Winter is coming. Clean bulk time.
Yes, that means the final season of Game of Thrones is almost here, but who cares because it’s also BULKING SEASON.
Although you can build muscle in a calorie deficit or at maintenance calories, you’re going to have much better results in a calorie surplus. This means you’ll need to eat a bit more fuel than you burn throughout the day, to give your body some of the raw materials it needs to build that muscle.
But the days of eating as much food as humanly possible to try and put on some muscle are gone. You’re better than that. Instead, focus on these tips below to understand how to get into a ‘smart calorie surplus’, and to build your best muscle.
Get in a Surplus, But Don’t Be Silly
There are two main reasons people’s bulking season falls down. 1. They’re not eating enough to maximise muscle gain or 2. They’re eating waaaaaay more than they need to tomaximise muscle gain. Neither of these situations are ideal. Instead, we want to be in a slight surplus. If you’re a calorie tracker, that’s a surplus of approximately 200-500 calories above maintenance. If you’re not a tracker, add an extra snack/small meal per day, or eat until you feel slightly fuller than usual at one meal per day.
Keep an Eye on the Scales
If you’re someone that’s ok with weighing themselves, try and jump on the scales every couple of days and track the trend of your body weight (remembering that it’s going to fluctuate due to lots of factors). We’re aiming for weight gain of approximately 0.5-1% of your body weight per month. Yes, that’s slow, but if you want to minimise the amount of fat you gain along with your beautiful, beautiful muscle, those are the rates we should be aiming for.
Eat the Right Amount of Protein
Protein provides the building blocks of muscle, so it’s obviously a pretty important part of the bulking equation. You want to be aiming for 1.8-2g of protein per kg of body weight. If you hate maths (I feel you) another option is to aim for 4-5 quality protein servings per day. Once you’ve reached a certain amount of protein, more is not better. Instead, there’s a much better macronutrient for you to spend your calories on…
Eat Your Carbs
If you want to grow muscle, you’re going to want to eat your carbs. They’re going to allow you to train harder, which = more muscle. They’re going to signal your body that fuel is not scarce, so it knows it can safely grow, which = more muscle. If you’re trying to maximise muscle growth without eating carbs, you’re going to have a bad time. And if you’re nervous about them causing you to overeat, stick to unprocessed sources such as sweet potato, oats or brown rice.
Don’t Forget Food Quality
Sometimes the decision to gain muscle can act as a gateway to drowning yourself in pizza and ice-cream every night. Sure, if you’re in a calorie surplus you do have a bit more flexibility with your diet, but that’s no excuse not to focus on your fibre and micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) goals. These are incredibly important for health, and it’s pretty difficult to perform at your peak and maximise muscle gain if you’re not healthy. So have your pizza, have your ice-cream, but also eat your veggies!