Bulking For Beginners

by 3J, www.3jsdiet.com

This article will focus on the steps necessary to build a bulking diet based on your individual needs. There is a lot of commotion and, therefore, different opinions on how to bulk or the bulking approach.  A few of the popular philosophies like IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and traditional clean bulking (40/40/20) with higher carbs and lower fats will be discussed, as will the distinction between “clean bulking” vs. “dirty bulking.”

Before one begins a bulking program, he has to create such a program that will fit his needs.  Eat too much too quickly and you will just get fat.  Eat too little and you will not have a successful bulk.

picture of man with strong muscle mass

man with strong muscle mass

Figuring Out your Daily Needs:

I cannot begin explain how important it is to begin your bulking diet with a daily caloric goal in mind.  In order to get a rough estimate of what that caloric goal for your body should be, you must calculate your BMR (basil metabolic rate) and TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). Here is how you calculate both:

BMR formula #1 (if you bf is high, use this one… you need an accurate bf reading)

BMR (men and women) = 370 + (21.6 X lean mass in kg)

In order to figure out your BMR, you need to know what your lean body mass is.. so, in turn, u need to know what your body fat percentage is. If you don’t know your body fat percentage, go to your gym and get tested (please don’t use electronic scales to get your bf checked, they’re horrible). If you cannot find a gym to get tested at, please post up a picture for estimates on a bodybuilding forum, many vets are good at giving estimates.

Total weight x bf (bodyfat) in decimal form = total bf weight

Total weight – total bf weight = total lean body mass

If your total lean body mass is in lbs, u can divide it by 2.2 to get it in kilograms.

Here is an Example:

6’4 275lbs at 14% bf.  I would multiply 275 by .14 (bodyfat percentage converted from percent to decimal)= 38.5lbs

275 – 38.5 = 236.5lbs lean body weight

236.5 / 2.2 = 107.5 lean mass in kg

370 + (21.6 x 107.5) = 2692 BMR

BMR formula #2 (only to be used if your bf is under 15%)

Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in year )

Female BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )

TDEE

Once you have your BMR, you need to calculate your TDEE, this is simply done with some multiplication. You can multiply it by an activity number to figure out your daily caloric expenditure, be honest here as this is the very cornerstone of your diet, if you are between two of the below activity levels then just multiply by a number in between them. To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

The Sweet Spot:

The term in bodybuilding is defined as the amount of calories and macros one needs to gain 1-2lbs of weight per week.  The sweet spot is usually 500-700 calories over your total daily energy expenditure.  There are many factors that come into the sweet spot, and the sweet spot can change as you progress.  Your body is a big fan of homeostasis and will adapt to any environment to the best of its abilities for survival purposes.  Here is an example of the sweet spot changing:

John Doe is 5’11 feet tall and weighs 165lbs.  John is not an avid eater, he eats once or twice a day and regularly consumes 1500-1700 caloires.  It is clear that john has been undereating and his metabolism has slowed down to compensate for the lower calorie intake.  When John decides he wants to bulk, he cannot jump to 3000 caloires.  Instead, his sweet spot is likely going to be somewhere between 2000-2300 caloires.  As john gains weight and progresses, his sweet spot will move up quickly until he has reached a prime metabolism (where his metabolism would be if he was eating correctly in the first place). John will gain weight at 2300 calories for a short while and come to a stall.  When John sees this stall, he should up his calories by 200 for 5 days to see if he is gaining weight again.  This cycle should be repeated until the weight gain continues.  Gaining weight is like an onion, there are layers to it.  As you progress, you must peel of the layers.  Usually a stall means you’re through with the current layer, you must peel it off to continue by adding weight.

picture of steroid user

steroid user

The 40/40/20 approach to bulking has been long known to be the gold standard for good reason, it works for the average bulker. This approach requires that 40 percent of your total calories come from protein, another 40 percent come from carbs, and the final 20 percent come from fats.  Lets break it down so you understand a bit better.

Things to keep in mind:

1g Protein is 4 calories

1g Carb is 4 calories

1g Fat is 9 calories

So you have figured out that you need 3000 calories to bulk (with a TDEE of 2500 this would be the place to start).  OK guys, get ready.. we have some math to do again!

40% of 3000 calories is 1200 calories (3000 x .40= 1200).  So we immediately know that we need 1200 of our 3000 calories to come from protein and 1200 to come from carbs since they both combined have to make up 80% of your daily intake (that’s the 40/40 part of the 40/40/20).

As stated above, we know that a carb or a protein has 4 calories per gram.  We divide 1200 by 4 to get the amount of carbs needed for both.

