Most of those in the bodybuilding community want nothing more than to be able to pack on lean muscle consistently and safely whilst minimizing fat gain.
It's both aesthetically more pleasing and healthier, after all, to make sure your gains are steady with as little excess 'fatty' gains as possible. In comes the concept of the clean bulk.
Clean Or Dirty
Bulking in the process by which bodybuilders make a conscious effort to put on body mass in an effort to increase muscle size and/or strength.
It is most desirable to do this 'clean'. Clean bulking requires a slow, steady and controlled increase in quality mass over a period of weeks or months.
Meals plans are carefully considered and the overall goal is to minimize any fat gains whilst continuing to move towards your goals. At the end of the bulk the bodybuilder also has a minimal amount of fat to shed during their cutting phase in order to reach their desired physique.
On the other hand 'dirty' bulking often requires no limits on maximum calorie consumption - all that is required is that protein needs are met and that an excess of calories is always consumed.
Dirty bulking can often lead to health problems in the long run as the 'no holds barred' approach to this type of diet often means fatty and sugary foods are consumed without remorse.
In turn, the diet can lead to cardio-vascular problems, reduction in the body's insulin sensitivity and feelings of lethargy among other things. Coupled with this the bodybuilder has the unenviable task of losing all their excess body fat during their cutting phase.
In my opinion, clean bulking is both the safest and most sensible approach to putting on quality mass. It is easier on the body, requires you to learn about the basics of nutrition (which is a good thing in my opinion) and ultimately is the most efficient way of simply getting bigger and reaching your goals.
The Basics of a Bulking Diet
How Can You Minimize Fat Gains When Bulking?
The first thing to say is that no matter how carefully you plan your bulk, a small increase in fat is inevitable. The care with which you plan and execute your bulk will determine to what extent these fat gains will be.
The fundamental equation behind bulking;
Calories In = Calories Out
This pretty much speaks for itself. In order to build muscle you must consume more calories than you use up, otherwise the body will not have an excess with which to build you new muscle tissue. The important thing here is monitoring and controlling this calorie surplus so that the gains are steady and mainly muscle, not body fat.
The Framework - Calories
The first thing to do is to ascertain a calorie maintenance level. The simplest way to do this is by using a calculator where you just fill in a couple of basic stats.
This calculator will give you a basic idea of your daily calorific needs. Using the calculator should get you an idea of how many calories you need to consume in order to maintain your current bodyweight. Please note that this is only a rough idea, but it is a good place to start.
Taking this maintenance level it is now possible to quickly work out what you need to grow.
Take the maintenance calories and add 250 calories. This will be your new target calorific intake. So, for a 180lb person at 13% body fat with a hard training plan:
Daily maintenance calories (when not bulking) = 2823
So initial bulking calories (your first week of bulking) = 3073
This will be our starting point for the bulking diet. There are, however, a few important points to note:
Not all metabolisms are equal and will process foods with different degrees of efficiency. Therefore it is important that you check your bodyweight every week or so in order to check that you are in fact putting on weight.
If bodyweight sticks/ drops for 2 consecutive weeks try increasing the daily calorific intake by a further 250 calories the next week. Remember, the calculator is a non-specific guide and should only be used as such.
Changing Calorific Needs
Once you put on weight your calorific needs will again change. Think about it - your body requires an even greater amount of nutrient in order to maintain the new size you have reached, and the calorie surplus on top of that.
If you reach a plateau in your gains recalculate your basic calorific requirement and add a 250 calorie surplus in order to facilitate growth.
Continuous Lean Gains
Some people wish to continually bulk and make continuous lean gains rather than put on any excess fat. In these situations, drop your daily calorific surplus from 250 to whatever works best for you. Although growth will be slower, gains will be leaner.
Ok, now we know how many calories the next question is where do the calories come form?
Well, there are basic food groups; proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It is important that all of these are included in a balanced, healthy diet. Those on a bulking plan must pay particular attention to there macronutrient intake.
Protein 1 Gram = 4 Calories
This is the glamorous macronutrient of the bodybuilding world. Protein supplements are rife which indicates their importance in the diet of a bodybuilder. Protein is essentially what the body requires to build muscle and as such is vital in the diet of anyone trying to pack on lean body mass.
Protein is rated in terms of Biological Value (BV) which essentially indicates it's availability to the body. The standard WAS eggs which were given a maximum biological value of 100.
However, with the development the supplement industry whey protein was shown to have a higher BV. It should be noted that a low BV does not indicate a poor source of protein. For bodybuilders it simply provides a useful tool in deciding when and how to utilize different protein sources.
A Higher BV indicates a more bio-available source of protein and therefore a higher rate of absorption. Whey has they highest BV of 104 - 157, followed by whole eggs at 100.
Therefore post-workout the most bio-available source of protein (whey) is most desirable as it is absorbed as fast as possible to feed growing muscles.
A useful article on protein sources and their relative bio-availability is shown below.
Carbohydrates 1 Gram = 4 Calories
While protein is the 'glamour' macronutrient the importance of carbohydrates is undeniable. Carbohydrates essentially provide fuel your body if consumed correctly. If not the body will look for other sources, including the muscle you are desperately trying to build.
Carbohydrates are measured in terms of their glycemic index (GI). What this essentially means is that the higher the GI value the faster the carbohydrate sources is broken down and absorbed.
GI ratings also indicate how your body will respond in terms of insulin production. Insulin essentially triggers storage in the body and if too many high GI carbohydrates are consumed the excess carbohydrates will be stored as fat.
On the other hand high GI carbohydrates, if consumed correctly, can allow a bodybuilder to manipulate his insulin 'spikes' at opportune moments - such as post workout.
Generally it is better to consume low GI carbs for the majority of your meals. This means that the carbohydrate source is more complex and essentially is digested slowly over a longer period of time.
This spares your insulin sensitivity (which can reduce if high GI carbs are regularly consumed) and limits fat storage. It also maintains a steady flow or carbohydrates into the body rather than a massive rush followed by a 'crash' which is often the case with high GI meals.
For More Information On The Glycemic Index Look Here.
