Too much fat, too little muscle, we’ve all tried bulking and we’ve all made mistakes. Bulking might seem simple — protein, calories, training, sleep — but there are so many mistakes we can (and do) make along the way that puts on mass in the wrong places.
Awareness is the first step though. So, learn from the mistakes of others before making them yourself.
1. Bulking too hard
You finally finish your cut, reach a body fat level you’re happy with, and you have decided to move onto the next stage of your fitness journey: the bulk. So, you celebrate with fast-food, macro-nutrient dense protein shakes and protein bars — and the celebration never stops.
Eating too much too quick and trying to rush a bulk is probably the most common mistake people make when trying to gain muscle.
Bulking too hard now could cost you months down the road when it comes time to cut though. So, just be patient and remember that you have all the time in the world. Small actions daily will lead to big results a year down the line so keep the calorie surplus in check.
2. Forgetting your fruit and veg
Getting in the right macronutrient ratio (fats, carbs, and proteins) is usually the sole focus in bulking plans, but your fruit and veg are the basis of good health, and good health means a good bulk.
Don’t be scared because veggies aren’t packed with protein: they are packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, which will make you feel better, keep your body functioning properly, and give you more energy, all of which will actually help during your bulk.
Play the long game when it comes to your body and bulking and eat your veggies.
3. Not getting the calories right
Eat your veggies but make sure you’re still hitting your calorie target.
You should be in a surplus of around 300 calories for a good lean bulk. You can calculate your daily calories to check your maintenance level based upon age, sex, weight, activity level.
Although it’s a pain, also consider trying a calorie tracker to give you an idea of how many calories you’re getting in too. That knowledge gives you the power to make more informed adjustments to your diet and have a more effective bulk.
4. Not resting enough
Rest and recovery is one of the three pillars of muscle building but probably the most easily neglected. Rest comes in the time between sessions for a muscle group and the time you are sleeping each night.
Sleep contributes massively to muscle growth: allowing for protein synthesis, and the releasing growth hormone during REM cycles. The reality is muscles don’t grow in the gym, they grow in bed while you’re asleep. So, if you do nothing else, get your 8 hours.
5. Wanting results now
This is a mistake whether bulking or cutting and is good to realise sooner rather than later. Fitness results take time. In fact, they can take a whole lifetime. Just appreciate the day-to-day grind and don’t focus too much on the destination and you’ll enjoy the whole journey 10 times more.
6. Too little protein
We all know protein that builds muscle, being its foundational building blocks, so make sure to eat enough. You can get your protein from a variety of sources too, it doesn’t need to be from meat: beans, legumes and supplements all offer good sources of protein.
A normal protein recommendation is at least 2.2 grams per kg of your lean body weight. It’s too easy to not hit that target and it’s a common mistake we all make.
7. Not knowing when to stop
A good bulk can be a year of work and over that time it might be hard to see the fat fill up over your body. If you keep your surplus small enough, you could be in a constant, forever-bulk but for most of us, we’re probably going to get to a point where our body fat levels get too high.
When that happens, you’ve got to be honest with yourself and begin the dreaded: start your cut. If you don’t do it then, you’re going to need to do it for longer later.
8. All knowledge, no action
Having knowledge and know-how is the first step on your bulking journey for giving you a good solid plan of action. Still, it’s too easy to spend too much time reading and learning about bulking and fitness and not enough time doing and implementing.
There are a lot of people who know they are making mistakes even when they’re making them. They know they should be getting their veg, sleep and sessions in but just don’t. So make sure to follow your knowledge with action because that’s the most important thing when changing lifestyle or doing anything: actually doing it.
Take home message
Go through your bulking journey knowing these common mistakes and you’ll be less likely to make them. Just remember to implement them into your life. Don’t get bogged down in all the info and focus on the basics—nutrition, sleep, and training—and you’ll be bulking big.