Athletes say healthy bulking bolsters performance

February 10, 2020 — by Joann Zhang and Amanda Zhu

Bulking boosts confidence in athletes and gives them an advantage over their opponents in sports, among other benefits

Beginning in his freshman year, senior Skyler Van Cruyningen began incorporating workout and diet plans in a plan known as bulking.

“This is going to sound kind of conceited,” Van Cruyningen said, “but bulking has made me more confident, and like Moses, people move aside for me in the hallways.” 

Biblical comparisons aside, bulking has long been a favorite method of performance improvement in a wide variety of sports, from lacrosse to football. 

Bulking includes both dieting by eating extra calories and working out with heavy-weight exercises. 

Junior Karan Vazarani, who plays on the varsity football team and used to wrestle, has gained 20 pounds since the end of last football season through bulking. To do this, he exercises during Red Day tutorials and had been following a diet consisting of mainly meat, before he switched to a plant-based diet to get more protein. 

Similarly, Van Cruyningen, who plays soccer for the Saratoga United Soccer Club, follows a strict regimen of exercises and dieting. Although it is not necessary for soccer, Van Cruyningen bulks as it helps him stay in shape and stay healthy. For exercises, both he and Vazarani perform bench presses, deadlifts and squats. As for dieting, Cruyningen tries to consume one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. 

“I feel like I can run faster and longer now,” Cruyningen said. “I definitely have more stamina.” 

Cruyningen has improved his strength drastically — he went from squatting 135 pounds over the summer to 300 pounds, benching 125 pounds to 185 pounds, and his deadlift has increased to 365 pounds. 

Physical improvements aside, both Vazarani and Cruyningen say they have gained confidence and improved body image. 

“I used to be really skinny,” Cruyningen said, “but bulking has really boosted my confidence a lot.” 

Junior Nathan Murphy, who bulks up for football, has also seen a host of benefits. He said that getting his weight from 170 pounds to 210 pounds has given him an edge on the football field with increased strength and stamina over opponents. Ever since Murphy has been taking weight lifting more seriously, he consistently works out for four to five days a week, lifting as much weight as possible for as many reps as he can without breaking form. 

But not all bulking up is equally beneficial. For instance, “dirty bulking,” or bulking by consuming high-calorie, low-nutrient foods such as cake and ice cream, can be unhealthy, building fat along with muscle. 

“A lot of people don’t think bulking is a good thing,” Murphy said. “But if you eat clean, it can be a positive thing.” 

Murphy says that to bulk properly, he determined how many calories were needed to maintain his weight and then added 500 calories to that. He focused on increasing his protein intake and limiting his carbs intake. 

To properly bulk, Murphy ensured that he had a lean body fat percentage and solid diet plan before beginning. 

“Once you do that, bulking is really good and it’ll fuel your athletic performance,” Murphy said. “Just make sure you know what you’re doing.”

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