It is almost bulking season! Entering the gym, you are probably hearing all the guys talking about meal plans, nutrition and adapted programs. And you are probably wondering what you missed out on.
A bulking cycle is the time when bodybuilders focus on building bulk to work into muscle mass. It is usually done during the fall/winter period.
As a newbie, you are probably a little overwhelmed, and that is okay. The world of bodybuilding is a lot more intricate than what it appears to be.
You have a lot to learn, and you aren’t sure if you can learn it all in time. But even so, you have one burning question on your mind: how do I bulk up?
Well, let us jump right into it- shall we?
You need to lift heavy
This is easy enough. To get big muscles, you need to work for them. There is no short cut on the road to success, and the world of body building is no exception.
If you want to bulk up, you are going to have to lift heavy. Heavier than you have ever lifted. To do this, you must start slow. Don’t start with the biggest weights you can find, but look for the weight that challenges you without danger of injury.
The reason you need to lift is because you need to cause an overload stimulus in your body.
This is when your body reacts to the heavy amount of stress that you put onto it, and responds by increasing your strength and muscle size. If you do not do this, then all those extra calories that you’re eating will be changed into body fat.
On the bodybuilding journey, you are going to gain weight. A lot of it. But it is up to you to determine how that weight is stored, as fat, or as muscle. Of course, you want muscle. So, you must lift heavy for those muscles.
Eat carbs around workouts
Like I said before, you are going to pick up a lot of weight as a body builder. That is just part of the description.
There is nothing wrong with that, but you do want to minimize fat gain, and so a lot of people are afraid of carbohydrates. When starting out, these people try and avoid carbs, which can be a fatal mistake when you are bulking up.
The fact is that you are using a whole lot more energy than you used to. All those trips to the gym are burning up your energy, and even after your workout, your body is hard at work trying to build those muscles that you want so badly.
You need to fuel your body and increase the amount of carbs that you usually eat. While balance is required, you cannot be afraid of cards, you need to embrace them.
But that doesn’t mean that you need to shovel them into your mouth at every convenient opportunity.
That would get very boring, very quickly. So, what you can do is work them around your workouts. Your body is usually ready for more fuel after a workout, you can then work in a carb source after you have been to the gym.
By doing this you are increasing your carb intake but you can also reduce your portions during your meal times. At first it may seem a bit strange, but after the first couple of weeks, you will see the wisdom in doing this.
Eat in bulk to bulk up
You need to eat- a lot. Muscles aren’t like inflatable tubes, waiting for you to do some exercises to inflate them up.
Muscles are part of your body, and they need to be built. To build muscles, your body needs food. You understand this now, and increase your diet accordingly.
But then you see the first signs of gains, and you fear losing your newly acquired abs. You then start to eat less, and you lose all your progress and stop growing.
You say that this will not happen to you, but this is one of the most common mistakes that newbies make.
And we get it, you don’t want to mess it all up. But you need to keep eating if you want to grow. Think of it like chess, you’re giving up a measly pawn to get to the king (your muscles).
Less cardio, well, more smart cardio
Cardio is important, but you need to decide how important it is to you. Don’t get me wrong, we are not saying that you should completely stop doing cardio, I mean, that would be incredibly stupid.
But we are saying that you should do less cardio. You should try and limit your cardio sessions to about once or twice a week.
The reason for this is because you spend a lot of energy on cardio. While it is beneficial, you do want to stay healthy after all, it is just that you should be funnelling most of your energy into building your muscles.
Once or twice a week should be enough to keep your heart healthy, and it is good enough if you don’t do any sports.
But if you play a sport in which cardio is essential, you need to compensate for all those calories that you’re running off. You can be a bodybuilder and play your favorite sport, but you need to eat enough for both sports.
More fat… but not the kind you’re thinking
Most newbies eat an astronomical number of calories, which is what they should be doing. But they try to do this by just eating healthy, lean foods.
This is great, because it does have health benefits, but this means that they are eating a massive amount of food, which can get tiring and very expensive. The thing that they fail to do is that they fail to value quality over quantity.
Why eat a bunch of nutrients that only have four calories, when you can balance a few nutrients with four calories, with one source of healthy fat worth 9 calories.
