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August 09, 2021 8 min read

When it comes to bulking and reaching your goals, finding the right combination is quite complex. You can't simply go to the gym and expect immediate results. 

They weren't lying when they said abs were made in the kitchen and not in the gym and the same concept goes for any muscle gains. You have to fuel your body with proper fuel and nutrition in order to build muscle mass.

Different goals such as weight loss, strength training, hypertrophy, and weight gain require different distribution of the 3 macronutrients. We will dive deeper into what each macronutrient does for your body and how you can incorporate them into your bulking meal plan.

What Are The Three Macronutrients?

1. Carbohydrates

Carbs are one of the most controversial macronutrients in the whole nutrition and fitness industry. Carbohydrates are your friend, not your enemy but the type of carbs you choose to consume can make or break you. Also, the number of carbs you have depends on your body weight, the number of calories you need, and what phase you are in. 

Foods high in carbohydrate on rustic wooden background.

They provide you with energy for maximum performance and replenish your glycogen stores. Carbohydrates are great sources of fiber that allow your digestive system to function properly and keep you full to prevent weight gain. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. 

Good sources of carbs:

  • Whole grains such as whole-wheat toast, whole-wheat pasta, or oatmeal.

  • Rice (white rice or brown rice): White carbohydrates can get a bad rep sometimes but they still contribute to your overall calorie intake and can help you build those glycogen stores. Brown rice is especially good for you as it is a great source of fiber but it can cause you to get full faster meaning you might not be able to get in as many calories as you'd like for your bulking phase.

  • Veggies such as carrots, broccoli, asparagus, or spinach. These all provide important micronutrients and antioxidants.

  • Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a good source of beta-carotene which is extremely important for your immune health and eye health.

Sources of carbs you should avoid:

  • Soda 
  • Candy 
  • Processed foods (chips, cereal, refined grains)

Simple carbohydrates are the types of carbohydrates you should try to limit in your diet as they typically provide low to no nutritional value and can cause spikes in your insulin levels.

2. Protein

Protein seems to be the holy grail of the macronutrients, especially in the fitness world. We have become brainwashed to think that we must have protein every single time we consume food. Protein contains 4 calories per gram.

Protein contains the building blocks for almost everything in our bodies ranging from our organs, muscles, and skin. You need protein to be able to repair muscle tissue and it is crucial that you get enough in combination with enough carbohydrates when you are bulking to prevent gluconeogenesis.

However, if you are trying to bulk and gain muscle, it is extremely important to consume enough protein to provide the essential and non-essential amino acids to your body. In total, there are 20 amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made solely by the body. They must be obtained from outside sources through our dietary intake. There are nine essential amino acids.

Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body independently from our dietary sources. There are eleven non-essential amino acids. Adequate protein intake is crucial for your well-being and a post-workout meal should contain 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight to help with your muscle growth and repair your muscles.

  • Poultry such as chicken breast or ground turkey
  • Eggs
  • Lean beef
  • Protein powder or protein shakes in the form of whey protein or casein protein (if you'd like to learn more about the difference between the two, check out our article about which protein is for you.)

3. Fats

Fats can get a bad rep sometimes as well but there is a huge difference between body fat and dietary fats. Dietary fats serve to provide your body with energy, aid in nutrient absorption from fat-soluble vitamins, and protect your organs.

Many people have the idea that consuming fat contributes to fat gain but essentially consuming too many extra calories, regardless of the source, will contribute to weight gain. Fat contains 9 calories per gram which makes it the most nutrient-dense macronutrient out of the three.

There are two main types of fatty acids: saturated and unsaturated. Nutritionists would encourage the consumption of unsaturated fats or "healthy fats" as research at Harvard has shown that unsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease in addition to lowering your blood cholesterol levels.

Good sources of unsaturated fats are:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Walnuts
  • Fish (salmon is a great source of omega-3)
  • Peanut butter

Nutritionists would encourage you to focus on decreasing your consumption of saturated fats.

Sources of saturated fats are:

  • Cheese 
  • Whole-fat milk
  • Cookies 
  • Fast Food
  • Coconut oil
  • Ice cream

Although cheese and whole-fat milk are calorically dense foods and are high-calorie, you can seek out low-fat options in order to get important minerals such as calcium which is crucial for your bone health to prevent osteoporosis in the future.

Macronutrients for Bulking Up

In order to bulk up, one must go into a calorie surplus, or essentially consume more calories than they burn. This will lead to more muscle gain or muscle fat and in order to prevent fat gain, it is extremely important you combine your caloric surplus with strength training as well as cardio training.

You do have to bear in mind that everyone's body is different and our bodies demand different things depending on our age, gender, weight, physical activity level as well as overall genetic makeup. Unfortunately, our bodies are not computers and we cannot calculate the exact amount but we can get close enough.

