Best Bulking Diet

Best Bulking Diet

Optimal bulking diet for gaining muscle and keeping it. Here are the best bulking meals as well as complete diet plans using them!  No subject in bodybuilding has as much bad information, misleading anecdotes, and incorrect myths about it than bulking.  On this page I will address all these misconceptions. and also give you an optimal bulking meal plan for you with exactly the number of calories you need.

The best bulking diet maximizes muscle gain potential while limiting fat gain to extend bulking time and minimize cutting time. The goal of bulking is to ratchet up your lean body mass with successive bulk/cut cycles and to do this requires a good clean bulking plan like the ones shown here.  By minimizing the fat gain during the bulk cycle, you minimize the time and severity of the cut which allows you to keep your muscular gains.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that bulking just means shoveling a lot of food into your mouth.  Yes, these folks gain lots of muscle.  The problem is that by the time they diet and remove the 30 pounds of fat they gained, nearly all their muscle gain is lost.  Anybody can bulk, thats really easy.  The key to maximizing muscle is to optimize the bulk to make every ounce of fat gained worthwhile. If you want to add muscle with a minimum of fat, you need good clean bulking meals – please see Best Bulking Meals.

Best Caloric Surplus For Bulking

Many websites and trainers make idiotic pronouncements like:

  • To bulk, eat 4000 calories a day – expert 1
  • To bulk, eat TDEE + 20% – expert 2
  • To bulk, eat 500 calories over your maintenance level” – expert 3

Saying things like this is about as stupid as saying that “peanut butter is a good snack” because there are a zillion variables.  You simply cannot make unqualified pronouncements like this because everyones needs are different!  The reason the optimal caloric surplus for bulking is so hotly debated is that people do not realize that it that iit depends on how fast your body is adding muscle.  Most of the magazine articles about bulking are talking about the bulking cycles of IFBB pros who are juiced to the gills.  Because these guys can gain 20-30 pounds of muscle in a chemically enhanced cycle, their bulking caloric surpluses are VERY high because to add 30 pounds of muscle requires a LOT of calories, say a 25% to 40% surplus.  On the other hand, take a natty bodybuilder near their genetic limit.  For them, they will be lucky to gain 3 pounds of muscle during a bulking cycle so that hardly requires any additional calories at all, maybe a surplus of 5%.  Everyone else is inbetween.  So, how do you know how much of a surplus to use?  Great question and you know I have a great answer!!

The best caloric surplus is one that allows you to gain the most muscle/strength over the entire bulk/cut cycle.  What most beginning bulkers do not realize is that it doesnt do any good at all to gain 5 pounds of muscle in a 3 month bulking cycle if you lose it all with a crazy cut afterward.  You need to look at the complete picture.  You are not optimizing just the amount of muscle gained in the bulk cycle, you are optimizing for the muscle gained during the COMPLETE cycle.  Most people make the mistake of having a crazy high caloric surplus.  Yes, they gain muscle but because they have needlessly gained so much extra fat, their cut has to be extreme which results in muscle loss.  Not only have they had to work extra hard but they are getting less muscle gain than they could have with a more gradual bulk and an easy, gradual cut. Some of the ridiculous bulking diets like Mark Rippetoe’s GOMAD have people eating 4000 – 6000 calories a day.  With these binge-fests, people are literally gaining a pound of fat every single day and they only get about 4 weeks of bulking before they have to go on a starvation level cut that is virtually guaranteed to wipe out nearly all their mass gains.

Optimal caloric deficit for the post-bulk cut

It may seem odd to start talking about optimal bulking by looking at the cut but its where most people screw up while bulking.  A horribly designed cut is also the reason that so many people think that losing muscle during a cut is a given.  Cutting does not burn muscle, bad nutrition burns muscle.  “Bad nutrition” takes three forms: not enough protein, not enough calories, and not enough vitimins and micronutrients.  If you want an optimal cut, use custommealplanner and make a free cutting meal plan with a caloric deficit of 20% or 25% and use the low carb nutritional type.  From my experience, THAT is optimal.  So, why did we start with the cut?  Its because gaining muscle is so hard that we do not want to needlessly lose it.  You must factor in the time required for a slow and gradual cut into your bulking plan.  If you have made a free cutting meal plan at custommealplanner, it will give you a bodyfat chart which will tell you how long it will take to get to your desired final bodyfat level.

