Can You Get A Six-Pack In A Calorie Surplus?


If you’re planning to build on muscle, and at the same time displaying your abs, in this article I will cover everything you need to know about how to get abs while bulking.

Can you get a six-pack in a calorie surplus?

You cannot get a six-pack in a calorie surplus. A calorie surplus will likely cause you to gain fat, together with muscle. When you eat more calories than your daily energy expenditure, any extra calories that your body doesn’t need will get stored as body fat.

This means you can build muscle, build your six-pack, but it won’t be visible. Here’s why

What Does A Calorie Surplus Mean?

A calorie surplus means you eat more calories than your body burns daily. Every day your body uses calories to provide energy for necessary metabolic processes. When your calorie intake is higher than your calorie expenditure, you’re in a calorie surplus.

People get to calorie surplus usually when they want to build on muscle mass aka bulk up. And with more calories, they can add more size to the muscle, eat more calories, and hopefully create more protein synthesis (source).

But here is the good news.

If your goal is to build on muscle mass or get abs, you don’t have to be in a calorie surplus.

Can You Get Abs In A Calorie Surplus?

You cannot get abs in a calorie surplus. Getting visible abs requires a relatively low body fat percentage. This means to get abs you would need a calorie deficit, not a calorie surplus. Calorie surplus stores extra calories in the form of fat, which can hide your abdominal muscles.

If you wanna build some crazy amount of muscle, calorie surplus is the way to go. On a calorie surplus, you got a lot of energy, you can train hard, and don’t worry about calories.

But this will not help you with getting visible abs. The fastest way to get abs is by doing:

Those are the 4 musketeers that will shred your body fat like no tomorrow and help you get this six-pack out.

Can You Keep A Six-Pack While Bulking?

You can keep a six-pack while bulking. The easiest way to keep abs while bulking is by calorie cycling. Calorie cycling allows you to have high-calorie days on your training days alternated with low-calorie days on your rest days. This will allow you to bulk while keeping a six-pack

Normally, being in a calorie surplus sends the extra calories to be stored as fat.

But when you cycle your days with high calories and low calories, you can still reap the rewards of maximum hypertrophy, better performance, and keep your abs (source).

  • High-calorie days (training days) you can eat extra carbs for energy
  • Low calorie (non-training days) you stay in a calorie deficit with the majority of calories coming from protein

Should I Train Abs While Bulking?

You should train abs while bulking. Abs training helps to build strong abdominal muscles that improve posture, helps with balance, and reduces lower back pain. Targeted abs training should be part of the well-balanced resistance training routine that includes the whole body.

So even if you don’t have a six-pack, having a strong core muscle will help you not only move better, but be pain free outside of the gym.

When you’re on calorie surplus you can focus on adding extra resistance to your abs exercises. So when you get to cutting phase they will nicely pop.

Should I Train Abs Everyday?

You shouldn’t train abs every day. Abs, like any other muscle group, needs time to rest and recover. Training abs every day can lead to overtraining. Overtraining can inhibit the recovery rate, increase chances for injury, and lower your overall performance.

In other words, you should treat your abs just like any other muscle. If you believe you can do abs every day, then you probably didn’t train them hard enough in the first place (source).

It’s like imagine doing heavy bench press or squats every day. Nobody would do that. Especially if you train with a lot of weight.

You wouldn’t do that with your strength training. The same with your abs. Adding extra weight where you can lead to greater hypertrophy and muscle mass, but you have to spend time on recovery as well.

Should I Do Abs Before Or After Workout?

You should do abs after your workout. Doing abs before a workout can deplete your muscle glycogen and leave you with lower energy to perform compound exercises. Doing compound exercises first allows for greater muscle protein synthesis and better gains.

Always start from compound moves first, followed by the isolation exercises. You will see much better results overall with saving your energy, and starting your training from the big lifts.

Will I Lose My Abs When Bulking

You won’t lose your abs when bulking as long as you stay in the calorie deficit. Gaining muscle can be achieved without a calorie surplus. Having optimum protein intake, resistance training, and calorie deficit ensure you can bulk on muscle without losing abs.

Of course, a calorie deficit isn’t fun. It is so much more fun to eat what you want, don’t worry about the calories, and build a lot of muscle. But apart from the muscle you also gain weight from fat. You can forget about abs.

