Whenever I start talking about bulking, people always have a lot of questions because it seems completely counterintuitive to anything you would ever do. Like, why would you intentionally increase calories and want the scale to go up? If you think reverse dieting is like mind-blowing, then bulking is like the next level. The goal of fitness is to get smaller and to lean out and to lose fat and to lose weight and bulking is the exact opposite of that. So we're going to talk about bulking today, what it is, when you should do it, how you know that you're ready for it? What does the process of bulking look like? And what are some of the big mistakes that I see people making with bulk making it when they go into a bulk or some of the biggest worries or concerns that I see coming up when somebody goes into a bulk? So in order to have this conversation around bulking, we have to understand what it is and what it is not.
- Bulking is not just eating whatever you want (4:26, 8:10, 18:00)
- Metabolic adaptation. (6:39)
- Adding muscle is the goal of the bulk. (15:01, 23:07)
- Things to consider before going into the process of bulking. (9:36)
- Struggles in bulking and how to get away from these. (31:27)
I hope that I inspired some of you to consider doing a bulk to get started. Indeed, bulking is a totally new experience for most women. And I'm so glad that I took the time to do bulk, I got so much stronger, I gained that muscle. And it was a really empowering process to be able to intentionally fuel my body extra so that I could be building that muscle. And it really has made a difference in the long run. We all know that building muscle is the only way to increase your metabolic rate. And taking that time to build those muscles just sets you up for such long term success because you are increasing that metabolic rate and, and putting on that lean muscle mass. There is this real value in your younger years building that reservoir of strength, building that reservoir of muscles so that as you age, you are still left with enough that you can perform your activities of daily life and be able to live a happy and active lifestyle, even in older years.
You're listening to Biceps after Babies radio episode number 94.
Hello and welcome to Biceps after Babies radio. A podcast for ladies who know that fitness is about so much more than pounds lost or PRs. It's about feeling confident in your skin and empowered in your life. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke, a registered nurse, personal trainer,
online fitness coach, wife, and mom of four. My guests and I will excite and motivate you to take action in your own personal fitness as we talk about nutrition, exercise mindset, personal development, and executing life with conscious intention. If your goal is to look, feel, and be strong and experience transformation from the inside out, you, my friend are in the right place. Thank you for tuning in, now let’s jump into today’s episode.
Love to see rates and reviews for the podcast 0:47
Hey, Hey, Hey, welcome back to another episode of Biceps after Babies radio. I'm your host Amber Brueseke and today we're going to talk about a subject that I love and that is getting strong, building muscle and specifically bulking but before we dive into that topic today, I just want to say a big huge thank you to those of you who have left a rating and review for the podcast on iTunes. That helps the podcast grow immensely. And so thank you if you've taken the time to leave a rating and review on iTunes. And if you haven't yet, and you're enjoying the podcast, will you please take the three minutes to scroll down to the bottom of the Biceps After Babies podcast page on iTunes and just hit that rate and review button and let us know what you think about the podcast. It really helps us to have those ratings and reviews on iTunes. It just helps more people to be able to find the podcast and be able to listen in as well.
Milestone no.1: Episode 100 coming up! 1:40
And on that note, we are actually approaching a very big milestone. Two big milestones in fact. One, we're coming up on the hundredth episode of the podcast which feels amazing because two years ago, when I started the podcast, you know a hundred episodes felt like a long way away and honestly I was kind of like am I gotta have enough things to talk about for a hundred? Another hundred episodes? Apparently, yes, apparently, yes, I will have plenty of things to talk about. And I still have lots more ideas for the future. So we're coming up on that hundred episodes, the team and I are working out some fun things that I think will be exciting. And we'll be sharing with you showing those with you shortly. We have some giveaway ideas, and we have some ways to get you involved in the podcast. So heads up something. We'll be talking about that a little bit more coming here soon.
Milestone no.1: An amazing half a million downloads! 2:28
And then the second milestone that we have coming up is we've almost hit half a million downloads, like what the what, how amazing is that? So that is a huge milestone for us. And we're definitely celebrating that milestone over here at team Biceps After Babies and I really just want to say a big shout out and thank you to you. The podcast is successful because you make it successful. You come back week after week and you listen to the episodes. And even more importantly than that you share the episodes with your family and your friends and your social media on your social media platform. And that means the world to me, so we are over here celebrating half a million downloads and we couldn't have done it without you.
