Fueling some Muscle Growth



This isn’t easy for me to bring up and share so vividly, especially in pictures, but I am honored that you all take time out of your day to spend time in my corner of the blog world, and I want to be honest with all of you and share not only my strengths, but my weaknesses too.

You guys may have noticed that I’m not quite as lean as my “norm.” Why is that, you ask? Over the course of staying so darn lean for quite some time, I actually lost some precious, hard-earned muscle. This is NOT the goal my friends, not the goal.

Muscle speeds up your metabolism and gives you shape. SO, that being said, in order to put my body back into an anabolic (growing) state instead of a catabolic (breaking down) state, I needed to fuel it with some extra calories, from both carbs and fats. I have been lifting as heavy as can be, and fueling my body, working on muscle growth.



For me, eating for muscle growth, which inevitably means gaining some body fat along the way, is extremely tough mentally. I know the benefits for my metabolism and my physique, which is why I’m doing what I‘m doing. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to do.

I wanted to share this with all of you who think I’m so “perfect,” gosh no. Not even close. Everyone has their battles, and one of mine is allowing myself to eat for muscle gains and gain the small amount of fat required to do so, but I’m doing it.

I want to be a platform to remind all of you that regardless of whatever it is that’s tough for you … emotional eating, getting to the gym, being self conscious, stopping those treats … you can push past your own boundaries and show yourself you can do whatever it is you feel like you “can’t.”

I’m erasing “can’t” from my vocabulary. Now, there is only “can” and “will.” Who’s with me?! Open-mouthed smile

For me, if that means gaining a small amount of fat to gain the muscle I need to gain in order to meet my goals and have the physique I want, then I need to remember that it’s all a process, and we have to enjoy the journey, not only the “finish line,” because guess what? There really is no finish line. It’s a lifestyle, and embracing every part of it, the hard parts and the easier parts, is so important.


I’ll be back soon to talk about DaActive … one of my new favorite brands of workout clothes! Open-mouthed smile


Coffee Talk!

  • What is something that’s mentally hard for you?
  • Are you trying to muscle build or cut body fat right now?
  • Any fun plans for Valentine’s Day?


  1. Comment by Kara:

    You are such a rockstar! I always come back to your blog for “ab inspiration” among other things…. I am almost 4 years post babies, and have never really targeted my abs bc I thought it was a lost cause…. But, I look at you and your physique and am totally inspired…. Been doing lots of core work and cutting the crap out if my diet, and guess what…its not a lost cause…. So thank you :)

  2. Comment by Julia:

    I have a similar problem right now. I lost a bit of weight, which people tell me I shouldn’t have, over the past year and I’ve counted calories like a nut job and I’ve cut a LOT. Now, I’d like to gain more muscle and it’s really a mental barrier to think of having to eat more in order to gain and worrying about if it will go to the right areas blahblahblah. Anyway, I was wondering, how do you gauge how many calories you need for growth?

    • Comment by vblean:

      It’s definitely individual for everyone, but you have to make sure you’re eating enough for your basal metabolic rate, plus any calories you’re burning off exercising, and you have to be ABOVE both of those. So you’re definitely above a maintenance level. Do you know what your maintenance is?

  3. Comment by Julia:

    And for the record, you’re an inspiration! Take the compliments! Out of all the blogs I read hands down I feel like you put in the most effort and it shows!

  4. Comment by Emily@RunningPerspective:

    I LOVE THIS and needed this and as you know are in the same place as you! i love you and this is so open and so true and in the end you are going to be one lean mean muscular machine with all this muscle building! you rock girl and are such an inspiration to others!!<333
    Emily@RunningPerspective recently posted..channel your inner strengthMy Profile

    • Comment by vblean:

      Thank you so much Em! I know where you are and I’m SO INCREDIBLY PROUD OF YOU! You are rockin’ what you’re doing and just know that everything you’re doing right now will ABSOLUTELY pay off. It’s tough mentally, but once you’ve got that muscle base and then you cut down – you’re going to be UNSTOPPABLE :-D

