Is leangains a meme? Millions have gained muscle and lost fat at the same time but that is different than “leangains” which is a snake-oil money maker.
It depends on what you mean by “leangains”. Lets start with the Martin Berkhan and Kinobody style leangains, the style they use to sell lots of expensive stuff and make lots of money. The I am near the genetic max and 4% bodyfat I am still going to make all-kinds-of-gains. That is compete BS .. except for steroid users. Steroid users can gain muscle even doing the stupidest things. The closer you are to your genetic max, the harder it is to gain muscle, and the more favorable of conditions that are required to gain that last little bit of muscle.
Extreme low bodyfat is NOT a favorable condition for building muscle, for anyone. If you are sub 6% no matter if you are a newbie or a pro, your muscle gain rate will suffer. The body thinks it needs bodyfat for survival and when you try to lower it below a certain point, bad things happen … at least bad for a bodybuilder.
So lets take an example, say you have a Zyzz physique, could he get leangains? Absolutely not … not without steroids. That is simply way too close to the genetic max and way too low of bodyfat for leangains to be possible. If you have this physique and this bodyfat and are natty then the only way you can pooooosibly eek out more muscle gains is to bulk and cut.
NOTE that this is NOT an endorsement of bulking for everyone! Note that everything so far has been talking about sub 6% bodyfat. Lets get back to the topic of “leangains” and what is possible and what is not.
Lets start with the most typical case there is. Obese out of shape male decides to start losing fat and working out. Guess what, literally millions of newbies just like this have gained muscle and lost fat at the same time, thats why I made a webpage on my website with that exact title that has been one of the most viewed pages on my scoobysworkshop. Overweight newbies do not have to bulk to gain muscle! In fact, they gain absolutely NOTHING by bulking other than looking fatter than ever. Newbies can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. YES, ABSOLUTELY. That kind of “leangains” is possible but the reason is that their bodyfat is high.
OK, how about the middle ground because thats where things get a bit fuzzier. Lets say you have been lifting awhile and have surpassed ottermode muscularture and have decent sixpack abs at 9% bodyfat. Are “leangains” possible for you? Jein. Maybe-probably. Hard to say. If you were to eat at a slight caloric surplus so that your bodyfat stayed at this 9% level rather than continuing to drop then your muscle gain rate will proooobably not be inhibited because 9% is still reasonably save and high bodyfat which will keep the body from freaking out.
Its this simple. The more muscle mass you add, the harder it is to gain more muscle mass. The first 10kg of muscle added is a cakewalk compared to the work you will have to put in to gain the next 10kg of muscle. The more muscle you add, the harder it is to add additional muscle mass and the more favorable the conditions need to be. Conditions include nutrition, sleep, as well as bodyfat levels. Newbies can get away with all kinds of nutritional sins, drinking binges, and all night clubbing and still gain muscle but not intermediates or advanced folks.
So is leangains a meme? Only if it used to sell shit and make money.