Muscle for life

The Best Way to Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat

The Best Way to Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat

If you want to go beyond “gaining weight” and learn how to build muscle without on piling on body fat, then you want to read this article.


4,500 calories. Every freaking day.

I wanted to build muscle and that’s what a magazine article said I should eat.

It didn’t go very well.

I quickly learned how painful it is to eat like cart-horse, and while I certainly gained weight, it was hard to know how much of it was muscle.

All I saw in the mirror was more and more belly fat, which made me seriously question the old bodybuilding saw that you have to “eat big to get big.”

Big and fat, maybe…

Well, many years have passed since then and now that I’m older, wiser, and much fitter, I finally understand how muscle growth is connected to both caloric intake and fat gain.

And here’s the bottom line:

You absolutely can build muscle while minimizing fat gain, and furthermore, you absolutely should.

As you’ll soon see, the traditional (gluttonous) method of bulking isn’t just exhausting, it’s downright counter-productive.

That is, you’ll build muscle more efficiently over the long term by focusing on making “lean gains” as opposed to gorging yourself silly.

This article is going to teach you why and show you how to actually do it.

So let’s get started.

Do You Have to “Eat Big to Get Big?”

how to bulk without getting fat bodybuilding


“If you’re not gaining muscle fast enough, start drinking a gallon of milk per day.”

I read that in a magazine as well but lacked the intestinal fortitude to actually try it (literally–I would have shit myself).

The idea behind the advice is simple:

  • If you’re not gaining muscle, you’re probably not eating enough.
  • If you’re not eating enough, GOMAD (an additional 2,400 calories’ worth of milk per day) will take care of that.

Well, this misguided strategy has its heart in the right place but misses the forest for the trees.

The reality is the amount of food your body needs to build muscle effectively may or may not feel like a lot to you, depending on various things, including your appetite.

You don’t necessarily have to eat big to get big. You just have to eat enough.

(And you certainly don’t have to drain your local dairy farm.)

What is enough, you wonder?

Well, to find an answer, we have to explore how caloric intake affects muscle growth.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How Caloric Intake Affects Muscle Growth

gain muscle without fat bodybuilding

Notice that I said caloric intake affects muscle growth and not protein intake.

Yes, you need to eat enough protein, which isn’t news to anyone trying to build muscle, but what many people don’t know is you need to eat enough calories as well.

You see, your body burns a certain amount of energy every day, which can be measured in calories (one calorie is “the amount of energy required to heat 1 kg of water 1 degree Celsius at one atmosphere of pressure”).

This is known as your “total daily energy expenditure,” or TDEE.

Your body gets the energy it needs to stay alive from food, of course, and the relationship between how much energy you eat and burn is known as energy balance, and it greatly impacts both your body weight and muscle growth.

Namely, if you feed your body less energy than it burns, you’ve created an energy (or calorie) deficit that will result in weight loss if sustained for a period of time.

It will also impair your body’s ability to create muscle proteins, which slows down (or even halts) muscle growth.

The physiology in play is fairly complex, but the long story short is when you restrict your body’s energy intake, it shifts to an “energy conservation” mode wherein certain bodily functions are given priority over others.

Building bigger muscles isn’t vital for survival and requires quite a bit of energy, so it’s rather low on the list.

Furthermore, a calorie deficit can reduce anabolic and increase catabolic hormone levels, causing a systemic shift away from muscle gain and toward muscle degradation.

All this is why it’s commonly believed that you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time (which isn’t exactly accurate, which we’ll talk more about soon).

This is also why women can lose their periods while restricting calories for fat loss. When in an energy-deprived state, their bodies can neglect the non-vital and energy-intensive process of menstruation.

So, when we want to build muscle as quickly as possible, what do we have to ensure regarding our caloric intake?

You got it–we have to ensure we’re not in a calorie deficit, and this is true regardless of our dietary protocol.

Regardless of the dietary protocol we follow–intermittent fasting, carb cycling, flexible dieting, or whatever else– if we’re a calorie deficit more often than not, we’re going to have a lot of trouble gaining muscle.

What does that mean in terms of actual caloric intake, though?

Keep reading to find out.

How Many Calories Do You Need to Eat to Gain Muscle?

clean bulk meal plan

What’s the easiest way to ensure you’re eating more energy every day than you’re burning?

Shoveling wheelbarrows of food down your throat, right?

Well, that’s what many bulking programs prescribe. It’s virtually impossible to be in a calorie deficit when you’re eating 4,000+ calories per day.

In that way, grossly overeating can help you build muscle…for a time.

There are major problems with this approach, though.

A large calorie surplus is not better for building muscle than a slight one, but results in far more fat gain.

Eating 30% more energy than you expend every day isn’t better for building muscle than eating just 10% more, but you will gain quite a bit more fat.

And gaining too much fat too quickly does more than just ruin your “aesthetics”…

Gaining fat further accelerates fat storage and can slow down muscle growth.

The fatter you are, the easier it is to get and stay fatter. There are several reasons for this.











As body fat levels rise…

Insulin is a hormone that shuttles nutrients into cells.

As the body becomes resistant to its signals, however, its ability to burn fat decreases, the likelihood of weight gain increases, and protein synthesis is suppressed.

The bottom line is the better your body responds to insulin’s signals, the better it can do many things, including building muscle and resisting fat gain.

Testosterone is a primary hormonal driver of muscle growth and high levels of estrogen promotes fat storage, so the downsides here are clear.

As you can see, excessive fat storage while bulking is a triple-whammy of fail: it hinders muscle growth, accelerates fat storage, and makes undoing the weight gain even harder.

Unfortunately, the handicaps of “dirty bulking” have caused many people to throw the baby out with the bath water and shun caloric surpluses altogether.

This is a mistake because the caloric surplus is an effective tool for optimizing muscle growth.

You just have to do it right, and here’s how that works:

1. Maintain a moderate calorie surplus of 5 to 10% when bulking.

This should allow you to gain 0.5 to 1 pound per week, which is your goal if you’re a man. Women should shoot for half.

If you’re new to weightlifting, you can easily double those numbers for your first couple of months, but you should see them settle into this range.

If you’re not sure how to determine your calorie intake, click here.

2. Don’t screw it all up with massive cheat meals or days.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make while bulking is egregious overeating.

A couple days of gorging per week while bulking is enough to cause you to gain fat at double or even triple the normal rate.

Don’t do this. Learn how to “cheat” intelligently instead.

3. If you’re a guy and you’re over 15% body fat, reduce this to about 10% before bulking. If you’re a girl and over 25% body fat, diet down to ~20% before bulking.

This is ideal for several reasons:

  • It preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance.
  • It allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels.
  • It saves you from long, grueling cuts.

If you’re not sure what your body fat percentage is, read this article.

4. Once you reach 15 to 17% (men) or 25 to 27% (women) body fat, stop bulking and start reducing body fat levels.

Don’t “slow cut,” either.

Do everything you can to safely and healthily lose fat as quickly as possible.

5. Juggle your bulks and cuts like this until you’ve gained the size you want.

If you’re like most people, you’ll eventually reach a point where you’re happy with your overall muscle size and development.

The name of the game then becomes getting and staying lean while still training hard and progressing in your lifts and addressing weak points in your physique.

Calorie cycling is great for this.

What to Do When You’re Not Gaining Weight

how to build lean muscle

I mentioned above that you generally want to gain 0.5 to 1 pound per week (0.25 to 0.5 lbs per week for women) when bulking.

What should you do when you’re gaining less or no weight whatsoever, though?

Well, assuming you’re following an effective workout program and you’re doing enough to adequately recover from your training, the solution is simple:

Eat more.

I’ve yet to piece together a holistic explanation for why this is, but my experience working with thousands of people has verified it hundreds of times over.

If you’re gaining strength but not weight (and thus muscle), you’re not eating enough. It’s that simple.

By increasing your calorie intake you’ll eventually bring it into the range that is your body’s “sweet spot” for muscle growth.

Now, I don’t recommend you increase intake willy-nilly. Here’s how you do it right.

1. Keep your protein at 1 gram per pound of body weight.

There’s no need to eat more than this.

2. Increase your daily calorie intake by 100 to 150 calories by increasing carbohydrate intake.

That is, add 25 to 35 grams of carbs to your daily intake.

3. If, after 7 to 10 days, your weight is still the same, repeat #2.

Increase daily carb intake repeatedly until you’re gaining weight at the desired rate.

It’s really that simple.

I should note, however, that some people (guys usually) need to eat downright hoggish amounts of food to gain weight steadily. I’m talking 160-pound guys having to eat 4,000+ calories per day just to gain 0.5 pounds per week (“hardgainers“).

In this case it’s not exactly feasible to reach their necessary calorie levels by increasing carbohydrate intake alone.

In such cases I recommend capping carbs at about 3 grams per pound and, if more calories are needed, start increasing fat intake instead.

What About Building Muscle and Losing Fat at the Same Time?

how to gain muscle and lose fat

Build muscle and lose fat…at the same time.

It sounds so simple, right? Why shouldn’t we be able to do it?

Well, some people say it’s a fool’s errand Others say you need to follow “special” forms of dieting and training. Others still say it takes steroids.

They’re all wrong.

Building muscle and losing fat simultaneously (or “body recomposition,” as it’s often called), isn’t beyond the power of us mere natties.

It’s doable, and it doesn’t require esoteric knowledge, fancy or newfangled methodologies, or drugs.

There’s a catch, though.

You may or may not be able to do it, depending on your body composition, training experience, and more.

The long story short is this:

  • If you’re new to weightlifting, or to proper weightlifting–weightlifting that emphasizes heavy, compound training with the primary goal of getting stronger over time (progressive overload)–then you probably can recomp.
  • If you’re an experienced natural weightlifter that has already gained a considerable amount of muscle, you probably can’t.

If you want to learn more about why this is and how to actually go about doing it, read this article.

What About Supplements?

build muscle without gaining weight

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your efforts to build muscle and lose fat.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

PHOENIX Fat Burner

With the weight loss market valued at a staggering $60.5 billion and more than one-third of U.S. adults obese, it’s no surprise that there’s a glut of “fat burners” for sale these days.

And for the same reasons it’s also no surprise that fat burners are some of the most expensive supplements on the shelves and feature some of the loudest marketing claims, often making big promises of “scientifically proven” rapid fat loss.

The reality is most “fat burners” are junk but there are a handful of natural, safe substances that have been scientifically proven to accelerate fat loss. And that’s why I created PHOENIX.

PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is helps you burn fat faster in three different ways:

  • It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
  • It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
  • It increases the feeling of fullness from food.

It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…

Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.

Research has show that supplementation with forskolin accelerates fat loss and increases testosterone levels.

  • And more…

The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.


Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.


The Bottom Line on Building Muscle Without Getting Fat

gain muscle without gaining weight

The method of “bulking” and “cutting” advocated by your average clueless bodybuilder doesn’t work.

It goes like this:

  • Bulk (incorrectly) and gain some muscle and a bunch of fat.
  • Cut (incorrectly) and lose (hopefully all) the fat and (likely all) the muscle you gained.

…putting you right back where you started.

It’s incredibly frustrating.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

Follow the advice in this article and you’ll have a very different experience.

You’ll gain a considerable amount of muscle when you bulk and a minimal amount of fat, and you’ll lose nothing (or close to nothing) but fat when you cut.

Thus, with each cycle of bulking and cutting, you’ll come out a little bigger, leaner, and stronger than the last.

Repeat this enough times and voila, you have the body of your dreams.

It really is that simple.


What are your thoughts on building muscle without getting fat? Have anything else to add? Lemme know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Sam L

    Awesome thank you. Having been on BLS for a few months now I’ve noticed how dfifferent my body is looking following the inital cut you recommended and now my proper bulk is going well with minimal fat gain so far. This sort of info is missing from lots of sites/books etc – you’ve nailed it perfectly here Mike, thank you!
    PS I think worth having the last few sections in your next BLS edition? Would really “put the icing on the cake”… non-sugar, stevia-based icing on a wholemeal base high protein cake, of course! 😉

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Sam! Glad you liked the article and are making gains on BLS. Keep it up.

      Yeah good point, this would be a good addition to BLS. I will be doing a second edition of the book after I wrap up a couple other projects, so this can definitely be worked in.

      And I want some of that cake! 😉

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • cody

    another great article. I read every article you put up and am always learning from it. Thanks for that. I had 1 question, when you say the only people that can lose fat and build muscleat the same time is people on drugs which I assume steroids. I don’t know anything about steroids but how is that possible? for them to lose fat and build muscle at the same time?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Cody! I really appreciate it.

      Yes, by drugs I was referring to steroids.

      Different steroids do different things, but certain drugs just make your body build muscle at a greatly accelerated rate. So much so that despite the fact that you’re in a caloric deficit, your body is still synthesizing proteins at a very high rate.

  • Keith

    Another fantastic article Mike. Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Keith!

  • Murilo Azevedo

    Mike, what would you suggest to a guy with 14% body fat who wants a six pack with some visual size, not being too scrawny? Cut or bulk first ? To what level ?
    Great topic!

    • Michael Matthews

      I would cut to the 11-12% range and then bulk from there.

  • Rim

    Great article! Would your suggestion of cutting if you’re a male over 15%bf apply if you’re skinny fat? I’m 6’0″ and 165lbs. at about 20%bf. Basically just tall and skinny with a spare tire. I already have a thin face and am afraid that I would look gaunt and unwell if I dropped the weight any more. Also, I am not a newbie.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thank you! Yup, get to 11-12% first. You’re not going to LIKE it, but it will be better in the long run.

      Plus chances are you’ll build some muscle while cutting so it won’t be as bad as you might think. 🙂

  • Osher Barda

    Wow mike very very good you covered all corners of this topic amazing!! You just keep surprising me with better and better articles!!

    • Michael Matthews


  • swaraj

    Hi Mike
    Indeed very helpful article.
    There is a quick question from my side. I am 6 feet feet tall and 80 kgs of weight .I am doing weight training from last 2 month .I have been able to increase my weight to 2 or 3 kgs but last week I was traveling and I was not able to hit the gym and when I resumed it again I am feeling hard to match up as before and my strength has decreased moreover my muscles too and I feel that I am back to my starting point .so could you please tell me what may be the reason or how again build them back?

    • Michael Matthews


      Fortunately you’re not going to lose muscle by not training for a week, but you can lose some strength. Don’t worry–it comes back very quickly. You’ll be back to normal by next week.

  • Mike

    Hey Mike,

    I am currently 160 lbs and 12% body fat at 6ft.i am trying to cut 5 lbs before starting the bulk, possibly slightly more to get to 8% just to give me that extra freedom when it comes to fat gain. Iv been training for a few years now and have built up some reasonable strength for my size. Is it possible to build muscle eating at maintenance as long as your lifts continue to increase in the 4-6 and 5-8 rep range? or do you recommend a surplus? and if so how much much muscle is it possible to gain per week when your nowhere near your genetic potential?

    I have just recently found your site, your articles are awesome, I really appreciate the information that guys like you and Greg from Kinobody are providing. its easy to understand and really filters out all the nonsense that just causes guys that are enthusiastic about health and fitness to spin there wheels. Great job man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Mike!

      Really glad you’re liking my work! Thanks!

      You could get to 8% if you want, but just know that 12 – 8% will take 10 – 12 weeks, minimally, and you will lose strength along the way.

      You could bulk to the 16-17% range though and do well.

      You can build muscle at maintenance calories, yes. It seems to be a bit slower than a surplus, but it works.

      Hope this helps!

  • Jingxiang Shi

    I find this article very interesting and informative. As I have been gymming for about 1 year, I start to hesitate whether I should stay on bulking or switch to cutting, then I wonder if there is the guideline. Now I have no doubt that I should keep on bulking now. Yet one thing in your article triggers another question in my mind.

    In your first several paragraphs you emphasize eating a moderate amount of food rather than protein. Does that imply there should be a certain proportion of carbs, protein, (good) fat, etc? I do eat staples, vege, meat, etc, but I try to restrict carbonhydrates intake, and have protein which I think is slightly more than I eat (but not necessarily more than enough for bulking), for fear that excess carbs may lead to storage of fat.

    The reason I do this is I hear that when having insufficient carbs, your body will convert part of protein intake into carbs to meet the need. Is that true? Should I worry that much?

    • Dan Strohschein

      (paraphrasing from BLS) Carbs are not evil, they are necessary in the correct portions. There are some general rules for coming up with how much protein, carbs, and fats you need to eat (called macronutrients), but to make it easy you can go to http://iifym.com/iifym-calculator/ This will tell you your maintenance, cut/bulk calorie counts, and give you a rounded estimate on your macros based on your goals (maintain, bulk, or cut). Carbs are fuel for your body and very important when lifting.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks Dan. 🙂

        IMO the IIFYM calculators are a bit high.

        • Dan Strohschein

          There’s not a lot of resources as far as calculators go that are dead on. Can you recommend any that are close?

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah I know. I’ll be having one built for MFL members, but for now, just use the Katch McArdle to calculate your BMR and multiply it by 1.3 if you’re exercising 3-5 hours per week.

          • Dan Strohschein

            Mike, doesn’t the Katch McArdle algorithm require you to know your Body Fat %? I have no idea where mine is, even though I have calipers (recommended in BLS) I don’t know how to use them properly, or something is wrong. I always end up at 13%, but looking at me, that’s not where I truly am. I believe I am 15%-16%. I don’t know for sure.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah Katch requires bf %, and so long as you’re within a couple percent, that’s close enough. If you can see a little bit of abs when you flex, you’re probably around 15%.

          • Dan Strohschein

            I exercise between 7 and 10 hours per week. Should I use the 1.5 multiplier?

          • Michael Matthews

            Hmm I suspect that will be too high. I would start with 1.4 and let’s see how your body responds.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      Generally speaking, 30-40% of daily calories should be from protein, and carbs and fats are more flexible. But 30-40% from carbs and 20-30% from fats works well for almost everyone.

      Your body doesn’t convert protein into carbs, but it can convert amino acids into glucose if need be. This isn’t anything to worry about though.

      Very-low-carb diets, like ketogenic dieting, just sucks for working out. Don’t bother.

  • Jason

    Hi Mike! I just discovered your blog because of the two podcast you did with Greg. Awesome stuff here, thanks a lot!

    The bulking formula is a bit different here than the one you give in your BLS book. This one would commands more calories. Do you use this formula now?

    At 5f10, 165 pounds, 32,2 waist, should I still cut or go for a bulk and cut later?


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jason!

      The bulking formula from BLS actually works out to be about a 10% surplus for most people. Metabs vary from person to person but I based it on the Katch McArdle using average stats.

      Do you know your body fat %?

      • Jason

        According to this http://home.fuse.net/clymer/bmi/ I would be 12.8. I was 16% this spring.

        Chest 40.5

        Shoulders 47

        Arms 14.75

        Your article got me thinking ’cause my goal was to cut until I’m below 10% (around 8%) and start bulking from there. I’m not sure about that anymore…:)

      • Jason

        According to this http://home.fuse.net/clymer/bmi/

        I would be 12.8% bodyfat.

        165 lb
        Waist 32.2
        Chest 40.5
        Shoulders 47
        Arms 14.7

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay, that sounds about right based on your weight and waist measurement.

          You can bulk to the 16-17% range and then cut to the 10% range. That’s what I would do.

          • Jason

            Thx a lot!

            You don’t seem to advocate calories cycling; eating more the days you train and less on days off. Do you find there’s no benefit at all at the end of the week of eating like that?

          • Michael Matthews

            Good question.

            Some people like cycling calories but honestly I’ve just never noticed a difference.

            There’s nothing wrong with it in theory, though.

  • Alykhan Gulamali


    Very informative article. A good rule of thumb I like to use when within the 10-15% bf range and either trying to bulk or cut is:

    When bulking, err on the side of staying relatively lean. In other words. Go very slightly above maintenance, only enough to gain <1lb per week. Your bf % may creep up slightly but as you start disliking the way you look more than you are liking your gains, it's time to dial back.

    When cutting, err on the side of maintaining strength. Go very slightly below maintenance so you lose fat very gradually while maintaining strength. If you're dropping weight but your lifts are decreasing, it's time to dial up.

    I'm really enjoying your content as well as the last couple of episodes you've had on the RTR podcast. Keep up the good work!

    Alykhan – Fitness Breakout

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Alykhan! Really glad you’re liking my work. 🙂

      I agree. By the same token, however, people shouldn’t be afraid of a caloric surplus or deficit, and be willing to gain some fat and lose some strength accordingly.

  • Olly

    Hi mike,

    Great article – lots to take in but I believe every word of it.

    I’m mid bulk at the moment – seems to be going ok, with gradual gains. I only ever measure my food comments by mass to get my total numbers – would it be more intelligent to switch to calorie total as a target and use the formulas you suggest – I gather some foods must be more calorie dense than others.


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Olly!

      Ah yeah, you definitely want to track macros for bulking. Macros are better than calories because then you can ensure your pro, carb, and fat ratios are good.

      And yes focusing on calorie-dense foods is a good idea when bulking.

      Here are my favorites:

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      • Olly

        Thanks mike – needed some alternatives to bananas – I might turn into one soon.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Yeah I hear you. I like to switch little things here and there as well.

  • aaron hadley

    Really need some help with bulking

    • Michael Matthews

      What issues are you running into?

  • HittinTheSlopes

    Hi Michael! This answered my main question “But eventually you reach a point where you’re happy with your look in the 7-8% body fat range, and you simply maintain it.” because the bros have been saying cut, bulk, cut, bulk. I can’t imagine doing that all my life!

    Once you’re on your way to gaining Adonis status, are average numbers for maintenance going to be hitting the TDEE every day even on non training days? I know everybody is different so mileage may vary. For example if you’re TDEE is 3000 calories then it seems these macros calculate about 1.55 g or protein per pound, 1.55 g of carbs per pound, and 0.35 g of fat per pound. Does that sound about right?

    Also I like the idea of bulking to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain. On a 12 week bulk following a proper macro outline does anybody know what average people gain in terms of bodyfat?

    I gained some weight on my bulk so far but my family says I’m not as muscular. It assume it’s because I’m not as defined even though I’m stronger. I went over my documentation after reading the 531 post and realize that my macros are not following the BLS formula which worked wonders during my cut. My fats are too low, protein too high, carbs not high enough. With some adjustments I made I’ll be on track starting tomorrow with fats, carbs, but protein will be higher than the suggested 1g per pound for convenience and caloric surplus.

    Thanks for starting your blog and the youtube videos! It’s been an enlightening experience reading this all, all the studies, and hearing about your first hand experiences.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting! I’m really glad you’re liking my work.

      Yeah, I eat TDEE on off days when I’m not cutting. Sometimes a little more. And those ratios are okay. Personally I would do less protein (1 g/lb) and more carbs (2 g/lb) as the extra carbs really help with strength.

      If you can gain 2 pounds of muscle for every pound of fat, you’re killing it. 1/1 is good as well.

      So long as your strength and weight are going up, you’re building muscle. It just takes time to show as it’s distributed all over your body.

      Ah good on the adjustment of your macros. I think you’ll do better with that…

  • António Alves

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve concluded that I can’t see my abs and so I must be 15+% bodyfat. I just wanted to ask you for a general strategy and timeline on how I should go about getting in great shape for the next summer. I’ve listened to your podcast on skinny fat, and I believe you first recommend running a maintenance diet and waiting a couple of weeks until weight stabilizes(btw if you start gaining weight should you cut down calories and if you start losing should you up them?).
    Then I can starting cutting on what you called a mild caloric deficit 15-20% of maintenance calories. Will I lose too much muscle doing this? I am 17 years old and I have not made any newbie gains yet.

    I am slightly underweight (72.2kg should be 73kg), so I can afford to lose a few kg. What I mean by this is that I already have small arms and losing too much weight could be unhealthy for me and demotivating. I though that losing 4 kg (8.8 pounds) is what I am willing to lose, and I think that if this were mainly fat I would already be down to 10% or less, and therefore I would be able to see abs.

    After this I would go on a bulking diet, on a 10% or more caloric surplus. My aim here would be to gain muscle with low amounts of fat, even if it is more time consuming. I think it would take me around 1-2 months to shed 9 pounds of bodyfat, so I would still have 4-5 months until the summer for clean bulking.

    What do you think? Could you remind me what are the percentages of surplus and deficit at each stage and what are the macro ratios? It’s just that I’ve had some confusion since in your “clean bulking” article you recommend a 10%caloric surplus, and in BLS I believe it is a 500 caloric increase.

    Do you think I can send you my diet once I’ve completed it so you can just see if there something that could be generally improved?

    Sorry for the never ending and potentially annoying long posts I make.


    • Drew

      Nice article man!

      After much trial and error, (from my own experience) I must say that bulking is NOT the way to go.

      I tried bulking for the first two years of lifting but quickly gave it up after realizing what a waste of time it was.

      You can check out my testimonial here: http://how2gainmusclefast.com/bulking-up-does-it-really-help-you-gain-muscle/

      I mean you spend 6 months building maybe 5lbs of muscle and then you have to cut for 6 months getting rid of 50lbs of fat. I’d much rather eat at my maintenance level and build muscle all year round. Just my two cents.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks for sharing Drew!

        I agree that dirty bulking isn’t the way to go, but if you know what you’re doing, you should be able to gain at least 1 pound of muscle for every pound of fat while bulking properly. A slight caloric surplus DOES help maximize muscle growth.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah if you have no abs you’re probably above 15%.

      If I were you, I would cut to 10% first and then clean bulk from there back up to 15%. Then cut back to 10% for summer and you’ll have a noticeably improved physique.

      Your cut will go totally fine. You’ll likely build some muscle while cutting and your strength will improve.

      The bulking formula in BLS actually puts you in about a 10% surplus (assuming you have an average metabolism).

      Hope this helps!

      • António Alves

        By the way, it seems like you are not a big fan of whole wheat bread or pasta. Any specific reason?

        • Michael Matthews

          I wouldn’t say I’m not a fan, but I think it’s smart to regulate intake of wheat, at least here in the States.

          I should probably write an article on the subject, but the general quality of wheat here in the US is horrible. And many people are gluten intolerant without realizing it.

          • António Alves

            Yeah I understand. Still, if we are talking about just 2 slices of whole wheat bread throughout the day do you think that is ok, and will it still give results (in a IIFYM way)?
            I am just asking because it is the easiest option for me to take to school ( a sandwich). Is there any other type of bread you consider healthier?

          • Michael Matthews

            That should be totally fine. Just listen to your body. If it upsets your stomach or if you notice any other non-optimum reactions after eating it, then leave it out.

            Personally I really like Ezekiel bread.

          • The Swiss Miss

            Try Sourdough bread, in moderation. It’s been fermeted, so the phytic acid (the stuff that is bad for you) in the wheat, is pretty much neutralised. Plus it tastes delicious!

      • kjdj

        i thought the article says it isn’t possible for most people to lose weight and gain muscle simultaneously. how do you gain muscle while cutting?

  • “Recomp”
    I’ll be honest here, this is the first time I’ve encountered that term.
    Although our motto in aboutlifting is always:
    “Wherever there is smoke there is fire. likewise wherever there is muscle building, there is ALWAYS fat burning”
    For most people, the muscle building part is the only thing they should worry about. Eat right (avoid fastfood, take lots of water, avoid bread, eat only “real” foods), train right and hard – everything will usually fall into place.

    • Michael Matthews

      Recomping is possible, but not for everyone:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /build-muscle-lose-fat/

      For us experienced natural lifters, we simply can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

  • KJ

    Hi Mike

    In bls the bulking formula has given around.
    27% protein
    53% carbs
    20% fats
    ( roughly) to your daily caloric intake.

    Using this article I have estimated my bulking caloric intake to Be around 2800 cals a day.

    How do you personally ratio your macros to your caloric needs when bulking, cutting etc?.

    I have found my total bulking caloric needs. But need to know macro ratio please ?

    This would also help in the future when I gain weight + need more calories to bulk. A ratio or some sort of calc to go back to.

    Thanks allot . Mike. Love your work. Real inspiration

    • Michael Matthews

      I keep my ratios right around there when bulking–30-50-20. You can just follow the macro formula in BLS–it keeps it simple.

      If you want to turn calories into macros, just do the multiplication and division (carbs and pro have 4 cals per gram, fats 9).

      (2800 * .3) / 4 = your protein intake if you do 30%, etc.

      Hope this helps! Thanks for your support!

  • Ash

    Hi mike. Great article by the way. Love all your work.

    Below I have my calculations from using the katch mcardle formula
    173 pounds, 14 % BF = 1827 cals.
    1827 x 1.5 x 1.1 = 3014 cals
    This translated into macros =

    226g protein
    376g carb
    66g fat
    = 3014 calories

    Below is my cals & macros from BLS bulking formula

    173g protein
    346g carb
    57g fat
    = 2589 calories

    As you can see the first formula seems pretty high compared to the Bls formula.
    Please any help on this would be great. Which one shall I use?.

    Ps . Will be purchasing a diet plan from you very soon .

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ash!

      The standard KM multipliers are high. Only people with really fast metabs can actually do well with them. I’ve modified them based on my experience coaching others.

      I recommend starting with the BLS formula and slowly increasing calories if necessary.

      Great on the meal plan! We’re ready when you are. 🙂

  • Pedro

    Great article bro. I have been reading all the comments and I have just one question. I am 12 bf% and I know it because you told me that based on the the pics I sent to you. How much time wil it take me to reach the 10% bf, in order to start the clean bulk?


    • Pedro

      You have to know I am in the fourth week of my cut, eating the correct calories, training like a beast, doing 4 HIIT sessions cardio, having the supplements you recommend etc. Everything CHECKED.

      • Michael Matthews

        Awesome brother keep it up.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! You should be able to reach that within 3-4 more weeks.

  • Adrian


    The article was clear about:
    – when start cutting (+15%BF)
    – when start bulking (-10%BF)
    – how much to eat when cutting (-10%TDEE)
    – how much to eat when bulking (+10%TDEE)

    But there must be a difference in the training program when cutting and when bulking (otherwise there would be no recomp after the cycle), and I didn’t see this difference clearly in the article. Could you clarify this point?

