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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
May 17, 2023
For those who are bulking up, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. When you are trying to add muscle, you need to be eating as quality food as you can. Unfortunately, many people struggle to estimate their calorie needs, or their kitchen skills could use their own workout. When it comes to breakfast, the common complaint is lack of time, which is why this meal is the one we often skip or skimp.
If this resonates with you, please read on. In this post, we’ll discuss the concept of bulking and estimating energy requirements; then, we’ll share the 7 best breakfast bulking meals that are delicious and will have you eager to start your day.
There are generally two end goals with resistance training – getting big or getting lean. Both require time and consistency and at least a working knowledge of food. It’s challenging to do both simultaneously, as they require somewhat different strategies and caloric intakes. In any case, they go hand in hand and are often part of a larger wellness approach. Check out this bulking vs cutting article that covers everything you need to know.
In a generic sense, bulking is any routine wherein the focus is putting on size (ideally free fat mass). A more accurate definition would describe bulking as one phase of resistance training that consists of heavy lifting and relatively little cardio and is done in a calorie surplus. In other words, eating more than you expend. Bulking is usually followed or preceded by a cutting and/or a maintenance phase. This is particularly true for athletes or professional bodybuilders.
It’s important to note that the energy surplus of bulking is done to maximize weight gains to generally prevent excess muscle loss when cutting. Therefore, overeating itself does not solely contribute to muscle gains.
Let’s explore a few more components of bulking, then move on to the food!
Bulking isn’t just as simple as eating whatever you want like you would when consuming a cheat meal. It almost is, but you can set yourself up for failure if you aren’t taking the proper steps to get big.
There are two “types” of bulking – clean and dirty. This refers to the calorie source: with clean bulking, the goal is to minimize fat gain, while; with dirty bulking, the goal is to maximize total gains. There is no better choice here – it depends on your goals and what you can handle, although dirty bulking is generally easier and takes less time to reach a target weight. Clean bulking is ideal as it can be difficult to cycle between bulking and cutting to achieve “the” physique. A good example of clean bulking is the Vertical Diet, a dietary plan that encourages high caloric foods that are gut-friendly and easy to digest.
The meals presented here fall in the middle of clean and dirty. They were developed to help provide extra calories but will leave you feeling healthy. Regardless of whether you opt for clean or dirty bulking, make sure you're consuming the best food for muscles daily to support muscle growth and recovery.
Before you consider bulking (or cutting), you need to have an idea of how much energy you expend in a day or your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Then, you can calculate TDEE using these formulas:
Calculate BMR (basal metabolic rate):
Then multiply by activity level:
Or you can use an online TDEE calculator.
Bulking is very subjective, and there is no formula or rule that will tell you exactly how much to eat to gain weight. Remember that there is 3500 kcal in one pound. So, to gain 1 pound in a week, you’ll need to eat an extra 500 kcal every day. Our meal plan for muscle gain provides great suggestions for meal sizes when bulking.
The source of your calories is critical. You need to eat enough protein to support muscle development, but too much is wasted. You also need to eat the right proportion of carbs and fat for overall energy use. For athletes and bodybuilders, the acceptable macronutrient distribution range is:
With protein, aim to eat at least 1.2 – 1.6g/kg bodyweight.
CALORIES IN YOUR FOOD
If you don’t remember anything else, remember the number of calories per gram of each macronutrient.
Below are meals designed to support your bulking phase but with health in mind. These meals are designed for a male, 156 lbs., 30 years old, who works out ~4-5 days per week.
One thing I’d like to add – don’t neglect fiber. Fiber is calorie-free and can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. The RDA for fiber is 25g and 38g for men and women, respectively. Increasing your fiber intake will also expose you to new foods and ways of cooking, which is excellent for any health outcome. Also, keep in mind meal timing when preparing your bulking breakfast (or any meal, for that matter!). It's important to know when and what to eat before a workout, so you have optimal energy to make the gains you're striving for.
The meals below will have a brief description, calories, and recipe. The rest is up to you. Enjoy!
If you like eggs, and burritos, then you’ll love this burrito. This should take about 15 minutes to make, more if you’re like me and can’t fold the tortilla.
This is a simple but trusty breakfast companion. Add sweet potatoes for some variety, and try out protein pancakes for a bit of extra protein.
A nice little spin on the trendy avocado toast – add some cottage cheese for extra protein and everything bagel for the perfect taste.
Yogurt is an excellent alternative to cereal and milk and has some added benefits. Try this multi-layer yogurt bowl.
This one you’ll have to make the night before, but it’s worth the wait. Plus, you’ll get all that fiber I was talking about! For an extra protein boost, we recommend serving protein coffee alongside it.
Looking for additional oat-based breakfast dishes? Check out our article on the best high protein oatmeal recipes!
Smoothies come in all shapes and sizes, but this one packs in about as many nutrients and flavors as you can get. I like mine a little thicker, so I add extra fruit. Plus, protein powder makes the list of best high protein low-fat foods, so you know including it is a solid choice!
Quiche is a hearty and reliable breakfast standard that you can make the night before and enjoy most of the week. Try a couple of slices each morning with a glass of orange juice! The quiche will keep well in the fridge or freezer for about a week.
If you’re a fan of quiche, remember that it is not a frittata with crust. The real difference is in the texture – a frittata is solid, whereas a quiche has a much more custard-like texture.
Nutrition (2 slices):
Before we go, let’s recap everything. Bulking is a piece of a given exercise plan where the goal is weight gain, particularly muscle. A given bulking phase should last anywhere from 8-12 weeks and will generally follow the exercise principles of pure muscle building – hypertrophy – with less emphasis on lean mass. To get the most out of bulking, you need to exercise properly, meaning maximizing the volume of exercises and applying constant tension to the muscles.
When the goal is to add muscle and weight, one needs to eat right. The general advice for gaining weight is to eat more than you expend in a day. You don’t need to eat much more, and you should really focus on high-quality protein and ingredients in general, like these best bulking foods. To facilitate true bulking, you’ll want to eat ~300-500 calories in excess of your energy requirements.
Remember, food does not cause muscle to grow. It merely supports the energy needs to turnover protein. If you eat in excess, you will gain fat. You should expect to gain 0.1 – 0.6 lbs. (possibly more) per week. This is a relatively ‘healthy’ rate of weight gain. This is why you must maintain consistency in the gym and observe your calorie intake and weight gains so you can adjust them as needed.
The meals shared here were designed to help you identify quick, filling meals that will support your bulking journey. Hopefully, you see them and learn how to change the recipes to your liking or transfer ingredients to other recipes.
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