How to Design a Bulking Diet

“A skinny guy can’t gain muscle unless he gains body weight”

It sounds simple when you say it like that, but lots of skinny guys don’t realize it. Countless skinny but well-meaning weaklings lift the same weight for months at a time. Then they weigh in at the same weight that they did six months before. And, they wonder why they don’t get any stronger.

“Mass building begins in the kitchen”

This is a truism among successful weight lifters and body builders. When it comes to building muscle, a good bulking diet is of paramount importance. If gaining weight is not part of your muscle-building plan, you will fail.

Designing a weight gain diet that will put lean pounds on your frame comprises several steps:

Figure out how many calories you need to gain weight

You want to gain lean muscle mass. To do this, eat 500 calories per day more than your maintenance level. These extra calories – totaling 3500 calories per week – will add a pound of body weight every week. This is healthy weight gain; a faster rate of bulking will probably result in excess fat.

Drawing of a loaded dumbbell

A pound per week is a good, rough estimate of the rate at which the typical trainee can gain muscle without porking up with excess fat. If you worry about getting fat, get over it. If you are a highly-paid underwear model and you can’t stand the thought of losing your rock-hard abs, then shoot for a pound every two weeks. Otherwise, don’t squander your enthusiasm by gaining too slowly. Put on the pounds while you are still mentally pumped up about making a positive change in your lifestyle.

For gaining muscle and weight quickly, a rough rule of thumb is to eat 50-70 calories per kg of body weight. You can double-check your calorie requirements using the Harris-Benedict equation. In accordance with this diet, a hypothetical 70kg (155 pound) man will eat 3500 calories per day while he is lifting heavy and putting on muscle mass. At this rate, he will probably gain weight and muscle without too much excess fat.

Remember that your maintenance level is much higher than normal when you are working out hard during a mass-gaining program. The worst mistake you can make is to get insufficient calories for building muscle. Feed your body a muscle building diet when you want to grow. Keep accurate records and make sure you are getting results according to plan.

Picture related to bodybuilding diet

Determine the amount of protein you need in your diet.

It all starts with the protein. We will figure out how much protein to include in our bulking diet, and extrapolate the other dietary components from those initial protein amounts. That’s not to say that you want to consume a high protein diet. Many novices think a high protein low fat diet is the way to go. Wrong. Your diet should be balanced and sensible. Everything in moderation.

Let’s say, for sake of argument, you want to get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. In another article, I explain why this is probably unnecessary, but rather than fight conventional wisdom, I’ll use that figure. As a nice round number, it makes our example easy to follow.

A hypothetical man weighing 155 pounds (70 kg) would then need 155 grams of protein. At 4 calories per gram, this amount of protein is supplying 620 calories.

Calculate how much fat to include in your diet.

Next, add fat into the diet. Be sure not to skimp on the fat. For this bulking up diet, we will specify that 30% of your total calories will come from fat. The hypothetical 155 pounder is planning to eat 3500 calories per day, so he will need to get 1050 calories from the fat in his diet.

At 9 calories per gram, our mass gainer will need to eat 116 grams of fat every day to stick to his planned bulking diet.

Make up the remainder with carbohydrates.

Thus far, our example diet calls for 155 grams of protein and 116 grams of fat, for a sum total of 1670 calories per day. Since we are shooting for 3500 calories, the remainder – 1830 calories – will take the form of carbohydrates. At 4 calories per gram of carbs, we know that we will need around 460 grams of carbs every day during our bulking phase.

  Protein Fat Carbohydrates Total
Mass (g) 155 116 460 731 g
Calories 620 1050 1830 3500 calories

Sample dietary breakdown for a hypothetical 155 pounder on a mass-gaining program

Keep accurate records

It’s one thing to design a good bulking diet. But it’s quite another thing altogether to stick to it.

The key to making this work is to keep accurate records. Either use a free, web-based diet-tracking service, a nutritional profile program, or find the relevant information on the web and keep track of the data in a spreadsheet.

Without accurate data and diligent record-keeping, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Knowledge is power: stick to the plan and make it happen.

