It’s easy to assume that a bulk is going to be an easy process.
You’re less restricted to what you can eat when cutting and the continuous loop of eating more, getting stronger, putting on size and then being able to, well, eat more again is a great process for most people.
With that said however, bulking is not easy once you’re a few months deep into it and start to find that eating every 2-3 hours isn’t as easy or enjoyable as you first thought.
Therefore, to make the process easier I’ve listed all the bulking essentials you’ll need to save time cooking, save time eating, and ultimately make progress much quicker when it comes to gaining size and muscle mass.
- You need items that will help you batch cook meals to save time and money
- Liquid calories are key to hitting a large calorie surplus so shaker bottles and whey protein are helpful
- Use staple foods that can be used for multiple meals (eg cooking rice once could then be used in multiple meals that day with different protein and fat sources)
Why do you need to consider essential items when bulking?
The main reason is because bulking is hard!
Initially it’s easy because you’ll have an increased appetite, your metabolism will speed up from harder workouts/being able to lift more, and you won’t be mentally restricted by the fear of food.
Over time though, bulking does get harder.
You lose appetite because you’re eating so much, you feel lethargic or bloated, you spend hours cooking and cleaning up and your food bill eventually goes through the roof.
Though you can check out our bulking on a budget guide and also the cheapest bulking foods to help with this…
There are techniques to make bulking easier though. Below are what I consider to be the 11 best bulking essentials to save you time, money, and the effort of eating so much whilst still being able to hit your calorie surplus and build muscle.
1) Food Scales
The first bulking essential is a food scale.
Weighing your food when cutting is important to ensure you stay in a calorie deficit but weighing your food when bulking can be just as important. There are two reasons for this:
- Portion control
- Batch cooking & meal prep
Portion control when bulking comes down to minimizing excess or unwanted fat gain. If you’re making a chicken and rice meal and simply eyeball the quantity of rice you’re cooking, you could be getting 100g carbs or 50g.
This can seriously impact recovery, energy, and your progress when building muscle.
The people who struggle to build muscle despite saying they “eat everything” and still can’t put on any size are usually not consuming anywhere near as many calories as they need to gain weight.
Weighing your portions will at least give you that baseline.
Similarly, weighing out your food can help with batch cooking and meal prep. Meals are big when bulking, so constantly cooking becomes incredibly time consuming.
That is unless you batch cook and then refrigerate or freeze meals for the week.
Weighing out and cooking meals in advance will save you hours of cooking each week and it’s arguably the number one tip when it comes to hitting a daily calorie surplus when bulking.
Most bulking meals like shakes, oats, rice, pasta are made much easier by weighing your portions first and if you want to build muscle and minimize fat, I’d definitely recommend weighing the majority of your meals to keep control of your calorie surplus.
2) Whey Protein
The most versatile supplement you can have when bulking is a bag/tub of whey protein.
Hitting your daily protein requirement is essential for muscle growth but foods high in protein like meat are also usually quite satiating – meaning they reduce your appetite. This isn’t ideal when bulking.
Whey protein however is quick to consume in a shake and provides an average of 20g-25g protein per serving, that’s the equivalent of a whole chicken breast.
Ideally you want to consume 0.8g – 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight (further reading and research here) so supplementing with whey protein is one of the quickest and easiest ways to do this.
One or two scoops per day will go a long way in helping you hit this target each day.
This is tied to the above point – hitting a calorie surplus can be hard the longer you are into a bulking phase, especially if you are trying to bulk with a weak or low appetite.
Liquid calories are an easy way to skip bloating, time needed to chew and eat your meals, and are easier to digest or consume on the go.
There are countless bulking recipes for shakes and smoothies that can be consumed pre or post workout to get some additional calories/nutrients when your muscles need it the most or you can utilize them when you’re in a rush or struggling to digest your meals.
You don’t even need the most expensive model. I use a basic and budget blender which gives me a 500ml sized shake. If you want an easier life though you can check out the bigger blenders like a Ninja which will allow you to batch blend some shakes/smoothies for the day or next few days.
4) Rice Cooker
Once you try a rice cooker you won’t ever be able to go back. Rice is a bulking staple food and if you’re taking this phase seriously, you might have multiple meals each day which uses rice as a carb source of choice.
It’s a versatile carb that goes with most meats, fish, and veg so you might be cooking it a lot. You can get microwave rice which is incredibly convenient but has oils added to preserve the rice and the packs are usually more expensive if you’re having them daily.
You can also use boil in the bag rice, which reduces the clean up needed when cooking but the ultimate method when bulking is to use a rice cooker.
Rice cookers will cook your rice perfectly every time. It’s a turn on and forget about option that will save you time and money when bulking. You can also get rice cookers with a warm mode for multiple meals and additional steamer trays to cook your veg at the same time.
