With the winter season fast approaching us it is the perfect time to begin your winter bulk. As a general rule, whenever you are trying to add additional muscle to your frame you are going to have to also accept some fat gain.
The reason being—in order to stimulate muscle growth you need to be in a caloric surplus and oftentimes some of those additional calories will get transfer to body fat. Luckily, as long as you are smart about your bulk, you can minimize fat gain while maximizing muscle gain.
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Lift Heavy!
One of the biggest factors you need to remember with your training program is that you MUST be applying an overloading stimulus. Without this, your body is not going to have any reason to turn those extra calories into muscle and you will just gain a great deal of body fat. Definitely not what you are looking for here.
2. Eat Carbohydrates Around Your Workout
During a bulk you cannot be afraid of carbohydrates. They are going to supply your body with the energy it needs for muscle building. Generating muscle tissue is a very energy consuming process so you need to be sure to meet your needs.
If you are hoping to minimize fat gain it is best to consume the greatest portion of your carbohydrate intake around your workouts, as this is when your body needs them the most and they are least likely to end up on your body in the form of fat. You still should consume some carbohydrates during your other meals however the portion sizes can be slightly smaller.
3. Eat More... Period
This could possibly be the biggest mistake most beginners make when they are entering a bulking period. The minute they lose sight of their abs they shy off the amount of food they are consuming for fear of getting fat. This will severely short circuit their potential muscle gains and possibly even stop them altogether.
4. Limit Cardio Sessions
While you are on a bulk you should limit your cardio sessions to once or twice a week. You are going to want all of your energy to go towards adding muscle so if you are expending a great deal through cardio activity then you are defeating your goal. If you do choose to include more cardio work into your program (for example if it is necessary for a sport you participate in) then you are going to have to increase your calories even more to compensate for this.
5. Eat More Fat
Many younger guys who are trying to successfully gain weight are going to have to consume astronomical amounts of calories. If you try to eat completely clean foods while doing this you may find your stomach feeling rather uncomfortable. The best way to handle this is to look at consuming foods that, while still are healthy, are more dense in calories.
This means that they will take up less room in your stomach thereby allowing you to consume more calories to meet your needs. Since one gram of fat has 9 calories whereas protein and carbohydrates both have 4 this will make it easier. Make sure these are healthy sources of fat you are eating.
6. Focus On Compound Exercises
When creating your workout program for bulking it is best to always first choose compound exercises. These are the ones that are going to stimulate the greatest number of muscle fibers and give you the biggest bang for your buck. Examples of such are:
- Chest press
- Military press
- Bent-over rows
7. Allow For Enough Rest
As important as your workout program is, rest is also just as important. Without allowing your body to recover from your workouts you will not provide it with the opportunity to grow back stronger. Remember that you progress while you are resting. When you are actually performing your workouts you are tearing down your muscle, thus in all reality, making it weaker.
8. Ensure You Are Getting Enough Sleep
In addition to rest, sleep is also essential. Not only is it the ultimate form of rest but getting ample sleep will also help to optimize your hormonal profile.
When your body is not getting enough sleep you will tend to release more cortisol, which acts as a catabolic hormone on the body. This will make gaining muscle much more difficult as for that you are looking for anabolic processes to occur (the opposite of catabolic).
9. Don't Overdo Protein
One common myth that many people hold with regards to bulking is the notion that they must consume massive amounts of protein. While it is true you need protein since it supplies your body with the building blocks necessary for creating muscle tissue, any extra is only going to be used for energy or stored as body fat.
After your needs are met you would be far better off consuming more carbohydrates or dietary fat. Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
10. Don't Let Yourself Get Too Out Of Control
A final thing you should consider for a successful bulk is not to let yourself get too out of control with regards to fat gain. While gaining some fat is certainly alright, if not expected, gaining too much is not in your best interest. Just remember that you are eventually going to have to lose this excess weight and it will be much easier to do so if you have only gained 10 pounds extra compared to 30 or more.
Once you reach a level where your body fat is passed where you feel comfortable then do a short 'cutting' period where you lose some body fat and then continue back on with your bulk. Note that if the fat gain happened quickly then you might want to revise your bulk protocol and consume slightly less of a surplus of calories to help minimize fat gain in the first place.
By following these 10 tips you should be able to really improve your physique over the winter so after you reduce your body fat during the spring you will be lean and muscular for beach season!