“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” -Mark Twain
I’m currently in what’s known as a “bulking phase” and I hate every minute of it. That picture is my lunch today: A sandwhich with 3 servings of turkey, fat free cheese, tomato, and lettuce, rice cake chips, carrots, trail mix, a light Muscle Milk, sugar free Jello, and water. ( o . o ) I feel like a blimp most of the day. The scary thing is all that food is only 560 calories. Eating this much food is soooorta expensive.
It’s widely accepted that you can’t add muscle without adding fat, so most serious gym rats do what’s called a bulk/cut cycle. You “bulk” for 2-3 months which involves in eating excessive calories, then flip and “cut” for about the same amount of time eating fewer calories. Everyone has what’s called a “maintenance” level of calories- it’s the point where your daily calorie intake is exactly equal to what you use in a day. Granted it’s hard to do that on a day to day basis, so most people use a weekly total and average it up. Since adding 1lb of muscle of fat requires 3500 calories, that easily breaks down to 500 extra calories a day for a week. If you’re trying to cut, you shave an extra 500 a day. Sounds easy right?
The problem comes in determining your maintenance level of calories. Lots of people use a body mass index formula (BMI) like the one described here. The problem is that everyone is different; the formula varies by weight, height, and gender. It can take a bit of experimentation and time to figure out what your maintenance level is. For reference mine is ~2400-2800 calories a day. I started bulking two weeks ago and weighed 155. As of this Friday’s weigh in I’m up to 163. I’ve been slowly increasing my calories until I hit ~3200 on gym days and 2900 on non gym days. I finally seem to be adding mass pretty well and increasing strength-wise, so I don’t see a need to mess with the formula much more. The only downside is I’m starting to reacquire a bit of a spare tire again. I was originally going to try and hit 170, but I’m not 100% sure that that 15lb increase has a good ratio of muscle to fat. On average for most people it’s 2lbs of fat for every 1lb of muscle, so starting at 170 I’d have to cut back down to ~160. It’s an eternal juggling act as you lose a bit of muscle when cutting too, so I may just go for 175 before starting the cut. I’m adding in a light bit of cardio 2-3 times a week for a few weeks to see if I can’t get back to a better ratio without impacting calories much.
It’s a good feeling when small shirts are too small through the shoulders and chest though 🙂