Archive for the tag - muscle gain

Can You Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time?

Dear Davey,

Is it possible to gain muscle while losing fat?


Hey Chuckie,

Thanks for the question. At face value, the goals of losing fat and building muscle seem to contradict each other. In order to lose fat, we know that a calorie deficit is required. That is, fewer calories are taken in than burned. To build muscle, on the other hand, a calorie surplus is required. In general, people engaged in a muscle-building workout program are advised to take in 250 - 500 more calories than are burned.

This is why you’ll see many body builders cycle through a “bulking phase” wherein they increase muscle mass through a calorie surplus and then a “cutting phase” wherein they lean down with a calorie deficit.

Personally, if I was training a client who both wanted to lose weight and build muscle, I’d focus on the goals one at a time. First, I’d use a calorie deficit and workout program that targets fats loss. Once the goal weight was reached, I’d use a calorie surplus and a workout program that produces muscle gain.

But what about for the average exerciser who isn’t interested in counting calories or who isn’t that serious about their exercise commitments? Can the average exerciser lose weight while building muscle?

There are actually a few studies on the subject. For one study, researchers put women through a six-month fitness program that included both cardio and strength training. On average, the women lost 10% of their body fat and increased their muscle mass by 2.2%. A separate study of men came to the same conclusion.

In other words, if you eat well and exercise, you’ll likely lose fat and gain muscle. At the same time. It might not be the most efficient process, and it may not produce maximal results, but it happens all the time with typical gym-goers.

I hope that helps!

Davey Wavey

Why Did My Muscles Stop Growing?

Hey Davey,

I’ve been following your advice for about a year to build my muscles. For the first 8 or 9 months, I had a lot of success and my muscles increased in size pretty dramatically. I haven’t changed my workout strategy and I’m still eating what I’ve always eaten. So what gives?


This is a common problem - and the solution is surprisingly simple.

Of course, all of this assumes that your workout plan is designed around muscle growth and that it will include low reps of heavy weights and constant progressive overloading. Since you were able to see muscle gains for so many months, it seems likely that your workout strategy is very effective. Good job!

The culprit is most likely your diet - and here’s why.

To build muscle, you must have a calorie surplus. Without the extra calories, your body won’t have the fuel to build your increased muscle mass. As such, it’s generally recommended that individuals who are looking to build muscle through their workouts consume a surplus of 250 - 500 calories per day. In other words, if your daily calorie requirement is 2,500 calories for maintenance, then you’d want to eat at least 2,750 calories for muscle growth.

But as your body becomes more muscular, you burn more calories each day. With added muscle, your calorie requirement increases. And so while 2,750 calories may have been sufficient a year ago, it’s no longer resulting in the required calorie surplus. And without the surplus, your body won’t build muscle. This is why you were able to see muscle gains for many months, but then things tapered off - even though nothing in your workout strategy or diet plan changed.

To solve this issue, simply increase your daily calorie intake by another 250 calories. It’s basically one extra snack per day. As simple a fix as it is, it’s the number one reason why muscles stop growing.

No Longer Sore After Workout: Am I Doing Something Wrong?

Hi Davey,

I’ve been getting back in to shape lately by going to the gym 2 - 3 times a week. When I first started, my muscles would become sore 1 - 2 days after my workout. Recently I’m finding that my muscles don’t become sore in the slightest. I am increasing the amount I lift but I’m cautious because I’m still getting back into it and I don’t want to harm my muscles.

Does this lack of soreness or stiffness in my muscles mean I’m not working hard enough?

Thanks and much love,

Hey Eric,

Congratulations on getting back into the swing of things and renewing your commitment to exercise!

First things first, muscle soreness that occurs 12 - 48 hours after exercise is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) - and it’s a good thing. Immediate muscle soreness or pain, on the other hand, is often related to injury - and immediate medical attention is encouraged. Since the soreness you experienced is the former, there’s no need for concern.

When exercisers start a new routine (just as you did), muscle soreness is very common. Since the new workout is a shock to the body, muscle soreness is a likely result. But, over time, the body will adjust - and soreness will tend to decrease. This is all very natural and part of the process.

Though many people become addicted to feeling sore after exercise, soreness isn’t required for muscle growth. Provided you have an effective strategy to target muscle growth, your muscles will continue to grow even if you don’t experience discomfort.

In this way, the age-old adage of “no pain, no gain” is certainly a fallacy.


Tight Underwear Prevent Muscle Growth?

Hi Davey,

There are a lot of people that say that tight underwear lowers our sperm count and testosterone levels, thereby preventing muscle gain. Is it true?


