How to gain muscle without gaining fat

There is no formula you can follow for how to gain muscle without gaining fat. It is an extremely hard goal, but not one that is impossible! There are three factors which impact how much muscle you can gain without gaining fat:

  1. Training age: how long have you been lifting weights and working out with intensity?
  2. Current Body Composition: are you already extremely lean, or are you starting from the beginning, with fat to lose?
  3. Lifestyle habits: what is your nutrition like? How well do you sleep? Does your lifestyle help or hurt you?

From these three, the only one you can really control is your lifestyle habits. Therefore, that’s what we’ll focus on. The following tips will help you gain as much muscle as possible with minimal fat gain. Who knows – maybe that will be zero fat gain! It is possible. You just need tools to help.

how to gain muscle without gaining fat

There are three lifestyle factors which affect your body’s ability to gain muscle and keep fat off at the same time: exercise (training stimulus), nutrition (what you eat and drink), and recovery (sleep and relaxation time).


In order to put on muscle, you need to tell your body it needs more muscle to meet daily demands. The best way to do that is to lift weights. If you already lift, try adding a couple body-building-style movements at the end of your workout. Think bicep curls, bench press, and high-rep squats. Use exercise to tell your body it needs more muscle, and it will look to build it.


You cannot produce muscle out of nothing – you need the building blocks of muscle, protein, and simply you need calories. You don’t have to be in a caloric surplus and gaining weight to gain muscle, but you do need to have adequate calories to build muscle. Shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, complex carbohydrates mainly from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and healthy fats to help your body function at its peak potential. Also be sure to drink a lot of water. Hydration helps you function optimally, and you’re going to have to be functioning at your best level if you’re going to gain muscle without gaining fat.

Sleep & Recovery

Speaking of functioning optimally, if you aren’t sleeping and recovering, you are leaving muscle gains on the table. We’ve written an entire post about recovery, but for this one let’s just stick to sleep. Shoot for eight hours per night. If you’re more like a six hour per night person, try to add one hour and get to seven. Over time, get to eight. Your body releases human growth hormone (yes the same stuff athletes get busted for using) during deep sleep. Give it a chance to get there.