To bulk or not to bulk ? That’s the question that many young trainees ask themselves and very often switch between extremely strict diets and extremely loose ones. For bodybuilders that aim to build muscle mass, bulking was the only good way to do it – they would just bulk up, gain muscle and fat simultaneously and then they would start a strict diet to cut the fat (and some muscle as well). Then the cycle starts all over again. But is it really necessary to gain so much fat in order to build muscle ?
Bodybuilders that carry a good amount of muscle mass know that getting to look like a sumo wrestler and gaining a ton of fat is not needed in order to build muscle. Some bodybuilders’ weight vary only about 10 lbs during the whole year and they never gain too much fat – take Dexter Jackson or Jay Cutler (when he was competing) for example. Gaining too much weight means only one thing – that you are eating absolutely not needed amounts of calories.
This is why it’s important to eat the right amounts of food, not to mention quality foods, not just when you cut down fat, but during the whole year.
A great way of staying in anabolic state is to rotate your calories. Specifically, to have a high, medium and low calorie days achieved through consuming different amounts of protein, fats and carbs on different days.
In this article we are going to take a look of a 2-week example diet plan based on calorie rotation. You can follow this plan throughout your whole off-season period.
Day 1 – day 5 (medium carbs)
For the first 5 days you are going to eat 2 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight. So if you are 180 lbs, you are going to eat 360 grams of carbs and 180 grams of protein. You don’t need to count the fats at this point, just make sure that you are eating quality protein and complex carbs – beef, chicken, eggs, fish in combination with complex carbs and some diet fibers (veggies). Try to eat these foods baked or boiled.
Count the exact quantities of macros and your body will have just enough materials to repair itself after the intense workouts.
Day 6 – day 10 (high carbs)
This is the next step. Increase your carbohydrate intake to 3-3.5 grams per lb of bodyweight and leave the protein to 1 gram/lb of bodyweight. For the athlete that weights 180 lbs that’s 540 grams of carbs and 180 grams of protein. That’s about 2160 calories coming from carbs and 720 coming from protein. That’s a total of 2880 calories without counting the fats.
The higher amount of carbs during these 5 days will ensure that your muscles and liver are loaded with glycogen. This means more energy, strength and potential for muscle growth.
Day 11 – day 12 (low carbs)
This is the step where you make a drastic change. You will decrease the carb intake to 0.5 g/lb (or less) and increase the protein to 2 grams per lb. In numbers this is about 90 grams (or less) of complex carbs (try eating mainly vegetables these days) and about 360 grams of protein for a 180 lb athlete. You will continue to gain muscle, since your glycogen levels are already loaded.
Even though the glycogen reserves will go down during these 2 days, that’s not really a problem as you still have the needed calories to support muscle growth ( increased protein). Instead you will improve insulin sensitivity , which will improve carbs and amino acids storage.
During these two days you can be a bit more liberal with the fat intake, you can eat a bit more fatty pieces of meat, more yolks etc. to compensate for the carbohydrate decrease. The increased intake of fats will also help you balance your hormone levels.
Day 13 – day 14
You have now set your body to store carbs and protein more than it normally does. Your body will super-compensate, as a result of which the levels anabolic hormones like HGH and insulin will rise rapidly.
You can increase both carbs and protein to 3g/lb, 2g/lb respectively, which means you can do some serious eating. Eat good quality meats, fish, whole eggs, whey protein powder, complex carbs as well as green vegetables to help you with protein digestion.
The mechanism is actually very simple: when you carb intake, the glycogen in the body is depleted, and mechanisms that increase glycogen storage take place. When you start eating carbs again, those same mechanisms are still active for a little while, which means increased glycogen loading – or supercompensation.
Try this program for a few months instead of the classic bulking program and you’ll gain muscle without too much fat.