Gaining muscle mass requires a certain amount of sacrifice and discipline both in the gym and in the kitchen. While it is impossible to bulk up without gaining some fat, making the right choices in the kitchen will help you minimize unwanted body weight gains.
Avoid the pitfalls of “dirty bulking” by emphasizing nutrient-dense whole foods and avoiding junk food. This will ensure quality muscle gains and better health markers.
How Much Muscle Do You Want to Build?
The most important consideration when bulking up is how much muscle you want to build. Muscle growth is an energy-consuming process and your body’s ability to build muscle will be limited if you don’t consume enough calories. It’s also worth remembering that the muscle you gain will be covered in a layer of fat if your caloric intake is too low. This will reduce your muscular gains and slow your rate of progress.
That’s why it’s important to find a balance between consuming sufficient calories for your goals and keeping a high proportion of them from nutritious sources. It’s also important to make sure you get plenty of sleep to support your muscle-building efforts – at least 8-9 hours per night is recommended.
You’ll also need to take care to avoid eating too many simple carbohydrates if you’re trying to gain mass. These foods can cause a spike in blood sugar and blunt your body’s natural anabolic hormones that promote muscle growth. Instead, focus on whole foods like chicken, eggs, fish, whole grains and lean meats.
There are a number of theories around the best way to bulk up and add muscle mass. Some people believe in the so-called clean bulk, wherein you eat only nutrient-dense foods and limit junk food and processed fats. Other people subscribe to the more traditional approach, wherein you eat as many calories as possible in the name of maximizing muscle growth.
Whichever theory you prefer, it’s important to follow it consistently over a long period of time in order to see the results you want. Bulking up is a time-consuming process that may take 1 month or more to complete, depending on your current body composition and how much muscle you want to grow.
How Much Muscle Do You Need to Build?
The first step to building muscle mass is making sure you’re eating enough calories. Muscle growth requires plenty of energy, and the best source is nutrient-dense foods. You should avoid overly processed foods and instead opt for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein sources. It’s also important to eat enough carbohydrates so your body has the fuel it needs for exercise.
The next step is making sure you’re training your muscles correctly. A 2019 study found that to maximize muscle growth, resistance training should involve a combination of mechanical tension and metabolic stress. This type of training can increase muscular size, and it’s an ideal way to build a chiseled physique.
In terms of training, the most effective way to build muscle is to train each muscle group in a variety of repetition ranges. Lower rep ranges, like 8-15 reps, can produce the most muscle development, while higher rep ranges, like 20-30 reps, can focus on increasing strength.
Finally, you need to be patient and consistent. Building muscle is a long-term process, and it takes time to develop noticeable gains. However, if you follow the tips above, you can achieve your goals in a reasonable amount of time.
In general, most people can expect to gain about 2lbs of muscle per month if they’re a beginner and are training properly. More advanced lifters will probably see a slower rate of muscle growth, but it’s still possible to see significant results from lifting regularly. A bulk typically lasts 1 to 6 months, and it’s often paired with a cut, which helps you burn off any excess fat that was gained during the bulk.
What Exercises Should I Do?
A bulking period requires you to spend daily hours in the gym, often two sessions a day. It’s also a time where you want to focus on using a high amount of weight (80-95% of your 1-rep max) for a low number of reps (around 8-12). This is what helps you build serious muscle mass, power and strength.
There are many different exercises to choose from, but the best ones for packing on muscle are compound movements that target several muscles at once. The squat, deadlift, military press and bench press are all great examples of these types of exercises.
Squats work your legs, glutes and calves in one of the most effective ways possible, and they also help to improve your balance, coordination and stability. They can be done with barbells or dumbbells and you should aim to perform them to the point of failure, which means that you cannot lift any more weight for another rep.
Nothing builds chest and shoulder muscles quite like the military press. To perform a proper military press, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a barbell in each hand, gripped at the same height as you would hold it for bench press. Then, raise the weight over your head until it is parallel to the floor and then lower it back down to the starting position.
No triceps exercise is more effective than the bench press. To do a perfect bench press, start by standing with your feet either shoulder-width apart or together. Place a barbell over your shoulders and then raise it until your upper arms are straight above you and then bend your elbows to lower the weight back down to the starting position.
What Supplements Should I Take?
While hard training and serious nutrition are the most important things when it comes to building muscle, supplements can help make your gains even greater. Scroll through any gym or bodybuilding forum and you’ll see people chatting about BCAAs, HMB, and various kinds of protein powder like they’re things everyone should know and use.
It’s easy to get confused by all the advice out there, but there are a few science-backed supplements that have been shown to increase skeletal muscle growth and performance. The first is whey protein, which is recommended by most nutrition experts for promoting muscle growth because it’s cheap, well-studied, easily digested and has a good mix of amino acids. You can find whey protein in tablet or powder form, but most users prefer the liquid variety so they can drink it before or after workouts. There are also vegan protein powders available in the market.
Another supplement that helps promote muscle growth is branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs), which are the three most critical amino acids for stimulating protein synthesis. Taking a BCAA supplement, which you can buy in capsule or liquid form, before and during your workouts may improve endurance and help prevent muscle fatigue and soreness, according to research. A ratio of two parts leucine to one part each isoleucine and valine appears to be most beneficial.
Beta-alanine is also a popular muscle-building supplement because it can increase the amount of carnosine in your muscles, which can delay the onset of exercise-related fatigue. It’s available in capsule or powder form, and can be taken pre-workout with a caffeinated drink to give you that extra boost you need to train harder.
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
The bulking process is largely driven by calories, and the best way to build muscle mass is to consume a surplus of them. Depending on your current diet and how much you plan to lift, it may be necessary to add 500-1,000 calories daily, with most of these coming from protein.
The optimal protein source for muscle building is animal proteins such as fish, poultry and lean meats. These foods contain the amino acids necessary for muscle growth, and are rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) such as leucine, which helps drive protein synthesis.
Other food sources that should be included in a bulking diet include dairy products, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains and vegetables. These foods should be combined with proteins to provide all of the essential amino acids needed for muscle development. For example, you should pair a protein-rich breakfast cereal with a serving of low-fat milk.
Bulking up isn’t just about adding muscle mass, but about enhancing your overall physique. Increasing lean muscle mass will help keep your body weight lower while also looking more toned, slimmer and trimmer than someone of the same weight who has less lean muscle.
Many people choose to use a strategic approach to weight gain by going through a series of bulking and cutting phases. During bulking, you will increase your caloric intake to help add muscle mass, while during cutting, you will eat fewer calories in order to lose body fat.
While the bulking process is simple in theory, it can be challenging in practice. The key to successful bulking is to monitor your progress closely, and make sure you’re gaining muscle while also maintaining a healthy body weight.