    • Pedro

      Sorry that I respond, but there is no difference bro. Compound exercisees, heavy weight in the range of 4-6 or 8-10 reps. Push heavy when cutting and overload your muscles week by week, progressing until strenght drops a little bit when you have to maintain your strenght.

      Hope this helps!


      • Michael Matthews


    • Michael Matthews

      I actually don’t recommend you change how you train when you cut and bulk. Stick to heavy, compound lifting, and keep your lifting frequency the same.

      I talk about this and a lot more in my book Bigger Leaner Stronger:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /books/bigger-leaner-stronger/

      • Adrian

        Thanks for reply!
        I’ve got BLS, and I think it’s great, very objective!
        In other words, what you are saying is: if I follow the recipe, when I cut, I’ll lose more fat than muscle, and when I bulk, I’ll gain more muscle than fat. And cycle the diet (10% – 17% BF) is better than stick to a unchanged plain diet, right?
        Even the cardio is the same when bulking or cutting?
        And which ‘overload strategy’ you recommend? I’ve been weightlifting for years without being able to overload significantly

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Thanks on BLS!

          Exactly, that’s the bottom line.

          For overload, stick to the BLS program. It’s very effective.

  • Christian P

    Thanks Mike this and the last article you linked to me have gave me the knowledge I needed and as basically a noob with 37% body fat to know with the help of your articles like this I can do both has put a big smile on my face, you deserve a knighthood lol

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah thanks Christian, I really appreciate it. Definitely let me know how everything goes!

  • prax

    Please advice a workout /diet where I can cut n loose fat.
    Dont want a bulky body want to look aesthetic.
    I m veg ht 5.8in wt 79kg age 34

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  • missmarine

    I am a 48yr old female and have just finished phase 1 of your program! I am down to 18% body fat and people tell me I look great! I would consider myself a newbie in the gym because I didn’t lift heavy before, even though I have been in the gym for the last couple of years. Is it possible for me to still build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome, congrats! That rocks! Keep up the good wdork.

      Yes, you can still build muscle and lose fat at the same time. You should be able to do this for another 4-5 months I would think.

  • Trinidad

    Hi Michael, enjoyed reading your book “Bigger Leaner Stronger”.
    Question, the formula you suggest to calculate daily bulking caloric diet differs between this article and the book (p. 83). The formula included in this article seems to take more variables into consideration, although which calculation would you recommend we use for planning our daily meals? Thanks

  • Christian M

    If you’re bulking and doing a proper job, what percent of your weight gains can you expect to be muscle? (For example, if you gain 10 pounds bulking, how many pounds will most likely be muscle?)

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. In my experience, I think gaining 1-2 pounds of muscle for every pound of fat is a good bulk.

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  • Pedro

    Mike, hi. Short question. When yo mean first year of lifting you mean first year of doing jt properly, knowing how much we are eating and just doing everything right?

    Because Ive lifted for years but like you I did everything bad and didnt make too mucb gains. Now, After a couple of months of BLS I did a cut and know doing my first bulk and training as you do. Is this my first year, so I can expect to gain my first 20 pounds?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. You probably won’t make true year one newbie gains, but you’re going to make much better gains than you normally would for your experience.

      Check out how it went for me:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /5-common-fitness-mistakes-to-avoid/

  • Ted

    Good Advice. i had a question about cutting Mike. Im 22 years old and have about 24-26% body fat. i used to be in great shape when i was wrestling but over the past year i have lost motivation. im really wanting to lose at least 40 pounds but im not sure which route to take? should i just lift heavy and eat clean? or do butt loads of cardio? i just want to be pointed in the right direction.
    Thanks in advance!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Cool on your stats and goal. Yeah man let’s get you going on my Bigger Leaner Stronger program! You would do awesome–you can build muscle and lose fat simultaneously.

      What do you think?

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  • Dànaidh

    Hey Mike,

    This was a really great read, was hoping you could give me some advice.

    I used to be very fit, played football for 5+ hours daily but was generally very lean and more of a runner, I had plenty strength but was mostly very speedy than powerful.

    I unfortunately had to give it all up when I went into University and my diet was reduced to the usual broke student intake so I’ve lost most of my muscle and have become quite skinny, I still have a little muscle but am definitely quite pudgy in my midriff.

    I checked out your Body Fat Percentage article and from the photos I’m pretty sure I’m lying somewhere around 17%.

    I’m wanting to bulk up a little and get back my old muscular form with hopefully more definition so around the 13%ish range.

    How do you think I should go about this?

    • Michael Matthews


      Cool on your stats and previous experience. You’ll have muscle memory on your side.

      You could cut first but you’ll build muscle too:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /build-muscle-lose-fat/

      What do you think?

      • Dànaidh

        Thanks for the reply!

        That sounds good, I will probably be getting your book Bigger Leaner Stronger. Does it include workout regimes? I’m going to be taking part in Toughmudder this year so I will have to put in a little bit of cardio training.

        It’s great to finally find some advice that seems genuine.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks man! Yes the bonus report has a year’s worth of workouts.

          The cardio won’t be an issue.

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  • Michael O’Donnell

    Hi Mike. So I’ve calculated these numbers. Im around the 85kg (187 lb) mark. Inaccurate bodyfat scales suggest about 22% (I seem to carry most fat around the middle (handles and such) So I’m looking at 2673 to gain some muscle. My question is.. do I have to consider the net colories after exercise or do these calculations cover that? What happens if a go riding and burn 1500 calories? Great site y the way…

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool on your numbers but I would recommend cutting first actually. What do you think?

      You don’t have to worry about net cals when using TDEE calcs. It takes activity into account…

      • Michael

        Thanks Mike.. I might dig out the old calipers if I can find them to get a more accurate reading on bodyfat.. I see myself as fairly skinny mostly.. thin legs that I’m working on.. but certainly no visible abs which I want to change. One challenge I face is that I had an injury when I was 18 about 23 years ago where I patially severed the patella tendon. Following coming out of the cast for that, I brilliantly decided to play touch football and did some further damage to my knee.. massive swelling etc. The point being, I never did any physio to bring the leg muscles back to where they were. Now I have a slightly skinnier left leg that clicks and crunches a bit if I do squats etc. Would it be advisable to work on that leg individually? I’m sure my stronger leg compensates somewhat… Appreciate your thoughts.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure. Check out this article on the body fat %:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /how-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/

          Hmm it sounds like you should see a specialist to get a little rehab routine for your leg. We don’t want you to injure it further…

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  • Filip

    Hey Mike,
    If 2:1 and 1:1 are good ratios for bulking, what are considered optimal to great ratios of muscle to fat loss in cutting regime?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question and if you do it right, you should lose very little, if any, muscle while cutting.

  • Adviya

    Hey Mike! I bought and followed your book, Thinner Leaner Stronger. It took me a while to get into the routine so I didn’t lose weight and gain muscle as fast as if was following it to a T. It took me about 6 months to lose 20lbs. I’m very happy with my results tho. Now I’m in 18-20% body fat I think. My legs and arms are showing muscle and I have had a lot of comments like, “you can tell you work out”; but my problem is this now, I eat around 1600-1800 calories a day and work out 5-6 times a week; 1-2 hours, I do 20 min on bike to warm up, then do your weight lifting routine, then if it’s a Minday/wed/fri i do HITT 20 min on treadmill. Tue and Thur I take it easy on cardio-swim or incline walk on treadmill. Saturday depends on how I feel, do a yoga class or whatever. What should be my strategy on getting down to 10% body fat? I really desperately wanna see my abs! The progress has just went down to snail pace now that I’m 145lbs, 5’6 female. I think I could see my abs around 135lbs, not sure. I think that’s it, don’t wanna write a novel hehe

    • Adviya

      Ps. The new tank-top looks awesome! Got my in today. My favorite part is the quality for the money. And the Recarge tastes great! Leg day was today so will be thanking you in the morning

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks! Yeah I’m picky with my own tees so I made sure it’s a nice shirt. 🙂

        Thanks on Recharge too! Yeah it will really help with soreness.

    • Michael Matthews

      20 pounds down in 6 months is actually REALLY good because you’ve gained muscle too. And awesome on your body fat %.

      You’re very active, which is great. You don’t want to get to 10% body fat. That’s bodybuilder status. It sounds like you want to be in the 15% range, which is where abs show fully on women.

      I think we just need to speed your metab up so you can do a proper cut. Check this out:


      Shoot me an email [email protected] and we can discuss further. Oh and I’d love to feature you on the site as a success story! What do yout hink?

      • Adviya

        Ahhh!!! Now everything makes sense!!! It kinda took me by surprise, I was thinking here we go, he’s gonna say: eat less carbs, or focus, intensity….hehe, just kiddin’. And actually just need to eat more (little more) to get my matebolisam up and things will fall into place! Thanks for taking your time and responding. I will definetly do what you said. I monitor everything with Jefit pro and fitness pal, so adjustment is gonna be actually easy. I’ll get my pictures together and email them to you for success story (damn, does that feel good saying that

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha yup! My pleasure! Great let me know how it goes!

  • Ralph

    Great article as always Mike, thank you!

    Before I found your site I lost 20lbs and got down to 175 for my 5-9 frame which is the leanest i’ve been. Clothes fit great and never felt better. But, now it’s time to take it to the next level So…went to Bod Pod to really see what my body fat was. Almost fell over when they told me it was 25%. Yikes… Never would have guessed that in a million years. Stomach is pretty flat and can almost see the top 2 abs. Oy!

    So… Now what. I don’t really want to gain weight. I would rather just trade that 25% for muscle. I know now from the article that really isn’t all that possible, unless I know a good Pharmacist. 🙂

    Any suggestions?


  • Shredforever

    Mike – Write some stuff on P-ratios and how they work better at lower body fat levels towards adding lean mass and also I was wondering like if we add 3 days of HIIT training prior to lifting say 5 hours gap between HIIT and lift session, dont you think this will further enhance the calorie partitioning more towards lean mass and not fats, further this will help to keep the bulk lean?

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  • Dave

    Hi Mike, I am 42 Y/o and work at a desk. I started Gym 4 weeks ago. I have a 39 inch (99 cm) waist measured around at belly button level. I am 5,10″ (180 cm). I do not look fat when wearing clothes but I can certainly notice my gut in the mirror. I am not skinny but not big either. If I want to put on some muscle by eating the right amount and lifting weights.. are you saying that I will just get a fatter gut? But if I lose weight on my gut by doing cardio FIIT and be in a caloric deficit.. I won’t put on muscle? Well that’s damn frustrating…lol When I was younger.. I had no probs with keeping my gut off and gaining muscle.. but at 42.. I must say.. it is hard. I go to gym 5 days a week. 2 cardio and 3 weights (not heavy yet as I am building strength). What do I need to do to lose my gut but put on muscle? I have some good protein powder for after weights training. Thx From Dave.. great blog by the way.

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool on your stats. You can build muscle while in a calorie deficit, especially if you’re new to this style of lifting.

      If you start with the BLS cut diet, I think you’ll do great.

      • Dave

        Thanks. Mike. Just bought your book.. will keep photo’s to keep track.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks brother. Keep me posted.

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  • Al

    Hey Mike,
    Love your articles, however, it doesn’t really address my situation. I am a 59 year old male that is at least 60 lbs over weight. It seems that as I age, my ability to lose gets harder and harder. I’m really more concerned with health at this point than looks and need to get my heart healthy. I would assume at this point I should cut for the foreseeable future, but what should I be doing in the gym? Cardio only?


  • Rick

    Hey Mike,

    I just want to say that I really like your website and I am planning on buying your BLS book in the near future. I’ve actually worked out for four years and I made some decent gains in strength but somehow my lifts have plateaued. I regularly intermitted fasted daily and ate up to around 2200-2900 calories a day. Could it be that my stalled lifts be from eating minimum amount of calories? If so should I start bulking?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Rick! I really appreciate it.

      Yeah it could be too little food but it could also be related to your training. Check this out:


      • Rick

        Well I’ve been doing reverse pyramid training for awhile I guess it doesn’t quite work when I’m eating a minimum amount calories. Will I get promising results from your book?

        • Michael Matthews

          RPT is good but it’s better suited to advanced lifters. I will be talking about periodization in my next book.

          It may just be dietary but it could also be your RPT routine. Some are shit, some are good.

          If you follow what’s in BLS, you WILL make gains, that’s for sure.

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  • Mike

    Thanks Mike. Great info. Ive been training for a while, I’m 6,1 195lbs. Would like to hit 205. Just bought your e book. We shall see how it goes.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Cool on your goal. That’s very doable. Let me know how it goes.

  • teenagers 1998

    hey mike, should we pump our muscle if we want to build muscle and strength only? How to cut properly to prevent muscle loss and gain strength? I’m confused… im looking forward to seeing your reply. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Nope, pump training won’t do much for you in the long run. You can end your workouts with some pump sets but you need to emphasize heavy compound lifting.

      • Teenager 1998

        thks. But i still got another question… It is how to maintain muscle while cutting down?

        • Michael Matthews

          1. Lift heavy weights.

          2. Eat enough protein.

          3. Don’t maintain a severe calorie deficit.

          • Teenager 1998

            thanks you so much:)

          • Michael Matthews


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  • Hi

    Hey, mike ,Can i bulk up with calisthenics ?

  • danny

    Hi Mike, after i finish a bulk, should i go right to a cut or should i go to maintenance for a while and then cut? If you suggest maintenance, then how long should i stay there?

    thank for the great work!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey! I replied to your other post. 🙂

  • Danny

    Hi Mike, when i finish my bulk can i go right to a cut or should a go to maintenance? If so, why and how long?


    • Michael Matthews

      It depends how high your cals go on your bulk. You can start by dropping them by 20% and riding that as long as possible and then reducing from there.

  • Cherryblue

    Hi mike I’m female and recently lost a lot of weight that had slowly crept on mainly doing loads of HIIT, I have slowly switched from lots of cardio to lifting heavy weights and have seen massive changes in my body with quite a bit of lean muscle definition and strength gains. My body fat has gone down to 19%, I just wondered how long my recomp phase will last before I should start bulking and cutting? After approx 4 or 5 months of lifting weights I am starting to feel like I’m no longer making gains with my shoulders and arms which seem to be shrinking a little. (Though my chest, legs, back, etc are still growing) should i stop my calorie deficit now and start bulking? I’m 5ft 4 weigh 54 kilos and have 19% bodyfat reduced from 28% since I started measuring it. I eat very clean 5 days a week and eat more at the weekends I’ve never counted calories which is probably really bad and will make bulking and then cutting a pain in the backside for me! Please help.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! Great job!

      Hmm it’s hard to say how long you’ll be able to go before having to bulk.

      What is your weightlifting like right now?

  • Hey Mike,

    What do you think of mini bulk and cut cycles? An example would be 2 weeks bulk at slightly over maintenance and 2 week cut at 5-600 calorie deficit repeat for the entire year.

    I’ve read some research showing that 14 days of bulking, basically maxes out the “lean gains response” and any overfeeding after that point is mainly fat.

    Main reason I ask is because whenever switch to bulking after a cutting cycle I notice really fast improvements for a short time period and then the strength gains level off real fast after a few weeks.

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m not a fan of this approach as it just gets in the way of gains. When you’re bulking properly you get into a groove of progressing every week and you really don’t add much fat if you keep your food in check.

      The 2-week claim is completely false. You can build muscle for months at a time.

      That’s normal. Your glycogen comes back and you see a nice boost in strength and then you slow down to real life and have to struggle for additional reps like the rest of us. 🙂

  • oscar

    Does the TDEE not take into account height?? I weigh around 165lbs and I’m am 5’4-5’5 (short ): haha) I workout 6+ hours a week so wth a weight of 165 that turns out to be 1,986 BMR (didn’t ask for height) then multiplied that by 1.5 which turned out to be 2,979, I guess my question is you think I should be cutting? By just simply looking at the body fat percentages pics I think I’m right around the 15-16% I can slightly see my top 4 Abbs and a little bit of lats. Right now I’m doing 8,8,6 reps and by what I have been reading in your articles (been reading for about 2 hours now lol) I actually think I’m under eating even for cutting, I eat real healthy but I should probably keep track more of how much I am eating, if I had to guess I’m probably eating 1,900-2,100 calories a day, any advice you can give me I would be very happy wth thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Height doesn’t really matter, no.

      Lean mass matters a lot more.

      1.5 is going to be too high. Try 1.35 or max 1.4.

      You should cut first and here’s why:


      Great on what you’re doing. 2100 cal/day is probably about right for cutting for you actually…

  • Renier Pérez

    I have seen all kind of gains following your articles matthew, you are my big inspiration man, my squat, bench and deadlift have been increasing since I’m following your workouts and working with 4-6 reps(doing good form), my strength has skyrocket for lifting heavy ass weight, I’m cutting right now since I’m at 15-16% bodyfat but I can’t wait to bulk again and see my progress, thank you for existing and for creating this web with advice that work and not BS,I wish I had found your website before, you rock man! I just want to say thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! Great job! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • jake

    I weigh 175 currently take in around 1800 calories but my BMR is around 2600 …I’ve been in a deficit for about three weeks now from 183. I’d say 12% body fat I see Abbs. So in order to get the shape you are looking for I need to achieve a calorie surplus for 6 months (bulking) then go into a deficit (cutting) for 6 months to get what I’m looking for. Is that correct?

    • Michael Matthews

      I highly doubt your BMR is 2600. TDEE maybe. But a BMR that high would be outrageous.

      You don’t want to cut for 6 months unless you have a LOT of fat to lose. You want it to be 6-8 weeks so you can get back to making gains.

  • Patrick Quinn

    Hi mike. I am a classic ectomorph (18years old) who finds it difficult to gain muscle. I mean I am about 6’1 and weigh around 70kg so pretty skinny (especially legs). However, my body fat must be above 15 because I can kinda see my abs but not really. I’m very confused as how to bulk yet get my body fat lower. Hope yo can help I would really appreciate it.

    • Michael Matthews

      You will want to cut first if you’re over 15%. From there you will be “primed” to bulk correctly.

  • Kyle

    Hey Mike,
    I’m just coming off a cut and starting to bulk (today actually) or be in a slight calorie surplus rather and I have a question for you. For me to be in a surplus I’ll be at about 3500 calories a day which is no problem but i see to where you were saying that you should get about a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, about 20% of fats for normal hormonal functions and then the rest
    in carbs which for me would equal about 500 grams of carbs a day, in your opinion do you think this is overkill and would i be better with a different macro ratio like a P30% C50% F20% or does the 1g PP 500Carbs and F20% still sound good? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews


      Honestly it depends how your body does with the carbs. My body thrives on carbs so it would LOVE me if I gave it 500 g per day, but that’s not everyone, haha.

      You could start with 400 g and the other 400 cal in fats and see how you feel and up it if you feel fine (and drop fats accordingly).

      • Kyle

        Ok thanks, and i think my body would be ok with it cause i have a pretty fast metabolism and do good with high calories/carbs but i just wanted to ask mostly cause i didn’t know if you do TOO many carbs would get bulky or bloated from water retention cause carbs hold alot of water?

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool well give it a go and let me know.

          You might look a little puffy but who cares–you’ll be strong as shit, hahah.

          • Kyle

            lol cool, I can adjust if needed. Hey one more question tied to that, how would that be if i THEN add or start taking creatine? This would be my real first time taking it and I know they say water rentention is not much of an issue anymore but i also know creatine’s main purpose is to suck in more water into the muscle which could add some water wieght, i guess with all the carbs and creatine I’m just trying to avoid looking like a balloon just to get some gains lol any help is appreciated thanks

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha cool.

            Definitely take creatine too. That’s not its main purpose–it increases ATP production in cells. You won’t notice extra puffiness.

  • Alex

    Hello Mike
    I am a teen16 yo, 5’10, 170 pounds, bf 18% i am kind of skinny fat to an extwnt, i never had those newbie gains in gym despite of consistent training and food. Would you still recommend a cut to sub 15%?

    Right now I am eating no carbs deficit around 2100-2200 kcal day on non training days, on training days I am eating no carbs till training and postworkout i consume 200-250g carbs at a surplus of 2700-2800 kcal so that would put me on average at aroumd maintenance accordin to the calvulator. What do you think?

    • Michael Matthews

      I wouldn’t recommend restricting calories at your age. Your body needs energy to grow and develop.

      Eat your TDEE and lift weights 5 x per week and do 3 – 4 x cardio sessions per week and you should see some nice recomp effects.

      Check this out:


  • alex

    I forgot to add I train upper/lower 4x week. I try to push more weight everytimw. The reason I asked if I should cut is cause I read sonewhere teens shouldnt cur cause long deficit could mess up the test lvls?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah don’t restrict calories. Try to eat around TDEE and let your body adapt to the exercise.

  • Pawell

    Hi Mike!
    Thank you for a great article. I have a qustion About cutting and bulki g. I am 48 yo and after buying your ebook decided to do bulking. I weighted 152 and was 10% bf. I gained 8 lbs in 6 weeks and that visually looks like16% bf. Is it possible that my size puts me in the bracket of only about 6 weeks of bulking? I ate 10% over tdee. I ate 4 meals/clean food. And one more question – I feel very moody and exhausted afetr workouts. Is it normal? Oh and eating 2 tsp of peanut butter usually helps. Should I eat more before workout?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Hmm how much were you eating every day?

      That’s odd with your mood. What are your workouts like exactly?

      • Pawell

        I eat about 2300 cal everyday, 4 meals, 166 protein, 249g carbs and around 66g fats. My workouts are 5 times per week, exaclty what you suggest in your book and cardio 20 min hiit (stationary bike) 4 times after workout. It takes up to 1,5 hour. I am moody, sleepy and tired after, like i said sugar helps, which i usually am not a big fun of, but one icecream of 2 tbs of peanut butter helps. I was just wondering – people say that they are full of energy after workouts, what is it i don’t do right?

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool on all that. It sounds like your body just needs to get used to your routine…

  • Patrick Sua

    Hi Michael! Thanks for posting this awesome article! it really helps! btw I’m 20 and with a height of 179cm and 80kg. I start workout 2 years ago and i felt skinny and want to look like captain america so i decided to bulk. And my weight increased from 70 to 80 now and my tummy is getting bigger. Should i stop bulking for now and go cutting below 15% and after that start bulking again? or should i bulk all the way until i got the body size like captain america then start cutting like mad?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Patrick! Yes you should cut now to the 10% range and then bulk.

      • Patrick Sua

        When i do cutting i should stay away from carbs foods like rice, bread, pasta, mashed potato or any foods with starch. am i right? And also when i bulk should i do cardio and abs? i heard someone told me that when you bulk, you don’t do cardio because it burns your muscles too.

  • Patrick Sua

    Hi Michael! Thanks for posting this awesome article! it really helps! btw I’m 20 and with a height of 179cm and 80kg. I start workout 2 years ago and i felt skinny and want to look like captain america so i decided to bulk. And my weight increased from 70 to 80 now and my tummy is getting bigger. Should i stop bulking for now and go cutting below 15% and after that start bulking again? or should i bulk all the way until i got the body size like captain america then start cutting like mad?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yes it sounds like you should cut at this point…

  • Wayne Cheng

    Was wondering a few things…
    1) You say for bulking you recommend 20-30 minutes HIIT 2-3x a week. How do you determine whether to do it for 20 minutes twice a week or as much as 30 minutes three times a week? Is it based on fat gain during a bulk
    2) I have a lot of muscle to gain but I’m very lean (below 10%) and I don’t want to go into double digit body fat. What is your opinion on doing 2-4 week mini cuts every 2-3 months to shave off the accumulated body fat from the bulk. I don’t want to get shredded, I just want to stay 8-10% year round.

    • Michael Matthews

      1. Just based on how I feel, really. It doesn’t make a big difference when bulking.

      2. That’s fine. Don’t bulk for 1-2 weeks and cut for 1-2 weeks though as this just doesn’t really work well. Try to get in a good 2-3 months of bulking before you cut.

      You can also cycle calories, which I’ll be talking about in my next book coming out soon.

      • Wayne Cheng

        Thanks! For short cuts like this, do you have to go back to bulking by adding 100 calories a week? Or can you just eat TDEE for 2 weeks and then add 10%

        • Michael Matthews

          You can jump to TDEE for a couple of weeks and then into a surplus. Reverse dieting is only necessary if you’re planning on sticking at your current body fat %.

  • Branden

    I have a few questions because I think I have it now but am open to suggestions.
    I have a great training program and worked on form and have all the right keys except for my calories. I am such a clean eater that it is difficult for me to get my Caloric intake… I am 28yrs old Male 155, I was able to put on 10 pounds and keep it so I am around 153 – 155 now. I was probably intaking in around 1,800 calories a day before putting me in a deficit, and working out at the gym 5 days a week pumping hard about an hour a time. It is extremely frustrating. however I have now upped my intake to around 3,000 per day – Extremely hard to hit as I refuse to eat crap foods or high fat foods. But I am landing around 220g of protein a day, 265g of carbs and 70g of fat. It has taken me years to finally land here and I think with this 3000 calorie intake per day as well as the workout regiment and macros I should be on the right path? Before I have almost double the fat in my diet and I put on weight fast so I lowered it now to this. Please ask any questions or give any advise that might enhance what I am doing as this has been a very long road. Thank you,

    • Michael Matthews

      Your macros look great. If you combine that with proper training you should be able to do well. You may need to eat more thought. It’s possible. Some people’s bodies need freakish amounts of food to gain mass steadily.

      • Branden

        Yeah dude it’s crazy! The other thing is all these calculators giving me anywhere between 2200 – 2800 per day burn with my exercise which one is the correct number? I am shooting for high 2000’s as close to 3000 al I can get but without eating fats or other food it sucks. I do not eat eggs so that is a blow so I mostly subsist on chicken breast, bananas, protein powder, oats, hummus, lentils. brown rice, veggies, almonds, almond milk and granola. Any additional foods that I can get my calories in without a large fat content (almond butter for a bit but fat always pushes me over) A fitness buddy of mine said pop tarts…? I need something that can push those calories up because that last 700 everyday is so hard to get. Thanks again dude! Awesome stuff,

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah slamming down more and more carbs can become a chore. That said, you could include stuff like white and sweet potatoes, multi-grain pasta, and even rice crackers work nicely.

          I’m not a fan of the Pop Tart thing. Just garbage food. Unnecessary.

          Oh and make shakes with rice milk. 25 g carb per cup and tasty!

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  • Renier

    Mike I have a situation here, I have done the reverse diet and went from 18% bf to 13% bf with 170 pounds, and I feel that I can’t drop more fat, I think this may be because of the metabolic damange that I cause to my body on the days that I was dieting with so low calories, I’m eating 2200 kals, I since I went from 2400kals to 2200 kals I haven’t felt that I’m losing more fat and my performance in the gym has been lacking quite a lot, now I’m planning to start my reverse diet again to go for a 250-300 kaloric surplus in like 1 or 2 mounths, I would like to bulk again, but do a clean bulking phase, what do you think about it? I’m not really sure what to do, I want to gain size, but I’m not sure because right now I’m at 13% and don’t know how much Fat I put on at the end of the reverse diet, Can I get and advice please? Thank you very much

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your progress so far!

      You can reduce cals more. You can work down toward your BMR without causing too much metabolic adaptation.

      Check this out:


      And this:


      • Renier

        Thank you very much I will drop a little bit the calories and change my macros ratio to 40% 40% 20% to see how it goes, as always the best no-bs information of the web is here on your webside, Thanks for the reply!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great LMK how it goes. Thanks for the support!

          • Renier

            So things are going too good Mike, I have drop body fat, now I’m at 12.0% ( abs starting to show as usual in the 10-12 %) pretty good considering I was really at 15 ( now I’m using a more accurate method to check my body fat %, and using the mirror too, so the true is that I lost like 3% during my reverse diet, from 18% to 15%) Mi current weight is 166 pounds, 12%, I have 18 years old, and Im 5’8”, the goal is to drop 2% body fat in the next month so I would be at 162 pounds with 10%, Do you recommend me to drop below 10% Or Can I just start my reverse diet from 10% and then slowly bulk? I Do want to put on size but If you think it’s better to drop more fat I wouldn’t have any issues on doing it, because I know I will gain some fat at the end of my reverse diet. Can I get an advice?
            And one more thing, ¿what are the ways to support you? Thank you very much for all your Help, I’m glad that I found your website.

          • Michael Matthews

            Awesome I’m glad to hear it. That rocks.

            I like your goal and you can stop cutting at 10% and reverse diet into a bulk.

          • Renier

            So My cut has gone pretty good mike, I just wanted to say thanks for your help, My bodyweight is 160 pounds and my bodyfat is arround 10-11%, I think I’m ready to put on some size, I’m eating 2150 kals atm and planning to start my reverse diet right now, what do you think about it? and one more thing my macros are 40% 40% 20% do you recommend me to maintain my current macronutrient ratio until I increase my kals to maintain level? My goal is to add 100 kals per week. Thanks.

          • Michael Matthews

            Awesome! Great job! Yup you’re ready to go on the reverse. Lemme know how that goes!

            Oh and I’d love to feature you in a before and after success story if you’re interested! It’s a simple matter of taking/digging up before pictures, reaching your goal, and then taking after pictures and sending them over to me. What do you think?

          • Renier

            I like the Idea but I would like to make more gainz before sending them to you, In my next cut I will definitely do it, Hope you can undestand, I want to feel really cofident my physique before doing something like this, a picture of me at the start (180 pounds 30% bodyfat) another after 1 Year of Impproper Trainning (longs workout, dropsets,Not lifting heavy, not tracking my progress etc etc) and another one after finding your web,do diet the right way and LIFTING HEAVY, I feel confident at what I can achive, I have the dedication, the diet and the workouts to do it, Hope you Understand me Sir 🙂

          • Michael Matthews

            Sounds good man just keep me posted. No rush!

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  • Kyle

    Hey Mike,
    Thank goodness I found your website before I started one of those sledgehammer diets. So you were saying that you can add an extra 10% of your caloric expenditure to what you eat while bulking. But for cutting how much of a deficit do you want to create? (As a percentage of your total expenditure that is.)
    Also, what do you recommend (ratio-wise), as far as macro nutrients go, while bulking and while cutting? And when people give those ratios, they’re talking about the calories from each key nutrient, rather than the mass (in grams) of the nutrient?
    Like: 1g Protein or Carb = 4 calories, and 1g Fat = 9 calories.
    Is this correct?
    And while I’m at it, what is your opinion on split-routines?
    P.S. I’m really liking your website, with all of your articles and how you’re quick to answer people’s questions.

