I don't know about you, but one of the worst feelings in the world is being hungry.  The reality is that hunger is going to be there from time to time, especially if you are in a calorie deficit trying to lose body fat.  Fear not, I have collected a few hacks to blunt hunger when it strikes!  

First, a quick note on psychological hunger (mental) vs. physiological hunger (physical).  Mental hunger is simply the desire to eat food out of habit or craving.  Physical hunger is going to rear it's ugly head in the form of stomach emptiness, hunger pangs, feelings of weakness, etc.  Listen to your body - if the hunger you are experiencing is deep physical hunger, then eat some damn food!  Otherwise, for mental hunger or minor physical hunger, think about using some of the below tips.

#1- Black Coffee
Black coffee is an amazing drink with one of it's main benefits being a big time appetite suppressant.  I have found that no trick can blunt hunger nearly as well as coffee can.  However, for best results, it should be consumed black and on it's own.  Some Splenda or low calorie creamers are fine, but once you start adding excess calories in or pairing with a muffin or donut, it's potency will decrease exponentially. 

Try using coffee strategically for when you get hungry (for most it's that 9-11am window while at work) instead of drinking coffee just to drink coffee.  You'll be amazed at how quickly and for how long it blunts hunger.  For afternoon hunger issues, stick with decaf.

#2- Sparkling Water/Diet Soda
I use coffee as my main tool but when that's not available, sparkling water or diet soda do a great job.  Don't worry, a diet soda here and there is not going to have a negative impact on your health.

#3- Water
Sometimes, the hunger you are feeling is not hunger at all.  You may just be thirsty!  Hunger and thirst can have similar symptoms.  Throw back some high quality H20.

#4- Eat less frequent, larger meals
I know bros will read this and curse me for putting down their 6 meals a day routine.  While that may work for some, the majority will not succeed on this approach.  It may sound counterintuitive but eating can lead to more hunger.  If you are eating several small meals comprised of 200-300 calories, satiety (feeling full) will never set in.  That is just not enough food to fill you up.  I ate this way for several years and sometimes I would eat a small meal and would literally be hungrier afterwards!

I suggest eating 2-3 times per day, depending on your lifestyle.  What sounds better- eating 1,800 calories in six meals (300 calories/meal) and being hungry all day and night vs. 1,800 calories in 2 large meals with a snack (a 200 calorie snack with 2 large 800 calorie meals)?  Those dense meals are going to be way more satisfying.

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Ahh, tis' the season to be bulking.  In this article I am going to discuss what bulking is, the problems with it in the fitness industry, and finally how to set up a productive bulk phase.

If you know a bro who is bulking, please, share this with them- it just may save their life. 

What bulking is commonly known as

A period of time, usually stretching from early fall to early spring, where bros all across the world gorge on as much food as they can possibly handle in order to get the ever elusive gainz.  A substantial amount of fat will be put on in the process, but it's OK because "gainz bro".  Being in a caloric surplus is mandatory for muscle gain just as a caloric deficit is mandatory for fat loss.  The guideline most commonly used is to gain one pound per week while bulking.  Bulking was popularized by "enhanced" bodybuilders who took the weight gain to the extreme during the off season.  Come cut time, the "enhancements" allowed them to shed all of the excess body fat very easily while maintaining all of the muscle they gained.  Hence the phrase "you gotta eat big to get big" was born.  Even I have drank the Kool Aid before, as recently as last year, packing on 25 pounds while bulking.

Why the mainstream bulking concept is flawed

First off, there is a whole binge eating/eating disorder aspect to bulking that everyone seems to ignore but I'm not getting into that here.

My main focus is on muscle to fat ratio in a bulk, as there is a cap to how much muscle we can gain if not "enhanced."  If you are on the sauce, feel free to stop reading here as none of this applies to you.  If you are all natty, our potential muscle gains are depressing after the newbie gains we get during the first year of weight training.  Here's an overview from Lyle McDonald's website, www.bodyrecomposition.com (if you are unfamiliar with Lyle, check out his site. It's awesome).  The majority of experts out there have very similar numbers to his.

Years of Proper Training           Max Muscle Gain/Year 
  • 1                                            20-25 lbs (2 lbs/month)
  • 2                                            10-12 lbs (1 lbs/month)
  • 3                                            5-6 lbs (.5 lbs/month)
  • 4+                                          2-3 lbs (.25 lbs/month)

If you've been lifting for 4+ years, 2-3 pounds of muscle gain/year MAX (.25 lbs/month) is all you can expect.  And this is if you are doing EVERYTHING right (being in a calorie surplus year round, progressively overloading in your weight training, sleeping 8+ hours, etc.).  While it's depressing to see numbers that small, you have to just accept the facts and plan how to maximize it.

