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  1. #1
    Registered User xwac2021's Avatar
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    Do you need a calorie surplus to add muscle?

    Title. Now and then I'll have some fat but I'm very lean usually. I'm new to this so go easy on me for the dumb questions, boys.

    I'm 6'0", always between 150lbs and 160lbs. I was down at 140lbs a few years ago when I didn't lift at all. At my heaviest I'm just under 170lbs if it's December but it comes off easy.

    I try for 2500-2800 cals or more on average but if I'm not counting I'll eat less than 2000. It's a simple question then, boys

    Am I wasting my workouts if I go hard lifting, but eat 2000 cals or less on the day? If it's not December or Jan I'm lean and never have excess fat so keep that in mind. Can I still gain muscle if I lift that day but eat a deficit, or do I need to make the effort to eat more on every day I lift?
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    Originally Posted by xwac2021 View Post
    Title. Now and then I'll have some fat but I'm very lean usually. I'm new to this so go easy on me for the dumb questions, boys.

    I'm 6'0", always between 150lbs and 160lbs. I was down at 140lbs a few years ago when I didn't lift at all. At my heaviest I'm just under 170lbs if it's December but it comes off easy.

    I try for 2500-2800 cals or more on average but if I'm not counting I'll eat less than 2000. It's a simple question then, boys

    Am I wasting my workouts if I go hard lifting, but eat 2000 cals or less on the day? If it's not December or Jan I'm lean and never have excess fat so keep that in mind. Can I still gain muscle if I lift that day but eat a deficit, or do I need to make the effort to eat more on every day I lift?
    As an answer to the general question: It depends.

    If you are already lean, then yes you will need a surplus to build a serious amount of muscle. People who carry more fat may be able to gain muscle at maintenance or even in a deficit.

    At 6'0'' and 150-160 pounds I would strongly suggest you go into a consistent calorie surplus and stay there for a very long time before considering cutting again. A lot of skinny guys who come here for advice seem to spin their wheels for years because they are afraid of a calorie surplus.
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    Registered User coachcalande's Avatar
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    Last spring…

    I was maybe slowly losing weight with about 3200 cals a day over four meals.

    My training was ok.

    This summer I added a snack…gains a bit more noticeable…maintenance level I’d say.

    This fall, I changed snack to meal….better gains, surplus.

    This winter, kept that meal, added whey shake, added the snack back….gains off the charts! Crazy gains. PRs all over the place including lifetime PRs at 55.
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    Going off of the above, I'd recommend a surplus but also maintain some kind of objective criterion as caution against explosive weight gain, because that's bad.

    Keeping a weekly tab on your waistline is a good idea IMO. Any gain exceeding an inch or two and I'd apply the brakes and reevaluate your approach.
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    Registered User xwac2021's Avatar
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    Thanks boys. I've lifted casually for a few years but I'm taking it more seriously.

    I try for the surplus but deep down I'm afraid of it. Before I ever lifted I got fat, not obese but we're talking 210+ with no muscle at all. I've lost it all and kept it off for years, but the fear of going back is at the back of my mind every time I eat extra calories.
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    Originally Posted by xwac2021 View Post
    Thanks boys. I've lifted casually for a few years but I'm taking it more seriously.

    I try for the surplus but deep down I'm afraid of it. Before I ever lifted I got fat, not obese but we're talking 210+ with no muscle at all. I've lost it all and kept it off for years, but the fear of going back is at the back of my mind every time I eat extra calories.
    Two things that don’t get talked about a lot here are how stress and alcohol screw up the whole equation when it comes to calories, training, gaining the right kind of weight…

    I can say that during my current AMAZING gains, there’s been none of the above. I feel smaller in the belly though I’ve never measured. I look smaller in the gut in my videos compared to the summer. I’m not coachIng, I’m destressed, sleeping better, training harder…getting better results than ever.


