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People who are on a muscle-building journey often have a very important decision to make. Should I do a dirty bulk or a do a clean bulk?
Dirty bulking is the practice of consuming large amounts of high-calorie, often nutrient-poor, foods to quickly gain weight and muscle mass.
It can seem appealing due to the indulgent nature of the unrestricted diet and the quick gains. But there are several things to consider before committing to this method.
What Exactly Is Dirty Bulking?
Dirty bulking is a phase in bodybuilding and other sports that involves rapidly increasing your weight by consuming a very large number of calories through unhealthy food choices.
You can indulge in a caloric surplus and focus on eating pretty much anything, mainly junk food and lower-quality foods to pack in those extra calories with not much emphasis on the nutritional value of the food.
The idea of any kind of bulking is to fuel your body with excess calories, which, when combined with intense resistance training, promotes muscle growth and strength gains.
When you’re dirty bulking, your primary concern is devouring as many calories as possible, without much thought for macronutrients or the quality of the food you’re eating.
It’s like an “off-season” where you might give in to your cravings and eat your heart out, aiming for rapid weight gain.
But you still have to workout. You’re still trying to maximize muscle gains you’re just doing it with lower-quality foods.
Dirty bulking can be contrasted with the more disciplined approach to bulking known as “clean bulking.”
Clean bulking is about consuming a more carefully balanced diet including foods with more nutritional quality whenever possible.
Also adjusting calorie intake with more precision to avoid unwanted fat gain and tracking the macronutrients of the foods you eat more closely too.
Just to give you a sense, dirty bulking diets might involve excessive intake of high-calorie and calorie-dense foods like pizzas, burgers, pastries, and other junk food items.
It’s worth noting that dirty bulking is not necessarily recommended by health professionals, as the drawbacks might outweigh the expected benefits.
So, if you decide to try dirty bulking, remember that it is a high-caloric approach to gaining weight with less emphasis on nutrition.
- While it may result in muscle growth, also consider the potential risks associated with overconsumption of unhealthy foods. A balanced approach, like clean bulking, might be a more sustainable option for long-term muscle building and overall health.
Dirty Bulking and Overall Health
When you opt for dirty bulking, you might see some short-term benefits for your physique and performance. But you have to consider the long-term effects on your health.
Consuming vast amounts of calorie-dense foods with little regard for micronutrients can lead to various health issues. Elevated blood sugar levels from high carbohydrate intake, for example, can contribute to insulin resistance, increasing your risk of developing diabetes.
Focusing solely on getting more calories can also cause you to consume excessive amounts of saturated fats and trans fats. These unhealthy fats can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart problems.
In addition, dirty bulking can have some less obvious negative consequences on your health. Eating loads of unhealthy food can leave you feeling sluggish, reducing your energy levels and making it harder to maintain a consistent exercise routine. This can negatively impact your cardiovascular health and make it challenging to sustain a healthy weight in the long run.
Furthermore, a dirty bulk can lead to deficiencies in essential micronutrients, increasing your risk of experiencing health problems. This can and often does affect not only the overall wellbeing of the bulker but also their ability to perform optimally in the gym.
What’s the point of putting on bulk by eating lower-quality foods if as a result you’re too tired or you don’t feel motivated or well enough to workout as much as you would if you had a cleaner diet?
So, before you decide to embark on a dirty bulking adventure, think hard about it. Weigh the potential benefits against the risks to your health.
Dirty Bulking vs Clean Bulking: The Pros and Cons
Now, let’s weigh the pros and cons of each method:
- Pros 👍 You can gain weight and muscle quickly as you consume a massive amount of calories.
- Cons 👎 Along with muscle gain, you’re more likely to put on a significant amount of fat as well, and the unhealthier food choices can adversely affect your overall health.
- Pros 👍 You’ll gain lean muscle mass more gradually while minimising unwanted fat gain, and the better-quality nutrients can improve overall health and body composition.
- Cons 👎 It may take longer to see progress as weight and muscle gain are slower-paced.
If you’re after quick results and aren’t worried about gaining some extra fat, dirty bulking might work for you. But if you’re looking for a healthier, more sustainable way to build muscle while maintaining a balance between muscle gain and fat, clean bulking is the way to go.
Food Ideas List for Clean Bulking
So what are some good food ideas to support clean bulking?
It can be a little harder than dirty bulking to actually know what clean bulking foods you should go for because you’re not effectively eating whatever you can get your hands on. And knowing what highly nutritious cleaner foods to fill your cupboards with can be tricky.
Let’s dive into some great clean bulking food options for you to include in your diet.
Remember, clean bulking is all about focusing on healthy food choices while minimising fat gain.
Food Ideas for Clean Bulking
Many people don’t realise how high in calories nuts are, so make sure you include them. They’re also packed with essential nutrients, healthy fats, and fibre too, making them perfect for clean bulking. Create your own trail mix with a mixture of your favourite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits to snack on throughout the day.
My personal favourites are walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts and also peanut butter.
When it comes to protein, you can’t go wrong with the classic tuna. It’s lean, versatile, and packed with quality protein to aid your muscle-building goals. Combine it with some vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil or avocado for a tasty and nutritious meal.
Speaking of healthy fats, let’s not forget the wonders of nut butter! Whether you choose peanut, almond, or cashew butter, spread it on whole-grain toast or use it as a dip for apple slices, it’s an excellent source of energy and nutrients.
For those of you who love dairy, opt for full-fat dairy products like Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, or even a glass of full-fat milk. You can also incorporate them into your favourite protein shake or smoothie for an extra hit of protein and healthy fats.
Carbs are essential for providing energy during your workouts and for fuelling muscle recovery. Some great carb sources for clean bulking include oats, rice, and sweet potatoes. Start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts, or load up your lunch and dinner with brown rice and roasted sweet potatoes to keep your energy levels high.
One of my personal favourites is to make a baked sweet potato with tuna, I dress it with a little bit of olive oil and yoghurt.
Remember, the key to successful clean bulking is all about balance, variety, and quality. By incorporating some of these food ideas into your meal plan, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your muscle-building goals with minimal fat gain.
Potential Worst Side Effects of Dirty Bulking
If you do decide to go on a dirty bulking journey, you might notice some side effects that can affect your overall well-being.
One of the primary concerns can be fatigue. