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Am I Bulking Up Correctly?

I’m a 5’7.5", twenty-year-old Asian guy. I started working out last year after having packed on a freshman 25. When I took my first bf measurement, I was at 166 and 20% bf, and I’d estimate I was as high as 175 and 22-23%.

Fortunately for me, I used to be a cross country runner, and I like to run, swim, and play frisbee and basketball, often several times a day. Along with lifting and more careful dieting, I was able I was able to drop down to 135 and 12% bf within six months. My goal was to get a six-pack, and I figured I needed to hit 10% bf, or lower. However, I was unable to get below a low of 11.3% over the next six months, despite trying much harder.

Before you flame me, I eventually figured that I probably needed to add more muscle to be able to get that six-pack. I’m deciding to set aside some of my other physical goals that are not conducive to getting bigger (i.e., running a marathon). I’m quitting basketball (which I sometimes would play for as much as 6 hours on Fridays) and reducing the length of my runs, perhaps incorporating more HIIT.

I’m also eating completely clean, except for two semi-cheat meals a week. I have to go to this meeting at lunch, and they only have pizza, and I have no way of getting food before coming to this meeting. I also eat with my parents once a week at a Chinese restaurant, and the only thing I like is Kung Pao Chicken. Otherwise, my typical day looks like this:
10 a.m.: 3 egg whites, 1-2 cups oatmeal, 1 Light Yoplait yogurt (6 oz), 1-2 cups strawberries
1 p.m.: 8-12 oz. chicken breast, 1-2 cups broccoli, 1-2 cups brown rice, 1 cup fruit (strawberries, grapes, or blueberries)
4 p.m.: 1-2 cups veggies (carrots and celeries), 1 Light Yoplait, 1 Balance bar, walnuts/almonds (6 oz)
7 p.m.: 6-8 oz. chicken breast, 1-2 cups broccoli, 1 cup brown rice
10 p.m.: several scoops of peanut butter (I should try better to portion this more rigorously)
I tend to throw in another meal somewhere, because my meals often shift one hour early or late depending on my work schedule.

I’m lifting (full-body workout) three days a week and doing cardio on the off-days. I sometimes also do cardio on my lifting days as well. I’m taking my whey protein, my multivitamins, my fish oil capsules, and recently, decided to go for some creatine. I’m going rather conservatively on the creatine pills for now (1.5 g only on workout days, before the workout).

I’ve put on about 10 lbs to about 145 lbs in less than 3 weeks. Unfortunately, my body fat, is in the 13.5-15.0% range now, whereas it used to be in the 11.5-13.0% range. I know that I should expect to put on some fat during the bulking phase, but I’m worried as a FFB, that I might be putting on fat too quickly. I think when I was actually dieting down, my bf % at 145 was comparable to what it is now, perhaps even lower.

My goal, again, is to eventually get a six-pack. I might be considered ridiculously small, but I don’t think I should get to much higher than a LBM of 140 (because Asians don’t tend to be as big and because our peers don’t tend to expect us to be either), with hopefully 10% bf or less. I’m going to continue to bulk, but I’m worried that when I cut down, I won’t be able to lose the fat while keeping the muscle (and thereby end up yo-yo-ing).

My current lift numbers are probably something like this:
Bench Press: probably 1 RM of 165… I can do 3 sets of 8 reps at 135 pretty easily with minimal rest (1 min, but alternating between bench and another workout).
Squat: probably 200+. I’ve done 3 sets of 8 at 185, and I feel I can go higher. However, I have weak knees from my cross country experience, and only recently started squats, so I’m taking it slowly.
Deadlift: probably around 200? I don’t know how much the deadlift barbell weighs, but I can do 3 sets of 7 with 35 kg on both sides. However, I need to use a split grip because I get too much tension in my forearms otherwise.

I know these numbers are pretty pathetic, but they’ve actually been an improvement for me. Even though I’ve lost overall weight (and LBM) in the last year, I’ve gotten stronger.

I was wondering how much longer I should bulk (and whether I should worry about packing the fat). When I do stop bulking, when do I shift into a “maintaining” phase (and how do I approach it), and when do I shift into cutting??

Buy percision nutrition. Also get stonger.

Good to see you got some sense in you and decided to gain!

If you’re worried that you are getting fat too quickly due to the FFB situation, I’d slow down the gaining. On average you should be gaining 1 lb of muscle a week. You just gained close to 3.5 a week.

As someone said, buy Precision Nutrition, it’s very useful.

Though, I wouldn’t consider 20% to be a FFB…

Scrawny to Brawny by John Berardi is worth a look, as well.

