Happy Thanksgiving! It's Thanksgiving week, and I thought, “What better topic to put onto the podcast for the week of Thanksgiving than one on bulking?” So today, I have two very gracious guests, Katie and Amanda, who will share their experiences going through a bulk. We talk about normalizing the challenges and struggles that happen during this phase. Also, some of the awesome things that happen as you go through a bulk. So without further ado, let's jump into the episode with Amanda and Katie.
Find show notes at bicepsafterbabies.com/254
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- Cycles of weight loss (0:46)
- The beauty of being in a community (9:48, 23;24)
- Fears encountered before and during the bulk (18:36, 19:12, 20:14)
- Working through fears of getting into a bulk (22:14, 22:24)
- The best part of a bulk (25:12, 26:07, 27:35)
- Intentional and an unintentional bulk (29:17)
- Normalizing feelings and challenges (33:44)
- Lessons learned during the phase of the bulk (35:50, 38:38)
- Struggle that we have with expectations (40:01)
- Advice to consider when going into a bulk (42:39, 45:12)
You're listening to Biceps After Babies Radio episode number 254.
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, wife, and mom of four. Each week, 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.
Amber B 0:46
Hey, hey, hey, welcome back to another episode of Biceps After Babies Radio, I am your host, Amber Brueseke. And Happy Thanksgiving. It's Thanksgiving week, and I thought what better topic to put onto the podcast for the week of Thanksgiving than one on bulking? I mean, it just seemed so apropos with the holiday that is coming up this week. So this topic is one that I feel like there is a dearth of information on, meaning we don't talk a ton about the phase that is bulking. And if you're familiar with the different phases of a fitness journey, I talk about this a lot in Episode 76, where I talked about the cycles of weight loss. But a lot of women come into MACROS 101 they come into coaching, really only grasping and understanding one phase and that is cutting. And that's what they've been raised to do restrict, cut food, and be in a calorie deficit. And that's really what they've been trying to do their entire life. And it's really eye-opening when people start to realize that cutting, yes, is a phase but it's only one of four phases that you can and should be cycling through throughout your journey. And that part of the problem is that you've been so focused on a single phase that you're missing out on the totality of what really makes you get to where you want to go. The goal that you have in mind typically requires more than one phase for most women. And so when you start to realize, okay, there's cutting, there's also reversing, which I have a bunch of podcasts about Episode 9, Episode 42, Episode 114, Episode 170 are all on reversing. And that is a slow titration of adding calories back to increase the metabolism to bring you back up to maintenance from a deficit. And then there's maintenance, which is honestly where you should live most of your life. Most of your life should be at maintenance problem most women live most of their life trying to be in a deficit. But most of your life should be at maintenance, you should be eating the same amount of calories that you're burning. And that's a really important phase that a lot of women don't understand or don't implement until they start going through coaching or going through MACROS 101. And then the last phase is bulking and bulking is going into an intentional surplus. You were intentionally eating more calories than you were burning every single day. Why the heck would somebody do that? Well, at some point, in order to add more muscle to your body, you have to. You have to go into a caloric surplus in order to continue to encourage and incentivize your body to add muscle. So if you're wanting to get stronger, you're wanting to add muscle likely in the future, you may have to go, there will be a point where you may have to go into bulk in order to be able to make that happen. And so you know that's the goal is like you're actually eating more food, then your body is burning. And those extra calories can be used for your body to build muscle. Now it's really important. Bulk is not just eating whatever you want. Bulk is not just eating a ton of food. A bulk is very intentional in that you're eating in a caloric surplus while also lifting weights intelligently, right? You're implementing progressive overload. If you don't know what progressive overload is, I have a whole class on it. It's bicepsafterbabies.com/workshop, and I talk about progressive overload. But you're combining a caloric surplus with progressive overload in order to optimize muscle growth. And that's why you would do a bulk.
Amber B 4:12
Now, I shared my story of doing a bulk back in episode 94. So if you want to hear the story of my bulk and the things that I learned in my experience, you can go back and listen to episode 94. But we haven't had a ton of other conversations around bulking on the podcast. I did talk about it with Elise. That was back in episode 197. So she did talk a little bit about bulking because that's something that's been a part of her journey. But other than that we really haven't talked a ton about bulking on the podcast and when I heard that a couple of ladies in our Beyond Macros 101 group, that's our continued alumni-only coaching program. Once you've gone through MACROS 101 then you can come and join Beyond for continued coaching. And they had gone through bulk and I just had the idea, man we need to have more on the podcasts, we have gone through a bulk so they can kind of speak to the experience. And I approached Katie and Amanda. And they were very gracious and said they would love to come on the podcast and be able to share their experience going through a bulk. And so that's what today is, is my interview with them. And I'm just so excited for those of you who are listening because maybe you're been curious about bulking, maybe you're wanting to do bulk, but you're a little afraid. Maybe you're in a bulk, or maybe you've done a bulk in the past, and it went awesomely, or maybe it didn't go the way that you wanted it to go. Either way, I think it's so valuable to be able to hear other women's stories. You'll hear in the podcast that we kind of normalize some of the things that happened during a bulk that you may think, oh, my gosh, this is only me, it only happens to me, it doesn't. And we talk about that kind of normalizing some of the challenges and struggles that happened during this phase, and then also some of the awesome things that happen as you go through a bulk. So without further ado, let's jump into the episode with Amanda and Katie.
