With summer winding down, it’s time to start pulling the sweat pants out of storage. Your beach body is going away for the winter. Bulking season is just around the corner.
Depending on your personality, bulking can either be the best or worst time of the year. Some people love being able to gorge themselves. Plus, you make the most gains in the weight room when you have plenty of fuel to burn.
Yet others spend bulking season forcing bagels down their throat just to meet their calorie goals. They feel sluggish and bloated, and the weight gain might make them feel a little self-conscious.
Regardless of which side of the fence you’re one, there’s a bulking tactic for you.
To put it very simply, all bulking requires is taking in more calories than you burn. How you get those calories is what separates clean bulking from dirty bulking.
If you hate the sluggish feeling that comes with overeating, clean is for you.
Take your basic maintenance diet of lean protein, and healthy fats and carbs, then just eat more.
If you’re looking forward to a nice winter hibernation this bulking season, dirty bulking means you can eat whatever the hell you want, as long as you meet your protein goals.
Dirty bulking is faster, and more fun, but the weight you gain will mostly be fat.
Just remember that come cutting season, you’ll have to work A LOT harder.
You will still put on a bit of fat while clean bulking, but the intention is to build up a solid base of muscle underneath.
But before you decide on your path, you need to know how many calories you actually need.
To do that, you need to start with your BMR, or base metabolic rate.
Finding Your BMR
Your BMR is essentially just how many calories you burn by existing.
Even though we’ve had the 2000 calorie diet drilled into our heads since birth, that’s not right for everyone.
Your size, sex, and age all play a part. Here’s the basic formula:
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
If you hate math like the rest of us, the internet is full of BMR calculators.
Finding Your Intake Goal
The number you have now is the amount of calories you would burn lying in bed for a day. Obviously, that’s not you. So we use what’s called the Harris Benedict Formula. Take your BMR and use the multiplier for the category below that describes you.
- Little to no exercise: BMR x 1.2
- Light exercise 1 to 3 days a week: BMR x 1.375
- Moderate exercise 3 to 5 days a week: BMR x 1.55
- Hard exercise 6 to 7 days a week: BMR x 1.725
- Hard exercise twice a day, or an extremely physically demanding job: BMR x 1.9
Once you have your actual calorie consumption, you need to added in your intake for bulking. A good rule of thumb is to add 250 to 500 calories. That will theoretically result in a half pound gain per week.
Choosing Your Macros
If you’re dirty bulking, the above number is all you really need. Just make sure you get 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per KILOGRAM (note, not pound) of body weight, and you’re good to go.
For clean bulking, you need to take it a little bit farther. 20 to 25% of your calories should come from protein. You can also use the dirty bulking formula, and that should get you to a similar amount.
For carbs, up your intake to around 60%. I know that might break some of your hearts, but if you try to base your calorie increase around fats, your gym performance will suffer. The rest should come from healthy fats like anything Omega 3’s and avocados.
Tip: Use a Macro-nutrient Calculator
I know a Big Mac is an easier way to meet your calories, but your body can’t run on special sauce.
Here’s the main separation between the two paths: Sugar.
If have a sweet tooth, consider the dirty method. You can treat yourself to a post workout donut (or a dozen). Just make sure you don’t develop a bad habit for the spring.
If you choose the clean route, avoid sugar at all costs. It very easy to meet your intake with empty calories, but you must resist. Clean bulking is about eating nutritiously and intelligently, but just eating more.
The Choice is Yours
In the end, how you bulk is up to you. You’re going to put on embarrassing fat either way. Plus, the season is short, so you won’t have time to damage your health if you go dirty. However, eating a dozen donuts whenever you want is a hard habit to break.
By keeping bulking season disciplined, you won’t get to march and find it impossible to scale back to a strict cutting routine. Choose wisely!