Bulking up: It’s a scary thought for many guys at the gym because it seems like there’s always a string attached. Everyone wants to add lean mass, but—and it’s a big but—a lot of us don’t like the idea of gaining bodyfat, even as little as a couple of pounds, which is the norm with most mass-gaining meal plans. Seriously, what’s the point of gaining 20 or 30 pounds if a good portion of that is fat? If you can’t see the muscle you’ve added, is it even worth having? In this case, we say no, which is why we provide you with the tools you need to add muscle while maintaining, not increasing, your current level of bodyfat.
The Question: How do I bulk up without adding unwanted pounds of fat?
The Answer: By being careful, precise and paying close attention to food timing.
Building muscle requires an increase in calories; that is, to gain weight you must eat more calories than you burn each day. But if you go overboard and eat too much, you’ll kick-start the fat-storing process. So the key is to eat just enough to facilitate the muscle-gaining process but not so much that you’ll add fat along with it.
One way to do this is by controlling portion sizes at mealtime. For most meals (not including postworkout), aim to get 40-60 grams of protein and 40-80 grams of carbs, depending on your size; bigger guys weighing more than, say, 225 pounds will shoot for the higher end. The meal plan on the following pages gives a guide to particular food portions that will get you to these gram targets. Dietary fat should be as low as possible, except for healthy fats (from nuts, olive oil, fatty fish), which can amount to 5-10 grams per meal.
Timing is Key
Meal timing is the other key to staying lean while bulking up. When you eat not only supports mass gains but also plays a pivotal role in controlling bodyfat levels. If you’re trying to gain only quality mass, increase the size of your meals at breakfast and after training. These are the two times of day when muscles crave more calories and nutrients—at breakfast because you’re nutritionally depleted after a night’s sleep, and post-workout because the stressed muscles are in dire need of replenishment to jump-start the recovery process. Providing the body with what it can put to use during these windows facilitates optimum growth and keeps bodyfat levels down.
In short, smart growth—muscle sans bodyfat—is contingent on manipulating calorie intake. Yes, you have to eat more to gain mass, but when you eat more can determine whether you’ll gain fat or muscle. If you stick to a large breakfast and a substantial post-training meal and evenly divide your other meals into smaller portions, you can boost your total caloric intake, ensuring that those extra calories go to the muscles when they need them.