Bulking is overeating on purpose. Sure, it sounds fun but only because you've never had to force feed yourself chicken.
The purpose of bulking is putting on weight. You want to add more muscle and you want to add more energy reserves. The energy reserves are important because if there isn't enough fuel for the body, it'll just start stealing from your muscles. During a bulk, you should not be losing muscle mass.
Due to this, your carb and protein percentages remain about even while fats take up the remainder. A 40% carb, 20% fat, 40% protein split is a decent ratio for a bulk.
To grow muscle, plan to eat 1.5g of protein per day per pound of weight on your body. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you'll want to eat 225g of protein each day.
Cutting is eating less on purpose. Though you might thank your lucky stars you don't have to force down any more food, the initial hunger pains can be a real bitch.
The purpose of cutting is to lose weight but not just any weight. The trick here is to retain your muscle mass but drop your body fat percentage. Interestingly enough, the key to this is not cutting fats. In fact, you have to increase your fat intake. Instead, it's all about cutting carbs.
Carbs are the body's first source of energy. If you have a surplus, your body won't touch fat storage. Severely restrict these, however, and the body is forced to rely on its fat. During such low-carb phases, the body produces ketones. This is why low-carb diets are often referred to as ketogenic. This typically happens when you eat only 20-50g of carbs per day.
A good cut split is typically 20% carb, 35% fat and 45% protein though this can vary based on the restrictions you've placed on your carb intake.
During this phase, you should stop focusing on increasing muscle mass and instead work to maintain. To do this, eat 1g of protein per pound of your weight. For examples, if you weigh 150 pounds, plan to eat 150g of protein each day.
From what I've researched so far, your cut should start 8 weeks prior to the date of the event you want to show off for. That being said, the only way you'll know for certain how much time your body needs is to try it out yourself.
Most lifters and builders have an on and off season. They'll cut before a show or competition and then go back to their bulking phase. Depending on how often you put yourself on display, you could end up spending half the year doing one and half doing the other. Just remember that like everything else, too much of one aspect can be bad. Find your balance.
Working out is changing who you are.
You shouldn't change who you are.
Therefore working out is bad.
Change "working out" with virtually anything else, and you have a disturbing idea that has been around for generations. While it certainly has some truth to it, the reason it's problematic is that it fails to address the overarching issue being ignored -- self-improvement (changing for the better).
We're told diets will make us look like models and they don't. We're told running will give us great legs and it doesn't. We're told change is easy and it isn't.
It's a cultural system we live in. It seems logical then that if the system doesn't work, it's broken and should be discarded. This results in those that loudly rage against it, yelling that they don't give a f*ck and f*ck modern beauty standards.
However, getting mad doesn't do anything. Blaming others accomplishes nothing. It blinds us to our own faults by placing sole responsibility on society. The problem with this is that it completely negates all of the positives that come with beneficial change. If I want to be stronger, I can either choose to mock society for not seeing my tiny body as "strong" or I can actively work toward building muscle. If I want to be better at a video game, it won't do anything to complain that the matchmaking is busted but it will do everything if I practice.
In short, before you look outward to find a reason for your problems, look inward first. Don't be so wrapped up in yourself that you transform into the very thing you hate. Approach new ideas with an open mind and never be afraid of taking on new challenges.
It's only by testing our mettle that we learn how sturdy it actually is.
I Miss Bread
Of all the things I miss the most, it's bread, plain and simple. A nice sourdough. Perhaps a French baguette. Maybe even some nasty pumpernickel.
It Takes Serious Determination
In a world where carbs are everywhere, learning to say "no" has been a challenge. It's taken a huge mental shift from what I want now toward what I want to look like at BlizzCon. Luckily, the vision is crystal clear. Plus, when it's done, I can bulk again, so it's not like this is forever. Just like anything, it's preparation of a single moment of glory. If you're willing to sacrifice to achieve it, you will stand victorious.
It's Not Fast
When I look in the mirror, I don't readily see any changes. I see the same Kristen that's always been there. However, when I step on the scale, I have proof that I've shed weight. Gravity doesn't exactly fluctuate. All the same, it's taken precious weeks to get this far and there are still more weeks to go. By the time this is over, it will have been 8 weeks in order to (hopefully) achieve a specific look for two days.
