12 Week Bulk to Gain Lean Mass Program - Phase 1 Results
I started my Phase 1 Bulk on February 25th, 2017. View the details of what my bulking plan consisted of in the first post here. At this start date, I was just 5 days on hormone replacement therapy (testosterone) and was ready to start gaining as much lean mass as possible.... I was ready to grow. I called this "Phase 1" because about midway through the bulk, I realized that it would be the best protocol to follow for the entirety of 2017. I quickly had strength and size gains which required large amounts of whole nutrient dense food. As I'm writing this post, I'm currently on week 4 of the Phase 2 Bulk. Each Phase consists of a 12 week period. After that 12 weeks is completed, I reevaluate what I've been doing with my diet, training, etc by taking a look at my tracking and measurements. By the end of 2017, I'll be into my Phase 4 portion and by the ways things have been going... I should be creeping up to 180+ pounds.
WHY I'M BULKING
Before gaining clarity on my gender identity as a trans masculine male, I struggled with why I felt so young... so small. It was confusing at the same time because I also despised gaining weight. The feeling of being "soft" or "puffy" made me very anxious. At times this anxiety caused mild dissociative feelings where I just decided it was easier to disconnect with my body and live deep inside my mind. I didn't understand why I felt this way and for years thought that I must just have body acceptance issues. I must just want to be thinner. I didn't realize at the time that my yearning to be thin and not carry weight on my hips and midsection didn't have to do with feeling "fat", it had to do with feeling "feminine".
Once I gained insight on what I was feeling I was able to put a term to it, "dysphoria". Putting term to the anxious flight or fight responses I was going through on a daily basis in my body made me finally have a way to wrap my head around what to do about it. I decided to start morphing my body into what I thought might make me feel more comfortable. This was the beginning of my journey into the world of bodybuilding and I fell in love. When I started to see size gains in my upper body, I could actually identify with the person that I saw in the mirror. This realization helped me cement that I was on the right path. I trained for about one year consistently before starting testosterone and that entire year I just focused on one thing... getting stronger. I ate healthy and a lot. but I didn't track my food for the majority of that year. I just focused on keeping lifting a positive experience that made me feel better about my body.
Fast forward to February, 2017 and that is when I finished a cut phase to take down body fat. After that cut phase, I started testosterone and knew that I wanted to start putting on size. The first year of being on testosterone is like being catapulted into puberty. I knew that my body would be growing in bone density, size, and muscle mass. I also knew that the structure of my body would be changing. I wanted to aid this process as much as possible so I configured my training plan and diet accordingly. View the plan here. I hoped that continuing to grow bigger and stronger would help to continue alleviating my dysphoria and that over the course of years, I'd finally grow into the adult masculine body that I longed to be in.
The goals for Phase 1 were the following...
- Gain 1/2lb - 1lb of lean mass per week (6lb - 12lb over the course of 12 weeks).
- Strength gains in either reps or weight every workout
- Minimal cheat meals (1-2 a week)
- Take caloric intake up by 50 calories a week (based on how I was gaining)
- Drink 1 gallon or more of water daily
- Train 1+ hour sessions at least 5 days a week
- Eat a mostly plant based diet and get calories from whole foods
- Put on as much size as possible
WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED
I was able to accomplish most of what I set out to do on this first bulking phase, but ended up having a few unexpected positive results.
- WEIGHT STATS: Starting Weight Week 1 was 133.4lb and End Weight at Week 12 was 145.2lb. My height is 5' 7". Total Weight Gained: 11.8lb (just about 1 lb a week).
- SIZE STATS: Flexed Biceps up 1 in (from 12in to 13in). Flexed Calves up 2in (from 12in to 14in). Shoulder Circumference up 4in (from 42in to 46in). Chest Circumference up 3in (39in to 42in). Upper Leg Circumference no change (21in to 21in). Highlight is definitely the expansion of my upper body, with the circumference up 4in!
- STRENGTH GAINS: All gains are for working sets which I do at least 3 of during a workout. Chest: Bench Press up 30lbs (from 50x10 to 80x10). Dumbbell Chest Press up 10lbs (from 25x8 to 35x8). Back: Smith Rack Barbell Deadlift up 40lbs (from 90x10 to 130x10). Started Wide Grip Cable Row up 30lbs (from 90x12 to 130x12). Shoulders: Smith Rack Seated Military Press up 20lbs (from 40x12 to 60x8). Arms: Close Grip Bench Press up 20lbs (from 70x8 to 90x10). Seated Tricep Press up 20lbs (from 60x10 to 80x15). Legs: Smith Rack Barbell Squat up 30lbs (from 50x8 to 80x8). Leg Press up 80lbs (from 110x10 to 190x10).
