T Nation

A couple of Quick Questions RE: Bulking


Hi All,

I'm a pretty diligent user of the search function on here, but I had a few questions about bulking:

1.) Since I'm coming back from a layoff during which I had been focusing on developing my aerobic capacity, I'm basically going the all out "eat clean, but eat a whole, whole lot" near-force feed approach to bulking. I started out about 2 weeks ago at 160, and I obviously have a lot of work to do. I've been seeing what I think are pretty amazing gains. I took some pics right before I got back into it, and I've been thinking that I will take progress pics at the 2 month mark to evaluate the effectiveness that the bulk has seen at that point. Is two months a reasonable amount of time after which I could evaluate this bulking strategy? My concern is that I don't want to set a point for evaluation that is too early in the process.

Goals: I want to be 200lbs by September 1st, preferably with ~10% bodyfat. Right now, my focus is on getting stronger and gaining lean mass.

Thing is, although I've seen huge strength gains, it's hard to evaluate just what role the bulk is playing in my development. Coming back from a 3-4 month layoff is obviously different from starting from scratch, and I've also introduced a very large amount of protein into my diet, along with supplementing with creatine for the first time. So many variables that it's hard to evaluate. I'm pushing a whole lot more weight than I was 2-3 weeks ago, but obviously I'm interested in continuing the bulk while still evaluating it down the line.

Any helpful thoughts on that? Sorry if it's something of a noobie question....I posted this thread on the bodybuilding forums because of the fact that my interest in in BBing. I'm not afraid of gaining fat despite the fact that I'm a FFB--I'm just interested in optimizing my gains and being able to systematically evaluate what is doing what. It seems that since there are so many inputs involved, evaluation is somewhat difficult.

2) This is more of a question about the rationale behind bulking. It seems like there are two general schools of thought:

One school, often seen in the bb.com-type of places is the "500 calorie/day surplus" model. The other, seen often here, is the "eat a whole lot of f***ing food" model. I've selected the latter, at least to give doing it a shot. My question is this: is the TNation model more a result of the fact that the "eat what you can" style of bulking allows you to optimize gains for your particular body (i.e. many bodies can, perhaps, put on more than 1lb of lean mass/week as you often see as part of the 500 calorie surplus argument), or is it more a matter of the fact that people generally undershoot their true BMRs when weightlifting and thus miss their calorie goals?

It ultimately seems like the 500+ rule is a conservative approach with low upside but low downside, while the TNation model is about optimization, with a potential downside depending on the person's goals. Is that a fair assessment? Or is the TNation standard more simply a matter of acknowledging imprecision--i.e. the fact that it's very difficult for us to truly gauge what our bodies need to grow, so it's best to err on the side of caution and give it whatever we can?

Apologies for wall o' text.


If you want to be 200 in September, you're gonna have to gain ~1.3 lbs a week.

Also questions:
Whats your BF% now?
Whats your diet now?


1) My BF% starting out was very low. I was between 175 and 180 in October with a very low BF% and was frankly doing too much cardio. I'm convinced that the excess cardio hurt my progress last year. I should also mention that I was a reasonably muscular (but not by this board's standards) 250 about seven years ago (currently 23), so my body has had weight on it before. I took a layoff from mid-Oct-the end of January to give running one more shot before I really committed to BBing. I'm not someone who just half-assed does things, so I wanted to make sure that I didn't have any very long distance running left in me (marathons, half marathons, etc).

2.) Here's an example of my diet as it currently stands....at least, here's writing down everything I ate and did today:
Cardio: 30 minutes: 3:30-4:00
.5 scoop whey

BFast: 4:30-5
2 cans tuna;
4 eggs, 1 white, spinach, peas, and onion, cottage cheese;
One string cheeseâ??
3 fish oil

5:30: prelifting .5 scoop whey; 5g creatine;
Peri-workout: 1.5 scoops whey;
Post-workout: 2 scoops whey as I head to class. 3g creatine.;

Throughout day: 6 string cheese;
2 servings almonds
3 fish oil
8 oz chicken breasts;

After school:
2 eggs, 1 white, spinach, cottage cheese; 43gpro
3 servings walnuts and almonds
can of tuna
4 servings whey thoughout afternoon

8 oz meatâ??chicken 3 nights/week, beef 4.
3lbs broccoli
3 fish oil caps

Before bed:
Cottage Cheese
1 scoop whey

Among other things, I'm going to start cutting back on the non-workout centered whey after school. I know the string cheese is weird, but it's an easy way for me to eat while teaching (as with the almonds). I've built up an allergy to oatmeal unfortunately, and starchy carbs in general just don't do me well. As such, I've basically been following a "GreenFace" diet, with a lot of whey (obviously) giving a strong boost to my calorie base.

And I know that the diet seems very boring. I've spent so much energy keeping thin over the past six years, boring diets are sort of my MO. In other words, once I commit to eating a certain diet, I will eat that way in a disciplined fashion. I know that there aren't many 'dirty' foods, but that's just something that I will work around.


