Today is the day that you woke up and said, "This is it. I'm tired of feeling like a blob and I'm ready to get fit." Or maybe you've been tossing the idea around in your head for a while now, but you're more than a little lost on where to begin. Your trepidation is understandable -- starting a new strength training program can be daunting, especially with the bounty of conflicting information out there.
Whether your goals are to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or you're just looking to add few pounds of lean muscle mass, a bulking meal plan can help you get that chiseled physique that you crave.
Hit Your Macronutrient Goals
The RDA for protein is a mere 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight. For a 150-pound person, that's just 54 grams of protein daily. However, it's important to distinguish two important things: one, currently Americans are currently failing to hit their minimum RDAs of protein and two, the RDA is a minimum for daily living. To build muscle, you would need to increase your intake significantly.
The current RDAs of protein are grossly understated. The current requirements suggest that only about 10% of calories should come from protein, but recent studies revealed that 1.0 -1.5 g/kg per day was far superior to maintain proper health. To build muscle, aim for 1.3g-1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight. For that same 150-pound person, protein requirements jump to over double the original RDA at 89g-123g of protein.
Be sure to consume your protein with a hearty dose of carbohydrates to achieve peak performance. Consume an average of 5g-6g per kilogram of weight to fully replenish your glycogen stores, or around 55-60% of your diet.
Best Protein Sources
Research has shown, time and again, that the best source of protein comes from dairy products. Whey and casein create some of the best muscle gains in strength training. However, for those who can't eat dairy, don't despair: you can still build muscle mass using other sources of protein.
Whole protein sources are vastly superior to supplements, so enjoy a variety of protein from foods to build muscle mass, including eggs, fish, chicken, and even steak.
While plant based proteins aren't as beneficial, they can still help you build mass. Vegans can maximize lean muscle gains while strength training by eating plenty of leucine (which is shown to promote muscle synthesis) from lentils and soy protein.
Aim For a Clean Bulk
Some athletes prefer to indulge in a dirty bulk. They don't pay much attention to the quality of what they're eating so much as the quantity. As long as they're eating surplus calories and protein, they're happy.
While a dirty bulk has been shown to help gain muscle mass, too often extra body fat will tag along for the ride. All bulks will result in weight gain; you cannot build muscle in absence of a calorie surplus. However, the amount of weight gain that converts into fat versus muscle is largely determined by the diet you choose. A diet higher in protein will result in more muscle mass versus a junk-food diet. Plus, a diet higher in vitamins and minerals will help your body heal faster – zinc, Vitamin A and Vitamin C consumed alongside protein leads to a stronger, healthier body.
Aim for a modest calorie surplus of around 500-1000 extra calories over your daily expenditure to gain the most muscle mass with the least amount of unwanted fat. To further increase those gains, supplement your diet with Omega-3 fatty acids. You'll have less inflammation, less DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and improved muscular hypertrophy from adding these essential fatty acids into your diet.
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Example Bulking Meal Plan for 1 Day
If you focus on hitting your macronutrients both before and after your workout, you'll easily hit your nutritional targets for a well-rounded bulking meal plan.
Breakfast: Oats made with Skim Milk, Blueberries, Cinnamon, and Almonds
Lunch: Salad with Baked Chicken Breast, Blue Cheese, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Avocado, and Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Post-Workout: Smoothie made with Frozen Strawberries, Honey, Skim Milk, Scoop of Whey/Casein Protein Powder
Dinner: Baked Lemon-Dill Salmon with Sauteed Kale and Herb-Roasted Red Potatoes
Dessert: Whipped Cottage Cheese with a Berry Reduction and Dark Chocolate Chips
A bulking meal plan doesn't have to be a tedious chore of bland protein supplements. Focus on a clean bulk with a variety of foods from whole sources to keep your appetite and your mouth satisfied. You'll be sure to build lean muscle mass and minimize unwanted fat storage, giving you that cut look that you've earned in both the gym and the kitchen.
Still have questions about building muscle and shedding fat?
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