How To Gain Weight While on a Bulking Diet
While there are plenty of people who wish they struggled to gain weight, it can be tough to try to gain weight and bulk up, only to be met with mediocre results, if you get any gains. Even if you have all the right strength-building equipment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are set to gain muscle.
So, if you are ready to start bulking and gain lean muscle mass, then there are several steps you will need to take. Most of these steps revolve around changing your dietary habits, starting with your intake and ending with balancing your strength training goals with your nutritional needs.
Start Tracking Your Caloric Intake
Many people new to building muscle have the mistaken impression that calorie tracking is only for those who are looking to lose weight. While it is true that weight loss has a lot to do with burning more calories than you consume, consider this—if you want to gain, knowing how much you are taking in is critical to make sure you aren’t burning too many calories.
Before you start to track, you will want to find out how many calories you should ideally be consuming if you want to gain weight. For example, say there is twenty-five year old, 6’ tall man who weighs 170 lbs who wants to bulk up. That’s about mid-range of a healthy BMI, but if most of that mass isn’t from muscle, in many cases, the term “skinny fat” is applicable, where the body looks soft and emphasizes angles.
If our example man wants to bulk up, he can use a calorie calculator and choose the option to receive a recommendation based on the goal of muscle gains. From there, if they are engaged in strength training but have an office job—aka, moderately active—the target caloric intake is 2,832 calories daily.
Going under the recommended amount will lead to weight loss or the simple maintenance of the current weight. So, if you are committed to bulking up, you need to consume the right amount of calories.
Using A Calorie Tracker
Okay, now that it is clear that calorie intake is key to gaining muscle mass, it is time to bring in a calorie tracker. Many people believe they can simply estimate how many calories are in the foods they eat. Frankly, with the current obesity epidemic facing most of the world, it is pretty clear that most people have no idea how many calories they consume on a daily basis.
If you want to be sure to hit your daily calorie intake goal, you will need to use a calorie tracker. There are tons of trackers out there, from using paper and pen to using apps like MyFitnessPal, FatSecret, Loseit, and many more. While these apps are typically targeted at those looking to track and lose weight, you can set your own goals and use them to ensure you are hitting your calorie intake.
Balance Protein, Carbs, And Fats Consumption
You may have heard bodybuilders and powerlifters talk about macros when the subject of their diets comes up. What they are referring to is their macronutrient breakdown.
The macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Often, you don’t have to worry about micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals intake because if you are eating a well-rounded diet, these trace nutrients are present. But if muscle weight gain is your goal, you do need to nail your macronutrient consumption. Otherwise, even if you maximize your weightlifting form, you still won’t see your ideal progress.
To start, it’s time to look at your protein consumption. Now, you may be surprised, but building muscle doesn’t mean that most of your diet is protein.
In reality, your calorie intake should consist of 20-30% protein. More protein than that will just be passed through your body without any real effect on your muscle mass. Also, some people find that excess protein can cause stomach and lower GI issues, so it is important that you balance your protein intake. Some good, whole food sources of protein that will pair well with your strength-building goals are:
- Fish (tuna, salmon, tilapia)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachio, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
- Legumes (peanuts, beans, lentil, etc.)
- Greek yogurt
Also, being vegetarian or even vegan isn’t incompatible with muscle building. You may have to work a little harder if you are vegan, but there are plenty of vegan protein options if you are willing to do a bit more cooking.
There is some interchange between protein intake, as healthy fats are often found in the recommended protein sources listed above. That’s where the flexibility between the 20-30% in the protein comes in.
Some days, you may intake 30% protein and 20% fats, while other days may be an even split of 25% of fats and protein as well as other combinations. As long as your fat consumption doesn’t go over 30% of your calorie intake, you should be fine.
A good 50% of your bulking diet should consist of carbohydrates, which is basically the reverse of what most weight loss diet plans like to recommend. These carbohydrates should come from nutrient-dense sources, ranging from vegetables to whole grains so that you can be sure to consume the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients your body needs. Some good sources of carbohydrates are:
- Sweet potatoes
Add More Meals To Your Day
When you are starting your bulking diet, it can be difficult to consume the number of calories you need to gain weight.
NordicTrack Coupon recommends, “Break up your calories into multiple meals throughout the day. Eating 2,500 or more of ‘clean’ calories is a lot more filling than processed food, so try eating every 2-3 hours to hit your bulking calories intake.”
By adding more meals to your day, you can accomplish several things at once. Not only can you hit your calorie intake goal, but you can keep from feeling overly full and sluggish, which can impact the quality of your workouts.
It can be tough to keep up with making multiple meals a day, which is why many people looking to make steady gains opt for meal prepping and shakes. Protein shakes are easy and convenient to throw together but can become expensive, so if you don’t have an inexhaustible wallet, you may want to keep shakes in reserve for when you really don’t feel like cooking.
With meal prepping, you can make a week’s worth of meals in advance. One example would be to bake a batch of chicken breasts, quinoa, and veggies like broccoli. Then you can portion the food into reusable containers. That way, all you need to do is reheat and eat.
Skip The Dirty Bulk
Lastly, let’s talk about the dirty bulk. This type of bulking called “dirty” because the majority of the calories come from less than healthy sources like beer, doughnuts, fast food, and other highly processed calorie sources.
Now, you can achieve your weight gain by dirty bulking, and as long as you are hitting your calorie intake and exercise goals, you shouldn’t gain fat. However, a dirty bulk diet often lacks the nutrients you need to be healthy and doesn’t have an even macronutrient breakdown, which can lead to health issues down the road. So, to avoid future health complications, do your best to skip the dirty bulk and stick to clean eating.
By focusing in on your diet and making the right alterations to how you eat, you should start seeing slow but steady gains as you keep working toward bulking up.
Written By Kevin Jones