Calculating Your Basal Metabolic Rate

The first step is to figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate. You can find numerous sources on the internet to calculate it for you but it is essentially the number of calories your body burns completely at rest with no movement. If you'd prefer to calculate it yourself, here is the Harris-Benedict formula below. 

For men: 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) - (5.677 x age in years)

For women: 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) - (4.330 x age in years)

Once you have calculated your Basal Metabolic Rate, you can figure out how much you need to attain your calorie surplus. You can either add 500-1000 calories to your Basal Metabolic Rate or you can add 10% of your BMR to your total caloric intake.

Although you are bulking and you are trying to consume more calories than the number of calories out, it is important you focus on clean bulking to encourage lean mass and prevent fat gain.

Creating A Meal Plan

To reach your bulking goals, you must consume 40-60% of your total calories from carbohydrates, 25-35% of your total calories from protein, and 15-25% of your total calories from fat. Keeping these percentages in mind is crucial when coming up with an effective bulking diet plan.

Your muscles are relying on your glycogen stores to provide energy to perform the specific movements and when you are particularly focusing on building lean muscle or bodybuilding, you want to maximize your strength training routine and muscle development.

Supplementation can be one of the easiest ways to get more protein into your bulking diet. Two great options are whey and casein that provide all nine essential amino acids. Creatine is also a great option.

Protein powder perfect supplement for bodybuilders

It is a substance that is found naturally in your muscle cells and it can help provide your muscles with energy during heavy lifting. If you're struggling to get enough protein in, try our Whey-Pro Sample Packets to find which flavor works best for you.

Sample Daily Bulking Diets

An easy way to slowly increase your caloric intake is by increasing the frequency of your meals. Instead of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can try splitting your meals up into 6-8 smaller meals.

Below you will find some ideas for bulking diet ideas. Modify the macros based on your individual characteristics depending on your goals, your age, your height, gender, and amount of strength training done.

Option One

  • Breakfast: Low-sugar granola, milk, and fruit of your choice (400 calories)
  • Snack: Banana and peanut butter (200 calories)
  • Lunch: Chicken breast with a side of quinoa and roasted peppers (600 calories)
  • Snack: Beef Jerky (200 calories) and a protein shake (650 calories)
  • Dinner: Lean beef burger, fries, whole grain bun with a side salad (750 calories)
  • Total approximate caloric intake: 2800 calories

Option Two

  • Breakfast: 6 scrambled eggs with spinach and feta cheese (650 calories)
  • Snack: Protein shake (650 calories)
  • Lunch: Baked chicken breasts with a side of broccoli and brown rice (550 calories)
  • Snack: 1/2 cup of mixed nuts (400 calories)
  • Dinner: Sirloin steak with a side of white rice and sauteed carrots (750 calories)
  • Total approximate intake: 3000 calories

Option Three

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats with greek yogurt topped with dates and bananas (450 calories)
  • Snack: Jerky and mixed nuts (300 calories)
  • Lunch: Chicken breast, baked sweet potato, and broccoli (650 calories)
  • Snack: Protein shake (650 calories)
  • Dinner: Ground beef with rice, pinto beans, bell peppers, and sour cream (810 calories)
  • Total approximate intake: 2860 calories

Important Things to Remember

  1. Incorporating a bulking diet can be challenging but it can provide you with numerous health benefits if you do it properly and are combining it with bodybuilding. 

  2. Focus on whole foods that are high in quality and nutrients rather than junk food simply to meet your daily caloric needs. Junk food is filled with unhealthy saturated fats and high sugar that can contribute to numerous chronic diseases.

  3. Gradual increases are better than a complete change all at once as they can lead to undesired side effects. Find ways to slowly increase your caloric intake throughout the week until you can meet your caloric surplus to prevent damage to your metabolism and lead to undesired side effects such as irritability, constipation, or discomfort.

  4. Everyone's body is different and reacts differently. Try out different methods to find out what works for you but what matters is that your caloric input exceeds your caloric output (caloric intake > caloric expenditure = bulking)

Take Away

If you are especially serious about bulking up and muscle building, you may want to seek the advice of a professional nutritionist or a dietitian who can come up with a meal plan to reach your goals safely still fueling your body needs. 

By consuming a well-rounded diet, you are fueling your body with important macronutrients and micronutrients. Junk food typically contains excessive empty calories that lack micronutrients and nutrition for your skin, muscle, and bones which can lead to health problems in the short term and definitely in the long term. 

Our bodies are complex and all function differently. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all formula that can calculate the exact total calories but by following the advice above, you have more guidance and knowledge as to what to eat when bulking and how much to eat when bulking. 

If you want to learn more about macros and how to accurately count them, check out everything you need to know about macros!