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The Fat Stage aka Bulking


Have you ever wondered how everyone gets so muscular and shredded? Well they had to bulk first. Bulking is usually the beginning stage of any bodybuilding adventure. It can get very confusing and super mysterious. Eating the wrong foods can lead you down a path of body fat mayhem.

 Gauge your own bulking strategy by learning from my experiences and the experiences of others. In this article you will read about my different viewpoints of eating and some of my trials and tribulations. Along with my concluding statements of how you can put together a program that works for you based on your own idea and needs.

 The Body Is An Art Form

 Sculpting a piece of art takes several stages. First the idea. Then the sketch. As well as all the stages of production. Bodybuilding is much the same. We go through stages bulking, cutting, contest prep, etc. Each of those stages are an art form in their own regard. The combination of multiple sets of skills, equations, practices and theories. All put to the test.

 Choosing The Clay To Shape Your Sculpture

 Shaping ClayWhen looking at bodybuilding from the perspective of a sculptor, one must consider that bulking is much like choosing the clay to begin sculpting a new work of art. Your food is your clay. What we do in this stage of the game effects that latter portions of our journey.

 With much debate on eating styles, times, diets, fads and trends in the industry today I don’t want to write and explain another so called diet I want to talk about my own experiences trying several methods. I think that understanding results from another person’s experiences gives an insight on developing their own attempts at success.

 Do This Do That, Huh?

 With the internet being flooded on a daily basis with an immense amounts of information, its no wonder our heads spin when it comes to computing all these new tidbits of data. I know that in all my years of working out I have always had a challenge with food.

 In my many stages of transitions I decided that experimenting with foods is probably a good idea to see how my body will grow along with the progressive overload of demand. Through the years I have tried a couple different approaches. Low Carb – High Protein, High Protein – High Carb, Vegetarian, and what I like to call Balanced Bulking—what I am currently experimenting with.

 Low Carb – High Protein

 In the early stages of me working out I wanted to be lean like a runner. I never was really fat. A little pudgy like most teens and young adults. Athleticism was not high in my vocabulary when I was younger. In an effort to achieve this leanness I began a high rep, moderate weight, training program. The efforts focused predominantly on endurance and breath control.

 Having such a high aerobic demand actually helped a great deal to get me down to a low body fat percentage. I can admit I wasn’t stage quality but I was fairly well cut and defined. My main food sources were lean meats, fibrous carbs, low glycemic fruits, and complex and simple carbs (early in the day around my training times).

 Things seemed to work well. And I stuck with that diet for a while until my goals had shifted. I was desiring to gain a little more mass but maintain my leanness. In doing so I decided that upping my carbohydrate intake would help to boost my lean muscle growth.

 High Carb – High Protein

 Looking ahead for a lean Gladiator-esque physique I knew that the change of my eating style was utterly appropriate. Go figure. A friend of mine had enlightened me on the concept of upping my carbs and calorie intake to build the body mass. Known among many as a caloric surplus.

steak and potatoe At first this had frightened me. But it did make sense. So it had to be done. I basically continued to eat the same way I was eating I just started to introduce more carbohydrates and larger portions of proteins. I did also begin to include cheat days. Once a week I would have anything I wanted. Basically creating a caloric spike.

 The cheat days were always fun. Usually a pizza and some Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream did the job. By consuming a larger portion of food all around I did notice that my body was changing but very slowly. I was not very educated on lifting at this time so I didn’t think to consider the importance of training styles in combination with foods. So I continued with what I call “Magazine Routines”.

 Following this diet for a few years helped to give me a pseudo athletic figure. Courses changed once again but this time I ended up stepping out of the gym for nearly a year.

 The Vegetarian and Me

 In my article Vegetarianism and Bodybuilding: My Personal Experience I talk about my leave of absence from the gym and my crusade to regain the shape I was once in. I came back full force and decided vegetarianism was the best bet coupled with hardcore juicing.

