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Bulking 101: Everything you need to know about Muscle Building

Author: Renu Puri

Date: 30-01-2023

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What can you expect from this blog?


Dreaming of your transformation this year? Do you also flood search engine searches with queries like ‘How to get a body like Hrithik Roshan?’ Or do you simply want to be fit and healthy? Whatever the reason may be, here's your guide on how you can transform your body. 


With this blog, we aim to break certain stereotypes that come with muscle building and bulking and inform people about the correct process to get started with muscle building. 


Introduction



In present times most of us are a part of a fitness club. It could be a gym, a Pilates class, or just some CrossFit training program. Fitness influencers and clickbait videos oftentimes compel people to follow strict diet and workout regimens blindly, without considering the basics like what their body type is and what they need to do to achieve their health goals.


Let’s be truthful - Patience and control are going to be the two key driving forces to preach during the whole process of building muscles. If you’re someone who is aiming to have a muscular and toned body by the end of the year and want to know all about calorie intake, dietary requirements, protein intake, and weight training then this blog has everything you need. 


There are different approaches to gaining muscle, one of them is to straight up gain muscle and the other is to lose fat first and then start gaining muscle. The latter is slightly difficult to achieve as you have to simultaneously cut down fat and gain muscle but nevertheless, it is possible.


Before hopping on to the process, let’s first aim to acknowledge our own bodies. We all have heard people mindlessly talk about how easy it is for thinner people to gain muscle considering they just have to surplus their calories but that’s just a myth. Gaining muscle can be as laborious as losing weight. For someone with a relatively slender frame and a low appetite, it can be uncomfortable to eat many meals while working out. Whereas, someone who wants to lose fat and then gain muscle also faces many roadblocks in their journey. Transformations are very personal as everybody is different and everyone’s dietary requirements, activity levels, and day to day schedules are different.


Your strength is that you are different…


As we discussed, everyone is different and every body type is different. The question of muscle gain depends on what body type and muscular system you fit in. Gaining muscle for someone from any of these three body types would be a different experience and a unique journey.


The 3 body types are ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs.


Ectomorphs are lean and thin by default, they have narrower shoulders and hips, small waists, and long legs and arms. They usually don’t have much body fat or muscles. They also have very fast metabolisms so they can burn calories quickly. 


Mesomorphs have moderate sized body frames. They have wider shoulders but a small waist and strong legs and arms. These are the kinds of people who can gain muscle quickly and have an appropriate amount of fat in the body. This body type is also very fluid – they can lose or gain weight without any problems. 


Endomorphs have relatively bigger bone structures and hold more body fat than others. Endomorphs carry most of their weight in the lower abdomen, hips, and thighs and have smaller shoulders. This body type may find it hard to lose weight and gain muscle.


What can you do to ‘bulk’ or gain muscle?


Bulking plays a pivotal role in health and fitness. It is the muscle-gaining phase where you consume more calories than your body requires for a brief period of time. In this process, you focus on gaining muscle, not fat. The calorie surplus helps your body with the right amount of energy levels to partake in extensive weight training. Let us find out some ways in which you can gain bigger muscles: - 


1) God’s plan for Drake but you plan it yourself


After knowing which body type you are, consult a registered dietitian and get a diet chart made according to your calorie intake, dietary requirements, physical activity, busy schedule, travels dates etc. Stay motivated and follow it till the nutritionist tells you and see the magic unfold. It’s not just about bulking or gaining muscle but it is a slow process of understanding your calorie intake and body needs according to your weight. The best way for this is to ‘experience’ this first hand because this phase of understanding your body will be pivotal to knowing how your body reacts in different situations.


