Meal Plans

The Ultimate Clean Bulk Meal Plan

Forget the cutting phase and get ripped while you bulk with intermittent feasting.

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Spring Clean Your Nutrition

For ages, bodybuilders and regular guys alike have taken a two-prong approach to getting big and ripped. “Bulking,” or eating as much as possible while training for muscle growth, followed by a calorie-restricted, fat-burning “cutting” phase has become the default method to carve out a bigger, leaner physique. But it’s time consuming, and treating your body like a thermostat that you turn up and down can have negative effects on a cellular level. Fortunately, as we learn more about how the body processes macronutrients, it’s becoming clearer that we aren’t being nearly as efficient in our physique-enhancing efforts as we could be, and consuming specific quantities of nutrients at certain times of day can condense the bulking and cutting phases into one simple phase that will get you jacked—the healthy way—in a fraction of the time.

'Clean' vs. 'Dirty' Bulking

Bigger and fatter is not an ideal bulking strategy. Bigger and better is. Old-school bodybuilders like Frank Zane and Vince Gironda—two of the greatest physiques of all time, in my opinion— would tell you that you’d look a lot more impressive by adding five to eight pounds of fat-free muscle mass than by slapping on 10 pounds of muscle with 20 pounds of belly marbling. These days, traditional bulking strategies tend to fall under two broad categories, and they both leave much to be desired.

It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, just eat it, eat it, eat it: The “dirty” school of thought is that as long as you down enough protein, you can garbage disposal whatever else you want, regardless of food quality. Even if this “crap loading” works physique-wise, it’s not a wise choice from a long-term health perspective. (Admit it, you know.)

If you are pounding foods loaded with sugar, trans fats, and omega-6 vegetable oils every day, cell-membrane integrity and elasticity can be compromised, chronic systemic inflammation can predispose you to disease—or at least debilitating joint pain—and you may just end up with the emotional stability of a seesaw.

Even if you’re not scared of disease, think emotions are for women, and care only about how you look, consider that poor food choices can reduce insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning toward the muscle cell. This makes it harder to gain quality muscle mass with each successive bulk, and next to impossible to shed that last layer of flab when shifting into a shredding phase.

What’s the unappealing alternative? A hyper-micromanaged diet, or traditional “clean” bulk, where you eat every 1½  hours, carry around seven different plastic containers yielding a weird mix of tuna and broccoli odors, display obsessive-compulsive behavior, have your life revolve around your diet, and likely become a social hermit.

That may work for the 5% of the population who are professional athletes and models, but it is not a sustainable approach for most of us with more common careers and lifestyles. These plans may look immaculate on paper, but they rarely work off of it. Luckily, there is an alternative plan that optimizes food choices for overall health and quality of gains and is also flexible enough in structure to be practical in the real world.

Bulking by the Numbers

Lets take a step back for a second. Make no mistake, while we can argue over optimum dietary approaches into eternity, consistently hitting the right calories and macronutrients will always be the most important step in achieving any body composition goal, including bulking. Here’s a recommended starting point, using a 175-pound male as an example:

Calories:

16 per pound of body weight
16 x 175 lbs = 2,800 calories

+

Protein:

1g per pound of body weight
1g x 175 lbs = 700 calories (175g protein)

+

Fat:

25% of calories
2,800 calories x 0.25 = 700 calories (75g fat)

+

Carbs:

Remaining calories
2,800-700-700 = 1,400 calories (350g carbs)

From this starting point, everything needs to be tested, assessed, and refined in the real world to produce optimum results. Ectomorphs may need to push the calories up to 20 per pound of body weight. Endomorphs may need to implement a more cyclical dieting strategy by lowering calories to maintenance levels or below on rest days (12–14 per pound of body weight) in order to avoid gaining fat.

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