T Nation

Bulking Fat/Muscle Ratio

On my latest 2-week bulking cycle, I managed a 15 lb. gain in total weight. Of those 15, a good 4 lbs. was fat. - 27% of weight gain ending up as fat seems a little high to me, so the question I pose before the T-Nation is:
What is your typical ‘fat mass/lean mass’ gaining ratio when bulking?

Of course, I realize that answers will probably vary widely, but I’d just like to get a sense of where I stand in relation to the norm. - If my 27% is way above average, then perhaps I need to tinker with my caloric intake…


The BEST advice I ever got on this topic was from this site by Bob Kennedy…and it has served me well over the past 2 or so years.

Bob said:

“I don’t tend to think of “acceptable” fat gain in terms of percentages; rather, I tend to think of it in terms of ratios. Specifically, when I’m trying to bulk up, I do it best by keeping the muscle: fat gain ratio at around 2.5:1 (in other words, 1 lb. of fat gained for every 2.5 lbs. of muscle gained). For me, this works very well, and, although I believe that were I to allow a greater amount of fat gain (e.g., 2:1 or even 1.5:1) I would also gain muscle a bit faster, I simply don’t like my body image if I go above 11% bodyfat (I stay between 7% and 11%). Further, I know from bitter experience that taking my bodyfat too high only means that the necessary fat loss will be far more difficult than if I’d kept my patience and limited my gains.”

I would add:


Adjust accordingly.

Look in the mirror.

Hope this helps!

Mufasa - Thanks for posting that gem. Although the ration may be a little differet for each of us, although I think 2.5:1 is reasonable, the idea of setting limits, monitoring and actually choosing to retard LBM gain a little to limit fat accumulation is great.

Mufasa is talking sense.
-You need to basically judge yourself as you are developing, and adjust your diet/training accordingly. So, no hard and fast rules, although the 2.5:1 ratio sounds a reasonable one.

Indeed you’ve almost achieved this (i.e. 2.something:1) I think you should be pleased with the achievement- 11lbs LBM in 2 weeks is good going from anybody’s standpoint. I would guess your calorie intake must have been pretty dang big to get these results. -That means it would prove tough to keep a high LBM:fat gain ratio.

However my guess is that if instead of going for broke, you had taken a lower calorie intake, you might well have ended up with much less pleasing gains. Just concentrate on holding onto that muscle when you go to cut!

Few more questions:

1)What was your starting point BF%? Had you been cutting before this, and if so, for how long?
-I think this can have a big influence on fat gain in a cycle. Did you start very lean, then go crazy for mass with calories and training? Works well, as far as muscle gain is concerned, but the fat gain is almost always significant.- The body’s basically in a state where it’s been crying out for bulking nutrients. When it gets them, it’s party time in all areas!

  1. What is your weight, and what is your BF now? Is it still in an acceptable ball park? As Mufasa said, going too high is probably a mistake- (IMO >13-14%), as it will be more difficult (although by no means impossible, given a conscientious diet and training regime!) getting back down in BF again easily without jeopardising you LBM.
  2. Were you taking any aids to success?- i.e. Anabolics, pro-steroids? - These would definately (used correctly and prudently) result in a more desirable nutrient partitioning ratio.

    Overall, I think you should be fairly satisfied here. Hope this helps, and look forward to hearing any further info you provide. SRS

Those are really awesome results klink. You gained 15 lbs in 2 weeks and only 4 lbs of that was fat? To gain that much weight in such a short period of time most would have put on at least 50 to 75% fat. You gained about .75 lbs of muscle per day, what in the world were you taking?!
Anyway to answer your question the “average” trainer probably gains at a 50/50 clip muscle/fat and I would consider anything around 3:1 muscle/fat to be excellent.

  • Thanks for the great feedback everyone! The concensus leads me to believe that I had my calories dialed-in almost perfectly.

To answer the questions posed:

1) What was your starting point BF%? Had you been cutting before this, and if so, for how long?

On the final night immediately before the bulking cycle, I was 158 lbs.; 4.5% BF; (height: 5’ 8.5"). For 3-4 weeks prior to the cycle, I was using Chad Waterbury’s “Anti-Bodybuilding Hypertrophy Program” (issue 244). - During that time, I was taking in probably about 2400 calories (maintenance is ~2200). It’s also worth mentioning that during that 3-4 week pre-bulk period, my body composition didn’t seem to change even slightly. - (Don’t misconstrue that last statement as a knock against Chad’s routine; while I certainly was going balls-out, the mere 200 calories above maintenace undoubtedly limited me. - That being said, I also suspect that that specific program isn’t quite advanced enough for me because I never even came close to breaking a sweat, and soreness was virtually non-existant.)

