Bulking Or Just Getting Fat?

Are you bulking, or just getting fat? So a couple of months ago I made a short post on my social media entitled:


“Bulking Isn’t An Excuse To Be A Fat Shit”


Of all the written posts I’ve ever made (meaning, it wasn’t accompanied by a video or image) – this was the most successful in terms of engagement. As a result, I thought it would be quite a nice topic to go in a little deeper with a blog post, so here it is.


Now, before I start going in on people, I want to make it very clear that everything I’m about to talk about I’ve been as guilty as anyone of doing in the past. Almost every time I’ve tried to get bigger I’ve allowed the flood gates to open and just started putting whatever food I can get my hands on in my mouth. It’s been ridiculous. So I’m coming from a place of experience, empathy and lessons learned from many bulking mistakes over the years. So don’t throw your teddies out of the pram when I call you out on your shit.


So with that said, let’s get started on addressing the issue of bulking vs getting fat from an intelligent standpoint.


You Need To Eat

Before we get started on the intelligent way of adding size, I think it’s important to cover the obvious – you do need to eat if you want to get bigger. This is a basic prerequisite to putting on weight and making muscles bigger, you need to be in what’s known as a ‘calorie surplus’. This simply means you need to be eating more calories than you’re burning off on any given day. This will result in weight gain, which is what we want.


You should be prepared and happy to accept that you will accumulate some body fat during a phase of aggressive bulking. We aren’t kidding ourselves here – we’re not going to stay fitness model ripped all year round. There comes a time where the abs have to hibernate for a while so we can get on with the job of adding muscular size. So expect your physique to smooth over a little and don’t get disheartened when the veins aren’t popping or the muscle separation isn’t as prominent as you might have been used to back when you were in your ‘cutting’ phase.


However, even though the very nature of bulking dictates that we will accumulate some body fat, there’s a limit to how out of shape we should allow ourselves to become.


We’re Here To Grow Muscles, Not Waistlines

So let’s take a step back right now. On the grandest scale possible, what is our goal? Beyond this little phase of bulking, or whatever phase you’re going through at any given time. What’s the reason we’re in the gym? Well, if you’re anything like me (and given the fact you’re reading this article I’m assuming you are), you want to develop a nice, aesthetically pleasing and balanced physique. You want to look good both in a t-shirt and when you take your top off around the pool on holiday.


Now in order to do this, we need to actually develop a physique so bulking phases are totally necessary. However, the harder we push the calories and poor food choices, the harder the job is to get back down to the look we were actually going for in the first place. That lean, athletic, muscular look is really hard to achieve when you look like the muscular equivalent of Ronald McDonald.


We need to have the end goal in mind throughout our bulking phase and not make it ridiculously hard for ourselves to get lean again. Not only this, but the fatter we are, the longer and harsher we’ll need to diet to get lean. The longer and harsher our diet is, the more chance we have of losing muscle mass on the way down. So it could be that you spend all this time getting fat, and have little to no extra muscle mass to show by the time you’re lean again!


It’s Not Just Aesthetics

The obvious drawback to getting fat when bulking is that, well, you get fat. You look like shit and people can barely tell you lift anymore. But few people consider any implications of recklessness in weight gain beyond the simple aesthetic visual impact it has.


The health implications of excessive fat gain are clear. Hormonally, we have the potential to really screw ourselves up. Depending on what you choose to eat – you can really start to screw up your insulin sensitivity and become insulin resistant, which means you struggle to handle carbs properly and it’s the first step on the slippery slope to diabetes. Not a position you want to put yourself in at all if you can avoid it (which you can).


The impact we have on our body by feeding it shit is also evident in our performance in the gym. Sure, weight moves weight and you might get stronger in your bulking phases than your cutting phases. But we’re massively limiting ourselves by not paying proper attention to micronutrient needs.


Getting the right amounts of things like sodium, potassium, magnesium and many others will have a monumental impact on your strength, endurance and quality of muscular contraction in the gym. This is of obvious benefit when we’re trying to grow muscle. Paying zero attention to these needs and just eating anything in sight won’t help you, if anything it will screw up the hormonal balance and you’ll probably feel sleepy, lethargic and demotivated in the gym.


How And When To Increase Food

So we know what not to do, now the question remains how exactly should we go about the bulking phase of getting mass on our frame?


Well, as natural (drug free) gym goers, we have to be a little more conservative in our approach to adding calories to our diet as muscle growth will be much slower for us than for our chemically assisted counterparts.


We need to use performance markers as a gauge for when to increase food. Food should be a tool we can use to strategically break through plateaus in strength. When our lifts start to stall, we know we can afford to up our daily intake of food. This should help to keep the weight and the strength creeping up without accumulating too much fat or ruining our opportunity for a properly productive bulking phase.


Another metric we should be paying close attention to when bulking is our hunger levels. I’m talking about actual hunger levels here, not boredom levels. If you’re not hungry, you generally don’t need to increase food. Once you adapt to your current meal plan, you might find you start getting hungry – this often falls in line with plateaus in strength and performance in the gym. At this point, we have an ideal opportunity to increase calories.


Calories can be increased whenever you need them most (at the times you’re most hungry), but don’t forget about the actual workout window. Introducing things like intra workout carbs (cyclic dextrin, vitargo) are a great, cheap way to add calories into your day without causing a huge amount of gastric stress.


Hope That Helps

Hopefully that was useful and made things a little bit clearer as to how to go about your bulking efforts.


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