For many people, the entire basis behind an aesthetically pleasing physique is a muscular and ripped physique, complete with a set of defined abs. Yes, in terms of aesthetics, a six pack simply has to be present in most people’s eyes, and if you’ve ever seen somebody with a fantastic six pack, you’ll instantly understand why that is. In terms of building muscle and getting in shape however, many people struggle to stay lean whilst bulking, because basically, in order to bulk, you need to be in a virtually constant calorie surplus, for the duration of your bulk. Put simply, if you aren’t getting enough calories, you aren’t going to build muscle, and that just is not going to change anytime soon. Because of this, when bulking, people often use their bulking phases as an excuse to “dirty bulk” in which they consume vast amounts of calories, large quantities of junk food, and gain an exceptional amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time. For some people, the idea of bulking up actually frightens them, because they fear losing their abs and not being as lean as they may have hoped. Sadly, in order to bulk up, you need to gain weight, and some of that weight will inevitably come in the form of water, and body fat. The idea however, is to try to ensure that the majority of it comes in the form of muscle. If you’re looking to bulk up and keep your abs however, it can be done, and here’s a look at how.
Accept the fact that you won’t be as lean as you were
When bulking, it is the psychological side of things that many bodybuilders struggle to come to terms with, due largely to the fact that they’re so worried of gaining too much body fat. If you want to build mass however, you need to accept the fact that you won’t be as lean as you may have hoped, though again, that doesn’t mean that you have to lose your abs. There are ways of bulking up and keeping your abs, which we’ll be looking at shortly, so you may still be able to keep your abs, although if you’re looking to bulk up and remain in single digit body fat percentages, well, unless you’re a genetic freak, that simply is not going to happen. If you can come to terms with the fact that your abs will be less defined however, you can build yourself a powerful looking physique, that stays relatively lean all year long.
Increase your calories gradually
Another common mistake that bodybuilders tend to make, is that they go from one extreme to the other. When dieting and cutting, they are obviously looking to burn fat and maintain muscle mass, which means that they need to be in a calorie deficit. They often eat pretty bland and boring foods, that, whilst being beneficial, aren’t too high in flavour. As soon as they enter their bulking phases, many of them will gorge themselves and will consume vast quantities of food and calories. One day for example, when dieting, they may have been on 1800 calories per day, whereas the next, when bulking, they may be consuming 4000, or more. When bulking, in order to keep your abs, gradually increase your calorie consumptions week by week, ideally in 200 – 300 calorie increments. This will help the body to adapt to the changes in calories, without feeling the need to store as much fat as possible.
Don’t binge on junk
Another common error that bulkers tend to make, is that they think that they can binge on junk food 90% of the time, when in reality, that is not healthy in the slightest. Sure, the odd cheat meal here and there when bulking is perfectly fine, but if you’re eating junk food every day, your body fat percentages are quickly going to increase, which means that you should prepare to say goodbye to your abs. What’s more, junk food is unhealthy anyways, so you’ll be putting your health at risk.
So, as you can see, as junk food should not be the basis of your diet, your diet should instead consist primarily of healthy and clean foods. These foods will help you to avoid water retention, they’ll nourish your body with nutrients, and they’ll make you feel better whilst helping you to stay relatively lean. Get plenty of veggies, plenty of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and your body will thank you later down the line.
Cardio is a very important part of clean bulking, as, if you do wish to keep your abs, cardio could be your secret weapon. Cardio burns calories, which means that cardio burns fat, providing you are getting just the right amount of calories, by doing cardio, you can actually provide enough to feed the muscles and stimulate new muscle hypertrophy, without getting fat in the process. The cardio not only help you to stay lean, it will also improve your health and fitness, particularly when it comes to the heart. When you bulk up, extra strain is placed upon the heart which can be dangerous. The cardio helps to strengthen the heart, it helps to promote healthy circulation and oxygen transportation, and it helps to keep you fit and healthy.
Focus on post-workout nutrition
After you lift weights, you will need to ensure you really nourish and feed the muscles with what they need, as after training, the muscle cells are able to absorb larger quantities of nutrients than usual. The muscles need proteins and amino acids to grow, as they trigger protein synthesis, which is the basis of post-workout nutrition. After we exercise, as the cells can absorb more nutrients for a limited amount of time (the anabolic window) we need to get nutrients into the cells, and fast. Because of that, choose a fast-absorbing protein, include amino acids such as Glutamine, and Leucine, and include a simple carbohydrate such as dextrose, as that will force the nutrients into the cells even quicker. As soon as you finish lifting, reach for your protein shake and amino acids, and