Many of you are probably facing the same dilemma:
To gain mass or to lose fat?
If you want to achieve some progress you must resolve this problem. Otherwise you will be in eternal stagnation (plateau)!
But before we go deeper into the matter, let's clarify the difference of “gaining” and “cleaning”:
- If you are gaining mass, then your main goal is to develop your muscles (general cycle).
- If you are “cutting” your main goal is to burn fat (competitive cycle).
You might be wondering why you had to choose between the two. Can’t you just gain muscles and burn fat at the same time? Unfortunately it is almost impossible (unless you're a beginner and you have a high body fat %).
Therefore, in most cases, you have to emphasize on building muscle mass or on fat loss.
There are two approaches: right and wrong
Unfortunately, most people don’t distinguish the two. To achieve the best results:
- While you’re bulking you need to gain muscle mass while bringing fat accumulation to a minimum
- While in a cutting phase you need to burn body fat and bring muscle mass loss to a minimum.
If you chose the wrong approach, as most fitness enthusiasts, you will accumulate too much fat during the general cycle and will lose too much muscle mass during the competition period and sooner or later you’ll hit a stone.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it's really hard to gain mass without gaining any fat. The opposite statement is also true - it is hard to clean fat without sacrificing part of your muscle mass.
The solution is to alternate between periods of gaining and periods of cutting, until you achieve the desired results.
But what to start with?
If you’re asking yourself this question, we can assume that:
- You have body fat you want to burn;
- You want to increase your muscle mass;
There are several factors that determine which period you start with, but the most important of them is the percentage of body fat.
- If your body fat % is moderate to high (men -15% and up; women - 23% and up), it is appropriate to lose fat first.
- If your body fat % is relatively low (men – under 15%, women – under 23%) it’s best to start gaining mass first.
If you don’t know the exact percentage of your body fat, you can estimate it here.
Length of cycles
From a purely physical perspective we burn fat much quicker than accumulating muscle mass. Therefore, the duration of the periods (cycles) must be different.
- Usually the competitive period (burning fat) last no more than 10-15 weeks. If you try to get faster results you won’t take enough calories and as a result will burn too much muscle mass.
- The main period (gaining weight) lasts between 3 and 8 months. Building muscle is a slow process, so the length is greater.
Optimal fat-burning strategy
A mandatory condition to burn fat is to be in a caloric deficit. This means taking in fewer calories from food than your body burns.
You can speed up the process by including the right combination of weight training (this will save your muscle mass) and cardio (monotone or HIIT). Basic exercises should always be included in your weight training.
To achieve best results it is important to eat the right foods according to your body type. This includes proper ratio of macronutrients and selected “cheat” days so you don’t put your body in starvation mode.
Optimal gaining strategy
Sine qua non for gaining muscle mass is to be in a caloric surplus. This means taking more calories from food than your body burns.
It's not as easy as it sounds. If you take too many calories you will gain fat. If you don’t eat enough, you won’t gain muscle.
That is, you need to calculate the optimal calorie intake that will help you gain muscle mass with minimal fat accumulation.
In addition you must train with weights (short intense workouts 3-5 times a week).