Bulking is one of those frustrating words you hear thrown around a lot in the fitness community — but what does it even mean?
Who needs bulking? Will you be stronger when you bulk up? And is bulking something skinny people should be focusing on? In this article, Ilija Jahura will break down what bulking means and whether you need to do it.
What Bulking Is (and What It Isn’t)
Bulking is generally thought to mean ingesting surplus calories on purpose to help build muscle, as well as some amount of fat. To practice this correctly, everything you eat should still be healthy calories.
Some people mistakenly eat obscene amounts of junk food in hopes that their bodies will magically turn those calories into muscle. If you try this, you’ll be disappointed and probably end up with less muscle and more fat.
You can use bulking to help gain muscle if you know you’re a hardgainer or if you’re naturally skinny. And the truth is if muscle growth is difficult for you, you’ll not just benefit from bulking; you’ll likely have to do it to see any improvements.
The Life of a Hardgainer
Anabolic hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone are responsible for muscle growth. Some people naturally produce more of these hormones than others. For those with higher levels of anabolic hormones, muscle growth comes quickly. They are therefore called easy gainers.
Hardgainers will have to face the uphill battle of lower anabolic hormones with some ways to improve muscle mass. Bulking is among those things you could do and is the most natural and friendliest to your body.
Some performance-enhancing drugs can alter the way your body creates muscle. But for the natural hardgainer, you’ll need a large calorie surplus to build muscle.
Catabolic hormones also have a role to play in muscle building. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can break down muscle tissues and make energy more available for fuel.
The good news for those interested in bulking is that diets high in carbs and protein could increase anabolic hormones and decrease catabolic hormones, so you’re in a much better place to start getting results.
Is Bulking Right for You?
One downside to bulking may make it less appealing to you: Even if you consume primarily healthy foods, you’ll likely still need to accept some amount of fat gain. Should you go the alternate route and work in a caloric deficit, most hardgainers and skinny people lose their muscle mass before their body even touches the fat cells.
The delicate balance needed for hardgainers to achieve their muscle-building goals will be hard-won, but it’s far from impossible — just because you’re at a genetic disadvantage when building muscle doesn’t mean you can’t achieve impressive results.
Focus on healthy bulking and exercises that yield results for you, and you can still reach your goals.
About Ilija Jahura
Ilija Jahura is a fitness and health consultant who offers personalized fitness guidance to help clients achieve their fitness goals. Based in Kelowna, British Columbia, Ilija creates unique and custom plans for clients’ diet and exercise routines that bring out the best in them and help them feel confident in their bodies.