You have worked hard for months to reach your summer shape. A strict diet, intense strength training, sufficient cardio and the right supplements to support all these efforts. You may even have followed our 10-week schedule for a six-pack! The result can be with a good six-pack. But then the summer slowly comes to an end, what do you do? Maintaining your fat percentage is a difficult task for many people, because a goal you are working towards is missing. For that reason, most people will start to clean again towards the end of the summer. Clean bulken stands for building muscle mass with a minimal increase in fat mass. But this is something that often goes wrong ... Today we explain how this is and especially how you stay in shape after the summer!
Why 'clean' bulk usually gets totally out of hand
Well, you are satisfied with your fat percentage and have decided that it is time to build more muscle mass. In good spirits, you start this by eating more again, training more heavily, dropping the cardio and taking supplements such as creatine to add. Where can it go wrong I hear you think? It often goes wrong with the fact that people take clean bulking much less seriously than cutting.
During the cutting process you are on the scales daily, you regularly take pictures to show your progression or you are even with a coach under supervision who measures your fat percentage every few weeks. Compare that with the bulging, where all these things suddenly are no longer so important and especially the weight and strength in the gym are looked at. For a while you keep an eye on whether that six-pack is still there, but soon you find it more important that your body weight goes up (considerably) and sets your PRs with bench press. Your food choices become smoother which means that you will cheat more and more, because hey, you have to have enough energy for that heavy strength training, right ?!
A few months later there comes that point that you come to a painful realization. You are now proudly 15 pounds heavier than you were in the summer, but you are slowly but surely realizing that the 'clean bulk' was not that clean. Too fixated on the scales and the weights in the gym, you will discover that your six-pack is hard to find and your fat percentage has risen again. You begin to realize that your fat percentage is back at the same point as when you started last year for the summer and that cutting will take months of your time. While that was exactly what you did not want by bulging clean!
How does this all come about? Easy! Everything you have focused on while cutting will no longer be important. Your attention is too much on getting heavier and lifting more weights. During this process you become more flexible and you lose sight of the total fat percentage. A shame of course ... That is why we are going to help you today with 5 tips on how to do that better!
Tip 1: Your metabolism is no longer what it was
The first point you need to realize is that lowering your fat percentage has many effects on your body. Similarly for you metabolism, or metabolism. Whereas before cutting you might have been able to maintain a good weight at 3500 or more kilocalories, that does not mean that this is now also the case. Put simply, your metabolism becomes slower and slower the lower you get in your fat percentage. This has a number of reasons:
Your resting metabolism
Your resting metabolism is the energy you use if you were to do nothing all day. This is mainly based on your body weight and muscle mass, but is also influenced by a long-term energy shortage.
It may speak for itself, but if you have lost 10 kilos and have undoubtedly lost some muscle mass, your body needs less energy. Your resting metabolism therefore decreases. In addition, your body is smart enough to use energy more efficiently if there is less food available for a longer period of time.
Your body does not want to lose all those precious fats, so it takes measures itself. One of those measures is that it uses your energy more efficiently. This way you consciously or unconsciously move less to save energy. This reduces your daily energy consumption.
You would say that this will improve as soon as you start to bulge and therefore eat more, but that is a process that does not take place overnight.
As soon as you start to bulge, your strength training will become more intensive, but 9 out of 10 times you will also stop completely with your extra cardio during this period. Depending on how much cardio you did per week, this can easily save 1000 or more kilocalories per week that you now suddenly burn less.
What this means ...
The conclusion is easy: at a low fat percentage, your combustion works slower. So if you suddenly start eating much more and also fewer cardio's, then this is the recipe for fast fat storage.
Tip 2: Take it easy
Based on tip 1, the advice is easy: take it easy with your clean bulk. Suddenly eating 1500 kcal more and also dropping your daily cardio can mean that you are 2000 kcal per day in the plus compared to before. It is not strange that this happens, because being low in your diet for months takes its toll. But then it is a shame to wipe out all this hard work in a matter of weeks.
