The Bulking Primer
First things first:
There are many reasons that bulking diets fail but here are a few of the most common reasons:
1) Calories are not high enough and putting on muscle mass fails
2) Calories are too high and macros percentages are not in check. This in turn leads to putting on sloppy weight (fat) as well as muscle.
3) You are BULKING, not CHEATING. Cheat days will be factored in, but your food choices should still be healthy. All diets, whether cutting or buking, need to be monitored. This means that watching your insulin spikes and TYPE of carb intake is still important.
4) You are what you eat. It’s just that simple. To simplify, you eat crap and you will look like crap.
That being said let’s talk calories and figuring out daily needs
Harris Benedict Formula for Calorie Calculations
“The Harris Benedict equation is a calorie formula using the variables of height, weight, age, and gender to calculate basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is more accurate than calculating calorie needs based on total body weight alone. The only factor it omits is lean body mass and thus the ratio of muscle-to-fat a body has. Remember, leaner bodies need more calories than less leaner ones. Therefore, this equation will be very accurate in all but the very muscular (Harris-Benedict will under-estimate calorie needs) and the very fat (Harris-Benedict will over-estimate calorie needs).”
That being said, there are is no concrete number of daily calorie intake your body needs, however using this formula will give you can idea of what you do need.
Harris Benedict Formula for Men
BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kilos) + (5 X height in cm) – (6.8 X age in years)
1 inch = 2.54 cm.
1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.
Example of BMR
You are 25 years old
You are 6 feet tall
Your weight is 220 pounds
Your BMR is 66 + (1370) + (914) – (170) = 2180 calories
Harris Benedict Formula for Men – STEP 2
To determine your total daily calorie needs, now multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
If you are Sedentary – little or no exercise
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.2
- If you are Lightly Active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.375
- If you are Moderately Active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.55
- If you are Very Active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/week)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.725
- If you are Extra Active (very hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2X day training)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.9
Total Calorie Needs Example
If you are lightly active, multiply your BMR (2180) by 1.375 = 2997
Your total daily calorie requirement is therefore 2997 calories.
This is the total number of calories you need in order to MAINTAIN your current weight.
If you want to gain body weight, you must consume more calories than you burn. One pound of body weight is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories, so eating an extra 500 calories per day will cause you to gain one pound a week. Etc….
We have included an excel document created by Elliot @ AR that will calculate your calorie needs for you, using the Harris Benedict formula.
Elliot’s Harris Benedict Calculator for Males:
Download the document named: harris-elliot.xls
Alright so now we know that you need extra calories to gain weight. So what should these calories be comprised of?? Well before we go there, let’s talk diet basics.
1. Postworkout Nutrition- I’m a firm believer that PWO nutrition is hands down the most important aspect of dieting. It is within the 15 minutes after a workout that your body is in dire need of nutrients. It is a completely anabolic state, and what you take in can be optimized to ensure maximum results. A general rule of thumb is 40-60 grams whey protein, and double the amount of whey in carbohydrates (50% dextrose/50% maltodextrin).
2. Carbs- carbohydrates are a very helpful macronutrient when you are trying to gain lean mass. However, carbohydrates are only useful if they are used at the correct times. In my opionion carbohydrates are only necessary for 3 meals of the day. These meals include breakfast, your PWO Shake, and your PPWO Meal. Your breakfast and PPWO meals should be comprised of slow burning complex carbs that are low on the glycemic chart. Some good examples of low glycemic carbs are brown rice, yams, and oatmeal. Others may include whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta.
3. Protein- Just like when you are cutting, you need plenty of protein. For bulking, a good rule of thumb is 2-3g of protein per pound of lean bodyweight. You should take in a good portion of your protein in the source of real meals, avoid intaking too many shakes, as real food comes to a better benefit. The list foods with high protein bioavailability is extensive, and I will only cover a few, (Egg whites, Lean steak, Chicken breast, the list goes on forever….).
