Part 3: Finding ATP and Dirty Bulking
I had gone about a year lifting/dieting on my own at this point. I knew what I was doing from a diet perspective but had no real idea how to train. I was still running the beginner Push Pull Legs (PPL) split from before and lacked any real guidance.
In addition to this, I had no idea on how to bulk properly, when to bulk, how long to bulk, when to cut, and also did not have the discipline to keep myself in a long enough surplus to see real gains.
I had also essentially emaciated myself to get to this point (remember, I ate 1850 calories every day for 4 months to get here). Those are like semi-deep prep-like calories for some. I started on 1850 from the beginning to the end. Ridiculous.
I still remember when I made the ‘decision’ to start reverse dieting and bulk, I went out that night and had dinner with my Dad where I ate close to 6k calories if I had to put a number on it (not an exaggeration). I went home that night sad, guilty, etc.
The next couple of weeks I experienced a hard rebound. I couldn’t control how much I was eating. I’d convince myself to have a small piece of that bagel, for example, and would end up eating all six in the pack, plus everything in my pantry (oatmeal, salsa, peanut butter, eggs…. really anything I could get my paws on).
This happened night after night for a couple of weeks. Why could I not control myself like I did so well earlier on my cut for 4 months?
Because I starved myself, gave myself no refeeds, and put my body into an incredibly distressed and starved state for 16 weeks. Again – a lesson learned here is to take it slow. The harder DOES NOT equal the better. The sustainable DOES equal better. This process of becoming the best version of yourself in the gym takes YEARS, so better approach things from a long-term perspective.
So, now I rebounded a bit. I looked fine, but, definitely not nearly as lean as I wanted to be or planned to be when starting a bulk. But I knew that I needed to bulk to add size anyways, because, at this point now I had spent 7 out of my first 12 months of lifting in a deficit trying to get “shredded bro”, rather than adding size, which is what the focus should be for those just starting out (for the most part).
While I had no clue what I was doing, I knew I wanted to take my physique to the next level, that I was certain.
So, naturally, I did what any young confused man-boy (23 y/o) would do today and I posted some progress photos on Reddit on the r/naturalbodybuilding sub (I think), asking for guidance on what I should do next (bulk or cut).
James (One of ATP’s Coaches) was thankfully a moderator of the sub and very active on the page. He replied to me, reached out, and asked if I ever needed any advice/guidance, to reach out to him.
I took a look at his posts, his Instagram, etc. and the first thing that came to mind for me was “ok, this guy knows what he’s doing, and actually cares.” I saved his account information on my computer just in case for later if I had any questions.
Buttttttt I actually decided to get “coaching” from an IG influencer instead (what a royal mistake and waste of time and money) and did that for about 1 month. I thought I was getting personalized 1 on 1 coaching, but quickly realized after paying a ridiculous amount of $$ that I got a cookie cutter program that he/she sent to all of his/her clients, and no real guidance on how many calories to eat, when to eat, etc.
I did this for about 1 month until realizing what I needed was much more personalized. I needed 1 on 1 guidance. I had accumulated the very basic knowledge needed to make some progress (calorie deficits, calorie surpluses, progressive overload, how to track daily macros, etc.) but I knew to take it to the next level I’d need someone telling me what to do from an unbiased perspective.
So, I looked at my sticky notes on my computer where I saved James’ information, and reached out.
We began coaching together. I immediately knew that this relationship was different. James cared. I could text him whenever with the dumbest most nuanced questions, FaceTime if I were ever lost, etc.
James recognized that we needed to get into a surplus, and we took a slow approach in finding my true maintenance calories, slowly ramping up calories from there, etc. I mention this (and bold those words on purpose) because it’s clear at this point that I had the discipline to stick to a dieting protocol and training program, but I lacked the discipline in doing what was best for my long term goals (i.e. staying in a surplus for a long time for fear of becoming fat again and being patient).
So, the bulk began. It just so happens that during this time I was working some pretty crazy hours. My life at this point was lifting, working, sleeping, and meal prepping. I had no time to really go out much because I was working from 8am – 7pm on the weekdays, training from 7:30pm – 9:30pm, and then going home, sleeping, and getting ready for the next day. I would work weekends as well during this project.
There were a lot of times as well where I didn’t have time to meal prep and would eat the food that our project team would order for the floor.
Every day that passed while on this bulk I got more and more lenient, essentially turning this “lean bulk” into an absolute send. We were dirty bulking, baby. I’d underestimate my calories, not on purpose, but just because I was so busy.
Often times I’d ask James if I should go lower on calories a day after overshooting my calories. He didn’t want me developing an eating disorder and wanted me being comfortable eating.
So, I got heavy and thicc. I put on some good size, some great strength, and also wasn’t stressing constantly about my diet. Sure, I was not loving the way I looked at this point, but this bulk taught me a lot of valuable lessons.
I was finally comfortable being flexible with my diet, not being a mental slave to wanting to be lean and pushing myself to stick to what we set out to do: bulk for an extended period of time.
We had bulked for 9 months at this point (now January 2020). James and I made the decision to start stripping the fat off slowly and see the gains we made and begin a fat loss phase. I had gone from low 150s to 178lb in that 9-month period of bulking. I was a thicc boy. And, while I was thicc, I loved myself still.
No longer did I get all of my self-validation from how I looked or how I was eating. James showed me the path to being comfortable in my own body and being healthy mentally and physically.
With all of this in mind, I was essentially wheezing at this point from all the food I was taking down (we we’re at like 450g carbs daily), and it was clear that it as a good time to start cutting.
We started cutting because it was time to do so, not because I was self-conscious about how I looked, a mistake I had made before and would have made had I not been coached by James.
That's all for this week. Reach out with any questions/comments. Would love to get some discussions going down below.
P.S. I would have included some photos of me as a thicc boy, but most of them as slightly NSFW in my opinion, so I'll leave them out...for now...