How to Bulk Without Getting Fat – Part 2
This is a continuation from the blog I recently posted on the subject. If you haven’t seen it yet, click the following link to check it out:
Meal Timing IS Important
I don’t care what the science says, if you are allocating 100% of your carbs to your Meal 1 right when you wake up, and you train at 9pm at night and are just having protein and/or fats around your workout, you aren’t optimizing your current diet even if the overall daily macros are the same.
Allocating macros to when they are needed is one of the most overlooked aspects of a successful bulk, and it is a practice that can be used to minimize fat gains.
For example, peri-workout nutrition is probably the most important times of the day where meal timing is crucial. Your body demands energy to maintain strength and muscle while you complete intense resistance training, and by strategically placing the majority of your carbs around your workout, you will be providing your body with the energy it needs, WHEN IT ACTUALLY NEEDS IT.
You don’t need 100 grams carbs per meal if you aren’t even lifting that day. Think of carbs as your fuel, you don’t need excessive amounts unless your physical activity demands it, as the excess will be stored as body fat in a caloric surplus.
This is where peri-workout nutrition comes into play, as you will be ideally be supplying the body with what it needs to get through a workout without half assing it, without losing strength, and with encouraging optimal recovery as well in the post-workout period where you need carbs.
Putting this into practice, I encourage you (if you aren’t already doing this and your carbs are evenly spaced throughout your meals each day) to allocate 60-70% of your carb intake spread out in a pre-workout meal, an intra-workout shake (EAA’s or hydrolyzed whey and highly branched chain cyclic dextrins/HBCD's are best for the intra-workout shake – HBCD’s are ideal for fastest gastric emptying time in the intra-workout phase where instant digestion is paramount), and a post-workout meal.
I encourage you to try it out and see if your recovery is enhanced, and if you notice less fat accumulation than previous bulks.
I know for me, it has significantly helped by reducing my soreness post-workout, allowing me to train harder and more often, allowing me to build more muscle, as well as keep me leaner and more insulin sensitive. Let me elaborate further.
I firmly believe if you keep your overall macros in mind, i.e. don't just add 100g carbs to intraWO but steal them from the meals farther away from your workouts you can maximize the gain potential, further minimize fat storage and stay in the ~8-9% range without a tonne of effort or cardio year round. On non-training days, carbs aren't as necessary as you won't be doing any heavy resistance work so you can allocate more of your calories (if not most) to protein and fats. Heavy intense large body part days like back or legs I encourage you to allocate a lot more of your daily calorie allotment to carbs, and on a smaller body part day like arms or shoulders, you would cut back on the fats to make room for some carbs (but not as much as a large body part day).
Just think logically, if I am doing nothing all day, do I need a bunch of carbs? Or, if I am going to do a balls to the wall leg workout that takes an hour and a half, do I think I might need more carbs than I do on a rest day? When your body demands energy, provide it, when it doesn't, avoid it to minimize fat storage.
For the intra-workout shake, EAAs are cheaper than proper hydrolized whey (really only hydrolyzed caseinate, or better yet peptopro are appropriate)…isolate almost defeats the purpose of expensive HBCDs because it takes too much time and effort for your body to digest.
Combining the HBCDs with a complete protein (either predigested in the form of hydrolized/peptopro or straight EAAs) allows your body to immediately start tackling muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to combat the muscle protein breakdown (MPB) caused by your hypertrophic training…minimizing the MPB trough and maximizing the overall MPS : MPB ratio…end result is “more” results (less to no soreness and more to WAY MORE growth)
HBCDs have such low osmalarity that they don't even need to hit the intestine, they're simply absorbed straight through the stomach lining…so in terms of absorption and complete lack of need for gastric emptying (and the interim bloating until that happens) it's absolutely great.
Additionally, they have a much lower insulin spike effect, providing a much steadier energy curve / release throughout your workout even if you don't time your ‘sips' particularly well…no 2-3 shake combination bullshit required.
This ties especially well into insulin use around your workout, which will be covered in another blog post in the future.
For the pre-workout meal and post-workout meal I suggest whole food meals with a good supply of carbs and protein (depending on which body part you are training will depend on how many carbs you will allow yourself based on your daily caloric allotment). Avoid refined foods and sugars.
What Macros Should I Be Eating
There are countless “splits” out there (like the classic 40/40/20 protein carb fat split) where 40% of your calories come from protein, 40% carbs, 20% fats, and that outlines your diet approach.
There are keto diets, intermittent fasting diets, high carb, low carb, etc. There are a million and one ways to approach your bulk, but the truth is guys, you need to experiment to find what your body best grows from.
