Bulking Protocol – Part 2

For the second installment of the Bulking Protocol, we are going to outline the "how much?" portion of the method.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are interested in putting on size or at the very least understand how it can be done with good results. Many ask, how do I increase the number on the scale without a massive increase in my waistline?

Or the better question, how much size and muscle as can one put on while limiting fat gain?


This is a question that will produce 130 million responses from Google in .003 seconds if you search it and I am going to take you through the steps to get you there.

At the CrossFit Football seminar we instruct our coaches to tell their athletes that are participating in the CrossFit Football style program, to gain weight they will need to consume 18-20 calories per pound of body weight.

To maintain their weight, they will need to eat between 15-17 calories per pound of body weight.

And to lose weight, they will need to consume less than 15 calories to per pound of body weight. This is all assuming they are doing a CFFB style of training, which includes 4 heavy strength days, 2 sprint days mixed in among 3-5 metabolic conditioning days, practice and training for their sport.

This prescription came from was my own training and testing. I started getting my body fat and basal metabolic rate (BMR) testing done early in my career in 2001, as I wanted to know exactly how many calories I needed to consume to gain, lose or maintain my weight. From this information I learned, the more lean body mass I carried, the higher my BMR would be. My best BMR came in 2002, I weighed in at 308 lbs with my body fat tested in the BodPod at 8.6%. I was right around 282 lbs of lean body mass and my BMR calculated at 4300 calories.


My body was burning 4300 calories just to maintain basic function; this worked out to around 14 calories per pound of body weight.

For me to maintain my weight while training, I needed to consume around 5300-5500 calories a day or 17 calories per pound of bodyweight.

For me to try to gain weight during the off-season or maintain my weight during training camp, I ate around 6000 calories a day. Needless to say, eating was a full time job.

Since I cannot guarantee these levels are accurate for everyone reading this doing a Power Athlete template, like CrossFit Football, we must start by calculating your BMR.

If you do a quick search, you will find a hundreds of equations and calculators online that will calculate your BMR. While these will work for our purposes, the best way to get an accurate number is find a lab or doctor testing the BMR and get it done. It takes about 12 minutes and is painless.

However, the Harris-Benedict equation will give us a moderately accurate number for the purposes of this blog post.

Male: 66.5 + (13.75 x W) + (5.003 x H) – (6.775 x A) = BMR
Female: 655 + (4.35 x W) + (4.7 x H) – (4.7 x A) = BMR

W = actual weight in kg (weight in lb/2.2 = kg)
H = height in cm (height in inches x 2.54 cm/in)
A = age in years

Lets examine our test subject Nate A.

Nate A.
220 lbs
28 years old

66.5 + (13.75 x 100) + (5.003 x 187.96) – (6.775 x 28) = 2192 cals

Based on this, Nate’s BMR is 2192 calories a day. This is the minimum energy requirement for Nate to sustain his body’s function while awake. Personally, I find this number to be low. In my experience, most hard charging athletes have a metabolism more akin to a furnace and require 11-12 calories per lbs of body weight sustained function. My BMR was as high as 14 calories and the test I took last month had me at 12.8 calories. Also remember, this does not take into account his activities during the day. If an athlete is lifting weights, sprinting and conditioning he will need a lot more calories.

Therefore, for Nate to bulk up he is going to need to consume between 3750-4000 calories a day. This number can increase or decrease based on individual results, but this is a good place to start for most athletes.

A problem I find happening all too often is athletes becoming obsessed with daily calories. One day they under-eat, then feel they have to over-eat to make up for the deficit. So, I found an easy way to alleviate this problem by counting the calories in a weeklong block instead of day to day.

Nate will need to consume 26,520 and 28,000 calories over the course of 7 days for his bulking. Now the division of calories and macronutrients becomes even more important when our goal is to increase the scale weight and muscle and not add globs of body fat.

The calories and macronutrients are broken into heavy training days and light training days.

