If you have been following fitness blogs or magazines, or have seen any Instagram fitness accounts then you are probably aware of bulking.
If you are new to the concept then bulking is getting big and then slimming back down in a short space of time in order to tone up, it was created by and for bodybuilders when preparing for competitions.
There is not a standard definition of bulking and cutting.
But bulking requires eating more calories than you need in order to put on more weight and then building muscle through resistance training.
Cutting involves eating fewer calories than you burn in order to lose more of the fat you gained when bulking.
The theory behind all of this is that you put on extra muscle and fat, but then lose the fat to look lean and shredded.
But does all of this work and is it a good idea to partake? Let’s find out.
Does Eating More Equal More Muscle?
Due to muscles being composed of protein, eating more protein surely means that your muscles should get bigger in theory right?
In a way this is correct but not quite. When you exercise you damage your muscle fibers but this is a good thing.
After exercise your body will repair itself and these fibers will fuse old and new protein strands together making them stronger and in turn bigger.
Muscle growth occurs when the rate of synthesized protein in the muscle is greater than the amount of muscle protein breakdown.
To increase your muscle mass, you must eat more calories than needed to maintain your body weight.
A higher proportion of your extra calories should be coming from foods that contain protein, which will give you the necessary amino acids to build muscle mass. Without protein you will gain fat and not muscle.
It’s not as simple as just eating protein, every human has a genetic limit on how much muscle mass they can put on over time so no matter how much you eat or how much you exercise you will never surpass your genetic ceiling.
It is not too difficult to eat the correct amount of protein required for muscle growth.
Is Bulking Safe
When you first learn what bulking is you may believe that bulking is unhealthy because it can increase your fat mass particularly when your calorie surplus is too high.
Whilst bulking some bodybuilders will also tend to eat some calorie dense, nutrient poor foods that are typically not consumed during the cutting phase. These foods include sweets, deserts and fried foods.
These foods are mainly eaten as part of a high calorie diet, and can increase markers of inflammation, promote insulin resistance and also raise levels of fat in your bloodstream.
However proper bulking is not about extreme overeating or allowing yourself to give in to every food craving you face whilst bulking.
Bulking can be performed in a healthy manner if you do maintain a proper calorie surplus and then focus on eating nutrient dense foods.
These foods can contain a high amount of nutrients for their calorie count.
Always remember that bulking is also intended to be followed by a cutting phase to decrease the fat levels.
What Foods To Eat And Avoid
Your diet is crucial to ensure you are bulking the correct way.
Remember that just because a food is high in calories and will lead to you having a calorie surplus it does not mean that it’s great for muscle gain, or your health in general.
So what foods should you be eating and what should you be avoiding.
Foods To Eat
Keeping nutrient dense foods and whole foods in your diet ensures that you get adequate vitamins and minerals, healthy fats and finally some quality protein:
- Fruits – apples, oranges, bananas, avocado, berries, grapes, pears etc.
- Vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms and peppers
- Starchy Vegetables – peas, potatoes, yam
- Grains – breads, cereals, oatmeal, rice
- Seafood – cod, crab, salmon, tuna and shrimp
- Dairy – butter, cheese, milk and yogurt
- Meats (including eggs) – beef, round steak, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken, turkey and whole eggs
- Legumes – black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans and chickpeas
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts
- Oils and nut butters – almond and peanut butters, canola, and olive oils
- Drinks with no added sugar – coffee, diet sodas, unsweetened tea and water
Beverages that contain added sugars such as coffee, tea or regular sodas can be enjoyed in moderation but if you wish to only eat foods good for bulking then cut them out completely.
Foods To Remove Or Limit
A bulking diet allows you to eat most foods but there are some that you should be looking to cut back on as they give no added benefit to your end goal. These foods include:
- Alcohol – alcohol interferes with the bodies ability to build muscle, particularly when it is drunk in excess quantities
- Added sugars – added sugar comes in the form of candy, desserts, and sugar sweetened beverages. This is due to added sugars being linked to several negative health effects when they are eaten in excess.
- Fried foods – regularly eating fried foods may increase your risks of suffering from heart disease and type two diabetes. Fried foods would include fried chicken, onion rings, cheese curds and finally fish and chips
These foods should not be avoided completely but should be reserved for special occasions and events.
Bulking is a technique used by bodybuilders to increase muscle size and strength.
It involves consuming 10-20% more than the daily recommended calorie intake needs in addition to weight training.
To make bulking a healthy and effective method of muscle gain you should ensure that your calorie surplus is not too high and ensure that you are limiting any highly processed or nutrient poor foods.
So now you know the point of bulking is it worth doing?
We will leave that decision up to you but we have provided all the information you need.