For most gym-goers, the end goal is muscle. Whether you want to become a bodybuilder like Arnold Schwarzenegger or just gain some definition and a six-pack is entirely down to you.
But simply lifting weights isn’t going to get you across that finish line. Half the battle, as they say, is in the kitchen. Nutrition is an incredibly important factor to consider when it comes to putting on muscle (otherwise known as bulking) and, while nutritional diets will be different for different people, there is (usually) a right and a wrong way to go about it.
Instagram user and online fitness and nutrition coach Adam Pfau has brought to light what can happen when “bulking goes bad.”
In a post comparing two versions of himself just one year apart, Adam explains that he went from “skinny fat with no muscle to lean with a bit of muscle after approximately 10 months of lifting,” shown in the 2006 image on the left.
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Adam explains that during this time he was in a “caloric deficit” – system where you consume fewer calories than you burn – but was consuming “sufficient protein.” He confesses, however, “I didn’t know I was doing this at the time. I was on a full body routine because I was copying someone at the gym.”
“I had no idea what a caloric deficit was but I wanted abs so I tried to eat less [sic] calories.”
“I actually did everything right in those 10 months despite not knowing what I was doing. It went downhill after that.”
Deciding that he wanted to start gaining some muscle, and coming across the term ‘bulking’, Adam, listening to The Internet, believed he needed to “get fat and then worry about losing the fat later.”
“My goal was to gain 1-2 pounds per week. Some weeks I gained 2-3 pounds. I didn’t count my calories but I ate ‘clean’ and just tried to eat as much as I could.”
“In 6 months I went from about 140 pounds to 195 pounds. I developed nasty stretch marks and made my physique worse.”
“It took me a long time to cut (lowering your body fat percentage by following a strict diet to make muscle more visible) after this and I eventually got down to about 150 pounds although not as lean as when I started the bulk.”
“I did gain some muscle but there was no need to gain 50+ pounds for 6-8 pounds of muscle.”
“It’s a mistake I still regret to this day because although I learned a lot from the experience, it caused the nasty stretch marks that will never go away.”
So, what should you do if you want to bulk up the right way?
DMARGE spoke to Lean Performance Personal Trainer Bronte Zeiher to get the full low down. She starts by telling us, “Nutrition plans should be tailored specifically to each person based on their energy expenditure, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and what their goals are.”
“Following nutrition advice based on what has worked for someone else or having a rough guess at your daily/weekly nutrition targets can move you further away from your goals.”
“The most efficient and factual way to find out your BMR is through a body composition scan.”
“For a client wanting to build muscle, a gradual surplus in calories should be applied. The client’s calorie and nutritional needs will be determined by their BMR, energy expenditure and dietary requirements, amongst other things, and will need to be continuously assessed and re-evaluated depending how well or how poorly progress is being made.”
“Calorie tracking is necessary to make sure nutritional and calorie targets are being met. How can you expect to hit your targets if you aren’t accounting for anything? Not tracking your intake is the same as taking a wild stab in the dark and hoping for the best.”
“A diet high in protein is needed and aids in muscle recovery, growth and repair, and should be factored into the calorie and nutritional breakdown of each client. And remember, any changes to your diet should be consulted and guided by an allied health professional”
So, there you have it, the definitive guide of what to do, and what not to do if you want to bulk up and start filling out your t-shirts.