In this article, my good friend Hasan Roy, who has a bachelor of Human Kinetics (B.H.K.) from UBC and specializes in Clinical Exercise Physiology, will break down the basics of energy balance and apply it to gaining muscle mass.
When people use the phrase “bulking up,” what are they generally referring to?
Bulking up refers to gaining a large amount of weight due to increases in muscle size and fat deposits. It is the quickest way to gain muscle mass and is done by having an excess caloric intake while engaging in weightlifting activities.
What is the biggest mistake that most people make when they try to build muscle mass?
The main misconception is the belief that weight cannot be gained in the presence of high metabolism, regardless of how much is consumed. A few years ago, I too fell for this belief and blamed everything on my “speedy” metabolism. However, the real truth behind gaining weight is having an understanding of the “Energy Balance Equation.” Simply put, the secret to gaining and also losing weight is based on energy input and output.
What do you mean by energy input and output?
Energy input consists of all the nutrients we take in. The four fundamental energy units our body can utilize are carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol. Yes, alcohol, even though it is not considered a nutrient because it is toxic to our body.
Energy output is the energy we use throughout the day via metabolism and activity. The thermal effect of food is also part of energy output, but does not play an important role since it usually remains consistent and is not under our control.
When your energy balance shifts, your body weight shifts as well. When shifting your body weight, it is best to increase or decrease your weight gradually while incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your daily living routine.
So how do we apply these concepts into our daily routines?
The concept of weight gain is actually quite simple; all you need to have is a greater energy input than output. And this applies to all human beings, even for a mesomorph like me, regardless of how fast my metabolism is. To increase your energy input, simply increase your food intake. But solely increasing your food intake without exercising will store the majority of this energy as fat.
So to gain weight while building muscle, the 2 most important variables are physical activity and energy input. Your energy input has to overcome the total energy that is being lost through physical activity if you want to gain muscle mass.
So exercising by itself is not enough to build bigger muscle?
No. Our diet is equally as important as exercising. This is because you need that extra energy from food to build muscle. Without this energy, the rate at which your muscles develop will be significantly reduced.
How much more should I be eating then?
You need at least 100 calories more than the total calories you burn in a day (energy output) to actually gain muscle mass. This is equivalent to something as effortless as adding a light snack between meals.
How do I know that I’m eating more than I’m burning?
You can accurately estimate your energy output through various equations or refer to program called My Diet Analysis. Realistically, if you’re at the same weight for a long period of time, it probably means that your energy balance is equal; you’re using the same amount of energy that you are consuming. Try increasing your energy intake by adding snacks or smaller meals throughout your day. For example, eat a cup of walnuts or almonds between meals.
To put this into perspective, I eat 6-8 medium sized meals daily (over 5000 calories) while snacking in between to increase my muscle mass. At 6 feet, I was able to reach my target weight of 200 lbs, most of it being lean muscle mass. The goal here is to increase your food intake gradually as your body increases in size. Otherwise, your energy input will be increasing too quickly compared to your output, making you increase your fat deposits!
Is this how professional bodybuilders “bulk up”?
During the off season, bodybuilders gain 30-50 lbs of muscle mass since their energy input drastically increases to overcome increases in exercise intensity; we’re talking about 500-1000 calories above their energy output! As competition approaches, they perform vigorous cardiovascular exercise to lose all the excessive body fat they’ve gained, leaving behind pure muscle.
I’d like to thank Hasan for taking his time to answer my questions and provide valuable information on gaining mass. Thank you for sharing your input with keLee Fitness!
Shortly, I will be interviewing Hasan again about the appropriate foods to eat during the bulk up phase as well as how to properly cut down and achieve that lean, ripped physique.