It’s easy for people to describe the struggles of a cutting phase, low energy levels, hunger pangs with a high appetite, mood swings, decrease in strength, feeling tired/irritable and I could go on because to be honest and say that getting to a low body fat percentage is hard.
What people often ignore however is the struggles that you can face when bulking.
It’s easy to assume that being able to eat more means that there should be no downsides but for some on a bulk, you need to deal with excess fat gain, bloating, low appetite, a fast metabolism and the purpose of this article which is a slow metabolism.
A slow metabolism sees you gain excess body fat very easily and therefore the higher you make your calorie surplus in order to build muscle the more fat you actually gain in the process which isn’t ideal!
How to bulk with a slow metabolism? To bulk with a slow metabolism you will need to keep your daily calorie surplus very low at 100kcal – 200kcal above maintenance requirements. You will also need to track weight daily and ensure that you are gaining no more than 1lb per week of body weight on average.
A slow metabolism is a serious issue for those that want to have a successful bulk and therefore this article will outline what you need to do to reduce the effects of this and get optimal results in terms of muscle growth with minimal fat gain.
Table of Contents
Is It Better to Have a Fast or Slow Metabolism
There are very few people that have blessed genetics meaning that everything they eat turns to muscle. For most you will fall into more of a category of struggling to build muscle or putting on size in general (fast metabolism) or those that store body fat at a rapid weight but can still build muscle (slow metabolism).
When it comes to the two a fast metabolism is often associated with a hardgainer or ectomorph who are naturally skinny and struggles to gain any sort of size. Those with a fast metabolism are usually classified as endomorphs, have a large frame and gain body fat easily.
When it comes to which is better for bulking out of a fast metabolism or slow metabolism then I’d honestly say the preference would be a fast metabolism. Struggling to gain weight can easily be rectified by simply increasing the calorie intake.
Many will say it’s not as simple as that but if you know your maintenance calorie requirements and consume a set meal plan then increasing the calories when you see no progress in systematic and controlled increments will see progress.
In my opinion that is just simply not a debatable topic and the science and math will back it up. When it comes to having a slow metabolism however you have to be significantly more careful with your caloric intake and therefore need to track your diet as diligently as you would when cutting.
Regardless of your goal, when it comes to physique development tracking your food and logging your scale weight and training lifts will always be beneficial as you have data from which you can act upon. For this reason I have never been a fan or dirty bulking or flexible eating because changing variables makes it more difficult to know what is working and what isn’t for each individual.
Is a Slow Metabolism Good for Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding is a term that I use loosely but one that is most relevant for anyone bulking. If you go through specific cutting and bulking cycles and follow a weight lifting routine then you are essentially bodybuilding.
Some will call it physique development or just getting into shape but you don’t need to compete in tiny trunks with a load of spray tan in order to be active in terms of bodybuilding. Therefore bodybuilding is the best point of reference for the purpose of this article because it’s bodybuilders that are meticulous about diet and training which includes metabolism manipulation.
It’s safe to say that a slow metabolism is not good for bodybuilding which means it’s not good for physique development which ultimately means it’s not good for bulking.
This is because a successful bulk will see you gain the maximum amount of muscle mass possible whilst also gaining as little body fat as possible in the process. It’s of course a difficult thing to accomplish in general but a slow metabolism compounds the difficulty.
If you don’t digest, metabolize and partition your nutrients optimally then the preference will go towards being stored as body fat rather being utilized for muscle energy and growth in the form of muscle glycogen stores.
Therefore it’s essential that you accept the fact that you have a slow metabolism early in your bulking phase not to use it as an excuse but to put a plan of action in place to combat this.
How to Bulk With a Slow Metabolism
The number one thing that I would say when bulking with a slow appetite is that you will need to have patience and take things at a slower pace. Sure that’s easy to say in theory but we live in a society where convenience and speed of results are considered to be a priority.
Instant meals, zero load time, instant results are phrases that are so common that they often go unnoticed and I’ll admit that you will of course want to see results and progress for your dieting and training efforts.
I do need to emphasize though that with a slow metabolism you unfortunately cannot adopt this mentality. A rush for results will see you gain excess fat at a rapid rate and this fat will then take a long time and a lot of effort to burn off as a result.
Therefore the following 3 tips/rules/strategies are crucial for bulking with a slow metabolism not only to ensure that you actually do build muscle during your bulk but to make sure you don’t gain an excessive amount of body fat and ruin your physique in the process.
