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Bulking Season is it Necessary or Not

Come this time of year many people find it necessary to start eating quite a bit more after a long hard season of cutting, dieting and Cardio they feel they need to start bulking season in order to gain muscle mass and achieve a certain level of size just to lose it aging come spring or summer time.

What are the rumors and myths surrounding this mentality and why do we go thru such strenuous activity to achieve these goals.

 This misconception that we need to bulk and cut, bulk and cut year after year is insane!! Why don’t we stay in shape all year long and eat how we please. There has to be a more efficient way of maintaining a certain level of size and conditioning that allows us to achieve our goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What protocol do we need to follow in order to be consistent year round? I’ve been experimenting for the  past five years with a routine of dieting and exercise that has proven to be beneficial.

First and foremost we have to ensure that our nutrition is intact.

Nutrition can help enhance athletic performance. An active lifestyle and exercise routine, along with eating well, is the best way to stay healthy.

Eating a good diet can help provide the energy you need to finish a race, or just enjoy a casual sport or activity. You are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you do not get enough:

 

 

  • Calories

  • Carbohydrates

  • Fluids

  • Iron, vitamins, and other minerals

  • Protein

The ideal diet for an athlete is not very different from the diet recommended for any healthy person.

However, the amount of each food group you need will depend on:

  • The type of sport

  • The amount of training you do

  • The amount of time you spend doing the activity or exercise

People tend to overestimate the amount of calories they burn per workout so it is important to avoid taking in more energy than you expend exercising.

To help you perform better, avoid exercising on an empty stomach. Everyone is different, so you will need to learn:

  • How long before exercising is best for you to eat

  • How much food is the right amount for you

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are needed to provide energy during exercise. Carbohydrates are stored mostly in the muscles and liver.

  • Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, bagels, whole grain breads, and rice. They provide energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These foods are low in fat.

  • Simple sugars, such as soft drinks, jams and jellies, and candy provide a lot of calories, but they do not provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

  • What matters most is the total amount of carbohydrates you eat each day. A little more than half of your calories should come from carbohydrates but this differs from person to person.

You sometimes need to eat carbohydrates before you exercise if you will be exercising for more than 1 hour. You might have a glass of fruit juice, a cup (245 grams) of yogurt, or an English muffin with jelly. Limit the amount of fat you consume in the hour before an athletic event.

After exercise or an event, you need to eat carbohydrates to rebuild the stores of energy in your muscles if you are working out heavily.

  • People who exercise or train for more than 90 minutes should eat or drink more carbohydrates, possibly with protein, 2 hours later. Try a sports bar, trail mix with nuts, or yogurt and granola

  • For workouts lasting less than 60 minute, water is most often all that is needed.

PROTEIN

Protein is important for muscle growth and to repair body tissues. Protein can also be used by the body for energy, but only after carbohydrate stores have been used up.

But it is also a myth that a high-protein diet will promote muscle growth.

  • Only strength training and exercise will change muscle.

  • Athletes, even body builders, need only a little bit of extra protein to support muscle growth. Athletes can easily meet this increased need by eating more total calories (eating more food).

  • If you want to find out more on how much protein to intake check out this blog.

  • Perfect Protein Intake

Most Americans already eat almost twice as much protein as they need for muscle development. Too much protein in the diet:

  • Will be stored as increased body fat

  • Can increase the chance for dehydration (not enough fluids in the body)

  • Can lead to loss of calcium

  • Can put an added burden on the kidneys

Often, people who focus on eating extra protein may not get enough carbohydrates, which are the most important source of energy during exercise.

Keep in mind when trying to lose weight we do need to restrict carbs to a certain degree.

WATER AND OTHER FLUIDS

Water is the most important, yet overlooked, nutrient for athletes. Water and fluids are essential to keep the body hydrated and at the right temperature. Your body can lose several liters of sweat in an hour of vigorous exercise.

Clear urine is a good sign that you have fully re hydrated. Some ideas for keeping enough fluids in the body include:

  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids with every meal, whether or not you will be exercising.

  • Drink about 16 ounces (2 cups) or 480 milliliters of water 2 hours before a workout. It is important to start exercising with enough water in your body.