    I really think there’s an epidemic of guys not getting any gains at all out of years of training…it’s due largely to fat shaming and fear of weight gain. The thing is, more muscle mass allows a person to burn more caloRies at rest.
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    Registered User EliKoehn's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by coachcalande View Post
    Two things that don’t get talked about a lot here are how stress and alcohol screw up the whole equation when it comes to calories, training, gaining the right kind of weight…

    I can say that during my current AMAZING gains, there’s been none of the above. I feel smaller in the belly though I’ve never measured. I look smaller in the gut in my videos compared to the summer. I’m not coachIng, I’m destressed, sleeping better, training harder…getting better results than ever.


    I really think there’s an epidemic of guys not getting any gains at all out of years of training…it’s due largely to fat shaming and fear of weight gain. The thing is, more muscle mass allows a person to burn more caloRies at rest.
    Yeah, that's true, but how are you so sure that the weight gain isn't a concern if you're not actually measuring that? There are a lot of guys who are small and too afraid to gain a little bit of fat in the process of getting stronger, but there are also people who are big and strong but nevertheless complacently overweight, and I don't think that's something to be content with, or encourage others not to be cautious about.

    Outside of sumo wrestling, I don't see a single advantage or warranted reason any kind of athlete's waist should be more than half their height. If you are bigger and have more muscle, that should just make cutting properly easier, not some kind of reason to avoid it.
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    Originally Posted by xwac2021 View Post
    Thanks boys. I've lifted casually for a few years but I'm taking it more seriously.

    I try for the surplus but deep down I'm afraid of it. Before I ever lifted I got fat, not obese but we're talking 210+ with no muscle at all. I've lost it all and kept it off for years, but the fear of going back is at the back of my mind every time I eat extra calories.
    I've had that fear too, used to be 230-240 pounds at 5'11'' and yo-yo dieting constantly. When I finally managed to get down to 175 and stay there I was banging my head into a wall with trying to cut further so I just had to let go of the fear of bulking and accept that I would need to gain some fat again in order to improve my physique.

    As long as you keep your waist in check like Eli (who convinced me to let go of my own fear of bulking about a year ago!) said and follow some rule of thumb you won't suddenly get overweight again. I personally try to avoid adding more than two inches to my waist and aim to maximize the time spent before I have to cut again. You can diet that off relatively fast.

    It's important though that the calorie surplus is coupled by a serious training program where you train your whole body in balance.
    Last edited by EiFit91; 01-26-2022 at 12:50 PM.
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Yeah, that's true, but how are you so sure that the weight gain isn't a concern if you're not actually measuring that? There are a lot of guys who are small and too afraid to gain a little bit of fat in the process of getting stronger, but there are also people who are big and strong but nevertheless complacently overweight, and I don't think that's something to be content with, or encourage others not to be cautious about.

    Outside of sumo wrestling, I don't see a single advantage or warranted reason any kind of athlete's waist should be more than half their height. If you are bigger and have more muscle, that should just make cutting properly easier, not some kind of reason to avoid it.

    Use mirror, photos, videos, how clothes fit, comfort and mobility….All are ways to tell if the mid section is massing up.
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    Originally Posted by xwac2021 View Post
    Thanks boys. I've lifted casually for a few years but I'm taking it more seriously.

    I try for the surplus but deep down I'm afraid of it. Before I ever lifted I got fat, not obese but we're talking 210+ with no muscle at all. I've lost it all and kept it off for years, but the fear of going back is at the back of my mind every time I eat extra calories.
    I experienced the exact same thing. Around 6 years ago, I was 5'6", 198 lbs. Way overweight and fat. Lost weight down to 136 lbs. at my lowest, and actually was at 136 this past November. I'm into cycling, so ride a bike a lot. So keeping the weight off is not an issue. I decided I wanted to add muscle, and have been eating at a 300-500 calorie surplus per day for about 12 weeks now.

    I'm up to 143 1/2 lbs., so added roughly 7 1/2 lbs. in 12 weeks. It has been hard to wrap the brain around. Intentionally gaining weight. When you spent many years losing, and trying to keep it off, it has been mentally challenging to accept gaining any weight. However, I wanted to add weight to look "good", and also just as a quality of life thing.