4. Fats- EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids) are extremely important in any diet. The list of benefits from taking in dietary fats I extensive and I am not even going to get started on it. I will just say that a diet which includes EFA’s will yield much better results. Good sources of fat are ( Flax Oil, Nuts, Salmon, Olive Oil). EFA
5. The separation of Carbs and Fats- This is a hotly debated issue, but again, in my opinion, an important aspect nonetheless. Remember that it is often when you eat items and with what you eat them that is more important than what you are eating. A mouthful, I know, but stay with me. Remember that when you take in certain carbs, you can spike your insulin levels. If you are taking in fats when your insulin has been spiked, you are allowing the basic laws of physiology to act out, and you allow for a higher propensity for fat storage. Separation is key. The sample diet will give a good example of how to separate them.
Glutamine: Helps prevent catabolism. Best used in dosages of 10grams daily, 5 grams before cardio, 5 grams at another interval, but not after workout as it fights for absorption with the glutamine peptides in whey.
ALA/R-ALA- Gets my supplement of the day award. R-ala is effective in lowering the spike of insulin when certain carbs are consumed. I could give you a dissertation on the stereoentisomeric properties of the R, but all you need to know is that it has been found to shuttle carbohydrates away from adipose and into myocytes. Translation: Away from fat cells, into muscle cells. It’s a supplement, however, not a miracle worker. It’s not a crutch, and won’t do anything about fat intake. ala and R-ala can also aid in the expedition of the ketogenic state. Remember that if you buy R-ala that you supplement it with Biotin. Glucorell-R is prepackaged with it. If you can afford it, go for it. As far as dosage, with the R, you are looking at 1-2 pills of Glucorell R for each 30-40grams of carb intake.
Protein and Carb Shakes: I’m not going to cover protein, because even if you can’t afford it, you should sell a kidney to get some. Carb drinks are rather convenient, and companies offer pre mixed dosages, (CarboHit, Glycoload, UltraFuel). Dextrose and Maltodextrin can be bought from most supplement stores or online.
Creatine: Unlike while cutting, creatine can be used while bulking since the water retention from its use will not be an issue since you are “bulking”. In the body, creatine is synthesized from the amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine. Taking supplemental doses of creatine monohydrate can increase muscle creatine and phosphocreatine (PC) concentrations by up to 40%. These increases can lead to improvements in muscle energy production and recuperation.
7. Cheating- Cheating is essential. Why? Remember, the body runs on homeostasis, it likes to keep balance. After eating so well after a week, your body begins to adjust, and lean mass gain / fat burning over time will not be as rapid. The other extremely important aspect is mental sanity. So many diets crash and fail because people don’t give themselves a chance to breath. Remember, cheating is not an opportunity for you to pillage the entire mall food court. Shoot for a cheat meal, not an all out binge. A fast food value meal can be 2,000 calories. Eat that 3 times on one day, and you’ve consumed 6,000 calories. And that’s not good in any case.
8. Cardio- D*mn right cardio!! Yes even when bulking. Why? Because cardio works the most important muscle of all – YOUR HEART. Not only that, but doing cardio 3 times a week will help keep the fat you will gain in this diet to a minimum. Cardio should be performed on an empty stomach first thing in the am. The proper cardio for burning fat is done by staying in your target heart rate for fat burning which is 65-70% of your max heart rate for a period of 45-60 minutes. To figure this out you can use the following formula:
220 – your age * .65
220 – your age * .7
Example for a 22 year old:
220 – 22 * .65 = 128.7
220 – 22 * .7 = 138.6
From this we can conclude that for a 22 year old target heart rate for fat burning should be between 129 and 138 beats per minute for 45-60 minutes.
Why 45-60 minutes?? Because fat burning (lipolysis) doesn’t typically kick in until the 20 minute mark, so only doing 30 minutes of cardio yields 10 minutes of fat burning. You get the point.
