While the majority of my clients come to me with the goals of healing their digestion and losing weight, I still see my fair share of men and women who want to gain weight, build muscle, and keep their fat gain to a minimum.
There are obvious benefits to bulking, just as there are benefits to cutting. The benefits of bulking include having more muscle mass, enhanced strength gains, improved physical performance, and an increased metabolic rate which allows you to eat more calories just to maintain your weight! (my favourite part haha).
To bulk means to grow, or in other words become more anabolic. Anabolic is the opposite of catabolic. When you are anabolic, you are in a state of building and growth. When you are catabolic, you are in a state of breaking down. When you are in a dieting phase, you are mostly catabolic, and when you are in a bulking phase you are mostly anabolic. Anabolic hormones include testosterone, insulin, and growth hormone. To get the most out of these hormones there are a few things you should remember and implement.
1) Do not over-train. Cortisol (stress hormone) becomes elevated when we overtrain. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone. This Is detrimental to muscle growth because cortisol actually blocks testosterone’s influence on muscle growth. Vitamin C after a workout helps to increase the rate of clearing cortisol and enhance recovery.
2) Resistance training increases testosterone production, especially when training larger muscle groups like legs and back. Don’t skip leg day.
3) Get adequate sleep! During sleep, your body produces a ton of growth hormone. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep every day is essential to muscle gains and tissue repair.
4) Use insulin and carbohydrate consumption to your advantage. Insulin sensitivity means that your body can more efficiently use glucose as an energy source instead of storing it in fat cells. This is beneficial when engaging in physical activity such as weight training to grow, while keeping fat storage to a minimum. Insulin sensitivity is highest post-workout and in the morning. Reducing stress and getting enough sleep also improve insulin sensitivity.
5) Improve your growth hormones naturally with adaptogenic herbs like maca root and ashwagandha. Tribulus Terrestris is also a plant that contains plant sterols which have been shown to boost your body’s own testosterone production naturally. 250mg 3x daily is recommended.
Cardio is necessary when trying to build muscle but wanting to keep fat gain to a minimum. HIIT cardio is the best for maintaining size while burning fat. Sprint intervals on the treadmill, outside, or on the stair master 2-3 times per week should help.
Quality foods mean quality gains. Do not think that you can eat anything when bulking. Not all calories are created equally. Most junk foods have very little nutritional value and will not benefit your metabolism at all.
Small gradual increases in calories over time is best to keep fat storage to a minimum. If you start with adding too many calories to your diet in the beginning and the amount is more than your body is used to, your body’s metabolism and energy needs won’t be on par/have time to adapt and the excess calories will likely be stored as fat. As your workload increases and you gain more muscle mass, your metabolism will increase and your body will become used to more food, putting these calories towards muscle growth instead of fat storage. This is otherwise termed metabolic adaptation and reverse dieting. I recommend determining your basal metabolic rate and your total daily energy expenditure and then adding roughly 500 calories more than what is needed to maintain your current body weight. I’d recommend at least 30% of your total daily calories coming from protein or 1.0 gram per pound of lean muscle mass. For carbohydrates, roughly 40% of your calories coming from carbs or 1.5 g per pound of body weight. This may be lower on non-training days such as 0.5g/pound of body weight as your energy expenditure is lower. Lastly, roughly 25-30% of your total calories should be coming from fat, or approximately 0.6g per pound of body weight.
Share this with a friend who is trying to bulk!
Custom meal plans and nutrition protocols in the SHOP section of my website.