Amber B 6:01
We are going to have a fantastic conversation today because I am talking with two of my favorite people, Katie and Amanda. And we're talking about one of my favorite subjects, which is bulking and gaining muscle. And I told them beforehand that the title of the podcast was the unfiltered truth about bulking. And both of them agree that they were willing to give the unfiltered truth. So welcome to the podcast both of you guys.
Amber B 6:30
This is gonna be fun. Both of them have been on the podcast, so they're old, they're pros, and we're excited about the conversation that we're going to have today. So one of the reasons, okay, let's back up a little bit. Amanda? Well, first of all, both Katie and Amanda are Beyond Macros 101, which is our continued alumni-only coaching program that happens after MACROS 101. They've been in the community for a long time. And both of them have been very open about sharing their journeys as they've gone through different stages. And Amanda specifically recently finished up a six-month bulk, right? Six months?
Six months. Yep.
Amber B 7:06
And she's been fantastic about sharing that with our community and throughout the whole process kind of reporting in with everybody. And she concluded that bulk shared it with the community. Katie has also been really generous with sharing the struggles and the ups and downs that she's had as well. And so when I saw Amanda's posts, and Katie commented on it, just like this light bulb went off in my head, and I said, “We need more stories of women bulking on the podcast.” Because I've shared my story I think back, I think it was episode 94 or 92. I've shared my story. But that's the only bulking story I've shared on the podcast really. And so I thought we need to have more women's stories on the podcast about bulking and both of you guys agreed to come on. So that's where I want to start, I want to just start with you just sharing a quick synopsis or overview of each of your stories about your bulk and what that experience was like for you. So let's start with Amanda and then we'll do Katie next.
Okay, so I've been maintaining my weight for a pretty long time, several years before I even considered a bulk as being a possibility. And there were a couple of things that made me consider it. One is that I started powerlifting, about two years ago. And I knew that one of the ways I would be able to get stronger was to feel my body with more food than what I was giving it even at maintenance. And so I want it to get stronger. And the other thing was that I had this picture in my head of this new aesthetic or this physique that I wished I had. But I knew that the only way to get there would be to add more muscle. And so I could cut all I want and remove as much fat as I want. If there was no muscle underneath, I was never going to look like the picture I had in my head. And so I considered it for quite some time and was thinking about it, but I wasn't ready to commit. And then Katie was like you said generous and shared her story about her first bulk. And seeing her go through that and knowing it wasn't all easy, but that she was able to do it. That really gave me the push I needed to try it myself. And so in April, I started a bulk. And like you said I just completed it about two weeks ago. I did 26 weeks. So I decided to go for the full half-year 26 weeks, and then I've been back at maintenance for about two weeks.
Amber B 9:48
So awesome. And I want to highlight again, the beauty of being in a community where there are generous people who share their experiences because you know, you had the courage to do it because you saw someone else in the community, you saw a friend, Katie, do it first. And I just love the supportive nature of being in a group where people are willing to share and be open and vulnerable about what they're doing and their experiences, because it gives us the courage to be able to do the same thing. So it's just so fun to see that support and that encouragement of like, oh, you're doing it. That means I can, like have the courage to do it as well. Okay, Katie, share a little bit about what led you up to doing a bulk.
Okay, so like Amanda said, I had an initial bulk. Cheese, when was that? About 2021. I started in December. And it was cut short, on purpose, because my husband and I were going on a vacation where I would be in a swimsuit the majority of the time. And so I was just like, “Well, you know, I'm comfortable where I am but I would also maybe like to be a little more comfortable.” So my first bulk was cut a little bit short. And so my intention was always to go into a second one that would be longer. So, my husband, and I went on vacation, I went into maintenance. And I eventually stopped tracking kind of weaned off tracking and think I just kind of slid into a natural surplus at that point. And decided to embrace it. And was like, “Okay, well, I've already basically started this gaming phase, why don't I just roll with it?” And it kind of just went out of control a little bit. I was not in the right headspace, is the polite way of saying and I was not in a very good headspace to kind of embrace a bulk. I did for a time. I did. I have since stopped my bulk and went back into maintenance. Yeah.
