For a while now, bodybuilders and physique composition consultants have been saying that you just shouldn’t bulk (preserve a calorie surplus) until you’re lean. 

In reality, I’m one in all them—within the first version of Bigger Leaner Stronger (2012), I really useful that males begin a bulking part round 10 p.c physique fats and girls round 20 p.c.

Thus, if a man was, say, 17 p.c physique fats, I used to be telling him to chop all the way down to round 10 p.c earlier than bulking. And if a gal was within the mid- or high-twenties, I used to be telling her to get to round 20 p.c earlier than making an attempt to maximise muscle and energy acquire. (When you aren’t positive how one can calculate your physique fats share, check out this article).

Is that also good recommendation? Does it nonetheless symbolize the burden of the proof? 

Sure, for essentially the most half, however not for a similar causes I as soon as believed.

Again then, I defined that starting a bulk with low physique fats ranges benefitted us in 3 ways:

  1. It allowed us to bulk for longer earlier than having to name it quits due to physique fatness (finally we now have to cease gaining fats).
  2. It made for shorter post-bulk cuts as a result of we now have much less fats to lose to get again to our excellent “upkeep bods.” (Mini cuts, principally).
  3. It most likely resulted in additional muscle acquire as a result of our physique’s “muscle-building equipment” appears to work higher after we’re leaner versus fatter.

And now, my place is actually unchanged on factors one and two, however quantity three not passes muster.

It seems that decrease physique fats ranges (10 to fifteen p.c in males and 20 to 25 p.c in girls) don’t meaningfully influence muscle development charges.

Or, to place it in a different way, in the event you’re principally after gaining muscle and energy, you’re by no means too fats to bulk.

I gained’t bore you with the technical particulars of why the “lean individuals acquire muscle sooner” speculation didn’t pan out, however the summary seems to be like this:

A collection of research carried out within the Seventies and Eighties on weight acquire noticed that when individuals with excessive physique fats ranges gained weight, it was principally fats (not muscle), whereas when individuals with low physique fats ranges gained weight, it was principally muscle and never fats.

In time, evidence-based health folks came across this literature and theorized that this phenomenon may apply to bodybuilding. And like that, a dictum was born.

The rub, nevertheless, is the analysis didn’t contain individuals doing resistance coaching and included individuals recovering from anorexia (who have been usually critically under-muscled).

In reality, in a later review of the information, one other group of scientists concluded that after you take away the anorexia research from the equation, physique fatness appeared to don’t have any affect on the composition of weight acquire.

Now, there’s nonetheless ongoing hypothesis based mostly on extrapolations from different research about whether or not physique composition can impair or improve muscle constructing, however I’m not satisfied that it’s a significant issue.

What positively does matter?

  1. Steadily sustaining a slight calorie surplus (about 10% over your complete every day power expenditure).
  2. Consuming enough protein (0.8 to 1 gram per pound of physique weight per day).
  3. Following a well-designed strength training program that progressively overloads your muscle tissue.
  4. Getting sufficient rest and recovery (sleeping nicely, taking a day or two off the weights per week, deloading recurrently, limiting cardio, and so forth.).

And whereas I nonetheless inform individuals to contemplate getting lean earlier than bulking for the 2 causes given earlier (you’ll most likely be happier with the way you look, and it often means longer, extra productive bulks and shorter, much less obnoxious cuts), it now comes with a rider:

When you’d reasonably bulk now and minimize later—perhaps since you really feel “skinny fats” or are simply excited to eat huge and prepare exhausting—hearth away. You gained’t must deal with anti-anabolic headwinds. 

You’ll have to execute nicely on the 4 factors listed above, although, and in the event you’d like some assist there (meal planning, coaching programming, supplementation, and so forth.), take a look at my bestselling fitness books for women and men.

For males making an attempt to achieve their first 25 kilos of muscle or get to 10 to fifteen% physique fats, take a look at Bigger Leaner Stronger.

For girls making an attempt to achieve their first 15 kilos of muscle or get to twenty to 25% physique fats, take a look at Thinner Leaner Stronger.

For superior lifters making an attempt to succeed in their genetic potential for muscle and energy, take a look at Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger.

These books have helped tens of 1000’s of individuals of all ages and circumstances construct their greatest physique ever, they usually can do the identical for you.