That time which every weight lifter feverishly anticipates while trudging their way through “cutting season”, despite the physiological and psychological dangers bulking inherently possesses.
When done correctly, bulking can be an extremely effective strategy for getting jacked.
Things don’t usually work out this way, though, as bulking often becomes a crutch that is leaned upon in order to justify a number of silly and downright illogical behaviors.
When placed in certain contexts these logical fallacies are quite humorous. I should warn you, though, that seeing their humor will likely require the ability to laugh at yourself since most of us have been down the road we’re about to journey…
The road of bulking hilarities.
Cardio Slowly But Surely Vanishes, Not to Return Until Cutting Season Officially Begins…Again
When bulking first commences cardio is a necessity that naturally exudes from the habit of frequent conditioning work that has been forged during the prior months spent leaning out. Besides, the goal isn’t just to add mass, irreverent of what said mass is composed of.
We’re trying to pack on pure, unadulterated, fat-free, lean muscle sexiness.
After spending months cutting fat in preparation for a cycle of bulking we know all too well how much discipline and effort is required to bring our body fat percentage down to an impressively low level. We can even get obsessed about it and start putting time frames on our fat gains:
“Let’s see…It took me 25 weeks to lose 20 pounds of fat…Carry the 1…
That means it’s going to take me an average of 1.25 weeks to lose every pound of fat that I gain while bulking!”
Ergo, cardio starts off as a high priority because at this stage in the game there’s no way we’re going to put on any more fat than is absolutely necessary.
Inevitably, as the weeks pass, sprinting, jumping rope, and even a quick-but-effective round of finishers, will become seen as unnecessary nuances that will have been significantly reduced or cut out of our training regimens altogether.
The elimination of cardio doesn’t happen overnight. It begins by using bulking as the justification for skipping a cardio session or two:
“It’s cool if I skip my sprinting session today. I’m bulking. Heck, it might even help me put on a little more muscle.”
Skipping a few cardio sessions doesn’t seem to wreak too much havoc on our waistlines, so we skip a few more. Before we know it, what started out as 4 or 5 weekly conditioning sessions has now dwindled away to being a measly 1 or 2 sessions per week.
To put it another way, at this point cardio has become an implement that’s used only when it’s convenient. And who are we kidding?
When is cardio ever convenient? Like, never.
So it rides off into the sunset, never to be heard from again until the fat-hoarding damage it would have helped to prevent has accumulated en masse and blocked out our ab muscles with layers of new “insulation”, forcing us to announce that bulking season has officially ended.
While Bulking, All Foods Suddenly Possess the Power to Get You Jacked
People are really good at justifying poor nutritional decisions.
I’ve listened to absurd proclamations about ice cream being healthy because it contains calcium all the way down to fried chicken being good for you because it’s high in protein.
While schooling Link on the subject of “grindage”, Stoney was able to ingeniously place Milk Duds, Sweet Tarts, Corn Nuts and a frozen burrito into 4 basic food groups. Besides being a great scene from one of my favorite movies, Stoney’s justifications weren’t all that ridiculous when compared to the dietary logic being applied by people today.
Gluten-free foods are often touted as being healthy simply on the grounds that they don’t contain gluten. However, all that can be really be deduced by such a label is that it doesn’t contain gluten. That’s it.
Gluten-free foods can still contain health threatening ingredients.
For example, Fruity Pebbles may be gluten free, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you or that it deserves to be viewed as a healthy or nutritious meal option. It still contains hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial flavors and coloring agents.
Believe me, I wish it weren’t so. I love me some Fruity Pebbles.
My romance with Fruity Pebbles notwithstanding, my professional integrity requires me to recommend exercising caution before eating any brand of cereal – or feeding it to your kids.
Within the context of bulking, spouting these kinds of nutritional heresies can be especially dangerous, because insulin and protein having anabolic properties allows us to justify the limitless consumption of any carb-heavy or high protein food.
When viewed in this light, Cheez-Its, Twizzlers, french fries, meat lover’s pizzas, sodas, and even Fruity Pebbles, inherently possess the power to get you
So long as you can get past the thought of pumping your body full of artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients and refined sugars – and the inherent risk of gaining 5 pounds of fat for every pound of muscle, becoming insulin resistant, and encouraging the onset of heart disease and cancer – I guess you could say that just about any food eaten in high enough quantity can get you jacked.
Bulking Cheat Meal Obscenities
Cheat meals can already be pretty ugly when we’re cutting fat and the obscenity of what goes into our mouths only gets further out of hand when bulking.
After church this past Sunday I helped myself to an estimated 1,500+ calorie meal in the form of:
- 3 massive pancakes (oh, and did I mention they were covered in strawberries, strawberry puree, whipped cream and powdered sugar?)
- 3 eggs (you know, to make sure there was some version of “healthy” in the meal)
- 3 strips of bacon (because everything’s better with bacon)
- And a few bites of my wife’s double bacon cheeseburger I snuck in while she took our daughters to the restroom (Hi baby!)
With the capacity I have for shoveling food down my esophagus, it’s any wonder I put on sixty pounds of fat in just 3 years back in college.
