THEME: How I got on with ‘BULKING’ to recompose my body… 😬
It’s been a while since I updated you all on how I’m getting on with the gym, nutrition and body goals. I’ve had my head down working on a mind-boggling and stressy concept – eating more to get in better shape! 🤯
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Purposefully Gaining Weight Is A Mental Game!
I’d never have thought a year ago that I’d be in the position I find myself in now. I’ve recently completed my first ever ‘bulk’! This term in itself is a little oxymoronic for me as the bulk was very modest. However, I did it.
I put myself in a position of massive discomfort and knowingly, and willingly accepted some weight gain.
First I’ll tell you what I was expecting… and then I’ll go on and tell you what actually happened!
So, I’ve been having a desire to gain a little muscle mass in the last year or so. I’ve been strength training for about 18 months and I guess I was a little tired of spinning my wheels.
Sure, I’d been able to keep my weight down to a comfortable level for me and my cardiovascular fitness was and is still good. I was enjoying classes and strength training in the AdapNation gym but I still wasn’t seeing much difference to my physique.
I had an honest conversation with Steve about what it was that I thought I wanted. It certainly wasn’t and isn’t to be a muscular lady, but, upon research and reading the Ladies BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan, it was becoming more and more evident that I was unlikely to achieve what I wanted to physically without starting to take strength training a lot more seriously.
Plus my aspirational body physiques certainly show more muscularity than I have.
I DO NOT Like To See The Scale Weight Increase!
So what did this mean? Well, this is where it all got a little uncomfortable!
To gain muscle as effectively and efficiently as possible, the body needs to have sufficient energy coming in. Upon calculating my TDEE, NEAT and exercise exertion calories it appeared that despite me taking a lot more of a serious approach to my nutrition, I was still in maintenance and more often than not, in a calorie deficit.
That’s not the approach one wants to take in a bid to build muscle. I had to accept that I was going to have to increase my calories, with a focus on hitting 1.2g of Protein per pound of bodyweight (~140g Protein).
It was inevitable that I was going to put on some fat, but remember this was in pursuit of some much needed muscle on my frame. I mentally got my head around this and dived straight in.
I was weighing in at about 119lbs (still holding some holiday weight from April) so the idea to put on more was a bit daunting, but I took the bull by the horns and tucked in, quite literally! 🐷
The first week was a shock to the system, we’d done some math based on my 5’3″ height, age and sex, and calculated that I’d need a daily calorie intake of 1900kcals. This doesn’t sound like a huge amount, I appreciate that, but when you’ve spent most of your adult life trying to eat as little as possible with destination skinny in mind, this was a huge target to try and hit.
Erm, Bring On The Gains… 😬
Being brutally honest, the first 2 weeks were tough.
I was putting on weight at what felt like a ridiculous rate, considering any increase has always been met with such negative feelings. I needed constant reassurance from my very patient husband that it was impossible for me to have solely gained fat, as I wasn’t in enough of a calorie surplus to make that happen.
As it turns out, some of the weight was down to increasing the water and glycogen in my muscles due to higher carbs and creatine, combined with more food in my stomach and potentially fluctuations to my sodium intake. And then you’ve got the dreaded weight gain from the menstrual cycle… 🤬
I was gaining about 0.5lb a week on average throughout the whole process. This doesn’t sound too awful, but I have a small frame and it was like I felt the weight fluctuations immediately!
So, if this was so hard for me mentally, why didn’t I throw in the towel and just quit? Go back to eating as I knew, and at a calorie budget which allowed me to maintain my weight?
Well, I had to really keep the goal in mind, plus something I’d been told would happen but didn’t really believe, did actually happen. I got strong! 💪🏼
Hold on, not like strong, strong, but for me, it was huge progression. My squat weight, which has always been shocking, crept up and Steve set me a goal of squatting 50kg by the end of the 8 weeks. I thought this was totally unrealistic, bearing in mind I was squatting about 25kg but, low and behold, I finished up squatting 53kg – almost my body weight!
On every lift and exercise, my weight on the bar or dumbbells went up – plus my energy levels in the gym went up too. I no longer went down there yawning with a can’t be arsed attitude. I went down there with purpose, to get the job done, get stronger and pave the way for me to achieve my body goals.
Bendy Is Fun, But Makes Strength Gains Harder
Learning to embrace my hyper mobility helped too. See naturally, if you’re hyper mobile, you’re unlikely to be massively strong. My joints are just too lax to take major weight, I’m never going to be a power lifter and that’s ok.
It’s frustrating sometimes that I don’t feel stable enough to lift, especially when Steve struggles with the opposite problem. He’s really not very flexible, but as a result is strong. I feel like I’m having to try harder than perhaps some women would, but hey, sometimes you have to embrace a challenge. 😉
I definitely had bad days, some days I couldn’t lift for shit! Every rep felt like a grind some days. With encouragement though, I knew it would be down to lack of sleep, or a cold, or a life stress which was taking me back a step or two. Accepting these days WILL happen sometimes is one of the keys to success I think. You can’t beat yourself up over these crappy days, you get the work done and try for a better session next time.
