Simple Guide to Setting up a Lean Bulk Plan
- What is lean bulking?
Lean bulking is quite simply a cerebral approach to building muscle tissue while keeping body-fat levels in check and limiting fat gain as much as possible. Make no mistake, lean bulking is a slow process and requires concerted, persistent effort both in the gym and in the kitchen. That being said, it is much more efficient and pragmatic approach to building muscle and improving body composition.
- Why bulking plans often result in too much fat gain
Many gym-goers hear the term “bulking” and assume it means trying to gain muscle at all cost. Unfortunately this usually leads to individuals putting on unnecessarily large amounts of body-fat and thinking they’re doing their body a service because some muscle was gained in the process. Another term you may hear is “dirty bulking,” which is basically the process of eating as much as possible of whatever food you can/want to put on muscle (and inevitably fat as well).
The reason these aforementioned methods are inferior, however, is that the excessive amount of fat put on is extremely hard to take off. More often than not, the extra fat tissue will simply negate the benefits/appeal of putting on any muscle in the first place. Not to mention that in the process of trying to shred of fat tissue afterwards will take much longer and likely result in loss of more muscle tissue than necessary.
Setting up your personal Lean Bulking Diet plan
Determining Lean Bulk calorie and macronutrient needs (***These will need to be recalculated every 2 weeks as you progress)
- Determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by multiplying your bodyweight (in pounds) with 12
- Determine your Total Daily Calorie Expenditure by incorporating your daily activity factor (i.e. extra calorie burn from daily lifestyle)
- Sedentary—Little to no formal exercise and a desk job→ Multiply BMR by 1.2
- Moderately Active—Exercise 1 to 3 times per week and relatively inactive elsewhere→ Multiply BMR by 1.3
- Highly Active—Vigorous exercise 3-5 times per week and some activity elsewhere→ Multiply BMR by 1.4
- Extremely Active—Vigorous exercise 4-6 times per week and highly active elsewhere (i.e. working construction, manual labor, etc.)→ Multiply BMR by 1.7
For lean bulking, multiply your Total Daily Calorie Expenditure by 1 (this is how much you will eat on training days only)
- On days you don’t train, you will simply eat an equal amount to your Total Daily Calorie Expenditure
- Determine Macronutrient Ratio (as a percentage of your total calorie needs)
- For lean bulking training days, eat 30% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 30% fat
- For lean bulking non-training days, eat 35% protein, 30% carbohydrate, and 35% fat
Example for moderately active 170lb trainee on Lean Bulking Plan:
- Determine BMR → 170lbs x 12 = 2040 calories
- Determine Total Daily Calorie Expenditure → 2040 x 1.3 = ~2695 calories
- Multiply Total Daily Calorie Expenditure by 1.1 for training day calorie goal → 2695 x 1.1 = 2970 calories on training days/2695 calories on non-training days
- Calculate Training Day Macronutrient Intake:
- 2970 x 0.30 = 892 calories from protein = 223g protein (since protein has 4 cals/g)
- 2970 x 0.40 = 1,188 calories from carbohydrate = 297g carb (since carbs have 4 cals/g)
- Fiber intake should be about 20% of carb intake
- 2970 x 0.30 = 892 calories from fat = 99g fat (since fat has 9 cals/g)
- Calculate Non-Training Day Macronutrient Intake:
- 2695 x 0.35 = 943 calories from protein = 236g protein (since protein has 4 cals/g)
- 2695 x 0.30 = 808 calories from carbohydrate = 202g carb (since carbs have 4 cals/g)
- Fiber intake should be about 20% of carb intake
- 2695 x 0.35 = 943 calories from fat = 105g fat (since fat has 9 cals/g)
Hydration is often made a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Rather than calculating some precise amount of liquid you should drink each day, just be consciously sipping water each time you eat and in-between meals. Odds are that if you don’t feel dehydrated, you’re not. A good rule of thumb is to monitor the color of your urine; if it’s dark yellow, drink more water. If it’s clear, you’re good to go.
- Food Choices & Meal Timing/Frequency
There are no restrictions on the types of foods you should eat. The main goal is to simply eat in a fashion that allows to consistently reach your daily calorie and macronutrient intake goals. Nevertheless, foods that are rich in micronutrients are generally ideal; foods such as animal meats, veggies, fruits, complex carbs, and nut butters/raw nuts. Feel free to eat a little “junk” here and there if it helps you meet your calorie needs.
Also be sure to take in a generous amount of high-quality protein every time you have a meal (at least 3-4oz. which is about the size of a deck of cards). High-quality proteins are found in sources such as lean animal meats or animal-derived foods (e.g. chicken, milk, beef, etc.) If you’re vegetarian, emphasize plant and grain-based proteins like soy, brown rice protein, hemp protein, etc.
- Basics of progression
The single most important factor of most every training program is progression. WIthout progress, stagnation is inevitable. The key is to consistently progress from each previous workout in some form/fashion. If you just “go through the motions” with the same weight on the bar and same number of reps each week then you’re not going to challenge/stimulate your muscles sufficiently to elicit new growth.
If you reach a point where progress stalls, you should either take a week to deload and rest or potentially increase your calorie intake.
- Recommended frequency
Studies suggest that it is more effective to train each muscle/muscle group 2-3 times per week as opposed to a traditional bodybuilding approach that only trains each muscle once a week.
Therefore, the following weekly workout split would be an efficacious way to approach your training routine:
Day 1--Upper body (hypertrophy focus)
Day 2--Lower body (power focus)
Day 4--Upper body (power focus)
Day 5--Lower body (hypertrophy focus)
Day 6--Weak-point training
There are a multitude of ways you can go about setting up an effective training split that incorporates each muscle up to 3 times per week. Be creative and find what suits you best!
- Compound vs. Isolation lifts
Multi-joint exercises (compound movements) incorporate several muscle groups and activate more muscle fibers than isolation exercises. Examples of compound exercises include: presses, squats, deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, lunges, etc.
Single-joint/Isolation exercises are best utilized as “assistance” exercises or finishers after you have already completed the compound movements for the day. An example of some isolation exercises are dumbbell lateral raises, leg extensions, leg curls, bicep curls, etc.
- Cardio considerations
Ideally, you will not be doing much if any cardio during this program. The idea during a lean bulk is to keep cardio to a minimum and make sure your diet is on point at all times. The focus should be heavily on weight training and proper nutrition. However, if you want to mix in a few incidental cardio sessions each week (say 2-3 30-minute sessions) that’s fine as long as you are still gaining muscle.