Bulk simply means that you are going to overeat to grow muscles. You eat 10 to 20 per cent more than your body needs. In combination with a proper training schedule and rest, your body will then be in an anabolic state: your body (and thus your muscles too) notices that there are enough nutrients to grow.

Low fat percentage
Due to the controlled increase in food intake, the growth of fat tissue is minimized. Muscles grow optimally, while your fat percentage decreases. But before you start bulking it is necessary to watch out for a number of factors. For example, it is recommended that people who start with bulking first of all have knowledge of power training, or seek advice from a personal trainer. In addition, a reasonable knowledge of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) is useful. Your body fat percentage may not exceed 10 per cent. If you do not meet this condition, bulking has little to no use because you’ll develop your muscle mass minimally and will relatively gain to much fat.

If you are over 10 per cent of body fat and your upper abdominal muscles are not yet visible, it is advisable to adjust your goals. Something higher than ten per cent is still possible, but you cannot start bulking when your fat percentage is over fourteen per cent. The more fat you have at the beginning of your bulk, the more you will increase in fat. This is because you will get more calories than you are used to. So it’s better to start with a low percentage: that way your muscles can grow optimally. At that point, the body is well prepared for an increase in calories.

How long your bulk period lasts, differs by individual. It depends on the rate at which you gain fat. Normally, a bulk period takes about three months, but you can continue longer if your fat percentage remains at an acceptable level. It is therefore wise to measure this regularly. Remember that if you get heavier during the bulking, your energy needs increase, so you’ll need extra energy.

Bulking steps:

  1. Calculate what your energy requirement is for your fat-free mass
  2. Based on the outcome of your energy requirement, see how many extra calories you will take in
  3. Calculate the correct nutritional ratio
  4. Convert the total amount of macronutrients in grams
  5. Divide your total amount of kcal per day between six to eight small meals and ensure that you always drink enough water

1: Calculate your energy requirement on the fat-free mass

When you’ve calculated your fat percentage with a skinfold meter, you can calculate your energy requirement. For example, if you have a weight of 75 kilos and you have a fat percentage of 11 per cent, then the formula works as follows:

(Weight x fat percentage/100 = fat mass) – (Weight – fat mass = fat-free mass) – (Fat-free mass x 24 = basic requirement of kcal).

Then you’ll arrive at: 75 x 11/ 100 = 8,25. This is your fat mass. Next, you do this: 75-8,25 = 66,75. This is your fat-free mass. Then: 66,75 x 24 = 1602. This is your basic need for kcal per day. Click here to easily calculate your fat-free mass.

On top of that, it also tells you what daily activities you have and how much energy you burn during your work. For example, if you have a job where you sit down for the whole day, you only have to add 25% to your total energy requirement (you’ll end up at 2138 kcal).

These are the percentages that you need to add to your total energy need as a result of your daily work:

* Seated work (office work, computer work) where you do not train: +25%
* Seated work with light training: +35%
* Seated work with heavy training: +55%
* Average physical labour (walking a lot, light tasks in between): +60%
* Average physical labour with heavy training: +80%
* Heavy physical labour combined with heavy training: +90%

2: Calculate your extra need of kcal per day               

If you know your energy requirement on the fat-free mass, you add 200-500 calories on top of that. It is advisable not to suddenly throw your regular eating pattern around, but to slowly increase your extra calorie intake. The extra calories are best gotten from proteins. Remember: no matter how good your diet is, some of your extra calories will turn into fat instead of muscle mass. This cannot be avoided. But by continuing to train intensively and start with a low fat percentage, the amount of fat tissue that develops will be minimized.

3: Calculate the correct nutritional ratio

Calories must be divided over the correct nutritional ratio, which has to do with macronutrients proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Furthermore, the right combination of food proteins, carbohydrates and fats at every meal is important. The ideal macronutrient ratio for weight gain of muscle mass is: 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates and 20% fat. Per person the ideal ratio between nutrients can differ slightly.

4: Convert the total amount of macronutrients into grams

You can easily convert the amount of macronutrients into grams with this link.

5: Distribute your calorie intake over different meals

Next, you can conveniently divide the grams of macronutrients that fit you over six to eight different meals a day. By dividing at least 6 meals over each day and using the right macronutrients ratio, your diet will have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and maintain your energy level. Muscles recover and grow while minimizing the storage of fat.

There are still a number of factors to keep in mind when you’re going to bulk up:

Check your diet
Hypertrophy is Greek for excessive nutrition. It means that tissues or organs increase in size by increasing the volume of the individual cells (muscles are organs). Hypertrophy means at cellular level that the cell receives more water and building materials, resulting in an increase in volume. Muscle hypertrophy is a hypertrophy of the muscles in which the skeletal muscle tissue increases in size by increasing the volume of each muscle cell. It is one of the most visible forms of organ hypertrophy: muscles that grow, they’ll change shape over time, visible by the naked eye. This is best done when you combine strength training with a proper dietary pattern. Without proper nutrition, training is of little use. It is recommended to check your diet regularly or to discuss it with a dietician or personal trainer. It may be that the pattern you previously created will not continue to fit with you over time.

Check the duration
The duration of the bulk period must also be discussed with a professional. It’s not good for your body if you continue for too long – but if you stop early, you may not achieve the desired outcome that you are aiming for. One more tip: combine your strength training during bulking with cardio training. This keeps you in shape. You’ll stay fit and keep your fat percentage constant this way.

Regularly check if your strategy is working
How do you know if you’re really getting results? If you find yourself getting stronger, you know that you’re getting more muscles. This is one of the best grade meters to make sure your bulk strategy is effective. You may become stronger without getting bigger, but generally you will notice that your muscles ‘grow ‘ as your muscle strength increases. If you are bulking but not getting stronger or even noticing that you lose strength, you’ll need to adjust your strategy. It is recommended to do four to maximum five strength trainings a week. If you do more than that, there is a major possibility of ‘overtraining’.

Nutrition after bulking
All your meals are important, but we recommend paying the most attention to a big meal after your training. Your body is then craving the right nutrients. A combination of proteins and fast carbohydrates is ideal. This can, for example, be found in a large plate of chicken and rice. You can also take a shake of protein powder and dextrose (containing quick sugars) immediately after your workout, and save your big meal for later when you’re home.

Training for maintenance
You can choose to train for maintenance after your period of bulking. Training on maintenance means that your calorie intake is as high as your energy consumption. Whether this is precisely connected, you’ll need to test with different food patterns. This is a matter of experience. If you eat for maintenance, your muscles will not grow – but muscle mass will not be lost if you continue to train.

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