Recomping tends to be more difficult. There's really a lot of science behind slow bulking from a lean state
If you really want to pack on muscle quickly, the best way is to get down to %9-10 body fat, and then start eating about 300-500 kcals over maintenance.
Basically, your starting body fat percentage predicts the great majority of what you will lose/gain when you diet/overfeed.
So, when you diet, the fatter you are, the less LBM (and more fat) you will lose. Conversely, the leaner you are, the more LBM and less fat you will tend to lose when you diet.
In general, the same holds but in reverse: leaner individuals will tend to gain more LBM and less fat and fatter individuals will tend to gain more fat and less LBM.
When overfed, thin/lean individual will gain 60-70% lean body mass (LBM) while fat(>%15 BF) individuals may gain only 30-40% LBM.
As well, it seems empirically that once body fat gets to the 15% range or so for men, fat gains tend to accelerate during mass gaining phases. I suspect this is due to the development of systemic insulin resistance which causes calories to go into fat stores more readily. Keeping body fat levels below that may be helpful.
I should mention that there was always an anecdotal idea that mass gains were best with body fat about 10-12% body fat (for men, add 9-12% for women). While I had always dismissed this as being an excuse to stay fat, I suspect it’s probably close to correct. Based on what’s going on hormonally and physiologically at both low and higher body fat percentages, this may very well be a sweet spot for mass gaining. You’re fed and healthy enough to lift well and make gains but not so fat that other problems arise.
If you’re above 15% body fat (about 24-27% for women), diet first. If you can get to the 10-12% (19-24%) body fat range or so, I think you’ll be in an overall better position to gain mass.
After finishing your diet, regardless of how lean you get, take 2 weeks to eat at roughly maintenance calorie levels before starting your mass gaining phase. The reason has to do with the physiological adaptations to dieting.
Only try to add mass/bulk until you hit the top end body fat percentage around %13.
You *can* put on muscle while fatter, but you put on less muscle and more fat. The way guys can put 20-25lbs on in their first year(without steroids), is not from "lifting heavy and eating big", it's from being lean, eating somewhat more than they need, and just lifting, period.
It's really the easiest and quickest way. The other ways require more work, more time, and more money too(gaining more fat means you're wasting money on food you didn't need).
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