Now that summer has officially ended in the UK diets will naturally shift from calorie deficits to calorie surpluses as people look to bulk up and add muscle over the winter periods.
Building muscle is a slow process and a long term endeavour but dedicating a good portion of the year to focusing on building muscle and consuming a calorie surplus is definitely a good direction to take.
This doesn’t mean that it’s wise or beneficial to suddenly splurge out, there are some tactics that you can employ to enjoy the foods you want on a bulk whilst still following the fundamentals of eating to build muscle and minimise fat gain.
Know Your Maintenance Requirements
When starting a bulk it’s a risky move to not know your maintenance calories requirements and how much you need to consume to actually gain weight. Without knowing this it’s easy to overeat and gain excess body fat or just as likely that you’ll undereat and see little progress in the gym.
A good diet is all about understanding that you don’t need to go to the extreme to see changes in body composition and your overall physique, you just need an accurate starting point from which you can build.
This is where your daily maintenance calorie requirements comes in, your maintenance calories are the number of calories you need to consume daily just to maintain your current body weight.
This number is different for everyone and depends on a number of factors including gender, age, body composition (muscle mass or excess body fat), lifestyle, training and a range of other factors.
It’s difficult to work out the exact number for your maintenance requirements as factors change over time, the best way to find it is to use an online calculator that uses some of the factors above to give a good estimate.
Once you have this estimate you can test it by consuming these calories for a week whilst checking your weight daily. If there are no fluctuations in your weight then you know that this calorie amount is a good enough indicator of your maintenance amount.
Keep the Surplus between 300 - 500 Calories
Now that you know your maintenance requirements you’re much better suited to starting your winter bulk. It isn’t completely restrictive but a good rule of thumb when bulking is to consume a calorie surplus of 300 - 500 calories.
This may not seem like much but you are limited to how much muscle you can build in a period of time, if you are gaining more than 1lb per week then even this is a push and it’s likely you are gaining excess fat in the process.
A beginner will have much greater potential for building muscle and can put on 30lbs+ muscle mass within a year quite easily though the more advanced you get in training the slower the progress and muscle building potential.
A surplus of 300 - 500 calories is enough to facilitate muscle growth but low enough to limit excess body fat. This will need adjusting over time as you gain weight and your maintenance requirements increase but keep your eye on scale weight, significant increases in weight will not necessarily be muscle.
Consume the Majority of Carbs Around Your Workout
Another thing that catches people out on a bulk is consuming too many fats or mainly carbs and not being able to utilise them fully leading to excess fat gain.
The calorie surplus on a bulk will allow you to lift heavier weights in the gym for a longer duration which will in turn burn more calories. Consuming more carbs than you can store in the muscles and burn during exercise will however result in the additional fat gain.
Due to the amount of processed food available in shops these days it’s far more common for people to overindulge in carb heavy food with the additional sugar that gets used in the manufacturing process.
Eating too much protein would rarely have a negative impact on your body composition, it’s the carb consumption that would need to be monitored on a bulk as excess carbohydrates in the body will be stored as body fat. The same can be true of fats however the amount of food available with added sugar makes it far more likely that you will get caught out with your daily carb consumption.
About the Author
Simon Byrne is a Health and Fitness writer producing content for the supplement industry for the last 5 years with a focus on improving body composition. He is a certified Nutritionist through Precision Nutrition (PNL1) and a Level 3 Fitness Instructor.