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Is Extra Protein Needed During Bodybuilding Bulking

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Is extra protein needed during bodybuilding bulking? Do you need to crack open 4 more cans of tuna, fry up another pound of chicken breasts, or slam protein drinks like a crazy drunk at a kegger?

The answer in no.

Extra protein is not needed during bulking periods. A study performed by Chiang and Huang reveals that additional caloric intake is the key to boosting your body’s nitrogen balance. So it’s extra calories, and not extra protein, that packs on muscle mass during bulking periods.

In this study, participants were limited to slightly over 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. (1.2 grams per kg of bodyweight, to be exact) Researchers found that when caloric intake was increased by 15% above maintenance levels, nitrogen levels went up by 300%. And when the study group consumed 30% more calories then maintenance, nitrogen levels spiked by 500%.

This is how it shakes out…for an average bodybuilder who requires 3,200 calories to maintain bodyweight, 480 additional daily calories will triple nitrogen levels, and 960 extra daily calories will cause nitrogen levels to jump by a factor of 5.

To determine how many calories you should be eating during a bulk, multiply your maintenance level by 1.3. The following chart provides some examples…

Maintenance Calories Bulking Calories
2400 3120
2600 3380
2800 3640
3000 3900
3200 4160
3400 4420
3600 4680

Two questions now arise.

  1. Is eating more protein during a bulk an acceptable form of bulking? Or should a bodybuilder concentrate on eating more carbohydrates and fats?
  2. Should a bodybuilding bulk be a clean, or dirty bulk? Should the additional calories during a bulk come from healthy foods only, or is junk, pizza and McDonalds acceptable?

The answer to the first question should be fairly obvious. It doesn’t matter where the additional calories come from. You can eat more protein if you desire, but more protein is not a necessity.

And logically, the answer to the second question is fairly obvious as well. It doesn’t matter if your bodybuilding bulk is clean or dirty. A calorie is a calorie.

The Chiang/Huang study reveals that it is calories, and not macro nutrients or healthy foods, that powers the body into an anabolic state during a bodybuilding bulk.

Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw is the primary content manager for Muscle and Brawn. Questions? Please visit the forum.
  • Steve Shaw Nov 3,2009 at 12:31 am

    Thanks Gnoll. And good luck with that stubborn metabolism.

  • Gnoll110 Nov 2,2009 at 10:59 pm

    Great post.

    Adds a bit for information. I need to eat more.
    I’ve used the traditional Maintenance plus 500 approach.

    Think it also needs to be added that the Protein:Carbohydrate:Fat ratio is a very individual thing. As the guy how does my comp diet has said in the past, “Of all the people I’m diet at the moment, I got you on the less carbs”. Confirming what I always knew, my metabolism suck!



  • Steve Shaw Oct 27,2009 at 6:57 pm

    It might help to add this study to previous studies cited on bulking:

    Those participating in the studies weren’t given a bodybuilding diet. Given the combined evidence of these 4 studies, it becomes apparent that calories are the biggest factor in short term muscle gains while bulking.

  • Michael Oct 27,2009 at 2:17 pm

    Looks like a good article, but there were only six people who participated in the study. The journal is peer reviewed and the article (though from 1988) is probably sound, but perhaps there’s some more evidence out there for this conclusion?

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