1200 / 4 = 300

We now know that we need 300g protein and 300g carbs.  We must now figure out the amount of fats we need in this diet.

Since 2400 calories have already been taken by protein and carbs, the last 20% of the calories will be 600. Remember that a gram of fat is 9 calories.  So we divide 600 by 9.

600 / 9 = 66.6 (round off to 67 is fine)

In order to run a successful 40/40/20 split at 3000 calories you need 300g protein, 300g carbs, and 67g fats. Simple enough right?

Disclaimer: The 40/40/20 split is not an ideal split for someone who has a tdee over 3000 caloires.  Simply put, anything over 300g protein is unnecessary for bulking for the majority of the population.  When having to go over 3000 calories one should increase their carbs up to 500g a day and, ONLY WHEN REACHING THAT POINT, should add fats to increase calories past the 3800-4000 calorie mark.

Good meats/protien to eat: Chicken Breast, Turkey Breast, Eggs/Egg Whites, Bison/Deer Meat, 93% and up lean beef (ground beef, roast beef, london broil are just a few examples), Fish (tuna, salmon, talipa etc..), Whey (PWO ONLY), Casien (BEDTIME ONLY), Game meat

Good Complex Carbs: Oats (all natural steel cut/rolled oats), Sweet potatoes, Yams, Ezekiel Bread (or any sprouted wheat bread), Glutin Free Bread, Red kidney beans, Black beans

Good Essential Fatty AcidsAlmonds, Avocado, Cashews, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), Fish Oil

The IIFYM Approach:

One of the most controversial and talked about approach in dieting as a whole is the IIFYM or if it fits your macros approach.  I personally dislike the approach as its known in the bodybuilding community not because its not effective but because it is highly abused by the general public.  IIFYM requires that you have a set amount of calories and macros that come within the daily needs that you have for your goals.  For example, if you are bulking at 3500 calories, you set your daily goals to 250g protein, 300g carbs, and 90g fats.  Your total calorie count is 3010 which leaves 490 calories for you to eat whatever you want daily, and i do mean anything; You could have pizze, ice cream, waffles, whatever your heart wants.  In theory, the program will work. Will it be as optimal as the 40/40/20 split i have described above? It absolutely will not.  But, one can lead a fairly healthy life and make progress in his bulk using this method.  The issue with this approach comes with people abusing the system by thinking they can eat ANYTHING they want as long as it hits their macro goals.  To the IIFYM dieter “a calorie is a calorie.”  It is at this point that the whole system goes down in smoke.  It also leads us to our next topic.

The “Clean Bulk” vs. “Dirty Bulk”

Lets go back to the last subject we were talking about.  Those who believe they can eat anything they want, e.g. “dirty bulking,” allow themselves to eat fast food and junk food in order to hit their total daily goals.  To the IIFYM bulker who has the notion that “a calorie is a calorie” and “the body cant tell the difference between a simple carb and a complex carb” the world is a free flowing river of junk food and crap that he will put in his body.  Nothing angers me more than these ill advised self-justified notions!  A calorie from a complex carb will affect the  body MUCH DIFFERENTLY than a calorie from simple carbs like sugar/dextrose/high fructose corn syrup.  The most obvious difference will come in the amount insulin spikes after eating complex carbs and simple carbs.  Also, fats play an important part of the human bodies daily process.  There has to be a balance between the different types of fats.  One of the most important balances come from omega-3/omega-6 fats, monosaturated fats, polysaturated fats, and saturated fats.  In all honesty your body needs ALL OF THESE FATS.  But eating fast food and junk will fill your body will too much of one fat and not enough of the other (usually high trans fats and saturated fats).  

So what is the real difference between the clean bulk and the dirty bulk? Simply put, clean bulking pulls macros from complex carbs, has a balanced fat intake, and the correct amount of protein to reach the daily macros prescribed.  A IIFYM dirty bulk will not have the correct balance between fats and will not pull from complex carbs.

When to “Dirty Bulk”

here is a place for dirty bulking in the bodybuilding world.  But it only comes when you have to eat over 4200 calories usually.  At some point,  the lower levels of insulin from complex carbs and the total amount of food that you can eat in a day have reached their limit in weight gain.  At that point, its time to introduce more simple carbs.  Carbs like white bread, white rice, white pasta, white potatoes, or any carb that would be considered semi-simple/simple that is not full of processed stuff is ok! Also, it is a good time to increase your fats for the better duration of your bulk.  I hope this article has given you a new perspective on the correct way to bulk.