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The term bulking is a commonly used term by fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders. It means supplying the body with more calories than it needs to grow and to build muscle mass. The opposite to bulking would be ‘cutting’ this is where you keep the body in a caloric deficit in order to shred the unwanted body fat. The purpose of this article is to supply you with all the necessary information so that you can have a successful bulk without adding too much body fat.
When it comes to building muscle mass it boils down to 2 factors; calories in versus calories out. You need to ensure that the amount of calories going into the body is more than the amount of calories going out (calories being burned by the body). You do this by eating more than you burn! If you think you’re eating enough yet you’re still not putting on mass, you’ll need to eat even more! For a successful bulk, calories going into the body need to be between 200-400 higher than what’s being burned by the body. 2 factors can be changed to achieve this, either eating more or burning less – the majority of people tend to go for the first option as it can be hard to burn less as you still need to perform your intense workouts (plus food is too good!).
To begin with, you need to work out your maintenance calories. This is the amount of calories you need to be eating every day to maintain the same weight and body composition. This process can be trial and error, I would suggest downloading an app on your phone called MyFitnessPal so that you can track how many calories you are eating. Investing in a decent pair of scales is also a good idea to enable you to accurately track your weight.
To begin with, calculate how many calories you currently consume on a normal day of eating. From there, try to eat the same amount of calories for 2 weeks and monitor your weight often (note – try to get 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 40% from protein and 20% from fats). Alternatively, you can use this simple equation to get to your starting point – Bodyweight (in lbs) x 16. For example, the starting point for a 165lb person would be 165x16=2640 calories. Again you will need to eat this amount of calories over a 2 week period and monitor your weight. Please note – there is no magic starting point, everyone is different and everyone burns calories at a different rate, this is down to factors such as height, body composition, age, gender occupation etc, what’s important is that you have a starting point.
If your weight seems to be increasing over the 2 week monitoring period then it’s obvious you’re eating over your maintenance calories, if this is the case, drop your calories by 200 each week until your weight doesn’t change. Similarly, if you lost weight over the 2 week period it’s obvious you’re eating less than your maintenance calories, you’ll then need to up the calories by 200 each week until your weight remains the same.
Once you’ve got to a stage where your weight no longer changes, make note of how many calories you are consuming, this is your maintenance calories!
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So let’s carry on for the example we used in the previous section and we’ll assume that when the 165lb person was eating 2640 calories they remained at the same weight, so 2640 is their maintenance calories.
As previously mentioned, for a successful bulk you’ll need to be eating 200-400 calories above your maintenance. Let’s put this into numbers.
Each day this person will need to be eating 3040 calories.
But how will these calories be broken down into carbohydrates, proteins and fats?
Let’s start with protein. Studies have shown that during a bulking phase the average person needs between 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to stimulate maximum protein synthesis.
165x1=165 grams of protein
As there are 4kcal per gram of protein, this person will be getting 165x4=660kcal
A total of 660kcal from protein
It’s recommended to get 20% of your overall calories from fats.
To work out how many grams are in 608kcal of fat we divide by 9 (as there are 9kcal per gram of fat.
So the athlete in question will need to get 67.5 grams of fat each day
So now we’re left with carbohydrates and we need to fill in the gaps to bring us up to our daily calorie goal.
3040kcal (Calorie goal) – 660kcal (Calories from protein) – 608kcal (calories from fat) = 1772kcal.
So the athlete will need to get 1772kcal from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates have 4kcal per gram so: 1772kcal/4=443grams.
So our overall macronutrient breakdown is:
When following this macronutrient breakdown you should be gaining around 0.5lbs per week. The average male body can build between 0.25-0.5 lbs of dry muscle tissue per week (Thibaudeau, 2006). If your gaining more than 0.5lbs a week it is likely your gaining more fat than you would want too. If this is the case you should manipulate your calories (maybe reduce carbs by 25grams) to drop them by 100kcal to reduce any unwanted fat gain. In the first few weeks, you may find yourself gaining towards the upper limit, this is normal as your body adjusts to increase glycogen and water stores.
“One of the worst misconceptions when it comes to bulking is that you have free reign to eat, and eat, and eat some with wild abandon and disregard for sugar, carbs and salt” (Roussell, n.d). If you want to have a successful bulk and minimise fat gain you will need to be eating healthy nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods – it will be much better to add 5 pounds of lean mass rather than 10 pounds of fat mass. Here is a list of the best foods to eat to gain muscle.
In order to increase muscle mass, you need to be eating more calories than you burn, in doing this it’s inevitable that you will gain some body fat, it’s nothing to worry about, once you finish your bulking cycle you can begin a ‘cut’ and burn away the unwanted body fat. During the bulking phase, you will be adding mass to your frame, this extra mass will put extra pressure on your tendons and ligaments so it’s important you take time to perform comprehensive warm-ups and stretching routines.
Hope this article has helped; it’s time to get big!