I learned this trick from Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale when following the anabolic diet. The anabolic diet asks an athlete to eat a ketogenic diet (no carbs) Monday through Friday, then consume massive amounts of carbohydrates during the weekend. While the effects can be beneficial for body composition, they are not always advantageous during training. My heaviest days of training were Monday through Friday and I found myself hitting the wall while training on no carbs.

The tweak I learned was to use carbohydrates as fuel and consume them on my heavy training days, then go back to a modified keto approach on lighter days. This was my first experience with carbohydrate/caloric cycling.

Nate trains 5 days a week. He lifts weights, sprints and conditions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. His lighter days of Wednesday and Sunday he walks and moves around as a recovery tool. Saturday is his big conditioning and movement day but we will keep the carbs low on this day.

Nate would match up Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday as his heavy training days and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday as his lighter days.

Heavy training days called for the Diet of Thirds. This is where Nate will cut his macronutrients in thirds or 33%/33%/33%.

This means he will cut his 4000 calories into 33% protein, 33% carbohydrates and 33% fat. The number wont come out exactly right; so just make up for the extra by dumping the surplus into carbohydrates.

4000 cals x .33 = 1320 calories
1320 / Protein (4 calories) = 330 grams of protein
1360 / Carbohydrates (4 calories = 340 grams of carbohydrates
1320 / Fat (9 calories) = 146 grams of fat

Nate will need to consume 330 grams of protein, 340 grams of carbs and 146 grams of fat on his heavy training days.

On his lighter training days, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, Nate will need to switch up his macronutrients by dumping the carbs down to 10% of his total caloric intake, or 100 grams, and up his fat to make up the calories.

1320 calories / Protein (4 calories) = 330 grams of protein
400 calories / Carbohydrates (4 calories) = 100 grams of carbohydrates
2280 calories / Fat (9 calories) = 252 grams of fat

On the off days, Nate will need to consume 330 grams of protein, 100 grams of carbohydrates and 252 grams of fat.


This should keep you busy for a few days and get you headed in the right direction. Stay tuned for the third and fourth installment of the bulking protocol where we discuss meal timing and tools for success.

And keep an eye out for the training program designed to compliment the Bulking Protocol. Here are a few before and after pictures, I dug up of myself and Ben after following the Training and Diet Bulking Protocol. Ben and I each put on about 30 lbs with this approach.



Posted in CrossFit Football, Diet, Talk to Me Johnnie, The Power Athlete, Training | Tagged , | 42 Comments

42 Responses to Bulking Protocol – Part 2

  1. Timbo

    Awesome, John! Don’t spread these out so far!
    Great timing, I was thinking about this recently and you may answer this in part 3, but:
    Does the time of day when you train (heavy) determine when you eat the carbs? Meaning, would training at 0600 require the prior day to be carb heavy versus training that afternoon or evening? Would the rest of that theoretical days meals (assuming light training the next day) be keto?

  2. Remy

    Awesome post John. Ive been using this calculation for a while from the infografic thats kicking around the internet called “fuelling for power athletes” im assuming its by you and robb wolf. It has worked really well for me in the past and its working really well for me now. Thank you for sharing all this useful information!

  3. Bulldozer

    Fucking masterpieces of knowledge.

  4. Drew

    Good stuff John. Not that you were going into an IFBB competition, but did you or Ben do bf tests before and after to see how much of the weight gained was muscle and how much was fat? 30 lbs of muscle on an already big dude is a pretty big jump. And seeing as I will have a solid 3 month timeframe in between fall and spring rugby season, I’m interested in applying this plus the future bulking training you alluded to (without being the big fatty on the pitch)

    Side note, went to the Eagles game this past weekend and they did a tribute of sorts to John Runyan. I really forget how huge you offensive lineman are (even in “retirement”).

  5. John

    Thanks for the post. Always appreciate any info from you.

  6. Matt Cooper

    Do you have any recommended sources as to finding out how many calories particular foods have?

