T Nation

How Much Is Too Much Fat?


Hi guys

I have been training a couple of years and my gains are very slow to my liking so I'm always trying to correct whatever I find to be wrong with my training and/or nutrition

At the moment and until January I'm going into a "bulking" phase because before I was never cycling but I used to follow the "building lean muscle mass" approach which in my case just meant "very little muscle gains". To correct I decided to go for the cycling method and I'm now stuffing my face all day long with clean food, lots and lots of calories a day.

In three weeks i have lost any shadow of my abs and have lost some definition but i don't mind because I really want to build as much muscle as my genes will permit. I dont wanna short change myself only because Im not eating enough
Eventually I will have to cut fat so I know that maybe is not good to go into a 25% bodyfat stage and become an obese man but I was wondering how much can i push it?, how fat can you actually afford to be before entering into a cutting phase? at what point does bodyfat becomes "too much" in bodybuilding terms?

Many thanks in advance for the advice


Instead of only bulking until January...why not track your weight and shoot for gaining around 1 lbs per week for at least a year or so instead of just gorging and getting fat until January comes, then losing the fat...bulking isn't a race and it isn't about gorging and stuffing your face, it's about being in a consistent surplus of calories giving your body enough energy to grow, not about seeing how quickly you can make your abs disappear. That's my opinion.


Thanx Davinci,
Tt this point Im open to all suggestions but I wanted to ask: could I really gain a pound a week for a year? is like 50 pounds a year and I'm only 150-155 pounds (174cms tall) that would be like 30% on top of my actual total body weight! I would of course love to grow that much in a year, that would be fantastic, but is that really possible? and if it is so my next question would be: when would I actually need to enter into a cutting phase?
Thnx again


I think the initial goal is to gain 1 pound a week but adjustments will probably have to be made. If you're gaining 1 pound a week but you're getting a little too soft, then you can simply add a little extra cardio or eliminate a few calories. If you're gaining 1 pound a week and losing bodyfat and getting leaner (you lucky mofo) than you can probably stand to up your calories and gain muscle a little faster.

Sticking to a hard and fast rule about how much weight you're trying to gain or how long you're going to bulk probably isn't the best way to go about things. Start off with an initial goal and make adjustments that you deem necessary.


I've had success with G-flux principles myself. I do SSC and HIIT year round and simply adjust my calories and macros based on whether I want to gain or lose, my activity level stays the same. This works for me and helps me gain and still stay lean...the downside is I have to eat a shit ton and I've never been over 235 lbs. At 155 lbs, gaining a pound of week should be a cake walk, when you start hitting a higher weight then you'll start running into trouble. It already sounds like you've gained more than a pound per week in the 3 weeks if all definition is gone like you said.


Yes, it sounds like you are going to need to up the calories, but in your zeal to get the gains going you don't want to fuck up royally and add weight at all costs.

IN MY OPINION, 1 lb per week is a bit much over a period of time. A weekly gain of a lb will occur (this stuff doesn't happen in a linear fashion), but a gain of 52 lbs in a year for someone not going through puberty, who is natural, who doesn't have great genetics (and you probably don't, otherwise you wouldn't be in this situation).

In the same way you don't begin a good cut by slashing calories, you don't begin a good bulk/mass gaining phase/whatever you want to call it by just deciding to stuff your face.

That said, if it is making the scale move and you just want to get bigger and get used to carrying more weight, by all means.

Some tips-

I know this is obvious, but have higher calories days on your training days. Don't just eat the same large amount every day w/o regard for when you are training.

Put most of your carbs around training.

If you start putting on too much fat, add some morning walks or maybe try carb cycling (articles are on this site).

Be sure to drink lots of water. If you are retaining water and getting softer that may trick you into thinking you are adding a bunch of fat when in fact you aren't.


you should still be getting laid while you are 'bulking'

if you're not, you have obviously gone overboard. rectify the situation and drive on


A reasonable figure I think is that no one needs to go beyond 20% bf to be gaining muscle optimally.

Many have no reason to get nearly as fat as that. But it depends on the individual. There are those who are not going to do as well keeping themselves under 12%, for example, while there are also those who are going to enjoy no further advantage going past say 10%.

One way to look at this is, if you weren't paying particular attention but just ate a good bodybuilding diet according to the amount that felt like it was right for you, at about what bodyfat do you think you'd stablize at?

