As a bodybuilder, your primary objective is to gain muscle.
The clue is in the name as you are literally ‘building’ your body.
As anybody who has ever tried bodybuilding before will tell you, however, the hardest part about bodybuilding is gaining size.
Even those blessed with great genetics still struggle to bulk up from time to time, which is why following a clean bulk diet is so important.
In order for a bodybuilder to bulk up, they need to go through a prolonged period of time in which they are placing their bodies in a caloric surplus.
Basically, this means that they need to take in more calories each day than they are burning off.
That, however, is just one part of the story, as they also need to ensure that they are in the gym regularly, training hard, and really pushing their bodies to their limits.
If you’re serious about gaining muscle mass, you need to make sure that you are really eating the right foods, in the right quantities, at the right time, as well as using the right supplements too.
This is where following a clean bulk plan is so important.
But what is a clean bulk, is it the same as a dirty bulk, how should you train, and what sort of gains can you expect?
Well, let’s take a look, shall we?
Table Of Contents
First off, we’re going to begin by looking at what is bulking, in general, is, before we look at clean bulks and dirty bulks.
Even though we briefly touched upon what bulking is, we shall now take the time to elaborate.
Basically, in order for the body to grow, you need to break down your muscles, create micro rips and tears in your muscle tissue, and then allow your body to rebuild and repair the damaged muscle fibers and build them back up so that they’re even bigger and stronger than they were previously.
In order for this process to occur, which by the way, is called protein synthesis, you need to ensure that you are giving your body protein, nutrients, and plenty of calories.
Each day, in order for your body to maintain itself in its current form, it requires a certain number of calories.
This number of calories is sometimes known as BMR or your Basal Metabolic Rate.
If you consume fewer calories than your BMR, this creates a caloric deficit, which is when you lose weight.
If you take in more calories than you require for maintenance, you will gain size in the form of fat, and hopefully muscle mass as well.
Bulking is basically a cycle in which bodybuilders and individuals looking to build muscle and increase their size, will consume more calories each day than their bodies are physically able to burn off.
Usually, they will do this by eating 6 – 8 meals each day, including a mass gaining supplement and/or protein shake, usually with added calories.
This is only one part of the story as they will also need to make sure that they are really training hard in the gym and pushing themselves as hard as they can.
The harder they train, the more damage to the muscles they create, and the greater the levels of muscle hypertrophy will be.
How people choose to bulk is down to them.
Health experts, fitness experts, and people with any real common sense for that matter, all recommend clean bulking.
Some people, however, like to do things their own way and have their cake and literally eat it too, and they will dirty bulk. We’ll be looking at both today.
Now we’re going to take a look at what a clean bulk is.
Basically, when people refer to clean bulking, they’re referring to the process of bulking up and creating a caloric surplus, via clean and healthy produce.
So, rather than consuming several hundred calories from junk food, for example, they will instead consume several hundred calories from clean, healthy, and natural products instead.
The idea behind clean bulking is that you create a caloric surplus from healthy produce.
The intention is to build lean muscle mass and to keep fat gain to a minimum.
It is possible to have abs when clean bulking, though a little fat gain and water retention is inevitable when a caloric surplus is created.
With clean bulking, the idea is to build muscle and keep fat gain to a minimum.
We can’t speak for everybody here because everybody is different, but when it comes to your typical generic bulking diet, there are some tried and tested favorites that a lot of bodybuilders tend to stock up on.
These include the following:
If you’re a bodybuilder, chicken breast is a food that you will get sick of seeing, and definitely sick of eating.
Despite this, though, it is an incredibly anabolic food which makes it perfect for people that are looking to build muscle.
Chicken breast is ideal for clean bulking because it is rich in protein and low in fat.
This means that you can keep an eye on your caloric intakes and get your fats from healthy sources such as the oil you fry it in, or perhaps a serving of nuts or avocado on the side.
As the chicken breast is so lean and rich in protein, though, it is perfect for anybody looking to clean bulk whilst keeping their body fat levels under control.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Well, the chicken may be first on our list today, but that doesn’t make it any more or less important than whole eggs.
For a bodybuilder, whole eggs are one of the best foods you could wish for.
Not only do they contain choline which is great for the brain, but they also contain minerals and B vitamins, as well as protein and healthy fats.
