A Comprehensive Guide To Bulking

A Comprehensive Guide To Bulking

Some people use winter as an excuse to pack on the pounds, they call it bulking season. But there’s more to it than just adding a few extra slices of pizza or cake to dinner, at least there is if you want to maintain your fitness levels and increase functional strength.

What is bulking?

Most of you are probably familiar with bulking, but to clarify — there’s more to it than just putting on weight. If we all got stronger just by getting fatter, there’d be a lot of happy lifters around. The quality of the weight you put on is incredibly important, and doing it safely takes some time and effort.

In essence, bulking is one of the most effective ways of raising strength numbers by altering your weight. The idea, is that the heavier you are (within reason) the more weight you’ll be able to move, but remember: The quality of the added weight matters.

Why do some lifters bulk?

If you’re doing all that you can with your training and your numbers aren’t moving up as much as you’d like, then putting on some weight can help you to find gains in your strength, in ways that lifting alone can’t.

Bulking can add a few kilos to your lifts, or it can completely transform how you train. Some people perform much better when they bulk, while others don’t notice the change as much. It’s trial and error.


Five quick tips to bulk effectively

We’ll get into some calculations and what have you next, but if all you’re looking for are some quick and easy tips to gain weight safely, here are five that Mass recommends:

  • Eat more quality carbohydrates (pasta, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes)
  • Eat more protein (all kinds of meat and fish, oily fish especially)
  • Eat more healthy fats (cook in organic butter, spread ripe avocado on toast with eggs)
  • Up your compound lifts (deadlift, squat, cleans)
  • Moderate your cardio (maintain fitness, but avoid burning excess calories)

Bulking: Diet and nutrition

The most crucial part of bulking is getting enough calories to increase your weight safely. Take in more calories than you’re burning, and you should gain weight. Combine that with plenty of strength training and compound movements (we’ll get to those) and that extra weight should help you to lift more.

How many calories you’ll need in order to gain weight, depends on your current weight, height, metabolism, activity level and how quickly you want the weight to go on. You can use a calorie calculator to figure out what you’ll need. Here’s an example:

Profile: Male, 29, 160 lbs (72 kg), trains hard six times a week.

Calories/day to maintain weight: 2,927

Calories/day to gain 2 lbs (0.9 kg)/week: 3,927

As you can see, you need to add a considerable number of calories every day to gain weight and maintain it, if you’re training hard. Our advice, is to not overthink it, and to concentrate instead on packing in as many quality calories as possible.


Mass’s favourite bulking foods:

Peanut Butter / Almond Butter – 588 calories per 100g / 614 calories per 100g

Avocado – 322 calories on average (200g)

Eggs – 78 calories per egg (6g protein)

Meats – A full rundown of calories in beef and other meats can be found at Calorie King

Butter – 102 calories / tablespoon

Whole wheat pasta – 175 calories per 220g

Training during bulking

As we’ve mentioned, effective bulking involves more than just additional calories. If you want to keep your training moving in the right direction, then you’ll need to stress your muscles in the right ways, too. In addition to your isolation exercises, during bulking, you ought to be including compound exercises, including:

  • Deadlift
  • Squats (front and back)
  • Bent over barbell rows
  • Clean (and power cleans)
  • Snatches

Mass gainers and bulking supplements

Clean protein sources are still important when you’re bulking, but the added calories in mass gainers can help to push your weight up more easily. Typically, you’ll find that mass gainers are blended with different types of fast and slow-releasing protein, carbohydrates and amino acids. Here are a few of the things you might find included in a mass gainer:

  • A mixture of whey protein and slow-release micellar casein (which helps to build muscle while you sleep)
  • Oats (great for mixing carbs and protein)
  • Amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to prevent muscle breakdown and boost recovery

Bulking is all about trial and error, and being smart with what you put into your body. If all you’re gaining in fat and nothing positive is happening to your lifts, adjust the foods you’re eating to some of the ones mentioned, and keep up the hard work with plenty of compound movements.

Jonathan Naish

Jonathan Naish

Writer and expert