Fats 1 Gram = 9 Calories
A bodybuilder's worst nightmare?! Well no, not really. The fear of fats is understandable but misplaced. Yes, there are unhealthy fats that will do much more harm than good but there are also essential fats which are vital is your body's metabolism.
Fats are required for hormone synthesis and form an important part of cell membranes and the central nervous system not to mention the fact that nearly half of the dry weight of the brain is from fats.
Fats are therefore essential to the bodybuilder's diet and as such should be selected and incorporated with as much care as proteins and carbohydrates.
Worryingly overlooked, water is vital is achieving goals in the gym and can be particularly useful when on a bulk.
Water is the medium in which all of the body's chemical reactions take place and as such is vital that you are sufficiently hydrated at al times. If you're on supplements (for example, creatine or cell volumizers) water is important in achieving their full potential and without it many supplements are rendered useless.
Water also helps to flushes out metabolic waste from the body - toxins which are prevalent in and around a workout. In relation to bulking with minimal fat gains, water is also important in fat metabolism.
Never overlook the water intake in your diet.
I have found that a ratio of approximately 55:25:20 (carbohydrates: protein: fats) to be the most beneficial while on a clean bulk.
This way all of my protein requirements are met whilst simultaneously giving me a solid supply of carbohydrates to power me through my workout and the rest of the day, and enough fats to keep my body happy and functioning properly.
Ultimately, as with most things in life, experiment and see what works best for you in this regard.
This is another important topic to cover. While it may be possible to consume all your calories with three square meals a day, it is not necessarily desirable. By increasing your meal frequency and spreading your calories into 5+ meals a day you achieve three important objectives:
You speed up your metabolism. Your body will get used to the higher meal frequency and as such will essentially be 'running hot' more consistently. As such excess calories are more likely to be burned off rather than stored as fat.
You can eat more. For a lot of people eating 3000+ calories a day is not easy. Three or four large meals may put people off following this route but by dividing your meals up into smaller but more frequent portions you will be able to eat more overall.
You maintain an anabolic state. What this essentially means is that your body is provided with a continuous supply of protein with which to build muscle. If your body runs out of protein (as can occur with less frequent eating) it does the reverse and starts breaking down muscle tissue.
Generally I would recommend you split your calories equally between meals. It is also important to plan your meals so that you can also achieve your desired macronutrient levels and calorie intake.
By carefully planning your diet you can ensure your gains are as lean as possible, with minimal increase in body fat and ultimately most benefit to your health and physique.
If you're struggling to get all your meals in you can always opt for meal replacements. These can be bought in the form of meal replacement bars and meal replacement drinks. However, the cheapest and most effective way is by making your own. For example:
Natural peanut butter
Your favorite whey powder
Stick in a blender and blitz until nice and creamy. If you like, add some milk until you achieve a consistency you like. Liquid meals such as this cannot be relied upon to make up your diet however they can be extremely useful in helping you meet your calorific/ macronutrient requirements where needs be.
Weight Lifting & Cardio
How Should Lifting Weights And Cardio Be Arranged?
This is an important topic in any workout regime, but particularly so when bulking. Cardio is extremely beneficial in all workout programs but when combined with weight training care has to be taken over scheduling.
Any physical activity eventually requires that the body's glycogen stores are depleted to some extent. Glycogen is how the body stores carbohydrates in a readily accessible form. Once there is an excess of glycogen the surplus carbohydrates are stored as fat.
This is important to understand and relevant for a couple of key reasons:
Excess carbohydrates will be stored as fat once glycogen stores are full. Therefore it is desirable to spread out carbohydrate consumption throughout the day and to limit the majority of this consumption to complex carbs.
Once blood glucose and glycogen stores have been used for energy the body will opt for protein (including muscle) as well as fats to fuel itself.
This means that if cardio and weight training are arranged together or within a short time of one another it is inevitable that neither glycogen nor blood glucose levels will have become replenished. In turn the body will start using muscle tissue in order to fuel itself - completely defeating the object of bulking.
The emotional demands of performing cardio close to a weight training session can also mean that you will not give either session the 100% commitment it needs for maximum results. Both of these factors mean that intense cardio close to weight training is rarely a good idea (unless maybe light cardio forms part of your warm-up in the weight room).
A better plan would be to arrange it so that cardio activities are at least 6 hours apart. With adequate meals in between the body will have enough time to replenish it's glycogen stores and you will have enough time to recover mentally for another serious workout!
Better still would be to do cardio and weight training on separate days. That way you have enough time to recover from one workout before you move onto your next. This also helps with motivation in that you only have to do one training session a week. If you do decide to put your cardio and weight training on separate days it is still important to have at least one day completely off a week in order to fully recover both physically and mentally.
From all of this it may sound like those looking to bulk should avoid cardio altogether. While it is true that incorporating cardio into your workout requires you to up your calorie intake in order to compensate for calories spent, there are far more health benefits associated with it including;
Increased metabolic rate which in turn helps reduce bodily fat storage throughout the day.
Increased appetite making it easier to eat more later on and increase calorific intake overall.
Stronger cardio vascular system which not only improves general health but also allows for more intense weight training sessions.
Promotes endorphin release and so helps you enjoy staying in shape.
Increases insulin sensitivity. As already stated insulin is an important storage hormone and increasing your sensitivity to it can be extremely useful if taken advantage of.
What Supplements Would Help Minimize Fat Gains While Gaining Lean Muscle Mass?
I cannot stress this enough: supplements are useless without correct nutrition, recovery and training.
In my opinion there is no point supplementing with anything other than the bare essentials until you have your diet and workout close to perfect. Once you have, there are several supplements which can help you minimize fat gains whilst gaining lean mass.
A mainstay of many bodybuilder's diets. Whey is the ideal post workout supplement as it is rapidly absorbed a utilized by the body (see Biological Values earlier).
It also forms a quick and convenient form of protein when solid meals are not so easy. Ultimately you should not look to have any more than half of your protein intake from liquid (whey) meals. If you find you have to you may need to re-plan you entire diet and workout.
