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Eating in a constant caloric surplus doesn’t come naturally to everyone but, fortunately, bulking does get easier over time. What’s even better is that not only does it get easier because of subconscious triggers, but you can also amplify results through conscious involvement. Read on to learn how bulking gets easier and what you can do to help along the process.
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Your Body Adapts to Bulking
It’s not a process that happens overnight, but your body naturally adapts to the increase in calories. This change takes place gradually and when it does occur you should be able to detect the signs.
Your Caloric Requirements Naturally Increase in Response
When this happens, you’ll find you can eat more than when you first began the bulking process.
Calories provide us with energy to live and depending on our sizes (small vs big) and lifestyles (inactive vs active) we each come with different energy requirements to maintain our physiques. Therefore, eating at a caloric deficit means not getting the regular amount of energy/food your body is used to whereas eating at a surplus means getting more energy than your body knows what to do with.
I’ve touched upon the need to be in a caloric deficit to lose body fat, and in such an instance, because you’re getting less energy, your body needs to adapt to a state where that smaller quantity is still useful (hence losing fat), but in this instance, when concerned with being in a surplus, as your body gets more food than it knows what to do with it stores the energy, and so with more energy in the tank, this becomes your new norm and your body shifts composition to accommodate this new you.
Your Energy Levels Can Improve
Assuming you’re getting your calories from whole foods and good nutritional sources while not overdoing the bulking (that is, overeating), these provide a boost to your bodily functions and daily energy levels. More energy means a more active lifestyle and you should notice yourself being able to do a lot more while still having leftover energy to do other things. This also translates into your exercises where you may be stronger or have more stamina.
Your Bulking Tactics Change with Time
Whether you realize it or not, given time the tactics you employ to maximize bulking or ease the process adapt as your body goes through its own adaptations to the increase in calories. During this, you also learn more about what you, personally, can tolerate and what you can’t.
Your Eating Habits Change
As you go through the bulking phase, hopefully, you’ll learn that there’s more nuisance to bulking than just slapping on more food on a plate and force-feeding yourself. Different foods contain different amounts of calories, some foods are more satiating than others, and it’s best to get your protein from lean meats, just for example. Understanding this is more important in the cutting phase than it is in the bulking phase, but having it down in the bulking phase can make the difference between gaining weight as muscle vs weight as fat.
Your Eating Strategies Change
This can manifest itself in a number of ways, but a simple example would be how many times you eat in a day. After a while, you should naturally develop a rhythm regarding which hours of the day you eat; within this rhythm perhaps you’ve been trying to eat 4-5 times a day and you’ve realized it doesn’t work for you, so you change your strategy to have three meals a day but each meal is packed with high-calorie foods, or maybe you’re the opposite of this and you decide eating big meals isn’t your thing so you spread out your calories across the day (4+ smaller meals per day).
Bulking has to be a mindful process so if you’ve been doing it for a while (say 4+ weeks), you need to take a moment to think about what habits have you developed, which ones among them have been helpful, and which ones require changing.
Tactics You Can Use to Make Bulking Easier
For the best results, the following strategies are best used in combination, but that not may work for everyone. Instead of trying to force yourself to start new habits that you probably won’t maintain, see which tactics resonate with you that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle and maintain for the long-term.
Consume Your Calories in Liquids
Adding liquids can allow you to eat a lot more than you typically would. If you have a blender you can do this to great effect by making smoothies, shakes, sauces, or soups.
Adapt How You Exercise
This varies from person to person, and it’s recommended you understand where you fall on the spectrum. When it comes to exercising, you have two types of people; those who feel hungry after exerting themselves and those whose appetites get suppressed from exertion.
If you are the type that gets hungry after exercising then you can use this to your advantage where you consume a snack 30 minutes or an hour before exercising then after exercising, when you’re naturally hungry again, eat something once more. If you lose your appetite after exercising you can always force yourself to eat something but that’s probably not sustainable – you’ll hate yourself and probably quit the practice after a short attempt – rather, eat a snack before exercising because once your appetite gets suppressed, at least you’ve consumed some calories.
Consume Bedtime Snacks
During the hours you are asleep you go 6+ hours without food to finally break that fast in the morning. Therefore, to make use of those hours where you’re asleep, between half an hour to an hour before going to bed, consume something so that you’re not going to bed on an empty stomach.
Have a Food Diary
This can be tedious, but in the same way that tracking your workouts is the easiest way to ensure constant, progressive improvement, tracking your food intake has the same payoff. How meticulous you want to be is down to you; for each meal list down the food items, the portion served, how many calories each item contains, and what the total calorie of the meal is. If you know your Basel Metabolic Rate (BMR) – the number of calories you require per day to sustain your current weight – then you can count calories and accurately monitor your bulking (aim to be eating between 200-500 calories above your maintenance).
Some people don’t care to count calories and opt to feel out their food intake, but actually bothering to count your calories can provide you with some advantages that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. If you’re tracking the calories in your food, you can make minute adjustments to your meals for big success such as replacing ingredients, adjusting serving portions, or managing the ratio between macronutrients. All of this will help for moments when you plateau in weight; you know exactly how much you’re consuming and you can add slightly more calories to your meals (roughly 100 calories) to resume the weight gain until the next plateau. This is a much more manageable way of mindfully gaining weight and staying on top of a bulk as opposed to just throwing more food on a plate.
Final Note of Caution with Bulking
The point of a bulk is to increase nutritional intake to assist in the development of muscle before a cutting phase is introduced to reduce fat and maximize the lean muscle gained during the bulk. It should be kept to mind that there are very real pitfalls in bulking where it can be taken too far or mismanaged.
It should be common sense as to when to stop a bulk but poor planning, body dysmorphia, careless nutritional management, and misunderstanding of nutrients are real hurdles, and the fact that many people constantly mess up their bulks shows that it’s something that takes a bit of practice and knowing your individual body to get right. Depending on where your body is in terms of your final physical goals, both bulking and cutting are processes that take months, so it’s best to approach them with patience and knowledge.