5) Shaker Bottles
Quick and easy digesting calories are key on a bulk so a shaker bottle is arguably one of the most essential items.
Whey protein, carb powder, creatine, greens powder (because getting your daily greens is not an easy task when bulking), BCAA… The list of supplements you’re likely to be taking is going to be dependent on the individual, however, most successful bulks will use some form of supplementation.
It’s not essential, you can build significant size by eating right, training hard, and getting enough rest & recovery, but supplements can give you that extra 5% – 10% towards your goals.
That’s why I’ve listed it as shaker bottle(s) as well. You don’t want to be re-using the same shaker for all your supps, anyone that has forgotten to wash their shaker after a protein shake will know that it will need a deep clean and run through the dishwasher before it’s usable again!
Creatine is one of the most tested, researched, and PROVEN supplements for improving athletic performance. When training hard in the gym you don’t want to be taking the most supplements, you want to take the most effective supplements!
Creatine monohydrate is cheap, easy to supplement (just 3g – 5g daily) and has proven benefits for getting that extra rep in the gym and when bulking, that extra rep can be the difference between building your goal physique or just getting average results.
There’s not much more to say about creatine when bulking, it’s effective and easy to implement into your daily routine.
One of the most basic and staple foods on the planet. Oats are great for bulking because they are cheap, versatile, and have a good macronutrient profile, they are basically a top tier bulking food.
Oats are so beneficial when bulking that I’ve got a powdered, ultra fine oat supplement to have with a shake (use code BYRNE15 here for 15% off) and I’ve also got the cheapest 1kg bag of oats I could find for oatmeal or a blended smoothie.
Oats have a good nutritional profile and looks something like the below:
Per 100g rolled oats
Calories – 379kcal
Protein – 13g
Carbohydrate – 67g
Fat – 6g
This is an impressive number for bulking but an average serving when consumed as oatmeal would be roughly 40g. Therefore, get creative with how you consume them to not get bored of shovelling down a large bowl full. Some good options include:
- Baked oats
- Overnight oats
- Blended into a shake or smoothie
- No-bake oat bars
This isn’t a section I can spend too long on but similar to oats, rice is another versatile, cheap, and frequently used bulking food. I’ve said a rice cooker can be a game changer for a bulking phase so it would make sense to consider rice a bulking essential that you can have pretty much everyday.
It goes with almost every type of meat and fish from a curry to sushi so if you’re looking into a bulking cookbook or recipe list, I’d say a good percentage of the options will have rice included. For a comparison to oats, the macro breakdown is the following:
Per 100g white rice
Calories – 123kcal
Protein – 2.9g
Carbohydrate – 30g
Fat – 0g
As you can see, white rice isn’t as nutrient packed as the equivalent weight in oats, however, white rice is much easier to digest and is a faster absorbing carb source meaning it’s easier to consume more of it and you’ll also utilize the energy quicker due to it being a high GI carb
9) High Calorie Sauces
This is a hack that is only for those with a very high daily calorie intake and those people that are NOT running a dirty bulk.
If you’re following a relatively clean bulk – meaning meat, veg, and carbs, not pizza, burgers, and fries – then your food choices could be relatively bland. If we look at the classic bulking meal of chicken, rice, and broccoli then you know what I mean about bland.
High calorie sauces are an easy way to add some additional calories to classic bulking meals with most providing 200kcal per serving. In the UK, a garlic and herb dip that comes with a Dominoes pizza contains a whopping 675kcal.
The bodybuilder’s essential. You need to eat big to get big and therefore, you need somewhere to put this food.
Tupperware comes in many shapes, sizes, and uses but most people on a bulk will need at least 3-5 Tupperware tubs at home. Tupperware allows you to utilize two incredibly important functions when bulking:
- Meal prep
- Taking food with you on the go
I mentioned meal prep earlier when talking about food scales and it’s come up again because it can make bulking much easier when done regularly.
If you are going to cook a large bulking meal like a pasta bake, chicken and rice dish, or beef stew (calorie packed meals basically) then it makes the most sense to get an additional 3-4 extra meals from this within the same time period.
Why make the same meal 5 different times when you can do it once and then refrigerate/freeze the other meals to eat on consecutive days?
You’ll have a much easier life meal prepping when bulking then if you are constantly trying to cook all your meals as you need to eat them – life just doesn’t work that easily unless you’re a professional bodybuilder with no job (because you get paid to train).
Therefore, having a supply of Tupperware that is freezable and microwavable is key.
Secondly, you can use Tupperware to bring meals with you when traveling or working. It’s hard to fit in calories if you don’t have a steady routine but if you combine meal prep with Tupperware, your food will always be ready to eat wherever you are and whatever time.
Even if you need to have the meal cold from time to time it’s a small price to pay in order to hit your calorie and physique goals.
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