Provides the essential vitamins and minerals required for a healthy metabolism.
Whilst a healthy diet may be rich in nutrients the levels are often insufficient for an athlete expending large amounts of energy on training. Therefore supplementation may prove to be very beneficial.
Branch Chain Amino Acids help in recovery and endurance as well as helping to synthesize new muscle growth and development. They should not be used to replace regular dietary protein; however they can be useful for the more experienced bodybuilder.
These have now been around for years and their impact is still being felt. Again, not a substitute for a good diet/recover/training plan but can be extremely useful in their own right.
The following list of benefits is taken from the Creatine Super Feature on bodybuilding.com (http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/gastelu8.htm);
Promotes greater gains in increasing FFM (Fat Free Mass, which includes muscle mass).
Increases muscle fiber size; hypertrophy.
Increases muscle mass.
Improves maximal strength.
Improves maximal power.
Improves single-effort sprint performance.
Improves worked performed during repetitive sprint performance.
Improving performance during exercise of high to maximal intensity
While none of these benefits mean creatine will pack on lean muscle mass for you, they do mean that creatine will improve the quality of your workout which will in turn help you achieve the body you desire.
Essentially cell volumizers (NO precursors) give you better 'pumps' in the gym. What this means for your gains is increased blood flow to muscles.
Upon consumption of you post-workout shake your blood will be rich in nutrients and the effect of the cell volumizers will increase the efficiency at which your muscles are fed.
Sesamin is derived from sesame seeds and is the only fat reducing supplements I would recommend on a bulk. If you plan your bulk careful enough and implement it with similar attention you shouldn't find the needs for a fat loss supplements.
However, if you do, Sesamin may be a good choice. This list of benefits is taken from an article by Derek Charlebois entitled Bye, Bye Fatty.
Increases fat oxidation
Up-regulates "fat-burning" enzymes
Decreases fat storage
Down-regulates "fat-storage" enzymes
Increases insulin sensitivity
Increases ketone formation
A fuel used when dieting
Increases HDL levels
Decreases LDL levels
Decreases blood pressure (antihypertensive)
Improves liver and kidney health
No stimulant effec
It may sound odd but Essential Fatty Acids can actually play a role in helping fat loss. As well all of the numerous other benefits outlined earlier, EFA's may actually have a role in preventing fat storage; perfect for those looking to minimize fat gains whilst on a bulk!
After writing all of this there are two things which stand out in my mind are vital in achieving a successful bulk;
Whether it's your meals, your training schedule or your day in general, a successful bulk requires planning. Always think ahead to how you're going to get in tomorrows meals.
Always make sure to defrost that chicken breast the night before. Check your weight regularly and adjust calorific intake accordingly. Plan!
Realize That Fat Gain Is Inevitable
Unless you plan your meal to the last gram and can account for every calorie your body expends, fat gain is inevitable. It is too easy for some people just to give up in the middle of a bulk because their abs are disappearing or they can't see the striations in their chest anymore.
This is unfortunate but inevitable. By realizing this and preparing yourself you can work through the short term increase in body fat in order to move further towards your long term goals.
To be honest, no. I bulk clean which means my fats gains are low. Although I carry more 'excess weight' than I would like too while on a bulk I am by no means fat and as such carrying a little extra weight never bothered me. I'm not the type of person to walk around topless though so there's no reason why it should!
And no, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. As long as you are bulking sensibly and making good progress in terms of lean muscle gain a little extra fat will not hurt. I like to time my bulks over autumn/winter so those extra layers of warm clothing hide any 'baggage' I may be carrying!
My current bulking program is 4-5 months. The reasons for the long bulk are that firstly I am doing it as cleanly as possible so gains will be slower. I am also scheduled to run a few long distance races in the next few months which may also slow my gains slightly.
As such I plan on a lengthy bulk to be able to maximize leans gains this year. Another reason is that to be honest I really have no need to be 'cut' until next spring either so a little extra 'padding' will do no harm. For more shallow reasons I enjoy the strength increases at the gym whilst I'm putting on bodyweight.
Ultimately I am secure in my body. For me, there is no need to cut just to show off my six pack. I bulk to put on muscle and increase strength. I cut so I can fit into my 30 inch jeans ok!
Thank you for reading.
2nd Place Steve_W
One of the largest misconceptions about bulking is that you can eat whatever you want, in the name of muscle gain. This has to be one of the biggest fallacies in the bodybuilding community. The fact of the matter is, unless you want to have a rather large midsection along with your hard-earned muscle, eating like a pig during a bulk is not a smart thing to do.
With the exception of those who we all envy with fantastic genetics, there is so only so much muscle you can gain in a given time. Where will the rest of the calories go? You guessed it; adipose tissue. As a dedicated fitness enthusiast, and a fat-fearing bodybuilder, the concept of minimizing fat gain whilst bulking is crucial to me.
Minimizing Fat Gains While Bulking?
Yes, this concept is indeed possible. More commonly known by the term "lean bulking", this method is far more effective than an all out gorge fest resulting in a rather large belly.
The most important factor is controlling your caloric intake. Obviously as muscle gain is the goal, you want to be in a caloric surplus. The key is staying slightly above your maintenance caloric intake by around 300-500 calories/day.
A Clean Diet
Linked in with this proposal is a "clean" diet. I.e. one free of junk food, and processed rubbish.
Plenty of clean carbohydrates are necessary. Examples are:
Whole grain products; breads, cereals and pastas etc
Protein, the building blocks of our muscles. Examples are:
Lean cuts of beef and lamb
Fish of all kind, though don't be afraid of fatty fish such as salmon
Fats. Necessary for life, testosterone production and muscle gain. Examples of healthy fats are:
Natural peanut butter
Nuts and seeds
A good ratio of these macronutrients is 50/30/20 (Carbs/protein/fat). With plenty fruits and vegetables, this ensures your body gets all the nutrients it needs to provide an anabolic environment, along with a slight caloric surplus therefore avoiding most of it going to your midsection!
Cardio: Goodbye To Muscles?
"Psh, cardio is so catabolic."
