The warmth goes pretty quickly here in Canberra and winter is just a few weeks away. In the fitness world, a lot of people use the colder months for bulking. In saying that, so many people get this fundamental process that should be about growing muscle wrong.
With the unofficial bulking season just around the corner, we thought we'd take a look at what some of the most common mistakes are, how to avoid them and how to do it right.
I am sure everyone knows's what bulking is, but let's just quickly define what we are talking about. The process of 'bulking' is associated with one thing, which is: consuming an excess of calories to gain mass. This mass is ideally comprised of lean muscle mass and minimal body fat.
More specifically bulking requires a caloric surplus. A 'caloric surplus' can be defined simply as consuming more calories than your body burns on a daily basis. You can be in either one of these states at any time when it comes to your diet:
The reason I defined these simple terms is that it leads into the discussion of mistakes people make when they are bulking.
Now we know exactly what bulking is, we'll discuss some of the biggest mistakes people make when they try to bulk.
To do things right when it comes to bulking, you have to create a caloric surplus that is high enough for you to maximise muscle gain by providing your body with enough nutrients to gain muscle mass; but not so high that you gain an excess of body fat.
To do this, you need to work out what your maintenance calories are - as mentioned before; this is the number of calories you need to eat on a daily basis to maintain your current bodyweight. There are a lot of calculators on the internet that can help you get a gauge on what this number may be, but ultimately the only way you will know is tracking your weight and calories. If the scale hasn't budged for a week or two and you've been eating the same amount of calories daily, then you are probably eating at maintenance calories.
Maintenance can vary a lot based on factors such as body weight, muscle mass, metabolism, activity and so on. For example, some ectomorphs may need to consume between 5,000 - 6,000 calories per day to sufficiently gain weight.
As a rule, for bulking, people tend to consume +10% on their maintenance calories. But again, this is just a gauge, and the only way to know is to track your calories and weight and see if the scale is progressively going up. If 10% is getting you gradual weight gain, then that should be the sweet spot. If not, then you need to add more calories.
Ultimately, bulking the 'right way' comes down to gradually making increases in the number of calories you consume to ensure you are gaining muscle and not body fat. That's it.
As for macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), people have their personal preferences - some like higher fats and protein - while others like higher carbs. Personally, I am a fan of increasing carbohydrates when it comes to bulking and lowering protein slightly to 1 - 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight. This is because as you are in a surplus of calories, there is less risk of muscle loss and you can afford to drop protein a little.
The key to bulking the right way this winter is finding out what your maintenance calories are, adding about 10% to that and then going from there. Track your weight, and see how you are increasing. If you are gaining weight too fast and feel it's predominately body fat, take it back a bit. Conversely, if you aren't gaining anything, add some calories. Track and adjust accordingly.