If you’re planning on getting more muscular and buff, you’re probably thinking, “Ah, I’ll eat big to get big.” While this may be true, it’s not entirely right. A clean bulk meal plan is better.
When you eat mindlessly to “bulk up,” you end up damaging your health. Sugar and trans-fat overload are bad for cell membranes. Plus, you put on pounds of body weight from water and fat, which is something you want to avoid.
So let’s talk about the what, why, and how of clean bulking. We’ll throw in a sample meal plan to boot.
Dirty Bulking vs. Clean Bulking
Eating more calories than you burn off daily is the key to gaining muscle and size (or “bulking”). It’s combined with supersets of heavy weights to get the best results.
Since your goal is to “bulk up,” it’s tempting to think you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You’re hitting the gym anyway. So you eat whatever looks and tastes good, not minding how much of a calorie surplus you’re having. That’s “dirty bulking.”
A quick boost in muscle and strength is possible through dirty bulking. However, the trade-off is increased body fat, fatigue, cholesterol, and glucose levels. Even if you don’t worry much about getting sick, you’re likely worried about long-term performance.
But the sad reality is:
- There’s a cap on how much muscle you can build, after which any extra calories will be stored as fat.
- Your muscles can only grow so big before they’re full. But it’s possible to keep storing fat indefinitely.
- Poor dietary habits reduce insulin sensitivity and block nutrients from reaching muscle tissue. They make it more difficult to gain muscle and even more difficult to lose fat.
The bottom line: If you don’t watch what you eat, you’re not going to get the results you’re hoping for.
Clean bulking, also known as “lean bulking,” is the best way to avoid gaining excess fat while increasing muscle mass.
During clean bulking, planned food intakes help the body’s natural processes build lean muscle mass. This eating plan centers on consuming whole, unprocessed foods. You know the drill: to slim down, eat less junk food, or give it up entirely.
With sufficient protein and a moderate calorie surplus, muscle gain can be managed and slowed. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of you gaining weight from fat.
How Do You Start Your Clean Bulk Meal Plan?
To get started, be honest with yourself. Check your body fat percentage before diving headfirst into a clean bulk diet plan. Get your weight down first if you’re overweight. You’re good to go once you’ve reached a lean body fat percentage of 10% or less.
Healthline suggests the following to get started with clean bulking:
- Calculate your maintenance calories. Online calculators can estimate the number of calories you need.
- Add 10–20% more calories than needed. If you weigh 135 lbs. add about 200–400 calories.
- Eat 0.7–1 gram of protein per pound daily to gain muscle. Get the additional calories from carbohydrates and fats.
- Check your weight regularly. You should aim 0.25–0.5% of your body weight weekly. Say you weigh 135 lbs, your goal is to gain 0.4–0.8 lbs each week.
If you’re not losing weight, slowly add 100–200 calories per week.
A Simple Bulking Meal Plan That’s Clean
Before chowing down on your clean bulking meals, plan ahead. Having a meal plan in place is essential, so you’ll know what to buy and how to prep your meals. Here’s a sample based on Better Me’s 7-day meal plan.
Omelet with veggies and cheese, whole-wheat toast, and fruit
Turkey wrap with avocado, lettuce, and tomato
Carrots and hummus
Ground beef, sweet potato, and salad
Granola, whole milk, and banana
Apple with peanut butter
Chicken salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing
Tuna steak with olive oil, two sweet potatoes, and quinoa
Smoothie made of protein powder, banana, chia seeds, and soy milk
Chicken burrito bowl with rice, black beans, lettuce, and tomato
Banana with peanut butter
Grilled steak, baked potato, and sautéed vegetables
Whole-wheat pancakes with syrup
Turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, carrots, and grapes
Salmon, broccoli, brown rice, and avocado
Egg omelet with veggies, whole-wheat toast, and fruit
Chicken breast, salsa, brown rice, and peppers
Burger with lean beef, fries, white bread roll, cup of green beans
Oatmeal with berries and almond milk
Grilled chicken, quinoa, and roasted vegetables
Apple with peanut butter
Tuna, pasta and Bolognese sauce
Scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, Greek yogurt
Double chicken breast, broccoli, and rice
Cup of mixed nuts
Salmon, wild rice, and steamed vegetables
Make sure that your food portioning and the total calorie count of all your meals in a day match your target daily calorie intake. You want to get this right if you want to succeed at bulking. So consult a professional if keeping track of calories and serving sizes seems impossible.
