If you’re embarking on a bulking phase, the first thing to note is that bulking is hard! Most people assume it’s easy and that all you need to do is eat more to grow. This is technically true, but what you eat and how much you eat is crucial, and this is the aspect that people often ignore.
If you’ve seen the motivational videos where bodybuilders and coaches say you need to eat big to get big, you’ll also notice that they are not giving exact guidance for how much to eat. This leads people to wonder do you need to constantly be full when bulking – eating until you can’t possibly fit in any more food?
It also leads people to wonder “can bulking make you feel sick” and this is the topic I’m going to cover in this article. If you don’t bulk correctly, it definitely can make you feel sick to read on to see how you can avoid it…
The Phases of Bodybuilding: What Is Bulking?
Bodybuilding involves three major phases strategically placed in order to gain muscle and increase skill at the sport. Each of these phases includes strategies that determine both diet and exercise.
I’ve mentioned bodybuilding because this is where the bulk, cut, and maintenance (also see body recomp) phases originated. This approach is now implemented in modern-day society by anyone looking to improve their body composition or by building muscle or losing body fat will follow these dieting methods as well.
Firstly, bulking focuses on inducing hypertrophy in the muscles to cause rapid muscle growth. In this phase, bodybuilders consume an abundance of calories- much more than needed for maintenance. They also follow an exercise regime that emphasizes weight-lifting and involves little cardio.
Secondly, the cutting phase focuses on fat loss to improve muscle definition. During this phase, a bodybuilder will reduce their caloric intake to less than what is normally needed. Exercise routines will include increased cardio with weight-lifting moves that encourage toning muscles and trimming fat.
Lastly, the maintenance phase is exactly what it sounds like. A bodybuilder aims to maintain current size, weight, and body fat percentage.
Can Bulking Make You Feel Sick?
Due to the increased food and calorie consumption during bulking, you can experience stomach pain, nausea, tiredness, cramps, or even dizziness. For those that are eating “as much as possible” on a bulk, this excessive calorie intake will lead to the feeling of sickness.
There are several factors that can cause you to feel sick while bulking.
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of feeling ill during the bulking phase. Since 60% of the human body consists of water, bodily functions feel the effects of a lack of water.
There are several signs of dehydration:
- Infrequent urination
- Dark urine
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
The human body loses a great deal of water during an intense workout primarily from sweat. Since bulking involves strenuous exercises, most bodybuilders sweat profusely during the bulking phase’s exercises.
If not enough water is drunk before, after, or during an exercise, you could feel the effects of dehydration.
Can bulking cause stomach pain? Yes, when bulking if you do not take in enough water to replace the amount they are losing in sweat during their workouts, it is common to feel nauseated and even experience stomach cramps.
Also, if you fill your stomach with more food than it can digest, this will also lead to stomach pain as you release more digestive enzymes to break down the food.
Eating More Calories
Another significant element of bulking: increased caloric intake. Serious trainers on a bulking phase will usually take in 10-20% more calories than necessary for weight maintenance.
Such a drastic change in eating habits is bound to manifest itself in multiple ways.
Often, people experience nausea due to eating more than they are accustomed to taking in daily. The human body takes time to adjust to significant changes in caloric intake.
Eating larger meals and eating more often every day can also lead to abdominal discomfort and pain. The stomach is stretched further than usual after every meal while bulking. The intestinal tract also begins to work overtime.
Many people feel constantly bloated during the bulking phase. A bodybuilder may notice that his stomach distends after bulking meals. This discomfort can last for weeks.
The body does adjust to increased caloric intake after a period, but in the meantime, nausea, bloating, and intestinal discomfort are common.
During the bulking phase, some people focus on calorie intake without taking nutritional balance into account. This practice can easily lead to feeling ill.
While it is essential to take in significantly more calories than usual during a bulking phase, many people make the mistake of turning to fried foods, sugary drinks, and desserts to meet their daily intake goals. These foods increase the chances of feeling nauseous and bloated and can also lead to intestinal hardships.
Even those who oversee their macros and try to incorporate a balanced diet including vegetables, legumes, and plenty of protein often consume less fiber than they should. Fiber deficiency can lead to the intestinal tract becoming backed up, making a bodybuilder feel sluggish, bloated, and even nauseous.
When bulking, most people will increase their protein intake the facilitate muscle growth and recovery. However, consuming too much protein is a common mistake. An overabundance of protein can cause constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fat gain.
Therefore, start a bulk with a consumption of 0.8g – 1.2 of protein per pound of bodyweight. A 200lb individual could start a bulk consuming 160g of protein per day which would be 0.8g per 1lb bodyweight (to calculate this, take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.8).
Another common side effect of bulking is fatigue. I’ve previously covered why bulking can make you tired despite what you’d initially think when consuming more calories. The main reason being that it takes energy to digest food and the more food you eat, the more your body needs to prioritize digesting the food.
Those on a bulk will also follow intense weight-lifting regimens. It is necessary to break down muscle fibers to spur hypertrophy (muscle growth). When energy is high, this is the key time to push your lifts, get stronger in the gym, and force your body to adapt and grow.
While intense workouts are essential to achieve the goals of the bulking phase, it is equally imperative to obtain an appropriate amount of rest. A whole night’s sleep is vital, taking a day or two off from working out every week.
Fatigue manifests itself in several ways:
- Sore muscles
- Muscle weakness
When fatigue becomes advanced, its symptoms can be similar to the flu. A tired individual may even run a fever and suffer intestinal distress.
In addition, a tired body is more vulnerable to illness. Failure to get an appropriate amount of sleep regularly or take suitable breaks from strenuous activities like working out can weaken the immune system. In this state, catching an illness or infection becomes exponentially more likely.
Many people will take workout supplements, often before a workout, to help boost muscle growth, endurance, and energy. These supplements are even more common during the bulking stage than the other stages of the dieting process.
The scientific evidence for the benefits of many of these supplements is mixed, but many bodybuilders and coaches swear by them and claim to experience a significant boost from using them.
Unfortunately, many of these supplements can also have unpleasant side effects. Nausea and vomiting are the most common side effects. Supplements can also lead to diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
One of the worst supplements for this is a cheap mass gainer that won’t often work for its intended purpose because it’s loaded with sugar!
Sometimes, these side effects occur from improper mixing of the supplements. Adding too little water to the mixture can lead to the feelings of illness that these supplements can cause.
In other cases, the ingredients themselves can be a problem, especially if you turn out to be allergic to or intolerant of a critical component. Using different supplements simultaneously can also lead to feeling ill if they interact in unpleasant ways.
Most people think a bulking phase is easy. You can eat what you want, train hard, and build an unlimited amount of lean muscle mass in the process. Unfortunately, those new to bulking will find out that this is not true at all.
A bulk requires a methodical approach with just as much attention to overall calorie intake as what you’d give when cutting. If you throw caution to the wind and eat as much as you possibly can, chances are you’re going to feel sick and have stomach pain rather than an unbelievable pump in the gym.
To solve this, start a bulk with a moderate 150kcal – 300kcal surplus above your maintenance calorie requirements. This will at least give your body time to adjust and start to use the excess calories for muscle recovery and growth rather than storing them as excess body fat.
Feeling sick on a bulk is just one of the side-effects you could experience if you don’t ensure you are following a sensible bulking strategy. To see some other bulking issues, check out:
- Is it normal to feel fat while bulking
- Does bulking make your face fat
- Can’t gain weight when bulking
- Clothes no longer fit when bulking
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