    Honestly, I'm questioning why I'm doing this right now, to some degree. But, for me, the key has been to keep the weight gain in check, keep it between 1/2 to 1 lb per week. I've gained the weight, but I like the way I'm looking. I know I've added some fat, but can see the muscle also! I also now that when I decide to "cut", I do not believe it will be an issue. I'll just reduce the calories, and increase the time on the bike.

    I've gained 7 1/2 lbs. I see more muscle in general, and I like what I see. Starting to develop a chest. Nothing compared to many on here, but an improvement for someone who has never lifted until after they turned 50.

    Keep at it, trust the process, it will work. If you feel like your getting "too" fat, dial back the calories for a couple of weeks, and re-assess.
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    Guys, have any of you ever heard of a “fat index?” ( not just body fat %, but as a necessary ratio for growth)

    Weirdly, I can’t think of any time EVER where that topic has been discussed on the forum.

    I assume it was all theory…

    Back in the late 80s we discussed the topic in an exercise physiologists class. Essentially the discussion was around each of us having sort of a natural fat/ muscle ratio…each unique. Sort of like a concept related to growing muscle while maintaining That ratio. I recall the idea of fat babies vs lean babies and things like gut absorption surface all being part of the discussion…my body fat was 8% at that time so I really didn’t pay much attention…

    But for sure, muscle gains and certainly strength gains come much faster, even at a furious pace, when sufficient calories are consumed…yet there’s evidence that some people can improve strength without muscle or weight gain (assuming neurological responses mainly)..

    Anyway, we all have probably seen that it takes more calories to build the muscle than actually maintain it….same with protein….takes less to maintain. Doesn’t that sort of support the idea of a bulk/cut cycle? Now the issue becomes this….losing Weight with calories being restricted leans to some lean tissue loss …lowering amounts of cals needed at rest…

    In all, I’m a fat lifter and while I married a beautiful woman and have a gaggle of kids…I hate dieting of any kind. Life is too short! Lol. I was 265 when we got married…so I’m probably 285-290 now I’d guess. You young single guys probably worry about that stuff…I’d never give up my strength and mass to go back to small, weak, shredded.
    Last edited by coachcalande; 01-26-2022 at 01:16 PM.
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    Originally Posted by coachcalande View Post

    I really think there’s an epidemic of guys not getting any gains at all out of years of training…it’s due largely to fat shaming and fear of weight gain. The thing is, more muscle mass allows a person to burn more caloRies at rest.
    I think its more to do with the obsession of abs. Many if not most of the “average gym guy” are scared to lose their abs. Which is kind of ironic that mainly guys care about it. Most women don’t even really care, or they do but its lower on the list.
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    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    I think its more to do with the obsession of abs. Many if not most of the “average gym guy” are scared to lose their abs.
    I think it's more that the average gym guy's workout and diet has getting a 6-pack as the (or a) main priority. That's a recipe for no gains & ironically, also for not getting a 6-pack.

    Coach is the on the opposite end of that extreme.
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    The leaner you are the more difficult it is to add muscle without a surplus. At your stats it's doubtful you'll be successful in a without it. Unless you carry a decent amount of fat and are either new to training or have muscle memory from past training you'll be wasting your time for the most part. Even though it is possible it's not optimal. A small surplus is the best route.
    Last edited by Tommy W.; 01-26-2022 at 03:11 PM.
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    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    I think its more to do with the obsession of abs. Many if not most of the “average gym guy” are scared to lose their abs. Which is kind of ironic that mainly guys care about it. Most women don’t even really care, or they do but its lower on the list.

    Yeah one big ab is plenty.

    This is gonna melt minds but I think I got far more attention as a big ol Teddy bear type than I did all lean and sleek. Ie 240 vs 175 lbs. This from a guy that used to start every workout with abs.
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    Originally Posted by coachcalande View Post
    Yeah one big ab is plenty.

