When it comes to building muscle, most bodybuilders associate the time period in which they put on weight to be known as “Bulking”, hence putting on a “bulk” of mass/weight. Bulking is simply a time period in which during your training using weights and assisted machines, that your body is in a state of a calorie surplus for an extended period of time, which is the exact opposite of how one enters a cutting phase or loses weight. When it comes down to bulking, you essentially have 2 different approaches in which one can take to gain mass/size, although both require the body to be in a state of a calorie surplus. Let’s discuss the 2 different methods of bulking: Clean bulking and Dirty Bulking.
Really there is no such thing as a clean and dirty way to gain size because all foods are made up of calories. However, in a Clean Bulk, you will be in a prolonged state in which your body is in a calorie surplus. This surplus though, will only be by a few hundred calories above normal maintenance. For example: if your metabolism or TDEE is 2000 calories, this means for you to gain any mass/weight you will need to eat over 2000 calories a day for an extended period of time, usually for around 12+ weeks.
In a clean bulk there are two main aims:
✓ To gain as little fat as possible
✓ To gain lean muscle tissue
To do this you will want to increase your calories by a few hundred, up from your start of 2000 to around 2300-2500 calories or so per day. With this increase in calories, the additional weight gained will be minimal, averaging around only 1-2lbs a week at most for the average person. However, the advantage to this method is that the amount of fat tissue your body will gain during this bulking period will be minimal. This is the advantage that clean bulking has over dirty bulking.
Dirty bulking is essentially the same thing as clean bulking, as your body will be in a prolonged state of a calorie surplus. However, for this approach to bulking, instead of increasing your calories by a few hundred (300-500 calories per day) you will increase your calories far beyond that number. For most, this can be as much as 3000-5000 calories a day. In order for this to be obtained by most, you will end up eating constantly throughout your day and the food selection in which you are consuming is anything and everything you desire to be able to obtain such a high abundance of calories.
Most people following such a dietry regime will drop the simple and standard practice of chicken and rice for every meal and end up eating everything from McDonalds burgers to milkshakes to donuts and pizza. This is so they are able to consume such a large number of calories every day in order to increase mass/bodyweight. However, the issue with this method, is that when you are at an extremely high level of a calorie surplus for a long period of time, the mass/weight in which you will gain will not all be muscle tissue.
Instead, a lot of the mass which you put on will be fat tissue which is why many people who are “bulking” end up looking fat and overweight. Since fat tissue and muscle tissue are two entirely different cells, they cannot be converted into the other. Therefore, in order for you to go from being in a state with excess body fat during or after a dirty bulk, you will have to diet even harder to lose the fat you gained. This is fine if you are a power lifter and not a physique competitor. However, if your goal is achieving a physically aesthetic and lean look, this route is not the one you should take.
Take Home Message
The two methods are essentially the same, with one requiring more food compared to the other and the higher food consumption leading to excess gains in bodyfat while still gaining muscle tissue. However, the method in which you take to bulk is entirely up to you and your own goals and aspirations. For some, the route of a clean bulk is the best choice although it may take longer. And for others, a dirty bulk is the method they choose because its faster and they aren’t focused on having 6 pack abs all year round. Either way, when bulking you are simply increasing your calories above normal for an extended period of time, typically 12+ weeks depending on the individuals goal and weight range they want to be in.