Bulking: Everyone talks about it, everyone seems to have done it at some point or another. We’ve all heard “It’s okay it’s bulking season, I can eat whatever I want as long as I’m gaining weight.”
But truly, is gaining weight the only thing that matters when bulking? Is it even going to make a difference what I eat if I just want to gain weight? To each their own, but it should matter to you!
Let’s get into the different ways you can bulk up, and you can answer these questions for yourself.
First up: The “Dirty Bulk.”
Dirty bulking is basically eating just about anything you feel like shoving down your throat. You don’t monitor what you are eating, you are just making sure to consume a large amount of calories. So…what’s the point? Essentially, when you dirty bulk your only goal is to add mass. You eat whatever you want, including fast food, pizza, junk food, etc.
The big question – is it effective? Well, if your only goal is to add mass, then undoubtedly yes. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to a dirty bulk.
For the Pros:
- Definitely the easiest way to get the highest amount of calories. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat all of the foods their heart desires?
- It is very easy to consume very large amounts of calories at one time. Eating highly processed foods, that are typically high in calories, is relatively simple.
- Overall, it is much easier to stay in a caloric surplus (consuming more calories than you can expend) than if you were eating “healthier” foods.
- It also can be very enjoyable – as stated above, you get to eat literally whatever you want! Sounds fun, right?
- It is typically more cost effective – less healthy foods, as most of you know, are much cheaper than quality foods. It is much cheaper to consume lower quality foods and higher amounts of calories.
- It takes a lot of stress and mental work out of the equation. Not having to worry about the types of food you eat is much less time consuming and less exhausting.
Now on to the Cons:
- You are 100% going to add on a significant percentage of fat in terms of the amount of mass put on. There is no way around this – lower quality foods = lower quality body composition.
- While it is simple and easy to consume a large amount of calories and stay in the caloric surplus as mentioned above, it is also very easy to consume TOO MANY calories. Yes, there should be an upper limit of calories consumed when bulking (no more than 1000-1500 calorie surplus).
- Overall, it’s just not healthy. It is a much better option to do a clean bulk. If you are able to consume a caloric surplus with a clean bulk, you are going to undoubtedly feel better, look better, and your body will definitely appreciate it!
Now on to the “Clean Bulk.”
Clean bulking Pros:
- Well, let’s start with the obvious: This is the healthiest option! Clean bulking puts an emphasis on consuming high quality, fresh and healthy foods.
- You will definitely add mass as long as you stay in a caloric surplus. As long as you are consuming more calories than your body expends, you will put on mass. And that mass will be more lean and healthier than a dirty bulk could ever do!
- Your body will thank you! Consuming healthier foods will surely make you feel better physically and you will be able to perform better in the gym (Which is the overall goal, right?).
- You will gain much less fat! Now, just because you’re clean bulking doesn’t mean you won’t add any fat. When gaining weight, you will always add some fat mass to your body, and that’s okay because your body needs it! In terms of percentage, you are going to add much less fat compared to a dirty bulk.
Clean bulking does not come without cons:
- It takes a lot of time! When clean bulking, you will gain weight, but at a much slower pace. It is tougher to consume larger amounts of calories compared to a dirty bulk.
- It takes a lot of preparation and effort. In order to effectively clean bulk, you have to plan out your meals and count your calories. Counting calories is often much more difficult when consuming fresh, high quality foods. You can’t just grab some fast food or a frozen pizza and down it.
- Overall, you won’t gain as much mass as you would on a dirty bulk. Dirty bulkers often take in high amounts of fat and empty calories, which are bound to help put on more weight than healthier options.
My own opinion on whether or not you should do a dirty or a clean bulk? Personally, if you are going to choose one extreme or the other, I strongly recommend going with a clean bulk. With that being said, I think this choice doesn’t have to be completely black and white.
As I mentioned, it can be very tough to stick to both a dirty bulk and a clean bulk. Dirty bulks are going to make you feel like shit, and you are bound to put on an increased amount of fat compared to a clean bulk. Clean bulking, however, takes a load of time and effort and can be very mentally exhausting and time consuming.
So personally, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the two. Why not stick to an overall clean bulk, while still throwing in some of the dirty foods? This can provide a mental release and stress reliever while also making strides toward your overall goal of gaining weight and staying relatively lean.
If I had to put this in more objective terms, I would recommend having up to 3 cheat meals per week. If you can consume 80-90% of your foods as clean, healthy foods, then you are definitely on the right path. By doing this, you will be able to put on mass while also feeling better and giving your mind and body the foods it also desires. The last thing you want during a bulk is to put on too much body fat, and then have to cut that fat back down.
Make sure to check out our article on the importance of SQUATS while you’re here!
Here are some examples of food I would include in a clean bulk:
- Whole eggs
- Lean meat (chicken, turkey, low fat ground beef, lean steaks)
- Protein Shakes
- Whole wheat or multi-grain pasta and rice
- Fish (Can’t forget those omegas!)
- Healthy fats (Olive oil, avocados, sunflower oil, etc)
- Vegetables (especially greens – spinach, asparagus, broccoli)
- Sweet potatoes (High in calories, and quite tasty!)
Any other opinions or comments? I would love to hear any feedback below!