- DIET / NUTRITION: I kept about 95% consistent with my diet with some cheating throughout. My main cheat is beer, I love craft beer and allowed myself it throughout this bulk. Even when I have it though, I track it and it fits into my macros. My nutrition plan stayed 100% plant based until about week 8 where I decided to start eating Greek Yogurt again (I was craving it and listened to my body). My macros ended up being best a 20/60/20 (20% Protein, 60% Carbs, and 20% Fats). This is the ratio that I performed and felt best at.
- CALORIC INTAKE: One of my big goals was to get my metabolism firing on all cylinders. I started out my bulk at a very low caloric intake. During my previous cut, I had rushed things and taken my calories too low so please note that I do not advise being this low. I did want to go to an extreme so that I could feel what it was like to be on that type of deficit and how my body was affected. I don't recommend it, but sometimes taking things to the far end helps me learn. Starting caloric intake was 1,500 daily and at week 12 I had it up to 2,100 daily. This is a 600 calories daily increase and I was able to increase this in slow increments so that my body could properly adjust. I am now used to intaking this much food again and my digestion is on point.
OUTCOME AND LESSONS
Wow, did I learn a lot on this bulk. This first 12 week phase was so beneficial to learning about my body and fitness. My goal was to put on size and I definitely accomplished that. Throughout the bulk though I learned a few other things...
- MACROS: My body performs great on a 20/60/20 macro split. I found that keeping my protein and fat ratios almost even had a big effect on how I felt in the gym. Too much fat and I was sluggish. Too much protein and I was tired. Once I had my carbs at 60%, I could really fire off on the weights. I felt a boost of positivity as well, so I can now say that carb intake has a very real effect on my personal mood.
- FASTING: For the entirety of my bulk I was intermittent fasting on a 16:8 split (8 hour feeding window). You can successfully bulk and utilize fasting, I have shown that.... but, I decided not to continue intermittent fasting for Phase 2. I want to see the effect it has on my digestion since I did struggle with bloating from large meals throughout my phase 1 bulk. At the end of phase 2 I can compare to see if intermittent fasting benefits are worth it and if this was one of the causes of digestive difficulties.
- STRENGTH: I was a beast in the gym during those 12 weeks and it felt great. Compared to cutting, the strength gains were amazing. It was these gains that made me realize that I want to commit to bulking for the entirety of 2017.
- BRINGING IN DAIRY: Around about week 8, I started to really crave yogurt. Not sweetened crappy yogurt, but thick and rich plain greek yogurt. I decided to listen and started eating that daily. I found that it really helped me easily hit my macro targets for protein. It also let me eat less soy foods like tempeh and tofu. I liked having the option to just have some yogurt, banana, and dates to hit target numbers.
- SIZE: I'm changing shape in many ways. My clothes fit differently and I'm filling out. It takes some getting used to and at times it scares me because of my mental triggers with body fat, but everything is going according to plan.
MOTIVATION & MOVING FORWARD
There were days that were definitely hard. I was very sore and fatigued throughout Phase 1. These were my first months on hormone replacement therapy and my body was adjusting to a lot. I could literally feel my muscles growing. I've never experienced such tingling, itchy, and at times painful soreness in my muscles. What allowed my to stay committed was the visualization of who I am becoming. When I look in the mirror, fully pumped, at the gym I see where I'm going. It allows me to think, if this is me now and I continue... imagine what I'll look like in 5 years. That's what I tell myself to think about, me in 5 years. Me in 10 years. Me when I'm a sage gym goer with decades of muscle gains on them. That's what I find so beautiful about body building, the commitment and the patience. You can't rush the process, you can't buy it... you have to earn it through daily dedication and choices.
Phase 1 proved that I have a method that is allowing me to reach my goals of growing into a strong, built beast. Phase 2 is all about staying the course and digging deeper for even more motivation to continue. I'm excited to share with you the results of that bulking phase and see if I'm on my way to my year end goals!
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 two months of hormone replacement therapy. All images are from my first two months on testosterone.