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Lean vs Dirty Bulk

If you are a bodybuilder or someone who works out, you've probably heard the phrases "bulking" and "cutting". If not, to make it easy, "cutting" is cutting down on fat while preserving muscle, and "bulking" is packing on muscle and strength while being in a calorie surplus.

During an off-season of bodybuilding competitions, a bodybuilder stuffs himself and bulks up. Adding packs of muscle and strength within a short spam of time are the main goals of being in a bulk.

This post is about the Bulking Phase of bodybuilding. The aim of bulking is to pack on muscles with or without gaining fat. Now here is where the difference comes up. There are two types of Bulking Phases:

  • Dirty Bulk

  • Lean Bulk

Dirty Bulk

A dirty bulk is the conventional way of bulking that has been going on forever. Usual caloric surplus in a dirty bulk is over 500 calories. (maintenance calories + >500).

The bodybuilders eat anything and everything. The focus is on calorie dense foods which help the bodybuilders reach their protein and calorie goals while gain in fat is not a problem. (I have seen people bulk up using heavy chocolate pancakes, burgers, and whole pizzas.)

Even though this might be a cheaper and easier way to bulk up, the quick weight gain might take a toll on your organs and joints due to quick gain in weight. The quick gain in weight (on the scale), is mostly water weight in the beginning and might lead to fat gain in the long run.

Lean Bulk

A lean bulk is what a number of bodybuilders/physique pros prefer than a dirty bulk nowadays. A caloric surplus in a lean bulk is between 300-500 calories. (maintenance calories + 300-500)

The bodybuilders focus on eating whole nutrient rich foods. The focus is good quality protein and fulfillment of macronutrient goals. They try to add packs of lean muscle while trying to keep fat off. (Nutrient dense foods include lean chicken, soy products, broccoli, fresh fruits, etc.)

This, even though brings on slow results, is a better approach to bulking since you don't end up taking a toll on your organs due to excessive quick weight gain.


So which one do you choose?

It really depends on how you want to go about it. You need to take a look at a few factors including your budget, food availability, regional factors, etc.

Keeping a tab on your medical records while bulking is a must. You don't want your enzyme levels, cholesterol levels, and other medical records to not stay within limits.

Also, a good way to go about your bulk is to try to keep atleast the frame of your abs while you're at it.


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