What comes to mind when I think of "bulking" is a 340 pounds off-season Ronnie Coleman, or that pic of Lee Priest barely able to tie his shoes. While these examples are certainly the extreme, they represent the basic idea: get as big as possible in the shortest reasonable time.
Bulking isn't meant to make you look cute or give you the perfect beach body (although many skinny guys would actually look healthier from adding even a few pounds of fat along with the muscle). It's conceived to allow you to pack on the muscle, along with an ACCEPTABLE amount of fat that can be stripped off in a subsequent cutting phase.
Ti most people, bulking is actually fun as you get to eat foods you wouldn't normally even look at. Also, feeling your muscles 24/7 so full, you may feel more assertive, more confident, and overall just feel better! Besides, it's one of the cycles in which you get to see quick results both in terms of the weight that you can move, as well as the way you look in the mirror.
At the opposite side of the spectrum, there are the people who hate bulking. This is the group that has zero appetite, the crowd that finds cramming food down their throats to be a torture. Even the thought of more food makes them feel uneasy. Sure, they train hard, and that only makes the situation worse because they're not getting the results they wish from the time and effort exerted under the bar.
For these desperate souls I offer salvation. Through trial and error, I've come up with several tips to help you put on muscle at an accelerated rate. The days of bulking terror are over.
Before we jump into the tips, we have to make sure that we're on the same page. The following isn't about health and fitness.
Here, you won't read about the benefits of the latest "superfoods" or how to lower your serum cholesterol. This article is about getting big, plain and simple. Many of you won't like what you read, but the fact of the matter is that these tips work. Period. For this reason, I make no apologies.
I should at least specify that these tips are not meant to encourage a permanent lifestyle change, but rather an eight-twelve week phase when you break the traditional rules and pack on mass. Finally, always keep in mind, these are just guidelines, not a comprehensive personalized diet.
#1 – CONCENTRATE ON NUTRITION, NOT TRAINING
Most tend to focus mostly on training when bulking, not nutrition. This is the worst and most common mistake people can make on the matter.
Most skinny guys are newbies. And when you're new to working out it really doesn't take a whole lot to stimulate muscle growth. You could have a horrible program to start (and who among us didn't?), but in terms of stimulating muscle growth, it'll work anyway.
Even well designer studies proved it: early muscle growth during a program is greater than when the program has been followed for some time. This suggests that even a sub-optimal program will work well early on.
Another reason why training isn't a big deal for bulking is the intensity factor. I know from experience that skinny guys, and noobs in particular, often kill themselves in the gym. As mentioned earlier, they may not have the best program, but their desire to put on muscle pushes them through pain barriers that would make normal people cry.
The real tragedy is that they think the lack of progress is due to inadequate training intensity!
I mean, any monkey can kill himself in the gym for an hour a day a few days a week, but it takes real focus and dedication to meet your nutritional requirements every few hours, every single day!
Add on top of this the reality that you'll likely have to force feed yourself and it's as clear as crystal that your attention must be on proper nutrition.
#2 – PUT ASIDE WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT TYPICAL "BODYBUILDING DIETS"
Traditionally speaking, bodybuilders live on chicken breasts, egg whites, rice and oatmeal. While these "clean" foods are good for health and recomp/cutting phases, on their own they suck for trying to put on weight. They can have their place in a bulking regimen, but strictly eating "clean" during a bulking cycle is selling yourself short.
It's called "bulking" for a reason, and it's not because you're supposed to live on cod and brown rice for this period. You're supposed to jack up the calories in an attempt to stimulate the anabolic response and maximize muscle growth. This doesn't mean that you eat nothing but cheeseburgers and Pop Tarts, but if you can use these foods to meet your goal of getting big fast, then you should consume them.
You can gain a greater proportion of muscle to fat if you combine traditional clean bodybuilding foods along with higher calorie fare.
Bottom Line: Get more calories than you would normally, but know your limits.
