I’ve been bulking for four months now. And when I say bulking, I don’t mean eating a few hundred more calories. I mean eating around 800-900 more calories than I was at the beginning of December, training harder and working to put on as much mass as possible.
Surely that sounds simple? Basically eating as much as I can and not having to say no to treats? Maybe not. Bulking is a little harder than that.
Mentally, it’s allowing yourself to get visibly bigger, letting yourself have the treats you use to deny yourself.
Physically, it’s pushing yourself harder than you ever have before and training at a much higher intensity and volume than you’re used to. It’s taxing on both your mind and your body.
But there are, of course, positives. Putting on mass, seeing your progress sky-rocket, and feeling incredibly energetic throughout the day when other people are flagging.
So, what have I really learnt from bulking?
You must eat when you’re not hungry
Not force feeding, but essentially forgetting everything you learnt while intuitive eating. You eat when you need to, not when you want to, and learning to look at food this way was particularly hard. Don’t get me wrong, you do get used to it. And it’s great to be adding cheese and chocolate (within reason) to your meals when you have fat or carbs left. But seeing the clock hit a certain time and knowing you need to get another meal in is a challenge. Whoever thought eating too much would be hard?!
The value of food
I have learnt to understand the value of food and what’s in what I choose to eat. I was eating around 1,700-800 calories previously, and when I ‘cut’ last summer, I wasn’t tracking but I know I would have been eating around 1,400-500. Which, for someone as active as me, is quite worrying to think about. Bulking and tracking my macros properly has allowed me to realise what my body needs and what is too little – and too much.
A carb is a carb
I have eaten whole foods and eaten well throughout my bulk. I haven’t gone balls to the wall and gained a tonne of fat, I’ve done it by eating real food and then adding in carbs and fat that I wouldn’t eat on a cut, such as the aforementioned chocolate and cheddar cheese. But I have also learnt that high GI carbohydrates won’t kill you, that there’s not much difference between that and low GI, wholemeal alternatives. I’ve also learnt that a calorie is a calorie; if you want to put on mass, be in a caloric surplus, and if you want to lose fat, be in a caloric deficit. It sounds too simple to be true, but it’s not.
The energy is incredible
You feel so much stronger, so much happier and far more productive. My training sessions have been better, I’ve been able to set PBs on lifts, start deadlifting again, and make real progress in pull ups, despite putting on a stone of weight.
You don’t actually get fat
Bulk properly and with the right foods, and you won’t actually put on a lot of fat. I was scared to bulk because I thought I’d put on body fat really quickly. But four months in and I’ve actually not put on too much – I look a little less lean, and I can’t lie and say that I like it – but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be at all.
It teaches you to look at the bigger picture
I think we get so engrossed with having the perfect body, that we do the wrong things in our quest to obtain it. We try and diet down and we get obsessed with having a flat stomach and a big bum and nice legs and no back fat… that we don’t realise that we can’t actually do it all at once.
Bulking is methodical, it teaches you that perseverance and patience are the two most important aspects of your journey. You learn that you can’t do it all at once, but you can get it all in the end, so long as you do it in a certain way.
My first bulk has been fun. I’ve built a lot of muscle and I weigh the heaviest I ever have done (51kg). But I’m excited to cut down now and have a new challenge. I’m going to miss the cheese but I’m sure it will be worth it.