Proven 11 Steps to Bulking Meal Plan: Case Study

By Ire | Recipes

Feb 10

Why is gaining weight so complicated. Just eat more calories than you spend right? But how much more? How much do I spend? How much protein? I don’t want to get fat?

All these questions and so much more should be considered when creating your own bulking meal plan.

Step by step guide will help you make your bulking meal plan. Because not planning ahead is planning to fail.

I will follow up with a case study of one of my favorite clients.

Case Study:

I will not disclose my client’s actual name (for many reasons), so we will just call him Joe.  Average Joe.

Joe has never been able to put on muscle mass. He came to me, claiming that he eats all the time and exercises three times a week. He worked in construction which required a lot of physical work.

First weight ins we did, Joe was 6’2 and 175 lbs. First training session, we tested 3RM Deadlift. His best was 150 lbs.

After first three months, Joe BW was 185 lbs and deadlifted 350. Skip forward to 12 months working with Joe, he now weight is 200 lbs and deadlifts 440 lbs for 3RM! Amazing progress due to the right mindset towards working.

Skinny guy depressed about his weight gaining journey

Do NOT do this!

Too often bulking correlates with eating as much as possible. When Joe first came to me, he expected that I will make him eat everything. Even though he was depressed about being called skinny all the time, he was glad not being on the opposite part of the spectrum. I remember his words went something like: “Since I am not trying to lose weight, at least I don’t have to obsess about how much and what I am eating all the time”.

While he was right about being skinny is better than being fat, his statement could not have been more incorrect. Planning to bulk the right way takes just as much effort (if not more) than planning to lose weight. Eating right number of calories and not turning into a fat pig is too rare. Bulking too fast with shitty fast food is NOT the way to go.
Therefore, we dedicated the first hour in order to create a bulking meal plan which he could sustain.

What you will need:

Straight after our talk, he had to go to the store to purchase following items:

  • 10 food boxes
  • 1/2 gallon water jug
  • Blender
  • Supplements (see below for specifics)
little piggy enjoying his bulking calories

1. CALCULATE TDEE

First step was to find out his Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight (lbs) by either 15 or 17. Since his weight was physically demanding and since he exercised three times per week, we went with a latter. 175 x 17 gave us roughly 3000 kcal. That is the number we used as a Maintenance Calorie Intake. That means that if he would have eaten that many calories every day, his weight would stay the same. You can do the same by calculating your estimated TDEE with a calculator tool.

2. ESTIMATE SURPLUS

It is recommended to be around 300-500 kcal over your maintenance when bulking. That number would mostly depend on your gender, age and genetics. Often, that number is extremely over-exaggerated, which leaves skinny guys looking like Peter Griffin in no time. Not really their fault since we see programs promising us: “Gain 50 lbs of Lean Muscle in a Year” everywhere on the internet. I must disappoint you, but it is all bunch of bullcrap. It just doesn’t go that fast without magic syringes.

Since we couldn’t get a hold of steroids (relax, it is a joke), we picked 400 kcal surplus which leaved us with a total of 3400 Calories per day (3000 + 400).

Strak with broccoli and potatoes

3. SPEED OF MUSCLE GAIN

Muscle gaining speed is limited. Of course, that limit is based on your age, stress levels and genetics. On average, without drugs it will be you will be gaining 2 lbs per month of muscle mass. Note how I said muscle, not weight. Therefore, if your discover that your weight is going up too quickly, you now know that you need to decrease your Target Calories per day.

Since TDEE, Surplus and Calorie counting is always an estimation, it is impossible to say that your calculated numbers are correct. Therefore, everything must be done through observation of your body and body weight.

3.1. Weigh Ins & Adjustments

Weight yourself every morning on an empty stomach. Make sure you do it at the same time with same scale and same clothing. Write down your numbers and average your weekly numbers. By the end of the month you will be able to tell the rate of your weight gaining journey.

After first month, Joe gained 4lbs. That is 1lbs higher than muscle gaining potential. Therefore, we knew that estimated numbers were not correct. Should he continued with the same eating habits, he would have been gaining too much unnecessary fat. Therefore, we reduced his Targeted Caloric Intake by 100kcal. Joe was now eating 3300 Kcal per day. Every month we would be making small adjustment to keep him around 2-3lbs of weight gain per month.  

muscular guy posing with his watch

4. CALCULATE MACROS

If you do not know how to calculate macronutrients, make sure you read on How to Calculate Calories.

In order to follow nutritional recommendation of:
25-30% Protein
50-60% Carbs
15-25% Fat.