Enough Already… Get Me Out Of The Kitchen!
So all was going well… until about week 6-7. I was struggling emotionally!
I realise writing this that I sound emotionally unstable and that’s not usually how I am, but weight and body image is something I have and probably will continue to battle with. I felt pretty low in myself, I felt I was carrying more weight than I should. My jeans were getting too snug around the waist for my liking and I just generally felt a bit meh 😔
We spoke about this and I reduced my calories to 1600kcals per day, to effectively start the cutting process without going too hard, too soon. I seemed to lose 1-2lbs overnight, I guess my metabolism had risen on the extra calories, so adjusting this number meant I started to lose quicker. The next week flew by and it was time to start the ‘cut’.
Good Results – But Bring On The CUT!
Perversely, I was actually looking forward to this part – I was getting a little fed up of eating so much and always feeling so full. Again, Steve being my polar opposite, he hates being in a cut and will eat as many calories as humanly possible everyday. 🤣
This doesn’t sit well with me however – I like not feeling so full and bloated and yes, I like seeing the number on the scales come down too!
I ended the bulk with good results though, so, it wasn’t all in vain. I gained 2cm on my hips whilst my bum was firmer and higher (apparently due to glute growth 🍑). I gained 2cm on my shoulders and arms, and it was pretty cool to see more shoulder, back and arm definition.
With a desire to shrink and tone up my thighs, the results were reassuring there too. I’d put on only 0.5cm on my thighs, but they were feeling so much tighter and stronger. In the right light, the muscles are starting show. 🤗
Realising The Performance Difference In A Deficit
I’m now several weeks in to my cut, and luckily I haven’t lost much in the way of strength. That said, My numbers aren’t moving up like they were in the bulk.
My exercise energy levels is flagging a little – it’s a real challenge for your body to push against resistance when it’s not fuelled sufficiently. I certainly feel a little more lethargic in the gym whilst cutting and my body didn’t seem to recover as quickly. But luckily, it hasn’t been too much of a stark contrast, which was a bonus.
On The Other Hand, Happiness Is Up 👍🏻
Strangely, I feel happier being in a mild deficit or maintenance – I feel less sluggish and don’t feel controlled by food. Not being a massive foodie, sometimes having to eat for the sake of it went against the grain.
I’m definitely not in a rush to ‘bulk’ again as for me, it’s a bit of a mind messer. That said, the rewards are worth it, so I need to find a way to be at ease with the weight fluctuations. I really do really see the benefits, so when I’m back down to a weight I feel comfortable with (a holiday to Walt Disney World didn’t help the waistline 😬) then yeah, I’ll drop back into a mild bulk again.
With one exception. I think due to my sluggish Thyroid Gland (I have Hashimoto’s), that we probably overestimated my Metabolic Rate a tad. I’d be more comfortable starting at 1750kcals and adjusting up only if it seems necessary.
I Need To Keep Improving My Strength Of MIND Also…
For me, a big part of this journey is mental.
Whilst I rationally understand that gaining controlled weight with sufficient protein intake and strength training is the answer to achieve my personal body goals, it’s still an emotional rollercoaster that I face when I see those scales creep up.
I’m hoping with enough bulks and cuts under my belt, soon enough I’ll be in a better place to embrace the plan and do it consistently and without too much emotion.
I will say, that if I can do a mild bulk and see the benefits, you ladies definitely can too. In a strange way, it’s nice to be out of your comfort zone sometimes, it builds your character.
What’s In Store For My Training?
So what does 2019 and the next #HyperWorkouts hold for me? Well I’m looking at mixing my programme up a bit now. I’ve been strength training for a while and my knowledge, form, and strength have definitely improved but, I’ve felt a slight decline in my cardiovascular fitness.
I’m going to include a little more heart rate increasing exercises in my next 8 weeks! I’m going to be lifting lower weights, more reps and some cool exercise variations and movements. The rep range will mostly be 12-15 reps, which is something I’ve rarely played with using proper weight. It’ll be good to see if I find it more or less enjoyable 🤷🏼♀️
“Lift Heavy Stuff Until it’s Not Heavy Anymore… Then Lift Even Heavier Stuff!”
The principle is still going to be the same, hypertrophy, progressive overload, occasional ‘heavy’ days and sufficient protein. I think this new plan will see me mix things up and keep my muscles guessing what’s coming next.
Oh, and I will also most probably be in an unintentional bulk over Christmas too! 🤣🦃
I’ll let you know how the next set of #HyperWorkouts pan out for me, emotionally, physically, time wise and from a cardiovascular stand point. I’m really looking forward to the next programme and whilst you’ll be able to see the workouts on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube etc, you’re always welcome to join in the fun!
If you do, keep me posted – I love to see the shift to women being empowered enough to go lift some heavy shit!
Have a wonderful Christmas all. 😘
Follow Steve & Michelle’s Body & Mind Progress Journal as it unfolds. Comment if you have questions, ideas or motivation to offer, and please keep us honest to the above.