Hey Frank,

I’m so glad you asked this question!

First things first, it’s common knowledge that testosterone aids in muscle growth. The more testosterone you have, the more muscle you’re likely to build through your training. And, of course, this has been proven time and time again through the use of anabolic steroids, which - though dangerous - mimic testosterone and result in muscle growth.

If you do a Google search, you’ll see countless websites warning of the link between tight underwear and reduced testosterone and sperm counts. But rarely do they cite any research to back up their claims. I’m interested in science - not rumors.

These rumors note that the testes hang from the body for a reason; they need to be cooler to function properly. By wearing tight underwear, we hold the testes close to the body - thus, potentially raising the internal testicular temperature and decreasing functionality.

Not surprisingly, researchers have studied the link. In fact, back in 1998, Munkelwitz and Gilbert from the University of New York published a study about underwear and fertility titled, “Are Boxer Shorts Really Better?” After studying a number of volunteers, the researchers concluded that there is “no difference in scrotal temperature depending on underwear type” and that it was “unlikely that underwear type has a significant effect on male fertility.” Since testosterone influences sperm count, the research suggests that its levels aren’t influenced by tight underwear. Since then, other studies have come to similar conclusions.

Reduced testosterone levels can be caused by any number of conditions or circumstances, including:

  • Testicular damage
  • Post-puberty mumps
  • Radiation or chemotherapy
  • Testicular tumors
  • HIV/AIDs and other viral infections
  • Genetic conditions

Whether you’re in favor of boxers or briefs, know that it won’t affect your testosterone levels or your ability to build muscle. What you eat and how you work out, on the other hand, will greatly impact your results.

Davey Wavey

Increases in Muscle Mass May Lower Diabetes Risk.

Muscles aren't just about looking sexy - they're good for you, too.

Admittedly, many people seek to add muscle mass for superficial reasons. But as it turns out, bulking up is about much more than just looking “good.”

Increasing muscle mass has a number of benefits - not the least of which is a huge boost to your metabolism. Adding muscle burns more calories; it’s one of the most effective ways to create a calorie deficit when it come to weight loss. Muscles also make you stronger (duh!), so it can improve your performance in any number of activities ranging from the mundane and ordinary (like housework or heavy lifting) to sports and competitions.

But a new study, soon to be published in the September issue of of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that increases in muscle mass may be linked to decreases in diabetes risk. The study looked at data from 13,644 adults and concluded that a 10% increase in participants’ skeletal muscle index resulted in a 11% decrease in insulin resistance and a 12% decrease in pre-diabetes.

Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, lead researcher, noted:

Our findings suggest that beyond focusing on losing weight to improve metabolic health, there may be a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle mass. This is a welcome message for many overweight patients who experience difficulty in achieving weight loss, as any effort to get moving and keep fit should be seen as laudable and contributing to metabolic change.

While the finds are important for all of us, they’re especially important for people with pre-diabetes who have difficulty releasing extra body weight. Yes, losing weight does reduce the risk for diabetes - but, according to the research, so does adding muscle.

What Are Drops Sets & How Can You Use Them?

For serious muscles like these, drops sets are an effective strength training technique.

Drops sets are a strength training technique wherein you perform a set of any exercise to failure (or just short of failure) - and then drop some weight and continue for additional repetitions with the reduced resistance. Once failure is again reached, additional resistance is dropped and so on.

Drop sets are great for bodybuilders or individuals looking to make gains in muscle size. Simply put, few other training techniques can break down muscle fibers as effectively as drop sets - so if you incorporate drop sets into your routine, you will see significant gains in mass. However, drop sets are not advised for athletes or people looking for gains in strength. Moreover, most athletes want strength or speed without the bulk - and so drop sets will be at odds with their goals.

To perform a drop set, select an amount of resistance that will result in muscle failure after 8 - 12 reps. While you’ve reached failure, you haven’t reached absolute failure; quickly decrease the amount of weight by about 15% and continue. After 8 or so reps, you’ll hit failure again. Reduce the resistance by another 15% and continue. Keep going.

Obviously, drop sets require some planning. Since rest time should be between zero and ten seconds, they’re most popular on machines; adjusting the weight is as quick as changing a pin. If you do drop sets on a barbell, you may need to work with a spotter and/or load the barbell with lots of small weight plates for faster adjustments. If you work with dumbbells, line them up on the floor in advance - and simply work your way down the line.

If you’re purely looking for gains in mass, then drop sets are a great technique to try occasionally try out and incorporate! I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Creatine Trial Week 1: Everything You Need to Know.

