Bulking Meal Plan…..
To maximize the time you spend in the gym you need to back it up with quality nutrition. No matter how hard you train, if you do not eat properly and supply the body with the necessary calories and nutrients then ultimately you’re hindering your own progress.
You gotta eat to grow!
The foundation of this plan is a fairly typical mass-gain diet designed to help you pack 3000+ calories into your diet each day. Geared towards building lean muscle mass, it’s all about meals packed with quality protein.
Complex carbohydrates and essential fats.
The body building muscle building phase requires a strict high calorie/high protein diet and shouldn’t withhold carbs, especially during active cardio days.
Build muscle, not fat
There is a clear difference between getting bigger and getting more muscular. Ideally, we want to gain weight without gaining fat which means you can’t just hit the McDonald’s drive-thru to meet your calorie targets.
You simply justify eating stacks of junk food in an effort to stimulate muscle growth. Good, high-calorie dense foods include peanuts, peanut butter, raw oats, lean red meat, bagels and dried fruit.
With 3000 calories per day you should be able to pack on some quality muscle. You may find that you’re eating more food than you’re used to.
Healthy meals are generally less calorie dense, so you may need to increase your portion sizes to meet your calorie requirements.
Don’t avoids fats altogether. Walnuts, peanut butter, almonds, avocados, salmon and olive oil are all important as they provide the healthy fats that help your joints recover after a heavy workout. Aim to keep unhealthy fats, however, to a minimum.
Eat 6 (or more) times a day. Fuel your body with multiple small meals and snacks each day to keep your blood sugar levels under control and your metabolism steady, and to stimulate new muscle production. If your goal is to grow, don’t ever let your body turn to present body mass as fuel.
Working out your macros and bulking meal plan
Let’s first define macro-nutrients and bulking:
Macros are protein, carbs and fat. They are what your body needs for energy, recovery and day to day function, and each has a certain calorie value.
Protein and carbohydrate have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram. Alcohol is a fourth macro-nutrient and has 7 calories per gram, but for now we’re not overly concerned with this.
Bulking refers to the process of gaining body weight, preferably in the form of muscle mass. Bodybuilders tend to have two different approaches to bulking; the “eat everything” approach, which involves not monitoring calorie intake, and just eating virtually as much food as is physically comfortable.
This can yield excellent gains in muscle and strength, but brings with it a lot of added fat mass, often in as high as a 2:1 to 4:1 fat to muscle ratio. The method I prefer to use myself and with clients, (and which I think you’ll prefer) is a lean gaining approach.
This enables you to gain muscle, albeit at a slightly slower rate, but with much less in the way of fat gain.
Using this approach (depending on your starting point) you could bulk for 12 to 24 months while still looking lean and without fear of gaining an uncomfortable or excessive amount of body fat.
Step 1: Determining Calories
First step again is to calculate roughly how many calories you need per day.
Contrary to the cutting article, there will be no category for sedentary folks who do little to no exercise. If you’re not training hard at least twice per week, you’ll have a very hard time gaining lean mass, as your muscles won’t be being exposed to enough stimulation to grow. Here’s how to work out your required calories –
Part 1: Men
Take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 18, 20 or 22 –
18/ Multiply by 18 if you have a sedentary job and train hard with weights two to three times per week.
20/ Multiply by 20 if you have an active job and train hard with weights two to three times per week, or have a sedentary job but train hard with weights four to six times per week, or two to three times per week with additional high-intensity cardio sessions thrown in.
22/ Multiply by 22 if you have an active job and train hard with weights four to six times per week, or you’re an athlete performing multiple weights and cardio sessions weekly or even daily.
Part 2: Women
In my experience, women gain muscle much more slowly than men, mainly due to having lower levels of muscle-building hormones like testosterone. Therefore, going with the 18/20/22 figures would lead to excessive fat gain in all but the most active, genetically gifted females. Here’s what women should do
Take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 16, 17 or 18 –
16/ Multiply by 16 if you have a sedentary job and train hard with weights two to three times per week.
17/ Multiply by 17 if you have an active job and train hard with weights two to three times per week, or have a sedentary job but train hard with weights four to six times per week, or two to three times per week with additional high-intensity cardio sessions thrown in.
18/ Multiply by 18 if you have an active job and train hard with weights four to six times per week, or you’re an athlete performing multiple weights and cardio sessions weekly or even daily.
Step 2: Working Out Protein
Take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 0.8 to get your required protein intake per day.
If you read the cutting blog, you may be surprised that protein requirements are lower here than they were for dieting, considering we think of protein as the “Building blocks of muscle.” More protein = more muscle, right?
Not necessarily. The general consensus of the research suggests that you need around 0.8 grams per pound daily to build and maintain muscle mass. When cutting, we upped this to 1 gram per pound, as a lower calorie intake can cause muscle loss, so a little extra protein acts as a buffer.
