With winter quickly approaching, many of you may be thinking about changing the focus of your workout program to prioritize building lean muscle mass. You’ve been dieting (or at least watching your calorie intake) all summer long and now you, and your body, are craving a break.
Given the fact that you’ll be wearing layers of clothing to cover any additional body fat gained during the months ahead, the timing is perfect. That being said, there is no reason to go crazy with added body fat. One of the biggest mistakes many people make going through a bulking phase is going too far and putting on too much body fat.
What are the problems with this?
First, the more body fat you have, the higher your tendency is to gain additional body fat. Essentially, the leaner you are, the easier it is to gain lean muscle with minimal body fat. This is one reason why it’s always good to transition to a period of bulking after cutting since you’ve stripped away excess body fat.
Second, gaining more fat during the winter bulk just means you’ll have to do a lengthier, or harder, dieting phase after the bulk is over. The longer you diet, the more at-risk you are for losing lean muscle mass, so in essence, you could end up setting yourself back to square one.
Finally, as far as your health is concerned, gaining and losing large amounts of body fat is not easy on the body. It’s taxing on your organs, especially your heart, and can negatively impact your metabolism for the long-term – especially if done repeatedly, or if body fat is gained rapidly.
Now that you can see why you want to avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet approach to bulking, let’s go over how you can do things correctly this time around.
The natural tendency for many people is to completely cut out cardio training when trying to gain lean muscle mass. They figure cardio is only used during times of cutting, while strictly strength training is for building muscle.
While there’s no question that too much cardio training can definitely hinder your ability to put on muscle, keeping some in your plan can be a wise move.
A moderate amount of cardio training – say two sessions per week for 20-30 minutes each - helps keep the fat burning pathways in the body open, and your body better equipped for fatty acid oxidization.
It also helps to keep your cardiovascular fitness levels up. This way, when it comes time to lean down again, bringing intense cardio back into your plan doesn’t feel so torturous.
As long as your cardio isn’t cutting into your recovery ability and how well you can perform your workouts, you should have no problem adding a small dose to your protocol.
Rather than keeping a high caloric intake every day, consider a cycling plan. It’s easy to let yourself get carried away on a bulk, allowing almost anything you crave find a place in your diet.
Avoid this! Not only does it lead to unwanted body fat gain, but it can set you up for bad food habits that may stick around once the bulk is over. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a slice of pizza more often – definitely take advantage of those extra calories! – but for the most part, keep your diet full of healthy foods.
The focus on a calorie cycle is manipulating your carbohydrates. When it comes to cycling your carbs, you need the most carbs on your intense training days, so make sure this is where they’re allotted. On days that you train smaller muscle groups such as arms, you can include a moderate quantity of carbs.
On rest days when you aren’t as active, focus on keeping your protein intake up, your fat at a moderate level, and decrease your carbs. This can help balance out the calorie surplus you’re creating on training days, also helping to keep fat gain at bay.
It’s also a wise move to really keep tabs on how your body fat level is doing during the bulking phase. If you notice that you’re starting to gain a bit more fat than intended, or are looking less defined that desired, do a brief cutting phase for a week or two. Melt a few pounds of fat off and then restart the higher calorie diet again.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that once the fat is on, you’ll just have to deal with it until you’re done bulking and are ready to cut. Get into the habit of adding these mini cutting phases into your approach and you may just find you do away with the need for a larger cutting phase later on.
Finally, during your training, include a variety of rep ranges. While lower rep training tends to be great for building strength and moderate rep training for hypertrophy, don’t be afraid to add a couple higher rep sets in from time to time.
This can help give you a good metabolic effect, increasing your total metabolic rate and calorie burn during the day. This may even help you stay leaner and possibly improve muscle building as protein synthesis will be taking place at an elevated rate.
Keep these tips in mind as you go about your bulk this winter season. Now is a great time to switch your goals around and focus on adding weight but make sure the focus is on adding lean body weight, not just body weight in general. If you do this, you’ll be thankful come spring.
To ensure you’re maximizing your muscle gains, you'll want to add a few critical supplements to your diet. Kaged Muscle Kasein, a premium quality micellar casein isolate, is the perfect go-to for between meals and before bedtime. Kasein is a slow-digesting protein that will help shuttle amino acids to your muscles continuously for up to 7 hours.
You'll also want to ensure you're supporting optimal recovery by consuming Re-Kaged, a complete post-workout recovery protein complex. Re-Kaged offers 28 grams of quality whey protein isolate, along with recovery agents such as Patented Creatine HCl, Patented BetaPower and Patented CarnoSyn. Together, these ingredients to help refuel your muscles after tough workouts.