Mass gaining, weight gaining, putting on size or bulking. Whatever the phrase you use there is one clear goal among these sayings. You’re looking at boosting those biceps and building some serious muscles. It could be that you’re bulking for winter so you shred down to that competition BMI rating, or simply just want the best and most convenient way of adding some additional size to your physique.
Other than the obvious of intensely working out multiple times a week, there is another addition you can add to your daily routine to give you the best possible chances of reaching your bulking goals, that being supplements. But which ones should you take and why? Explore all the wonderful possibilities below.
What is Bulking?
If you’re new to the gym and fitness world then this little paragraph is for you, if not, then skip past and get onto the supplements. So, to keep in short and sweet, bulking is the act of adding muscle mass through a calorie and macronutrient surplus. Everyone has different calorie thresholds, not just male and female but it can depend on age, weight, height and activity levels. In order to get to a calorie surplus you simply need to be consuming more calories than you are outputting, this isn’t just your maintenance calorie numbers, as depending on how much activity you participate in will depend on how many calories you burn through. For example, the recommended daily intake of calories for males is 2500 calories. This is simply to maintain body and muscle function, so if you burn 1000 calories while out on a run that day, you will need to be eating over 3500 to be in a surplus, hope that clears it up a little.
Someone who is on a ‘bulk’ is purposely eating more calories than they need to simply provide their muscles with a strong stimulus to grow with intense training. It’s important to note that gaining muscle mass is much easier while on a bulk if you also participate in some form of resistance training, otherwise this calorie surplus will just cause you to gain excessive weight. Although, when on a bulk don’t expect to maintain your leanness, you will add extra fat to your body as well as awesome muscle.
Bulking is often used by bodybuilders and physique competitors during their ‘off season’ to pack on as much muscle as possible before they start cutting and reducing their body fat percentage. The reason why they do this is when cutting you lose muscle mass too, so their aim is to gain as much as possible with the knowledge that some will be lost when cutting and reducing their body fat percentage ready for the competition.
Our list is comprised of the following supplements for bulking:
- Protein Powders & Carbohydrates
- Peanut Butter
- Creatine Monohydrate
- BCAA & Amino Acids
Right, now onto what you should be consuming if you’re looking at bulking up.
The most important out the lot is protein and carbohydrates, that’s why we’ve bunched them together. As we are sure you already know protein is responsible for maintaining and building your muscle mass, so having a sufficient amount of high-quality protein should be at the top of your bulking list.
Protein not only helps with repairing and rebuilding muscle mass, but protein also plays a vital role in energy production too. Studies performed on athletes have shown that protein consumption of those who take part in intense exercise should eat double the amount of the recommended daily allowance (Chesley et al. 1992 &), which is perfect for trying to be in a calorie surplus.
They also discovered that if an insufficient amount of protein is consumed can result in a nitrogen imbalance, indicating protein catabolism and slow recovery. (Phillips, 2014) Over time this could lead to muscle wasting, injuries, illness and training intolerance (Phillips (2011) & Phillips (2006). Certainly, something you don’t want to be happening when on your bulking season.
Carbs can be found in an array of food, from pasta to pizza and everything in between (Not just Italian food by the way).
Carbohydrates have strong evidence backed against them relating to an increase in sports performance (Cermak, 2013) and are optimal for energy uptake of the muscles (Keswick et al. 2018). Carbohydrates are needed for our bodies to replenish loss glycogen levels, which will result in fatigue, tiredness and the dreaded DOMS, if not adequately raised. Don’t think of this energy that carbohydrates provide as just energy for you to perform that extra rep, its also energy needed for your body to synthesize protein and repair your muscles.
So without carbohydrates, your body could struggle to repair your muscles, which would be an even bigger wammy if you’re not getting sufficient protein too. As we’ve talked about above, a calorie surplus can result in additional fat to your physique, so if you want to limit the amount of fat your body stores from this surplus, then its advised to consume your carbohydrates in and around your workout sessions, so your body can utilise them there and then.
Funnily enough, the hardest thing about the bulking life is actually getting sufficient calories in, especially if you’re trying to do it as healthy as possible. Yes, you could simply just eat a full box of crispy kremes but that’s not kind to your heart. So when on a clean bulking diet you can struggle to hit your calorie target without feeling completely bloated. This is where peanut butter comes in, the ultimate calorie craving killer, with additional nutrients too. Often by the end of the day you’re stuffed and tired but still need to squeeze in a few additional calories. Our peanut butter contains 564 calories, 44g of fat, 12.5g of carbs and 25.6g of protein per 100g.. That’s a heap load of bulking nutrients in a few spoonfuls, plus it requires no cooking or baking at all, just simply dive right in. Although if you love peanut butter, and we mean eating a full jar in one sitting, love peanut butter then you should venture for our loaded nuts creation. With unique flavour combination such as salted caramel cookie ocean and brownie deep choc dive, this won’t just become the addition this will become part of your daily diet.