    • Kyle

      I read an article of yours that cleared up the macronutrient confusion. According to the bulking formula, I would need 20% of my calories coming from fat, a gram of protein per pound of my body weight, and the rest of my calorie needs coming from carbs. Because I’m 180 lbs, about 13% body fat (based off of pictures), and I’m working out 6 times a week, I figure I need something like 3100 calories. So this would put me at 180g protein, 70g fat, and 420g carbs. Is this reasonable? (The carbs look a little high to me)

      • Michael Matthews

        Yup that sounds about right. A good place to start. The carb intake is totally fine.

    • Michael Matthews

      Check this out:


      It’ll help you a lot.

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  • Samir

    Hey Mike!
    I’m 24, 5’6, 125 lbs around 15% bf.
    I’ve basically been doing -10% un-processed diet and bodyweight + 40lb dumbbell lifts for 5-6 months now.
    Lost over 35 lbs from max weight in 12-14 months.
    I wanna lift heavy but it’s kinda tough when there are no “gyms” nearby. I’ve got way more equipment at home.
    So, either I get a barbell and weights or do higher volume.

    Do you think high volume (60 lbs) vs heavy (100+ lbs) is a fair trade off?

  • Pepebeto

    Great article and super straight forward. I just have a question, once I calculate the calories in order to bulk, what macros should I use?

  • alex_woodruff

    So I weigh 133 and am 5’8. My bf is probably around 15 or so. I really want to start seeing my abs, but I feel like if I lose any more weight it just won’t be healthy. So would be doing a bulk be good? Even if I’m at 15 or so? I just don’t want to be super skinny with no muscle ya know? I’ve already lost 50 pounds, and my mom is worried about me losing more weight because I look skinny from the front and side, but just not “toned” ya know? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      I totally understand but honestly the long-term best approach is getting to the 10% range first.

      That said how old are you?

  • Andre

    Dear Mike,

    Just wanted to say that 1 calorie is required to heat 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius, not 1 kg.

    Amazing article, thank you very much as always

    Marc Andre

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Andre! Remember when “calorie” is used to refer to food, it’s a LARGE calorie, not a small calorie (large is what I defined here).

  • acirpr

    I need to show this article to my husband. He works out 7 days a week, most days is in a caloric deficit….He was a power lifter for a few years turned fitness competitor and personall I feel it’s messed with his way of thinking about losing and gaining weight. He hovers around 7 percent body fat, weighs less than 170 and needs to bulk up before his next compeition. Perhaps, this article, Mike, will give him some further insight.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great, I hope he likes it!

  • jack pulos

    hi mike nice article. My question is about what Im currently doing. during my training days I have a calorie surplus of 300 calories but on non training days I have a deficiet of 500 calories. Im on this diet for two weeks. and so far I gained 3lbs and my fat levels remained stable 14%(my macros 30prot 45carbs 25fat). what’s your opinion about this? will this work for long term. I’m more on bulking just want to limit fat gain.

    ps. I have been lifting for 6 months and Im on a BLS routine for a month now.

    thanks in advance

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! This is a very workable way of dieting and I talk about it in my next book, which will be out soon.

      That said, it’s best suited to advanced weightlifters that want to remain under 10% body fat and make gains in the gym. You will build more muscle maintaining a slight surplus 7 days per week.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • gagandeep

    hey mike, i m from india. i have a similar problem mentioned above about the relatively lean guys who wan a shredded core but i am not able to see my abs even when i m 10-11% body fat reduced from 17%. my trainer says that i have lost my core muscles in the process of losing fat. i lost my flab but i cant lose the last bit that covers my lower abs. also, now i m trying to gain some weight and muscle but i m eating clean that means lots of protein including chicken, eggs, weight gainer, but i m not able to gain muscle as welll. so i look thin with a little bit of muscle. and, ive bbeen training for 8 months now and i m sck and tired of training, and i m not able to gain muscle and lose that last bit of my belly. my weight right now is around 62 kgs. what i want is to gain muscle and lose that last bit of fat thats hanging there. please please help……!

  • Great article Mike!

    Something interesting happens when I lean bulk and I wanted to ask if this happens to you too. When I’m pretty lean (8-9%) and I start lean bulking, fat gain seems to come up very quickly until it I reach 11-13% which seems to be where my body naturally maintains body fat. After that, body fat remains fairly constant, I mean it increases as you’d expect it to increase. Does this happen to you too?

    P.S. You can trust me on accurately estimating body fat percentage.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I don’t have the rapid fat storage at first, probably because I reverse diet correctly:


      That said, my body fat % does seem to “max out” around 11-12% unless I just grossly overeat. Kind of interesting.

      • I see. I’ll start learning more about reverse dieting. Thanks for answering!

        • Michael Matthews


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  • Tomlaw192

    Hey Mike,

    Read a few of your articles and they’ve helped me gain an all round better understanding of how to approach things such as bulking and cutting etc.

    I really do want to gain some weight as well as gain some muscle. I’m 21, 6″0 and yo yo between 140-145 pounds. I have recently started taking my diet alot more seriously in an effort to put on weight in a “healthy” way by eating clean foods and ensuring I’m in a caloric surplus. My main problem is that when i do put on weight, it all goes straight to my stomach! I’m in the gym 5 days a week (not weekends cos I work), and I’m utilizing an upper-lower split approach combining both compound and isolation exercises. I also go for 30min-1hour walks first thing in the morning in a fasted state.

    Just want to know your opinion on my approach to this, and whether or not you think there is anything I’m doing wrong/not enough of/not correctly/etc. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


    P.S. What is your opinion on GOMAD as a technique to gain weight?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad to hear it.

      Cool on your stats and goal. The first thing to look at is total cal intake and macro ratios:


      Let’s see how your diet compares to that.

      I would personally hate GOMAD–I’d probably throw up. Much more enjoyable ways to get cals imo…

  • acirpr

    Great article, and just at the time I needed it! I emailed you the other day, and thanks for your response and help. My question is after calculating my caloric to bulk I should be close to 3,000cal. and I’m currently at 1,620. How many calories do you suggest I start adding per week?….Thanks Jammin Joe

  • Amanda hodges

    Hey mike,
    I’m a female 35 yrs old and about to do my first bikini comp. I lost almost all my weight on the thinner leaner stronger program and I think it’s freaking MAGIC!!!! Went from 143lbs to 116lbs. My question is – after my show I want to out on some muscle and achieve a super athletic look but honestly I’m afraid to eat so much! My bF is about 12.5% right now and I’d like to not go over about 15% if I don’t have to. I’ll reverse diet after my show and I’m estimating it’ll take me 6-8 weeks to get back to maintenance calories. I calculated my bulk calories at 1800-1900 depending how I split my training.
    Do you think my goals are possible?

  • Ellie

    Great article Mike!! Although I am a woman I am unsure of which book would be best for me as my main goal is to increase the size of my glutes! Ideally while still keeping my legs as slim and lean as possible.. I’ve been on an up and down journey with this for a long time and I think I have come to the conclusion that attempting a bulk and cut would be more productive than what I have been doing! Any thoughts you might have would be awesome but your article has been really helpful, great content Mike – thank you 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Haha I would go with Thinner Leaner Stronger as the fundamentals are the same but that are some “for women only” parts and the workouts are a bit different (and focus a bit more on the butt!). 🙂

  • Shawn B

    For those who want a slightly more technical (but not too difficult) explanation of the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy, try this resource by Brad Schoenfeld:


    This great paper blows away some misconceptions that creep in to discussions of this topic. Have fun with this!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing! This is a great paper. I’ve read several times.

  • Fran

    Hi Mike
    I started following a proper training program (5×5) In Jan of 2013.
    Prior to that I excercised for about 6 months doing 3 full body routines per week in primarily the 6 rep range along with HIIT cardio but was not doing any barbell movements and was hitting each muscle group with 3 excercises per workout using a combinmation of compound and isolated movements.
    Combined with dieting I did lose 50lbs in about 3-4 months.
    Then after some research and discovering what a proper beginner routine should be and having leanrt a little about nutriton i started the 5×5 program Jan 2013 and started eating better, I seen decent gains in both strength and muscle whilst in a cloric deficit over a further 4 month period, effectively the “newbie” recomp. Since then i have done some different routines however heavy compound lifts have remained the key component of each routine i have followed.
    I am just coming to the end of another cut and about to go into a lean mass building phase, my question is based on the training age and experience above, what rate of gain should i aim for in your opinion on this bulk so as to minimise fat gain, i was thinking only 1lb a month?
    Sorry for the length of the post, I would really appreciate your help.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your progress so far! That rocks.

      1 pound per month is a pretty slow bulk but if you’re fine with that, then you should be gaining very little (to no) fat at that rate. Personally I like to see .5 – 1 lb per week when bulking.

      • Fran

        Hi Mike
        Thanks very much. So in your opinion should i still be able to bulk at .5-1lb per week and at least 50% of my gains would be muscle as long as i have a balanced macro diet? I would have thought that would be too quick now given how long ive been training and 1lb a week would result in a lot of fat gain?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yes exactly. 1 lb/week would be the most you want to gain…

          • Fran

            Thanks very much Mike, I’ll aim for 1lb a week on this bulk then.

          • Michael Matthews

            YW. Great LMK.

  • Andros

    Hey mike

    I have a question on muscle growth and something you wrote on here. When you say to add a gradual increase of calories to help with muscle growth and not full out bulk how much would that be specifically?

    I’m 5’91/2 141 pounds (yes I’m light lol) and 11-12% bf after cutting from 146. A lot of the weight I felt was from fat and water obv. I would say I am an intermediate lifter and I mainly wanted to get much more cut. I’m not stick and bones by any means (even with the description lol) but id really like to gain more mass. I’m just really afraid of losing abs that I’ve gotten to be WAYY more visible than before.

    My calorie intake has been roughly from 1370-1480 while eating correctly. Honestly I’ve actually gotten stronger than before and I’ve never felt and looked better although I am a bit lighter. I’m wondering how much should I up my calories in order to get optimal muscle growth with minimum fat gain? Or do you think I should straight bulk? If you care I could send a photo if appropriate lol. Sorry I’m kind of new to this site. I’ve read a few of your posts and they are great!

    Anyways any help is greatly appreciated! Thankyou mike.

  • theladyisawesome

    Hi Mike,
    I am a 5’7″ 140 lb gal with a 30% (!) bf. So my lean mass is a measly 98 lb. My TDEE is 1705 according to the BodPod. I really want to gain some muscle, and have been lifting heavy for about 4 weeks. Should I cut calories to lose fat, stay at this level, or increase cals for muscle gain?
    So confused!


  • Alfredo

    Hi Mike,
    I really appreciate the knowledge you are sharing here. Very informative. I have 2 questions:
    1) I read the article, but I couldn’t find the optimum proportion of the macro nutrition for clean bulking with 10% surplus. Is the same as in BLS?
    2) Another question is is there a different if i want to based the diet on a high fat and less carb (less than 100 g per day), because my body respond to less carb much better.

    Many thanks,

  • Senyo Curiel

    I’m reading Bigger Leaner Stronger.
    There you have an example of somebody of 200lb and needing 2460 kcal to bulk. In this article you take yourself 193 lb and needing 3400 kcal to bulk?? The 2460 kcal is not much I admit, but why now needing 3400kcal? I don’t understand…..

    Please explains me this.

    Best regards,


  • ica

    hi i’m 5’2″ female weight 98pounds, i’m vegetarian (was) started to eat tuna fish daily, want to have muscles, but instead of increasing size, i’m getting thinner, please help!

  • daniel choe

    Hey mike! I first like to say i enjoyed this article a lot! I have tried to “bulked” and ended up just getting fat.. and took me a year to recover from my mistakes. Now i can somewhat see four of my abs and the body fat mesaurements from my gym says im around 12 percent bf. Should i bulk? And can i do cardio?(bc im currently serving in the s.korean marine corps and i have to run everymorn8ng)

  • Renier

    Mike, how tall and how old are you?

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m 6’2 and 30.

      • Renier

        You look Way younger dude, maybe its because you do even lift? :O 😀

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha the fountain of youth baby

  • Mourad

    Great article man,
    1 question about nutrition during rest days while bulking shall it be the same or to decrease the calories related to the excercise ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Good question. Many guys like to reduce intake to maintenance on rest days.

  • Alex

    Hi Mike…
    I am going to go on a bulk whilst trying to minimize the amount of body fat I put on. In your new BBLS book you discuss various strategies for staying lean all year round. Could I incorporate these into a bulk cycle or would it not particularly work that way? I am specifically refering to how you only ate your BMR cals on your rest days and split your remaining weekly calorie total between your training days (which would be as standard TDEEx1.1). I was also wondering what your thoughts were on intermittant fasting whilst trying to bulk.
    Im not far from hitting the strength goals for the switch from BLS to BBLS and i’ve never bulked on your program before, only cut so this bulk would hopefully see my strength go up.
    p.s. The BLS program for cutting really worked for me, which is high praise considering how many different workouts and diets ive tried over the years, so well done.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question! Your best bet would be the surplus/deficit approach I give in BBLS. A traditional bulk (slight surplus every day) is best for maximizing muscle growth but it does come with fat storage, as you know.

      IF while bulking is hard because of how much food you have to eat. Otherwise it’s fine.

      Glad to hear it man! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Jessica

    Hey Mike!


  • Jessica

    Hey Mike!

    I’m a female, 22 years old, just got my body fat tested and I am 14.5% body fat. I’m a previous division 1 athlete. I have pretty good size and definition in my legs but my upper body is pretty small. I have clear ab definition and bicep/ tricep definition but I think I would overall look a bit better and more symmetrical if I had some more upper body mass. To be honest, I get nervous about gaining fat by trying to up my calories. I know that in order to build muscle I need to be in a slight surplus. I’ve calculated my calories based on your recommendations and multiplied by 1.1. which comes out to be 2,100 kcal per day. Does this sound about right to you? I’ve set up my macros to be: 150g-200gC/ 130g P/ 85g F.

    I will be doing strength training 3-4 days per week and HIIT or some form of cardio 3-4 days per week (usually fasted with BCAAs).

    How long should I stay in a caloric surplus and what kinds of things should I expect?

    Thanks for all your great information! You are an invaluable resource:)


    • Michael Matthews

      That sounds perfect on your macros and I understand not wanting to gain fat. Fortunately it’s very easy to lose, though. 🙂

      As you’re lean you have plenty of “room” to remain in a surplus. You could ride it all the way up to 20% if you wanted and then cut back down…

      Thanks for the kind words!

  • alan

    hey im 16 and my body fat is 20% and im 168cm tall i can see my 4 pack when i tence but what should i do to look big should i build muscle or loose waight first? and how long will each take ?

  • D6

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been using your site for several months, also just finished BLS.
    First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this email and answer the comments how you do; you deserve some kind of award sir! Salute!
    Secondly, I had some major health problems that affected my heart; things have been great the past 4 months but I am still worried about trying creatine. Any thoughts?
    Third, I am a student and my sleep can be erratic, should I not train when I am tried or running on less than 6 hours?
    Fourth, I train at home – I find it the best way for me to do it, but it limits my ability to bench and squat large weight; any suggestions?
    Thank you so much for all of your information, I truly do respect and admire what you do.

    Sent from my iPad

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      I would ask your doc about the creatine.

      Hmm you can get away with training on little sleep here and there but not regularly.

      Check this out on the home gym:


  • Shane

    Hi mike

    Only discovered atricle now and you hit nail on head with it!!
    Im jus wondering myself on gains too make im about 13% bfp 155 lbs i want gain some more muscle then cut!
    What you mean clen bulk and whar bfp should i i achive wile bulking or how go about it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I like your plan. Let’s get you up to the 16% range and then have you cut to 10%.

  • Bogdan

    Should i bulk or cut first? When you try to build some lean muscle, you need to be in caloric surplus in your rest days?

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re in a gray area. Personally I would probably cut for 4-6 weeks and then bulk.

      Yeah that’s best. This will help:


      • Bogdan

        Gray area? I’m 6’2 and 170 lbs. I’m not too skinny for a cutting?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah because you’re right in the middle of the 10-15/16% body fat range, so you could go either way.

          If you’d prefer bulking that’s fine but I do recommend you cut it off at 16%ish and then cut to 10%.

  • Ruben

    Hey Mike,
    I have been lifting for a coupe of years now and made great gains. The problem is though, even if I cut for like 4 months, my whole body is lean and looking good, only my bellyfat keeps existing. That little layer of fat on the bottom of my belly, so my abs wont show. Any ideas on how to get rid of that last bit of fat? I can feel the abs and in good downlight I can even see them, but they just wont show…
    Thanks in advance!

  • Bl4st2

    Hey, I am really confused about this. I am cutting, so I am eating less 300 calories than what I should. When I achieve the body fat that I want, If I start eating again those 300 calories will I get fatter again? And if I plan to eat even more to bulk, if I eat 200 more calories than what I should will I get even fatter? I would really apreciate an answer.

    • Michael Matthews
      • Bl4st2

        Thank you very much!!!. Just 1 more thing if you please. I use only body weight exercises, and I don’t plan going to a gym. This is how I look right now after 3 months of work. If you were me what would you do? Cut more or start eating a little more? And if eat more will I gain some size (some muscle) with only body weight exercises by pushing through my limits?

        • Michael Matthews

          You’re lean so I would focus on building muscle. And you can make your bodyweight training more effective by following this:


          • Bl4st2

            Thanks for the advice. The only problem is that I am only 17, so I can’t just buy that equipment. Guess I’ll have to save some money for the vest. You are awesome ,keep up your great work!! 🙂

          • Michael Matthews

            YW. Oh okay. Well you could start with just the vest, yes. Thanks man!

  • Brian

    Hey Mike, I have an odd question following your guidelines….
    I am currently eating 2400 calories a day after calculating it using your method. At this intake i normally have a morning weight of 149lbs and a night weight of 152lbs. However I have recently been taking NOW Adam Multi’s and am having bowel movements 2-3 times a day. So should i continue gauging my intake by the calories or my targeted night weight?

    • Brian

      Sorry if its unclear but i meant to say, after my increease in daily bowel movements, my night weight is now typically 151 or under. So should i continue trying to aim for a 152lb night weight for this week or just continue eating 2400 calories?

      • Michael Matthews

        Good question. If you’re gaining weight steadily on 2400/day then let’s just keep you there.

        • Brian

          dammit Mike your awesome! thanks for taking your time to answer!

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha my pleasure! LMK how it goes.

  • Barney

    Hi Mike, Its unclear as to which is the best method of bulking. Can you clarify whether it is better to be gaining 0.5 lb a week opposed to 1 lb. If i go down the 0.5 lb path, would i end up with a lot less fat to cut? Which makes it the most ideal, effective, and efficient plan?

    • Michael Matthews

      Depends on your body. Between 0.5 and 1 pound per week is ideal.

      • CindyChang

        I was wondering the same thing. But I’m guessing Mike is saying to just test out what works best for each individual and adjust as needed.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah any less than 0.5 pounds per week and you’re probably gaining less than you could and any more than 1 pound per week and you’re probably gaining more fat than necessary.

  • Derrek

    I know protein powder helps to build muscle but have been found to contain harmful products, such as MSG, and they aren’t complete foods. Is there anyway to gain muscle with whole foods? I’m just wondering because protein powder gives me gas and will probably shorten your lifespan as it is in its natural form. Any advice on this?

  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    First off, thank you for your articles! They have been extremely helpful :). I just ordered Thinner, Leaner, Stronger and am waiting it’s arrival! 🙂
    I’m having some trouble calculating my daily caloric needs. I’m trying to build muscle (or “bulk”) whiletrying to reduce (in a perfect world!) or, at the very least, maintain my current body fat %. I’m 18, female, ~127lbs. My body fat is definitely above 15%. I have abs but you can’t really see then unless I ‘flex’ so to speak. I work out frequently (it’s my favorite pastime). I crossfit 6 days a week in addition to doing cardio 3-5 times a week (always running or rowing done in interval/HIT format). I usually separate my cardio and CF by several hours when I do them on the same day. I calculated my calories with the formula mentioned in the article but it gave me a whooping 4100 calories! There’s no way that’s correct…right? How much would you recommend for maintenance and to build?

    *I eat clean. Always fresh vegetables, meats, eggs, raw nuts/seeds, olive oil, fruits, oats or quinoa and skim milk. I also take whey or trutein powder, multivitamin, bcaas and creatine. And quest bars! 🙂 my macro breakdown is 50% carbs, 30% protein, 20% fats. I always stay within 1 to 3% of these figures.

    *On a side not, at the end of the summer I was about 117lbs (I was told by my trainer, doctor etc. that I was underweight). It was due to 5 months of under eating and running my butt off (literally!). I lost about 15-20 lbs in those couple months. However, during the last maybe month and half I’ve gained close to 11lbs! Unfortunately, not even 1/2 of its muscle :/ I’m sure. Any advice is greatly appreciated! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure and thanks for picking up TLS! LMK what you think!

      Hmm it sounds like you’re not new to lifting, which means you probably can’t build muscle while losing fat. Check this out:


      And 4100 is wrong–something got messed up there. Check this out for basic meal planning needs:


      Clean eating isn’t the key:


      And yeah we definitely don’t want you burning up all your muscle. Check this out too:


      • Morgen

        Thanks for the quick response! 🙂

        So, I recalculated my daily calories again using the tools from the article and got just under 2300 as my ‘bulking’ calories. This seems reasonable to me. However, I’m worried that it won’t be enough to build because lots of people I work out with/are familiar with my workout schedule say I should eat about 2400 cal for maintenance and add about 250/300 if I want to build. That’s near 2700 calories!! Needless to say, I haven’t really taken their ‘advice’ as this seems like waaayyyy to many calories for me even doing two workouts a day. Also, would you recommend that I try to reduce my body fat (via cal deficit) for attempting to bulk? Or would it be better to build some muscle first?

      • Sam Mk

        There are a lot of in demand fat burner products nowadays. Numerous companies introduce new products every now and then. Supplements with different packages, highlights and testimonies are present in today’s market. This may manipulate people a bit but there are some factors to be considered when opting in a supplement. With the need to lose weight, people tend to opt to what’s the best fat burner product that was offered to them. Using diet supplements may help you blaze off the fats and make it into muscles afterwards. Using this approach is the easiest way to lose weight but how fast the results may come is the same as it goes.

        Build Muscle

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  • Jenny B

    Hi Mike. Does this article apply to women too? The idea of adding “bulk” goes against every female cell in me. However, I’m trying to build muscle (get that “Oxygen Magazine” look), and I know doing this as a woman can be difficult to begin with. I’ve been focusing on increasing my protein (1g for each pound that I weigh), lifting heavy weight to failure, and avoiding cardio – but I’m still trying to stay within my calorie maintenance range. I’m 39 y/o, 5’3″, and 125lbs…I read so much about how to gain muscle that I’m losing sight of which might apply to women.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes absolutely and most women HATE the idea of bulking BUT if you really want to maximize the muscle growth, you need to be in a calorie surplus.

      That said, if you stick to around maintenance, you can make good gains.

  • Ilse Aparicio

    Hello mike, so i’ve read the article & i’ve been thinking for some days now that i should increase my calorie intake; I’m trying to build muscle especially on my legs and well .. Booty (lol) .. But i’ve been struggling with numbers since I’m not that súper skinny but I’m still skinny .. I’m about 108 lbs .. 5’3 ft tall .. & about 20-21% of body fat .. Since i started college i also started a cut (before i had other measures now my waist is smaller and i have gain a little muscle on my legs but still is not too much).. And of course some way i’ve lost weight.. I’ve been following IIFYM but i guess that I’m not eating the amount of food i should or carbs because i can’t see any gains yet … My macros are C167 P105 F62 and i’ve been slowly increasing my carbs (every 2 weeks i increase 5 grams of carbs) but still maybe I’m not eating the way i should .. I workout 5-6 hours a week (lifting) but i walk a little because my school is not that far from where i live .. I would like to know what to do because I’m a little lost here and I’m scared of gaining the fat and losing my decreasement on my waist if i start bulking .. Thanks for your attention & time .. Sincerely Ilse

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm your macros sound pretty good. You shouldn’t have to eat much more than that to make good gains.

      How are you training?

      • Ilse Aparicio

        Thanks for your quick response !! I’m lifting training .. On Monday i usually do legs (squats, lunges, leg extension, leg press ..) on tuesday i do arms sometimes with chest training or just arms, on wednesday i train legs again but especially booty.. On thursday i do shoulders and back, on friday i usually don’t do anything (matter of time) .. Saturdays (i train legs) & sundays sometimes i incorporate some cardio like swimming or playing tennis it just depends on how i feel… I must say that my walk to the school is about a 30 minute walk idk if it counts as cardio … And when i do intership (my career is divided into 2 week programs of 2 theory & 2 practice) i usually take a bike ride to the hotel (15 – 20 min ride) which i don’t know if i should take in account also; i’ve been feeling good but there are days in which i feel pretty tired because of my intership & idk if i should up my macros during that 2 weeks (i also would like you to know that on weekends i usually do a cheatmeal or treatmeal or whatever you want to call it it kind of keeps me sane) any thoughts ??

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay cool and on your lifting, how heavy are you going?

          Considering how active you are, you may need to eat more. I would start by bumping carbs up to 200g/day.

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  • Mr. Stuck

    Hi Mike,

    Just a quick question (btw, fan of your work, probably purchased it all). Do you think I should bulk or cut based on the image provided? I’m 184cm/82kg (6″ / 170 pounds). I was measured ~15% body fat

    I’ve been trying to bulk actually as I feel I lack muscle and it’s a lot harder than it seems. Been stuck at 82kg for the whole year, but have been making steady progress with the weights and appearance. Any suggestions on some carbs-centric food for adding ~2-300 calories?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the support man!

      I understand wanting to bulk but I would cut first and here’s why:


      What do you think?

      I would focus on cal-dense carbs like whole grain pasta and bread, potato and sweet potato, certain fruits like bananas (my fave), rice, and quinoa.

  • acirpr

    loved the article. Shared with my husband and after his upcoming bodybuilding show, he cannot wait to follow your protocol.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I hope he does well in the show!

  • Jules

    Hi Mike, I’m wondering how the 10% and 7% scenario plays out for women. Would this be something along the lines of 18-23% bulk for women and then cutting to 15% or a bit lower? Especially if a woman, like myself, is tall and thin, yet has a higher bf.(120 5’7 ~22%) If I were to cut without building muscle would it mean I would be unhappy with my size (just as you mention about the man at 10%)? What’s the ideal starting bf for a woman who wants to gain muscle and not fat (and is obviously new to weight lifting)?


    • Michael Matthews

      Yup you got it. 17/18% to 23/24% are the ideal ranges for most women.

      If you were to cut below 20% you would definitely feel very skinny. Some women are into that though.

      If you’re new to lifting, I would actually start with eating around TDEE and seeing how my body changes. You should enjoy a nice recomp for the first 3-4 months.

      This will help you:


      • Jules

        Thanks! So if I were to get to 17% would it be through a caloric deficit and the same macros you recommend? Is that safe? And what is a safe number of body fat to lose per month? Also, since I’m new to lifting how is ab definition built up when a person is thin yet still has body fat? I don’t think my abs have any definition even though I’m fairly thin. Would I do roman chair and weighted cable pulls to help them grow? Even if I get to 17% bf? Thank you!!!!!

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  • Brian Giffin

    Mike my TDEE is 2,300 I am currently bulking at 2,600. I am on my power week headed towards my Deload week where I will be dropping my cals to 2,140.00.
    I want to go back to bulking as I’m not satisfied with my overall size yet. Would you recommend that I start back up at my TDEE again and slowly increase or start a bit higher?


    • Michael Matthews

      Great. You can jump back to 2600. One week of a deficit won’t cause any metabolic adaptation.

  • Eugene

    HI Mike,

    When starting bulking, would you immediately increase your calories by 10% or should you gradually increase it in 100-150 calorie increments every week until you hit 10%. I saw a Youtube video that mentioned this to avoid metabolic damage, but since you’re in surplus anyway, does it matter?



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  • M

    Hi Mike,

    Feel like I’m border-line to your scenario and curious what you’d suggest. Started bulking with high calories about 6 weeks ago and FINALLY started seeing strength and muscle gains. Gained 12lbs but it’s about half muscle/half fat. Body fat has increased from 11% to 14.8%. I’ve decreased my intake and am struggling to reduce that 14.8% and frustrated that my muscle gains have stopped. Unsure whether I should be looking to bulk or cut at this point.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great. 1:1 muscle:fat gain is where you want to be. You have a little more room to bulk if you want. You could go up to 17% before cutting?

  • jrnyk

    Hi mike ran into this article I’ve written to you before in another article recently my main problem is I’ve been cutting for a month and I’m seeing progress in my clothes and body while also putting on strength. In this cutting phase my abdominal area is showing slow progress I’m not quite sure how much body fat i started at but I’ve lost 7 pounds in 4 weeks while show significant strength. I do have to note I’ve been training improperly in the high rep areas for years and not dieting properly until i started your Stronger leaner program. I’m confused on when should i start a bulk my body show progress but I’ve lost 7 pounds and my abs are not where i want them to be before bulking. I just don’t want to look very very skinny any thoughts? thanks.

    • jrnyk

      oh one more thing I’m not losing muscle my arms are leaner my chest as well and strength up since i started which is a surprise for me i guess my abdominal area is my problem maybe I’m expecting to much in a month so far 138 down to 131.5

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great! Perfect progress there. Let’s keep it going until you’re in the 10% range. You can see what that looks like here:


  • Noah

    Thanks Mike really helpful article. I calculated 2400 calories a day should be my 10% surplus. I was getting a bit confused because my friend was telling me to just shovel in food all day and eat sloppy foods too. He said like 4000 calories a day. Im not a very big guy right now and I have a wicked fast metabolism so im going to try this for a week or two and see if I can manage a few pounds and adjust as I go.

