You work out all the time but never seem to get any stronger. You’re not alone.
The issue is that unless you prioritize muscle development, at least for a while, as part of your workout routine – you can’t get stronger.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to bulking, so that you can take control of your strength and no, you won’t end this process looking like Arnie, well, not unless you want to, anyway.
What Is Bulking?
Bulking is a process that allows you to increase your muscle mass (and body weight) by eating more of the right calories and focusing on strength training.
It’s important to differentiate this from ordinary weight gain, bulking is healthy gains of muscle, whereas ordinary weight gain is often the unhealthy acquisition of fat deposits.
Muscle gain looks good and feels good, whereas fat gain often looks unattractive and makes you feel tired and unhealthy.
Why Do People Want To Bulk Up?
This is, of course, a personal decision but the most common reasons to bulk up are to reach a specific weight threshold in a sport, to further build personal strength and even to give yourself a booty (mostly women for this last one – a butt needs to be fed to grow).
How Does Bulking Work?
Muscle growth is not easy for your body to undergo.
It requires an input of large amounts of calories (and, ideally, calories that are focused on building muscle – with large quantities of protein).
It also needs your body to move into an “anabolic state” that is it must have enough nutrients on hand to support the energy you consume in exercise as well as to build and repair new muscle tissue.
If you’re not eating enough calories, an intense workout doesn’t build muscle, instead it risks “catabolism” and “gluconeogenesis” which is the moment when your body starts to break down fats and muscle tissue to gain energy.
You may also find that if you’re not consuming enough calories, you start producing the stress hormone cortisol and this too can lead to the breakdown of muscles instead of building them.
This is not to say that you can’t produce muscle with no calorific excess but it only ever happens in noobs to the gym as their bodies adapt to the regime and it quickly slows down to nothing.
And it’s very important that you’re not just taking in extra calories if you want to produce muscle – you must also be strength training.
This process is designed to damage your muscles (seriously) and then as the body repairs the damage – it also increases their growth.
How Long Will Bulking Take?
A lot of this depends on your physical condition when you start bulking.
A gym pro with a hard body might find it takes a lot longer to bulk than somebody who has previously been eating a normal diet and occasionally exercising.
However, as a rule of thumb – most people bulk for about 3 months.
Should You Try Bulking?
We need to stress, not everyone should dive into bulking on their first gym session.
In fact, if you’re eating nothing but fast food (or processed food) then your first stop should be to sort out your diet so that you’re eating whole foods and a healthy diet.
Also, if you’ve had eating disorders in the past – changing your diet should only ever be done in conjunction with support from your physician or other health professional.
What Is In A Bulking Diet?
There is a basic formula that seems to work pretty well for bulking up when it comes to caloric intake.
You should eat:
- Your bodyweight in pounds multiplied by 14 or 15 (experiment to find what works for you) in calories
- This should consist of 1g of protein for every pound of bodyweight
- And between 1.5 and 2 grams of carbs for every pound of bodyweight
- All your remaining calories should come from fat
If you’re not used to eating your fill every day, then you may find this to be something of a chore to begin with.
Focusing your efforts on healthy fats (think anything from grass-fed butter to coconut cream) will make the transition easiest because fats contain a lot of calories per gram when compared to the rest of your diet.
This doesn’t mean “abandon your healthy eating and eat nothing but KFC” though.
You still need to get all the fiber, vitamins and minerals that you need to live a healthy life but it does mean you might want to eat fewer salads and more nutritionally dense items until you’ve finished bulking up.
Supplements For Bulking
Firstly, you need to take a protein supplement (check out this guide to vegan collagen supplements, for example) and it ought to contain 25 grams of protein, minimum, in each serving.
Ideally, you want to take one of these first thing in the morning, one after your workout and another just before you go to bed.
Don’t fret if you miss one though, if you’re eating a well-balanced but protein-heavy diet, it won’t be the end of the world.
Then you should consider taking Crazy Bulk, this is a legal and natural alternative to steroids.
Crazy Bulk is completely safe and very popular in the professional lifting community for its excellent results in providing fast muscle gains (as long as you work out and eat the right diet).
You could also consider using creatine supplements to add a little more protein to the mix as creatine is well known for its muscle gaining properties.
Should You See A Professional About Bulking?
Yes. In fact, we’d strongly recommend that anyone looking to make major changes to their diet for any period of time works with a nutritionist and if you’ve had an eating disorder in the past, this is completely essential.
A good nutritionist will help you learn about bulking, they’ll develop a diet plan for you and hold you accountable and when necessary step up the challenges to help you get greater gains with less work.
How Should You Work Out For Bulking?
We love yoga, but it’s no use at all for bulking, and if you have to choose between yoga and strength training, it has to be strength training while you’re bulking.
The best approach is to use a full-body workout routine that allows you to hit every muscle in your body across the course of a routine (if you can get to the gym 4, or more, times a week then you can split out each group of muscles and devote a day to each).
And the right way to develop a routine that brings the biggest benefits is to work with a personal trainer (though if you can’t afford one – using a recommended routine from a book or YouTube is certainly better than nothing) to develop something that works for your body.
You should see results fairly quickly too, strength routines rapidly become easier when you’re bulking, you may notice that your body tightens up and expands a little, and you’ll probably see some gains on the scales.
How To Track Bulking Progress?
The objective here is to gain muscle not weight.
So, while weighing yourself is fine, you want to measure your muscles and see growth – so measure your waist, your chest, your hips, your arms, and your thighs once a week and compare the differences.
To get a good idea of the overall change take a set of selfies twice a month and put them side-by-side to get a real understanding of the impact of your bulking program.
Finally, keep a note of the weights you’re lifting and the number of reps you do – you should see improvements here too.
How Do You Stop Bulking?
If you only had to make small changes to your lifestyle to start bulking, the good news is that it’s easy to stop – just reverse those changes.
However, if you had to make a big jump in calories, you should go to calorie-controlled eating for a while – that’s 2,000 a day for women and 2,500 a day for men.
You can also consult with your nutritionist and personal trainer to get a more detailed diet and exercise plan for maintenance.
Final Thoughts On Bulking For Beginners
Bulking is easy when you know how.
It’s a combination of eating more calories (especially protein and fat) and doing more strength work in the gym.
It’s the perfect way to gain more muscle rapidly and enable your dreams of competing in a certain weight class or obtaining that big booty you’ve always wanted.
As with all forms of exercise and diet, if you find that you’re feeling unwell when bulking, you should take to your physician but for most people, this is a straightforward and healthy process with no complications.