When it comes to bulking, most people don’t really know what they are doing. It isn’t as simple as ‘eat what you like and put on muscle’.
In order to put on quality, lean muscle mass, there are several steps that you must follow in order to prevent gaining a high ratio of fat.
TIP #1 | Track Your Macros
The most important step for a successful bulk (and cut!) …
When bulking up, it’s important to remember that you can’t eat anything you like. Of course, you can be more flexible than when you are restricting your calories, but generally you should set yourself goals for protein, carbohydrates and fats, attempting to reach them each day.
There are many different ways of calculating your macros, such as calculators that can be found online. Once you have worked out your macros, you should find a suitable method of logging your daily intake. This allows you to log in the food you eat each day by searching their database or scanning the bar-code on the packet of your food. You can also add your own meals, manually, and save common meals for easy access.
Of course, because you’re looking to bulk up, you will be needing to eat in a caloric surplus. The size of the surplus usually depends on your goals, i.e. how much mass you want to gain.
A general rule of thumb is a surplus of 500 calories, which will allow you to gain a decent amount of mass with minimal fat. However, some people prefer to bulk more slowly at a surplus of around 250 calories whilst others choose to eat more.
✓ It may benefit individuals to bulk with a surplus of around 500 calories if you are unsure exactly where you place at. You can always adjust after a couple of weeks depending on how much progress you are making.
If you do not feel that you are eating enough then you can increase the surplus, similarly if you believe you’re eating too much in excess then you can cut down the calories by a little.
✓ Once you start to track your macros, you will notice results. As soon as you do, you will realise that you weren’t consuming what you thought you were: not enough protein, too much fat and sugar etc.
TIP #2 Clever Food Choices
If you want to build muscle, then you need to eat healthy and wholesome foods.
I have listed some examples below, for ease.
|Chicken breast||Brown rice||Nuts|
|Lean turkey||Oats||Nut butters|
|Lean beef||Rice cakes||Coconut oil|
|Table||Wholemeal bread||Flax Oil|
|Tuna||Whole wheat pasta||Avocado|
|Eggs (and egg whites)|
Whilst these foods are some of the healthiest you can eat, you aren’t restricted to just these foods.
Try to stick to these as much as possible, but allow yourself to eat a wider variety of foods which aren’t included on the list.
TIP #3 | Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress when bulking is essential
It will help you see how far you have come, as well as how far away from your goal. There are several things you should track when on a bulk:
✓ Body fat %
✓ Height (if you are still growing)
✓ Arm measurement
✓ Chest measurement
✓ Shoulder measurement
✓ Waist measurement
✓ Hip measurement
✓ Thigh measurement
✓ Calf measurement
Generally, I would recommend that you measure your weight once per week. This is because it can fluctuate day by day; therefore weighing yourself weekly is more practical and will give a clearer representation of growth.
You should focus on gaining 0.5-1 pound per week. If you are gaining more than this, you should cut back on your calories. Likewise, if you are gaining less than this then you can increase your calories.
For your body measurements, you should measure every month (or fortnight if you are a beginner). Jot down these measurements so that after several months, you can clearly see your progress.
You can also plot the data on graphs to see which of your body parts is growing the fastest, and which is lagging.
I also like to measure my lifts, and whilst this can be done by writing down your reps, sets and weights, there are plenty of apps that will make this much easier for you. I like to use one called ‘Rep Count’, which allows you to enter your regular workouts, and then enter the weights you used, whilst also being able to see the weights you used last workout as you’re in your workout (so you know if you made any weekly progress etc.) as well as the total progress you have made on that lift over any period of time, using handy graphs and charts.
TIP #4 | Supplement
Supplements are designed to supplement your diet, not replace it.
However, there are many supplements out there which can boast many benefits when it comes to gaining muscle and they are worth investing in.
Whey Protein is the most common supplement and it is extremely popular due to it being a fast absorbing form of protein which is low in carbohydrates and fat.It is best for those who struggle to meet their daily protein requirements through diet alone.
Creatine is another popular supplement and is included in things such as pre-workouts. Creatine gives you more energy throughout your workout in the form of ATP, which means you can push harder and for longer, meaning you can create more muscle damage and as a result, build more muscle.
✓ There are hundreds of different supplements out there, too many to cover in just this article alone. Read up and see which ones would be best for you!
TIP #5 | De-load
De-loading is something which very few people do and it is often overlooked when it comes to bulking. All de-loading means is taking a week off going heavy in the gym in order to give your muscles a break.
When you begin to feel weak, start to plateau or experience prolonged muscle soreness, you should consider doing a de-load week. This can be done several ways, but the one which I would advise you to do is follow the same workout as you normally do, but complete each exercise with 40-60% of the usual weight.
✓ This means you don’t have to have a break from the gym, but allows your muscle to recover.
Alternatively, some people just opt to take a few days (or a week) off the gym.
✓ Following from a de-load, you can expect to see an increase in size and strength as well as increased performance. Generally, I would recommend taking a de-load every couple of months, or whenever you feel it is necessary.
Take Home Message
There are many factors which come into play when determining the success of your bulk, but these some of the top things which you should consider, and that will have a serious impact on your gains.
Ensure you also get enough sleep and stick to your nutrition and training plan, and you will see results in no time!