Bulking 101: Keeping It Tidy
As soon as you start training, you get asked that question hundreds of thousands of times, “so boet, are you bulking or cutting?”, and not many people actually know how to differentiate the two in terms of training, dieting, supplementation, rest or even where to begin.
This is your guide.
First off, what does it mean to “bulk”? Bulking is basically the term given to the period in which you eat in a calorie surplus (you don’t hear that as often as a deficit now do you?) with your main aim being to put on size. That’s it in a nutshell. Now where people go wrong is, they fail to realize that not all weight you gain on a bulk is muscle, and this is why you need to be meticulous in deciding your calorie intake each day. (This is also why I see having a coach in your offseason to be of no lesser importance than during your contest prep.) If you decide to be a dingus and eat McDonalds every day, with calories being poured down your throat via funnel, then I’m afraid you are going to work harder the next time you decide to cut down and you will probably end up smaller than when you started your bulk.
Lean Bulking should always be your goal. Always. I don’t see a point in gaining 15kg of fat in an offseason only to have to work twice as hard to lose that, while probably losing most of your gained muscle in that time too. So, how do you do that? It does take a slight bit more self-control in the sense that you need to s tick to a set number of calories each day instead of just stuffing your face each meal. Now instead of eating below maintenance in a deficit, you start at roughly 200-300 calories above maintenance and take it from there according to how your weight changes each week. Keeping your intake around here is enough to ensure you are fuelling your body to recover better while not overfeeding leading to excess fat gain.
As you gain weight, your body will need more fuel each day, so when you hit a gaining plateau you will increase your calories slightly more.
You need to remember; any sudden huge increase of calories will be more likely stored as fat as your body will keep it for later. This is not what we want. The same principle applies to bulking as to cutting, the smallest changes and progressions are the easiest to maintain and move forward with. When you start cutting, you drop calories slowly week by week r even month by month to ensure you don’t starve your metabolism and slow your body down too quickly. In a bulk you gradually increase food bit by bit to ensure you don’t gain 10kg in your first week.
Can I have a cheat meal?
Yes! This is actually when cheats become a bit more interesting. I personally use them when I have been craving something for a couple days as well as if I feel I won’t make my calorie target for the day. If 7pm comes around and maybe I’ve missed a meal due to a busy day and need 400 calories after dinner, an ice cream always does the trick. Don’t go overboard, once again, and have them every night. Save them for twice a week where you stray from your plan slightly and enjoy a burger and chips.
I like to make use of the extra calories I’m getting in and push my training a little harder than usual. This means heavier weight, higher volume and more frequent sessions some of the time. Having a higher calorie intake means your body can recover a bit better, your joints aren’t as strained, and you have more energy in the gym. Use this to your advantage.
I personally opt for a higher volume, strength-based plan during this time as that’s what I respond to quite well and I like to lift heavy things. See what works for you and push a little harder than usual. Put those calories to good use.
I’m not a huge advocate of taking 38 different supplements a day, there are a few that I see highly beneficial and these are what I stick to: Whey Protein Creatine Monohydrate Omega 3s
If you are able to get enough protein from whole food sources then whey isn’t even necessary, I just like because of the convenience.
I’m not a fan of mass gainer shakes, HOWEVER, if you are a hardgainer and your weight does not move yet you’re at the point where thinking of food makes you sick, these are the next step to consider. Quick, convenient calories. I usually recommend these to my skinnier clients that are already eating a couple thousand calories and cant find space for more meals. A mass gainer shake of 500 calories between meals is a brilliant way to get extra calories and nutrients in. Do not rely on these though, you want the bulk of your intake to be good, wholesome food.
-Start small and increase calories depending on your weight changes each week. I put on weight with 300 calories above maintenance whereas some guys and girls have to push much much further. So see how your body reacts and adjust things accordingly. (Or hire me as your coach and I do that for you)
-Girls need to bulk too. Staying in shape for Instagram year round is not going to get your glutes growing and it isn’t going to help your progress in the long run. Take some time to eat more and build some solid muscle so that the next time summer comes around your progress will show.
-Train harder, because you can. Put those extra calories to good use.
-Rely on good, wholesome food for most of your calories, supplement where needed.
Strength and Conditioning Coach Dublin Strength Rivonia
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