If you train mainly for muscle growth, it is quite possible that your training has a bulking and a cutting phase, in which you eat above and below your calorie requirement, respectively, in order to gain muscle mass and then lose fat. In both of these characteristic phases of your diet, you can make mistakes, which will result in sub-optimal results. What follows are four common mistakes in the bulk phase.
1. STARTING YOUR BULK TOO ‘FAT’
Before embarking on a bulking phase, ask yourself whether it is better to start your bulk/cut cycle with a cut. Your body fat percentage influences the (hormonal) response of your body to a bulk.
If you start bulking too fat, you will not reap the maximum benefits of this phase in terms of muscle growth. In addition, you will then be too fat from your bulk, and in addition to the kilos of fat that you have gained, you also have to lose the excess kilos with which you started your bulk.
Good: what fat percentage are we talking about? If your fat percentage (as a man) exceeds 15 percent, you can wonder aloud whether it is not wiser to cut first. This not only benefits the effectiveness of your bulk, but also makes the next cutting phase a lot easier.
Things are different for novice bodybuilders. In principle, as an (absolute) beginner you can body recomp, which means building muscle mass and losing fat at the same time. If you have a fairly high percentage, you don’t necessarily have to lose weight first – in the coming time you just do all-in-one! This is, of course, provided that you maintain a calorie deficit for a longer period of time .
Update 15-1-2021 : a scientific review by MASS calls into question the theory that you build muscle more easily if you start your bulk very lean (namely as a result of a better p-ratio). According to coach and scientist Eric Helms, there are good reasons to cut first and then bulk, but don’t expect that you will also build muscle more easily.
2. GOING TOO FAR ABOVE YOUR CALORIE NEEDS
Put in black and white, the goal of a bulking phase is to gain as much muscle mass as possible, whereby you have to take it into account that your body fat percentage goes up.
Of the total weight that you gain, you naturally want the majority to come from muscle mass. In principle, the more you eat during the bulk, the more (muscle) mass you gain. But there is a tipping point (also called the spillover point). Once you get past that, the extra calories you consume are practically all converted to fat. After all, your body can only grow so much muscle mass in a given time.
Many people think that during a bulk they have to go way above their caloric intake in terms of calorie intake, while 10-15 percent of your maintenance requirement is usually sufficient.
Yet, don’t be too afraid of calories either. As a natural bodybuilder it is inevitable that you will also gain some fat mass in the bulk. Eating too few calories is in fact even worse, because you will achieve little or no muscle growth and therefore train for almost nothing. And don’t forget that you also lose fat quite easily, much easier than gaining muscle mass!
And oh, use a calorie app – at least temporarily. You don’t create a measured calorie surplus of 10-15 percent on the gamble. But even then, it’s a matter of trial-and-error to find out which calorie level is optimal for you. To this end, you will have to continuously monitor the process and adjust it where necessary – see point 3.
3. NOT MONITORING THE PROCESS
As a natural bodybuilder you cannot ‘just do something’. A good bulk is a well-thought-out combination of training, nutrition and recovery, which you must also carefully monitor and adjust.
But how do you know if you’re on the right track? Whether you actually gain muscle mass and whether the increase in fat remains limited? That is a matter of measurement. It is best to use several indicators at the same time:
- body weight;
- progression of exercise performance;
- mirror image/progression photos;
- muscle and/or abdominal circumference;
- fat percentage.
4. BULKING TOO SHORT
Give your bulk at least a few months. Muscle growth is a slow process, especially if you have been training for years. In addition, it takes some time to find the right calorie surplus and training volume for optimal muscle growth (and minimal fat gain). It’s a shame if you start cutting when you finally have the right flow.
In addition, your body also needs time to recover from a cut and to undo metabolic adjustments. If you insert a minicut every other day, you will have much less time on balance to bulk effectively.
Again, accept that you will also gain some fat during the bulk and therefore temporarily not be in your best shape. Patience will be rewarded!