Does Bulking Really Work?

June 30, 2015 | 5 Comments

When it comes to gaining muscle mass, pretty much every single person in the fitness industry agrees that you have to overeat to gain muscle. Well, it’s a good thing I am not one of those people.

What if I told you that constantly shoveling 4000 calories down your throat isn’t necessary to build quality muscle? Interested? Then  keep reading.

The only time to overeat for muscle growth

No matter what your age, overeating by 500 calories seems to be the norm for muscle gaining diets, but I believe that the only time you should be consistently overeating for muscle growth is when you lift weights for the very first time in your life.

When you lift weights for the very first time, you are exposing your body to a brand new stimulus. This is the only time that your body will be able to effectively use the excess calories to build muscle.

This means that 16 year old teens who first sets foot into the gym should be overeating for muscle growth. But 40 year old dudes who have been working out for 10 years and fantasize about having a body like Taylor Lautner should not be doing the same thing as the 16 year old.

I guarantee that the 40 year old guy who tries to overeat everyday in hopes of gaining muscle will just end up looking like Taylor Lautner’s dad(and I literally mean that. See below).


The law of diminishing returns

For those of you who didn’t paid attention in economics class, the law of diminishing returns basically says that beyond some point, each additional unit of variable input yields less and less additional output.

In this case, the variable input will be the calories you eat and the output will be your muscle growth. Overating for muscle growth will only work well once in your life, but after that, it’s game over. If you continue overeating, you’re still likely some gain muscle, but you’ll also gain a ton of fat.

So what’s my advice.

  • Do a traditional bulk ONLY once, until you’ve gained about 20 pounds of noticeable lean muscle mass. Train hard, and eat plenty of calories and protein. Be sure to measure your body fat and waist size to make sure you aren’t gaining too much fat. If you are gaining fat, lower your calories by 200 per week until your body fat levels stabilize.
  • After bulking up, diet down to a level where you are able to see your abs(<=10% bodyfat)
  • Analyze your body. Determine if you are happy with your current physique. Do want even more muscle? Even less fat?
  • If you want to build even more muscle, overeat on your training days by just enough to compensate for the energy expended in the gym and eat at your maintenance levels on your non-training days. From this point on in your life, you should never purposely go on a muscle gaining diet again.
  • Gaining muscle is more about getting stronger in the gym than it is about eating more food. Increase the weight, not the calories.
  • Keep this in mind: constantly bulking not only makes you unattractive, but also incredibly unhealthy. Under NO circumstances should you ever purposely gain exccess body fat.

A few guys making a difference

The guys over at the Adonis Index really hit stride with the concept of “not overeating for muscle growth.” Every year, they host multiple body transformation contests for those who use their product, and all the winners reveal that they never do any sort of bulking.

They solely rely on getting stronger and stronger in the gym to gain muscle.

Oh and BTW these guys are ripped, head over to their site to see what I mean. It’s guys like these that are making the fitness industry a better place.

Yes I know you probably hate me

meme bulking
Image source


You know what, if you hate me for saying that going on a muscle gaining diet doesn’t work, then that’s fine.

I understand.

99% of  fitness sites/magazines out there say that you need to eat big to get big. But think about it, those sites make huge amounts of money from selling muscle building supplements, so you can’t really blame them for constantly promoting this whole bulking thing, right?

So I’ll leave it up to you, are you going to be smart and use your only opportunity to bulk once with little consequence or are you going screw it up like most other guys and constantly rationalize your decision to overeat by saying you’rethey’re trying to gain muscle.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

5 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. I am, essentially, just beginning weight training. I am 6′ tall and currently weigh around 205 lbs. Goal number 1 for me is lose fat/maintain muscle. I am NOT muscular, but am losing weight by lifting weights. My current training is as follows:
    Workout A:
    Deadlift (from knees) – 5 sets @ 5-8 reps
    Incline Dumbbell Press – 5 sets @5-8 reps
    1 Arm Dumbbell Row – 5 Sets @ 5-8 reps
    Workout B:
    Squat – 5 sets @ 5-8 reps
    Military Press – 5 sets @ 5-8 reps
    Pullup – 5 sets @ 5-8 reps

    I alternate my training days, so one week I do A,B,A, and the next week will be B,A,B.

    My question is more in reference to the bulking phase only working once, and only when you’re entirely new to weightlifting. My goal is to drop to around 10-12% bodyfat, but after that I do plan on attempting a bulking phase. Having never really bulked (purposely), would you recommend I try to hammer the calories and attempt to put on “beginner” muscle quickly? Or…does my current weight loss diet/weight training count against that initial “beginner” phase, as I will not be entirely a beginner when I reach my bodyfat goals?

    Found your website last week and have been binge reading. Awesome site, and I enjoy the no b.s. approach to training advice. Please keep going!

    1. It’s not that it only works once. It’s more so that’s it’s the most effective the first time. You get diminishing returns each time you try traditional bulking again.

      Yes you won’t necessarily be a beginner so after I would do a more lean bulking approach where you eat at a surplus on training days and at maintenance on off days.

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