Amber B 12:14
Will you talk a little bit more about that headspace? I think this is a really honest thing to say. And when you say you were in a good headspace, what did that actually look like?
So, Amber, you know, my fight response is very heightened. I almost never respond with flight.
Amber B 12:39
Fight all the time, all the time.
So the headspace that I was in started out fine. It started out fine. I was really embracing it, I was rolling with it, and I was PR-ing like crazy. Like it was nuts, like, already yelling my body weight. Like it was awesome. So for a time, it was great, it was going really well. And then the headspace that kind of started to creep up was that I did not start from a very lean position, to begin with. With this bulk, like even just sliding into a surplus. I wasn't necessarily where I “wanted to be”. And the headspace that started to creep in was that my subsequent cut is gonna be miserable. And I know, Amanda and I have talked about this too, of how that headspace of well, I'm gaining weight on purpose. Why am I tracking it? Why am I not just to help with it?
Amber B 13:49
It's like a free for all. Yeah.
Exactly. So it was a lot of fighting with myself of, “Well, you didn't start at this from a lean position. Your next cuts gonna be awful. Why are you even tracking? Let's just eat all the food”, like, “Let's just gain and gain and gain”, but then it was like, well, all the gaining some of it may be muscle most likely will be muscle. But when you gain fast, a lot of it is fat. You do gain fat, it's going to come on. So it was a lot of fighting with myself.
Amber B 14:23
I'm curious. Because I think that wrestling that happens with ourselves can be productive. I think that that wrestle with ourselves can teach us a lot of things. It's not always fun at the moment. But we do sometimes with that wrestle with ourselves we learn a lot about ourselves, and there can be some positivity that comes out of it. I'm curious. On the other side, can you look back and see some positivists? Are we still feeling like we're in the fight, and we're not quite done fighting yet? And it's hard to have that reflection. I don't know where you are with that.
I think I'm still in a fight. I'm not quite at the point where I can kind of look back at it with a clearer head. It's hard for me to pivot. I don't pivot from my goals very easily.
Amber B 15:15
That's the fighter, right? It's like the hang-on-at-all-costs type of thing.
Exactly. So I'm still working through that kind of grieving process of letting go of that goal for now. And figuring out how I want to pivot.
Amber B 15:33
Yeah. Well, what if it's not letting go of a goal, but instead choosing a new one?
Amber B 15:38
I think that's the like reframe that we can have on that is like, you're the fighter you want to give up. But when we can reframe it from it's like, you're not giving up, you're choosing something different. It becomes a proactive place to put yourself. Yeah, so good. And so honest, which is why I wanted to have you guys on the podcast because I think this honest reflection. It's like, sometimes people talk about what happens in social media in general, like, macro counting, it's like all daisies and butterflies and like, bulking, it's so amazing. And you build this muscle, and then we go through like, it's like, all these phases are so amazing. And they're like, so awesome. And they're just so fun. It's just all fun. And the reality is, is like they're hard. The phases are hard cuttings, hard. Reversing is hard, maintaining is hard, and bulking is. They're all hard. Like they all have their pluses, and they all have their minuses. And I think we do people a disservice when we only talk about the pluses. Like when you only talk about the great aspects of a cut, you're doing people a disservice. When you only talk about the great aspects of the bulk, you're doing people a disservice, because then they get into them. And they start to hit these roadblocks. And they're like, oh, my gosh, something's wrong with me. My bulk is not fun. This is not fun. I'm scared, I want to retreat. Oh my gosh, I'm the only person that thinks bulking is not fun. No, friends. It's not like nothing is all fun all the time. And so when we can have these kinds of conversations, people go and go in with full clear expectations of like, I'm doing a bulk because I want to add more muscle. And this is like Amanda said, I want to PR on my list, I want to get stronger, I want to add more muscle. And this is the way to do it. And recognize it's not going to be all daisies and butterflies the whole time and expect that. And when you expect that you can kind of face it a little bit with some more vigor and oath. So I appreciate the candidness.
Amber B 17:28
So let's talk about fear. Because I think one of the things that prevent women from starting to bulk is fear. So I'm curious, what were the very specific fears for you that maybe were present before you started the bulk before you made that decision? Right? There probably were some fears what were they and how did you work through them?
So before I started my bulk, one of the biggest things I was afraid of was just gaining weight in general. You know, I worked really hard several years ago to lose baby weight after having three babies. And I had been pretty steady in a range not at an exact weight. But in a range, I was comfortable for several years. And as much as I'd healed my relationship with the scale, it's still in the back of your head. When you gain weight, you're getting fat, no matter what, no matter if you're doing it on purpose. If you're bulking if you know you're lifting and you're putting on muscle, my head every time I would step on the scale and see it go up with saying you're getting fat, you're getting fat, you're getting fat.