Eating frequency for a mass-gaining diet

Generally, lifters will benefit from smaller, more frequent meals. If possible, eat five times a day instead of three. Professional bodybuilders who need to maintain 250 pounds of lean muscle on a bodybuilding bulking diet often set an alarm clock for the middle of the night so they don’t miss their scheduled mid-sleep feeding. The rest of us can get away without waking up to eat in the wee hours of the morning, but the lesson is clear: space your food intake out over the day, rather than gorging all at once.

Get some protein after working out

A strong balanced body is built with compound movements

Immediately after working out, your body is in an especially anabolic state. That is, the rate that protein is incorporated into your muscles is increased. This window of opportunity for enhanced muscle building lasts less than an hour. Every diet for bulking should take this into account.

Eat a protein-rich snack before working out. Afterwards, make sure you get some carbohydrates to fuel your protein synthesis and decrease protein degradation. All evidence is that this is a helpful strategy during a mass-gaining phase. If you absolutely must have a protein shake to feel like you are accomplishing something worthwhile, immediately after a workout is the best time to drink it, but add some carbs to it.

A good bulking diet is simple

There you have it, the muscle building diet. Start with protein, add fat, and top if off with an amount of carbs sufficient for gaining a pound per week. Remember: if your weight stays the same, you will not get bigger and stronger. Keep accurate records and think long-term.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Syidat October 30, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Seem easy simply by regulating dietary calories and protein, but whether the use of supplements will support this?

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John March 10, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I think this is great advice but i’m worried about over eating and putting on excess fat. I’m 6 ft and weigh 73 kg. I have a thin frame but I’m not exactly “skinny”, I have some excess fat and I don’t find it difficult gaining weight.

Should I still be aiming to gain 1lb a week or should I work on getting skinny first?

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DARKKNIGHT August 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I AM 309LBS AND GAINING 1LBS PER WEEK OF MUSCLE I HAVE A LARGE BUILD AND JUST LOVE MY SIZE WHEN I WALK INTO A ROOM PEOPLE NOTICE. I BULK UP DURING THE OFF SEASON AND DIET FOR CONTESTS. WHICH BRINGS ME DOWN TO 285LBS MY ARMS ARE 21 INCHES AND MY CHEST IS 59 INCHES SO I SAY EAT WHAT YOU WANT OFF SEASON AND TRAIN HARD ON AND OFF SEASON.

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someguy February 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

You dont need to type in all caps bro we can hear you.

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Sam October 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I weight 68 kg im not heaps skinny more tonned then anything but my goal is 90kg i need this to happen quickly but?

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Joe Clerico October 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I weigh within your rough analytical suggestion, but have a hard time sustaining weight. I admit I am quite the novice when it comes to weight gain and the procedures there in. My body seems to be fighting me every step of the way. I am in fair physical shape. I really want to bulk up and sustain said bulk. I could weigh as much as 166lbs during one day, but wake up next day only to be back to 159lb. What should I do? Are there any easy foods to look out for when attempting to balance my diet?

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Brock January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Quality information there, thank you. One thing I have been trying to find out is the correct balance of amino acids. I am of the understading that for the body to fully utilise 1 gram of protein, all 20 amino acids must be present in the correct ratio, any amino’s above this will go to waste. Is this correct? And if so, any idea where can I find out a) what the ratio is and b) roughly what percentage of each amino is present in a particular food? I would love to be able to know if to eat tuna with pasta or baked beans on the same day as rice etc etc to get the best out of the protein contained in them.

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Thomas January 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hi Brock:

Around two decades ago, people sold a lot of books (especially to vegetarians) by claiming that you needed the essential amino acids in virtually every meal. Essential AAs arethose which your body needs to get from food because you can’t synthesize them biochemically.

But this so-called requirement isn’t based on any facts established by direct scientific research.

In reality, even if you eat a meal of only beans or only rice, you won’t be starved for nutrients because your serum amino acids (those floating around in your blood stream after digestion) hang around for a while until the muscles need them. It’s not a use it or lose it proposition; it’s a use it or maybe use it later sort of thing.

Bottom line: eat complete meals of whole food and don’t worry about it too much. When you eat a good meal of steak, potatoes, and green beans, you’ll be happier and healthier than someone who obsesses over the AA profile of their rice and beans!

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John m January 22, 2012 at 1:08 am

Great advice thanks for all the info.

