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Step-by-Step Overview of How to Bulk Up Fast and Build More Muscle Mass

We get a lot of questions every week about how to bulk up in 3 months or 2 months or something ridiculously fast. We wanted to create this resource to teach others how to get bulk safely and fast. You'll learn about good bulking foods and exercises for bulking up muscle, the basics of bulking up properly, a sample bulk up diet plan so you know what to eat to bulk up, and some of the most common questions we get about how to get big muscles and build muscle mass fast. Before we dive in, let’s quickly define lean muscle vs bulky muscle. The primary difference is the presence/absence of body fat.

An overview of how to bulk up quickly

  1. Pick the best bulking program (for you) – Make sure you base this on your NEEDS and your SITUATION. Do your research and really think about what your limitations and constraints are. If you work 2 jobs and are supporting a family of 4, time is your primary constraint. If you are struggling to make ends meet, money is your primary constraint. Once you know what you have to work with, figuring out what you actually can do sets you up for the best chance at succeeding with your muscle-building goals.
  2. Be realistic with your goals – We can’t stress enough how important, yet over-looked this factor is. In a world where professional athletes and movie stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jay Cutler, Rich Froning and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger are the only types of people on magazine covers and Hollywood movies…it’s quite understandable that a lot of people have un-realistic goals. These guys have less constraints that you likely have and are able to put more time and effort in the gym.
  3. What to eat when bulking up – Michael Phelps is a retired Olympic swimmer for the United States who set a global record of most gold medals won. 23 of them on my count. During his training season, Phelps was consuming a mind-blowing 12,000 calories. That’s 6 times more than the average American should be eating on a daily basis. But when your training requires 30 hours of intense training every week, it makes a lot of sense. One other thing to note is that knowing what to eat when bulking can replenish glycogen levels in your muscle tissue, which get depleted after intense workouts. This is why planning is so crucial to know how much you need to eat, exercise, rest and drink.
  4. Run the numbers – If you have no idea how to do this, hire someone to do it for you. Anybody who has figured out how to win the fitness game will tell you that it’s all about the numbers. Calories, reps, sets, weights…all of these factors play a very important role in building muscle mass. If you can figure out how to get all of these numbers working for you instead of against you, the muscle will take care of itself.
  5. Push your limit and REST – If you want to achieve something you’ve never had, you need to work harder than you ever have. Part of this could be how hard you push yourself in the gym, how much you allow your body to rest/recover or both. The key to bulking up and increasing muscle size is your ability to lift heavier and heavier weights. Easiest way of achieving this is to keep track of what you did this week and then improve next week.
  6. Track your results – You need to be tracking your calories, weights, sets, reps, rest days, hydration, body weight, BMI, body fat % and of course muscle size measurements. Almost forgot, keeping weekly progress photos does an incredible job of visually seeing that your hard work is paying off.

Five common reasons why bulking up diets fail

  1. There’s no plan of attack or strategy. Bulking up the right way is not an easy thing to do, so having a mapped out plan of attack is essential to building bulk muscles and not getting discouraged when it doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d like.  If you have a window of 30 days to hit your bulking goals, we would strongly recommend you re-evaluate your goals because in a 30 day window, you'll certainly make progress, but you'll need closer to a 60 - 90 day window to see significant results.
  2. Most people don't have a bulking meal plan and hence do not eat enough calories when bulking up. This of course leads to failure while trying to build muscle mass.
  3. On the flip side, some people figure "I'll pack on a ton of weight now and turn it into muscle later" and eat too many calories.  As a result, excessive bad weight is put on because they weren't sure what role foods played in how to bulk up faster.
  4. The accepted belief is that since you are bulking up, you should have more cheat days than normal because you want the extra calories. More information on what foods to eat to bulk up can be found on our blog. Food choice is critical and making sure you have a good grap on your food intake will be a game changer.
  5. Most of us don't have the luxury of going out and hiring a nutritionist to come up with extravagant meal plans, snack plans, and how to change it up every week. The key is to change it up consistently so that you don't grow sick of the same foods for bulking up and ultimately crave a greasy burger every day.

