In Fitness, What Is Bulking Up?

Bulking up involves building muscle mass.
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  • Written By: Summer Banks
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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In fitness, bulking up is the term used to describe a diet and exercise program aimed at building muscle. Body-building theories claim that changes in diet can decrease the time needed to build muscle. These ideas are often based on adding proteins and carbohydrates to the diet, in order to improve movement of protein to muscles.

Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Diets aimed at bulking up typically utilize a large amount of protein, paired with whole grains and low fat levels. Normal foods often cannot provide enough grams of protein for bulking up, so protein shakes are often used to supplement food choices.

Protein shakes can be consumed before and after workouts to feed muscle tissues. Before workouts, protein shakes may be combined with other supplements to increase blood flow to muscles. After workouts, carbohydrates are typically added to protein shakes. Carbohydrates help to move protein into muscles where it can be used to rebuild tissues.

Building muscle scientifically involves tearing and repairing fibers. When heavy weight is lifted, muscles literally tear or rip. This is often referred to as muscle burn, and may be associated with a warm or painful feeling when weight-lifting.

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Dietary changes are usually used in conjunction with weight-bearing and lifting exercises. When muscles are used to lift weights, the muscle fibers are torn. Protein, rushed to muscles with the aid of carbohydrates, is then used in the repair process. Workouts are often planned on a rotating schedule to allow muscles time to repair before tearing fibers again.

Bulking up should not be a continual process, or one to be taken lightly. Optimal programs for gaining muscle can be started when the body is performing at peak levels. This means regular workouts are going well, and the body is in good condition. Building muscle can be taxing on the body, so starting a bulking up program after taking a break from the gym is not typically recommended.

Planning body-building programs is important. These often include meal choices, workout routines, and daily schedules. Rarely is a day taken off from the gym during a muscle-building phase, though days off are often included in the plan. These brief breaks from weight-lifting are commonly used for cardiovascular exercise, like running, walking, or swimming.

It is important to take in enough water when building muscles. Muscle contraction, joint lubrication, and energy production are all important to muscle building and require sufficient water intake. As sweating occurs, increased water consumption may be needed to keep the body hydrated.

Many body-builders will continue to eat a bulking diet until a month or so before a competition, or at the end of the muscle-building cycle. Body-building on a professional or amateur level may require adjusting the diet to reduce water bloat often associated with bulking up. When bloating is reduced, the skin may lay closer to the muscle, allowing for a better visual effect.

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High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is often recommended as an exercise regimen to use in combination with weight training. It helps the body build and maintain muscles much more effectively than continuous training (CT), or cardio, which burns fat but doesn't help in terms of building muscle.

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