Ha, I should mention though that if you have a good answer to my question about bulking rationale, I would be very interested to hear it :). Been curious about it for the past six months or so, and I thought I'd ask now that I've made a handle on here.


Well, as I understand it, a lot of people don't mind holding a bit of extra fat. It's easy (time-wise) to lose fat, taking 12-16 weeks for most decent shaped individuals with a good base to drop down into contest shape. Bulking, however, takes YEARS! And I think that the whole "shove food into your mouth" is a reaction to paranoid newbs (I was once one of these) who are too scared to put on a layer of lard. Bottom line: if you want to participate in the sport of bodybuilding, then you WILL HAVE TO gain fat! If you want to look good year round and all that, then run, jump and swim. You can even do X-Fit, Military Athlete, or any other spinoff.

In fact, I'd say drop the cardio you're doing as it is. I do fasted steady state 2X per week (the morning after a massive cheat meal usually) and that's enough to keep me in decent conidtion. I also do some treadmill sprints on an off day, but even this reduces recovery. Running on a workout day, however, is a recipe for lack of recovery. I'm still new, so I don't have a TON to offer like some others, but I can say from experience that my best gains to date have happened when I work out with super low volume. My intensity is through the damn roof on EVERY set, but I don't do many total sets. And I ONLY lift weights 4 days per week. If you want to look like a BBer, don't try and reinvent the wheel, just follow in the footsteps of the greats. My current template is loosely based on CT's "Pump Down the Volume" article, and I've had GREAT progress the past few months. Hell, I'd even recommend looking at Chi-Towns-Finest workout log, as well as several others.

Lastly, I was once a paranoid newb. I would say, "Yeah but, I can probably gain weight without putting on fat...I want to stay at 10% BF...I don't watn to buy bigger pants..." Then guys like Bricknyce kindly told me to shut the fuck up - lol - and now that I've taken advice from better lifters, I've gotten better! If you want to one day be ripped up like the Mighty Stu, for example, you're going to have to put on size brother! Look at Stu's pics in his hub, there are a few where you could easily think he was "fat" if you saw him wearing baggy clothes. But that's the price/sacrifice we make! Hell, CT was a fat guy before, and now look at him. Or Synnergy - he was like 300 pounds, and now he's ripped up from the tips up!


Like I said, I'm not worried about getting fat. I'm just thinking in terms of optimization--i.e., at what point I should begin thinking about how my body is reacting to my current bulking method, etc. Clearly, the optimization route dictates, at least at this point, giving the 'stuff myself crazy' school a real, legit shot. And as I've said, I'm satisfied with it these past few weeks. I'm getting used to eating big.

It does seem that the logic, though is that for optimization purposes, no individual really knows how much muscle their bodies are capable of producing in a given time. And because fat loss doesn't take that much time, one would be best served by allowing his body to grow optimally with the fat just being an ancillary consequence that can be dealt with in short order. While the other school inherently places a cap on the amount of muscle that can be gained in any given period at the average for a human being (which they seem to have arbitrarily capped at 1lb, as if the human body knows what pounds are and settled on that round figure).

As far as the running, I don't do it to keep the fat at bay. I just do it to clear my head when I wake up--it's become a staple for me. And bear in mind that one of the benefits of the way I've spent the past few years of my athletic life is that my body is generally used to 10+ miles fasted. As such, 4-5 miles isn't a big deal for it. Ha, honestly, I think my legs have more issues with the flexibility required for ATG Squats :P.

Appreciate the input, though.


I hear you on the running. I did a half marathon before getting serious about BBing. It's good stuff. I agree with everything you say pretty much. Find what works for you. Honestly, the diet you posted doesn't seem like a lot of food, but it may be. What are your macros? I've been putting on ~ 2 pounds a week eating 3.5-4000kcal per day (300-400g CHO, 125g fat, 225g pro) and having 2 all out, anything goes cheats. Your body is your body, so as long as youre not doing anything too crazy you'll be alright. But, the quickest way from A to B is more food in BBing. Always more, but not TOO much! LOL.


The different ideologies are more a reflection of the sites members than the "right" way to do things. Here you've got a lot of older guys who are big but carry a lot of body fat. Over at other sites like bb.com its mostly younger guys who aren't as big but are leaner.

Here, if you don't weigh 200 lbs you're small, over there if you're above 10% bf you're fat. It's just the different cultures of the websites.

Theres success stories with both methods. Stu and Synergy both bulked up really heavy and cut down. Go look at the rate my physique forum and check out Prisoner. Probably the best physique ever posted here, and he advocates staying lean year round.

Obviously if you're eating enough to put on fat, you know you aren't losing out on any muscle growth. On the other hand, if you're paranoid about staying lean you could be cheating yourself out of gains.

Just gotta find that sweet spot where you're making progress but are still comfortable with how you look.