What Is Lean Bulking? A Guide to Building Muscle Without Gaining Fat


Bulking is about maintaining a sustained caloric surplus, meaning you eat more calories than you burn, while combined with high-intensity resistance training that will boost your strength and muscles. When lean bulking, you tightly regulate your calorie surplus to prevent gaining excessive fat while still building muscle. Some people mistakenly think you simply need to eat more, but you can only gain muscle so fast, so you cannot force your muscles to grow faster by simply taking in more calories. Indeed, when your plan is to only eat more, the calories will be stored as fat. If you want to build muscle without gaining fat, check out the following helpful guide.


Lean Bulking


Calorie Surplus

It is recommended you follow a specific lean bulking meal plan to bulk up your muscle and not gain fat. The key to a successful meal plan is knowing how many calories your body needs to lean bulk successfully. Your calorie surplus should be moderate; around 10% to 15%. On average, that means eating around 16 to 18 calories per pound of body weight each day. Men should generally aim for a surplus of 17 to 18 calories per pound of body weight per day while women should typically aim for between 16 and 17 calories per day. If you are a man and your body fat is more than 15%, you should aim to reduce that to around 10% before beginning to lean bulk. For women, if your body fat is more than 25%, you should reduce it to around 20% before starting the lean bulking process.


Lean bulking is not just about eating the right number of calories. It is also about eating the right quantity of macronutrients, which are made up of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. You should eat between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, although some studies show following a very high protein diet of around 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight can help lean bulking. You should get around 40% to 60% of your calories from carbohydrates. One reason for that is it keeps your glycogen levels topped off. That can enhance your gym performance and positively impact the genes that are related to growing muscle. Meanwhile, around 20% to 30% of your calories should come from fats.

Here are some of the best foods for lean bulking that contain each of the macros you need:

  • Its the best proteins for lean bulking include seafood, sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, chickpeas, egg whites, and cottage cheese.
  • The best carbs for lean bulking include white or brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, potatoes, oats, spinach, and broccoli.
  • The best fats for lean bulking include avocados, peanuts, cashews, chia seeds, olive oil, whole eggs, and coconut oil.

Post-workout Replenishment

Strength training goes hand in hand with a lean bulking diet to help you gain muscle, so it is important you know what to eat post-workout. After working out, you need to replenish nutrients, and the two most vital macronutrients to replace are protein and carbs. Protein supports muscle repair and an increase in muscle protein synthesis to help build muscle while carbs support the replenishment of glycogen. Eating the right snack after a workout, or taking a supplement, can help you maintain the optimum level of macros and calories to contribute towards building muscle without gaining unwanted fat.

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