Gaining weight is easier said than done. Let me rephrase that, gaining muscle is easier said than done. Novice bodybuilders in the home gyms out there know what I am talking about. At 5′ 11” 165 lbs, the idea of bulking is a no brainer. The problem is the fat that goes with it. Although it comes with the territory of a bulking cycle and is well understood in the beginning, the feeling you get when your clothes start to fit tighter around the waist sucks.
How much fat should you expect to gain during a bulking phase? “None” would be a great answer but that would also be unrealistic. Read a few books or articles on the subject and do some research in the popular bodybuilding forums and you will find estimates of the amount of fat you can expect. Those estimates on muscle/fat gain range from 75%/25% to 50%/50%. Taken in isolation, those numbers sound reasonable. However, its important to think those numbers through and consider the consequences
- you will gain fat as you gain muscle, and
- the gaining ratio is probably disproportionate to your current body fat %.
So even if your gains are in line with the optimistic end of the estimates, unless you are 25% bodyfat to begin with, your bodyfat % will go up. That’s the part that is hard to wrap your head around when planning to bulk. Adding a quarter of a pound of fat in exchange for three times as much muscle seems like a great trade off. In reality, it probably is.
In my case I started my most recent bulk at 12% body fat. Five lbs later, that number has climbed to 13%. That’s a gain ratio of a little more than one to one. Not great but a reasonable result and one that is in line with the conventional wisdom. Reality – I had to buy some new clothes. The shorts that fit comfortably last year do not fit as well this year.
My approach to this bulking phase started with a plan for a calorie surplus and a goal of gaining muscle. A better approach would be to get more specific about the acceptable range of weight gain on the basis of muscle to fat ratio. Plan for both the best and worst case scenario and place your expectations in a range of possible results.
Here’s a question – is it even possible for me to do better than 1 to 1. In other words, are we genetically programmed to add weight in a specific ratio. Is it my genes that determine how much fat I gain or do
I have some control over it?
The moral – prepare yourself and go in with your eyes open.
Here’s a great article on bulking – http://strengthunbound.com/bulking-complete-guide-for-beginners/