You are here

Eight Essential Rules for a Clean Bulk

Follow these steps to pack on muscle without adding body fat.
Bulking season
Claire Benoist

Bulking refers to gaining weight, which may include fat, and is often followed by a period of weight loss or "cutting." Guys typically embark on this "bulk and cut" to achieve bigger, more chiseled physiques. 

The problem with this fitness journey is that during bulking, dudes often gain unnecessary fat, which can take years to get rid of after you're done weight cycling. Your cutting phase might even be made more difficult as a result of this extra body fat. 

But is it possible to gain muscle without getting fat? Yes. Stay big and lean year-round with these eight simple steps to pack on pounds without getting fat. 

Download our new book: The 21-Day Bulk Up >>>

First things first: you can only gain weight during a caloric surplus. But gone are the days of splurging on everything in site for the sake of a bulk. Instead, target a moderate caloric surplus so you’re not adding fat. A good rule-of-thumb for calories is 16 x your bodyweight in pounds. For example, if you weigh 175 pounds, you should consume about 2800 calories (16 x 175) to gain weight. 

9 Things Any Ripped Guy Can Teach You >>>

A calorie is NOT a calorie. For a successful clean bulk, every calorie needs to be packed with nutrients and vitamins to build the maximal amount of muscle and boost your recovery. Compare eating 1000 calories worth of pizza or a healthy stir-fry containing lean beef and assorted vegetables paired with a few sweet potatoes: what will lead to more muscle growth and less fat gains (and lower cholesterol)?

With every meal, eat plenty of veggies and lean meats. When choosing your carb source, pick foods like potatoes, yams, rice, whole grains, oats, etc. Also, avoid refined oils, which can sneak in extra calories and lead to more fat gains. 

8 Ways to Sneak In More Protein >>>

Analyze your body fat percentage, circumference measurements, and weight every month to ensure if you’re on the right track or need to alter your program. If you lost weight or stayed the same, slowly increase your caloric intake. If you gained a little fat, carefully reduce your caloric intake.

This is how you avoid wild swings in body weight with the old “bulk then cut” approach and dial in your clean bulk. 

The Good, The Bad, and the Iffy >>>

To build more size and muscle, blend high-intensity with high-volume. For example, do 8–15 reps per set to increase your time under tension (TUT) and focus on hypertrophy. While traditional strength programs of 5 reps or less builds some muscle, a lot of the gains you see are actually in your neural system.

For your workout, utilize compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, and pullups. You’ll save time, build strength, and release more testosterone, all important factors when bulking.

Why You Need to Work Concentration Curls Into Your Routine >>>

When you eat certain foods is just as important as what you eat. By saving your carbs for your workout days, you’ll ensure that you’re consuming carbs when your body can best utilize that energy for muscle repair and growth instead of storing it as fat. 

Think of carbs like fuel: you have to burn some off before you can refuel. But if you try to add gas to an already full tank, you’ll make a mess. 

5 Foods to Avoid After 8pm >>>

During sleep, your body releases the highest amount of human growth hormone, a crucial ingredient to building a lean, ripped body. It’s also when your body repairs its muscles and turns off your “fight-or-flight” response (called your “sympathetic nervous system”), which helps manage stress. Avoid shortchanging your results and get 7-8 hours of deep, restful sleep per night. 

Six Workouts to Fit Any Schedule >>>

One to two times a week, do 30–60 minutes of steady-state cardio around 65% of your maximum heart rate (220 – age). You’ll avoid unwanted fat gains, clear lactic acid and cellular waste, and improve your heart health. You’ll also improve your work capacity so you can push yourself harder during resistance training, which will ultimately help you build more muscle. 

Ultimate Warmup For Lifting Heavy >>>

Before you start your clean bulk, check if your body is at the right starting point. If you’re around 10% body fat or have visible abs, your body can optimally distribute nutrients between muscle and fat and you’ll neutralize any fat gains.

If you’re skinny-fat, however, you’ll have a disadvantage in insulin sensitivity gaining muscle versus fat. Get to your desired level of leanness first and then clean bulk to the physique you want.  

5 At-Home Workouts for Fat Loss >>>


Want more Men's Fitness?

Sign Up for our newsletters now.

You might also like