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Chapter 2: Halfway through the bulk challenge: the importance of protein

How much muscle mass can you build if you follow a bulk diet for 12 weeks? Editors Martyn de Jong and Mart de Jong find out for you. Along the way, they share their personal tips, tricks and experiences in collaboration with Body&Fit. Want to follow their journey? This time Mart shares his story.

Halfway through the challenge

Cutting and bulking: the cycle for strength athletes who want to flourish through their muscle mass. Bulking is seen as a typical winter activity because you spend most of your time in a jumper. The accumulated fat layer is 'cut' off towards the summer - better known as dry training - in order to conjure up the hard-earned muscles on the surface when the jumper can be taken off again.

Chances are, if you're bulking, you have a pretty concrete idea of what this means. In general, people often think that bulking means eating just a little bit more than you normally do, training just a little bit harder than you already did and above all, waiting until the cut is made. This is exactly how I thought about it, but after 6 weeks of bulking I know better. Bulking is much more than building a winter coat.

 

Bulking is beastly

Earlier this year, I embarked on a one-month vegan dry training challenge: training 6 times a week and 'deep into the cut' to get as dry as possible. It was a gruelling experience. Going to bed hungry, entering the gym with no energy and going through life listless is very unpleasant I can tell you. I thought I would be spared this misery when bulking. Big disappointment when reality showed its true nature.

"Bulking is known among bodybuilders as the hardest part of the cycle."

Among bodybuilders, bulking is in fact known as the toughest part of the cycle, and not dry training. Why? Because you have to give it your all in the gym. Everything, nothing less, just more. Five times a week for an hour and a half, go to the limit... for 12 weeks. I can tell you, it's hard work.

Bulking in times of corona

Not to mention the thousands of calories you eat every day just to keep growing. Or the thinking about every meal that in turn removes any spontaneity in your life. Or every time slot you have to reserve at the gym. Conclusion: bulking is your whole life. You get up with it (you have to start with an 800-calorie meal right away) and you go to bed with it (first of all: sleep on time, secondly: work off a large portion before going to sleep).

Fortunately, it is not all misery. On the other hand, the challenge also offers something to hold on to in uncertain times. The structure offers distraction, and the planned meals prevent snacking in times of crisis. And since there is literally nothing else to do, the gym is a kind of outing that you look forward to time after time, despite the gruelling challenge.

Vegan bulk

As with the dry training challenge, I have also undertaken the bulk challenge on a plant-based diet. When I say this, the first reaction is often: 'Wow, but how do you do that? Followed by questions about how to gain weight with a vegan lifestyle, whether I'm getting an abundance of fibre and how on earth I get my protein. The answers are not that complicated.

First of all, I already have quite a bit of experience with a vegan diet so it wasn't a drastic change. Secondly, the fibre is not that bad. Even with the almost 5,000 calories I'm on now, my body has no trouble. And gaining weight with a vegan lifestyle? It's easy to gain weight, just think of peanut butter, dates, dark chocolate, cashew nuts and so on and so forth. Living a vegan lifestyle certainly does not mean a lack of calorie bombs. And then there are the proteins.

Plant-based proteins

Perhaps the greatest misconception is that it is difficult to consume protein in a vegan lifestyle. For some reason, plants and protein arouse conflicting feelings among many athletes. Unjustly, because it is super easy to get your protein as a plant-based athlete. Think of pulses, grains, vegetables, nuts, noble yeast flakes, seeds, some vegetable milk and possibly meat substitutes. And shakes, of course.

Because just like athletes who aren’t on a plant-based diet, I can use just that little bit of extra help to reach my 265 grams (!) of protein a day for my bulk challenge. And I do that by taking a big shake after training, the Vegan Perfection from Body&Fit. A scoop and a half of the delicious vanilla (my favourite) protein powder and you've got an extra 40 grams in no time. I also add a small scoop to my vegetable yoghurt before bedtime and get another 20 grams of protein. Simple, tasty and necessary.

Now, it seems as if those protein options just fall out of the sky, but of course you have to get them first, and you can get what you need at Body&Fit with 10% off using the Men's Health discount (code: Menshealth10). After all, without protein, there is no bulking.

In order to grow, you need high-quality complete proteins, that is the essence of bulking: building muscle. Training hard by first destroying them in the gym, and then letting them come back stronger than ever by eating at full capacity. Proteins play a crucial role in this. Give your muscles just that little extra and order that powder.

Finish line in sight

In any case, I'll be getting rid of quite a few scoops over the next six weeks to provide my muscles with the necessary fuel. And they will need it! Let the second half of the challenge begin, on to the finish line.

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