Guaranteed Muscle Mass Plan: Get Lean or Eat at Maintenance/Slight Surplus?

Hello! About 2 months ago I bought myself a power rack and a barbell to be able to workout at home. I’ve noticed that by adhering to a handfull of exercises (which I’m limited to) and training more regularly I’m making decent progress. I’m back at my old strength standards (which isn’t much tbh) but with great form. Yesterday for example I squatted 80kg (over warm-up) for a single with full control and a slight pause. Even my bench press is feeling great, even though I never felt confident on that lift.

I picked the guaranteed muscle mass routine from Paul Carter because in essence it resembles WSFSB3 and I’ve had decent results with that in the past. I really like the simplicity, the focus on strength progression on that single all-out set (+50%) and the rep pr’s on the 350 sets.

I’m just not sure about my nutrition. In the T-Nation article he says that if you’re 15+ % bodyfat you should cut down first. If you’re between 12 and 15% you should eat at maintenance (or a slight surplus). I’m in the latter category. I’m 6ft (183cm), 28 y/o and 165lbs (75kg). I’ve read numerous other articles by Paul and he always advocates the same: get lean first. At the moment I’m the guy with upper abs in good lighting on an empty stomach… so I’d put myself at 14-16%.

What should I do?

I’ve been eating at maintenance (some days slightly higher, others lower - max 10%) and I look a bit leaner, everything also feels a bit tighter… Bodyweight hasn’t really changed (7-day average stays within 0.2kg’s week to week). So I’m guessing I lost some bodyfat and gained muscle, since I’m a lot stronger than 2 months ago. But it’s hard to believe that this is the best approach. I’m in that awkward place where I know I should lose some fat and need - a lot - more muscle.

PS: I’ve noticed a big difference from upping protein from 0.8 to 1+ grams as Paul said in the article… So I’m inclined to believe him on the whole maintenance calories thing. I’d like to hear his stance on this aswel if someone would be so kind to tag him? Thanks!

You are looking for a definitive answer to a subjective question. What you should do is dependant on your goals and what you are willing to do to reach them.

Its best to ask: what would you do. This is what I would do.

You hardly sound fat. For me size and strength are more important than looks or weight. So I would not worry too much about 3%body fat. I mean in reality that’s 2/3 weeks of dieting. I can’t see the harm in starting to add weight now.
You’ll possibly find out that as you do this you’ll drop a few kg of fat any way. Its possible to add muscle and drop fat at newbie stages. If diet is on point and training is good.

So I would work hard on brining the following lifts up. And eat to support this.
Squat, press, deadlift, bench, pull ups, rows. Which I know PC supports.
Do this nice and slow. Add weight or reps every work out. Which is a PC thing any way.

If you have bought into what Paul says then why stop short on calories? It’s as good advice as any. Just commit to hitting the targets.

But it’s hard to believe that this is the best approach

Does it need to be? I guarantee you will encounter a dozen issues that will render the best approach in theory about as good as an average approach in practice


Seth Feroce said it best, I think…“You gotta get chubby to get big…” I started out chubby so I had that part covered. It sounds like you might need to work at it. I see the best gains when I’m eating about a 10% surplus and I would start there if I was in your position…and maybe even go up to 15% surplus.