When it comes to lean bulking there are several key mistakes which often lead to unwanted fat gain and only a moderate amount of muscle growth.
Over the long term, this fat can become hard to lose and can put you in a vicious yoyo-cycle, doing lots of mini cuts and bulks because you are unhappy with the unwanted fat you gain while bulking.
This yoyo-type dieting is counterproductive to adding muscle mass, as, each time you diet, you are most likely to lose muscle or at least are wasting time when you could actually be gaining muscle.
At the same time you will also be disrupting your metabolism and interrupting your key muscle-building hormones such as testosterone…
By following the key rules in this guide you can have a successful lean bulk without gaining all of the unwanted fat and wasting time dieting.
Optimize Your Calorie Intake
One of the most important concepts of lean bulking, which people often ignore, is simply optimizing your calorie intake.
All too often people are quick to jump on a random mass gaining program or decide to “bulk” by eating everything in site!
In order to take optimize your lean bulk, you really need to ensure your calorie intake is tailored towards your own metabolism and activity levels – why shoot in the dark and risk gaining fat?
If you take calories too high and are not training optimally, these excess calories will simply spill over into fat storage; in contrast, if you aren’t meeting your daily calorie needs, you’ll simply plateau or fail to gain a significant amount of mass, because you will not be fuelling your body and optimizing recovery.
Therefore it is very important that you really focus on getting your calorie intake right first time. There’s a small window of opportunity that you MUST hit if you want to optimize your results.
Outside of a lab-based setting, it can be very hard to get the calorie intake right from the get-go; however there are some online calculations that are fairly accurate or, if you have been dieting for a while, you should have a fairly good idea of your starting calorie levels.
Once you have a baseline level, it is important to slowly progress calories from here, rather than quickly accelerating them by 4 or 5 hundred if progress is slower than you wish.
Small increments around 100 or 200 calories every 2 weeks should allow you to find that sweet spot between good muscle growth and minimal fat accumulation.
Keep It Clean
One of the most important and old laws of bulking is to keep it “clean”.
As touched upon, when people start to bulk, they will quickly change their healthy eating philosophy and begin to consume an excessive amount of calories from junk food, using the excuse they are on a “bulk” (i.e. get fat diet).
While the odd occasional treat that keeps within your calorie and macro intake is fine, 80 or 90% of your diet should still come from healthy single-ingredient, clean food.
In line with this, one of the biggest issues is that people will have regular cheat meals, perhaps once or twice a week. While again, the odd meal out or night off, once a week may be ok, taking it to extremes eating 6000 calories in one day will simply fast track you to excess fat gain.
This is because the body can only lay down a set amount of new protein, i.e. muscle, per day all within a certain window.
Therefore, it often makes no difference to muscle mass if you are consuming 3000 calories (i.e.a normal bulking level for most 200LB bodybuilders) and within a slight and sensible surplus, or consuming 6000 that day, because of the cheat meal.
While you may like to think that 3000 calorie pizza and ice cream goes to the muscle but sadly it doesn’t most of it will head straight to the fat cells!
Learn Your Fat Gain “Budget”
While most people will not look at it this way, I’m about to change your perception to bulking and lean
When it comes to bulking, you probably got more flexibility for bad food
/ cheat meals when dieting as you are in a constant deficit. Therefore, any slight excess on occasions will help you refuel muscle glycogen stores and be simply burnt off over the next couple of days dieting.
In contrast when you are bulking, muscle glycogen stores are likely already full as you are intaking a large amount of food on a daily basis. This means any excess fat storage will simply shorten the time you can spend lean bulking before you need to diet again.
One good way to imagine it is that each bulking period has a budget before you gain too much fat.
For example, imagine you have a 100 point budget, when you hit the 100 points, it means you have gained a few % body fat and need to start cutting again. If you add one point every day from simply being in an excess calorie surplus, that would give you 100 days of lean bulking before you might want to do a mini 2, 3 or 4 week cut.
This ratio, i.e. 100 days bulking to maybe 20 days dieting, is pretty good. It means you are going to be spending around 80% of the year gaining.
Look at it in this light, when we now incorporate cheat meals. Again, you will gain one point per day when lean bulking but then your weekly cheat meal may add an 10 points.
This now means that 5 cheap meals automatically uses up half of your 100 point budget. Because of this, you only get 45 days (+ the 5 cheat days) to grow before you must diet. This is HALF the amount of time than the scenario above.
Half the time bulking = half the muscle = half the results!
Packing In The Protein
A high protein diet is nothing new; however, I’m going to recommend and show research supporting an extremely high protein diet and explain why it may be even more beneficial for lean bulking.
If you gain excess fat easily and have often struggled with lean bulking before, then one good option may be to consume slightly less carbohydrates and fat this time and get more of your calories from protein.
While many bodybuilders will easily consume a high protein diet when bulking, you may want to increase this and go extremely high. For example, many people will eat around 1 gram of protein per 1lb of bodyweight.
This is a great amount and should easily help you maximize your protein threshold for growing muscle. However, by going even higher, you can add in excess calories to support recovery and growth with much less risk of any overspill.
Research On The Super High Protein Diet
Several studies by my friend Dr. Antonio have led the research in this area.
This involved placing participants on an extremely high protein diet, with them consuming over 300gm per day. In these studies participants would consume around 4.4gm per kg bodyweight. This equates to double the figure quoted above and puts them at 2gm per 1lb bodyweight.
