T Nation

Bodyfat Percentage Before a Bulk?


I'm still in the process of cutting before my next 'gain' cycle, but what sort of body fat % would you recommend that I get down to before moving onto gaining again?




Whatever you're comfortable at. If you're anywhere near 'lean', I doubt a percentage point or two will really make much of a difference in how your body handles the influx of cals and macros.



Thanks Stu. This was what I was going for, i.e. will my body react better to bulking (i.e. help stay leaner, grow better) at <10%? I think I'm currently around 13%.

Marzouk, I need more decimal places if possible...


You're really making fun of somebody for asking a question? Mr. I gotta start a new fucking thread to ask the same fucking question.


I doubt a percentage point or TEN will really make much of a difference in how his body handles the influx of cals and macros. Small differences in body fat percentage don't change how your body builds muscle.


A near depleted body will tend to uptake a larger amount of nutrients at a quicker rate than one that's merely lean. Look at contest bodybuilders and compare those who control their post show rebound with those who jump their #s back to their usual amounts and compare their physiques in just a couple of weeks. It has nothing to do with the rate of protein synthesis mechanisms, merely how comfortable are you with the rate your body is refilling out.



Very true which is the reason for the rebound effect after dieting and even after some short term fasts. 5-10% body fat percentages of difference do not create this effect. Being in a long term depleted state does.

But...his question was whether he can start gaining or will his body respond better at UNDER 10%.

Nothing you just wrote addresses that issue...and no study I've seen, or any evidence really, shows that you somehow gain muscle MORE or BETTER because you are simply 2-3% or 5-10% points leaner in body fat which was why I responded.


Nope, but what I initially wrote did. He was wondering if there was some magical bf% range where he would experience better gains when he switched gears. My last response was to your comment. My initial reply was merely drawing attention to the personal issue of some people not being comfortable walking around above a certain bf level.



Dude, I already know what YOU were getting at. I also know your post didn't address the issue directly that it isn't even about being "2-3points" leaner, but small differences at all make very little difference.

If we are talking about how someone gains muscle at "30%" vs "10%" then we may see a difference, but not because they are 15% instead of 9.

This poster believed he would gain muscle better simply because he was a little leaner.

I didn't even disagree with your initial post but added to it.


No need to always take things to the extreme. Obviously there will be many differences between 30 and 10 come on.


? I took it to that extreme because I have seen some personal trainers actually make it seem that you somehow build muscle faster or better simply because you are a little leaner.

I am pretty sure that is why the OP thought the way he did.

Why wouldn't I make the distinction between that and obesity?


i think this stems from the insulin sensitivity craze and that if your lean you will thus have better insulin sensitivity and thus take up nutrients better and have more muscle

thats not how i view things however, i think that whole idea is very overrated much like have shakes and bars at specific times around your workout is very overrated as well

addressing the OP it is really, like Stu said about where your comfrotable at but also how well you hold fat. For myself because i store fat well i can be a higher bf% and still look ok, its less about numbers and more about comfort. for myself yes i look totaly fine at even 18% bf but i prefer to be around 12% max 14% because thats where i feel comfortable.

some people on this site besides myself that IMO hold fat very well are Holymac, SteelyD and X. Delta holds it good as well from what ive seen


Personally, I switch gears as soon as the fat loss phase starts "grinding". You know, the point where you really have to step it up to keep the scale dropping and possibly risk loosing strength. For me, that's probably around the 4th month on-wards if I've been constantly losing fat (around 6-8% bf).


I tend to think genetics, mindset and lifestyle (food choices) come into play way more than "I am 2% leaner therefore my Insulin sensitivity is greater".

My waist is about the size it was as a freshman in college right now before I started lifting. My food choices daily have changed and due to that, I have even lost the taste outright for some of the foods I was knocking back when I was carrying more body fat (KFC actually makes my stomach hurt now).

I still have my cheat days, but just due to a smaller stomach I can't eat as much in one sitting as I could over 280lbs. That won't mean that if I gain I will now gain more muscle than I would when carrying more body fat.

I think the confusion may also arise because once you are already "big", you aren't really looking for GIANT leaps in body weight like a 150lbs kid at 6 feet tall would be. Therefore slower gains in muscle could give the illusion that "more" muscle is being gained.


Definately better to be "abs lean" IMO if you have a long way to go to get the amount of mass you are after. Not because of any nutrient partioning or special muscle building ability. Simply because if you are abs lean its a lot easier to "see" how you body is handling extra food which allows you to adjust accordingly.

Im not saying freak out the minute you lose an ab, just that if you start from a fatter starting point its easier to misread any weight and strength gains as being a larger percentage of muscle. Im sure a lot of us have made the mistake in our earlier years of rapidly putting on weight (while seeing strength gains) and believing it was all muscle. When the reality is you just cant put on muscle that fast.


X, this might be a question you have addressed elsewhere. Apologies if it is:

Just wanted to see whether now that you've leaned out and such, your philosophy of getting big has changed. I think of you as a big proponent of the idea that different people need to do different things to put on mass--i.e., some may need to just get huge without worrying about fat gains then diet down (this was sort of your approach), while others might be able to get away with staying lean throughout a period of putting on a lot of size.

To use your own journey as an example, do you still think you needed to bulk in the way you did to get where you are today? Or do you think that you could perhaps have gone a different (whether faster or slower being debatable) path that involved gaining lean mass and minimal fat while still getting the point of being really big?

Just wanted to also say that I hope your recovery is going well and that your accident hasn't impeded your life inside and outside the gym too much.


this has been a hard pill to swallow for me lately lol not making huge leaps, the days of 5lbs a week are gone for me at this point :frowning:


Everything I've experienced just reinforces what I initially was just assuming and theorizing.

Yes, if your goal is to be BIG and you are a skinny kid with a fast metabolism (assuming you actually have the genetics for this), thinking you can slow gain your way there probably won't get you to that goal. My goal was to be really big, not just slightly bigger than the average person.

I think there were many times I gained too much body fat but those were also times I learned what my limits were and just how much I can tolerate. 290lbs was just too much extra weight for me but I seriously doubt I would be at this point now had I not taken the route I did.

Also, many of my decisions for bulking up came directly from the results I was getting. I was lactose intolerant but needed more calories than average to really gain any weight...and I had a small appetite. That is NOT the person to go to and expect to eat 6,000cals of chicken breasts without puking. I relied on foods that were more calorically dense just to get that much down. It was just easier and overall more enjoyable to eat the way I did early on especially considering the other educational goals I had.

I have options now and am using a protein supplement that apparently works with my body way better than whey ever did so I can eat differently (less overall calories) and still make progress.

Bottom line, I made mistakes...a bunch of them...and learned from all of them.

No, I have never recommended anyone else carry even as much as I have in the past. I knew I had a fast metabolism. The only thing keeping me from losing more body fat before was my desire to gain more muscle mass, which I did.

Like I've said, no one should be bulking up big past their mid 30's just due to health issues....so hit it hard and build that mass quickly in that 20 year age range. You won't get that chance back again...and I see way too many guys in their 40's who wish they hadn't missed that opportunity.


I wish i had the problem of forcing down cals. Doing CBL i am downing 3000+ cals of potatoes lean meat oats and rice (400+ g of carb and 200+g of protein) no liquid sources in 3hrs and i could easily keep going if i needed the calories. I have totaled the weight of food before and its about 3-4lbs of food.