On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m answering a viewer question who asked: what are the best healthy foods to bulk up without adding belly fat?
I’ll also be sharing 5 healthy bulking tips to eat more food.
This is another post from our #TBT Q&A series.
So first, I’m going to share my answer to this question from 2012.
Then I’ll answer the same question again today, with more specific details.
So make sure you read all the way to the end of this post to get all my best bulking tips.
What are some healthy foods for bulking up?
The best foods to bulk up, are the same foods to eat to when you’re looking to maintain your bodyweight, or lose body fat.
It’s all about eating real, whole, natural foods.
Just because you’re bulking up, it does not mean you can load up on sugar, refined fats, and all that other processed garbage.
I want to make sure you eat real whole foods, regardless of what your goal is.
But if your goal is to build muscle and bulk up, it’s important to eat more of those foods.
When bulking and building muscle, it’s essential to be in a calorie surplus by eating more calories than you’re burning.
So keep eating more of those healthy whole foods.
In other words, focus on eating higher calorie whole foods.
I still stand behind the idea that when you’re “bulking”, the types of foods shouldn’t change.
The important thing is the quantity of those foods just goes up.
Regardless if your goal is muscle building or fat burning, protein is of optimal importance.
Here’s a post on the best protein sources.
The other important macronutrient is dietary fat.
Not only is fat optimal for overall health, it’s also the most calorie dense nutrient, coming in at 9 calories per gram.
Therefore, eating more fat is a great way to add extra healthy calories to your diet.
Here is a post that includes all the best sources of healthy fat.
These high fat foods include:
Here is a post on the best sources of carbohydrates.
When it comes to carbohydrates, during a bulk I primarily stick to:
For a more in depth look at a lot of these bulking foods, check out my post on the top 12 fitness superfoods here.
Although I’ve been using the word bulking throughout this post, I have to go on the record and say I’m not a huge fan of the bulk up and cut down concept.
If you’re not familiar with the term “bulking”, it’s often used in the muscle building world.
In a perfect world, bulking is when, for a period of time, you would eat the exact amount of calories required for your body to build muscle, without adding extra body fat.
Unfortunately, most people are not disciplined when bulking, so they take it to the extreme, and pretty much eat whatever they want.
To these people, the primary goal of a bulk is to see the weight on the scale continue to go up, regardless of how they look in the mirror, or their overall health.
This undisciplined approach may lead to muscle gain faster, but it also leads to more fat gain.
This is because the most common bulk foods are typically high in refined sugar and trans fats.
Trans fats are terrible for your overall health and refined sugar wrecks havoc on your insulin levels.
Learn more about insulin here.
The Live Lean approach to muscle building (a.k.a. bulking) is a more gradual approach.
However, the Live Lean approach to “bulking” is accomplished without adding a bunch of ugly body fat and negatively affecting your health.
Ok, so now that you know the best healthy foods to bulk up, one of the biggest problems with bulking is actually eating enough food to hit your calorie goals.
So here are…
This one is obvious, but it’s often hard to do.
If you live a busy lifestyle like I do, set an alarm in your phone to remind yourself to eat every 3 hours.
If you can’t eat, supplement with some branch chained amino acids, i.e. BCAAs.
This will help you stay anabolic when you miss meals.
I get it.
It’s tough to eat enough to hit your calorie and macronutrient muscle building goals.
One way to ensure you’re in a calorie surplus at the end of the week is to have one splurge day every 5 days.
So on your splurge day you would plan to eat an extra 50% of your daily calories.
How to calculate your splurge day calories:
You can spread these 4,200 calories over 6-7 meals throughout the day.
Although most splurge day meals and snacks should still be healthy and be free of trans fat and refined sugars, add in a few cheat meals and snacks as well.
Schedule your splurge day on an off day from the gym so your body stores the extra calories.
It’s important to always keep high calorie snacks handy.
For example, during my muscle building phase, I always keep homemade trail mix comprised of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in a jar at my office.
Whenever I’m hungry, I eat a few handfuls of trail mix.
You can make your own homemade trail mix using a combination of the following dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
Throughout the day add 2 tablespoons of any healthy calorie dense cooking oil to a shot glass, such as:
This will quickly add another 300-500 calories to your daily totals.
Another quick and easy way to consume more calories is to use coconut milk or juice in your protein shakes, rather than water.
Besides your post workout shake, you can also drink one other protein shake throughout the day.
For example, as soon as you wake up in the morning, drink a protein shake before your meat and nuts breakfast.
This is another quick way to increase healthy calories.
Lastly, I can’t stress this enough.
If you want more help with the right types of workouts, a meal plan including the best healthy foods to bulk up, and calorie and macronutrient calculations to build lean muscle without the ugly bulk fat, go check out my muscle building program, Live Lean MASS 2.0.
Start by taking our FREE Live Lean Body Quiz to get access to the best program specific to your goals, current fitness level, and access to equipment.
If you enjoyed this post, please support this blog, by clicking the social media buttons to share this with your friends.
Subscribe to our Live Lean TV YouTube channel and leave a comment below on what you want to see in future posts.
Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.
Check out our free workout videos here.
Check out my free recipe cooking videos here.
Brad Gouthro is the founder of Live Lean TV, a media company focused on helping men and women “Live Lean” 365 days a year. Brad’s programs and content have helped millions of people all over the world learn how to get in shape, and more importantly, sustain it for life.