How to structure a bulking diet
A bulking diet or weight gain diet plan is set up so that you’re in a constant and increasing calorie surplus for the purpose of gaining weight.
In general, most people that seek out diet advice are generally looking to lose weight more so than gain it, so this is kind of a niche in strength sports and bodybuilding.
When setting up a bulking diet there are key variables to consider which we’ll look to go over and help you to put together your ideal plan to gain weight effectively and consistently.
The variables that we’re going to discuss are as follows;
- Baseline calorie requirements (BMR)
- Calorie needs as mass increases
- Macronutrient splits
So let’s begin…
How to work out your baseline calorie requirements (BMR)
I recommend using the following calorie calculator;
Enter your information and most literature now supports the use of Mifflin St Jeor’s estimation formula if you don’t know your body fat %. As such, select that option.
What it’ll show you is the volume of calories you need to take in to maintain your weight if you are to just be completely sedentary.
The figure it spits out is your baseline.
Alongside that, you’ll see the calorie requirements to maintain your bodyweight at relevant activity levels. If you’re looking to gain weight I would overestimate your activity levels.
So for me for instance, I’d use 3334 cals/day as my baseline calorie requirement to gain weight.
How many calories you want to consume is determined by how fast you want weight gain to be. Really we want to maximise growth at lower calorie levels and give ourselves the capacity to go up as body weight increases. That way, calorie jumps will be lower and we can make slight adjustments to keep gaining effectively.
Personally, I would start with a 250 calorie per day surplus on your BMR + activity level calculation, then log your weight daily and look for a trend over the course of a week. At the end of the week, if you’re not seeing any scale changes, then add another 250 cals and so on until you see incremental growth.
Your Calorie Needs As Mass Increases
As body weight increases, your calorie needs will vary. As you can see from the above calculation, one of the key variables is body weight.
So as your body weight increases, your calorie needs will increase just to maintain your weight, let alone add new tissue. This is a frequent reason why trainees plateau when looking to gain weight.
As a result of this, when you plateau, you will need to increase your calorie intake. I recommend then adding an additional 100 cals per day when you reach a point of a week without seeing any incremental weight gain. Then if you don’t gain, you can increase again and so on and so forth. It’s also worth regularly checking in with the calculation above to see if you’re still exceeding your BMR requirements.
Macronutrient Splits On A Bulking Diet
When you’re bulking, the volume of calories you’re taking in are generally pretty significant, as such, your macros will vary quite a lot from that when you’re cutting.
When cutting, you’ll generally from a bodybuilding perspective want to ensure that you’re getting sufficient protein and then keeping carbs sufficiently high so you have available energy. Our friends at biohackers lab have created a tool to help you determine your net carbs with ease. Our body uses carbs as its primary energy source, so we’ll usually keep this higher and reduce fats which have more calories/gram to control the deficit.
We’ll start with protein. If you have a goal weight in mind, we’ll take that goal weight and make your protein intake as 1g per lb of body weight if you’re a natural athlete (in this case we’ll assume so). So if you’re looking to get up to 200lbs, take 200g protein as your benchmark.
Each gram of protein is worth 4 calories, so if you’re consuming 200g protein, that’s 800 calories right there.
Now what we’d do is look at the remaining calories, so say you come out with an initial figure of 3200 calories, we take those 800 calories off leaving 2400. We’ll then take ⅔ of the remaining for carbs at 1600 calories. Carbs have 4 calories per gram just like protein so that would give us a carb intake of 400g and the remaining calories we’ll allocate to fats at 800 calories. Fats have 9 calories per gram, so we’d have just under 90g of fats.
That’s just a benchmark idea, depending on how you respond to different food sources and how easily you get food in will determine what you decide to attribute your macros at.
However, when you get up to high calorie levels, i.e. 4k+ cals per day, it’s very hard to do this in a “clean” manner. You will need to drink liquid calories, you will need to eat some junk, it’s just a part of the process.
So hopefully this gives you some insight into how to find the right info to structure a bulking diet for you. It has to be specific to you and your needs as no two metabolic rates are the same. Any questions, drop us a message or ask on the forum.