What is Bulking and why should you do it?
Written By: SportsShoes
Interested in finding out more about Bulking? Personal trainer James Butterfield from JBPT explains.
The term "Bulking" has become much more mainstream over the last 10 years, once a term reserved purely for the bodybuilding community it is now heard in gyms across the land, but what does it mean?
What is Bulking?
Bulking is a term used to describe the process of adding muscle mass through adaptations to diet and training. Its use in the bodybuilding community tends to be during the off season period (typically the winter months of October to March in the UK) when competitors aim to add muscle before starting the "cutting" process, during which fat is removed over time to hopefully reveal an improved physique.
But how did Bulking find its way into the mainstream? And how can you use it to your advantage?
What are the benefits of Bulking?
As bodybuilding moved out of the shadows (partly due to social media) the idea of Bulking moved into commercial gyms, with many people now undertaking various bulk and cut processes through the year. Most of the time, done wrong, mainly due to a lack of knowledge!
Done properly Bulking is a fantastic way to improve your physique, add lean muscle mass and increase your body confidence.
How to work out how much to eat when Bulking
The main element of Bulking is diet and nutrition. If you want to get big, you must eat big. Let’s do some simple maths to show how this looks to the average person.
Using BMR (basic metabolic rate) as a base line is the best way to start. This equation works out your maintenance calories required to keep your body in its current state.
- Male - Weight (kg’s) x 24 = BMR
- Female -Weight (kg’s) x 22 = BMR
Multiply this number by activity level of:
- 1.2 – Sedentary
- 1.35 – Light activity
- 1.5 – Moderate activity
- 1.6 – Intense weight training and activities
- 1.72 – High intensity training and very active lifestyle
So, using my weight of 90kgs as an example and an activity level of 1.6, my maintenance calories are 3,456.
This is what I need to stay the same if I keep doing what I’m doing. However….. If I decide to go through a Bulking process, I would add 20% to this, (4147).
20% added is plenty, any more and the risk of putting on too much fat is very real, that beach body effectively moves further away from you.
Sounds a lot of calories I hear you scream! See the earlier point of eating big!
So, I decide to go ahead with a 4 month Bulking process. I alter my weight training, taking into account my aim of adding muscle, thus including compound exercises to hit major muscle groups more frequently and stimulate growth.
Incorporating Bulking into your diet and nutrition (aka Clean or Dirty Bulks)
I have 2 options in terms of my nutrition and how I get in my 4147 calories:
Option A - The Dirty Bulk
- I eat everything and anything, regardless of its nutritional value. With little structure, I eat whenever I want and don’t care about what I’m consuming. Got to get those calories in right?!
- I don’t track my weight or training, and just do my favourite exercises (back, chest and arms).
Four months later, I would highly likely be carrying significantly more body fat than required, be tired, sluggish and lacking energy. My training would lose intensity because of this, and I would quite honestly feel in a sorry state.
Option B - The Clean Bulk
- I split my 4147 calories evenly through the day across 6 meals, with each meal being around 690 calories. I eat healthy nutritious foods, and stay away from calorie dense nutrient free rubbish.
- Think of it this way, each meal I eat only needs 20% more adding to it. So 200g of chicken becomes 240g, 100g of oats becomes 120g for example. Not massive amounts, and I’m still eating well, and in a way which will benefit my training, and life in general.
- I train with intensity, and follow a structured plan, hitting all muscle groups twice a week to promote growth. I rest and recover well, and don’t overtrain.
- I track my weight, aiming to increase it by 1lb each week, if I put 4lbs on one week, I adjust my calories the week after to compensate.
Four months later, I have added a good amount of weight, but in muscle and not fat. However, when Bulking some fat gain is inevitable, but think of it as collateral damage. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs (food again!)
The choice is yours, but I would strongly advise the latter. You will thank me when it comes to cutting down and stripping the fat off!