What is bulking? To put it simply, it is when you intentionally get yourself in a state of caloric surplus and you maintain it for an extended period of time. But, you might have heard about the terms “clean” and “dirty” bulking, never really knowing their true definitions and differences.
Lean vs. Fat
To increase muscle size, one must eat. However, some people tend to reduce their calorie intake (by avoiding certain foods) to keep a lean figure: but they get confused at the point when they see that their muscles are not growing as fast as they used to. On the other hand, others believe that a high-calorie intake diet is necessary for gaining size, so they start drowning in hamburgers and other types of fast food. Those muscles are maybe bigger, but you cannot see them due to all the fat (which somehow does not seem to go away). Both ways are extreme, and they are both considered “dirty” bulking. The ability to gain muscle, after a certain point, does not speed up by consuming more food. Even with a good nutritive diet and the proper training, with the help of a personal fitness trainer, our bodies can still only build a few “clean” pounds of muscle in a month.
For more muscle mass, you have to consume enough food. Consuming nutrients that promote protein synthesis and the secretion of hormones that promote muscle growth (testosterone, insulin, and IGH-1) are necessary for any size increase. If you do not eat enough, then your body will fall out from its optimal muscle-building state; you might even lose muscle mass. However, the biggest mistake is to think that if you eat more, you will gain more.
For the best results, do not eat junk food. To think that it does not matter what you eat and that calories are calories no matter where they come from is a huge fallacy. The body’s capacity to synthesize muscle tissue from absorbing protein conditions will decide the amount of muscle you can build. Protein synthesis capacities depend on your natural testosterone levels, testosterone to cortisol ratio, genetics, muscle fiber makeup, and insulin sensitivity. Protein synthesis is the response to exercise and nutrition, and the process cannot be naturally modified.
If you send more material for protein synthesis than what is needed, faster than the very rate of protein synthesis, the excess material will go to waste. You reach both your muscle size limit and the point from which you cannot build on any further.
Can You Cut The Bulk?
The traditional building process involves bulking and cutting phases. Bulking success is measured by the scale weight increase (not paying much attention to appearance). During the cutting phase, you will supposedly be able to diet off that excess fat you have gained. But, have you ever heard of adipose hyperplasia? Adipose is the body fat tissue composed of adipocytes (widely known as fat cells) and hyperplasia is the process of adding volume to a structure by increasing the number of components. In the case of a diet dealing with large fat intake, fat cells will only grow bigger. And, when they cannot take in more fat, the body produces more fat cells. However, the body cannot remove them, so the more fat cells you have, the easier it is for your body to store fat.
Besides fat cell hyperplasia (which makes losing fat harder, and gaining it easier), there are more negative sides to dirty bulking and overly consuming junk food. Processed carbohydrates take your insulin and blood sugar level on a roller coaster ride, and if your body gets less sensitive to insulin, the door leading to diabetes is wide open. Then, the risk of various heart diseases, kidney failure, and stroke will be increased as well.
Arterial plaque will build up because of the saturated and trans-fats absorbed from junk food, which can lead to heart attacks, hypertension, and many other cardiovascular problems. This kind of bulking deprives your body of essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and other substantial nutrients. Without an optimal nutritional body environment, not only you will not be able to stay lean and build muscle, but you will lower your immune system level, and become prone to obesity and various health problems.
So, How Much Should I Eat?
After all that has been said, why do people still continue to eat junk food? Some cannot change their lifestyle due to lack of discipline. Bulking becomes an excuse and makes keeping a bad diet acceptable. Without enough self-discipline, one cannot be efficient in muscle building. On the other hand, you should not malnourish yourself either.
For gaining muscle size, you have to intake more calories than you expend daily. An optimal caloric intake is relative for everybody, and should be set according to one’s lean body weight. It should allow you to gain up to 3 pounds per month. Every gain over 3 pounds could mean adding fat, and if you gain less, you should increase your caloric intake until you reach the desired rate of growth.
Eat just enough to support your maximum muscle growth. That cannot be achieved by excessive eating or consuming heavily processed junk food, destitute in nutrients. Stay healthy.
About the author:
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life. Follow him on Twitter.