Questions about bulking 3:05
So, now we're going to talk about a subject that I don't think gets talked about enough. It's this subject that people I think are really curious about, like, whenever I start talking about bulking, people always have a lot of questions because it seems completely counterintuitive to anything you would ever do. Right? Like, why would you intentionally increase calories? Why would you intentionally want the scale to go up? If you think reverse dieting is like mind-blowing, then bulking is like the next level, right? It's like, totally the antithesis of everything you've been taught your entire life about. The goal of you know, fitness is to get smaller and to lean out and to lose muscle or not to lose muscle, to lose fat and to lose weight and bulking is the exact opposite of that. So we're going to talk about bulking today, we're going to talk about what it is when you should do it, how you know that you're ready for it? What the process of bulking look like? And what are some of the big mistakes that I see people making with bulk making it when they go into a bulk or some of the biggest worries or concerns that I see coming up when somebody goes into a bulk? So in order to have this conversation around bulking, we have to understand what it is and what it is not.
Intentional bulking 4:26
So, bulking is not just eating whatever you want. That's not bulking. Yes, that will put you often into a caloric surplus if you just like to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, like eat the house and just eat all the things. Yes, that may put you into a caloric surplus, but intentional bulking is not just having a free for all with food. Intentional bulking is a process by which you go into a caloric surplus in order to maximize muscle gains. And so in order to understand this concept of a caloric surplus we have to understand the vast range of your metabolism and where your intake can be in reference to your metabolism.
What to know about our metabolism. 5:09
So our metabolisms, it's really important to understand that your metabolism is not static, your metabolism cannon does change and we attempt to recompose your body to lose fat to gain muscle by working around that metabolism. And so when we talk about going into a cut, what we are saying is you are going into a caloric deficit meaning you are eating fewer calories than you are burning. And I have lots of podcast episodes about cutting I have a lot lots of podcast episodes about you know, using macro counting to lose body fat and that's what a lot of people find me for and when I coach a lot of my clients through inside of macros 101, so if you're looking for podcast episodes on cutting, a couple that I would recommend is Episode 2 where I talk about how to count macros, and then Episode 71 and I talked about a lot of the weight loss mistakes I see when people are going into a cut and going to try and create that caloric deficit. So we'll link all of these episodes. I'm going to reference quite a few episodes in this episode. So prior episodes that I'm going to reference. And I will link all those up in the show notes. So if you go to www.bicepsafterbabies.com/94, which is the show notes for this page, or for this episode, that page will have all of these episodes that I'm referencing, so if you're interested in learning more about a cut Episode 2, and Episode 71. Now, when you know, you don't want to stay in a cut for the rest of your life. That's not the point. We don't want to stay in a caloric deficit.
Metabolic adaptation 6:39
And during a cut, oftentimes what will happen is something we call metabolic adaptation. And that is where your metabolism actually adapts to the food that you are feeding it, meaning if you have decreased your caloric intake, your metabolism over time will adapt down to come and meet that intake. And when that happens, you will see a plateau with your weight loss and so an important part of the process is what is called reverse dieting and reverse dieting, which I talked about in Episode 9 and Episode 42 is this process by which you slowly add calories back to bring your metabolism back up to a maintenance amount. And so you can imagine, you know, a cut is creating a caloric deficit, a reverse is to bring those calories back up to maintenance.
What happens during maintenance? 7:25
And at maintenance. It's just like it sounds like you're maintaining, right you're maintaining your weight, you're maintaining your muscle mass, you're maintaining your inches like you're just you're maintaining, it's not losing, it's not gaining, you're just maintaining, and I also have some podcast episodes all-around maintaining. So Episode 79 is about adjusting your macros for maintenance, Episode 76 is about how long you should cut and the cycles of weight loss that you go through with that cut and reverse and maintaining the cycle. And then Episode 72 where I talk with Heather Robertson and then she talks about this idea of maintenance mode. And that's called losing half her body weight with Heather Robertson. So I have those podcast episodes all about maintenance.
And then there is like the forgotten stepchild, the one that very few people talk about or ever go to, and that is bulk. And so bulk is going above that maintenance going into a caloric surplus. And you might be wondering, Why the heck would you ever do that? Like, why would you ever do that intentionally? Sure, yeah. Maybe you go to a party and you like to eat extra calories. But why would you ever do that intentionally? And the reason is, is because our body needs calories in order to build muscle. In order to create muscle tissue and build that muscle tissue, our body needs calories. It has to have those calories to build. And so while yes, you can have some newbie gains when you're starting to lift weights and you're eating in a caloric surplus, or at maintenance. There comes a point that your body is not going to add any amount of muscle without you actually putting yourself into a caloric surplus. And so that is where bulking comes into play is when you're looking to really increase the amount of muscle mass that you have on your body. At some point, eating at maintenance won't be enough, like your body won't be able to build that muscle. And at that point is, in order to continue to build muscle or add muscle onto your body, you will need to go into a caloric surplus and that is what we call a bulk.
