In today’s blog I want to give you some insight into what my last year or so of training/nutrition has looked like and what’s next for me.
Since last September I have been in a building phase. You can also term this bulking phase, massing phase, etc.
I like to use the term building because bulking and massing steers a lot of people away.
Plus what you are doing during this time is building up your physique, so it makes the most sense.
At the end of September 2020, I got fairly lean to do a photo shoot.
Here is what my weight was on that day and the picture from that day (Note this was 2020 so 14 months ago).
This was the starting point.
Overall I liked my look during the photo shoot, but I still wanted to add more muscle to my frame.
Insert building phase.
A building phase is a phase where your nutrition goes to maintenance calories or a calorie surplus. And the overarching goal is to build muscle as I mentioned earlier.
The more muscle you have, the more likely you need to be in a surplus to build muscle. You can stick at maintenance but the gains will be super slow. Like you won’t even notice anything.
So I had to get into a calorie surplus to build more muscle. The downside to getting into a calorie surplus is that there will be some fat gain.
But if you track, you can really limit how much fat you gain.
Plus it’s nice to have the flexibility with the extra calories.
A big misconception with building phases is that you are going to gain this absurd amount of fat, but if done right you won’t notice much.
Let’s dive in.
As far as nutrition goes, again I had to increase my caloric intake from the photoshoot prep as staying that lean would’ve certainly hurt muscle growth for me.
For building, I think it’s important to focus on % weight gain per week or per month. To me, this is much better than trying to figure out an exact calorie amount to eat. Everyone is different and some people adapt to certain calorie intakes more than others.
What I mean is that for some people if they increase their calories, their body adapts and starts to expend more energy subconsciously (usually through fidgeting and everyday movements that you dont notice). So what is a surplus for someone, may not be for someone else.
So by tracking % of body weight gain per week, you can find a calorie amount for YOU.
Our goal was around .4-.8lbs per week. Which for my weight was about a .25 to .5% of body weight gain per week.
The highest my calories got was 3,250. We also spent a good chunk of time around 3,050. We only made a few increases throughout.
*Takeaway: Use a % of your bodyweight gain per week instead of trying to figure out what a 250 calorie surplus is for you. If you want to really limit fat gain, aim closer to .1 to .25% per week.
In an acute sense, 3,050-3,250 per day really isnt that bad. But when you have to eat that amount for almost a year straight it really starts to add up.
My weight topped out at 180lbs. So I went from low 150s to 180 in about 14 months.
Now, this wasn’t 30lbs of muscle. There was some fat gain, and when you eat more your body holds more glycogen, plus when you eat more you simply have more food in your belly.
Pic above: This was about 2-3 months into the build.
But again, this weight gain ensured that I was eating enough calories to help with muscle growth.
Once you get to a certain point of muscle, your body doesnt find any more useful so you really have to put yourself in the best position to do that, and ensuring you are getting enough energy is one of them.
My final macros looked like this:
170p, 475c, 70f.
Within the 14 months, we did do a mini cut. This lasted 4 weeks.
A lot of people think mini cuts are cuts that you can run for quick fat loss with the end goal being fat loss.
But what mini cuts are really used for are during building phases to potentiate more weight gain afterward.
Before the mini cut, my weight was around 171 and then after the 4 weeks, it was at 163lbs.
The other big thing with mini cuts is that they help with hunger, as I mentioned earlier eating in a surplus gets tough to do the longer you do it.
By dropping calories for a few weeks, this helps get your hunger back so you can continue to eat in a calorie surplus.
Essentially mini cuts help get hunger levels back, and they do get rid of a little extra body fat so you can have more runway to build.
So other than that 4 weeks, the 14 months were spent in a calorie surplus.
Only use mini cuts if you are advanced. Otherwise, most people should NOT use them
*Takeaway: Mini cuts can be a useful tool to help you during long building phases, NOT for fat loss purposes though.
Pic above: Right before my mini cut in May 2021.
Pic above: Right after my 4 week mini cut.
Towards the end of the building phase, I really had to incorporate more “tasty” foods in.
And this was simply due to the fact that my hunger was low. These tasty foods really help you get more calories in without feeling super stuffed.
Imagine trying to eat a 3,000 calorie diet with just chicken breasts rice and broccoli. After a few days, you won’t ever want to eat again.
*Takeaway: Use calorie-dense foods during a build to help you hit your calorie target.
For training, we simply used hypertrophy principles.
- Progressive overload (tried to progress via weight, reps, or sets)
- Specificity (5-30 rep range)
- Fatigue management (Took deloads and made sure sleep and stress were on point)
- Intensity (Used RIR to make sure I was training hard enough)
My legs grow with very little volume so we used this to our advantage.
Leg volume was at maintenance and this allowed me to really focus on my upper body. Particularly delts.
*Takeaway: If you have a muscle group you want to grow, you can prioritize it by doing more and/or dropping volume on other muscle groups you aren’t as concerned about or that grow very easily for you.
I trained 6x per week. I personally like shorter workouts rather than spending hours in the gym.
I like to get in and get out.
While training when in a surplus is way more fun than training in a deficit, you can handle a lot more volume when in a surplus so you need to make sure your intensity is there. This can be a challenge when you have to do this week over week.
*Takeaway: Track your workouts so you know what you did in the previous session. If you just go off of feel you will be leaving results on the table I promise.
From top to bottom:
Pic 1: Top of my building phase in May 2020. Sitting around 178lbs.
Pic 2: Day of photoshoot in Sept 2020.
Pic 3 and 4: Top of build in Novmeber 2021, sitting at 178-180lbs.
What sucks about a building phase, is that you really don’t see the progress until you cut and pictures dont tell you everything.
What I can say is that this is the leanest I have been at this weight (176-180) and I have had a lot of people tell me they are impressed with the size I have put on in the last year.
Time will only tell.
For me now, I am going into a strength-type training phase and I will pair this with maintenance calories.
The goal is to give my body a rest from trying to push to a place where its uncomfortable. Plus by staying at maintenance I will also solidify my muscle gain.
After this 4-6 week maintenance phase I am going to cut for a few months to show off all of the progress I made during this 14 month long build.
Plus after being in a surplus for so long it’s going to be nice to get into a deficit for a period of time.
Takeaway: A building phase is where you make progress, use deficits to show that progress off.
If you want more information on how a building phase read HERE
If you want more information on nutrition periodization read HERE