I don’t care if some “guru/expert” has told you that you need 1.5 grams protein per pound of body weight to grow optimally, I know some guys who grow like weeds off of 1 gram per pound and the rest of their calories are all carbs, whereas some guys I know push 400-500 grams protein per day with super low carbs and that approach makes them grow more.
To grow optimally, you will need to take several different approaches to your bulk periods and see what truly keeps your body fat the lowest, and allows you to grow the most at the same time.
I could tell you my “split”, or splits from other national level competitors I am friends with, but to be honest, it wouldn’t really help you. Sure it would give you some guidance and you may take comfort in the fact when you follow the same split as a guy with a physique you admire, but you need to find a split that works for your body, and allows you to properly digest your food and function at 100% in the gym.
If some guy is having quinoa every single meal and he is jacked out of his tree, it DOES NOT mean that quinoa is the magic carb that will make you grow like crazy too.
You may very well get a better pump off of jasmine rice or feel less bogged down with some cream of wheat, the possibilities are endless, and a huge battle in this game is finding foods your body agrees with the best.
I find I get really bloated and bogged down by excessive oatmeal consumption for my carbs, but I digest jasmine rice like a breeze and feel awesome after eating them. So logically, a lot of my carb intake comes from jasmine rice right now, and it works for me.
Eat Clean Food Sources
This may sound contrary to what I just said regarding eating what your body responds best to, but there should still be a general pattern of rhyme and reason to your eating habits.
Obviously to stay lean, you need to eat clean. You are what you eat is the saying, and if all your calories are coming from sugar dense ice cream or something for your carbs, you need to take a step back and rethink your diet.
Obviously there are various clean carb sources available, a few that come to mind are oats, rice, yams, quinoa, etc. I urge you to keep your diet clean, as in a caloric surplus your glycogen stores are already going to be very replenished the majority of the time, and you can be very prone to over-spilling and gaining fat from unnecessary garbage foods.
I’m not saying don’t indulge once and a while, but be smart about it, and ideally steal the calories from other meals in the day to make room for that cheat meal you treat yourself to once or twice a week.
I used to think cardio was counterproductive during a bulk phase, so I never did it. I knew it was good for heart health, but at the time I didn’t give a shit about that because I was just some misguided knob who just cared about being huge.
Not only should you still include cardio into your regimen a few times per week in a bulk phase for heart health, but it will IMPROVE your metabolism, allowing you to not only stay leaner, but it will improve your appetite.
I get ravenous after a good cardio session, and with appetite being one of my main issues in the off-season, it is a very good tool to keep in your program to make progress.
Take Measures To Keep Your Appetite Up
I don’t have a high capacity for tons of clean food, and a lot of the time during bulk phases I find myself force feeding food just to get my 3500 calories in (or whatever my daily goal is at the time).
Sure eating 3500 calories+ of shitty fat and sugar dense food isn’t hard, but it can get very tough if your diet is comprised of healthy choices like extra extra lean ground beef, chicken, rice, oats, etc.
I already mentioned cardio as a good method to stroke your appetite, but another method is meal portioning. Separating your meals into several smaller meals not only allows your body to process the food a lot better, but you will become satiated less easily, and be ready to eat again a few hours later.
If worst comes to worst and your appetite is really preventing you from getting the amount of food you need in, you can look into the peptide GHRP-6.
GHRP-6 is fantastic for those who have extreme appetite issues, and it can be a game changer for those who can’t stomach the amount of clean food they need to grow. It literally can take a person from totally not hungry, to ravenous within 15 minutes.
Absolutely great tool.
What Supplements Should I Be Using In a Bulk
This is entirely dependent on your goals and your physical requirements, but supplement wise I suggest getting a fast digesting carbohydrate that doesn’t bloat you for intra-workout, as well as a high quality hydro-whey or EAA product.
In addition, creatine monohydrate is extremely cheap and 5 grams of it a day (timing is irrelevant just make sure you take it every day) is something I’d recommend as well.
Also, a decent protein isolate is great for when you are on the go and don’t have time to pack a whole food meal (I always recommend whole foods over shakes if possible).
And finally, if and only if you absolutely need it, a weight gainer wouldn’t hurt to have on hand. Sometimes getting in your calories is extremely difficult if you are on severe time constraints, and having a weight gainer product on hand that isn’t amino spiked and doesn’t have a high sugar content can be an acceptable meal replacement when absolutely necessary.
If the sugar content is extremely dense per shake, stay far away. I usually will just make my own weight gainer shake with whey isolate, blended up oats, and some natural peanut butter or extra virgin olive oil though and it serves the same purpose but offers a much better nutrient profile than a store bought gainer.