    • Michael Matthews


      Ignore your friend, haha. Let’s start you around 2400/2500 and see how your body responds.

      • Noah

        Ok sounds good! I also wanted to know what you thought about mass gainers, you know like optimum nutrition serious mass, is it a decent supplement for bulking? I cant always get the correct healthy whole meals I know I need especially at night because I work in the restaraunt business and Im gone for a good 6 to 7 hours with nothing to eat but chicken wings haha which I do NOT touch, but I usually just grab a salad. I know they are a short term supplement for like 2 to 3 weeks of packing on weight but are they worth it? Or should I just stick to finding my sweet spot and just use my whey isolate and creatine. And I also have a feeling I havent filled out yet naturally, im 18 and pretty slim, is it even possible to bulk before your body has adjusted itself naturally or will you just meet in the middle while attempting this? Thanks

        • Michael Matthews

          I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating real food, and just stick to calorie-dense foods like…

          Red meat

          Grains like brown rice and quinoa

          Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


          Whole-fat dairy

          Multi-grain pasta and bread

          Almonds and almond butter


          White and sweet potatoes

          If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

          Yeah you’ll speed up the process of “filling out” by what you’re doing.

          • Noah Papafagos

            Alright Mike thank you, I really appreciate the help!

          • Michael Matthews


  • Brian Giffin

    Mike do you drink milk much?
    I use non fat in my protein shakes.
    I have been hearing a lot of my gym friends say dairy is a no no but it just sounds trendy to me.


    • Michael Matthews

      As much as I love it, I don’t drink it much because I prefer to eat, not drink calories.

      There’s nothing wrong with it. Enjoy.

  • Dan

    This was a nice article mike!

    I just wanted to get some advice, I’m 21 and 5’9ft, currently i am 148lbs and working out 4 times a week, I’m not sure with my bodyfat % but i have some visible abs and as u can see picture i have a fat in my lower abs, that’s why i’m confused if i’ll bulk or cut, what do u think?

    I will really appreciate your response. Thanks! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! You’re looking good. I would guess around 9-10%, which is a perfect place to start bulking.

  • Carl

    Hi Mike,
    I have low testosterone. wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

    Hi Mike,
    I have low testosterone. What supplements do you suggest I take to help build and maintain muscle mass?


  • Frant!c

    I’m attaching my body image for you to eveluate, more or less how much BF can I have atm. Is that 10% or more? I’m starting to bulk right now. Do you think it’s a good idea, Michael? Regards!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! Yeah I’d say around 10%. Check this out:


      Good job! Enjoy your bulk!

      • Frant!c

        Thans a lot for your encouraging words and reply at all 🙂
        I’ve read your BLS book and I knew some things covered there, however, you opened my eyes on proper workout routines, meal preparation (with macro counting) and also how to properly do deadlifts and squats as I struggled to keep the technique good and injury-free.

        Now I’m definitely going to bulk according to your directions from the book.
        I have my calories counted, macros distributed and began my journey. I’ve used to have problems with bulking up (I always ended-up flooded with fat) but I will give your approach 100% trust and try it for at least 3 months. After that period I will come back with results (wheter good or bad, but I prefer to stay positive 😉 ).

        Thanks again and I hope to read more of great articles from you soon.

        Kind Regards,

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks man! Really glad to hear it. 🙂

          Awesome. Let me know how it goes. If we need to increase food intake, we can. So long as you eat enough and push yourself in your training, you’ll do well.

          • Frant!c

            I just still debate with myself if i should go with more calories. I used IIFYM.com calorie calculator and ended up with 2597 kcal daily (assuming that I work out 5 times in a week). However, I’m now training 6 days in a week. It looks like this:

            Mon: Gym
            Tue: Gym + Cardio
            Wed: Gym
            Thu: Gym + Cardio
            Fri: Gym
            Sat: Cardio

            Cardio is LessMills BodyCombat if you know this routine. Do you think I should add more calories considering this plan or would you recommend reducing some cardio? I want as much muscle with not that much of fat (I’m aware of that it has to come with bulking). What is your view on that case, Michael?

            Kind Regards,

          • Michael Matthews

            IIFYM’s activity multipliers are too high. They will work for some people but simply be too large for most.

            Here’s how I do it:


            In the end, you need to learn your body’s ranges anyway.


          • Frant!c

            I’ve compared IIFYM calculator to Katch-Mcardle BMR Calculator and here’s how it looks like:

            Age: 25
            Height 181 cm
            Weight: 68kg

            IIFYM output: 2597 kcal (considered as a ‘mild’ bulk)

            Katch-Mcardle BMR Calculator results:

            *BMR: 1692 kcal
            *TDEE (4-6h of workout): 2284 kcal + 456 kcal(20% surplus) = 2740 kcal
            *TDEE (6h+ of workout): 2536 kcal + 507 kcal(20% surplus) = 3043 kcal

            Looks like that your suggested calculator gives me even more calories than IIFYM’s.

            So I’m a little confused here, but as long as you say it’s safe to use it, I will stick to Katch-Mcardle results.

            However, I will wait another week on my present calorie intake and see if my weight goes up. If not, I’m gonna switch to first option (2740 kcal) and if this won’t be my sweet spot, then I’ll jump right into 3043 kcal. I will give two week’s span for each calorie intake to see how my body reacts. Do you think this will be a good approach?

            Kind Regards,

          • Michael Matthews

            Something is off here. My activity multipliers are, one for one, lower than the Katch standards.

            Anyway, I do like your approach. Let’s see how your body responds to 2700-2800 and we can increase if necessary.

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  • Brian

    Hey Mike,

    I have just come up on a year of your program and am a little disappointed. I turned to you as a strong believer that hard work and being natural can pay off. However I have not seen the gains I was hoping of seeing. I went from 155lbs at 5’8″ and 14% bodyfat. I cut the bodyfat down to 9% at 145lbs. From there I started following the DIET plans, the workouts, and even the macro-guidelines. My strength has gone up and I love the workout. However, I am now back at 155lbs and am at 14% bodyfat again. What gives? If i cut now I will be back down to 145.


    • Michael Matthews

      We’ll see what’s going on. First question, though: how are you measuring BF %?

      • Brian

        I’m using calipers and measuring an inch above the hip bone, doing this three times and averaging the result. Taking measurements in the morning.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool and which calipers? The ones I recommend?

          How has your strength changed during this period?

          • Brian

            I was not able to get the Accufitness calipers you recommended but instead am using two different brands which read similar.

            Strength wise, I have hit new personal bests. Bench: 205- 3 sets of 5, Deadlifts: 275-3 sets 4, Squats: 205- 3 sets of 4.

            Attached a pic of body at 9% at 145 and at 14% at 155 🙁

          • Michael Matthews

            Nice. You’re looking good. You’re just going to have trouble adding a lot of muscle when you stay that lean because you clearly aren’t in a calorie surplus.

            What do you think about going on a proper bulk?

          • Brian

            I’m disappointed Mike, This hardly answers my initial question…

            I am looking for advice from you on what to do at my current situation. I have followed your bulk and meal plans strictly for the past year. However I find myself at the same starting weight. I went from 155lbs – 145lbs – 155lbs. Though I have gained strength I now feel super fat at 14% body fat. Should I cut back down to 145 and 9%?

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah sorry I didn’t see the earlier thread.

            What type of strength improvements have you made on the program?

  • John p

    Hi mike, I have been following your book bls and have just finished stage 2. I have noticed a big change which is great. During this time I have been cutting and doing fasted training and cardio. I know weigh 168lb and my height is 5:10 and I’m 35 years of age. I can’t see my abs yet and wanted to know if I should continue cutting or should start bulking? My arms and chest are cut but could be bigger but my abs and obliques still need work. Please can you advise on the continue to cut or bulk. Thanks John

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. That’s awesome you’re making gains.

      Check this out:


      • John p

        Thanks Mike, it looks like I’m still cutting. Thank you for all your help.


        • Michael Matthews

          Cool. 🙂 Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Debbye S. Sparks

    So you’re saying that if you’re guy and you’re over 15% you should cut fat and 25% if you’re a girl.

    Then you said “if you’re in between 10-12% you should bulk,” is it this for men and women?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup. You can stretch to 17/27% but I wouldn’t go beyond that.

      For women, if you’re between 18-20%, you’re in a perfect place to start bulking.

  • Indra Gga

    Hi .. Im 18 176cm 63KG … I think im skinny fat bc my abs dont show my fat percentage is around 17 or 18 % i guess … If i cut i will literally look like a piece of paper and after that if i start bulking my fat percentage will go back to 17% … do u think 17% is muscle + fat ? And if start cutting again i will lose my muscle wont i ? …. When do we have to bulk and cut ? If i have reached my goal weight shouldi still bulk or just consume the same calories as much as i burn ? … And ne more thing … Are we gaining muscle while on cutting ? Your reply would mean so much tho

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  • Dez

    Hi Mike. I’ve bought your books hoping to utilise your method. Confused on macros to use. The ones in BLS for obese (above 25% bf) or the standard Karche formula. The BLS macros appear to give quite a low protein % compared to your other macro recommendations. Keep up the good work!

  • Matt S

    Hi Mike!
    Currently following BLS and have been making strength gains, but my weight is continually going down. I found that if I calculate my TDEE here, my bulking calories are much higher than they would be if I calculated it using the macro needs you lay out in BLS. I’ve been using the calculations you’ve used here to track calories and protein and not paying much attention to other macros (oops) and the caloric need in your book would put me at 2,388 daily where as this had me at about 3,000. Which is correct? Like I said I’ve been eating about 3,000 and gaining strength but losing weight. What are your thoughts? Currently 179 lbs at 12% BF.

    Thanks! You’re the best!

  • Matt S

    Hi Mike!
    Currently following BLS and have been making strength gains, but my weight is continually going down. I found that if I calculate my TDEE here, my bulking calories are much higher than they would be if I calculated it using the macro needs you lay out in BLS. I’ve been using the calculations you’ve used here to track calories and protein and not paying much attention to other macros (oops) and the caloric need in your book would put me at 2,388 daily where as this had me at about 3,000. Which is correct? Like I said I’ve been eating about 3,000 and gaining strength but losing weight. What are your thoughts? Currently 179 lbs at 12% BF.
    Thanks! You’re the best!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great Matt! Glad to hear it’s going well.

      The BLS formula assumes 4-6 hours per week and a middling metabolism. It sounds like you just get to eat more. 🙂

      You could reverse diet up:



      • Matt S

        Sounds good to me! Eating more is always fun!
        To do that would I add 100 calories each week until I begin gaining weight?

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha yup! LMK how it goes.

  • Bryce

    Hi mike i just had a quick question involving cutting/bulking, Ive looked around alot of places but cant seem to find a definite answer. Is it normal to have to cut/bulk a few times each to find the perfect size? and second is their ever a point where after cutting you can just maintain that body size?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah on both points.

      It takes most guys 3-5 years to go from “normal” to “ripped” and they cut and bulk several times during that period.

      Yes I’m at the point of maintaining my current physique/size. I don’t want to get any bigger.

  • Poe

    So i have this crazy thought reading the article, is it possible to do one week bulking and one week cutting to lose fat and gain muscles at the same time in a monthly scale?
    Or is this just gonna lead me to nowhere?
    For example: Week1, do cardio and a little weight train, with 20%calorie deficit. Week2, do weight train with 10% calorie surplus. Then cycle.

    • Michael Matthews

      Unfortunately this doesn’t really work.

      One of the big benefits of bulking is once you’ve maintained a slight surplus for several weeks you get into a “groove” of making consistent progress.

      If you flipped to cutting every other week you’d mess this up.

  • Bruno

    Hey Mike. I have a question about the pre-sleep meal. I’m pretty hungry before bed and eat 6oz of cottage cheese topped with an ounce of frozen blueberries along with a handful of almonds. However, an hour later I’m still hungry so I grab a bowl of some cereal. Is the cereal going to have any negative effects? If so, is there something else you would recommend? I’m currently on a bulk.

    • Michael Matthews

      Nope totally fine. Just stick to your daily numbers and you’ll do well.

  • Bekah B

    Hey! You’re site has been extremely informative and helpful:) I have 22.6% body fat and looking to trim some fat and add some muscle (mostly in glutes & shoulders). Should I be focusing on fat loss and then work on building muscle? Or vice versa?

  • Steve Ward

    Just about to send you an email, but thought I’d search the ol’ article list first. Awesome article, and completely answers my question. Thanks!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Nathan

    Hi Mike, so when cutting, should I take my TDEE and divide it by 1.1 to get a calorie deficit? I’m definitely sure that I am over 15% body fat because I can’t see my abs so I wanted to make I’m going in the right direction.

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  • Fynn

    Hi Mike, I struggle also with the common question cut or bulk Blabla, its always the same I guess 😉 so, I cut for a long time now, although it wasn’t right though, always learned new stuff and tried it out. Can you pls guess my bodyfat, I know it’s always a weird question but still, and I reached a point where my muscles doesnt look dense and hard, you mentioned it earlier in an article, probably because I’m not really “strong”. What would be your advice?

  • Richard Brown

    Great article Mike. I have been cutting for some time now and measured the body fat at 14% yesterday with callipers. Plan is to follow your advice and get down to around 10% before I start the bulk although was tempted to start it soon :-). Following the BLS programme and still making gains in the gym, bit more weight or a rep or two each week which is great. Been cutting for around 6 months now as suspect I started at around 20% body fat so noticeable muscle growth and much leaner than what I was. Suspect my cutting has not been as good as it should have been to get to 10% in a shorter timeframe but it’s getting there. Interesting discovering making little changes and watching the impact on weight etc. Intermittent fasting seems to have a dramatic impact on me in terms of weight loss however I feel rubbish when I do it to the point I have stopped that now… Fasted Training however seems to work really well first thing in the morning and feel much better than in the evening after a day of food. Thanks for all the advice and will post some pictures soon on progress.

    • Thanks Richard! Great job!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted brother! I’d love to feature you on the site once you reach your goal too!

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  • Romhel Francis

    Hey Michael Matthews! Do you know whats a great macronutrient ratios for a proper bulk for example c50/p30/f20 etc..? thanks

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  • DK

    Hi Mike,
    Another great article, which unfortunately results in my question, sorry. I’m a small guy, 5ft 6 and less than 150 lbs, not a lot of muscle and I can’t see my abs. I’m fairly thin but carry some fat round the stomach. I’m guessing around 17 or 18 % Bf. I have been lifting for about 5 months but only properly in the last 2 thanks to BLS. I have made small gains and am currently bulking. My main concern is my size and lack of muscle so even the small gains motivate me. I have trouble gaining but I think I’m getting there v slowly. Based on your article, I should really be cutting but the thought of losing weight concerns me. I’m not the biggest guy as it is and the small gains keep me going. Would you advise that I start cutting?
    Sorry Mike but I really would appreciate your advise.


    • Thanks!

      Yup I would cut to the 10% range as step one and start from that “clean slate,” so to speak. I know, you’ll feel small, but who cares. We are looking at the long term here…

  • Sadaf Cassim

    Hi Mike. This was a really helpful article. I read TLS and I’ve been lifting since January, and following your 5-day lifting routine outlined in TLS for 3 weeks. My muscles have visibly grown, but I’m still a pretty scrawny girl and want MASS so I’d like to bulk. I’m pretty lean, 16.9% BF (measured on a similar caliber to the accumeasure). Right now I’m at 106 lbs, which puts my bulking calories at about 1900 (multiplying bmr by 1.4).

    First of all, do you recommend I try “bulking” right now, given I’m so new to bodybuilding? If not, then what do I do? Maintenance diet?

    Second, how do I calculate my macros for the bulk calories?

    And third, at what BF% should I stop bulking?

    Thanks in advance! Just ordered the new TLS, excited to read it!

  • goldstargay

    Another great article! I’ve been in a mild calorie deficit for about a year now and feel like I have leaned out as much as possible. I have a bit of excess skin on my stomach and think that adding some more muscle to my chest/shoulders will help kind of pull that a bit more taught so I’m just about to start on 2500 cals a day and will hopefully see some strength gains. Do you also recommend keeping HIIT in the mix about 2x a week? Thanks!

  • Will

    Hey Mike,

    You recommend on here and in your book BLS to bulk once you hit 10% body fat. I’m currently 150lbs at about 20-25% Body fat. And I’ve been working out for two years and just started following your program now. I’m already small as it is as I’m 5’7″ and Ideally I would like to be 170-180 at about 7-8% body fat. Would you suggest to cut to even below 10% body fat where I’m currently at to say 7-8%, because I’ve never been that shredded and don’t know what it’s like and want to experience that leanness then bulk to 15%? To be honest, even with my gains in the gym the first two years, of mostly overtraining, i still feel small even when I was at my highest weight at 155lbs

    • Will

      And when I say ‘small’ I mean in comparison to everyone else at my gym and when I go out. Even though I’ve been lifting, I’ve never or rarely been noticed for it even when I was at my heaviest at 155lbs

    • I wouldn’t go below 10% until you feel TOO BIG at 10%. If you feel small at 10% you’re going to feel TINY at 7-8%…

  • Jay

    Hey man bulk or cut atm what do you reckon Mike?


    • Good place to start bulking IMO.

      • Jay

        Thanks Mike. Whats a good time frame for me to consider bulking for before considering a cut?

        • Depends how long it takes you to get to the 16-17% range. If you could bulk for 6ish months that would be awesome. You’d make great gains.

  • Adrian Pollard

    I just remember you saying if we stay in a calorie deficit or maybe you meant yourself, that strength starts to decrease around 8-10 weeks. Its been 6 weeks and my strength has gone up actually but somedays can be tiresome. Today I took a day off so I can hit legs hard tomorrow. Hoping to go from the Early March Dexa 25% bf to atleast 15% in the next few months.
    Thanks for resending those articles. I highly appreciate and respect you.
    I will say thought that Im concerned about muscle imbalances on chest and back since its moslty barbell exercizes in the program.
    Do you reccommend I switch soon? Also if adding in lunges and so forth to exercises should I remove something to stay under the hour? Thanks

    • That’s me yeah. Most people lose strength in a deficit unless they’re new to lifting. Glad to hear you’re getting stronger. Enjoy that. 🙂

      Thanks brother.

      The program will run you through a wide variety of movements. Imbalances tend to correct themselves over time and don’t need any special treatment. If so it’s easy to do.

  • Shannon Gonzales

    Hey Mike,
    I’ve been in-active for a little over two yrs and recently put a home gym together. I’m 38 yrs old , 173 lbs and 5’10”. I have all of your books and really appreciate your known and willingness to share with us all. Could you please advise me on what would be the best approach/ program of yours to follow. I’ve included a couple of embarrassing photos and i believe I’m in the 25- to 30 % body fat range. I am not sure how to calculate my BMR since I’ve not done any lifting for quite some time. I would appreciate any direction you could provide. Thank you

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  • Nat

    Hi Mike,
    I’m 16 years old, weigh 140 ibs, im 5 foot 11 and iv been training seariesly twise a weak for about a year and a half. Iv never eaten enough food, normally around the 1,200 callory mark a day but iv always been healthy. However, two months ago I started bulking and my gains have been great! I’m eating healthily and consuming about 2,000 – 2,600 calories a day. Sadly, however, my body fat percentage has risen from 6% to 16%, and my waist has gone from 26 inches to 32!!! Before I had visible abbs (not skinny abbs, iv been working on them for about 2 years), but now I’m getting fat! I don’t know what to do because I’m so much stronger and bigger than I was and im eating healthily! I also really want to put on more muscle.

    Basically I don’t what to do because all of the “eating and not gaining fat” rules don’t seam to apply to me. Please help me and tell me wether I should cut or not. And if so, how manny calories should I drop to because I seam to put on fat with not very
    manny. Also, is this normal? And how am I supposed to bulk and not put on fat when I NEVER eat junk food ( it’s been over a year since I last eat crisps, cake or biscuits!)

    • Hey hey!

      You definitely don’t want to be in a large calorie deficit at your age. It’s unhealthy. I’d say 10-15% body fat is a perfect place to stay. If you try to get and stay too lean you can mess with your body’s development.


      • Nat

        Thankyou so much for replying!
        Ok I will, but can I ask why you think I may be putting on fat so fast when I’m eating healthily and not much more food than my doctor says I should eat? and if I should Cut?


        • YW! Your doctor might be wrong on how much food you should be eating.

          Check this out:


          • Nat

            Great thankyou, thats a very good artical! However, just one more question, when cutting, you have said that you should aim to loos around 1-3 pounds of fat per weak other wise you will probable be loosing muscle. So my question is, how does this relate to body fat percentages? e.x. Should I try and drop 1% body fat a weak or more or less? (Ps, I have bad scales so can’t really go by wait).

          • YW! Depends on where you’re at. If you’re quite overweight you can lose 0.75 to 1% per week but as you get leaner it slows down to 0.25 to 0.5%.

          • Nat

            Ok thankyou

          • YW

  • Adrian Pollard

    Hey Michael,
    For some reason this week I haven’t been drinking much water. I was down to 179lbs (I started 7 weeks ago at 186lbs). I keep feeling like I swing back up to 182 when I bloat or eat any carb at night. I was feeling happy and I drank 64oz of water through out the day yesterday and this morning I’m 182 again. I am eagerly trying to get to 175 and it just seems so unreachable for some weird reason.

    On off days I’m doing 1700 cal.
    On work out days I’m doing 2000cal even though this week it’s been more like 1800-1900.
    I can finally see my body wanting to stall but it may be something small I’m doing wrong. Seems like by now I should be 175 but also I do believe my muscles are way more full (Even though my scale doesn’t say I’ve gained muscle)
    so is it possible because I’m rehydrating that I’m going to keep 3 extra pounds on me now of water bloat?
    My 7 week honeymoon phase is getting complicated. I think it’s time to watch this relationship more closely so I can see results and stay in love hahahaha. No but really this sucks

    • Don’t let weight mess with you so much. Weigh yourself every day in the morning before eating or drinking and after the bathroom and average your weight every 7-10 days and work off of that.

      Make sure you drink enough water and keep your Na and K balanced.

      Water can fluctuate a LOT. You can easily gain/lose 3-4 pounds in a day due to it.

      • Adrian Pollard

        Alright man. Just trying to kill the before and after photos. I just am use to gauging myself from the scale. Not necessarily forgetting the muscle gain. Just getting at a point were I cant visually see the progress as much when it comes to bodyfat. Muscle I see dramatic changes. Im so close to having. I think its about time to hit Dexa one last time just to see after 2 months how my bodyfat has adjusted. Thanks Mike for slapping me back out of my obsessive thinking. This is not a hard journey but can play with your head. You are the man.

  • Austin

    Hey Mike what would you guess my body fat is? I posted a few pictures because I am 5’10 and about 150Ibs so I wanted to give you a few different angles because at least in my opinion it is difficult to tell body fat when you are this small if you are above 10%. I am guessing about 12% because I feel that with how small I am I would look much more skinny fat if I was higher then that. What do you think?

  • Nick Raol

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your feedback man. Really appreciated.

    Hope I get your reply back on this. I am really fruasrated what to do and how to achieve my goal. My goal is to get six packs but also dont look like a chicken. I want some mucles too. I am 5,7 and now 144lbs age 28. I think my bodyfat is around 12-13% what you think? So here is my journey, i started in Feb-march 2015. I started working out ready hard in March 1st until Mid April and very clean diet. Cheat meal only once a month. Doing lots of cardio and HIIT sometime twice a day. Lifting every other day and Sunday rest day. I was eating around 1700 to 1800 calories. I was doing zig zag carb diet and I lost about 10% fat and however i was losing lots muscle. As you see in the picture, i am not getting any muscle mass. May be impact of low carbs, i dont know. I lost all my hope when people started telling me i look too skinny. I got very disappointed all that hard work for this?? I got mad and now started bulkling. I still eat clean diet. Iam so confuse what to do? i dont want lose muscles specially Bi and Tri. I changed my diet recently 2400 colories which is perfect as per your calculation too. 40% protien (210-250) 40% carbs and 20-25% fat. I am getting little bit fat. I can see my abs are disappearing now. I do cardio once a week now afraid lose muscle on cardio and quick jump ropes during my lifting days between sets. Please help me on my situation and any suggestion would be very help bud.

  • Marty O’grady

    Hey Mike,

    Really enjoy the articles and youtube channel…great stuff! Wanted to pick your mind on a subject Layne Norton really brought to light… metabolic damage/adaption. You see I was also a hockey player…. btw whats a hockey player like yourself doing in Florida haha? When I was playing in college I had to be in a certain weight which led me to under eat and excessively overdue the cardio. Once I graduated and and stopped the excessive running but still loved and continuted the weight training i started to gain weight even though i ate the same… which was nothing. Makes sense like you talk about energy in / out, if i cut out energy out your going to put on weight.

    Thankfully I ran into a strength training group that had me reverse diet for a year to get my metabolic rate back to a regular human being. In that year i put on 30lbs but raised my maintenance to around 1450kcals to about 2800kcals.

    My question is in a lot of the articles you talk about the the bmr calculator. But if i were to follow that originally it would of been at least 1000kcals above what i think my true maintenance level was. So what would be the best way for someone who has done damage to the metabolism to figure out what there true maintenance level is?

    Also have you come across an articles on people that have experienced this and have been able to positively adapt their metabolism back to a higher maintenance level?



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  • OKD

    I’m starting to bulk to gain more muscle I’m gaining 55% from carbs 25% from protein and 20% from fat are these good numbers or should they be adjusted ?

    • Yup that sounds about right although percentages aren’t the best way to go about it when bulking.

      I like doing it this way:

      1 gram of protein per pound
      0.3 grams of fat per pound
      Rest of calories in carbs

  • Ian Musgrove

    Hey mike, as always excellent article~ any thoughts to mini bulk and cutting cycles? For instance 2 months in a 10% surplus and then 2 to 4 weeks of a 25% deficit? Is this prudent or is it best to just cycle to a cut once you get to that 15-17% range?

  • Ryan

    I’m 5’8″, I weigh 130 lbs, my body fat is between 15% – 16%, my BMI is between 19 and 20, my BMR is about 1550, and I do P90X, 6 days a week. I eat healthy, between 1900 and 2000 calories a day, so that I can maintain. I eat at least 100g of protein a day. I want to get my body fat percentage down to 10%. I want to build some muscle (with minimal fat). I want to look slim, but with a more defined 6 pack. I want to know if I need to eat more calories or less. Thank you.

  • Jack Opie

    Hi Mike,

    Your articles are great. Well informed and to the point. Just received your email for the 99c sale. Trying to buy on Amazon.co.uk but the kindle price is showning £5.49. Any thoughts? Many thanks

    • Thanks! The sale was just over the weekend. I will do it again at some point. In a few months, maybe.

  • Zeke Threlkeld

    I gotta question Mike. I’m 6 ft 165 but I’ve been trying to bulk. Should I bulk or cut?

  • Emanuel Dushaj

    Considering that i am around 14 percent body fat. 192 LBS 6 foot 3. What do you recommend for me? Can you suggest me a article that would be great for me? I want cut the remaining fat and gain some lean muscle?

  • Rouge Surreah

    How long does one need to bulk for at the minimum? I need to develop my glutes, hams and delts. But I want to be lean as hell and have abs for summer. UGH!!!

  • bethy nosser

    Mike , Ive just ordered your book for women and the journal for the year’s challenge . My question is what equipment do I need to buy or is it too much of an expense , should I go to a gym . The reason I ask is a lot of the gyms guys and gals (my experience in the past )
    monopolize the equipment i need to use and Im just beginning and it just takes longer when you have to wait on something ..advise ?

    • It’s normally easier (and cheaper) to just go to a gym. Waiting does suck though haha.

      If you’re willing, minimally, you’ll need a power rack, an adjustable bench, barbell and weights and dumbells.

      For everything I recommend, check this out:


      LMK what you think!

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  • Josh Marcellus

    Hi Mike,

    I just found your website last week and started working on some of the workouts you recommended (chest, arms, etc). I’ve dropped 40lbs since January and I am 6’4″ and 206-208lbs. (it fluctuates) my body fat as of this morning was at 12.4%. I am pretty active and per my fitbit I burn anywhere from 3500 to 4000+ calories a day depending on what I do. I guess my question is how the heck to I maintain a calorie surplus at that rate of burn? Do I need to just ease back on my activity level? I am getting leaner and definitely liking the way I look, now I want to put on more muscle.

    • Great job on the weight loss! That rocks.

      You may need to dial back the cardio. How much are you doing exactly?

      • Josh Marcellus

        Mike, thanks and thanks for getting back to me. Honestly most of the weight loss was gained through cardio, mainly higher pace walking at a 15% incline on a treadmill and using an elyptical and bike at the gym as well as calorie tracking and pursuing a deficit. Once I hit my target weight I started running (which was a big achievement for me being a former smoker) and lifting weights, alternating every other day where one day was cardio and one day was strength (doing it the higher rep way) similar to PT we did in the army (minus the pushups and crunches).

        Then I found this site and read a lot of the articles so I am dialing back the cardio to at most 20 minutes and that is using the alternating Jog/sprint. I usually do that as a warm up before hitting the weights and that’s spread out over 5-6 days.

        But the thing is I also walk, a lot. Not because I have to, I have a desk job, but I do it to keep me from just sitting around all day. I also take the stairs for 4 floors multiple times a day (something that in January would never have happened) all total between workout cardio and walking I average between 5-6 miles walked per day.

        I eat anywhere from 22-2600 calories a day so I am not starving myself by any means and I do watch my macros and micros.

        • My pleasure!

          I wouldn’t do cardio before lifting. Do it after.

          The walking is fine. No problems there.

          This may help you with diet:


          • Josh Marcellus


            Thanks for the tips. I actually follow something similar to the flex diet (it was the only way i could stay sane being a foodie) and i’ve ordered a copy of your book as well. The articles here are great. I’ll have to try doing cardio after lifting. I’m used to the cardio as a wake up in place of coffee lol.

          • Oh okay cool! Glad to hear it. 🙂

            It sounds like you’re on the right path for sure.

