Do you “clean bulk” or “dirty bulk”? These phrases are often thrown around by guys at the gym who have no idea about nutrition. A “clean bulk” is eating healthy foods that are close to nature to gain weight. These guys don’t cheat on their diet and don’t get eat the “bad” stuff.
“Dirty bulkers”, eat whatever they want to consume as many calories as possible.
To me there is no clean or dirty bulk. Both are not sustainable. I’m all about sustainable approaches to fitness and nutrition.
Understanding nutrition is key to gaining muscle. This involves knowing how many calories your body needs to maintain its current state. From here it is a matter of adjusting up or down to suit your goals.
To gain muscle you need to increase your calories. If you think you can go to the gym and build muscle by doing the same old exercises, you will not see results.
Your body needs extra fuel to grow. If it doesn’t get this fuel, it will stay the same or shrink.
Because of this, so many people stay the same year after year.
Here are my 5 Laws of eating for muscle.
Law 1: Should You Bulk?
This may seem like a silly question but I see lots of overweight guys trying to pack on muscle. The problem with this is, they have so much stored energy they don’t need to consume more. Their body is more likely to store this extra food as it has gotten so good at doing.
If you cannot see your abs, then you should go on a fat loss program first. This will reveal your muscle and make you look bigger, it also has profound effects on muscle growth.
Your body is more receptive to carbohydrates when you are lean. You will be more efficient at shuttling these to the muscle and using them as energy.
Carbohydrates are a great fuel source, but we can’t always give it what it wants. Eventually our body will stop working in our favour. It will be very hard shift our body composition if we keep eating a high carb diet. Fat tissue will then start taking in all those carbohydrates, not the muscle.
Fat will always compete with the lean tissue for absorbing those carbohydrates.
The more fat you have, the more likely it will take up those carbs. Go on a quick fat loss program and drop that fat. This will make muscle growth much easier.
Law 2: Control Your Calories
To build muscle, you need fuel. Fuel comes from food so it makes sense to eat more. The problem here is, people suddenly think it’s a free for all. Out the window with lean meats and vegetables and in with pizza and muffins. Not so fast!
To gain muscle, you need to tailor your calories to your activity level and metabolism. Failure to do so will result in fat gain. This then means you need to go back and forth between fat loss diets and muscle gain diets.
It can be quite hard to find figure out your ideal calorie intake. There are many calculators online that help but I find another method much easier. Remember, I like things simple.
Weigh yourself on day 1. Have your meals prepped and eat the same foods every day (or as close as possible). If you have not gained any weight by day 8, you have found your maintenance calorie amount. This means the amount required to keep your current body weight. From here, increase calories. If you are counting, this is around 100-200 calories. If you don’t count, add in an extra serve of protein.
Weigh yourself in another 7 days. If you have gained weight, great! If not, add in 1 cup of cooked carbohydrates. Repeat the process until you see a slight increase in weight gain. Do not rush this or you will get fat.
Law 3: Keep it Under Control
As I mentioned above, people often throw their healthy diet out the window and begin inhaling food.
This is not going to help you.
Research has shown that when you consume a high amount of calories, the Glyceamic index is more important. Consuming extra calories comes with the risk of fat gain. High G.I. foods spike insulin and can promote fat storage. If you are in a deficit, you can often consume higher G.I foods without too much trouble.
While the occasional treat is fine, consuming junk every day is not. I like to view things as a trade-off. If I am having pizza tonight (lets say, 70g carbs, 40g fat, 25g protein), I will then subtract those numbers from another meal that day. I will also make sure I train a larger body part that day such as legs. By doing this, my body will be hungry for energy and less is likely to spill over into fat gain. If it was an arms day, I would keep it healthy.
If you find your bodyfat is creeping up, then reduce the amount of treat meals and the amount of days you bulk. If I find my bodyfat percentage has risen around 3% then instead of doing a 20-week bulk, I will do a 12 week bulk.
Law 4: Pile Up The Protein
Research has shown that a high protein diet is very anabolic and helps to preserve muscle. We also know that digesting protein is a calorie expensive process. Roughly 30% of the calories consumed are used in the digestion process. Compare this to carbs and fats that only require 5% to digest.
What this means is, if you consume 100 calories of protein, you will absorb around 70 of those.
High protein diets when gaining muscle have shown to limit fat gain.
A study showed that a group of individuals on diet with a surplus of 800 calories from protein did not gain any fat. This equates to 1.5-2g of protein per pound of bodyweight. Another very similar study showed a decrease in fat mass!
If you worry about your kidneys, liver, or other health markers, don’t. High protein diets do not cause any damage here. Unless you have a pre-existing condition, a high protein diet could work in your favour.
On your next bulk, aim for 1.5-2g of protein per pound of bodyweight if your body can handle it.
Law 5: Don’t Drink Your Calories
I can’t stand “Mass Gainer Shakes”. They drive me nuts. 1000 calories in one drink? Get ready to pack on the fat.
I don’t advocate drinking smoothies or juices either. The sugar levels are way too high and will cause a massive spike in your insulin. This will then send a lot of those calories to your fat stores.
If you struggle to gain muscle and think you need these, jump back to Law #2. These shakes are clever marketing by supplement companies. Most pre-workouts and fat burners fall into the same category of crap.
Eat your food and put in the effort. You will be rewarded for years to come.