Optimal caloric surplus for the bulk

Now that you know how time consuming a cut is if you want to lower your bodyfat without losing muscle, you understand how important it is to minimize the fat gain rate.  The less fat you gain while bulking, the more bulking cycles you can fit into a year and the more bulking days you can have!

Optimal bulking for experienced natural powerlifters and experienced natural bodybuilders is a balancing act.  Eat too little and you leave muscular gains on the table.  Eat too much and bulk time where you gain muscle is lessened and the cut time where you lose muscle is increased.  Remember, at some point you will get so fat that you will have to start cutting and if your cut is so drastic that you lose all your bulking muscular gains then you have just wasted a lot of time.  What you need to maximize is your LBM at the end of the bulking/cutting cycle.


Rather than talking about what caloric surplus is optimal for bulking, what we should really be talking about is the optimal fat gain rate, specifically how much the bodyfat percentage increases over a 12 week bulk cycle.  This optimal bodyfat increase for a bulking cycles comes close to being constant for everyone so its much more instructive to discuss this.  From my experience, if you are starting from single digit bodyfat then an increase of about 3%-7% in bodyfat over a 12 week bulking cycle seems about right to optimize the muscle gained over the whole bulk/cut cycle (not just the bulk).

Why are there so many conflicting opinions on bulking?

Intentional deception in an effort to make money.  To have your video go viral, tell people what they want to hear, that to gain muscle faster all they have to do is eat more food.  Give them lots of meals loaded with peanut butter, and sugary bulking powders.  To make lots of money selling $97 eBooks pretend to have a secret meal plan that lets to pack on muscle, fast!  People desperately want to believe!

Misleading anecdotes.  There is very little research about bulking.  Most peoples information comes from locker room anecdotes in high school.  Its not unheard of for a natural 14 year old to gain 50 pounds in a year and when this happens, all this guys buddies take his bulking advice as gospel.  The truth is that the 50 pound weight gain was simply the result of a normal puberty growth spurt, going from 7% bodyfat to 15% bodyfat, and some weight lifting … in that order.   Yes, 14 year old teens with epic puberty growth spurts can add 50 pounds in a year while eating burgers, pizza, and drinking beer but that doesnt help anyone else.

Steroids.  Unfortunately most of the bulking myths come right from the muscle magazines like FLEX, Iron Man, and Muscle & Fitness. Yes, someone taking bucket loads steroids can gain 50 pounds muscle in a year and to do that requires eating a LOT of calories and they dont need to be clean calories either.  The problem is that these magazines fail to mention that their bulking plans are for the chemically enhanced pros only.  Again, the bulking advice for steroid users is of no help whatsoever to the natural lifter.  If you follow the bulking meal plans in these magazines you will just get FAT.


How to calculate the perfect caloric surplus for you

Remember that above I said that in my experience, if you are starting from single digit bodyfat then an increase of about 3%-7% in bodyfat over a 12 week bulking cycle seems about right.  Thats all well and dandy but how do you know how much to eat in order to make this happen?   Easy peasy lemon squeezy!  Here is how to do it in less than 90 seconds.  You can not only decide on the perfect caloric surplus for your clean bulk but also make a complete meal plan!  Remember these meal plans are completely free!

  1. Set up a free account at CustomMealPlanner.(30s)
  2. Enter your stats (height, weight, age, etc) to configure your metabolic rate. It is critical that you set your activity level honestly and accurately – only include strenuous cardio, not walking or weight lifting. (30s)
  3. Set your current bodyfat and your predicted muscle gain rate – again, it is critical that you are honest here.  Dont put “20lbs/yr newbie adult max” if you can only do two full body workouts a week.  (5s)
  4. Save your configuration (5s)
  5. Choose a caloric surplus by setting it in the “Your Goal” section of the configuration.   +10% is a good place to start.
  6. Click on “Day Meal Plans” in the menu, then select nutrition type “Clean Bulk” and click on the “Create Quick Meal Plan” button as shown here:
  7. Look at your resulting charts in your meal plan, it will look like those shown below.  The top chart shows predicted scale weight and lean body mass weight.  The chart of the most interest is the lower chart which shows predicted bodyfat.  If you have set your caloric surplus right then your bodyfat will be increasing 3%-7% over a 12 weeks (84 day) period.  If this is not the case, simply adjust your caloric surplus and make another meal plan!
  8. Use your meal plan!  You now have the perfect meal plan for clean bulking!  Text it to yourself so you can view it anywhere.  Click on each meal to see how to prepare it and how much you should be eating!  Click here to see a sample of a bulking meal plan for NateNewbieLifter who is 17 years old, 130 pounds with 7% bodyfat and is expecting a big growth spurt (40lbs/yr).