You need to focus on calorie dense foods and healthy fats. We’re not telling you to eat empty calories such as junk food, but rather to focus on healthy food with a high calorie count.
It doesn’t just have to be plates full of lean and healthy foods. Remember that you also need to enjoy your food, otherwise you will be feeling mightily discouraged in a matter of days, if not hours.
Compound exercises are your new best friend
As a newbie, you probably don’t have a foundation from which you can launch yourself. You need to build up that foundation.
While you probably have your sights set on a routine of isolation exercises meant to bulk up the parts of your body that you want bulked up, you probably won’t achieve the desired results.
If you focus too much on one muscle group with strengthening your smaller muscles first, you will not see the desired results, or any results at all for that matter.
You need to focus on compound exercises, which exercise two or more muscle groups at the same time. In this way, you will build up a solid foundation from which you can build on.
When you have mastered the basics, you can go on to the more advanced lessons.
You need to rest
Ask an experienced bodybuilder to map out a routine for you. If he does his job right, he will give you some basic compound exercises, a specific amount of reps and a specific amount of sets.
This will help you out a lot. But, he will also assign what might seem like a staggering amount of rest days. This means that he knows what he is talking about.
Ideally, you need to rest up t0 3-4 times a week. This is because your body builds up muscle while it is resting.
If you don’t rest enough, your body won’t have enough time to recover and you won’t see the results that you want to see. Rest, and rest properly if you want to get anywhere in the bodybuilding world.
Get enough sleep
The next time you are at the gym, look around. If you are vigilant enough, you will notice a strange phenomenon.
Two guys, of near identical build are working out. The both follow the same routine and they both have the same goals. But as time goes on, only one is progressing. They both put in the same effort, but what is the difference.
If you follow those guys around for a little while, you will see that one practices bodybuilding in his lifestyle. He eats his nutrients and he goes to bed at a reasonable hour.
But the second guy, the one who isn’t progressing, well, he treats bodybuilding like a hobby. He only works at the gym. He is always out late and he eats whatever he feels like at the time.
The truth is that our bodies only really recover when we achieve REM sleep, which means that you need to sleep for a healthy 8-9 hours per night if you want to see any results any time soon.
Be balanced about protein
If you tell anyone that you are a bodybuilder, one of their first thoughts are “Wow, you must eat a lot of protein!”
In fact, you might even be taken in by that common misconception and eat massive amounts or protein. Well done on your commitment. The bad news is that most of that protein is currently being stored as fat.
While it is true that protein is the building block of muscles, muscles aren’t just made from protein. As a bodybuilder, you will eat more protein than the average person.
But you only need about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you eat more than that, you are eating way too much and it isn’t doing you any good. Supplement your needed protein intake with carbohydrates and dietary fats for the best results.
Focus on nutrition not training
Most newbies push themselves in the gym. They are incredibly intense, and their sheer enthusiasm drives them beyond the normal limits of pain.
The truth is that most of them have terrible programs, but the fact that they are only starting out means that any muscle stimulation will result in muscle growth.
And while we applaud their dedication, the fact is that they probably aren’t consuming nearly enough calories.
After a while, they won’t progress anymore. This will result in them flying into a panic because they think they are lacking in intensity, but the real problem is that they aren’t focusing on what they are putting in their bodies.
This means that all their hard work is for nothing. So, calculate the amount of calories you need, for your body type and type of work you do, and eat them.
You will be force feeding yourself eventually, but you will be getting the fuel you need to bulk up.
Forget what you think you know
As a newbie, you are probably reading up on all the advice that you can get your hands on. By the time you walk into the gym, you think you know everything that there is to know about bodybuilding. But then it all comes crashing down. You don’t know anything.
You try and apply some of the book knowledge that you learnt, but it all ends in failure. Stop freaking out.
Just calm down.
You are just starting out, everyone knows that you have a lot to learn, so shut up and listen. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and for the love of all that is good, don’t try out a program you found in a magazine. Ask a trainer or experienced bodybuilder for advice, trust me.
