BULKING - Nordic Nutrition


Written by: Anders Nedergaard, Practitoner and Researcher.

In continuation of the cut to summer article, one might have called this article "thick for winter", but it would have been a bit misleading, as it hopefully appears after the article here.

Why is it a good idea to bulk?

The body's metabolism controls many hormones, of which the glucagon/insulin axis is one of the most important.

It's especially true for muscle growth, as insulin is an essential hormone for protein synthesis at rest.

Immediately after consuming a meal containing carbohydrates, blood sugar begins to rise. In response, the pancreas starts to pump out insulin, which causes the body's cells, though mostly muscle, liver, and fat cells, to absorb blood sugar. However, insulin not only causes the cells to absorb sugar but also amino acids and fats.

When it has been a long time since the last meal that the blood sugar has dropped, the body begins to make glucagon in response to this. Glucagon starts gluconeogenesis, i.e., a new formation and possible release of sugar from glycogen and amino acids.

Blood sugar regulates the amount of insulin or glucagon, but amino acids also regulate this axis, albeit weaker. That's why muscles grow best in excess energy. Insulin causes the cells in the body to absorb everything.

The body's metabolism controls by many hormones, of which the glucagon/insulin axis is one of the most important

Quote elementThe body's metabolism is controlled by many hormones, of which the glucagon / insulin axis is one of the most important

Insulin sensitivity, morning exercise, macronutrient distribution, number of meals and GI

Insulin sensitivity is associated with conditions with good body composition and high activity level / high energy consumption. Still, it is unclear what the cause, effect, or whether it divides this way.

However, you will be able to read theories by many web gurus, who refer to it as something very concrete you can control up and down at will and use to "pack on lean mass" or "shredding fat while building clean muscle".

An example is the idea that one should only consume protein and fats in one day until you have trained. 

Then, you pour vast amounts of carbohydrate and protein into you because now the insulin sensitivity is high, so you are "all anabolic".

There are many types of ideas, and you can not deny that there may be something about it, but basically, no one knows. We review some more examples here.

One of the most common ways people think you can "cheat" your metabolism is by exercising early morning, i.e., circuit training on an empty stomach. The idea is that because the glycogen stores are empty and you can not use sugar; you have to use fat. If the blood sugar drops enough (and it almost certainly does in these circumstances), one starts breaking down protein to form new sugar.

There is nothing to suggest that one can influence the body composition favorably by trying to "use fat" at some times and "build muscle" at others regardless of the effect of exercise and energy status (surplus/deficit).

Likewise, there are often wild ideas about the macronutrient distribution in energy surplus, especially regarding protein intake. For the non-doped athlete, no beneficial effect of consuming more than 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Protein-containing foods such as meat saturate much more per KJ than similar fatty or carbohydrate-containing food. It costs more energy to break down (the so-called thermal effect), so you have less appetite to do well to eat more if you consume much more protein than the recommended 2 g per kilogram of body weight.

And that is without it otherwise having any particularly beneficial effect on the muscles. The argument that a more significant part of the intake should consist of protein is more potent when you are in an energy deficit, as you are interested in being as full as possible.

An experiment from the Norwegian Sports Academy has examined the effect of 3 vs. 6 daily meals (with equal daily energy content and macronutrient distribution) combined with heavy strength training for the whole body.

It turned out that the group that only ate 3 times a day gained both more muscle mass and more fat than the group that consumed 6 times a day. Usually, the recommendation is always that you should frequently eat, no matter if you want to gain weight or lose weight, so it turns out that it is probably more complicated than we first thought.

Glycemic Index (GI)

Is defined as the rise in blood sugar 0 to 2 hours after the intake of topical foods containing 50 grams of available carbohydrate and is expressed as a percentage of a reference food with the same intake range and weight

Choosing foods with a specific glycemic index is also the cornerstone of many diets. There can be no doubt that it is generally healthier to eat foods with a low GI, as high blood sugar itself is unhealthy. But during bulk, someone swears by high-GI products because the high blood sugar elicits a more significant insulin response, and insulin is anabolic.

But, again, it's more complicated than that. The insulin response to an increase in blood sugar is biphasic. There is first a sizeable acute insulin response (approximately 15-45 minutes after a meal) and then a secondary one, more petite but longer (45-180 minutes after dinner).

The question then is whether the peak concentration is more important for muscle growth than the total amount of insulin excreted over time? Unfortunately, we do not know the answer yet.

It also turns out that the total spontaneous food intake is greater if you eat high-GI products because they typically also have a high energy density, which can be an advantage if you have difficulty eating enough.

But unfortunately, they often do not have many micronutrients, which are also necessary for a well-functioning body.

After reading the above, you should like to have some understanding that with a bit of knowledge of physiology, you can theorize about many ways you can cheat the body.