    Really enjoying these articles, can’t wait for #3 and #4

  7. Either that formula is off or I did it wrong? I had the test done last year and my BMR was 11.6. Here are my calculations:

    Test Subject B
    “Jane” 5’3″, 123#, 53 yo
    Female: 65.1 + (9.563 x 55.9) + (1.850 x 160.02) – (4.676 x 53) = BMR
    65.1 + 534.57 + 296 – 247.82 = 647.86 ??? I’m alive not dead!
    I follow CFFB 4 days a week and consume approximately 2500 cals a day–more carbs on training day although I can’t wait to fine tune the macros as suggested. Body fat is about 17% at present.

    • john


      That didn’t look right to me either, so I did some checking and found another equation for women that makes more sense; or at the very least gives me something a bit more accurate.

      Female: 655 + (4.35 x W) + (4.7 x H) – (4.7 x A) = BMR
      or 447.593 + (9.247 x W) + (3.098 x H) – (4.330 x A)

      Paula: 655 + (4.35 x 55.9) = (4.7 x 169.02) – (4.7 x 53) = 1260.5 cals (BMR)
      Second equation comes in at 1258.5

      The problem with equations is they will be extremely low for people that carry a lot of muscle mass and high for people that carry high body fat.

      And if you are doing CFFB, then you are going to carrying a lot more LBM than your average girl/female/women walking the streets. And if you double the calories for you BMR you are right at 2500 a day…right where you should be.

      If you are really curious best bet to go get tested. Or just train your ass off, get stronger and improve body composition. You know how your clothes are fitting and how you are performing.

      Thanks for catching my error.


  8. Thank you John! I’ll take your advice and stick with “training my ass off” literally — clothes are fitting better than ever along with performance.

    Still amazes me that after 11 solid months of CFFB I have been able to put on a good amount of muscle and set PR’s at a “mature” age when many women are crying the blues. And over the decades I’ve tried a lot of programs. This is the BEST by far.

  9. CHP

    @Matt Cooper – try using My Fitness Pal to track caloric intake, its free, works across multiple platforms (PC, iPad, phones, not sure about Android) and has all conceivable foods in their database. All it takes is a few weeks of tracking to get an idea for what your daily calories are, in general I tend to eat a lot of the same food. Hope this helps.

  10. Russ

    How timely, John!
    For too long I’ve been carb phobic which has resulted in some undesired muscle atrophy whilst strength and conditioning and cross-fitting in the past.
    I’ve added carbs back on training days. Yours is a perfect template.
    Just a question. What exactly do your heavy training day entails? I guess it varies a lot with people. Is it strength and conditioning all in a same day, much like your CFFB template? Can a pure strength day like a 5/3/1 or 5×5 with emphasis on one major lift and a few assistance exercises warrant the same macros partitioning? Should pure strength days be more in keto mode, with carbs at 100g?

    • john

      I call heavy days just that, the days where I lift heavy weights. If you are lifting heavy weights on that day, it would be a heavy day. If your training involves lighter weights, that would be a light day.

      Seems pretty straight forward.

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  12. Gary

    Any apps or tools that you like that help athletes track their cal consumption?

  13. Taylor

    Im 260 lbs and I am trying to get leaner and stronger I dont care how heavy I am as long as I am performing should I follow the bulking protocol? or should I be doing something different to get leaner?

  14. Josh

    Hi John,

    I am just wondering how 100g of carbs would class as ketogenic? Wouldn’t it be far less carbohydrates?

  15. Marco D.

    This was awesome! And extremely beneficial! Thanks for the posting, John!

  16. Jordan Benson

    Man i love your blog. You give solid information. Keep up the good work!!

  17. Fantastic post John! Just found your blog a few days ago and have been devouring it. I’ve personally been on the Leangains approach. I’ve seen great increases in strength, but have had a hard time putting on any weight. I like the idea of anabolic diet. Might have to give it a try.

  18. Paulo

    Hi! Thanks for the info! I am on paleo, lifting wheight in the gym and looking for an adjustment in the macros. I will use this as a guide! I just have a question. Do you thing it will also work for fat loss?? I have 171lbs, so i estimate around 3100cal for maintenance. If i apply this guide for an daily intake of 2800 cal, will it have success??

