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.

About the author, Steve Hall

Steve is a strength training fanatic who geeks out over the best, most efficient workouts, nutrition and gear to help get you stronger and healthier!