Fats are Friends
When the carbs drop, the fats shoot up. Protein stays relatively the same, but in order to make sure you're still getting enough calories to get through the day without starving yourself, it's all about chowing down on some delicious fats. Nuts, seeds, olive oil, cheese, butter and anything else with more fatty flavor than carbs are reveled in. To be honest, this isn't really a bad trade off. It also means I can finally eat protein sources other than chicken and add mayonnaise to my tuna once more.
Veggies are Friends
Sure, you could sneak a piece of bread with a net 28g of carbs that's so small it barely takes up room on your plate or you could eat a bowlful of veggies and go to bed feeling stuffed. While bread certainly is easier and fulfills a much happier desire in my brain, while I'm on such a strict budget, my drive to feel satiated outweighs my love of bread. Plus, lots of veggies basically ensure you're getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep the body healthy.
I'm pretty darn proud of what I've accomplished so far. Being my first real cut, I don't expect to look as amazing as I will next year, but I've seen more results in my body composition in these past few weeks than in my entire life. It's basically sold me on the importance of understanding the diet.
I Need Bigger Muscles
The final bit of information I've pulled is that my muscles are a lot smaller than originally thought. Because of the body fat encasing them, they've seemed much larger than they are. Though my aim is not to reach Miss Olympia levels, I can certainly up my weights and am doing so now until BlizzCon. With every little step, I get closer to achieving the ripped body I've always dreamed of having.
Skip FRIED, choose GRILLED.
Skip ALCOHOL, choose WATER.
Skip BREAD, choose CHEESE.
Skip SANDWICHES, choose SOUPS.
Skip PASTA, choose SALAD.
Skip BREADED, choose ROASTED.
Skip BEEF, choose CHICKEN.
Skip FRENCH FRIES, choose VEGETABLES.
Skip RICE, choose BEANS.
Skip PIE, choose FRUITS.
Skip PUDDING, choose COFFEE.
Skip ICE CREAM, choose TEA.
Sit down restaurants are a lot of fun and shouldn't be avoided just because you're eating better. Generally, you can stick to your diet no matter where you eat so long as you know the best things to choose. For a more in depth run down, see my previous article, "Healthy Eating Out".
In every industry, there is a market designed to sell products based on half-truths, misinformation and flat out lies. Unfortunately, this tends to be more rampant within the diet and exercise industry than anywhere else. Magazines like Men's Health and Women's Health hide tiny grains of truth in between pages of useless information and advertisements.
With that in mind, let's debunk a few of the more common myths that crop up no matter how many times they are proven otherwise.
This lie cannot be repeated enough for both sexes. After all, the entire workout culture is dead set on selling products and workouts that can blast away specific areas, namely those on our thighs and stomachs.
Spot reduction is an utter and complete lie. This is why, try as you might, your thighs remain lumpy no matter how many hours of kicks and step ups you do. This is why your stomach remains undefined even though you can do 50 sit ups before you fail.
The truth is that when you start losing weight, you lose it across your entire body, not one area. So long as you have a high enough body fat percentage, this layer of fat around your entire body will hide your definition. Drop this fat to a low enough percentage, and you'll have your taut thighs and visible six pack.
Breakfast is the Most Important Meal
More and more evidence is growing that is tearing down the theory that you need breakfast to lose weight. It's often cited as a way to keep you from eating more calories during the day or that it serves as some sort of jump start. This is a lie created from misunderstandings that have been passed down through the years.
When it comes to dieting, it doesn't matter when you eat your daily goal so long as it's eaten by the time you go to bed. Skip breakfast. Skip lunch. Skip dinner. Do whatever works for you. Personally, I'm not a very big lunch person, so I'll skip that meal in favor of pigging out at dinner.
Women Turn into Weightlifting She-Hulks
The exact opposite is true. Women that lift gain definition that makes them look sexier. Instead of a butt that's beginning to flatten out and sag due to gravity, weights introduce definition and shape that, I promise you, is desirable.
This idea stems from the images of female bodybuilders that always come up whenever "female" and "weights" are used in a sentence together. The fact of the matter is, however, that those women have been working on those physiques for their entire lives. When you're lifting, if you feel you're getting too big, then simply use lower weights. No one will force you to grow bigger than is comfortable.
You Need Non-Protein Supplements
The great lifter Eugen Sandow managed a pretty impressive body with only a protein supplement consisting of either whey or egg whites. If he could get that big without Creatine, BCAAs, Beta-Alanine and Glutamine, you can too. The human body has not changed much over the past hundred years.
