I finally did it. My first ever, proper bulk.
+ strength gains
For years, I've cycled in and out of a calorie deficit followed by what I thought was a "calorie surplus" because I could not for the life of me commit to a growth phase. I was SCARED. I was UNCOMFORTABLE. I was stuck in this cycle of switching my goals back and forth every two weeks. I'd commit to growth, start to feel extremely uncomfortable eating so much, so I'd quickly switch back to a deficit where I'd feel too hungry and miserable to go on, hence switching back yet again to a growth phase. AND REPEAT. I made little progress either way. You have got to commit yourself to a goal and stick with it for at least 3 months to give it a proper go. Any change is uncomfortable because it's not what you're used to. Here is what I've learned about myself and the process over the last 5 months.
My maintenance calories are a hell of a lot higher than I thought.
I've been massively undereating for most of my life.
I won't achieve my dream physique with just a single cycle of bulking/cutting. It's going to take several cycles.
It takes a lot longer to build muscle that I thought (and I knew it took a long time).
You will feel extremely uncomfortable.
It's mentally challenging more than anything. A total mind f*ck. You need to keep reminding yourself why you're doing it.
It's really hard to eat only whole foods when you're eating in a surplus. Food quality does matters.
It's also really hard to not exceed 35g of fiber a day when eating so much food. The bloat and gas will be real.
You need to pre-track your macros for the day so you don't end up with 1000 calories to eat at 8pm. Eating a lot before bed generally disrupts quality of sleep/digestion.
Post-meal walks are a must. With the density and volume of food required to bulk, I found it imperative to assist my digestion with after-meal movement.
Volume foods like leafy greens and vegetables must be kept to a minimum or you will get too full too fast and will overdo it on the fiber (of course eat enough to cover your micronutrient-bases).
You will have to eat when you're not hungry to hit your macros. That I what a bulk is - being in a caloric surplus (eating more than you burn). This isn't the epitome of health, but when you have physique/strength goals, it's necessary to get there efficiently.
Overall, I'm proud of myself for sticking this out. The number of times I wanted to quit, the number of times I almost threw in the towel..but I didn't. I kept on keeping on reminding myself daily (sometimes several times a day) why I was doing it.
"Do you want to stay in the same place or do you want to grow?"
You have to be really honest with yourself. I was tired of wanting a certain physique and knowing that what I've been doing was not going to get me there. Playing it safe will not get you the results you're after.