T Nation

Bulking - Fast or Slow?


At the risk of beating a dead horse over what seems to be a real controversy among the "experts" on the best approach for bulking up I am really confused.

What is the best way - the bulking "see-food" approach or the add calories gradually approach?

If I work out hard on a good routine why won't my body signal the metabolism via hunger mechanism to eat more food, naturally without me having to force-feed myself?

Bulking up "see-food" approach just gets me fat, gradual approach takes a long time and it gets discouraging not seeing tangible gains - and then I read some people all the time who say "in order to get big you must eat, eat, eat and eat some more, etc". How is it good for the body to overload the digestive system, the heart, and eventually get health problems like diabetes?

Seems better to me to listen to my body - if its hungry it wants more food in order to grow - and eat until comfortably full, never letting myself get too hungry between meals - if not, force feeding will only lead to gaining fat.

I would appreciate your thoughts/experiences or if you can point me to some good articles on this subject that would be great.

Thanks in advance!


I understand your confusion as I was confused about the same issues when I started my first bulk/mass building phase.

Basically, 1 pound is equal to 3500 calories. So if you can figure out approximately how many calories you eat now you can simply add 500 calories a day (which equals 3500 a week).

The other option is to add in a 500 calorie snack or two 250 calorie snacks. After 1 week you should weigh 1 pound more. If you are losing weight (assuming it is not fat) just add an extra 500 each week until you are gaining.

This way you "gradual" add more calories into your diet and remember that as you gain weight you will have to add additional calories to keep gaining. A simple way to do this is to add 250-500 extra calories every 6 weeks or so.


Tom Venuto had a article recently which points out that while a pound of fat is indeed 3500 calories, a pound of muscle is only 600 calories. So, if you're eating a 3500 calorie excess each week, and only gaining a pound, that's probably a bad thing, though some of those calories will go towards processing the food itself and not get stored as fat or muscle.

So, how many calories you actually need, to gain a pound of muscle depends on how your body partitions its excess calories, and is something you will have to figure out by experimenting.


Read this:

The Truth About Bulking

There is absolutely no reason to get fat. Take it slow.


I was just going to post this same link. Seems to make more sense rather than doing the whole eat calories at any cost to bulk up. When I tried that approach, I would usually end up just getting fat, maybe also because I am a FFB.


My thoughts are that I want to gain size as fast as I can while not allowing myself to get sloppy with bodyfat. So I'm a little of both. I eat as much as I can, but with smart foods tailored to the way I react to food combinations, carb/fat sources etc. So I pound the food down, however I manipulate the diet in terms of calories depending on the day. Legs day where I walked around campus all day, very high calories for me, Saturday watching college football, not very high but still enough to support growth. Also I do cardio 2-5 times a week depending on how much I feel I need.

Bottom line is for ME I'd rather overdo the food and maximize growth potential and cover up the loose ends with cardio or differing food combinations and such than eat too little and maybe miss out on some growth.

Learn from your own body, adjust your diet and cardio accordingly and pursue whatever your goal is as quickly as possible while staying within the realm of leanness and happiness you deem best.


Exactly. Why go insane and create a massive amount of new fat cells? One's that will never go away.

I was a fat kid growing up. I'll say no to refilling my fat cells any day.


Thanks guys for your responses. I read the CT article and it makes alot of sense - and I didn't realize that the body actually creates more fat cells. I appreciate your input and will take it into consideration as I move forward.


Do the "see-food" approach with all healthy, natural foods(no excess crap like pizzas, burgers, etc).


I'm with Scott.

CT's article will work for guys who already have a decent bit of training under their belt. In my opinion FAT has become the golden calf in the weight training world in a sort of perverse reversal of mentality in the last 20 years.

It is the center of practically every damn discussion.

If you want to gain size then eat and train to grow. When you are growing in a satisfactory manner that is how fat you will need to be to grow. It may be relatively little or more for some guys. A preoccupation with

will keep you small for the rest of your natural life. NOBODY HAS TO GET "FAT" to get big, but trying to make sure you never ever pass a certain level of bodyfat is the exact wrong focus when trying to gain.

When I look in my mirror I look for size increases first and primarily. A guy who looks for fat all the time will never reach his potential.


Good post, IMO.
Bottom line, you can only do one thing at once. Try to go in too many directions at once, and you get nowhere.


There are no excuses for getting needlessly fat, but monitor your bodyfat or waist size on a weekly basis.

You need to eat to gain weight, though. It is usually much easier to back off on calories a tad if you notice your measurements changing in an undesirable manner than to eat at maintenance and hope for change.

For FFBs, I think the weekly measurements are key. Chances are, most FFBs have lost a lot of weight by focusing on weight and not measurements. Consequently, when they try to get bigger, the increasing scale puts images in their head. Regardless of whether you think you've gained fat or not, if the calipers or measuring tape read the same, you've stayed the same.

If you've gained weight and your arm is just a bit bigger, you've gained muscle. You can probably guess where you put on fat first, so monitor that area only. Do not mistake bulk bloat for fat gain, either. If your waist is 2 inches larger after a huge meal as compared to last Saturday morning, it's no indication of fat gain.

There is a point between undereating and gorging and that is usually just enough food to gain weight. I'm interested about the calories needed per pound of muscle, though. If muscle is 100% protein, it would about half the caloric composition of fat, though that doesn't take into account water held, etc. There is also the caloric cost of building the muscle, which is likely pretty substantial.


"See food" diet works well naturally thin guys, everyone else should be more careful.

I have no problems eating whatever/whenever it also tastes good and makes it easier for me to eat as much as I need to.

Ideally I'd do a slow bulk and avoid creating fat cells, but real life gets in the way. "Dirty" bulking is much easier to do when you've got numerous other demands on your time.