Bodybuilding Nutrition What to Eat for Bulking

Bodybuilding is centered around building your body’s muscles through weightlifting and nutrition.

There are two main phases to bodybuilding, the bulking phase and the cutting phase and if you’re looking for everyday workout nutrition then check out this article: Power Up! Nutrition for active individuals

Nutrition recommendations for these stages look different. During the bulking phase, the goal is to gain as much muscle as possible.

In order to maximize your results from the gym, you must focus on your diet, as eating the wrong foods can be detrimental to your bodybuilding goals.

Although simple at first glance, nutrition’s role is complex during the bulking phase. Well-planned nutrition fuels lifting sessions and muscle hypertrophy, and helps to minimize bulking body fat gains.

Count your Calories

To get you ready for whatever lifting, gaining, or “you name it” goals you have, incorporate these bulking tips into your regime. There is a strategy to building bulk—more than just stuffing your mouth with every seemingly-healthy food in sight. Nosh on the wrong kind of calories and you’re going to balloon out instead of Hulk up.

To achieve a Calorie surplus, on average aim for about 500 Calories (Cal) more than you need to maintain your weight. For example, the average person needs 2000 Cal. To bulk up, this same person would need 2500 Cal.

There are many energy need calculators out there. Plug in your values and simply add 500 Cal to the results. Or, manually calculate your energy needs. Try the following equation and multiply it by 1.5-1.8 (1.5 for a sedentary day, and 1.8 for an hour or more of heavy lifting):

Men: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) = 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) – (5.677 × age in years)

Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) – (4.330 × age in years)

Energy equations give you an estimate of your daily caloric needs. Fat-free mass (FFM), or muscle mass, is the main determinant of how many calories you burn.

Nutrition for bulking

Calorie goals are dialed in. Now it’s time to discuss what foods you should be eating to hit your bulking goals. The following food options support healthy clean bulking.

Key Proteins for Bulking

  • Chicken: A chicken breast is a great source of lean protein. It provides about 26 grams of protein per three ounces.
  • Seafood: Seafood is a good source of protein as it is usually low in fat. Fish like salmon are a little higher in fat but provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Milk, cheese, and yogurt: Dairy foods are great sources of protein. In addition, they contain calcium and vitamin D. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are great high protein snacks. They can be eaten alone, mixed with berries or mixed into a smoothie to add some extra protein.
  • Lean beef: Beef has more fat in comparison to white poultry meat such as chicken. Beef also serves as an excellent source of vitamin B12, zinc and iron.
  • Beans: These can serve as a great alternative to animal protein. Unlike animal protein, beans provide beneficial dietary fiber.

Protein Powders

Supplementing with protein powder can be an easy way to get more protein into your diet. Two healthy options are whey protein and casein protein.

  • Whey protein: Whey is a complete protein source. This means it has all nine essential amino acids. It is relatively low in lactose content so can be ideal for those with lactose sensitivities. Whey protein supplementation coupled with resistance training has been shown to improve muscle synthesis and promote muscle tissue growth.
  • Casein protein: Casein is also a complete protein providing all nine essential amino acids. This slow-digesting protein releases amino acids slowly. It may be of benefit for you to consume casein before bed to aid with recovery and reduce muscle breakdown while sleeping.


  • Old fashioned oats: Oats are a terrific way to get carbohydrates and extra calories into your diet. They can be enjoyed in the morning for breakfast mixed with some Greek yogurt for protein or blended into an afternoon post-workout smoothie.
  • Sweet potatoes: These are a great carbohydrate source full of nutrients. They are perfect for a post-workout meal to restore glycogen levels.
  • Fruit: It comes in all shapes and sizes and can offer variety to your diet. Fruit also offers essential nutrients and antioxidants. These are great for protecting against cell damage. Bananas are a great post-workout snack as they offer carbohydrates as well as potassium to aid in recovery.
  • Rice: White rice has been arguably considered one of the best foods for adding muscle. It provides a high volume of carbohydrates per serving and is an easy filler. Combine rice with some veggies and a protein for a perfect post-workout meal.
  • Whole grain bread: Bread has gotten a bad rap lately. Especially with the recent explosion on low carbohydrate diets. But if your  goals are to bulk and build muscle mass, the last thing you want is a low carbohydrate diet.
  • Vegetables: Veggies supply a great source of complex carbohydrates. They don’t provide a high volume of carbohydrates in comparison to other food choices, but they are essential to maintain overall health during your  bulking season.

Healthy Fats

  • Eggs: These are a great source of healthy fats. In addition, they double as a healthy source of protein as well. They are a great breakfast option served alongside some oatmeal and fresh fruit.
  • Nuts: An energy- and nutrient-dense food, nuts have healthy monounsaturated fats. Nuts and nut butters are packed full of essential micronutrients and minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium and phosphorous. These micronutrients and minerals are essential in maintaining a healthy nutritional status to support building muscle mass.
  • Avocados: A reliable source of monounsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids help aid in reducing inflammation.
  • Coconut oil and olive oil: Great ways to add healthy fats into your diet. Use them when cooking or meal prepping. Making these changes is a great way to add healthy fats and extra calories to the diet without feeling too full.

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