Bulking up can be a lot of fun, you get to eat more, you can be a little more flexible (or a lot more flexible) with what you eat, and your body will respond to the extra energy by helping you train at a higher intensity than ever before.
All of your lifts will increase, you’ll get stronger, your muscles will grow, and your testosterone will increase.
People who bulk do it in one of two ways, they either follow a clean bulk where they get all their extra calories from healthy food, this is perfect for people who only want to add a bit of muscle over a long time.
The other way is the dirty bulk, this is where guys eat whatever they want for a certain amount of time, while training hard in an attempt to gain as much muscle as possible in a short period of time.
But which method is best? Would eating healthy sensible food in a controlled manner be better? Or would eating whatever you want be better, to hell with the consequences? Or is there a third option?
In this article we will examine all of this, and help you reach a decision that suits your needs.
The Clean Bulk
This is for the sensible lifters among us, clean bulking involves increasing your calories through “clean foods”.
So adding in avocadoes for fat, sweet potatoes for carbs, and lots of turkey mince, ostrich steaks, and venison for protein.
Many people who clean bulk do so in a controlled way, increasing calories slowly and trying to avoid any unnecessary fat gain. You can’t avoid it completely, but you can reduce it as much as possible.
This makes dropping calories a lot easier when you want to cut, partly because you have added the maximum amount of muscle with the minimal amount of fat gained – making it easier to get shredded.
But also from a psychological point of view, you’ve gotten used to measuring your food, and being disciplined. So dieting is no great shock.
The downside of the clean bulk is that 1) It takes a lot longer, 2) It’s boring as hell! And 3) there are so many different interpretations of what food constitutes “clean” and which doesn’t that it can be a real struggle to work this out.
The Dirty Bulk
Imagine six to twelve weeks where you can eat as much food as you like without worrying about whether it was going to make you fat or not.
Of course, it will make you fat – but you’re not worried because it is all part of the plan.
Wouldn’t that be really fun? Wouldn’t it be nice psychologically to know that the calories you are consuming are all there to help you get stronger? Even if they are also making you fat.
This is the idea behind the dirty bulk. Get strong, and worry about the body fat during your cutting phase.
Dirty bulking can be a lot quicker, it can also lead to huge increases in strength and muscle size – provided you are consuming enough protein, and working like a devil in the weights room.
But the dirty bulk does have some pretty significant downsides, because of all the fat gained it can massively increase the amount of time spent dieting afterwards.
It can also leave you looking a lot less desirable than you would have hoped. People on dirty bulks will not be spending too much time checking themselves out in the mirror!
It’s also not a great way to live your life, going from massive amounts of calories to barely any, this is basically Yo-Yo dieting, but planned.
The Third Option
But what about a combination of both approaches? What if you were to measure your calories each week like in the clean bulk? But be more flexible in what you are allowed to eat as in the dirty bulk.
This way you can gain weight in a healthy and controlled way, while still enjoying food.
In fact why bulk and cut in the first place? Why not follow a calorie target that maintains your weight for the majority of the year, allowing you to lower calories if you need to peak for an event?
Wouldn’t that be a nice way to live? Bodybuilders have been bulking/cutting for so long that people haven’t spent enough time considering whether this is even the best way to approach body composition.
Most people who are interested in bodybuilding aren’t ever going to compete, they just want to look good. So why follow a diet for a competition that you are never going to enter?
Bulking/cutting is not a sustainable way to live, which is why Schwarzenegger et al no longer do it.
There was a purpose, but now they just want to stay in reasonable shape. At the end of the day, you need to be following a diet that works best for you, and it may not involve clean or dirty bulks.