T Nation

How to 'Bulk' For Naturals

While “lean bulking” seems to be the general forum sentiment these days, the traditional “bulk and cut” approach has been used successfully by decades of bodybuilders as well as just general physique enthusiasts.

I don’t want to have a discussion of pros or cons of bulking. There’s been hundreds of threads over the years.

I’m interested in a “how to”. Diet, training, other lifestyle changes, etc.

Pulling in stuff from the other thread

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:

[quote]LoRez wrote:
Because one of these days I’d like to be a much larger version of myself, at 10-15% bodyfat.

I want to know whether I’ll get there faster via the “lean gains” approach or the “bulk and cut” approach.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

But that’s why I care.[/quote]

Lifetime unassisted
Did not begin training until after 23rd birthday
Starting weight was 160 w/limited ab lines showing

I did this…
The problem as I saw it was “how does a lifter stay goal directed when the long term goal was many years away”? I knew several bodybuilders that used powerlifting competitions during their “offseason” periods to maintain tangible training goals. I was introduced to “periodization” training and have used it in some form to guide me ever since. I alternated 18-30 month periods were I carried 10-15% over my known lean weight and would usually compete in two or three meets, with 5-14 month periods were I would lean out over the course of several months and spend the summer in “beach ready” condition.

There were a couple of occasions when I ran the lean period through the winter and following summer but that was rare. While participating in powerlifting I included more volume and isolation movements than conventional PLs did and during lean periods I often worked a lower rep ranges than other BBs did.

I completed my spring deficit at the end of May. There are progress pics in my ‘How do you train’ thread.
http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_bigger_stronger_leaner/bluecollar_how_do_you_tr8n?id=5587885&pageNo=2
[/quote]

[quote]MassiveGuns wrote:

[quote]LoRez wrote:
I want to know whether I’ll get there faster via the “lean gains” approach or the “bulk and cut” approach.
[/quote]

I’ve tried both approaches myself. Bulking is best for rapid gains. It’s just common sense, give your body everything it needs and more and it will grow. Once you’ve built up a base of muscle and conditioning, then the game changes a little bit. You can stay leaner eating the same calories you were once bulking with. So the increase in calories as a percentage of your total intake is less.

Heres a fact. You need adequate glycogen at all times to maintain cellular hydration, since this acts as a light switch for protein synthesis. You also need insulin, since this is once of the most anabolic hormones your body has. This is even more important when you’re natural. No insulin equals no growth. You get a higher insulin level from eating more food, be it from fats, carbs or protein.

Dairy is insulinogenic. That means it stimulates a higher insulin response than the sum of the carbs,fats and proteins that its made from. Its actually much higher.

If you can’t get your head round that and grow, then nothing will help you.

Ive posted old time strongmen loads of times now but ill refer again to arthur saxon. 5 10, 220 and lean (not by competitive BB standards). Read up on what he used to eat in a day. This was before steroids even existed.

All the old time strongmen ate a shitload, trained a shitload with compound lifts and thats about it. They weren’t counting calories, macros or monitoring their 300 extra calories for the day. Or carbing up, or going ketogenic or anything. Simples

I’d love to hear someone from this time period telling them about lean gains and how they should just eat chicken and salad and watch him laugh in their face, then one arm bent press them.
[/quote]

[quote]MassiveGuns wrote:

[quote]LoRez wrote:

[quote]LoRez wrote:

[quote]Professor X wrote:

[quote]LoRez wrote:
I know I basically just asked the same question twice to MassiveGuns and BlueCollarTr8n, but I’m also interested in your opinion too.

What kind of a modern “bulking diet” would you advocate in order to optimize muscle gains and take advantage of hormonal fluctuations, insulin response, etc.?

I’m assuming that your additional training in biology and the human body has given you some insight into how to optimize those processes, so I’m interested in how you would approach it.[/quote]

Ideal situation:

New trainer under the age of 25 with above average genetics who does no gain fat easily. For someone like that with a goal of being really big, those insulin responses to food intake will aid more muscle growth. It is only recently that many people seem to act as if insulin spikes should be avoided. They should if you are trying to lose body fat and retain muscle. That is not ideal for gaining the most muscle possible.

