The Best Way to Bulk
When I wrote, Death to the Bulk and Cut Diet, I received a ton of feedback – both positive and negative. For one, I was attacking a bodybuilding staple which always ruffles feathers. At the same time, I was bringing logic, science and results to an ineffective antiquated practice that had failed many lifters.
Since then, I’ve had many people contact me to help them gain lean mass without having to stuff their face and end up looking like a sack of mashed potatoes. Below I have compiled some of the principles I use to help them accomplish this. If you haven’t already, I suggest you go back and read this article on why accumulating excess fat is not only bad for your health but your gains too.
How Do I Bulk?
Here’s the most common question, “If I don’t bulk, how am I supposed to eat 4,000/calories a day and get huge?”
My response, “Be patient.”
Let’s get a few things out of the way first. If you’re reading this, you likely didn’t hit the genetic jackpot (that’s ok, few did). Here’s an easy way to tell if you did, if you have to question it – you didn’t. You are also likely someone who when you eat a ton of calories just ends up adding a good deal of body fat (that’s ok, most do). Now that that’s out of the way, you need to understand that your wild crazy dreams of looking like a magazine cover are going to take a LONG time.
The average person is not going to add muscle mass at a fast pace. As a matter of fact, it’s extremely slow, with a conservative 1-2lbs/month being a reasonably agreed upon number. To make matters worse, once you have a few years training under your belt, that number slows down even more and you may be lucky to add 1-2lbs of muscle mass A YEAR.
So when you “bulk” and add 20lbs in 4 months how much of that do you truly believe is muscle? If you’re brand new to weight training maybe that netted you 8lbs. If you’ve been training 4-5+ years, you may get 2lbs out of that. So in scenario 1 you gained an excess of 12lbs and in scenario 2 you gained an excess of 18lbs. Are the increases in body fat worth the 2lbs and could you have added that 2lbs in a healthier manner? The answer is yes. I am a firm believer that a “healthier” metabolism is vital to health and training progress.
Growth Day vs. Fat Loss Day
Personally, I’ve had the most success with this style of set-up. It’s the best method I’ve found to control body fat while you still add weight. This is a rough outline of how I design diets for those looking to “get big” even though what they really want is to “look big” which requires a decent level of muscle mass and low levels of body fat.
Growth days interspersed with Fat Loss days
- The weekly caloric average should represent a surplus in calories (BW x 13-14 to begin)
- Higher calories/carbohydrates/protein on training (growth) days
- Fasting period, Calorie deficit + cardio on fat loss days
- Slowly build up calories while keeping an eye on body fat (no more than 10-15% increase of calories at a time and only when necessary)
- Focus on quality weight training sessions. Look for progression whether it’s strength or volume.
If you have a lower body fat – 5 growth days, 2 fat loss days
Growth-Growth-Fat loss-Growth-Growth-Fat loss OR Growth 5 On, Two off
If your body fat is higher – 4 growth days, 3 fat loss days (then transition to 5/2)
Growth-Growth-Growth-Growth-Fat loss-Fat loss-Fat loss
What To Look For
How will you track progress? Easy:
- Take measurements – Most notably your waist and then your back width. If the waist is growing and your width isn’t, things aren’t going well.
- Take photos – No better judge of how you look (obviously).
- Training progress – Make sure you are following some form of progressive overload training and aim for quality sessions.
Take Home Message
Don’t get fat for the sake of muscle! It’s inefficient and places your metabolism in a less than optimal state. Take your time and control your body fat during this time – you’ll thank me later.