  5. Comment by StoriesAndSweetPotatoes:

    Great post, thanks for sharing. The body doesn’t actually like to stay so lean for so long. We need to have some fluctuation so the body retains it’s ability to adapt. I’m working on gaining muscle now and I struggle with eating enough to do it. I have been making decent gains it’s just a little slower than I’d like but as long as I feel healthy and strong that’s really all that matters! You (and your muscles) are gorgeous. I wouldn’t say that you “not quite as lean”. You worked for those muscles, rock ‘em girl! :)
    StoriesAndSweetPotatoes recently posted..Sweet Potato SmoothieMy Profile

    • Comment by vblean:

      Thank you so much rockstar! I really appreciate the heartfelt comment. Means a lot! I completely understand the battle with eating enough to gain muscle. I’m so proud of you though for the gains you’re making and for feeling healthy and strong. That’s the best part of it all – to feel good, not only about what you look like but your functionality, strength and health! Keep rockin’ lady!

  6. Comment by Alex:

    You absolutely rock Electra, I’m so freaking happy for you! You’re doing such a favor to your body by fueling it up well for muscle growth. It’s great to know there’s other gals out there not afraid of more calories or a little extra fat in order to reach a muscle focused goal :)
    You’re a beast, keep up the great work sista!
    Alex recently posted..Goodbye 19, hello 20! Mum’s the Word MondayMy Profile

    • Comment by vblean:

      Thank you so much for the awesome comment Alex, that means a ton!!!! LOVE the beast comment – most ladies would be like umm beast? I LOVE IT!!! :-D Keep doing your thing too girl, I’m so proud of you!!

  7. Comment by Maria @ Pappa Don't Preach:

    I love that you chose to share this with all of us! I was in the same boat as you years ago… I was dwindling away thinking I was helping myself but really it was doing more harm than good. I have progressively gained good fat and even BETTER muscle!
    I think you look AH-mazing girl! Keep doing what you’re doing and fueling yourself for those muscles!! GRRR!!!!! ;)
    Maria @ Pappa Don’t Preach recently posted..Whole lotta LoveMy Profile

    • Comment by vblean:

      Maria, you’re absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing!! I LOVE that you’ve gained good fat and those rockin’ muscles of yours lady!!! You’re no one to mess with rockstar ;-) Thank you again. BTW – I think I’ll be at the Arnold so if you’re still going WE HAVE TO MEET UP! XOXO

      • Comment by Maria @ Pappa Don't Preach:

        I’m so sad… I won’t be going to the Arnold any longer. I was hoping to score a flight on my company to help a client that’s there, but that fell through. My best friend is getting married a week later so I have to save my funds. If I do end up in your area (on business trips) I’ll let you know! :)
        Maria @ Pappa Don’t Preach recently posted..Whole lotta LoveMy Profile

  8. Comment by Kristen:

    I’m cutting right now, and I am at that stubborn end of the cut where it takes FOREVER to lose those few lbs of body fat. But I did a gain last winter, and I can sympathize with how hard it is. It was hard to see my muscles disappear, and then when I started cutting, it was hard to think I might not be squatting the same #s I was during the gain. But I love the cycles, and I love the process!
    Kristen recently posted..Feats of Strength: Wall Sits and Pistol SquatsMy Profile

  9. Comment by Tara @ Sweat like a Pig:

    I can totally relate to this post! I was on a muscle building cycle for 8 months last year, and then began a cut. After about three months, while I had lost a few pounds of fat, I was also starting to lose some of my muscle. I was not happy :( To prevent losing any more muscle, I started eating more food, but now I’m gaining small amounts of fat along with it. Right now I’m just trying to work on finding that perfect balance of eating enough to gain muscle, but not enough to gain fat. I do not look anywhere near as amazing as you though!!
    Tara @ Sweat like a Pig recently posted..Carbohydrate FAQsMy Profile

  10. Comment by Wendy:

    Hey Electra- I’m going through the same thing right now- struggling quite a bit myself. Thank you for your honesty on this – it takes a lot to put your feelings out there. Way to go listening to your body! That is my 2012 recurring theme this year! I never understood I had to eat lots of healthy fat to see better results- tough to get through that mindset of good healthy fats are actually really good for you….:)) I’m still learning as I go- trying to do less cardio and more heavy lifting. I’m having a really tough time putting size on the quads- I have bad knees so lunges are completely out for this girl and any thing that puts major stress on the knees. Any suggestions?
    Keep doing what your doing- obviously it agrees with you! Thanks for all of the great tips and advice.

