Transitioning into a “bulking” phase or diet is no excuse to throw away all nutritional knowledge and load up on “junk” food. It seems that the general consensus when it comes to bulking is “eat more to gain more” with no basic rules or guidelines to follow. So often many young lifters who just “want to get big” will take advice from any random gym rat who can flare his lats and flex his pecs, only to be led down the wrong path ending up with a fat gut.
Don’t misunderstand; in order to gain muscle, you are going to gain some fat. This is just reality. But why not try and gain as little fat as possible while still building as much muscle mass as you can in a given period of time? To do so, you need to develop a healthy mass building diet; also known as the clean bulk.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” right? Sure clean bulking is going to take longer for you to put on size, but the quality gains will be almost all muscle compared to the “fast-food” bulk diet you went on last year that did nothing but land you an extra 20 lbs. of fat on your rear end. Sure you look bigger, but that is only because you have now developed a thick layer of fat hiding your muscle. No striations, no veins, and definitely no muscle separation. There is no reason for your body fat percentage to increase more than 1 or 2 % (at the most) while putting on mass. If you follow these guidelines, you should have no problem maintaining your lean physique while still adding muscle.
1. Eat Clean (well 90-95% of the time)
Doing a “clean bulk” is just that, eating clean foods while still hitting your calorie goals. This can be tough, as clean (healthy) foods are not the most calorically dense, however, this will just require that you eat more in terms of portion sizes. You are going to have to do more planning and less last minute drive-thru meals. Stay away from fried foods, processed foods, candy, sweets, and any other food that may be considered as “junk.”
If you are training hard and copious amounts of clean foods 90-95% of the time, then pizza or burgers are fine here and there as long as you do not go overboard and find yourself drowning in an all-you-can-eat buffet followed by a six-pack of beer. If you have a hard time treating yourself every once in a while; then it might be wise to steer clear of bad foods altogether.
2. Eat Slightly Above Weight Maintenance Levels
Obviously, in order to gain any sort of weight (muscle and/or fat) you must consume more calories than your body burns throughout the day as maintenance. Be aware that consuming too many excess calories will result in fat gain; this is why the stress is on the above word “slightly”.
Yes, you will still be able to put on muscle while only consuming a little over calorie maintenance levels. A good rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight by 15-20 and that will make up your goal caloric intake for the day.
Ex. For someone who weighs 180 lbs. their calorie needs for the day would be 3600.
It may be a good idea to start off low, and monitor your weight and physique weekly making adjustments when necessary. Your body fat will go up, but there is no reason for it to reach 20% - that is just unhealthy (to say the least).
3. Eat Less on Non-Training Days
Since you are not burning the same amount of calories on non-training days as on training days, this is reason enough to consume fewer calories. Your body is not going to use the excess calories on non-training days and may just as well store them as fat. Be aware, this may only be 300 or 400 calories less than what you would normally consume on a lifting day.
You still will be consuming healthy foods, just a little less. And if you aren’t going to be touching steel, stay out of the drive-thru lane.
4. Do Not Avoid Cardio Entirely
Cardio still has its place in a bulking diet, however, keep it to a minimum. Maybe hop on a stationary bike for 15-20 minutes 3-4 days a week.
5. Be Supplement Savvy
Read some of our previous articles regarding when to take what supplements to maximize their efficiency.
6. Nutrient Timing is Key
There are times throughout the day when nutrients are best used in the body. Essentially, the best times to consume carbs are in the morning and post-workout. These are the two times when your body will strictly use those carbs to replace glycogen stores in the muscle and liver. They provide energy throughout the day, and fuel your workout the following day. With that said, your post-workout meal must consist of Whey Protein (such as Zero Carb®) and carbohydrate.
Training is just as important as diet when bulking. If your training is not on par with your diet, how are you going to expect to build any quality muscle?
For all of you skinny guys out there who claim you eat a lot and train hard but are still not seeing results; going through the drive-thru twice a day and performing 3 sets of bicep curls is not considered eating a lot and training hard. Get to the grocery store, buy some quality foods, plan your meals, and train your butt off. Good Luck!!!