Protein Chefs, for example, prepare healthy meal kits for your clean or lean bulk meal plan. You get your needed calories per day without worrying about what to eat next.
What Should and Shouldn’t Go In Your Clean Bulking Meal Plan?
As you create a meal plan for bulking, you’re probably wondering what you should put on your plate and what you should leave out.
You should avoid ultra-processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats when you’re on a clean bulking diet. These foods can add weight and hinder muscle growth. You should avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, too, for the same reason.
Just remember the “go” (protein), “grow” (carbohydrates), and “glow” (fruits and vegetables) foods you learned as a kid, and you won’t forget what you need.
Why Waste Hundreds Every Year On Unhealthy Food?
Build Muscle with Lean Meat
Protein is essential for muscle growth, and lean meat, like chicken, turkey, and lean beef, is your best source. As an added benefit, these meats also contain muscle-building iron and amino acids. However, the low-fat content of this meat may be its best feature. Also, limit saturated fat animal products to protect your heart.
Fuel Up for Weight LIfting with Carbs
Don’t avoid carbs! Clean bulking is not just about eating. It requires working out—you build muscles by weightlifting. But you can’t do this without carbs, which give you the strength to lift those weights and grow your muscles. Eat carbs, but ensure they are from unprocessed foods like oats, quinoa, whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.
Get Your Fiber from Vegetables
You can’t build muscle effectively without vitamins and minerals, and vegetables have tons of these. Besides, vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, which aids digestion and gut health. So make sure you add spinach, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, peppers, and other vegetables to your diet.
Chomp on Fruits for Snacks
Just like vegetables, fruits are a good source of vitamins and minerals and are low-calorie and high-fiber. And all these are topped with antioxidants. All these nutrients improve health and reduce inflammation. So, as you go clean bulking, enjoy your berries, apples, oranges, and other fruits.
Strengthen Your Heart with Healthy Fats
Yes, you must eat fat, not just fat. Your intake should be healthy fats like Omega-3s and monounsaturated fatty acids. These kinds of fat help improve your heart’s health, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation. Get healthy fats from the likes of nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil.
The Pros of Clean Bulk Meal Plan
There are many benefits to clean bulking, some of which we’ve already discussed above. However, let’s go into more detail.
- More muscle mass, less fat. This happens when you consume an adequate amount of high-quality protein and calories as part of your daily diet. A 350–500-calorie surplus per day promotes muscle gain and reduces fat storage, according to Healthline. This number matches a conservative clean bulk calorie surplus.
- Better overall health. Because of the greater proportion of whole foods, a clean bulk is more likely to be nutrient-dense than a dirty bulk. Besides reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases, this also boosts overall well-being. But before starting a clean bulk, Healthline suggests considering any underlying health issues.
- Improved physical performance. Given that clean bulking encourages the growth of more muscle and less fat, it enhances performance. In the case of athletes, who must maintain a healthy weight while still performing at a high level, this is a huge benefit.
Clean bulking emphasizes the consumption of foods that are generally higher in nutritional value, reducing the risk of unhealthy weight gain.
The Cons of Clean Bulk Meal Plans
To ensure you are well-informed before you even start a clean bulk meal plan, it’s important to look into the possible downsides of this diet too.
- Takes more time to gain muscle. You may have to wait longer for results when clean bulking as opposed to when dirty bulking because you have to be more careful with your diet. Some people could get tired of this and resort to cheating or giving up altogether.
- Requires a rigid eating pattern. You must adhere to a fairly consistent, if not strict, diet plan for bulking. Top that with food restrictions: pizza, bacon, and regular soda are just a few of the processed foods to avoid due to their high fat and sugar content. Keeping to these rules over the long term, especially when attending parties, may prove difficult.
If you underestimate your calorie surplus, you may only be able to gain a modest amount of muscle. The food restrictions and calorie limits of clean bulking could be challenging to meet.
Bulking Diet Plans: The Bottom Line
By eating more than you need, or “clean bulking,” you can gain muscle and strength without gaining excess fat. Athletes who want to gain muscle, but not fat, often resort to this strategy.
Clean bulking meal plans are less flexible, and it is more likely to take a long time for the muscle to grow. But it’s a healthier practice than dirty bulking.
Before deciding to get into a clean bulk meal plan, consult your doctor and wait for a go-ahead.
If your busy lifestyle makes it difficult for you to prepare your clean bulk meals, try Protein Chefs. We have a wide variety of delicious, protein-rich meals for atheletes and people look to gain muscle.
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