          • Josh Marcellus

            Thanks. And thanks for this site. It really cuts through the bs and helped me layout a workout routine i am already seeing some results from

          • YW! That’s what the site is for. 🙂

  • Susan Furrer

    Hi Mike, I’ve always been very fit with my favorite exercises being with weights. I always had six pack abs until a year ago after I hit menopause at 51 and now I am fighting belly bulge. I eat all organic, grain fed, no dairy, low carbs if any. I have your thinner leaner stronger and I’m implementing the 5 day program and I do hiit 5 days after weight training. Any other suggestions? Thanks!

    • I hear you on your battle with belly fat. Cool on the 5-day training split. Cool on the cardio too, but I don’t recommend anymore than that.

      Stick to the training program and the diet, and you WILL get results.

      LMK if you ever have any questions. I’m happy to help!

  • Jay

    Hey brother – I bought the callipers you recommend but always think I’m using them wrong and underestimating my body fat haha

    Was wondering if you could give me a rough idea of what my BF is so I can try and calculate macros more accurately using the Katch Mcardle Formula?

    Thanks in advance

  • Max

    Hey mike,

    I’m 5’11” and 165 lbs right now after a cut (around 10-11% BF). I started bulking just recently with 2800 calories a day and was actually still losing weight (1 lb even in the deload/rest week). Would recommmend doing the usual 100 calories adding per 7 days or do bigger steps?

    • You have a fast metabolism. You’re lucky!

      You can go up 200 cals (50g carbs) this week and see how it goes.

      What do you think? Keep me posted!

  • Gabriel Ascione

    Hey Mike,

    I´ve been dieting and working out (alternating between HIIT and resistance) since November. I started at 202 and now I´m down to 176, 5’11”. I´m guessing I´m at 14% BF. Been eating at around 2000-2200 cals. What would you recommend I should go next in terms of diet and workout? I haven´t noticed any chnages in BF or mass for a couple of weeks now. Thanks man

    • Great job on the results you’ve gotten so far!

      Those cals seem a bit high for cutting when weighing 176 lbs.

      Check them against this:


      If you’re still not losing weight with your new, reworked cals, you should reverse diet to speed up your metabolism. Check it out:


      What do you think?

    • Gabriel Ascione

      Thanks a lot bro, reworked the numbers so I’ll be taking the cals down to 1900. One more thing though, I’m doing a 4 day split from Mon-Thurs and then 2 hours of soccer on Sundays. Do you think it would be overdoing it if I did bodyweight training on Saturdays (push-ups , chin-ups and pull-ups). Really appreciate your help man!

  • Aoleary

    Hi Mike,

    Really love your TLS book, my mom and I have read it and been following the program since mid April of this year. I’m a 24yr old, 5’5, 134lb female with a 26.5% BF and the macros I calculated from your book have helped me to lose BF and build muscle progressively. I am now attending a medical school in their 6 month firefighting program in which we do about 5-6 hours a week of intense/HIIT cardio along with body weight training (push-ups, pull-ups, drills etc.) so I decreased from TLS strength sessions from 5x a week to 3x a week to fit between my class PT days. I want to continue lowering my body fat but I absolutely must increase my muscle strength and endurance for the physical requirements of the firefighting program. what kind of eating plan would you suggest I follow?

    Thank you for your time and I appreciate any advice you have!


    • Glad you’re a fan of the book!

      Cool you’re doing your firefighting program too.

      Good call on bringing down the volume to the 3-day split.

      I recommend following a cutting plan. Since you’re new to this style of lifting, you’ll be building muscle while losing fat in a deficit.

      What do you think?

      To rework or check your cals, you use this:


  • Petar

    Greetings 🙂
    I found your YT channel recently, and it is amazing. We can learn a lot from you, and it is all based on real science, keep up with good work. I have one question that bothers me a lot. Is it possible to bulk clean, for example if today is my weightlifting day, i would be in surpluse, and if it’s cardio day, i would be in deficite? From your articles and videos, weight gain per week should be 0.5 – 1 lbs, but with this approach it should be less. Please give me your opinion, is this a waste of time, (point me to the right direction) ? 🙂

  • JA

    Hey Mike,
    Just finished up a 20 week cut this week using the principles I learned from your site…thank you! Before and after result is astonishing. First time I followed thru with a cut to sub 10% BF. Just had to comment as this article related to me. Once I started getting leaner below that 10% mark, I felt tiny! I found out I definitely wasn’t as big as I thought I was. Strength stayed consistent though throughout cut. I incorporated IF ¾ way thru cut which works wonders. Anyways, revisited this article to prepare for bulk phase starting in Sept. Do you agree to go ahead and enjoy maintenance Kals (reverse diet) for the next 4 weeks or so coming off long cut? Have a great lean base now just need to put back on the size till I’m happy. Few stats for the hell of it. 5’8” started at 185lbs, now at 150. Thanks again for all your advice.

    • Awesome to hear man! I’d love to see the before and afters.

      As to maintaining for the next 4 months, I would only recommend that if you’re trying to stay lean for the summer.

      If you’re focus is to build muscle, I recommend going into a mild surplus and start building that muscle.

      What do you think?

      • JA

        Cool…thanks for response. Ya was thinking of staying leaner thru August then bulk. However, since I’ve added back in around 300 or so cals/day I feel like I look better and am still getting leaner??! Really weird! Would love to send you a couple pics. Where do I send them?
        Thanks again Mike!

  • AJ

    Hi Mike

    I’ve been bulking using the macros and katch mcardle calculator you recommend for about 5 months now. My lifts have all gone up in the past 5 months: squat and deadlift up by 54lbs and bench press up by 20lbs (still a weak point).

    Only thing is that my weight has stayed exactly the same at around 154lbs – I’m quite confused considering I’ve been eating 2700 calories and am 5 ft 9. I remember you once saying that if you’re gaining strength but not weight you need to eat more? I’ve attached two pictures 2 months apart – I feel there have been changes in my body but just confused by the no change in weight lol.

    Could do with some advice – thanks in advance – also just bought shredded chef – some tasty recipes in there!!

    • Good to hear on the strength gains!

      You look leaner in the second photo so you must’ve put on some muscle and lost some fat if you’re the same weight.

      You definitely need to add more cals to make sure you’re gaining .5-1 pound a week. Add 35g carb and see how it goes the next week or two.

      What do you think?

      • AJ

        Cool man I’ll push up to about 2800 calories once I come back from holiday in a couple of weeks lol. Thanks for the advice man really appreciate your knowledge and help

  • Timmy Atz

    Hi Mike, Ive made all the mistakes you speak about in your book. Best book ever!Im 5’10 219 age 44. I cut from 250 to 219 at 20% BF from this January. Thanks god for your book as of 6 weeks ago I stopped my cut do to overtraining, fat skinny look etc. My Question is Since your book ive been maintaining 219lbs and 20% BF Should I maintain or bulk to get my muscle back and for how long until I cut again to get below 15%BF. I reverse dieted to my maintenance calories of 3000cal and feel great and see my muscle again. getting stronger every week!
    thx again Mike

    • Good job on the weight you lost!

      I recommend you cut first because it will just be better all around. It’s better for health purposes, and will prevent you from having to do a long, annoying cut to get into the 10% range (where most guys want to maintain).

      Plus if you’re new to this style of lifting, you’re going to gain muscle and strength while cutting, so you really can’t lose.

      Once you get to 10-12% BF, you can focus on building muscle.

      What do you think?

      • Timmy Atz

        Thx for the response! For the last month I just maintained 219lbs 20%BF I feel like im ready to cut. Currently having 3k cals I didn’t do numbers yet on the cut but do you recommend transitioning to the cut calories let say 2500 cals all in one time or do I cut 100 cals a weelk similar to a reverse diet until I reach my cut calories

        • NP!

          You can set up the cutting cals here:


          Once you’re ready to cut, just go straight into the cutting cals!

          • Timmy Atz

            thx I had another question the last 2 times I came back from a rest week I was up 2 lbs on the scale and my body fat stayed the same. Im assuming I gained 2 lbs of muscle each time is this possible with in a 10 week span I rest after 4-5 weeks lol!

          • Haha it’s possible but unlikely all muscle. Some water and glycogen in there too I’d guess.

          • Timmy Atz

            Ok Mike Ive started my cut again about 4 weeks in and lost another 4 lbs. Went from 20.9%BF and Now 20.4% Weight seems like a good pace but I feel like the BF should of went down a bit more for each pound lost. Im following the 4 day routine 4-6 reps compound moves nothing advanced yet like in BBLS plus 2x 20 min hiit, I figured out all my cutting numbers and hitting them every day. So far I did one reefed day of carbs 350 xtra carb calories. Do u think I should continue what im doing and I will eventually hit 12%BF or lower? Seems very far away at this pace thx for any input MIke!

          • Hmm. How are you tracking your BF%?

            Everything you’re doing sounds right. Keep this in mind while cutting:


            LMK on the BF%.

          • Timmy Atz

            HI Mike I read the article u recommended! im using the Omron fat loss monitor for tracking my BF% I know its not as accurate as the pinchers but its been accurate as what number its been giving meaning its been consistent. So I am losing weight on the scale but I feel like I might be losing to much muscle. Is there a standard for every 5 pounds lost on the scale youll lose .5-1% BF. Just want to lose the least amount of muscle on my way to 12%BF if all my numbers are set perfect. What would be the go to Macros to tweak as I go down.! Should I tweak protein, carbs or fats. Im actually getting stronger while cutting then when I was maintaining. Amazing! 4-6 reps bench =225lbs deadlifts=295lbs squats=395lbs

          • Cool.

            No, not really. If you’re maintaining your strength in the gym you’re not going to be losing muscle.

            Check this out:


          • You shouldn’t lose any muscle really. Just fat and water and glycogen…

  • Wendell Matthews II

    Hey Mike, great article. I’m a guy, 29 at 170lbs, under 15% body fat (need to verify) and I desire to eat 3000 cal to maintain if not grow muscle. I really bad want to cut body fat in half within the next 3 months. Should I go with the method of eating 3kcal and cardio 2-3 hours/week or drop down to 2.3kcal and 1 hour/week of cardio? Thanks.

  • Anatoly Motin

    Hi Michael! How do I cut my 20% from TDEE – do I do it gradually by 100 kkal a week let’s say, or do I cut all 20% at a time?

    • Nope take the 20% off right away. You want to go straight into cutting cals.

  • Mike,

    So start bulk at 10-12%. Start cut at 15-16%. I asusme that’s guess for optimum at according to research.

    But what if someone likes being lean and doesn’t even like going to 15%? How much less optimal do you think it would it be to follow these parameters instead?

    Start bulk at 6-8%. Start cut at 11-12%.

    It’s the same numeric range (different of 4%). The known optimum does have a greater lb’s gained in a 4% range since your gaining at a higher starting weight, but it’s such a small total amount that it’s probably negligible.

    Thanks, Sean

    • Yeah you can fudge those numbers by 1-2% but that’s the overall idea.

      I used to do the same. Cut to 7-8%, maintain for a bit, bulk to 13 to 14%, repeat. Now I just maintain 8%ish because I’m not trying to get bigger at this point.

  • Alex Wunder

    If i wanted to do the calorie cycling where i was in a surplus (monday-friday) and a deficit saturday and sunday..

    Would i want my net calorie intake for the week to end up a surplus so that I still gain muscle, but just at a significantly slower rate?

    If so, how much of a surplus would i like that to be? Like what percent over TDEE for the week?

    • You want your net calorie intake for the week to equal your TDEE.

      So, you’re adding more cals to Mon-Fri by taking them away from Sat and Sun, but in the end, your total cals for the week should equal what eating at maintenance cals daily would be.

      • Alex Wunder

        Gotcha.. so essentially increase muscle mass while decreasing fat? A recomp by the week, but at a slowed down rate?

  • Jamar Sigma-Strong Cotton

    Mike how’s it going? I am 245lbs and 18% BF. I was at 5% 225 9years ago and would like to get somewhere close to that again. What’s your suggestion?

  • RK

    Hey there Mike, I am planning to follow a linear strength and hypertrophy program for the coming months and would like to gain lean muscle. Does heavy lifting (squats, deadlifts, etc.) count the same as cardio for getting my daily calories? I would be lifting 4 (eventually 3) times a week, no cardio – so should I multiply my BMR by 1.35? Thank you very much

    • Sounds like a good plan!

      The multiplier counts any form of exercise. The 1.35 multiplier should be good. Adjust based off results.

  • Bryan

    Hey Mike, been following your stuff with great results. I appreciate everything you do for the community. I use a fitbit HR monitor that appears to give me a fairly accurate calorie burn for my daily activities, i.e. if I eat what it says I burned for the day, I won’t gain/lose weight on average for the week. That being said, some weekends I have days where I work outside and burn an immense amount of calories 4k-4500 doing physical labor all day. If I am still trying to bulk on top of that do I need to eat 10% more than the 4000 number for the day or more of my daily average? Also when needing to eat more in those situations, do I just keep my macro ratios in check or eat more protein? carbs?


  • Forest

    I just started out weight training as a complete newbie about 6 weeks ago. I am neither muscular nor overweight, and I’m pretty thin but not too scrawny. I weigh around 140 pounds with around 15% bodyfat (that’s my best guess based on measurements and pictures). I want to start gaining muscle as fast as possible, but I don’t want my bodyfat to get too high. Should I bulk or cut to start out? I’m at kinda the borderline on bodyfat but since I am very lightweight I don’t want to look too spindly. Thanks in advance, your articles have been very helpful!

    • Great!

      Given your age I wouldn’t recommend trying to get really lean as it can hinder development. Instead, let’s focus on building muscle and strength and letting your body develop.

      I’d recommend eating right around TDEE.

      • Forest

        Alright thanks, I’ll let you know how it goes!

  • K Crow

    Hi Michael,

    Just recently found this website and just want to say a big thank you for taking time to upload such valuable information. Like most people I have made two big mistakes when I started working out April of 2014. I consumed waaaay too much food and worked with a rep range of 8-12 for everything. I was out of training for 5 months due to a shoulder injury and started up again around April this year. My problem now is I have excessive fat around my belly and lower back and I am no where near as muscular as I would like. So I found your website and I am going start you 4-6 rep x 12 total sets workout planning on training 1 muscle group every 7 days. I just have no idea what to do about this stomach fat. If I slow bulk It wont go away and if I cut I wont gain muscle. I would really appreciate any advice you could provide and would help out so much. Once again a big thank you for all your valuable information.


    • My pleasure. Glad you’re enjoying it.

      Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people that have made mistakes like that when they started lifting.

      Happy to hear you’re lifting in a good rep range now.

      For now, I recommend you cut and focus on losing BF. Once you get down to 10-12% BF, you can focus on building muscle. Besides, since you’re new to this style of training, you’ll be able to build muscle while losing fat. Check this out:


      • K Crow

        Mike, thank you so much 🙂 with your advise I now know to focus on one area which is to just lose the weight. So I am gradually working down my calories slowly while staying in this rep range.l and hopefully will see the desired results. Once again your time and effort is like non other. Btw you habe a fan from
        Australia :P. Will post back when I see some results.


  • Michael


    I just finished week 6 of the BLS program. I’m 5’11” 169 lbs. That’s what I started at 6 weeks ago. My body fat did drop from above 18.5% to 14.9% in that time period. I am making significant strength gains. I have been keeping meticulous track of my macros and ordered a custom meal plan from MFL. I’ve been trying to bulk mainly because even at 14.9% I look pretty lean and plenty of people tell me I look too thin. Hard to make myself start cutting when people keep telling me to quit losing weight. Even at a little above 14% my abs are somewhat visible. (I went from 184lbs in March of this year to 172 in July without working out because I was recovering from an injury) I find losing weight to be pretty easy but I know I lost some muscle during that period as well. On my bulk I have slowly worked my way up to about 2800 calories a day without gaining any weight and in fact losing body fat over the last 5-6 weeks. My question is about transitioning to a cut because from reading your stuff it sounds like I should be cutting instead. Should I just back down slowly from 2800 until I start losing .5 – 1 pound per week? I don’t want to use the formulas anymore because they were way underestimating the number of calories I need/burn on a daily basis. I have a pretty fast metabolism. When I initially started the program I figured I would go ahead and bulk to gain some muscle/mass and I don’t mind a slightly longer cutting period since I have always been able to burn fat and lose weight pretty quickly. Or can I keep bulking?

    btw – I’ve been able to talk 5 other friends into buying your book and we’re all helping each other out with the program. I’m using multiple Legion supplements as well (whey +, pulse, recharge)

    Thanks for all of your help. Your web site, books, podcasts, etc. are a godsend.

  • John Doe

    Hi Mike,

    Is there any specific research which actually compares protein synthesis rates or muscle CSA increase for various caloric surpluses (your 10%, 20%, 30%, etc.)?

    • Not that cleanly, no. At least not that I know of. You can kind of piece it together by looking at overfeeding studies though.

      • John Doe

        I suppose then there’s no way to really know if a 1%, 5% or 30% calorie surplus will maximize protein synthesis?

        Just trying to get the best information regarding weight gain/loss (including changes in muscle mass, fat mass and other components like water) so I can better plan and track my progress.

        How much water is lost along with fat during cutting?

        Also, you say when bulking usually you gain fat/muscle at a 1:1 ratio… If you follow the 3500cal/lb rule of fat gain/loss, does this mean the 3500cal surplus will equal a ~2lb gain of 1lb fat, 1lb muscle? (This would also be about a 5-6% surplus) .. (ignoring water/other changes)

        • This is where anecdotal evidence helps.

          If you’re like most people, you’re going to find that too large of a surplus is just counter-productive in that you gain fat too quickly. And on the flip side, you’re going to find that a mild surplus allows for steady muscle gains without piling on fat.

          From what I’ve seen a muscle/fat gain ratio of 1:1 is pretty standard/good. So if you’re gaining 1 pound per week, 0.5 pounds of fat and muscle.

          • John Doe

            And when cutting, what do you recon is the approximate ratio of weight lost that is fat vs. water (and/or muscle, other lean mass)?

          • Initially it’s a lot of water and glycogen but after the first 3 to 4 weeks it’s more fat than anything else (assuming you’re doing everything right and not burning muscle away).

  • Kalin Stoev

    Hi Mike,

    Should I adjust carbs on non-training days while bulking?

    • Watari

      He recommends sticking to the same macros on training and none-training days when bulking.

    • If you’re a relatively new lifter and have a lot more muscle you want to put on, I recommend keeping the cals and macros the same on lifting and non-lifting days.

      Once you’re pretty happy with your physique you can start calorie cycling. Check it out:


  • Tyler

    Hi Mike,I have been at a 250 caloric surplus daily as an average(I’m using caloric cycling) and I am seeing some decent gains in size and strength. However even though I’m gaining weight slowly,0.1 to 0.2kg per week I’m starting to find that my lower abs are becoming less defined(albeit slightly). Any advice on what to do as I am rather uncomfortable in losing some noticeable vascularity and definition.


  • Kevin

    Mike, these 250g carbs you eat everyday…..is that after you reached 7%bf? Eating 250g carbs everyday didn’t get you to 7% right!?!

    • I was eating around 200 g carb per day when cutting. 200 pro, 200 carb, 50/60 fat.

  • Amun

    Hey Mike,
    I am a 19 year old male, 173 LB, 5’11 with about 25% bf, I just started lifting weights at the gym doing full body workouts 3x/week, as well as thai boxing 2x/week. Im eating in a calorie deficit right now (in-taking 2100cal/day). I was just curious if you think I could gain muscle and lose fat, i have never lifted before. I plan to cut down too 14%-15% BF and then start actually bulking. I think im skinny fat, so im scared that when i cut, ill look like a twig, however if im able to gain a bit a muscle I would be ok with the cut. Anyways great article, your helping a lot of people including myself. Thanks

  • George

    Hey there Mike!!,
    I am a 17 year old male. My weight is approximately 57 kilos and i am 170cm tall. I started working out like 4 months ago where i had about 15.5% body fat and few muscles. I was obsessed with getting abs and i fucked up. I kept working hard but at the same time i was constantly losing kilos because i though that, that would be the fastest way to get abs, What made me believe this is that since i worked out the kilos i would lose couldnt be muscle but i guess i was mistaken. 2 months ago i reached 10% bodyfat and from fat that i used to be i became skinny. Even at 10% i couldnt really see my abs.. which discouraged me a lot. Now i have been keeping my kilos steady and at the same time working out. Im still 57 kilos but i am not dropping nor getting, but i cant see the results i would expect even though i work out 5 days a week. What should i do to actually build muscle and not get too much fat? Should i bulk my way again to 15.5% bf 🙁 or do something else? Plz help

    • George

      This is a picture of how my body is like now http://prntscr.com/8frpi0 . Its not a virus or something u have my word i just couldnt find how to upload a picture and i made it a link.

    • Hey man!

      You don’t want to be focused on getting “shredded” at your age. Being in a calorie deficit and maintaining a very low body fat % isn’t healthy when your body is developing.

      Instead, you should focus on eating around TDEE and exercising regularly. Let your body develop and in a few years worry about getting really lean.

  • roselani✨

    I’m 110 and I’m 5.1 but I really want to get more body mass on my lower body I take insanity like muscle building classes 2-3 times a week and I do legs 3 times a week , should I increase my food intake ? considering I’m a skinny-fat person with like fat on my belly , or will that just make me fatter ?

  • Karlos G

    Hey Mike,

    6 Weeks ago I’ve went for a Dexa scan to determine my body fat % and weight. I am 5’10” with results 171.3lbs @ 20.3 body fat and 131.9lbs of lean muscle. Since then I’ve added fat burners followed a strict 2050 calorie diet (calorie deficit) and redid the Dexa scan.

    Right now the results show 163.6 lbs @ 15.9 body fat and 132.8lbs of lean muscle. While I’ve lost some lean muscle in arms approx. 1lb in each I’ve gained it in legs, since then I’ve bumped my calories to 2250 (still strict diet).

    Ideally i’d like to be at 170-175lbs with 10-12% body fat. My questions now is should i continue cutting down (i guessing i’d have to be around 155lbs to obtain 10%) or make a small calorie surplus?

    In addition i do muay-thai ~6h/wk and straight/cardio (gym) 5/wk.


    • Great job on the results man! You’re killing it.

      I recommend you continue cutting till the 10-12% BF range and then you can focus on building muscle.


      • Karlos G

        That’s what i’m think as well! What would you recommend as best way to get lean muscle with little to no fat? Small calorie surplus? Say 10% above maintenance of 1.5?

        Something like this:
        RMR = 1651 * 1.6 = ~2650 Calories and a little less cardio?

  • Tim Aldredge

    Mike, I’m using the accu-measure calipers to measure BF. I’m wondering if you could shed some light on how to interpret the measurements. For example, I’m 47 yrs old and measure between the 6 and 8 mm marks on the calipers. The chart only tells me that 6-7 is 12.8% BF and 8-9 is 14.8%. So am I 12.8% or 14.8%? And what end of the mm mark range represents the body fat % given on the chart? A 2% range represents (for me) about 2-3 weeks of cutting, so it makes a significant difference to really know how to interpret the caliper readings. Thanks.

  • Tom

    This is helpful. I’m 43 years old, and I’m in the 10-12 percent range right now (a shade under the 6 mm mark on the caliper) after 9 weeks of cutting. The key takeaway for me here is to not go nuts and try to get to that coveted 8 or 9 percent mark. I’m 169 pounds now at 6-foot-1, so I’d probably appear to be quite scrawny if I continue to cut.

    So, it’s time to bulk. I’m looking forward to using your slow (smart) bulk recommendations. I went a little crazy earlier this past spring and early summer, packing on too much fat too quickly by not knowing how much to eat. Good information here.

    Thanks for all that you do.

    • Glad you found the article helpful!

      I like your plan for bulking correctly this time. 🙂

      I’m excited to see your results.

  • Hüseyin Göçmez

    This article is very helpful. I have a question if you’d like to answer.

    I am 32 years old and after 8 weeks of cutting I’ve reached roughly %14 body fat. (between 11-12 in my caliper) But still it looks like I have some belly fat. (I used to be 90kgs 4 years ago but I am training for the last 12 months constantly 3-4 times a week but I tend to skip abs workout somewhat regularly).

    From what I read I understood that I should start to get on %10 calorie surplus and bulk and then cut again. Is that right?

    I didn’t know that growing is a kind of zig-zagging between calorie deficit and surplus. That’s a new idea to me. I was thinking after cutting I was going to be able to get bigger and bigger.

  • Anne Murphy

    There is the philosophical question.. at what BFP are you comfortable maintaining, without compromising things like: Mental Wellbeing, Dedicated Time Allotted towards maintenance, Adrenal/Hormone/HPA Balance etc? If you set an unrealistic goal for maintenance, you will pay the price in the long run. This includes potential Endocrine and Hormone disruption due to Oxidative Stress, Sleep Disruption when not closely monitoring Glycogen levels, Chronic Fatigue-like bouts, Yo-Yo weight loss/gain stress, Mild Skin Stretching (If you are a female this is especially true, especially in either the gluteal region/abdominals). Ugh, once you stretch that little pocket between your butt and your leg, you really get yourself in trouble ladies. Flab is the worst.

    With regards to contests, I see so many people literally killing themselves in the last few weeks of training (when they should have perhaps competed in a later show), while rapidly gaining tons of weight post show. They get seriously depressed and depleted. They set an unrealistic goal and are paying the price by wonking out their metabolism.

    Strategy is key. Alloting enough time to stabilize at a certain BFP to reset, timing muscle growth, and not racing at the last minute in a seriously unhealthy fashion to drop those last points, well, its priceless. Your self esteem, body and mind will thank you for it 🙂

    Thanks Mike for the great math and formulas, it is motivating me to make an Excel Spreadsheet and track!!!

  • Ryan

    Hey Mike! I just finished reading Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. Wonderful book, btw! I love the straight forward NO BS approach that you took, along with the definitions for everything to help you readers truly understand the concepts you were presenting..a solid foundation man!

    The question that I have is that in your book you talk about bulking to a size that is almost to big for your liking and then cutting down because of how much smaller you will look when you strip away the fat. However, I was reading this article and if I am reading correctly your suggestion is that if you are over 15% BF then cut to around 10-12% and then start the bulk/cut cycle of bulking to 15/17% cutting to 10/12% until you reach your desired size?

    So I guess my actual question is being a male in my late twenties 6’0 197lbs at 21-23% BF..should I just start a bulk until I reach the size I want..or should I start with a cut until I get down to 10-12% I already kind of feel small so I am kind of afraid of cutting down to 10/12% with out a lot of muscular development. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks Mike!

    • Thanks for the kind words and support. Glad you enjoyed the book!

      That’s right, you should bulk to a size that’s a bit bigger than you want so that when you cut, you’ll be lean and at the size you want.

      At the same time, I don’t recommend bulking past 15-17% BF. So, I recommend you start with a cut and then focus on building muscle. Here’s why:


      LMK what you think!

      • Ryan

        Awesome! Thanks for the reply!

        Do you think doing a cut before I do a bulk will hinder any newbie gains I may experience?


        On the TDEE calculator you provided the 6 hours of exercise per week is set at a multiplier of 1.45. If I do construction work and stay very active throughout the day would it hurt to bump that up to a 1.5 or 1.55?

        • YW!

          You’ll gain less muscle cutting of course but you will make gains regardless.

          Good call on the TDEE multiplier.

  • Reuben Schreiber

    Hey Mike !Great article as usuall! I just have a question for you on maintanace caloric intake.Lets say a person has been training for 4 years and past the newby gains phase.If he were to eat at maintenance,but still increase strength over time and improving his progress in the weight room…will that person be able to improve his physique(build muscle) ?In my logic he will because he is creating the stimulus for growth through his training(but not eating a surplus of calories)i would love to hear your thoughts on this:) thx Mike

    • Thanks!

      You can make very slow gains while in maintenance, but I recommend you calorie cycle. Check this out:


      What do you think?

      • Reuben Schreiber

        So basically you stay in a weekly calorie maintenance,but your calorie cycling to induce surplus and deficit.Will this give better results than just staying at maintance?

  • Tkhan

    Hey. My height is 5 feet 9 inches and my weight is about 98 kg but i dont look very fat like other guys my full body is bigger but i moobs are my moobs due to my weight and please advise me something to lose moobs and weight. Thanks

  • Joanne

    Hi mike I’ve been weight training for 8 months now I’ve gone from 24% BF to around 16% I’m a women by the way so I’m pretty lean and have visible abs I just want to pack on a little more muscle what would you recommend for my macros I’m 5,9 126lbs I exercise 4-6 hours a week thanks

  • Riane R

    Hey Mike… I’m a male teenager, 178cm tall, and I’ve been dieting for the past 7 months now and have gone from 220+lbs to ~172lbs. At this point I still don’t have a 6 pack and it seems like every last bit of fat is stored on my obliques, lower stomach, and lower back… I haven’t lost weight for the past month either despite dropping my calories and increasing cardio. Do you think that it’s okay to start reverse dieting and transition into a lean bulk? I would say that I’m around 13-15% although it’s hard to tell with my messed up fat distributions. I’m psychologically and physically tired of dieting and would honestly like to put on some quality size now! What do you think?

    • Riane R

      This is how I currently look at 172lbs as well… Do you think you could help me guess my BF %?

    • Given that you’re a teenager I would stop cutting. It’s just not good for your body, which is still developing.

      So yes, let’s reverse diet to TDEE and stay there or transition into a bulk. Save the “shredded” stuff for when you’re a bit older (18/19+).

  • Ks5782


    I’m 22 and in college, and use to be 175 lbs before this past summer. I cut down to 163, and have not a lot of muscle mass so I’m basically skinny fat. I did p90x over summer and starting lifting heavy and doing cardio when I got back to college (my strength has been going up)

    Do you think I should keep cutting it up my calories to a slight surplus to build muscle mass?

  • SolomonBicakcic

    Hey Mike, how much grams of fat do we need when bulking? Is 0,3 grams per pound of BW enough? Cheers 🙂

  • ashokraju7

    Hi Mike! Thanks for the great article (at this point I expect nothing less from you).

