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Bodybuilding is all about getting big – but not at the expense of getting fat. Unfortunately, that’s what often happens when many bodybuilders bulk up. The obsession with putting on scale weight can easily lead a person to lose their leanness. They end up looking huge in a tank top but not so impressive when standing naked in front of the mirror. In this article, we lay out a blueprint for how to bulk the right way.
WHAT IS BULKING?
Bulking is the process of gaining weight to add lean muscle mass to your frame. The process of gaining weight requires that you eat more calories. In an ideal world, we’d all be able to increase our body weight by packing on slabs of muscle without any fat gain whatsoever. The reality is that, unless you are genetically gifted, you will gain a certain amount of body fat during a bulking phase. To build muscle, you need to be in a state of caloric excess. You will inevitably take in slightly more calories than you need for that process, and the excess will have no option but to store itself on your body as reserve energy, i.e. body fat.
The younger you are, the more food you can eat without getting fat. As you get into your 30s and 40s, you need to control your bulking more strictly in order minimise fat gain. Any fat you put on will be a lot harder to get rid of than when you were younger. The ideal bulking age is between 18 and 25. During those years, your body is still maturing, your anabolic hormones levels are peaking, and your body will respond very well to the extra calories and weight training.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU BULK?
The length of time that you purposefully eat more calories than your body needs to sustain you is really up to you. You may decide to bulk for a full 12 months before you switch your focus to cutting for a show. Generally, however, if you are bulking hard, you should limit it to about 12 weeks. Bulking is stressful to the body, so you don’t want to prolong it beyond what is necessary.
As you proceed through your first bulk, you’ll discover how to bulk best for your body. You will quickly identify whether or not you are a lean bulker. If you find that you are putting on more fat than muscle, and you’re starting to look a little pudgy, you will have to keep your bulking cycle a little shorter. You could, for example, do an 8-week bulk, followed by a 4-week mini cut. Then go back to another bulk cycle.
If you are a beginner bodybuilder, give yourself around six months to establish a baseline of working out before you begin your first bulk. By that time, you should be in the groove of using proper exercise techniques on the right exercises to ensure that those extra calories are channelled into muscle growth.
HOW TO BULK?
Bulking simply involves strategically adding extra calories to your diet. You can do this by increasing the portion size of each meal or by adding in a whole extra meal. Adding an extra meal is the easiest way to go when you are learning how to bulk. Simply add in a pre-made mass gainer, such as International Muscle’s Extreme Mass and Heavy Weight Mass Gainer. That way, you will get the extra protein, carbs, and fat that you need to build Mass in the ideal quantities. With one mass gainer shake, you can add as many as 600 calories. Extreme Mass provides you with a 50/50 ratio of high-quality protein and carbs, along with a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Using a mass gainer allows you to control your bulk, ensuring that your mass building cycle doesn’t become a ‘dirty bulk where you eat whatever you can get your hands on. It will also ensure that you are putting healthy nutrients into your body.
If you are a hard gainer, you will need to work harder to bulk up. In addition to taking a mass gainer, you will need to re-evaluate the rest of your eating plan. While non-hard gainers should be eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, hard gainers will fill up too quickly on those types of foods. You need to be eating more concentrated foods. We’re talking about foods like peanut butter, full cream milk, and other foods that contain slightly more fat than a non-hard gainer would consume.
HOW MANY EXTRA CALORIES?
There is no magic number of calories that everyone needs to take in to build muscle. It is a matter of experimentation. When you are adding a mass gainer, you will know exactly how many calories you are taking in. So, if you are adding a daily shake that provides an extra 500 calories and you are not gaining weight, try adding more calories. Double the number by having an extra serving of the mass gainer and monitor your results for a couple of weeks. If that doesn’t work, add more calories. Some people require as many as 2000 calories beyond their maintenance level to pack on muscle mass.
Another way to increase the effectiveness of your mass gainer is to boost its concentration. So, if you are struggling to gain weight, reduce the amount of fluid that you’re using. If, for example, the instructions recommend using 500mls of water, reduce it to 300mls. This will help you to get the nutrients you need without filling yourself up on the liquid.
As a hard gainer, you should be asking yourself the following question …
How can I get more calories into these foods without making more volume so that it’s easier for me to eat?
WHAT TO EAT?
When you are on a bulk, you can be slightly looser when it comes to eating clean. Fats are important to the bulking process because they are so calorie dense, having more than double the number that proteins and carbs contain. Still, you should be focusing on healthy fats. So while you’re on a bulk, you can have battered or crumbed as opposed to fried fish, so long as that fish is cooked in healthy fat.
If you are an older bulker, you should be more reliant on polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats such as olive oils, nuts and avocado. Younger people can get away with a little bit of what we typically call ‘junk food.’
HOW TO BULK TRAINING TIPS
You will not gain muscular body weight during a bulk unless you are training hard and heavy in the gym. You need to increase the intensity of our training, striving each workout to lift more weight on the key mass building exercises.
You should be incorporating such intensity enhancers as forced reps and drop sets to take your workouts to a level beyond what you were doing before the bulk phase kicked in. Unless you are prepared to take your training to the next level, there is no point entering the bulking phase; you will only end up putting on fat! That is definitely not how to bulk if your goal is lean, muscular physique!
The key takeaway from this How to Bulk article is that bulking is a controlled process. It is not a free for all where you can eat whatever you want. If you’re under 30, you can be a little looser, but you still need to be concentrating on clean foods to prevent excess fat gain. I strongly recommend adding a mass gainer like International Protein’s Extreme Mass or Heavy Weight Mass Gainer. Make sure that you couple your bulk with dedicated intensity increases in your training to make sure that those extra calories are being directed toward muscle and not fat gain.