Some additional nutrient information about peanut butter for you to dive into per 100g portion.
- Vitamin E: 45% of the RDA
- Vitamin B3: 67% of the RDA
- Vitamin B6: 27% of the RDA
- Folate: 18% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 39% of the RDA
- Copper: 24% of the RDA
- Manganese: 73% of the RDA
Creatine monohydrate can actually be found naturally in our muscles, and play a crucial role in energy production for high-intensity muscle contraction over a 1-10s period, perfect for any weight lifter. When we exert ourselves our muscles will convert ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) to energy leaving us with useless ADP (adenosine diphosphate), a molecule that must be converted back into ATP for you to maintain your effort.
Creatine allows us to convert ADP back to ATP by donating its phosphate molecule. Meaning the quicker we can convert ADP back to ATP the faster we can produce muscle contractions and the less we become fatigued. Which in simpler terms means we can produce more reps and make more gains.
Creatine can be found in numerous forms including powder and pills. It’s a very popular supplement for individuals who wish to not only boost energy levels but also increase muscle mass. Creatine is the most scientifically studied supplement on the market and has been found to promote greater training adaptations, and muscle hypertrophy allowing athletes to perform high-intensity exercises enabling them to train harder and longer, resulting in greater muscle gains (Volek et al. 1993 & Olsen et al 2006). It’s important to maintain creatine stores throughout the day, and as such why consuming it on a regular basis is needed to keep creatine stores at an optimal level. It’s said to consume around 3-5g of creatine daily to maintain these elevated stores.
Not only does creatine allow us to create more energy and produce more reps but it also draws water into our cells, giving the impression of bigger all round muscles. Because of this its key to staying hydrated while taking a creatine supplement.
Multi-vitamins won’t exactly help you build muscle mass but are very beneficial for your body to use them after a gruelling week of workouts. If you’ve been working hard enough in the gym you’ll be coming out dripping with sweat. This sweat actually contains vital vitamins, and therefore we need to replace them as soon as possible. Of course, we get our vitamins from the food we eat, but simply relying on the food that we eat is not sufficient as for the most part our diets vary every day, so we will be taking in different vitamins and minerals, rather than an optimal balance on the regular. As you’ll be maxing out your workouts and putting stress on muscles and joints you should keep these running like a well-oiled machine. Not having sufficient vitamins and minerals could be a result of injury and illness which would mean taking a few days or even weeks off from the gym. Now that’s something that nobody wants when on a bulk.
Aminos! The building blocks of muscles as we like to call them. Amino acids are awesome additions to your supplement stack if you’re seeking to improve your recovery rate. Improved recovery rates result in less time out the gym, less DOMS and bigger muscles, what isn’t there too like? Similar to creatine monohydrate amino acids can be found in the form of powders and pills and are available in a host of different flavours too. Usually compromising of amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine and valine. When we exercise at a high intensity our body can often go into a catabolic state resulting in it breaking down muscle tissue to produce energy, resulting in muscle loss, the dreaded bulking word. By supplementing BCAA’s and amino acids, helps to promote greater protein synthesis and reduced the chances of muscle loss as well as improving recovery by allowing the protein to be absorbed quicker into the muscle cells.
Medium Chain Triglycerides or MCT as it’s known on the street. A supplement often overlooked simply due to people not being sure what it actually is, so we’re here to give you the confidence in buying if you’re looking to boost that bulk. MCT’s are a special kind of fatty acid. It’s been used traditionally in medicine for years to help patients gain quality weight after an illness by adding additional calories, so its a very efficient way of boosting your macros by simply adding it to a shake or taking its straight.
Getting down to the science MCT contains a unique structure, containing shorter carbon bonds. This smaller size allows the MCT to be absorbed and digested quicker. Usually, the liver gives a helping hand to break down fats, but MCT allows your liver to take a well-earned rest as they can be metabolized within our muscles. It is known to be readily absorbed into your mitochondria and to be converted into energy through a process known as beta-oxidation (Jeukendrup et al. 1998) This rapid absorption means it puts less stress on your tummy, making it ideal for intra-workout calories and energy. It can often be hard to make sure you hit your macros day in day out, so MCT is essentially the cheat code to reach your fat and calorie numbers. When consuming MCT’s the energy is available within minutes, so for those who don’t enjoy the stimulating effects of pre-workouts, this could be your go-to energy boost.
Studies have found that supplementing MCT’s over a 2 week period with 60g serving a day improved running performance (Missel et al. 2010) and when combined with carbohydrates improved cycling time trial performance too (Goedecke et al 1999). Although these studies used a much higher dosage of MCT as prescribed which is not recommended as can cause stress on your tummy. You can often find MCT’s within mass gainer protein shakes such as ‘Total Mass Matrix’ but if you wish to take them separately for your own piece of mind they can be purchased unflavoured so you can add them to any muscle building shake. Easy as that.
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