So you are at a point in your fitness journey where you have decided to take the leap and start bulking. Your overall goal and focus are to build muscle. If this is your first time bulking you might be feeling somewhat overwhelmed and are probably wondering how and where to start. This post is meant to provide you with a solid start and help guide you in the right direction in regards of your diet to help you build a plan with the right calories, macros, and foods for your individual needs and goals.
Where to Start
If you are reading this odds are you have probably already started bulking or you are determined and want to start prepping yourself with as much information before starting your bulk. My first and most important recommendation when it comes to bulking is total body fat percentage.
Why does my body fat percentage matter?
Your body fat percentage is one of the main factors that will determine how much body fat you will gain on a bulk. If your body fat percentage is currently over 20-21% it is HIGHLY RECOMMEND for you to lower your body fat down to this range BEFORE bulking.
When you have lower body fat percentage you have a higher tolerance to insulin. On the other hand, when you have a higher body fat percentage your insulin sensitivity decreases which increases your chances of gaining more fat than necessary, and also causes protein synthesis to decrease minimizing muscle growth.
I want to address this first before moving on because having a lower body fat percentage will allow you to bulk for a longer period of time and with the proper nutrition plan you can minimize fat gain while maximizing muscle growth.
For more details and specifics about bulking make sure to check out my post on Bulking for Women.
Building your Bulking Diet Plan
Bulking is more than just eating more food. It’s about finding the right caloric surplus to help support muscle growth. To determine your nutritional needs you will need to figure out your totals calories and then you will need to figure the proper macronutrient breakdown for muscle building.
Let’s get started!
The first step is to determine your TDEE—Total Daily Energy Expenditure aka your maintenance calories.
You can choose to use the formula below or you can simply use this calculator.
Women BMR = 655 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in yrs)
TDEE = BMR x Activity Factor
Sedentary – 1.2
Lightly Active – 1.375
Moderately Active – 1.55
Very Active – 1.725
Extremely Active – 1.9
The next step is to multiply your TDEE by 5-10%, this will provide you with the ideal calorie range to stick to.
Remember that these numbers are just your starting point, experiment with them for over a week or so and adjust these numbers as you go. If you find that you are gaining too much weight decrease by 100 calories if you are not gaining enough increase by 100 calories and so forth.
Side note: For this bulking diet plan we will be implementing a lean bulk.
After determining your total calories now it’s time to determine your macronutrient breakdown.
Let’s start with protein since it pays a major role in maintaining, repairing, and growing muscle. Anytime you are trying to build muscle you will need to make sure you are eating enough protein and is one of the macro nutrients you will want to meet daily and keep the most track of.
The recommended amount of protein intake is 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight.
Formula: Bodyweight (lbs.) / 1 = Protein Intake per day
Chicken: Breast, Drumstick, Thigh
*take note of the fat content when selecting any of these protein sources
Non Meat Proteins:
*Non-meat protein sources will also have a high amount of carbs
Fat is important because they provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins beneficial for your health. Your diet should provide a moderate amount of fat. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an intake of 0.3– 0.5g of fat per pound. However, it is important to note that women perform better with a higher fat range, this is typically around 30-35% of your total calories.
The total carbs you consume should make up for the remainder of your calories.
Bulking Diet Plan Example
Now we have covered the main factors it’s time to build a bulking diet plan based on what we previously covered.
For this bulking diet plan example, the numbers will be based on a 130lb Female, that is moderately active.
Total Calories: TDEE= 2,031
Increase 5%: 2,031 x 0.05 = 102 total calorie increase (lower range increase – 5%)
Increase 10%: 2,031 x 0.10 = 203 total calorie increase (higher range increase – 10%)
Total Calorie Range: 2,133 – 2234 total calories
Protein: 130 x 1 = 130g per day (130g x 4 = 520 calories, protein contains 4 calories per gram)
Fat: 130 x 0.5 = 65g per day (65g x 9 = 585 calories, fat contains 9 calories per gram)
Carbs: (Calories left) 2,133 total calories – 520 calories from protein – 585 calories from fat = 1,028 calories from carbs à 1,028 calories from carbs / 4 = 257g carbs, carbs also contain 4 calories per gram
GOAL: 2,133-2,234 total calories: 130g of protein/ 65g of fat/ 257g of carbs
Bulking Meal Plan Sample
Now that we know what numbers to hit on a bulk, now it is time to build a meal plan based on the diet plan we previously created.
Macro Breakdown per Meal
Personally, I find that splitting my macros evenly helps me better reach my goal numbers at the end of the day, but you can break it down according to your personal schedule or preference. However, it is recommended for you to evenly split your protein intake for each meal. Researchers have found that eating a balanced protein intake across meals helps support a higher increase in protein synthesis throughout the day.
