Bulking is one half of a systematic approach to gaining muscle. The other half is cutting, in this guide we will cover the basics of bulking. Getting stronger doesn’t always mean adding muscle, you can gain more strength without adding an ounce of muscle but you can’t physically gain muscle without getting stronger!
Bulking and cutting are the most common procedures used by bodybuilders, even if you don’t plan on getting huge this is still the most productive way in the long term. Bulking consists of adding muscle, usually without too much fat and cutting is the process of removing body-fat but retaining muscle.
To “bulk” you need to put your body in a calorific surplus and re-fuel your body enough to grow and repair muscle tissue which in turn with a good gym routine will increase your size and most importantly muscle mass.
Should I clean bulk?
Clean bulking is the idea of gaining muscle and gaining the least amount of fat possible. Not always the most effective and generally slower than a normal bulking and cutting cycle at adding mass. Concentrating on healthy foods and avoiding excess fatty foods are at the heart of any good bulking program. The difference with a normal bulk however, is the regime is not as strict, a clean bulk requires immense will power and even the slightest slip can cause a mental lapse and any binge’s would ruin the whole point of the clean bulk.
What is dirty bulking?
Dirty bulking is the opposite extreme to clean bulking, sometimes used as a crappy excuse to gorge on junk food!
In short bulking is the systematic addition of muscle tissue. A bulking diet supports this ideal in the most efficient way possible through the consumption of quality, healthy foods with the purpose of muscle gains.
Now we need to put this into practice.
The building blocks
The right food is crucial to gain muscle. Every food is either a protein, carbohydrate, fat or a combination of those 3. To build muscle we need to get the right combination of these macronutrients.
Pretty much everyone knows that protein is an important factor when bulking and when trying to build muscle. For years body builders and nutritionalists have argued over the amounts of protein our bodies need and still no exact answers have been provided, however they have provided some very good guidelines which are proven to work. So let’s not try and re-invent the wheel here, stick to what works. The number that keeps popping up is 1.5g of protein per lb of bodyweight. This is where a protein shake come in handy, it can be difficult to consume large amounts of good quality protein each day so with a protein shake you get a hit of much needed protein which will make your daily total easier to reach.
Not all fats are bad, we are becoming more and more aware of this as a nation but most are still only educated by the advertisements we see from brands trying to jump on the healthy living lifestyle uproar we’re having as a nation. Fat is important in our diet, this is a fact, we need essential fatty acids to survive and these can’t be produced by the body so the only way we get these essential fatty acids (EFA’s) is by eating certain fats. The fats we should be consuming are Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil and flaxseed oil. Omega 6 and 9’s will be accounted for in our diet providing we eat right, so will gamma linolenic acid, alpha linolenic acid and so on.
Try to avoid when possible saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Monounsaturated fats are fine in moderation but remember they are extremely calorie dense so don’t over consume these.
Carbohydrates appear last on the list because when it comes down to it, they are not essential, your body can make energy from fat and protein. In the real world however they come in handy and provide the body with important fuel you need for intense workouts and a busy lifestyle. After all if you’re using protein for energy it isn’t being used to grow muscle. Carbohydrates fuel your body so the protein is spared for growth. Secondly, carbohydrates provide a lot of health and growth benefits.
The recommended carbohydrate intake is roughly 2-3 times your protein intake, this should consist of non-processed, unrefined sources. Fruit and lots of vegetables are rich in good carbohydrates, brown rice and pasta and granary bread are all prime examples of the sort of carbs you should be consuming. Try to keep away from sugary sources like sweets, chocolate, biscuits and anything else that’s full of sugar. By consuming unprocessed carbohydrates it helps your body to control insulin levels which keeps your energy levels stable and minimizes any unwelcome fat deposition.
What does that all mean? Here are the key pointers:
- 1. 1.5g protein per lb of lean mass
- 2. 2-3 times protein intake of carbohydrates
- 3. Carbohydrates – unrefined, unprocessed and colourful
- 4. Fishy fats are best
In short, the best body building diet is a healthy diet emphasizing lean sources of protein, complex unrefined carbohydrates with plenty of fruit and vegetables while getting EFA’s
Example Meal Plan
The bodybuilder in question has 200lbs of lean mass by rough estimate and trains in the evening.
300ml of egg whites – 25g protein
30g whey shake – 25g (at least)
100g oatmeal – 80g carbs
2 slices of granary toast – 35g carbs
Some cheese in and vegetables to make an omelette with the egg, raisins, and honey to taste in the oats (made in water) with a splash of skimmed milk to taste, and low fat spread on the toast
Add beverage of choice and that’s around 600 calories for Breakfast
200g cooked chicken – approx 45g protein
130g brown rice – approx 100g carbs
Some vegetables mixed in, splash of something to help it down the hatch
Add a piece of fruit
And that’s in the region of 650 calories depending on what you add.
300g tinned tuna – 40g protein
150g wholemeal pasta 100g carbs
Add a bowl of salad and some extra light mayo mixed in with the tuna and pasta with a nice dressing on the salad
And you have another 600+ calories
Same as Meal Two or Meal 3
Post Workout Protein Shake
50g whey protein
In water, down the hatch
Meal Five – less than an hour later:
200g steak – 45g protein
250g sweet potato – 100g carbohydrates (make nice baked fries or wedges with these – especially if you melt mozzarella on them before you serve)
Add in heaps of veg and your condiment or sauce – another 600 calories
Final meal of the day:
250g salmon – 40g protein
100g cottage cheese – 10g protein
4 slices of granary bread – 70g carbs
Another 600 calories or so in that meal
Then just before bed drink a casein protein shake.
The totals are
Calories at least 4000
Protein – 315
Carbs – 640
Remember this was based on a 200lb bodybuilder. adjust the portion sizes accordingly, this was just an example to show the sort of foods you should be eating and what a structured days meal plan would look like.
So there we have it, a very rough guide to bulking and the foods you should be eating to gain good quality mass.