2) What is your weight, and what is your BF now?

On the evening of bulking day 14, I was 173 lbs.; 6.7% BF.

3) Were you taking any aids to success?

This bulking cycle was the very first time I used Mag-10. - Prior to this, I had never touched any sort of prohormone, AAS, or pro-steroid.

Specifically, other than the 1st day front-load, I took 1/2 serving (1/2 scoop) of M10 twice daily (around 5am and 5pm). I followed the Growth Surge Project part II for my training and did go with the 2-a-day training sessions (waking up and training at 5am; getting on the road by 7; working 8-4; getting home and training at 5pm; trying like hell to get to bed by 9pm; repeat).

For the sake of completeness, other supplements included: Multivitamin (2x day), B-multivitamin (2x day), glucosamine & chondroitin, 500mg vit. C (3x day), chromium picolinate (200mcg, 3x day), and Mag/Zinc/B6 before bed.

My diet followed the Massive Eating calculations (and I tweaked them slightly). - I went with 4000 calories (310g pro; 102g fat; 460g carb) per training day and non-training days were slightly lower because of not using 2 servings of Surge. Those calories were divided into 6 meals (not counting the 2 servings of Surge), and I always had a protein shake sometime during the night (I usually wake up briefly at around 2-3am). My diet (for the last few years actually) is mainly eggs, brown rice, whey protein, flax/olive/primrose oils, spinach, lettuce, tuna, “sprouted-grain” bread, and Surge/equivalent. – Hmm… That’s actually a 100% complete list!

Currently, between cycles, I’m using Joel Marion’s 5x5 training, Tribex, and 3200 calories (3500 on training days).

As long as Mag 10 is being mentioned, I have to say that, despite the gains on the scale, I was rather underwhelmed with it… Frankly, I just didn’t really feel any different (in the gym or out). - Reading this last paragraph back to myself, it really seems like an absurd thing to say: “I gained 11 lbs. of muscle, but I was underwhelmed”. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that up until I took my day-14 measurements, I hadn’t thought that the Mag 10 had done anything! - Strange how that worked out; I suppose this is just a testiment to the importance of taking careful measurements to track progress… Although… I wish I could go back in time and see how things wouldn’ve turned out had I passed on the M10…

Klink, I too would be interested to see what the result would be without Mag10. You should try the same procedure again sometime, keeping all variables the same except the Mag10. Your results fit in well with John Berardi’s article where he stated that the leaner one is when commencing a “bulking” cycle, the greater the proportion of lean mass gained. Your gains were amazing in comparison to the “bulking” gains I’m presently making. You say you are now at around 6-7%bf, so you could easily continue adding weight if that is your goal. It would be interesting to see if you could manage the same ratio of lean mass gain, given your bodyfat has gone up a bit. One thing that I don’t understand is how the Anti-BB program is not advanced enough for you? The program is as difficult as you are willing to make it. If you follow the loading parameters as stated, it’s “advanced” enough for anyone. Just because you didn’t feel any soreness doesn’t mean it’s not working. A low rep program usually will not induce as much soreness as a typical hypertrophy program, but this is not a good way to judge whether a program is working or not. “No pain, no gain” is not as true as once thought.


Repeating my exact cycle without Mag 10 really wouldn’t be a fair comparison because I already gained so much weight on cycle #1 (thereby skewing the variables). - If I somehow got my weight and composition back down to pre-bulk numbers, then it would be a much more accurate comparison…

In any event, I’m starting bulk cycle #2 in about 12 days, so I’ll keep everyone posted if this topic hasn’t fallen off into forum oblivion by then.

As far as Anti-BB is concerned, I followed the loading parameters (and the entire program) to a T. My comment about it not being ‘advanced’ enough was more of a reflection of the fact that I just didn’t feel like I had taxed myself upon completing those workouts… Of course, I agree with you 100% that soreness isn’t a prerequisite for progress. But, without being sore, breaking a sweat, or at least feeling a bit worn-down after a session, I can’t help but think (perhaps incorrectly) that those particular rep/set schemes simply aren’t a good fit for me. Regardless, I’ll be the first to admit that my 23-day trial of that program falls woefully short of qualifying as giving it a fair chance.