When in the appropriate time to bulk and how? 9:36
And so then the question for a lot of people is like well, when should I bulk, when is the appropriate time to bulk and when to how do I know when it's time to go into one? Now, I want to preface this with like you can go into a bulk at any time. At any point on your journey, you can decide that I want to go into bulk and you put yourself into a caloric surplus and you go into a bulk. It's not wrong to go into a bulk at any time. But having worked with lots of clients, and having done it bulk myself, I will say that there are a couple of boxes, I think that is really good to tick before you go into this process of bulking.
Maxed out muscle gains at maintenance before going to a bulk 10:11
So the first thing that I would recommend is that you will have already maxed out the muscle gains that you can have at maintenance. So I typically encourage my clients to, you know, most people come to me for a cut, they want to lose fat. And so we go through that process, go through the reverse, get them to maintenance, and then I usually tell my clients to hang out at maintenance and to, you know, see how much muscle gains you can get while lifting and eating at maintenance. Because you will always be able to build more muscle at maintenance, then you will be able to build in a deficit. Right and you can understand how that is like building muscle takes energy from your body. And if your body is in a caloric deficit, and it has all of these other essential features like pumping your heart, having your brain function, it's going to prioritize those things over building muscle. And so you'll always build more muscle at maintenance and you will ever build in a caloric deficit. And so I encourage my clients to sit at maintenance, like hang out on maintenance, eat intentionally at maintenance, and focus on, you know, getting a routine with the gym. Focus on maximizing muscle gains that you can get at maintenance before going into a bulk.
Go through the cut process first before bulking 11:22
And there are two reasons for this, one is I think it's really valuable. First of all, I think it's really valuable to have gone through the cut process before going into bulk for most people. And the reason I say this is at the end of bulk you will likely need to go into a cut because and we'll talk about the process of bulk but with adding calories and adding muscle you are going to inevitably add some fat to it. And likely at the end of the bulk, you're going to want to go into a cut and to strip off some of that fat. And what I find is that mentally, it is easier for women to feel confident that that process is going to work, like stripping off the fat, if they have already gone through the cut, reverse maintenance process. They've already seen it work, right, they already know that they can do it, they already have gone through that process like they have experienced it. And I think that builds up a certain amount of trust but the process is gonna work, that they can, that they can do it in the future.
Bulking ain't easy 12:22
The second reason I think that's important is that bulking is hard. Like bulking is hard physically, it's hard mentally, and it's not for everybody. And if you really are serious about adding muscle mass to your body, I think there's a lot of value in first being at maintenance and being intentional at maintenance. Because I can't tell you the small fractional number of women that I ever work with that have ever intentionally aimed at maintenance and like been intentional about it. Right. We're intentionally maintaining. And if you haven't ever done that before, I think it's a really important part of the process to eat intentionally at a higher caloric intake. So much of society tells you that you should always eat less, right that it's all about eating less. And you know that that's how you should live your life is just like trying to eat less and less and less. And kind of bucking that trend or bucking those beliefs that maybe you've grown up with and intentionally eating more calories out of maintenance amounts is something that's foreign to a lot of women. And so it can be uncomfortable too. So I think getting through that discomfort, being intentional about eating more food before going into a bulk is really, really valuable.
Reflect on your mental state and your body relationship before bulking 13:41
Now, other things to consider before you go into a bulk, I think it's really important to self reflect a little bit about your current mental state and your current relationship with your body. During a bulk, it is often hard mentally because you are seeing the scale go up. You are seeing measurements go up like you are seeing your body change. And if you don't already have a healthy body image going into this process, it can be a real challenge. Like I think it's a challenge for anybody who goes through it. But I think it's even more challenging if you are already struggling with your body image. And so I would say before going into a book that makes sure that you are at a good place with your body in that your confidence doesn't necessarily only derive from what you look like, that you have that self-sense of self-confidence outside of your weight outside of you know what jeans you're able to fit into at that moment. And if you aren't at that place yet, I would suggest working on that before actually diving into a bulk because weight gain does things to women's head, and if you don't have your head screwed on straight and your confidence not coming from your body beforehand, it can make bulking even more challenging.
