It's winter, which means bulk-up time! In this article, we will give you some advice on how to do it properly this year, getting the muscle mass up, without turning into a walking bucket of grease. Read on to find out how to bulk up without getting fat.
First Things First: Some Fat Isn't Avoidable
Guys, bulking up targets muscle gain, but gaining some fat is inevitable. Why? Because that is how nature works, when you up your caloric intake, your body's ancient mechanism starts deciding what do do with it. Yes, you will train hard, and most of that new weight will be muscle (and water), but some of it will end up stored as fat.
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The same goes for cutting—you can't just choose only to burn fat, you will lose some muscle mass in the process as well. There's a catch, however—steroids. If you are juiced up, you will basically only get the good part of both bulking/cutting, but even then, it is possible to get fat or burn muscle if you are not doing it right.
So what's the point of this article? The point is not to get fat. There is a big difference between getting some fat in the process, and turning into a mush that almost looks like he never trained before. A big difference.
This article will go through some tips that will help you manage your nutrition, which will lead to quite a "clean" bulk (we will get to that later too). This is not only important because it is healthier, as we know you only worry about gains. It is crucial as it will make the cutting process much easier because that is usually where things fail—you bulked up too much, and you just become fat. That is what we want to avoid. Let's go!
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Tip #1: Give It Enough Time
Making a bulking plan is the same as making any other plan in your life. Like you can't become fluent in a foreign language in two months, it is impossible to gain 20 pounds and then shred em down in two months either.
If you are natural, your best approach is to use the whole winter to bulk up, use the entire spring to cut, and to get lean for the beach season. Of course, if you are not getting ready for the summer, this is irrelevant, the time needed is the point. That will give you enough time to do things properly, minimizing fat gained. Your goal is to gain 0.5/1 lbs per week, not more! So, if you are bulking for two months, that will be 4-8 lbs of total body weight. Keep in mind, this is fat, muscle, water, and everything else that follows.
If you are short on time, clean bulk is your only option, as you don't want to risk staying fat. Therefore, if you don't have time to go through a real bulk followed with a cut, just up your protein intake, and closely monitor your physique and waist circumference.
Tip #2: Up Your Protein
It should be clear that if you are looking to bulk (gain weight), you will need to enter a caloric surplus, which means you will need to consume more than you spend. Without this, adding muscle mass fast won't happen, unless you are a total beginner. But, if you want to do bulk the right way, your primary focus should be to increase your protein intake. Proteins are the central building block of muscle, and since your goal is to increase muscle mass through intaking more calories, proteins are your ally.
So, include a protein-rich meal in your diet. This can be eating a big can of tuna, chicken breast, and a salad for dinner, or drinking a protein shake in the morning and prior to your workouts. You can also start eating more dairy products, such as cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. And of course, eggs are your friend, plus they are inexpensive protein source. If you are a beginner, and underweight, this alone will help you gain muscle, especially if you haven't supplemented with protein before.
Related Article:: Best Nutrition Plan during Cutting and Bulking Steroid Cycle
Tip #2: Watch The Junk
While beginners can benefit only by adding a protein-rich meal a day, more advanced lifters and bigger guys will need a more radical approach.
The easiest way to increase your caloric intake is to eat more fatty foods. Fats have 9 calories in a single gram, while proteins and carbs have 4 calories, making them much more "efficient." So yes, adding more fatty foods to your diet will get you results faster if you just look at the calculation. Just be careful not to overdo it as it can make you fat quickly. Not only that, you will increase your total caloric intake, but by adding only fat to your diet, you will reduce your relative protein intake, which isn't great.
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As for the carbs, you need those too, as they fuel your hard workouts (we will get to that later). But, opt for some high-quality carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and of course, green veggies. You can also eat fruit. Try to up your carbs before your workouts, to maximize your effort, but reduce the intake after training, especially if you do it in the evening.
When reading this, you must be thinking that junk food is an ideal bulking partner: it contains a lot of calories, mostly from fat and carbs. However, not only that it is unhealthy, but the combination of these high fat and high carb, ultra-processed foods is going to make you gain weight too rapidly, most of it stored as fat. Therefore, try to minimize the amount of food you eat out, as you will have a hard time shredding that fat down.
