Whether you have been stuck at the same personal best for a little too long or you are just looking to add strength and muscle mass, then beginning a bulking phase may be for you. To me the bulking phase is kind of fun. Your diet is not as strict as when you are cutting, and you are going to be able to lift weights that you were unable to before. Keep in mind though that bulking is not always a good idea. If you already have a high body fat content (15-20% range) then it is a better idea to cut then bulk. Having too high of a body fat content is not healthy and will not lead to increased gains. This is due to the implications that excess body fat brings with it:
1. Decreased testosterone
2. Increased estragon
3. The more fat you put on the more fat your body will store
If you are at a low body fat percentage and are looking to add some muscle follow these guidelines for your next bulk:
When you are bulking you are going to have to be consuming more calories than you are burning off. I know what you are thinking: “I want a six pack with my huge muscles why should I be bulking?” The simple fact is that cutting fat and gaining muscle has opposite caloric requirements. To shred fat you must be in a caloric deficit (calories burned is greater than calories consumed) while building muscle requires you to be in a caloric surplus. This is because when you are in caloric deficit your body is in energy conservation mode where it will be burning fat and some muscle mass in order to stay alive. Your body’s ability to produce muscle protein is also impaired during caloric deficit making muscle growth a lot more difficult. You may think that you are going to get fat if you eat more calories than you are burning off. If your bulking diet is comprised of pizza, fast food, and other junk foods then yes you will put on a lot of fat. Food is your bodies fuel just because you are bulking does not mean you can stop eating clean. As I have mentioned before, your physique is 70% diet and 30% working out. If you are incorporating the right amount of macros (fats, carbs, and protein) and your caloric surplus is kept at a moderate level then your weight gain should be primarily muscle mass. To find out how many calories you should be consuming first calculate your resting metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories that you burn when you are not doing any physical activity. There are many different websites that allow you to calculate this by simply putting in your height, weight, age and sex. Add the approximate number of calories that you burn from your workouts and you have the total number of calories that you burn in a day. I advise that your caloric surplus be about 5 – 10% over your calories burned in a day, as you do not want to bulk too quickly. Bulking too quickly can lead to your body storing fat, which can slow muscle growth. As for your other macros you should be consuming about 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and 1 to 1.25 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. Fats are dependant
Personally I like to lift the same amount of times per week (5) no matter what phase I am in. As you are going to be in a caloric surplus your body will be able to recover quicker, thus giving you more energy to workout! In your bulking phase it is best to be lifting heavy weights with a low rep count (approximately 5 to 7 reps per set). Lifting lighter weights with a higher rep count is more beneficial if you are looking to improve your cardio while gradually putting on lean muscle. However lifting with a higher rep count is not as beneficial as lifting heavy when it comes to putting on muscle mass. This is because lifting heavy activates your fast twitch muscle fibers that are engaged when short bursts of strength are required. This is due to fast muscle fibers’ use of anaerobic metabolism to create fuel.
Track your Progress
If you do not track your progress then how will you know that your bulk is working? Be sure to track your workouts, food intake, and weight. The reason for you to be bulking is so that you can add muscle mass and strength. By tracking your workouts you will be able to see if you are successfully able to lift more weight. Your diet is very important for you to track. This will ensure that you are hitting your caloric and macro requirements and so that you can gain mass at your desired rate. To see if your bulk is working be sure to weigh yourself and take progress pictures about once a week. Doing this will allow you to see if you are putting on mass and looking how you want. Tracking helps you to stick to a stricter plan and helps you to achieve the goals that you want. If you are not tracking you will not know if you are successfully bulking, making your bulking phase useless. It does not take much time to do, and can make a big difference by doing it.
Remember to have fun with your bulking phase but not too much fun. Eating and lifting more is always enjoyable. Be accepting of the fact that you are going to put on a bit of fat but do remember that you can always shred it off in your cutting phase!