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Why I Don’t Recommend Bulking Up For Muscle Gains – Natural Bodybuilding Tips 

Why I Don’t Recommend Bulking Up For Muscle Gains – Natural Bodybuilding Tips

So, in this video, I’m talking about bulking up, why I don’t bulk up, why I didn’t bulk up over the course of my competitive career as a natural bodybuilder for the majority of my competitions, and also talk about the fact that I was able to consistently make fantastic gains without bulking up, but also about how you could follow a path that doesn’t involve the physical and psychological stress of putting on extra body fat. 

And in many cases, eating the foods that probably should never be part of a health-based diet.  

This is a way based in self-care, based on not putting on a layer of body fat, and looking at yourself in the mirror, and not really feeling good about how you look. But just because everyone else does it, doesn’t necessarily mean it might be best for you. 

So, stay tuned. I’ll talk a little more about this. 

So, in this video I’m talking about bulking up, why you shouldn’t consider doing it, why I don’t believe in it, and why I think there are better ways of going about putting on muscle mass. But before I go any further, I’d like to thank everyone for tuning in, especially those who’ve said that this is a one stop place for anyone interested in learning all about training naturally, not using drugs, not using supplements. 

Thank you so much for all the support, and do be sure to like, subscribe, and hit that bell, so, you’re in first line to get new content as it comes out. 

So, onto the topic at hand today, bulking up. I think I should start with my own personal experiences of bulking up, because it’ll give a little bit of perspective. 

For those of you who don’t know, I started training in Trinidad & Tobago where I grew up, at 125 pounds, and I was able to put on enough muscle mass from a combination of really high intensity training and a diet that wasn’t particularly high in calories, but I was able to put on some quality muscle mass to go from 125 pounds where I started off, to my very last body building competition in Trinidad where I left at 198.5 pounds. 

That’s right, I went from 125 to 198.5 pounds in five years. I never had enough resources to be able to bulk up in the first place. I grew up in an environment where fast food was not something that we ate regularly, and, also, we never ate much in the way of junk food. The food that I ate, especially, when I started my body building path, were solid, cooked, regular, unprocessed foods. And being able to bulk up eating those foods, there simply wasn’t enough of it at my disposal to be able to do that.  


And so, I’d compete every year, and I was always kind of puzzled about the fact that my coaches never talked about bulking up or off-season diets. 

It was all about eating, more or less, the same way all the time, and I was waiting for that day where they would tell me something about bulking up, and they never did. Their point was that as a natural athlete, it was very important for me at all times to always focus on trying to increase muscle mass as much as possible by eating good food, not bulking up and coming back down. 

As a natural athlete the goal is always to increase muscle mass as much as possible

Bulking Up And Cutting Down Works Best For Steroid Users Not Natural Athletes 

It was explained to me, explicitly, that the very common practice of bulking up, and then cutting down afterwards is a practice that works best among those who are using anabolic steroids. 

Here’s how it works. 

If you’re on anabolic steroids, your body can process a lot more food than a regular person can.  

And so, it makes sense to overeat, get as much calories, as much protein as possible, because your body can use it and turn it into muscle, something a natural athlete can never do. After that, in order to cut down to get that lean, ripped look and reduce your body fat, they can cut their calories, and the first thing that goes once you start cutting your calories, is muscle mass. 

You will always lose muscle mass if your calories get to be too low, if you’re natural, if you’re on steroids, however, you can maintain a low-calorie diet and maintain far more muscle mass than someone who isn’t using drugs.  

And that’s what I was seeing in the magazines and expecting my coaches to tell me to do just that as well, except I wasn’t using steroids, and they said, “Listen, kid, you’re natural and you want to stay natural, so you’re going to have to do it the natural way, the long way, and the hard way, which is eat clean all year round and make small gains over time.”  

Kevin’s Experience Bulk And Cutting 

And at the age of 20 years old, I came here to the United States, and when I came to the U.S., I didn’t have my coaches anymore. I was free to do whatever I want, and, also, I was surrounded by all this food that I had never experienced in my entire life. 

And so, I decided against the very wise advice of my former coaches to bulk up. And so, I started eating more processed foods than I ever did in my entire life. I started doing things like drinking protein shakes every day, which before was not something I was doing at all, and the food was plentiful. (See my video as well- Can You Out Train A Bad Diet)

It tasted great, but I felt awful, and I ballooned up to my heaviest at 252 pounds and felt absolutely atrocious. My joints were swollen, my ankles would swell at the end of the day. 

And one day I was going up a flight of stairs, and I was out of breath, and I was wondering to myself, “What the devil is going on?” I was 24 years old, “Why am I out of breath?” It didn’t really feel good at all, but I was optimistic, because everyone in the gym was talking about how important it was to put on that extra size and get those gains from all the extra calories that you were eating, and when you cut down, you could see all those amazing gains that you had made over the course of your off season time, and so, I chopped down from 252 pounds to 209 pounds. 

