One of the inescapable facts of bodybuilding is the need for a caloric excess. That’s a fancy way of saying that you need to be taking in more calories than you actually need. Some people will balk at this, saying that it’s a good way to become fat. In some cases, this might be true. However, it isn’t as simple as that.
You will undoubtedly gain weight on a bulking diet. In fact, that is the whole point. However, those who know how to use this diet properly will be able to gain a lot of muscle mass rather than simply gaining a mess of jelly rolls. Let’s take an in-depth look at the subject of bulking.
What Is Bulking?
You have almost certainly heard of a bodybuilding method known as “bulking and cutting.” The basic idea is that you divide your strength training into three phases. During the bulking phase, you eat a lot of calories while also doing a lot of high-intensity exercises. During the cutting phase, you lower your caloric intake to trim away fat, while still maintaining a strength training regimen. The third phase is the maintenance phase, where you simply try to keep what you have gained.
Note that a bulking phase should always be followed by a cutting phase. These processes are meant to be used together, so don’t try to do one without the other. You should remember that every pound of fat you gain while bulking is a pound that you have to lose while cutting. But what can you do to control this problem? As you will see later on in this article, it is possible to bulk without gaining too much fat by carefully managing your diet.
The Three Types Of Bulking:
There are three basic types of bulking. Regular, clean, and dirty. The difference between these three methods comes down to the quality of your diet. A lot of high-calorie foods are low in nutrition (like candy or cake, for instance). Although these will definitely give your body some calories with which to work, they won’t give you much in the way of real nutritional content.
Regular bulking is (obviously) the most common type. When doing it like this, you would maintain a moderate exercise regimen while eating large amounts of healthy foods. Obviously, you would avoid the kinds of empty calories described above. Avoid things like soda and fast foods for the same reasons. This could easily be described as a moderate option.
Dirty bulking is the most questionable type. When doing it like this, you basically eat the most high-calorie foods that you can get. You don’t worry too much about the fat content or the relative nutritional content. Your goal here is to get as many calories as possible, which are then (hopefully) converted to muscle. If you expect to gain good results here, you had better work out very frequently and at high intensities. This method is generally bad, but it can be a good option for those with exceptionally high metabolic rates.
Clean bulking is probably the most desirable type, although it might be a little less enjoyable. When doing it like this, you continue working out at a normal pace. At the same time, you eat a lot of food: But only foods that are nutritious and relatively low in fat. Lean meats like turkey are a great choice when you’re trying to do a clean bulk. Rice and pasta are also good choices in this department, as are fish and sunflower seeds.
The Bulking Diet:
Now it’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of today’s lesson. In this case, that saying applies quite literally, as you want a lot of protein and carbs. This diet does not consist of a formal diet/workout plan. Instead, it consists of a few simple principles.
Eat Excess Calories
Your body only creates muscles when it is in a state of caloric excess. This is why some people prefer a dirty bulk. When you’re just trying to keep your body in that particular state, it doesn’t really matter what you eat…just as long as it has a lot of calories. However, there is a large amount of research to show that low-quality calories don’t seem to do you any good. According to this article, the average male needs at least 3600 calories a day in order to build muscle.
Eat Lots Of Protein
Protein should be the most important element of any bulking diet. You see, protein is the only type of nutrient that your body can convert directly into muscle tissue. As we have already seen, all these other calories aid the body by keeping it in a muscle-building state. However, proteins are the building blocks that your body uses to build your muscles. This reason is why they are so critically important.
The most important proteins for bulking are amino acids. Amino acids are essential proteins that the human body needs for basic health and survival. Thankfully, the body can manufacture many of these amino acids from other food sources. However, there are certain amino acids that the body cannot produce. These are called essential amino acids because they have to be acquired directly from food.
This study is quite interesting. If you read it carefully, it tells you several important things. In this study, researchers gave the test subjects an injection of pure amino acids. They had the subjects perform numerous exercises, measuring the performance of their muscles in every way they could.
The scientists found that these subjects exhibited a much higher rate of muscle protein synthesis. That’s a fancy way of saying that their bodies were turning protein into muscle tissue at a much faster speed. The study also found that it was best to administer the amino acids right after a workout for maximum results.
