Whether you’re aiming to get stacked with muscle or tone up your body, your calorie intake and macros play a crucial part in what you achieve in the gym. Without the right approach to bulking, you could end up gaining more than you anticipated – leading to excess body fat.
If you find yourself piling on the pounds, your strength training could soon run off course, too. So, what’s the solution?
Working out your bulking macros.
Instead of taking a stab in the dark when calculating macros for bulking, we’ve put together this guide – saving you the time and hassle of working out your bulking macros.
But first, what is bulking?
Chances are, you’ve heard of these two terms before:
These are two common diet phases bodybuilders go through. During cutting, the aim is to shed body fat while keeping as much lean mass as possible.
While during bulking, the goal is to gain weight (predominantly muscle mass) while minimizing fat gain. However, in order to lose weight, you need to be working within a calorie deficit – while bulking is the opposite (calorie surplus).
Benefits of bulking
When we think of getting fit and hitting our body goals, gaining weight isn’t usually the first thing we look to. However, bulking is all about gaining muscle, not eating junk and gaining fat. But what are the main benefits of bulking?
- Increased lean mass
- Heightened strength and performance
- Easier to maintain weight
It’s not new information that fuelling your body with (healthy) food can better your performance in the gym. The more fuel your body receives, the better your workouts – equalling in reaching your body goals faster.
Typically, the more lean tissue you have, the better your body composition. Plus, when it comes to what’s more metabolic, lean mass comes out top – meaning your resting energy expenditure (RMR/BMR) and daily calorie intake increases.
Also Read: The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout
But what does that really mean? Put simply, you can eat more and maintain your size.
While it’s a little confusing to think that gaining weight can make you look more toned, muscle takes up 15% less space than fat and weighs more. Meaning you can get stacked, look toned and weigh more.
As we get older, lean tissue is linked with a lower risk of injury, faster recovery time and less risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
How to bulk
Eating more calories is just one part of building more muscle. However, we’re not talking about chowing down on junk food – we’re talking about the right bulk macros to see gains.
In order to get the most out of your bulking cycle, you’re going to need a combination of the following:
- More calories
- The right balance of bulking macronutrients
- Healthy diet and nutrition
- Strength training
While plenty of us understand the role that calories play in the amount of weight we either gain or lose, bulking macros determine the type of weight. We’re talking lean tissues vs fatty tissue.
This means that instead of pigging out on takeaways, your nutrition intake plays a crucial role in keeping your body running.
With enough fuel in the tank – in the form of healthy food – you’ll be able to workout longer, recover faster and cut down on fat gain.
A bulking cycle focused on quality, nutritious food is often called clean bulking or lean bulking – since the aim isn’t to gain fat. In comparison, a dirty bulk focuses on the number of calories over the quality of the food you’re eating.
How long does it take to bulk?
There’s a reason why it’s called a bulking ‘cycle’ – since this type of diet phase isn’t sustainable long term.
Many opt for 12-week blocks to cycle through each phase: Bulking, cutting and maintenance.
As to when you divide up these cycles, it’s totally up to you. However, many guys choose to bulk in winter, not minding the weight gain during this season.
How to calculate macros for bulking
How you choose to count your bulking macros is, again, totally your call. Although, many opt for one of the most convenient routes – such as fitness tracking apps and online macro calculators.
In order to get to grips with your bulking macronutrients, you need to know how your bulking macros are broken down.
1. Work out your bulking calories
Although it is possible to gain muscle during a calorie deficit, it’s unlikely you’ll gain a lot of muscle via this method. In order to perfect your bulking cycle, you need to be increasing the amount of food you consume.
Also Read: What Are The Best Protein Pills?
Start by working out your current daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. As a part of your bulking cycle, add a calorie surplus of 5 to 15% – promoting a gain of 0.5 to 1% of your body weight each week.
For most, this would be around ½ a pound to 2 pounds of muscle gain per week.
However, a bulking cycle isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. While tracking your lean bulk macros is key to gaining the right type of muscle, other factors also come into play. Such as:
- Starting body fat %
- Training level
- Plus much more
New to bulking? Don’t go diving in at the deep end. Start at a lower calorie amount and gradually increase your intake every 3 to 4 weeks. This will help you add a healthy amount of weight.
If you have trouble gaining weight or you’re starting off with a strong amount of lean muscle, you may need to hit those heavier calories.
2. Calculate fat needs to lean bulk
When it comes to gaining weight and building muscle, fat is needed to give our bodies fuel and support muscle growth/repair.
Bulking macros go beyond just stacking up on your calorie intake! We tend to calculate fat first since a set percentage is commonly used – around 30% of your calories.
For example: Let’s say you have 2,500 calories daily to bulk, your fat goal would be 83 grams per day (remember, one gram of fat equals 9 calories)
- (2,500 x 0.30) / 9 = 83 grams
However, if you were to go over this percentage of fat (30% of your calories) you could find yourself with more body fat gains, not the lean muscle gains you’re after.
While there are healthy and not so healthy fats around, fat itself is mainly used by the body for energy – meaning it isn’t as supportive as protein or carbs, for example.
With that in mind, it’s imperative to understand your own unique metabolic needs when handling a high-fat diet. As well as this, the type of fat you eat is important for your results.
Research has shown that saturated fats are more likely to be stored by the body, in comparison to unsaturated, healthy fats during bulking.
3. Determine protein needs for muscle gain
As we touched upon previously, protein serves a huge role in a bulking cycle. As a part of your bulking macros, eating enough protein is key to building lean tissue.
But that’s not all, since protein also helps to repair muscle damage and support existing muscle mass, meaning your body will recover faster post-workout.
In terms of bulking macronutrients, protein is the least likely to be stored as body fat – while also helping to reduce the likelihood of body fat increases.
So, how much protein should you have as part of your bulking macros?
This number is determined by your fitness level and existing muscle mass. The more muscle you have and the more you use it, the more your body will require.
According to studies, a high protein diet – anywhere between 1 to 1.5 grams of daily protein, per pound of bodyweight is recommended to support muscle growth and decrease body fat gain during bulking.
Here’s an example: A guy weighing 200 pounds would require 200 to 300 grams of protein per day, with 800 to 1200 calories coming from protein.
As a reminder: One gram of protein equals four calories.
There’s no need to follow this exactly, though, since it can be unique to you according to various factors.
4. Work out carbs for bulking
When you’re calculating your bulking macros, carbs are an important part of your bulking cycle.
Also Read: How to cut and keep your muscle
Much like fat, carbs can supply your body with energy during strength training, supporting muscle gain, recovery and preventing further muscle breakdown.
If you’re trying to work out your lean bulk macros, higher carbs could be ideal for weight gain. Studies have suggested that carbs are less likely to encourage fat storage when compared with high fat intake during a calorie surplus.
However, yet again, the number of carbs you consume can vary according to your individual needs and how often your use carbs for energy.
Here’s an example: A guy weighing 200 pounds who required 2,500 calories, 83 grams of fat and 200 grams of protein would require:
2500 calories – (83g of fat x9) – (200g of protein x 4) = 953 carb calories /4 = 238 grams of carbs each day.
Calculate macros for bulking
Calculating your bulking macros is just one step of the process. In order to hit your goals, you’re going to need to track your macros via an app that’s macro-friendly.
This type of tracking bulking macros requires accuracy and discipline. Keeping track of everything you eat and drink isn’t necessarily fun and is considered a habit you’d definitely need to get yourself into!
By tracking your macros for muscle gain, you can quickly identify how your macros are split daily – helping you to stay consistent with your diet and exercise.
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