If your goal is to bulk up and pack on the pounds of muscles, you may find that it’s easier said than done! You can only eat so much in a day, and you may feel like you’re just gaining weight–or even worse, putting on extra body fat–through your efforts to bulk up. Below we’ve got a few tips to help you bulk up the smart way:
Calories are not the same! A calorie of fat is far less nutritious than a calorie of proteins or carbs, and whole foods are always better than highly refined junk foods. You need to focus on eating the foods that will give you the maximum amount of nutrition, not just the highest number of calories. Think about the nutrients that are in a pepperoni pizza, and then compare that to what you get from a beef-heavy stir fry served over whole wheat noodles. The difference is huge!
Don’t Splurge; Indulge Smartly
Your goal should NOT be to eat as much as possible and hope you pack on the pounds of muscle/fat as you try to bulk up. Instead, approach it from the smart angle: eating just enough that you are adding calories without overdoing it. A good rule of thumb is to multiply your current bodyweight (in pounds) by 16 (200 lbs. x 16) to determine the number of calories you should be eating every day (in this case, 3200). This will help you eat enough to add on extra weight, but not so much that you’re storing a lot off fat at the end of the day.
You don’t need to be so worried about gaining weight that you spend all of your time on the scale, but you need to track your weight gain. Every month or so, measure your waist circumference, your weight, and your body fat percentage. You should be seeing gains in weight (thanks to muscle-building), but not gains in your body fat or waist circumference. If you have packed on a bit of fat, time to scale it back a bit with the calories.
Use Compound Movements
When you lift, ALWAYS use compound movements for serious strength gains. While isolation exercises do help to target specific muscles, the heavy weight you will be lifting can actually injure your muscles. Instead, do compound movements like squats, presses, deadlifts, and pull-ups. These exercises will increase the amount of testosterone your body produces, leading to safe, rapid muscle gain.
Traditional strength gain programs tell you to do sets of 4 to 6 reps, but you can’t ONLY do low-rep, high weight sets. You also need to add in a bit higher-volume sets in order to increase the “Time Under Tension” for your muscles. This leads to hypertrophy, which is the true key to muscle gain. Lift heavy weight for about 70% of your workout, but include at least 30% of mid-weight, mid-rep exercises (8 to 15 reps) to ensure that your muscles are hit hard!
Make it a point to sleep at least 7 hours a night, though 8 is better. It will help to release human growth hormone, the hormone that leads to serious muscle-growth.
Use Carbs for Workout Day
On the days when you do cardio, stretching, Yoga, or don’t work out at all, cut carbs from your diet. Save your carbs for the days when you’re hitting the weights, as that’s when you’ll need that easily available energy from glucose. It will fill up your fuel tank and give your body the energy to get through that tough workout!