Do you know that bulking up can cause a PERMANENT increase in fat cells?
It means that you can only gain new fat cells, but you cannot remove them!
Does that mean ectomorphs should not bulk up?
Bulking Up History
For many bodybuilders, bulking up = bulking then cutting
As the name suggests, you bulk up through weight training and consuming excess calories without being concerned about fat gain.
You then cut down with cardio and reducing caloric intake to get “stage ready” for a brief period of time.
Although this was a widespread strategy in the past, the precise effectiveness of the cutting and bulking strategy is unknown, with only limited observational case studies on the subject.
No studies involving precise hypercaloric feeding combined with resistance exercise have been conducted, according to wikipedia.
Permanent Increase Of Fat Cells Explained
I won’t bamboozle you with science jargon so as to keep things simple.
Our fat cells are like plastic bags which store fats. When they are overloaded, they split into more fat cells to hold more fats.
Conventional wisdom has it that fat cells live forever. However, there are conflicting studies showing that fat cells don’t live forever. 1 such report here.
Rather, they are replaced when they die, which does still mean that the number of fat cells in your body can only go up, and not down.
This will increase your body’s ability to gain and store fat while it decreases the ability to lose fat. Let’s just accept these facts.
Why Is Bulking Up Still A Widely Held Belief As The Key To Gaining Muscle Mass?
As aforementioned, there have been no conclusive studies to show that bulking up is viable.
However, the fact that some bodybuilders do so may have influenced others to feel that bulking up is the key to gaining muscle mass.
Firstly, people have varying expectations on how many pounds of muscles we can realistically build.
Generally though, most people have way inflated expectations, due to the wild claims by unethical SUPPLEMENT companies and from bodybuilders who use drugs.
Furthermore, these people want results fast, and so will not balk at eating anything and everything
Note though, that nobody can give a precise number, as everyone’s genes are different.
Secondly, most people don’t know how many pounds of muscles and fats they have really added on to their body frame.
Visually, men from the range of 13%~16% body fat percentage look similar in terms of muscularity, but in actual fact, there could be a huge difference in actual pounds of fats!
Thirdly, you can’t force your body to add more muscles just because you are eating more!
There are lots of biological processes at work here which you cannot influence, just like how you are an ectomorph.
Why Do I Still Advocate Bulking Up?
Note here, that I advocate clean bulking, and not bulking then cutting.
The table below is just a guideline for clean bulking. It’s better to calculate your own calorie needs.
Optimal caloric intake relative to lean body weight
Lean Body Weight (total weight — fat weight) Caloric Intake to Support Optimal Growth
One tip is to trim down to 10% body fat before bulking up. This is so that nutrients will be targeted for muscle mass gains.
The benefits of clean bulking are as follows:
- You will look good all year round
- You can put on muscles all year round
- You don’t increase your body’s capacity to store fats and reduce its abilities to lose it too much (insulin resistance)
- The leaner you are, you can eat more nutrients without gaining fat
Bulking up has always been a thorny issue and a topic for debating. However, it has been generally accepted that clean bulking is the way to go.
Not only for looking good all year round, but for your health as well.