Off-Season Bulking up Bodybuilding

Off-Season Bulking up Bodybuilding

This next meal plan (Figure 6) is meant for the experienced competitive bodybuilder who has already built a great physique. Following a cutting cycle, e.g. for a competition, he/she may wish to bulk up a bit and pack on quality weight. This will mean holding a little body fat, but still staying in reasonably good condition, and, I wouldn't recommend much more than bulking up to one to one and a half stones (14-21lbs / 6-11kg) over competition weight.

This meal plan is only suitable for an individual with a motivated lifestyle to bodybuilding, as it requires forward planning. I have noted only approximate portion sizes, as naturally, we are all different and some of us may gain muscle bulk easier than others; you will have to establish what portion size you will require. Carbohydrate portion sizes will vary, and protein amounts will need to be adjusted accordingly (see the Protein and Carbohydrates article). However, I do not believe in mega-calories, like the guys who eat 7-8,000 calories a day. You will need a high calorie intake compared to Mr Average but nowhere near this level, if quality foods are eaten regularly. The key to bulking up is by quality protein intake and regular complex carbohydrates.

Your diet may include some fatty and sugary foods, which there is no harm in including when bulking up. In addition to weight training, I recommend light cardiovascular training two or three times a week, to help circulation and health. Remember that this is a guide and it is imperative that you do vary your choice of food and quantities eaten.

Figure 6 : Example menu plan for an enthusiastic off-season bodybuilder.

As you can see, this is a high protein regimen with quality protein consumed regularly throughout the day. Amino acid capsules may also be added to ensure protein quality further. The plan includes five servings of fruit and vegetables, and is also high quality carbohydrate regularly. Carbohydrate intake may need to be adjusted according to how your body responds.

'Protein Only' Days

'Protein only' days are a very useful technique for shocking the metabolism and helping bulking up. I would only suggest this procedure for the intermediate and advanced bodybuilder, not the newcomer or hard gainer. Generally, you should be consuming a bodybuilding diet much like the one in Figure 6 or the deluxe plan, varying your food choice and portion sizes. The procedure involves having one, two or three consecutive days every six to eight weeks where you consume extremely low amounts of carbohydrates and base you diet on protein foods only. Include a small amount of complex carbohydrate at breakfast and at the evening meal, for example one slice of bread, and you must avoid fruit. Most of your carbohydrate intake will be from the small amounts in your vegetables and from MRPs.


The idea behind this technique is to 'shock' your metabolism into fasting mode. Your body needs regular carbohydrate intake to keep the metabolic rate working efficiently, so if these foods are omitted, the rate will slow down. Regular quality protein intake is imperative to maintain muscle mass. The meal plan below in Figure 7 gives an idea of this technique. It is also essential that you up the intensity of your workouts for this short period, and maybe also include some more intense cardiovascular exercise to help glycogen deplete.


'Protein only' days are easy to follow for one day, but by day two, you will be craving carbohydrate foods and feeling weak. If you choose to follow it for three days your body may go into ketosis, a condition whereby your body uses ketones for energy. For the two days following this technique, go back onto your regular eating pattern, with high intakes of simple and complex carbohydrate foods, in fact eat whenever you are hungry, and you be hungry!

Although during the depletion phase you will lose a little weight, have little strength and generally feel awful, on the days following you will gain a few pounds, feel strong and great. It is also a great appetite stimulant technique. You must not have 'protein only' days too often, otherwise you will not get the benefit of its in bulking. You must also try this when you have no outside distractions for a few days. It is very similar, though not as strict, as the carbohydrate depleting and loading technique used in pre-contest bodybuilding.

Figure 7 is merely a guide, but the principles are plenty of high quality protein food regularly, very low carbohydrate intake and plenty of vegetables to fill up on.

The other great thing about the 'protein only' days is that you really enjoy eating afterwards!

Carbohydrates: Eating the Right Food