Don't let poor digestion make you feel ill and don't look like a pregnant whale in the mirror.
#3 – LIQUID CALORIES!
A common tip for bulking, but I'd like to take it one step further by saying that at least half of your meals should be consumed as liquids in this phase.
Liquid meals are perfect for bulking because they're generally nutrient dense (assuming you make them so with protein powders, good fats and enough carbs), and take less time to be eaten, digested and absorbed. This means that you'll be ready for your next meal sooner, which equates to getting more calories. Adding honey or Maple Syrup can make these meals taste better, which will help ease the consumption when the last thing you want to do is eat.
This also obviates all of the excuses people have for not eating. Both meal prep time and meal consumption time are low, so you can make and drink these on the go! So those who are lazy with nutrition really have no excuse for not making them up.
After two consecutive liquid meals you'll be craving a solid food meal like you just smoked a big fat bowl! Ahem, or so my stoner friends tell me...
4 – REDUCE FRUIT AND VEGETABLE INTAKE
BLASPHEMY! Do you feel like you're getting cancer just reading this,right?
Fruits and veggies are perfect calorie restriction foods because they're very filling and provide minimal energy. But if you're really having issues meeting calorie needs, then fruits and vegetable consumption can be temporarily minimized with little to no detriment.
You're not going to get cancer from skipping the "ten servings a day" rule for a couple of weeks/months. Again, this is a bulking cycle, not a permanent lifestyle change. Also, micronutrient requirements can be maintained for a short period of time with supplements.
People may take this as a long-term change in their diets, which is of course unnecessary and ultimately harmful. Likewise, it's also important to understand that this tip, when used in the short term, isn't harmful and works well to meet your bulking goals.
5 – THE LARGE CASEIN PROTOCOL
Most people cringe at the idea of consuming 80 grams of protein at once. The most common questions (or rather statements) about consuming this much protein deal with the improbability of digestion or absorption. The myth that you can only digest 30 grams of protein in a single sitting is still a pervasive false belief.
CASEIN: PREVENTING OXIDATION
Casein is great when consumed just before bed because it'll provide a steady trickle of amino acids to our blood and muscles all night long. This is important because contrary to common dogma, sleep is the most catabolic time for our bodies. Why? Simply because we're fasting. Our bodies have to start breaking down muscle to fuel the body's needs.
In a normal situation, 40g of casein before bed is a great way to minimize the catabolism we'd otherwise go through. The thing is, when we're bulking we're not just trying to minimize catabolism, we're trying to stay in an anabolic state as long as possible!
6 – IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER!
Even when the bulking cycle is finished, you still can't just let up. I know you'll immediately want to start ripping up to show the world your new muscle, but this is the worst thing you can do.
Much like a lifter goes on post-cycle therapy after using anabolics, a sufficient period of time must elapse before you can fully switch over to cutting. You almost have to allow your body to get used to the new level of muscle mass before you start tinkering with low calorie levels.
Our bodies are built to resist change and only adapt when truly necessary. If you've just added ten pounds of muscle in two months, this is a significant deviation from your body's set point. This means that your body would be all too happy to start dropping the costly and energetically inefficient muscle you just worked so hard to earn. In order to deal with this reversion to the original set point, you have to get your body accustomed to this new level of muscle mass.
This can be accomplished by consuming a maintenance diet, with your full complement of fruits and vegetables. Keep the weights heavy, but be more aware of overtraining. You won't be in the anabolic state you were when bulking and may be more susceptible to overtraining. Back off if you feel you need it, and don't worry too much about suddenly losing weight – it's not like coming off a drug cycle.
Very important: never forget that with your new found muscle mass, your maintenance calorie requirement will be even higher than it was before! So adjust your NEW maintenance accordingly.
These tips are but a sample of what you can do to help yourself pack on weight. When used in conjunction with your training and nutrition programs, you'll be adding at least a pound a week in no time. As always, stay focused, train heavy, and don't forget why it's called bulking!