Ever heard this term before? Another large myth held within the bodybuilding community. Not only does cardio have numerous health benefits, but it also aids in staying lean whilst bulking.
Cardio burns a lot of calories and leads to increased uptake of nutrients in the muscles for hours after exercise, which leads me onto nutrient partitioning.
Moderate intensity, moderate duration cardio results in increases in insulin dependent and insulin independent glucose and amino acid uptake in the muscle and liver cells for several hours after you have finished. So consequently, cardio can be pretty anabolic for your muscles (i.e. nutrient partitioning).
Lifting Weights: The Ultimate Key To Size
All this talk about cardio, but how can we neglect weight training! Let's face it; you're not going to get bigger if you don't lift heavy weights. Regular weight-training is imperative.
This entails a structured workout program concentrating predominately on compound lifts. These are lifts that use many muscles, i.e. squats. It has been established that the 8-12 rep range is most fitting for muscular hypertrophy. So putting this together, here is a basic bulking split:
Heavy lower body day (4-7 rep range)
Tuesday: Heavy upper body day (4-7 rep range)
Wednesday: Mod intensity cardio for 30-45 mins
Thursday: Lighter lower body day (8-12 rep range)
Friday: Lighter upper body rep range (8-12 rep range)
Saturday: Moderate intensity cardio for 30-35 or sprint work
If you haven't got adequate protein, stop now. You need at least 1g/lb of LBM (Lean body mass), preferably closer to 1.5g/lb. Protein powder is a convenient way of upping your protein intake, especially if you have a busy schedule.
My top 3 protein powders at the moment (in no particular order):
Primaforce Substance WPI - Fantastic tasting in all 4 creative flavors!
Ergopharm GF PRO - 6 fruity flavors, all very good tasting.
Creatine is an ergogenic aid (increases muscular work capacity.) Over the past few years it has become known as bodybuilding's greatest supplement.
Creatine helps to minimize protein breakdown whilst increasing energy levels and increasing the recovery period. A definite must in my book for those serious. 5g pre and post workout, along with 5g on non workout days is sufficient.
A very overlooked supplement. Omega-3, or more in particular EPA/DHA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid) are very important for general health, and body composition.
1.5-2g of EPA/DHA is the study-established dosage (6g/day in total of Fish oil) where in conjunction with your diet and exercise (weights and cardio, as already established), nutrient partitioning and fat is oxidized more.
It's amazing for keeping the fat off as well as all around health benefits. You can buy these online at Bodybuilding.com or at any local health food/most supermarkets.
A relatively new supplement to the market, however the research has been around for a while. Here are two abstracts:
Potential Health Benefits of Dietary Phytoestrogens: A Review Of The Clinical, Epidemiological, & Mechanistic Evidence1
Doris M. Tham, Christopher D. Gardner and William L. Haskell
Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention and the Department of Medicine, Stanford University Medical School, Stanford, California 94304
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 83, No. 7 2223-2235
Phytoestrogens represent a family of plant compounds that have been shown to have both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties. A variety of these plant compounds and their mammalian metabolic products have been identified in various human body fluids and fall under two main categories: isoflavones and lignans. A wide range of commonly consumed foods contain appreciable amounts of these different phytoestrogens. For example, soy and flax products are particularly good sources of isoflavones and lignans, respectively.
Accumulating evidence from molecular and cellular biology experiments, animal studies, and, to a limited extent, human clinical trials suggests that phytoestrogens may potentially confer health benefits related to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, and menopausal symptoms.
These potential health benefits are consistent with the epidemiological evidence that rates of heart disease, various cancers, osteoporotic fractures, and menopausal symptoms are more favorable among populations that consume plant-based diets, particularly among cultures with diets that are traditionally high in soy products.
The evidence reviewed here will facilitate the identification of what is known in this area, the gaps that exist, and the future research that holds the most potential and promise.
Human Nutrition & Metabolism
Dietary Sesamin Is Converted To Enterolactone In Humans
Jos L. Pealvo, Satu-M. Heinonen, Anna-M. Aura* and Herman Adlercreutz
The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 135:1056-1062, May 2005
Institute for Preventive Medicine, Nutrition, and Cancer, Folkhlsan Research Center, and Division of Clinical Chemistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; and * VTT Biotechnology, Espoo, Finland
Sesamin, a major sesame seed lignan, has many biological actions. The specific mechanisms for most of these actions as well as the full metabolic pathway of sesamin in humans are unclear. Two experiments were carried out to determine whether postprandial plasma enterolactone is related to sesamin concentration in sesame seeds and whether enterolactone is the major product of the in vitro fermentation of sesamin.
Four subjects (3 women, 1 man) were given a single dose of sesame seeds after they consumed a low-lignan diet for 1 wk. Blood was collected at baseline and at time intervals after intake and plasma was analyzed for plant and mammalian lignan concentrations. Additionally, pure sesamin standard was incubated in vitro with human fecal inoculum to mimic the fermentation process in human gut. We calculated individual pharmacokinetic variables and found high interindividual variation in the plasma plant lignan concentrations.
The mammalian lignan appearance rate in plasma shows that sesamin is a major precursor of enterolactone in vivo. In the in vitro experiment, enterolactone was the major metabolite and 3 intermediates were identified, allowing the elucidation of sesamin metabolism in humans. Enterolactone was the major metabolite of sesamin both in vivo and in vitro. The abundance of sesamin in sesame seeds indicates that they are a major food source of enterolactone precursors.
Increases fat oxidation
Up-regulates "fat-burning" enzymes
Decreases fat storage
Down-regulates "fat-storage" enzymes
Increases insulin sensitivity
Increases ketone formation
A fuel used when dieting
Increases HDL levels
Decreases LDL levels
Decreases blood pressure (antihypertensive)
Improves liver and kidney health
No stimulant effect
So, what does this mean? Sesamin works in two ways:
Increasing fat oxidation
Decreasing fat storage
Low dose is a very wise idea for a bulk and Scivation Sesamin Gelcaps are a great, value for money sesamin product.