You may want to start another thread. I have a feeling this one will be screwed by the same nonsense that has been happening.[/quote]

Good call.[/quote]

Well, I tried creating a new thread but it seems to be in limbo somewhere. If that thread ever gets created, I’ll copy things over.

Unfortunately I don’t represent the ideal situation there with the “under 25 and above average genetics”.

What sort of dietary approach would you suggest for someone who has the genetics of a distance runner and an appetite that self-regulates to 135lbs @ 5’10?[/quote]

It sounds like you are one of those people that will have a hard time putting on weight. Do you find that you can eat whatever you want and you can still see your abs? If you are one of those people, how you should start depends on your lifting experience. If you are a total noob, just make sure you have protein covered for you weight, and eat a little bit more than your current intake, say an extra 300cal. Once you have a solid foundation in Squats, Deads, Military press, Bench, Dips and rows (as in your technique is solid) then its time to push it.

You need to buy a body fat monitor, Train your ass off, and just keep bumping calories till the scale starts to move. If its all fat, back off calories and up the training. Once you know wha your gaining level is, then you have something to work with. I have a feeling you will find the number you need to gain is going to be more than you are used to eating.

Dairy IMO is best for peri-post workout. Yoghurt is actually a great one, just add 500g low fat natural yoghurt to your post workout shake and drink it up. That will spike insulin to a massive exent.

The best foods to maintain glycogen are healthy carb sources. Oats IMO are the best. For some reason oats don’t seem to bloat you or make you gain as much fat. And I am personally of the opinion that you should have a high to moderate carb meal at night, it helps you sleep and night time is when the protein switches kick into overdrive, you don’t want to be dehydrated or carb depleted at that time, and you want insulin shuttling nutrients to the cells that need them.[/quote]

You are not interested in the “lean bulk” method so that must mean you want the opposite?
The “fat bulk.”
That, my friend, is very simple.
Eat as much food as you would like while hitting the gym and making sure the scale is moving up.
Preferably on a daily basis.
You should be packing on pounds like they are going out of style.
20 pounds in 2 months is not uncommon.
Hammer strength is best.
You ahould be filling out shirts at an alarming rate.
Hopefully they will start to feel snug in the arms and shoulders before the belly but either way is ok.
Keep lifting more weight and keep the scale moving up no matter what.
If you start to get too fat for your own liking then cut back on the cabs (pizza)
this is completely individual.
For some that may be 15% for others that may be 35%
Genetics.
Avoid cardio like the plague.

You have been shown the way my son.
Now go forth and bulk.

[quote]Smashingweights wrote:
You are not interested in the “lean bulk” method so that must mean you want the opposite?
The “fat bulk.”
That, my friend, is very simple.
Eat as much food as you would like while hitting the gym and making sure the scale is moving up.
Preferably on a daily basis.
You should be packing on pounds like they are going out of style.
20 pounds in 2 months is not uncommon.
Hammer strength is best.
You ahould be filling out shirts at an alarming rate.
Hopefully they will start to feel snug in the arms and shoulders before the belly but either way is ok.
Keep lifting more weight and keep the scale moving up no matter what.
If you start to get too fat for your own liking then cut back on the cabs (pizza)
this is completely individual.
For some that may be 15% for others that may be 35%
Genetics.
Avoid cardio like the plague.

You have been shown the way my son.
Now go forth and bulk.[/quote]
lol

[quote]Smashingweights wrote:
You are not interested in the “lean bulk” method so that must mean you want the opposite?
The “fat bulk.”
That, my friend, is very simple.
Eat as much food as you would like while hitting the gym and making sure the scale is moving up.
Preferably on a daily basis.
You should be packing on pounds like they are going out of style.
20 pounds in 2 months is not uncommon.
Hammer strength is best.
You ahould be filling out shirts at an alarming rate.
Hopefully they will start to feel snug in the arms and shoulders before the belly but either way is ok.
Keep lifting more weight and keep the scale moving up no matter what.
If you start to get too fat for your own liking then cut back on the cabs (pizza)
this is completely individual.
For some that may be 15% for others that may be 35%
Genetics.
Avoid cardio like the plague.