There is no reason to get drastically fatter than that, and being leaner than that probably is not optimal for your muscle gains. Exception, if a person expects he'd stabilize past say 20%. In that case, he'd be fine keeping bodyfat at about that, maybe with periodic small cuts (such as to 16%) and slow regain back up to the 20%. It does not sound as if that is your situation though, fortunately.

Oh, and also the above -- where would you tend to stabilize if eating as felt like it was right? -- that is assuming you are not of the eat-like-a-bird type, but that this is putting it down pretty decently.

Those that are little eaters by nature should not go by the "what feels right," but rather should figure in reference to if they ate as recommended for those working to gain muscle.

If a person stabilizes at some more moderate bodyfat level when eating like this, then if his muscle gain is not a pound per week sustained -- which it WON'T be over long periods of time, if already well developed -- then he should not be aiming to pack on that amount of weight regardless, as it will be uselessly-excess fat in his case.


Great response.

I was getting tired of that "all people must be under 10% body fat" rule that seemed to pop out of nowhere.

Not everyone gains muscle optimally by trying to remain extremely lean. the goal is to find out where you fit in, not to follow some arbitrary number rule about exactly how much weight to gain in a week or exactly how much fat to gain.


I do need to add something now that a little time has passed.

Generally, questions like this I naturally answer from the perspective of the advice being suitable for most who would ask the question. In this case, it was automatic to answer in the context of younger guys -- twenties or early 30's counts here as younger -- and in the context of those who don't have the experience to know what works for them.

For a younger guy who doesn't yet know what works for him, the advice of taking as a reference point a bodyfat level that would be expected to stabilize at when eating in proper bb'ing style, provided that's no more than 20$, is fine. That is what I was talking about.

But for example for myself (I'm 47, but not necessarily only because of age) or those who know from experience that having more bodyfat than some level less than this gives them no extra help in the gym, then no, the level that one would stabilize at should not be used, but rather past experience.

I know it should go without saying that experience should trump a rule of thumb like that, but it's best to not create confusion by providing a rule of thumb and then failing to say when not to follow it.


I guarantee most people can't follow your writing at all times.

Therefore: Clif Note Version:
If you are over the age of 35 yet think you can bulk up like someone in their early 20's to 30's, then you will be in for a surprise. There are larger health concerns the older you get and losing extra body weight has the potential to become more difficult. Also, do not FORCE some extreme level of fat gain since the entire goal is to gain as much muscle as possible. Focus on muscle gains instead of fat gains (aside from keeping them under some level of control) would make the most sense anyway.

For the record, this is also why I keep saying that time is limited. Those who screw around until they are over the age of 35 when they could have started much sooner will be at a great disadvantage. You do not have forever to make optimal progress.


thanks for simplifying it


Thank you for the rewrite (sincerely.)

That is clearer and brings out some important things.


Never thought of it like that but there's definitely some validity to that.

Seriously though, Bill and Prof said it all.

So...ummm this thread is over (?)


Usually I really like to read and chime in on all the technical mumbo jumbo in these types of threads, but in this case, I gotta agree with Mac's simple assertion, the man's a genius :slightly_smiling:



or as Thib says - "not with light on honey".

if your not comfortable in your present "bulked" state, reduce the cals, reduce the carbs, add some cardio or all of the above, just dont go crazy. and by not comfortable i mean, if you feel like the fat guy that sits by himself gorging on 3 different burger, some icecream, fries, coke and choc shake at mcdonalds then fine adjust accordingly but if ur afraid of losing the abs, the beach look or any definition then quit bodybuilding and go get a contract with mens health, plenty of employement for abocrombie models also :wink:


haha thanks for the cliff notes, Bill it's a good thing I knew what you were going to say because you kill me with that gibberish you always type :slight_smile:


Many thanks for the advice guys!

I think that I will do as you say guys and just keep trying to add weight whilst focusing on muscle gains and monitoring it until I find my own level. I will then hopefully learn how much fat is too much fat for me.

Thanx again


An intelligent approach to your question could be: Have an accurate body fat test completed. From that point bulk up to 5% past where you are, and cut from that point. This would be an ideal way so that you don't get too heavy and are cutting for a very long period of time (6+ months).

For me being too fat is when you can't fit comfortably into clothes, or when you realize that you've become lard like.


Some confusion here. Would this be off of LBM increase, or strength increase?