Adding muscle is the goal of a bulk 15:01
Also, I think it probably goes without saying, but you wouldn't want to bulk unless you want to add more muscle. Right? So adding muscle is the goal of a bulk. It is to bring yourself up into a caloric surplus so that you can maximize the amount of muscle that you're able to gain. Remember, your body is not going to put on more muscle unless, at some point, you go into a caloric surplus and give it the calories that it needs to actually build that muscle that you're wanting it to build. And so if you don't want to add more muscle mass to your body, there's no reason to bulk, you know, you don't need a bulk. Now, I will say that, for a lot of women, their goal is to get leaner. And typically what most women mean when they say leaner is they mean they want more muscle and less fat. That's kind of its kind of code word that's like the code word for like I want to lose fat and gain muscle. And so often, most women focus on the loose fat portion of that equation. Where, and don't focus enough on the gain muscle part of that equation. If you just lose fat for a lot of women, you're not going to get a lean look, because you haven't actually taken the time to build the muscle underneath that you need to. Now that's not for everybody. But I find as a general statement as a general rule that women are much more likely to attack the lose a fat portion of the equation rather than the gain muscle part of the equation. And that the look that you may be going for, or the aesthetic that you're trying to attain may actually be more about gaining muscle than you think. A lot of times, it's like people are just like, yeah, I need to lose fat and I'll look like that. And the answer is, really no, you probably need to gain some muscle as well. So I think women are quick to say that they just need to lose fat, and probably slower to say that they need to gain muscle but hopefully, it goes without saying that if you're not looking to gain any muscle, there's zero reasons to go into a bulk.
Cut and bulk whenever you want to 16:58
And then the last thing I will say is this tends to be a little bit of a timing thing that a lot of people do, you can go into a bulk at any point during the year. But I will say that you will see a very clear cycle, especially on social media, where people do a cut, they go through the summer, and then they bulk during the fall and winter. So that's obviously like not a thing that you have to do. But I find that that's kind of a pattern that you'll see a lot of times. It's like a cut during the summer. And then bulk during the fall and winter when you're wearing more clothes anyway, and you can put on that sweater and have your boots and you know, the extra 10 pounds that you're carrying around isn't quite so noticeable. Definitely can cut in bulk whenever you want to. But that's something to consider as well, you are going to be gaining weight. And for some people that are uncomfortable, especially if you're having to be in like a bathing suit or something. So another thing to think about, it's not the end of the world. But something to consider when you're thinking and you're planning ahead for you know if and when you're going to bulk in the future.
Weight gain in bulking 18:00
Okay, so let's get into the nitty-gritty of once you've decided that you want to build more muscle, and you've, you know, checked off all the boxes that I talked about thinking about ahead of time, what are the actual mechanics of going into a bulk and bulk is simply alike the opposite of a cut. So when you do a cut, you figure out what your maintenance is. And you usually cut between 15 to 20% of your maintenance off to create that caloric deficit. Bulk is the opposite, you are taking your maintenance and you are adding usually I like to start with a surplus of five to 10% if you want to be you know, conservative, you can start with a 5% increase a little bit, you know, maybe more aggressive would be like a 10% increase. And then from there, you do exactly the opposite of what you do with a cut. So with a cut, you set your macros you, you know follow them and then you are gathering data and looking to see that fat loss and if that fat loss isn't occurring, then you're going to adjust your macros accordingly to be able to create that fat loss. And the opposite is true when we talk about a bulk with bulk, you're gonna start at a 5% or 10% surplus, and you're doing the same thing where you're gathering the data and you're looking to make sure that that weight gain is occurring. And if at any point that weight gain slows down or stalls out, then you're simply going to add calories on from there. So I started with, you know, a 5% bulk and then if and when my body would like a kind of plateau or find this new like maintenance, then I simply would add another hundred calories. And so what you're doing is your goal is to be seeing that scale go up over time, and what's a good range or like a rate of increase. So with fat loss, I typically say we're looking at about a half-pound to a pound lost per week. That's a pretty average like fat loss amount. When we're talking a bulk, we're looking at something like a quarter pound to maybe a pound a month. That's kind of the range. So you can see and compare those that the rate of muscle gain is much slower than the rate of fat loss. And that's important to take into consideration.
My bulking experience 20:16
So I'll talk a little bit more about my experience going through a bulk. But as you're going through this bulking process, what you're looking for is, am I gaining this weight? Am I gaining, you know, quarter-pound half-pound to a pound a month over time? And if the answer is yes, then there's no reason to change anything you just use, keep going. And if the answer's no, that you're not gaining that weight, then that's when we're going to start adding calories at other hundred calories and see if we can start to see that that weight gain over time, but weight is going to be your scale weight is going to be one of the biggest indications that you're looking for over your bulk. And we all know that the scale weight goes up and down and fluctuates. So a really good idea here is to take an average. So if you take a weight every day and then take the average over the week, what you're looking for is for that average to go up over time. And that helps you to know that Yeah, like we're doing the right things like we're in that caloric surplus.
