Saturday, 23 November 2013

Winter = Bulk Season

"Winter is coming" to start out with a quote from the TV show Game of Thrones.
With winter almost upon us, many people are looking to bulk up, which means they are looking to add more muscle and size to their bodies. Winter often means cold weather, and with cold weather, we often dress ourselves in thicker clothes, which makes it harder to see whether our body fat percentage is 5 or 10, or 15 for that matter.
That makes it ideal to bulk up during the winter, since you need to have a higher caloric intake than if you're just trying to maintain weight or cut.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
First, in order to bulk up, you need to know how many calories you need to get, in order to maintain your weight.
If you don't already know how many calories you need on a daily basis to maintain your weight (aka BMR), you can use this method to calculate it:
This equation helps estimate your BMR, if you just lie in your bed for 24 hours, so in order to calculate a more accurate BMR depending on your exercise, you can use this chart to see what you should multiply your BMR with according to your level of exercise:

So, if you exercise moderately (3-5 days per week), you should multiply you BMR with 1.55

I'm 25 years old, weighs 70 kg, and I'm 180cm tall.
Using the formula above, I end up with a BMR of 1748 calories needed daily. Then I need the multiplying factor, which is around moderate to heavy exercise, since I do somewhere between 5 and 7 workouts per week. In this example I'll multiply with the Heavy exercise factor of 1.725, which ends my calories needed at 3015 calories daily to maintain my weight.

Gain Weight
So.. Now that you know, how many calories you need in order to maintain your weight, you need to know how much you need to consume to put on weight.
The general rule is that you need between 100-500 calories MORE than your final BMR; in my case that would be 3015 + 100-500 calories. The more calories you add, the faster you will add weight, but  remember, more of that will also be fat.
If you want a more lean bulk, where you don't get as much fat, as with a fast bulk, you need to gain weight at a slower rate, say 0.25-0.5 kg per week.

If we use the same numbers from the example above, and say that I want a lean bulk of 200 calories over my BMR, I end up at 3215.

How much protein?
In order to put on muscle mass during your bulk, you should eat around 1.2-1.8 grams per kg bodyweight daily.
Remember, there are 4 calories per gram of protein.

So, let's say I want to eat 1.8g/kg, the result of grams of protein is: 126 grams. Since there are 4  calories per gram of protein, that makes it 504 calories.
That means 504 calories of my needed intake of 3215 should be protein, and that leaves 2711 calories for fat and carbohydrates (carbs).

Some good sources of protein:
- Meat, chicken, turkey, lean beef, and pork.
- Fish, both fatty, such as mackerel, salmon, and herring, as well as lean fish, such as tuna and cod.
- Dairy products like yoghurt and fat-free cheese.
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes, are good alternatives, if you don't have access to animal protein.

How much fat?
The recommended daily intake of fat, from the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, is 20-35 % but I would suggest staying somewhere between 25-30%
Remember, there are 9 calories per gram of fat.

Let's say I want 30% of my daily intake to be calories, I then take 30% of 3215 calories = 964 calories.
I subtract the 964 from the 2711 calories, we found earlier in the protein section, leaving 1747 calories for carbs.

Good sources of fat:
- Plant-oils, such as olive- or rapeseed oil
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring.
- Avocado and olives.
- Nuts.

You should strive to limit your fat intake from meat, milk, cheese, and "fast food".

How many carbohydrates?
The same Institute of Medicine recommends 45-65% of your daily calorie intake should come from carbs.
Remember, there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates.

Earlier, we found out that I need 1747 calories from carbs. That's the same as 54% of my daily caloric intake needed, which fits in the 45-65% recommended.
To find out how many grams of carbs that is, I divide 1747 with 4, which equals 436 grams of carbs needed.

Some healthy sources of carbs are:
- Bread - most of the wheat bread.
- Oatmeal, and other whole-grain products.
- Rice and paste - in whole-grain variants preferably.
- Potatoes - preferably boiled and with peel
- Vegetables.
- Fruits and juice.

Final notes
Now that you know how many calories you need to get, in order to bulk up, and what food to look for, you're good on your way.
If you just start eating more calories that you need, but don't really exercise or do any heavy weight lifting, you're not going to bulk up on muscle, but more likely fat.
In order to gain weight and put on muscle mass, you need to be in the gym 2-3 times a week and lift weights (in my opinion, preferably heavy weights and free weights).
If you need help with creating a program, a good start are the Big Three lifts or check out this article: Creating the Perfect weight training program.

I hope you liked the article and got something useful from it.


  • Journal of Nutrition, Training table to the Battlefield: Protein recommendations for Warfighters. 2013
  • Institute of Medicine of National Academies, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients), 2002.