You're reading this because you want to learn how to lean bulk without gaining fat.
It's surprisingly easy.
Before I reveal which foods and how many calories you should eat to achieve it, let's backtrack for a second...
Did you try one of those old-school "eat big to get big" diets where you wolf down chocolate chip cookies and family-size pizzas all day long...
Then HATED how fat you looked and felt a few weeks into it?
You're not the first or last guy that's happened to.
Championed by pro bodybuilders, gaining mass at any cost possible on a "dirty" bulk is the dumbest eating strategy a regular guy could follow.
Sure, you can get huge from it...
Now you're forced to go on a strict, calorie-restricted diet to shed all that flab over the next 4-6 months...
Only to end up right back where you started...
With the same skinny-fat physique staring at you in the mirror.
Unless you enjoy yo-yoing back and forth between unhealthy bulking phases and tough cutting cycles, get the ancient "eat big to get big" theory out of your head!
Ballooning your body fat percentage has nothing to do with intelligent physique development.
A lean bulk is the only viable approach for men who want to look like they lift when the clothes come off during a mass gaining period.
What Is Considered A Lean Bulk?
Unlike a "dirty" bulk where you try to eat your way bigger at any cost possible, a lean bulk follows the basics of sound nutrition:
Lean proteins, clean carbs, and quality fats.
The goal is to create a small calorie surplus (200-300 kcal/day) so you're giving your body the building blocks it needs to generate new muscle while keeping fat accumulation at a minimum.
It's a slower, but much more effective approach to packing on mass for natural lifters.
How to Lean Bulk Without Gaining Fat
Although lean bulking isn't hard, it takes some effort upfront.
Follow these three simple steps to get things going.
Step #1: Calculate Your Lean Bulk Calories
Take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 15.
This gives you a fairly accurate starting point.
So, if you weigh 75 kilograms (165 pounds), your calorie target is 2475 kcal/day. We'll round that up to 2500 kcal to make the math easier going forward.
Scale hasn't budged after a week of eating 2500 calories?
Add 200-300 calories to tour daily target, then measure again in seven days.
Repeat every week until your weight creeps up.
Unless you're severely underweight and need to gain 20+ pounds just to reach a normal weight, aim for a modest weight increase of 1 kg (2 pounds) per month.
You can't force your body to build more muscle than is physiologically possible.
Except for newbies, gaining quality mass is a slow process. Trying to rush this process by going overboard with your calorie intake will only lead to gaining excess fat.
In case your waist measurements show you're gaining too much fat, too fast, cut this target in half – 0.5 kilograms (1 pound).
Guys who have been lifting for a few years and have already packed on a decent amount of size will have to go even lower because they're that much closer to their genetic limits.
Aim for a modest weight increase of 200-300 grams (~0.5 pounds) per month.
Step #2: Set Your Lean Bulk Macros
With our calorie target in place, it's time to nail your macros:
Proteins, carbs, and fats.
Protein is simple...
Around 1 gram per pound of body weight. So 160 grams in this case.
Carbs and fats require more tinkering based on your body type.
If you're cursed with skinny-fat genetics, don't go crazy with starches.
Your body can't handle 500 grams of carbs in a calorie surplus. You'll blow up... and not in a good way.
Other than some jasmine rice in your post-workout meal, stick with vegetables, berries, and fruits as your main carb sources.
Fill the leftover calories with healthy fats.
Here's what your macros could look like on a 2500 kcal/day diet...
- Protein: 160 grams (640 kcal)
- Carbs: 250 grams (1000 kcal)
- Fat: 95 grams (860 kcal)
If, however, you're a naturally skinny dude with abs, you don't have to worry too much about fat gain from starches. Compensate for the higher carb intake by lowering fats:
- Protein: 160 grams (640 kcal)
- Carbs: 330 grams (1320 kcal)
- Fat: 60 grams (540 kcal)
You've probably heard that 40% of your calories should come from proteins, 40% from carbs, and 20% from fat (or something along those lines) in a muscle building phase.
Don't pay too much attention to protein/carb/fat ratios. They're just a guideline and won't impact your gains.
As long as you're hitting your protein target and keeping most of your meals clean, you're good to go.
Step #3: Create Your Lean Bulk Meal Plan
Now you know how many calories you must consume and have ball parked your macros.
All that's left to figure out is how often you want to eat and when.
Most people who work a regular job do best shoveling down 2-3 warm meals (dinner, lunch) with another 1-3 snacks spaced throughout the day.
Need specific ideas for what to eat?
This bodybuilding food list will help you pick the good stuff at the grocery store for your healthy lean bulk meal plan.
It's time to put the "eat big to get big" theory to rest.
You don't have to throw all caution to the wind, eat tons of high-calorie junk food, and sacrifice visible abs to gain muscle.
You only need a mild surplus to grow.
Yes, a bigger surplus will push the scale up faster.
But the same goes for your body fat percentage.
Numbers on a scale mean nothing. How you look, feel, and perform is what counts.
To be clear...
It's okay to lose some ab definition when eating for size. It's unavoidable.
What's not okay is getting sloppy and ending up resembling the Michelin Man, then torturing yourself through a tough fat loss cycle just to lose all the strength you gained during a dirty bulk.
For genetically average men, gaining muscle slowly while minimizing body fat is the only effective way to develop a head-turning physique.