There's just something about the cold weather that makes you want to put on your sweat pants and start bulking up. Are you thinking that it's high time to pack on more calories after a great summer of string tanks and shorts? Or maybe, you're here because you want to learn all theres is to know about putting on muscle mass in one place.
Bulking is way more than just putting on weight, consuming more calories than you burn and working your butt off in the gym. The challenge isn't putting on weight. C.T. Fletcher says putting on quality weight takes thoughtful planning, focus, and grit.
What Advantages Does Bulking Bring?
Everyone can benefit from bulking, no matter the gender or the age. You don't have to be a bodybuilder preparing for a contest to desire packing on more muscle. Some women hesitate to add muscle because they think it will make them look "bulky" or they'll lose their figure, however, bulking can make you stronger, and leaner--if done the right way.
Once you hit 30, a process known as sarcopenia happens, in which you gradually start losing muscle mass. Along with this muscle loss can come a decrease in strength, reduced ability to perform everyday functions, and a reduction in metabolic rate. Therefore, as you age, it is even more important to add more muscle.
Since all of us always use up our muscles, it's in your best interest to continue to add more muscle mass. Adding more muscle will allow you to eat more calories just to maintain your weight, enhance your strength and performane. It would also ehance your physique after you diet by helping you to appear even leaner.
But that's not all there is to bulking. The reality is, not all of the weight you gain during a bulking phase would be muscle. You'll gain fat mass, too, and the more years you've been training, the more fat you'll gain compared to muscle mass. Some seasoned lifters may think the fact that they'll gain both muscle and fat mass makes it not worth bulking up. But if you stick it out, after multiple successful bulking, maintaining, and dieting phases, your net weight gain will be nearly 100-percent muscle in the long haul.
When Should I Start Bulking?
Like almost everything in life, timing is of utmost importance, and the same applies to bulking. When's the right time to bulk? It's when you're lean enough.
When you're carrying less body fat, you're far more insulin sensitive, which means that your body can more efficiently use glucose as an energy source instead of storing it in fat cells. Your body builds muscle most efficiently when it's at its leanest.
To determine whether you're lean enough, you can use the "ab rules". For women, having less than 24-percent of body fat is ideal for bulking. Another way to see whether you're lean enough ro start bulking if you don't have access to reliable body composition testing, is if you can see your top two abs.
Men, on the other hand, should strive to have less than 12 percent body fat before bulking. You can use the four-pack guideline as your deciding factor, meaning, if you can see at least four abs, you're ready to start bulking.
However, if you're not at the stage where you can see your abs yet, it's best to start with a dieting phase. Once you lean out, you can then transition into a bulking phase. This ensures that your insulin sensitivity is enhanced, as well as your muscle-building efficiency when you transition to a bulking phase.
To put it simply, don't consider bulking if you feel like you're too heavy. Shed some pounds before you start trying to add muscle. There are limits to how effective bulking can be. Know your body, and learn all you can to achieve the best version of yourself that you want to be.
Keep Track Of Your Weight And Adjust Accordingly
As you start your bulking plan, weigh yourself on days 1, 4, and 7 to see if there is a trend. If you gained more than 1% of your body weight during the week, keep your macronutrient goals as they are, then reassess your weight change after another week of consistent eating. However, you should add 10% more calories to each of your macros if your weight stayed within 0.5-1% of your body weight or if you lost weight.
Know How Much You Should Eat When Bulking
It is only logical that if you want to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn. But, it is finding that perfect number of calories that you should consume that needs further deliberation. So here are steps to serve as your guide on your bulking journey.
Step 1: Find out your daily calories needs.
Use this calculator to estimate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which is your baseline calorie needs.
The key for it to work best for you is to be honest.Input some basic information about yourself, then select "maintenance" under the "goal" section. Choose an honest and appropriate "activity level."
You're not helping yourself by inflating your activity level. You'll end up with a higher estimated daily calorie number and be more likely to add additional fat if you say you're more active than you really are. No need to lie to yourself about it. If you want to take more calories, slowly increase your activity level to one you can maintain. Then, you should find your macros for maintenance. You need a solid foundation first, and then you can eventually adjust these macros to meet your specific goals.
Step 2: Find out how much daily protein you need.
After you get your TDEE number from the calculator,next is determining how you're going to distribute those calories every day between the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
For example, let's say you weigh 185 pounds and exercises for 90 minutes a day. To maintain your weight, you'll need about 2,852 calories a day, per the calculator. Then, set your daily protein goal at 1.0 gram of protein per pound of your body weight (not lean body weight). From this you see that you'll need 185 grams of protein per day. Multiply this number by four to determine the number of calories you'll get by eating this much protein. So if you weigh 185 pounds, you'll need to get 740 calories (185 times 4) every day from protein.
