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How to Maintain Low Body Fat while Bulking

I’ve been lean bulking for the last 4 months, steadily gaining weight. Today I realized I’m starting to lose pretty much all ab definition so it’s time to get lean again.

The philosophy of gaining muscle without getting fat is very simple. You need to alternate your lean bulks and cuts in the range of 8 to 15% body fat.

You start your gaining phase lean, around 8-10% and you steadily gain weight until you hit 13-15%. Once you reach the point where I am now, where you start to lose your abs, you cut back to around 10% and restart the whole process.

The awesome thing about doing this is that you spend the majority of the year in a surplus. You can lose fat much faster than you can gain muscle. Usually it will take you 5-8 weeks to cut down from around 15% to 10%. But if you’re disciplined on your lean bulk, you will spend 5-8 months in a surplus to go from 10% to 15%.

Read my Complete Guide to Lean Bulking to learn exactly how to set your nutrition. It is exactly what you need to maintain low body fat while bulking.

The problem is most guys overestimate how much muscle they can gain in a few months. The reality is that at the intermediate level you will do well if you can gain a kilogram of muscle over the course of 3 months.

Maximum rate of muscle growth lyle mcdonald

Should you pursue Lean Gains?

It is possible to gain muscle without any fat. But you can’t maximize the rate of growth while preventing fat gain 100%. Calorie partitioning is never perfect.

To make exclusive lean gains, you probably need to cut the rate of muscle gain in half. For this reason I believe beginners and intermediates (who can gain a lot during one year) are better of accepting some fat gain during their bulks. This way they get to their is goal physique faster. Here’s an example:

Let’s say two people have the potential to gain 10 lbs of muscle in one year.

  • One guy lean bulks and gains those 10 lbs + 10 lbs of fat during that year.
  • The other guy makes exclusive lean gains and only grows 6 lbs during that year.

The first guy is at an advantage right now as he can lose those 10 lbs in 8-10 weeks. The second guy needs another year in order to get to the same level. 

The story is different for advanced lifters though. If one can gain only 5 lbs of muscle in one year, bulking doesn’t make any sense. Even if they gained 20lbs of weight, only 5 will be muscle.

When the rate of muscle growth is low, lean gaining is just as effective as lean bulking.

How to Track the Quality of your Physique

Remember that the best way to track physique changes is through relative strength. Every time your strength compared to your bodyweight improves, you will look and perform better. That means when you cut, if you maintain your strength, your relative strength improves. If you bulk and you gain strength faster than you gain bodyweight, your relative strength improves.

warrior physique standards copy3 greek god physique standards copy3superhero-physique-standards-3

Even if you lose overall size as you’re cutting, if you maintain your strength you’re actually making progress. You’re lifting the same weights at a lower bodyweight.

The easiest way to track body fat percentage is through your waist measurement. A few months ago I came up with this table to show how your waist measurement around the navel correlates with your body fat:

[table id=20 /]

This works well for around 80% of men and you can use it to get a general idea of where you’re at.

Please note that it’s not accurate for everyone. For example I have a naturally slim waist for my height. I know that when I’m around 8% my waist is about 75cm – which is around 41% of my height. Even if there is an error of 2-3% you can still be in the ballpark.

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The Program I use

The program I follow right now is The Greek God Program. It’s great for gaining muscle while minimizing fat gain because you track muscle growth by strength gains, not scale weight.

Strength gained in a medium rep range is a VERY good indicator of muscle development. If one gains bodyweight but their lifts don’t go up, they won’t have bigger muscles.

You can check out my one year transformation with it here.

Or click here to read more about the program[/lgc_column]


  1. Ameen on January 28, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    thanks man for all the info that you post every now and then
    i’m really reading every single articles that you post and watching you videos .

    but the issue is my waist is around 62.4 cm ( 24.6 inch ) and my height is 174cm that’s around (35% to the height ) so what is really my bf ? this is insane !