And I put down all of this while I’m currently working on cutting a final 10 pounds of fat from my physique before “beater season” arrives (FYI: I only had one more meal later in the day to make sure my calories stayed under my daily limit of 2,100).
And about “beater season”…
Yes, I admit it. Once the month of May arrives it will be almost impossible to discern my wardrobe from Kid Rock’s.
If I’m not heading somewhere in which going sleeveless would be considered a breach of etiquette, you can bet that’s what I’ll be doing.
My summer season, wife-beater-wearing tendencies aside, the kind of cheat meal I took to the face on Sunday becomes common fare when bulking, because it’s dangerously easy to justify these kinds of gluttonous moments.
When trying to put on mass it stands to reason that eating well past your heart’s content can only help, right?
Well, yes. If you’re okay with adding 3 times more fat than muscle, then have it, Haus.
Keep in mind, though, that the body doesn’t require an excess of thousands of calories to build muscle. In fact, it doesn’t require much of an excess at all.
It requires what it requires (that’s deep, I know) and eating beyond that is more likely to spill over into added fat gain than it is to pack on any more lean muscle mass to your frame. In other words, your body only really needs a small amount of nutrition above maintenance level to build muscle.
Eating more than that isn’t going to do a whole lot to speed up the process, and whatever muscle building benefit you may experience will be overshadowed by equal or greater gains in fat mass, ultimately causing bulking season to end prematurely.
This scientific truth has been lost on bulkers for decades (or, more likely, conveniently ignored).
The guilt that would otherwise accompany gorging on pizzas, cheeseburgers, strawberry pancakes, Frosted Flakes, Jelly Bellies, Snickers bars and ice cream can instantly be vanquished with the following phrase:
“It’s okay, I’m bulking.”
Daily Calorie Needs Increase by Infinity…Overnight
I know all about this one. I still remember the first time after getting lean and ripped that I decided to bulk.
The goal was simple: add 15 pounds of muscle without losing too much definition in the process – and I wanted to progress at a rate of at least a half-pound every 4 days. (Don’t judge. I told you this was my first time bulking.)
I was trying to keep things simple.
Simple goals can be extremely effective. But even the simplest of goals are impossible to realize without the right strategy for achieving them.
I can admit it. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing during that first bulking cycle. My strategy consisted of weighing myself every 4 days to make sure I remained on schedule with my gains.
I was making sure to go heavy on the protein at a clip of about 300 grams per day. Other than that I would simply eat when I was hungry, with no concern of where my calories were coming from, or how many I was ingesting.
All of that quickly changed. Well, sort of.
My first weigh-in was disappointing. I looked down to see a 0.2 pound gain (less than half of my goal of 0.5 in that first 4 days).
I decided right then that it was time to get serious. No more messing around!
It was time to double-down and, as Stoney so eloquently put it, start filling the furnace, stuffing the cheeks and packing the gills.
And that’s exactly what I did. The next eight weeks were spent stuffing my face from morning to evening.
I was pounding back granola bars, McChickens, Pop-Tarts and Oreos like Joey Chestnut puts down hot dogs.
I wouldn’t be bothered with such pesky nuances as tracking my calories, so I have no idea how many calories I was actually ingesting. I just know it was enough for me to pack on 18 pounds in just over 2 months.
My six pack had disappeared by week 5 and I longed for having my ripped physique back. My self-confidence and self respect had taken a hit and I wasn’t proud of any part of what I did (or how I did it).
Over the years – and many more subsequent attempts at bulking – I have learned how short-sighted and foolish I was. Others, however, are not so quick to learn from their mistakes.
See food diets are extremely common among bulkers – experienced and inexperienced alike.
As such, it has been well said that “nobody knows what a clean bulk looks like because it has yet to be done”.
Guys like The Rock would disagree, but there is a portion of truth to this statement, nonetheless.
In the quest for maximum muscle the temptation to become overzealous in this pursuit is far too easy to succumb to. Falling prey to the temptation to build muscle at breakneck speed has, unfortunately, ushered a number of poor saps into dangerous steroid use.
Fortunately, though, it usually just leads to excessive nutritional modifications that are inevitably followed by temporary health regression, disappointing fat gains and a prompt reversion of course from bulking back to cutting.
Humanity’s Bulking Woes Will Inevitably Continue
Bulking is viewed as a necessity for the vast majority of men (and many women) in order to expedite the development of what they’d consider to be their ideal body. Unfortunately, bulking tends to lend itself to poor nutritional discipline and detrimental changes to one’s training plan.
As Dom from BroScience put it (explicit content warning – click link at your discretion):
“Bulking is a term that’s used to justify your lack of discipline.”
No matter how good our intentions, falling victim to the discipline-killing psychological conundrums I’ve outlined above has been the fate of many a bulker – and it will without a doubt be the fate of many, many more.
How do I know? Because our natural desire to look our best – combined with our seeming inability to grasp the value of delayed gratification – will continue to dictate that…
When bulking commences, hilarity ensues.
What do you think? Leave me a comment below to share your experiences with bulking and join the conversation.
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