Most people who are reading this are most likely in that 3+ years of training category.  Knowing that the MAXIMUM amount of muscle you can gain is .25-.5 lbs/month, why would you want to gain 1 lbs/week during a bulk?  That would be 4 lbs/month of which .5 is muscle and 3.5 is fat (see the problem?).  Let's play this out over a full bulking cycle from September-February and assume that you are hitting muscle growth of .5/lbs month.

5 month bulking phase @ +1 lbs/week
  • Total weight gained:     20 lbs
  • Total muscle gained:    2.5 lbs
  • Total fat gained:            17.5 lbs
  • % gained from fat:        88%

Yup, that innocent little 1 lbs/week gain just made your cut months longer.  And for what, a barely noticeable amount of muscle?  Again, 2.5 pounds of muscle would be BEST CASE SCENARIO and is most likely less.  As you get fatter, insulin sensitivity drops meaning that nutrients aren't being shuttled into muscles as efficiently as they were when you were leaner.  This equates to less muscle growth.  So once you hit that 15-17% body fat mark, it's likely that any weight gain is going to be fat.

That 17.5 pounds of fat is going to be a pain in the ass to cut off to get you ready for that big Memorial Day weekend party.  At 1 lbs/week fat loss (safe and healthy pace for fat loss) you are looking at 4.5 months of cutting.  Yeah, that doesn't get you ready in time to play shirtless beer pong at that party.  So, you decide to get more aggressive and lose 2 lbs/week.  Similar to how we can only gain so much muscle in a week, we can only lose so much fat in a week as well.  Once you hit that 2 lbs/week mark, chances are you are tapping into muscle as well to burn as energy.  So as sad as it sounds, you may actually lose most, if not all, of that 2.5 lbs of muscle and be exactly where you were when the bulk started.

Here's an idea- don't get so fat during the bulk.  I know it's fun to eat entire pizzas and thousands of calories in a sitting but there's a better way to gain muscle while keeping the fat gains to a minimum.  

How to set up a proper bulk

How do I know if I should bulk?
If your body fat percentage is currently 15% or higher, you should not be bulking.  Cut down to ~10% body fat and then bulk.  To test body fat you can buy a body fat caliper or literally just google "body fat percentage" and there will be picture charts of people at different body fat percentages.  This should give you a rough idea of where you are at.  Also, it should go without saying that you shouldn't be bulking if not lifting weights.  Your muscles need a stimulus to grow (resistance training) so without that stimulus any weight gain will just be fat.

How much should I gain per week?
Beginners (no weight training experience): Gain 1 lbs/week
This is the only category of lifters that I would recommend gaining 1 lbs/week.  The newbie gains only come once so you should be maximizing that potential and thinking long term, not about short term fat gain.

Everyone else (1+ years weight training experience): Gain .5 lbs/week
Yes this will still come with some fat gain but instead of putting on 17.5 lbs of fat from the above example it would be 9 lbs instead.  That can be taken care of in a 6 week cut.  .5 lbs/week will promote muscle gain while keeping fat to a minimum.

How much food should I be eating?
This comes down to calories.  First step is finding your maintenance calories (amount of calories where your weight holds steady for 2 weeks).  This is going to be different for everyone but a good starting point is to take your body weight and multiply it by 14.  So, for a 180lb dude that would be ~2,500 calories.  If you lose weight at this intake, add 100 calories/week until your weight holds steady.  If you gain weight at this intake, subtract 100 calories/week until your weight holds steady.  It's important to chill out at maintenance for a few weeks because that's where your body is most comfortable and will allow all of your hormones to stabilize before entering into an extended caloric surplus.  Make sure that you are getting 1 gram per pound of body weight in protein (180g if you weigh 180 lbs) or roughly 30% of your calories.  The remaining calories can come from carbs and fats.

After 2 weeks of being at maintenance, simply add in 100 calories/week until you start gaining .5 lbs/week.  You will hit weight gain plateaus as your body adapts to the new calorie intake.  If your weight holds steady for a week straight (plateau), bump your calories up another 100/week until you start gaining .5 lbs/week again.
How long should I bulk for?
Everyone is going to have different goals but I would gain until the earlier of:

A) The date you want to begin your cut 
B) When you hit 15-17% body fat

Point B is very important.  As discussed earlier, higher body fat percentages are associated with lower insulin sensitivity which is going to blunt your muscle gains.  Also, body fat ranges above 15-17% means a long cut to lose the added weight.