Green Tea Extract
A green tea extract product, specifically one with a high ratio of EGCG is a very good idea during a bulk, not to mention for health benefits. If you drink green tea, I'd recommend taking an extract on top of your daily consumption for reasons which I will come to.
EGCG is epigallocatechin-3-gallate. It is a potent antioxidant found in green tea. It is good for fat loss/stopping formation because it inhibits COMT1 (catechol-O-methyltransferase) which metabolize neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine which are useful for fat loss, therefore by inhibiting COMT1, more neurotransmitters such as the ones listed above are available and fat gain can be prevented.
Why not just drink green tea? To get the benefits mentioned above, you'd have to drink around 10+ cups! A lot of green tea! A fantastically priced green tea extract with a high ratio of EGCG is Primaforce Lean Green
Green Tea extract powder is foul tasting (take it from me), so capsule form is nice and convenient.
The basic supplementation listed above is all I believe necessary; in conjunction with a good diet and sound exercise program.
A few more factors may also affect the amount of fat that accumulates around your midsection whilst on your quest for mass:
Stay stress free if you can. When you get agitated, your body releases cortisol. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone (though necessary for human life) however large amounts are detrimental to your physique.
Want your muscles to grow? Want to feel relaxed? Aim for around 8 hours sleep a night!
Do not overtain! You will not allow enough time for your muscles to recover, you will overstress your CNS (Central Nervous System) and guess what overtraining equals? Cortisol. That's right.
One Last Product
One last product, if you are a relatively advanced trainee is Designer Supplement's Lean Xtreme. Low dose, this can be an effective "lean bulking" supplement as it controls cortisol levels which may be unnecessarily high depending on your lifestyle.
It contains 7-hydroxy-dehydoepiandrosterone (7-OH) which prevents cortisol levels becoming excessively high.
I feel I have covered the supplemental options whilst trying to stay lean (nutrition and training being the most important thing!). There are many more supplements out there, but remember, we are trying to gain some mass here also! Keep it smart, but simple.
Does extra fat gain bother me? Yes it certainly does. As mentioned earlier, I am a fat-fearing bodybuilder and the sight of fat is horrible to me. I make my best effort to maintain an acceptable bodyfat (12% maximum). Does this hinder my muscle gains? Probably. however, by keeping my bodyfat lower:
I don't have as hard a time cutting down, therefore I can bulk for longer.
I feel better
I don't have to worry about looking out of shape to members of the opposite sex.
So for my personal reasons, yes it is a bad thing. I am prepared to gain some bodyfat, because unless you're genetically gifted, it's damn hard to gain muscle without bodyfat gain of some sort.
I gain anywhere from 2-4% whilst bulking, as I am careful with my caloric intake, I exercise and keep to a clean diet. My bulking phases normally last 8-12 weeks.
I feel this is sufficient time to put on some mass without much added bodyfat gain, and then assess my situation from thereafter. I may decide to continue bulking, cut down a little or just maintain.
Minimizing fat gains while bulking takes a lot of effort. It is not easy to do it because you must be thinking of it constantly 24/7. It requires proper and properly timed diets, sufficient and properly timed cardiovascular activity. Supplements may also help with proper diets, sleep and fat loss.
On top of this you must be active and not just sit around playing on the computer or watching too much TV. Adequate amounts of sleep will definitely help you feel better in the mornings and have increased energy levels throughout the day.
If you feel better in the morning, you most likely won't depend on stimulants such as coffee which will leave you with low energy levels and dehydrated when the stimulatory effect is gone.
Staying active is key in minimizing fat gains. As long as you are not lazing around the house and actually doing work such as dishes, sports, going out with friends or other house work your body will not be storing as much fat.
If you do need to watch your favorite TV show, make sure you are doing something such as light cardio, stretching, or rotator cuff exercises. Staying active is very important in minimizing fat storage while bulking.
Weights Before Cardio
Cardio should always be arranged after weights since your number one priority is to bulk. Cardio can be planned in two ways, right after weights or hours after weights.
Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Cardio during bulking should only be done 2, maximum 3 times a week. Any more than that and it may hinder your bulking gains.
Cardio should also be done at low intensity, about 60% - 70% to stimulate your body to burn fat and not carbohydrates . At this heart rate, minimal or no lactic acid is produced and therefore it will most likely not interfere with your bulking gains.
If your body begins producing lactic acid, overtraining or decreased bulking results may occur. Here are the two different ways of arranging cardio and weights:
Cardio Right After Weights
Performing cardio right after weights is great because glycogen stores are lower than normal and therefore, your body will most likely burn more fat and less carbohydrates.
This means that less cardio time is required to achieve the same amount of fat loss that if you were to do it later on in the day. It is also more convenient since you do not have to make two special trips to the gym, especially on a rainy day in the winter.
On the contrary, cardio right after weights would mean that you are starving your muscles; therefore I would recommend that you have a small protein shake (10-20g) and a regular protein shake including maltodextrin, dextrose, creatine and whatever else you put in it.
I would recommend doing cardio after working out smaller body parts (for example arms or shoulders) since you do not burn as many calories on those days. Here is a sample split
Separating your cardio from weights is a good idea if you have the time to do it. It can even be interesting and fun like playing a game of basketball, which is sort of like interval training, an effective way of burning fat. If you take a look at most basket ball players, their arms are pretty cut.
I would also recommend doing cardio in the morning on some of the rest days since you may feel an increase of energy throughout the day. It is also good in the morning since carbohydrate stores are lower, but I would drink a small protein shake or take BCAA before to spare muscle breakdown.
Running later in late afternoon or at night is not ideal since your body is full of carbohydrates.
Timing Of Weight Training
I believe that optimal time for weight training is around lunch or in the afternoon. If it is done too early in the morning, you will not have enough energy to do it since you may have only had one meal.
Having two or even three small meals before a workout will definitely help fuel your entire workout. I also believe that doing training late in the day is bad because your body wouldn't get the amount of energy as it would in the afternoon.
If you train too late, it may affect your ability to fall asleep, and sleep as I mentioned is very important.
