Bulking is a typical term used by bodybuilders. It is a phase of bodybuilding that refers to a gradual increase in calories to gain weight and build muscle mass combined with vigorous strength training.
During bulking, the person must create a calorie surplus over their maintenance calories. Bodybuilders usually prefer an intake of extra 300-500 calories every day.
Feeding extra calories to the body to bulk up does not mean eating anything and everything. Understanding how to bulk up demands understanding the science of muscle growth. Building new muscles is a strenuous activity on your body for which calories provide the essential energy. To grow new muscles, one needs to be in an anabolic state; the body should have sufficient fuel to build and repair tissues. When there is not enough caloric surplus, the risk of going into a catabolic state increases, during which the body breaks down fat and muscle.
Clean Bulk vs Dirty Bulking
A clean bulk is also called lean bulk because the calories and food choices are carefully monitored to maximize muscle gain and minimize excessive fat gain. The diet consists of healthy foods and not processed or junk foods. The body might take time to bulk up with this method, but the results are excellent.
In contrast, there is no limit to calories intake and type of foods during dirty bulking. The person aims to gain weight as much as possible irrespective of body fat. This strategy can result in more fat gain than muscle and side effects like lethargy and elevated blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
How to start bulk bodybuilding?
The first and principal step is to determine your calories requirement.
You can estimate your maintenance calories using a calorie calculator in which you need to mention your age, height, weight, gender and physical activity level.
Once you have your maintenance calories, consider increasing 10-20% above the same. For example, if you require to consume 2000 kcal per day to maintain weight, take between 2300-2600 kcal instead every day. If you start noticing the difference in the body weight, continue with the same number of calories; otherwise, the calorie load can be increased further every week.
The macronutrient ratio plays a significant role during bulking. Once you establish the total number of calories your body requires to bulk, divide them carefully under macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
- 40-60% of calories from carbs.
- 25-35% of calories from proteins.
- 15-25% of calories from fats.
Depending on the body type (ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph) and dietary needs, one can alter these ratios.
High carbs with moderate proteins and fats are the key.
The bulking phase usually lasts between 10-14 weeks. One needs to maintain high energy levels to power heavy lifting and weight training; therefore, carbs are of utmost importance to maintain high glycogen stores. The insulin spikes associated with high carb intake help promote muscle growth. The supply of carbohydrates must be through whole grains and cereals. Bingeing on junk, sugary foods and beverages are not recommended for a lean bulk.
Protein intake is vital to maximize muscle building. It is advisable to focus on high-quality protein sources as they have an excellent amino acid profile and contain all essential amino acids like BCAAs that promote anabolism. After determining the total protein requirement, divide it across multiple meals and include protein-rich food in every meal.
Fat intake is equally important as it is also an energy source and necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Fat must come from foods packed with good fatty acids like fatty fishes, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. Unhealthy junk and fried foods might result in high blood cholesterol levels and visceral fat accumulation.
A well-designed workout schedule is imperative.
Since bulking aims to pack on muscle, it is necessary to lift heavy. It is advisable to get your workout schedule designed under the expertise of a qualified fitness professional tailored as per your body type. It is better to mix up your workouts to avoid getting your body used to doing the same thing. Giving your muscles a new push by changing the exercise type, intensity, or duration will make them adapt, evolve, and grow.
Foods to be included in a bulking diet meal plan
- Fruits like apple, banana, avocado, pear, plum, berries, melons, papaya, orange, grapes, kiwi, peach, pineapple and pomegranate.
- Vegetables like spinach, mustard leaves, broccoli, bathua, bottle gourd, mushrooms, peas, bell peppers, capsicum and cabbage.
- Root vegetables like potato, carrot, beetroot and sweet potato.
- Cereals and grains like oats, multigrain bread, whole wheat, rice, maize, quinoa and millets.
- Whole pulses, beans and legumes.
- Whole eggs, lean meat and chicken.
- Fatty fishes like salmon, sardine, tuna, mackerel, codfish and tilapia.
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, melon seeds and chia seeds.
- Oils and nut butter like olive oil, mustard oil, coconut oil, ghee, almond and peanut butter.
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, curd, yoghurt and cottage cheese.
Foods to avoid or include in moderation.
- Fried, junk and processed foods.
- Sugary foods and beverages.
Supplements to fuel bulking.
Supplement usage is highly prevalent among bodybuilders to boost exercise performance and overall health. Some common supplements preferred during bulk bodybuilding are:
- Protein powders: Protein shakes are a convenient and effective way to satisfy such high-protein needs. In one serving, they typically provide 20-25 grams of protein. Whey protein is the most widely consumed protein powder. However, if you are not a fan of dairy, go for plant-based protein shakes.
- Mass gainers or weight gaining supplements: These are a wonder product for bulking as they provide around 1000 calories via a balanced ratio of all the macronutrients. In addition, you may also get an additional health boost of vitamins and minerals.
- Creatine: Creatine raises the energy supply your muscles requires to lift more and work hard. If you plan to take this supplement, choose creatine monohydrate form, which is considered the most effective as supported by studies.
- Pre-workouts: Pre-workout supplements are engineered to provide a perfect balance of endurance, strength, focus and energy. They provide you with the aid required to increase strength and muscles pumps allowing you to lift heavier and surpass your regular physical performance.
To sum up, bulking is all about maintaining a good calorie surplus and focusing on eating nutrient-dense foods. It is always better to go for clean bulking as dirty bulking may pose adverse health effects. Ensure that you get adequate sleep for proper recovery and consult your doctor before starting any particular diet if you have any underlying medical conditions.