There is no hidden secret when it comes to gaining and losing weight, or building muscle. While there are some variables in play, like genetics, it all comes down to math. Your body is essentially a machine. Input is required to get it to function. Some of that is used in maintenance and some waste is created in the process. Your food can be broken down into calorific values. Based on your level of activity, there is a certain number of calories that you need to function. If your caloric input is equal to your caloric expenditure, then you should maintain the same weight, all other factors being constant. What if you want to gain muscle?
Beyond the call of maintenance
When your goal is to create muscle, you need to eat a little bit more than what your normal or recommended intake is. It is from this extra that your body gets the building blocks it needs to lay down new muscle. This extra is what is referred to as a caloric surplus. It is beyond what you normally take, and the idea is that it will translate to more muscle.
There are a right and a wrong way of doing a caloric surplus, depending on whether your goal is to simply add weight, or add lean muscle mass. It matters where these extra calories come from. If they are harvested from processed foods or those of low quality, then the surplus will likely turn into fat, regardless of whether you are exercising or not.
Surplus done right
The surplus differs from everyone based on their metabolism, exercise intensity, and normal calorie intake. While there is no mathematical formula on how you can estimate the exact number of calories you need to add to your diet, there is a close enough method. For men, it is recommended that you start with 250 extra calories, while women should do 125. This is just enough to stimulate new muscle production, but not too much that you risk putting on too much weight.
Needless to say, these calories should be gotten from the healthiest choices. The proteins should be complete, while carbs should be complex. Nuts and healthy fats should be included too. They give much bang for the buck.
Your caloric surplus should be subjected to some controlled test to judge its efficiency. You can learn whether it’s working or not by measuring how much weight you are gaining per month. The ideal gain sequence is 2lbs of muscle monthly for men 1lb for women. The gain is rather trivial, true, but it is sustainable for someone who loves fitness. Competitive folks might aim for much higher gains, but the rules of that kind of caloric surplus change altogether.
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