2) Understanding the building blocks of muscles


In India, a lot of people have misconceptions that the only way to get enough protein is to hop on a non-vegetarian diet that is filled with meat or consume whey protein powder. This is a result of the lack of nutritional awareness.In general, Indian diets are lower in protein content than many other diets. However, even a vegetarian diet can be loaded with proteins, provided you know what to eat and how to eat it. Ideally the daily intake of protein for adult women should be atleast 45 gm and for an adult men should be atleast 60 gm. A rule of thumb is to consume around 0.8 gm protein per kg of body weight. However, your exact protein intake will be dependent on other factors such as your body type, your age, your activity levels and your health goals as well. 


3) Apply the billionaires 80-20 rule here as well


People often make the huge mistake of focusing more on heavy weight training and not on their diet. Focus 80% on your diet and 20% on lifting weights. Whatever you lift in the gym causes some tears or micro injuries in our muscles. Those muscles need to recover and recovery happens with adequate rest (sleep for 7-8 hours daily) and appropriate nutrition. 


Nutrition found in a balanced meal of good fats, carbohydrates and most importantly protein help your muscles recover and become stronger than earlier, therefore adding to muscle gain. Pro tip: don’t immediately start off with heavy weight training, gradually increase the weights that you lift and then match your healthy diet to recover the burnt calories and gain muscle.


4) More carbs or more protein?


There’s a lot of information on the internet that might feel confusing so we have simplified it for you. There’s no argument on which is much more beneficial than the other. They both are necessary for the muscle gaining process. An adequate amount of protein and carbs must be included in the balanced diet, and neither should be skipped. Technically, Protein is what our muscles truly require the most so try eating protein, vegetables, and fat before carbohydrates in a meal to keep glucose and insulin levels low and your muscle building capacity high.


5) Skipping a meal is a big No!


Missing out on your meals is possibly the worst thing you could do to your body. By meal skipping, we mean, nutrition skipping. As long as you can manage to consume the required daily nutrition for yourself, whether you have it in one meal, two or even six doesn’t matter. But skipping meals often has to be balanced with managing your nutrition during other meals of the day. Not balancing your nutrition needs hinders your muscle growth and makes you weak and frail, something that you absolutely don’t want if you are looking to bulk. However, once you plan and start following your customized diet chart, you will feel liberated, healthy and strong from within. Fulfilling your health goals is all about pushing boundaries and challenging yourself to unleash your true potential.


6) Sorry folks! You will have to avoid eating at McDonald’s or Domino's.


A lot of people who are not nutritionally aware may indulge in simple carbohydrates to fulfill their daily carb requirement. What they fail to understand is that these carbs are loaded with empty calories that do nothing beneficial for your body. If you want to gain muscle, you will have to rely on good carbs (complex carbs) only. A cheat day once in a while may be fine, but all in all, try consuming more complex carbs. Some good sources of complex carbs are rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal.


7) Hydrate, Hydrate, and Hydrate!


Water is an indispensable part of our lives and plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy and physically fit body. Hydration helps in the transportation of the necessary nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, and other macronutrients to help our muscles grow stronger.


8) “Gain muscle fast in 5-10 days!” Know It's a trap.


With such easy access to everything online, it can be hard to get effective and reliable information, especially with regards to nutrition. The moment someone tells you that it's possible to gain 10 kg of muscle mass in a week, you better know that it's a bluff. Gaining muscle naturally can take months, depending on the body type. It's the method of gaining muscle, not fat. Never be in a rush when it comes to transformations. The focus should be on effective results for a longer period of time.


If you believe, you will achieve…


Let’s understand how bulking and gaining muscle mass works through a brief example. One of our clients Tanvi is a 22-year-old engineering student who is an ectomorph and wanted to gain muscle to be stronger. Before she came to us, she tried gym workouts, stuffing herself with loads of foods, and when nothing worked out, she started praying to God to make her gain some muscle. Although she did not gain any muscle from the prayer, she did stumble on to niwi.ai’s website to book a free consultation. ;) 


After our certified nutritionists evaluated her body type and physical activity levels, they curated a customized diet plan that included great protein, carbs, and fiber sources that would satiate her and supplement her muscle building journey. 


