Updated: Nov 21, 2018
Alternate title: I will never use the stupid fucking word “BULKING”!
That said, every single day I pen hyper-caloric diets for the elite athlete from every corner of the world! Why the discrepancy, why the word games, you ask? The answer like most is far more simplistic than you might imagine. Words are some of the only tools we have to express thoughts and ideas (art, music & mathematics are a few others) therefore the more precise your words, the precisely we (I) can express ideas! Precise, well-defined thoughts can then (and only then) be considered and debated by others………..“Bulking” is an absurdly imprecise word and should never spout forth from ones “PIE HOLE”.
The purpose of bodybuilding (at least on the science side) is to elevate lean mass and minimize or reduce body fat. The difference between on and off season and everywhere in between is just a function of degree! In a true off season, the acquisition of lean mass is a much greater priority than maintaining stage-worthy low levels of body fat. The converse is, of course, that as a contest approaches, the need for reductions in body fat wildly outweighs any worries of accumulating lean mass!
So with all of the above, the conceptual stage is set to begin to “design” this ethereal and near-mystical “rational bodybuilding diet”
If you read and then reread the above you can discern that LEAN MASS is intended (as defined by bodybuilding) to maintain or increase over time! Almost all relevant studies from the last hundred years suggest that protein requirements fall between a relatively narrow margin and is largely correlated to LEAN MASS. The exact value for dietary protein is almost certainly variable and individually-dependent, but can still be defined to a relatively high degree of accuracy. Though I’m willing to entertain debate on the subject (something that true science DEMANDS), I take my values of 2-3g/kg from Lyle McDonald’s “The Protein Book.”
In keeping with the overall tone and logic of this article, I suggest that nitrogen (protein) be kept on the low side of the scale for the following reasons. The most obvious point is that eating less protein (and fat for that matter) frees up additional kcals for carbohydrate consumption, one of the major “goals” of a hi-carb/insulinogenic environment! Secondly, the above mentioned insulinogenic nature of the overall physiology being created lends itself to being much less catabolic in nature (after all insulin is PROFOUNDLY ANTI-CATABOLIC!) therefore preserving muscle mass and reducing momentary nitrogen needs. Lastly eating carbohydrates is much more sustainable over time, asking someone to eat 1000’s of additional kcals from protein or fat sources is both expensive and physically challenging! Carbs are lower-cost/long shelf life foods that have the absurdly convenient ability to generate hunger rather than satiating it!
Fat ranges are a “bit” harder to define and seem to have a much greater genetic variance than do proteins. Studies seemingly only define two major (and valuable) points on the scale an absolute minimum requirement and that under “special conditions” almost no upper end! For the context of this article, we can focus on the lower value or about .25g/kg of body weight. With decades of both personal experience and “coaching” experience, I find (for most people) everything between 1g and .5g per kilogram to be roughly equally effective over the long term. A lower fat value does seem to be “better” at promoting leanness but is exponentially more difficult to sustain over time negating much if not all of the minor benefit.
So we have arrived at some very simple and fundamental numbers to plug into our diet equation, 2-3g of protein per kg of body weight and 1 or less gram of fat per kilogram of body weight.
Example: 75kg intermediate bodybuilder
Protein: 75×3 = 225g / 900kcal
Fat : 75×1= 75g / 675kcal
Total Kcal: 1575 from Protein & Fat
Can anyone guess where the difference of kcals is going to come from? Yep, evil but delicious carbohydrates will make up all of your remaining calories! How many is that you ask……well that is dependent on your genetics your activity and a host of other factors. Ideally, you should have, if not a diet journal, at least a solid idea of your current calorie intake to use as a starting point! In the event that you don’t know your current intake, I have found that bodybuilders consistently fall between 30-40 kcals/kg daily.
75×30 = 2250 (75kg bodybuilder x 30kcal/kg)
2250 – 1575 = 675 kcal
675/4 = approx 170g of carbohydrates
75×40 = 3000 (75kg bodybuilder x 40kcal/kg)
3000 – 1575 = 1425 kcal
1425/4 = approx 355g
And there we are. Through math, science, and experience a “rational” real world bodybuilding diet forms before our very eyes! Our 75kg example bodybuilder would eat 225g of protein and 75g of fat and the difference of their current kcal load in carbohydrates escalating weekly or biweekly toward 355g or more (for the incredibly gifted or devoted).
The above outline covers the rough logic and quantities for a rational bodybuilding diet. Carbohydrate-prioritized eating of this manner creates and supports an anabolic (insulinogenic) “ecosystem” that becomes both very powerful and self-sustaining over time! Acute hormonal responses to regular carbohydrate feedings generate and or support long-term diurnal and nocturnal insulin/growth hormone cycles.
The details like protein and fat sources as well as timing and “quality” of foods and meals could and likely will fill many more pages of text in the future. Until that future arrives some simple logic and simple math will get you on track for long-term muscle gains with a minimum of long-term fat retention!