*UPDATED* - September 18th
Well, the summer has been fun, but with the imminent arrival of fall, I am excited to get back into bulking. Or, as Dom puts it, I want to be a Meat Titan.
Let's face facts: Human beings are extremely vain, and although I try to promote healthy living as much as possible to my team, I too like to look and feel good.
Vanity is a wonderful by-product of healthy living. It is a fantastic circle of self-glorification. I lift heavy weights, which makes me feel like a total badass. Lifting heavy weights, in my opinion, has also changed my appearance the most...well that and eating a shit-ton of food.
On top of that, even though lifting heavy weights improves physical appearances, it is also great for overall health. The body gets stressed in ways that promote tissue growth, and it also improves body composition.
To be honest, many of you reading this probably came from a similar background as myself. You grew up being a scrawny guy, never really having too much muscle. Maybe you played some sports, and never really worried about your diet because you never really gained any weight.
Then, as you started to become a bit less active, the extra snacks and beer start to catch up to you. Next thing you know, you have put on a nice little belly with no real muscle or strength. This is known as "skinny fat." That's where I was back in 2006. I still never really gained a whole lot of weight, but I wasn't going anywhere with my muscle mass either.
Fast forward a few years, and I started to get into P90X. I thought that I had to do what all the guys in the infomercials did. Exercise and eat well, even at a caloric deficit, so that I could shed that body fat and grow huge muscles. The problem was, I didn't really have a whole lot of muscle to begin with. I continued on with programs like Insanity, Asylum, more P90X, more P90X/Insanity/Asylum hybrids, etc. etc. etc. Sure, I was gaining some strength (how could you not?) but I was just spinning my wheels. Sound familiar?
I, along with many of you reading this, got stuck in this limbo area between not really gaining any weight, yet not really losing any body fat either. I didn't want to eat too much and get "fat," yet I didn't want to eat too little and lose what muscle/strength I had. If you are in this zone and are just interested in overall health and staying fit, then go for it, but realize that you will in fact stay right in that zone unless you change something about your current situation.
You see, a lot of these guys (and girls) in the infomercials had a lot of weight to lose. There are a ton of very inspirational stories, I will never take anything away from them. They cracked down on their diets, they exercised hard, were very diligent, and boom, fantastic transformation.
The thing is, these transformation stories are all (mostly) about weight loss. These people have been "bulking" for years now! They may not have been bulking the way they intended to, but they were putting on weight (fat AND muscle). Then, by doing a program like P90X, Insanity, Asylum, etc., they were able to shed their body fat and be left with well-defined muscles, at times appearing as though they "grew" their muscles in the process.
Here's what these testimonials and transformation stories don't tell you, however. It is nearly impossible to cut weight and build muscle at the same time. Don't get me wrong, it is very possible to gain strength and get stronger in a lot of ways, not to mention improving your overall cardiovascular health, but to actually build muscle requires a caloric surplus (eat more than you burn).
Anyways, so back to my story. Once I figured out that I needed to stop worrying about putting on more weight, I started eating more and lifting heavier and heavier weights (safely), then my body started to change for the better.
You see, if you eat at a caloric surplus, you will put on weight. If you eat at a caloric surplus and sit on your ass, most of those calories that you eat will pack onto your body as fat (adipose tissue). If, on the other hand, you eat at a caloric surplus (recommended 250-500+ calories over your TDEE) AND lift heavy weights and exercise, then you will build muscle. Sure, there will be some body fat added here and there as well, especially if you really don't have a care in the world about what you're eating, but for the most part, your energy will be put to good use in building large, glorious muscles.
What to expect:
- If you're working out hard and eating lots of calories, your weight will go up. Chances are, your weight will jump pretty quickly at the beginning due to glycogen (muscle sugar) and water retention from the get-go. Don't panic, this weight gain will level out.
- You are only going to gain maybe 1/4 - 1/2 pound of actual muscle per week under absolute optimal circumstances, so don't tell all your friends at how you "put on 10lbs of muscle after your first 3 weeks..."
- If you are a beginner, most of your strength gains in the first several weeks is due to neural adaptations. Basically, your brain to muscle connection is improving, so you are learning how to use your muscles more effectively. This does not necessarily mean that you are gaining a ton of muscle right away (refer to #2).
- Muscle increases your resting metabolic rate. This is the best part of all of this. If you are a skinny guy and/or girl that wishes to gain some muscle, realize that as you are adding muscle mass, your muscles are burning calories all the time, even at rest. So, even as you're sitting there watching tv, you are burning calories. A 180lb guy burns more calories on a day to day basis than a 160lb guy. This is important to realize for 2 reasons. 1, by putting on muscle, you will be more primed to burn body fat now and down the road if and when you wish to do a "cut." 2, you need to continually re-calculate your TDEE because as you put on mass, you will need to continue to eat more and more in order to continue to put on weight. As your weight goes up, you will be burning more calories day to day.
- When I am eating at a caloric surplus of good, solid foods, I find that I have no interest in "cheat" meals or junk food. My body is getting enough (and then some) calories from the foods that I am eating, thus feeling full nearly all the time, and I don't even crave junkier foods.
So here's what my next bulking schedule will look like for the first 3 (possibly more) weeks, as well as the thought process behind it:
- 3x5 Bench Press
- Cardio Option* + Core-mageddon
- 1x5 Deadlift
3x5 Barbell Row
- Cardio Option*
- 3x5 Military Press
- Recovery Day
*Cardio option will and can include almost anything. I have a huge library of cardio workouts, not to mention more standard cardio options like going for runs. I also have a 30 minute cardio routine planned for my YouTube Channel.
My basic split (for the most part) of this first phase is based on a Chest/Tris, Back/Bis, and Legs/Shoulders split. For phase 2, I will more than likely switch to a Chest, Legs/Back, Shoulders/Arms split. I will post details about that when I get there.
I know a lot of people ask me all the time for diet advice/ideas. What can I say, I have tracked my diet in the past and have had some success with it, but I have always despised counting calories and entering them into an app, or worse, using a paper system.
I lead a busy lifestyle as it is and like to put what free time I can manage into my training rather than focusing on counting every last calorie. In fact, counting calories and trying to calculate calorie burn is, in my opinion, guessing at best as it is.
Having said all of that, I am really quite confident in my knowledge of what I need to eat as well as how much I need to eat, so I will base my diet on that. Dieting should be trendy anyways, and what I mean by that is you on average you should eat more if you wish to gain weight, and eat less if you wish to lose. You are going to see fluctuations up and down on a daily basis regardless if you are trying to do one or the other so I don't weight myself every day.
If, however, I weigh myself once a week and notice that I am not gaining or not gaining as much as I want to be, then I will add some extra food in. If you are looking for ideas on what to eat, however, you can check out my meal plan from my first round of Body Beast to see how I crushed my calories. I will say that I am a big fan of eggs, dairy, healthy fats (avocados, peanut butter), peanut butter, peanut butter, and oh yeah, peanut butter.
I do have some new ideas that I wish to try out with this round, so if they pan out well then I will blog about them at a later time. Also, if you wish to see my "supplemental" work planned out, let me know by either commenting below or emailing me and I can put something together.
Last winter I had a goal of reaching 200 lbs. for the first time in my life. I ultimately fell a bit short of my goal due to a number of reasons, including several rounds of strep throat, so this year I am sure I can hit my goal.
I maintained weight throughout the summer at 188 lbs., and weight usually packs on rather quick at the start of a new bulk round due to glycogen and water retention, so I should shoot up to the mid-190's within a few weeks and then just progressing from there to reach 200!
Stay tuned for progress as I go. Getting started on Sunday September 14th.