Cardio Kills Gains
This is a very misleading statement for newbies. Yes, too much cardio begins to tear away at your muscle mass (ever seen a bulked sprinter?). No, not all cardio does this.
The thing with cardio is that used in moderation, it keeps the body tight. In fact, many bodybuilders preparing for a competition add a bit of cardio to their routine. Before I lift, I do about 30 minutes of cardio. So while it can kill gains, if you do it right, it won't.
Get a 6 pack in 28 Days
Or any other "get blank in blank amount of time." All this promise provides you with is a routine. They don't know your current weight. They don't know your body fat percentage. They don't know your diet. In short, they know nothing about you to guarantee this claim.
Let's ignore this, though, and assume you try it out. You give it all you have. You follow every direction down to the last letter. But when day 28 rolls around, you don't have the results you were promised. Instead of feeling great that you stuck with a routine for a full month, you feel defeated, confused, frustrated. You followed all the directions but the change didn't happen. The only logical conclusion is that it's your fault.
But it's not your fault. It was never your fault. It's the fault of magazine for creating a ploy to purposely make you feel like sh*t about yourself in the hopes they'll draw you in with their next hollow promise that "really" works.
It's a disgusting practice that we all need to be aware of and avoid. Working out should make you feel good about yourself.
Nutrition labels are a jumble of words and numbers that don't make any sense, but these facts aren't meant to be confusing. In fact, nutrition facts do a great job of quickly summarizing everything you need to know in order to figure out if you should eat it or not with just a quick glance. What it doesn't do so well is tell you that you really don't need to know everything it lists. In fact, there are only two pieces of information you absolutely need from this line up in the early stages of dieting.
What You Need to Read
A serving size is how much within the container makes up one serving. All other numbers following are based on this.
Typically, it will be listed as both a measurement (usually cups) or a weight (usually grams). Of the two, weight is more accurate, but if you don't have a food scale, kitchen measurement tools work perfectly fine. For instance, if I have a box of cereal and the nutrition label tells me one serving is 1/2 cups (33g), I would then measure this amount out into my bowl, and I now have one serving of the cereal.
This number is how many calories you will eat when you eat the single serving you just poured out of the cereal box. DO NOT worry about "calories from fat" to the right of this. It doesn't matter to you right now.
A Note on Nutrition Labels
If you're counting macros, the only other data you'll need are the total fat, carbohydrate and protein amounts. Pay close attention to the marketing versus what's actually on the label, though. While many energy bars are plastered with "high protein", most also come with a higher amount of carbs -- great for bulking, not so great for cutting.
You've got yourself a fitness tracker. You've got yourself a scale. You're staring at the calorie calculator trying to determine just how much you should eat in a day. It's asking you questions about your height, weight, religion and position relative to the equator.
Close that program now. Here's the easy way to calculate how many calories you need in a day.
Open your food tracker.
Track everything you eat and drink for a week (7 days).
And I mean everything. If you so much as lick a marshmallow, you better note that you did. Many of us lie to ourselves about our food habits. It's time to suck it up and finally come clean. Your calorie count is much scarier when it's imagined, so turn it into a real thing by writing it down.
Average out the 7 totals.
For those of you that haven't touched math in a while, here's the formula:
(Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7) / 7
In words, add up each day's total then divide this total by 7.
What is this final number? This is how many calories you eat per day to maintain your current weight without you needing to know your current weight.
For Losing Weight
Take your total and subtract 100 - 500 calories. The more you cut, the faster you'll lose weight. A 500 calorie deficit totals out to about one pound per week.
For Gaining Weight
Take your total and add 100 - 500 calories. The more you add, the faster you'll gain weight. A 500 calorie addition totals out to about one pound per week.
Weigh yourself every day. Add it to your fitness tracking sheet, preferably one that can immediately bring up a graph. As soon as you drop about 5 pounds, return to Step 4 and recalculate your calories based on where you are, then proceed to Step 5. Wash, rinse, repeat until you have achieved your goal weight.
A Note on Calories
Do not push yourself too hard too fast. You will feel hungry or too full as your body adjusts. It takes about one week for your stomach to finally shut up, and this amount of time varies from person to person. If this is your first time, feel free to take it in as small increments as you are comfortable with. The important thing is that you are making progress, not how big the steps are -- big steps come later. Right now it's all about learning to walk.