Additionally, you will be hungrier when dieting, and protein has a satiating effect. As this is a bulking diet, your calories will be higher, so you needn’t worry about muscle loss or hunger, hence the 0.8 grams per pound recommendation.
Step 3: Working Out Fat
The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the following is almost an exact replica of the fat calculation from the cutting article. This isn’t a mistake, though there are some extra caveats at the bottom.
You need between 0.3 and 0.6 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight.
This should be largely based off personal preference, as provided you’re hitting a minimum of 0.3 and not exceeding 0.6, you’re okay. To determine what your ideal intake should be, ask yourself what your favourite types of foods are.
If you tend to err towards fattier foods, such as cheese, bacon, nuts and fatty desserts, then aim for 0.5 or 0.6 grams of fat per pound. You’ll likely enjoy a diet far more (and therefore be much more likely to stick to it) if you have more room for your preferred higher-fat foods in your diet.
If, on the other hand, you’re more of a carb-o-holic, and crave bread, pasta, crisps and pretzels, aim for 0.3 to 0.4 grams per pound. Your carb and fat intake will be inversely proportional, so the higher one is, the lower the other. Therefore, you can go lower with your fat intake in order to consume more carbs.
The only caveats to the above (though these are really minor details) is that athletes focused on performance and needing to recover quickly should keep their carbs high to moderate, so may fare better with the 0.3 to 0.4 grams per pound figures to allow for a higher carb consumption.
Large amount of muscle mass
Plus, for those of you who carry a large amount of muscle mass and have a higher bodyweight, your calorie intake will be fairly high. Carbs and fat are inversely proportional, so the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. Therefore, it may benefit you to go with 0.5 to 0.6 grams of fat per pound, so that your carbohydrate intake is a little lower, unless you want pretzels and rice cakes coming out of your ears.
Eating lots of carb-based foods with little fat can get monotonous, tasteless and become a chore, so adjust your macros accordingly.
Step 4: Working Out Carbs
The calculation for working out carb intake is the same for a fat loss diet, but clearly you’ll be working with different numbers. You’ll need your daily calorie target handy to begin with.
Take your daily protein intake and multiply it by 4. There are 4 calories in a gram of protein, so this will give you how many calories you’re consuming from protein each day.
Then multiply your fat intake in grams by 9 to give your fat calories.
Add these two numbers together, and subtract the result from the total number of calories you’re aiming for each day.
This will give you how many calories you need from carbs each day. Divide this by 4 (remember – carbs have 4 calories per gram) and that’s how many carbs you need each day.
Case Study 1: 140 pound female with a sedentary job who trains twice per week and prefers higher-fat foods –
Calories needed = (140×16) = 2,240
Protein = 140 x 0.8 = 112g
Fat = 140 x 0.5 = 70g
Protein and fat calories = (112 x 4) + (70 x 9) = 1,078
Carbs = (2,240 – 1,078) ÷ 4 = 290.5g
Daily Macros = 112g protein, 70g fat, 290.5g carbs
Case Study 2: 190 pound male semi-professional athlete, training multiple times per week at high intensities.
Calories needed = (190×22) = 4,180
Protein = 190 x 0.8 = 152g
Fat = 190 x 0.4 = 76g
Protein and fat calories = (152 x 4) + (76 x 9) = 1,292
Carbs = (4,180 – 1,292) ÷ 4 = 722g
Daily Macros = 152g protein, 76g fat, 722g carbs
Notes and Alterations
I have found that bulking is actually a more precarious process than cutting. Some people grow like weeds on a relatively low calorie intake, while others virtually need to be hooked up to an IV drip of liquid carbs to gain just half a pound of muscle. For this reason CLOSE MONITORING OF PROGRESS IS VITAL.
Take our athlete above. 722 grams of carbs per day seems like a huge number, and most normal people would struggle to eat that on a daily basis.
However, this guy is likely highly trained, burning a high number of calories each day, and using a lot of glycogen in the process. He still needs to be careful though — bodyweight, measurements and progress photos should be assessed once every couple of weeks.
If he’s gaining fat, he needs to cut his intake slightly (preferably in the form of carbs.) If his weight is stagnant or decreasing, he can increase carbs, fat, and possibly protein.
The same goes for the female trainee above.
How successful your bulk is also depends on where you’re coming from. If you’ve been on a severely restrictive, or low-calorie diet, you may need far fewer calories to bulk. Again, use your initiative to judge progress and make necessary changes.
One final point I will make is that total calorie intake is the most important factor and provided you’re hitting your protein and fat minimums you can tweak the diet to make it easier.
Using the athlete as an example again, hitting over 700 grams of carbs daily with only 152 grams of protein and 76 grams of fat could prove extremely difficult, unless he’s happy eating bagels, white rice and fruit all the time.
A more appropriate macro split, while still hitting over 4,180 calories may be along the lines of 200g protein, 600g carbs and 108g fat.
