Bulking – A Complete Guide For Beginners

MrM27
MrM27 Posts: 18,381 Member
There are many that come through and ask questions and I'm sure there are some that lurk and are probably afraid to ask so I wanted to share one of my favorite readings when it comes to bulking. It's straight forward without the frills and nonsense. The author a member of this forum and on bb.com. I have had the pleasure of having several conversations with him and he's a great guy. If you're serious about wanting to learn then take the time to click the link. I've also gone ahead a copied it here for your viewing pleasure.

http://strengthunbound.com/bulking-complete-guide-for-beginners/

Strength Unbound Strength Unbound
Bulking – A Complete Guide For Beginners
Jay Waldron

May 28, 2014
Beginners, Diet, Muscle Gain, Training
Bulking Beginners Guide

You’ve decided to take the plunge and try you hand at bulking. Awesome! You definitely won’t regret that decision. Now what do you do?

Bulking can be a scary proposition if you don’t know what you are doing; lets make sure you know what you are doing so that your results are the best that they can possibly be!

The unknown always brings concern. In reality bulking is not scary at all; it really is something that you can enjoy and have a lot of fun with. You’ll make workout progress like you never have before, you’ll feel great, and if you’re careful and don’t go overboard, you’ll find that the fat gain is a whole lot more terrifying in theory than reality.

I’m going to touch on a few different aspects of what you need to know about bulking; bear with me, this article is quite long. We’ll look at what sort of prerequisites there are in order to maximize muscle gain efficiency (which also means minimizing fat gain), what you need to do with your diet and exercise to ensure success, and what to expect to experience once you get going.

If you aren’t sure that bulking is right for you, check out my article Born To Bulk if you still need some convincing.

*****

Are You Ready To Bulk?
Before you get started and jump right in to bulking, first lets determine if you are indeed ready to bulk. Consider the following questions:

Are You Strong?
Are You Fat?
Have You Been Losing Weight a Long Time?
Are You Mentally Ready To Bulk?
If you are not physically ready, chances are too much of your calorie surplus will go to increasing your body fat and too little toward increasing muscle mass. If you aren’t mentally ready, chances are you’re going to struggle to stick with it.

Are You Strong?

pullup
Having a solid base of strength with your existing muscles when you begin bulking will help keep gains cleaner.
Unfortunately the body does not want to grow big muscles with extra calories that you eat. Otherwise there would be no fat people, just a whole bunch of swole folks. In order to grow bigger muscles you have to somehow “tell” your body to do so, and do so efficiently.

This is where being strong comes in.

The body adapts to strength training at first through your nervous system, using the muscle you have more efficiently, and by increasing the number of nuclei in the muscles (which itself does not contribute to size). This initial adaptation acts as a foundation that will eventually allow hypertrophy to occur. [1]

When you first start strength training, the body just isn’t ready to grow bigger muscles efficiently.

When you have more than ample capacity for beginner strength gains, training doesn’t produce as much muscle tension or fatigue as the existing muscle is capable of producing. Given the exact same amount of muscle mass, if you compare a person that has been strength training 6 months vs. one that has been training 2 weeks, the more experienced trainee will be much stronger and will gain muscle much more efficiently in a calorie surplus.

Eventually beginner gains will slow down, once this occurs you will be able to efficiently grow bigger muscles. How will you know you’ve reach this point? Set to set and workout to workout fatigue will begin to increase dramatically, and workout to workout linear strength progression will begin to stall.

It should take 4-6 months of regular strength training for beginner gains start to slow down. You can definitely begin to bulk before this point, though efficiency will be sacrificed a bit (resulting in greater fat gain). Note however untrained individuals that have just begun strength training should wait a few months before attempting a calorie surplus.

Are You Fat?

Being overfat comes with a host of negative side effects, including the inability to efficiently gain muscle in a calorie surplus. This isn’t to say that you can’t gain muscle, quite the contrary, just that you won’t be able to gain as efficiently as you could at lower body fat levels. The reason has to do primarily with insulin resistance and its effects on the body.

