Bulking is often used by bodybuilders when they are in their muscle-building phase. This is also commonly named their off-season. There are 3 phases in bodybuilding:
In this article, I’m going to tell you the basics you need to know about the bulking diet. Sharing my free bulking meal plan and the best bulking food! Keep reading to find out
Other articles you might like:
Bulking vs Cutting Difference
By eating more calories than you burn, and providing your muscles with a strong stimulus, like heavy resistance training you’re forcing your muscles to grow.
Without heavy and intense training, you would only gain fat, therefore it’s absolutely necessary to focus on heavy training which leads to muscle hypertrophy and muscle gains!
Bulking is usually done in the off-season, which is around wintertime. How long you should bulk depends on your current physique. The recommended time for bulking is 4-6 months.
For skinny guys who don’t have a lot of muscle yet, it’s advised to bulk up gradually until you hit your desired weight and body fat level.
Muscle building does not happen when you’re eating in a calorie deficit (eating less than your burn on a daily basis). Depending on how much fat you’ve gained during your bulk is the standard time for a cut 12-16 weeks.
This is a solid period of time where you give yourself enough time to enjoyably cut down without losing too much muscle. Losing muscle during a cut is normal, but you should always minimize the amount of muscle loss. You can do this by keeping your protein high and don’t lower carbs as fast!
Clean bulk or Dirty Bulk
When you want to start a bulk, you have 2 options, a clean bulk, and a dirty bulk.
A dirty bulk is when you’re trying to maximize weight gain by eating in a serious calorie surplus. No foods are off limit. This is a period of unrelenting weight gain by any means necessary to promote muscle and strength gains. It’s usually paired with high-intensity resistance exercise to complement these adaptations.
If you’re looking for a diet that is healthier and more sustainable for the long run then dirty bulking might not be the best option. For hard gainers, a dirty bulk is a better option, though be careful not to do it for long period in a row, due to eating less healthy foods most of the time.
A clean bulk refers to adding excess calories (for the reasons explained above), but doing so with largely healthy foods. The types of foods eaten when clean bulking aren’t that dissimilar to foods eaten when cutting or trying to maintain and stay lean.
Treat meals (the addition of a meal or two a week with more unhealthy foods) will still be used in many cases, but 90% of meals will be nutrient and calorie while meeting the calorie surplus requirements for bulking. A clean bulk usually leads to a leaner bulk and is certainly more healthy, to the body and mind, long term.
To find out how many calories you should eat in your bulking diet to gain weight, you should first find out what your maintenance calories are. Maintenance means the number of calories you consume on a daily basis where you don’t gain weight or lose weight.
You can use a free website to calculate your maintenance, but also your bulking calories and macros. Though, it’s important to know your maintenance as you will also need to cut down again.
If your maintenance calories are 3000 calories, you should aim to eat roughly 3500 calories to bulk up. The usual amount of weight you gain is around 0.5 kgs per week.
Download your free 3500 calorie meal pdf plan to kickstart your bulk!
The daily amount of calories someone should eat varies per person, due to everyone’s different activity and training levels.
If you notice you aren’t gaining weight as fast as you’d like you can increase the number of calories accordingly.
Once you’ve determined your daily calorie intake for bulking, you can set up your bulking macros accordingly.
Good to know is that protein, and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram. Experts recommend a split like this:
- 45-60% of calories coming from carbs
- 30-35% of calories coming from protein
- 15-30% of calories coming from fats
- 393 – 525 grams of carbs
- 262 – 306 grams of protein
- 58 – 116 grams of fat
You’re going to be eating a lot of calories when you’re bulking, and over time your calories will increase. Therefore it’s important to listen to your body and know what bulking food digest quickly so you can eat lots of them.
Your bulking diet should consist out of healthy whole foods as you need to fuel your body properly for your workout and optimal muscle gains, and that’s how you should set up your bulking meal plan.
Here is a good list of bulking foods to help you during your bulk!
- Grains – Rice, pasta, breads, oatmeal, quinoa, cereals. These foods are high in carbs which make out most of your diet.
- Fruits – Apples, bananas, berries, avocados, pears, and grapes
- Legumes – Beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils
- Meats, poultry, and eggs – Chicken, red meat, steak, ground beef, pork tenderloin, sirloin steak, turkey, and whole eggs
- Seafood – Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tilapia, and tuna
- Dairy – butter, cottage cheese, cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, mixed veggies, and bell peppers
- Oils & nut butters – Olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, almond butter, peanut butter, and cashew butter
- Nuts and seeds – Cashews, almonds, mixed nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts.
Bulking Meal Plan
As mentioned earlier your bulking meal plan should consist out of healthy whole foods, but most of all should be enjoyable. It’s your choice whether you follow a clean bulk or a dirty bulk, but I’m going to show my example of a clean bulk, which I prefer!
This example is based on 3500 calories, you can adjust the macros to your macro and calorie goals.
Breakfast (1,083 calories):
- 150 grams of oats
- 400 ml of full fat milk
- 1 Banana
- 2 whole eggs
Snack (337 calories):
- 50 grams of Walnuts (great source of vitamin B1)
Lunch (1130 calories):
- 150 grams of pasta (uncooked)
- Mixed veggies
- 200 grams of Ground beef
- Pasta sauces of choice
Dinner (786 calories)
- 150 grams of uncooked Basmati Rice
- 100 grams of broccoli
- 200 grams of chicken
Snack #2 (protein shake, 200 calories)
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- 200 ml milk
When bulking and trying to gain as much muscle mass as possible during a short period of time bulking supplements are a great option to include in your diet!
Most mass gainer shakes contain a minimum of 1000 calories, around 500 calories per scoop, and are packed with protein and carbs!
Other bulking supplements that can greatly assist you in your muscle-building are creatine, whey protein, essential vitamins & minerals.
- Creatine provides your muscles with additional energy to work harder and lift more. Studies suggest that creatine monohydrate may be the most effective form
- Whey protein shakes aid in the muscle building and repair process. This supplement makes it easier to hit your daily protein target!
- Vitamins & minerals are essential for keeping your body healthy when you’re consuming an excessive amount of calories, possibly unhealthy foods (dirty bulk).