A Few Tips For This Bulking Season
Nobody cares about abs when it’s cold out. They can’t be seen through your sweater—but your chest, shoulders, and arms can, which is why winter is the perfect time to go on a bulking program. Nevertheless, eating too much too fast can leave you with a lot of weight to lose come springtime. Follow these rules for an effective bulking season so you can get big while staying lean.
- Don't gorge on junk
The most common and damaging mistake lifters make is taking a bulk-up as an excuse to eat whatever they want and as much as they want. Eating more calories is a sure-fire way to add mass, but your body still cares where they come from, and natural, whole foods are always the best sources. Eat lean meats for protein, potatoes and rice for most of your carbs, and let your fats accumulate mainly by way of your protein foods. Of course, you can cheat here and there too, but don’t think that eating pizzas and ice cream will add size to anything but your waistline.
- Eat more, but not too much
You don’t need as much of a calorie surplus as you probably think. In fact, research has found that it isn’t always necessary to eat more food at all. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that obese subjects who dieted and weight trained for 90 days lost 35 pounds while gaining significant muscle at the same time. The take-home point is that stimulating muscles through training is the most important factor in gaining size. Stuffing them full of extra calories isn’t as crucial, and can lead to more fat storage.
- Change things up
It’s a misconception that you need a specific training plan for muscle gain versus fat loss. Any routine that builds muscle will help you get leaner too—you need only adjust your diet to suit the goal. However, if you’ve been on the same program for a while, you should make some significant changes before you start your bulk. As explained before, the training stimulus is the biggest factor in muscle growth, and muscles grow when they’re forced to meet new demands. You’ll see faster, more dramatic gains if you shift your training suddenly (just as you’re shifting your diet).
- Don't cut out cardio
Just as eating with reckless abandon will make you more fat than muscular, bulking doesn’t give you a license to bail on cardio, either. Keeping cardio in your routine will allow you to stay leaner as you increase calories, and—more importantly—it will keep your heart in shape. Three to four days of cardio per week isn’t likely to interfere with mass gains, but if you want to leave nothing to chance, limit your cardio to low-intensity sessions (walking, easy cycling) for up to 60 minutes, tops. This is enough to burn excess calories mainly from your fat stores without negatively affecting hormones that help you gain size.
Don't bulk too long
It’s inevitable that the longer you bulk, the fatter you’ll get. Eating excess food is bound to cause your body fat to creep up over time, even when you’re eating very healthy. Your body’s insulin sensitivity tends to decline sharply at around 15% body fat—continuing to bulk beyond that point will lead to rapid fat gain. So when your abs begin disappearing (around 10% body fat), it’s time to stop. Alternate bulk and cut cycles throughout the year and you’ll manage a balance of muscle gain and fat loss. If you like, you could also take a post-bulk break.
Muscle & Fitness