Insulin resistance is a side effect of being overfat (a more accurate description of “overweight”, spend a good amount of time bulking and chances are you will be overweight even when very lean). Insulin resistance is a broad term that occupies the grey area between those that have very little resistance (generally trained individuals with very little body fat) and those that have extreme resistance (type 2 diabetics); pretty much everyone that is overfat has some degree of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance will impact muscle gain in two ways:

The system to bring nutrients from the bloodstream into the muscles (one of insulin’s functions) loses effectiveness as the body becomes insulin resistant.
The signaling system that enables growth (the mTOR signaling pathway) becomes hyperactive, leading to faster fat storage (hence less muscle gain from the surplus) and further insulin resistance. [2,3]
The inability to efficiently get nutrients into the muscles where it is needed for growth and a hyperactive growth signaling system is why you should preferably not be overfat when attempting to bulk.

Where is this point, where you are lean enough to bulk efficiently? Lyle McDonald pegs it at 15% body fat (for males), you will find this recommendation just about everywhere (it seems that he is the original source for that recommendation). I do think that value is a bit aggressive and that there is some leeway, especially in first timers who tend to bulk very efficiently. The difference between 10-15% and 15-20% body fat is fairly small in bulking efficiency, if there is even a difference at all. (See my article on measuring body fat at home if you are unsure of your body fat percentage).

You really shouldn’t expect notable declines in bulking efficiency until you are 20-25% body fat or even higher, unless you also have a genetic predisposition to insulin resistance.

I was about 20% body fat when I started my first bulk.

(Important note: the body fat levels quoted are for males, females should add about 7% to these numbers for roughly equivalent body fat levels, 10% body fat in a male is similar to about 17% body fat in a female).

Have You Been Losing Weight A Long Time?

losing weight a long timeThe last point about ideal body fat % comes with a caveat; there is a tradeoff. When you have been losing weight a long time, eventually you will reach a point where the benefits of taking a break from cutting and bulking for a bit will exceed the efficiency “cost” of bulking at a higher body fat %.

The body adapts to a consistent long term calorie deficit by slowing down metabolism to conserve calories, a process known as adaptive thermogenesis. This decline in metabolism is greater than the decline that body mass alone would predict.

Long term cutting quite simply isn’t very good for your body. There are negative side effects of long term cutting above and beyond the loss in metabolism (both mental and physical; sex hormones notably decrease [4] and all body processes that require growth/regeneration suffer). These negative side effects only get stronger and stronger the leaner you get. Spending some time bulking will eventually undo all of the negative side effects of cutting too long.

One thing that will tend to notably improve is any loose skin issues you may have. Bulking is every bit as good for rejuvenating skin as it is for growing muscles. Forget creams and scrubs, spending time in a consistent calorie surplus, which increases the bodies’ production of growth hormones [5] (combined with exercise, which also enhances the production of these growth hormone [6]) is the single best thing you can do yourself to improve loose skin issues [7].

The little bit of loose skin I had after losing 75 lbs was almost totally gone 2 months into my first bulk; at first the skin improvement was far more dramatic than the muscle gain.

A bulk can act as a long, extremely effective diet break. If you have been losing weight for a while, especially if it has slowed to an agonizing crawl and you’re starting to notice hormonal issues from spending too long cutting, you should definitely consider spending some time bulking, even if you are at a higher body fat level than recommended.

Once you return to your weight loss goals, you will find cutting fat to be much easier following some time spent bulking.

Are You Mentally Ready To Bulk?

Cutting is a battle of willpower, bulking is a battle of self-confidence.

Just as bulking requires physical readiness to be efficient, it also requires mental readiness. Bulking is a big time mental tonic for people that have spent their whole life either losing weight or ignoring their weight, but you do have to be ready for it.

Waist measuring
To bulk effectively you have to accept some fat gain.
Most importantly you have to be prepared to accept fat gain. Some fat gain is inevitable; in fact it is beyond inevitable, if there isn’t at least some fat gain, you aren’t gaining nearly as efficiently as you could be. There is, however, a huge difference between a little fat gain and rapid onset obesity. If things are going right the fat gain should be barely perceptible to you, and close to invisible to anyone else.

Accepting that there will be fat gain means that you don’t overreact to every little bit of bloating or every time the scale goes up (sometimes it quickly shoots upward). Overreacting to weight gain (even if it isn’t clearly fat) is a good way to make no progress.

Using caution when bulking means you should underreact to things that worry you.