It's important to have a complete understanding of creatine before deciding if it's right for you.

There’s a lot of information - and misinformation - about the supplement known as creatine.

I’m very careful about any supplements or medications that I take, and I refuse to ingest anything without fully understanding its function and consequences. So when I became curious to try creatine, I knew I’d have to dig deeper.

Turns out, creatine is one of the most popular and researched supplements available. In a nutshell, creatine is involved in making the energy your muscles need to work. For most people, taking additional creatine enables you to lift heavier weights or complete additional repetitions - which, in turn, builds additional muscle.

The biggest misconception is that creatine is a steroid. It’s not. In fact, it’s allowed in professional sports, the Olympics and the NCAA. Creatine is a chemical that is manufactured by the body - and it is naturally consumed through meat and fish.

Moreover, creatine is generally safe. It’s possibly unsafe for people with existing kidney or liver concerns or diabetes, though more research in this particular area is needed. Creatine is less effective for older populations over 60, and it should be avoided by people ages 18 and under as additional research is needed to determine safety in younger populations. As with many things, ingesting massive amounts of creatine may be dangerous, so consume it responsibly.

Creatine is probably a good fit for people:

  • Between the ages of 18 - 60 and who
  • Are looking to increase muscle mass or improve strength and who
  • Exercise regularly with free weights and/or machines and who
  • Have no kidney concerns, issues with the liver or diabetes.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor or health professional before trying a new supplement like creatine.

After doing my research, I decided to give creatine a try - and to document the experience here. As carnivores tend to see less dramatic results from creatine (creatine is found in meat), I wasn’t really sure what to expect. One thing seems quite certain: Most creatine users see a dramatic increase in their weight - and it usually happens fast. Many articles claim 10 pounds of weight gain in the first few weeks of use - though most of the initial gain is additional water weight in the muscles (for this reason, it’s especially important to stay hydrated while on creatine). It’s not fat - and it doesn’t make you look flabby, etc.

Creatine is usually taken in cycles called “loads” or “loading”. For the first 5 - 7 days, people take as much as 20 grams (or 4 teaspoons). And then for the next 5 - 7 days, they take 5 grams (or 1 teaspoon). After a few cycles, people generally come off creatine. A few weeks later, they may start up again depending on their individual goals.

To be cautious, I spent my first week taking just 5 grams. I wanted to see how I felt, and how my body reacted. More than 7 days later, I haven’t really noticed many changes. My weight is fairly steady - though I may be a pound or two heavier according to the scale… but that could be anything. I did feel a bit stronger at the gym, and was able to increase my weights on a few exercises. Nothing dramatic or unusual, though.

For week 2, I’ll try my first loading of 15 grams per day (I’m weary to try the full 20!), and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I plan to continue the cycle through week 4, and probably come off the creatine for good. It’s more an experiment and learning experience than anything else - getting much bigger isn’t a goal of mine. But I’ll keep you posted on the results!

Have you ever tried creatine? If you have, share your experience in the comments below.

8 Ways to Gain Muscle Mass Fast!

Hi Davey,

I’m in shape, 5’11 145 lbs, and toned. I work out about 4-5 times a week with a combination of weights/cardio as well as a controlled diet. I do want to gain some muscle mass, but not sure how to go about without getting too big. Any suggestions?

- Brian

Hey Brian,

First things, first: I generally recommend an 8-step approach to increasing muscle mass. It’s important that you follow all 8 steps, and not just a few of them.

  1. Lift weights. There’s no way around it. In order to stimulate muscle growth, you have to hit the gym. For best results, stick mainly to free weights (instead of machines). They’re far more effective at building muscle.
  2. Train for hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is increasing the volume of your muscles, and in order to do this, you should train with heavy weights at a medium/low number of repetitions. I generally go for 8 repetitions, but anywhere in the 8 - 10 range is ideal.
  3. Train until muscle failure. On your last rep, your muscles should be totally fatigued; it should be impossible for you to do another rep. If you feel like you could do another rep, you need to increase the weight.
  4. Keep pushing. Your muscles will only build when forced to adapt to a heavier weight, so constantly progress to higher levels of resistance. It’s called progressive overload, and it’s exactly what you need to be doing.
  5. Keep your body fueled. It takes a lot of calories to maintain muscle. As you increase your muscle mass, you need to increase your caloric intake. If you fail to bump up the number of calories you consume, then your body will be unable to maintain your muscle and your gains will cease. I recommend using the Harris Benedict calculator as a starting point. In addition, muscles require water to grow - make sure you’re staying well hydrated!
  6. Eat enough protein. There are a lot of calculations for protein consumption. Since you’re very active and increasing your muscle mass, you’ll want to eat just over a gram of protein per day per pound of lean body mass (lean body mass is your body weight in pounds - pounds of fat on your body). It’s not an exact science, but at 145 lbs and with a lean build, I suspect you’ll need around 175 grams of protein per day - no small feat!
  7. Don’t overtrain. You shouldn’t be hitting the weight room for longer than 45 minutes (and in fact, training longer may be counterproductive). Also, ensure that you are resting sufficiently in between workouts, and that you aren’t training muscles that are still sore from a previous workout.
  8. Continue with moderate cardio. Almost no one should be doing cardio for durations in excess of 45 minutes (it starts breaking down muscle at around that point - which can actually slow down your metabolism), but especially someone looking to increase muscle size. I’d recommend doing short but powerful 15-minute interval sessions. Don’t overdo it, but don’t skip it either.

For further reading, check out my top 6 reasons why a muscle-building workout might not be building muscle.

You also mentioned that you don’t want to get “too big.” Fear not. If ever you think your muscles are too large, just ease up on your workout and stop increasing the amount of resistance. And don’t worry - getting too big doesn’t happen overnight, and looking like a body builder isn’t easy.

Happy exercising to you, Brian. And please keep us posted on your results.

6 Reasons Why Your Muscle-Building Workout Isn’t Building Muscle.

You're welcome.

Increasing strength and building muscle mass is a common fitness goal. But often, guys and gals aren’t seeing the results that they had hoped for. Here are 7 reasons why:

  1. You aren’t sleeping enough. It’s 5am as I write this post, so I feel a bit like I’m throwing stones in a glass house. But it’s true: During sleep - especially deep sleep - the body is able to repair and rebuild the muscle fibers that are destroyed during exercise. 8 hours is the recommendation.
  2. You aren’t getting enough protein. Diet is important. Protein is the building blocks for muscles; if you’re not getting enough of it, then your muscles won’t be able to rebuild after they broken down from exercise. Find out how much and what kind of protein you should be taking.
  3. You are over-training. Your muscles need time to recover; if you train the same muscle groups each day, then you’re not giving them enough time to rebuild. Therefore, it makes sense to break your workout up. Do legs one day, arms another, and so on. Need help? Check out my fitness routine for ideas.
  4. You are consuming too much alcohol. Don’t tell the boys of Jersey Shore, but alcohol abuse has a negative impact on muscle growth. Technically, alcohol slows down protein synthesis, lowers testosterone (a muscle building hormone), leads to dehydration (water is needed for muscle-building!), drains your body of vitamins and increases fat storage. Yikes!
  5. You aren’t progressively overloading your muscles. If you’re not increasing the weight or number of reps, of course your muscle won’t grow. Keep pushing yourself. If you’ve done 8 reps at 45 lbs for three weeks, go for 6 reps at 50 lbs. Then 8 reps at 50 lbs. And so on. Remember, if your goal is to build muscle, you want to do low reps of heavy weights.
  6. Your workout is stale. Remember: Your muscles adapt to a routine, and if you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, it’s possible that your muscles have just adjusted accordingly and are no longer challenged. In addition to progressively overloading your muscles, switch up your exercises.

Are you not seeing the muscle-building results that you’re trying to work towards? Let me know in the comments below.

Does Cardio Prevent Muscle Gain?

Dear Davey

I’m trying to increase my muscle mass and so I do a lot of lifting and strength training. I also do some cardiovascular exercise like runging and sometimes biking. Is it possible that my cardio is preventing me from getting better results?

- Concerned in Montana

Dear Concerned in Montana,

You probably have nothing to worry about - but you’re certainly in good company. A lot of people are afraid to run, swim or bike because they believe their muscle mass will decrease. And there is some truth to this fear.

If you are training for a marathon or running vast distances every day, then yes - you’ll be limiting the amount of muscle that your body will add. But for the rest of us who run or jog or spin moderately, there is nothing about which to worry. If there is any muscle loss, it will be minimal.

If you’re still concerned about losing muscle mass, limit your cardio to 20 or 30 minutes a few times a week and monitor your progress. I, for example, am able to run six days a week and experience minimal muscle loss.

And conversely, cardio has many great benefits that all of us can enjoy, including:

  • Fat loss, toning
  • Stronger heart and lungs
  • Increased bone density
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Temporary relief from depression and anxiety
  • Increased confidence about how you feel and how you look
  • Better sleep
  • More energy

I hope that helps!