    I’m having a bit of confusion lately. I started at about 158 lbs with about 17% body fat. I’ve been cutting with a 20 – 25% deficit for about 3 weeks now. My macros are 180 grams protein, 160 grams carbs and 32 grams fat. I’ve got down to about 153 lbs now and according to the Omron (http://www.amazon.com/Omron-HBF-306CN-Fat-Loss-Monitor/dp/B000FYZMYK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445458666&sr=8-1&keywords=omron+body+fat+analyzer) body fat analyzer I’m at 10 – 11% body fat. I don’t know how much I believe this though because comparing my body to the images you have on measuring body fat % I look closer to 13% body fat – basically I can still barely see my abs. I’m starting to worry that I’m getting skinny fat, but I don’t know how that makes sense as I was eating well over my TDEE prior to starting this cut. Am I eating enough protein? Also, just a note, I’m doing squats deadlifts bench and military presses. Should I stick to it and see how my body responds and then reverse diet if I’m not seeing progress? If so, how long should I try before I reverse diet? Is there anything else I might be missing that might be causing muscle loss? Appreciate your help Mike!

    • My pleasure!

      Great job on the weight you’ve lost! Unfortunately, those can be painfully inaccurate to measure BF%. Check this out:


      Keep up the deficit. Remember the goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week. If you’re not losing at the rate, you need to lower cals. If you’re at or close to BMR and still aren’t losing 1-2 pounds a week. You should reverse diet.

      You can make sure your macros are right here:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • ashokraju7

        Thanks Mike. Been continuing to follow your advice for another week and I’m another 1 pound down! This flexible dieting is so fucking awesome. I don’t feel hungry and I’m still enjoying food!

        I’ve been going through phases of ketogenic and ridiculous bulk phases only to end up back in the same place. Finally seeing real progress with your advice! Can’t thank you enough!

        • Welcome! Keep it up!

          Glad you’re getting results now. Happy to help. 🙂

  • Cristhian Marques

    Hey mike I’m starting the gym next week but idk if I should bulk or cut first. what do you think?,I’m 16 and weigh 140 and 5.5 , I’m a relatively skinny/fit kid , what do you think my fat percentage is at ?

  • Cristhian Marques

    Hey mike
    I’m starting the gym next week but idk if I should bulk or cut first. what do you think?,I’m 16 and weigh 140 and 5.5 , I’m a relatively skinny/fit kid , (I think I gain fat fast since I was fat when I was smaller and I have to watch out or I get fat again)what do you think my fat percentage is at ? My tdee is like 2150 so if I’m going to start bulking I’ll probably be eating 2500 calories? Do u think that’s enough ?should I bulk or cut? P.s thx man , sorry for so many questions

  • David Navarro

    when bulking are you suppose to proggresively increase you carbs carbs over time? i remember hearing sumthin like tht from layne norton and some other sources from time to time and i think as well from you, i really try my best to understand everything i can so it would be awesome that you help, what ive been doing ffor the past year or so has been consistenyly tracking my macros(bulking and cutting),try to get a good amount of fiber(not always consistently), and whether i gain/lose a few pounds i go to iifym.com to update my macros, i have gained some muscle and since may ive lost 20lbs(i have slacked off a bit the last two-ish month unfortunately,proly should have aimed for faster fat loss), i am planning to bulk again after the first week of november, please help! 🙂

    • Yep, you do have to increase intake to continue weight gain usually.

      I recommend setting up a bulking meal plan here:


      Stick to those cals and macros as long as you’re gaining 1/2-1 pound a week. If you stop gaining at that rate, add carbs. Every time your weight gain stalls add carbs to continue gaining on the bulk.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Melis Ayse

    I’m a little confused on what to do. I’m 31 year old female 110lbs 5’6″ and about 16.9% body fat. I want to gain some muscle and get stronger. I’m not sure if I should try to burn some fat first. I’m already very skinny. I just don’t want to start eating and working out and gain a bunch of weight. Or should I just start and see what happens? It’s hard to find good advice for women out there.
    I am considering hiring a personal trainer to help me gain muscle but I don’t want to waste my money if I need to loose weight first, if you think my body fat should be lower. I carry all my fat in my thighs and butt, my abs are already visible.
    Thanks in advance, great article!

  • Alan

    I’m really appreciating the weekly e-mails, and I plan on purchasing several of your books soon. In the interim, I have two questions that my friends and I frequently discuss/argue:

    1) I tend to work out around 1 hour each day I lift weights whereas some of my friends will work out 1.5 to 2 hours. I read (heard?) that your body hits a limit after an extended period of exertion. Is that true, and, if so, what’s the ideal amount of time someone should stay at the gym?

    2) I’ve had several trainers and they’ve each given me different information about cardio + weight training. One trainer had me run on a treadmill for 10+ minutes at the end of the workout to “burn off” the rest of my energy whereas another trainer had me separate cardio and weight training days. Can cardio and weight training be combined, and, if so, should cardio be implemented before or after your workout?

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

    • Thanks Alan!

      1. Not really no. It’s just not necessary to train for 2+ hours per day. You can get everything you need in 1 hour 4 to 5 days per week.

      2. You can do cardio after lifting if you have a reason to be doing cardio. I like to separate my cardio and lifting though and I talk about why in BLS.

      In the meantime, check this out:


  • Blake

    Hey Mike,

    I only want to add about 5 pounds of muscle to my current body, 5′ 11″ 175 lbs and 10% bf, can I just eat maintenance kcal and still make gradual muscle gains without a surplus and increase in bf. I don’t like bulking and cutting because 1) I don’t like adding fat to my frame and 2) I LOATHE cutting. So the fewer bulking/cutting cycles I have to go through to be at 180, 10% bf the better. I greatly appreciate your articles and advice btw!

  • Guest

    Ive always found it hard to put on weight ive always played sports though. Ive never been over 12% bf but now probably. During my senior year of been doing some research and was able to gain weight that was not high in fat or carbs but got alot of protein. I had to eat ALOT of calaries a day to gain i was 5 11 to 6 and went from 13x to 155 then by the end of my weight training in school and some in the gym peaked at 168 but i stopped working out as much over the summer with heavy equipment and was stuck with dumbbells and when i could i would go to the gym but i did do some small cardio and dropped to 150 which made me kinda of sad but i was real lean but, i dont like this weight being lean cause it really doesnt look that great for this height. So now my situation is im here in college with limited amount of food its real hard to get the right calories some days so i try my best to go to the buffet or some times go home and feast(probably bad) so i could return with 4 days left and 10-13 meals($5.75 per meal value).

    Now my question for you is bulking then leaning out faster/effective than trying to stay lean why gaining only muscle. I started trying to bulk and it is successful somewhat but idk yet. Reason behind it is im using supplements i didnt take before that might be why like Creatine, Amino Acids, Protien Powder( im taking a plant based because others make me bloat badly just received the plant based one dont know if it wont do also hoping not. I am currently 162-164ish now and I can defiantly see im not as lean as i was before so this cant be all muscle and I can lift hight weight.
    FYI im 18 and you can guess body fat if you want. But what i want is to be 180-190 and lean.

    Photo: it was taken 2 or 1 week ago not sure and idk why it is flipped sorry couldnt fix it

  • Guest

    Guest photo didnt attach idk why

  • Guest

    Sorry tried to combine it all into one post but i guess cause i dont have an account i cant delete all and make one post so if you can delete this comment and picture comment if you can. What i wanted to say is this photo was actually last weekend so ive been trying to bulk for 8 days

  • Raymond Tawil

    Hi Mike! As of late I’ve been bulking (the past month). I’ve been having a ton of difficulty gaining those calories and hitting the numbers. SO when I am way behind of my daily calorie intake, I would eat a bunch of cookies or chips, or some sort of junk. I think I’ve gained a ton of fat- though a ton of muscle too. I haven’t done cardio in the beginning for fear or doing too much burning. But i think I’ve gained too much fat. Can cardio help this issue while i am cutting? or will it hinder my muscle growth and i should just casually stick to focusing on eating healthy and cut the fat when I’m in my cutting stage.

    • Cool you’ve been bulking! Great on the muscle you’ve gained. Sorry to hear about the fat gain. 🙁

      I definitely don’t recommend the junk food, but it isn’t making you fat. Overeating is. Sounds you like you need to reduce your intake and get your macros right. You should be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week on a proper bulk. You can calculate how much you should be eating here:


      The cardio can help by increasing your calorie expenditure, but it all comes down to energy balance. Take a look at this:


      Let’s start with those. LMK what you think!

  • Bunny

    Thank you for the excellent articles! I enjoy reading them and they really help clear any confusion or anxiety especially for us newbies 🙂
    I love the calculators you include as well, it makes it so easy!

    • Welcome! Happy to clear up any confusions or false information for you guys and gals. 🙂

      Glad you like the calculators too!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Yowza

    Hi Mike! Sorry if I just missed it, but couldn’t find this statement geared for women:

    “This is why I always recommend that men don’t bulk if they’re over 15% body fat, and end their bulks once they reach 15 – 17% and begin cutting (this is where the above problems really start to kick in).”


  • Andrew

    Great article, I immediately picked up your book and started the routine today! One thing I’m stuck with though – I can’t decide if I should cut, or continue to bulk. I’m a relatively skinny frame and only started working out about two months ago. I took some advice from another website about daily macro intake, did my calculations, and figured at 155lbs I needed to eat around 2,500 calories a day. Within this time I’ve eaten A LOT (mostly clean) and I’ve seen some noticeable improvements in muscle definition, BUT I’ve also gained 14lbs, and it seems most of it went to my gut as fat. So now I’m still skinny, but with a gut. I know you say to start cutting at 15% body fat (from the pictures I guess I’m over that) but I feel like I haven’t had enough time to really work on building muscle. Is it still reasonable to continue with the bulk, but play around with the diet? Or do I need to cut my losses and start cutting already?

    • Thanks for picking up my book, and I’m glad you’ve started on the routine!

      14 pounds in 2 months is a lot of weight gain.

      I recommend you cut to 10-12% BF and then focus on building muscle.

      And next time you bulk, the goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week.

      You can calculate your cals for cutting and bulking here:


      LMK what you think!

  • tom

    great info. however I am 60 yr male going to gym daily and lifting hard. can not put on a lb of muscle for 2 yrs. 170lb – 6’1″ BF% 13. want to be 190lb and 8%BF. can not find the way. some say it is not possible. got a suggestion?

  • Luis Rojas

    Hey mike, i was using the calipers and im about 18-20% bodyfat, you can kinda see my top two abs in good light and im currently starting a cut. I weigh 180 and im 5’9. I keep using all sorts of methods and i seem to have a good amount of muscle , it says i have 144 pounds of lean mass and im 16 years old. I am crazy into nutrition and i have had convos with you about my age and about cutting, i have also talked with sam from your crew. Both of you guys advised if i was going to cut that it should be at a max of 8 weeks and if i do not get to 20% bodyfat by the end of the 8 weeks that i should reverse diet and do it again and then bulk for a good 6 months. I plan to do all of this. I think i have some pretty good genetics, i have very broad shoulders and a small waist, i was naturally strong and im able to lose weight and gain weight with ease. I guess my questions are:
    – Does it sound like i have good genetics from your point of view?
    – If i continue to cut and bulk properly, do you think i could reach my max genetic potential by my early 20’s?
    – Do you think i can lose the 16 pounds needed to get to 10% bodyfat from this first 8 weeks? or do you think i am going to need to reverse diet after and cut again for the 16 pounds.
    Sorry about the length of this. I just wanted to say i have the upmost respect for you. You are a no bullshit guy. I just wish more so called “fitness” experts were more like you, honest, straight to the point and genuinely likes to help people. You are my idol and role model.
    You book is fantastic, you meal plan that i bought is fantastic as well.
    Thanks for everything mike. seriously you changed my life for the better in every way,

    • Cool man!

      Check this out BTW:


      Just good to know.

      Why not just cut to the 10% range and then start your bulking from there?

      I’m sure your genetics are fine and you can assume 8 to 10 years to really reach the top of your potential.

      16 pounds of fat loss in 8 weeks? No.

      Don’t try to rush this though. Just take it one step at a time and eventually you’ll be where you want to be.

      Thanks for all the support man. I’m flattered. 🙂

      • Luis Rojas

        Oh i forgot to mention i cant do more than eight weeks because I am 16 years old, and both you and sam told me only eight weeks max.
        and no problem Mike its all the truth.

        • Luis Rojas

          Nvm i did mention that sorry. So i can do 12 weeks? it wont have too bad of an effect on my body right? I dont wanna get shredded. I just want to get down to 10% bodyfat and bulk and keep doing that. So by the time im in my 20’s i will be huge.

          • I never recommend teenagers to get too into cutting and being “shredded.” It’s just unhealthy both mentally and physically.

            Personally I recommend that teens learn the basics of eating right and just focus on eating plenty of food and training hard. Let your body develop before you develop the bodybuilding neuroses, lol.

  • Luis Rojas

    Sorry i meant to put “that if i do not get to 10% bodyfat by the end of the 8 weeks” its in line 8, i accidentally put 20% instead of 10

  • Sarah

    What about girls though? You only specified “If you’re over 15% body fat (guys, 25% for gals), you should cut fat.” but you didn’t keep giving the “girl-equivalent” in the sentences following that. Could you please specify the “girl-equivalent” throughout the rest of that section? That would be greatly appreciated!

    • Well that was dumb of me. I fixed the article up. Check it out.

  • playboy

    i have red many articles mostly from bodybuilders. I would advise readers stay on yours guidelines rather than those from bodybuilders.

  • Cord Hodnett

    Great article! I’m 5’11” at 160lbs and at the gym they measured my body fat at 8.5% but I think it is higher. I’ve always been the skinny guy and until about 6 months ago, I was always around 146lbs.

    My TEE is around 2500, so I bring in 2600 since I’m trying to gain weight. My problem is that I’m not as lean as I feel like I should be. You can see the top part of my abs in good lighting, but my sides and lower abs jut out a little more than I like. It’s not a lot, but given my diet and how much I exercise I feel like I should be leaner. Does food timing have anything to do with fat storage? I wake up, eat a banana, and go work out for an hour. Then eat breakfast, a snack a few hours later, and hit the gym again for around 35 minutes. I immediately drink a protein shake (MTS Machine whey), then eat lunch 30 minutes later, a snack, dinner, and drink MTS Machine with milk before bed.

    My meals consist of lean proteins, healthy carbs (quinoa) and veggies. Snacks are usually bowl of cereal, fruit with almonds, or peanut butter and jelly.

    I eat dinner around 8 and then drink the protein with milk around 10pm. I’m not sure if it is all of that before dinner or the fact that I work in an office and sit most of the day.

    I know I gave a lot of information, but the more the better I’d say. Thanks for the article!

  • Mutungi Cephas

    Hi, thanks for the good work, i have been following your articles and i must say they are so fruitful. my concern is this, i am a guy of about 68kg (i was about 65kgs 4 months ago..) i use the Strong Lifts 5×5 program and it emphasizes heavy compound lifts.. but, i am not so comfy with ma abs and arms (chest is good and shoulders perfect.).
    when i look at myself in the mirror, you can see a little six pack but, not vividly coz its covered with a layer of fat. i want to bring it out so well. and, what advice would you give me if i want to increase my overall body weight, and bigger arms as well??
    i normally use the Gold Standard 100% whey mostly after workout, and recently i friend recommended the “Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass” but i am kinda scared coz one serving has about 1250 calories and if coupled with my daily food intake, i feel i might exceed the calories and go back to having a huge belly. please advise..

    • Welcome!

      Glad you’re enjoying the articles. 🙂

      Cool you’ve been following the Stronglifts 5 x 5 program. I’m a fan of it!

      I hear you on not being happy with the abs and arms. Arms are usually under-trained in strength programs TBH.

      To bring up the arms and abs, I recommend you follow the BLS program:


      Here are the arm and ab routines from it:



      Gold Standard is good. I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating real food, and just stick to calorie-dense foods.

      Hope this helps! LMK what you think.

      • Mutungi Cephas

        thanks again, one last qtn: for my break fast i eat say eggs, about 125g of beef/chicken/fish, plus 1 slice of brown bread with 250ml of milk. then of lunch i play about with usual chicken/fish/beef and sweet potatoes and again, 250ml of milk.. for dinner, i at times skip the milk and substitute it with fresh juice with little sugar.. so, was adding the milk at every meal a good idea or not? remember i wanted to increase my calories so that i can GAIN HUGE MUSCLE.. should i go on with this routine or it will lead to excess fat instead??

  • Lawrence Rosenthal

    Hi Mike, I have been working out heavily for about a year, doing mainly HIIT workouts, dumbells, and cutting my calories. Gained some muscle on my arms and lost over 20 pounds of fat and 3 belt sizes, however, I can’t get the fat off of my lower abs. Although I’m now 5’9″, 152 pounds and about 13 or 14 percent fat, the ab fat has actually softened up; the rest of my body looks better, but my lower abs actually look worse, all jelly-like and dimpled. I hit a plateau and I can’t seem to burn off that last bit of fat. It seems that any additional losses were coming off of my muscles and not the fat. I’m thinking that maybe I need to bulk, but I’m afraid to, just because I’ve always had a hard time with keeping fat off of my body. I was wondering what you would think I should do at this point… bulk or cut?
    Having read Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, as well as your blog, I would really value what you have to say. It seems like you were once in a pretty similar place to where I am now, and it seems like you’ve done an excellent job putting together the info that you needed in order to come up with a plan that makes sense. That said, I just finished my first week of the 5 day/week plan, and I already see a difference in my arms – they seem to have bounced back to what they were this summer, before I plateaued.

  • Serhad

    Great article Mike just startedimplementing the leaner bigger stronger and will definitlry try your products . Ive been working out for 2 years now and my main type of exercise is a combination of high volume and high intensity which worked out pretty well for me. But im still not satisfied with my physique and want to achieve the ideal you mentioned. I will give your method a try and will keep you posted about the results! Im currently 157 lbs a t about 7%. Thank you !
    Serhad k.

    • Thanks and cool you’re rolling on the program!

      I hear you on not being satisfied. I look forward to seeing your results on my program.:)

      Yes, definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      YW! Talk soon.

  • Brendan Millar

    Hey Mike,
    Great article, Thank You.
    I’m approaching 10% BF and looking forward to starting a bulk after Christmas.
    I was just wondering, should I go straight into a 10% calorie surplus or reverse diet gradually, I’m still a newbie at this stage and making gains on my cut.
    Also when I get to 17% BF should I then go back straight into 20% calorie deficit
    I’m sure you’ve answered this somewhere but I can’t seem to find it.
    Thanks Again

  • Justin

    Hi Mike I have a question. I’ve been bulking now for about three months and my weight has remained the same for a couple of weeks already. I’m planning to raise my calories but I was wondering how should I do so again. Should I raise it to 250 calories or smaller increments like 100-150 calories. And should this raise be in the form of carbs and fats?

    • Good call on raising the cals. Let’s go up by 150 cals in carbs and see how it goes.

      Remember, the goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week so adjust intake based off results.

      Hope this helps! LMK how it goes.

  • Mohamed Roushdy

    Hi mike, actually I want to thank you very much for your information and for your nice books. You are very helpful for all of us. To say the truth before one 1 year ago I had started my diet program. And I lost 45 kilograms. And I already knew how to start and the supplements I can use because I was play judo. And I agree with you 100% that bulk can be gain after body fat burned. Thank you once again.

    • My pleasure! Happy to do it. 🙂

      Great job on the weight you lost! You must’ve known what you were doing!

      Yep, you can definitely bulk after cutting. To prevent rapid fat gain though, I recommend reverse dieting:


      Hope this helps. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Chris Pardoe

    Hi there so if you have worked out your TDEE and are looking to cut do you reduce this by 10%?

  • amos

    Hi Mike. I’m currently bulking at a ratio 40F,35C,25P. Is there any difference in terms of effectiveness and results when bulking on a high fat moderate carb diet as compared to high carb moderate fat diet?

    • Those macros will work just fine.

      Cals are the most important thing, but macros do play a big role. Check this out:


      Regarding the effectiveness of high fat and moderate to low carb dieting, check this out:


      LMK what you think!

      • amos

        Thanks for the reply, one more thing, I’m 17, 113.4lb/174cm and eating approx 2600-2700kcal a day to bulk. I workout 30 minutes, 5 days a week on HIIT and calisthenics on alternate days with 2 consecutive rest days. Should I eat the same calories and macros or different macros or eat lower calories on my rest days?

        • Welcome!

          Cool on the bulk and the training routine.

          Let’s keep the intake consistent daily and adjust intake based off results. The goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week.

          LMK how it goes.

          • amos

            I weigh and measure my BF% with calipers everyday to keep track. I noticed my weight fluctuating (gained 0.6lb in a day) and my skinfold thickness varies from day to day. I measure first thing when I wake up in a fasted state. Is this normal?

          • amos

            I weigh and measure my BF% with calipers everyday to keep track. I noticed my weight fluctuating (gained 0.6lb in a day) and my skinfold thickness varies from day to day. I measure first thing when I wake up in a fasted state. Is this normal?

          • Yup, that fluctuation is normal.

            You should be making progress week to week though. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

          • amos

            I’ve been gaining weight consistently daily, but when I bump up my food intake (mainly carbs), I realized I lost weight below my starting weight. I eat 2600-2700kcal a day and track my food intake everyday.

          • Hmm. That’s odd.

            Either way, if you’re not gaining the 1/2-1 pound a week, increase your intake. Increase it as many times as necessary until you’re gaining 1/2-1 pound a week.

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Andrei

    Hi again Mike. I have one quick question. I’m around 84kg at ~16-17%bf. I was a bit smaller but holidays… I’m really looking forward to get to 7%bf one day but as you said, right now if i get to that fat percentage i would look really bad. In august i really want to get as lean as i can get. So should i start a 2 months cut followed by a 3 months bulk then another 2 months cut or should i bulk for another 4 months then try to cut for another 3 months.(The first option seems the most viable and should get me at around 10% bf in august but the second make me think i’ll get more musle out of it. The first option seems a bit bad also because as you said in your last podcast in can get you out of that groove). I’m a bit confused so hope you can help. Thanks in advance and Happy New Year!

    • I hear you!

      Let’s do a cut to 10-12% BF first. Then you can bulk for a few months and cut again to be lean by August.

      I don’t recommend you start with a bulk because you’re already at 16-17% BF, and I typically don’t recommend people bulk past 17% BF.

      What do you think?

      My pleasure and Happy New Year to you as well. 🙂

      • Andrei

        Thanks for the reply. I’ll start a cut straightforward at 2000 calories a day (1.2 protein per pound 0.2 fat per pound rest carbs) for 2 months. Then we’ll see. Thanks for the reply and keep up the good work xD.

        • Welcome! Sounds good!

          I look forward to seeing your results.

          Will do!

  • Troy

    Good evening Mike – I just want to say how refreshing your no B.S. approach to fitness and the industry is I’m 46 yrs. old and have been dabbling in fitness and nutrition since I was eleven years old. It’s intrigued me and baffled me simultaneously. I signed up for your e-mails and yesterday was sent three e-books for free that’s unheard of. (Thank you by the way). I tried to put a review on Amazon but apparently you have to had previously purchased from their site. Anyway, over the years, I’ve done so much research on nutrition, supplementation and exercise, that my head has been spinning for over a decade. I finally wanted to get to the bottom of it so bad that I got my associates degree in exercise science & nutrition at the local community college. It made things much clearer. Now I can spot the B.S.ers from the real deal and it seems that you’re one of them. I love the “lifestyle”, I love the mindset, and most of all, I love being able to help steer others in the right direction. Keep up the great work man…. t’s very much appreciated.

    • Thanks Troy!

      Hope you enjoy the books! My pleasure. 🙂

      No worries on the review. I appreciate the effort!

      Awesome on the degree. It was a good move considering the amount of BS and broscience in the space.

      Thanks for the kind words and support.

      Will do. Happy to do what I’m doing!

  • Jon

    Hi Mike, I’ve just come across this article and it has really intrigued me! very much looking forward to the emails!

    Above where we calculate TDEE; in terms of working out, are we talking about just weight training, or does this include cardio exercise too?
    I was always under the impression cardio is a big no no in any bulking phase?


  • Barbara C. Baker

    Hey Mike ! Thank you for the article!
    I just have a quick question – I’m a
    Female , bf 20% , I have been “bulking” for about a year now . I have made some gains and would like to know if I should start cutting and up to what % of bf ? Thanks !

    • My pleasure Barbara!

      If you have more muscle you’d like to put on, you should continue bulking. 20% BF is still pretty lean.

      If you’re happy with the amount of muscle you have, you can cut to the BF% you want and then maintain.



      • Barbara C. Baker

        Thanks Mike for your response ! The truth is I really can’t wait to get toned, sometimes I get discouraged because I feel “fat in a way”. I was wondering if I could cut up to 15/16% bf and then work on bulking the areas that still lack some
        Muscle. Would that work? The last question , you recommend hiit with calorie defector , however I struggle a lot doing hiit , I feel like I am not doing it correctly. Could I just do fasted moderate intensity cardio? Thank you again for all your advice !

  • DKB123

    I’ve NEVER understood why you need to be fat to gain muscle? I see guys in the gym who are obviously big and on their game but they spend most of the year fat. I don’t get it.

    I suppose if your goal is competitions that makes sense. But if you are a normal guy trying to be fit and healthy why would you spend most of your life fat and only once a year cut?

    it’s similar to the folks who you see month after month and year after year on the huge array of treadmills at the gym. They are sweating and grinding away and they NEVER change.

    Just started your program Mike … very excited about it …

  • Jon

    Hi Mike,
    Just ordered your book from Amazon UK and very much looking forward to jumping on your programme!

    In the mean time I have a quick question..I have been lifting and doing cardio for a good 2 years but only recently decided to get serious with nutrition. After calculating 10% above my TDEE I’m sat at around 2900 per day, I’m currently 11% bf and weight 182lbs. What would you say is a good macro split for this clean bulking style? A regular 40/40/20 split or should there be more of a focus on protein intake?

    Thanks in advance!
    Jon (all the way from Birmingham, UK)

  • Billy Roberts

    Do you refeed when bulking?

  • Adriano

    Awesome article! exactly what I’ve been looking for!

  • Nick

    Hi Michael – great article, and I love your website! Question for you…it seems I have been over estimating my TDEE based on multipliers for TDEE I have seen on other websites (see.below). Basically you are saying 1.35 for 4-6 hours of exercise per week and they are saying 1.55 for moderate exercise 3 to 5 times per week. There is a big difference in calories between 1.35 and 1.55. What are your thoughts? Thank you!!!

    Little or No Exercise, Desk Job1.2 x BMR
    Light Exercise Sports 1 to 3 Times Per Week1.375 x BMR
    Moderate Exercise, Sports 3 to 5 Times Per Week1.55 x BMR
    Heavy Exercise, Sports 6 to 7 Times Per Week1.725 x BMR

    • Thanks Nick! Glad you’re enjoying everything. 🙂

      Let’s stick to the numbers from my calculator and see how you do. We can adjust intake based off results.

      Most calculators tend to overestimate calorie expenditure.

      LMK how it goes. My pleasure!

      • Nick

        Thanks Michael, that is what I assumed. I created a surplus using that other calculator. I intended to have mild 10% (250 calorie) per day surplus, but after 18 weeks I gained 18 pounds! I certainly didn’t put on anywhere near 18 pounds of muscle in 4 months (at 51 years old and lifting most of my life)! Ugh! It was actually a 22% (535 calorie) surplus because the calculator over estimated my TDEE. Although I probably should have noticed my waist getting bigger and not just my arms, and pulled back. Anyway, very glad to have found your site and this page. I will use your calculator to create a 15-20% deficit and get rid of this new fat (while doing my best to keep the lean gains). Thanks again!!!

  • hannah

    Hi Mike, – I’ve just bought and read your Thinner Leaner Stronger and really enjoyed it. It all makes sense! Well, kind of hence the questions on here. I’m 40, currently 26% body fat at 121 lbs. So I think I should start by cutting right? Also, I’m a bit confused about how to choose how heavy a weight to start lifting with. Am I right in thinking an unweighted barbell is around 45lbs so I could start with that and then add weight as it gets too easy? Also (last question I promise!) I don’t have great upper body strength at the moment so chest dips/chin ups and similar are probably going to be a big struggle. Would it be ok to start off with doing just one if I get the form right and build from there as my strength gets better?

  • Alex Bowden

    Hey Mike, I have just started reading a lot of your articles if not all. I started training in a similar manor last summer and used a macronutrient calculator online and have already seen a lot of improvements but I am now switching to your training programme and macros. However I am 5ft 7 179lbs at apparently 8% body fat which has not changed since I started training. I am on 3300 calories as any less and I seem to lose weight fast! I have been been using a macro ratio of 50% carbs and 25% prot and fat. However reading your work it states that this is to much dietary fat or is that still okay? It’s around 94 grams a day.

    • Hey Alex! Hope you’re enjoying them. 🙂

      Great to hear on the results you’ve gotten so far!

      Cool you’re switching over to my program. I look forward to seeing your results.

      Hmm. Yeah, that’s a lot of fat. Let’s set up your macros using this:


      LMK how it goes.

      • Alex Bowden

        Awesome thank you for the quick reply!

        I really enjoyed the article you mentioned above!

        I have changed my macros accordingly which suggests I eat carbs – 450, protein- 188 and fat -50. If I have been used to a higher fat diet would you suggest to lower the amount of calories as my carb intake has increased significantly or stick to 3300 as I’m not putting on any fat? And would maximise the potential for muscle growth as your one article touchs on?

        Cheers again and will do 🙂

        • Alex Bowden

          Sorry I used the wrong calories for calculations!! 3300 cals, 503 carbs, 198 protien and fat 55! 🙂

        • YW! Happy to hear it.

          You don’t need more fat than that, but if you’d like, you can take away from carbs to increase the fat a bit. Remember, it’s 1g fat for 2g carbs.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon.