  11. Comment by Luvena:

    Hi Electra thank you for your honesty. I lost over a hundred pounds 3 years ago and was left with a lot of excess skin. I thought that if I kept getting thinner it would go away but it did not and I got TO thin (doing only cardio and eating close to nothing). I finally joined the gym and fell in love with weights. Since then I have been struggling with trying to find the right balance in eating and working out to gain lean muscle and lose fat. The loose skin is still there and have some to realize that aside from surgery it probably will always be. I do struggle with this and its really hard for me to hear people tell me I still need to eat more to gain lean muscle. All I see is that I am gaining weight and I freak out. Ugh. I also suffer from insomnia and of course this me muscle growth and makes me crave carbs like there is no tomorrow. But…I will not give up. This has become my passion and I will continue to work towards my goals.

  12. Comment by julie:

    great post girl! i’m working on trying to build muscle and not gain as much fat..having trouble working what the right balance is and noticed that i’ve gained more fat along with the muscle but we’ll see what the happy balance is sometime! i’ve been increasing my calories so hopefully my body starts responding to the increase in carbs and fats, etc!
    julie recently posted..love you boo, here’s to you! a love story of sortsMy Profile

  13. Comment by Meg:

    This is probably my favourite post of yours. And girl, you look better than ever.

    I too am increasing cals and trying to increase my carbs even more than I already did. I guess that’s the tough thing for me!

    I know body fat will come, but obviously I want to keep in minimal, but I am OK with some additional BF because I know I will be gaining muscle too which is the ultimate goal.

    Seriously Electra, best post BY FAR!

    Love u

  14. Comment by Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons:

    Girl I needed this =) The can’ts are slowly but surely going to be erased and the muscle is becoming my goal — I def have a little pudge to lose here and there but I dont concern myself with it — the muscle will take care of that anyways ;)

    love ya mucho! thanks for keeping me motivated! now if only this soreness from my last workout (I did insanity on sunday! whoo!) would go away so I can run tomorrow! fingers crossed! <3
    Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons recently posted..Treat. Yo. Self.My Profile

  15. Comment by Abby @ Abz 'n' Oats:

    Great post! :) I just started Phase 3 of Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer today so I am ready for the fat to fall off. lol. One thing that I have struggled with since moving home is eating well. I can’t wait to have my own kitchen again in a matter of a few weeks!!
    Abby @ Abz ‘n’ Oats recently posted..11 Random ThingsMy Profile

  16. Comment by Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table:

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s so good to hear someone else struggles too! I’m trying to gain right now and it is HARD to #1 find the right balance and #2 mentally adjust to eating so much more. How did you determine the right balance of fat-protein-carbs to gain most effectively?

    Sounds like so many others are doing the same! We should start a support group. :)

  17. Comment by Kate @ Chasing It:

    Hey Electra! I just discovered your blog and I love it! :) This post really hit home for me too, in a different way – I’m a distance runner, but I somehow pulled a muscle in my hip flexor area that makes it really difficult to do much of anything. running is out, and I’ve had to split up my other forms of cross-training into 30 minute sessions (which annoyingly means 2-3 workouts a day), since that seems to be the limit that the pulled muscle tolerates; and I can’t even do core work (so important for a runner!) because that strains and shortens the hip flexors (believe me i’ve tried…it just makes it more aggravated). I’ve managed to get to the point where I’m okay with cutting my training volume in order to heal – so that I can get back to training faster – but eating is a total mind-game for me! I know I need to eat enough to repair the muscle strain, but I’m scared that I will get out of shape and gain weight, which isn’t my goal.It’s tough! But you’re right – goals are not something you just reach up and take, they are DIFFICULT and require sacrifice and pushing out of your comfort zone. That’s what makes it all the sweeter when you get there! And so I think its really great that you’re willing to do something difficult (eat for muscle gain) and take little things you don’t want along with it (a bit of body fat) to get the physique you want! Inspiring!

    Also, I don’t know a lot about lifting and bodybuilding, but you look absolutely INCREDIBLE!!

