The holiday season is upon us, and for many of us that means Christmas parties, booze, chocolate, and a general “fuck it, it’s Christmas” attitude. And I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong, believe me, I’ve been counting down the days until it was acceptable to class a Terry’s Chocolate Orange as one of my five a day. But while there’s an overall feeling of indulgence in December, you can still use your festive season appetite to fuel your training and give yourself a head start towards those New Year’s goals you’ll be making come January.
Use this time to pack on the pounds in a good way, bulking up your muscle mass rather than your fat stores.
1. Realistic expectations to your bulk
After having spent the summer counting your calories and avoiding carbs to stay trim, the emergence of all those bulky sweaters and jackets can cause excitement at the thought of going nuts and bulking for Britain. But keeping your expectations realistic will make for a healthier and leaner bulk this winter.
Gaining between 0.5 and 1.5 pounds a week is typical when eating a daily caloric surplus, which adds up to about 2-6 pounds (about 1-3kg) a month. Gaining any more than this will likely mean that you’ll just be gaining significant amounts of body fat. Because life is just mean that way.
2. Don’t avoid the scales
It can be tempting to quit tracking your macros, delete that app, and never step on the scales for the rest of the year. But you then run the risk of bulking body fat, so be sure to weigh yourself a couple of times a week. If you’re gaining weight too fast, then it’s time to calm down on the celebrations, at least for a little bit.
3. Eat your protein first
When you’re eating lots of calories in order to bulk you run the risk of excess calories being stored as body fat. While carbohydrates, fat, and proteins can all be stored as body fat, protein requires the most effort to do so. If you aim to get your daily intake of protein first, you’ll likely be too full to want to binge chocolate for the rest of the day. Aim to consume about 30g of protein every 3 – 4 hours, rather than limiting yourself to just 3 meals a day.
4. Big movements for bigger muscles
If you’re eating a butt load of calories, then you’ll need to switch up your training to make the most of the surplus. So why not try a break from your normal 3-day split (chest, back, legs) by alternating heavy days with high-rep days. Stick to those reliable compound lifts such as rack deadlifts, squats and decline bench presses. On your heavy days aim for 5-6 reps with a heavy weight, and on those lighter days aim for 12-15 reps to force some serious hypertrophy [muscle growth].
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