The bulking diet has been followed successfully by bodybuilders for years. It entails consuming more calories daily than your body can process. A nutritionist can help you plan the specifics, but the bottom line is you need to consume enough fuel and nutrition to put on muscle.
The bulking diet involves eating between 5 and 20% more calories than you need for maintenance. Your macronutrient ratio of fats, carbohydrates and protein will vary depending on your activity level, but aim for at least a quarter of your calories to come from protein. This diet is great because it is customizable and simple to follow. With a little planning and a lot of eating, your gains are limited only by what you put into the gym.
What Is a Bulking Diet?
The bulking diet is a diet which, put simply, involves you eating around 22 calories per pound of body weight. If you weigh 185 pounds, you would eat approximately 4,070 calories daily. Approximately 25% of these calories should be from protein, 40% of these calories should be from carbohydrates and 35% of these calories should be from fat. Broken down further, there are four calories in a gram of protein, so you would need to consume around 254 grams of protein, rounded down. If this seems difficult to you, invest in whey protein powder to make post-workout shakes. It is much easier to get your nutrition in liquid form if you struggle with volume.
Speak to a registered dietician about your workout schedule for nutrition advice for your unique situation. A good rule of thumb is to consume a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day to maximize muscle growth. If you feel your gains do not match the effort you put into lifting, bump this up to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.
For many, around two grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day equates to around 45 to 55% of your caloric intake. If you incorporate a lot of cardio or two to three hours per day of lifting into your workout regimen, consume around three grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. This will be around 55 to 65% of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. To calculate your daily calories from fat, net your daily caloric intake requirement and known totals for protein and carbohydrates.
Why Should You Follow a Bulking Diet?
You should follow a bulking diet if you struggle to build muscle. If you struggle to put on any weight at all and your body fat levels are too low, calculate your daily caloric needs for maintenance and increase them by 20%. If you easily put on fat, increase your caloric needs for maintenance by 5%. This will provide you with adequate nutrition to put on excess without dirty bulking, or putting on fat and muscle. Dirty bulking is easier, but it requires you to cut the excess fat later, often through a high-protein version of the keto diet. The best part of the bulking diet is it is customizable. If you accurately track your calories and you do not see any muscle gains after two weeks, add another 200 calories to your daily diet and try again for another two weeks. The greatest benefit to following this diet is the simplicity. Decide what type of bulking diet you want to go on and build your meals around the following foods.
For a clean bulk, build your meals around:
- White chicken breast
- Turkey breast
- Lowfat yogurt
- Skim milk
- Lean cuts of steak
- Cottage cheese
If you want to go on a regular bulking diet, consume:
- Turkey breast
- Lowfat yogurt
- 2% milk
- Cottage cheese
- Peanut butter
If you would like to gain fat as well as build muscle, you may consume:
- Chicken breast
- Peanut butter
- Chicken nuggets or chicken strips
Foods to Avoid
While you can eat anything IIFYM (if it fits your macros), to increase your chance of success, avoid empty calories which will not satiate you and have insignificant amounts of protein. These include:
- Potato chips
- Fruit juice
- Fast food
- Excess simple carbs
The bulking diet keeps your body away from a catabolic state where it breaks down its own muscle for fuel. This diet ensures you have adequate fuel to stay in an anabolic state. This means your body builds muscle. There are two types of protein you need to consume to achieve and maintain an anabolic state. These are whey and casein protein. When bulking, you should aim to eat 500-calorie meals and shakes every two hours six to eight times per day.
Consume whey protein as soon as you wake up and before and after workout sessions. The whey protein in the morning takes your body out of a catabolic state it entered because you were not eating in your sleep. It is great before workouts, because your body quickly dissolves this protein within an hour or so, giving your body adequate building blocks to build your muscles. It is great after workouts, because it provides the building blocks for your muscles to repair themselves after your workout.
Consume casein protein before you go to sleep, because it will stay in your body for around five hours rather than one or two. Try having a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter and a warm, tall glass of milk before you go to bed. If you lift for over an hour at a time, drink muscle milk which has creatine before your workout. It will keep you satiated. It also contains a patented lean lipid which is a healthy fat that helps your body to burn regular fat.
Creatine is an amino acid found in milk, fish, red meat, cheese and yogurt. It is made from methionine, glycine and arginine. It plays a significant part in cellular energy and regenerates adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your body. This allows for muscle contractions. It also increase power output and energy and enhances muscle strength and size.
How Do You Successfully Follow a Bulking Diet?
To successfully follow a bulking diet, you must be flexible, tailor your plan and track every gram that goes into your mouth. This may seem tedious, but if you cook in bulk and store your food pre-portioned, it makes life much simpler. Here’s a quick look at the steps you need to take to be successful.
We all get busy. Stash some high-calorie protein bars in your desk at work for when meetings run long and you do not have the chance to eat a meal. Remember to make up the rest of the missing calories later in the day. If you do not substitute bread for meatball subs, make spaghetti and meatballs instead. Life happens. Do your best to hit your daily caloric intake with the right macros and you will see success even if you do not exactly follow your meal plan.
Spend 10 minutes on Sunday making a meal plan for the next week. If you struggle with volume, plan six smaller meals. This is a great chance to shop for everything you need and prepare some of your meals ahead of time. Freeze or refrigerate pre-portioned meals depending on when you plan to eat them. Even if you make chicken and rice, you can spice it up with jerk chicken one night, garlic chicken the next and lemon pepper chicken on the third night.
Track Your Macros
Nutrition information can vary from brand to brand of the same item, so if you buy a new brand of canned chicken that just went on sale, take the brand’s nutritional information into account. To make this easier, track everything you eat each day using an app. This helps to keep you accountable. If you see inadequate gains in the first two weeks, review your daily calorie count and increase it.
There will be times you cannot chew another piece of solid food. Invest in protein powder with plenty of creatine and calories. Creatine increases your training capacity and volume. Calories gives you the fuel your body needs to recover. Caffeine will also give you that little extra boost you need to push harder through your workouts. Finally, a good whey protein powder is crucial.
Experts recommend you sleep at least nine hours per day. If you are bulking, prepare to sleep at least 10 hours per day. Your muscles need time to repair themselves after a long hard workout. Do not get less than eight hours of sleep a day. Gains come after the workout, not during it.
The bulking diet is critical for any bodybuilder who struggles to put on weight or wants to bulk more efficiently. There are several variations to this diet and it can be completely customized to your needs. Start with calculating your daily caloric needs and multiplying this by 1.05 or 1.1. Remember, fat has nine calories per gram and protein and carbohydrates have four calories per gram. Depending on your activity level, start with a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, two grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight and the remainder of your calories from fat. Adjust your caloric intake every week or two if you are receiving inadequate gains. Meal plan, shop and cook in bulk, storing in pre-portioned containers for the week, and this diet could not be easier. Remember to eat several small portions of food every day, consume adequate protein to keep your body in an anabolic state and be easy on yourself if you miss a meal. Just track your caloric intake and make up for it later that day. Now go pump some iron and enjoy those gains.