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The No-Bull Guide to Bulking

Forget the myths. Here’s the truth about when, what, and how much to eat to build muscle. Hint: It’s less than you think.
Sam Kaplan

Bulking, as commonly understood, is B.S. We said it, and it’s time you accepted it, too. Telling yourself you can eat anything you want because you’re skinny and trying to put on muscle is just an excuse to eat like a pig, and you’ll pay for it. Yes, you’ll gain some muscle, but you’ll also gain fat, and that fat will obscure your muscles until you decide you desperately need to lose it—and then you’ll have a hell of a time dieting it off. We’re telling you now: Stop bulking before it’s too late.

The solution to your skinniness might actually require less food than you think, and no fancy supplements or uncomfortable force feedings. (On the downside, it doesn’t warrant pizzas or Big Macs, either.) Discover the real science of gaining weight, and never get fat in the process again.

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The Hard Truth
Your body can only gain so much muscle in a given period of time; it’s dependent on your genetics, age, and training age (how long you’ve been lifting). According to Nate Miyaki, C.S.S.N., a San Francisco-based nutrition coach to physique competitors, a beginner in his teens up through his 30s can expect to put on two to four pounds of lean muscle per month for the first two or three months of his training. An intermediate (several months’ to a few years’ experience) might see 1–11⁄2 pounds per month. An experienced lifter, on the other hand, should be happy with just a few pounds per year.

This means that when you hear about somebody who “gained 20 pounds in a month,” he really put on closer to two pounds of muscle and 18 pounds of water and fat. Trainers, equipment manufacturers, and some muscle “gurus” like to exaggerate results, but if you measured the body fat of their subjects, you’d see only a modest increase in lean mass. And that’s fine.

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“Go pick up a two-pound top-round steak and envision what that would look like on your body,” says Miyaki. “Very few guys on this planet have the potential to gain 20 pounds of rock-hard muscle in a month.” That is, not sans the aid of certain muscle-building drugs.

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