What is the goal of bulking?

The goal of bulking is not to “gain weight” as a lot of newbies think.  People who think the goal of bulking is to “gain weight” just get fat. The goal of bulking is to gain muscle and to gain enough that when you cut back down to your starting bodyfat you have gained more muscle than you would have by simply holding your bodyfat steady.  Cutting is a lot of work so if you are going to do it you want to make sure you get your moneys worth!

Gaining weight is not the same as gaining muscle

This is the biggest newbie mistake in the book. Weight gain is not muscle gain, its fat gain plus muscle gain.  The fat settles all over the body including pecs, arms, and thighs so at first, the weight gain can *appear* to be muscle gain – especially thru the rosy tinted glasses of wishful thinking.

ProTip: If your waist measurement is getting larger, you are getting fat – period, no exceptions. 

Its not until you get like Eric Cartmen here that it becomes apparent that you are FAT and not muscular.  Once the body has all the calories and protein it needs to add muscle, adding more food will only result in you getting fatter.  Let me say this again because its really important:

If you eat more calories than you need, even if its pure protein, you will get fatter rather than more muscular.


Bulking Up Fast!

This makes me pillow-scream when I see videos or articles with this title.  Either these people are stupid or intentionally trying to deceive people for commercial gain.  The only ways you can gain muscle fast involves illegal drugs.  Eating lots of food does NOT make you gain muscle fast, it only makes you FAT!

Who benefits from clean bulking?

  1. Guys of any experience level who are under 6% bodyfat will be able to gain more muscle mass by bulking.
  2. Advanced lifters near their genetic max trying to gain that last bit of muscle mass.
  3. Powerlifters wanting to maximize strength.
  4. Non-natty lifters.

Beginning lifters rarely see any benefit from bulking.  Intermediate lifters see marginal improvements in muscle gain rate with bulking.  Its mainly advanced lifters and powerlifters for whom its worth the pain of cutting to get the gains from the bulking.

By my definition, its not bulking unless there is a corresponding cut.  This is important to realize because you have to factor in the possiblity of losing muscle mass during the cut in deciding if you can ratchet up your Lean Body Mass (LBM) with bulk/cut cycles.  Its also very important that you use good cutting meal plans, otherwise you will lose all your hard earned bulking gains.

Who benefits from dirty bulking?

Basically nobody.  “Dirty Bulking” is a euphemism for “stuff your face with all the yummy junk you want”. Who should do this?  Only people who are under a doctor’s direct supervision for treatment from a wasting disease or starvation.

All the stories you hear of people who have made ‘all kinds of gainz’ with dirty bulking are:

  1. teens having a natural growth spurt unrelated to their lifting.
  2. teens getting their newbie gains.
  3. teens having a natural growth spurt combined with newbie gains
  4. people wildly exaggerating because of wishful thinking and ego

Its important to remember what reasonable muscle gain expectations are!!!


Optimal bulking diet for newbie lifters

Anyone can bulk.  The question is, how do you maximize the amount of muscle you gain over the bulk/cut cycle.  Here is the thing, the very people who need to bulk to gain muscle are the same ones who are likely to lose it when they cut – why is this? Great question!  Its because the closer you are to your genetic potential in terms of strength and muscle mass, the harder further gains are and the more perfect conditions have to be in order to get those gains.  Newbie teenage lifters can make “all kindz of gainz” eating hot dogs, bologna sandwiches, and pizza but elite (natural) powerlifters and experienced (natural) bodybuilders cannot.

If you are a newbie teen, it doesnt matter, you can Gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, YES this is possible!  Literally thousands of people do this every month, just take a look at the success stories before and after photos from programs aimed at newbies like P90X.  If you are a newbie teen you can also do any kind of a crazy bulk/cut you want and you will still make gains because newbies can do literally anything nutritionally, no matter how stupid and still make gains.

Anything is “optimal” for a newbie lifter so why make all the extra work for yourself?  If you bulk, you are going to have to cut so dont do it!  IMO, newbies do not benefit from bulking!