Bodybuilders used to think that they needed to eat five, six, or even seven meals per day while bulking. If you asked him why he was eating so often, he would tell you that he needed to stoke the metabolic fire, prevent muscle catabolism, keep his blood sugar levels steady, and keep his muscles fuelled with a steady supply of protein. Perhaps most importantly of all, he would tell you that he needed to prevent his body from going into starvation mode, which would cause him to store more body fat. That’s a lot to worry about, and most of it isn’t true.
Now that intermittent fasting is becoming popular, that idea is starting to die out. Instead of eating seven meals per day, it’s common for bodybuilders to experiment with eating as few as 1–3 meals per day. Now the idea is reversed. Those periods of fasting are good for limiting fat gain while bulking. But there’s a problem here, too. Going through periods of fasting slows down our muscle growth.
So. How many meals per day should you be eating while bulking? What meal frequency is going to produce the most muscle growth with the least amount of fat gain?
Obe is a student in studying commercial aviation. He’s married, naturally skinny, and he spends his free time playing soccer and watching movies. A little over 5 weeks ago, he started doing our Bony to Beastly Program. He isn’t doing anything crazy, he’s just following a conventional bulking routine:
- He’s following a weight training routine, doing 3 full-body workouts per week, and training for muscle size (hypertrophy training). It takes him about 3 hours per week, all told.
- He’s eating enough protein to maximize his rate of muscle growth. Around a gram of protein per pound bodyweight per day. He used protein powder to make that easier.
- He’s eating enough calories to gain weight. Every night, he makes sure that he’s hit his calorie target. And he’s gaining weight quickly, so that’s a lot of extra calories. He doesn’t have to gain weight this quickly, but he’s taking advantage of his newbie gains, bulking very aggressively.
His routine isn’t anything wild. Just 3 workouts per week. And although we recommend creatine, he isn’t using it. He’s just taking a multivitamin and fish oil. Every week, he gained 4 pounds. It only took him 5 weeks to gain a full 20 pounds, and without any visible fat gain.
A lot of us so-called “ectomorphs,” hardgainers, and skinny-fat guys assume that we have bad muscle-building genetics, but that’s rarely the case. We can often gain weight quite quickly and leanly. Let’s talk about how to do that, and how long it will realistically take to gain 20 pounds.
The skinny man on the left is Jeff before starting the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. He started the program at 136 pounds with internally rotated shoulders, a head that jutted forward, and a posture that made his belly stick out—issues that he was eager to fix. Most of all, though, Jeff was tired of being skinny and eager to bulk up.
The muscular man on the right is Jeff 5 weeks later, weighing in at 146 pounds and with most of his postural problems greatly improved. He also succeeded in balancing out most of his muscle asymmetries. Most of all, though, he had succeeded at gaining 10 pounds. In just 5 weeks, he had overcome his skinniness. And he was still just getting started.
May 2010—the month that two skinny guys decided they were fed up with being skinny. Did we know how to lift weights? Did we know how to eat a bulking diet? Nope. We didn’t know anything about building muscle. All we knew was that we were underweight, weak, and fed up with feeling so scrawny. That was how “Muscle May” began. In fact, that’s how our entire Bony to Beastly business began.
That first day of May, the two of us made a bulking pact: we would do thirty days of whatever it took to gain muscle—naturally, of course. It’s not like we were going to take steroids or anything. Hell, we were even scared to take creatine. But skinny genes be damned, we were growing out of our skinny jeans.
At the end of those thirty days, we had gained over thirty pounds between us, which was, well, maybe a bit much! But it was working. We were finally gaining weight! So we doubled down on our efforts, extending our bulking pact for another three months. And by the end of those three months, we had built enough muscle that we weren’t skinny anymore. And we haven’t ever been skinny again.
Here’s the story of how we went from skinny to muscular.
When I first started weight training and eating for muscle growth, I expected to have more energy, to become stronger, and to look better. But the first thing I noticed was that my stomach started to bloat up like a blowfish. It wasn’t fat, either. I still had abs. But instead of having a flat, washboard stomach, it was curved outwards like a turtle shell.
As I continued to pound down the calories, I started feeling perpetually full, bloated, and gassy. I’d often get indigestion, I struggled with acid reflux, and sometimes I’d even get diarrhea. Something wasn’t going right, but I didn’t know what it was.
I considered going back to my old diet, but that would mean going back to being skinny, and there was no way I was doing that. Fortunately, I realized that this was a fairly common issue with bodybuilders, and that there were a few good ways to improve digestion. Now, even after gaining 65 pounds, it’s easy for me to get into a comfortable calorie surplus.
So, what’s the best way to fix bloating, gas, indigestion, and acid reflux while building muscle?