In the end, calorie counting is all about figuring out what works for you and that means getting to know how calories affect your body. In about a month's time, you'll have this down perfectly.
As for the macro percentages on some of the food trackers out there, go with whatever is recommended on the site you're using. Your number one focus right now is to get to your goal weight. Once you're there, we'll talk macros.
With Blizzcon 6 weeks away, it's time to start the grooming process. After all, you want to look your best when you finally meet the real life avatars of your friends. With that in mind, it's time to cover some grooming basics you may or may not be familiar with.
Though you don't need to cut it, you need to keep it clean. The amount you do to it is really up to you, and with 6 weeks to go, see if you can't spend some time messing around with a nice look for the shape of your face.
If you do get it cut, it's worth the extra $20 to find a local hairdresser that is highly rated. If you go in without a specific style in mind, tell them what you do with your hair (if anything), and they'll cut it so that it works best for you. For me, I tell them that I want it to look good on its own since I don't do anything with it.
If you're starting to bald or are already bald, please don't do a comb over. Please don't grow your remaining hair out. Everyone already knows. It's not that big of a deal. Just go with a short cut or a shaved head.
For both men and women, eyebrows are important. Though no one will say anything, unibrows definitely grab attention but not the kind of attention you're hoping for.
For those with the funds, most hair places or nail salons have a cheap ($10 or less) eyebrow service.
For those who want to do it on their own, you'll need tweezers and patience. For eyebrows, it's all about doing less since doing more can leave you with a funky brow. As for the how-to, this image is all you need to know. If it's not enough, definitely go Google hunting.
Do the cleansing of the brows one day before the event as yanking them out leads to swollen, red skin.
Practice this now! Better to screw up with enough time for the hair to grow back than right before Blizzcon.
It's preferable if you shave them. If you don't, just make sure it doesn't smell. Also recognize it will be an attention grabber (like the unibrow) if you go sleeveless.
Trim your hairs. To do this, grab the hairs, stretch them out and then fold them over to the side of your arm. Trim any hairs that leave the armpit area.
There's no shame in some discolored facial hair. It's just genetics. However, it can be embarrassing. To deal with this, you can pluck, wax, shave or bleach any areas that stand out. If it doesn't bother you, awesome! Again, just know that it will draw some attention.
Because this hair shapes your face, you need to make sure you sport a style that compliments your bone structure. If, for instance, you have a round face, you'll want to avoid a chinstrap because that will only accentuate those curves. Check here to get the lowdown on your face shape and what works best to compliment it.
This is just like facial hair. If there are any dark hairs on the chest, arms or back, feel free to deal with it in any way you choose fit.
This one comes with two notable mentions. While chest hair can always be appreciated, nipple hair with no chest hair is not attractive -- shave it if you plan on going topless at any point. Back hair is never attractive -- get it waxed or shaved if you plan on going topless at any point.
If you're looking to get lucky this Blizzcon, do not underestimate the importance of a well groomed fun zone.
In general, the rules are the same for both sexes. If you enjoy just skin, shaving or waxing are the two best ways to approach it, with waxing lasting a tad longer than shaving. If you enjoy hair, be sure to trim the hedges with a pair of scissors. You'll also need to go around the outer edge with some tweezers to get rid of any outliers. Nice trims have a definitive outline and are unapparent when clothed.
Shave or wax your legs (this includes any hair on your toes and tops of the feet). Again, keeping the hair here is fine but it will attract the same attention as a unibrow or unshaven pits.
Do what you want.
If you don't have the funds to join a gym, getting started with weights can be challenging. Fear not! Here is a routine you can do without needing anything more than your body.
Alternate between these two weeks.
M: Workout A
W: Workout B
F: Workout A
M: Workout B
W: Workout A
F: Workout B
A note on the Workouts
Once these become too easy, you need to up the challenge. For that, feel free to search for alternatives. The squats listed here, for instance, are super easy for those that are already relatively active. To make them harder, weight can be added or a different type of squat can be done. In that case, Pistol Squats are my favorite harder option.
Best Lean Protein
Protein is the lifeblood of your muscles. We eat other animals, breakdown their muscles and transform them into our own. While we sadly don't take on the qualities of the animals we ingest (otherwise I'd eat bear), we do take in any fat that is part of the meat. In order to make gains that are virtually all muscle mass, you'll want to stick with the leaner choices.
Co-host of HeroesForge, founder of Battle to Be Better, gamer, singer and all around happy person.