Capture flexing pictures as you progress 21:12
The second piece of data that you really want to be looking at is your flexing pictures. So you want to make sure that you're taking progress pictures throughout this process. And I really encourage you especially if your goal is to gain muscle. In addition to you know, relaxed shots, you're also taking flexing pictures. And the flexing pictures that I recommend are, you know, a bicep flex, a tricep flex, taking a back like a full-on back flex. So you can see those back muscles, turning sideways and doing a glute flex, and then doing a front on quad flex. Those are some of the pictures that I took and that you're able to see that muscle growth over time. Now. muscle growth is slow. You're not going to see the change from one month to month two, okay, which is why taking progress pictures over a long period of time is really, really valuable and important because muscle growth is so slow, it's really hard to see it in the mirror. It's really hard because it's so minute and it's so slow, which is where those progress pictures really come invaluable when you can compare, you know, month one with month six, and be able to see the change that has happened over that period of time.
Track your weights that you lift 22:28
The third piece of data that I want you to be tracking is your weights in the gym. So not only should your scale weight be going up, but the weights you're lifting should also be increasing. You should be like PRN and pushing your weights higher. You should be like as you gain muscle like your lifts should be going up. And so when you see your lifts going up in the gym, you see your scale weight going up and you see your progress pictures, you know changing over time. That's really good evidence. That the bulk is working and that the amount of weight you're gaining that a lot of it is going to muscle.
To bulk is to gain weight 23:07
Now we need to take a pause here because it's so important that you understand before going into a bulk that the goal is to gain weight. Okay? And with that weight gain, your goal is to maximize how much weight gain is muscle. So the goal is to maximize the amount of muscle and to minimize the amount of fat gain that you gain. Okay? Now you cannot, like when I say minimize, I don't mean that you're not going to have any fat gain and I think that's really important. If you're going into a caloric surplus if you're going into a bulk, you will gain fat. Okay, there's like there's no way around it. That's a part of the process, you will gain some fat. The goal then is not to gain zero fat. The goal is to maximize muscle growth while minimizing added fat. And some of the ways that we do that there are a couple of things that we really want to focus on to make sure we're maximizing the muscle that muscle gain and minimizing that fat gain.
Conservative and aggressive caloric surplus 24:10
First is where we go conservative with our caloric surplus, right? So I told you about starting at a five to 10% caloric surplus, which is on the conservative end, if you really wanted to, like, be less conservative and really want to do like, I want muscle growth at all costs like I don't really care if I gain a whole bunch of fat with it, then you can go into a much higher caloric surplus. And yeah, you'll probably gain more muscle. Like if you go into maybe a 15-20% bulk, you probably will gain a little bit more muscle. But the side effect of that is that you will also gain more fat. And so we're kind of on this balance right of like, Where are you comfortable? How much fat Are you comfortable gaining? Is it more important for you to gain muscle fast, you know, at the expense of maybe having some extra fat gain it? If that's the case, then you can be more aggressive with your bulk. But if you're like most women who are very scared about the fat gain, and yes, they want to gain muscle, but not at the expense of like putting on a ton of fat, then you can be more conservative with your bulk and there's not a right or wrong, you know, answer. It's how long do you want the process to take? And how much are you, you know, are you willing to sacrifice some fat gain in order to make that process go a little bit faster? And I find with most women, they would rather the process of gaining muscle go a little bit slower, and be more conservative and not put on as much fat. Whereas I find a lot of other guys like a lot of males. They're like I don't really care, like, I just want to get big, I want to gain a lot of muscle. And they would rather go into a more aggressive bulk because they don't really care if they gain some fat along the way. They just really really really want to maximize that muscle gain. So once you understand that, that dynamic between you know how aggressive you are with your caloric surplus determines both how much muscle you gain and also how much fat you gain, you can kind of adjust it according to where you're currently, you know, comfortable with sitting in terms of fat versus muscle gain.
Getting extra calories in carbs 26:13
Okay, so we've talked about going into a caloric surplus, but how do we actually do that Amber? Like, when we are counting macros, where do we get those extra calories from? If you're at maintenance, you are usually you know, topped out with protein and fat, that is usually sitting around point five grams per pound, somewhere around there. Protein is usually sitting at around a gram per pound, somewhere around there. Again, those are not like exact numbers, this is the range, but you know, somewhere around that. And so in order to continue to get your calories up without you know, skyrocketing your fats or skyrocketing your protein that much more. What we typically are adding during a bulk is carbs. And we don't really like that our body doesn't really have a limit with the number of carbs that it can utilize as it can always utilize carbs. Whereas with fats or protein, if our body doesn't need fat or a protein, it actually turns it into a carbohydrate. Gluconeogenesis turns that fat into carbohydrate or it turns that protein into a carbohydrate. And so if we have, you know, we give our body extra fat or we give it extra protein, it actually gets turned into a carbohydrate, which is why there really is no limit with the carbohydrates that you know, you can get to with your macros. And so most of the calories that you're going to add during a bulk will be in the form of carbohydrates. And that would be when you're looking to create that surplus from your maintenance into a bulk. You'll want to do that by adding carbohydrates.