Calories Per Gram:
Step 3: Find out how much daily carbohydrate you need.
To do this, refer to the following list and select how long you train every day. If you train for 90 minutes a day, multiply your body weight times 1.5. You'll need 278 grams of carbs at 185 pounds. Adjust your carb intake depending on whether you train longer or shorter.
Non-training day: 0.5 grams
Less than 45 minutes: 0.75 grams
45-75 minutes: 1.0-1.25 grams
90-120 minutes: 1.5-2.0 grams
120 or more minutes: 2.0 grams
Based on this macronutrient chart, you get 4 calories for every gram of carbohydrate, so multiply the 278 grams times four, which equals 1,112 calories from carbs.
Step 4: Find out how much daily fat you need.
To figure out your fat macro, add together the calories you'll get from protein and carbs. So far our example has 1,112 from carbs, and 740 calories from protein, and you'll get the sum of 1,852 calories.
Next, subtract this number from the total daily calories you got from the calculator. Our example had 2,852 calories, so subtracting 1,852 calories gives you 1000 calories from fats. Look again at the macronutrient chart and you'll see that you need to divide this number of calories by 9 to determine the number of grams of fat you'll eat every day. Our example: 1,000 calories divided by 9 equals 111 grams of fat per day.
To summarize, the daily macros for a 185-pound person who trains for 90 minutes a day is as follows:
Protein: 185 grams (1.0 gram per pound of bodyweight)
Carbohydrates: 278 grams (1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight)
Fat: 111 grams (0.6 grams per pound of bodyweight)
You can also use a macronutrient calculator to get the macro numbers. Try it both ways and see if you get the same results.
The Right Way And The Right Time For Protein
After knowing how much protein to eat every day, up next is understanding how much protein to consume for maximum muscle-building response.
Make sure the protein you're consuming comes from high-quality sources like lean poultry, beef, pork, seafood, eggs, whey, and dairy, instead of trace grams from non-protein foods. The protein you might get from your oats, rice, or nut butters are not counted, because they're considered as incomplete protein, lacking the nutrients you need to maximize the muscle-building response.
Consuming 25-35 grams of protein every 3-5 hours is good enough for most people. Larger individuals should target the higher end while smaller individuals should go for the lower end. After you determine your daily protein goal, distribute this equally across four to six meals each day. The 185-pound person in our example should consume about 31 calories per meal. Although this could mean a lot of meal prep that some might not like so much, don't worry. You can solve it by making protein shakes.
Progressing Through Your Bulking Phase
To start bulking, add 10% more calories. In With our previous example, 10% of 2,852 calories is 285 calories. So if you weigh 185 pounds, add 285 calories to your previous allowance, now consuming 3,137 calories per day.
This first adjustment you should make is to add carbohydrates. Divide the new additional calories by four to get grams of carbohydrates which is the amount to add to your day. Try to distribute it evenly across your pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout meals.
Keep tracking your weight three times per week after you make this first adjustment. Compare your weekly average gain or loss to the previous weeks. For best results over the long term, stay on your adjusted plan for 2-4 weeks (even when you're tempted to constantly adjust your caloric intake), before you make any more adjustments.
Your overall bulking goal should be to gain 0.25-0.50% of your body weight each week. If you're not meeting this goal, add an additional 10% to your current daily calorie allowance. If your goal was to consume 2,000 calories a day, add 10% to that to get a daily total of 2,200 calories per day. Be consistent in checking the results. If you don't gain weight, you probably won't be building much muscle, and if you gain weight too quickly, you may end up gaining more fat mass than you want. The extra carbs should come from both carbohydrates and fats as you keep adjusting your daily calories.. You should target 50-75% of these new calories from carbs and the rest from fats.
Your body has a sort of built-in limiter, so bulking phases usually last 10-14 weeks. Being lean increases insulin sensitivity, so in contrast, gaining weight through a bulking phase decreases your insulin sensitivity. This causes more glucose to get converted into fat. Your body will start adding less muscle and more fat as you continue to increase the number of calories you eat per day.
From Bulking To Maintenance
If you try to transition from a bulking phase immediately into a dieting phase, you significantly increase the possibility of you losing the muscle mass you just worked so hard to put on. You need to carefully transition to a post-bulking maintenance phase once you finish your bulking phase. It is characterized by a slight reduction in calories, mostly from carbs, and this reduction serves as a "reset". It helps your body start improving its insulin sensitivity and grow accustomed to carrying more muscle than before. The post-bulking maintenance phase should last 4-6 weeks. Afterwards, you can transition into a dieting phase or another bulking phase.