Diet Routine While Bulking
My diet routine during bulking contains a wide variety of foods and very few junk foods. My meals during breakfast (first two meals) are completely different than supper (last two meals).
Post workout meals and lunch are also very different. Usually I consume about 7 meals a day consisting of two breakfast, lunch, supper, and one protein shake after a workout.
Eating small meals is good because it increases metabolism and maintains a peak nitrogen balance. It is always bad to be hungry because your body will starve and store fat as a protective mechanism.
I also like to slowly build up my caloric intake by increasing it by 300-500 calories a week starting at 2500 calories during my bulking phase.
There is a great web site by John Berardi for counting how many calories you use and should intake, the article is called 'Massive Eating'.
A good protein, carbohydrate and fat ratio to follow is 35:45:20. Many people believe that eating crazy amounts of protein will increase their size, but this is not true, it will simply destroy your liver and your body will store excess protein as fat .
Here are what my four different meals look like:
Breakfast should be one of the largest meals of the day. Breakfast replaces the energy and nutrients after going without food for 8-10 hours. I eat the bulk of my essential fats (eg. Natural peanut butter, flax oil) during breakfast as well.
The essential fat eaten in the morning is easily burned off throughout the day and used to help uptake fat soluble vitamins from my multivitamin I take in the morning.
I tend to eat moderate GI carbs without too much fiber since fiber absorbs the fat. I eat a lot of carbohydrates during breakfast (eg. whole wheat bagel, whole wheat bread, cereal) because it is what gives me energy in my workouts and throughout the day.
I also try to eat a fruit or two in the morning to give me some natural vitamins, and simple sugars. I also eat a reasonable amount of protein through eggs, milk, yogurt or low fat cheese in the morning.
The carbohydrates I eat during lunch are moderate to low GI. I would usually eat some mixed vegetables, and some whole wheat pasta or bread. I try to eat lean cuts of meat since they are low in saturated fats.
I may also add in some olives in my salad, have a bag of mixed nuts (including dried soybeans, almonds, peanuts, walnuts etc.), have avocados in my sushi, or have a fish sandwich to get some essential fats.
After my workout, I usually have some whey protein, ground oats or dextrose, maltodextrin (to create an insulin spike), salt, creatine. Those are the basics of creating a protein shake after a workout.
The fats you eat during supper time are the hardest to burn off because you are usually not as active and go to sleep, therefore not burning as many calories. This is why my evening diet consists of more fiber. I would recommend fibrous vegetables, lentils, or beans (usually I make a stir fry).
Fiber is good later on in the day because it keeps you from midnight snacking and being hungry, as well, it absorbs fat and prevents your body from absorbing it.
I would also have some lean meat which is slow digesting to prevent catabolism while I am sleeping. Beef is good but make sure it is lean. I also have a glass of milk (casein protein) before I go to bed, or some cottage cheese.
Here Is A Summary Of My Diet
From breakfast to supper carbohydrates go from moderate to complex and fibrous carbohydrates.
From breakfast to supper, the amount of essential fat eaten goes from great amounts to very little.
Eat lean cuts of meat.
Eat slow digesting protein before bed.
A protein shake is very important after a workout, it prevents catabolism.
Supplements to help promote lean mass
Meal replacements should not be taken every day, but if you do not have time to make yourself a meal, a meal replacement the occasional time is a healthy choice because it will maintain that high metabolism which leads to a leaner body.
They are convenient, contain great sources of protein, some are even high in fiber and most are low in fat.
I would recommend Prolab's Naturally Lean Complex because it is high in fiber, contains vitamins and minerals, a good blend of fast and slow digesting proteins and safflower oil which is an essential fat and contains CLA.
I would also recommend supplements which contain essential fats because they promote lean mass.
Does the extra fat bother you when bulking? Is it really a bad thing? Approximately how much fat do you gain when bulking? How long is your usual bulking program?
Extra fat does not bother me too much because I don't gain a whole lot of fat when I bulk. I know that I do gain a little if I look at my abs, but I can easily shed it off. I don't believe that gaining a extra few pounds in fat is really a bad thing because my 6 pack is still slightly visible during the end of my bulking season.
If I did gain more fat then I would be worried. I usually gain about 3 % body fat during my bulking phase, which is about 4-5 pounds of body fat. My bulking phase is no more than 4 months long and I usually change my training schedule every one to one and a half months, a key in bulking.
Bulking up is a part of bodybuilding. All the pro's and amateurs bulk up and then cut down for a competition. Without bulking up, your progress would come to a snail's pace. When 'bulking' you should focus on gaining as much muscle as you can, while keeping fat gain at a minimum. Your best judge is you. And your friend is the mirror.
Do not base your results on weight, charts and logs. Sure those are necessary, but are not the prime factor on determining your progress.
Before you start keep a log of all your lifts, and measurements record your progress every 2 weeks, that way you can determine if you are heading down the right path.
When bulking up you should keep body fat at a minimum. Gaining more than 2lbs per week is bad, and it means you are overeating and you should cut your calories by 200-400 calories to ease off the fat gains. Our goal is to gain muscle and not fat. Let's be realistic, fat will come but you shouldn't gain more than 4-7% fat on your whole bulk.
If you're gaining 10%+ you are surely overeating, or consuming junk food. Again, the mirror is your best friend. When bulking I monitor my fat gains and when I gain too much fat I can usually tell why it is.
Learn to listen to your body and not the scale. Do not over bulk, because if you do, you will have a hard time loosing it. With all the cutting you will do, you will loose more muscle which will lead you to nowhere.
Like I said, it's not wise to base it on the scale or a program, always determine your progress through looking in the mirror.
Although weight training is necessary to gain muscle, the right diet is needed. Nutrition is about 80 percent of bodybuilding. So no matter how much you train and how many sets you do, if you don't feed and rebuild your body, it simply won't grow.
I see tons of people in the gym with perfect routines, going day by day, always the same. I know that their diet sucks, but again I see them editing their routines and following the next best workout program. The other factor that seems to be overlooked is rest. You need 8 hours of good quality sleep.
