Nutrition During the Bulking Phase: What You Should Know

4th February 2020
If you’re trying to increase muscle mass, you need to follow a carefully crafted strategy. Having good nutrition during the bulking phase is as important as scheduling consistent workouts. Here’s everything you need to know in order to bulk up in a healthy way.

Enjoying proper nutrition during the bulking phase is the key to success: there’s no way you’ll increase your muscle mass if your body is struggling to get by! In today’s article, we’ll cover the basics of nutrition to achieve muscle hypertrophy faster than ever.

What is the bulking phase?

If you’re new to CrossFit or bodybuilding, you might not know exactly what the bulking phase is. Simply put, most bodybuilders have two main strategies that are constantly rotated: the bulking phase and the cutting phase.

According to bodybuilding.com, the bulking phase is a phase when:

“The person increases their calorie intake in an attempt to gain weight.”

In contrast with the lean phase, bulking favors a large caloric intake. As such, you must follow a hypercaloric diet in order to gain the muscle you’re looking for.

We show you the number of nutrients you should include in your bulking diet.

Because of this, in the bulking diet, most athletes consume 300 or 400 kcal more than they’d usually need per day. This over-intake allows the muscle to be nourished with the necessary resources to repair training damage. In turn, your muscles will have enough nutrients to grow, ensuring hypertrophy and more visible muscles.

Nutrition during the bulking phase: how much protein should you eat?

One of the most discussed nutritional points in the bulking phase is protein. Classic bodybuilders are avid proponents of having a high protein intake. For them, this means consuming up to 4 grams of protein per kilogram of weight at this stage.

Nevertheless, in contrast with this position, current nutritional literature shows that intakes greater than 2 grams don’t have visible benefits on muscle gain and instead could act as stressors for the liver and kidneys.

Another important point is the source of all this protein. In general and if you follow an omnivorous diet, 50 percent of this protein must come from animal products, and the other 50 percent, from plants. Thus, we guarantee high quality and complete protein intake, rich in essential amino acids and with good digestibility.

In most cases, the protein ingested through regular meals will be more than enough to sustain a complete training schedule. Nevertheless, you might find that after consulting your doctor your training requires additional needs. In that case, if you do high-intensity training on a regular basis you might need extra supplementation with leucine or BCAA’S to avoid muscle pain.

Should you have carbohydrates during the bulking phase?

As with any lifestyle, it’s important to include all food groups to ensure a properly balanced nutrition during the bulking phase. Because of this, yes, you should include carbs in your diet!

In fact, increasing your carbohydrate intake is one of the most efficient ways to add calories to your diet. However, you should choose these carbs carefully: low-glycemic, complex and high-fiber carbohydrates should be the priority.

In this way, whole grains and tubers win over refined products, such as white pasta. Simple sugars such as honey can be an intentional choice before and after a strenuous training session, but not during the rest of the day.

We recommend forgoing processed carbohydrates and choosing those high in fiber. These can be brown rice, whole-wheat flour, oatmeal and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, turnips, and squash.

Be careful with the intake of sugar-rich foods just before a training session. These can sometimes lead to reactive hypoglycemia. If you think having sugar is essential to your training, it’s possible with supervision. Plan your intake in a controlled way and without bingeing, to avoid falls in performance.

Carbs are one of the food groups that should be the base of an athlete’s diet. Nevertheless, their intake needs to be carefully planned! We recommend scheduling a visit with a registered nutritionist; a professional will be fully trained to give you the best advice.

Regulating your fat intake

Lipids are essential to regulate your metabolism as well as your hormonal system. Therefore, in the bulking phase fat becomes especially important. During this period, it’s necessary to slightly increase the consumption of healthy fats, such as the ones found in bluefish and nuts.

In this way, you’ll boost your intake of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. In turn, the inflammation and oxidation associated with strenuous exercise will be reduced.

It’s important to keep the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids at optimal values. For this, it might be easier for you to use enriched vegetable oils frequently and consume oily fruits, such as avocado.

However, even though bumping your intake of healthy fats is good, you should also lower your daily intake of trans fats. These, also known as “unhealthy fats”, come from reheating vegetable oils at high temperatures, as well as from red meats and other sources.

To limit the number of trans fats you’re ingesting every day, its best to avoid fried and battered foods, prioritizing the consumption of non-heated oil.

Fruits and vegetables: another source of nutrients

Finally, we should specifically mention the importance of fruit and vegetables. Even though their calorie content is small, these foods can offer key nutrients and other substances to keep you healthy.

For starters, vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These substances guarantee balance and make it easier for your body to perform all vital functions correctly.

While considering your nutrition during the bulking phase, remember to squeeze in at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Equally, nuts are especially rich in vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins.

The banana provides interesting nutrients for the bulking phase.

Because of this, nuts are an essential part of the bulking diet. A daily handful of assorted, unroasted and unsalted nuts are an essential complement to any athlete’s diet. Although, be careful not to overdo nuts; they’re rich in lipids and can throw your daily intake out of balance if consumed carelessly.

Final thoughts about nutrition during the bulking phase

In general, when entering the bulking phase you’ll be looking at slightly increasing your daily caloric intake. Nevertheless, your overall diet should still be balanced and healthy.

As we noted, you shouldn’t exceed your daily protein recommendations and use complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars and refined products.

Aside from this, it’s important to ensure the consumption of fruits and vegetables in order to reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress. Finally, don’t forget about hydration: at least two liters of water a day will help to keep your body healthy and strong in every workout!

  1. Stokes T., Héctor AJ., Morton RW., McGlory C., Phillips SM., Recent perspectives regarding the role of dietary protein for the promotion of muscle hypertrophy with resistance exercise training. Nutrients, 2018.
  2. Kawabata F., Mizushige T., Uozumi K., Hayamizu K., Han L., Tsuji T., Kishida T. Fish protein intake induces fast-muscle hypertrophy and reduces liver lipids and serum glucose levels in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem, 2015. 79 (1): 109-16.