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For anyone following a bulking phase, you’ll know it isn’t easy.
Trying to consume a daily and weekly surplus the further into a bulking phase you get is hard, especially if your calorie surplus means you need to eat in excess of 4,000 calories per day. Trying to find some easily digestible foods that are calorie-dense (high in calories) therefore becomes a priority task.
One type of food that people turn to when bulking is ice cream.
Ice cream passes the high calorie, easy-to-digest criteria but is ice cream good for bulking or will it cause you more issues in the long run?
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What is Ice Cream
Ice cream is a frozen food made primarily from milk or cream. Typically, ice cream is consumed as a dessert and for this reason, it’s considered a treat (or a cheat) when dieting.
If you’re reading this you know what ice cream is but for the purpose of bulking, it’s a high carb (sugar), high calorie food and does not have ideal macros for building muscle – though it can definitely contribute to weight gain easily.
Ice Cream Calories
As mentioned, ice cream is a high-calorie snack that’s also high in carbohydrates. A 100g serving of vanilla ice cream provides the following nutritional values:
While 100g gram might be a normal serving for the general public, it’s likely not a normal serving for someone bulking up or bodybuilding. Most people bulking will consume a pint of ice cream (the standard Ben & Jerry size tubs) and this translates to around 475g so almost 5 x the amount of a general 100g serving.
At 475g servings, you’ll be having 984 calories (almost 1,000 calories per serving), with 114g of carbohydrates and 52g of fat accompanying this. To put it into perspective, this could be close to the daily calorie target for someone cutting and it would be consumed in just one sitting!
You can therefore take this as either good or bad news. Ice cream for the most part is easy to digest as it melts into liquid form while consuming it. So, much like liquid calories are great for hitting your surplus and bulking with a low appetite, ice cream can provide the same benefit.
The obvious drawback is that it’s easy to knock back a full tub of ice cream and this can lead to binge eating or significantly going over your targeted surplus for the day.
Is Ice Cream Good for Bulking
Ice cream is good for bulking but only when consumed in moderation once or twice per week. As ice cream is calorie-dense, it will help you hit a calorie surplus needed when bulking but the high sugar content could result in excess and unwanted fat gain if consumed daily as part of a regular diet.
When looking at ice cream as a bulking food, it’s easy to get carried away and assume it’s a great choice as an easy way to up your daily calories. The issue is when you look at the macro breakdown.
The calories are mostly made up of carbs and fat, while the protein content is very low. This is not ideal when you are trying to support muscle growth!
Most people bulking will be training hard in the gym and recovery needs to be prioritized along with maintaining a calorie surplus and your protein intake will go a long way towards that. At just 3.5g of protein per 100g of ice cream, you are really restricting your daily intake.
This means you’ll need to consume more of other foods in order to up this intake so ice cream won’t necessarily help you when it comes to eating a surplus as the macro ratio is not ideal.
Further to this, ice cream has very low amounts of micronutrients and it’s not something you should be having as a staple food within a bulking diet.
How to Eat Ice Cream When Bulking
Having seen the above, it’s easy to see why a pint of ice cream could be appealing for someone bulking. It’s easy to eat and at close to 1,000 calories you’ll definitely be putting yourself into a calorie surplus for the day!
Related – Best dirty bulking foods
In order to successfully have ice cream on a bulk though, you should utilize some of the following strategies.
1) Limit How Much You Have
You might be having ice cream to hit your surplus targets but this isn’t something you should be doing every day. Ice cream is not a nutritious food and should not be a staple in your diet, even when bulking. Therefore, try to limit the frequency of ice cream rather than the quantity.
Once or twice per week should be good enough to satisfy your appetite and help you out when you’re struggling to hit your daily caloric target.
2) Factor Ice Cream Into Your Macros
Tracking macros is something you should be doing even on a bulk. When tracking macros, you have the freedom to modify your food choices and include some foods that wouldn’t be considered nutritious when bulking.
You’d need to sacrifice some other food sources in order to do this but it’s possible to include ice cream in your diet if you can make the macros work. To do this, you’d need to reduce the number of carbs from other foods and increase the protein intake (using lean meat, fish, or powder) but it’s definitely a viable option and it’s the foundation of an IIFYM diet.
3) Have Alternatives
I’ll cover this in more detail in the next section but there are viable alternatives to ice cream that will satisfy your cravings, help you get some extra calories, but not come with the same drawbacks as feasting on ice cream does.
Ice Cream Alternatives for Bulking
Ice cream can be a good food choice when bulking. It’s high in calories and easy to consume – two very important things when trying to maintain a surplus each day. In honesty though it’s not an ideal choice.
The low nutrient value and classification as “junk food” do not put it in a good light for people trying to build muscle and ultimately improve their physique. As with most things diet and training, moderation is key and it’s definitely easy to fit ice cream into a bulking diet.
If you’re struggling, it’s worth noting that there are some alternatives to ice cream which might be a better option for a bulk.
Low Calorie Ice Cream
Low-calorie ice creams are a game-changer for people on a cut. These relatively new products have significantly reduced amounts of cream as an ingredient and while they don’t have the same texture as full-fat ice cream, they are much lower in fat, carbs, sugars, and calories.
Related – Can you eat ice cream while cutting
Halo Top is a low-calorie ice cream (if it can be considered that) that has almost revolutionized dieting choices for people cutting and losing weight. It’s a market leader and has lower calories per tub whilst having a slightly raised quantity of protein.
It’s not quite the same as regular ice cream but it still provides some easy calories if you’re struggling to hit your daily requirement but does so with more favorable macros.
Greek Yogurt & Whey
Greek yogurt is an equally creamy option when compared to ice cream but doesn’t have the same sweet taste. Most people like to have ice cream as a treat and to satisfy a craving and Greek yogurt isn’t necessarily something that does that.
With greek yogurt though, you get significantly better macro ratios. A 100g serving gives the following nutritional values:
Now, lower calories might seem like an issue but the noticeably higher protein amount is definitely more beneficial for body composition.
You can also get Greek style yogurt which doesn’t have as good of a macro breakdown but is still better than ice cream.
The “hack” and reason this is an alternative to ice cream is that it mixes well with whey protein. This has been my go-to dessert option for years as you can increase your calorie and protein intake without having to sacrifice so much in the way of carbs or fats.
For cravings and easy calories, this is definitely one you should try out.
Bulking diets are generally quite hard to get right. As you have more freedom in terms of calorie intake, it’s much easier to lean toward a dirty bulking strategy and eat less than optimal foods. Ice cream is one of these foods.
There are two ways to view ice cream on a bulk. The first is that it’s an easy way to get some additional calories, especially if you are struggling to hit your daily requirements. The issue is that ice cream isn’t great in terms of a macro breakdown.
If having it in moderation, ice cream can be good for a bulk as it provides some easy-to-consume calories (in particular carbs). If you’re worried about excessive calories though, opt for an alternative like a low-calorie ice cream or Greek yogurt combined with whey protein.
See next – Snacks for bulking