Summer is coming 🎉
Yet, similar to back in 2020, it appears that participating in summer parties – as fun as they can be – is still unwise at this point. After all, they do involve large gatherings of people. And in awfully close contact with each other.
But … but … what about all the hard work you’ve already put into cutting? Well, for safety’s sake, you might want to put off showing off your physique for a little longer.
In the meantime, though, here’s a suggestion: why not bulk?
Put on as much muscle mass as possible (naturally), and by the time summer 2022 comes around, you can be sure that you'll look the best you ever did.
So, to help you wow at the beach (or, on any occasions you deem suitable to take off your shirt or wear a bikini), here are a few essential tips you need to know for an effective bulk season.
Time to get that lean muscle mass.
Eat at a slight calorie surplus
Ever seen bodybuilders down a tub of fried chicken, 3 whole pizzas, and 2 large Cokes in a single sitting – only to justify it with, “Oh, I’m bulking, I can eat whatever I want!” Uh, newsflash: that’s false.
Bulking does not give you a free pass to eat whatever (and however much of it) you want for your diet.
Yes, you do need to eat more. But it’s almost never as much as you think you do. Instead, all you really need is a slight calorie surplus; that means anywhere between an additional 300 to 500 calories above your TDEE daily.
For reference, the Big Mac burger comes in at 508 calories. You don't need much.
Get the majority of your calories from nutritious foods
Also, note that the majority of your calories should still come from whole, nutritious food sources that span across all 3 macronutrient groups:
- Protein – Make sure you hit your daily protein intake requirement to repair and build muscle fibers. Focus on good quality protein sources, such as chicken breasts, fish, and eggs. Vegan? Then good choices include lentils, chickpeas, and oatmeal.
- Carbohydrates – Stored as muscle glycogen, which is the main fuel source used during your workouts. Fueling your body with adequate amounts of carbohydrates gives you the energy to go hard during your sessions and helps with recovery. Go for high-quality carbohydrates like whole-wheat pasta, rice, and wholemeal bread.
- Fats – Crucial for optimal hormone function. As the most energy-dense macronutrient (coming in at 9 calories per gram), including more fat in your diet is an easy way to boost your calorie intake. But, of course, you still shouldn’t go overboard. Good sources of fat include nuts, avocadoes, and oils.
Amidst all of this, don’t forget about your micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals), which are essential for overall health – so make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily!
Keep cardio to a minimum
Love your cardio? Passionate about doing those HIIT sessions daily?
Well … you might want to lay off on those for a while. Doing excessive amounts of cardio can make it much harder for you to stay in a calorie surplus, negatively impacting your muscle growth.
Plus, intense, high-impact cardio forms (e.g. HIIT, jump rope, moderate-pace running) involve a high degree of eccentric components known to cause considerable muscle damage. Meaning?
You might find that recovery takes an awfully long time, which can then derail your training plan for days at a time.
Here's a disclaimer: this doesn't mean that you should take cardio out of your life. No. What you should do, however, is focus on cardio options that minimally impact muscle gains. For example, walking.
Or simply making an effort to pepper in more movement throughout the day. You know, whatever keeps your heart – and muscles – happy at the same time.
Wait. Don’t get the wrong idea.
By 'supplement intelligently', I don't mean that you should get your hands on supposed testosterone boosters or any of that questionable 'anabolic' substances. Instead, you should rely on (legal!) supplements that’ll help make the process of bulking easier for you.
Here are a few supplements that’ll do just that for you:
• Protein powder – Struggling to hit your protein intake requirements through regular foods in your diet? You don’t have to gag at the last few mouthfuls of your chicken breast if you can’t stomach it. Just supplement however much protein you’re short on with a protein shake (or two!) Your muscles aren’t going to tell the difference. And bonus: you’ll be so much happier.
• Caffeine – One of the most research-backed workout supplements that enhances performance across an array of activities. And you can be sure that includes strength training! If you’re not a fan of coffee (who are you?!), you can also get your caffeine from tea or pre-workout supplements.
• Creatine monohydrate – A naturally-occurring amino acid that helps increase your energy production, so you’re able to go harder (and for longer) in the gym. As you can imagine, this can result in some pretty sick strength and size gains. Arguably belongs to the ‘must-have’ category when it comes to supplements suitable for bulking purposes.
Make sure you go as hard as you can in the gym
Now that you've got everything else in order … here's the most critical part.
Training hard in the gym. You want to make sure you’re progressively overloading. What was challenging for your muscles to move a month earlier is unlikely to be stimulating for you now.
When bulking, you also want to look into optimizing your workout structure – such that you’re scheduling enough recovery sessions throughout the week.
But most crucially, you must stay the course.
That’s because while muscle growth might not appear visible on a day-to-day basis, even the tiniest amount of growth will accumulate and compound over time. You have to be consistent enough to see it happen.
Find staying motivated for your workouts a challenge, especially since you can’t show your physique off at the beaches? GymStreak’s got you.
Our community of tight-knit fitness enthusiasts will keep you committed to the course. Plus, there’s also the plus point that GymStreak – in and of itself – is an AI-powered workout planner and tracker that customizes all your workouts to suit your unique fitness goals.
And you can be sure that includes bulking as well! Now, all you really need to do is show up at the gym and give it your best.
Download GymStreak now; it’s bulking season.Get GymStreak
Iraki, J., Fitschen, P., Espinar, S., & Helms, E. (2019). Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review. Sports, 7(7). https://doi.org/10.3390/sports7070154
Murray, B., & Rosenbloom, C. (2018). Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. Nutrition Reviews, 76(4), 243–259. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuy001
Stokes, T., Hector, A. J., Morton, R. W., McGlory, C., & Phillips, S. M. (2018). Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10020180