 Still somewhat uneducated in my training  styles I returned to the “Magazine Routine” route and lifted as a veghead. My body changed fast. I lost weight and began looking fit in a short period of time. For me that a was awesome. But during that time I started to research even further into the world of lifting due to my obsession with the squat.

 starting-strength-mark-rippetoeFinding 5×5 routines and Starting Strength enlightened me to a whole new world. During the middle of my vegetarian stint I flipped the script again and made the decision to dedicate the next years of my life bulking and building a mean Grecian physique. As a vegetarian bodybuilder I experienced putting on extra fat and storing water from the such high amounts of sodium in the food.

 Not liking this feeling lead me to rediscovering my food choices and brought me to what I call today Balanced Bulking.

 What Does Balanced Bulking Mean?

 Having went through several phases and juxtapositions of goals I decided it was time to get back to the basics and reconfigure. My results were not emulating my end goal and I was downright frustrated. So out of every problem comes a solution.

 Balanced Bulking to me was the proper pairing of your various food groups. Much like we were taught a long time ago in grade school. Many of my ideas came from the combining ideas and concepts from several of the documentaries I watched and articles I had read.

 I thought to myself, everything needs to seek some sort of balance. So why would I eliminate something from my diet or lifestyle when my body is searching for a nutrient balance. Having that thought in mind I set out to couple up a diet plan to my workout style and observe my results over a course of several weeks.

 How Can You Bulk Up And Build Mass?

 I can’t tell you exactly what to do. I’m not aware of your body chemistry. But I can make some suggestions and point out some concepts or ideas. No one is going to know your body better than you.

 Choose foods that are as natural as possible. Try to avoid anything processed. Eating organic can get very expensive but, try your best to get the best possible food items your budget will allow you.

 By selecting the leanest cuts of meat you eliminate a lot of the bad fats that go into your body. Remember you do want fats to help with your shaping and definition but only the good kind. The meats will sometimes be a little tougher but you can marinate them in citrus or any flavor of vinegar you might like.

 Balanced dietEat a large amount of fruits and veggies. Many of your nutrients will be in your fruits and veggies. If you can support your local economy and buy from a farmers market. If not try and find the best possible produce your budget allows. Consuming fruits and vegetables in high amounts never affected me in a negative manner.  Only on one occasion my skin did have an orange tint from eating a large bag of carrots in one sitting.

 Don’t skip out on your cheeses. Why would you want to keep such a wonderful and delicious item away from yourself? Eat some cheese. Keep it in moderation but I think its beneficial and is a great way to balance out the calories and still meet some of your daily requirements.

 Snacking is always a great idea. I keep a container of sliced up veggies, some trail mix, 90% dark chocolate or rice cakes handy. Having healthy snacks around during the bulking phase helps fight the urge to slip off the diet.

 The most suggested complex carb sources always seem to be oats, sweet potato, brown rice, or some time of pasta. I tend to stick to the basics and keep within this group range. I do bring in some breads and bagels every now and then. I think those are good items to keep as staples in your main diet. But branching out and trying new things is how you make it your own.

 Another piece of advice, drink whole milk. It really helps.

 Bulk Your Way

 By selecting a balanced diet based on incorporating predominantly whole foods based items your journey to a much larger and lean physique can and will become possible. Keeping a close eye on what goes in is a direct reflection of what will come out.

 Always keep in mind your end result and goals.

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Vegetarianism and Bodybuilding: My Personal Experience

vegetarian_bodybuildingAfter taking almost a year off from the gym I was itching to get back in and under the bar. It was June of 2012 when I made my debut appearance at a local L.A. Fitness. Armed with my notepad, pre workout, and a good attitude I jammed out my first session ever in a long time. Man it felt good.

Getting back into the swing of things was not the problem, what I faced now was a little extra chub I wanted to get rid of. In my time away from the gym I softened up a tiny bit.

