How to Build Muscle Without Gaining Fat

Whether you are an athlete, or you enjoy exercising for fun or are the “average Joe,” the majority of us would like to gain more lean muscle or decrease the fat mass in our bodies and replace it with lean body mass. Muscle is more metabolically active and therefore it burns many more calories than fat.

When you’re following a strength training program, it’s important to eat enough total calories (not just protein). Everyone seems to put a huge emphasis on only protein, instead of having a balanced approach to overall diet. Protein is an important macronutrient that is essential to meet your daily energy requirements (aside from your training requirements). However, lean muscle gain (strengthening and toning) really depends on your total calorie intake (total quantity of food and beverage) for the day, as well as quality (the type of foods you’re eating). If you do not get enough total calories, your body will break down it’s own muscle mass for energy, therefore cancelling out all of the hard work you did to put on lean muscle at the gym or at your most recent practice, game, or competition.

The goal from a fitness standpoint is to challenge yourself and keep your workout variable. You want to “keep your body guessing.” Therefore, you will work different muscles and burn more calories. Post workout nutrition or the “30 minute recovery window” is the most opportune time to repair and rebuild your muscles. Your body needs healthy food and nutrients to build muscle and recover from your workouts. Make sure to have a protein shake or bar if you’re on the go or a balanced meal/snack containing ~3-4 ounces of lean protein, and 1-2 servings of whole grain carbohydrates (fruits and/or vegetables are included here as well). We can discuss the balance and quantity of your meal post workout in more detail at your initial nutrition consultation.

Fact: Your body requires 3500 calories to gain one pound, and vice versa to lose one pound. This equates to plus (or minus) 500 calories per day to gain (or lose) one pound per week.

Eat Clean!

In order for you to put on muscle and not fat weight, the type of food you’re eating should be as fresh and clean as possible. Try to avoid hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, additives, food colorings and trans fats. For example, aim to eat lean proteins, whole grains (high fiber), fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (nuts, seeds, especially flaxseeds, avocados, olive oil, etc.), and low to nonfat daily products or daily alternatives. Unsweetened almond milk is my favorite in the morning with a cup of high fiber cereal and organic blueberries!

For individual meal planning to suit your sport specific needs (including nutrient needs based on your height, weight, age and activity level), schedule an appointment with Courtney Walberg, Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of Nutrition For Body And Mind.

Note: Photography credit to Ken Liu.

Courtney works with a wide range of clientele—from people who are just getting back into exercise and need motivation or a specific fitness plan to pro athletes looking to gain a competitive edge. She finds the things you love (in both nutrition and exercise) and invents creative ways to weave them into your daily lifestyle.

“Today is the day to learn more about what you’re putting into your body and get the most out of it (enhanced sports performance, increased energy and efficiency, and better blood sugar control)!” Schedule an appointment @