Don't expect to grow while you watch TV until midnight and then wake up at 6 for work or school. Your body needs to repair. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) kicks in within 2 hours of your sleep and repairs broken down tissue, or you muscle. That way you get bigger and stronger.
When you cut down your sleep, you are taking away 2-4 hours of the main building process, and that is no good in trying to get more muscle. You need training, diet and rest to get big. Once you begin to master these components your gains should start coming in quite nicely.
Cardio During Bulking
If your bulking up it doesn't mean that you should develop heart and cardiovascular problems. Always perform cardio so you can stay healthy and maintain healthy blood pressure.
Something a lot of pro bodybuilders need to do. I like all sorts of cardio. The problem with me is that I get bored easily, which may not be such a bad thing.
Because your body can get adjusted too, it's good to switch things up. Now when I do HIIT, I like the feeling of the intense cardio, but sometimes I'm so tired that I prefer the 40 minute monotonous jog... whatever floats your boat. I personally recommend doing both so you can get the same benefits.
Maybe make a routine that has 2 days HIIT and the other 2 days long jogs. It's your choice; for some people their body responds best to HII so why change it if it works. Try and see which method works for you and if neither is the best, switch them up from time to time.
Mon - HIIT 25 minutes
Tue - Off
Wed - 45 minute jog
Thur - Off
Fri - HIIT 25 minutes
Sat - Off (unless your metabolism is very slow then you can add HIIT)
Sun - Off
The Best Type Of Diet For Bulking Up
When bulking up, you need an organized eating plan. Also, you have to educate yourself about carbs, protein and fats. You need to know how calories work, and how to calculate your meals. First off you're going to need to form a ratio. Through years of experience, I've found that 50/30/20 (carbs, protein, fat) works best for gaining quality weight.
Now since the body gets used to the amount of food you're giving it, you will have to up the calories by 300 every 2 weeks. The first week that you start bulking you will go +500 calories and then 300 calories every 2 weeks from then on. The 300 calories will be the same ratio as your diet.
You will bulk up for 14-16 weeks, or until you decide to cut down. Let's say you were eating 3000 calories before you started. That's your maintenance.
First you will add 500 for the first 2 weeks, and then 300 for every other week. So it will look something like this. This is only a model, so add 500 calories to your maintenance calories.
Starting At 3000:
Weeks 1-2 = 3,500 cal
Weeks 3-4 = 3,800 cal
Weeks 5-6 = 4,100 cal
Weeks 7-8 = 4,400 cal
Weeks 9-10 = 4,700 cal
Weeks 11-12 = 5,000 cal
Weeks 13-14 = 5,300 cal
Week 15-16 = 5,600 cal
You can stop at anytime if you feel you have reached your goal, or are gaining too much fat. Let the mirror be your judge. Don't follow the scale or a program. It would be foolish if you are happy at week 13 and you continue to week 16 and gain 5 or more lbs of fat. Always look in the mirror.
Having logs and looking at the scale is fine too, it's actually necessary, but always let the mirror be your main source for judging your progress. Now since you know how many calories you have to eat, it's time to see what you will be eating.
Carbs, protein and fats are what your diet is made out of. You know the ratio you need, now we need to figure out what of each you will be having and what foods are great sources of each macronutrient.
Carbs are needed for energy. You need a lot of carbs, since they make 50% of your diet. Going too high on carbs will result in fat gain. Too little carbs will results in using other macronutrients as energy which is also bad. You need to balance it out, and 50% is exactly what will do the trick.
In the world of carbs, there are simple and complex carbs. Eat simple carbs consisting of dextrose for after workout only; otherwise avoid these carbs as they result in insulin spike and fat again.
Feel free to eat a lot of fruits though. Next are complex carbs which are great for bulking. They are slowly released into the body not creating a spike, and perfect for your diet. Now here are some great sources of carbohydrates.
High fructose corn syrup
100% whole wheat bread
Protein is very important. Protein builds lean muscle tissue, and that's how you get big. Without protein, it's like trying to drive a car without gas, or on the fumes. You need 1-2 grams per lb of bodyweight, and 30% of your diet will be just enough to get you big. With a diet rich of protein, you will grow and feel better.
Protein is found in meats and poultry. Be careful and avoid meat with the white stuff on it. That is saturated fat, and no good for your body or health. Red meat is perfect for getting big, but also contains saturated fats. Eat beef only 2-3 times per week and be careful and cut off all the visible saturated fat.
Tuna and other fish are great for lean protein. Since not all of us can eat meat all the time, whey protein is perfect for supplementation. Whey saved my diet when I started my job.
It was 8 hours and I had a 1 hour break in between and I was able to eat a big meal. But I also needed two smaller ones in between. So I got my canteen and put 2-3 scoops of whey.
I also had a banana or something to fulfill my diet requirements. I strongly suggest that you pick up a tub of whey protein.
Fats are often overlooked in todays 'athlete' diets. Since the 90's fats got a bad reputation. So in everyone's mind, fat equals fat around your belly.
In reality, fat from food and stored fat on a body are two different things. Everyone needs fat in their diet. From active to non active people, fat is needed.
Because we are trying to get bigger, fat is 20% of our total intake. Don't worry, it will not magically stick to your belly. There are different kinds of fat. There is saturated, and unsaturated fat.
The saturated fat has a sub category of trans fats, while the unsaturated fats have poly and mono. You should avoid saturated fats, and avoid trans fats at all costs, since all they do is clog arteries and have 0 beneficial results in your body.
Poly and Mono are helpful and help the body and are also proven to raise natural testosterone. Something that every lifter can appreciate.
These 'good fats' belong to the Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) which are needed for your body and are quite good for you, with little to no bad benefits.
Salmon and fish are excellent sources of protein and the fat that we want. There's virtually no saturated fat in fish and that is good to keep your bulk diet clean.
Be sure to consume a lot of nuts and cook with olive oil. These will give you pure EFA's and will be very good for your body and healthy for your system. Please don't overlook fat, because it plays an important role in any diet, bulking or cutting.
