It’s cool to be ‘into fitness’ today, there’s never been a time with as many fitness regimes and fancy diets as today. Although exciting, I find this is also confusing and often misleading for our beginner friends. Hence, it is imperative for us to endorse correct and legitimate information.
To begin with, there’s a variety of fitness goals we may have, but if I have to broadly classify there are two that are most common - ‘bulking up’ or ‘leaning down’. The basis for this is what body type a person is born with.
Ectomorph - the naturally skinny type who find it hard to pack on weight
Mesomorph - the naturally well built type who find it easy to stay in shape and maintain muscle
Endomorph - the naturally fat type who find it hard to shed weight
So it’s obvious that a person’s fitness goals have a lot to do with their natural body type right?
Ectomorphs or skinny guys are usually the ones who want to ‘bulk up’, which usually means gain both weight and muscle.
However, this is often not so easy to achieve. It’s cringey to see the kind of misinformation around us that tends to mislead most beginners.
Skinny guys or “hard gainers” are often advised to eat as much as they possibly can and take a whole lot of ‘mass gainers’, by their gym trainers. This often just results in them either becoming fat and out of shape or just sick.
If I have to state simply, bulking up = eat on acaloric surplus - which means to consume more calories than your daily requirement (based on your size and activity level). When you feed your body more than what it needs - it stores that energy as weight. Whether that weight gained is muscle or fat depends on how much and what you consume.
The sensible way to go about bulking is to eat not more than 500 extra calories per day and get them from a good mix of quality protein and carbs, the two macronutrients of prime importance when it comes to putting on clean muscle mass, with minimum fat.
I’m often shocked to see our hard gainer friends given only one route to achieving their desired bulked up physique, which is -
- Go absolutely crazy with food intake eat anything in sight (and beyond)
- Down as many mass gainer shakes as you can (and some more)
- Eat lots of chicken and eggs for your protein intake
- Go hard in the gym or go home.. & cardio is for wimps.
As you can probably tell, this route does more harm than good..
The truth is that there exists a scientific, sensible and healthy way to go about this whole bulking thing. As I mentioned previously - it involves eating on a surplus of around 500 calories daily as well as getting protein and carbs from quality foods.
Let me tell you, this correct route to bulking can help our skinny friends save a lot of time and effort, yielding optimal results and helping them achieve the muscular bodies and size they dream of.
I have to bust another myth that is rife our fitness fraternity. So they say - You cannot bulk up/get jacked on a vegetarian/vegan diet & you’re lame if you attempt to do so. Chicken breast and whey protein are endorsed as the two hallmark foods of body building.
This is highly misleading. Studies show that plant-based protein matches meat and dairy and in fact has several benefits - It is easier to digest and anti-inflammatory as opposed to meat and dairy, it is low in saturated fat, allergen free and high in fibre. Besides this, a plant-based diet is animal cruelty free and lowers your carbon footprint considerably. Are you sold yet?
I believeit is possible to bulk up and gain muscle with ease on a plant based diet.
Here are some of my favourite tips for anybody looking to do that:
- First, you calculate your resting caloric requirement. This is simple. The formula that works best according to me is - multiply your body weight in pounds by 10 if you’re female and by 11 if you’re male.
- Second, factor in your physical activity level to determine your maintenance calories. If you're female, multiply your resting calculation by 1.3 if you're sedentary, 1.6 if you’re relatively active, 1.9 if you're very active. For males, multiply your resting calculation by 1.3 for sedentary, 1.6 relative activity, 2.1 for very active.
-Third, in order to bulk up (Drum roll..tadaa) - make sure you’re eating up to 500 extra calories per day to be in a caloric surplus.
-Try to track your caloric intake everyday to avoid any discrepancy.
The three primary macronutrients are protein, fat and carbs.
On an effective and sustainable bulking diet, the ideal macros ratio should be 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbs. This means you have to make sure that around 30% of calories of your daily caloric intake should come from protein, a further 30% from fat and 40% from carbs.
Hard gainers, let me tell you - carbs are your friends. In fact, your best friends.
The fourth macronutrient is fibre. It is important to make sure a diet is high in fibre for better digestion and nutrient assimilation so don’t forget your fruits & veggies!
My idea of fitness is to be healthy and strong in the long term. You cannot out-train a bad diet. Eating healthy is of paramount importance. It is beneficial for physical, mental and spiritual health. Hence, I believe having a diet of whole, unprocessed foods is crucial. These foods are loaded with tons of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, along with the essential macronutrients (obviously).
So some of my favourite good food choices on a plant-based diet are:
-Protein: chickpeas, lentils, beans, soy, tofu, plant protein powder etc
-Fat: nuts, unprocessed nut butters, coconut oils, seeds etc
-Carbs: fruits, vegetables, brown rice, whole grains, cereals, oats etc
Yes, we know eating right is crucial but it is correct exercise that helps you build muscle and put on size the way you’d like. Nutrition and training work in synergy to take you to your goal of successfully bulking up.
What works best, in my opinion, is a good mix of weight training coupled with some form of cardiovascular exercise. Any form of exercise that is chosen must be done in such a way that it is progressive over time ie. each week aim to perform better - this forces the body to adapt and evolve.
However, what’s most important to do something that you enjoy doing, so that it’s sustainable and doesn’t seem like a task. Having fun while working out makes it an enjoyable process and something you look forward to - thus promoting consistency. Trust me - it’ll become second nature!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you got all the calories & nutrients you need from the food you eat?
As much as I hate to admit it, in the practical world that is rare. Especially so on a bulking diet. That is because it involves a very large food intake.
Here is where supplementation comes in. One can supplement with a quality plant protein supplement in order to hit their daily protein goal (likeOlena Evolve Plant Performance Protein). Plant protein supplements are known to have numerous advantages over their dairy/whey counterparts. Further, other supplements can be used for getting micronutrients which are otherwise hard to obtain on a plant based diet - such as anOmega 3 andCalcium supplement. Hitting all your macro and micro nutrient goals will result in optimal physical and mental performance and general sense of well being.
So, what do you think?
Have I made it quite evident that bulking up on a plant based diet is highly doable and in fact in many ways a superior way to go about bulking? (I think yes).
But I also think you should try it out for yourself to see the results!
In my personal experience, I have observed the many benefits of going plant based from a heavy meat and dairy consuming past. I now feel much healthier, lighter, fitter with a great deal of mental clarity.
I feel switching to a plant based diet just aids overall well being in ways that can be experienced only when you make the shift.
My advice to every beginner in fitness would be to make the shift as soon as possible - so that their bodies can benefit from the many advantages and they embark on their fitness journey in a more wholesome, holistic & rewarding manner.
Jai Virdi is a fitness consultant and coach based in Mumbai. He is an advocate of holistic wellness and believes in constant self-development. Get in touch with him email@example.com or Instagram (jaivirdi__).