I've been doing my first bulk for 6 weeks and only have gained 3 lbs. Should I start eating more? I'm 5'5 125lbs now and eating 2400 cals a day. I actually lost half a lb this week so I'm a little discouraged.
11-26-2012, 12:18 PM #1
11-26-2012, 12:47 PM #2
11-26-2012, 04:35 PM #3
Not bad OP, I shoot for 1/2lb a week bulking or cutting.Current PRs:
Bench Press: 195x1
Back Squats: 275x1
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11-27-2012, 02:00 AM #4
Article from Lyle McDonald, found here:
How Fast Can You Actually Gain Muscle Mass?
We live in an instant gratification society and are constantly bombarded with amazing claims; while this is probably most true in the world of weight loss, it’s not much different when it comes to muscle gain.
Magazines advertise 20 pounds or rock hard muscle in a mere 8-10 weeks, a supplement promises 5 lbs of muscle in 3 days or whatever; all around we see claims of rapid gains in muscle mass. Sadly, this is all basically bull****. Yeah, with glycogen loading or creatine you can increase lean body mass (not the same as muscle mass) fairly rapidly but beyond that, skeletal muscle actually grows fairly slowly.
On average, a natural male doing everything right will be doing very well to gain 1/2 of pound muscle per week. A female might gain half that or about 1/2 pound muscle every 2 weeks.
Let’s put that in perspective: over a full year of training, assuming the trainee is doing everything right, that’s 26 pounds of the good stuff for men (13 pounds for women). Which, if you think about it, actually isn’t that awful. It’s simply awful compared to what people think they are going to get based on the false promises in the magazines (or the claims of drug using bodybuilders).
That assumes that half-pound is gained week-in, week-out for the entire year. Oddly, and somewhat tangentially, it usually doesn’t work that way. Trainees may go a long time with no measurable gains and then wake up several pounds heavier seemingly overnight. I have no idea why, that’s just how it usually works.
I’d note that, under the right conditions (usually underweight high school kids), much faster rates of gain are often seen or reported. But these tend to be exceptions to the rule more than the norm and since I’m usually writing for the average male trainee who’s not 15 years old with raging hormones, I don’t consider those values very illustrative. And, occasionally, when the stars are right, and everything clicks, a true one pound per week of muscle mass gain may be seen for short periods. But again, that tends to be the exception.
Let me reiterate: the average male trainee is doing well to gain about 1/2 pound muscle per week, 2 pounds per month or about 24-26 pounds per year. I’d note that that will generally only happen in the first year of training and things slow down after that. A female may be gaining about half that much, 1 pound per month of actual muscle tissue or 10-12 pounds per year. I know it sucks but that’s reality.
I bring this up as it has some relevance to the weekly rate of weight gain that is acceptable for what I’m going to describe next.
A Happy Medium: Bulk a Little, Cut a Little
As many know, and altogether too many don’t know or realize, I’m usually a happy medium kind of guy. I find most extremist stances to be flawed and usually end up somewhere between the two in my recommendations; that’s on top of trying to look at the context of a given trainee’s situation. This is true for training, diet and most everything else you care to name. It’s certainly true for the topic of this article.
As noted above, there’s no doubt that gaining some fat will allow a faster rate of muscle gain. The drawback is that, gain too much fat and dieting time is extended and appearance suffers. And while staying lean is nice from an appearance standpoint, trying to stay too lean all the time tends to hurt mass and strength gains because the trainee simply can’t eat enough.
The solution of course is to simply alternate shorter periods of mass-gaining (let’s not use the term bulking since it seems to cause people so many mental problems) where the goal is maximal muscle gains while accepting small amounts of fat gain before dropping into a short dieting phase to strip off the fat without losing any of the muscle gain.
