The Truths About Gaining Muscle Without Gaining Weight

July 21st 2019

You may want to gain muscle without gaining weight. After all, who does not want to be stronger without being heavier? This is a dream that many lifters have, including me. I always want to be as strong as I can for my bodyweight. However, is it just a myth that you can gain muscle without gaining weight? In this article, we will dive into what you should know about gaining muscle, losing weight and the small intricate details that could be holding you back from achieving clarity in your weight loss and strength training quest.

Can You Gain Muscle Without Gaining Weight?

Without drastically altering your body composition, it is highly unlikely for the average person to gain muscle without gaining weight. Muscle growth is a body response to external stress, usually the result of lifting weights. But should you accept this fate for yourself? Here is what you need to know about gaining muscle:

You CAN gain muscle without gaining weight through a slow, calculated process

Did you read that right? You did. With the right education and practice, you can achieve your physique goals. But how would you do this? Obviously, this article is targeting the average lifter, which is 18-24% body fat for males and 25-31% body fat for females. If you are fatter than average, you may have an easier time to do a body recomposition because you have more fat to work with. Then again, it could be more difficult, depending on your willpower, discipline, and motivation. On the flip side, newer lifters with less body fat percentages have less room for error and should expect a longer time period to see any significant changes in their physique.

In terms of dieting, what should you do? Lifters should eat a high protein, moderate to high fat diet, and low to no carbs. Why? Eating more protein will enable you to have an adequate supply of amino acids in your body. This will minimize your body’s reaction to breaking down your existing muscle. Your body does not want to break down your muscles but if it needs to because you lack fats and carbohydrates in your diet, it will definitely initiate that process.

You will eat moderate to high fats as a by-product of getting a high protein diet. Why is this you may ask? This is because you want your body to use ketones from fats for energy, instead of using glucose from carbohydrates. You are priming your body to use fats as an energy source, which will help you begin to lose overall fat. You should enter a stage called ketosis, where your body is using ketones for energy. One way of knowing that you are in ketosis is when you are getting a urine test; the test should test positives for ketones in your urine. 

Carbohydrates will be limited to a very low amount. This is because you do not want your body to store excess carbohydrates as fats in your body. But depending on how strict you want to follow this diet, you can adjust accordingly.

But to be quite frank, there is very little to gain for trying to gain muscle without gaining weight, unless you are competing in a competition. You will be placing enormous stress on the body for trying to pack on more muscle in a limited amount of space.

Carnivore diet is high protein, high fat, no carb

One diet I have experimented with myself is the carnivore diet. At least I did it partially - I still ate some carbohydrates every meal during dinner time. I ran this specific carnivore diet for about 5-6 weeks until I noticed a drastic loss in energy during the day. Once I included one more serving of carbohydrates during the middle of my day, I felt way better while retaining most of my results from living the partial carnivore diet lifestyle.

But this is the biggest lesson when doing any high protein or fat diet while eating a low amount of carbs, you need to make sure you eat enough. One of the biggest reasons I lost fat, some muscle and strength were because I was not eating enough. Because I felt full from the meal, I did not feel like eating more. Yet, I knew that I am not eating enough to maintain my bodyweight. So, for those 5-6 weeks, I lost about 5lbs, from 171lbs to 166lbs.

One thing will definitely not work, crash diets

Any solution or product being sold to you on gaining or losing x amount of muscle in a few weeks is bogus. Whatever comes fast will not last. If you are able to pack on so much muscle without gaining weight, you know it is just as likely for you to lose all that muscle in a short period of time. Just like how a student who crams right before the exam forgets all the material immediately after.

Instead, you need to find something that looks more long term. Take, for instance, a student who slowly practices the violin every day for several hours. Today and even a few weeks from now, it does not look impressive. However, within 10 years of constantly honing in your skills while not rushing the process, you will find that the same student is not a master. The same can be said for your diet.

Doing a diet for a short time will get you short term results. However, if you focus on trying to evolve your diet into a lifestyle choice that you practice every day, you can literally change your life by slowly practicing good habits every day.

Limit long sessions of endurance training

There is one aspect of training that you should avoid if you are looking to gain muscle. You should not be thinking about doing any long-distance aerobic activities. Your body will react to this stimulus in a negative way - it will want to break down your muscles in order to become more efficient at running. 

It is not a coincidence that marathon and ultra-marathon runnings are lean and slender. All sprinters look very muscular and powerful. Their bodies are optimized for their sport and it is foolish to try and bend these rules for the average person.


Can you gain muscle without gaining weight? Highly unlikely but if that is your goal, it can be done if you are careful, precise and greedy for your results. But for the same amount of time, energy and resources spent, why would you try to optimize 1% of your results with 95% of your energy? Instead, focus on making sure that you are doing things the right way and that is giving you the least resistance. This is, of course, talking about good habits and not promoting bad ones.

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