Will my body tolerate pumping calories into it? In the past my eating habits haven’t been the best. Only eating 2 sometimes 1 meal a day and a few ( bad snacks ). I’m around 70 kg and172 cm tall. I’m working on correcting this but am in fear of pumping to many calories into my body before it’s used to it.

I plan on eating 4 possibly 5 small meals and working out 3 days a week.

Any help would be appreciated

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adam January 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm

hey
im one of these skinny guys, and im loving this site. but i dont really get this intake part.
would there be a chance of a list being compiled of foods and drinks and what they are high in? Because unless i walk down evry isle of tesco and check the packet of everything in there i’m not sure i’ll find any of the right foods.
i did read it all above and i get WHY we need what we do and how much and all, acids and how muscle builds, all good advice, i just have no idea how to actually apply it. What should I be eating and drinking more of to build muscle?

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Matt February 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

So you want somebody else to do it for you?

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Ash February 24, 2012 at 2:22 am

***Because unless i walk down evry isle of tesco and check the ***packet of everything in there i’m not sure i’ll find any of the ***right foods.

Uh… That actually IS the way.

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Alex January 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm

First and foremost, I LOVE this website! Advice needed. I’ve always been pretty lean and athletic. 6’4″ (180lbs). Played basketball and ran track. So I’ve always been pretty thin, but healthy. Now I’m older and have more interest in building more muscle mass to go with my height. I recognize my biggest problem is I need to eat more. Been working out EXCESSIVELY since June 2011 and have seen SIGNIFICANT improvement in strength. I only do compond exercises at this point. My question is, do I even need to worry about Ab exercises at this point? I have a pretty consistent workout routine which is 4-days a week, but this does not include abs. I am wondering if I should stop thinking about gaining weight in my midsection and focus more on bulking and then worry about cutting later. I always get confused when I hear about these cycles of bulking and cutting. With my routine now, it pretty much works good and I want to make sure I get enough rest between workouts. Just basically wondering if I should worry about ab training more so down the line and focus on bulking only at this point. Thanks for reading!!!

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Nero May 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Hey,

I am pretty new to this strength training world,now training for about a month. I also directly started with eating seriously and trying to eat as healthy as possible. My question is: How accurate does my food intake has to be each day? I am tracking everyday and figured that sometimes I eat more calories, proteins, carbs and fats as planned and sometimes I eat less. As an example I eat a bit too many calories but not enough proteins on a day and another day its slightly different again.

so How spot on should my food intake be to gain muscle still effectively.

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sahmz June 9, 2013 at 12:42 am

im 5’8 tall n weigh only 49 kg…plsss help

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Manny June 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

This diet plan really helped me out. I’m about 5’9 and I weigh 160 lbs. I’ve been on a couple of different diets trying to just lose weight and now I’m starting to lose too much. I’m a little confused about the diet plan cuz shouldn’t there be some dairy some fruits and things like that. I’ve been searching a real good diet plan that can help me bulk up. My roomates been bulking for some time and I’m pretty lean and toned so only thing now that’s missing is mass so I need to find a good diet if anyone can help me with this please let me know, otherwise I’m going to try this and hopefully it works out for the best.

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Russell E. Willis July 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm

When you exercise to develop muscular mass, try eating a diet abundant in whole, fresh foods. Avoid foods that are loaded with chemicals, dyes and fillers these substances may compromise your immunity. Maintaining a healthy diet and nutritious foods enables you to enhance your defense mechanisms and increase muscle gain.

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Gaurav August 9, 2013 at 9:44 am

Sir im 6 feet tall nd 90 kg weight…. Im in gud shape bt I need to increase my power… suggest me something to increase power

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Demian October 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I weigh 190lbs,6.3ft and not really bulked want an advice if I have to workout heavy always.my gym schedule is 4days a week.Any help peeps

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Mitch January 3, 2014 at 5:54 am

Hi, I am 22 years old 88kg and 6ft 3, have been in gym
Around a year and seen minimal results. I think I eat well.
Train hard 4-5 days a week. Hoping someone could give me a decent meal plan, gym program and maybe recommend main supplements to help. Goal to up my lean muscle mass and strength .
Thanks

Reply

DulcieFrierson December 7, 2014 at 6:32 am
Dian3308khmfr December 7, 2014 at 11:17 am
DakotaAhMouy December 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm

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