Gaining size used to mean eating as much as possible, no matter the quality of the calories being put in. Today, with advances in sports nutrition we now know that a more measured approach is the most effective and healthiest way to bulk.
The success of your bulking is dependent on two factors: eating in a calorie surplus whilst ensuring the food you eat is healthy. A ‘dirty bulk’ will leave you with too much excess body fat and leave you feeling (and looking) bloated. It is therefore recommended you try to adhere to ‘clean’ bulking to get maximum results for your efforts in the gym.
When considering starting a bulk, it can seem a complicated process to achieve your desired results, maintain good health and enjoy a healthy and nutritious diet whilst still gaining weight. Worry not, we’re here to shed some light on the most effective approach to bulking and offer answers to the questions raised on what really consists of the best bulking diet.
Meal frequency is a key factor to a successful bulk. So, aim to eat around 6 calorie-dense meals a day and you’ll be smashing your goals and seeing those gains in no time! We’ve offered plenty of options for each meal below, so you’ve free reign to mix and match to build yourself a bulking diet that will help you to quickly pack on lean mass in the healthiest way possible.
Bulking Diet Tips:
Certain foods can really hinder your progress and affect your results, so it’s worth noting what to avoid as this can sometimes prove just as important as what to include in your diet. While it’s important to include a variety of foods, here is a list of certain things you should try to limit to achieve the best results possible:
- Foods with added sugars – sugar packs a calorie-dense punch however this comes with very little nutrients. Foods high in added sugars include chocolate, biscuits, ice cream, cake and sugar-sweetened beverages such as fizzy soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
- Deep-fried foods – yes, this may be a no-brainer but deep-fried food can promote inflammation and if you consume a high amount can lead to disease.
- High-salt foods – The amount of salt you consume has a direct effect on your blood pressure and makes your body hold on to water. This can cause a greater strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. So, it’s particularly worth limiting high-salt foods when engaging in strenuous exercise to reduce any additional strain on your heart.
- Alcohol – when consumed in excess, alcohol can adversely affect your ability to gain muscle mass and lose fat. It is therefore recommended that you try to reduce or limit alcohol during a bulk to get the most from your hard graft in the gym and diet.
You may also want to avoid certain foods before training that can slow down your digestion and cause stomach upset during your workout, these include:
- High-fat foods: High-fat meats, rich buttery foods and heavy sauces or creams.
- High-fibre foods: Beans, lentils, chickpeas and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.
- Carbonated beverages: Sparkling water or carbonated soft drinks
If you aren’t sure of how many calories you need for a successful bulk, this will vary based on your height, weight, age and activity level. The easiest way to establish your personal maintenance calories is by using a calorie calculator or fitness app to work it out from your statistics (age, weight etc).
Generally speaking, the guidelines state than 2,500 calories is sufficient enough for a man to maintain weight and 2,000 for women. However, when the goal is to gain weight, you’ll need additional calories and should begin with a surplus of +20% (approx 500 calories a day).
The Best Bulking Macro Ratio:
So how many of those 2,500 calories should consist of protein, carbs and fat? You may assume that 75-90% of those calories will be accounted for by protein. However, research now shows that the recommended ideal macro ratio should be split into a ratio of approximately:
Protein – 25%
Carbs – 40%
Fat – 35%
However, bear in mind this ratio is simply a guideline commonly used by people who have difficulty gaining weight. We suggest that if you follow this for 2 weeks and see no difference in your weight, then increase your calories by a further surplus of 200 calories a day and see if this has an impact.
4-Week Bulking Meal Plan:
Breakfast options – choose one from the following list each day
- 6 egg omelette with spinach (approx. 564 kcal)
- Large portion of protein granola, full fat milk and sliced banana (approx. 750 kcal)
- 1 or 2 bagels with peanut butter (approx. 380/760 kcal)
- Large portion of protein porridge with blueberries and 2 tbsp peanut butter or large handful of nuts (approx. 470 kcal)
- 2 Poached eggs, smoked salmon and avocado (approx. 550 kcal)
Morning meal/snack options – combine these to increase calories if needed
- TPW Loaded Legends (approx.185 kcal each)
- TPW TOTAL MASS MATRIX shake (approx. 496 kcal)
- Handful of almonds (approx. 595 kcal per 100g)
- Greek yogurt with berries, seeds and mixed nuts (approx. 455 kcal)
- Small portion of chicken or turkey breast, carrot sticks (or any other veg you fancy) and hummus (approx. 450 kcal)
- Apple with peanut butter (approx. 200 kcal) FYI: our TPW Loaded Nuts take peanut butter to a new level, just try not to eat the whole tub in one go!