I think it is possible to gain a mostly lean 3.5 lbs per a week. But if those body fat readings are correct, then you are putting on weight too fast.

The only thing to do is to cut out some food. I’d start with the most calorically dense items. Skip the bedtime peanut butter, for instance, and see how that effects your next week’s weigh-in.

From your training report, it sounds like you might have weak grip strength, even as a limiting factor. Try some isolation work for the forearms, particularly grippers and reverse curls.

Thanks for the reply, guys.

After two days of cardio (one fartlek, one HIIT), my body fat’s dropped to the 13.0-14.0% range, which is more acceptable. However, I lost a few pounds to 143.

Right now, it’s probably very hard to get accurate measurements because they keep fluctuating, so I’m going to see if the long term measurements hold up well. I’m going to continue lifting three days a week, doing HIIT twice a week on the off-days, and some form of cardio on the other days.

I’ll look into Precision Nutrition, but $97 is pretty hefty for a college student.

Edit: My roommate does have a copy of Scrawny to Brawny, which I intend to look at soon.

[quote]shawngoat wrote:
Thanks for the reply, guys.

After two days of cardio (one fartlek, one HIIT), my body fat’s dropped to the 13.0-14.0% range, which is more acceptable. However, I lost a few pounds to 143.

Right now, it’s probably very hard to get accurate measurements because they keep fluctuating, so I’m going to see if the long term measurements hold up well. I’m going to continue lifting three days a week, doing HIIT twice a week on the off-days, and some form of cardio on the other days.

I’ll look into Precision Nutrition, but $97 is pretty hefty for a college student.[/quote]

You seem to be fretting over frequent measurements which is a big mistake. If you’re gauging your progress on BF% every two days your not going to go anywhere. You’ll never even leave the range of error present in the use of such devices. Put the calipers away, eat and grow. You’ll be much better for it in the long run.

[quote]shawngoat wrote:
Right now, it’s probably very hard to get accurate measurements because they keep fluctuating, so I’m going to see if the long term measurements hold up well.[/quote]

Yeah, it seems like you’re measuring yourself too often. I wouldn’t measure weight and bodyfat more than once per a week. And what method are you using for body fat calculations? I sure hope it’s not bioelectrical impedence…

Just don’t forget that you’re supposed to be bulking, of which weight loss is the antithesis! Fix your bulking procedures, yes, but don’t go running around or dieting trying to remedy what fat you might have already gained. Nobody never got nowhere, trying to pull that one.

[quote]Donut62 wrote:
shawngoat wrote:
Thanks for the reply, guys.

After two days of cardio (one fartlek, one HIIT), my body fat’s dropped to the 13.0-14.0% range, which is more acceptable. However, I lost a few pounds to 143.

Right now, it’s probably very hard to get accurate measurements because they keep fluctuating, so I’m going to see if the long term measurements hold up well. I’m going to continue lifting three days a week, doing HIIT twice a week on the off-days, and some form of cardio on the other days.

I’ll look into Precision Nutrition, but $97 is pretty hefty for a college student.

You seem to be fretting over frequent measurements which is a big mistake. If you’re gauging your progress on BF% every two days your not going to go anywhere. You’ll never even leave the range of error present in the use of such devices. Put the calipers away, eat and grow. You’ll be much better for it in the long run.[/quote]

Body fat % measurements are by no means faultless and are best used over time to monitor trends, not to worry about on a day to day basis.

Didn’t look to me like you were eating enough, but you are very light and seem to be gaining so maybe my first instinct was a bit off.

Okay, I guess the take-home message is not to worry about body fat percentage in the short term. I do check it quite often, because I have a bioelectrical impedance scale. It’s not the most accurate of methods, but I get a reading everytime I weigh myself, which is why I get so many readings. I suppose I could weigh myself less.

Anyway, I’ll be sticking to the three lifting sessions, two HIIT sessions, and at least two other cardio sessions each week.

I’d also like to point out that I forgot that I also eat a few ounces of salmon at lunch and dinner. I also slip in a Balance bar from time to time, or sometimes go overboard munching on nuts. (I sometimes eat like 1500 calories before I realize that I overeat–but I’m getting better at controlling myself now.)

Thanks for your advice, and I’ll keep you posted in a few weeks.

The person who measures my % body fat recommended not measuring it more than once every 3 or 4 months unless my weight drastically changes. And she actually makes money each time she measures it!

If you want to get bigger, forget about measuring your % body fat for a while unless it looks like you’ve added a HUGE amount of fat when you look in the mirror. I’m just a scrawny guy (with 5.9% bf) but that’s the approach I’m taking.