Monday, May 21, 2012

Gaining "fat" free" mass..........

i got a question concerning nutrition! I´m 19 years old and love the powerlifting training, but i also want to gain some muscle, even thought it is not as important as strength to me (but has its place!)

I want to gain muscle mass as fatfree as possible, but i´m not very sure on how to do that. I hate doing things to complicated, especially nutrition can drive me crazy here (counted every single macro and calorie for a long time, but hated it, because you´re so unflexible with food/eating).
I just lost fat in a cutting phase and am in pretty good shape now, but its time to get BIG (not fat :D).

My nutrition is always very clean, also when trying to gain muscle, i´m not eating bad stuff very often. Mostly lean protein (lean meat, eggs, protein powder, fish, cottage cheese etc.), low GI carbs (brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta, potatoes, oats) and good fats (nuts, natural peanut-butter, oil etc.). Even though i ate that clean, i don´t seem to be that type of person, which is very ripped...for example my vascularity on my arms narrows down to 1 vein on each side, the one on my right arm isn´t even visible all the time. I want it like you have it! You are in awesome shape and big, man...

So all in all: What strategy could i use to gain fatfree (AMAP) muscle beside the strength gain of course? I am catching myself worrying way to much, but that´s why i ask for your help.

Thanks buddy!


Gaining mass as fat free as possible is really the toughest road to hoe.

Gaining mass requires a calorie surplus, and with a calorie surplus comes water weight and fat gain. There is really no getting around this, I don't care what any guru tells you.

My advice for guys wanting to gain mass has been the same for a very long time. Get down to a very decent level of bodyfat, something in the 8-10% range, and eat up from there, limiting yourself to around 15%. After that, you tend to fall off the wagon, so to speak, and fat accumulation will start to snowball on you. The body gets really good at getting fatter once you, well, get fatter.

Most guys estimate their bodyfat at something way lower than what it actually is.

"I can see some top abs first thing in the morning."

Good for you, that's the very leanest of being fat. In other words, if you see a 4 pack in the morning, you're still fucking fat for the most part. Don't kid yourself, you're still 20%.

You're still fat Mr. 4 pack

I sport mostly full abs all year. If I even begin to not, I stop and take a step back and try to determine if I have been eating too much, or not getting enough conditioning in.

Let me BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THIS......I do not eat nor condition to "get abs" I HAVE ABS because I eat properly and condition. There is a very clear difference. I train for go, and this gives me the "show". If my "show" starts to go away, it's always without fail, that I have let either my diet or conditioning slide.

I also do not consider myself "lean". I consider myself to generally be "in shape". Sometimes more, sometimes less, but generally closer to more, than less, or I'm at least trying. But generally I stay in the 10-12% range. This is a good range to work in for both muscle mass and strength. If I want to increase my conditioning, I can drop to 8% or so if I just tighten the diet up a little bit, and do more conditioning. Which is what I am doing now.
So to start at the top, if you aren't as vascular as you want to be, it could be that either you aren't a vascular person, or that you're really just not as lean as you need to be to look vascular. Either way, don't train for looks, train for performance.......the looks will come. When I gave up training to look like a bodybuilder, and started training with being the baddest mother fucker I could be, I got leaner and stronger and bigger so much faster than when I was trying to LOOK the part.

most recent pic @ roughly 10-12%

The first thing to do however is to get leaner first, then go full force into the strength and mass phase, while always maintaining an athletic level of bodyfat while doing so.

Since you're saying strength is the most important part in the equation, my recommendation is to run the strong-15 and then use your assistance work to gain mass, and make sure you're doing conditioning 2-5 times a week, all depending. Steady state 2-3 times in the morning fasted, and then 1 or 2 days of hard conditioning.

2 big workouts a week. Squats and deads on 1 day, then bench on the other, then do 2 small workouts a week that cover your assistance stuff. Face pulls, bent laterals, upright rows, curls, triceps, calves and abs.

As so for the week.....

Day 1 - Squat and Pull
Squat - cycle
Deadlift - cycle
Leg Curls

Day 2 - small workout
face pulls
upright rows
calf raises

Day 3 - off steady state

Day 4 - Bench
Bench - cycle
Incline Press

Day 5 - small workout

Day 6 -
hard conditioning

Day 7 - off steady state

Keep your food clean, and eat 3 solid meals a day with 50-60 grams of protein, and 80-100 grams of carbs at breakfast and lunch. For your last meal of the day go to veggies and meat only to keep fat intake down. If you find you are getting too much chub, cut carbs out on "off" days. If you find you aren't gaining enough, up carbs for two meals on "off" days.

