More often than not, most peoples goals align with weight loss in order to improve their health or achieve a certain physique.. However, GAINING weight is equally valid and important to a person's well-being and goals, therefore should be approached just as strategically. In this article I will give a generic overview on how you can successfully bulk, in later articles to come I will go into more detail.
"Bulking" is often associated with just getting big and fluffy and eating everything in sight and hoping somehow, someway you miraculously gain muscle. Well, I'll be the first to tell you that this is a recipe for disaster. First things first, we need to understand that bulking is simply the process in which you are trying to gain new muscle by supplying your body with a stimulus (Weight Training), and adequate calorie/macronutrient requirements.
As mentioned earlier, the first step in a successful bulk is to find or create a resistance training program that best suits your individual needs. I recommend that in a 7 day span you should hit each muscle group HARD ATLEAST once. But, with the surplus in calories you could target each muscle group twice per week to get to a more optima volume, and if you have a particular muscle group you want to really focus on you could even touch on it 3x in a week. Consequently, you should also be aiming for 6-8 hours of sleep every night and perhaps even a nap during the day to optimize recovery (when muscle building truly happens).
Next, the most confusing part of all this... "Bulking nutrition". First establish your maintenance caloric intake (calories needed to maintain current weight). Then, simply add 250-500 extra calories to that amount. Now, of course there is individual variance based on age, lifestyle, gender etc... but, once again this is a generic overview to get you started.
Even more confusing than calories perhaps is understanding macronutrient (protein, carbs, fats) ratios and their roles that they play.
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
Lifting weights causes muscle tissue to be broken down and amino acids (building blocks of protein) are then needed to synthesize new muscle tissue. The body will be able to manufacture the muscle so it will be stronger and better able to handle the same or heavier loads in the future. The synthesis of new muscle alone creates a deficit in your body's amino acid stores. If amino acid levels are not high enough, protein synthesis will slow or even stop because amino acid availability is a limiting factor in protein synthesis. If you are not eating enough protein, you are not maximizing the muscle protein synthesis process and therefore limiting your GAINZ.
Anecdotal and scientific research suggests that 0.8g-1.0g protein per pound bodyweight is optimal. However, I believe that 1-1.5g of dietary protein per pound of bodyweight is ideal.
KEEP IN MIND that protein is extremely satiating so having too much may lead to you not eating enough to reach your calorie needs.
- Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
Carbs are a very helpful macronutrient when trying to gain muscle. Carbohydrates assist in a couple ways.. Carbohydrates "spare" amino acids from oxidation by providing a more readily available source of energy. When carbohydrates are ingested, they are first broken down (if need be) into monosaccharides in the stomach, and then released into the bloodstream, where cell receptors sense the rise in blood sugar and the body responds with an release of insulin to transport the saccharides into the cell. Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone because it drives nutrients (such as amino acids) into cells to aid in the recovery and rebuilding process. In addition, insulin has been found to be a limiting factor in muscle protein synthesis and to prevent protein breakdown. Worth noting, carbs are ESPECIALLY crucial for recovery and muscle building after workouts especially if you have a "two-aday" planned to hit your muscle group volume for the day.
- Fats: 9 calories per gram
You will want to have a high intake of omega-3's and other good fatty acids. Eating nuts and other foods high in unsaturated fats in addition to supplementing with flax seed or oil is a sure fire way to know you're getting enough of these fats.
However, do not try to totally cut out saturated fat. Saturated fat and cholesterol are needed for the synthesis of the steroid hormones in the body, including testosterone, another extremely important anabolic hormone.
Caution, Saturated fat is more likely to be stored as body fat than unsaturated fat. Saturated fat contains no double bonds and can pack together very tightly (this is why butter is solid at room temperature). This characteristic makes it difficult for your body to metabolize them. Unsaturated fats contain cis-double bonds. Cis-double bonds cause kinks in the tails of fatty acids, and prevent tight packing, making it easier for the body to metabolize them.
You should also be careful of trans-fatty acids (could be listed as hydrogenated oils) as they are very difficult for the body to metabolize and are also easily stored as fat.
Diets high in saturated fat have also been linked to heart disease. In order to maintain proper hormonal balance, without increasing your risk of heart disease and fat storage, make sure your saturated fat intake is only about 30% of your total fat intake.
You need to lift in a fashion that warrants muscle gain, use the extra calories to truly push your limits .. rest accordingly, and establish the best macro and calorie needs for you.
I suggest trying 40/40/20 Split (40% from protein and carbs and 20% for fats)
Ex. 2500 calories x 40% = 1000 / 4 ( Calories per gram for protein and carbs) = 250g
Now, with that being said some people may do better with altered fat or carbs ratios depending on how these two macros make you feel.. and too much protein as mentioned earlier could cause you to be too full to eat more or cause GI discomfort if coming from a milk or whey source.
Examples of a 40/40/20 Macronutrient Split