Amber B 18:34
Yes. And I was also, you know, thankfully, I had a lot of other tools I could use and so I was able to manage that. But it would still come up a lot like you are getting fat. And that was really my biggest fear going into it was you're going to eat more on purpose, that means you're going to get fat. Just a spoiler, I did not get fat.
Amber B 19:05
And we'll talk about that. That's really good. Katie, what were some of your biggest fears?
Pretty similar to Amanda's where it's just kind of you work really hard to kind of maintain those results that you get. And then to kind of be like, “Well, I'm going to purposefully watch that number go up.” And also like for me with all the perfectionist tendencies that I have, it's kind of like well, how much is too much? Where do I say this is appropriate? Where do I say this is not appropriate? This is the amount of gain that I'm supposed to have? Like that.
Amber B 19:46
Said another way, how do I do the bulk perfectly?
Exactly. How do I not get in excess fat? So it's yeah, very similar to Amanda where It's just kind of it is for women that backward thought of, I'm purposefully wanting that number to go up is kind of messes with you.
Amber B 20:14
Yeah, and it's one of the reasons that I really usually recommend that women have a good time spending time at maintenance before going into bulk. Because I do think that intentional maintenance can really mess with you, especially since most of us were conditioned, as Amanda was like, number on the scale goes up means I'm getting fat, that's a bad thing. It's terrifying. I shouldn't want that, you know, it's like, we go into this place of like, a number on the scale equals my wort,h equals my love ability, equals all of these things. And so why would the heck would I intentionally have that number go up? So it mentally can really mess with you a lot. And so I really recommend, spending that time on maintenance. Have whatever results you had in your cut, maintain them feel really good and confident in that. And then move into like the mentally challenging aspect of doing a bulk because there are a lot of mental if it can feel like you're going backward in your progress, even though you're not, it can definitely feel that way. And that can be really scary. If somebody is in that space, well, so we can ask on a personal level, how did you get over that fear? Like you both have the same fear, but you still do the bulk. So I have to believe that you like got over that fear somewhere? What was that self-talk like that got you over that fear to get you into the bulk?
Ah, I don't know that I ever really did.
Amber B 21:40
Well, so you're just like, I'm just going to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Yes. Which I have learned from becoming a team.
Because we build our wings on the way down, Amber.
Amber B 21:51
And we jump and we build our wings. So but what was the outcome that was worth it, right? Because of the outcome, we can do things scared. But we can only do things scared if we feel like we're doing it for a purpose, or like the purpose is important enough. And so for you, was it just the muscle growth? Like that was important enough that I'm gonna feel that fear and I'm gonna do it anyway.
Amber B 22:12
Yeah. What about you, Amanda?
Yeah, I agree with Katie, I'm not sure I ever actually got over the fear. You know, even six months later getting on the scale, some days, I feel like, “Oh, I'm gonna get how much weight to gain.” But it was kind of twofold. It was one, was using my other tools to assess, am I gaining fat? Or am I gaining muscle, doing my measurements? I couldn't commit to doing them weekly. It that was too stressful for me. So I did them every other week, and I posted in the group with updates every other week. And that kept me committed to actually taking those measurements and reporting back, like what's going on with my bulk. And honestly, the numbers didn't change as much as I expected they would. But where the numbers changed, told me that it was more muscle that I was gaining rather than fat, which really helped to have other tools, and to know that the scale is not the only arbiter of success was really, really helpful.
Amber B 23:19
Will you share what specifically you were looking at, and the data points that helped you to like have that knowledge?
Yeah, so I actually took a lot of measurements. I took obviously my waist, hips, thighs, calves, and both biceps, and chest. So I did all of those, I also did flexing measurements with specifically my biceps, and hips. I'm not really good at flexing my abs, thighs, and calves. And it was interesting because for a while they were kind of increased together. But at a certain point, my flexing measurement started changing, but my relaxed measurement wasn't changing in the same number. And I also took progress pictures and compared them. And in my head, I'm like, I feel like I've gained so much weight. I feel like I've gotten so much bigger. And then I'd look at the pictures that I'm like, actually look smaller in the pictures than when I started. Not in all of them. And then also sharing with the group and having objective feedback of like, it's not me looking at myself, it's other people saying, “Wow, look at the progress you've made. I can see the muscle you've gained, I can see the changes.” And that was helpful. I committed to posting for myself to make sure I would keep doing the things I said I would do taking the pictures and taking the measurements. But I got a lot of help from the feedback as well from other people in the group, looking at it and sharing with me things that they saw that I couldn't necessarily see myself.
Amber B 25:01
That's really good. Ah, what was the best part of the bulk? For both of you.