As with a cutting diet, these macros are also ranges, and needn’t be hit to the tee. I’ve aimed to provide a blueprint you can follow to design a productive, flexible bulking diet, now take these tools, go forth and build a beastly physique.
3000+ CALORIE MUSCLE MEAL PLAN
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #1 – Breakfast
- 3 whole eggs (cooked & scrambled)
- 3 egg whites (cooked & scrambled)
- 2/3 cup cooked oatmeal
- ½ tbsp natural almond butter
Approximate Calories = 520
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #2 – Post-workout
- Protein shake – 3 scoops
- With 400ml milk
- 1 large apple
Approximate Calories = 570
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #3 – Mid-morning
- ½ Cup Cottage cheese
- 1 cup blueberries
Approximate Calories = 150
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #4 – Lunchtime
- 150g Poached chicken breast
- 2 cups green salad + half an avocado
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
Approximate Calories = 550
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #5 – Afternoon
- Protein shake – 3 scoops
- With 400ml milk
Approximate Calories = 600
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #6 – Dinner
- 220g Grilled salmon
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 cup steamed vegetables/small salad with a drizzle of olive oil
Approximate Calories = 620
Bulking Meal Plan Meal #7 – Nighttime snack
- Protein shake – 3 scoops
- With 400ml milk
Approximate Calories = 480
To get you started, here is my list of the top ten foods to help you gain more muscle mass and strength to wards your bulking meal plan
1. Lean Beef
This should be a STAPLE of your diet if you want to gain muscle mass. Why? Because it is loaded with all sorts of things conducive to muscle growth.
On average, a three-ounce serving of lean beef is only 154 calories, yet it provides ten essential nutrients, including iron, zinc and B-vitamins.
More importantly, it provides your body with high quality protein (not all proteins are equal), and a high level of amino acid that works with insulin to promote muscle growth.
For those who are trying to lose weight, this should come as great news – a 3 ounce serving of lean beef provides roughly the same amount of protein as 1.5 cups of beans, but at half the calories.
2. Skinless Chicken
Like beef, it is an excellent source of high quality protein, which is important for muscle maintenance and repair, bone health, and weight maintenance. And of course, there are so many ways you can cook and prepare chicken.
Go down to the store and you can easily find chicken meat cut into single serving sizes that can be seasoned and quickly cooked.
3. Cottage Cheese
Not many people know this, but cottage cheese constitutes relatively pure casein protein. For those who don’t know, casein protein is a slow-digesting protein, which means it is perfect for muscle maintenance.
This is useful especially for guys who have no choice but to go long periods without eating. Not forgetting, cottage cheese is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, calcium, and other important nutrients.
My advice: buy the nonfat/low-fat versions.
Eggs contain high quality protein, nine essential amino acids, choline, the right kind of fat, and vitamin D. To sum it up, they are the most value for money. And please note, eggs are not harmful for your health, as numerous studies have already shown.
5. Whey Protein
There is a reason why whey protein supplements are the most popular supplement in the bodybuilding world: because they provide a fast and convenient source of protein at an affordable price.
Bodybuilders normally use them when they wake up, right after their workout, and mixed with some of their meals.
However, for those of us non-bodybuilders, simply using it right after our workouts can be very effective for muscle mass gains.
Do not rely on it completely though. It’s more important to get high quality protein from whole foods, and use whey protein as a boost.
There’s so much more about whey protein, if you want to find out more, click hereto read a comprehensive article I have written on how to best benefit from it.
6. Tuna and Other Fish
High in protein, low in fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The key here is omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential, not only for health reasons, but also because they improve fat loss and ensure the proper function of your body processes, such as your metabolism.
Oatmeal is an ideal source of carbs due to both its low glycemic index (GI) value and the fact it is minimally processed. The benefits of a low GI diet are as follows:
- Better micronutrient profile and more fiber
- Increased satiety
- Decreased hunger
- Lower subsequent energy intake (second meal effect)
- Fat loss
In short, enhanced fat loss for those looking to lose weight, and a constant source of carbs for muscle preservation.
8. Whole Grains
Whole grains digest more efficiently and provide more nutrients than refined grains, and as such promote sustained energy levels and overall health. For instance, brown rice can help boost your growth hormone levels, which are critical for encouraging lean muscle growth, fat loss, and strength gains.
9. Fruits and Vegetables
Firstly, fruits and vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants, which are essential for the healthy functioning of your immune system. Secondly, they provide tons of other nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.
Finally, your body requires the fiber these fruits and vegetables provide, which helps to flush out the substances your body does not need.
10. Healthy Fats
I know some of you shudder at the thought of consuming fats, but good fats are essential for muscle growth. In fact, they play an essential role in hormone production (testosterone and growth hormones) that is responsible for muscle growth and strength gains. Your metabolic rate is elevated as well, which helps you shed more fats.
In addition, fats are needed for many important maintenance functions. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the good fats. You can find them in salmon, other fishes, nuts, leafy veggies, oils such as flaxseed, avocados, and seeds. They are also all rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.