Finally, you have to be prepared to commit to the plan, both with exercise and diet. Skipping workouts when bulking is a good way to lose muscle-gain efficiency. Being nonchalant with your diet is a good way to either make no gains or to gain too quickly and gain too much fat. If you’re not ready to commit to the plan, you probably are not ready to bulk
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Replies

  • JoRocka
    JoRocka Posts: 17,554 Member
    YES!!!

    Waldo is the man- what a great post- should be sticked!
  • jbgolf52
    jbgolf52 Posts: 210 Member
    Thanks for this! I've never heard of this website and it seems like a great source of info.
  • Serah87
    Serah87 Posts: 5,484 Member
    Thank you, I need this, getting ready to do my first bulk here soon.
  • FunkyTobias
    FunkyTobias Posts: 1,776 Member
    77099e99060209eda33a58858fd7b962.jpg
  • sardelsa
    sardelsa Posts: 9,826 Member
    Thank you for posting. This article really helped me out when I first got started. My favorite quote from Jay: "Cutting is a battle of willpower, bulking is a battle of self-confidence." Truth.
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,148 Member
    good post brother!
  • JoRocka
    JoRocka Posts: 17,554 Member
    edited January 2015
    sardelsa wrote: »
    Thank you for posting. This article roll. lly helped me out when I first got started. My favorite quote from Jay: "Cutting is a battle of willpower, bulking is a battle of self-confidence." Truth.

    I thought Waldo coined that! Lol either way. It's true as hell.
  • sardelsa
    sardelsa Posts: 9,826 Member
    JoRocka wrote: »
    sardelsa wrote: »
    Thank you for posting. This article roll. lly helped me out when I first got started. My favorite quote from Jay: "Cutting is a battle of willpower, bulking is a battle of self-confidence." Truth.

    I thought Waldo coined that! Lol either way. It's true as hell.

    I thought Jay and Waldo were the same person, no? :p
  • 3laine75
    3laine75 Posts: 3,073 Member
    Good shout MrM! Waldo's site is great. I second the stickie idea - then we can just link to this instead of threads going down the drain (that is fun though) :)
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,148 Member
    3laine75 wrote: »
    Good shout MrM! Waldo's site is great. I second the stickie idea - then we can just link to this instead of threads going down the drain (that is fun though) :)

    apparently anything sticky eligible is lock down eligible...
  • FitFroglet
    FitFroglet Posts: 219 Member
    Thanks, this answers a lot of questions I had (and more I hadn't thought to ask). I'm still shifting the excess fat but I'm enjoying the unveiling of the muscles that have been hiding - I think this thread will be most useful.
  • abhisheksengupta
    abhisheksengupta Posts: 28 Member
    edited January 2015
    Great post thank you.

    I have a few of questions and your weight change profile seems relateable to mine. So it'll be a great favor if you (or others) could help me on these:

    So about me:
    Male, 21, 5'10
    Waist - 32 inches
    Current weight - 160 lbs

    I was touching obesity at 212 lbs and had a lot of body fat (man boobs, love handles and everywhere else), little muscle due to my lack of physical activity. I have lost 52 lbs starting last June. A bulk of that was lost in the four months. Even though my weight loss and physical transformation was speedy and visible I kind of overkilled it by doing a few mistakes: Low calorie diet (started with 1300 calories and averaged at 1600-1700). I walked for 2 hours a day (gym+college and back, with earphones on) and a bulk of gym time was spent in cycling (30-45 minutes). Total 75 minutes of steady cardio and very little weights (mostly to strengthen my weak calves for running).

    Although I 'look' pretty fit in my jackets and jerseys now much to the amazement of everyone who saw me obese just a few months back, I still have considerable belly fat (tire shaped) and bit of fat on my chest which are burning off relatively slowly. Rest of my body remains in pretty thinnish shape. I have relatively muscular arms and thighs now. And 32' waist and jeans sync mostly well.
    Basically I'm at a good weight and frame but high body fat still. Google tells me I'm skinny fat.

    Q1. I don't want to go any thinner. How do I burn away rest of my fat without going thinner? Calorie deficits may go against me.

    Q2. I joined the gym after 2 months of exams and holidays. Have begun strength training in the past 10 days. How much is sufficient/too much? Is 6 days a week (muscle group on alternate days) fine? I have been sore, but have gotten stronger.

