When Are You Too Fat To Bulk?
For a long time many people have been lead down a path saying that they must excessively overeat to gain muscle.
This is often referred to as "dirty bulking".
Many people---convinced that they are "hard gainers"---will then adopt this method and begin eating everything in sight like their life depends on it.
(Have you ever heard of a diet called GOMAD? It stands for drink a "Gallon Of Milk A Day", and it is a bulking diet that has helped a lot "hard gainers" gain muscle mass---while also adding tons of fat and sometimes creating lactose intolerance in people that had no problems with dairy before...)
While eating everything in sight will certainly help you gain weight, the ratios of muscle gain to fat are usually lopsided at best.
If you gain 40 lbs in 4 months, but only 10 lbs of muscle and 30 lbs of fat, is it worth it?
A Big Fat NO.
After doing such an aggressive bulk you'll then be forced to do an aggressive cut to strip off all of that excess fat that you gained while bulking---which will usually lead you to losing most of that muscle that you gained when you were bulking.
Talk about spinning wheels.
Guys that follow this approach are adding and dropping weight all-year-round, but in reality they are only going from A right back to A in a huge circle.
Here's the problem with this approach...
Most guys think that when they are bulking, the heavier they are the better. This causes "tunnel vision" on their scale weight, completely disregarding what they actually look like in the mirror or how their body is feeling.
When in reality, "dirty bulking" is ineffective at best and downright harmful at worst.
It is ineffective because once you hit a certain body fat percentage (around 12%) your body stops building muscle effectively.
This is due to the fact that when you bulk hard and drastically raise your body fat levels---your insulin sensitivity drops just as drastically.
Insulin is responsible for shuttling nutrients to the muscle for recovery. It has a direct and major impact on how your muscle and fat cells utilize amino acids and glucose.
The Importance Of Insulin Sensitivity
When your insulin sensitivity is high, muscle cells will readily absorb glucose and amino acids when insulin signals them to open.
But when you have a high level of body fat, your natural levels of insulin are so high all of the time that it can have a severe desensitizing effect on muscle cells.
Basically your muscles won't listen to your body when it tells them to open up and accept the nutrients they need to grow.
Compounding the issue, with diminished insulin sensitivity your body will become more and more prone to convert the excess calories you intake into body fat, as the muscle cells are no longer absorbing and utilizing the consumed glucose and amino acids efficiently.
Therefore, once you get past a certain body fat percentage, you're simply accelerating the fat storage process.
It gets worse and worse the fatter you are too.
Not only is this unhealthy, it can lead to the creation of new fat cells that make it even harder to diet down once bulking ends.
When you first begin a “dirty bulk” all of the excess calories, which are converted into glucose, get used by the muscle and fat cells for energy usage and storage.
This is why your pumps and muscular fullness are so great the first couple weeks of dirty bulking.
When your glucose levels are constantly high though, you will start to "overspill" glucose into your body once your glycogen stores are full. (Which happens very quickly.)
This overspilling process is essentially excess calories that you don’t need being stored as fat.
Your muscles only need a certain amount of glucose to recover.
When you exceed the amount necessary for muscular recovery and growth, you have entered the dangerous territory of all excess calories being converted into stored body fat.
In addition, you are just making the process you need to complete to diet down all the more torturous down the road.
So How Do You Know For Sure If You’re Too Fat To Bulk Or Continue Bulking?
This decision comes down to knowing your body, using the mirror as a reference point, and assessing your overall results.
You need a calorie surplus to build muscle, there is no doubt about that, and gaining weight with a complete absence of some extra body fat is impossible.
The key is to minimize this.
Think of it this way... if you are bulking and for every 5 pounds you gain, only 1 of them is muscle, does it make logical sense to continue bulking?
You will probably just lose that muscle when you have to diet down to get rid of that 4 pounds of fat.
We suggest never letting yourself bulk up past 12% body fat (with 15% body fat being the absolute max.)
It’s ok to not have razor sharp abs all year. That would be unrealistic.
But if you notice the fat building with a "spare tire" around the midsection, you may want to re-evaluate your situation.
To recap, the most effective way to gain muscle while staying shredded is to:
Bulk up to 12% body fat, mini diet back into the single digits, then rinse and repeat.
This will not only keep your results maximized, but it will allow you to actually look good year round.