I think the two best parts were eating almost whatever I wanted. Not being super stressed about my tracking, like I didn't even pre-track much because I could make it work with the extra calories. I make just about anything fit if I needed to. And the other thing was my lifting. I added so much weight to my one rep maxes between when I started my bulk to when I next tested it, it was the end of August, but the weight I could move increased significantly. And going into my first powerlifting competition. That's important. Seeing those big gains was really encouraging.
Amber B 26:03
Yeah, that's awesome. What was your favorite part about the bulk Katie?
Pretty much the same thing. Yeah, I did. I did a lot of the same stuff, where it was like, why I can pre-track breakfast and lunch, but like dinners, basically whatever I want, because I know it all fit. I mean, I'm just slept through. So it's always nice to eat more. And yeah, the same thing. The lifts and the weight that I was able to move were just like, it blew my mind. And I've been lifting for 10 years. And I was just like, this is nuts. I almost maxed out both plate stacks on my functional trainer on a lat pulldown. Like, was this close? I couldn't even get it into position. It was so heavy.
Katie, I'm watching those videos of you doing those pull-downs, I think the numbers you're sharing are insane. You are so strong.
Amber B 27:04
It's so cool.
It was insane to me. And it was my own body.
Amber B 27:07
Like, blow your own mind.
Yes. And it was because I did like, at first I was like, I'm going to embrace this, I'm gonna embrace this. And I'm gonna push, like, if I'm gonna embrace it, I'm going. So it was one of those things where it's like, okay, well, I'm eating more food, let's use it. And decided to really like, find failure, and I did and it blew my mind.
Amber B 27:35
Yeah, that's so awesome. And I think that for people who get to that point in the journey where they want to get strong, or they want to build muscle where they want to push those limits where they want to, like move that weight, man, there's nothing better than like bulk and really giving your body that energy and that nutrition that it needs to be able to do that. Katie or Amanda, when I did my bulk before my powerlifting meet, as well as like that was part of the process of like me trying to like maximize those numbers that I could lift. And it's the experience of women. This is me coaching other women, the experience of having me coach other women who go to the gym for the first time feeling fully fueled, and then coming back and telling me, “Oh my gosh, I've never lifted, fully fueled, like I've always been in a deficit. I've always been trying to eat less”, and like, it feels so different to go to the gym and lift weights, under fueling your body. And then contrasting that with fueling and enough and or even into a surplus. Like the feeling that you get at the gym, how powerful you feel, how much weight you can move, and how you recover is night and day. And I love it when women come back and they're like, I've never felt so good at the gym as when I was like eating enough food. It's such an awesome experience for people to be able to have. So I love hearing that.
Amber B 28:57
One of the things that we talk a lot about in MACROS 101 and I coach a lot about is all-or-nothing thinking. And it shows up a lot of times in weight loss journeys. But Amanda, you mentioned that this sort of thinking started creeping in for you during the bulk. So can you share a little bit of the color of that all-or-nothing thinking and how that showed up for you?
Yeah, so I think Katie touched on it a little bit already. And she and I have talked about it. At a certain point, I was like why? Why am I tracking? Why am I worried about what I'm eating? Why don't I just eat whatever I want as much as I want? You know, we've got cake. We've got cookies, we've got candy. Why am I tracking one cookie? I could have the whole package. And some days I would give in and then just eat more and often I would end up feeling not great because when you eat a lot more junk your body doesn't necessarily love it. I'm saying junk but even more sugary foods, like things that are less nutritious. I don't really label foods as good or bad, but it tried to limit the less nutritious options. But some days it was a fight, like, why do I care? I can eat the whole sleeve of cookies. And it was sometimes difficult to rein in. And I had to think about what is my goal. And you know, I can eat all these cookies, and nothing's really stopping me from doing it. But I don't really want to gain a lot of fat, that's my biggest fear is gaining a lot of fat. So I do need to keep track, I do need to have an idea of what I'm eating and keep tracking and sticking to the goal numbers that I have. You know, it wasn't an exact number, there was a bit of a range, but I really had to remind myself what my goals were and bring it back to like, yes, I could eat all the cookies, but that's not really going to help me get to where I want to be. It will help me put on more fat, which is not the goal here.
Amber B 29:17
Yeah. Well, I think it's really important to delineate between an intentional bulk and an unintentional one. I think a lot of times people will label it a bulk, but it becomes the like, eat everything I want the bulk and an unintentional bulk. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that, however, you will tend to see more fat gain, you probably won't see muscle gain as well, but you will overshoot usually, when people just eat whatever they want, they overshoot what their body actually needs for like muscle growth. And so that's where you get the extra fat gain. And so there is a difference between not caring about what you eat, and intentionally being in an intentional surplus where you are being intentional about, here's how much I'm eating and here's how much protein I'm eating. And I'm trying to at least keep it somewhat balanced. And I'm trying to at least fuel my body with mostly nutritional foods. It's really easy to eat 3000 calories of crap. It's really hard to eat 3000 calories of whole foods if you've ever tried to do that, and like it's a lot more challenging. But there's a lot to how you feel and how you perform at the gym as well that you start to learn about as you fuel your body with more, more food, more calories. Do you have anything to add to that Katie?
