I'm a nineteen yr old male, 145 pounds, 5 foot 8, and I've been working out for about 3 years. As of now I have a very dense and toned muscle structure, and I'm pretty strong too. However I wanted to know how I can increase my muscle mass becuase even though I am toned I'm still very skinny for my size. Is there a way to effectively increase muscle size while conserving my toned body shape?

As per the first comment: what i meant by "muscle tone" is that i'm skinny but i have defined muscle structure.

  • What, specifically, do you mean by "toned body shape"? Visible rectus abdominis muscles? Mar 5, 2018 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


Is there a way to effectively increase muscle size while conserving my toned body shape [or, in other words my defined muscle structure]?

You seem to be asking whether there is a way to build muscular mass without building fatty mass.

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Maybe.

Regardless, the following approach works very well:

  1. Build muscle and some fat.
  2. Lose fat and some muscle.
  3. Repeat 1. and 2. as desired.

The body appears manage its tissue creation/destruction processes globally. In other words, the body is exclusively either creating or destroying tissues -- not, for example, both building muscle and losing fat concurrently. The foregoing approach works well because it focuses on maximal progress toward one goal at a time, instead of switching between them and hoping to progress both in alternating tiny increments, which are especially sensitive to variations in many factors.

  • 1
    In this case a “lean bulk“ approach seems right, but especiallay for obese people or beginners it is very well possible to build muscle without gaining fat
    – Gimli
    Mar 6, 2018 at 12:54

First of all, it depends on how close you are to your maximum muscle potential. By that, I am referring to the maximum amount of muscle that you could potentially (naturally) carry on your frame according to your individual genetics. Refer to FFMI to roughly determine this. The closer you are to that, the less likely that simultaneous fat loss/muscle gain will be possible.


Second, if you stay in a positive nitrogen balance (usually by eating enough protein) and you eat enough calories to maintain your weight (total weight), then it is possible, but expect slower results on both fronts. If you are young and you still have plenty of muscle potential left, then you have quite a bit more wiggle room than older folks who are closer to their maximum potential, but it is very much possible.

Third, is it desirable? You could eat in a slight surplus (gaining 0-0.5 lbs a week) and have an excellent lean bulk if your goal is to put on muscle. You’ll gain more muscle mass this way, but how much more? There is no scientific answer for that. It could very well be marginal at best. So while you would put on “more” muscle almost definitely, the actual percentage might be underwhelming in the face of looking at having to lose weight down the line. On the other hand, it might be a significant number. There are too many variables at play. Regardless ANY kind of bulk will definitely grant faster muscle building, the exact amount just isn’t clear.

Fourth, decide what is important to you and what isn’t. Decide on the path based on that. Both paths will take a lot of time. One path gets to higher muscle mass quicker, but at the cost of additional fat. The other path comes at the cost of being more strict with yourself (finding that ideal personal balance). Whatever you choose, I wish you luck!

Edit - One thing I didn’t mention that is also important to this whole thing is your body fat percentage. If your BF% is low (12 or under) you’ll probably want to simply focus on a lean bulk rather than weight maintenance through fat loss and muscle gain. From what I understand of your question, you’re probably somewhere around here. I already explained the lean bulk in the third paragraph, so there’s no need to repeat that but, but let’s talk about how it correlates to body fat. If you don’t have a lot of body fat to lose, then your (overall) weight will almost need to increase when you put on additional muscle due to the additional weight of the muscle itself. This is a good thing, but keep in mind that not everything you gain will necessarily be muscle. Typically, a man will be able to add 1-2 pounds of muscle to his frame per month under good-ideal conditions. Therefore, if you gain more than that, it’s easy to gauge what may be muscle and what may be fat.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.