How Fast Can You Build Muscle?
1. Gaining 1-2 lbs per week will inevitably lead to fat gain
It is common for people to try and gain 1 pound of muscle per week! Therefore they consume approximately 500 calories over maintenance in hopes to store all of those calories into their muscles. Short of a heavy supply of anabolic steroids this rate of muscle gain is completely futile.
If you were to gain 1 lbs per week over the course of 6 months that would equate to a massive 26 lbs increase in scale weight. Best case scenario half of that would be muscle. That would mean 13 lbs of muscle and 13 lbs of fat. Let’s say you started off at 10% body fat and 150 lbs, well that would put you at 16% body fat and 176 lbs. That’s a huge 6% increase in fat composition. Now you would have to undergo a 3 month long cutting phase to get rid of the fat and hope you don’t lose any of that precious muscle gain.
Alternatively, if you would have aimed to gain 0.5 lbs per week and set the calorie surplus to reflect that then you would have gained almost entirely muscle without any fat gain. After 6 months you would have an additional 13 lbs of muscle without the extra fat. For the next 3 months instead of having to diet off the fat you could continue building muscle.
The best part is that you wouldn’t ever have to walk around with all of that unpleasant fat ruining your physique and face. You get to look lean and great all year round. As well, since you aren’t gaining much fat at all you never have to undergo long dieting phases.
2. Aim to gain 0.5 lbs per week
As I explained above, if your goal is to gain muscle you should aim to gain about 0.5 lbs per week. This means consuming about 250 calories over your calorie maintenance. You have a couple options here. You can eat 250 over maintenance everyday or you can fluctuate calories up or down depending on the day. For example if you are lifting 3x per week you might consume 500 calories over maintenance on lift days and you might eat a small 100 calorie surplus on non lifting days. If you prefer to keep calorie intake constant then you can do that. Both options work.
3. Track your body composition
I recommend tracking your body composition by measuring your waist circumference on a weekly basis. During a muscle gaining program you never want your waist to go up by more than one inch. A one inch increase on your waist circumference usually reflects about 5 lbs of fat gain. If your waist is staying the same and your gaining strength and gaining weight slowly then you’re doing everything right. If your waist goes up by one inch then you should lower the calories by about 10-20%.
4. For advanced lifters you should only be gaining 1 lbs per month
If you have been training for several years and have already built an appreciable amount of muscle mass then you will not be able to gain muscle at the rate of 0.5 lbs per week. Simply as you get closer to your genetic limit the rate of muscle gain slows down considerably. For that reason I recommend eating only about 100-200 calories over maintenance and aiming for about 1 lbs of weight gain per month. For truly advanced lifters you may only be able to gain 5-6 lbs of muscle over the course of an entire year.
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