As previously discussed in my earlier article, bulking can be considered one of the toughest areas of health and fitness for a number of specific reasons. Firstly, the amount of the supplements that aid the bulking process is vast and I down to one’s interpretation.
Secondly, it can be argued that genetics play a big part in how big we can be naturally, and thirdly, bulking in my opinion is a long and dynamic process which can take between 16-20 weeks of dedication, motivation, hard work and most importantly eating clean to obtain that lean bulk.
Therefore, this article will break down each key area of the bulking process so that you can easily absorb the information and implement it into your training regime if you are looking to add raw, lean muscle mass.
Why is nutrition important?
When it comes to the gym, you tend to see a lot of people spend endless hours in the weights room for weeks on ends without seeing much progress in their physique. This is definitely down to poor nutrition. You could follow the world’s best training plan to build strength and lean muscle, but you won’t see noticeable changes in either if your nutrition plan is way off.
You should always think about what you are eating. The two questions I like to ask myself is ‘what am I eating’ and ‘why am I eating this’. We are designed to digest and absorb what we put inside our bodies. Food is your building blocks and your fuel; an optimal ratio and timing of the right foods will enable you to maximise your potential to build muscle. Therefore, what’s the point of putting so much hard work in the gym, only to curb your gains in the kitchen.
Daily macronutrient intake (macros)
We eat food because our bodies need the nutrients within to sustain the metabolic processes that keep us alive and fully functioning. These nutrients can be divided into two groups; macronutrients (nutrients your body needs in large quantities) and micronutrients (nutrients your body needs in small quantities). Macronutrients comprise of protein, carbohydrates and fat while micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. For the purpose of building muscle we are primarily interested in our macronutrient intake and making sure we are hitting the requisite amount at specific times.
Why do we count macros?
Counting calories is out (this isn’t weight watchers), counting macros is in. Only counting calories gives us no idea of what macronutrients we are eating and eating the right quantities at the right time is important for building muscle.
Average maintenance macronutrient intake
|Total daily kcal: 2350Protein: 195gCarbohydrate: 245gFat: 65g
||Total daily kcal: 2600Protein: 215gCarbohydrate: 270gFat: 73g
||Total daily kcal: 2900Protein: 255gCarbohydrate: 305gFat: 80g
Calculating your exact macros
To calculate your daily macronutrient intake, unfortunately requires some mathematics. The first step is to calculate your BMR – basal metabolic rate. This the amount of calories your body requires to keep all of its basal metabolic processes fully functioning for 24 hours if you were to perform zero physical activity in this period. For this use the Katch Mcardle formula provided below.
[caption id="attachment_2606" align="alignnone" width="640"]
Kath Mcardle Formula[/caption]
So the next step is to calculate the amount of calories used by your body throughout the day when we factor in physical activity. This amount is known as your maintenance calories. This is done simply by scaling your BMR by an activity factor (AF) dependant on your lifestyle and training (be realistic, if you overestimate your AF you are likely to get fat).
AF of 1.2 = sedentary (sedentary and little exercise – desk job, cashier)
AF of 1.3-1.4 = lightly active (light daily activity and light exercise 1-3 days a week – teacher, carpenter)
AF of 1.5-1.6 = moderately active (moderate daily activity and moderate exercise 3-5 days a week – PT, police officer)
AF of 1.7-1.8 = very active (physically demanding lifestyle and hard exercise 6-7 days a week – labourer)
AF of 1.9-2.2 = extremely active (athlete in endurance training or very hard physical job – triathlete, certain armed force units)
So if we were to eat this amount of calories and maintain our current level of activity we would not see a noticeable change in body composition, as to gain weight requires calorific surplus more calories than maintenance) and to lose weight requires calorific deficit (fewer calories than maintenance).