So by eating less, but optimizing your nutrition with high-protein food, not only you will gain tons of muscle, but also keep your abs in check.

How To Bulk Up Without Losing Abs?

The best way to bulk up without losing abs is to stay within the calorie deficit or calorie maintenance, but keeping the high-protein intake. High-protein intake triggers muscle protein synthesis and it can be done while you’re in a calorie deficit or maintenance.

Here are 5 tips to bulk up without losing abs:

Eat a high protein meals

Eating enough proteins while bulking will enable you to gain muscle mass and prevent storing extra body fat. With just enough proteins you can stay even in the calorie deficit and still gain muscle mass, without losing your abs. High protein foods include:

  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Legumes

Stay within calorie maintenance limit

You can stay either within the calorie maintenance or in the calorie deficit, depending on your current body fat percentage. If you have abs already visible, you can stay in the neutral energy balance. When you have extra fat to burn, you should aim for a calorie deficit.

Use progressive overload when training

Progressive overload means you need to challenge yourself. Resistance training done with the same amount of weight will cause a plateau effect. Adding extra resistance will keep muscle growth.

You can create progressive overload by increasing amount of:

  • Weight
  • Sets
  • Reps

Prioritize on compound exercises

To maximize muscle strength focus on multi-joint exercises first. This will allow for a greater magnitude of weight to be lifted and will lead to greater neuromuscular adaptation. Big compound lifts are:

  • Deadlift
  • Chin up
  • Bench press
  • Squat
  • Shoulder press
  • Rowing

Use isolated exercises

After you’re done with compound beasts, now you can use isolated exercises to create metabolic stress. Metabolic stress occurs during exercise performed with a high rep that leads to metabolite accumulation (lactate, phosphate inorganic, and hydrogen). In other words, muscle “pump”. Feel the burn baby!

Exercises for muscle pump:

  • Pec dec
  • Leg extension
  • Leg curl
  • Glute bridge
  • Lateral raise
  • Biceps curl
  • Frog squats

Another great weapon for creating muscle pump and promote increases in muscle hypertrophy is using resistance bands. Those bad boys can be done even daily and can add up to the overall bulk effect.

Optimize nutrition around workout time

Having an protein shake or BCAA drink, together with simple carbs, while you train can enhance recovery, increase your energy and help you bulk up faster, even while being in a calorie deficit.

Have enough rest

Getting enough rest while you train is imperative because it will affect your performance. Sleep deprivation not only can ruin your energy levels and sabotage training but also can lead to lower willpower around your food choices.

Abs While Bulking Tips

Here are 5 more tips on keeping abs while bulking:

  • Eat slowly to reduce food intake
  • Eat high-fiber foods to reduce satiety
  • Drink water to prevent lethargy
  • Eat a spoonful of coconut oil on the empty stomach
  • Walk 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day

What Should I Eat To Get Abs And Build Muscle?

The best foods to eat to get abs and build muscle are foods that are rich in protein and fiber. Those foods include:

  • Lean meats like ground beef, turkey, chicken, bison, venison
  • Fish like salmon, tuna, cod
  • Eggs
  • Dairy such as cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt, cheese
  • Beans, peas, legumes, tofu
  • Protein supplements

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Bulk And Get Abs?

You cannot bulk and get abs. Bulking means you will eat more calories than your body burns. This will store any excess calories in the adipose tissue and make it harder for your abs to be displayed. You can build abdominal muscles while bulking, but not making them visible.

Is It Bad To Workout Abs While Fat?

It is not bad to work out abs while fat. Being fat is a subjective term used to describe a person with high body fat and it shouldn’t be a stumbling block that forbids exercise. The abs workout should be a part of regular exercise, regardless if someone has extra body fat or not.

Should I Workout My Abs If I Have Belly Fat?

You should work out your abs if you have belly fat. Doing abdominal exercises won’t burn belly fat but will count toward the exercise activity thermogenesis. This means you will burn more calories in total, and with a calorie deficit, you can burn belly fat.

Conclusion

Getting a six-pack while bulking may feel like a hard job. But with just a little bit of creativity, hard work, and consistency you can not only keep your abs but also develop a strong physique, lower body fat, and display abs all year round.

This approach is not easy. It’s hard to stay in a deficit for a long time and eat mainly proteins. But with specialty tactics like carb cycling or calorie cycling you can enjoy your food, build abs and stay lean.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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