    Q3. How much extra calories do I account for when strength training? I have been eating roughly 2300-2400 cals on average with emphasis on protein, calcium, fibre and post workout (night) carbs.

    Q4. I have stuck to walking 3-5 miles a day (I enjoy it), and do HIIT twice a week for 20 minutes.
    Is that fine?

    Q5. Lastly I don't want a body builder look, a leaner, athletic (say Christiano) look is my aim. How do I juggle between losing fat and building muscle? Especially for the abdominal area which was significantly more fat even when I was at 212 lbs.


  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,148 Member
    Great post thank you.

    I have a few of questions and your weight change profile seems relateable to mine. So it'll be a great favor if you (or others) could help me on these:

    So about me:
    Male, 21, 5'10
    Waist - 32 inches
    Current weight - 160 lbs

    I was touching obesity at 212 lbs and had a lot of body fat (man boobs, love handles and everywhere else), little muscle due to my lack of physical activity. I have lost 52 lbs starting last June. A bulk of that was lost in the four months. Even though my weight loss and physical transformation was speedy and visible I kind of overkilled it by doing a few mistakes: Low calorie diet (started with 1300 calories and averaged at 1600-1700). I walked for 2 hours a day (gym+college and back, with earphones on) and a bulk of gym time was spent in cycling (30-45 minutes). Total 75 minutes of steady cardio and very little weights (mostly to strengthen my weak calves for running).

    Although I 'look' pretty fit in my jackets and jerseys now much to the amazement of everyone who saw me obese just a few months back, I still have considerable belly fat (tire shaped) and bit of fat on my chest which are burning off relatively slowly. Rest of my body remains in pretty thinnish shape. I have relatively muscular arms and thighs now. And 32' waist and jeans sync mostly well.
    Basically I'm at a good weight and frame but high body fat still. Google tells me I'm skinny fat.

    Q1. I don't want to go any thinner. How do I burn away rest of my fat without going thinner? Calorie deficits may go against me.

    Q2. I joined the gym after 2 months of exams and holidays. Have begun strength training in the past 10 days. How much is sufficient/too much? Is 6 days a week (muscle group on alternate days) fine? I have been sore, but have gotten stronger.

    Q3. How much extra calories do I account for when strength training? I have been eating roughly 2300-2400 cals on average with emphasis on protein, calcium, fibre and post workout (night) carbs.

    Q4. I have stuck to walking 3-5 miles a day (I enjoy it), and do HIIT twice a week for 20 minutes.
    Is that fine?

    Q5. Lastly I don't want a body builder look, a leaner, athletic (say Christiano) look is my aim. How do I juggle between losing fat and building muscle? Especially for the abdominal area which was significantly more fat even when I was at 212 lbs.


    if you still have considerable body fat then you need to keep cutting before trying to bulk.

    1. keep eating in a deficit.
    2. keep your protein high to minimize muscle loss
    3. get on a structured heavy lifting program like strong lifts, 5x5, etc….
    4. repeat this until you body fat is about 15% or lower, and then you can bulk…

  • bunbunzee44
    bunbunzee44 Posts: 593 Member
    I've been on a small deficit for a many, many months. Now I'm a bit too small for my own (or my husbands) taste, every cloth I own aside from gym clothes are too big. I want to start a bulk but I'm afraid my BF% is too high still :neutral_face: Don't know exactly what it is high end of 20..
  • FitFroglet
    FitFroglet Posts: 219 Member
    edited January 2015
    My thoughts on the intellectual rights are as follows: M27 has clearly stated (and linked to) the source of the information and makes no attempt to pass this off as their own.
    The source website has a section 'Share the knowledge!' asking people to share via facebook, twitter, google+, pinterest, reddit and email.
    From this I would imagine M27 has acted in accordance with the source's wishes by spreading the information and by naming them as the source.
  • JoRocka
    JoRocka Posts: 17,554 Member
    sardelsa wrote: »
    JoRocka wrote: »
    sardelsa wrote: »
    Thank you for posting. This article roll. lly helped me out when I first got started. My favorite quote from Jay: "Cutting is a battle of willpower, bulking is a battle of self-confidence." Truth.

    I thought Waldo coined that! Lol either way. It's true as hell.

    I thought Jay and Waldo were the same person, no? :p

    Derp- you are correct- I just totally forget that because I only and have only ever known and called him Waldo.

    LMAO