Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A guide to bulking up

Bulking up is one of the main reasons a lot of people start a weight lifting programme. Many people (young people especially) try desperately to bulk up and add some weight to their frame, most unfortunately give up after a few weeks because of a lack of progress, truth is most people neglect the most important aspects of properly bulking up.

I'm going to make an estimated claim here, I expect 95% of people give up trying to bulk up simply because they are not eating enough. Whenever confronted about it the kind of answers you get are "But I eat like a horse!" "I eat all day I cant possibly eat anymore" and so on. Truth is, if your trying to bulk up and gaining you just are not eating enough! It is not impossible to gain weight no matter what your metabolism is like, this is the worst excuse in the book! Sure, there are people who I would class as "hard gainers" those who don't gain weight easy due to fast metabolism's and high activity levels, but give me a month or two with these people and I would make them gain weight!

So just how much do I need to eat to gain muscle?

In this post I'm going to be focusing mainly on the diet aspect of bulking up, because without a doubt it is the most important part of it. You can have the best training routine in the world but without eating enough you will never gain a pound!

As a rule of thumb, if you are bulking up you want to aim for around 20 times your body weight in pounds. Example:

John weighs 140lbs, he wants to bulk up, he should be aiming for: 140 x 20 = 2800 calories.

This is a very basic formula don't forget and should be taken with a pinch of salt. An important factor to consider is activity level, what do you do throughout the day? Are you sat in an office all day or are you doing manual labour work? Calories should be adjusted to compensate for this.

If I eat that much I'm scared I will get fat!

Here is another big problem, the fear of getting fat can be a setback for a lot of people bulking up. To that I say this; for a thin person to get fat it would take them a ridiculous amount of calories and laziness over a large period of time! A surplus of 500 - 1000 calories will NOT make you fat in a matter of weeks, especially not if you are a 'hard gainer' and are following a decent training routine.

What kind of foods should I be eating?

When it comes to bulking up you will start noticing that you will be eating the same foods a lot, there is nothing wrong with these providing they are right foods. here is a quick list of the stuff you should be aiming for:

  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Wholewheat bread
  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
Obviously protein is important, but so are carbs, don't neglect them. Healthy fats should also be included in your diet, these can be from sources such as; olive oil, certain nuts, omega-3 fish.

Ideally if you can avoid junk food then do so, however if you are struggling to hit your calories then a small bit of junk food isn't going to hurt you and for many can actually help to gain that weight. Shakes are also an ideal way to get a large amount of calories down you quickly. You can make these easy from milk, oats and protein powder, chuck some fruit in if you cant stomach them on their own!

Trial and error:

Bulking up requires a slight bit of trial and error work when it comes to adjusting your calories. I always believe that it is better to go slightly over your estimates than slightly under, especially when starting out! Like I said before, a few extra hundred calories a day is not going to turn you into the Michelin man, just make sure you are training hard.

Compound movements

When bulking up it is important you are training hard and with a decent amount of intensity. There are so many variations of training routines you can do, full bodies, split body parts etc, however providing you can include the following 'big three' then you cant go too far wrong:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Bench Press
You should base your program around these 3 movements, they are the most effective and important exercises you can do, especially when bulking up, without going into too much detail they will work your whole body and promote growth.

That's it for now, follow these simple guidelines and you will soon bulk up, just remember that you need to spend as much time in kitchen (probably more!) than you do in the gym if you want to bulk up!

Happy training!

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