Remember, there is a way to make your bulk productive by keeping fat gain to a minimum while adding lean muscle.  I hope you found this helpful and remember to share with a bro who is bulking- it just may save their life!

90's kids- do you remember the life/health meter on the screen in games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter?  Every time your fighter took a punch or roundhouse kick to the head your health meter would reduce.  Once down to 0% it was game over.  Well this is kind of how our willpower works.  Every decision and thought we have throughout the day gradually reduces our Willpower Meter until it is down to nothing.  How you decide to order your coffee at Dunkin Donuts, the 3 meetings you have during the day, the talk you have with your kid about misbehaving all contribute to reducing your Willpower Meter.  By the time 7pm rolls around, how much mental capacity and willpower do you realistically have left to eat a salad instead of ordering pizza?  Most of us overeat at night more than any other time during the day because that's when our Willpower Meter is lowest.  It’s cruel how our willpower is lowest when our cravings are highest but there are ways around it.

How to hack the Willpower Meter

Hack #1: Automation
Automate or pre-plan as much as possible so you aren't making as many decisions during the day. Examples would be eating the same breakfast, not checking email until a designated time (I usually wait until 9-10a), or going to the gym at the same time every day.  Decisions on auto pilot become habits therefore do not get factored into your Willpower Meter.  Bringing it back around to eating, more willpower left in the bank at night will make good food choices easier.

Hack# 2: Saving calories for later in the day (Calorie Backloading and Intermittent Fasting)
This entails eating most of your calories later in the day while eating smaller meals or no meals earlier in the day. It's easier to make good food choices earlier in the day when your Willpower Meter is highest. Going to use myself as an example to illustrate why saving calories is a good idea.  Towards the end of my most recent fat loss phase I was consuming ~2,000 calories daily, which is not a ton of food for someone my size.  If I ate 6 equal meals throughout the day starting in the early morning, that would equate to 333 calories per meal.  That is absolutely miserable as I would never get that satisfied or full feeling.  I'd also most likely be going to bed hungry which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.  This is not sustainable and would eventually lead to giving in and overeating.

How do you make it work then?  

Well first off, don't eat 6 meals and save your largest meals for later in the day (Calorie Backloading).  By lowering your number of meals in the 2-4 range, you are allotted much more calories per feeding.  If you eat 4 meals per day it can look something like this- 200 calories before the gym in AM, 300 calories after the gym in AM, 600 calories at lunch, and 900 calories at dinner/snack time.  Or, you can even skip breakfast entirely and wait to have your first meal at lunch time (aka Intermittent Fasting, I use this approach on my off days).  This opens up the door for epic, gigantic meals!

These bigger meals in the afternoon/night hours are so satisfying that you won't even feel like you're dieting.  By having less meals thus larger calorie meals, you are able to fit in higher calorie foods you crave that wouldn't work if eating a lot of food earlier in the day or eating every few hours.  An example would be a piece of cheesecake or a slice of pizza (both are roughly 400-500 calories) as a snack after dinner. A great approach if you have a stressful job and know you will struggle with willpower in the nighttime hours.  Willpower hacked.

This approach also works very well if you are socially active as most events like happy hour, dinner, or parties occur at night.  Imagine going out for dinner and drinks knowing you only had 200 calories left for the day.  That is going to be a terrible experience, you might as well not even go.  Instead, save your calories so you can enjoy yourself!  Side note- don't worry about eating late at night.  That's a complete BS myth that has been scientifically debunked several times.  All that matters is your total calories for the day.  

I've taken many steps to automate as much as possible in both my professional and personal life. For the Calorie Backloading/Intermittent Fasting piece, it's one part working around willpower later in the day and one part that most people are hungriest at night. Personally, I have no problems eating small meals early in the day knowing there is a large meal I love waiting for me at night.  It's kind of like a reward for a productive and successful day. 

The moral of the story is by saving calories for later in the day you won't have to demonstrate much willpower at night when it is the lowest, while at the same time enjoying your favorite foods.  Don't fight willpower, hack it!

If you need some help figuring out your specific calorie and macronutrient breakdown, shoot me an email.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram @theshreddedsalesman



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