Want bigger arms? Want broader shoulders or fuller chest? The number one complaint I get from male gym goers is “I have been to the gym a long time, why am I still so small? Why is my physique not changing?” I tell them “You’re stealing yourself of gains by not eating enough.” As far as I can tell, the biggest dilemma these people struggle with is that they want to get leaner while getting bigger, resulting in a state where they’re not regressing but not gaining appreciable amount of muscle.
Truth be told, that is the most inefficient way to change a physique. Why? They require nutritional strategy that are on different ends of the spectrum. The physiological needs are different, one is inherently catabolic and the other anabolic. Fat loss require a negative energy balance and muscle building requires a positive energy balance.
For these people I highly suggest they choose one goal, fat loss then muscle building, then stick to the training and nutrition strategies for 8-12 weeks to accumulate it’s intended effects.
Bulking the optimal way
Countless studies show that the most optimal way to increase muscle mass is done through a significant caloric surplus of up to 2,010 kcal per day followed by resistance training. The most prominent study to show this is “Effects of high-calorie supplements on body composition and muscular strength following resistance training” – R. Rozenek et al.
The 3 groups had the following diets
Applying it to your own training
– High-calorie supplements such as “Mass Gainers” are effective in increasing BM and FFM when combined with resistance training
– Once individual protein goals are met (1.8-2.8g/kg bodyweight) energy content of the diet has the largest effect on body composition
It is understandable that clients would inherently opt for lean bulk diet because they don’t have a specific time frame (in between shows) to gain a significant amount of muscles, their goal is not to gain as much muscle mass in the off-season to bring a better physique in the next show. So I still suggest a 500-1000kcal surplus per day during mass gaining phase for these people.
However, if you’re like me, someone that needs to take full advantage of off-season period and gain as much muscle as I can in time for the next show, it would be wise to consume significant caloric surplus. Given that you’re lean and at sub 10% body fat to start with, it is ideal for you to consume all those extra calories. In my opinion, when you reach around 15% body fat as a male, you can go for a mini cut of 4 weeks to bring your body fat percentage down, give your gut a break and increase your insulin sensitivity, then back on another bulking block.
After my last competition in Dec 2016, I spent 5 months aggressively bulking, roughly consuming around 3000kcal-4000kcal per day; my maintenance calories were ~2500kcal. Looking back I felt like I could have done much better, there were a couple extended holidays where I couldn’t train and couldn’t count calories; and even on the days that I counted calories when I was back in Hong Kong I wasn’t consistent in hitting the surplus. I didn’t understand the importance of extra calories regarding hypertrophy. In those 5 months I gained ~15kg of weight, from show day ~69kg to ~84kg peak. With more or less the same conditioning I was 4kg heavier on show day compared to my last show with a 6 month gap.
For my next off-season after the October Mr. Olympia show, my plan is to get to 90kg off season body weight, I will bump my calories up to 4500kcal-5000kcal for an extended period of time and aim to gain around 0.5kg of weight per week. Don’t be alarmed if you see me fat, it’s all part of the process for a better physique!
Realistic ways to reach 5000kcal per day
I don’t enjoy consuming junk foods and sugar hence even when bulking I try to stick to nutrient dense foods and foods that cause low inflammatory response.
– Morning shake 1313kcal Blended together: 200g Instant oats/3 Tbsp Peanut butter/2 scoop Whey Isolate
– Night shake same as above but substitute Whey with Caesin
– Drink couple scoops of carb powder during workout
Other studies to support this – Gilbert B. Forbes et al – There was a significant correlation between weight gain and total excess energy consumed and between LBM gain and excess energy. Based on means the energy cost was 8.05 kcal/g gain and 43.6% of the gain was LBM; from regression analysis, these values were 8.05 kcal/g gain and 38.4% of gain as LBM.