Okay. Yeah, I mean, yeah, it was a lot of the same thing as Amanda posted. I don't think it was her last one. It was a couple of months before her last one where she had brought up that well, why? Why am I bothering? And I was like, “Wait, that's normal”. That was I thought that was just me.
Amber B 32:48
That's what I'm saying. Because that's why we have this conversation.
Exactly. So Amanda's posts were like, super beneficial for me because I was already starting to enter into this headspace that was not positive for a bulk. And so seeing Amanda's posts where it was like, “Oh, I'm not the only one”, who is feeling those feelings of, well, why don't I just eat all the things? Like it doesn't make sense. So yeah, it was really helpful for me to watch Amanda's progress and be able to, like normalize some of the feelings that I was having. Because I sometimes while I think it's common anyway for most people because we tend to be in our own space, where I feel like my thoughts are not normal. I feel like this is the way Katie thinks, and not a lot of people think that way. So it's really good for me, like watching Amanda's journey was really, really helpful for me to normalize a lot of the feelings that I was having.
Amber B 33:44
Yeah, I think it's normal to be scared of weight gain, I think it's normal to want to eff this and like, just eat all the foods, I think it's normal to not want to track, I think it's normal, also, to really struggle to fit in food, I hear that a lot of like, in a bulk, it's not uncommon to get tired of eating food, I hear that where it's like, I'm just tired of eating food, I don't want to eat more food. That's a very normal place to get to in a bulk. And when we can normalize these, these parts, these phases, these milestones that you're going to hit, you're able to know that, okay, it's totally normal for me to like, not want to eat more food. That's a normal thing to have to happen and it's kind of a milestone in the journey. And it doesn't mean I need to quit, doesn't mean I need to move, you know, keep going I can kind of make a choice at this point. But just there's nothing wrong with you. That it's a natural normal part of the process. And you know, hopefully, you're seeing, you're reaping the benefits of like you said in the gym like you're seeing the weights go up, you're seeing you're flexing measurements, you're seeing the muscle mass be able to be built and then you can decide is what I'm going through worth the outcome. And if it is you keep going. And if it's not, then you stop. And that can be a choice that you get to make but it's not because you're thinking about it wrong or because you're weird and nobody else has that experience. That's not it.
Amber B 35:06
So one of the things that I have, we kind of touched on it just a little bit, but I want to dive a little deeper into it. I had talked about, you know, going, one of the things when we go through hard things, and I would say bulk is a hard thing. As I said, a cut is a hard thing. Reversing is a hard thing. Maintaining is a hard thing. They're all hard things. But we learn throughout that experience. And I would argue that you learn different things about yourself and your body during the bulk than you learn during some of the other phases. So what did you learn about yourself, about your body during the phase of the bulk, that maybe was different from something that you had never learned previously? Who wants to go first?
So one of the beliefs I had going into the bulk was that I gain weight really easily. I was very afraid that I was just going to start packing it on really fast. And I just always had this belief, like if I even look at one calorie over where I'm supposed to be eating, I'm going to start gaining weight. And to my shock, I actually lost weight at the beginning of my bulk, I added calories and started losing weight, I lost about four pounds. And I was like I'm trying to gain, what is happening? It was so confusing. And I actually had to add a little bit more to actually reverse that trend. There were some tough things that happened in my life during the bulk, it actually ended up being a really good thing I was eating a little bit extra because I didn't have to worry about it. But for a period of time, my activity went way up. So I had to adjust my calories to account for that and then it ended up going back down. So there were things I had to adjust to fluctuating. But it actually took more than I thought to gain weight. My brain was like, oh, you know, you'll pack it on easily. And instead, I was losing weight and kept having to add more calories to actually start gaining. And once I figured out the right balance, and was able to look at my data and adjust as I needed, I was able to keep a pretty steady rate but it took some time. And I'm still shocked that I lost weight, gaining calories, because my brain just says like, you pack on the pounds no matter what you do.
Amber B 37:32
Yeah, how many calories did you end up increasing over your maintenance calories?
So from my starting maintenance number, at the highest, I was probably about 300 above that starting maintenance number. I did have to drop it down a little bit when my activity level decreased. I changed jobs, and there were a whole lot of things going on in my life. But I was able to look at the data and adjust and say like, I know my activity level went down and that's why I'm seeing a more rapid gain than I wanted to. So I ended up somewhere around 100-150 above where I started. And so my activity level was actually more similar to where I was in maintenance when I was at that 100-150 number. So it wasn't a huge surplus but it feels like a lot more food.