  • Continue to sip water during and after you exercise, about 1/2 to 1 cup (120 to 240 milliliters) of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. Water is best for the first hour. Switching to an energy drink after the first hour will help you get enough electrolytes.

  • Drink even when you no longer feel thirsty.

  • Pouring water over your head might feel good, but it will not get fluids into your body.

Offer children water often during sports activities. They do not respond to thirst as well as adults.

Teenagers and adults should replace any body weight lost during exercise with an equal amount of fluids. For every pound (450 grams) you lose while exercising, you should drink 16 to 24 ounces (480 to 720 milliliters) or 3 cups (720 milliliters) of fluid within the next 6 hours.

ACHIEVING DESIRED WEIGHTS FOR COMPETITIVE PURPOSES

Changing your body weight to improve performance must be done safely, or it may do more harm than good. Keeping your body weight too low, losing weight too quickly, or preventing weight gain in an unnatural way can have negative health effects. It is important to set realistic body weight goals.

Young athletes who are trying to lose weight should work with a registered dietitian. Experimenting with diets on your own can lead to poor eating habits with inadequate or excessive intake of certain nutrients.

Speak with a health care professional to discuss a diet that is right for your sport, age, gender, and amount of training.

What kind of training program do we need to abide by to maintain good shape all year long?

Now, I don’t lift weights every day,  but I do some form of exercise every day.  On days that I don’t lift, I do aerobics,  typically riding the stationary bike, swimming, or running.  Doing some form of activity every day stimulates your metabolism and helps you burn unwanted calories.  It also improves recovery time from workouts,  as long as it’s not overdone.  That’s because anytime you exercise,  your blood circulates through your body,  bringing muscle-building nutrients and oxygen to your muscles,  and improving your body’s ability to eliminate waste products that are generated during weight training.

When it comes to weight training,  keep your workouts short and intense to stimulate muscle growth along with your metabolic rate.  I find that working at a fast pace helps me get leaner and more muscular.  But how fast is fast enough?  I usually perform a set,  then rest only long enough to catch my breath before beginning the next set.  In that manner, I don’t exceed my cardiovascular capacity by not resting long enough,  nor do I let my muscles regain all of their strength before starting the next set.  After all, my goal is to fatigue my muscles more and more with each succeeding set until they hit what I call the “growth threshold.”

What is the growth threshold? The growth threshold is the point at which the level of fatigue in the muscle is high enough that a growth response is elicited. Your goal during a workout should be to fatigue the target muscles you are training more and more with each succeeding set. In other words, you want the muscles to progressively get more and more tired out,  until you reach a point where the muscles are functionally “worn out.”

What you are doing is creating  overload  in the muscles. Creating overload is a good thing,  because this is a stress that your muscles are temporarily unable to handle. Signals are sent to the brain that set up the compensation, or growth,  process during the post workout period, so that in future workouts, you can handle it.

I rely on my weight training workouts, not aerobics, to stimulate my metabolism and keep me lean. That’s because weight training stimulates muscle tissue and muscle tissue is the most metabolically active tissue in your body,  burning large amounts of calories, even at rest.  Typically the more muscle you carry the more calories you burn.  The more calories you burn the leaner you get.  Get the picture? Train with weights 4-5 times per week.  Do aerobics on your off days,  and on days when you can tag them onto the tail end of your weight training.  Personally I like a two-on, one-off, three-on, one-off program, alternating push muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps), pull muscles (back and biceps) and legs.  Abs and calves get worked three times per week.

To summarize the article you have to be consistent with your diet and your training in order to stay lean and feeling great all year long. Usually if you have a training partner or some other form of motivation people find that this helps with the overall vision of sticking to your goals. It is not hard to stay lean and muscular all year long but it does take will power, drive and focus during those long winter months. Doing the methods above will certainly pay off and be much more efficient when it comes to trying to get into competition shape or just trying to look good for summer which is what the majority of us are trying to do. You will be so close to your overall goal it will not take much to loose that extra little bit of body fat to really show that definition and hard work!!

References

American Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American College of Sports Medicine, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar;41(3):709-31. PMID: 19225360 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19225360.

Bird R. Nutrition. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 30.

Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. March 2009. 109(3);509-27. PMID: 19225360 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19225360

 

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