Are you getting ready to enter into a bulking season? Are you ready to put on some muscle and gain mass before you start cutting down for summer or start getting ready for your next big competition?
If you've never bulked before, you might have some questions about the process.
From basic queries like "What is bulking season?" to more advanced questions like "how much water should I be drinking?" it's perfectly normal to feel confused. You don't have to go through your bulk alone or rely simply on trial and error, though.
We're here to provide you with some guidance and give you some practical, actionable bulking season dos and don'ts to help you get the most out of this phase of your training cycle.
To gain muscle while maintaining low body fat...
DON'T eat everything in sight. "#BulkLife!"
DO maintain a high protein, moderate carbohydrate and low-fat diet. Eating the best bulking foods in appropriate (rather than excessive) quantities has been shown to yield the best results. As far as macronutrients go, a safe estimate to follow is 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight, 2-2.5g of carbohydrates per pound bodyweight and 0.35g of fat per pound body weight.
DON'T avoid cardio. "Can't lose my gains, Bro!"
DO maintain a moderate cardio routine. There's nothing wrong with doing some cardio while bulking to keep fat gain to a minimum. This does not mean you need to spend hours on the treadmill, though. Staying active by playing your favorite sport or going for a light jog in the park is perfectly acceptable and will not be detrimental to gaining muscle in the offseason.
DON'T neglect your water intake. "Water intake only matters for prep, not offseason bulking."
DO keep your muscles hydrated; this is extremely important for muscle gain and for strength. When your muscles are dehydrated, they cannot perform the same contractions during your bulking workout routine as well as when they are hydrated.
Hydration also provides lubrication for your digestive system so it can shuttle the extra calories where they need to go. If you drink a gallon of water during prep, a good increase would be to add another half-gallon during the offseason.
DON'T rely on whole foods alone to gain the amount of muscle you desire. "Relying on supplements is cheating."
DO use supplementation to help fulfill your calorie intake. Many times, when trying to bulk, it is unrealistic to eat only whole foods to hit your increased calorie goals.
It is acceptable to add extra, high-quality calorie sources, such as a Gainer supplement, to make your goals more attainable. Fluids are generally less filling and allow you to take in more calories than would otherwise be possible. Gain is jam-packed with 1,230 deliciously-rich calories designed to maximize your calorie intake.
DON'T skip cheat day. "I have to strictly stick to my bulking meal plan. Cheat meals will throw me off track."
DO add in cheat meals (1-2 times per week depending on your goals) to increase metabolism and help break through plateaus.
While following a bulking meal plan, your body will become accustomed to eating the same foods and the same number of calories. This means that, at some point, your body will plateau in regards to muscle gain. To change it up, high-calorie cheat meals will also increase metabolism.
When having a cheat meal, it is ideal to spike insulin levels so the calories are shuttled into your muscles.
DON'T set unrealistic weight goals. "A successful off-season results in me adding 20+lbs of muscle!"
DO understand that a successful off-season keeps you as close to stage weight as possible while also helping you to gain as much muscle as possible. Success would also mean that you increased your metabolism so you can drop fat at 2200 calories instead of 1800 like your last prep. Remember, success is not measured by pounds on the scale.
Time to Conquer Bulking Season
Now that you know more about the dos and don'ts of bulking, it's time to throw out the stigmas and get the most out of your bulk. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be sure to have a successful bulking season.