  18. Comment by Christina @ theathletarian:

    The very fact that you wrote this post makes you even more perfect to me!! That was a hard thing for me too. I spent my whole life not weighing very much and putting on weight has been a mental battle. I tell myself over and over again that the number on the scale doesn’t mean anything…and that the fact that my size double zero shorts are a bit tight us okay. But I still have those days where I struggle with it. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that most fitness models are NOT a double zero and building my butt and quads is going I result in Gavin to get bigger jeans!!! It’s stressful but we CAN do this and we WILL do this. You are amazing. Thank you for sharing this. It helps people like me know that I’m not alone! Love ya girl. xoxox
    Christina @ theathletarian recently posted..a (mostly) vegan valentineMy Profile

  19. Comment by teabagginit:

    i think this is an important topic and i’m glad you posted on it. so many people in the blog world (and normal world) are only focused on losing weight but gaining is a struggle, too! i had to gain weight due to my ed and it was extremely hard to see those pounds (and fat) creep on. it’s hard to find that perfect balance and i’m still struggling with it but getting better every day. racing and yoga (i know you hate it :) ) have helped, too, because it’s taken the focus off the body image and placed it onto the body performance!
    teabagginit recently posted..Give me a boostMy Profile

  20. Comment by Felicia:

    i can completely relate to this and so happy you put it out there. it definitely is mentally hard to bulk and get that little extra “fat” that comes with it, but you are doing amazing things for your body right now. to me, you look amazing still, and you know what? a lot of it is in our own head and we are our own worst critics. and this is definitely a LIFELONG journey. one can only stay super lean for so long :) once i just accepted the fact that its OKAY to bulk and gain extra and that in the long run will benefit me, it was a freeing feeling.
    seriously though, you still look amazing, don’t be too hard on yourself girl! and we all love ya :)
    Felicia recently posted..Heart Pumping CircuitMy Profile

  21. Comment by lisa@thedailyrundown:

    I think this post is amazing and I think your physique is amazing!
    I just recently started weight training regularly. I’m going through p90x right now and love it, but it’s hard because I’m also training for a marathon 3/18. I’ve changed my eating from the carb fest of an endurance runner and am trying to be more protein minded. But, I’m ALWAYS hungry. Granted I’m working out twice a day running than strength and most of my weekly runs are 7-10 miles long, but I’ve actually gained weight. Why? (I thought you would be a good blogger to pose this question to).
    Also what is your stance on cheat meals?

  22. Comment by jennyv:

    I’m definitely needing (not just wanting) to cut fat. I went from being very lean and fit to gaining a lot of weight after going through a stressful period and not taking care of myself.

    It’s mentally challenging to remember where I was and to see the long road ahead. Thank you for your posts and for sharing a powerful and positive mindset with your readers.

  23. Comment by Maggie:

    Loved this post. I struggle with wanting to have more muscle, and at the same time, wanting to be on the small/lean side. It’s not easy. As as 38 year old mom of two kids, I beat myself up for worrying about something seemingly so shallow. I give you credit for sharing. And btw, you look GREAT.

  24. Comment by Lizzy:

    Hey gorgeous girl!!
    LOVE this post!! I think this topic is something most athletes struggle with (and i definitely consider a body builder an athlete…wow the workouts you do are intense and inspiring!!)
    fueling for any sport is complex and tough! I am right there with you, I have days I struggle to get the cals needed to maintain muscle, and days I get more than enough :) as we grow older I hope the balancing act because easier, but I honestly think it’s all about trusting your body…which you are doing an amazing job of!! you look absolutely beautiful, and I know you will be where you want to be soon! keep up the amazing work!!
    I hope you’ve been having a great week!
    Lizzy recently posted..14-miles & Pink!My Profile

  25. Comment by caterina:

    I have been following your blog for a while, and you rock!!! I really like your approach to fitness, and this post has been tremendously interesting to me, as I am trying to gain some muscles as well and am struggling very hard with the mental side of it. It is very hard for me to eat more, and to accept the fat that goes together with the muscles. I was wondering if you could tell me something more about how much and what you are eating to gain muscles (something like a WIAW-muscle gain edition), and how this is different from what you eat usually… BTW, you look awesome!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge