It's advantageous to be in a caloric surplus to gain muscle, but bodybuilders should strategically monitor their surplus so they don't gain excess body fat.
HOW MUCH OF A CALORIC SURPLUS TO GAIN MUSCLE [AND NOT GAIN FAT] SUMMARY
- · Much of the research has shown that caloric surplus to gain muscle of 500 calories per day result in a large surplus of fat gain
- · A smaller calorie surplus for muscle growth is recommended for advanced bodybuilders if trying to minimize fat gains (200-300 kcals)
RESEARCH UPDATE: HOW MUCH OF A CALORIC SURPLUS TO GAIN MUSCLE
Bulking up is the time to put on strength and size, but the problem is that this often occurs with large increases in fat mass. Researchers had subjects perform a 6-week supervised resistance training protocol 3 sessions per week. The resistance training protocol was periodized to vary the exercise intensity through the training based on repetitions in reserve (RIR). Weeks 1 and 4 had training intensity of 2 RIR, Weeks 2 and 5 were at 1 RIR, and Weeks 3 and 6 were set at an intensity of 0 RIR.
The subjects in the study were encouraged to gain 1 pound or .45 kg per week and were weighed before each training session to promote compliance and encourage weight gain. The subjects drank a mass gainer that was 647.5 calories each day (i.e., 5.5 g fat, 123.5 g carbohydrate, 26 g protein).
At the end of the study, the subjects’ strength and lean mass all went up. Their leg press 1RM increased by 37.2%, bench press 1RM by 12.5%, quad thickness increased by 7.4%, and biceps thickness by 4%. These are great gains, but now for the bad news. The subjects gained three times as much fat mass as lean mass gains (12%). This suggests that gaining 1 pound a week to increase muscle mass results in excess fat gain. Lifters concerned about minimizing fat mass should consume a much lower caloric surplus to minimize fat gains. (12)
WHAT IS BULKING?
Look in any health food store; you will see “MASS GAINERS” anywhere from 1000 to 5000 calories per serving. If you are old enough, you can remember that these weight gainers came in what appeared to be 10 lb. dog bags, and some came in giant cement buckets. Many lifters often consume excess calories during a bulking phase or a mass-gaining phase. So how many extra calories does it take to build muscle?
A CALORIC SURPLUS IS NEEDED TO GAIN MUSCLE
An energy deficit is never anabolic. It’s always easier to gain muscle in a calorie surplus. People who have never trained before can start a training program and gain muscle in a calorie deficit. (1) This is often seen in obese patients who lose body fat while gaining muscle in a calorie deficit. (2) Advanced athletes will need fewer calories to gain lean mass without the risk of gaining excess body fat.
Overfeeding has been well documented to increase both lean mass and fat gains. The response is variable among individuals. It has been found that 100 days of energy surplus (1000 calories per day) among young, lean male identical twins resulted in a significant individual change in body composition. The average weight gain was about 18 pounds, but the weight gain ranged from 9.46 pounds to 29.26 pounds. For every 2 kg (1.1 pound) of fat mass gained, there was 1 kg (.5 pounds)of lean mass gained. (3) The most common recommendation in nutrition textbooks is to consume a 400-500 calorie surplus per day to increase muscle mass.
The energy content of muscle is estimated to contain approximately 700 to 800 kcal per pound (454 g) due to its high water content (~ 70% water, ~ 22% protein). These estimations have been further improved by Slater et al. in which it was calculated that skeletal muscle contains (543 to 565 kcal/lb.; 370 kcal from protein, 152–164 kcal from fat, and 32–50 kcal from glycogen). (4) Thus, a weekly surplus of 330-500 calories would result in additional increases in lean mass; however, this has not been scientifically validated. (5)