Bulking on a college budget
When I was in College at UNM (University of New Mexico) I “bulked” up to a staggering 165 lbs, I was weighing 120lbs when I graduated high school. I was able to deadlift 405lbs for reps, Squat 365lbs for working sets and bench 285lbs.
I wasn’t a competitive powerlifter or bodybuilding.
I just wanted to add some size and strength. I was just a student bulking.
My buddies would struggle to progress in the gym. They were slow at gaining strength. The size they put on was fat more than muscle and some of my friends couldn’t put weight on at all.
Sound familiar? I know this feeling all too well. I don’t want this to happen to you.
I know you are busting your butt in the gym, training for 2-3 hours straight. You are following a tried and tested program but still seeing slow (or no) gains. The problem isn’t the training, it’s the nutrition.
Unless you are a competitive bodybuilder, powerlifter or strongman, then as a student you will have more important things in your life other than weighing rice and oats down to the milligram. Exams, coursework, part time jobs, social life, homework, classes, living on your own for the first time.
It quickly adds up any anything that isn’t simple when it comes to your workouts and diet is going to get neglected.
So to help you make serious gains I want to show you how easy it is to bulk on a diet as a busy student.
I’m going to assume you have your workouts in check – so im not going to touch on that.
In this article im going to look at giving you some diet & supplements tips to help you bulk – the simple way.
KNOW HOW MUCH YOU SHOULD BE EATING
There are a few ways to establish your macros. Such as knowing how much protein you should be eating to gain muscle as well as your carb and fat intake. But you’re a busy student, struggling to gain weight.
So we’re going to air on the slightly excessive side of things to make sure you do add some size and strength – the simple way.
In an ideal world you will already be lean, as you’re going to gain some fat (its one of the many sacrifices we must make when bro bulking) but if you’re only concern is getting big and strong – and not having six pack abs – then screw it – do this calculation as i recommend anyway.
ESTABLISH YOUR CALORIES
- Take your body weight and multiply it by 18-20. 20 is the max you’ll want to do, so you may want to start with 18 or 19 – it’s up to you.
- This will give you how many calories you need in order to bulk.
- So as a student lets assume you’re 170 lbs. Multiply by 20 – you’re going to need 3400 calories.
Our example we’ll use this figure – 3400 calories.
ESTABLISH YOUR MACROS
This is your protein, carbs and fat. We will be working this out as a % of your total caloric needs. I would recommend the following as a starting point.
- Protein – 35%
- Carbs – 45%
- Fat – 20%
We know that:
1g protein = 4 calories
1g carbs = 4 calories
1g fat = 9 calories
- Now you will multiply your calorie needs, in our example 3400 by the percentage.
- Protein needs: Start with 3400 calories times 0.35 (35%) which gives you 1190 calories. 1190 divide by 4 = 297.5 grams of protein per day!
- Carb needs = Start with 3400 calories times 0.45 (45%) which gives you 1530 calories. 1530 divide by 4 = 382.5 grams of carbs per day.
- Fat needs = 3400 times .20 (20%) which gives you 680 calories. 680 divide by 9 = 75.5 grams of fat needed.
We don’t have to be exact. We can round those figures to 295, 380 and 75.
Also give yourself a 5% range on each so you don’t have to be super strict with it. Remember – you’re not competing. As long as you get into the habit of doing the same thing day in and day out, a few grams here and a few grams there isn’t going to affect you.
USE A SHOPPING LIST
You know what macros you need – now figure out what you need to buy. Depending your student situation – you’re either gonna be broke and want things cheap – or you’re rolling in student loans, grants and parents are supporting you and you just want everything to be convenient.
Regardless – make a shopping list. This will make sure you’re buying what you need, and not wasting anything. If the food is in – you’ll eat it and make a meal plan become a daily habit.
BUY IN BULK
Im going to cover 2 options below. A cheap option and a convenient option. Regardless of what situation you’re in – you want to buy in bulk.
- Buying in bulk is cheaper
- You’re going to be eating a lot of food – and you don’t want to waste time heading to the store all the time
- If food is in the house you wont be tempted to miss meals or eat crappier foods.
THE CHEAP OPTION
- Buy everything raw and cook it yourself
- Buy in bulk
- DONT buy any “convenient” brands
- Ignore the marketing on products. You dont need “be good to yourself” varieties
- COSTCO AND SAMS CLUB
- Don’t get hung up on brands. Use basic/value versions – most foods are very similar.
- Cook up a few days worth of food at once – saves money on gas/electricity bills
- Rice – Buy it raw and in bulk. Never buy microwave packages.
- Oats – Supermarket value is all you need. Not microwavable.
- Pasta – Supermarket raw pasta
- Sweet and white Potatoes
- Vegetables – Frozen bags are cheap and healthier.
- Carb Powders – Maltodextrin & Dextrose supplements are super cheap
- Chicken Breast – buy in bulk– this applies to all meat
- Chicken thighs – cheaper than breast
- Eggs – whole eggs are super cheap
- Greek yogurt
- Ground Turkey – cheap and easy to cook
- Lean ground beef 90% lean 10% fat works good if you drain the fat after cooking.
- Whey Protein Powders
- Peanut butter
- Chia and flax seed
- Cheese Sticks
- Avocado oil
- Flax seed oil
- Coconut oil
- Egg yolks
THE CONVENIENT OPTION
Its a spin on the “cheap option”. If you’re a student who isn’t on a super tight budget – but you’re super stretched for time – then you want things quick.
The changes id make in recommendations would be
- Buy microwave rices
- Buy pre-cooked chicken and let it defrost
- Buy ready made mass gainers
If you’re a student, particluarly one on a budget and your goal is to simply gain size and strength – you don’t need a ton of supplements. I’ve tried, reviewed and changed my supplement stack over the years. Here is a basic overview:
WHEY PROTEIN POWDER
While most supplements are pretty expensive – whey protein powder is actually the cheapest protein source you can find. Its also one of the best protein sources you can consume – containing a full amino acid profile.
The beauty of protein powder is its convenience. Add it with water or milk and shake. Meal done.
One of the supplements I’d recommend to anyone. Its scientifically proven to help build muscle mass and strength faster than not using it.
Another benefit – creatine monohydrate is dirt cheap. No reason at all to not take this.
If you’re looking to gain weight in an easy & cheap way then you should be using mass gainer supplements. Weight gain supplements work because they are packed with calories and they’re not hard to consume. Simply add them to water or milk and you can easily add a few thousand calories to your diet a day. If you’re hard up for cash, buy the ingredients yourself such as a maltodextrin carb powder, protein powder and follow my 1000 calorie homemade weight gainer recipe.
When you are bulking, it’s extremely important that you have a majority of your carbs post workout! This is when your body will utilize carbs and proteins the most. Using the same example above, if our carb goal for the day is 380 grams then about 60% of your carbs should be consumed post workout. For example after a hard back workout, I would be consuming a 50g of protein and 100g of carbs in a shake within 15 minutes of my workout. Then within the next 2 hours you would have the remaining 130g of carbs with a meal. In our example we take 380 grams times 0.6 which is about 230 grams. Yes, that’s a huge amount but if the goal is to bulk, then you need to be in taking the proper amount and timing the nutrients correctly.
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