    This is gonna melt minds but I think I got far more attention as a big ol Teddy bear type than I did all lean and sleek. Ie 240 vs 175 lbs. This from a guy that used to start every workout with abs.
    Thats why i was saying its ironic that guys obsess with this just so they can impress other guys, unless that is their goal. Most women would rather have a guy who fills a shirt a bit more.
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    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    Thats why i was saying its ironic that guys obsess with this just so they can impress other guys, unless that is their goal. Most women would rather have a guy who fills a shirt a bit more.
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    I think it's more that the average gym guy's workout and diet has getting a 6-pack as the (or a) main priority. That's a recipe for no gains & ironically, also for not getting a 6-pack.

    Coach is the on the opposite end of that extreme.
    Some carry a six pack, others a keg.
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    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    Thats why i was saying its ironic that guys obsess with this just so they can impress other guys, unless that is their goal. Most women would rather have a guy who fills a shirt a bit more.
    “I feel so safe in your arms” has never been said to a skinny man.
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    Originally Posted by xwac2021 View Post
    I'm 6'0", always between 150lbs and 160lbs.
    You don't need a surplus of your goal is to be the most muscular 160-pounder there is.
    Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
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    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    I think its more to do with the obsession of abs. Many if not most of the “average gym guy” are scared to lose their abs. Which is kind of ironic that mainly guys care about it. Most women don’t even really care, or they do but its lower on the list.
    In my experience most women find things like arms, shoulders, pecs, and glutes way more important physically than abs. Abs only become a factor at all when your shirt is off anyway, and unless you’re at the beach all the time nobody sees them anyway. But if you have developed pecs/arms/shoulders etc, it’s a factor ALL the time.

    Frankly, if you can’t get attention when you’re 20% bodyfat, it’s not for lack of abs, it’s because you suck with women.
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    Originally Posted by EiFit91 View Post
    At 6'0'' and 150-160 pounds I would strongly suggest you go into a consistent calorie surplus and stay there for a very long time before considering cutting again. A lot of skinny guys who come here for advice seem to spin their wheels for years because they are afraid of a calorie surplus.
    This. At that height/weight, it's time to bulk for a VERY long time.
    Originally Posted by desslok View Post
    I think its more to do with the obsession of abs. Many if not most of the “average gym guy” are scared to lose their abs. Which is kind of ironic that mainly guys care about it. Most women don’t even really care, or they do but its lower on the list.
    I've noticed this as well.
    Originally Posted by AdamWW View Post
    In my experience most women find things like arms, shoulders, pecs, and glutes way more important physically than abs. Abs only become a factor at all when your shirt is off anyway, and unless you’re at the beach all the time nobody sees them anyway. But if you have developed pecs/arms/shoulders etc, it’s a factor ALL the time.

    Frankly, if you can’t get attention when you’re 20% bodyfat, it’s not for lack of abs, it’s because you suck with women.
    Yup. I've had "abs" to varying levels of visibility my entire life. Aside from maybe 2 girls from high school, I haven't had any women say they loved my abs since middle school. I've gotten comments on my pecs, arms, shoulders, and obliques.

    On the other hand, I've had countless dudes compliment my abs at pool parties and the beach over the years. I also live in an area with a high gay population currently, & gay dudes have a WAY stricter standard for physiques LMAO

    Literally every other guy at my gym is majorly juiced up.
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    I can recall cutting from 255 to 215 at one point. This was probably mid 90s. I was training With weights four days a week, running 4-6 times a week….as my waist shrunk….so did my lifts.

    Anyways, the girl I was dating at the time said that I was “much more of a presence “ at 255. Weird how that stuck with me.

    It’s really weird to find old photos…saw one recently of me as a twiggy 13 year old …looking like my parents were starving me.

