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Will Bulking Make You Fat?

The whole “cutting and bulking” cycle used by many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can be a touch troublesome. Often, when bulking season comes around, people just go nuts with their diet – especially if they had just spent a few months surviving on naught but baked chicken breast and steamed broccoli. Now that they have license to eat whatever they want, it’s easy to see how some could make… questionable dietary decisions.

Looking at this situation, it’s easy to wonder: Will bulking make you fat? More importantly, is it possible to bulk up without packing on lots of extra body fat along with the sought-after muscle?

Run The Numbers

The first, vitally important thing that you need to do is calculate your caloric needs. This will be a very individual number and will, sadly, require some math.

Use the following formula to first calculate how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight and activity level, called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Women BMR = 655 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in yrs)
Men BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in yrs)

Here’s the thing, the number spat out by the above formula represents the amount of calories you burn just to stay alive. It does not account for your activity. For that, you need to take your BMR and multiply it by the corresponding Activity Factor from the following chart.

Amount of Exercise/Activity Description TDEE/ Maintenance
Sedentary Little or no Exercise/ desk job TDEE = 1.2 x BMR
Lightly active Light exercise/ sports 1 – 3 days/ week TDEE = 1.375 x BMR
Moderately active Moderate Exercise, sports 3 – 5 days/ week TDEE = 1.55 x BMR
Very active Heavy Exercise/ sports 6 – 7 days/ week TDEE = 1.725 x BMR
Extremely active Very heavy exercise/ physical job/ training 2 x/ day TDEE = 1.9 x BMR

So, now you know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. But you want to bulk. To do that, you need to eat more calories. How many? Add 10-15 percent to your TDEE.

A Calorie Is Not a Calorie

But proper bulking is about more than just cramming done tons of calories every day. Why? Because your body uses various forms of macronutrients differently.

For instance, fast carbohydrates cause a rapid increase in levels on insulin – followed by a huge dip in blood sugar. You’re now left hungry, cranky and craving more fast carbs.

Slow carbohydrates, however, increase your insulin levels gradually and protect you from those blood sugar crashes. Why does this matter? Insulin doesn’t just move carbs around – it also makes sure that protein gets to where it needs to be.

Specifically, insulin escorts protein off to your muscles so that you can put on lean mass.

And that brings us to fat, the final macronutrient. It is true that fat is pretty readily stored as body fat, but it is also a valuable fuel for your body. Really, the trick with fat comes from the fact that it contains more than double the amount of calories than protein and carbohydrates. So it’s easy for your fat intake to get away from you.

What should a good bulking diet look like, then? In general, the standard recommendation is:

50% carbohydrates

30% protein

20% fat

Ultimately…

So, is it possible that bulking will make you fat? Yes, if it’s done recklessly. If you’re careful and plan, though, you can quickly pack on lean body weight without tons of unwanted fat. We recommend our weight gainer, Naked Mass, when looking to add clean, extra calories to your diet.

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