If you’ve ever tried to build muscle mass, or get bulked, you’ve probably heard of a “bulking phase”. This is a period of normally 2-4 months where the primary focus is gaining muscle; achieved by consuming a surplus of calories (consuming more calories than the body burns each day) alongside hypertrophy training, to aid muscle growth.
Dirty Bulk vs. Clean Bulk
When it comes to bulking, there are two schools of thought about the best way to do this, known as a “dirty” and a “clean” bulk. Let’s look at the differences and discuss which one we prefer…
A dirty bulk is when a trainee focuses on gaining muscle at all costs with little regard to how much body fat they gain. This is achieved through an excessive calorie surplus, normally an extra 600-1,000 calories, alongside weight training and little-to-no cardio.
The benefit of using a dirty bulk is that less thought needs to go into nutrition as it’s generally a case of eating as much food as you can and topping up with junk food where necessary. The theory is that there’s no risk of you losing out on any muscle gain from undershooting how much food you need.
On the downside, you are more likely to put on excess body fat, increase cholesterol and negatively affect your health as a result. Additionally, you’ll have more work to do when it comes to cutting down to leaner physique, should this by your goal.
A clean bulk, on the other hand, focusses on achieving muscle growth with less increase in body fat, using a calorie surplus of around 300-600 calories, and with moderate amounts of cardio training allowed. The truth is, we must accept a certain increase in body fat to illicit hypertrophy gains, but as muscle mass increases we may still look leaner, even at a higher body fat, as you require a certain level of muscle to look “toned”.
The benefits are that you’ll look a little leaner all year round and have far less work to do to cut, or trim up, for your next holiday. You’ll also be a lot healthier in general and being able to incorporate cardio helps to maintain fitness and heart health.
The downside is that the clean bulk nutrition does take a bit more work to find and maintain the correct calorie level, and your muscle gains may be slower as a result.
Building Muscle at The Fitting Rooms
At The Fitting Rooms gym in London Bridge, we normally work closer to the “clean bulk” with our personal training clients since we can do most of the hard work ourselves, in terms of calculating calorie and expenditure levels through our Nutrition Coaching
; but of course, it’s never a one-size-fits-all so hopefully the info here can help you make an informed decision to the approach you’d like to take when it comes to getting bulked!