Every experienced athlete knows there’s a refined art to bulking up without packing on extra fat. With so much of the fitness world focused around ‘gains,’ it’s easy to see why gaining weight while putting on muscle was the most voted-in resolution by our TN customers in 2018. You asked, so we’re providing. This week, we’re breaking down the art of bulking up in the last part to our resolutions series.
It’s practically impossible to know how you’re improving if you’re not tracking vital information like workouts and meals or paying attention to your progress on your goals. If you’re not seeing any improvements, chances are something is going wrong in this area. Always be sure to review what’s working and what needs to go to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. To keep your gains lean, you want to gain at a rate of about 0.5-1 pound per week. If you don’t track your progress then you won’t know if you aren’t gaining at all or if you are gaining too fast and adding unnecessary body fat.
2. WATCH YOUR DIET
Adjusting the amount of food you eat is essential for bulking up — if you’re not eating enough food, you won’t have the additional calories you need to gain weight. But other dietary changes can help, too. For example, you’ll need more amino acids to build new muscle tissue. Shoot for a protein intake of 0.8 gram per pound of body weight. If you weigh 135 pounds, that’s 108 grams; if you weigh 180 pounds, that’s 144 grams. Animal-derived protein, such as the protein found in lean meats, nonfat dairy, eggs and fish, offers all the amino acids you need for muscle gain. Soy and quinoa also provide all the essential amino acids. However, you can get the amino acids you need by eating a variety of other protein-rich plant foods such as lentils, beans, whole-wheat grains and nuts.
Ensure you’re powering up with carbohydrates. Your body converts carbs from your diet into glycogen, which serves as a primary source of fuel for your muscles during tough workouts. To stay energized during tough workouts at the gym, you’ll need high-quality carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eat healthy fats, too — fat is a concentrated source of energy, so it will fuel your active lifestyle. Choose unsaturated oils, such as olive oil, as well as foods that are high in unsaturated fat such as nuts, seeds, avocado and fatty fish.
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3. HIT THE GYM
This may seem a bit obvious, but if you want to bulk up without gaining primarily fat, you NEED to workout! Most experts suggest hitting the gym and lifting heavy weights about four times a week. While we know cardio is hardio, don’t forget about it! Cardio is a great way to ensure you’re keeping fat at bay while you’re letting muscles come out to play. Just don’t overdo it or you’ll lose overall instead of gain. Lifting weights should be your primary workout with cardio coming in at least once or twice a week to keep it lean.
4. DON’T FORGET ABOUT RECOVERY
While seeing progress can quickly become addicting and skipping the gym can seem like torture, you need rest days. Rest days allow your muscles to actually grow and repair. Contrary to common belief, your body is hard at work on rest days and pushing it while it’s trying to repair itself can lead to the ultimate backfires: overtraining, difficulty sleeping, or even injury.
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5. FOCUS ON GETTING STRONGER
One of the best ways to know if you are gaining muscle is if you are getting stronger. While it is possible to gain strength without gaining size, for the most part if you are gaining strength you will gain size. There are few feelings better than breezing past the number of reps that used to make you tremble, so enjoy it!