The Basics of Bulking Up Properly

  • Protein: Just like when you are cutting, you need plenty of protein. For bulking up, a good rule of thumb is 1-3g of protein per pound of lean bodyweight. You should take in a good portion of your protein in the source of real meals, avoid intaking too many shakes, as real food comes with far more benefits. Realistically, trying to get that much protein in your body from food is very difficult not to mention how expensive it can be. We would recommend a quality whey protein isolate like our Whey Better Protein that has HICA for faster recovery and sustained protein synthesis.
  • Postworkout (PWO) Nutrition: This is the most important aspect of bulking up. It is within the 15 minutes after a workout that your body is in dire need of nutrients. It is in a completely anabolic state, and what you take in can be optimized to ensure maximum results. A general rule of thumb is 25-40 grams of whey protein.  This is when you can also take in your carbs.
  • Carbs: Carbohydrates are a very helpful macronutrient when you are trying to gain mass. However, carbohydrates are only useful if they are used at the correct times. In our opinion, the best times to eat carbs for bulking are only necessary for 3 meals of the day. These meals include breakfast, your PWO Shake, and your PWO Meal. 
  • Fats: EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids) are extremely important in any bulking cycle. The list of benefits from taking in dietary fats are extensive. Bulking diet plans which includes EFA’s will yield much better results. Some examples of the best bulking foods with essential fatty acids include: fish and shellfish, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed (linseed), sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts. I'm sorry my friend, milk shakes and french fries do not count.
  • Cheating: Cheating is essential. Why? Remember, the body runs on homeostasis, it likes to keep balance. After eating so well after a week, your body begins to adjust, and mass gain / fat burning over time will not be as rapid. The other extremely important aspect is mental sanity. So many bulk up diets crash and fail because people don’t give themselves a chance to breathe. Remember, cheating is not an opportunity for you to pillage the entire mall food court. Shoot for a cheat meal, but not an all out binge. A fast food value meal can easily provide over 2,000 calories. Eat that 3 times on one day and you’ve consumed 6,000 calories. Unless you are an Olympic gold-medal athlete, most likely you don't need to be scarfing down a 6,000 calorie bulking diet.
  • Cardio: Damn right, cardio! Yes even when bulking up. Why? Because cardio works the most important muscle of all–YOUR HEART. Not only that, but doing cardio 3 times a week will help keep the fat you will gain in this diet to a minimum. Cardio should be performed on an empty stomach first thing in the morning for maximum effectiveness. You'll do wonders for your metabolism if it gets jump-started every morning with a tough workout.  The proper cardio for burning fat is done by staying in your target heart rate for fat burning which is 65-70% of your max heart rate for a period of 45-60 minutes. **Cardio Disclaimer: Some people have a harder time gaining weight than others, and doing cardio might not be the best idea for these people. For others who wish to use the fat burning abilities of cardio but still gain size, 30-35 minutes of cardio 1-3 times a week may be a better choice. Remember it is your body and only you know what works for you.

The Best Foods to Bulk Up Muscle — Sample Bulking Up Diet Meal Plan

For a typical 30 year old, 6ft tall, 220 pound man, here is a sample diet for bulking.

Meal 1: Pro/Carb 8 egg whites, 1 scoop of whey protein, 1 cup oatmeal 50g protein / 54g carbs / 5g fat

Meal 2: Pro/Fat lean ground beef, ¼ cup swiss cheese, green veggies 55g protein / 2g carbs / 20g fat

Meal 3: Pro/Carb chicken breast, 1 and a half cup brown rice 55g protein / 84g carbs / 3g Fat **Disclaimer: Meal 3 can be a pro/fat meal if you are ultra sensitive to carb intake.

Meal 4: Pro/Fat 2 cans of tuna, 1 Tbsp full fat mayonnaise, veggies 60g protein / 2g carbs / 13g Fat Workout

Meal 5: PWO Nutrition 2 scoops whey protein / 80g of Dextrose / 40g protein / 80g carbs / 0g fat

Meal 6: PWO boneless skinless chicken breast, ½ cup brown rice (measured uncooked) 50g protein / 70g carbs / 3g fat

Meal 7: Whey protein isolate, 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter 50g protein / 5g carbs / 18g fat

Meal 8: Before bed 3 scoops of whey protein, 1.5 Tbsp. flax seed oil 60g protein / 3g carbs / 21g Fat

If you were asking yourself how much protein do I need to bulk, that turns into approximately 420 grams of pure bulking protein, 270 grams of carbs, and 83 grams of fat. This is roughly 3,500 calories.  This number is going to be widely different for everybody.  The common pitfall we see over and over is that when people want to bulk up, they don't have a clear goal weight or a plan to get there.  They figure that they'll just stop once they hit their weight, but the key to remember is that the body requires good habits to be developed for change.  Most people will end up overshooting their desired size and in some cases will lose control and have to work that much harder.  Check out a blog post we did a while ago about planning a bulking up diet.

*Reminder: This is a PRIMER. It’s not mean to be comprehensive. Everyone is different, to find out what works for your body takes trial and error.