My Introduction To Organic Food

forks_over_knives_dvdNot shortly after I had made the return to weightlifting I was introduced to a movie called Forks Over Knives. One night I sat down to watch it. Not really knowing what it was about other than whole foods based diets and the food industry, I pushed play.

Leaving the experience with a bad taste in my mouth, no pun intended, I decided that I was going to become an overnight vegetarian. And I did. A stint that lasted about 7 months. Which I am more than willing to share with you.

The Born Again Vegetarian

Now that I didn’t eat meat anymore and I knew everything I needed to know from Forks Over Knives along with several pro-vegetarian based movies I was on a crusade to change the world. When I was done everyone was going to hate meat. Or so I thought.

Growing up a carnivore and being accustomed to such delicious dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, new york strip steak and french fries, or even nice chicken cutlets, getting rid of meat became a chore. In the beginning it took me several weeks before I ended up totally committing. I just couldn’t let go.

By the 2 month of attempting vegetarianism I was full force. All I ate was fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, and fish. With a new outlook on life, I was ready to rock. Buying up vegetarian cook books and reading online about bodybuilding as a vegetarian I figured piece of cake.

Most of my meals constituted of quinoa, beans, eggs, and tuna served with veggies of course. I pretty much just seemed to eat big salads all the time. I felt great though. I felt like I was doing the right thing.

And The Beet Goes On

A devout vegetarian now for 5 or 6 months the boat began to rock again. Going strong for this long I felt there was no turning back to the meat side. I was convinced. Until one day. Sitting in the lunchroom at work a coworker of mine had stepped out to get lunch.

15 minutes later he returned with a Publix bag. The scent escaping from the protective plastic fortress was dancing in my nose. I knew that smell. I was very familiar with it. It was a smell I haven’t smelt in a long time. Quietly I sat and waited. Saying nothing I pretended what was about to happen wasn’t.

vegetarianAs he situated himself at the table and slowly opened the to go box I fought a battle inside me. Restrain. Discipline. Stay strong. All words I kept repeating to myself. Over and over. At this moment I knew I had to be strong. Keeping to my diet this long I didn’t want to turn back. And then all of a sudden a whiff of that delightful scent graced my nose hairs once again and I shattered.

Standing up from my chair with authority I walked over to the table and said “Marcus, lemme get one of your chicken wings!”. He obliged sliding the tray towards me so I could choose for myself.

chicken-wingsBiting into that delicious fried piece of chicken saturated in buffalo sauce would bring and man to his knees. Each bite brought back memory after memory. I could remember all the tastes and times I had eaten meat before. There was no turning back now.

Needless to say I enjoyed the moment very much so. Feeling guilty I knew I had to hide this from others, even my girlfriend. I carried on as if nothing had happened.

The Walls Come Crumbling Down

Power_EatingAfter my chicken wing episode my opinions of vegetarianism began to fade away. Slowly but surely I felt myself slipping back into eating meat. First it was on occasion. Then more often than not. But not until reading Power Eating was when I reset to my carnivorous roots.

Having gained a thorough sense of sports nutrition and really nutrition in general helped me even further solidify my switch back. When you start to understand why we eat certain foods and why everything starts to make more sense.

So, Would You Do It Again

I don’t think I would ever entertain the thought of resuming a plant based diet. In retrospect it didn’t make sense. Personally I felt a lack of balance. Moving forward with my diet I still seek to maintain good balance.

Eating a predominantly plant and whole foods based diet came with several complications for me. At first I lost a lot of weight and was the typical “skinny-fat”. As my exercising began to pick up I felt I wasn’t getting enough food and began to bloat. On top of feeling over worked all the time.

I did not like the amount of sodium that is in most of the grocery store vegetarian items, I had a real hard time eating out. Being on the road a lot that can be a problem. And simply put I just felt the choice was detrimental to my goals.

Now I’m not saying that you cannot achieve a fitness goal as a vegetarian. All I am saying is that I was not successful in the route I took.

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Quick And Easy Tilapia


Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Whipping together tasty nutritious meals can be done in a snap.  Here is a quick and easy dish.