This shit is easy, but it does take time. Be patient and be a fuckin lifer.


  1. Awesome stuff, Paul.
    Little question. I've been adding mass pretty consistently for the last months, but was always afraid of gaining too much fat. So I was training a lot and eating well, but not enough to recover form my sessions. I was gaining weight, but feeling like shit, bloated and watery all the time and not getting much stronger. So I decided to up my cals a bit, I feel better and apparently leaner, pretty strange isnt it?
    Also, since increasing my intake, I'm looking a lot more vascular. I've never been a vascular guy, but now I'm seeing veins I;ve never seen before, even when I was A LOT lighter.
    Any idea whats going on? Does it make any sense at all?

    Thanks man.

    1. Makes total sense. If your cals are too low your body will tune down your metabolism and you get stuck in mud.

    2. Thats exactly what I was thinking.
      What fucks my mind though is the water retention. I have a lot of fluctuations, some days I´m feeling really lean, my appetite is up, I perform good etc. And some other days I wake up bloated as fuck, watery and generally my appetite is shot.
      I´ve read some stuff about water retention and swelling when training very hard for a long period of time. Any thoughts on that?
      Thanks again, man.

  2. so paul r u basically saying to gain weight until like 15% then cut back down to 8-10% then repeat? is there a certain number of lbs we should lose or gain a week depending if were bulking or cutting? and one last ? paul have u ever gained mass up to 15% and then cut down to to lean state 8% and realize u once again went back to point A (meaning the same size and weight) has that happened to you? [150-165-150]


    1. You have a few options.

      Get fat, but if you do, stay fat for a long time. Don't just hit 280 and go "ok time to cut". Weight will fall right off of you and you will be right back where you started.

      Don't get fat. Work in that 10-15% range but keep it in check. To me, this is the best option.

      Stay too lean, and don't gain mass.

      You can't think of this as a 1 time thing. Remember, the big picture is over a lifetime. Not the next 6 months.

    2. Didn't Dante once say that the "fastest goddamn way" to getting big was by eating really big, training heavy as fuck (using RP in his case) and ending up looking like a fat offensive lineman looking motherfucker (and using your increased leverages to move even bigger weigh) and then slowly cutting back down after a while?

      He also said it wasn't gonna be pretty. At all. I take it that's sort of what you're saying as well.

      I'm wondering though, and this might be interesting for the next podcast. Is it "required" for anyone that wants to be truly huge to do something like this? Because when you look at a lot of the really big and strong fuckers (be it BBers, strongman, guys online that are big) they usually have a stage where they were one of these big, but certainly not lean, guys.

    3. The problem with what Dante says there, is that if you're a natty guy, that will not work. The reason that can and does work for guys that are on a shit load of gear, is because when they diet down, all of that mass they built underneath that, stays.

      Second, unless you are trying to be an IFBB pro competitive bodybuilder, I'm not sure I understand the logic behind doing this anymore. To be the big guy at the gym? I covered that in my darkside articles.

      Working within that 8-15% bodyfat range allows for plenty enough room to get extra calories in to grow, but not need to diet for 20 weeks in order to not be obese. You can't force feed muscle growth. I don't care what Dante or anyone else says. There's never been any scientific nor anecdotal evidence to support that. Even Dave Tate talked about all the times he would bulk up to a HUGE fat ass size, then diet down and be virtually the same size still.

      So if bulking to super fat ass size, and I mean really obese, were the key, then that would work each time. But it doesn't. I think that bulking works up to a point. As you get closer and closer to your genetic potential, the less effectiveness it really has. And then you're just getting fat over and over again.

    4. Just playing devil's advocate here, I certainly don't promote that way of gaining mass. Hell, I'm too vain to get fat anyway. I can barely stand climbing above 12%, let alone get fat.

      However, that certainly makes more sense. Most of the guys that seem to bulk like crazy don't really look much different when they diet down, but it did take them ages to actually diet down.

      I think that's another plus side to staying in the lean range, you never really need to take 10-12 weeks to get lean again. It's much more doable and your strength doesn't go down the shitter.

      BTW, been doing leangains (IF) for two weeks now and feel great. Shame it didn't work for you though, Paul.

  3. This post inspired me to go out and do some cardio earlier today.

  4. This was a really great piece of information, it just made clear and at the same time confirmed some of the doubts I have been having regarding bulking.
    Thank you for your time and energy that you put into this blog, making this colossal amount of information available for all of us.

  5. Question for you then, Paul:

    you take a guy, he's pretty skinny (let's say around 150-155lbs). He's not extremely lean, but obviously he's not carrying a lot of muscle either. Do you have him lean out? or would you have him just focus on eating big, doing some sort of conditioning and heavy lifting and see where the chips fall?

    this is not just some guy, it's actually my little brother. how would you go about to doing this?