- Chicken breast or turkey steaks, avocado, spinach and rice (approx. 700 kcal)
- Salmon fillet, sweet potatoes, broccoli and sesame seeds (approx. 700 kcal)
- Chicken breast, spicy salsa, wholegrain rice and mixed peppers (approx. 720 kcal)
- Vegetarian bean chili wraps with sour cream, guacamole and rice (approx. 900 kcal)
- Large baked potato (or sweet potato) filled with Tuna, sweetcorn (in light mayonnaise), avocado and a handful of grated cheese if you like (approx. 500 kcal)
Afternoon Snack options (select 1 or 2 daily depending on calories)
- Dark chocolate (approx. 65 kcal a square)
- TPW Total Mass Matrix shake (approx. 496 kcal)
- Cup of mixed nuts (approx. 640 kcal)
- Beef Jerky or Biltong (approx. 410 kcal) try TPW Beef Jerky, made from only prime selected beef and containing a massive 27g of quality protein.
- 100g sliced cooked chicken or turkey breast (approx. 140 kcal)
- 9oz Sirloin steak, chips or mashed potato, wilted spinach, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes and a fried egg (approx. 871 kcal)
- Tuna steak or salmon with olive oil, two sweet potatoes, avocado and quinoa (approx. 900 kcal)
- Lean mince meatballs, pasta and Bolognese sauce (approx. 600 kcal)
- Burger made with lean beef, on white or wholemeal burger bun, chips, cup of green beans (approx. 1450 kcal)
- Tinned tuna niçoise pasta salad with 2 boiled eggs, olives, feta cheese, new potatoes, avocado, spinach, pasta with olive oil-based dressing (approx. 600 kcal)
- Chili con carne with wholegrain rice (approx. 700 kcal)
Keep it interesting:
To give yourself an additional boost of nutrients and flavour, add a variety of veggies such as peppers, onions, garlic and chilies to any meal you like. You may also add sauces and dressings to add more flavour and variety to your meals over the 4-week bulk, however be selective with what you choose (avoid creamy dressings or sugar-laden sauces) and just be mindful of how much sauce or dressing you add!
How often do I need to eat when bulking?
Meal frequency is a key factor to a successful bulk. So, aim to eat around 4-7 calorie-dense meals a day and you’ll be smashing your goals and seeing those gains in no time! We’ve offered plenty of options for each meal below, so you’ve free reign to mix and match to build yourself a bulking diet that will help you to quickly pack on lean mass in the healthiest way possible.
Do I need to use a mass gainer?
While it’s possible to gain weight through diet alone, supplementing your diet with a high-quality mass gainer means that you’re able to easily create a controlled calorie surplus alongside a heavy hit of protein – our TPW Total Mass Matrix Extreme has a staggering 54g protein per serving!
Can I achieve the bulking results I want as a vegan?
Absolutely! There’s no reason why you can’t gain the same muscle building results if you are adhering to your macros and ensuring you’re consuming the necessary surplus of calories required for you. See our TPW Vegan 4-week Bulking Meal Plan, created by our TPW nutritionists to ensure you achieve your body and fitness goals.
How often do I need to eat to get the best results?
Increasing meal frequency is one of the easiest and quickest ways to increase mass. This method is also much easier on your digestive system by spreading your calories over the course of a day in six to eight small meals, as opposed to three huge meals. The key to successfully gaining mass is eating more, more often. This isn’t always possible on-the-go, so it’s highly beneficial to supplement your diet with the addition of a gainer such as TPW TOTAL MASS MATRIX shake for the very best results!
Bulking isn’t strictly for guys, right?
Absolutely not! It’s safe to say we’re officially in the era of ‘Strong over Skinny’, with more and more women looking to change their shape through fitness! For more information on female-focused gains, our TPW Bulking Guide for Women is packed with bulking tips for women to successfully gain muscle and achieve your desired body goals.
The Take Home:
Whilst consistency is undoubtedly key to achieve optimum results from your diet and training, it can be beneficial to include a ‘cheat meal’ or allow yourself what you fancy once a week. One meal will not undo your progress, just as one meal won’t add all of the weight you are working to gain. Bulking can be a difficult process to endure, both mentally and physically, it’s therefore a well-deserved morale boost and incentive to have something you really crave to look forward to. This will help to make the bulking process more sustainable and enjoyable.
It’s also worth noting that everybody is different and our bodies respond to diets and training regimes differently. It is therefore important to discover what works for you, your body and your lifestyle the best. Once you begin recording your progress and weight gain, you can adapt and alternate your bulking meals to suit you so don’t be afraid to experiment! It’s simply a matter of trial and error to find out what will work best for you and get you the best results.