Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bulking Season

You may call it the holiday season, but Gaspari (the maker of my favorite protein powder, Myofusion) aptly calls it “The Bulking Season.” First comes:

1)Halloween – the holiday so oddly reminiscent of a figure competition. There are big bowls of candy everywhere just like in the backstage dressing rooms at a competition. Fantastical costumes, fake eyelashes, mass makeup, and fake nails abound on stage and on the streets of Halloween night alike.

2)Thanksgiving – Yoga pants are recommended wear for this holiday, not for their gym practicality, but for their easy waist expansion capabilities. M&F Hers and other fitness minded mags are happy to offer up turkey day trimming ideas, but apportioning out 4 oz. of white meat turkey, skipping the mashed potatoes and gravy, the green bean and sweet potato casseroles, the rolls, making your cranberry sauce with Stevia or Splenda while skipping dessert altogether does not sound like any fun at all! A true Thanksgiving meal should not be avoided, but ideally, the leftovers thwarted.

3)Christmas – The catalyst of the January gym joining rush. If only Christmas was but a day, but it is holiday parties galore, treats at the office, secret Santas bearing edible gifts, two days of decadent meals and the days of leftovers to follow.

Beyond the holidays Mother Nature and your own biology are seeking to bulk you up. As temperatures dip to frozen it becomes instinctual to crave comfort foods. Your body is purposefully seeking to increase body fat to stay warm. Not quite like a bear preparing to hibernate for winter, but close enough! This is warranted and healthy. Walking in the cold this morning I recalled how cold I was all the time last April when I’d plunged to 13.1% body fat for Emerald Cup. If I was at that composition currently I’d be too cold. One can see why there are hardly any bodybuilding competitions in the Northwest November – February.

Bulking has its purposes. It’s far easier to put on new muscle mass without trying to lean out at the same time. Really, there is no solidly merited reason to detest bulking. You can gain new muscle if you structure your workouts right. You can enjoy some foods, albeit in moderation, that you wouldn’t normally be allowed to touch. You can stay warm for the winter (that one’s making me laugh).

The drawbacks? You can’t wear your favorite jeans. You start to worry that you won’t ever get back on track. You realize you need to get a plan and set some goals.

The Plan

Limited to 5 – 50 minute workouts and 1 – 90 minute workout a week. Only working out once a day. Refusal to cut calories substantially.

What I’ve been doing:

Skipping cardio altogether most days of the week, only doing it 2x week, to allow more time to lift. Not counting calories or tracking macros at all, a don’t ask don’t tell policy of sorts, haha. Not packing meals every day, or in some cases, intentionally carbing up what I do bring. Bringing tasty cheeses and Wheat Thins into the house. Those are my #1 snack weakness and I know better than to make them accessible, but I’ve been disregarding better judgment. Eating a handful of Halloween candy most days. Shhhhh.

What needs to change for the next 4 weeks:

1)Each week 5 of my 6 workouts need to begin with 30 minutes of cardio and then have my weights session squeezed (through super sets and very short rest periods) into the remaining 20 minutes. The sixth workout will make up for the lack of traditional cardio with a plyometric and track workout session targeting the lower body.

Mon: Chest & Triceps
Tues: Shoulders & Abs
Wed: Legs
Thurs: Back & Biceps
Fri: Plyos & Shoulders
Sat: Legs
Sun: Off

The most ideal training split is to hit every muscle group twice a week, but by putting cardio back in the picture I won’t have time. Continuing to build shoulders and working on leg shape are my key work areas so they’ve been left in a 2x week split format while abs, back, biceps, chest, and triceps will only get hit once a week.

2)Nutrition. I’m going to be super lazy here and go in with the 40/40/20 macro split for my 1,800 cal budget. I’m going to throw allowances for a 10% macro variance and a 200 cal variance as the benefits of perfect meal planning don't surpass the costs.

What, by the way, is a 40/40/20 macro split?

40% of your cals come from protein
40% of your cals come from carbs
20% of your cals come from fat

1,800 cal budget x 40% = 720 cals for protein / 4 cals per gram = 180 grams protein
1,800 cal budget x 40% = 720 cals for carbs / 4 cals per gram = 180 grams carbs
1,800 cal budget x 20% = 360 cals for protein / 9 cals per gram = 40 grams fat

How do you catch and redirect yourself when you veer too far from your goals? What works? What doesn't?

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