Orange Sesame Pan Seared Tilapia Filet

Fish is a great source of omega 3’s which are an essential nutrient to the body and help in the breakdown of body fat. Getting a good amount of fish in your diet doesn’t have to be challenging. Try this tasty fish dish. Even if you don’t like fish you will enjoy this.

Let’s Get Started

Cooking to me is a lot of improvisation. I like to see what I have in the refrigerator or pantry, and create something fun and delicious. This dish was just that. We started out with some Tilapia filets and built the salad with fresh veggies we had on hand.


  • 4 Tilapia Filets
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Romaine Lettuce
  • 2 Tomato
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Carrot
  • 2 Oranges
  • Ginger Dressing

Begin by placing a pan on medium to high heat. Add a small amount of butter or olive oil.

Season your Tilapia filets with your favorite seasoning. For this dish we used Complete Seasoning. Which is a nice blend of herbs and spices.

While the pan is coming to temperature begin chopping up your lettuce.

Once the butter or olive oil has gotten hot enough place your filets into the frying pan and begin to sear them off. Keep an eye on the outer edges of the fish, when they turn white its time to flip.

As the fish is cooking roll an orange around to soften the insides and cut in half. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the pan, the citrus will bring the flavors to life and add a nice compliment to the fish.

Cut up any remaining veggies.

Once the fish has finished cooking give it about 5 minutes to cool off. Placed the cooled fish over your fresh bed of romaine lettuce and fresh veggies. Top it off with a nice ginger dressing and serve.

Not only is this dish a great addition to your current menu but a wonderful fast recipe for guests.

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An Apple A Day Keeps The Fat Away

red applesApples have always been touted as a great pre workout snack. Consuming an apple within 30 minutes prior to working out is a great way to get some low-glycemic or slow-digesting carbs in. Due to the fact that apples are high in fructose the liver must convert the apple to glucose aiding in the slowing of digestion. Another key factor in apples digestibility is the high fiber content.

Apples provide additional benefits along side carbs and fiber. Studies done by the Nippon Sport Science University and the University of Arts and Sciences discovered that ables provide benefits similar to green tea by increasing strength and endurance, and decreasing body fat.

The teams gave make rats apples or placebos for three weeks. During that time frame the researchers studied body fat, strength, and muscle fatigue. Reported earlier in 2007 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the rats given apples had 30% less body fat as opposed to the placebo group. The genes that spur fat-burning within the rats activity was increased due to the consumption of apples.

More than 70 obese male and female subjects were given an ample percentage of apples or a placebo as well for a 12 week period. LDL, total cholesterol, bodyweight, and abdominal fat were measurements taken to provide the data for the study. By the end of the study the subjects who consumed the apples had a significant loss on abdominal fat and bodyweight, as well as lower cholesterol and LDL levels.

Try supplementing your diet with apple polyphenols which come in capsule or pill form. Best taken with breakfast and dinner, as well as a large apple pre workout with your pre workout shake.

An apple a day keeps the fat away!

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Learn To Calculate Your BMR And Asses Your Daily Caloric Intake

What’s All This About BMR and Calories

calculate your daily caloriesBy figuring out how much fuel your body needs to maintain its current weight will tell you how to gauge how many calories you need to either loose or build. Building muscle and losing fat are quite simple. Once you know how much energy your body needs you can then judge how much you either need to cut by creating a deficit or how much you need to add by creating a surplus.

Calculating Your Basal Metabolic Rate

How exactly do you calculate your caloric intake? With a simple formula called the Harris-Benedict principle you can can assess your basal metabolic rate aka BMR.

BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing. Other factors that influence your BMR are height, weight, age and sex.

Step 1: Calculate your BMR with the following formula:

65 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
Please note that this formula applies only to adults.

