Bulking, a popular activity in the fitness industry, has become a household concept for those wanting to lean out and build muscle.
Bulking is when you increase your caloric intake with specific food requirements in order to gain weight. This style of weight gain is meant to help increase your strength and muscle size. Bulking is necessary for those who are competing in physique, bodybuilding and in some combat-sport situations, such as MMA and boxing. It is also popular among physical enthusiasts who are perfecting their aesthetics. It is easy to confuse eating more because you are active versus eating more to bulk. What is the difference and how can you gain muscle by eating?
Let’s cover the basics. When you are doing resistance training, you are specifically targeting certain muscle groups with the intention of strengthening them; that should be the goal. As you do your bicep curls, for example, you are tearing the muscle. This allows the body to repair the muscle with the production of more protein filaments, which, depending on your regimen, can result in the increase in size of the muscle as those filaments pack in together. However, lifting alone doesn’t aid in muscle development. What and how you eat matters. After your workout, it is important to refuel on protein and carbohydrates because your muscles are depleted, which is why you sometimes see people drink shakes post-workout. Research shows that there is an hour window after a workout to refuel in a way that will maximize exercise induced-muscular adaptations. All this activity in your body is related to the increased metabolism that occurs as you build muscle, which means most people should eat more (anywhere between 200-500 calories more), but it usually isn’t much more than what would be required if they were not active. Bulking can be an increase of 400-1,000-plus calories. Now remember, these numbers vary per person, activity and goals. An athlete can have the same caloric intake as a bodybuilder and sometimes more, but the regular gym-goer does not need this much food.
Most people do not need to bulk and, if you decide to, you should be supervised by a professional. Bulking can lead to excessive weight gain if it is not implemented into your regimen properly. It is also meant to be a seasonal habit and should not be done all year. It is to be followed by a “shredding” season or carb cycling.
Lastly, a lot of people use “bulking” as a way to justify a lack of discipline. Remember, bulking is an athletic strategy meant to increase your lean size, not fat size. If you would like to get leaner, eat enough of the right stuff and put together a regimen that will do just that.
If you have been going to the gym for a while and feel you would like to increase in size, find a fitness professional with experience in bulking to guide you.
Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer who trains out of 12th Street Gym. She is an energetic and positive person, who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness.