T Nation

Self-Regulating a Bulk


#1

I'm trying very hard not to open a can of worms here.

Here's my understanding of the basic principles when bulking:
1) you want to have enough calories + protein to be fully utilized for muscle building, based on whatever stimulus you provide your body
2) additional calories beyond that will [probably] be turned into fat
3) too much fat can have effects on insulin sensitivity (causing calories to be turned to fat rather than muscle)
4) muscle growth is generally non-linear; you can be at a caloric excess for awhile with no results, and then there will be a period of rapid muscle gain, then minimal muscle gain, etc.

So my hypothesis is this:
- assuming sufficient stimulus, if I eat enough where I start getting fat, AND I'm getting enough protein, then I'm maximizing muscle growth

And my question is: when you start noticing some fat gain, what do you do?

1) Do you continue at current levels, knowing that you're maximizing muscle growth?
2) Do you drop it slightly until you see no fat gain (but risk dropping it too much and cutting into muscle growth)?
3) Do you just just observe for a couple weeks, and then make a decision?

Additional question... if you're gaining fat intentionally (but trying to minimize it), at what point do you take a break from bulking to drop your bf% before resuming the bulk? Let's say I'm 14% right now, and I'm adding 1% every few weeks. Should I take a break to "lean down" when I hit ~20% before resuming the bulk?


#2

A bulk is a personal thing. It’s up to you whether you want to put on much,if any, fat. It’s also kind of dependent on the person as to how well they will gain muscle without gaining fat. Everybody is a little bit different.


#3

[quote]LoRez wrote:
Additional question… if you’re gaining fat intentionally…[/quote]

Why on earth would you do that? Lol


#4

It’s been said before by tons of guys (by some studs from this site…stu zraw kingbeef and E-Bomb… No offense to guys I forgot to mention) and I’ll repeat it here:

“YOU DO NOT NEED TO GAIN A LOT OF FAT IN ORDER TO PUT ON MUSCLE”

And as a natural trainee it is actually quite counterproductive to do so.


#5

[quote]gregron wrote:
It’s been said before by tons of guys (by some studs from this site…stu zraw kingbeef and E-Bomb… No offense to guys I forgot to mention) and I’ll repeat it here:

“YOU DO NOT NEED TO GAIN A LOT OF FAT IN ORDER TO PUT ON MUSCLE”

And as a natural trainee it is actually quite counterproductive to do so.[/quote]

Lol, I got that.

Either I explained things badly, or you totally misconstrued them. Or, you just skimmed.

I’m just trying to figure out how you ride the line between: not enough calories to maximize muscle growth, and too many calories where you’re putting on fat.

When you start to notice the fat, what do you do with your calorie intake? (see options in OP)


#6

[quote]LoRez wrote:

[quote]gregron wrote:
It’s been said before by tons of guys (by some studs from this site…stu zraw kingbeef and E-Bomb… No offense to guys I forgot to mention) and I’ll repeat it here:

“YOU DO NOT NEED TO GAIN A LOT OF FAT IN ORDER TO PUT ON MUSCLE”

And as a natural trainee it is actually quite counterproductive to do so.[/quote]

Lol, I got that.

Either I explained things badly, or you totally misconstrued them. Or, you just skimmed.

I’m just trying to figure out how you ride the line between: not enough calories to maximize muscle growth, and too many calories where you’re putting on fat.

When you start to notice the fat, what do you do with your calorie intake? (see options in OP)[/quote]

UHH…you add a bit of cardio/activity or lower calorie intake. Damn, this is not rocket science.


#7

[quote]LoRez wrote:

[quote]gregron wrote:
It’s been said before by tons of guys (by some studs from this site…stu zraw kingbeef and E-Bomb… No offense to guys I forgot to mention) and I’ll repeat it here:

“YOU DO NOT NEED TO GAIN A LOT OF FAT IN ORDER TO PUT ON MUSCLE”

And as a natural trainee it is actually quite counterproductive to do so.[/quote]

Lol, I got that.

Either I explained things badly, or you totally misconstrued them. Or, you just skimmed.

I’m just trying to figure out how you ride the line between: not enough calories to maximize muscle growth, and too many calories where you’re putting on fat.

When you start to notice the fat, what do you do with your calorie intake? (see options in OP)[/quote]

If you’re gaining too much fat then either A. Slightly lower cals or B. increase activity level/cardio.

If you get a rapid influx of weight/fat gain then you started your bulk with too large of a caloric surplus.


#8

I guess this whole conversation/thread is convoluted enough I’m just going to drop one nugget, helpful or not.

The more I learn from really advanced people, I more I realize there is no such thing as a “bulk” and most really abhor the term. There’s normalcy, and then dieting for a contest, essentially. 100% agree with Greg - it’s pretty silly to think you can’t gain significant muscle/strength/both while maintaining a very respectable level of leanness. Genetics will obviously play a big role here but, if one has enough determination, willpower and know-how, it shouldn’t take too long to figure things out for themselves.


#9

I thought I was clear… I know you need to cut calories/increase activity. I’m just a little iffy as to what extent.

Do you do it so that you’re not gaining ANY fat? Because then it’s possible you’re not getting enough to maximize muscle gains.

OR, do you do it so you still gain SOME fat, but as little as possible?

OR, do you give it a bit of time before making any changes, because your body may be preparing to make a rapid jump in muscle growth?


#10

I think you are over-analyzing things a bit here LoRez. Not intending to patronize but from what I can make out you are not far off a ‘beginner’ to all this and really shouldn’t worry yourself about a small amount of fat gain on a bulk. Although I agree that for a natural trainee it isn’t necessary and can be counter-productive I also feel you could severely limit potential gains by worrying too much about this stuff.

You got it in one with the title - SELF REGULATE.

I hate to dumb it down but lift hard and get plenty of rest and eat plenty of good calories from good sources. If you start to gain fat too rapidly then do the necessary


#11

How much fat gain are you willing to tolerate?

Is your strength/muscle mass increasing in accord with your fat gains?

Do you train with a goal in mind that is greatly impacted by fat gains (ie, hoping on stage)?

How rigid do you want to be in your diet?

How quickly can you lose fat when the time comes? How does this affect your strength?

All of these are individual questions everyone has to ask themselves and the answers will determine the type of diet one follows.

Personally, I would advise younger/newer trainers to accept a BIT more weight/fat gain in the beginning so as not to waste potential gains by under eating. An advanced trainee who has already added 30-40 pounds on their frame, several hundred pounds on their key lifts and likely doesn’t have much room to improve should be much, much more strict about not getting fat. The “1 pound per week” rule is beyond ridiculous for this kind of trainer as the end result would be 50 pounds in a year… Nearly all fat at this level. The strength/muscle benefits are NOT there and it will only necessitate a longer diet period when he/she decides to do so.

Adding under a pound of month of total weight is a difficult (and possibly frustrating) task to all but the most diligent and regimented though, which is why I don’t recommend that approach for beginners who have no idea what their potential is, what kind of diet they need to follow, what kind of training/nutrition works best for them, and what their long term goals are.

(Note… drugs are a different story, my advice is for a natural trainee… Obviously if you are going to hop on the sauce that changes the picture quite dramatically)


#12

[quote]Lonnie123 wrote:
How much fat gain are you willing to tolerate?[/quote]

Based on pictures, and using this photo: http://www.builtlean.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/body-fat-percentage-picture-men-women.jpg

I would like to stay under where the 25% guy is, and can maybe tolerate just a bit more than the 20% guy.

So far, yes.

Yes, but not that ambitious. End goal is a fairly stable 10-12%. (Again, per linked photo.) Hopping on stage is out of the question right now but that’s open to change over time.

At this point in time (and I don’t see this changing much), potentially 1 dinner out a week, but otherwise it can be very strict. I.e., I live alone and know how to cook.

I have no experience in this, I’ve always been on the thin side. When I’ve lost weight unintentionally (like in the last month due to appetite-loss/chronic-nausea) I’ve continued getting stronger.

Point taken. I don’t want to cut myself short, but at the same time, I’m not willing to tolerate being “chubby”. Flat is fine, but chubby isn’t. Vague terminology, but I think with the photo I linked it should be clearer.

Which is why I’m just trying to find some rules of thumb to follow so I can maximize gains nutritionally, but still keep myself acceptably lean on a personal level.

Definitely no plans for the next 2+ years at least.


#13

[quote] Lorez said: Which is why I’m just trying to find some rules of thumb to follow so I can maximize gains nutritionally, but still keep myself acceptably lean on a personal level. [/q]

Again thats a personal issue. At this point in my life I would honestly rather err on the side of eating a bit too little and staying leaner and MAYBE sacrificing muscle gain (ounces? grams? Certainly not much) than eating a bit too much, maximizing gains but throwing fat on top of it. Your diet has to be very dialed in to do this though, as in… I can literally add or take away 100 calories a day if I needed to to make an adjustment.

The questions I posed will be the ones you have to ask yourself over and over again during your training life. You may find the answers changing as you get older/stronger/fatter/leaner/etc… Is there an event coming up that your shirt will be off for and you would be embarrassed to be “the guy that works out” and show up as the 25% dude? Fuck. That.

It sounds like you have some good ideas going froward though, the toughest part now is to JUST DO, and find out what your personal tastes and abilities are as you move forward. I can personally be quite lax with my diet/cardio for about 6 months before it catches up with me, then I need to cut the cals and up the cardio for 4-6 weeks until I’m back to where I want to be. These are the kinds of cycles I run now a days, breaking the year up into two 6-Month blocks.


#14

All right. I think I’m going to err on the “adding a little too much fat” side for now. I already weigh myself daily (and I can deal with the fluctuations), so I’ll probably keep doing that, but only make adjustments to diet every 14 days. Maybe 7 if I get antsy.

When I start getting to the point I’m uncomfortable and/or I decide I want to be a little leaner during the May-August period, I’ll reconsider.

More than likely I’ll end up posting a “should I slow down my bulk?” thread in 4-6 months. Not “should I bulk or cut”.

Thanks.


#15

You’re ok with 20-25% BF? That’s fat/obese. I know it’s all a personal choice on what you’re comfortable with but getting to obese levels of bodyfat is in no way nesecary in order to get big.

Don’t do it lol. You will regret it.


#16

[quote]gregron wrote:
You’re ok with 20-25% BF? That’s fat/obese. I know it’s all a personal choice on what you’re comfortable with but getting to obese levels of bodyfat is in no way nesecary in order to get big.

Don’t do it lol. You will regret it.[/quote]

20-22% per that picture. Which I’d say is considered 16-18% per T-Nation standards :slight_smile:

I’m judging based on that picture I linked ONLY. The moment my stomach goes from flat to chubby is when I stop. Whatever that percent happens to actually be.

Is that a good standard, or would you stay even leaner than that?


#17

The pictures you’re speaking about didn’t show up when I clicked so I can’t really say… But 20-25% BF is fat to very fat.


#18

[quote]gregron wrote:
The pictures you’re speaking about didn’t show up when I clicked so I can’t really say… But 20-25% BF is fat to very fat.[/quote]

I just attached the picture.

I would say that 20% by most photos I’ve seen is fat. Per this picture, guy’s still got (barely) visible abs at 20%.

So, I don’t necessarily mean 20-22% by any measurement other than what this photo claims.


#19

I think if your gain goal is improved aesthetics, you would do well to heed Greg’s advice. Based on my own limited experience, bulking to a high BF is not worth the gains in strength and muscle, as it will cause you to develop bad nutritional habits.


#20

my 2 cents from extensive experience with this…

-Weighing yourself everyday is NO good unless you are competing etc…the mirror and an honest and regular self assesment are your best tools
-You do not have to gain much fat if any in order to maximize muscle gains
-If your diet is truely clean, your body will most likely have trouble converting your (reasonable) surplus of calories into fat as long as you are training adequately
-The term bulk is used as an excuse to overeat much of the time…

the long and short of it is you have to learn how to adjust diet, training and recovery on the fly…this in my experience is far more efficient than “bulking”/“cutting” at least if done naturally