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As we near the end of winter, we also approach the end of many gym-goers’ intentional weight-gaining phase known as “bulking.” For those whose main goal is to increase muscle mass, bulking is a routine part of their yearly fitness regimen. While there is certainly a time and place in which bulking can enhance the muscle-building process, there are far too many situations in which an individual bulks too far.

“Bulking too far” is characterized by a fat increase that is greater than the amount of muscle mass gained when bulking. This has been observed in a laboratory setting, in which one group of elite athletes were deliberately overfed by 600 extra calories. Researchers observed two unique outcomes in this group: first, the athletes did not gain more muscle than the control group, and secondly, the athletes gained over three times more fat mass than those in the control group. Most people would assume that the more food a person eats the more muscle they will gain, but according to this study, that simply is not the case.

This is, in fact, one of the largest misconceptions of bulking; that we can “force feed” our muscles to change through in increase in caloric intake. However, nutrition is permissive to weight-training, so one can’t magically put on muscle by simply eating more protein. Training is the first step in inducing skeletal muscular growth and is then followed by a secondary change in nutrition.

Adjusting our nutrition does not necessarily require a huge surplus either. In the future, when considering going through a bulking phase, one should focus on increasing caloric intake by approximately 200 to 300 calories. The individual should also aim for a protein intake that is equivalent to 0.7 grams to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Intimidated by the scientific world of fitness and nutrition? The Student Recreation and Wellness Center (SRWC) can help you make sense of the facts. Work with our certified personal trainers, and peer nutrition counselors to discover fitness and nutrition habits that best suit your lifestyle. Discover more information at asirecreation.org.


Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P.E., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2013). Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletes. European Journal of Sport Science. 13(3), 295-303.

McGlory, C., Devries, M.C., & Phillips, S.M. (2016). Skeletal muscle and resistance exercise training; the role of protein synthesis in recovery and remodeling. Journal of Applied Physiology. 122(3), 541-548.

Morton, R.W., Murphy, K.T., McKellar, S.R. et al. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and metaregression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 54(19), 376-384.

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