Struggle in fitting many carbs in a day and get a freebie to solve it 27:45
Now, with that comes a new struggle and a new problem that may seem like a really great problem to have, but it's a problem nonetheless when you're in it, and that is as your carbs go up and up and up and up and up. It can get to the point where it is very challenging to be able to fit that many carbs in a day. And I know for those of you listening maybe who are in a deficit and you're like, Oh, I just wish I could have bread, I just wish I could have more carbs. Right? It may seem silly that that's a problem, right? Like, you're telling me that it's a problem to try and eat 300 carbs. But for those of you who have been in that experience, you know what I'm talking about that it can get to the point where it is challenging, like, it's a challenge to be able to fit that much food into your day. And so, you know, it's not the same as cutting, right, you have different struggles and different quotes and quote problems in each situation. But for those who are in a bulk, this can be something that you come across where you're like, I am struggling to get these carbs into my diet, I am struggling to eat all of these carbs. And so in order to help you out with that and help you get those, those carbs and those low volume foods into your diet so that you're not exploding in fullness as you go through this bulk, I have created a free resource, a free downloadable that will give you some ideas of things that you can fit into you, that you put into your macros that will allow you to be able to hit those higher calories, hit those higher carbs, and not have to feel so full or bloated. And if you go to the show notes for this episode, so that's www.bicepsafterbabies.com/94, that's where all the show notes will be. There'll be a link there to download that free, the freebie to be able to have that list. Because I promise you, you laugh now, but if you've never done a bulk it is it does get to be where there's a struggle of trying to get enough food in. And while that may seem like a good problem, it still is a problem. And so I wanted to create that free resource to help you so you can go to www.bicepsafterbabies.com/94 and you'll just scroll down there'll be a graphic there you can click and you can download that freebie.
Be on caloric surplus and lifting weights 29:56
Alright, so we've talked a lot about the caloric surplus aspect of a bulk. But the truth is, if you just go into a caloric surplus and aren't doing anything else, you are going to gain weight and all of that weight is going to be fat. In order for some of that weight to be muscle, you must be in a caloric surplus and be lifting weights and specifically be making sure that you are progressively overloading as you are lifting weights. And this is a mistake that I see a lot of people making is that they think oh, I'm just you know, I'm going to the gym and I'm picking up these the same dumbbells every time. I'm lifting weights like I should be building muscle. And if you've listened to many of my other podcasts, my earlier podcasts, you know that that's not the case, you cannot just go and pick up the same weight every time and magically expect your body to grow muscle. You actually have to be progressively overloading during your weightlifting sessions. And if that term progressive overload is new to you, I'm going to really encourage you to go back and listen to Episode 90 where I talk about weightlifting and I talk about this concept of progressive overload. Because the truth is, eating more food and eating more calories is only half the equation. It only works to build muscle if you pair that extra eating with actual progressive overload and making sure that you are actually stimulating the muscle that you want to grow with all of those extra calories that you are feeding your body.
Struggles in bulking 31:27
Now that you understand when you should be bulking and a little bit of the mechanics of how to bulk I want to go through some of the struggles that show up with bulking that are unique to this time period. And something as I've watched and helped and coached other people bulk and also as I've gone through bulking myself, these are the issues and things that come up. And I think it's really important to go into a bulk, understanding these things so that you can kind of prepare yourself and have your expectations set appropriately for what bulk is going to be like.