    1. I'd just have him focus on eating big, quality food, and training hard. Generally those guys tend to lean out a little bit once they start lifting and eating more.

    2. Hmm, that seems logical. He ain't a rank beginner though. Stats aren't amazing but he won't be benefitting from the noob effect anymore.
      Still, you're saying big eating and a focus on strength in medium-high rep ranges on big lifts? I take it some form of conditioning as well then. I wanna help him, just not sure how. I took a different route (I was just plain skinny, and not skinnyfat-ish like he is, so I ate and trained like a beast. Don't want the little man to get fat though, which I think he would with that approach).

    3. go with the same plan I just presented above. make sure he eats enough quality food, 3-4 solid meals a day with 2-3 shakes thrown in. that will work.

    4. Appreciated, Paul, I'll get to work right away.

      Here's hoping he'll end up swole(r) when summer ends.

  6. paul i know u wanna be 240-250, but do you plan on getting any bigger like 275-280?


  7. Paul,

    Just want to thank you for the blog. Set my ass straight on a bunch of shit.

    Started your SPPC challenge last week, logging it as detailed as possible. Next logical step in a path to awesome, dropped from 210 to 176 since January.


  8. Speaking of 3 meals a day...

    I saw this on elitefts a while back, do you think it could work for a 310lbers (BF 25%) as a fat loss plan?

    Meal one (pre-workout)

    6 scrambled eggs with crème fraiche
    4 slices of bacon
    Broccoli, mushrooms, and onions

    Meal two (post-workout)

    1 large baked potato
    500 g ground beef with chopped tomatoes
    Peas and green beans

    Meal three

    2 chicken breasts in spicy marinade
    150 g (dry weight) white rice and stir fry mix
    Meal four (before bed)

    Large tub of cottage cheese mixed with 1 scoop of protein powder (I'd probably ditch this part)

    Works out to about 3000 calories: 112g fat, 115g carbs, 368g protein


    I've gained 60lbs over the past 5 years (started at 240lbs) as a result of doing powerlifting-esque type programs. The good part is nearly half of that was muscle, the bad part is now I feel like my head is going to explode when I bend over to tie my shoe. I feel if I could get down to 265-275 I would probably be just as strong and less likely to stroke out in the next 10 years.

    - Also, I have been looking for a krav maga program in my area forever (Queens,NY). I have only been able to find places that are a quite a drive away but seeing as I am off for the summer - I think this is a good time to just go for it. I am not looking to compete (I had plenty of time as a successful am. boxer) but I just need to hit something again and try to get my conditioning/speed back up. Plus, krav maga just seems awesome. Do you think a combination of doing something like that with 5/3/1 2x a week would work together? Thanks man, I appreciate your opinion.

    1. That diet would def work in terms of weight loss. There would probably be a lot of "being hungry" times and fighting off cravings, but it would work.

      It might be easier to split some of those meals into two meals in order to not be so fucking hungry.

      Good luck.

  9. How would you get someone to focus on getting stronger and stop worrying about looking good and being "aesthetic"? I seriously have a vanity problem where I find myself flexing my arms in the mirror constantly and checking myself out, and I'm only 165 lbs ¬___¬. I keep telling myself to stop being a little bitch about it, but I'm constantly doing it. If I wake up and can't see my abs I start freaking out, even though I know in the back of my head that gaining strength is the most important thing for me right now.

    So basically; How can I self-teach myself to stop being so self-obbsessed and focus everything on getting bigger and stronger?

    1. I thought so. Part of that is age, and not being happy with who you are. Did you read my darkside articles?

  10. Paul,

    About what percentage of the time do you eat correctly? I have heard the phrase that 80% of your diet reflects 100% of your results. Thinking of setting aside a few cheat meals each week, the wife just makes too much good food!

    1. Well now I'm eating correctly 100% of the time. But I'd say in the past it varied from 60-90%. Generally the 90% times, I would get pretty lean and feel great. The 60% times? Not so much.

      right now I have days where I feel kinda bloated from the carbs, then others where I feel kinda flat from lack of. I don't think I've fully adapted to what I'm doing with this diet, so a few more weeks and hopefully that will happen.

      But basically my advice is try to eat good food 90% of the time, and you should be fine.

  11. Paul,

    Would you still perform the pause squats after squatting on the big workout?

    1. Yeah you could. I will be doing pause squats today.

  12. Paul,

    This is sort of a follow up/dumb question. With the lower body "big" session, do you still do the block pulls/paused squats(sort of an extension to the question above)?