    • Radu Antoniu on January 28, 2016 at 9:12 pm


      You naturally have a really slim waist! You shouldn’t estimate your bf percentage using that ratio.

      • Ameen on January 29, 2016 at 2:28 am

        lol , yes but i think im around 6% bf .
        but don’t you think there’s a visible signs ( cuts )
        that shows on the body below a certain bf% ?

        • Radu Antoniu on February 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm

          6% body fat is very low. Even without a decent amount of muscle you’d see pretty good definition – even if your overall size would be small

  2. chris on January 29, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Hello Radu. I am from Greece , 18 years old , 192 cm in height and 88 kg in weight. i have been doing intermittent fasting skipping breakfast and all that stuff in the aggressive fat loss of Kinobody. When i started in October i was 98 kg . now i eat around 1500 calories a day . I lift weights 3-4 times a week at the gym . Do you think that i am eating to little for my body and its affecting the way i lose fat ? how much should i eat for maximum weight loss? Thanks for all ..
    ps. I can lift now on the bench around 55kg for 7-8 reps

    • Radu Antoniu on February 1, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Hey Chris!

      Nice work so far!

      Yes 1500kcal per day is definitely too low for you. At 88kg you can lose weight with around 2200kcal per day.

      It’s not that your body will enter starvation mode if you eat too little. Your metabolism can only slow down by around 15% during severe starvation. But you’d have more energy, better strength, and less hunger if you ate more.

  3. peter on January 30, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Hei Radu!
    I’ve just seen that you turned back to cutting and I hope you’re going to enjoy it. It would be really cool if you could make a video about testosterone on a diet and how to increase it, as well as the mistakes you shouldn’t make. Testosterone issues are nowadays common and i think it is a subject that is to much important if you want to improve your physique and stay in overall healthy conditions.
    Thank you and wish you good luck:)

    • Radu Antoniu on February 1, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      You’re right Peter. I’m going to do that video for sure!

  4. Paul Posea on January 31, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    I really like how you separated the physique levels into three categories. I’m not sure you were referring to a genetic predisposition of people to fit into one of those 3 categories or just that you can reach any of those depending on the lean muscle mass you have. (p.s. In poza aia, Mike Mathews, mentorul nostru :)) pare urias, e aproape incredibil ca a ajuns la nivelul ala in mod natural)

    • Radu Antoniu on February 1, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      Yes you can reach all of them.

      Yeah haha. Mike has been training for about 12 years so it’s no wonder he’s very big.

  5. Pablo Loureco on November 5, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Hey Radu,
    you are an inspiration for me…
    I’m following your advises to improve my physic and I did pretty well with my cut.
    Now I’ve just started to bulk(2 months now), trying to increase my muscle mass.
    The problem I’m facing is: although I’m in a caloric surplus my weight does not seam follow my waist measurements – the weight is going up in a very slow tempo(as it supposes to) but my waist, man, it rushes upwards like crazy – what should I do?

  6. Shubham Saraf on August 5, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Thanks for sharing. I was 67kg at the starting and after 5 months of bulking + weight training I am at 80 kg. I am 185 cm and 20 years old. My bf is quite high ~23%. What should I do now? How many calories should I consume per day? My muscles lack definition although my strength has increased.

    Please advise.

  7. dragos on January 11, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Salut Radu,
    Am studiat poze puse de tine si diverse formule de pe net.
    Dupa pozele tale dar si dupa formule(de ex us navy) as fi in zona 16 spre 17 body fat.
    Dar dupa grosime talie as fi in zona de minim 20. E posbil sau ma insel eucu imaginea proprie?
    176 cm inaltime,talie 87,88, piept 110.
    Nivel incepator, 2 luni de antrenamente.
    Osatura ce i drept e mai mare un pic ca media, incheietura 18.5, glezna 26
    Nu vad unde sa atasez o poza cu bustul pt exemplificare.

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