Amber B 38:31
Yeah, for sure. What about you, Katie? What are some of the things that you learned about yourself and your body during that time?
I found out that my maintenance calories are well at least maintenance is a higher range for me than I initially had thought. I initially thought that my maintenance was around 2000-2100. And I was tracking at 2300 and I was losing. I was like okay, great. But that was also around the time when a lot of my fight response started to creep in and things kind of got complicated with tracking and it was a whole thing. So it ended up going well, and the realization I came to was that I can gain a lot of muscle in my back but I wanted it in my quads. And I did not. I did build muscle there. I did. It's not that I did not, I totally did. And I spent thousands of dollars on equipment for my gym in order to pursue that goal of gaining quads. I did gain muscle and my quads but it all went to my back. And yeah, so a couple of lessons that my fight response messes with the majority of my life like anyone else.
Amber B 40:01
What a great example as well of the struggle that we have with expectations. Oftentimes we set a goal and then we create an expectation of like, what it's going to look like to get to that goal. It's like I want to gain muscle and I want to gain quads. And so it's gonna look like I'm going to invest in this equipment. I'm gonna go into bulk. I'm gonna, like, do these lifts, and boom, we're gonna have quads, and it's gonna be amazing. Yeah, and then life's like, Haha, that's funny. Here's what's actually gonna happen. And we have to like reorient ourselves to be like, “Oh, well, this is gonna look different than I thought, maybe this is gonna take longer than I thought, maybe this is not going to be as easy as I thought.” And then we have to reorient ourselves to that new reality. And that can be really challenging to do because I don't know about you, but like, the way that I have my life planned out is pretty great. And I think it would be just fantastic if it would just happen the way that I thought it should happen. Exactly. Please, and thank you. I'm really kind about it. But can we just have it happen the way I expect, that's not how life works. And I think that's an important lesson that I'm constantly learning and it sounds like you're right there with me.
Yeah, there was. I love memes. And there was a meme that I saw about gaining weight. That I kind of flipped into my problem of gaining muscle which was like trying to gain weight or choosing to gain weight or muscle. Biceps? You're kidding. Quads? No way. Back? I got you, girl.
Amber B 41:40
I got you, girl.
I was like, “Okay, well, you know, I obviously gained muscle I did 100%. I got stronger. I was able to hack squat more than I've had squatted forever.” Like, yeah, I did gain muscle, but it was kind of it was that expectation thing where it was like, okay, I'm going into this expecting quads. Instead, I got massive lats.
Amber B 42:07
Oh, man. I love massive lats. Big wide back.
Yep, I got it.
Amber B 42:12
I got you, girl, your last words were like I got you. I know what to do. I know what to do right now. That's awesome. All right, last question for you guys. If you're sitting down, and you're talking to a friend, and she's thinking about going into a bulk, and she's like, “What advice do you have for me? I'm going to do this in bulk?” What would you say to that friend?” To Amanda and then Katie.
Well, I think before starting a bulk, you need to be really in a comfortable place with the scale and how you react to fluctuations in numbers. It's probably good to have minimum maintenance for a while as Amber said earlier. And just know you can maintain and be steady at your weight. Have a pretty good idea of what your normal ranges and fluctuations look like. And I think it's probably good to be at a place where you're feeling pretty good about how you look because it is hard to then go into a bulk and start gaining weight. I wasn't necessarily at my leanest, and I don't think you necessarily need to be at your absolute leanness to go into a bulk. But I was comfortable with where I was. And I knew that I was going to put on a little fat and that I would be okay with that. Katie mentioned she wasn't in a great headspace when she started her second bulk. And there's a lot of things that go into that. For me, a lot of it is how I look. And am I comfortable with how I look? The way my timing on my bulk worked out, I was getting to the heaviest one as we were coming into sweater season. So it worked out really well as I started to feel the most uncomfortable. Because I did I did start feeling uncomfortable at the end. I've settled a little I'm a little more comfortable. But I was able to put on the big bulky sweaters and just not worry about it. So it is going to be hard. And so if you're not solid with how you're feeling about those things going in, it will be a lot harder as especially as you get into a longer length. I went through a freakout in the middle because I went through the bulking modules and in my head. I saw six to 12 weeks. but it says it's 6 to 12 months.
Amber B 44:35
Oh, it's 6-12 months.
Absolutely so much but my brain told me weeks and so I got to 12 weeks and I was like okay, I'm done. And I was like no, I'm not done. And I had to get some coaching and I talked through it with Melissa, committed to finishing it and getting through the six-month mark. But you know you have to be comfortable going in if you're not in a place where you're solid and comfortable, it will be way harder to accept those changes as you do gain weight.
