Bulking Meal Plan

A complete bulking meal plan to help you smash your plateaus. For some people, the struggle to bulk up can be as tough, if not tougher, than trimming down. Genetics, activity, training program, lifestyle and diet choices all contribute to your ability to build muscle. Genetics are largely out of our control so let's take [...]

A complete bulking meal plan to help you smash your plateaus.

For some people, the struggle to bulk up can be as tough, if not tougher, than trimming down. Genetics, activity, training program, lifestyle and diet choices all contribute to your ability to build muscle. Genetics are largely out of our control so let’s take that out of the equation and focus on optimizing the genetic situation that you have been handed. A bulking meal plan is a perfect way to go about this. You don’t need to ‘dirty bulk’ to pack on size, there is a better way to do things.

As listed below, there are several important factors to consider when you’re trying to pack on size:

  1. Energy balance
  2. Protein intake
  3. Appetite
  4. Recovery

Energy balance

The ability to grow muscle is dependant on being in a caloric surplus. Beginners may possess an ability to build muscle in a deficit, though it will be short-lived and more experienced trainers should always be aiming for a small-medium caloric surplus. Building muscle is NEVER a priority for your body. And as such it will always spend the energy you take in on the processes that keep you alive before spending it on body-optimization adaptations such as muscle building. This is the same reason you cannot perform as well when you don’t eat, your body automatically slows you down to preserve energy for the things that contribute to survival.

Therefore you have to ensure that you are, without a doubt, in a calorie surplus. If your weight is currently stagnant I would first suggest calculating your current daily calories and increasing your total by 200-400. 2-3 weeks into your bulking meal plan, check for any weight change and reassess whether to increase, maintain or reduce your energy intake. It’s not a matter of just trying ‘dirty bulking’, and eating as much as you possibly can. We have to make sure we’re taking in the right amount of energy, versus the energy we are spending.

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Protein intake

Protein is the main component of muscle mass, and incredibly important in our bulking meal plan. Failure to consume enough daily protein can severely hamper your ability to grow. Plenty of studies have tried to pinpoint the optimum amount of protein intake for muscle building, with it likely falling between 1.6-2.5g/kg of body weight. Additional protein never hurt anyone so I always look to start clients at the higher end of the scale. Especially when they are trying to bulk up.

Appetite

Lack of appetite is one of the main issues clients report when struggling to increase their calorie intake. Here, we’re trying to do the opposite of what we do within a shredding meal plan. There’s nothing fun about force-feeding, even in the name of bulking for building muscle. It’s always in everyone’s best interests to try and avoid creating a negative relationship with food. Therefore, you must have tools for promoting appetite, as well as avoiding appetite killers.

Increase your appetite

There are several natural ways to increase appetite. Weight training itself is a known appetite promotor, whilst highly palatable foods such as carbohydrates and fats can increase our willingness to eat and the amount that we chose to take in. Setting regular mealtimes will program your body to expect food intake, increasing the hunger sensation in preparation. Finally, starting your day with a big meal will go along the way to increase your overall intake. Unless you are training first thing in the morning, you will be missing valuable digestion time. If you are not used to eating in the morning, start small or start with a liquid.

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Avoiding appetite suppressants

On the other side of the equation is appetite suppressants. Your bulking meal plan will be dead in the water if you can’t consume your calories. Excessive cardio is already recognised for its ability to limit hypertrophy, though it can also reduce your willingness to eat for an extended period of time post-workout. If your goal is to gain weight, you will be better off limiting your cardio to short, high-intensity bouts. From a nutrition standpoint, fibre and protein are fantastic for CUTTING weight because of their ability to keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Unfortunately for the BULKING athlete, this is going to limit your ability to consume calories!  Whilst it is important to get adequate protein and fibre, it is best not to go too far over your daily requirements. After calculating your protein requirements you should seek to fill the rest of your calories with carbohydrates and fats. It is also best to avoid calorie-less liquids (water, sugar-free soft drinks etc) around mealtimes to avoid filling your stomach up with water.

Tricks to increase your calories

Most people need tricks to decrease their calories, here are some of my favourite tricks to easily INCREASE CALORIES:

  1. Consume high energy density foods such as oats, dried fruit, pasta, and fatty meat.
  2. Blend food! Blends can reduce food volume quite significantly and make it easier for your body to digest the meal. A typical go-to would be oats, full cream milk, protein powder, and nuts. 
  3. Start your day with a meal and end it with a meal. It is important to use all of the digestion time possible. 
  4. Forget about typical ‘healthy eating guidelines’. Typically these guidelines are used to avoid fat gain and obesity. If you’re interested in this article then I am assuming you have no trouble remaining lean. You may need to eat higher energy processed food occasionally to get the calories in that you need.

Recovery, recovery, recovery!

We always hear about it, yet so many people still undervalue the importance of sleep. Sleep is when our body has the chance to regenerate and build. If you are not getting enough deep sleep, you are limiting your body’s ability to build muscle mass. I could write 100 articles on the importance of getting 7-9 hours per night, but for the sake of this article, I am just going to say this, GO. TO. SLEEP.

Other factors to consider

  • Stay hydrated! This one is obvious, up to 60% of the human body is made up of water, if you limit water intake, you limit size. Furthermore, dehydration can directly prevent your body’s ability to recover from an intense training regime. The less you can train, the less you can grow. Aim to drink at least 6-7 glasses per day if you can.
  • Supplementation! Creatine supplementation is fantastic for increasing your intracellular fluid content in muscle cells. 5-10g per day can help saturate your cells and increase their overall volume. Additionally, creatine can help boost performance as it is the limiting factor in the creatine-phosphate system which our body utilises during high-intensity exercises.

Recap

In short, if you are struggling to increase your muscle mass, you need to increase your overall calorie intake, increase your protein intake and improve your recovery. Training harder will not be the answer! It’s time to invest your time into your nutrition and your recovery.