Bulking is common among people who are into competitive bodybuilding, but it’s also used among everyday people who enjoy spending time at the gym & are trying to improve their physique.
There are many ways you can approach bulking, but two main categories: clean bulking & dirty bulking. These have to do with the food choices you make when bulking, & they’re pretty much exactly how they sound.
Clean bulking emphasizes choosing healthy, whole foods as much as possible while limiting highly processed, refined grains & junk foods. With clean bulking, people often choose to allow themselves a “treat” day once or twice per week. On the other hand, dirty bulking is basically eating whatever you want in order to get more calories in, even if it’s extremely unhealthy.
Whichever approach you choose, the premises of bulking is to eat & train in a way that increases your muscle mass. You’ll be eating a surplus of calories & will shed the extra fat later, as research says that a caloric deficit doesn’t help your body build muscle.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩: 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐁𝐨𝐝𝐲 𝐅𝐚𝐭 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐠𝐞
Make sure you start your bulk at a low body fat percentage. For men, it is best to begin bulking if you have less than 10% body fat but no greater than 15%. For women, it is best to start bulking if you have less than 18% body fat but no greater than 20%. You don’t want to add muscle while you still have lots of fat to lose because aesthetically, you may not like how you look if you bulk if your body fat is higher than the ranges mentioned above. At Elite Body Data, we offer ultrasound body fat testing.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩: 𝐃𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐂𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐜 𝐍𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐁𝐮𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠
Learn out how many calories you’re going to need to eat in order to reach your goal muscle gain goal. In order to do this, you need to know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Once you know that number, you can add calories on top to eat in a surplus, which is necessary for bulking.
𝐏𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧𝐟𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐰 𝐬𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐮𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬.
𝐂𝐚𝐥𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐜 𝐁𝐌𝐑.
The Harris Benedict Equation is an accurate, well-established way to do this, and the formulas for men and women are below. This equation will tell you your BMR (which stands for Basal Metabolic Rate), or the minimum number of calories your body needs to perform basic functions at rest.
Men: BMR* = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
Women: BMR* = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
𝐌𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐲 𝐁𝐌𝐑 𝐱 𝐀𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐅𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫
Next, you will need to multiply your BMR by an activity factor below, to best estimate how many calories you’ll need at rest based on how active you usually are.
If you exercise minimally or not at all = BMR x 1.2
If you engage in light exercise (1-3 days per week) = BMR x 1.375
If you do moderate exercise (3-5 days/week) = BMR x 1.55
If you’re into heavy exercise (6-7 days/week) = BMR x 1.725
If your exercise schedule is very heavy (twice per day, intense workouts) = BMR x 1.9
BMR x Activity Factor will give you your maintenance calories.
𝐃𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐜𝐤𝐥𝐲 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐮𝐥𝐤 𝐮𝐩.
This will determine how many more calories you should add to your diet from the get-go, in order to meet your bulking goals in your desired period.
If you want to bulk up pretty fast, you can increase your caloric intake by around 20% (more than that, and many bodybuilders say you’ll be gaining fat very quickly). If you’re interested in bulking up more slowly (and potentially avoid too much fat gain), you can increase your intake by 10-15%.
To calculate your final caloric intake for bulking, multiply your Maintenance Calories by the percentage that fits your goals.
For instance, if your Maintenance Calories come out to be 2215 calories, and you want to do a slow bulk over a period of a few months, you could do 2215 calories x 1.12 (a 12% increase) and get a bulking caloric intake to aim for of 2480 calories per day.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐫𝐝 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩: 𝐄𝐚𝐭 𝐄𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐢𝐧
As for protein, it’s pretty hard not to get more than enough on a standard diet today. If you’re eating enough calories for your activity level, you’re more than likely getting the amount of protein you need with them. That being said, many bodybuilders recommend aiming for a protein intake of 1-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight while bulking.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐡 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩: 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐭 𝗪𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬
Hit the gym, make sure you are lifting weights & progressively lifting heavier weights over time.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐟𝐭𝐡 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐩:𝐁𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭!
Determine how long you will bulk & stick with it! Make sure you are consistently eating in a surplus, lift weights consistently, &track your body fat every 4 to 8 weeks to make sure you are on the right track.
𝐓𝐢𝐩𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐒𝐮𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐁𝐮𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to try bulking.
- 𝘜𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘱𝘱 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘱 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴. This can also be helpful if you choose to track your macros (the percentage of your calories that will come from fat, carbs, and protein). Some popular diet and fitness tracking apps include MyFitnessPal, MyMacros+, Pond5, Lose It!, and Fitocracy.
- 𝘛𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺. A lean gain will result in a steady gain of about 0.5 to 1 pound per week. You don’t need to be weighing and measuring yourself every single day to track your progress, but you should be doing it at least once per week. When you take your weight or measure body fat, be sure to do it at the same time of day every time. Ideally, these measurements should be taken first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything for the most accuracy.
- 𝘈𝘪𝘮 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘤𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘯 𝘣𝘶𝘭𝘬. This will ultimately come down to personal preference, but it’s going to serve you much better in the long run to maintain an overall healthy diet even while bulking. Choosing whole foods the majority of the time will build healthy habits that you can feel good about, and are better for your body as a whole. Plus, eating a bunch of junk food may actually create more work for you in the long haul, including a palette that may need retraining.
- 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦. Cardio has a lot of health benefits, so it may be a good idea to continue incorporating it into your bulking routine sometimes. However, if you’re someone who is new to weightlifting and doesn’t put on weight easily, this may not be the time to add more calorie-burn to your routine. The majority of your activity will be spent weightlifting while bulking.
- 𝘒𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱. Many bodybuilders recommend stopping your bulk when you’ve reached 15-17% body fat for men or 25-27% body fat for women, at which point you should start focusing on fat loss. A good place to start with calorie reduction is by eliminating any junk foods you’ve been eating, along with processed carbs.
𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐓𝐫𝐲 𝐁𝐮𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠?
If you’re looking to make some drastic physical changes in terms of your muscle mass, and are interested in devising and following a plan to do so, bulking may be something to consider. You don’t have to be a competitive bodybuilder, and Elite Body Data can help. Call us today to schedule your body data testing, so we can create a bulking and fitness plan together.
𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶’𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶’𝘳𝘦 𝘢 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘥𝘰𝘻𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘤𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘥𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘦𝘹𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘶𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘴, 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘤𝘵 𝘌𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘉𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘋𝘢𝘵𝘢. 𝘞𝘦’𝘳𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘸𝘦 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳.