Bulking is the process of eating more calories than you burn in order to gain weight and build muscle. The goal of clean bulking is to minimize fat gain while maximizing muscle growth. This can be accomplished by following a healthy diet and exercise plan.
What Should I Eat When Clean Bulking?
A clean bulk diet should consist of whole, minimally processed foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. You should also be sure to consume enough protein and calories to support muscle growth.
Why Lean Meats?
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for building muscle. Lean meats are an excellent source of high-quality protein. They also contain other nutrients like amino acids and iron that are essential for muscle growth (2).
Most importantly, this type of meat is relatively low in fat. This is important because too much dietary fat can contribute a lot of calories and lead to fat gain (2). Also, it is recommended to limit the saturated fat found in animal products for better heart health.
Some lean meats to include in your diet are:
- Lean beef
Vegetables are an important part of a clean bulk diet for several reasons. First, they’re a great source of vitamins and minerals. It’s impossible to build muscle without these nutrients.
Vegetables are also low in calories and high in fiber. This combination can help you feel full and satisfied after meals, preventing overeating. Additionally, fiber helps to regulate digestion and can promote a healthy gut (3).
Some great vegetables to include in your diet are:
- Sweet potatoes
Snack On Fruits
Fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients are important for overall health and can help reduce inflammation (3).
Like vegetables, fruits are also low in calories and high in fiber. This makes them a great choice for snacks or additions to meals (3).
Some healthy fruits to include in your diet are:
Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Carbs
During the bulk phase, you’re expected to go hard on your workouts. Lift heavy, as this is the only way you’ll build more muscle. Carbs are an important fuel source for your muscles. They help you perform better during workouts and promote muscle growth (2).
So, don’t be afraid to include healthy carbs in your diet. Just make sure they’re coming from whole, unrefined sources like whole grains, beans and legumes, starchy vegetables, and fruit.
Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Healthy Fats
Fat is an essential nutrient that our bodies need for various functions. That said, not all fats are created equal.
The type of fat you eat is more important than the amount. You should focus on consuming healthy fats like omega-3s and monounsaturated fats. These types of fat can help improve heart health, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation (1).
Some good sources of healthy fats are:
- Flaxseed oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
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How Many Calories Should I Eat?
The number of calories you need to eat depends on several factors, including your age, weight, activity level, and muscle-building goals.
A general guideline is to eat 18-20 calories per pound of bodyweight if you’re trying to build muscle. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, you would need to consume 3,240-3,600 calories per day (2).
It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough protein. A general recommendation is to consume 0.7-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, you would need to eat 126-180 grams of protein per day (2).
What Should I Avoid When Clean Bulking?
When clean bulking, you should avoid ultra processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. These types of foods can lead to weight gain and make it more difficult to build muscle.
You should also avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. While a small amount of alcohol won’t hurt, too much can lead to fat gain.
7 Day Clean Bulking Diet Meal Plan
Here is an example of a clean bulking meal plan that can help you build lean muscle mass.
- Breakfast: 6 egg omelet with veggies, 1 slice whole-wheat toast, 1 cup Greek yogurt
- Morning snack: Apple with peanut butter
- Lunch: Chicken breast, salsa, brown rice, and peppers
- Afternoon snack: Cup of mixed nuts
- Dinner: Tuna steak with olive oil, two sweet potatoes, and quinoa
- Breakfast: Protein smoothie with banana, oats, almond milk, and protein powder
- Morning snack: Protein bar
- Lunch: Turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, carrots, and grapes
- Afternoon snack: Beef jerky
- Dinner: Salmon, broccoli, brown rice, and avocado
- Breakfast: Large portion of granola, whole milk, and sliced banana
- Morning snack: Protein shake
- Lunch: Double chicken breast, broccoli, and rice
- Afternoon snack: Apple with peanut butter
- Dinner: Tuna, pasta and Bolognese sauce
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries and whole milk
- Morning snack: String cheese
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing
- Afternoon snack: Hard-boiled eggs
- Dinner: Ground beef, sweet potato, and salad
- Breakfast: Protein pancakes with syrup
- Morning snack: Greek yogurt
- Lunch: Grilled chicken, quinoa, and roasted vegetables
- Afternoon snack: Protein shake
- Dinner: Salmon, wild rice, and steamed vegetables
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with veggies, whole-wheat toast, and fruit
- Morning snack: Mixed nuts
- Lunch: Turkey wrap with avocado, lettuce, and tomato
- Afternoon snack: Banana with peanut butter
- Dinner: Grilled steak, baked potato, and sautéed vegetables
- Breakfast: Omelet with veggies and cheese, whole-wheat toast, and fruit
- Morning snack: Protein shake
- Lunch: Chicken burrito bowl with rice, black beans, lettuce, and tomato
- Afternoon snack: Carrots and hummus
- Dinner: Burger with lean beef, fries, white bread roll, cup of green beans
Sample Clean Bulking Shopping List
Here is a list of groceries you may need to purchase in order to follow the clean bulk diet plan.
Chicken breasts, lean ground beef, salmon, tuna, turkey breast, beef jerky, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, protein powder, and protein bars.
Oats, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, sweet and regular potatoes.
Fruits And Veggies
Apples, bananas, berries, carrots, celery, grapes, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and green beans.
Avocados, olive oil, and salad dressing.
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What Are The Benefits Of Clean Bulking?
There are several benefits that come with clean bulking, including:
Less Fat Gain
Years ago, bodybuilders would do a “dirty” bulk where they would eat anything and everything in order to gain weight. This often led to them gaining a lot of fat along with muscle. Clean bulking helps you avoid this by following a healthy diet plan that limits unhealthy foods.
More Muscle Gain
When you clean bulk, you not only minimize fat gain but also maximize muscle growth. This is because you’re eating the right foods and getting enough high quality protein and calories to support muscle growth.
Because clean bulking helps you gain more muscle and less fat, it also leads to improved performance. This is especially beneficial for athletes who need to be strong and lean.
Better Overall Health
When you clean bulk, you’re eating healthy foods that provide your body with the nutrients it needs. This leads to better overall health and helps reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases (2).
What Are The Downsides Of Clean Bulking?
There are a few downsides to clean bulking, including:
Takes More Time
Clean bulking may take more time than dirty bulking because you have to be more careful about what you eat. This can be tedious for some people and may lead them to cheat or even give up.
May Not See Results As Quickly
Because you’re not eating as much and gaining less fat, you may not see results as quickly as you would with dirty bulking. This can be discouraging for some people who want to see results fast.
How To Clean Bulk
Now that you know what clean bulking is and the benefits and downsides of it, here’s how to do it:
Eat Enough Calories
The first step to clean bulking is eating enough calories. You need to eat enough to support muscle growth but not so much that you gain a lot of fat. A good rule of thumb is to eat around 500 calories more than your maintenance level.
Get Enough Protein
Protein is essential for muscle growth, so make sure you’re getting enough. Aim for around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day (2).
Eat Healthy Carbs
Carbs are important for energy and muscle growth, so you need to make sure you’re eating healthy ones. Good sources of carbs include sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, and brown rice.
Eat Healthy Fats
Fats are important for hormone production and other functions, so you need to make sure you’re eating healthy ones. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, and nuts.
Avoid Junk Food
Junk food is high in calories but low in nutrients, so it’s best to avoid it when clean bulking. This includes foods like chips, cookies, cake, and candy.
Have A Cheat Day
One of the best things about clean bulking is that you can have a cheat day. This allows you to enjoy your favorite foods while still making progress. Just make sure not to overdo it and eat too much junk food.
Reduce Calories Slightly On Non Training Days
On days that you don’t workout, you don’t need as many calories. So, on these days, reduce your calorie intake by about 200-300 calories.
The reason why you would want to do this is because it will help you avoid gaining too much fat.
Lift Heavy Weights
Lifting heavy weights is essential for muscle growth. It works by causing microscopic tears in your muscles, which your body then repairs and strengthens.
Lifting heavy can mean anything from 85-95% of your one-rep max.
Get Enough Rest
A heavy lifting schedule is not effective without enough rest. This is because your muscles need time to repair and grow.
Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night and take a nap during the day if possible (4). Make sure you work-in rest days between your strength training sessions.
Supplements can help you reach your goals by providing you with extra nutrients. They’re not necessary, but they can be helpful, especially if you’re having trouble getting enough of certain nutrients from food.
Some good supplements to take for clean bulking are protein powder, creatine, and omega-3s.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Water is important for many functions in your body, including muscle growth. When you’re clean bulking, make sure to drink plenty of water. A good rule of thumb is to drink 0.5 ounces per pound body weight (2). You may need extra on days when the weather is hot or you do a more intense workout.
Another way to make sure you’re getting enough calories and nutrients is to eat often. This doesn’t mean you have to eat 6-7 meals a day, but eating 4-5 meals spaced evenly throughout the day can be helpful.
Track Your Progress
The best way to know if you’re making progress is to track it. Every week, weigh yourself and take measurements of your chest, waist, hips, and thighs. This will help you see how much muscle you’re gaining and how much fat you’re losing.
Building muscle takes time, so you need to be patient. Don’t expect to see results overnight; it takes months of consistent training and eating to see significant changes.
Your body also needs time to adjust to the new workout routine and diet.
There will be times when it feels like you’re not making any progress. This is normal, and it happens to everyone. The important thing is to keep going and not give up.
If you stick with it, you will eventually see the results you want.
The Bottom Line
Bulking up and gaining muscle mass takes time, effort, and patience. But if you follow the above clean bulking tips, you’ll be on your way to building the lean and muscular physique you desire.
Just remember to stay disciplined with your diet and training, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion (2017, nih.gov)
- Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation (2014, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables (2012, nih.gov)
- Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? (2018, nih.gov)