Bulking to Improve Performance
In most sports, athletes benefit from being bigger and stronger than their opponents. But what is the best way to go about bulking while still performing at your best? In order to gain muscle mass, you need to know what nutrients to put into your body, as well as how much. Simply eating as much as possible is a novice approach to gaining the lean muscle desired to improve athletic performance.
When should you Bulk?
Bulking should not be done while you are in-season. During this time your diet and training program should be focused on maintaining lean muscle. Bulking should begin at the start of the off-season. At the end of the season you should be at your leanest. Your body builds muscle most efficiently when its leanest because you’re far more insulin sensitive when you have less body fat. Insulin drives nutrients, including glucose and amino acids, into your muscles. Glucose as an energy source and amino acids to help repair and grow the muscles.
When your body is insulin sensitive it can more efficiently use glucose as an energy source instead of storing it as fat cells. With all this said, the best time to increase insulin levels (through nutrition) is around workout time. At this time, the muscle cells are more permeable to insulin and what it is carrying: glucose and amino acids.
What to Consume When Bulking
The goal of weight gain is to consume more calories then you burn. While it is tempting to eat all the unhealthy foods we tend to avoid while in-season, it is important balance your macros (fat, carbs, and protein). First, calculate how many calories you need using this calculator. This will show you how many calories to consume daily depending on how fast you want to gain weight. Once you have this number you will need to calculate your macros. See the below calculations, as well as example that follows.
Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram.
Protein: multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.8. This gives you the grams needed daily. Then multiply this number by 4 (calories per gram of protein) to give you needed calories from protein.
Fat: multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.5. This gives you the grams needed daily. Then multiply this number by 9 (calories per gram of fat) to give you needed calories from fat.
Carbohydrates: Add the total calories needed from protein and fat, then subtract them from the total calories needed per day. Divide this number by 4 (calories per gram of carbs).
170 pound male semi-professional athlete, training multiple times per week at high intensities.
Daily calories: 4,049
Protein: 170 x 0.8 = 136g
Fat: 170 x 0.5 = 85g
Calories from Protein and Fat: (136 x 4) + (85 x 9) = 1,309
Carbohydrates: (4,049 – 1,309) / 4 = 685g
Results: 136g protein, 85g fat, 685g carbs
Things to Consider When Bulking
Before bulking, determine how much weight you want to gain and how long you have to do it. Athletes trying to increase size and strength during the off-season often lose site of what they’re trying to accomplish. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just to gain weight, it is to increase athletic performance. Throughout the bulking process focus on recovery and flexibility. Don’t let your agility and mobility suffer as you strength. Rather use your added strength to increase the other aspects of your game.
Here are additional resources on methods of bulking, as well as other relevant supplementary materials.
Stretching and Flexibility by Elizabeth Quinn
The Essential Post-Workout Recovery by Brittany Risher