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This is possibly one of the most prevalent myths of not only bulking but also bodybuilding in general. There are many reasons as to why people would claim that you don’t need to bulk. The most obvious of these reasons would be that people typically associate bulking with eating junk food and getting fat when this is not an accurate picture of bulking. However bulking can take on many different forms depending on your goals and body type. For some people it will mean a massive calorie intake but for other people it will simply mean a small calorie surplus and only slight increase in body fat. The bottom line is that you can’t expect to build muscle and burn fat over the long term. People new to training will gain muscle very quickly at first and in this time period may be able to lose fat some fat as well but this is not really possible for anyone that has been training seriously for more than 6-12 months. Furthermore ideal body fat percentages such a single digit body fat are not ideal for building muscle and strength. Therefore at some point in time a conscious decision will have to made by everyone to bulk to some extent if they want to maximise their gains and reach their potential. Here is a list of what people who claim you don’t need to bulk have in common:
Be wary next time you hear someone claim that you can build muscle quickly whilst keeping a low body fat percent. It’s what everybody wants to hear but it is not a realistic strategy for anyone that has not already used bulking to effectively build up a solid basis of muscle mass first which can then be maintained whilst staying lean.
This myth is probably responsible for all the confusion surrounding myth 1. Bulking is not a license to eat junk food. Of course by eating junk food you will be able to get a massive caloric surplus and build size quickly. However the problem that most people will run into here is that their weight gain is about 80-90% fat and water retention. You will be able to gain much more muscle and much less body fat while bulking by eating healthier foods. Foods like red meat, nuts, fruits and low GI carbs contain protein that is much easier for your body to absorb, healthy fats, sustained energy and loads of vitamins and minerals essential for muscle growth. Eating junk food can work for bulking but you have to understand that it has only one advantage – it’s easy.
This myth also ties in with the previous myth. When bulking is done properly you are eating pretty much all the same healthy foods that you eat when you are cutting, just more of them. As such you should only be increasing your food quantities as required to see steady changes in your weight. A good goal for most people whilst bulking is gaining about 0.5kg per week. The best way to do this will be to slowly increase your calorie intake by adding in an additional 200-300 daily calories each week. This will allow you to monitor your body fat increase and stop increasing calories once you realise that your fat percentage is going up but your muscle size and strength in the gym has plateaued. If you are strict with your bulking diet there will be no need to exceed 12-14% body fat (this will still look quite lean to most people). If you are less disciplined with your diet you will easily end up around 20% body fat (this is where most people would start to look fat).
This might actually be the case for some people but there are so many other variables in protein absorption that it would be foolish to use this as a blanket rule for bodybuilders. Some of the variables include quality of the protein source, muscle mass off the individual, how recently you have eaten and your body’s requirement for muscle repair. More recent research is emerging proving that large amounts of protein can be absorbed in one sitting particularly if there has been a long time since the last meal. The bottom line is that 30g is arbitrarily low. You should aim to eat about 2-3g of protein per kg of body weight every day. This means that spread over 6 meals including shakes you would need to eat about 35-52g each meal.
There is certainly an element of truth in this myth but as a whole sugar is certainly not bad. Eating sugar regular as a part of each meal in a bulking diet plan is unwise. However eating large amounts of sugar from fruit and supplements before and after training times will be extremely beneficial for muscle gain. Remember sugar spikes your insulin and insulin is the most anabolic hormone in the human body. Insulin will drive sugar and amino acids into your muscle cells turning on protein synthesis and maximising muscle growth. Taking sugar around training times does not result in conversion to fat. As a general guide take about 50-100g of sugar or other high GI carbs like maltodextrin after every workout.
Why is it that so often when people look at a weight gaining supplement they want to see high protein and high carbs but low fats? It’s as if they think that the carbs in the supplement will build clean mass whilst the fats will result in fat storage. This is just simply not the case. Most weight gain supplements use MCT powder as the fat source which is a high quality fat with much lower propensity towards being stored as fat than the carbs themselves. Don’t fear fats if you want to build quality mass. However in saying that you need to be careful to choose healthy fats. Healthy fats such as coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, organic butter (yes that’s right) and ghee are the best way to naturally raise testosterone levels and increase overall bodily health and function.
Most bodybuilders are smart enough to know better but this is something you will often hear as a nutritional tip from sources well removed from the squat racks. Having a slow digesting protein source right before bed such as casein, peanut butter or cottage cheese is a great way to ensure that your body is primed with nutrients during sleep when your body does its growing. If you are a particularly hard gainer you may want to even go to the extent of midnight shakes. Waking up half way through your sleep to down a protein shake is actually a very effective way increase your body’s ability to build mass.