How to Get Muscular & Build Bigger Muscles — A Sample Workout Plan with the Best Exercises to Bulk Up

Here's a free downloadable chart that you can print out and track your results every month. Click to download it.

Get your free sample workout plan

Know your body type and composition

Your body type plays a crucial role in your ability to pack on mass. Here's a brief primer on the various body types:

Ectomorph - Skinny, rectangular body

  • Body type: Lanky, slender, thin
  • Muscle gain: Difficult (thanks a lot, high metabolism!)
  • Weight loss: Why on earth would you want to?
  • Success tip: Avoid cardio when trying to bulk up

Mesomorph - Upside-down triangle body

  • Body type: Athletic, heavily-muscled
  • Muscle gain: Very easy
  • Weight loss: Very easy
  • Success tip: Don't get cocky, stay on top of your diet & exercise

Endomorph - Square-shaped body

  • Body type: Typically soft, flabby
  • Muscle gain: Moderately easy
  • Weight loss: Difficult (darn you overly-developed digestive system!)
  • Success tip: Watch your calories and avoid refined sugar at all costs


Common Questions About the Best Ways to Bulk Up Muscle Mass

Q: What about dairy?
A: This is totally dependent upon your goals. If you don’t mind the bloat from milk then go for it. Skim milk is a better choice as far as mixing fats and carbs go. Remember you are bulking so you have more freedom in your dietary choices.

Q: What is a good whey protein to take and how many shakes a day should I take?
A: Bulking up requires a lot of protein to get the job done so our recommendation is to select a high quality whey protein powder (like our new Whey Better Protein) that has a high protein per serving count as well as little to no fillers because that’s just wasted money. During a bulking phase, it is generally recommended that you consume roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.  So if you are 200 lbs, you’ll want to be consuming around 200 grams of protein. This protein should come from both food that you consume and supplemented by whey protein shakes.  A good rule of thumb is to get at least half of your protein from animal meat and the other half from whey protein.

Q: How often should I eat?
A: You’ll have to do the math to see how often you will have to eat to get your 7-8 meals a day in. If your up for 16 hours a day, then every 2 hours is how often you need to eat.

Q: Is sodium an issue when it comes to bulking up?
A: Outside of the bloating issue, or if you have high cholesterol, no.

Q. How do I make my bulking meals not taste like cardboard?
A. Be creative. Mix in some sugar free jam or splenda in your oats, some hot sauce or soy sauce on your meats, or pick up some sugar free ketchup.

Q. I don’t like old-fashioned oats. Can I eat the pre mixed oats with fruit?
A. No. Be a man. Those mixes have ridiculous amounts of sugar.

Q. What about fruit?
A: Go for it, like with dairy you are BULKING. You have more freedom in your dietary choices.

Q: What are some good sources of lean protein?
A: Eggs, fish, chicken, steak, ground beef, whey protein, turkey… the list goes on forever. You'll find a ton of other people’s diets for ideas on protein via a simple Google search.

Q: What are the best carbs for bulking up?
A: Complex carbohydrates like rice, pasta, whole wheat bread, yams and oatmeal (steel-cut of course).

Q: Should I eat white or brown rice?
A: With all things considered, we would recommend brown rice unless you are going to be eating white rice within 30 minutes of completing your workout. We haven't seen much evidence proving that one is better than the other for bulking up, but given that brown rice has more fiber, that would be our top recommendation.

Q: Can I eat fast food while bulking up?
A: Fast food exists for two reasons.  It is quick and it is cheap.  While most Americans consume fast food several times a week, adding quality pounds to your frame will have to be done going through the drive-thru in light moderation.  Cheat days would be a great day to pick up a quick meal, but pound for pound, you are going to add the best balance of nutrition from taking in the more quality meats, vegetables and fruits at home.

Q: I know diet is the biggest factor when it comes to bulking up, but do you recommend any workouts?
A: Absolutely, here are some fundamental workouts to get bigger.  Also, here are some other exercises to get pumped up.

Q: Got any additional bulking up tips?
A: The main thing is deciding what your specific goals are and measuring everything. Anybody can technically "bulk up" fast, but most people don't do it the right way.

Q: What are your best supplements for bulking up?
A: While all of our mass gaining supplements are selectively chosen for bulking up, our top recommendations are:

Whey Better protein Muscle Attack BCAA tablets Creatine tablets Trenadrall 250 Dbol

From our selection of bodybuilding stacks, our top recommendations would be:
Ultimate StackWarrior StackBeast ModeSynergyHard Gainer Stack

Or you can browse by what your fitness goals are:

Increase Strength & Power Maximize Performance Gain Mass & Size Get Quick Results Recover Fast

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