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What is clean bulking ?

Bodybuilding is both a recreational and competitive sport that rewards muscle size and definition.

The three main phases in bodybuilding are bulking, cutting, and maintenance. Among competitive bodybuilders, preparation for their contests can be considered a fourth phase.

Bulking is the muscle-gaining phase. You’re meant to intentionally consume more calories than your body needs for a set period — often 4–6 months. These extra calories provide your body with the necessary fuel to boost muscle size and strength while weight training

To varying degrees, body fat tends to accumulate during bulking due to excess calorie intake.

Cutting, or the fat loss phase, refers to a gradual decrease in calorie intake and increase in aerobic training to reduce excess body fat from the bulking phase, allowing for improved muscle definition.

During the cutting phase, bodybuilders eat fewer calories than their bodies require, which puts them at a disadvantage for building muscle. The goal of this phase is generally to maintain — not gain — muscle mass.

One review found that the average calorie intake of bodybuilders during the bulking phase was 3,800 calories per day for men and 3,200 for women, compared with 2,400 and 1,200 calories during the cutting phase, respectively.

Since a clean bulk is comprised predominantly of whole foods, its nutrient content tends to be superior to that of a dirty bulk. Specifically, it’s higher in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber.

Phytonutrients are plant compounds associated with anti-inflammatory effects.7Truste

High fiber diets are linked to good digestive health and a reduced risk of various ailments, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer .

While the foods eaten on a dirty bulk aren’t necessarily void of quality nutrients, the more processed nature of the diet lowers the overall nutritional value.

In general, bulking is a sustained calorie surplus — in which you eat more calories than you burn — which leads to weight gain in the form of muscle or fat. This eating strategy is combined with high intensity resistance training to boost muscle and strength gains.

When following a clean bulk, also called a lean bulk, you tightly regulate your calorie surplus in an effort to prevent excessive fat gain.

The diet is mainly comprised of minimally processed whole foods. High calorie junk foods are limited to promote a leaner body composition.

Clean bulking is often utilized by athletes who desire to stay relatively lean in the off-season, such as mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, boxers, gymnasts, strength athletes, and physique athletes.

That said, this approach isn’t for everyone, as its associated weight gain tends to occur slower than it does with other

bulking methods.

How does it compare with dirty bulking?

In opposition to clean bulking’s measured, slow approach is the dirty bulk.

Under this strategy, no foods are off-limits. Rather, you’re meant to pack on as much weight as possible regardless of any associated fat gain.

While a dirty bulk may be extremely effective for gaining muscle and strength quickly, its side effects include excess fat gain, feelings of sluggishness, and high cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

How to start a clean bulk ?

The first step to starting a clean bulk is to establish your maintenance calories — the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Several online calculators can help you estimate this number.

You then tack on a 10–20% calorie surplus. For example, an average-sized, 175-pound (79-kg) man would add approximately 250–500 calories, while an average-sized, 135-pound (61-kg) woman would add about 200–400 calories.

From there, ensure a daily protein intake of 0.7–1 gram per pound of body weight (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) to support muscle gain. The rest of your daily calories are made up of carbs and fats, depending on your preference.

It may be helpful to track your intake using one of several smartphone apps.

Weigh yourself regularly to track your progress, shooting for a weight gain of 0.25–0.5% of your body weight per week.

For the same 175-pound (79-kg) man and 135-pound (61-kg) woman, this equals 0.4–0.8 pounds (0.2–0.4 kg) and 0.3–0.6 pounds (0.14–0.28 kg) of weight gain per week, respectively.

If the number on the scale isn’t moving, slowly bump up your weekly calorie intake by 100–200 calories.

Foods to eat

Lean proteins: chicken, fish, turkey, beef, pork, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, reduced fat cheese, protein powders, tofu and tempeh, and eggs and egg whites

Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado, nuts, nut butters, fatty fish, and seeds like chia, hemp, and flax seeds

Legumes: all beans, including chickpeas and kidney, navy, black, and great northern beans

High quality carbs: oats, quinoa, whole grain pasta, white and sweet potatoes, and white and brown rice

Fruit: apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple, grapefruit, and all types of berries

Non-starchy vegetables: peppers, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and celery

Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage

Dark leafy greens: spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, and kale

Beverages: water, seltzer, diet soda, tea, coffee, and kombucha

Foods to limit or avoid

Highly processed foods: fried foods, canned soups and stews, sugary cereals, chips, fast food, and full fat ice cream, plus packaged pastries, cakes, and cookies, and processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham, salami, and pâté

Proteins: fatty cuts of beef or pork, as well as processed pork or beef sausage

Saturated fats: margarine, butter, and certain oils

Beverages: soft drinks, sweetened coffee, sweet tea, lemonade, and other sugary drinks

While clean bulking is rather restrictive and dirty bulking may lead to excess fat gain, you can try to strike a balance between the two.

In general, bulking can be seen as a spectrum, with “clean” and strict on one side to “dirty” and lax on the other.

If you wish to find a happy medium, dedicate about 90% of your calorie intake to whole, unprocessed foods and the other 10% to discretionary calories from high fat or high sugar foods.

This approach may provide the best of both worlds, as it promotes lean muscle gain, limited fat gain, and more dietary flexibility.

Clean bulking is an eating pattern that provides a controlled calorie surplus to build muscle and strength while preventing excess fat gains. This method is often utilized by athletes who can’t afford to gain too much fat when attempting to grow muscle.

Although clean bulking is healthier than dirty bulking in several ways, bear in mind that it’s less flexible and runs a higher risk of stalled muscle gain.

Remember to check with your healthcare provider before starting any diet, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


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