T Nation

"Bulking" for Former Fat Guys (Some Thoughts)

I have bulked in the past. The old pigfest way and my new way. The pigfest doesnt do shit because I gain size rather easily, but it’s mostly in the form of 25% muscle, the rest fat. It sucks and it’s a pain in the ass to diet for half a year. I learned this a few years ago before I started training athletes and “regular folks”.
The way I do it now is well known and it is a better option because it minimizes fat gain.
I setup my baseline calories and increase the calories by 5-10%, or until I see a 1/2 to 1 pound gain per week. That’s all I am looking for. Anything more and I will deduct 3-5% until I reach that sweet spot. I will continue this for 6 weeks, then pump the brakes and reduce my calories 20% for 3 weeks, then go back to my calorie surplus.
I have noticed a correlation between people who were heavy and now lean. It is probably due to a number of factors including poor carbohydrate tolerance and that we have impaired our satiety levels from overeating. Mostly, this occurs in linebacker built people, or those who are quick to gain weight.
In my opinion, kinny guys can afford to eat everything-but even then, I would exercise caution.


Bulking? You mean like when I try to eat like a normal human and my weight flies up?


Hey Chris, it’s nice to see you on here. You judged my show last October and we spoke a bit at the ANBF show in March (I think that was the month) when my pals on here Rob and Josh earned their ANBF pro cards.

Whats the reasoning behind this mate?

I think the whole “bulking up” approach that was gym lore for decades has finally begun to fall by the wayside as more gym goers actually have access to more information than just weider -protein-powder ads disguised as articles.

I agree with the small changes and goals, but even with a 1 lb gain per week, I think you’re risking well over a 50% fat gain per month. One of my favorite quotes from Dorian Yates was about how a competitor with the best genetics, the best training, best diet, and best “supplements”, can only put on a Pound or two of muscle in a month’s time. Now if that’s a unicorn-type best case scenario, and an actual new lb of muscle synthesized by the body is at best costing a couple of hundred calories (I forget the exact # at the moment), so long as the gym goer in question is meeting a well planned macro split and getting their micronutrients, and they’re not excessively lean (i.e. Day to day looking with enough “extra cals” to not be ripped), IMO they don’t even need to worry about a specified weekly gain.

When I was still competing, my off-season weight was the same every year, with no weekly or monthly weight gain goal, and yet when I would diet down, like clockwork I would be 2-3 lbs heavier. Support your training, get enough nutrients for the small increases to occur at the excruciatingly slow pace that they do, and let time do it’s work.

I know that newbs need something concrete, but I gotta think that the weekly gain, then scale back when you get too sloppy approach isn’t always the best.


Nice to hear from you. I looked at your avatar and I actually remember you. You came to after the show. Are you doing the May 13th show? I’ll be there but as the head expediter. Kent needs my booming voice (his words lol) and ability to direct.

Sort of. Normal humans usually dont eat intelligently :smiley:

1 Like

Hey Irish, after two-three weeks, you tend to lose the anabolic edge that takes place from the caloric surplus. It’s different for many individuals, but ultimately, it comes down to homeostasis. That body can and will find a way to adapt and continue building, but it is more often than not a greater ratio of fat over muscle. By going into a few weeks of a calorie reduction, you’re still over your original weight, but falling back a few pounds. Basically, taking three steps forward and one step back. Hope that helps. There are a few abstracts I can give you, if you are interested. Very interesting stuff.


So you bulk at around 10% over your maintenance for 6weeks, reduce to around 10% below maintenance for 3 weeks and than repeat?

Is this mostly for people who gain fat easily? I personally feel like it would not help me or other people who struggle with weight (fat) gain.

Does your training accommodate this 3week ‘mini-cut’?

I actually just read the title of the thread… Makes more sense now!

It varies for each individual. Some are fine at 5%, some need up to 15% to see the scale move up. Same as the reducation, although I have had success with myself and my athletes at 20%.

It is geared towards people who were overweight, but I have seen it work for the thinner population. Although when dealing with basketball players and those that burn insane amount of calories just be sitting, the calorie increase is usually greater.