Sure we are bulking. But I strongly suggest you do not go out and load up on fast food thinking that you loaded up on calories and will get big. Well you are right on one thing, you will get big, but the only measurement that will change will be your waist. We don't want that. So even though we are consuming a high amounts of calories, that doesn't give us the right to pig out.
It's ok to have a cheat day once every 1 or 2 weeks, but don't overdo it or you will gain extra fat which, when cutting time comes around, is no fun. It means you will cut longer, loose more muscle and have a busy schedule. So take it nice and slow, stick to basic foods from each food group, nothing too extreme, and remember to listen to your body.
Even if it's time to change the calories a bit, if you still feel that you are making gains, then don't change it. It's about looking in the mirror and determining how you've progressed. If you gain fat a little faster, then have fewer cheat meals. Do not hesitate to tweak your calories, or do a carb load depending on how you feel. After all it's your body and everyone reacts differently.
There Are Some Bad Carbs
Ok now it's time to separate the bad from the good. When eating carbs be careful not to overeat on the simple carbs. Simple carbs are excellent for after a workout because they will go in your system for energy or muscle rebuilding fast.
But when you are not doing anything and have large amounts of simple carbs (High GI) you are asking for fat loss. Since it all goes in your system and your body doesn't need it.
Avoid foods like candy, pure sugar and foods containing a lot of sugar. Ice cream, pizza, potato chips and Twizzlers are all bad for you and won't give you the gains you are looking for.
Protein, Hard To Mess Up
As for protein, you can't really mess up that bad. Just make sure you are eating clean, lean protein. Don't eat fatty steak everyday and wonder why you are gaining fat fast.
Avoid the white stuff (saturated fats) and be sure to eat a lot of fish and chicken breast. Be sure to avoid mixed beef that is full of sat. fat and other bad stuff.
Also avoid meats that are generally high in fat and feel greasy when eating. Chicken is good, but don't buy fried chicken or chicken strips that have 20% real chicken in them. Also avoid pork. Sure pork chops are good for red meat, but other than that pork is bad and pretty fattening.
Meats like lamb and duck are greasy and don't have good protein in them. Besides chicken breast, tuna and the occasional red meat, all other meats have too much sat. fat for large consumption.
Fats are always overlooked and to people they are all the same. Wrong. There are bad and good fats. I already explained the benefit and what and where good fats come from. Now it's time for the bad fats. They are found in red meat; beef, pork, lamb. You name it, it's there.
Saturated fats are usually found looking white at room temperature and if you taste them they feel very greasy. Avoid them at all cost since they are no good for you. They clog up arteries, and the leading causes of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol and death.
Cheese and eggs also contain this type of fat, and like red meat, it comes from an animal. Aside from red meat and diary, saturated fats are found in artificial products such as potato chips, fast food, and junk candy.
The saturated fat from these products comes from low quality, cheap oils that companies use to lessen the cost, increase the greasy taste and cause major problems to today's society. Avoid these bad fats.
Supplements For Keeping Lean While Bulking
Our key is to minimize fat while bulking. Although diet, training and rest are key, supplements can play an important role in bulking. They will give you the extra boost you need. By taking supplements you can increase your gains. Not anything dramatic, but still its well worth it to invest in supplements.
They can give you a extra boost when you need it in the weight room or shorten your recovery time. No matter what, I strongly suggest supplements, and the best place to get them for an affordable price and excellent quality is Bodybuilding.com's store.
There you will find everything you need, filled with tons of articles and places that can give you a very close look in the world of supplements. Although famous, these few supplements are very effective and not that expensive.
No matter how hard you try, nothing replaces good old whey. It has a fast digestion rate, and comes in very pure form. By taking whey, you can increase your protein uptake by 50-150 grams per day which is very time saving and efficient.
Whey is a must for after a workout since your muscles are tired and need to be replenished. Also when you wake... yup, whey is the best choice for protein in my opinion.
Creatine is used by tons of people worldwide. It is safe, 100% natural and effective. From Olympians to gym rats, people use creatine. It gives an extra boost when working out.
It can also help you gain more muscle and better your lifts. It boosts up the ATP energy which is responsible for short, drastic muscle movements. Perfect for weightlifters all around, creatine is a must for bulking up.
These days everyone takes multivitamins. That is a very smart choice. Since we all need vitamins, and we can't always eat every fruit out there, multivitamins are a very wise choice for any diet.
Since you are bulking, you need vitamins to maintain your body healthy. From all the workouts and stress that you put on it, it's a must that you have vitamins to replenish and rebuild. Always a must for every bodybuilder.
I don't recommend using any thermogenics as those can raise your blood pressure and if it's already raised it can cause problems. Also it can speed up the metabolism too fast and that can be counter productive.
Although you can try caffeine before a workout, don't use it everyday and follow directions.
Does the extra fat bother you when bulking? Is it really a bad thing? Approximately how much fat do you gain when bulking? How long is your usual bulking program?
I must say this is a hard question. In my usual season shape I'm around 10% bf. But what happens when I bulk is I go to around 13-17% bf which can throw off a lot of people if they don't know what you are doing.
I think that anything over 20% is too much. As for 13-20% is normal for bulking, but if you are maintaining at that then it's bad. If you are on your 9th week of bulking and sporting a mini gut at 15%bf, then I wouldn't worry. It's very weird especially with girls.
My success rate goes down with girls when I'm into my bulking stage, while it gets higher as I get cut to around 8-10%. Sure my muscles look better at 15% and are fuller, but girls don't like that. After all you have to be doing it for yourself otherwise you will get into trouble.
I use the good 'ole bulking/cutting method. I bulk up two times per year. Usually a big one from January till April, and then cutting till July/August and then bulking again from August till October with a smaller bulk so I can cut and be ready for my next big bulk. I'm usually 8-12% when I'm at the end of a cut and usually 12-16% when I'm bulking.
I might go to 18% when I'm bulking for 3 months or more and that is noticeable on my 5'6 frame. Right now I'm sporting a 5'6 205lb frame with around 13-14%bf and I'm ready for a cut in a few weeks. My main concern is mass, and for that you have to sacrifice some fat. But if you just want to be fit, maintain a 7-10%bf and you should be fine.