How to Lean Bulk – The Ultimate Guide

How to Lean Bulk – The Ultimate Guide

Before we get to to the million-dollar question, let’s talk about “bulking”. Lean bulking is such a misunderstood concept that most people who start a bulk end up gaining a belly. For a few minutes, forget everything you’ve been told about bulking by the bros.

Bulking cycle is a period of time where you eat surplus calories to gain muscle mass and strength. The sad and inevitable part of a bulking program is that an aggressive caloric surplus state will invariably lead you to put on body fat.

In an effective bulking plan, you should be increasing your training intensity and frequency. Adding more load and volume will provide ample stimulation to your muscles and will make sure you’re not adding too much to your fat reserves.

Like all good things, a bulking period has to come to an end. In the “cutting” phase you will cut the fluff from your body by adding HIIT cardio to your training program and by cutting the carbs and fats from your diet.

Pre-Requisites of a Lean Bulk –

Don’t Eat Like It’s The Last Meal of Your Life

Some people think that a bulking diet is synonymous with cheat meals. You can’t and shouldn’t eat anything you can get your hands on. Just like any other bodybuilding program, you’ll have to follow a strict diet plan for a lean and clean bulk.

A Bulk is Not For Everyone

Probably the biggest misconception about bulk is that anyone can do it. If you’re a newbie or don’t have any gains to show, forget lean bulking. The first goal should be to put on quality muscle mass.

You should only consider bulking if your current body fat percentage is at or around 10-12%. If you’re around 15-20% body fat, you’re already too bulky to start a new lean bulking program.

Calculating Your Caloric & Macronutrient Needs For Lean Bulking

Starting a lean bulking program without knowing the exact amount of calories and macronutrients you need is a recipe for disaster. As someone rightly said, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

If you don’t follow a strict diet, you’ll most likely end up stuffing yourself with empty calories and saturated fats. Ask anyone on a bulking schedule about his exact daily calorie goals and they might tell you that the whole point of a bulking program is to put on size without fussing too much about tracking calories.

Designing Your Diet

The first step in designing the bulking diet is to calculate your BMR. BMR (basal metabolic rate) is the amount of energy required by your body while resting in a temperate environment when the digestive system is inactive. Calculating your BMR is equivalent to figuring out how much gas your idle car consumes while parked.

lean bulk

After calculating BMR, it’s time to compute your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure) with this formula:

tdee formula

TDEE is the exact number of calories your body needs to maintain itself. In a bulking program, you need to add a surplus to put on some muscle mass. Most people make the mistake of adding too many calories to their diet. In a bulking program, you don’t need more than 200-300 calories to be in a healthy and effective surplus state.

Finding Your Daily Macronutrient Needs

While this might feel a little complicated but learning these steps will put you in total control of your body, and you won’t need a dietician ever again to help with your transformations.

Each macronutrient has a certain amount of calories per gram. While fats contain nine calories per gram, protein and carbs contain four calories per gram each. We won’t get into the roles of each macronutrient as it is out of the scope of the article but each macronutrient is indispensable to the success of your lean bulk.

Starting with Protein

Protein is the muscle’s building block and arguably the most important macronutrient when it comes to gaining muscle size. According to some studies, you need 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to put on muscle mass.

After you calculate your daily required calories using TDEE, you need to gauge your daily protein need. 40:30:30 (carbs: protein: fats) is a dependable macronutrient split for bulking. If your total required calories are 2400kcal, you’ll need 960kcal (2400X40%) coming from protein. You need to be eating 240 grams (960/4) of protein every day to put on muscle mass.

Carbs & Fats Come Second

Calculate your required fats the same way. You’ll need 720 calories (2400X30%) and 80 grams (720/9) of fats. Carbs are calculated by adding the required calories from protein and fats and deducting them from the total amount of required calories.

In this case, you’ll need 720kcal [2400-(960+720)] and 180 grams (720/4) of carbohydrates. The next step would be to use an app like MyFitnessPal to design your meal plan as per your macro goals.

Now that you know this system, you never have to consult a nutritionist for designing a diet plan, your welcome.

Three Main Kinds of Bulks

The Relaxed Bulk

The relaxed bulk is probably the most common type of bulk. It doesn’t require any calorie or macronutrient tracking. You eat the usual food (in higher quantities) and gain a decent amount of muscle mass. People also run the risk of gaining a higher amount of fat in the process.

The Lean Bulk

The lean bulk is what most people want to do but end up doing the relaxed bulk because of a lack of knowledge. It is the structured approach to bulking where you track your calories and macronutrients. In the lean bulk, you gain maximum muscle and minimum fat.

The Maintenance Bulk

Maintenance bulk is very similar to lean bulk. The only difference here is that you won’t be eating the surplus 200-300 calories. Eating right around the maintenance level will in theory only make you gain muscle mass and no fat.

Tracking Your Progress

Tracking progress is one of the most overlooked aspects of lean bulking. You need to know the realistic rate of muscle growth to be able to track and compare your progress. Your bulk progress will depend on your training experience.

Training experience can be categorized in a few different ways, with the most popular one developed by Lyle McDonald. His method is based on years of proper training:

rate of growth


Have you ever tried lean bulking? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.