Athletes in any sport know the struggle and hard work you have to go through to be at peak performance. Bodybuilding is no different; if anything, it’s one of the most difficult sports in the world. But beyond the grueling hours spent in the gym working on their body, bodybuilders have an even more daunting challenge behind the scenes: nutrition and diet. While it does take a ton of effort, energy, and determination to religiously go to the gym and put in the work, that is only half the battle. This article will discuss an increasingly relevant topic in how much protein you need when bulking.
Bulking in bodybuilding
If you’ve tried your hand out at bodybuilding, you should be familiar with the terms “bulking” and “cutting.” These two make up different phases of the bodybuilding cycle. Bulking is the phase where bodybuilders “bulk up” by putting on as much muscle as possible. On the other hand, cutting is aimed at refining your muscle definition, especially during pre-competition by shedding body fat. Since these two phases have different goals, their required diets and nutritional intake will vary accordingly.
The goal is to gain mass when bulking, which requires a caloric surplus (consuming more calories than you’re using). At first glance, it seems all too easy to do that: just eat to your heart’s content. However, the quality of food you eat will impact what you end up gaining – fat vs. muscle. There are generally two primary types of bulking – clean bulking or otherwise known as lean bulking, and dirty bulking. The former requires choosing healthier food options as part of a diet of moderate caloric increase.
A research paper experimented with caloric surpluses and their effects on weight gain. Research subjects were divided by the amount of protein they consumed. While all the subjects gained some weight, those that took a larger amount of protein showed much more significant gains. While a dirty bulk with sufficient amounts of protein may result in similar weight gain, it can often result in gaining more fat than muscle. In a clean bulk, your potential to put on more lean muscle mass is much more pronounced.
So, how much protein then should you be taking when bulking?
There is no one clear cut number by which you should adhere when trying to bulk. The best way to organize your protein intake when bulking is to identify it along with the rest of your macronutrient needs.
The first thing you should determine is how many calories you will need to consume in order to achieve some gains. The first thing you have to sort out is your daily energy expenditure (differentiate training from rest days). Here’s a calculator to help you figure that number out. Simply plug in the necessary details, and it will do the rest for you.
Once you figure out the calories required to maintain your weight, you should add 500 calories on top of that to get the ballpark number of your daily consumption goal. Note that energy expenditure will be higher for training days, which you’ll need to account for. To get an accurate and reliable assessment of your required daily caloric intake, you may want to consult a dietitian.
According to the NHS, the reference daily intake of protein is 50g for all people. While this may ring true for most people, it will be quite lacking for those trying to bulk. The danger of adhering to a set number is that every person is built differently, thus having different nutritional needs too.
To meet your protein needs, you’ll want to intake about 2 to 2.5 grams of protein for every kilogram (kg) of body weight. This translates to about 0.9 to 1.2 grams of protein for every pound (lb) of body weight.
The best time to eat protein would be between 15-60 minutes after a heavy workout. This doesn’t mean that you should consume all your protein in one go, but you should be sure to have a portion of it at that time.
As for the other macronutrients, you’ll also want to intake 4 to 7 grams of carbohydrates for every kilogram (kg) of body weight, or about 1.8 to 3.2 grams of which for every pound (lb) of body weight. For fat, be sure to have 0.5 to 2 grams of it for every kg or 0.2 to 0.9 grams for every lb of body weight.
You’ll also want to ensure that you’re taking appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals to maintain that well-oiled machine that is your body.