When it comes to building muscle, bulking is often the dieting strategy used to accomplish this.
While it might sound easy (and fun) to eat a tonne of calories each day to fuel training and facilitate muscle repair and growth, many people actually find that bulking is hard.
Consuming surplus calories, especially when you’re not hungry isn’t easy but there are some other challenges like:
- The time needed to prep your meals
- Cost of eating so much food
- Not being hungry enough to hit your calorie target
- The time needed to eat your meals
Something you can see is that time is a major restriction when it comes to bulking. This becomes even more challenging for people that work a full-time job and can’t dedicate all day to training and eating as you see in motivational bodybuilding YouTube videos.
Therefore, read on and we’ll explain how to bulk with a full time job and outline strategies and tips to ensure you hit your calorie goals without it impacting your working schedule.
Note – this is focusing on a regular 9-5 job, if you work a demanding physical job or work night shifts then we’ve got a dedicated article for these coming out soon.
How to Bulk With a Full Time Job
It’s worth stating that working your full-time job is the obvious priority as that’s what pays the bills, but, I understand why you can see it as getting in the way of your training/eating.
Before looking into tips you need to look at the opportunities around full-time work and bulking rather than viewing it as an impossible task.
Firstly, you know that when working a full-time job you’ll have a regular schedule to work around. Sure, we have day-to-day disruptions, but 90% of the time, you’ll have a good idea of how your working week will look which means you can plan around this ahead of time.
Secondly, if you have access to a microwave, kettle, fridge, or local convenience store from your office then you already have everything you need to successfully bulk while working a full-time job.
Preparation and food selection are two of the key factors when it comes to bulking and work so below these are the two areas that I’ll expand on the most.
1) Prep Meals in Batches
Prepping your meals is the boring and most common tip you’ll hear when it comes to bulking but it is also the most essential – especially for successfully bulking with a full-time job.
I work a combination of 9-5 office work and occasional evening work so I can’t emphasize enough the importance of preparing meals in bulk.
Meetings, commuting, late evenings, overtime, and stress are all key issues that can cause you to lose track of your eating schedule and be forced to either miss a meal or have something that is not optimized for muscle growth.
If you run out of time to choose a high-calorie meal, you’ll end up choosing a quick meal that isn’t nutritious and doesn’t benefit your muscle-building goals. Being consistent with your eating is key for a bulk so you can’t be unprepared when eating around a job.
To be consistent you need to:
- Batch cook meals (enough to do 2-3 days per week)
- Have set meals (sound generic but have one meal like chicken, rice, and broccoli to save time cooking countless different meals)
- Pick dedicated cooking days each week – Sunday meal prep is by far the most popular
- Cook more than you need and freeze some meals. It’s better to have some meals stored up in case you miss a prep session
To simplify it, you only need to spend a few hours per week batch cooking and this means you’ll always stay consistent when working. It sounds like an effort to batch cook but you end up saving more time and don’t have an excuse to miss a meal so, meal prep is the #1 way to bulk with a full-time job.
2) Consume Liquid Calories
If you’re ever short on time while working, sitting down to eat a high-calorie meal is not really an option. Instead, you need to start utilizing quick calories and one of the best options for this is liquid calories.
Not only are high-calorie shakes quick to consume but they are also easy to digest.
An easy option that will suit most people is to start with supplements. Whey protein and mass gainer shakes are quick to mix and can offer 500-1000+ calories per serving depending on the brand or serving size.
For a more nutritious option, you should consider making your own shakes at home and bringing them to work with you. You can still utilize supplements but you can also blend in some wholefood ingredients.
Below is one of my go-to recipes that take around 1 minute to make and contains over 1000 calories per serving.
25g whey protein (flavor of your choice)
100g Scottish rolled oats
50g peanut butter
50g frozen berries
1 tsp cinnamon powder
300ml – 500ml milk (water can also be used but will lower the calorie count)
Blend all ingredients together
Total calorie breakdown – 1,050kcal. Protein 60g. Carbohydrates 103g. Fat 42g
3) Eat “Easy to Make” Meals
This ties into the above two points and that is time being scarce when working full time.
Ok, you’ll get set lunch times and breaks but to maximize your calories consumed at work, you want to be choosing meals that are easy to make, quick to make, and still high in calories.
Some of the best options for easy-to-make meals are:
- Proats (whey protein mixed with oats)
- Protein shakes
- Greek yogurt
- Peanut butter sandwiches
Don’t confuse these with more convenient ready-made meals. While microwave meals are still high in calories, the macronutrient split is very poor with most being high in saturated fat and salt.
The above options are easy to make but also have well balanced and favorable macronutrient profiles.
A ready made mac’n’cheese may be high in calories but a peanut butter sandwich will have a macro profile better suited for muscle growth.
4) Have a Supply of Bulking Snacks
Let’s face it, full-time jobs are busy/hectic for most people and it’s easy to lose track of time or find that you don’t have time to sit down and spend 15-20 minutes cooking and eating your meals. Therefore, you need to have a supply of high-calorie bulking snacks.
Easy-to-make meals were mentioned above but some of these still take some time to make. If you’re really stuck for time, commuting to meetings, or working in a difficult environment (like a construction site) then you might not even have the time or facilities to even make a sandwich!
If you can relate to these, it’s best to have a supply of bulking snacks. You can get some general snacks like nuts or cereal bars but if you’re bulking hard, you might want some more dedicated options.
These will typically be in the form of protein bars, protein cookies, or pre-made protein shakes.
For some of the best options, check out our list of the best bulking snacks.
When bulking with a full-time job, you need to be mindful that time is usually going to be the number one issue that makes it hard to stick to an eating routine. This can be both time to prepare or buy your meals and also time to eat them.
Therefore, when bulking with a full-time job you want to employ strategies that maximize time and ensure you can hit your daily calorie surplus requirements.
This is why some of the best bulking strategies when working full-time include meal prepping batches of meals a few times per week, having easy to make meals like sandwiches and shakes and finally, having a supply of bulking snacks for when you can’t make time for a full meal.
One key point to add is when working you still want to be focused and alert. Bulking is often known to make people tired and sleepy so check out our complementing article to ensure you’re not impacting your work while bulking.
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