How To Successfully Bulk Up This Winter

How To Successfully Bulk Up This Winter

It’s that time of year, where fitness goals are assessed and reset. I have talked about gaining weight for bulking before, but bulking during the winter is a bit of a different beast than bulking up during the rest of the year.


For one thing, many people struggle with seasonal affective disorder—a type of seasonal depression. This type of depression can lead you to lose motivation for your workouts and eat poorly so that you don’t bulk, just gain excess weight. Also, with bad weather common in the winter, it can be tough to make it to your gym to lift.


To address these issues—as well as other winter-specific bulking obstacles—here are some insights into how you can successfully bulk up this winter.       

Choose Between A Dirty Or Clean Bulk

One of the first decisions you need to make when you are getting ready for a bulking cycle is whether or not you are going to do a clean or dirty bulk. As a bulking cycle requires you to eat a high amount of calories, some people opt to eat indiscriminately, often consuming a lot of fats, sugar, and processed foods in general.


During the winter, it can be appealing to go with a dirty bulk, as there is a lot of delicious, high-calorie foods around anyway. The problem is, while a dirty bulk can help you as you build muscle, it can leave you with excess fat layering that muscle, so you will need to go on a cut.


Also, as the fitness experts at point out, excess fat can be incredibly hard on your entire body, from your cardiovascular system to your joints. So, rather than dirty bulking and needing to go on a highly restrictive cut, it is healthier for your body to do a clean bulk.

Set Up And Track Target Macros

To get your bulking on track, you will need to know what macros you are shooting for this winter. Your main macros—macronutrients—are fat, protein, and carbs. As you bulk, you will need to shoot for a measured balance between these three macros. Typically, for building muscle, you would shoot for 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat.


Luckily, you don’t need to guess what macros are needed for your bulk. There are plenty of good macronutrient calculators for bodybuilders that you can use to give you a good idea of what your breakdown should look like this winter.


Some people worry about micronutrients, but if you are eating a varied diet with plenty of vegetables, you should be getting all the micronutrients that you need with your macros. However, if you have any dietary restrictions such as celiac disease, vegetarian, or veganism, you may need to  

Keep Your Expectations In Line

Before you get too much further, it is important to talk about managing your expectations. One of the main reasons why fitness journeys end up stalled, people fall off the wagon, and other euphemisms are because their expectations were out-of-line with reality.


For instance, say you expect that you will go from benching 135 pounds to benching 170 pounds over the winter months and expect to drop at least 5% body fat.


While you may be able to hit the lifting goal over the winter months if you are consistent, it can be difficult with other demands on your time. Family get-togethers, office holiday functions—and end-of-year deadlines—as well as winter illnesses, can all get in the way of regular workouts, making hitting your new lifting goal difficult.


Also, while on a bulking cycle, it is not likely that you will drop body fat. For one thing, unless you are being incredibly strict, it can be difficult to avoid gaining some fat while you bulk, even if you do a clean bulk. Also, the winter months encompass many food-centric holidays. You don’t want to beat yourself for enjoying Christmas pies and other holiday foods, as that can make it easy for someone to give up on their goals altogether.  


So, as you approach your winter bulking plan, be sure to manage your expectations and focus on realistic goals that won’t punish you for enjoying the holiday season.

Approach Your Workouts With A Plan

If this winter is your first bulking experience, then you may have been getting by on newbie gains. Simply regularly lifting weights can reap you some definition, even if you aren’t following any clear plan. But if you want to successfully bulk this winter, you will need to approach your workouts with a focused plan.


For instance, weights and cardio are often combined for healthy gains. But, if you do your workout in the wrong order, you may not get the results you want. Those who do cardio then lift generally aren’t looking to bulk—often endurance athletes follow this course. If you are looking for gains, then it should be lifting first, followed by cardio.


Also, you don’t want to suffer from a muscle imbalance. If you approach your workouts by just doing your favorite lifts, it’s likely that you’ll never have a leg day, and you’ll teeter around on chicken legs. Rather than do that, you should make your workouts as specific as possible, from what muscle groups you are targeting during that workout to what lifts you are going to do. 

Record Your Gains

Visually tracking your gains can be tough, especially after your newbie gains are over. Muscle changes become more subtle as you bulk up, and your eyes may not catch the gradual improvements, which can be discouraging.


To help you stay on track with your gains, it is essential that you keep a regular record of your gains. This record can include several metrics, such as:


  • Body fat percentage
  • Tape measure key areas (biceps, waist, calves, stomach, etc.)
  • Amount of reps
  • Max weight lifting limit
  • Weight


Also, another handy way to visualize your progress is with progress photos. For the most accurate results, take your progress photos at the same time of day and from the same angles. That way, you can have an accurate view of what changes have occurred as you bulk. Taking these photos once a month should be enough to clearly show how your body is changing.


By doing these things this winter, you should be able to head into the spring proudly sporting a tank top to show off your gains, rather than a set of sweats to cover up the winter flab.

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