To Bulk or Not to Bulk: Diet Essentials for Flexible Fitness
As many dedicated fitness buffs will tell you, making sure that you keep up your body with the right diet to suit your workout schedule will almost always rank as one of the most important factors (sometimes even the most important) when ensuring that you’re able to make real, trackable progress with your gains, weight loss, and general upkeep.
However, is there a “one size fits all” diet that should be applied to every individual’s workout? Do different fitness plans (and differing metabolisms) contribute to the need for custom tailored diets, or do nutritional fundamentals reign supreme when it comes to eating right?
Below, we’ve provided a rundown on some of the core dietary staples that are recommended when taking on a range of exercise habits, along with some links for further your own research.
The “Clean Bulk”
Preferred by many beginners and veterans alike, this diet strives to ensure that you’ll see clean gains from your intense workouts without the added downside of gaining fat from the excess calories that bulking diets will often come with.
Most clean bulk plans will advise that you utilize a “moderate surplus” when loading calories, in lieu of the standard bulk strategy of limitless calories. If you want to lock down a specific plan, some experts advise that you multiply your current body weight (in pounds) by 15 – 17, and use that as a benchmark for your daily caloric intake to supplement your diet for example, if you weigh 200 pounds, then a daily limit of 3,200 calories (supplemented by regular, intense weight lifting and more) can be a key element of bulking up without gaining too much weight.
Just be sure that those calories you’re loading up with are derived from healthy foods— lean protein, high fiber, and low carbs/saturated fats are key if you want to get the most tone out of your new gains.
The Weight Watcher
Not aiming to bulk up? While gaining muscle mass is arguably always an important factor when getting fit, some people’s priorities simply don’t revolve as much around gaining as they do around losing— many who choose to get fit for the first time will often take their initial inspiration from the motivation to lose weight.
If losing weight is your priority, you’ll want a diet that can properly back up your new, active lifestyle— in fact, some experts even believe that diet accounts for up to 80% of weight loss, with exercise accounting for a rough 20%.
But is losing weight all about cutting calories? Not necessarily— while it’s true that you should avoid bulking (let alone binging), you’ll still want to make sure that you retain a diet that gives your body the nutrients, and energy, that it needs.
As many newcomers will unfortunately discover, limiting too much of your caloric intake can often send your body into “starvation” mode, leading to a decreased metabolism that will retain more fat from your foods than usual. This is believed to be because your body believes it needs to retain more of your calories while they are limited.
It’s always recommended that you do some further research (and ask your doctor) before taking on a weight loss diet, but some key components of proven success include constant hydration (drinking as much water as you can), along with a diet rich in fiber, vitamin D, and calcium— all components that will help your metabolism maintain a healthy speed and allow you to lose fat while remaining as healthy as possible.