The Best Foods for BulkingLast Updated: March 18, 2019
Bulking is a lot more complicated than "eat a ton of food, and you'll get big". There are several factors to take into account when planning a successful bulk. You have your body type and/or metabolic rate to consider, for starters. Also, you have to wonder: am I eating the right kinds of protein? Or taking the right supplements?
Well, wonder no more. We've assembled a useful quick-start guide right here for you. Below, we'll explain what sort of foods you need to eat for your body type, how to handle your protein, and what supplements are best for building muscle. In no time, you'll become a bulking guru. You might even have fellow bros at the gym soliciting you for advice on how you got so big. Don't say we didn't warn you.
The Holy Trinity of Bulking: Clean, Big, and Dirty
There are three main types of bulk diets, cleverly known as "clean", "big (or "regular" if you're boring), and "dirty". Whichever one of these three strategies you decide to follow will depend almost entirely on your body type, and what sort of metabolism you have. It may also depend on what your end goals are.
Clean bulking - Requires that you eat lean protein and healthy carbs to avoid gaining too much fat during the bulk. Clean bulking is great for Endomorphs or other people with slow metabolisms who have trouble putting on muscle. Fair warning, though: in order to make it through a clean bulk without losing your mind, you had best learn to work a spice rack. This is because most of the food on a clean bulk menu is devoid of all the things that make delicious food worth eating. If you are bodybuilding for professional reasons, you are pretty much required to adhere to a strict regimen of clean foods.
- 95-99% Lean chicken or turkey breast
- Fat-free/non-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Plain broccoli
- Raw spinach
- Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah")
- Rolled oats
- Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Big (or regular) bulking - Good for the average Joe with an average metabolism and average body type. Also good for the above average body builder who can't make it through a whole bulk without cheating a little bit. A big/regular bulk menu includes everything on the clean list, plus:
- 1-2% milk
- Low fat cottage cheese and yogurt
- Chicken thighs
- Peanut butter
- Fatty fish, like salmon
- Egg whites
- Lean red meats
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Black beans
- Nuts and nut-based "butters" (almond, peanut, etc)
Dirty bulking - You consume any/all edible food without any consideration for your long-term health or organ vitality. Fast food, sugary snacks, simple and/or processed carbs, ice cream, you name it; make your inner (or for some of you, former) fat kid's dreams come true. If you eat like you have lost all respect for yourself, you will have truly embraced the spirit of the dirty bulk. And if you are bulking on a budget, or if you are more concerned with picking up chicks at the next EDM festival than becoming a professional body builder, than the dirty bulk is perfect for you. You can include foods from the clean and big/regular bulk into your diet, as well as:
- Greasy pizza
- Salty French fries
- Processed carbs
- Breaded and/or fried meats
- Full-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- T-bone steak
- Mashed potatoes with gravy
- White rice
- Broccoli & cheese
Foods to avoid - regardless of whether you go clean, big, or dirty, avoid any "food" which is devoid of protein and nutritional value. Whether that be a king-size bag of jelly beans or a deep-fried, cream-filled Twinkie from the Wisconsin Atherosclerosis Festival, eating empty calories will compromise your bulk. So don't do it.
Beyond the Dinner Plate: Bulking, Supplements, and You
Some guys prefer to bulk naturally and get the proteins, amino acids, and other essential nutrients for muscle-building from their dietary intake alone. And there's a very specific word which describes body builders who don't supplement while on a bulk: skinny.
You, however, don't have to make that same mistake. Make sure you get the following into your nutritional regimen while bulking to maximize all of your possible gains:
- Whey protein: take whey in the morning, before your workout, and right after you're done lifting. This protein runs through your body quicker than bad Mexican food, so you're going to want to make it available in your system when your body needs it most (which is during your gym time). Taking it in the morning also prevents too much muscle from getting broken down while you're still catabolic.
- Casein protein: the best time to take casein is before you go to bed at night. It will stay in your system for 5-6 hours, or more if you have a slow metabolism. This helps reduce the muscle that gets broken down while you sleep.
- Creatine: Trying to build muscle without creatine is like trying to drive a car with an empty gas tank. You aren't going anywhere. It's a natural amino acid that the body needs to build muscle.
- BCAAs: branch chain amino acids work a lot like creatine, and are found in most protein powders, but only in low amounts that won't help you reach the Hulk-esque gains you are striving for. So supplementing your diet with them is key.
And there you have it: the best possible foods and supplements to eat when you're on a bulking diet. But remember that these lists are just a starting point. Feel free to mix, match, and experiment with different meals and recipes to keep your bulk interesting and effective!