There more I learn, the more I get frustrated with what I’ve done wrong in both training training and nutrition. Sometimes it has been through my own fault, but largely it has been from listening to people I thought knew what they were talking who really didn’t have a clue. I was told by a teacher (who was in great shape) when I was 15, that to increase my weight I should eat a loaf of bread a day. I followed this for about 6 months because I looked up to him and trusted his opinion. My aim is to make my nutritional advice/articles/plans accurate (to the best of my knowledge at the time) but also as practical as possible. I am particular with my food planning because it’s of interest to me; I believe the majority of people in the world eat food either to enjoy something or fill a hole. Take from this article what is necessary for you.
This is my updated guide, which is not about the food itself, it’s about a process.
I wrote the last guide to bulking (https://beginnernutrition.com/2013/02/15/what-is-bulking/) and recommended increasing calories by 500-1000 a day as a good way to start. This article is more comprehensive and will give you a guideline to follow.
I think the key to any nutrition programme is to a) be consistent and b) stick to it for a period of time; I usually work in 4 week cycles.
1 bad meal won’t make you fat and one good meal doesn’t make you healthy, be consistent.
If you are prepared to be committed and successfully improve your diet to bulk then I think these steps will help put you on the right path; if you are not interested in planning and are more concerned with calories and “bulking” itself then skip to step 4.
STEP 1 – IDENTIFY EATING TIMES
Most people will probably have a reasonably set timetable in their lifestyle in terms of a work/university day. Within this day there are opportunities for you to eat. I appreciate that you may have a very busy day but I’m sure the majority can spare 10 minutes to eat. Figure out where you have set opportunities to eat.
This is what my Monday day looks like
7:00 – Meal 1
10:30 – Meal 2
13:00 – Meal 3
18:00 – Meal 4 (Post workout)
21:00 – Meal 5
Identifying meal times will help you plan and prep your meals for that particular time.
I prep a lot of food in advance and I cook twice a day. I always make breakfast but I never prep anything, it’s just part of my morning. I also like to cook my evening meal as opposed to prepping that too, because I like eating something just made and I have an opportunity to cook in the evening. This is all individual preference.
STEP 2 – HOW MANY TIMES A DAY ARE YOU GOING TO EAT
I prefer to eat the majority of my calories in the latter part of the day after training. I don’t like eating big meals through the day. I feel better on smaller meals. But this is up to you.
Again your days may vary so you may get 3 meal opportunities to eat on a Monday but 5 on a Tuesday. For consistency you’d need to increase your calories per meal on the days you eat less.
STEP 3 – GET SOME STAPLE MEALS
I have some set meals that I eat and I know approximately how many calories I’m getting and what the macronutrient breakdown is. It also helps a lot with batch cooking as you can make a boat load and store it in the fridge.
My staple meals that I eat regularly throughout my working day are:
- Chilli + veg/salad
- Chicken with roasted veg (peppers, onions etc) + Kerrygold butter
- Homemade burgers, sour cream, avacado, salad.
My breakfast and evening meal vary most days.
STEP 4 – SUPER SHAKE
I’m currently trying to increase mass myself; this is something I’ve started doing every night to increase the calories in a simple way. I don’t count my calories religiously but I have a good idea of what I’m getting each day. This super shake puts me in a calorie surplus (providing I’ve eaten all my other meals).
- 1 pint of whole milk
- 1 scoop of “my protein” whey
- 2 large tablespoons of nut butter (almond or peanut I use)
- Frozen berries
Some of you may think steps 1,2 and 3 are too much effort so just apply step 4. If you are serious about wanting to increase size then follow the steps for a period of time and then re-assess. If after 4 weeks you haven’t gained anything then you probably need to increase your calories further. If after 4 weeks you’ve gained 6kg then you’ve probably been taking in too much as this is not going to be all muscle; there may be a significant amount of fat gain.
Also, remember you must be training well, otherwise eating loads of calories will increase fat. I know this is an obvious statement but if you’re going to the gym, using machine weights doing 15-20 reps per set, then you’re following the wrong programme. The exercise itself plays such an important role when increasing mass. It’s not just food to put on muscle.
Do some research or ask for advice if you are serious about putting on mass.
Direct questions to @Bencullen_
Download my meal planner here to help.