Clean Muscle Gain: How to Lean Bulk | Tips for Clean Bulking

muscle gain

Weight loss is generally a more common fitness goal than weight gain. However, many gym-goers wish to put on some body weight to increase their muscle size and strength.

Bulking is a quite simple concept that often gets completed by the gym goers. The process of bulking involves eating more calories than your maintenance level in order to increase mass gain.

For many people, the logic behind bulking is to shovel calories into their bodies without considering the specifications of it. Pizza, pasta, cakes, and other high calorie foods will leave you fat and unhealthy.

This sort of bulking is popularly known as ‘Dirty Bulking’. Wherein you end up gaining body fat instead of muscle mass.

I never call it easy, but it is definitely possible to bulk muscle mass and stay cut with the right balance of nutrition and training.

How to gain lean muscle mass? leave behind the idea of dirty bulking and focus on a nutrition plan that will allow you to gain lean muscle mass and not additional body fat.

Clean bulk gives you a stronger & bigger physique. Also, you won’t have much to cut down while cutting if you walk on the right path of clean muscle gain.

What is Clean Muscle Gain?

clean muscle gain

Clean muscle gain or lean bulking is a phase wherein you manipulate your nutrition to gain muscle mass. You eat in calorie surplus in which you consume more calories than you burn and that leads to bulking in the form of muscle or fat gain.

However, good nutrition combined with high intensity training can boost your muscle and strength. Hence, a good chance for clean muscle gaining.

A clean bulk diet is as rigid as a shredded diet is, it’s just about having the right information about it. In a clean bulk diet your calorie surplus is tightly regulated in order to prevent excessive fat gain.

How to get started with clean muscle gain?

mass gain diet

The first step is to figure out your maintenance calories. These are the calories that you eat daily. Consumption of these calories will lead to neither weight loss nor weight gain.

There are several calorie calculators available online to help you calculate your maintenance calories.

Once you have found out about your maintenance calories, it’s now time to find out how much calorie surplus you should go with in your daily diet.

You should start with 10-20% calorie surplus. For example an average-sized, 80-kg man would add approx. 250–500 calories, while an average-sized, 60-kg woman would add about 200–400 calories.

Now, it’s time to figure your macros distribution. Since lean bulking is the goal here, carbs play a major role in that. So following will be the macros bifurcation:

  • Carbohydrates – 50%
  • Protein – 30%
  • Fat – 20%

Your protein intake should be calculated around 1.6-2.0 grams per kg of your body weight. As protein supports muscle gain.

About fat, Fat here mentioned is unsaturated (good) fats. This does not make you any fat rather it will promote your overall health and ensure optimum protein synthesis.

How much weight gain should I target?

measuring muscle size

It is up to you to decide how much bulking is right for you depending on your personal goals. However, I would suggest targeting 0.25-0.5% weight gain per week.

Foods to eat

muscle gain food

As mentioned above, clean muscle gain is about having the right nutrition. 

Lean bulking focuses mainly on whole, unprocessed foods. However, small amounts of high calorie, processed items are also allowed.

Here are some food options to eat while clean muscle gain:

  • Legumes: all beans, like chickpeas and kidney beans.
  • Lean protein: chicken, fish, turkey, beef, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, etc.
  • Complex carbs: oats, whole grain pasta, multigrain bread, brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado, nuts, flaxseeds, etc.
  • fruit: oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, and berries.

Foods to avoid

avoiding junk foods

While all foods can be enjoyed in moderation, It may be best to limit or avoid some of these items:

  • Processed foods: cake, fried foods, ice cream, chips, fast foods, cereals, etc.
  • Saturated fats: butter, oil, etc.
  • Beverages: soft drinks, sweetened coffee, sweet tea, lemonade, and other sugary drinks.

Tips for clean muscle gain

muscles gain

  • Cardio while bulking

Yes, do cardio while you are bulking. People avoid cardio (or they are advised to) during their bulking phase, this shouldn’t be the case. There are plenty of healthy reasons to keep up with cardio training even if you aim to do lean bulking.

Cardio will promote your cardiovascular health, increase recovery, and help burn extra body fat. The good thing is there are cardio workouts to do at home easily and without wide space required.

However, you don’t have to indulge yourself in HIIT workouts or high-intensity cardio workouts. Stick to low-intensity sessions after your strength workout.

  • Ensure sufficient rest

Rest plays a major role in the maass gain process. If you exercise regularly and hit high reps and sets, you will end up suffering from fatigue by overtraining.

Such stage is dangerous while clean muscle gain as it will make you tempted to eat sugary processed foods to help stay active.

Ensure an adequate rest period of 60-90 seconds between your sets and go not more than 3 sets. On the top of it, ensure 7-8 hours of sleep to allow your body sufficient time to recover.

  • Focus on compound movements

Compound exercises are the ones that allow you to train more than one muscle in each lift. If you aim to gain muscle mass faster, compound movements could be an ally of yours. Aim for 8-10 reps for each set.

Compound movements are important for one more reason, the more muscles are included in a lift the more testosterone levels are secreted by your body which in turn helps in gaining muscle mass.

  • Do not compromise with your nutrition

For clean muscle gain you need to eat in a calorie surplus and that does not mean eating high calorie junk food.

You need to make sure you are eating the right food to ensure you have a healthy body too with lean bulking. 

Focus on having slow releasing complex carbs in pre-workout snacks and faster releasing simple carbs in post-workout meals.

Protein & fats are vital nutrients for muscle growth so make sure you are consuming them enough (as suggested above) to achieve your fitness goals.

The bottom line

Clean muscle gain or lean bulking is healthier than dirty bulking in many ways, provided it is done right. 

The eating pattern in clean bulking provides you with an opportunity to build muscle and strength while preventing excess fat gain. This approach is for those who want to gain muscle mass while preventing fat gain.


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