Of course, we aren’t recommending that you give yourself an amino injection straight into the muscles, as these test subjects received. Here’s another study, and this one used an oral dose. The exciting thing about this study is the fact that they used an amino acid dose of only six grams. Still, they found much the same results that the previous one did: The use of amino acids aided in the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.
Amino acids also play an essential role in the recovery process. A lot of people don’t realize that their bodies are building muscle during the recovery process. Strenuous exercise creates small tears in muscle tissue, which the body must then repair. When it does so, it tends to build them larger as an adaptation against further damage.
This natural response is the basis of bodybuilding, and it requires plenty of amino acids. These are used as raw materials with which the body can repair and rebuild, stronger than before. Besides that, the study linked above found that amino acids did a great job of reducing post-workout soreness.
The Role Of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates will also play an essential role in the bulking diet. Although they are not directly converted into muscle, they are the body’s primary source of quick, easy energy. The body can process energy from a variety of sources, but carbohydrates are usually the first thing to be used. Why is this? Because the body can process carbohydrates more easily than it can process protein or fat. Thus, when you need a quick boost of energy for your next workout, a little dose of carbs can be just the thing.
There are two types of carbohydrates: Simple and complex. The names come from the differences in their molecular structures. Simple carbohydrates include fruits, non-starchy vegetables, dairy products, and certain grains. Complex carbohydrates include most grains, rice, oatmeal, potatoes, and beans. So, which is better for your bulking diet?
The answer is that both are necessary and beneficial. The complex carbs do offer more energy in a smaller package, so they are probably the best choice for those who need a quick boost. However, simple carbohydrates provide a lot of nutritional value. Because you can find these simple carbs in most dairy products, and most dairy products are high in protein, you can get your carbs and protein at the same time.
The Role Of Fats
You might think that fat is a thing to be avoided. In most cases, you are correct. Still, you should ask yourself: If fat is so bad, why do all the best foods have so much? Surely, nature is smarter than that! You see, fat is one of those things that is only bad in excessive amounts. But let’s stick to the point here…your main goal is to build muscle.
It might surprise you to learn that fat plays a critical role in the production of muscle. Although fat does not directly contribute to muscle growth or overall fitness, it does provide an indirect contribution, which comes in the form of increased hormone production. As we can see from this study, dietary fat is essential for the production of testosterone and several other important male hormones.
When we look at the evidence, we see that testosterone stimulates the muscles to grow faster, in much the same way that a big dose of protein might do. The researchers noted that protein synthesis outside of the muscles was more or less unaffected, so this hormone is directly and specifically related to muscle growth.
Let’s take a look at another study on this subject. These scientists set out to conclusively prove or disprove the idea of testosterone affecting muscle size. What they found was that testosterone has a very pronounced effect on muscle mass. What’s really interesting is the fact that they tested this theory on castrated animals, whose bodies would have had very low levels of testosterone. Once supplemented, however, they showed drastic improvement.
Consider The Use Of Supplements
All this talk of supplements brings us to our final topic: The use of workout supplements. This aspect of the diet is entirely up to you, but you might want to think about adding a good protein supplement, at the very least. As we have repeatedly stated, protein intake is crucially important to the development of muscles. It also contributes to fat-free mass by increasing muscle protein synthesis and reducing hunger. Thus, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that you are getting enough.
For those who are on a tight budget, protein powders can be a very cost-effective solution. When you are trying to get all your protein from food, it can get a little expensive due to the high cost of quality meats. However, protein powder can be added to any other food or drink, giving you a lot more flexibility with your protein intake.
As you can see, the bulking method does not rely on a firm set of rules. In this case, an outline of general principles is enough. Once you understand how all these important concepts work, you can easily create a regimen of diet and exercise that is uniquely suited to you and your goals.
For most people, we would recommend that standard type of bulking with only an amino-acid based protein powder for supplementation. However, that is only a suggestion as to where you should begin. As you contemplate your next step, please take a moment to follow us on Facebook so that you won’t miss our next helpful article.