    Then one where I was on a rev basketball team at 16/17 and it’s clear I’d gained a good 50-60 lbs and two inches of height…broad shoulders, small waist….then another photo, much more muscle at 185-200 I’d say, also playing basketball…..and another photo, this time, flexing my biceps next to my brand new red sports car…guessing I was about 235-240…still an athlete….but not satisfied with size and strength…

    I’d say I was upwards of 250-265 before I got lazy, sloppy and basically wasn’t working out even 1/5 of what I do now…but the diet was worse too…bad things happen to the body during years of high stress, inactivity and an abusive diet….the running and sports stop, the lifting gets put on the back burner….kids, jobs, moves, responsibilities….stress, sick family members etc all take priority…I’d say, for a good 8-12 years , I was lucky to train twice a week if at all. In fact my home gym stuff was in storage for most of 2008-2015. I’d get a lift here and there at the high school with the teams I coached….after the seasons in 2016, 2017 etc I’d get big and strong fast, usually making nice gains from Dec thru March before taking on more work and responsibilities that again pulled me away…like yo yo dieting, there’s yo yo training.

    Imagine struggling to bench 275 in November but benching 400 by June only to lose it again year after year…

    Anyhow, fun reflecting…I like the gain train.
    Last edited by coachcalande; 01-27-2022 at 01:37 AM.
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    Originally Posted by coachcalande View Post
    I can recall cutting from 255 to 215 at one point. This was probably mid 90s. I was training With weights four days a week, running 4-6 times a week….as my waist shrunk….so did my lifts.

    Anyways, the girl I was dating at the time said that I was “much more of a presence “ at 255. Weird how that stuck with me.

    It’s really weird to find old photos…saw one recently of me as a twiggy 13 year old …looking like my parents were starving me.

    Then one where I was on a rev basketball team at 16/17 and it’s clear I’d gained a good 50-60 lbs and two inches of height…broad shoulders, small waist….then another photo, much more muscle at 185-200 I’d say, also playing basketball…..and another photo, this time, flexing my biceps next to my brand new red sports car…guessing I was about 235-240…still an athlete….but not satisfied with size and strength…

    I’d say I was upwards of 250-265 before I got lazy, sloppy and basically wasn’t working out even 1/5 of what I do now…but the diet was worse too…bad things happen to the body during years of high stress, inactivity and an abusive diet….the running and sports stop, the lifting gets put on the back burner….kids, jobs, moves, responsibilities….stress, sick family members etc all take priority…I’d say, for a good 8-12 years , I was lucky to train twice a week if at all. In fact my home gym stuff was in storage for most of 2009-2015. I’d get a lift here and there at the high school with the teams I coached….after the seasons in 2016, 2017 etc I’d get big and strong fast, usually making nice gains from Dec thru March before taking on more work and responsibilities that again pulled me away…like yo yo dieting, there’s yo yo training.

    Imagine struggling to bench 275 in November but benching 400 by June only to lose it again year after year…

    Anyhow, fun reflecting…I like the gain train.
    This is one of the hardest parts of cutting. When I was 230-240 people were saying things like "you look strong", "you look like you drink your milk" and "you look like a biker". When I cut down it changed to "you look so skinny", "you are starting to look like a jew in the Polish ghetto in WW2" (yes, seriously)

    Also seeing the pressing strength in particular drop is very depressing. Benching of any kind feels so "easy" when you're fat, it's like you are controlling the weight and making it your bitch. When you lean out it's like you are fighting against the weight and it's just more of a struggle.

    As a natty it's either big, fat and strong or lean and "strong" (relative to BW), especially if you used to be fat as then people will always think of you as having been "big" in the past and gotten smaller
    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

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    Yup, my wife told me “that’s what you want!” As my sleeves stretch tight over 20 inch arms…

    She feeds me well, two bowls of her amazing chili this week.
    "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

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    Interesting conversation above, and I did not mean anything antagonistic by my comment, so I hope it wasn't seen with that intent. After all, it's not like I'm lean myself or anything... I'm trying to get closer to that but still have a long way to go.