Work out Your Calorie Surplus Requirements
The first and perhaps more important thing that you will need to do when starting a bulk with a slow metabolism is working out how many calories you need to consume on a daily basis just to maintain weight.
This is known as your maintenance calorie requirements and is a crucial aspect when it comes to setting your calorie surplus for a bulk.
It wouldn’t make sense to pick a surplus at random or consume a random amount of calories each day and hope that it’s enough to facilitate muscle growth. Most people that don’t calculate their maintenance calorie requirements are the same people that say they can’t gain weight no matter how much they eat.
Well as someone with a slow metabolism, it’s far more risky for you to not go through this calculating process because a failure to set your calories right will likely mean fat gain will be your end result.
Therefore use this handy online calculator to work out your maintenance calorie requirements. At 180lbs my maintenance calorie requirements are 2,997kcals according to that calculator.
This means that just to maintain my current weight I need to consume 3,000kcals per day which is already 500 calories above the recommended average guideline. The reason for this is of course my lifestyle and level of muscle mass but you can see how easy it is to not realize how many calories you actually require on a day to day basis.
Once you have this number you are simply going to add 200kcals to it as your calorie surplus, in may case my bulking surplus would be 3,200kcals per day (rounded up by 3 calories).
Personally, though I can tell my metabolism is slowing down a bit as I reach 30 years old there is still no denying that I have a fast metabolism and struggle to hold a heavy body weight, so I would actually have a surplus of 300kcal – 500kcals.
Hopefully if you’ve been following along with this article you will be aware that you are not me and that the higher surplus you have the more likely it is that you won’t optimally utilize these excess calories and will start to store them as body fat.
Therefore you need to be consuming a surplus of 200 calories and then making sure your weight is not changing too drastically as a result (more on this shortly).
If progress stalls for 1-2 weeks then you can increase the surplus by 100kcal – 200kcal at an absolute maximum and no more. This is a small increment compared to some people but what you need to consider is that with a slow metabolism you need to keep the increases small and manageable.
Consume Smaller Meals
Consuming smaller meals spaced throughout the day will mean you can better utilize calories consumed, especially if you space them around workouts when calorie and nutrient demands by the body are highest.
There is no solid research to show that meal timing has any specific influence on body composition and what really matters is overall calorie consumption.
What smaller meals will do for those with a slower metabolism is allow sufficient time to optimally break down food and ensure that you don’t have too large a surplus sitting in your stomach at any one time.
The body is an efficient machine so I’m not claiming that you can trick it but if you consume a meal before your workout this will then be used as energy to fuel the workout and then consume a meal afterwards to replenish these energy stores then this is an example of timing your food for optimal utilization.
It may seem contradictory if I’m saying that total calorie consumption and surplus is all that matters but with a slow metabolism you need to make sure you don’t put excess strain on your digestive system by consuming large meals.
Smaller meals are easier to break down and digest, the less work your body needs to do the better you can utilize your calories consumed.
Take a Weekly Scale Weight Average
This point really is crucial, weight changes for everyone on a daily basis by a few pounds either way depending on a number of factors.
Water retention, digestion, food weight, bowel movement and a range of other factors will mean that a weight change from day to day is to be expected rather than something you are surprised or disappointed by.
You need to check your weight each day at the same time, from the same location and on an empty stomach to start to gather data and a feedback loop. This reading each day will be irrelevant for that day however,
If you wake up and have lost 1lb or gained 2lbs it doesn’t matter for that specific day, what matters is the weekly average of your weight.
If it fluctuates daily but then on Sunday you can see that you have gained 0.5lbs then that is a good sign for a bulk (optimal rate of muscle growth for beginners is around 0.5lbs per week).
If however you see that you have averaged a total weight gain of 3lbs then you should instantly know that as an average it’s unlikely to be water retention fluctuations and it certainly won’t be muscle mass which means it’s a clear indication of fat gain.
This is where you will pull back your calories and reduce the surplus. You could also see that you might have actually lost weight over the week and in this case you will increase your calorie surplus.
Whatever the situation it’s essential that you keep a log of your weight and make adjustments on a weekly basis that is influenced by your average weight change.
This is the way to successfully bulk with a slow metabolism and ensure that you are not gaining too much body fat in the process.
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