Still, many of these methods compensate for the body itself in whole or in part and most we do not know at all about works as they have not been studied under appropriate circumstances.

Quote elementThe central problem is that muscle and fat tend to go hand in hand

Burger and pizza fastfood with fries and ketchup

How, what and when to bulk?

According to insulin function, the problem is that muscle and fat tend to go hand in hand. As a result, the ability to control the macronutrients in the muscles instead of the fatty tissue tends to worsen. The poorer body composition you start with, the less you train and the longer you have been in excess energy. Some specific causal relationships dictate how good this ability is:

You gain more fat:

  • the more significant energy surplus you are in
  • less / worse you train
  • higher fat percentage you start with
  • the longer you have been in energy excess

You take more muscle:

  • the more significant energy surplus you are in
  • more / better you train
  • lower fat percentage you start with
  • the shorter time you have been in energy surplus

You have to consider what is most important: to build muscle or build muscle without accompanying fat mass. I want to strike a blow for people to focus on taking clean on as long as possible. Meaning that the dose-response mentioned above conditions become the following:

You take on more clean:

  • the less energy
  • more effective training
  • lower fat percentage you have
  • shorter time you are in profit


The size of the energy surplus is probably the most critical parameter. A daily gain of 4000 KJ or 1000 kcal corresponds approximately to a weekly weight gain of one kilo. It is difficult to say how much muscle you can gain per week. It depends on how much muscle mass you already have, your genetic disposition, and finally, whether your training exceeds your response threshold (which gets harder and harder with time).

At the beginning of one's training career, one may gain up to 500 g of muscle a week, and later, this becomes 100-250 grams a week, depending on the parameters mentioned above. Based on this, it can only pay to bulk with 4000 KJ / day if you are relatively new to your training career. In principle, one should aim to gain 100-200 grams in the week after the first beginner gains are over.

Still, the problem is, is that it is almost impossible to keep up with whether you are gaining weight at all because the natural variation in weight overpowers an actual effect on your accurate weight. It, therefore, becomes challenging to adjust your intake so that you can ensure a continued profit in the correct size.

So unless you are good at controlling your daily intake, you should probably aim for a daily gain of 1000-2000 KJ, resulting in a weight gain of 0.25-0.50 kg/week.

Weight training works the same in profits and deficits. However, you often have a more excellent training tolerance when you are in excess energy to stick to a slightly larger volume, a little more sets for exhaustion, or one more training day a week.

Several things suggest that a low-fat percentage provides a better environment for building muscle than a high-fat percentage. But since you almost certainly want to put on fat, it also means that it is more appropriate to fluctuate between a fat ratio of 8 and 13 than one of 18 and 23.

One has to consider what is most important: To build musclemass or build muscle without accompanying fat mass.

Quote elementOne has to make some considerations about what is most important: To build muscle, or build muscle without accompanying fat mass.

Chicken beef and fish steaks


Your bulking diet must be healthy! It is not enough to spill fries and whipped cream in the name of the muscles or that 50% of one's total intake comes from weight gainer shakes. We follow a vision to look healthy and powerful, and it is neither healthy nor powerful to have atherosclerosis and a miserable cholesterol level. Thus, there is no need to consume many animal fats (including milk fat), fried foods, or foods with a shallow content of micronutrients.

On the other hand, there are plenty of healthy, energy-dense foods that can do just as well as a big burger. In other words, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration's advice still applies, both in terms of diet and exercise:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables - 6 a day
You should eat 6 fruits and vegetables a day, where at least half should be vegetables and not fruit. A piece of fruit daily can be replaced by juice, which can be a good idea when eating a lot. Even if you have to eat fruit and vegetables, that does not mean you have to live on salad. Avocados, nuts, dried fruits, and vegetable oils all count in the accounts and are energy dense or protein-rich.
  • Eat fish and cold cuts - several times a week
Eat fish several times a week, preferably every day, and preferably fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel. The beneficial effect of eating fish far outweighs the negative impact of any heavy metal content in the fish. So you do yourself a disservice by holding back on the fish, especially if you are a man (who is particularly prone to cardiovascular disease, which fish protects against).

Eat potatoes, rice, or pasta and wholemeal bread - every day

Virtually all reports on athlete nutrition state that it is most appropriate to cover energy expenditure by exercising with fibrous starch sources. They ensure stable blood sugar and an effective carbohydrate replenishment.

  • Save on sugar - especially from sodas, sweets, and cakes

It also applies when you bulk; remember it!

