Off season bulking, what does it really mean?

Off season bulking is all about building muscle and making improvements, and I won’t pretend it’s easy changing shape so quickly. I think as a bodybuilder it’s all too easy to get hooked on being so lean and facing the concept of “bulk” and gaining muscle off season.

I personally hate the word “bulk”… it sounds like you are on a mission to gain weight in any way possible. I often hear people saying “I’m on a dirty bulk”, meaning they eat junk… and I think… great, way to go… you’re just getting fat then!!

Off Season Bulking isn’t about gaining weight in any way possible. Personally, I set myself an “allowance” of 14lbs over my stage weight. I realise I will probably be a lot less on stage the next time (depending on how heavy my lean mass is next time as I will have more muscle), as this time, I didn’t lean right down to the bone!! (I did that for a reason, by the way).

Remember, if you gain loads and loads of fat, you’ve got to strip it off again. If you have more to lose, you could ultimately end up dieting a lot harder… and losing the muscle you worked so hard to gain in the first place. What a waste of time that would be!

You also need to remember that muscle acts like a furnace. If you carry more muscle, you need more calories as your metabolic rate increases. So the more muscle you gain, the more you can eat. You don’t need to eat loads and loads though, if you don’t have a high muscle mass to begin with. You will just get fat. What’s the point?

So now, my aim is to build muscle… and I am intrigued to discover, the more I read, how your body doesn’t want to carry more muscle as it puts it under stress. And do you ever hear people say “I stopped training and lost muscle really fast”? That’s because your body will lose muscle unless it needs to keep it, which is why it’s important to put it under stress and lift progressively heavier weights!

I am all for the simple principle “calories in vs calories out”. I can’t see how there is logically one given formula for everybody to calculate their caloric requirements, it actually makes no sense. It all depends on how active a person is, how much muscle they have, how hard they train, how long their training sessions are…

The thing I got majorly confused with was how much fats, carbohydrates and protein do you need? Now, I have spent hours trying to work it out, and been given some fabulous advice, but I know ultimately, particularly as I have Crohns Disease, I need to listen to my body and NONE of us are the same so there has to be a little trial and error for all.

My main aims are getting sufficient protein to help protect my muscle and build more, and then I will work my other macros (fats and carbohydrates) around it. I know I will probably get criticised for that, but hey… I would rather eat what suits me, than force feed myself or end up with a sick bowel. I have spent the past 7 years of my life in and out of hospital. I would rather keep my tummy happy and healthy!!

What works best, for me personally, (remember, it might not work for you…) is to eat more carbohydrates on heavy training days (legs mainly) and less on lighter days. I want enough carbohydrates to fuel my training, and optimise muscle glycogen stores between workouts. Why have more when I don’t need it? It just works best for me. In terms of protein, I hit about 150g a day, sometimes more. I sort of go by that age old rule of 1g to 1lb of body weight. It works for me, and I don’t see the need to eat excess protein I won’t burn off. I aim for healthy fats- nuts, olive oil, egg yolks.

I did write myself a plan, so I have a loose structure, but I don’t let it take over my life. You need to ENJOY what you are doing. I’m not stupid, I know not to eat massive amounts of calories or get my calories from junk. I make sure I get enough protein, and fit my other macros in around it to suit how I feel that day health wise, or what I’m doing.

The main thing I am learning is, don’t stress. Don’t get TOO caught up with numbers. Enjoy the process. Yes, I am concerned about being the VERY best I can be. But I have a life. I have a job, a boyfriend, family and friends. I want those things to flourish as much as I want to be a successful bodybuilder. For me, it is all about striking a balance.

In conclusion, bulking isn’t about gaining weight, it’s about packing on muscle and you can do that while you are quite lean. Don’t put on what you’re going to need to burn off again! 😉

~~Elle Mac~~

Off Season Bulking article

Off Season Bulking