Bulking Questions … and Answers (Part 3)

October 3rd, 2008 by

Continuing on with the answers to the following questions …

How long should I bulk?
How long do I have to bulk?

The first ‘it depends’ answer was to counter with the question of how much muscle do you want to gain?

To that we add the following:

2. How much muscle do you gain when eating in a caloric surplus and how much fat you gain when eating in a caloric surplus – or basically your muscle-to-fat-gain ratio. This basically refers to one’s partitioning ability – simply where the extra calories go. Does it wind up in muscle cells or fat cells? Ideally all of it would go to muscle, but sorry, not gonna happen. You might as well accept it now.

Now ideally at least more of the extra calories are partitioned towards muscle than they are towards fat. What affects this? First and foremost, genetics. Some people simply partition more calories towards muscle than others do. The less fortunate partition more calories towards fat cells than they do muscle. So on the one hand you might have someone gaining more muscle for a given weight gain and some gaining more fat than muscle (sucks!) for a given weight gain.

So we have things like the aforementioned genetics, higher-than-normal testosterone levels and other optimally ranged hormones (lower cortisol responses, healthy thyroid levels, etc) as well as good insulin sensitivity in the muscles.

Scientists refer to something called the p-ratio when discussing the partitioning of calories. The p-ratio is again, largely influenced by genetic factors and varies little within a person. Diet, training, etc (basically lifestyle factors) have the potential to influence it about 5-15% – not very much.

So, that tells us there’s not a lot you can do to shift your own innate muscle-to-fat-gain ratio (or even your fat-to-muscle-loss ratio when dieting) beyond the relatively small (yet hardly insignificant) effect nutrition, training (and drugs) has on it.

So we obviously get that diet and training should be on point during a bulk. From a dietary standpoint, you obviously need to be certain you’re eating enough to sustain not only the growth of new muscle tissue but the maintenance of it as well. This is one of the biggest pitfalls of those seeking out more muscle – they don’t eat enough. You can’t build a house out of sweat people. No raw materials? No muscle. Ample caloric intake is the biggest factor to be aware of.

Training of course is important as well, but the supporting growth factors – hormones, caloric intake, etc. – determine how much you can gain and support. Training is just a stimulus. Many think that because they’re training heavy and hard, the muscle is just going to come as a result. Again, it’s just a stimulus – if the supporting growth factors are not there, it’s just not going to happen.

Ok, so this ties into the next point:

3. How much fat are you comfortable gaining? This is going to be determined by one, how much over maintenance you’re eating and two, the aforementioned muscle-to-fat-gain ratio or how well your body partitions extra calories. For those with better partitioning ability, more of their new weight is going to be muscle and less is going to be fat, so they’re probably going to have an easier time of it. For those less fortunate, it’s going to be a different story. They’re going to gain more bodyfat for a given weight gain. How much are you comfortable with gaining? Remember, you’re going to gain some. Expect not to and I guarantee you that you’re going to look exactly the same at the end of your bulk.

These three points are really the determining factors of the length of your bulk – how much muscle do you want/need to gain, how much muscle/fat do you gain when consuming calories in excess of maintenance (a requirement), and how much body fat are you comfortable gaining along the way.

More next time