  • Stephen

    Mike, thanks for such a well-written, easy to understand article. I’m 44 years old with no serious experience in the gym, but wanting to start. (Better late than never, right?) I have read the advice from you and others to cut BFP to around 10% before bulking. From comparing pictures, and only more recently starting to measure, over the last year I have cut from what was probably low-mid 30s to around 22%, but with progress coming increasingly slower. I have no related competitive or career goals, just wouldn’t mind if the occasional person on the beach thought I looked pretty good for an old guy! Right now, my friends tell me I look like I have a terminal illness. They can’t see the small stubborn belly pouch sucked in under my shirt, just that everywhere else I’m “wasting away.” Several months ago, I switched from primarily doing cardio, and have been doing more lifting, as well as managing macros, trying to minimize the inevitable muscle loss from staying in caloric deficit. But with the contributing factors of my age and time constraints, it’s obvious I’m not winning that battle. Because of my age, I’m anxious to start focusing on whatever muscle growth is still possible. But for the same reason, I don’t want to be impatient and do it the wrong way, wasting the cuts I’ve been working so hard to achieve. I’m ordering PHOENIX today to help get BFP lower, but want to have realistic expectations for my target starting point for bulking. I’m sure most of the stuff I read is written for guys still in their prime. So my question: Is it reasonable to think that a guy in his mid-40s who is not genetically gifted can attain 10% BFP without experiencing health complications, or, given my modest goals, should I start sooner?

  • Mario Micossi

    Ok man, thank you so much!

  • lakerguy

    Great article, but i’m not sure if i managed to get the answers i was looking for. I could really use your advice. From what i understand I’m a lot like you, years of training the ”wrong” way till I decided to really research and do things the right way. I am currently,73kg (163 pounds) with 9% body fat. With summer round the corner I would like to actually get to about 7% body fat but i would also like to build some more muscle. Is this impossible ? what should i do ? I currently eat 2,670 cals a day which according to the link you attached above (https://legionathletics.com/how-many-calories-should-i-eat/) i should be eating for bulking, and my macros are at 40/40/20. Any answers would really help as i can’t seem to find an answer.

    • Thanks! Unfortunately, a lot of us have spent time training incorrectly. 🙁

      With what you’re trying to do, your best bet is to cut to 7% BF and then calorie cycle. Check this out:


      Oh and those macros are for cutting. For bulking, change the preset to bulking in the calculator.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Hey, Mike. Let’s say you eat cheat meals over weekends and it makes you gain fat(assuming it is only fat after a week of going to the gym) wouldn’t that indirectly help you build muscle since you said you can lift heavier when you have more body fat?

    Or let’s say you don’t gain weight during the week but only over weekends when you eat cheat meals. Does that mean you are only gaining fat? I think if I gain weight during the week and during cheat meals I would gain weight too fast!

    • Hey hey! Yep, it would. However, you’d also put on fat faster than you would on a standard clean bulk.

      Not necessarily. The majority of the weight gain will actually just be water and glycogen. After that it will be both muscle and fat.

      If you follow a proper clean bulk meal plan, the weight gain is slow (1/2-1 pound) and with minimal fat gain. So, don’t worry about the weight gain during both the week and the weekend. Just stick to the meal plan and adjust intake accordingly.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • TD

    Hi. I just came off a bulk, and now I’ve been maintaining. I was wondering if you could tell me what you think my body fat is. I believe I have an idea of where I think I might be. Enclosed a photo of myself for you to see. Thanks.

    • Cool. I’d say you’re about 20% BF.

      NP! Talk soon.

      • TD

        I can’t remember the last time I was THIS lean, to be perfectly honest. Haha

        From the end of the bulk until now, I have only lost about 4-5% body fat. Yet as little of a change as that is, it translates into such a difference in body composition. I really didn’t think it would for some odd reason.

        Thanks again!

        • Well great job!

          Oh yeah. As you get leaner the changes can be pretty significant even between just a 2-3% BF difference.

          Welcome! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

          • TD

            In your opinion, is the range I’m in now (20% BF), easier or harder to maintain than the previous range I was in (24-25% BF)?

            I ask because I have been this lean before but I didn’t stay there very long because I thought I could do the same things I’d done at a slightly higher body fat to maintain it. However, the 24-25% range is almost effortless for me to maintain.

            Although I REALLY like how I look at this lower range so I definitely want to stay here. I’m just curious to know if there’s a little or a lot more effort required on my part. Any advice you could offer would be great. 🙂

          • Not easier or harder if you go about it right.

            Check this out:


            Only benefit to getting leaner at this point is looks. You could maintain 18% with ease if you wanted, BTW.

          • TD

            So, not necessarily easier or harder, it’s up to me to maintain it correctly…makes sense.

            And just as I suspected, there’s no real health benefit for me to getting leaner, it’s basically aesthetics, at this point. Not sure if getting leaner is what I should do then. Perhaps I’ll see if I can maintain here (at 20%) for awhile, and see what happens.

            Thanks for the advice, much appreciated.

          • Yep, exactly.

            Sounds good!

            My pleasure.

          • TD

            I’m gathering then it is normal to still have “pockets of fat” here and there even at 20% BF? I mean, obviously less than when I was 25% BF but nonetheless a few visible fat deposits hanging round…lower abs, upper thighs to name a couple.

          • Yep, that’s normal. Those are the typical stubborn areas, and they are usually the last bit of fat to go.

          • TD

            Good to know. Makes me wonder how low I’d have to go to have them disappear. 😳

          • By 15-17% BF they should be basically gone.

          • TD

            Unfortunately, other “fatty female areas” would be too. Haha

          • YW! Yep, you will lose some in those areas, haha.

            But overall you’d have a great physique!

          • TD

            I’m really thinking I want to try to get to 18% now. I would only have to lose about 3-4 lbs which is definitely doable. Just out of curiosity, what is the body fat percent cutoff for women in terms of not losing fat on those “female areas” persay?

            Obviously, at 15/16% you would but I’m not necessarily sure if 18% body fat would make any of those areas disappear? Am I wrong? Again, I’m not looking to get any lower than 18% at this point. Thanks.

          • Sounds good! If you don’t like the look, you can always get back up to 20% BF. 🙂

            Eh. That will vary person to person. I recommend just getting down to 18% BF and seeing how you look. From there, you can decide what you prefer.

            Thoughts? YW!

          • TD

            I agree…no way of knowing for sure until I’m at that percent.

            Thanks for your insight. 🙂

          • Exactly. 🙂 NP!

          • TD

            I lost two pounds so I’m now at/about 19% body fat. One of the things I’m noticing is my legs are slimmer. The upper thigh stubborn fat seems to be melting away. My legs have always been such a source of frustration for me in the past. But I’m seeing that continuing to lean down is leaving them looking smoother with much less cellulite. I’ve enclosed a current photo for you to see. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f78a25803918d86c847316c463aa753de9a3eb64e6cf588d5e63503140a760c8.jpg

          • Nice! Looking good!

            Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

            Happy to help. 🙂

          • TD

            I’ve been stuck at about 19% body fat for several weeks now. Just starting using a pedometer I’d forgotten I had to start tracking my steps. Already I feel leaner. I’m averaging about 11-12k steps daily. I’m confident I’ll hit 18% body fat soon. Enclosed a recent photo of myself with measurements of: 36-26-37. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/00eba98450143a3c2f6694f166824d0599680093fb660b0dc85c71406c1c9870.jpg

          • That’s awesome! Great job increasing your activity.

            You might benefit from this article as well:

            Keep up the good work.

    • TD

      Thanks for giving me your valued opinion. I can’t remember the last time I was this lean, to be honest. Haha.

      My end-of-bulk picture(s) compared to this one really show that even though I only lost 5% body fat, it does make a HUGE difference in body composition. I seriously didn’t think it would.

  • Ronald ter Veen

    What would be a ‘normal’ cycle of bulking and cutting? I feel I’m cutting three months and bulk for two weeks until the cut’s around the corner.
    In your experience with helping others, what time periods do you think are most common?

    • How long each cycle should take depends on starting weight, starting BF%, how well you stick to the diet, genetics, etc.

      However, when bulking, you should be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week and when cutting you should be losing 1-2 pounds a week.

      When done properly, the time spent cutting should definitely be shorter than the time spent bulking.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon.

  • Mark Dinsdale

    Hello Mike! I’ve been following bls since 2014 and this time last year hit 10.5% after a cut, but unfortunately screwed it up twice and couldn’t train properly again until winter by which time I’d shit back up to 17% 😢 – but I’m currently on cut and hoping to hit 11% by the end of the month (currently 12%)- I was just wondering when I do begin a bulk how much fat percentage should I be going up per week/month and how much cardio do I do a week? I’m currently doing two sessions of hiit per week but gonna increase to 3 and going to drop my calories to 1900 for this last month to really shave off as much as possible- replying asap will earn you good karma and all your dreams will come true. (Disclaimer: no scientific basis of that claim) cheers man!

    • Hey Mark! Well, good job on getting down to 10% BF! Sorry to hear you let shoot back up. 🙁

      Glad to see you’re back on track.

      When you bulk, the goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week and when properly bulking the weight is generally around a 1:1 ratio of muscle and fat. So, that’s 1-2 pounds of fat gained monthly on average.

      Regarding how much cardio when bulking, take a look at this:


      Cool on increasing the cardio to help accelerate weight loss.

      Hahaha. Hope that helps! Talk soon.

  • Rott Weiler

    Hey Mike!

    1) is there a need to do maintenance for a few weeks before jumping from a cut to a bulk? I was doing 1800cals on my cut, hit 10-9%ish, did a single week at 2200cals at maintenance, still lost weight and said… what the heck, up with those cals! so now I’m doing 2300 and the weight seems to be going up on a 0.5pound/week rate… is that all right? Did I mess up something by only doing a pseudo-maintenance week (technically, I was still in a cut), or the only thing that matters is that now I’m on a weekly surplus, which is granting me the necessary and much needed weight gain?

    2) how can I send you my transformation pic? BLS saved my ass, as it helped me drop 25pounds in a few months, going from 20% to 10% bf. I just want to share my victory with you, you are FUCKING inspirational, brother!

    Cheers from Brazil!

  • Jonathan Martinez

    I guess I am starting to consider myself a hardgainer. I haven’t been able to gain 2 pounds in the last month. I have been eating more and more and more and nothing happens. Maybe I am moving too much. I play soccer once a week plus weights 5 days a week. Kinda getting frustrated :(. 161lbs, 11% BF

    • I hear you, Jonathan. The one day of cardio is totally fine. Simply put, you gotta eat more!

      Let’s increase intake by 50g carbs and see how you do. The goal is to be gaining 1/2-1 pound a week so we’ll have to continue increasing intake until that happens.

  • Onyinye Constance Ogbuka

    Hello Mike.. I just found this article and must say that it is quite a great read. I have a question. I am a 26yrs old female 5ft 11in, 204lbs. My fat percentage ois 34. How many grams of fat do i need to lose weight and get it to 20%? I noticed that you advised that one losees a certain amount of fat before bulking. Please help me with this. Thank you. I hope you find the time

  • TD

    Is it possible to see lower ab veins (as a female) faintly beneath the surface of your skin even at 19% body fat? I am fairly vascular in terms of my genetics but I never noticed veins on my lower abs until I got below 20% body fat.

    I always assumed you’d have to be closer to essential fat levels. Granted, they aren’t protruding or bulging but they ARE visible albeit faintly. I equate lower ab veins with being shredded, and I’d hardly consider myself that. I’m lean but there’s still stubborn fat on my lower abs.

    • Absolutely. How vascular you are and where is genetic, but as long as you continue getting leaner, you’ll get more vascular. 🙂

      • Tee

        Hi Mike. I wanted to show you my recent progress picture from this afternoon. I’m estimated (based on your recent visual assessment, and my calipers) to be ~18-19% BF now. I was previously stuck at 20% BF.

        The game changer for me was dusting off my pedometer, and being super conscious about increasing my daily steps. I’d gotten lazy, and wondered why the last little bit of body fat just wasn’t budging.

        What surprised me the most were two things: how easy it was to increase my daily activity AND how tight/taut previously jiggly areas became (almost immediately). My lower half, in particular, hasn’t looked this slim/toned in quite a few years actually.

  • Rickey

    Mike like your article ,I’m a paraplegic so I can’t work my legs ,also limited on midsection exercise, and arobic training which I’ve never been real big on.
    I’m 56 male large to x large shirts ,36 waist ,my question is what adjustments would I need to make in my caloric intake percentage wise compared to someone my size and age ,I probably carry about 75% of my weight in my upper body .
    I do plan on taking a hgh secretagogue
    I try to work out about 70% of my max on bench ,pull downs ,higher reps than I would like just to feel like I’ve worked out get the pump and endorphins kicking in .wheelchair use has done a number on shoulders ,hope hgh can help reduce that problem some .
    Sorry to be so long winded here but thought additional info might help .
    Rickey. .

    • Thanks Rickey!

      Good question. We can definitely work around your BMR + an activity multiplier. What will ultimately work will depend on some trial and error but it sounds like you’re pretty active so I doubt much will really change? Especially if you’re wheeling around for a fair amount of the day?

  • kari

    Hi thank you for the articles! I am female 5’1” 27y 101 lbs fluctuate 99-104 at first BF was easy to drop with extra hiit or dropsets and was eating a lot like your reverse diet article, i remember January 99 lbs at 2500+ calories for 2 weeks yet dropped to 97, it took 3000 to break 100! 90% clean food but the more food the more energy so i was hitting weights 2 or 3x a day 5x week, so i adjusted to a realistic routine 4-6x week and ate less, about 1400-1900, 90% clean but BF seemed to go up, muscles got softer, veins less visible. 10 months of 40% protein and carb, 20% fat, i thought it could be the protein and fat get too high as i change calories but anytime i try to keep protein at 100-120g i don’t feel recovered, so I usually have 140-180g protein a day, is that OK or do I need to like triple more carbs to feel well? *note my whole life I am usually awake 18-20hours a day, twice a month 24-30 for work, workouts not effected but perhaps appitite.

    Also rather than thinking in terms of daily total, i am very curious your thoughts on timing, to ‘trick’ the body.. Recently i’m in a deficit just during the day (each meal 20-30g carb 30g protein, 1-5g fat) even after hiit or morning ab circuit though i will change that because I’m not always as strong for the weights later. After lifting, I eat double sized meal in slight surplus, dinner is slightly more, later have cottage cheese or tofu or some nuts before bed. Does this put the body into ‘burning’ during the day and ‘building’ at night? day total is about 1500 and iI plan on increasing carbs at each day as this article says, i feel best at 1700-2000 but according to every calculator its to much so thats why i really wanted to know your thoughts on meal timing/portions to take advantage of burning and state and growing state rather than daily total which could completely overlook that since every day is different and some have many more hours, and i notice if once a week cheat meal if its post workout, no gain in weight, sometimes loss! But on rest day or any other meal it goes right to fat, but i suspect because i feel need to still meet the right macros and then my other meals are odd like all protein or all carb, rarely only daily fat was left. Sorry so long, i look forward to your thoughts or if you have an article to point me to, thank you so much for your time and contribution to the world!

    • YW! Thanks for all the info. Damn, you were training and eating a lot!

      Hmm. Let’s keep things simple. First, what are you trying to do? Bulk, cut or maintain? From there, we can set up a proper meal plan and then just adjust intake based off results.

      In terms of meal timing, what matters most is your numbers by the end of the day so that won’t really do anything for you. I talk more about this here:


      Yeps, carbs before bed is totally fine.

      Check out the article above and LMK what you think!

      Let’s start with that, and we’ll go from there. 🙂

  • Enzo Stark

    Hey Mike,

    Read your books, amazing, thanks so much.

    I bulked from 12 to 16% and now cut down to 9%. I wanted to ask you if there are any disadvantages of bulking between 8-12% rather than 10-15/17%?


    • Thanks! Glad you liked the books.

      You’ll be stronger if you stay in the 10 to 15/17% range.

  • Gohan

    Hey Mike can you tell me what body fat percentage I am? I’ve used callipers, scales and the mirror but I’m still unsure as I have a skinny fat physique so it’s hard to tell. I tend to store fat around my waist, hips and ass. I’m 5 ft 8 1/2, weigh 68.5kg right now and the callipers have me at 16% body fat but im thinking 16-19%. It sucks as I thought I was at 17% before I started cutting but it seems like it’s going to take a long time (I’m already in to it by 2 months) to get to 10%.

    • Hmm. I’d say you’re about 16% BF. To make sure you’re using the caliper correctly, check this out:


      I hear you man. If you’re doing it right, it won’t take too long! You should be losing 1-2 lbs a week of mainly fat.

      To help keep you on track, keep this in mind:


      Hope this helps! LMK how it goes.

      • Gohan


        I am losing about 1-1.5lb per week now Mike. I initially started with a 10% deficit but as you recommended 20% for faster results and less time in a deficit I switched to that after my initial 3-4 weeks in the cut.

        At the time of writing this I am 68kg and probably 15-16% if you were correct above. I started at 71.7kg (74kg with water and glycogen) and hence I have lost 7/8 lb out of the total of 17lb. My question is, when should I reverse diet, or do I even need to reverse diet at all if I only have 10lb left to lose? (As I said I am about 8-9 weeks into the cut)

        I say this because I tried cutting before last year and once I got to around 67/68kg my fat loss stalled completely and I lost hope – gaining the fat back in a dirty bulk (never doing that again haha), my goal is to reach 64kg (10% bf) if my calculations are correct.

        Also, I am on the elimination diet at the moment and was wondering how I would include a refeed day every 2 weeks with the food I am allowed? It’s going to be hard to add 500 calories of carbs while only allowed fruit, veg, meat and fish.

        I was doing Cardio on my off days, but in recent weeks I have abandoned it as I’ve just been working more (on my feet) but still weightlifting 3-4 times a week, obviously lol. Should I implement cardio back in or not? I’m still seeing results on the scales so I was hoping to bring it back when I really need to – like when I’m at 12% trying to get to 10% for example.

        Finally, I’d like to ask you to take a look at the picture I posted before, I know I have a lot more muscle to build yet but it seems as though I have very wide hips compared to the rest of my body. Is this a genetic trait I have to accept or can I ‘fill in’ to my hips by building a bigger back, shoulders and training obliques. After researching a little I found that, whilst not as aesthetically pleasing, my legs are naturally stronger due to my wide hips. I’d have to agree with this as I’ve always been strong on my squat – achieving 225lb in my first 3-4 months of lifting and 385lb on the leg press soon after.

        Awakening your inner genius was great, I am now reading 1 book per week and I’ve cut out Youtube, Netflix and all TV. But I’m finding it hard to find my ‘one thing’ or ‘my purpose’, if you will. At the moment I just spend my time working, weightlifting, reading philosophy, self improvement and psychology books, researching fitness and sleeping haha. I don’t have a social life and no friends really, but this has allowed me to focus on my goals in life and self improvement, although I do feel like a social life would help keep me going.

        I beleive I have outgrown this lifestyle and need to step it up – I need to get out of my comfort zone (as we all do after doing the same thing for a few years). I know you don’t know me but I was wondering if you could give me any ideas, as I’m going into depression mode when I think about not achieving greatness in my life.

        Thank you, Mike

        (Sorry it was so long)

        • That’s great! Good job on the weight you’ve lost.

          No need to RD if you still have BF you want to lose as long as you’re above BMR and still getting results.

          To help make sure you keep the fat moving, keep this in mind:


          I like your goal. Let’s make it happen!

          The limited food options definitely make it harder, haha. You aren’t able to have any other carb sources yet? Bread, pasta, rice, etc? If not, a few ideas are potatos, fruit juice, rice milk, etc. It’s easy to get a lot of carbs with liquids.

          Regarding cardio, check this out:


          You can’t change your hip structure. What you can do is continue getting leaner and then, as you said, build up your shoulders, chest and lats. That’ll creat the look you want.

          Awesome on all the books you’re reading! I’m big on reading. I can’t help you much on the social life. I’m always working or reading. Kind of a hermit. 😉

          There’s actually a book called The One Thing. You should give it a read!

          Welcome! Hope this helps! Talk soon.

  • tanay mishra

    I am 17 year old boy and about 5″9 ..and weight 64kg i consume 3000-3200kcalperday which consist of 65-70gm. Protein …
    I a mesomorph so i gain some fat in lower stomach i need help …..what should i do cardio bulk +cut i dont know ….also i want defining arms with cuts……
    My workout….
    Monday /thursday –chest trisecp
    Tuesday/friday–shoulder abs
    Wed/saturday—-back bisecp
    Sunday leg…..
    I gain some muscle but not with cuts or defining……pls help sir……

  • Mark

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve successfully used your plan to go from 182 lbs and 18% body fat to 163 lbs and 8% body fat. Unfortunately, when trying to start bulking up again, I went a little too fast and am now at 171 lbs and 14% body fat. I plan on cutting again and doing a slow bulk after I get down to about 8 or 10% body fat. When starting to bulk again, I follow your reverse diet method, adding 150 calories per week correct? I’ll do this until I get to my 5 to 10% surplus and this will probably take a couple of weeks? I have to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint and need to do it properly. Thanks for all of your help.


    • Solid work dropping 10% body fat, Mark. You’re correct, that is the protocol and it’ll take a few weeks. And remember, you’re basing this on your new TDEE, not the original one! Common mistake.

      Have this article bookmarked for reference:

  • Anthony

    Hi Mike,
    I have been trying to lose body fat and I am around 15%BF. I am 5 ft 7in and currently weigh 130 lbs. Should I continue to cut or should I bulk a little so that I gain some muscle and then cut? Currently, I am afraid that I will lose the muscle and don’t want to be underweight as well. Please advise.

    • Hi Anthony, don’t worry. You won’t lose muscle as long as you’re eating enough protein and lifting weights. I recommend that you continue the cut.

  • Hey so I have bigger leaner stronger, and beyond leaner stronger. Love the books and content, I am thinking about bulking now I am around 9% body fat I’m pretty sure, although I wanted to get to 7% I want to get a little more muscle though. So I was thinking it may be good now to bulk a little add muscle then probably redrop to 7%. Im curious, I know 10% calorie surplus is the effective way, but when you factor in days you lift you burn around 400 cal (depending on length) should you account for that burn? Because using a 10% surplus would be about 1500 calories a week. But if you don’t account burning calories through working out then the surplus won’t be 10%. What are your thoughts, do you think now is the time to cut ? And if so should you account for workouts ?

    • Great to hear, Andrew. Glad you’re enjoying them.

      When calculating your calorie and macro targets and finding TDEE, you already take exercise into account. As long as you wind up with a 10% surplus at the end of the week, you’re fine

  • Steven Nestoras

    Hi Mike.
    I have been confused over the last couple years whether I am skinny fat or just have excess fat. I am currently at 16% body fat at about 76kg measuring at 5ft 11. I can lose weight fairly easily though I tend to never have a 6 pack and my shoulders and arms get quite thin. Would would you recommend I do in my situation?

    • Looks like you’re carrying some excess fat around the midsection. Cut, and work more on your shoulders by treating them as a lagging muscle group and start by adding 3 sets of 8-10reps for your military press on top of your usual routine.

  • K L

    I’m 6,2 and around 82-84kg I’ve been out of the gym for a month with an injury and looking to start back and I wasn’t sure to bulk or cut. See pic below. I was concerned about cutting as I don’t want to look skinny (mainly arms and shoulders)

    Also not sure what my body fat level is

    • Sorry to hear about the injury man. Good to hear you’ll be back in action. Definitely cut. Looks like about 20%.

  • Rocky

    Hi Mike! I know you suggest cycling between bulking and cutting based on your body fat (e.g bouncing between 10% and 15% for men), but simply as a thought experiment, what if you did mini bulk/cut cycles that lasted only a few weeks — or even a few days? I’m sure that’s a bad idea, but I’m interested in understanding why exactly?

    • In my experience with my own body and working with thousands of people, this doesn’t work all that well.

      You tend to hit a stride when you’re bulking correctly and see regular increases in strength and body weight and stopping to cut seems to mess with that.

  • amos

    I’m doing starting strength and eating 3480kcal a day (422C, 225P, 86F). I am 18 years 5’85”, 174.5cm and 125lbs, 8% body fat. Since I’m doing starting strength, I need to eat at a higher surplus in order to gain strength fast, I notice I stall fast if I don’t eat and sleep enoygh . I can’t to gomad cause milk is freaking expensive at my country. Though you recommend eating no more than 3g of carbs per lb of bodyweight, I feel that I can get in more carbs cause it is cheaper on my wallet (white rice 184kcal/.25cup for 0.1 cents) since I’m living a college budget now and I feel my body can tolerate more carbs. Is it okay to keep on increasing my carbs beyond 3g and expect more strength and muscle gains in my lifts or is it counter productitive like what you mentioned for other macro like protein for building muscle. Or should I increase my fat and protein intake? Or a balance macro increase like in gomad for strength and muscle increase?

    • If that’s what it takes, then upping carbs is okay. you can also use fats to increase cals as well. You don’t need more than 1.2g protein/lbs body weight.

      • amos

        Is there any benefits in terms of strength and muscle gain for GOMAD vs getting your surplus from regular food?

  • dragonfly

    Hi Mike! I’ve been using BLS for a few months now and have had more success with it than I’ve had with any other program I’ve used. Looking at some of the other pictures and suggestions here, I’m wondering if I should start cutting. I’m 5’7″ and ~140 lbs. What do you think?

  • Brian Fernandes

    Hi Mike just completed my first cut to 10% and now reverse dieting to start my first bulk. I used the calculator on the site to find my tdee to be about 2000 calories.
    My question is, if time wasnt a problem, would. A slow bulk of a 5% surplus help me put on the least fat along with muscle?. My doubt is at a 5% surplus my daily calories would be at 2100 cals… thats gaining rightly 1/5th of a pound a week… if my main goal is absolute minimum fat gain, will this type of a surplus be best? Also what are your thoughts on calorie cycling where i eat at maintenance on rest days and eat the calories cut out on my workout days?

  • Tee

    Hi Mike. I wanted to show you my progress picture that I took this afternoon. I’m hovering between 18-19% BF now.

    The game changer for me was dusting off my pedometer, and being super conscious about increasing my daily steps. I’d gotten lazy, and wondered why the last little bit of body fat wasn’t budging.

    What surprised me the most were two things: how easy it was to increase my daily activity AND how tight/taut previously jiggly areas became almost immediately.

    Anyway, thanks for your help…much appreciated. P.S. I didn’t lose my womanly curves like I feared either. Lol.

    • That’s awesome work! Thanks for sharing. Yeah, it’s amazing how easy and simple it is to add more activity to our day-to-day routine isn’t it?

      Keep up the great work.

  • Arpit Mittal

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for sharing such valuable information. I am 25, 144lbs, 18%BF. If I try to bring my BF to 10%, I’ll be around 130 which will make me look skinny. Could you please suggest me what should I do – cut down to 10% ignoring my bodyweight or get around 10lbs of muscle mass and then cut again? Your reply would really help to take right decision.

    • YW! Cutting is part of the process, and looking skinny is only temporary. You’ll see better results following the process.

  • Topaz Hurvitz

    Hi Mike!
    Terrific article, just like many others I have read here.

    I’m currently 154 lb. and 16% BF after about a year of strength training (I started at 132 lb. 10% BF). My main focus and goal is gaining strength (rather than size) for better athletic performance but I also care for my aesthetics.

    After reading this I’m thinking of cutting down to 10% BF like you suggested and then continue training for strength while following your recommendations for clean bulk.

    Does that makes sense? Have I understood the article correctly or you were aiming this for people with strictly aesthetics in mind?

  • Matthew Michalski

    Great article! So for a “clean bulk” I would find my TDEE then up the calories by 10%. Take that and allocate 1g of protein per body weight, then give 25% to fat and then the rest goes to carbs?
    Also what is the best way to determine body fat? Thank you!!

  • Letisia

    Hello Mike.
    I started this program 4wks ago, and started with cutting. I’m female. 29yo and currently weigh 146.6 and at 20.9% body fat. When I started I was 154 and 22.7% body fat. I wanted to start doing the bulking,I don’t want to get any thinner as it is. Only problem areas left are my love handles(that’s were I store my fat at) and cellulite on butt and upper legs. I joined this program to cut down on love handles, cellulite but get more meatier (feminin wise). I haven’t noticed a change in my love handles or cellulite. But I have gotten leaner everywhere else. My question is, do I bulk now and will bulking add to my love handles or cellulite? And also I don’t want to get manly bulky in my upper body. 😳 Huge traps and broad shoulders isn’t my taste. But thicker from waist down is a must.
    Also. If bulking is right for me do you mind helping me with my macros and calories that I should be consuming now. I workout 5 days a week.
    Thank you for your time and help! I’m eager to start bulking. Filling out my jeans better is diffently my goal.

    • That’s awesome, Letisia! Nice work with the cut. I know how frustrating fat around the midsection is. The only way to get rid of it is to keep cutting. Have you read this article yet?


      Bulking will inevitably add fat everywhere on your body, so you want to be as lean as you can before starting your bulk. Let’s hit a flat 20% and see how things look.

      • Letisia

        Blah. More cutting. And okay. I’ll cut down to 20% flat but since I’m 29yo my body percentage thing on the caliper goes from 20.9-19. So 19% body fat is we’re I’ll need to be then?. I’ve enclosed some pics of what I currently look like. Maybe you can give me your feedback. I’ve compared them to the pics on your website displaying all the percentages and a round about of what the body should look like at those percentages. I don’t feel like my body is in the 20.9% body fat range. I feel my measurements are correct though. Because I have two other people, who have been doing the waist caliper measurements for a while, verify my numbers. But now posting/taking the pics, I definitly feel like I need to continue to cut 😳😩. Nothing like photos to get you off your high horse. Only reason I wanted to stop cutting is so I wouldn’t lose more calves and then got freaked when I noticed what lil boobs I have left, shrink too 😩. But I guess I need to continue to cut. Thank your for taking the time to reply to these discussions. I really appreciate it. I’ve tried everything. And really hoping this one works.

        • No worries! You’ve made amazing progress and should be damned proud about it. You’re in the low 20’s that’s for sure. Looks great now, but to reach your goal of shaving down love handles, it does mean more cutting. You can always implement more calves training, and I’ve no doubt you’ll love your figure once you’ve met your goal. Keep up the awesome work!

          • Letisia

            Thank you so much!! Your right, once I’m done I’m sure I’ll my figure even more. Glad to know my measurements arnt off. Ill continue to cut uNtill I reach my goal. And thanks for the idea of adding more calve training to prevent them from shrinking too much. Ill start next week training my calves three times a week, instead of twice. And also my abs 3 times a week. Help the process out even more. Thanks for your encouraging words! And again, Thank you!

