk is the concept that you can eat a very small amount of calories over your maintenance calorie number but still gain muscle over time. It will take you longer to build muscle, but it can be a good option if you are already satisfied with the way you look.
The last misconception I will touch on is the thought that you need to workout everyday in order to build muscle. Not at all! If you are eating at a caloric surplus, working out 3-4 days per week with heavy weights is going to do an incredible job.
In fact, this is how I built 20+ pounds of muscle in my first year of a caloric surplus. I was only working out 3 days per week!
Fat comes with muscle building
As I mentioned before, when you are eating at a caloric surplus, you are going to put on weight. It is as simple as that. The key here is of course to minimize the amount of fat that you put on while building muscle.
How do we do that? The best option is to know exactly how many calories we are eating over our maintenance calorie number. You can learn how to calculate your maintenance calorie number first.
Once you have your number, you can now be sure you are eating at a caloric surplus. Use a free app like MyFitnessPal to track all of your calories consumed.
So how are we going to minimize our fat gain while we are building muscle? We must start with a caloric surplus number. A caloric surplus is any amount of calories over your maintenance.
If your maintenance number is 2,000 calories per day, even 2,001 calories per day could be considered a surplus. But it’s not big enough to make an impact.
I always recommend a starting overage of 500 calories per day. So if your maintenance number is 2,000, then 2,500 per day would be a great start. If you are working out 3-4 days per week, you should start gaining weight, which is mostly muscle.
I want to focus on one thing. Any caloric surplus is going to add weight to your body. And sometimes people take their bulk too far. For example, if you ate 1,500 calories per day over your goal, only a small percentage of that would go towards your muscles.
Once your muscles are satisfied with their nutrition, the rest of the calories goes towards fat. Don’t take it too far. Start small and the changes will come with minimal fat.
You cannot convert fat into muscle
Something that I see come up in a lot of conversation about muscle building is the thought that you can convert fat into muscle. People have asked me, can you convert fat into muscle? Absolutely not! It is not going to happen. Let me explain.
I am sure you have heard stories of people who were once overweight, but then became shredded. Chances are, they either spent some time building muscle while they were overweight. Or they already had that muscle below their fat. When they lost the fat, they revealed the muscle.
When you ask the question, why do you need fat to build muscle, a lot of people might think you need to be already overweight to build muscle. This is of course not the case.
A lot of people don’t realize that if you are overweight, you might already have a solid base layer of muscle under your fat. Why? Because being overweight is a chore for your body, and it needs to build muscle to support the extra weight.
This is why overweight to fit transformations are always my favorite. It’s like Michelangelo chipped away the fat and revealed a sculpture the overweight person never knew was under there.
You must make a choice. Do you cut fat first, or do you build muscle first? You can always change course down the road. But for me as a former scrawny person, the answer was simple. Build as much muscle as possible.
Luckily, I have experience on both sides. After 3 years of putting on muscle, I went a little too far with my bulk. I had to lose 20 pounds. I was proud that I was able to lose the fat and keep the muscle.
Main Point: Why do you need fat to build muscle?
When we ask the question, why do you need fat to build muscle, our answer lies within the amount of calories that we consume.
Fat can be eliminated rapidly by eating in a caloric deficit. Muscle can be built at a steady pace by eating at a caloric surplus. But there is one catch of course.
That catch is that in order to build muscle, you have to take on a little fat as well. The key is to find the sweet spot where you build as much muscle as possible while minimizing fat.
That number usually is around 500 calories per day over your maintenance calorie number.
Remember that if you consume over 500 calories per day over your maintenance, you are at risk of gaining a lot more fat. This is how people end up becomming obese. They eat at large caloric surpluses for extended periods of time.
That is all there is to it. You need fat to build muscle because you have no choice. You can always cut fat later with a caloric deficit. But if you want to build muscle, you have to unfortunately gain a little bit of fat.
If you do this right, you will be satisfied with the results.
One thing to take away from all this is to have patience. Eat at a slight caloric surplus, workout 3-4 days per week, and do this for many months or years. You will get to the point where you don’t even recognize your previous self.