As for how many times to eat per day, really depends on your schedule. For this example, I will be splitting this meal plan into 4 meals. I know some don’t have time to be eating 6 times a day and that’s OKAY you don’t need to, as long as you’re meeting your numbers at the end of the day.
Macros per meal: Protein 33g/ Fat 16g/ Carbs 64g
Meal 1: Breakfast
2 Whole Eggs – 12P/ 10F/ 0C
3 Egg Whites – 10P/ 0F/ 0C
¾c. Oats– 8P/ 5F/ 41C
1c. Mixed Berries – 1P/ 0F/ 21C
Total Calories: 501
Meal 2: Lunch
5oz Chicken – 34P/1F/0C
2oz Whole Grain Pasta – 7P/2F/41C
8oz Sweet Potatoes – 4P/0F/30C
1c. Sautéed Bell Pepper – 1P/2F/9C
1 Tbsp. Avocado Oil – 0P/14F/0C
Total Calories: 687
Meal 3: Dinner
4oz Extra Lean Ground Beef – 24P/5F/0C
8oz Baked Potatoes – 5P/0F/40C
½ c. Beans – 8P/1F/23C
¼ c. Sautéed Onions — 0P/2F/2C
1.5 tsp Coconut Oil – 0P/7F/0C
Total Calories: 529
Meal 4: Late Night Shake
½ c. Cottage Cheese –14P/5F/3C
¾ c. Oatmeal – 8P/5F/41C
1 Banana – 1P/0F/27C
1 Tbsp. Almond Butter – 4P/9F/3C
Total Calories: 555
Total Calories (4): 2,273
And There it is a perfect diet plan and meal plan for bulking!
Side Note: Total calories are about 40 calories over but I wouldn’t stress about a slight number like that.
Having a Hard Time Eating Enough?
Learning from others and from my personal experience, one of the main issues many people face when bulking is keeping up with eating all the food. This is especially true if you are not used to eating big meals.
Here are some suggestion to help you stay on track:
Add smaller meals/ snacks in between your main meals: consider snacking in between your meals. For example, eating an apple with some almond butter in between breakfast and lunch is a great way to get in some healthy fats and some complex carbs.
Make high calorie shakes: This is probably the easiest and most convenient way to intake a lot of calories at once. In fact, consuming liquid calories will make you feel less full than in taking the same amount of calories in a solid form. Therefore this is a great option if you are having a hard time digesting and consuming all the food during your bulk.
Make some high-calorie pancakes: Combine all your macronutrient sources and whip up some high-calorie pancakes. For example, you can combine whole eggs, oats, banana, and coconut oil blend it all together and pour over a hot skillet. I find this to be a very enjoyable way to intake a high amount of calories especially when craving something sweet.
Although supplements are not required during a bulk here are some supplements to consider that may help support you during a bulk.
Digestive Enzymes: Digestive enzymes are great to help ensure that your body has enough enzymes to help you break down all that food you must consume day after day.
Where do I start with these?! These have truly been a game changer for me. When I started my bulking I was experiencing a lot of gas and bloating most likely due to the high increase in carbs. It sucked! but after some extensive research, I came across these and decided to make the purchase and I am so glad I did. These have changed my digestive health phenomenally, this stuff is great and I always recommend to anybody who is having any digestive issue. They also contain prebiotics and probiotics which is an added bonus.
Multi-Vitamins: The body requires a daily intake of essential vitamins essential for development and growth, consuming a multi-vitamin can help prevent any deficiencies.
If you are in search of some good high-quality multivitamins consider Naturelo’s multivitamin for women. These are truly great vitamins that do not source any raw materials from China. These are great for those with sensitive stomachs and are easy to swallow. The only downside is that you need to take (4) capsules a day but other than that these are great multivitamins.
Protein Powder: protein powder is convenient and an easy source of protein to digest as it is in liquid form. Keep some on-hand at all times just in case you are running late or don’t have time to cook a meal.
Here are some protein powder suggestions:
According to the Clean Label Project, here are the top five protein powders that contain the least amount of industrial and environmental contaminants and have the highest nutritional portfolio. The Clean Label project conducted a study that tested the top protein powders in the market in search of heavy metals, BPA, pesticides, and other contaminants that are linked to cancer and other serious health conditions.
- Puori: PWI Vanilla Pure Whey Protein
- BioChem: Vanilla 100% Whey Protein
- Body Fortress: Super Advanced Vanilla Whey Protein
- Performix: ProWhey + Vanilla Protein Amino Beads
- Pure Protein: Vanilla Cream 100% Whey
Keep in mind that supplements are great sources but remember that are just meant to “Supplement” a healthy balanced diet with a proper training regime for the best possible results.
As you can see creating a bulking diet does not need to be complicated. If you want the best possible results during your bulk make sure to customize your own plan and incorporate the foods you enjoy the most for sustainability and long-term success. Also, listen to your body and adjust any numbers if necessary don’t be afraid to eat more if you need to. So start that bulk today!