12 Week Bulk to Gain Lean Mass Program - FTM Fitness
12 WEEK BEGINNER PROGRAM AVAILABLE
Prior to starting hormone replacement therapy, I wanted to get as lean as possible so that I could start my gender transition with a "clean slate". At that point, I'd been training for about 8 months consistently and wanted to see what I had built underneath any body fat. I embarked on a 9 week cut and then a 3 Week Cut to Lean Program to get as lean as possible before starting testosterone. The results were great, I lost body fat and ended up learning a lot about how to lean out effectively.
Once this program ended, I decided to start a bulk. I knew that with starting testosterone, my body would be changing in form and size. Not everyone who transitions wants to be muscular and bigger in size but for me, that is a goal. I feel a connection to my body by training and growing my muscles. This connection aids me in dealing with my gender dysphoria and it also gives me a great boost in self confidence. The mental benefits of body building have been tremendously healthy for my mind set. Going to the gym is like going to church, I feed my soul by training because I nourish a positive part of myself. I knew that after my cut, it was time to go back into a mentality of gaining strength and size.
Bulking is a body building term for adjusting your macros, caloric intake, and training to help aid the body in putting on size. This size is gained in both lean muscle mass and body fat. It is nearly impossible to gain only lean muscle mass, there will always be a little fat gain. If your program is a healthy, gradual, and well tracked then you will minimize your fat gains and stay moderately lean during a bulk. Macros is short for Macronutrients and is usually used as a term when tracking Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. For a quick crash course on Macros and how to calculate your numbers, click here.
The goal during a healthy bulk is to put on as much muscle as possible in a short period of time, but not so much body fat that you have a hard time leaning out. The typical goal is 1/2-1lb of body weight per week. A bulk can last 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or months... it's up to the lifter and their goals. At the start of HRT, I set out to do a 12 week bulk. This gives me enough time to put of a noticeable amount of muscle, but not so long that my body becomes stagnant when it comes to nutrition and training changes. After the 12 weeks is completed, it will be May of 2017. That is the perfect time to do a brief cut program to lean out for the remainder of the Summer 17' season. My plan is to eventually seasonally bulk and cut throughout the year. This flux in nutrition and training will allow me to keep building and carving my body while also keeping my digestion, immunity, hormonal, and cardiovascular health at optimal performance.
WHERE I'M STARTING
1 Year of consistent weight lift training
Plant based diet, almost completely vegan
About 12 weeks of daily macro tracking and tweaking
Coming off a 6 week running program
Body part split style training 5-6 days a week
No supplements besides vitamins (omegas, zinc, d, b12, a, cal-mag, coq10)
1,500 daily calorie intake (28/57/16 - P/C/F ratios)
Intermittent fasting (16:8) 5-6 days a week
7-8 hours of sleep a night
WHAT I'M CHANGING
Decrease in cardio, only 30min 2-3 times a week
Emphasis on strength gains every workout, going up either in weight or reps
Heavy lifts, focus on the compound exercises and hitting new one rep max weights
Minimal cheat meals, 1-2 a week
Focus on rest, taking days off to repair and recover
Legion Athletics Recharge Supplement after every workout (creatine) or in the morning
Incorporation of Naked Pea Protein to supplement macros when low
Incorporation of Kombucha to aid in digestion
Tweaking macros weekly, adjust P/C/F rations depending on progress
Taking calories up by 0-50 each week in an attempt to increase metabolism and allow more food intake to gain lean mass
Drinking 1 Gallon or more of water per day
My training program is based on the body part split method. I sometimes incorporate "trigger sessions" once a week which are total body workouts using lower weights. I'm also working in yoga once in awhile along with walking as my steady state cardio. A few key points that I'm emphasizing during the bulk with my training...
Compound movements (i.e. Benchpress or Squat) are my top priority and what I start my workouts with.
Superset whenever possible (doing one movement and following up with another directly after).
Strength gains every workout (either in reps, working weight, or one rep max)
Set higher expectations and crush them (always test limits of strength)
Focus on powerful movement with force over high rep ranges
1 hour+ lifting sessions, 5-6 times a week
Old school tactics over complicated routines
Learn to listen to the body, meditate within the muscles (during the bulk I am thinking a lot about being strong and powerful)
Use the mirror whenever possible, visualize and build that vision (big, bold, mass)
12 Week Bulk to Gain Lean Mass Training Split
Sunday: Rest Day (Total Body Trigger Session, Yoga, or Long Walk optional)
Monday: Shoulders / Calves
Tuesday: Arms / Abs
Wednesday: Legs / Butt / Calves
Thursday: Rest Day (Total Body Trigger Session, Yoga, or Long Walk optional)
Friday: Chest / Calves
Saturday: Back / Butt / Abs
During my cut diet, my caloric intake was pretty low considering my training. I have never had a "fast" metabolism and I can gain weight pretty easily. During this bulk program, I'm aiming to speed up my metabolism by slowly increasing my calories over time and getting my body used to using those calories to build up lean mass. At the start of the bulk, I was consuming roughly 1,500 calories a day at a body weight of 133 pounds. This was after my cut, so I was pretty lean. During the bulk, I am increasing my calories by 50 each week with the goal of gaining 1/2-1lb a week. If I gain too quickly, I will scale back the calories or leave them where they are. At the end of the bulk, my goal is to have gained about 12 pounds of lean body mass (as lean as possible, some will be body fat) and have my calories at roughly 1,800 a day. This will put me at a great position to start my Summer cut.
