When you say you want to gain muscle but stay slim, what you mean is that you don't want to gain fat. Two things need to happen to do this — you have to make dietary changes and you have to exercise.
This is basically the same game plan as for losing weight, but the approach is different. Even though you want that skinny, ripped body right away, be patient. Doing too much too quickly may have a negative effect on your body and could result in injury.
Eat for Energy
Increase your energy intake to fuel your muscles. Track all of your calories for five days, add the totals together and divide by five to get an average. Add 250 calories to this number and this is your new intake goal. Use an online resource or an app on your phone or wearable if you need assistance.
Choose Muscle-Building Foods
Eat muscle-promoting foods to build a slim, muscular physique. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises making protein 10 to 35 percent of your overall diet. Stay away from junk food, high-fat foods, high-sodium foods and high-sugar foods such as cupcakes, frozen dinners, spare ribs, deep-fried chicken, chips, cookies and pastries.
Eat foods that are beneficial to muscle growth and energy production instead, including lean beef, chicken breast, low-fat cottage cheese, beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Read more: Your Ultimate Guide to Gaining Lean Muscle
Consume Small Meals
Have several small meals throughout the day. Start your day with a balanced meal and eat every three hours thereafter. This will keep your energy levels high and your muscles well supplied with nutrients, and it will also make it easier to meet your increased calorie needs. Prepare each meal with a portion of protein and complex carbs. Two hard-boiled eggs with whole-wheat toast is a breakfast example. Baked halibut with steamed asparagus and brown rice is a evening meal example.
Stay Well Hydrated
Hydrate your muscles with water. Avoid beverages that are high in sugar, calories and caffeine, such as soda, slushies, processed fruit drinks, dessert coffees, regular coffee, beer and mixed drinks. Not only do they dehydrate your body, but they also promote fat gain. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should get approximately 2.7 liters of water a day, and men should get approximately 3.7 liters. This comes out to about 90 and 120 ounces, respectively.
Read more: The Best Way to Gain Lean Muscle Mass
Boost Muscle Gain
Perform compound exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. This will promote fast, lean muscle gain, notes the American Council on Exercise. Exercises include bench presses, military presses, one arm rows, dips, chin-ups and deadlifts. Perform eight to 12 reps of each exercise and four to five sets. Use the heaviest weights you can handle and have a spotter on hand to make sure you can meet your rep ranges. Work out every three days.
Do Cardio Every Day
Run or do some other form of cardio three days a week to prevent fat gain. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends getting 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderately intense cardio. Exercise for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity. Perform another type of cardio like elliptical training, stair climbing, jumping rope, swimming or indoor cycling if you don't like running.
Get Your Sleep
Get the right amount of sleep every night. Depriving your body of sleep will not give your muscles adequate time to recover, and you'll also be low on energy when you're working out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults typically need seven to nine hours of sleep for proper functioning.
- Mayo Clinic: "Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?"
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans”
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Sleep and Sleep Disorders"
- CDC: Sleep requirements