  19. Great article, I think people have a pretty great misunderstanding on calorie consumption based on fitness goals. A scientifically sound as well as practical approach like the ones suggested here, should definitely benefit a lot of people who don’t know about proper calorie consumption as well as those who think they know but aren’t really that sure (Definitely found myself under that category,haha). I look forward to reading more!

  20. Thanks John, the calculations you provide are really helpful. Would love to know of an app that helps with this as well.

  21. Roque Corona


    You mention in the article that to “keep an eye out for the training program designed to compliment the Bulking Protocol.”

    Does this mean you and the crew will be releasing a program besides the standard CFFB in the near future?

  22. Josh

    Hi John,
    I have been following these calculations for eating now for 3 months and the results have been outrageous, complimented with Darren’s givemcoldsteel program I have put 20+ kgs on to all my lifts and squats.
    Thanks again! its awesome! a credit to both of you.

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  25. Curtis Snelgrove

    Hi John,

    Have you applied this type formula to anyone practicing more traditional CrossFit, where each day has a strength component followed by a metcon?


    • John

      Are you serious? You mean traditional CrossFit Football? CrossFit Football started the trend of incorporating a strength program with the conditioning portion….just like traditional S&C has done for the last 50 years….I wish I had a emoticon for “face palm”…but I dont use emoticons.

  26. Joaquin Regalado

    How would this apply for an athlete that is training for a competition? Does this change if the athlete’s program requires the training to unload the week before the competition as far as the ketogenic approach on lighter days?

  27. Question? I get the bulking protocol. Followed it for 14 months and gained 12 pounds. Was eating the right foods but with definite “abandon”. Tracked for a week and found I was getting 23 cals per # of bodyweight. That explains why it wasn’t all muscle. Duh.

    Working on cutting for the summer. I get the calories rx’d above to lose and have been tracking for a week. ? is would the same protocol work for cutting if the calories were 15 ish or less per # bw? The M/Tu/Th/F @ macros in 3rd’s and W/S/Sn keto? Wed/Sat/Sun are off days or light recovery and the other 4 CFFB.

    Been challenging to get the fat down that low (33%) but it’s coming together. I’ve leaned out several times in my past fitness comp career but never exactly like this. The before/after photos will tell the full story. Am enjoying the process thus far. Can’t wait for parts 3 & 4. . .

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  29. Byron

    Just came across your site, and I must say, this is an awesome first post and great resource to stumble upon! Thanks for the calculations, John.

  30. Jeramiah

    Hi John,

    Thank you for the post. I found it informative. Only problem is I don’t see how exactly you came up with the numbers 3750 – 4000 cal for his daily calorie needs. I see how you calculated his BMR but what formula did you use to go from BMR to daily calorie needs?

  31. Patrick

    Hey guys I’m trying to make sure I have this right. I’m 6’5, 295 with a lot of body fat. From reading this is seems I need to consume around 3100 calories while following CFFB/FT to lose weight without losing muscle. Is this correct? Do I need to add calories since John thinks it’s too low?

  32. Justin

    If you weigh 145lbs, should you really be concerned with the numbers or just eat as much as possible and train hard?

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  34. Ian

    A few mates and I are looking at the CFFB programming as a move away from CF that we currently do.
    Now for starters, we are at least 30 years old with the oldest being myself at 42, so we are not exactly power athletes but are looking at this as a great alternative to work on strength and conditioning. Anyway, my question is, as a guy in his 40’s looking to put on size, but starting from a position of being a bit overweight (waistline mostly), do I need to lose weight and then add weight? I.E Do I need to lose the fat before then piling on the calories to add the size?

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  36. Thanks for this, John. As a hardgainer, bulking is something that has always been a huge challenge for me…

  37. Keith

    John – If someone was following Grindstone and wanted to eat this way…It is safe to say that mandatory and recommended days are 33% days and any off or optional days could be keto?

  38. Thanks John, the calculations you provide are really helpful. I’d like to know if there’s an app that can help with this this as well.

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