You have been shown the way my son.
Now go forth and bulk.[/quote]

Now that that’s over with. A quote from the “How do you Train” thread:

[quote]BlueCollarTr8n wrote:
If the goal is development and performance I like protein in the low to mid thirties (1.25-1.50 grams/lb), carbs in the low forties (about 2.0 grams/lb), and fats in the mid. twenties (.5-.6 grams/lb). As bodycomp becomes more of a priority or as a lifter ages, I like the total grams of carbs (starches in particular) reduced much closer to 1.0 g/lb. In some situations; providing other variables are manipulated properly; I think much lower levels of carbohydrate for set periods of time can produce amazing results. [/quote]

My understanding of “bulk and cut” in the traditional sense is to utilize food and training in a way to maximize muscle gains even if that comes at the expense of some fat. Then, when bodyfat gets too high or a particular goal is in sight (e.g., beach body for the summer), take some time to cut down to a more reasonable level.

It doesn’t mean “put on as much weight as possible via any means necessary”.

However, it does mean “taking advantage of the body’s reaction to a food surplus to maximize muscle gains”.

The core question:

What kind of a modern “bulking diet” would you advocate in order to optimize muscle gains and take advantage of hormonal fluctuations, insulin response, etc.?

So much win can come of this

[quote]LoRez wrote:
The core question:

What kind of a modern “bulking diet” would you advocate in order to optimize muscle gains and take advantage of hormonal fluctuations, insulin response, etc.?[/quote]

Would also LOVE to have some great answers to that question.

I think you better define bulk first. I think it’s a stupid word that brings lots of negative connotations

CBL or Meadows diet or a combo

[quote]LoRez wrote:
The core question:

What kind of a modern “bulking diet” would you advocate in order to optimize muscle gains and take advantage of hormonal fluctuations, insulin response, etc.?[/quote]


I though Layne Norton’s research is pretty interesting. I think skinny guys can get away with adding pound on the scale for a while but once they stop being skinny they should learn how to count macros and take a more methodological approach. I do think bluecollar trainers approach is good in that he counts macros, and treats his bulk like a diet.

[quote]ryanbCXG wrote:
I think you better define bulk first. I think it’s a stupid word that brings lots of negative connotations [/quote]

Well, I’d defined it like this above:

[quote]
My understanding of [the bulk part of] “bulk and cut” in the traditional sense is to utilize food and training in a way to maximize muscle gains even if that comes at the expense of some fat.[/quote]

Modern diet aside its quite easy to notice when you get well over, lets say 18% bf

Cut those carbs, dont each much sugar anyway

Remember that for some eating enough needs to be learned and ‘trained’

Stay at a smoothish but ok bf and focus on the training and macros

Etc

Thread OK so far.

Waiting for it…

Waiting for it…

Waiting for it…

[quote]JoabSonOfZeruiah wrote:

[quote]LoRez wrote:
The core question:

What kind of a modern “bulking diet” would you advocate in order to optimize muscle gains and take advantage of hormonal fluctuations, insulin response, etc.?[/quote]


I though Layne Norton’s research is pretty interesting. I think skinny guys can get away with adding pound on the scale for a while but once they stop being skinny they should learn how to count macros and take a more methodological approach. I do think bluecollar trainers approach is good in that he counts macros, and treats his bulk like a diet.[/quote]

That was some interesting research, and lends some credibility to the importance of milk and eggs in many of the golden-age era diets.

I know of two diets seem to have stood the test of time. You literally can go back several decades and still see variants of these preached in the magazines and books.

  • lots and lots of milk
  • steak and eggs

I can’t imagine it’s coincidence. If these didn’t work, they’d probably have been weeded out a few decades ago. E.g., people rarely talk about liver or germ oils anymore.

[quote]LoRez wrote:
The core question:

What kind of a modern “bulking diet” would you advocate in order to optimize muscle gains and take advantage of hormonal fluctuations, insulin response, etc.?[/quote]

I would avoid giving out a specific diet right off. I would just get them to understand the basics of how food works in their body.

I would tell them the crap that is likely much less useful to their goals…like cookies…and get them to understand that hamburger meat isn’t evil.

Furthermore, unless someone has the genetics I discussed before, the current concept of “bulking” has been murdered and been replaced with a bunch of internet warriors acting like bulking up means get fat.

That is the only reason this much bickering still exists.

Bulking up used to mean focusing on size and strength alone for a while and keep tabs on your body fat gain. That is all it is…and there is no exact blue print for that. You base it on the results seen.