Eggs, in fact, are a complete protein source as they contain every essential amino acid needed by the body.
In fact, they contain every non-essential amino acid as well, and no other food can make this claim.
On top of that, they’re also rich in protein as one egg provides around 4 – 5g of protein on average.
Healthy fats are found in the yolks, and this is where the calories come from. If you’re looking to bulk up and increase your muscle mass, whole eggs are ideal.
Oatmeal is another staple ingredient in virtually every bodybuilder’s bulking diet.
Oatmeal might not be a high protein food, but from an athletic perspective, it is ideal.
Oatmeal is a fantastic source of slow-release carbs, which makes it a great energy food to consume right before you head to the gym to pump some iron.
Oatmeal tastes great, it is versatile, and it’s great for the body as it contains B vitamins for metabolism, minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron, and it’s a wonderful energy food.
Best of all is the fact that you can pimp it up to increase your calories slightly by mixing it with things such as butter, coconut oil, jelly, jam, and even protein powders.
Salmon is another incredibly beneficial food for people that are looking to bulk up.
Salmon is loaded full of omega 3 fatty acids which are fantastic for the brain, the heart, and the body in general. On top of that, it is also packed full of minerals, and of course, protein.
Because it is an oily fish that is rich in good fats, it’s great for people to clean bulking that is struggling to hit their daily macros.
You see, when clean bulking, it is harder to get your calories in because the idea is to monitor your fat intakes so that you don’t take too many in at once.
Salmon is, therefore, great food to eat because it provides protein and calories all at once, so fat and protein macros can be met more efficiently.
Nut butter is incredibly nutritious if they’re natural and made from 100% nuts.
Nut butter such as almond nut butter, cashew nut butter, and peanut butter, are rich in healthy fats due to the natural oils that the nuts contain.
As well as that, though, they’re also high in protein, making them perfect for bodybuilders who are looking to bulk up.
Nut butter should be made from nothing but pure nuts, so no added salt, sugar, flavorings, preservatives, or oils such as palm oil.
Whole wheat bread is another food that is ideal for bulking.
It is fortified with B vitamins and minerals, it has a much lower glycaemic index than white bread, it is much better for you, and it is very versatile.
You can have it as toast with your breakfast, or you could even make a sandwich as a snack.
Again, as it’s made from whole wheat, it has a much better nutritional profile and many would argue that it tastes better as well.
Greek yogurt is ideal for clean bulking diets as it contains plenty of protein and amino acids.
It is also packed full of minerals, especially calcium.
One reason why it’s so great for consuming as part of a clean bulk diet is the fact that the yogurt is rich in natural fats, which again, make it a very useful food for people bulking up.
Now we’re going to take a look at what a dirty bulk diet is.
When bodybuilders talk about clean bulking and dirty bulking, it pays to know the differences between each type.
With a clean bulk, the idea is to eat healthy foods in order to bulk up.
With a dirty bulk diet, though, things are very different.
Basically, when people are dirty bulking, they’re consuming vast quantities of calories from a whole variety of different foods, including unhealthy foods.
Whereas a bodybuilder on a clean bulk might eat something like a grilled salmon breast, brown rice, asparagus, and a drizzle of olive oil for a post-workout meal, a dirty bulker might tuck into a 16-inch deep-dish meat lover’s pizza, followed by a pint of ice cream for dessert.
Dirty bulking means that you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating, or how much, and you instead eat what you like, when you like.
So, out of clean bulking vs dirty bulking, which is better?
Well, if your intention is to get as big as possible, in a short period of time, and put plenty of fat on in the process, then dirty bulking is probably the best.
Needless to say, dirty bulking is unhealthy, dangerous, and in truth, when the time does come for you to cut and lose fat to reveal your lean muscle mass, you’ll find it much harder to get shredded because you’ll have put so much body fat on as well as muscle mass.
Clean bulking, however, means that you can create a slight caloric surplus each day, monitor your calories, and consume plenty of healthy foods packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients in general.
With clean bulking, you eat healthy food that the body thrives upon, that has been proven to build muscle, with the added bonus of looking better, feeling better, and not gaining very much body fat.
As you’re bulking, you can still enjoy the occasional treat now and then, as long as it is in moderation.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.