**Cardio Disclaimer: Some people have a harder time gaining weight than others, and doing cardio might not be the best idea for these people. For others who wish to use the fat burning abilities of cardio but still gain size, 30-35 minutes of cardio 1-3 times a week may be a better choice. Remember it is your body and only you know what works for you.
Now The Sample Diet:
Note: This is a sample diet for our 26 year old, 6ft tall, 220 pound gentleman mentioned in the example above for figuring out calorie needs. This diet will NOT work for you if those criteria don’t apply to you; however it is easy to customize the below diet to take in account your own statistics. It is the principles that are applicable.. I am not going to post the total amount of calories, only the carb, protein and fat macros for the whole day.
Based on the Harris Benedict formula above, our friend here needs 2997 calories a day to maintain his current weight. So in order for him to gain 1 pound a week, we need to increase his calories to right around 3500 a day since that will yield 3500 calories over his maintenance numbers needed for the week.
Meal 1: Pro/Carb
8 Egg Whites, 1 Scoop Of whey Protein, 1 cup oatmeal
50g protein / 54g carbs / 5g fat
Meal 2: Pro/Fat
Lean Ground Beef, ? cup swiss cheese, green veggies
55g protein / 2g carbs / 20g fat
Meal 3: Pro/Carb
Chicken Breast, 1 and a half cup Brown Rice
55g protein / 84g carbs / 3g Fat
**Disclaimer: Meal 3 can be a pro/fat meal if you are ultra sensitive to carb intake.
Meal 4: Pro/Fat
2 Cans of Tuna, 1 Tbsp Full Fat Mayonnaise, Veggies
60g protein / 2g carbs / 13g Fat
Meal 5: PWO Nutrition
2 Scoops whey Protein / 80g of Dextrose
40g protein / 80g carbs / 0g fat
Meal 6: PPWO
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, ? cup Brown Rice (Measured Uncooked)
50g protein / 70g carbs / 3g fat
Meal 7: Pro/Fat
Lean Protein of your choice, 2 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
50g protein / 5g carbs / 18g fat
Meal 8: Before Bed
3 Scoops of whey Protein, 1.5 Tbsp. Flax Seed Oil
60g protein / 3g carbs / 21g Fat
That turns into approximately 420 grams protein, 270 grams Carbs, and 83 grams of fat. This is roughly 3500 calories
*Reminder: This is a PRIMER. It’s not mean to be comprehensive. Everyone is different, to find out what works for your body takes trial and error.
Here comes the fun part: Question and Answer….
Q: What about dairy?
A: This is totally dependant upon your goals. If you don’t mind the bloat from milk then go for it. Skim milk is a better choice as far as mixing fats and carbs go. Remember you are bulking so you have more freedom in your dietary choices.
Q: How often should I eat?
A: You’ll have to do the math to see how often you will have to eat to get your 7-8 meals a day in. If your up for 16 hours a day, then every 2 hours is how often you need to eat.
Q: Is sodium an issue?
A: Outside of the bloating issue, or if you have high cholesterol, no.
Q. How do I make my meals not taste like cardboard?
A. Be creative. Mix in some sugar free jam or splenda in your oats, some hot sauce or soy sauce on your meats, or pick up some sugar free ketchup.
Q. I don’t like old fashioned oats. Can I eat the pre mixed oats with fruit?
A. No. Be a man. Those mixes have ridiculous amounts of sugar.
Q. What about fruit?
A: Go for it, like with dairy you are BULKING. You have more freedom in your dietary choices.
Q: What are some good sources of Lean Protein?
A: Eggs, Fish, Chicken, Steak, Ground Beef, whey Protein, Turkey….. the list goes on forever. Do a search and look through other people’s diets for ideas on protein
Q: What are some good sources of complex carbohydrates?
A: Rice, Pasta, Whole Wheat Bread, Yams, Oatmeal…. Same as above
As a final note we would like to thank SwoleCat and the rest of the diet forum participants for their help and influence on this post.
And we will end this sticky with a quote:
“Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.”