#1. It takes time and a slow process 32:46
So the first thing that can be challenging is it is really important to understand that building muscle is a long and slow process. It is not something you cannot do like a six-week bulk, pay like six-week mini cuts are a thing, right? You'd go to a six-week mini cut. Six-week bulks are not a thing. That's not enough time. building muscle is a slow process and me kind of talked about how we're looking between point four and one pound per month. Right? That's a long, slow process. So oftentimes bulks are like six months or a year or 18 months like we're talking about this is a long, long process. And when I did my bulk, it was for about a year. I started my bulk in September of 2016 and ended in about September of 2017. So just to kind of give you a little bit of step up on my journey, I started counting macros in January of 2016. And over I started my weight. I went back actually in My Fitness Pal so I could pull up these numbers for you guys. But I started my cut in January and I started at 135 pounds. And over about six weeks, I was able to lose about 10 pounds. So that takes us to about mid-February and then I was able to maintain that weight. I was around 125-127 pounds until September of 2016. So I maintained it, so I lost 10 pounds. I maintain that until about September. And at that point, I was ready to do something else like I was ready to like, again build some muscle I had some muscle that I was able to like reveal when I did my cut, but I realized that I that there was a lot more muscle to be built and I and that's what I wanted to do. So in September of that year, I started my bulk, and around that time I was around 130 pounds. And by December I was 135. By February, so about six months in, I had gained about eight pounds, I was up to about 138. And then by September, I was around 142-143 pounds. And over those 12 months from September to September, I gained about 12 pounds overall. And if you were paying attention, you'll notice that my weight gain was a little bit faster at the beginning and a little bit slower towards the end. And that's totally normal because it gets harder and harder and harder to add more and more muscle. And, and so it's totally normal to maybe see more progress, see more change, see more muscle mass in the beginning than it is as you continue to go on. It just takes more and more work and, and more. It's harder and harder to build that muscle mass, especially as females. We don't have the testosterone that males have so it is harder for us to build muscle. So over that 12 month period, I gained about 12 pounds. And then I was planning on doing a powerlifting competition in November. So in September, I decided, Hey, I have this powerlifting competition, I wanted to make weight, which I needed to be around 137 pounds. So I had about five pounds to lose. And so in September, I, you know, kind of started like a really slow cut, to be able to get those five pounds off so that I could compete in my first powerlifting meet and I did I made weight, which is always a nerve-wracking thing for anybody who's had to make weight for anything. And but I did I made weight and was able to, you know, compete in that powerlifting competition. And now I kind of hover somewhere around like 135-137 that's kind of my range that I sit in right now. So if you're taking that you know, big picture, got down to around 125 pounds at the leanest part of my cut, took the time spent the time built muscle got all the way up to about 142 pounds, and then I've been able to cut back down to about 135-137. So I'm sitting at my current weight with a lot more muscle than I had at the end of my cut. And that was the goal and I've been able to maintain here and you know, live here and not necessarily have to track everything all the time in order to do so. And so my bulk was a success like I can look at my pictures, I can see the muscle mass that I built, but it was a long process. And so I want you to know that going into this process, this is not going to be something that you are going to do for three weeks or six weeks or eight weeks. It is something that you really do need to be committed to for the long run.
#2. Fear of seeing the weight increase 36:47
The second concern that is going to come up for most women during their bulk and that is that it can be hard to see the scale increase it can be hard to be intentionally trying to have those measurements go up and that weight go up and it's hard to feel your clothes getting tighter and it's hard to like see your body change. And the way that and like I got to that point where I was like I am just so done like I'm so done feeling fluffy, I'm so done seeing the scale go up and you know, that was around that year mark and I ended up going into that cut afterward to be able to strip off some of the body fat. So it happens like it's going to happen. And that's okay. It's part of the process. But what I want you to know going in is that you have to have just like during a cut, you have to have the reason why you're doing it first and foremost in your mind. The same thing goes is true for as you go into a bulk you need to have your why, like why are you doing this? Why is this important to you? And you have to continue to remind yourself of the end game right like what is the end game? Am I committed to this by working through the game? And with bulk, the end game is not necessarily the end of your bulk, the end game is like bulking and then going into that cut stripping off some of the fat and being able to keep the muscle mass that you've built. So during a bulk, again, the goal is not to not gain fat it is to minimize fat gain and maximize muscle gain, and then be able to go into a subsequent cut and be able to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss so that you're able to keep that muscle mass that you've built and been able to strip off some of that fat that you inevitably like will need to gain during a bulk.
Again, do a cut before bulking 38:39
So I do think and I talked about this before. Doing a cut first before doing a bulk can be very beneficial mentally because you already know that you can be successful in a cut. Like having already gone through that experience where you've lost weight, you've been able to go into a cut, you've been able to see the results mentally that can really help you to know that yes, right now I'm gaining weight. Yes, right now I'm adding some fat, like, it's gonna be worth it in the long run because I'm adding that muscle. But then also in the back of your mind, you can be reminding yourself that you've been there before like you've gone through a cut. That was something that I told myself, I'm like, I know how to cut like, I've been there before I've done it. And I was very confident that at the end of my bulk, I would be able to go into that deficit, and I would be able to see the results that I wanted and that I had worked so hard for in my bulk, but getting a fluffy feeling that feeling the like tightness in your pants, like, that's part of the process. And if you're not okay with that, don't go into a bulk, that that's part of the process. You have to be ready and willing to embrace that. Because you know, in the long run, it's going to be worth it you're gonna be able to build that muscle mass that you'd never have been able to build had you not gone into a bulk.