When trying to build muscle, the ‘gold standard’ for protein intake is around 2.5-3.5 per kg of bodyweight, per day
But we also need to know how many calories we are consuming from protein to calculate our other macros. Knowing that protein has an energy density of 4 calories per gram, we can calculate the total daily calories that comes from protein:
An adequate fat intake is essential to ensure proper hormonal activity and testosterone production, this is around 25% of daily calories:
Fat has an energy density of 9 calories per gram, so we can calculate total daily calories from fat:
The remainder of our calories should, therefore, come from carbohydrate:
Carbohydrates have an energy density of 4 calories per gram, we can calculate the total carbohydrates we should consume:
Scaling macros due to body shape
It’s all well and good calculating your macros as above, but we all know that everyone is different. Two people of the same weight could be completely different builds. So how do we account for this? By scaling to different body shapes referred to as somatotypes.
What is a somatotype?
Bodies can be roughly divided into 3 different somatotypes, as depicted in the diagram below:
[caption id="attachment_2615" align="alignnone" width="640"]
Endomorph: gains muscle and fat easily, generally short, stocky build, find it harder to lose fat, slow metabolism.
Mesomorph: gains muscle relatively easily but also some fat, athletic build, find it easy to gain/lose weight.
Ectomorph: finds it hard to gain muscle or fat, generally tall, lean build, hard to keep on weight, fast metabolism.
However, your are not necessarily defined by one somatotype, you can be a mix of two, or even all three.
As the description state, different somatotypes, have different traits, so we have to scale maintenance macros accordingly.
|Do not scale up maintenance kcal.All macros remain the same.
||Scale total maintenance kcal by 1.1Protein macros remain the same.Carbs make up remaining kcal.
||Scale total maintenance kcal by 1.2-1.3Protein macros remain the same.Fat macros remain the same.Carbs make up remaining kcal.
Adding bulking calories
All is well calculating our maintenance calories, but to build muscle we need to have calorific surplus. We need to be eating more calories than our body uses in a day.
However, if we add calories to our diet too fast, or too many for the correct somatotype, this will cause our body to store them as body fat rather than use them to build muscle. So the key is the slow build-up of calories over a period of time (these calories should be added as carbohydrates, rather than protein or fat)
Week 1-5: calculate maintenance calories, add: endo: 50kcal, meso: 75kcal, ecto: 100kcal
Week 5-10: recalculate maintenance calorie, add: endo: 100kcal, meso: 150kcal, ecto: 200kcal
Week 10-15: recalculate maintenance calories, add: endo: 150kcal, meso: 225kcal, ecto: 300kcal
Week 15-20: recalculate maintenance calories, add: endo 200kcal, meso: 300kcal, ecto: 400kcal
Example macro split
This is an example daily macro split for 75kg reasonably active (AF 1.4-1.5) ectomorph in weeks 1-5 (maintenance calories + 100kcal) of the bulk.
Training at 17:30
||Meal macros (g)
||Protein: 15%Carbs: 20%Fat: 25%
||Protein: 32gCarbs:85gFat: 11g
||200g natural grek yoghurt, fruit, porridge, scoop of whey
||Protein: 15%Carbs: 5%Fat: 20%
||Protein: 32gCarbs: 20gFat: 15g
||1 large salmon fillet (without skin), veg, a few new potatoes
||Protein: 20%Carbs: 25%Fat: 10%
||Protein: 43gCarbs: 110gFat: 11g
||1 chicken breast, 150g quinoa, veg, sauce
||Protein: 20%Carbs: 15%Fat: 0%
||Protein: 43gCarbs: 65gFat: 0g
||2 scoops of whey, 100g haribo/gummy sweets or 200ml low fat ice cream/frozen yoghurt
||Protein: 15%Carbs: 25%Fat: 15%
||Protein: 32gCarbs: 65gFat: 11g
||160g white basmati rice with lean mince bolognaise and veg
||Protein: 15%Carbs: 15%Fat: 30%
||Protein: 32gCarbs: 45gFat: 22g
||250g quark, 2 slices granary toast with almond butter
In my opinion, this lean bulking program should be completed for a period of around 16-20 weeks. Remember, you could have the most amazing training regime but if your diet isn’t up to standard then you are fighting a losing battle.
With regards to training, bulking, in my opinion needs to be broken down into; power week, strength week, hypertrophy week, volume week, and last but not least a taper week.
Once these weeks are completed you can start from the beginning with the power week. This process can be completed until you feel happy with your clean bulk.