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Bulking Fear

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  • Bulking Fear


    I can't ask a question in good conscience without first saying thank you. I so deeply appreciate the plethora of resources across so many modalities (podcasts, seminars, forums, articles, videos, social media, etc) that you, Claire Zai, and BBM provide. The knowledge and information I've attained from you all saved me from an endless cycle of HIIT workouts and bad nutritional advice I took from famous, 'fitness girls' on Instagram... (basically the opposite of Claire, who offers researched-based, realistic advice).

    Now that I've been more enlightened and am no longer hampered by a societal fear to lift weights as a woman, I'm trying desperately to gain more muscle. However, I'm admittedly wary of bulking to do so with the fear of gaining more weight. Being overweight is so stigmatized in society, often for wrong reasons as you and Austin have pointed out many times, and yet I can't escape the fear that by bulking I won't keep the 15% BFP I've worked so hard for. I'm not necessarily scared of seeing the scale go up--just as long as I still maintain good physique and get stronger in my lifts.

    I suppose my question is:
    How can I ensure that my bulk will result in muscle, and that I continue to look lean? Is 'lean bulking' real and attainable? Do I need to add more emphasis on hypertrophy because I also want to make sure I remain visibly muscular? Dare I ask, what is the science behind bulking properly? (That was four questions...apologies)!

    If it helps, a brief background on my training and physique:
    -I lift 5x a week, using the BPT template + 2 additional days of hypertrophy work
    -eat mostly non/low-processed foods save for ice cream (like Austin, apparently) and some gold fish lol
    -I am female, 5'6, 132lbs, and have 15.6% body fat (reportedly from a body comp analyzer)

    Thank you, so much. I'd appreciate any suggestions!

  • #2

    Thanks for the post and the kind words. I am happy to hear you're enjoying being active and making headway towards your goals!

    I can understand where you're coming from regarding weight gain, aesthetics, etc. I do think that adequately addressing these concerns has more to it than just talking about weight management strategies and training, but that is outside the scope of this forum. I would encourage you to talk about these concerns with a professional if you think that would be useful.

    Back to your questions! The look you achieve after years or consistent work is going to be much different than what happens in the short term. At present, we know that faster weight gain produces more muscle gain, but also more fat gain compared to a slower rates of weight gain. We also know that the proportion of muscle and fat gained is unique to each individual and it seems to remain the same over time. Yes, eating enough protein and lifting weights helps shift the ratio towards more muscle mass, but it doesn't seem like there's a special sauce or one weird trick to otherwise change the trajectory. Achieving the look and performance you ultimately want may require periods of time where your body fat is a bit higher than you prefer, but probably not by much.

    Almost all well-designed strength and conditioning programs have enough training stimulus to drive an increase in muscle size. It's probably not going to drive as much hypertrophy as a dedicated hypertrophy program in a trained individual, as it's a compromise between strength, hypertrophy, and cardiorespiratory fitness development.

    I would recommend the following general principles:

    - eat adequate protein (1.6g/kg/day) evenly split over 3-5 meals
    - eat in a small surplus that demonstrably increases weight slowly (~0.5 to 1kg/month) over time
    - I probably wouldn't add 2 additional days to the beginner template, but would follow the programming principles described above

    Just my 0.02.
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