Amber B 45:08
Yeah, it's good. Katie, what advice would you get?
My first advice would be to hire a coach. Who gets you, who is supportive of your choices, who will be there for you when you have questions, and who will ask you questions in return, to help get to the root of what's actually happening? I always find value in going to someone who is outside of my own head, because they're already ahead of me there. I am very much in my head with things. So even just talking it through with someone who understands what I'm trying to accomplish is massively beneficial. The second would be really similar to what Amanda said. If you're in a good spot, in a relationship with the scale, with food, with your body, if you're in a decent spot there, then there's most likely no reason that you would not benefit from a bulk, putting on muscle benefits anyone and everyone. Yeah, so I think it's finding people that you can turn to when you do have a question, who can actually help you. And yeah, being in a good relationship with yourself, and where you're at currently.
Amber B 46:38
Yeah, those are fantastic. I said that was the last question. But I do want to ask a follow-up question for both of you. What's next? Right, Amanda? Now you've finished the bulk, you said you're been two weeks in maintenance. Like, what's next? What are your plans? Same with you, Katie, what's next for you in your journey?
What's next for me is I realized, while I guess another realization that I came to after this process, I realized that I tend to live in extremes. It's all-or-nothing. I have not spent a lot of time on intentional maintenance. I have spent time maintaining like I have maintained losses, I have maintained results. I've been able to do that, but I've never like intentionally pushed my maintenance and spent a very extended amount of time that I do live in the extremes. I either cut or bulk and then maintain for a short period in between those two because the bulking usually lasts longer than a cut. So my next step is to focus on maintenance and to actually find out where exactly my range is. Because like I said earlier, I was able to push it to 300 calories more than what I was eating, and I was not gaining. So that's what's next for me is living a longer period of time at intentional maintenance.
Amber B 48:19
That's fantastic. Love it, how about you Amanda?
So as I mentioned, I'm getting ready for my first powerlifting competition. It's not till May, so I have some time. Right now, I do plan to do a cut before then just because I'm a little unhappy with the extra fat that I did put on it was not a lot but I'd like to try and remove a little bit. So I've been talking with my lifting coach about timing because I definitely do not want to be in a deficit right before my meet. So we've planned out when I need to finish the cut. And now I'm just trying to come to finalizing a plan of when I will do the cut, I want to have 8 to 12 weeks, and I'll see how I feel as we do it, whether I go the longer or cut it at 8 weeks. But right now the plan is to stay at maintenance for a little bit and then I'll go into a fresh, shortish cut. I don't want to go past 12 weeks and then 8 weeks before the meet for sure. I will be back at maintenance and we'll go from there.
Amber B 49:34
That's awesome. Super exciting. Well, thank you to both of you for coming on and sharing your unfiltered truth about your experience with a bulk. I think, like I said, normalizing some of the fears, normalizing some of the hard parts of the journey is really really important. I think bulking is awesome. I think adding muscle is awesome. It's fantastic to feel strong and to see those lifts go up. And I think we do people a disservice if we don't talk about the challenges and it's hard. Just like every phase is hard and you can learn different things in each of the phases. I think that one of the things that draw me to macro counting and to cycling through different phases in your journey is I've learned different things about myself and my body in each of the phases. And that growth that comes from challenging yourself is exciting for me. So I'm grateful to both of you guys for coming on and sharing your story and sharing your experience. And I know that a lot of women who are considering a bulk or thinking about a bulk or have been worried or wondering about a bulk, they're gonna find a lot of value from what you shared. So thank you so much.
Amber B 50:36
I'm so grateful to both Amanda and Katie for coming and sharing their unfiltered experience with bulking. Bulking is hard. And I think like I said, in the podcast a couple of times, it's all hard. Cutting is hard, the reverse is hard, maintenance is hard, bulking is hard, it's all hard. And yet, it can be the good type of hard, that good type of hard that causes you to grow, that causes you to learn lessons, that causes you to do some of that introspection. On some level, life is meant to be hard. That's what pushes us, that's what causes growth. If life was always easy we would never be necessary for us to grow. And it's one of the reasons that I love fitness. I love the playground of fitness because I think there are so many opportunities to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone to do and learn and be new things and it requires us to grow. And I think that's the best thing about being here on earth is learning and becoming somebody new and growing through experiences and through learning those lessons.
Amber B 51:39
So if you enjoyed this podcast please, please, please share it with somebody. There's not a lot of content I feel like out there about bulking. I feel like it's kind of the last stepchild of the fitness journey. There is a lot about cutting. And it just shouldn't be more but there's some about reversing, there's some about maintaining and I just feel like bulking just kind of gets left behind. But if you're really looking to add muscle and build strength, it can be one of the best things that you can do for your body. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks for hanging out with me here on 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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