Eat less fat - mainly from dairy products and meat

Animal fats, including milk fat, do not do much good for our bodies.
  • Eat varied - and maintain an average weight
The reason for eating varied is, of course, to have as wide a selection of micronutrients as possible, and the advice to maintain weight is to avoid crash diets, where people lose a lot of muscle mass and subsequently gain fat again.
  • Quench your thirst in water
The advice is primarily because water should be the primary thirst quencher, not soda or juice. When trying to establish an energy surplus, this is one of the tips that we modify a bit, as described below.
  • Be physically active - at least 30 minutes a day
It still applies. Many people are afraid to take a walk when they bulk because they fear it will affect muscle growth. Although weight training is hard, it does not do much good for the circuit, and you can get a pretty significant effect with even quite a few minutes of exercise a week if only the intensity is high.

Quote elementThe bulking diet must be healthy! It is not enough to spill fritters and whipped cream in the name of the muscles

Fatty foods of walnuts, oil, salmon and avocados

So what should the bulking diet look like when you want to gain weight?

As a starting point, I would like to advise against people weighing, measuring, and counting their food, as it can help shape an inappropriate relationship with food. So you should always see if you can get enough to eat by just manipulating your food choices and eating habits and if that does not work, you can, by using tools to what you eat and your diets, most often push your average intake a few thousand KJ a day. You want to choose foods that saturate as little as possible to their energy content but are still healthy.

  • Large portions

The portion size affects how much we eat. By taking more significant amounts and possibly using larger plates, one can thus probably increase one's total intake

  • Protein powder or weight gainer

Either protein powder or weight gainer can be a great solution to gain some extra weight. They are fairly easy to use and a great way to get an extra boost of calories and protein. 

We recommend using milk.

  • Energy-dense food

In general, you eat more if the food is energy-dense, i.e., if it contains many KJ per gram.

  • Dried fruits

Dried fruits such as raisins, dried apricots, pineapples, and papayas are very energy-dense (they often contain over 70 g of carbohydrate per 100 g) and have a sensible content of micronutrients.

  • Nuts and kernels

Nuts and kernels are very energy-dense and often have a high protein content. Unfortunately, they also contain a lot of fat, but the fats in nuts and seeds are generally much healthier than those from animals and should not cause problems.

  • Vegetable oils/mayonnaise

You can easily add things to your food to make it more energy-dense

  • Foods that saturate a little

In general, foods that saturate a little will lead to more energy. It includes:

  • Not very spicy food

Highly spicy food satisfies more than less spicy food. It may sound boring, but you should probably save a little on the strong spices if you want to increase your intake.

  • Non-solid food

Foods that require chewing work have a coarse consistency and saturate more than "soft" food. For example, if you sit with a stack of toast bread and rye bread and have to eat until you are full, you will finish the rye bread earlier than with the toasted bread.

  • Liquid energy

Liquid energy sources generally saturate little. Unfortunately, most liquid energy sources are also poor nutritional quality, such as sodas and juices. However, skimmed milk is entirely legitimate to use as a thirst quencher to increase your energy intake.

If you plan your diet according to these parameters, you should be able to increase your intake by 1-2000 KJ a day, unless you have already lived on a diet consisting of Burger King Mega Meals and cola. However, if this is the case, other measures are more for the right leg than bulking.

If contrary to expectations, it is not possible to increase your intake solely by the proposed manipulations; you should start counting your food. My recommendation is to weigh yourself once a week only. You try to gain a kilo (per two-week period) with the proposed diet manipulations in the first or perhaps the first two two-week periods. If you can not reach this goal, you should start counting your food. The easiest way is to eat "normally" for two weeks, weigh the food, count it together, and compare it with the change in body weight. If one has not increased body weight over two weeks, the calculated intake increases by 2000 KJ per day for the next two-week period. Thus, every time you have not been able to put on weight after two weeks, the intake increases by 2000 KJ / day.

Quote elementAs a starting point, I would like to advise against people weighing, measuring and counting their food, as it can help to form an inappropriate relationship with food.

When to stop bulking

When you start bulking, it is always important to have a set goal. Let's say that you're goal is to weigh 85 kilos then you have end goal and know when to stop.
One of the primary goals of bulking is to gain muscle mass. When you´ve reached your desired weight, it may be time to stop bulking.

An optimal point to transition from bulking to cutting is when your body fat percentage falls within the range of 15% to 17%. Beyond this range, you may encounter adverse effects associated with rapid weight gain.

Here are a few things to look out for, when bulking and knowing when to stop.

Health and Energy Levels
Pay attention to your overall health and energy levels. If you feel sluggish, fatigued, or your workouts are suffering due to excessive caloric intake, it may be time to stop bulking. A balanced approach to nutrition and exercise is essential for long-term success.

Consult a Fitness Professional:
If you're uncertain about when to stop bulking, consider consulting a fitness professional or a registered dietitian. They can help you assess your progress, set realistic goals, and create a personalized plan to achieve your desired physique.

Monitor your body fat percentage regularly.
A common guideline is to stop bulking when your body fat reaches a level where you are no longer comfortable with your appearance or when it surpasses a healthy range. For men, staying below 15-20% body fat is often recommended, while women may aim for 20-25%.

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