How to plan a diet to gain muscle mass (Bulking)?


Everybody knows that the musclebuilding and fatloss process is very stressful when it’s done at the same time and requires different behaviors. Many athletes chose to go through two stages: Bulking and Cutting. Going on a diet during the Bulking phase means gaining volume, mass or size and it comprises hypocaloric meals. If the goal is to gain weight, you should take in more calories than you normally would. You will have to have 6 to 8 daily meals and each one should include protein and low carbs so that your systems stays nourished and extends the feeling of satiety (apart from the post-workout meals, than should comprise high carbs) and healthy fats (omega 3 and 6). This diet is usually adopted by bodybuilders, although it is suitable for anyone who wants to increase their body consistency. Moving on to the Cutting phase, the target is the excess of fat, making it possible for your muscles to start showing.

Ten rules for a good Bulking phase:

1. Eat protein with each meal (1-2g per kg of bodyweight). They are the key for musclebuilding, for tissue recovery, hormone formation, enzyme and antibodies.

2. Do not neglect the consumption of healthy fats and carbs. They are necessary for muscle growth. Give priority to carbs that are complex and high in vitamins, like sweet potatoes, tubers, oat, rice and whole pasta. Besides the energetic function, fats are essential for the maintenance of several organs, when it comes to transporting and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. You can chose (except for the post-workout): peanuts, chestnuts, almonds, extra-virgin olive oil.

3. Eat vegetables and fruits every day, because they are high in vitamins and minerals.

4. Don’t eat until you feel full. It is preferable to eat more often during the day.

5. Give preference to grilled foods.

6. If you are not gaining weight, eat more calories.

7. Never skip a meal, or use the “compensation law”.

8. Do weight exercises 4 to 5 times a week, tops.

9. Perform 2 to 3 sessions of 20-30 minutes of cardio per week to maintain cardiovascular health.

10. Keep the body well-hydrated. Water will help with protein synthesis.

Examples of foods that you should include in your hypocaloric diet. Chose the ones that you like the most and include them in your shopping list:


Rapid Absorption: Whey Protein

Medium Absorption: Chicken breast, turkey breast, skimmed milk and yoghurt, egg white, cottage cheese, ricota cheese, tuna.

Slow Absorption: read meat, egg yolk, casein

READ MORE: 7 foods that help to increase muscle mass and that stimulate your body’s performance


High Carbs: pumpkin, potatoes, white rice, beet, carrot, watermelon, pineapple, banana, mango, papaya, honey, dextrose.

Medium Carbs: skimmed milk, oat, pasta, whole bread, whole rice and pasta, sweet potato, corn, pea, beans, chickpea, kiwi, orange, peach.

Low Carbs: yoghurt, artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, mushroom, spinach, turnip, tomato, lentil, pepper, plum, cherry, apple, pear, melon, apricot, avocado, grape, strawberry, lemon, guava, acerola, Brussels sprout.

Healthy fats

Main sources of unsaturated fats

Monounsaturated: avocado, nuts, almonds, chestnuts, vegetanle oils (canola and olive), etc.

Polisaturated: vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, soy), fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardine, mullet, etc.), linseed and pumpkin oil, etc.

Tip: To find out the nutritional value of foods, you can do so at these websites: ;

Six steps to set up your plan:

1. Calculate the amount of calories that you will have daily.

To begin the bulking process you need to estimate the amount of calories that you need to have on a daily basis, by calculating the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). The well-known equation by Harris-Benedict indicates the amount of energy the body needs when it is resting for a period of 24h.

Men: BMR(13.75 x Weight in Kg) + (5 x Height in cm) – (6.76 x Age) + 66

Women: BMR= (9.56 x Weight in Kg) + (1.85 x Height in cm) – (4.68 x Age) + 655

Example: A 25 year-old male with 70kg and 180cm of height.

(13.75 x 70) + (5x 180) – (6.76 x 25) + 66 = 1759

Example: A 25 year-old female with 60kg and 170cm of height.

(9.56×60) + (1.85×170) – (4.68×25) + 655 = 1426

This value doesn’t take into account the physical activity, so we add up the results to that value.

