Bodybuilding is quite a deceiving sport.
body / build / ing (noun)the developing of the physique through exercise and diet for competitive exhibition
You work tirelessly for a number of years to gain muscle. Then, you work tirelessly for a number of weeks to lose body fat. Rinse and repeat.
However, after you hit the competition stage in a state of extreme leanness (and a state of Cheeto orange due to your spray tan), transitioning back to a healthy weight and caloric intake can often be a competition of its own — for your mind, that is. You now know what your body is capable of and that you can achieve a certain physique, so your mind is imprinted with the idea that this is your new “normal.” SPOILER ALERT: It’s not.
It doesn’t help that the bodybuilding icons and fitness models we look up to on social media platforms often post photos only showing their physique in it’s prime, greatly disregarding the necessary weight gain and intense off-season it takes to be an elite level bodybuilder.
So, first off, what is a bulk, or “bulking?”
bulk / ing (verb)eating in a caloric surplus in attempts to build muscle mass
It takes many years and many calories to pack on muscle, and it is inevitable that when you eat in a caloric surplus, you will gain a bit of fat. But, it is a very necessary phase if you want to build muscle. Food is fuel. Food is not the enemy, and your muscles need extra food to repair, grow, and make #gains.
Many of the greatest bodybuilders say that you should put on at least 20 pounds of muscle before you even think about dieting down, meaning, pass the bread basket, please.
But Eileen, it looks like everyone around me is eating so much less than I do.
Yes, you are going to be eating a significant amount of calories when you are in a bulking phase because not only are you fueling your body for it’s general day-to-day functions, but you are also fueling your walks to class, strolls around the grocery store, and your intense one-to-two hour lift.
- It’s important to remember that, as a bodybuilder, you have more muscle than the average person, which requires you to eat more food than the average person.
- It’s important to remember that, as a student, you are more active than the average person (I get about 15,000+ steps per day just from walking to and from classes), which requires you to eat more food than the average person.
- It’s important to remember that, in a bulk, you are trying to put on more muscle than the average person, which requires you to eat more food than the average person.
As much as I would love the ability to gain muscle and stay competition lean at the same time because it would simply make things easier, my body is beautiful in all phases, and my bulking body is no better or worse than my lean body.
Embracing the bulk is part of the process. Some days you are going to love the extra curves, and some days you won’t. So, here are four reasons to embrace the bulk:
Embrace the bulk because…you are getting stronger.
Extra food leads to extra strength if you put in work at the gym a few times a week. Food is fuel.
Embrace the bulk because…there’s a time and place to be strict, but right now isn’t one of them.
Enjoy the treats that you get to eat less often when preparing for a competition. Go out and try a new ice cream flavor with your friends, or eat an extra serving of pancakes at Sunday brunch. Spend this time making memories instead of worrying about if it fits your macros…your body will thank you.
Embrace the bulk because…you’re getting closer to your dream of walking the Olympia stage.
Every time I doubt myself or feel a little less than fabulous, I think about how necessary this process is to become one of the best bikini athletes in the world. Most bikini athletes weren’t born with gold medal physiques, they had to push themselves harder than everyone else — in the gym and the kitchen.
Embrace the bulk because…your body doesn’t determine your worth.
In a sport that is so driven by vanity, at the end of the day, having the best physique in the world means nothing if you aren’t kind, and spreading love and light. A certain aesthetic won’t bring you happiness and who you are is so much more than the number on the scale or a measuring tape.
You are smart, you are unique, and you are not your body. Remember that. Always.