Liquid calories are a must
At some point, you won’t want to force feed yourself calories anymore. Believe it or not, but eating massive amounts of food may not be fun after a while.
You may not have a big appetite, or you don’t have enough time to properly prepare your foods, which can lead to you not eating a lot. This is why liquid calories are important.
Most people would advise at least one liquid meal a day, but I would recommend that at least half of all your meals be liquid. These meals are easy to make, and if you make them correctly, they can be calorie dense.
You will absorb them quicker and they will fill you up with all the energy that you need. If you don’t particularly feel like eating, you could always just add a little sucrose to make it go down easier.
They also don’t fill you up like a normal meal would, so you can get all your calories in for the day without feeling like you had to eat a ton of food.
Limit your fruit and vegetable intake
Before we begin, I would just like to point out that this is not a permanent tip. The sad fact is that fruits and vegetables are very filling, but they do not have a lot of calories.
While you are on a bulking cycle, it might be a good idea to just limit your intake. Do not cut them out of your diet forever, this will just be done for a few months until the bulking cycle is over.
80 grams of casein
Casein is a protein that basically provides a steady trickle of amino acids to your body while you sleep to keep your body from breaking down too much muscle.
While you sleep, your body recovers, but you are technically still fasting, so your body will enter a catabolic state and will break down some of your muscle.
You can prevent this by taking 80 grams of casein before you sleep to keep your body in an anabolic state. This will prevent the catabolic break down of muscle while you sleep.
Please keep in mind that I do not recommend any of these supplements for anyone under the age of 18, and that none of these supplements can replace a good diet.
Supplements are a good way to give your body the nutrients that you need to bulk up. The sad fact is that we do not always get all the nutrients that we need from our diet, and so this is why we need to use supplements.
Supplements are also specialized forms of nutrients that will also enhance your diet. They are also called supplements because they supplement your diet, they do not replace your diet. Just putting that out there.
I will now briefly discuss the most common types of supplements that you can start off with.
- Whey protein– This is probably the best type of supplement that you can buy if you are on a budget. It is simple to make, it comes in different flavors, is calorie dense and can be used as a meal replacement. It can be used as a snack, or a pre- or post-workout shake. You can also blend it up with your other liquid calories.
- Casein- For more details on casein you can check tip number 14.
- Multivitamin- You can ask your trainer, a bodybuilding friend or even your doctor about a good multivitamin to replace all the nutrients that you use to build your muscles.
- Creatine- Known for improving recovery, this is one of the most widely used supplements. It can be used pre-and post-workout. There are no harmful effects and there is no need to do a loading cycle with creatine.
- Fish oil- Stop cringing. This will provide you with all the good fats that you need. Not only that, but it also enhances your cellular, heart and metabolic health.
- Amino acids- These are the building blocks of protein, which will not only help you build muscle, but also help the brain to function properly. True, most supplements contain amino acids, but this is usually only in small doses, so try to find an amino acid supplement.
It will never be over
The bulking cycle usually only lasts 8 weeks, and you will probably be eager to start cutting. Do not do this.
This is like bodybuilding suicide. You need to implement a maintenance diet to keep your body from eliminating your new-found body weight. Be mindful of overtraining as well.
You will be zealously pumping the iron to prevent your bodyweight from turning into fat. But all the rules still apply. The cycle may be over, but you will have a bunch of new rules to learn.
Stay in control
During a bulking cycle, you may get a bit excited and go all out. This is dangerous. You need to set a goal and stick to it.
If you reach your goal before you thought you would, don’t increase it, just maintain it. This is because if you add too much weight, you might have overestimated your ability to turn it into muscle. So, calm down and ask an experienced bodybuilder to help you set a reasonable goal for yourself.
Bulked Up- In No Time!
If you follow these simple steps, you will be bulked up in no time. The bulking cycle may seem strange to a newbie, but it is one of the vital bodybuilding steps. Without bulk, you can’t turn it into muscle, and the whole point will have been defeated.
Don’t be afraid of bulking, it is an easy thing to do once you get the hang of it, and in no time at all, it will all be strong muscle.
It may seem new and confusing to you, but after your first few cycles, you will have a few amusing stories to tell the newbies. Won’t that be fun?