Dirty Bulk VS Clean Bulk

By Ire | Calories

Apr 20

Dirty bulk vs clean bulk? In this article I will discuss what are the differences, pros/cons to each and which one should you pick.

What is bulking

Bulking is a process of gaining weight. For the most part, that weight consists of muscle, fat and water weight.

Gaining weight has everything to do with energy manipulation. Basic principle of weight gain is to consume more energy (calories) than you spend. Once that is completed you will gain weight. It does not matter how many meals you had, when you had them or what you ate. If you consume more than you spend you will gain weight.

How much muscle compared to fat you will gain mainly depends on:

  • Uncontrolled Factors: Genetics, Age
  • Controlled Factors: Exercise program, diet (type of bulk)

While it would be stupid to try to change your genetics, we can in fact influence our training and diet. While I already wrote much about how to structure your training program for maximizing muscle gain, I wanted to touch on a subject of diet. There are two main types of bulking skinny guys usually subscribe to: Dirty bulking and Clean Bulking. But before we talk about that, lets first discuss the following question:

HOW MUCH MUSCLE CAN YOU GAIN PER MONTH?

I assume you are not on steroids, so lets just talk about natural ways.

Just like most of the things in bulking community, there is not exact science on how much muscle you can gain in a month. Since we are all different body types and have different training experience, it will vary by person to person. Most common module used in the world of fitness is Mcdonald Model:

MCDONALD MODEL:

(It is based on the assumption that you are following proper lifting program and diet)

How Fast Can You Build Muscle Chart #1:  The McDonald Model

Dirty Bulk:

  • Does not set any caloric limitation. That means that you can eat as much as you want over what your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is.
  • Does not set any macro limitations. That means you can eat anything you want no matter the amount of fat, carbohydrates or protein it has.

PROS:

  • EASY: It is easy to open up the fridge and just stuff your mouth with everything you see. No need to weight anything or calculate things afterward leaves you with more time and no mental straining.
  • TASTY: You have a justification on why you are allowed to take that extra scoop of ice cream, or eat another bag of your favorite chips. Your taste buds are constantly on ejaculation mode and so are the junk-food companies.

CONS:

  • POOR HEALTH: Cheap, low quality processed food leaves a tool on you. Quick sugar spikes quickly leads to exhaustion, more sugar cravings and poor digestion. That leads to excessive fat gain while bulking. What is more, your skin is going to be a big indicator to what you are ingesting into your body.
  • BAD EATING HABITS: Getting used to eating poor quality food is going to create some bad habits. Once the cutting seasons comes up, it will be a way harder for you to switch to clean food when you aren’t used to it at all.
Hamburger is a typical dirty bulk food

Clean Bulk:

  • Not going more than 500 calories into surplus on a daily. That means you cannot eat more than 500 kcal over you TDEE.
  • Sets macro limitations by weighing your food and calculating macros daily. That is for a purpose of maximizing lean muscle mass and minimizing fat.

PROS:

  • GAIN LESS FAT: Going just over the TDEE, will still allow you to maximize muscular potential while not going much over than that. Knowing your calories and macros will put you in control of your body appearance.
  • BETTER ENERGY LEVELS: While clean bulking doesn’t mean no junk food, it will limit it drastically. You will realize that you wont be able to fit your macros on just eating junk foods. Cleaner and more healthy food will lead to better overall mood. Higher energy levels also go hand in hand with quicker muscle recovery.

CONS:

  • TIME CONSUMING: Weighting your food and inspecting labels does take more time. Meal prep is a big weekend event when we talk about clean bulking.
  • However, you will spend just as much time cutting after unsuccessful dirty bulk than you do bulking with successful clean bulk. The only difference is that you will feel and look better along the way.  
  • OBSESSIVE: Perfectionist will go crazy with clean bulking. When it comes to counting macros, everything comes as an estimation. Expecting everything to be perfect is a great path to unsuccessful bulk due to giving up.
dirty bulk vs clean bulk. Grilling meat and vegetables

“I DON’T HAVE TIME TO COUNT CALORIES BUT I STILL WANT TO CLEAN BULK”

So, I assume most of you will find yourself in this category. You do not want to gain fat through dirty bulking, but you aren’t willing to start counting macros.

In that case, I recommend estimating your surplus based on past training experience and your weight changing rate. (should be around 300-500)

Do not change anything about your diet and figure out a way to add those additional kcal to your diet every day. That way you only have to do calculations once. As long as you keep those ingredients consistent you shouldn’t gain too much fat in the process. I tell all my clients to prepare a shake in the morning and drink it throughout the day during regular meals.

Dirty bulk VS Clean bulk: Which one to pick?

Before you answer this question, I really want you to understand why you bulk in the first place? Is it to win over a girl, to establish more respect around your peers or do you want to excel at your sport?

Secondly, I want you to consider your values. How important is health to you, how much do you care about what other people think of you. How much do you value time?

When bringing all the factors together, you can decide for yourself. In most cases, clean bulking is the way to go. I only recommend dirty bulking to extremely underweight clients that lack motivation. Gaining weight fast in the beginning is making them more likely to stay motivated with training and bulking. However, even those individuals switch to clean bulk as soon as their training habits are solid.

CONCLUSION

Bulking is a process of gaining weight, a combination of fat, muscle and water. While you are expected to gain all three of those, you can regulate the ratio in between gained fat and muscle.

There are two main ways of bulking: Clean bulking and dirty bulking.
Based on your goals and values you can chose the type that fits your life the most.

Since muscle has a limit of how much it can grow in a month, your weight gains results should not exceed that potential by too much if your goal is to minimize fat gain. In that case, you should chose clean bulking.

If your goal is to be a professional sumo wrestler and just need to put on tons of weight quickly, go ahead and enjoy path of dirty bulking. Just beware of unhealthy stinky farts, pimpled oily skin and low energy levels along the way.

About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

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