Tip #3: Train Hard!
People, if you are upping your calories, more energy will be available to you, which means you must train harder. That can mean many things: upping the intensity, frequency, or volume, and in some cases, even a mix of those. The important thing is: you are eating more, which means you need to do more.
Now, there is a wrong kind of "more," and that is only focusing on strength. While yes, you will get stronger as your weight increases, as you'll have more leverages, that is not the goal here. The goal is to gain more muscle mass, so avoid training in the lower rep ranges. Keep your sets in the "bodybuilding zone," which is 8-12 reps for most movements. But, as we said before, up the intensity too, by adding more weight to the bar, and getting (close) to failure.
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Also, the focus of the majority of your workouts should be on compound movements. You have more energy, so there is no reason why you shouldn't go hard on those major lifts. Here, you can slightly lower the rep range in order to go extra heavy, but don't go below five. And make sure you follow up the compounds with some isolations, as they are less taxing on the body anyway.
Tip #4: Prioritize Recovery
While it is true that your recovery will be much better when you are in a caloric surplus, as there is enough in the bloodstream to mend those muscles, you should still make sure you are getting adequate rest. That's primarily because you are going to train harder, which will increase your stress hormones, which are mostly catabolic.
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So, prioritize rest. Make sure you sleep at least 7-8 hours per night. But, also make sure you are not overtraining. Train hard, but have a reasonable plan, and leave at least one, ideally two days off every week. And plan deload weeks, where you will let your body recover and catch up. You can do these once every four weeks, or once every eight weeks, depending on your exercise intensity and the length of your bulking cycle.
Tip #5: Track Progress
This one is essential, as it separates you from getting obese. You need to track your progress regularly, to have the right picture of it, and adjust accordingly. First, take a picture of your physique before starting out, and continue taking pictures once per month. Make sure you take side pictures as well, which will get you a better picture of the size of your gut.
Also, once per week, in the morning, on an empty stomach, measure your weight, but also weight circumference. The goal is to weigh more, without getting fatter, and your waist will be a good indicator of this. But, you should also take measurements of your other body parts, such as quads, chest, biceps, back. That will not only tell you if your muscles are growing, but will serve as a tremendous motivator to continue doing things the right way. However, this is a slow process, and once per month is more than enough.
Tip #6: Don't Forget Cardio
While this sounds counterintuitive, as cardio is a tool used for cutting, doing cardio will help your clean bulk efforts too. Plus, cardio is essential for health, and avoiding it will hinder your longevity. So, 2x per week, on those days you are not going heavy, do a 30-minute cardio session. This can be anything from rowing, swimming, jogging, or riding a (stationary) bike. Just make sure you opt for low-intensity, rather than HIIT, as you will already go heavy on your weights workouts.
Must Read:: Best Cardio And Weight Exercises To Lose Weight
Cardio will also help with your recovery, as it will get the blood flowing through those damaged muscles, helping them heal up.
Tip #7: Consider supplements
As we noted, this article is primarily for natural lifters. If you are on steroids, you will probably be able to bulk even if you are not that careful. But, natural lifters will have to do things the hard way, and get fewer results.
Therefore, supplementing is critical. First, if you are not using it, creatine alone will make you bulk up very fast. It will tie water to your muscles, increasing your weight, but also size. Also, it will give you more energy, allowing you to lift harder, which will result in more muscle gains in the long run.
We mentioned protein before, and supplementing with quality when protein powder is always a good option during your bulking phase. If you don't tolerate it, or you are a vegan, opt for something plant-based, such as brown rice or pea protein. As for the other supplements, you can try weight gainers, if you are really struggling to eat regularly. Or, you can use caffeine-based pre-workouts to give you a boost, which will allow you to train harder.
But, keep in mind that supplements are only that, and are designed to make your nutrition better, not to replace it. In other words, focus on real foods.
That was our take on bulking. If you follow our tips, you are likely to gain quality weight in your bulking phase, minimizing the need to cut down before summer drastically. Doing things slowly while tracking your progress, training hard, and focusing on quality foods is always the best approach that will lead to longterm results. Remember, if you only aim for the summer season, you will need to start all over again once you get back from the holidays. It is a much better idea to embrace a fitness lifestyle, and stay awesome all year round.