My nutrition is plant based, so next to no animal products. Occasionally, if I have a meal out, I will consume very minimal dairy but no meat, eggs, or fish. My plant based diet focuses on carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. These make up the bulk of what I'm eating and during the bulk my carbs will be higher than when on a cut. My protein is from whole plant sources. My fats are from whole plant sources as well and I also use MCT oil almost daily. Almost every meal I eat is homemade, minimally processed (next to no processed foods), and made from whole foods. I enjoy cooking and preparing meals. More importantly, I really know what I'm putting in my body and there is no guess work.
Since I am eating more than before, my digestion is very important. It is taxing on the body to breakdown a lot of food, especially when you are eating large amounts of vegetables and whole grains. Hot liquids are a big part of my daily regimen. I start my mornings with hot water, lemon juice, and honey to kickstart my digestion system. Throughout the day, I drink herbal teas to keep everything moving and breaking down.
To help best utilize all the food I'm consuming, I am conscious to add in superfoods. I intake powdered mushrooms daily which are full of detoxifiers, antioxidants, and they also aid in digestion. I use Lion's Mane with my coffee every day which cuts the acidity and promotes my digestion to kick start. At night, I use Reishi Mushroom powder to add in even more detoxifiers and antioxidants while I sleep. This mushroom also benefits deep rest and dream states, so it's perfect at night. One meal a day, I'll have a serving of Kombucha to add in probiotics and the benefits of fermented foods to the gut. Throughout the week I'll have different superfoods like cacao, spirulina, moringa, matcha, maca, camu camu, acai, aloe, etc to aid in providing nutrient dense supplementation to my diet.
Macro Split: Fluctuates over the weeks from 20/60/20 to 30/50/20 to 30/60/10, etc depending on how I'm feeling in the gym and what the scale is showing.
Protein Sources: Tempeh, Tofu, Edamame, Peas, Pea Protein Powder, Soymilk, Powdered Peanut Butter, Nuts and Seeds, Hemp, Fake Meat Products (minimal)
Carbohydrate Sources: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Lettuce, Potato, Sweet Potato, Peppers, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Mushrooms, Banana, Apple, Citrus, Oats, Vegan Pancake Mix, and Ezekiel 4:9 Bread
Fat Sources: MCT Oil, Brazil Nuts, Avocado, Sunflower Seeds, Pepitas, Hemp Hearts
On most days of the week, I intermittent fast (16:8). This has me starting to eat at about 11am and my last meal is over at 7pm. If this window of eating conflicts with my day or I get in a late training session, then I will forgo fasting that day and have an early breakfast. During the bulk, I'm much more flexible on this than during a cut. Before I break my fasts, I have coffee (only from high quality grounds) with Lion's Mane Mushroom Powder and Emulsified MCT Oil to supercharge my metabolism and in hopes to access my body's natural human growth hormones. I try to get a third of my protein intake at every meal instead of having large quantities of protein at once. This allows my body to actually utilize all the protein and not waste it. Typically anything over 30 grams at one meal gets flushed out by the body, so I aim for 30 grams per meal. Post workouts, I intake protein and a higher carb meal with a little fat. To get the best rest possible, I intake Reishi Mushroom Powder at night along with sleep aid teas like chamomile or Tusli tea.
GOAL, OUTCOME, LESSONS
My goal during this bulk is not only to put on size but further learn about my body. I am tracking measurements, body fat, body weight, macros, macro ratios, workouts, and more to better understand the effects of everything on me personally. Every person's body is unique and responds to things differently. The only way to get clarity and find out what works for you is to test different things and learn from your experience.
This bulk program is going to be challenging for me because I have a hard time with being "fluffy". Anytime my body fat goes up, especially around my waist, my dysphoria kicks up. I struggle with this and it is a hurdle to overcome. I know I want to gain size, strength, and muscle mass but getting there requires a bit of puffiness and less of a lean/tight look. This will be my battle... allowing myself to gain weight and finding the mental peace with it. I find that looking at my long term (5 year and 10 year) fitness goals to be very helpful. I know 10 years seems like a lot, but it takes years to build the physique that I truly want and it is a good tool to have that honest outlook. There are a lot of changes that can be seen in 12 weeks, but even more in years and years of consistent work. It is that mindset that gives me comfort and inspires me on my fitness journey.
This post is an informational introduction to this program. I will be posting at the end of the 12 weeks to share if I've met my goal, what was the overall outcome, and also what lessons I learned. It will be a valuable check in point to establish what methods should be implemented in the future.
This is not intended to be instructional but rather a way to share my experience with this method. For more in depth information on developing your fitness and nutrition plan, click here. Also, this post was created during my first month of hormone replacement therapy. All images are from my first month on testosterone.