Joe had to eat roughly:
200g – 250g Protein (1g Protein = 4kcal)
412g – 500g Carbs (1g Carbs = 4 Kcal)
55g – 95g Fat (1g Fat = 9 Kcal)

5. PICK YOUR MEALS

You will have to create a plan that fits your lifestyle the best. For Joe it was meal prep twice a week for every lunch and dinner. He would have four basic meals every week. Two different lunch options and two different dinners.

I know it is boring, options are limitless if you don’t mind cooking more frequently. Every morning he made breakfast and a shake in a blender. He would fill up his water jug and head to work. The rule was to bring shaker and a water jug everywhere he went. By the end of the day, both had to be empty.

6. PICK YOUR CARBOHYDRATE

For food inspiration, make sure to check out Clean Bulking Food List.

 CARBOHYDRATE SOURCE:KCAL:GRAMS:
BREAKFAST3 slices Wholewheat bread
1 Banana
45657
46
LUNCH400g brown rice
2 stalk, Broccoli
1x Granola Bar
672102
26
40
DINNER400g Sweet Potato
8 spears Asparagus
34881
SHAKE40g Oats
2 x Banana
34827
46

7. PICK YOUR PROTEINS

 PROTEIN SOURCE:KCAL:GRAMS:
BREAKFAST4 Eggs
2 slices Ham
2 slices Cheese
23227
10
9
LUNCH150g Chicken26446
DINNER100g Steak12021
SHAKE200ml Almond milk
2 scoops Protein Powder
2401
48

8. PICK YOUR FATS

 FAT SOURCE:KCAL:GRAMS:
BREAKFAST4 Eggs
2 slices Cheese
39030
10
LUNCH1tbs Olive oil1608
DINNER1tbs Olive oil1608
SHAKE200ml Almond milk
1 tbs Almond Butter
1352
9

9. HYDRATE WELL

There are many reasons why you should be drinking more water. The ones that correlates to muscle gain are:

  • Dehydration redeuces power output. That means that if you are not well hydrates, you will not be able to push yourself as much in the gym. Not having a good training session will eventually lead to slower muscle gaining progress.
  • Water moves nutrients around your body in order to recover quicker. Being well recovered for your training sessions will allow you to train more effectively.
  • Creatine increase risk of dehydration due to myofibril hydration. Even though myofibril hydration benefits muscle growth it is at a cost of other organs being dehydrated. Therefore, if you are taking Creatine supplement, make sure that you drink enough.  

That is why me and Joe had a rule for him to finish a ½ gallon of water jug per day. The hell with 8 glasses, there is no way to track that. Fill it up in the morning and make sure it is empty about an hour before you go to bed. (to avoid night bathroom breaks).

bulking meal plan. Cutting freshly made ham.

10. SUPPLEMENTATION

Supplementation is optional; however, it does save money and time on a long term. That is why me and Joe added a daily “Hardgainer Shake” to his diet. Price per gram of protein powder compared to any quality source of meat is always going to be lower. What is more, it is way easier to just prepare a shake instead of cooking for additional meal.

Supplements are not FDA regulated, which means that the company is responsible to guarantee everything that says on the label is trustworthy. Since the company is the one making the profit, it is a risky business to trust brands that haven’t been tested from a third hand party. That is why it is important to do your research before buying anything. Below I offer a protein stack me and Joe used on his journey.

DISCLOSURE: All the links are affiliated, which means that this site gets a cut of the sale, if you decide to purchase it through those links.

A sign towards a gym

11. LIFT

While successful muscle bulking does require clear bulking meal plan, it is important to combine it with a quality workouts.

This article is about bulking meals, therefore I will not talk about how to structure your workouts. However, you can read more about how I structured workouts for Joe down below:

Before Joe came to me, he was working out like 80% of population in the gym. Stepped into the gym, had no idea what he was going to do for the day, and go for the treadmill. After half an hour of spending more energy than he consumed for his lunch, he headed toward the bench press. Three sets of 10 and 50 exchanged phone messages later, he decided to finish up the day by doing some biceps curls.

We had to increase the quality of his training and decrease the energy spend during the training. We put him on a regular 3-day split.

WORKOUT 1: Chest & Arms
WORKOUT 2: Back & Abdominals
WORKOUT 3: Legs & Shoulders

Bulking Meal Plan: SUMMARY

Hopefully this article gave you a good example of how to start structuring your bulking meal plan. Bulking correctly is not about eating as much as possible, whatever possible. It takes great amounts of dedication and planning. Gaining muscle without becoming too fat is not an easy task and we do not see it often. Bulking should be taken as a new way of living. Eating plays a major role in that and hopefully this article made it a little bit clearer to your on how to plan your own bulking meals.

About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

  • Iwannaeatmore says:

    Finally wrapping my mind around how my meal plan should look lol. Thanks bro

  • Evelinda says:

    nice and organized, thanks

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