          • YW! You got this. Just a matter of time before you get there.

      • Letisia
  • Christina Pontifis

    So I cut my cals to lean out a bit (1650). I’m almost three weeks in. 2 steady state sessions and 2 HIIT sessions. I’ve actually gained 1.6lbs. I have a refeed day as well. Any advice? I also just purchased the legion fat burner and also the one to train fasted. I’ve stayed true to my macros. Im trying to not get discouraged.

  • Dave Rosati


    What’s your advice on transitioning from cut to bulk? Should I reverse diet my way from cutting caloric targets to bulking caloric targets (would take about two months to get to full bulking numbers at 100 extra calories added per week, based on your Beyond BLS reverse dieting recommendations), or should I just abruptly switch from cutting to bulking?

    • Hey Dave, yes, definitely reverse diet. Once you reach TDEE, stay there for a week or two before going into the 10% surplus. Do not jump from cutting into bulking cals. You’ll pack on fat real fast.

  • Claudio Tonelli

    Hello Mike
    Thanks to what you taught me I went from 13.6BF to 6%.
    But now it’s time to bulk.

    I started bulking 3 weeks ago and i don’t know what’s happening.
    My maintenance is about 1900kcal and i’m eating 2600kcals every day.
    With BLS macros.
    I’ve already increased by 150kcals two times and increased fat too.
    But in two weeks I’ve lost 1 pound
    In the gym i’m making progress.
    I’m supplementing with l carnitine for recovery and green tea because i like the features.
    Do you think because they have fat loss features they are doing something?

    I’m 100% sure i’m eating that specific surplus,I eat and weight the same things every day. And I enjoy cheat meals too.


    • Wow…and no fat gain despite not reverse dieting? Sounds like you’re burning a ton of cals. Keep up what you’re doing. Doesn’t sound like you’re losing muscle mass if you’re having good workout performance.

      • Claudio Tonelli

        Ok,I’m gaining weight.
        Do you think that if i gain more than 1 pound a week i should lower the calories,because I’m gaining too much fat?

  • Robby

    Hey Mike! Amazing article! Just curious, I weigh 110lbs right now (male, 16), and I’m coming back to weight training for the first time in 3 months. I’m definitely looking to bulk, but I’m also sitting around 8% BF at the moment and I’d like to stay lean. According to just about all macro calcs out there, (including your’s), I’m pinned at eating anywhere from 200-250g of carbs a day, but wouldn’t that be a waste? Any way of telling whether or not that will just turn into fat? I’d love to hear your advice, thanks!

    • Hey Robby,

      That’s great you’re back on the wagon and sitting at 8% BF! Assuming your macro targets are correct, a 10% surplus is exactly what you need to bulk up. It’s not a waste at all since your body needs the fuel to drive your workouts, recovery, and growth. With bulking, fat gain is inevitable. As long as you increase your cals by the appropriate amount when you plateau, you’ll avoid putting on excessive fat.

      You’re at a pretty nice advantage starting at 8%. You’ll still look lean and see your abs if you stop your bulk at 13%. To really maximize the bulk, I’d push the bulk to 15%.

      Follow bulking protocol here:


  • sakib800


    Mike & the legion team, Lol please look at this quick transformation vid.

    This kid went from being skinny to putting on like a good 30-40 pounds of muscle in 3-4 years without ever loosing his six pack.

    Do you think he is natural? Is this doable?

    • That’s pretty amazing actually. Good on him if he did it naturally. Hard to say.

    • jim smith

      no way….it’s stuff like this that keeps everyone in the loop. Does he claim to be natural? 99% certain he’s not. I lift a lot more than he does and look nothing like it…why is that?

  • Cain

    Hi, Mike

    For a complete beginer is it ok to go with 15-20% more calories when bulking

  • Dr. D

    question: When I calculate my carb, protein, & fat targets for bulking (10% above TDEE) I end up with 53% of the calories in carbs, 26% in protein, and 20% in fat. Your book says the carbs should be between 30-40%. Am I okay with these calculations or am I doing something wrong?

    I’ve been cutting since late June. Down to 140 pounds from 165. Down to 10% body fat from 25%. I plan to cut to 7% percent BF and then begin bulking sometime in the next four weeks (January-ish).

    And as a follow up question, how long do I bulk? Until i go fro 7% to 12% body fat? For three months? Until I stop gaining 1 pound of muscle per week? Which metric is the best determiner for switching back to cutting. (I plan to add 100 calories of carbs for the first and second weeks of bulking, 100 cals of fat the third week, 100 cals of carbs the fourth week and 100 cals of fat the fifth week until I get to about 10% above TDEE).

    Okay, another question: after bulking do you just go cold turkey back to cutting? I know you’ve written a lot about calorie cycling on a weekly basis, but I really like this cutting then bulking (I think I’m going to like the bulking, haven’t tried it yet). Actually, since we’ve got so many meals figured out for cutting, its kind of hard to let go. So can I just stick with two or three months on cutting and 2-3 months bulking and live in the 7-9% body fat range?

    Last question, my 90 year old mom is cutting using the protein target based on lean body mass calculation. I’m going to have her begin bulking when I do. What should be her target for returning to cutting or should she try calorie cycling (its so much easier when everyone in the family is on the same page)? She’s down to 19% body fat from 25%. And 110 pounds down from 135 pounds.

    Thanks for any help you can send my way!

    PS: This has worked like a charm. Everything is going great! I’m 56 years old and look like a 17 year old…

    • You’re looking good with 1g/lbs bodyweight protein and 20% cals in fat. My own numbers look similar when starting a bulk.

      There’s no set length of time. Use BF% as a guide. You can bulk until 15%, if you wanted to, which is the maximum we recommend. When you are done with your bulk, cut cold turkey with a 20% deficit from TDEE.

      Calorie cycling will give much slower results, but you do get to stay lean. It’s not the best way to go about it if maximizing muscle growth is your goal. Cutting/Bulking in the 7-12% isn’t too bad, though. At the peak of your bulk you’ll still be seeing your abs 🙂

      It might be easier for your mom to just eat at maintenance. Nice work on her cut and yours!

      • Dr. D

        I’m actually at 1.2 g protein/lbs. of body weight since starting to cut in late July (not 1.0). Is that a problem? Should I stay at 1.2g/lb or go down to 1.0g/lb? Your books and other writings suggest all three levels: 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 depending on BF, exercise levels, etc. I think I asked six months ago, and determined to stick with 1.2%g/lbs of body weight. What do you recommend I do?

        When bulking, can I up the fat from 20% to 22%, 23% or even 25%, or will that cut down the carbs too low to get the optimum benefit from buiking?

        When you say “maintenance”, is that increasing calorie intake from cutting up to TDEE calorie intake levels, but no higher?

        * For my mom (and my sister) who aren’t that concerned about muscle, can they cut at 20% below TDEE for a few months, then rise to maintenance (TDEE), then cut again, then rise up to maintenance (TDEE) then cut. Is that a decent expectation/cyclical diet for their calorie intake? Or are you saying they should just eat at TDEE calorie intake levels for forever now that they’ve arrived at the BF goals they wanted to achieve?

        Once I get this nailed down I won’t pester you with all these questions.

        Many thanks for your help. You’re awesome!

        • If you’re cutting, 1.2/lb is perfect. No need to reduce to 1g.

          You can if you want on the carbs and fat. What’s most important is that you get enough protein and you hit your calorie target. More carbs is better since it improves performance and recovery, but you do have room to play around with them.

          Yup, maintenance is your TDEE. The amount of cals you burn with your usual activity daily.

          If your mom and sister are happy with where their BF% is and aren’t interested in building muscle, they should just stick to TDEE and maintain. No need to do regular cuts. They won’t gain weight at TDEE.

          Haha, no worries. Happy to help. 🙂

          • Dr. D

            Awesome! Thanks Mike. And Merry Christmas!

            On that body fat target. Ir you’re cutting, you say I’m okay at 1/2g/lb. Is that true with building? Can I stay at 1/2g/lb on the way up too? Or should I lower it to 1.1 or 1.0g/lb. (I’m pretty sure this is my “almost” last question)

            Dr. D

          • Both will do just fine!

          • Dr. D

            In My Comment below I said “On that Body Fat target” I meant “On that protein target”. Sorry about that…

      • Dr. D

        And…what about teens? At what age should they consider cutting and building with macronutrient TDEE calorie restriction and building with calorie “overload” above TDEE? And what should they do before that age? Just maintain a good protein target and then eat wherever their appetite leads them?

        • Hmm. I’d wait until you’re 18. Until then, just focus on eating lots of protein and nutritious foods.

          Hope this helps!

  • Destiny

    This is SO HARD! I started at 122 pounds a month ago. The scale is only at 124 and I’m eating like a horse. Always full. Bloated. I even wake up…full! I’m a women and lift heavy. As heavy as I can. Obviously my ‘heavy’ isn’t a man’s description of heavy. I’m sore and I can see my butt and biceps are bigger. I track my macros. I’m up to over 2000 calories a day. Lots of carbs and the scale just inches along. I lift 3 times a week and do some HIIT. Should I dump the HIIT? Eat more nuts and avocado? Purchase a trowel? Help!

    • Hey Destiny, two pounds in a month is pretty solid work! Limit your HIIT to one hour each week, and if your weight is plateauing, then add more cals. You can consider some more calorie-dense foods or easy to eat foods like rice milk to pack in the cals.

  • Alejandra

    Hi mike! I am currently 125lbs 23% body fat I workout 5 days a week heavy lifting and I would like to build muscle and not fat. What should my macros look like?

  • El Shay

    Hi Mike! I’m a 130lb woman 5’5, I started your ultimate women’s fitness plan for weight training (3 days on/ 1 day off, 2 days on/ 1 day off). I’d like to do a juice fast for a few days. Do you suggest getting my protein from Whey + BCAA to avoid muscle wasting?
    Also is 1400 cal/day adequate if I’m still getting 40% protein in & following the weight training schedule mentioned above? I’ll be doing some HIIT (sprints) as you prescribed after weights, walking, and yoga as well.
    (disclaimer: I’m a vegan glutard!)

  • Ahren

    Hi mike I’m currently 5’11 male 152 lbs and 20% body fat,im think but it mostly seems to be around my stomach,ive been cutting for around 4 weeks and i can tell I’m getting weaker,im tempted to bulk but don’t really want to gain more fat ,on the other hand I don’t want to cut a lot of weight and lose a lot of strength
    Do you have any advice for me?
    Kind regards

  • Ryan Brain

    Hi Mike,
    If I do 6 reps in one set and I move up the weight for the next set, but can only manage 3 reps, do I keep trying or drop the weight? Thanks!

    • Good question, Ryan. In this case, go back down and complete 2-3 sets of 6 reps before moving up again.

  • Kelly Sears

    Hi! So I’m confused on how much fat I should intake during my calorie surplus? (Just starting this week) I am female, 5’5 and weigh 123. I understand how much carbs and protein but I’m still confused on the proper amount of fat (healthy fats of course) thank you!!!

  • Rajat

    Hi Mike!
    I’m 5’11 male, 76kgs with 16% body fat. I’m confused whether I should go for a protein supplement or mass gainers to aid my workout. I do intense workout 6 days a week, I want to increase my muscle size. Should I use a mass gainer (like ON Serious Mass) first, get the bulk and then using whey isolate start fat cut down? I heard that protein helps in lean muscle but it will not increase much of muscle size, so will it be better to first get the bulk and then start to lean down at this stage?

    • Hey Rajat, at 16%BF, you’ll want to cut down to 10% and skip the mass gainer. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

  • jim smith

    damm some of those physiques you show here are what i want….but are they natural? The guy you show in last picture below this headline “The Bottom Line on Building Muscle Without Getting Fat” 100% is not..so why show it on here? It’s not right.

    Anyhow, my question is I am getting stronger..and possibly slightly bigger but i am not making the progress i should be muscle wise. What do you suggest? I have stepped up my eating clean to about 2,500+ cal’s a day 170grammes+ protein…maybe i am at my maximum potential..which is quite small.

    I do heavy compound lifts…220kg d.l’s, 150kg squat, 75kg shoulder presses, etc.. training (properly) over 3 years now

    5ft 7″ 81kg. i’d guess about 13% B.F.

    I am happy with my strength and fit look…but i’d like to be a little more muscular.

    • They’re just stock images, and it’s harder to find good ones than you think…

      Happy to hear you’re gaining strength and some size! There are a number reasons why the size isn’t coming as quickly as you’d like. How much are you gaining weekly? How much sleep are you getting? What does your pre-workout and post-workout nutrition look like?

      Let me know!

  • V’s Zumba

    Hi, Michael.
    I loved the BLS book and have been following it for 15 weeks. I found it very informative, thorough, and helpful.
    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.
    I am 6’3″ 44 year old male. In the last 4 months, I have limited my calorie intake to between 2,500 and 2,700 calories per day and I cut from 235 lbs at 23% body fat down to 200 at ~6.5% body fat. I used the body caliper 3-point method to track body fat. According to my calcs I lost 41 lbs of fat and gained 6 lbs of muscle.
    I would like to start the bulking phase. I have a sedimentary job but am very active otherwise. I follow the 5-day BLS workout schedule (5 x 500 calories = 2,500), teach four (4) Zumba 1-hour long classes per week (4 x 850 calories = 3,500) , and dance Latin 2-3 hours per week (2 x 500 calories = 1,000-1,500). I understood that the sedentary adjustment is 0.2 of BMR (2,200 BMR x 0.2 = 440 calories).
    I am estimating my TDEE at 2,200 + 440 + (2,500 + 3,500 + 1,000) : 7 = 3,640 calories per day. If I use the recommended 1.45 multiplier for very active lifestyle and apply it to the BMR, I arrive with 3,200 calories per day (2,200 x 1.45). The difference between 3,640 TDEE and 3,200 TDEE estimates is 440 calories.
    I understood that for bulking the recommended calorie surplus should be 5-10%. I was planning on 300 calories.
    Would you please provide your recommendation whether I should use 3,640 or 3,300 calories for TDEE to calculate daily caloric intake and recommended caloric surplus.
    Also, for protein intake, should I follow 0.8-1.0 gram of protein per pound of body mass (~ 200 grams per day) or use the 40% of total calories (40P/40C/20F) which would be double of that (~400 grams per day)?
    Thank you.

  • Idelarr

    Hi Mike i consider myself a skinny fat men. I am 43 years old. My height is 5’8″ close to 5’9″ and my weight is 158 lbs and my bodyfat percentage is according to my knowledge 15% or so. Never measured it. I am trying to cut but it seems very difficult to get lower than that. I see myself getting skinnier but still see some flabby areas. I am lifting weights 4 days per week and playing basketball on mondays and soccer on thursdays. What should I do? I feel better during workouts when I have preworkout meals. Please give me a word of orientation

  • Yazeed Abdullah

    Hey Mike,
    I already started the weightlifting, my weight is 102 KG,183 cm tall, and BF 28%, my question is simple I don’t know which I should to start with bulking or cutting diet?.

    • Hi Yazeed, at 28% BF, you definitely want to start cutting.

      • Yazeed Abdullah

        Even if have not being to bulking phase?

  • Though its hilarious that when I get in the gym people think Im strength
    training when doing just 5-8 reps. Though strong ripped muscles are the
    way forward and this plan hits that goal perfectly. No one wants to
    look blubbery

  • IndPrr

    Hi Mike,

    I have listened to the BLS book on Audible and is absolutely excellent. I have a few questions about this article, and about body fat percentage:

    1) When is the best time to go on “maintenance” phase?
    2) I noticed you have mentioned in BLS you are about 7% body fat. In this article and in BLS, it mentions to start bulking when you have 10% body fat – is there any benefit to have single digit body fat percentage?

    Please reply when you can.


  • Abner Noel

    Try muscle gaining secrets to learn how to build muscles, heres a quick review http://themusclegainingreview.blogspot.com/

  • ArchDoc

    Hey mike sorry for this ridiculous long post hope u can read it. I really need help here. I’ve been lifting weights for over 10 months now. My progress was slow to start with. After training for 4 months in the beginning not missing one session being super anal about my calorie counting my gains were still pretty bad. Now my gains have come to a complete halt. I’ve been stuck at bench for 120. Squat 135 and deadlift 175 for FIVE MONTHS now. And I see literally no muscle gain. I’m starting to lose motivation now since I really don’t know what I’m doing wrong and what caused this. I’ve tried deloads taking off completely for 1-2 weeks. High volume medium intensity. High intensity medium volume. Frequency of 1-3 per body part each week. Nothing is working. Diet also has nothing to do with this. I consume high protein etc. 1000 calorie deficit or a 200-500 calorie surplus still go to the gym and lift the exact godamn weight every time. My two best friends who are brothers of around my age (16 and 21) have already made more gains than me. 21 one has muscle memory so I get it. But the younger one literally just started lifting for like 3 months and he went from 100 lb dead to 215 and was on a cut the entire time( he lost like 20 lbs)he’s still kinda fat. Pls help if u read up to here lol

  • Urijah Morrison

    Hi Mike,

    I’m 19 years old, 6’1-6’2″ and weigh about 160-165 pounds. I just got home from college for the summer so i’m going to start going to the gym everyday again. I’d estimate my BF percentage is somewhere around 14-16%, I’ve always had a really high metabolism and played college soccer last year (not going to again) so have always done a lot of cardio and aerobic activity. I would like to gain about 10-15 pounds in the next year to get out of this thin, lanky phase that I’ve been stuck in (genetics haven’t helped). I was wondering whether it would be best to immediately start a lean bulk as I’d like to put on this weight with minimal fat gained. I plan on using creatine and Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer. Any tips, and suggestions are greatly appreciated as I’m pretty new to all of this. Thanks!

    • Hey Urijah, I recommend that you first cut to 10%. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

  • Prits


    I have been going Gym for over 5 months now. I wanted to gain muscles. I have gained little muscles and fat like 25%. How can I go forward with losing those fat to 15-20% while gaining more muscles?

    I go gym for 3-4 days a week and also go to dancing a lot on weekends.

  • Jesse

    Thanks Mike. I’d add for those newbies wanting to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, it is possible to gain muscle in a calorie deficit, but it’s very difficult. I recomped over the last 8 months, lost 40 pounds total, but gained muscle and strength, so I actually lost more than 40 pounds of fat (I was vastly out of shape). I made sure to have 1 gram of protein per pound of weight, but stayed in a 400 calorie deficit throughout. Plus, I pounded weights like crazy at the gym 5-6 days a week. Not easy to do in a calorie deficit. Lots of grilled chicken, fish, low fat but high protein drinks, etc. I had to work out right after my meals when I had the most energy. I probably didn’t feed my muscles enough nutrition after my workouts to maximize my growth, but I made up for it with fat loss, so aesthetically I look much better than had I eaten more. Now I’m about 9-10% body fat, and plan to increase to a 5-10% calorie surplus to gain muscle and hopefully not increase my fat percentage. Thanks for the guidance.

  • Luis

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been on a calorie deficit for a few months now. Using your illustration, I’ve gone from ~19% yo ~15%. I lift about 3 to 4 times a week, and do Insanity Max 30 2-3 times. I am limited on the lifting department though since I workout at work. This means a max of 75lbs on dumbells and a smith machine!…:. Anywho, should I adjust my deficit? Meaning, should I take my current calculation for TDEE and calculate new macros? Thanks!

    • Luis

      So, I just went through some other posts I hadn’t seen before. If I can see my abs pretty well, specially in the morning of course, is it safe to safe I am closer to 8-10% BF? I have been using the illustration in your article to measure my BF fat, and the dude in 8-10 looks pretty damn ripped, lol. Beginning to think I should probably readjust my macros and increase my calories by 100 or so. My upper abs are pretty visible…I have more trouble with my lower abs and the backsides..

      • Hey Luis, best to just take a measurement:


        Adjust your macros on a cut when you have hit a fat loss plateau by simply removing 25g carbs from your current intake. However, do not go below BMR. I also recommend that you first increase your HIIT cardio to 4 or even 5 sessions.

  • Chester

    Hi Mike,

    I have an Ectomorph body build so it is harder for me to gain weight than others. I workout at the gym thrice a week and do Boxing 4 times a week. I have an issue with bumping up my calorie intake. I am 145 pounds at 5’9. Some personal trainers told me that if I don’t have enough time to eat at work, they recommended Mass Gainer supplements. Do you think it’s feasible and what do you think I should do? Should I follow some kind of strict calorie intake plan of some sort? Thank you

  • Jane

    Hi Mike – hoping for a bit of guidance. My body has been resistant to fat loss for the last five years or so (believe me, I tried everything – all my trainers were stumped). But I’ve recently lost about 20 pounds with a medically-supervised program and am now down to 145 and 25% body fat. I wanted to put on some muscle before losing more fat. End goal is (more or less) 130 pounds at 17% body fat (I’m female, 43 years, 5’6”, curvy build). I’m going for an athletic body that I can maintain with a busy lifestyle; I’m not a bodybuilder. Your article recommends not “bulking” until I’m down to 20% body fat. I wanted to know how rigid that suggestion is. My plan is to follow a beginner program (4-5 days at the gym) as I’ve been off weight training for a couple years. The fat loss for me is very grueling and I wasn’t planning on doing more for a few more months, but if you think this is very important, I could lose another 10 pounds before starting serious weight training. Much appreciated.

  • Mr. TitanSkate

    Hi Mike.
    I have a combination of a medical condition and consequently a very fast metabolism which means it’s virtually impossible for me to gain fat. I am a 23 year old male and am grossly underwight at 50 kgs.
    How can I gain muscle since it’s impossible for me to gain fat?

  • Pit

    Hi Mike, first of all, thanks for your advices and book. I already made great progress but I seem to be struggling a bit with bulking. Although I am following your recommendations, I must be missing something… 2 questions for you then please:
    – I am currently 74kg, 13%BodyFat and at 2600Cal/day (25%Prot, 20%Fat,55%Carbs). Isn’t the fat %age too low ?(generally speaking)
    – How long would be a ‘standard’ Bulking/Cutting cycle? I understand it may vary but as a high level expectation, can we say a bulking phase is 4, 8, 12 weeks? more than that?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Thanks, Pit. That’s great you’re bulking. No, that is not too low for fat. There’s no standard length of time. You’re done when you’re done, staying generally in the confines of 10-15% body fat.

  • Jeff

    Hi Mike, Thanks for this and for the whole BLS programme which I’ve read recently and will be kicking into action having just ordered the One Year Challenge paperback to monitor my progress. I have a gym membership, attend the odd class but have never really lifted weights in earnest so I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m still somewhat confused whether I need to kick off the programme bu bulking or cutting however -I’m 46 years of age, approx 78Kgs 172 lbs in weight with a typical skinny / fay Dad-Bod…! Is the first step to measure body fat percantager and take it from there please?

  • Jesse Self

    Mike, I hope you answer this. You’re one of the few people I’ve run across who consistently gives solid, science-based answers. Is there a rule of thumb for at what body fat percentage the body stops building muscle in a caloric deficit (assuming protein stays at 1g/lb bodyweight AND all muscles are worked very hard)? In other words at what point will there not be enough fat for the body to burn so that it turns to muscle? I’ve been in a significant body recomp for almost a year, (I’ve lost about 45 pounds of fat and gained muscle), but I’m closing in on single digit body fat percentage and I’d like to get to 7 or 8 percent before increasing caloric intake. Just wondering if I’d be shooting myself in the foot trying to gain muscle while being in a caloric deficit with anything less than 10 percent body fat. Thanks!

    • Hey Jesse, being able to “recomp” (build muscle while losing fat) is more a function of your experience level, and how much strength you have to gain, and not how much body fat you have. Fat doesn’t “turn into” muscle. You may want to give this article a read: https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

      • Jesse Self

        Sorry. Awkward phrasing. I didn’t mean “fat turns to muscle.” I meant at what point does the body stop burning fat and then (the system) turns to muscle when there isn’t enough fat to fulfill metabolic processes?

        • It really depends. The faster you lose weight as you get lean, the more likely some of it will be lean tissue. There’s no way to prevent it completely, but we can implement various strategies to tip the scale in our favor. Some of these things include using a moderate calorie deficit, doing resistance training, eating a high-protein diet, etc. Check this article out: https://legionathletics.com/how-to-lose-weight-fast/

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    “A large calorie surplus is not better for building muscle than a slight one, but results in far more fat gain.”

    Could you explain this more or provide a source for this claim? I am not clear what you mean. You wrote elsewhere that most people gain fat and muscle at a 1:1 ratio. If this is the case, so what if you gain more fat, since it also means more muscle right? I mean, if I gain 2lbs of fat then I also gained 2 lbs of muscle, right? So how is a small surplus and gaining only 1 pound of each better?

    • Hey Elijah, the body can only build muscle so fast. The ratio does not stay as 1:1 if you overfeed by a lot. Fat accumulation can increase the more you eat, but muscle building doesn’t past a certain point. You may enjoy this podcast I did recently with Eric Helms: https://www.muscleforlife.com/eric-helms-build-muscle/

  • Yolanda

    Hey Mike!
    I posted some questions months ago about my cutting diet and am happy to say I reached my cut goals. So now, I’ve been trying to bulk since the beginning of July. I started at 1700 cal/day (I’m 5’4″, 109 lb then). First 3 to 4 weeks were good and I gained muscle, just roughly about 2 lbs (By end of July I was at 113 lb and 21%BF). The next weeks after and up to this date, no progress at all in terms of muscle gain, in fact, it appears I lost one pound of muscle, and have been consistently gaining only fat according to my BIA balance. Currently my readings are 114.5 lbs and 23.3%BF, and my daily intake is at 1800 cal/day with macros as 20%fat, 26%proteins, and 54%carbs.
    I was working out 5x per week, and right now am on your “get bigger legs plan” which got 4x per weeks sessions. I usually get a post-workout protein shake with plenty of carbs, and try to get a decent sleep of 8 hours daily.
    What should I do now? Look more closely to my fat intake? I’ve been stuck for more than a month, no more muscle and only fat gain.

    • Hey Yolanda, those BIA devices are really inaccurate, so I wouldn’t use that as the basis of how well the bulk is going. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/

      Just make sure you’re getting enough protein (around 1g per lb of body weight), and as long as you’re gaining weight slowly, and getting stronger, you’re on the right track. If you’re not gaining weight, add more carbs. Make sense?

  • ann

    Hey Mike. About me: Female, 31. 5″3. BF% around 21% Starting weight 105 pounds. Started weight training 6 weeks ago and now 120. Did I put on too much weight too fast? we all know that’s not 15 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks. should I lower my calories to lower fat/weight? or will that undo my work and attempts to build muscle? I’m not looking to be big, just toned (I used to be skinny fat at 105lbs and 5″3).

    • Hey Ann! Good question.

      How has your body fat percentage changed? That’s definitely a pretty quick increase in weight, but a large portion could be water and glycogen from starting the training. Was most of the weight gain towards the beginning of the 6 weeks, or has it been steady? Assuming your body fat is still below 25-27%, I’d lower your calories a bit until you’re gaining only 0.5lbs per week.

      If you’re over 27% now, go into a calorie deficit until you’re around 20% body fat. Make sense?

      Keep me updated!

      • Ann Alemi

        hm. I’d say i had a 5 pound gain the first 2 weeks, steady in between, and then another 4 pounds in the last 10 days or so. my body fat percentage is still the same too! my body fat. I have alot of trouble lowering my calories. I eat around 2000/day and weight train 4 times a week. Do i just have to suck it up and accept hunger? i really don’t understand how others do it…. i tried tracking macros for a few weeks but it was making me neurotic and i ended up eating a few hundred calories more than when i was simply eating well and intuitively. but i really want to know how to go on a calorie deficit. Do appetite suppressants work? help!

        • If your body fat percentage hasn’t gone up, then you’re probably seeing an increase in muscle, water retention, glycogen, etc. If your goal is to lose fat, you will need to be in a deficit. You can do this without counting calories, but it’s more difficult. The easiest method is to make a meal plan that hits your macros and stick to it every day.

          Check this out:

          You can take 5-HTP, which has been proven to increase satiety (fullness) when ingested with a meal. https://www.muscleforlife.com/fat-burner/

  • Taylor Kuzik

    Another tricky thing about lean bulking is in this day of age where we’re on the go, it’s hard to find time to meet the caloric requirement to maximize muscle growth especially for Ectomorphs aka hardgainers because their metabolism is ridiculously fast it burns through the calories like crazy and thus have to consume way more calories just to gain one pound of weight compared to the normal person who’d not only be sick but also resemble a blow fish. I believe weight/mass gainers can be useful if you’re having trouble taking in the calories to maintain the 10% surplus. The trick is finding the correct one. Most mass gainers I’ve seen have a higher carb to protein ratio and have creatine in them as well. Another annoying thing is you don’t know what ingredients are in the mass gainers. Speaking of which, Mike, I have two questions for you.
    1: Do you have any mass gainer recipes here on Muscle for Life?
    2: Have you done an article about staying lean and eating healthy while traveling? I find that tricky to stick to. I don’t travel much given how expensive things are these days but I’d love to have your input about it.

  • Nope

    lmao this shit is so hilarious. ‘women’ should ‘shoot for half’. Why, ‘women’ are half of ‘men’? Nice way to keep this ‘species’ weaker and lamer. All this hyped up gender bullshit is seriously funny.

    ‘Females’ are as strong as and stronger than ‘males’ and all you ‘females’ weight training, throw away the 5 pound trash and for God’s sake start lifting REAL weights and get real muscles instead of making moronic fools of yourself painting your faces because for some reason an actual canvas didn’t occur to you.

    Losers only pick on this ‘species’ because of their own behaviour. Start getting strong, you have all the resources available in you already, and beat down these moron males who think something big of themselves. And why won’t they? Painted feeble morons walk by, of course they’ll look inferior. Start looking like humans and stop living your life on a construction of reality called ‘gender’.

  • First of all thank you for keeping our information secret. I do not want you to get an email from nonsense places. I follow your site regularly. I read carefully the newly added articles and try to integrate them into my daily life. You have a very large archive of information about muscles. I once wrote http://www.skinnyfat.org/how-to-monitor-the-level-of-metabolism/ and shared it with me. In this article, there is new information on how metabolism should look. I hope you will continue sharing. I wish you all healthy days.

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