Step 2: Incorporate activity into your daily caloric needs, with the following calculation:

Sedentary : BMR x 20 percent
Lightly active: BMR x 30 percent
Moderately active (You exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent
Very active (exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent
Extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent

Add this number to your BMR.

The result of this formula will be the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your current weight.

Tailor Your Diet For Your Goals

calculate daily caloric intakeBy knowing how much fuel you need helps in a major way. Training at the gym with intensity and pushing yourself to the max requires a good bit of nutrition. Make sure you feed the furnace and stoke that fire! Keep a log of what your eating. If you haven’t read Setting The Building Blocks: An Overview Of Nutrition swing on by and take a look.

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Setting The Building Blocks: An Overview Of Nutrition

Getting Started With Your Diet

fresh foodsMost people coming to this site are, for the most part, going to be new to weightlifting and all that applies to it. And some of you may already know a few of the ins and out but, your just looking for some more information. Either way I respect your quest for knowledge and I’m glad you came here to Barbell Academy.

Getting started with a weightlifting routine can be rather tricky. I mean shoot, just trying to figure out the exercises and what kind of routines to try is a whirlwind. If you haven’t checked it out I recommend Barbell Academy’s Starting Strength routine. It’s a great overview for beginners and really is a solid foundation for sculpting your dream body.

What The Heck Should I Do About Food?

I bet the thought behind food is to just slap a bunch of meat and veggies on a plate, eat a few big meals and call it a day. Wrong! How’s that going to work? You see the thing is your body is like a car that needs gas getting ready for a long road trip. You stop at the station fill up the tank and head forth on your trip. About 100 or so miles down the road, boom, you gotta stop for gas again.

So think of your meals and food in the same regard. When you wake up to eat breakfast you put that first tank of gas in the car. Typical American diets wait until lunch to eat the next meal. And then again at dinner. My friend if your waiting that long to fill up your tank you are running on fumes.

Eat More, Eat Frequently.

By eating smaller meals throughout the day your body has sufficient fuel to function through the 9  to 5 rigors as well as help you recover from that nasty beating you got by the barbell. Not to mention your metabolism will get moving into high gear.

chicken breastAllowing yourself 5 to 6 small meals with the right amount of macro-nutrients can help you pack on the lean muscle and shred that unwanted fat. Don’t get carried away. Your diet takes as much work as training. Keep a careful eye on whats going into your body. Stay away from processed crap and base your intake on a whole foods diet. What I mean by that is get your foods in the most natural state you can. Eat your fruits and veggies.

Eat Enough To Achieve Your Goal.

Like it takes gas to get going on a road trip, it takes food to get going on a body trip. But you gotta know how much. So much information out there leads people astray. They think they can cut carbs, eat high protein, or whatever. Well lets get serious here. How in the heck do you think that’s going to work. Cutting out anything from your diet leads to deficiencies. Any type of deficiencies lead your bodily functions not chugging along like they should.

Out of all the articles, books, magazines, and conversations had with friends it seems like the consensus is as follows :

Get your macro-nutrients in at each meal.

Muscle builds on proteins and carbohydrates. Getting the right amount is super simple. Take your body weight and divide it by 2.2. Okay, now you have your weight in kilograms. Multiply that number by any figure between 1.8 to 2.3 to figure out your protein intake. Then take that number and multiply it by anywhere from 3 to 5 which is going to give you your carbohydrate intake.

fresh foodDepending upon your goal and the amount of calories you need to consume during that time frame of your training will determine the amount of protein or carb your going to need. Once you have a general idea of your macro-nutrient intake your going to need to know how many calories you need to either maintain your current weight. From that point you can configure your deficit or surplus for either burning fat or building muscle.

For a breakdown on how to calculate your BMR which will give you your calories for the day check out this article Learn To Calculate Your BMR And Asses Your Daily Caloric Intake.

There you have it, a very general overview on how you need to be fueling your diet. Remember this is a journey that lasts a life time. It takes work and it takes serious effort. Be patient and don’t give up. Experiment and decide what works best for your body.