Most interestingly, participants were placed in an 800 calorie surplus which, by bulking standards, is pretty aggressive and you would expect some fat gain.
However, after several weeks of doing this and combining it with just a standard resistance training protocol, (nothing as extreme as my 20 Week Scientific Mass Workouts) participants were able to eat an extra 800 calories per day & gain no extra fat, just pure, lean muscle.
These results have highlighted how extremely high protein content can help increase the calories without any potential negatives and excess fat gain.
They also conducted many markers on health, finding there were no detriments to aspects such as kidney or liver health, which would be a natural conclusion to jump to considering this high amount.
In one of the studies, although it did not reach a large significance due to the short timeframe and excess calorie consumption, participants actually even lost a small amount of body fat.
To reemphasise that point, participants were consuming an extra 800 calories per day, yet actually lost a small amount of body fat. Talk about lean bulking!
For your next bulk, try increasing the protein to maybe around 1.5 – 2 grams of protein per lb body weight (i.e. 150LB individual would take 225 – 300 grams per day). If you handle this well and can easily achieve it, then you can even push it slightly higher, based on these studies by Dr Antonio.
Maximize Your Training
One of the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to lean bulking and excess body fat is a fundamental issue with training.
Far too often people will be on a serious mass-gainer, cramming in the calories (and often steroids) but still only performing half the amount of training, with half the intensity or technique that many of my clients will do.
While you cannot necessarily out-train a bad diet, you can certainly out-train a slight amount of fat gain that may accumulate on a lean bulking program.
By turning your training up a level and training more muscle groups, more frequently, with higher volume and more advanced protocols, such as those used in the 20-week scientific mass builder, you can easily eat more food, gain more muscle and get better results while gaining less body fat.
If you are currently only training a muscle group per week and heading to the gym to do 10 to 15 sets for that muscle, then it is no surprise that you are gaining excess body fat.
Instead read these articles and learn about Metabolic Resistance Training or why a higher frequency workout and training plan is going to be much better for your results: boosting your metabolism, improving insulin sensitivity, glycogen resynthesis, while allowing you to add more muscle with less fat.
If you want 20 weeks worth of these workouts, you can save 85% right now with this coupon:
Optimize Your Supplement Intake
While most people will stick with the regular protein-based supplements, there are other more beneficial ones which can help you maximize blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning.
You see, the big issue with chronic excess calorie intake is the reduction in insulin sensitivity which means, after a while, the body will struggle to handle such a high carbohydrate intake and will start to store more of it as fat while delivering less of it to the muscles for fuel and recovery.
Therefore, it is very important to maximize your insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, keeping it healthy and sensitive throughout the bulking period.
There are several supplements I recommend to help with this, including:
Use High Intensity Interval Training
While most people will totally eliminate cardio and recommend you reduce your daily activity as much as possible, I’m actually going to suggest the opposite.
Although I also agree that if you are an extremely hard-gainer with an excellent metabolism, you may want to eliminate cardio and all other daily activity, so you can reduce your calorie expenditure and optimize your bulk.
However if this is the case, you should have no issues lean bulking and the whole concept of this article doesn’t apply to you, as your main issue is no weight gain at all.
For most of us this doesn’t apply and if we are optimizing our training, diet and recovery, then muscle mass shouldn’t be an issue. One of the main issues for us is remaining lean and maintaining insulin sensitivity while bulking which, ultimately, will decide the length and success of that particular bulk.
Therefore, I am a big advocate of a small sensible amount of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
If you have read my other work, you will know that HIIT is a unique tool, which can help burn a ton of calories, boost your metabolism and insulin sensitivity with only around 5 to 10 minutes of exercise.
Therefore, around 2 sessions of HIIT per week can also help maintain your insulin sensitivity, keep your metabolism high and also improve blood glucose tolerance and help drop any fat which may be slowly piling on throughout the bulk. Again, this will therefore allow you to bulk for much longer with more overall success.
You do not need to do anything extreme, around 5 x 30 second intervals on a machine, such as the bike, twice a week will be more than sufficient to give you the benefits you are looking for.
Learn more about the Science of HIIT on this page.
Optimize Every Aspect Of Your Routine
Ultimately, a successful lean bulk comes down to 100s of different aspects all being optimized and coming together in unison.
This is why most people struggle to reach any goal, be it muscle gain or fat loss, as they will likely be focusing on just a few aspects and ignoring other key parts of the overall routine which they really need to focus on.
Gaining lean mass is way more than just training and even within training itself, 100s of different variables such as:
- Rep Schemes,
- Advance Techniques,
- Strength Curve Manipulation,
- Joint angles and much more, all play a key part in your muscle building success.
Additionally, for diet there are another 10 or 20 variables you need to consider and then you can continue this process for other factors such as recovery, hormones and insulin sensitivity.
As you can see, combined, there are maybe a hundred different factors which fall into around 6 or 7 subsections that you need to focus on.
Therefore continued education and an open mind is a must. Out of all of this, of course, training and nutrition tend to be the biggest mistakes. But even if these two are optimized and the other aspects aren’t, you will only get moderate results.
If you really want to optimize your success and instantly fix any aspect or weak link in the chain, then here is an 85% discount for 20 Week Scientific Mass Program, which will instantly take an average or generic routine and put you on a highly advanced and specific one.
Click below for your one-time 85% off coupon and to learn more: