Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the information, a few items about bulking need to be discussed……..
A. Are you sure you want to bulk?
You might think the answer is “Yes”, but you need to do some soul searching.
Everyone has different goals. And if your goals include having a constantly shredded 8-pack, I’ve got news for you, buddy:
That ain’t gonna be the case when you’re bulking.
“Slow bulking” is a terrible term.
Genetically speaking, very few individuals can gain muscle at a rate any higher than 0.5 pounds per week. Which equates to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,750 calories.
But bulking has a bit more “feel” to it – especially if you want to maximize protein synthesis. The scale must be moving up.
If it’s not, then you aren’t gaining muscle.
You’re going to lose your “abz”………
You should still have a relatively flat stomach. But shreddedness, you will not have.
Make sure you’re aware of that and you’re okay with that before you begin.
It’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Eventually, once muscle building has been maximized and your growth slows, you can cut off the excess fat and reveal quite the muscular physique.
But in the meanwhile, you might not be too happy to cut for a long duration just to lose what you worked so hard for.
B. Get on a smart training program.
Make sure you’re keeping track of your workouts.
No “fuckarounditis” here, please.
I have my own preferences, but as long as your program is intelligent and allows for load progression on the bar, you’ll be fine.
But if you ain’t getting stronger, you ain’t gaining muscle. Simple as that.
C. Make sure you know what you’re getting into.
We are going to be LOADING our calories into our post workout meal.
Have you ever eaten five cups of white rice in one sitting?
It’s really fun. For 3 of the 5 cups. The last 2 can be torture.
And that’s just one part of your meal………
Cutting is more pleasant than bulking. Especially if you have a high caloric maintenance.
It’s easier to be a little bit hungry than stuffed to the gills and have to force food down your gullet.
I think that’s it for the random thoughts…………Let’s do this thing…….
HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR LEANGAINS BULKING MACROS
1. Find your estimated daily caloric maintenance.
Find the number of calories you were eating per week of your cut.
Find the weight lost from the last two weeks of your cut. Divide it by 2.
Multiply this number by 3,500.
Divide it by 7.
Add it to your average daily caloric intake from those last two weeks.
This is your estimated, daily caloric maintenance
Bob was eating 2,200 calories, on average,
per day, on the last two weeks of his cut.
Third to last week weight: 180.2
Second to last week weight: 178.9
Last week weight: 178.0
Weight lost in this time frame: 180.2 – 178.0 = 2.2 pounds
2.2 / 2 = 1.1 pounds lost on average per week
1.1 x 3,500 calories/pound = 3,850 calories
3,850 / 7 = 550 calories per day under maintenance
2,200 + 550 = 2,750 calories is Bob’s estimated, daily maintenance
2. Decide on your caloric surplus.
Most individuals, save the truly genetic elite, can only put about 0.5 pounds of muscle onto their frame per week.
Before you get bummed out, keep in mind this equates to around 25 pounds of LBM per year.
Over time, this number decreases.
It seems there’s a “half-life” of around 1/2, which means each year the possible additional muscle mass gained is half of the previous year.
But think about this: You max out muscle mass and your gains look like this —>
First year – 25 pounds of muscle
Second year – 12 pounds of muscle
Third year – 6 pounds of muscle
Fourth year – 3 pounds of muscle
At that point, you might decide the bulking and cutting cycles aren’t worth it any more.
But add those numbers up and you’ve gained 40+ pounds of muscle.
Which would be a phenomenal accomplishment.
Most won’t be able to keep up this rate for four years. Mainly due to the consistency, the discipline, and the luck required to stay injury-free.
If this is the first time you’ve done this,
your surplus needs to reflect this 0.5 pounds per week,
or 1,750 additional calories.
As you continue to progress and monitor your condition and muscle mass, you will find you will be gaining more fat than muscle if you keep that surplus up for too long. You will need to adjust accordingly.
This is Bob’s first time bulking.
He decides his weekly caloric surplus will be 1,750 calories.
This *should* result in weight gain
of 0.5 pounds per week, theoretically.
3. Decide how you you want to split your surplus between training and rest days.
I would never recommend eating below maintenance on any day. There’s no need.
Not with 1,750 over maintenance calories to allot for.
Plus, your growth comes when you’re resting. Make sure even on your non-training days you’re eating enough to gain lean body mass.
Some common splits:
+450 calories on training days / +100 calories on rest days
+580 calories on training days / at maintenance on rest days
+250 calories on all days
But the surplus spread is up to you.
This probably will have a bit of trial and error.
Pick a split and run with it.
If you decide you’re abnormally hungry at various times, change accordingly.
4. Eat at maintenance for two weeks before you begin your bulk.
It is never advisable to move directly from a cut to a bulk.
Your body is used to running on a deficit – a move directly into a surplus could cause unnecessary fat gain.
Eating at your maintenance calories for two weeks gives your body some time to adjust.
5. Track your body measurements and your weight, but not for the first two weeks.
During the first two weeks of any shift, your weight will probably swing. Sometimes rather wildly.
I generally swing anywhere from 10-12 pounds during the start of a caloric shift.
This isn’t fat gain or loss – it’s water weight, stomach content, cellular glycogen, a filling of the bowels, etc.
Wait a few weeks before you begin tracking.
Your stomach measurement WILL go up along with your weight, but if you’re bulking correctly, after an initial “bloat”, the stomach size will settle in and stop increasing so rapidly.
6. When figuring your exact macros, there’s some leeway, but also some “best practices”.
Generally, the macro you want to vary is carbohydrates.
It’s *usually* lower than the other macros in a cut and higher than the other macros in a bulk.
This doesn’t mean you can’t touch your protein or fat numbers.
But if you’re bulking, you’re at or below 10% body fat (hopefully), which means you should have optimal insulin sensitivity.
You can handle an influx of carbs.
It also means you should be able to exist on lower fat amounts than someone with a lot of weight to lose.
Fat needs to be kept high while in a cut for satiety and hormonal optimization.
Over time, your hormones can get out of whack if you are eating at a deficit for a prolonged period of time.
You will not be eating at a deficit and you shouldn’t have to worry about satiety. You’ll be eating plenty.
While you may raise your protein number if you wish, there hasn’t been a single study which has shown a benefit to setting your protein intake any higher than 1 gram per pound of LBM.
Protein tends to be more expensive as well.
Most people would rather eat food than rely on protein powders.
7. Your food choices become more important.
There’s a reason why Mama told you to eat your oatmeal, meat and potatoes, and peanut butter and jelly.
“You need some meat on your bones!”…………right?
“Moms” was on point.
Be sure, especially after training, that you’re recovering with the good stuff.
White rice, potatoes, pasta, oats………they really should be staples.
Of course you’ll have room for your “IIFYM” treats.
And although the argument can be made that protein is protein and carbs are carbs…………………..I’d be lying if I said I thought ice cream would build muscle as well as chicken and rice.
8. Get your rest.
You’re training hard and heavy, you’re eating loads of food. Get your rest. Make it an absolute priority.
You grow while you’re sleeping.
Best method? Train in the late afternoon, eat an ungodly amount of food, and pass out. The extra calories should make it a breeze to hit the sack.
9. Take your creatine.
So, let me get this straight……….you’re not going to take the ONLY supplement which has been proven time and time again to increase muscle mass over time?
Forget the loading. There’s no need. Your muscles will become saturated after a week or two. Begin taking 5 grams, daily, post workout, with your meal, during your maintenance phase.
Continue when you begin to bulk.
There’s really no reason not to.
Keep in mind what creatine does……..and what it doesn’t do.
Creatine gives you the ability to grind out those last few reps.
If you’re following an intelligent program, those last few reps, over time, will lead to more strength.
Which leads to greater hypertrophy. Or “gainzzzzz” in bro-science land.
But it’s not magic or steroids. You’ve gotta get after it in the weight room. Max intensity.
Don’t be afraid to have a “carb fest” from time to time. After training, especially.
Bulking has a lot more “feel” to it.
When cutting, your deficit needs to be maintained – at all costs.
When bulking, if you feel like you didn’t have enough calories after training, pick a low fat, carby food and go to town.
A box of Frosted Flakes, a batch of fat-free muffins, or a large bowl of rainbow sherbet works great.
Assuming your fat intake is low, theoretically, you should gain little to no fat when doing this.
In practice, there may be a bit. But if your goal is size, then a touch of belly fat won’t hurt anyone.
Hopefully these general bulking guidelines have been useful for you.
Be sure to get those DEXA scans to gauge progress.
Try to find a local university. Their Office of Nutrition Services often times have excellent deals with the graduate students working the x-ray machines.
I personally found one as low as $40 at Eastern Michigan University. These scans can retail for $300 or more at a lab.
Leave the questions and comments below as always!