Cut to today, Tanvi has gained 8 kg of muscle mass ever since she was associated with us. She has also recently enrolled her younger brother Shiv in a similar diet program. We will keep you posted on Shiv’s journey as we progress.


Is gaining muscle fat and weight training different for men and women?


No, the process of bulking stays the same. The only difference is between the size of the muscles of a woman and a man considering their anatomical structure is different. Men and women are different physiologically, as testosterone levels are higher in men but lower in women, while estrogen levels are higher in women but lower in men. The basic rules of working out and diet plan stay the same according to the type of body and weight.


Things to avoid when you’re thinking of bulking:


1) Reducing the portions of meals each day


There's absolutely no other way to gain muscle other than being on a calorie surplus, i.e., increasing your daily calorie intake. If you wish to bulk, you will need to form a habit of eating a lot at a higher frequency.


2) Alternatively following a 6-meal diet


A myth most people believe is that bulking is possible even if you eat huge portions of food every once in a while. This is completely wrong; you need to be regular with your diet plan and eat as prescribed to get the desired results.


3) Busy doing everything but drinking water


Another common mistake people make is not drinking enough water. In general, our body requires about 3 liters of water every day. It's also vital for the delivery of important nutrients to our body parts. So, make it a practice to carry an insulated water bottle with you everywhere so you can drink your water exactly at the temperature you like.


4) Incorrect exercise


People often start following the wrong exercises without any guidance. I remember conversing with my friend who is also a fellow dietitian in a famous hospital in Delhi. She shared an incident where her client followed a famous Youtuber’s workout series videos during lockdown to build some muscle and ended up at the hospital with a slipped disc. It is very important to do what you do under expert supervision, be it your diet or your workout. Each body type requires different types of exercises and workouts so what may work for a very fit individual may not necessarily work for you. Understand your body requirements and study the exercises before following them.


5) Incorrect form  


Following the right exercise but the wrong form is one of the most common problems people face during their muscle gain journey. The form has to be correct otherwise the exercise being performed is pointless and has no use. Both exercise and its form matter to bulk up or achieve any transformation for that matter.


6) Making junk your comfort friend


Another trap people fall into is binge eating junk foods like chocolates and chips thinking it would help them with their calorie surplus. This type of calorie surplus with zero to very little nutritive value results in you having love handles and lots of belly fat instead of 6 pack abs. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen. Avoid simple carbs during your journey and make complex carbs your best friend. Simple carbs are present in soda, candy, burgers, white bread, etc. You must include complex carbs in your daily routine like brown rice, whole grain bread, and leafy vegetables. Junk would only add unnecessary body fat which is never required for a fit body.


7) Lifting the same weights


If you are following an optimum diet plan and doing appropriate workouts but still not noticing any change and feel like your progress has plateaued, this could be because you are not upping your weight training level. Progression plays a key role in building our muscles. Every month add at least five to ten pounds to your weights. This concept is called ‘progressive overload’. At the end of the year, you would be benching more than you had imagined. Never lift the same weight each month, always keep adding some to your bar, but do that at a pace which is slightly beyond your comfort but certainly within your capability.


Conclusion


Holistic fitness is vital for our growth. We all wish for that magic wand that we could just swing around to achieve our preferred transformation within a few seconds. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to good health but we hope this blog could be the motivating factor for you to start your bulking journey or seek professional guidance. Muscle building could be as intimidating as losing weight so don’t feel alienated, a lot of folks are in the same position as you are right now. Eventually, with the right amount of perseverance and discipline, you will get there. During the process, make sure to not be too hard on yourself. We all have our own pace to work things out. Each body is different and we should not compare our progress with anyone else’s.


Still not satisfied? Think you need professional guidance that could evaluate your exact body type, dietary needs, and specific ailments to create a custom healthy muscle gain diet? We have got you covered! Contact our registered dietitians for a one-on-one session.


At niwi.ai, we have helped thousands of clients transform their lives and feel stronger, more energetic, and definitely more confident in how they look and feel, by improving their relationship with food!

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