Kevin at 209lbs after bulking up

Following what was, probably, my first really restrictive pre-competition diet.  

Bulking Up Requires A Restrictive Diet To Cut Back Down 

The diet itself was terrible. I was so spaced out that I remember being in the playground with my son, and I pushed the swing, and I stood there and watched him go up with the swing, and come right back down, and smash into me. I didn’t move aside, because I was just literally out to lunch completely. 

My energy levels were low. I didn’t really feel enthusiastic about anything. My training was something I was doing through pure willpower, and the day of the competition came, and, yes, I was 209 pounds, ripped to shreds, stepped on stage, won my class, and really didn’t care about it, because all I wanted to do was get off of this stupid diet, and that’s when the second problem came. 

The Rebound Effect From Bulking Up and Cutting Down 

You see, if you deprive yourself and cut down so much, so fast, you’re going to have a rebound effect, and my rebound effect was tremendous. I put on a total of 17 pounds in one week after my competition. 

Prolonged caloric restriction increases risk of binge eating

It was horrendous, and it felt like I was completely out of control where it came to my eating. These foods that I’ve been eating before that I wasn’t really used to felt almost like I was compelled to consume them. I couldn’t stop myself. I was literally stuffing myself with junk food, overeating, and in a really bad place. My fingers were all swollen, my face was all swollen, my stomach was bloated. 

It felt dreadful, to say the least. And it’s something I would never wish on my worst enemy, which is why at that point, I said to myself, “I will never bulk up for a competition ever again,” but as you know, I’m all about experimentation and collecting data. 

In the name of trying to understand the whole bulking process, it was important to at least evaluate the results of my bulking. 

A Look At Muscle Gains With And Without Bulking Up  

Over that four-year period, putting on a total of 51 pounds, I ended up only eight pounds heavier than I was before I started bulking up.  

Kevin after bulking up and cutting down to 209lbs

So, a total of eight pounds over the course of four years, good progress, yes, but I was sure that I could do as good, if not better by following the path that I had initially taken and the one that worked for me for so many years. 

I put on over 73 pounds over the course of five years from just eating clean foods and not overeating at all. So, I felt like I needed to go back to my original path, which was also something based on my health.  


You see, my decision to not use steroids wasn’t just about not using drugs, it was about my overall health. 

I didn’t want to do anything unhealthy for my body in the pursuit of a trophy. That, for me, didn’t feel like any type of a justifiable reason to put my body in a place of compromise, and so, I was going to do it the way I was doing it before, which is based on a path of growth, both physical and spiritual, where my diet is about eating right, giving my body exactly what it needs, no more, no less, with a path based on self-care, no extremes. 

And that’s something I think the average person can relate to. You see, in bodybuilding, even natural bodybuilding, it’s all about bulking up, getting as big as possible, and cutting down, and getting as ripped as possible to look fantastic for a couple of days, a couple weeks out of the year. 

I credit my path of trying to find a way to eat non-processed foods at all times, with the reason why, at 48 years old, I don’t look that different from the way I did when I was in my competitive days. 

Because, for me, it’s about a lifestyle and bodybuilders are great at temporary weight loss. My job is not about helping people lose weight temporarily. 

My job is also never, and never will be about making people do anything that’s extreme. I do not advocate overeating, nor do I advocate the consumption of any kind of foods that can be compromising to your health. 

Bulking Up Can Lead To Eating Disorders & Body Image Disorders 

As much as we want to self-indulge, we have to remember as well, that for a lot of people, these practices can lead to serious eating disorders 

Bodybuilding weight gain and weight loss practices are associated with higher incidences of eating and body-image related disorders.

And I can’t tell you how many bodybuilders, in confidence, tell me how horrible they feel in the off season, especially women. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Now, it is indeed the road less traveled. It is difficult. It is very hard to not eat processed foods and eat clean all year round, and not ever overeat. That’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, because Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you shouldn’t try to build it in a day either. 

Start slowly. 

First, start by telling yourself you can do it, because you can. You can do it, and you can get used to almost anything, and being uncompromising in your path towards taking care of yourself always leads to a more sustainable process in your training and your dietary approaches, which, over time, it’s going to give you more gains. 

“Lean Bulking” How To Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat  

You don’t need all the extra calories to make those gains. It can be done as long as you follow one very important rule. You eat for what you’re going to do, not what you did. So, on days you are training, make sure your calories and your carbs go up slightly, days you’re not training, make sure your protein goes up, and your calories come down slightly. On days when you have a break from training and you’re not really that close to a workout, drop calories a little bit. 

Now, there are also going to be times when you fall, times when you’re going to completely mess up on your diet. Don’t worry about it, I’m still cheering you on. Just get right back up and get right back at it. If you can be in a place, and eat clean all year round, ignore everybody around you telling you, you need to eat junk food to make gains, you will realize not only excellence, but you’ll discover so much more about yourself.  

So, eat clean, train hard. 

Know that I believe in you and Excelsior!!!

click for your copy of the role of high intensity training in reducing body fat

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Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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