Training will stay the same; heavy weight (with as much as I can handle), gradually going to higher reps and shorter rest time inside the workout. I use DUP so it really varies anyway from workout to workout. I’ll also cycle through drop sets, rest/pause and extra time under tension techniques every month to keep my workouts interesting. The only thing I will do differently is decrease my HIIT training when adding calories and increase when cutting.

I guess the best advice is to try it out for yourself. The caveat here is that you need to be leaner to begin with.

1 Like

that’s really very interesting

IVe always said that people tend to over complicate things. If youve got your bases covered in terms of adequate carbs to get through workouts, adequate protein to sustain lbm (the amount of “extra” needed to build an additional lb of muscle is laughable tiny), and enough fats to create a sufficiently favorable hormonal environment within the body, you don’t really need a ton of extra cals, nor do you need to obsess over weekly weight gain goals in order to build muscle. This is especially true if you’ve been overweight or are currently… not-lean.

Muscle growth is so much slower of a process than people realize, and as you Can’t force feed it or speed it up anymore than biology will allow, realizing how much the variable of TIME plays into the whole equation is what separates those who develop a healthy perspective and excel and those who remain somewhat bitter and are constantly looking for some magic approach that will pay off.


this is actually a lesson that’s taken me pretty much up until this point in my training career to learn, which is a little embarrassing.

Instead of choking down extra food when I’m not hungry to try and force my body to grow, I’m not force feeding anymore. So much of my life was spent shovelling food I wasn’t hungry for into my mouth to hit a macro/calorie target which was much too high anyway. All it ever did was make me fat.

Now, if I’m not hungry, I don’t eat! Seems like such a logical way to do things but for some reason it’s only just occurred to me.

Being a fat guy myself I don’t trust my feedback mechanisms. I can eat 6k cals without blinking and never feel full.

So I’ve gone the opposite approach. Tracking things and forcing down a can of skipjack tuna at 10pm because I missed my protein number for the day.


that’s totally fair enough. I come from the opposite end of the spectrum being a naturally very skinny dude.

So I know I need to eat a lot, but experience has taught me that doesn’t mean eating so much at every meal that all I can do is lie on the floor and pray for death

I told my wife that I never feel full. So she challenged me at a Chinese buffet to eat as much as I could. 19 heaping plates later and I felt sick… but not full.

It’s funny how hard you have to work to gain and how hard I have to work to lose. If only you could gift me 5% of your metabolism we’d be even.

Girls with straight hair want curls and vice versa. Just the way of the world.


Dealing with my body’s tendency towards getting fat has forced me to be very self aware as well. I know exactly how much cheese I can eat a day without it going to my waist. In restaurants I always order a to go box with my meal and put half of the dinner in before I start eating.

Hey, Newbie here. I use to be a heavy dude, 270 at my heaviest. Lost a lot of weight got down to 167 then wanted to “get swole” and took the advice of just stuffing my face and gave up after a few months of not seeing actual results and having unrealistic expectations. Fast forward a few years, I’ve been lifting for a year and a half, seriously about half a year. Started off at 215 and now I’m down to 188. I planned on getting down to 180, but I still have no signs of a flat stomach let alone visible abs so I’m starting to think I’m going to have to cut down even further . Once I get my body fat to a low enough level I plan a steady bulk of 1 pound a week, that’s the rate I’ve been cutting. My confusion stems from the bulking cutting cycles people undergo, I never want to have to cut to this extent again, I’m hoping this is my first, last, and only cut I ever have to do. And from there a slow and steady bulk rate. I could be wrong about the mechanics of this but that’s the current idea I’m getting from what I’ve learned thus far.

bdk, I would not do a steady bulk because of your history. It speaks for itself.
My advice would be get as lean as possible. I should mention that I only see abs clearly defined at below 10% fat. Also, you need to think another way: perhaps the reason you are not seeing your abs is because you dont have enough abdominal muscle tissue to show your abs. I started doing a heavy day of ab work (weight carries, ab crunch with heavy weight and banded leg raises supersetted with one arm planks. My other ab work was higher reps, low weight if any and weighted carries for distance. Both leg days in my week had the ab work included. When I did more ab work with different rep setups, only then did I see them. Obviously, it doesnt look the same in the offseason than it does when doing a contest cut,
Also, when you are at leanest weight, maintain that bodyweight for at least 4 to 6 months before attempting a surplus. You are resetting your BMR and helping your body adapt to the new setpoint.