Instead, work in gradual steps. Your weight does not have to increase by 5 kilos in a few weeks and your bench press will not be 20 kilos higher in a month. For example, build up 200 or 300 kilocalories per week that you eat extra per day. Especially when you drop all cardio you have to be extra careful.
So a good idea is to keep weighing yourself and to be vigilant if the weight increases too quickly. Sure it is nice to tell yourself that you have gained 3 kilos of muscle mass in 2 weeks. But in all honesty you know that this is not the case. So aim for a gradual weight gain, for example of 0,5 kilos per week at the start. For example, the chance is much greater that you are building (possibly lost) muscle mass and that your fat percentage does not increase by several percent per month.
Tip 3: Do you realize that more food is not always necessary?
While people tend to eat less and less during cutting, the opposite happens with bulking. You think you have to eat a lot to build more muscle mass. Go to an all-you-can-eat twice in the weekend? Of course! After all, that muscle mass must come from somewhere!
While it is absolutely true that you have to be in a calorie surplus to build muscle mass, this does not mean that you have to eat infinitely much (or rather eat) to get this done. Yes, you need to get your protein and calories. But eating thousands of calories above your requirement is not going to do anything else but increase your fat percentage considerably.
So be aware that there is a limit to where you can effectively clean clean. Above that limit you will not build up an ounce of extra muscle mass and the calories go directly to those love handles that you were just as happy to lose. In short, take it easy, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
That moment when you realize that you are not bulging so 'clean' after all ...
Tip 4: Keep an eye on your fat percentage
Keeping yourself weighed is always a good idea to prevent things from going too fast. Weighing only little is worth it if you don't keep an eye on your fat percentage. Sooner or later the only thing you want will be an increase in weight, because yes, you no longer have other methods to measure your progress. This way you keep on bulging and bulging so that the scales display a higher number at all costs.
If you read this, it may start to sound very logical, but just keep track of your fat percentage. This is really not necessary once or twice a week, such as during cutting. Try to do this at least once a month. This way you get a much better picture of whether you are actually building muscle mass or whether you are only getting fatter. By combining the fat percentage with your body weight, you can get a good estimate of the muscle and fat mass ratio that you gain. Have you gained 1 kilo of lean body mass compared to 2 kilos of fat mass? Then it sounds like a good idea to watch your diet a little more.
Tip 5: Keep taking photos
During the cut, you grab the chance at every mirror with good light to take a look at your abs and, if possible, even to take a good photo. As you (not-so-clean) start to bulge you do this less and less. You secretly realize that this definition is becoming less and less visible. This is simply ignoring the fact that it is not going the way you want. You soon get it right by telling yourself that you have already gained 10 kilos of 'muscle mass' and you have never been so strong, but you yourself know all too well that at least half of this is fat mass.
Just like keeping track of your fat percentage, it is a way to keep taking progress photos. That is not necessary on a weekly basis, because after all, bulging is visually less impressive than losing fat. During your clean bulk, try to take some good photos at least once a month at the same location, with the same light, in the same poses. Compare these photos with the months before and be honest with yourself. If you see your abs fade away over a period of 3 months, are you doing well and is that what you want?
Confront yourself ...
See photos as a good confrontation with yourself, because the ultimate goal is that you want to look better? Prevent this by only being in shape for 3 months in the summer and not daring to take your shirt off in the presence of others for the rest of the year. By being honest with yourself you ultimately achieve much more. An additional advantage is that the road to it also becomes easier. By checking your bulk better, this can save you a few months of cut in the following year. Months that you can now use to build extra muscle mass!
Pop with that clean bulk, but stay in shape!
Hopefully these 5 tips have shown you that bulking does not have to get out of hand every year and that you can do a lot if you check this properly. Take your clean bulk at least as seriously as your cutting phases and the proceeds will come naturally!
Written by Mathias Jansen