Having fallen in love with weightlifting and all its done for both my physical and mental health, I decided to take building some muscle seriously. Knowing that my weight was already creeping up accidentally, fighting the scale seemed rather futile, and instead I decided to lean into it for a deliberate four months. Hardly the most scientific of bulks, here are a few thoughts from this first attempt…
Thought 1: Bulking is not just for bros
The amount of times people (including my old coach) tried to tell me that bulking is just an excuse for the bros to just eat like mad and get fat and nowhere fast. Obviously, because science, eating in an energy surplus is going to cause some fat gain, but the plan with bulking is to keep fat gain minimal and hopefully create the right environment for muscle growth. I’m in my last few weeks now and my body fat is holding steady at 21%. I know that the In Body Scan at my gym may not be the most accurate of ways to measure body fat, but that reading has been consistent over the last few months so I’m happy using it as a data point. The thing that has changed? My scale weight. I might be feeling a little fluffy around the edges, and any signs of abs I did have are most definitely covered in a layer of flub, but it’s not terrible. I don’t look fat to anyone but myself, a fair few people have even told me I’m looking really lean (which I do not believe) and that’s great in my books.
Thought 2: Eating in a surplus is harder than I thought
I never thought I would say this. I’m really full. I had planned to carry on bulking into the first few weeks of April but I’m actually going to start cutting next week. I just physically cannot keep eating in a surplus anymore. As someone who has always struggled with anxiety around eating and their weight, I’m really pleased that I forced myself to see through four months of deliberately eating more calories than I burned. Even when I had wobbles and wanted to panic restrict for days at a time, I stuck to my goals and I’m so proud of myself. But I’m done now. Fine it’s a week earlier than I planned. But I’m done. And that’s ok too.
Thought 3: Sometimes life gets in the way
I know I didn’t go into this bulk in a completely scientific way, but I still was doing pretty well up until February. And then life threw me a curve-ball and the gym became less of a priority. Anxiety always impacts my appetite so I had a good few weeks where I actually lost weight rather than gained – not the plan at all. And then when things started to return to some semblance of normal I carried on eating all the food but got out of the swing of my gym schedule. I’ve just not been going as much as I should have been for the last month and a half, so I’m pretty sure there has definitely been more fat gain than I had planned for. Thing is, life happens. I had some other priorities for a while and I needed to focus on those. Sometimes it’s all about evaluating the truly important things in your life, and gaining some extra fat which I know I’ll lose just isn’t the end of the world.
Thought 4: I’m proud of me
I really am. An old friend recently commented on a photo of me saying “wow, I never thought I’d hear you say that you were deliberately gaining weight”. As I already mentioned, my weight and my appearance has always been a seriously mental struggle for me. Deliberately gaining weight without going into a complete meltdown has been a huge achievement. And, even though I know I went off-track and probably didn’t gain as much muscle as I hoped to, I know I can do it now. Which is huge. It’s also remembering that February and pretty much half of March was a really shitty time emotionally, and I handled that rather well too. Yes gym and eating slipped, but I didn’t just curl up in a ball and give up, I re-prioritised and lifted when I could. I’m proud of that too. In fact all the setbacks and the mistakes have been a valuable learning experience, and next winter I just know I’m going to smash it when it comes to bulking again.
There you have it. Just a few thoughts I’ve taken away from this experience. I probably haven’t built a huge amount of muscle, but I’m so pleased I took the leap and gave it a first try. Now to tackle a few months of cutting and hopefully enjoying a more muscled, leaner, fit body for the summer. I’ll keep you all updated with my progress…