Please read the bold bits carefully, they are the key to all of this. What’s ideal for most situations in my experience is to try to maximize muscle gain (smart training, slight caloric surplus) by allowing a small amount of fat gain to occur. While this causes the trainee to get fatter (this should be done without getting outright FAT), this also maximizes the rate of muscle gain. While dieting, of course, the goal should always be to limit muscle mass losses (as outlined in pretty much any of my books). Done properly, alternating mass gain with proper dieting, the end result is more muscle mass.
This idea isn’t new mind you, and has probably been around for 30-40 years or more (McCallum wrote about it in The Keys to Progress and Dan Duchaine was an advocate of this approach). I simply happen to think it’s superior for most applications to either GFH or the ‘Gotta stay ripped year round crew’ for the average natural bodybuilder or athlete (or simply individuals interested in gaining muscle mass).
So let’s put some numbers and guidelines to this.
1. First and foremost, for reasons outlined in my article Initial Body Fat and Body Composition Changes, trainees should not be starting out their muscle gaining phase too fat. Males should be ~10-12% body fat before even considering going on any kind of ‘bulk’ (fatter trainees can usually gain some muscle while losing fat with a basic recomposition plan; this is beyond the scope of this article). For a female, this would be roughly equivalent to 19-24% body fat.
Bodybuilders with contest aspirations might even start out a little bit leaner, perhaps 8% for males and 17-20% for females; this is simply to facilitate getting into contest shape in less time. Any leaner than that and hormones and energy tend to suffer. And, yes, this means that many will have to diet first before they even consider putting on muscle. That’s life.
2. It would be ideal, if, after dieting, the trainee took two weeks at maintenance to stabilize at the new body fat level. The reasons for this are numerous but revolve around letting some of the hormonal adaptations to dieting normalize. I’ve written about this endlessly on the site and my full diet break concept is outlined in detail in both The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook and A Guide to Flexible Dieting. Briefly, take two weeks at roughly maintenance calories with at least 150 grams/day of carbohydrate.
3. Now you can start gaining weight. Assuming relative average partitioning (not superior or inferior), a weight gain of approximately one pound per week (of which half should be muscle) and half a pound per week for females (of which half should be muscle), or 4 and 2 pounds/month respectively should roughly maximize muscle gains without excessive fat gain. There will be some fat gain, of course, but, simply, any faster rate of weight gain (I’ve seen folks suggest 2-3 pounds per week) will only increase fat gain without increasing the rate of muscle mass gain.
4. When the trainee hits a body fat percentage of approximately 15% for men (24-27% for women), the mass gaining phase should end. How long this take will depend on the size of the person but realistically, a 170 pound male trainee with 10% body fat could gain 16 pounds (8 pounds fat, 8 pounds muscle) before hitting the 15% mark. At one pound per week, that’s 16 weeks of gaining. Which, I’d note should be broken up into at least two separate training blocks.
A female starting at 130 pounds and 19% body fat could realistically get to 154 pounds (12 pound fat/12 pounds lean) before hitting 24% body fat. For the female trainee, at one half-pound per week is nearly a year of training; again that would be broken up into distinct training phases.
5. After finishing the mass-gaining phase, a consolidation phase of two weeks (this used to be called a ‘hardening’ phase) where calories are brought back down to maintenance levels (and cardio, if not being done, is brought in) should occur before actively dieting.
Of course, the diet itself is a completely separate topic, some prefer to lose as slowly as they’ve gained, others are using the ideas in my Rapid Fat Loss Handbook to strip off the fat as rapidly as possible so that they can get back to gaining again. Both are valid and my article series on Fat Loss for Athletes is worth reading for more information.
Let me summarize the above a little more briefly: trainees should set a bottom and top-end for acceptable body fat levels. For males, 10-15% is a good range, for females 19-27% or so works. Diet down until you hit the low end, stabilize for two weeks, gain until you hit the high end, stabilize for two weeks, then diet back down while keeping the muscle. Over many months or a year of training, you should end up with more muscle than you started with which is the whole goal.
11-27-2012, 06:30 AM #5
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11-27-2012, 06:26 PM #6
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