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Eating Clean to Gain Muscle

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 3/13/2019

Should You Always Eat "Clean" If Muscle Mass Is Your Goal?

As bodybuilders hoping to build new lean mass, we’re hammered with the idea that we need to eat large amounts of the right kinds of food all the time. But is it really necessary or even helpful to ALWAYS eat “clean” if muscle mass is your main goal?

As it turns out, one of the often overlooked “tricks” of successful bodybuilders is the strategic use of “cheat” meals.

Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon and how it can help you get bigger and leaner.

The Science Behind Cheating

Adding cheat meals to your diet will be most beneficial when you’re trying to lose fat or add muscle while keeping fat gain to a minimum. Under these circumstances, you will be eating at or below your maintenance level of calories for a good part of the time.

This can be bad news for two hormones which help control your appetite and, by extension, your body composition.

Leptin “lives” in your fatty tissue (for the most part), and it helps to keep you hunger in check AND to burn calories for energy. Studies show, though, that your leptin levels fall pretty quickly when you restrict your calories. And that’s the situation you find yourself in when on a diet or trying to keep fat gains in check.

Ghrelin acts on the other end of the body composition spectrum, serving to stimulate appetite AND the release of growth hormone, which can cause you to gain weight. During periods of reduced calorie intake, ghrelin tends to increase in your body.

In fact, after about three days of calorie restriction, leptin is significantly reduced from baseline, while ghrelin levels spike.

By bumping up your calories in a specific fashion about every three days, then, you can help to normalize these two important hormones and get your lean gains back on track.

Define “Cheat”

Now, before you run off to load up on candy bars and potato chips at your next grocery store visit thinking that’s the way to ripped mass, it’s important to remember that good health should always be your top priority.

“Cheating” in the context of a bodybuilding diet is not an excuse to pig out on junk food, but rather an chance to eat a bit more than usual and maybe loosen the dietary restrictions under which you operate most of the time.

Good examples of typical, wholesome cheat meals are pasta with tomato sauce and grilled chicken, a fairly lean hamburger, steak and baked potato, or maybe the very occasional slice or two of pizza.

Usually, ONE cheat meal every few days will be enough to give you a mental break and leave you feeling more satisfied. It can go a long way toward helping you make it to your NEXT cheat meal and sticking with your diet.

Just be careful not to overdo a good thing and end up bloated, sick, and fatter than ever. When you’re “cheating,” savor every bite and take the time to chew it completely. This will help you feel full sooner and avoid eating too much.

So, can cheating help your physique? Absolutely, as long as you treat it with respect!

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