Tip: Eat More to Build, But Not That Much More

Yes, you need to consume plenty of quality calories to gain muscle, but many lifters take it too far. Here's what to do instead.

Are You Taking "You Gotta Eat Big to Get Big" Too Far?

Most men like to eat, and eat a lot. So it's easy to go crazy with a calorie surplus when the focus is on muscle gains. But there's a difference between eating enough to fuel workouts, recovery, and hypertrophy, and eating so much that you look more like a fat guy with decent traps than a muscular lifter.

Big arms don't count if three inches of that bigness is comprised of flab. And if you have a growing gut, it's safe to say that you've greatly exceeded the caloric surplus you need to optimally fuel the muscle-building process. You're just layering on stubborn fat deposits and maybe even stretching out the skin permanently, not building muscle.

What's the worst case scenario? You develop anabolic resistance: the impaired ability to build muscle caused by excess calorie consumption over time. It starts with insulin resistance, segues into leptin resistance, and when full-blown it manifests into excess fat gain, loss of the "pump" when training, stagnated strength gains, inflammation, and even low libido. Losing the excess fat after each mass phase gets tougher and tougher, too, and soon you have that high-belly pregnant look that takes years off your life.


Roughly a few hundred calories over maintenance is all you really need to fuel muscle gains. Do it for a few weeks, then adjust as needed. Think bodybuilding, not belly-building. Use photos, measurements, and the mirror to judge progress, not just the scale. Use targeted workout nutrition like Surge® Workout Fuel to add this extra fuel, not candy bars and fast food. Food quality matters.

Many lifters get tripped up by this mistake because they're copying the diet of their favorite bodybuilder or hypertrophied action movie star. The problem? Well, most people don't have the genetics of a pro, they don't do the marathon workouts of a pro, and they're not using the drugs the pros are using. All of those things add leeway to the diet. The pros can get away with crazy diets (at least for a few years) because of the drugs. You can't. Follow their muscle gain diets and you'll get fat and wreck your health. You're smarter than that.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram