Bulking season is coming and we have to talk about the why, how and when of bulking. The purpose of a bulk will vary depending on the style of training that you pursue. Personally as an olympic weightlifter a bulk serves the purpose of building strength and allows me the opportunity to feel heavier weight lifted off the ground. Building strength and confidence in my lifts once I cut back down to my usual class. For others it may be the idea of building more muscle to then cut and unveil new attributes in their physique that they desired. Regardless of the purpose or how it fits into your training, one thing remains the same. To build strength you need the surplus of calories and macros to build a bigger capacity for our workouts, thus allowing the load we undergo to increase and in turn build muscle. This article is to help you avoid common mistakes made when bulking. Giving you the results you want in A healthy way while building longevity in your training and life!
Mistake #1: Dirty Bulk Vs Clean Bulk
We often fall into the trap of thinking that a bulk is an excuse to eat whatever we want whenever we want. While you can dirty bulk if you wanted to, it is definitely not the healthiest route you can take. Eating unhealthy food wether it be take out or getting a little too creative with your home recipes can have a lasting negative effect on your body. As well as eating at the wrong times. While bulking will increase muscle mass it will also add fat to your body in the process due to the surplus of calories in your diet. Taking the dirty bulk route will increase an unwanted amount of fat and create a sluggishness throughout your day.
Eat clean during a bulk! A bulk should not be an excuse to eat junk food. Increase your current eating regimen accordingly. All three macros should be increased to fit your bodies needs. Carbs and fats will aid as an energy source during your workouts and the extra protein in your diet will aid in repairing/ building muscle. Another mistake is the timing of meals. Eating 2 or 3 big meals per day will not properly distribute your macros where their needed. You should still be consuming a bulk of your carbs 2-3 hours before your training session. Carbs will provide your muscles with fuel to get through the workout and if your programming was adjusted accordingly for this bulk you will likely be taking on heavier weight and higher RPE rates. You will need additional fuel for these tasks at hand! This leads us to our next point.
Mistake #2: Carbs Are Not The Enemy
Carbs will be the biggest help during your bulk. Your body, mind and muscles will be tired from the change in programming. Taking in the extra carbs will give you the right energy for both your day and training session. Putting your body through higher RPE scales will drain your energy and have you slumped if your not taking in the right amount of carbs. Here are a few giveaways your body may give to let you know you need more carbs.
During my exercise:
- Was I able to lift my usual amount?
If you weren’t, it could indicate low glycogen stores.
- Did I feel more tired than usual?
If you feel tired, your body might not have enough energy readily available. Carbs can be a source of fast-acting energy.
- Did I experience any “fog-brain”?
Your brain runs on carbohydrates. So, if you experienced fog brain, might need more carbs.
- Do I feel shaky?
If you are feeling shaky, this may indicate that your blood sugar could be on the low side. Consider eating a carbohydrate immediately after a workout.
- Am I more tired than usual?
Feeling tired can indicate that you don’t have enough carbohydrates available for energy. Your body likes to conserve energy when running on empty. In the absence of enough carbs, your body might think it’s hungry.
- Do I feel like everyday tasks require much more energy?
This may indicate that you aren’t eating enough carbs, tricking your body into conserving energy. Often a change in activity levels is experienced when your body feels it’s starved.
These questions will give an idea of your energy level. A low carb diet can leave you fatigued. Simply put, carbs are your body’s favorite energy source. If you answered yes to any of the above despite adequate sleep, and no changes to calorie intake or medical status, consider increasing your carbs.
Mistake #3: Not Changing Your Programming
Changing your programming is a must! A strength cycle to be exact, building strength=increased mass. Crank up the weight and intensity (responsibly of course) and get you a coach who knows a thing or two about programming the proper exercises with the right diversity to change up your muscle demands. Changing the demand of your muscles is when the muscles begin to grow. Creating diversity in your workouts is as important as increasing the intensity. Don’t neglect spending some money on a coach and programming. Don’t fly blind in the gym doing the same workouts you found somewhere on the internet. Getting and individualized program will help you get the most out of your bulking phase and get you where your trying to be physically.
Mistake #4 Neglecting Rest & Recovery
Rest and recovery will be the difference between the bulking phase being a growth period full of excitement and new PR’s or a draining and tiresome experience. your going to push your body to limits its never seen and thanking your body with some post workout recover and proper sleep is the least you can do. Taking 30 minutes or so after a workout to cool down and stretch will put your body at ease after shocking your CNS (Central Nervous System) with the intensity your increasing to. Training at these levels requires maintenance, just like hitting new records for your training you should think about hitting new levels in your mobility to help with inflammation, injury prevention and increase in range of motion.
Mistake #5 Hydration
Your body is over 60% water, your muscles are 75% water, your blood is 80% water and your bones are 20% water, these facts alone should be enough to motivate you to keep up with hydration. It’s beyond a necessity for your body and its more than just hydration its about overall health.
Why is hydration so important?
Because when we dehydrate, your levels of blood volume drop. Any bit of dehydration (like just a 3%) can have a huge impact in your energy, strength and ability to build muscle mass. Drinking enough water will not only optimize your performance, keep your energy at high levels and optimize your ability to build muscle, it will also prevent you from injury since it will keep your joints lubricated. Remember that one of the keys to muscle growth is progressive overload, which means that you’ll force your body to progressively handle heavier weights. If your joints are not healthy, the possibilities of getting injured will skyrocket.
Second of all, glycogen replenishment. The importance of consuming a good amount of carbohydrates after your workouts lies in the fact that your body turns those carbs into glucose and pushes it into your muscles to replenish your glycogen stores. While you work out, your body uses muscle glycogen as its main energy source (after consuming ATP) so replenishing your glycogen stores after your workouts is key to stimulate muscle growth and refuel your muscles to get them ready for the next session. However, with every 1 gram of carbs you consume your body needs to store 3 – 4 grams of water with it before it can drive it into your glycogen stores. If you’re not drinking enough water, your body will not be able to use all the carbs you’re eating and it will be more difficult for it to replenish glycogen. therefore, you will not optimize your muscle growth.
The bulking phase is always a time when you surprise yourself with new capabilities and numbers. Have fun with it and enjoy the process!!!
Till next time!