#3. Trying to track progress 39:48
Alright, the third thing that people can struggle with is trying to track progress, right? Trying to figure out is it working? Is all of this like an effort in eating and tracking and lifting is it working is doing anything to my body. And so just to reiterate, I kind of talked about this a little bit earlier. But I want to make sure that you're taking those progress pictures, you're taking those flexing progress pictures, you're taking your weight, and that is going up. And then the third piece of data that I really want you to pull is, you should be tracking your workouts and the weight on the bar, the weight and your dumbbells, like the weight in your lifting sessions should be going up as well. And those are the three things that you're going to want to watch to be able to reassure you that yes, the scale is going up. And it's not just water weight, and it's not just fat weight, but that you actually are gaining some muscle during this process.
#4. The challenge on taking so much food 40:39
And then the last thing that I touched on a little bit earlier, but I'm going to touch on again is just the issue of eating so much food and it can be challenging. And one thing that I want to kind of throw in here as a little bit of a tip is that when you go into a deficit when you go into a cut, most of us are very you know have had the experience where when you go into a cut, you start to replace things with higher volumes. So for example, when you would typically eat rice when you go into a cut, you may substitute that rice for cauliflower rice, right, because it's lower calorie, it's lower carb, and you get more volume for the same amount of carbs. So, just like you do that, where you start to, you know, take your rice and replace it with cauliflower rice, you take your tortillas, and you know your flour tortillas and replace them maybe with some like thin corn tortillas. You take your sweet potatoes, and maybe you replace them with something that's a little bit lower carb. So just like you do that during a cut. When you go into a bulk, you actually start having to think about the opposite of that. So like if you got rid of your tortillas, because they were really high in carbs. That's something that you want to bring back. Or instead of eating cauliflower rice, now you're going to actually want to eat that rice because it's going to be able to get more carbs in a smaller package right in a lower volume food. And so you're almost wanting to think of your bulk in the opposite of like the foods that you'd gravitated towards or in a cut are going to be like the opposite foods you're going to gravitate towards in bulk so that you can get those calories in without feeling super satiated and super stuffed and super full. Again, I have that free download that I've created for you that gives you a good list of those higher calorie, more dense, more low volume foods that are going to be really helpful for you as you're going into a bulk. So go to www.bicepsafterbabies.com/94 and you can download that there.
To sum up! 42:37
So that's it. That is bulking in a nutshell. And I hope that it's inspired some of you to consider doing a bulk in the future or maybe you're planning for bulk and you're listening to this getting ready to get started. And I'm excited for you, bulking is a totally new experience for most women. And it I'm so glad that I took the time to do bulk, I got so much stronger I gained that muscle. And it was a really empowering process to be able to intentionally fuel my body extra so that I could be building that muscle. And it really has made a difference in the long run. We all know that building muscle is the only way to increase your metabolic rate. And taking that time to build those muscles just sets you up for such long term success because you are increasing that metabolic rate and, and putting on that lean muscle mass. One of the things that I think not enough people understand is that as you age, your muscle mass naturally declines like there is a natural decline of your muscle mass over time as you get older. And there are ways to slow that down by you know, lifting weights and doing resistance training. But one of the best ways to be able to be sure that you have enough muscle mass when you get old is to start with a greater volume of it at a younger age. So the more that you can build in your, you know, '20s and '30s, and '40s and '50s, as you like start to dip decline with that muscle mass, the more mass you've already built up before, the more you're going to have, you're gonna be able to have you and as that decline starts to happen, and you can, you know, build some muscle mass in your 50's and 60's and 70's. But it is not your body that does not respond as well as it did in its 20's, 30's and 40's. And so, it is never ever too late to pick up a barbell. It's never ever too late to do resistance training. It's never ever too late to start lifting weights. However, there is a real value in your younger years building that reservoir of strength, building that reservoir of muscles so that as you age, you are still left with enough that you can you know perform your activities of daily life and be able to to live a happy and you know active lifestyle, even in older years so we're going to wrap up this episode but I would love to hear from you if you listen to this and you're excited about bulking or you're, you know going to look more into bulking and plan for it in the future. I would love to hear from you. You can take a screenshot of your Instagram, post this to your Facebook tag me in it. Let me know what you thought about this episode, let me know if this was like totally brand new to you. What was your takeaway from this episode? Are you going to do a bulk? Is that going to be something that's in the cards for you in the future? Let me know. I'm super excited to hear how you are implementing this into your journey. That wraps up this episode of biceps after babies radio I'm Amber now go out and be strong because remember my friend you can do anything.
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