    But I do think "big and strong" and "small and weak" is not a fair dichotomy, even though with each the one tends to correlates with the other, since fat and muscle are separate aspects of both counts. Also, until a little over a year ago, I did downplay how fat I was and wish I had a better sense of appreciating that fact. I was pretty strong and definitely looked big, but in hindsight, also wish I was less content with fixating on that aspect while downplaying the fact that, for a good while, I was virtually obese. (In fact, there's a photo of me at my very fattest in April 2020 where I look terrible - I can share it if you want and you guys can make fun of me.)

    And yeah, every girl I've been with or talked to for a while has seemed to prefer the "big" and stalky look. None of them have stated any desire for visible abs but my back, chest (and even my fat butt lol) often got approving comments. For the record, I love being big and value it far more than leanness on its own - would way rather fill out my shirt like a well-built man than have a six pack, any day of the week, no question.

    But, my point was, being especially overweight is not indelibly tied to that. And if I wasn't a stupid "bro" who thought that inhaling fast food daily while training in an unbalanced way was a good approach, I could have reached the same desirable qualities without needlessly putting on a bunch of fat. So when a new person comes in and wants to get strong, from my own experience I'd rather not encourage them to follow the same course.
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    It’s fascinating to compare one person to only himself…

    Untrained skinny and untrained fat vs trained lean and trained fatter…

    There’s a reason why there are weight classes in sports like boxing…a trained bigger body is peak male performance compared to its trained lower body fat self…

    Where folks run into trouble is in comparing two freaks….the super strong light weight vs the super weak heavy weight…

    There’s a whole generation of kids right now believing that they will get a 405 bench press at 150 lbs of body weight with the right training and diet…

    Not
    Gonna
    Happen

    Using only myself…I couldn’t bench 135 as a sophomore in high school. Probably among the weakest trained kids on the football team, tied for smallest..119-122 lbs.

    We are all blessed with different things, strength and natural muscle mass wasn’t one of mine. I was however a good distance runner….

    So, having basically trained my bench to a 400% increase, I can only tell you what finally got me gaining …massive weight gain and massive calorie intake with decreased activity…ie that running had to go.


    The other thing….it’s not how far you go, but how far you’ve overcome….
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    I suggest they add a "Gaining Fat" forum to the site, for getting big and beefy. I nominate Coach to be the mod.
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    I suggest they add a "Gaining Fat" forum to the site, for getting big and beefy. I nominate Coach to be the mod.

    I’m in. Free pizza and fries with every new thread.

    Honestly, think about why roids n other stuff is used….folks want it all, and fast….they want big/ripped….that’s a tough standard for naturals. Easy to hit 155 ripped as a twenty something.
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    I don't mean to be uncourteous, but I'm really not saying anyone should aim to be 150 or anything and inasmuch as you're responding to me, it seems you're attacking a straw man. I too was a distance runner as a teenager, and was 20 years old weighing ~165, struggling for the better part of a year to put up 135 more than a few times.

    It took me 3 more years of benching every single week finally to get three plates, and when I did, I was 260+ and quite overweight. I've since lost 20+ pounds, and am benching overall heavier and more proficiently than I did at that time, much of it literally in a caloric deficit. So being fat and binge eating obviously weren't the positive variables there in the latter case.

    All I'm saying is, I wouldn't encourage someone to go down the same path, eating carelessly in aiming to get big and strong, only to spend a year or more carefully undoing the collateral damage of thinking that eating as much as you desire all the time is a more advantageous approach to their long-term strength and physique goals than is a moderate surplus with wiser choices of food. I am not endorsing that anyone cut down to 150, nor that they should entertain the notion of attaining any kind of elite strength at that weight, but you seem to be lumping me into this position, or at least associating my response with it for some reason. If you read my posts, you'll find that I've never encouraged someone to go below 200 (and I also try to caveat my posts as coming from just another guy with some experience, not a self-described expert of any stripe), something which it appears I'm the minority on here. There is an enormous difference between 150 and 250, and it's not a binary question of either or.
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