– Sedentary (Little or no daily exercise) = Multiply the BMR for 1,2

– Reduced physical activity (Light exercise/1 to 3 days per week) = Multiply the RMB x 1,375

– Moderate Physical Activity (Moderate Exercise/3 to 5 days per week) = Multiply the RMB x 1,55

– Intense physical activity (Intense Exercise/ 6 to 7 days per week) = Multiply the RMB x 1,725

– Extremely intense physical activity (Intense Exercise every day of the week or with workouts twice a day) = Multiply the RMB x 1,9

In this case:

Man: 1759 x 1,55 = 2726

Woman: 1426 x 1,55 = 2210

The result is the number of calories that each person should take daily to maintain the weight. The goal is to gain muscle mass, so add to that value between 500 and 1000 calories per day. You may start with 500 calories and if you don’t see results in two weeks (you should weigh yourself, make measurements and take pictures), add more calories to the diet and repeat the process. To maintain lean muscle mass gains, you should gain between 0.5 to 1kg of mass per week. If you don’t take enough calories or do too much cardio, you may stay fit but you won’t be stimulating muscle gains. On the other hand, if you eat everything you want, you will surely be putting on weight, but most like only fat and no muscle.

2. Calculate the amount of protein you should have.

It is recommended for a person who is on his/her bulking phase to take 1 to 2 grams of protein per kg of body mass. Remember that each gram of protein has, in average, four calories. Taking into account the given example, if a person who has to take 2726 calories adds 500 more calories to his/her diet (changing his/her daily intake to 3226kcal), he/she will have to take an average of 20g per meal, that is, 120g of protein per day. If 120g of protein corresponds to 480 calories, then,

3226 – 480 = 2746

The individual can still get 2746 calories from carbs and healthy fats.

Tip: You can choose to take supplements, every time you need them:
Whey Protein, Albumen, Casein, Hydrolyzed collagen

3. Calculate the fats.

It is simple: 1g of fat per 1kg of weight. A person who weighs 70kg should take 70g of fat per day. A gram of fat has about 9 calories.

Tip: You can take Fish Oil capsules (omega-3).

4. Calculate the carbs.

It is easier to calculate the value of carbs if you know the amount of calories that you need to take in protein and fat. You just need to take the value of the remaining calories and divide it by four, because each gram corresponds to four calories. You should take high quality low carbs. Avoid biscuits, ice cream, sugar, wheat flour, among others.

5. Don’t forget the micronutrients.

Vitamins and minerals are more difficult to calculate, therefore, they best way to make sure you are taking the necessary micronutrients is to eat at least 2 to 3 pieces of fruit per day. If you don’t have the chance to eat the recommended daily dosage, you can choose to use a multivitamin supplement.

6. Establish a daily meal plan.

Everybody knows that we should eat every three hours, but that isn’t as accurate as it may seem. To plan your meals you should know the nutritional value of each food and multiply by the amount that you are taking in until you reach the value of protein, fats and carbs that you need.

It is important to define a day of the week to check your weight and measurements and see if you’re on the right path. If you realize that you are gaining more fat than muscle mass, check the amount and quality of the foods you have chosen.

Example of diet


Carbs: medium or high

Protein: of medium or quick absorption

Fat: avoid


Carbs: medium or high

Protein: of medium or slow absorption

Fat: unsaturated fat

Afternoon Snack

Carbs: low or medium

Protein: of medium or slow absorption

Fat: unsaturated fat or no fat at all

Pre-Workout (60-90min before)

Carbs: low or medium carbs (ex: sweet potato, pasta, yams)

Protein: medium absorption (ex: chicken breast)

Fat: Avoid


Carbs: alto IG (white rice, oat, banana)

Protein: of quick of medium absorption

Fat: Avoid


Carbs: super low carbs

Protein: of slow absorption

Fat: unsaturated fats

You can eat salad during lunch and dinner. Juices should be natural, preferably, without sugar and should not be strained (because it keeps the fiber). Even if you’re not that hungry when it’s time to make a new meal, you can choose something simpler like an apple with peanut butter. Eating more often, you will have a constant supply of energy throughout the day. A constant source of nutrients allows muscle growth.

Tip: To maximize muscle growth and recovery, you should drink a whey protein shake with dextrose, creatine and glutamine after working out.


Learn how to pick the best Whey Protein to increase muscle mass

What are the best supplements to increase muscle mass?

How to increase muscle mass while you’re on a vegetarian diet?


Derek Beast Charlebois, Top 10 rules of successful clean bulking, 6th of December 2010, adaptation of the original version

Dr. N, Como fazer uma dieta bulking, 18th of April 2013, adaptation of the original version

Matt Weik, 10 Newbie Tips For Bulking – Food, Supplements, Training & More!, 17th of October 2006, adaptation of the original version

N/d, Modelo de dieta para bulking ectomorfo, 21st of August 2012, adaptation of the original version

N/d, Harris-Benedict equation, n/d, adaptation of the original version


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