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Eating and Training to get bigger – 10 rules on how not to screw the pooch (rules 6 to 10)

This is a continuation from the last article in this series where I am intending to outline 10 general  and uselful guide lines for anyone wishing to gain size in the gym.

Rule 6 – Bulking is a MARATHON and not a SPRINT.

This point gets lost a lot in the milieu of talk on bodybuilding forums and in the gym people talk about going on bulk or cut cycles lasting in the order of 8 to 12 weeks.  Whilst you can get outstanding results in 8 to 12 weeks on a cut the same can not be said on a natural bulk.  To add a lot of size naturally you one of the things you need to do is add a lot of rep strength and anyone who isn’t a beginner will tell you adding 20 kg onto your 10 rep max in an exercise takes a while.

Outside of the real world application of bodybuilding where steroid cycles are part and partial of the sport the whole 12 weeks of adding size doesn’t really make much sense.  Even in bodybuilding guys who really want to add a lot of mass come out of competition for months to years at a time to add lbs of lean mass whilst on any pharmaceutical aid that they can get their hands on.  In light of this observation I really fail to see the benefit of  short term bulks for people who truly want to get big.

To illustrate the point we will use a quick mental experiment where we will have three people bulking for 24 weeks.  In this experiment the rules are as follows.

  • Natural Trainees can gain 150g of lean mass a week.
  • Steroid Enhanced Trainnees can gain 300g of lean mass a week.
  • It takes Natural and Steroid Enhanced Trainees 12 weeks to get lean after a bulk.
  • For every week of cutting natural trainees loose 50g of lean mass.
  • For every week of cutting steroid enhanced trainees loose 25g of lean mass.

Trainee A – Natural Bulk and Cut – 12 weeks of bulking and 12 weeks of cutting (paying natural cutting fee).
Trainee B – Natural Bulk – 24 weeks.
Trainee C – Steroid Enhanced Bulk 12 weeks and 12 weeks of cutting (paying steroid enchanted cutting fee)

These rules obviously do not apply to reality in anything other than a general sense however natural trainees gain at a much slower rate and do pay a price in lean mass when cutting.  Steroid users pay a much reduced price due to the anabolic hormone levels.

If you look at the outcomes of our three conditions you can see what I mean when I say short bulk cycles make little sense for the natural bodybuilder or trainee who want to achieve an appreciable amount of size their will of course be some extra fat gain over a longer period but in the long run 12  or more extra weeks of in strength and size progress should attenuate any extra time needed to be spent cutting.

Rule 7 – Protein is important but not so important that it should be at the EXPENSE of other MACRO NUTRIENTS 


This old chestnut good old protein and it’s inexorable link to the world of weight training and bodybuilding.  It is one of the sacred cows of the body building world that you should be taking in enough protein A priori over all other macro nutrients.  One of the recommendations that get’s bounded about is at least 1g of protein per lb of mass.

So for a 200 lb man this would ride out to a minimum consumption of  200g of protein to get this amount of protein in you would have to eat 800g of chicken a day which could wind up being a very expensive habit.  Enter the protein powder to your rescue.  The statement that you require 1g of protein per lb of mass to make sure you gain mass is patiently absurd and when looked at in a skeptical light and juxtaposed with the existence of the supplement industry it is obvious where these recommendations stem from.

Research in this area has shown a reasonably consistent outcome that recommends an intake of between 1.4 to 2g of protein per KG of mass for strength athletes and weight training males.  I strongly doubt that the majority of people fall outside of this recommendation.

Carbohydrates and fats have been shown to have a number of very important roles in the body as regards protein sparing, high intensity exercise performance and hormone production to name but three and not to mention their deliciousness.

A balance dietary approach that will best meet your needs as regards to protein, fats, carbohydrates that adheres to a calorie input sufficient enough to support growth applied over time will provide by far in a way the vast majority of nutritional support you will ever need to gain mass.

Rule 8 – Bulking is not an excuse to go all dreamer_ on our ass.

Whilst I don’t think you should follow the uber-lean if I get fat then how will wimmenz see my jacked ab fibraz mantra bulking is not an excuse to get fat.  As we covered in rule 6 muscle gain and bulking are long term efforts to reflect this reality your weight gain should be equally long term.  Putting on 10 kg of “mass” in 6 weeks is a sure fire way to get fat.  There is much debate both using real and bro-science as to how much size it is possible for a natural trainee to put on over time.  Suffice to say whilst sparing this article the details it is not in the realm of lbs or kgs a week.

With this in mind excessive weight gain over a short period of time is highly likely to end up in excessive fat gain.  To help you counter act getting too fat whilst not hampering your strength and size gain you should set yourself some boundaries that you are not willing to exceed in terms of appearance or fat measures.

A simple rule you might want to follow is “I want to keep X amount of abdominal visiability during my bulk” or if you have access to body fat measurements you can use these on a week to week basis versus calorie intake how acceptable to you your weight gain is.

These approaches are just a couple in a sea of ways you can judge your bulk as in most things in weight training experience and getting out there and making your own mistakes and breakthroughs will be your best guide.     

Rule 9 – Supplements WILL NOT make or break your success don’t sweat it.

Just log onto any large bodybuilding website or forum or open a magazine and you will be inundated with a barrage of supplement advertisements.  Supplements are huge business and as a result command a massive advertising budget that is ubiquitous to anyone with even a passing interest in health and fitness.  Supplments make all kinds of claims yet are not legally bound up in the inconvenience of proving their efficacy in medical trials like drugs as such they aren’t required to do jack shit to go on the market.

“Health” supplements are entire comedy unto themselves if you wish to delve into this topic a good starting place is Ben Goldcare’s hilarious book and website bad science.  However for the purposes of this article we are interested in bodybuilding supplements.

The two big one’s being Protein and Creatine, now this isn’t to say they are not with out their uses protein powder can be used to supplement a bodybuilder on a budget however it isn’t a miracle worker and whilst creatine has been shown to have some efficacy it isn’t going to make day and night difference.  They are decimal place determiners in terms of performance and as such they require that amount of attention.

If we where allot time shares to what’s important you might want to spend 95% of your time on your trainning, diet and recovery (read sleep) and maybe spend 5% of your time on the things that won’t even make a big difference on your training and gains.

Rule 10Enjoying your training and consistency are above all the most important factors.

You can look at all the information online you want about training, diet and supplementation but if you don’t really want to train or you don’t consistently want to put in 100% into your training then you may as well not bother.

Only through enjoyment of the process of training and diet can you get good results consistently sure you can force yourself to train and eat right for a period but this only has a finite life span if yo-yo dieting is testament to anything it’s that life alteration that you don’t want isn’t a sustainable or successful intervention.

To this end only by taking charge of your own training and diet and doing things that make you happy or give your a sense of accomplishment or enjoyment will you really see sustained success.

Marc.