The body cannot gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, and because of this many bodybuilders go through bulking and cutting phases in their routines.
The purpose of bulking is to gain muscle, not fat. Bodybuilders should eat above their maintenance calorie requirement to do this. More often than not, they eat too far above this requirement. To make things worse, these extra calories often come from junk food. All these extra calories do is cause you to gain fat, not muscle: the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.
To just state that one has to eat a lot in order to bulk is completely stupid. It would depend first of all on how lean a person is to begin with. It also depends on how close that person was to their set-point. Keep track of your calories, and use your existing caloric ingestion as your basis, and then add to your calories by 500. Review your gains, or lack thereof, at the end of the week, and look at the gains in muscle weighed against the gains in fat.
One gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is required as the daily minimum for bodybuilders. During the bulking phase make sure your protein does not drop below this level. You are taking in protein to keep your muscle, so eat enough protein, whether you're bulking or cutting.
Fats should comprise no more than 20% of your diet, maybe 30% if you're bulking, and it should be good fats. If you want to cut more, trim fat intake down to 10%, but you should not go under this.
Whether one should cut down first and then bulk up, or whether one should bulk up first and then cut down is the topic of much debate in bodybuilding. Most popular opinions propose that the best way to get the perfect body is to bulk up first and then try to diet down. Though it makes sense intuitively, I'd like to present some facts and a case that may lead you to rethink this approach.
In several experiments, subjects were underfed in varying degrees in order to produce weight loss. The subjects were given the following hypocaloric diets:
Diet #1: 0-450 kcal/day
Diet #2: 500-1000 kcal/day
Diet #3: 1000+ kcal/day
The interesting results of this study showed that at the same calorie levels, the fatter subjects kept more muscle and lost more fat. Eating a diet with too few calories causes a substantial lean body mass loss, while eating a higher calorie diet preserves more lean mass.
Both Bill Pearl and Arnold Schwarzenegger used to stay light in the off-season and then go up for contests. Although this takes longer, it is a great alternative to bulking up and then trying to cut down. Once you've added fat cells and/or expanded the ones you have, it's a lot harder to empty or get rid of them.
Your diet should follow these guidelines:
- Always workout together with dieting to advance fat loss and maintain lean mass.
- Always take your initial body fat into account before you settle on how strict your diet should be.
- You diet can be more restrictive and/or strict if you begin with a high level of body fat, since you will lose the fat preferentially.
- You should fine-tune your calorie deficit as you diet and get leaner, so that it is actually smaller. If you don't reduce your deficit as you lose fat, you will begin to lose an unacceptable amount of lean mass.
There are a variety of methods for bulking up then cutting down: you can manipulate your diet, consuming immense amounts of calories during the bulk and then eating less while cutting, you can change your exercise routine, lifting heavy for short periods of time with maximum rest while packing on the weight and performing numerous cardio sessions when trying to lean out, or you can even go to the extreme and resort to dehydration to help you lose excess weight.
Carbohydrate cycling is a method of bulking while keeping fat gain minimal. If you have endomorphic tendencies, try cycling with three high carb days, three low carb days and one no carb day. For a pure endomorph, or someone with extreme endormorphic tendencies, you'll want to add an extra no carb day, and eliminate a low carb day. A pure mesomorph would be better served doing three high carb days and four low carb days, whereas a pure ectomorph would be best off with the converse: four high carb days and three low carb days.
Creatine can be used in both your bulking and cutting phases. When you're bulking up and adding mass, Creatine, along with the higher amount of calories, protein and carbs, will allow you to lift heavier weights. It also has its role when you're cutting to lose body fat: it allows you to use heavier weights while dieting to force your body to retain more lean mass.
There are now supplements on the market, which claim to build up muscle, making bulking up obsolete. One such supplement is Thermogain™, which also promises to push your strength through the roof. This supplement is said to contain the latest ingredients that have been scientifically proven to build hard muscle while increasing thermogenesis (heat creation) at the same time. The Thermogain formula is still top secret, and to date, no detailed ingredient information has been released to the public.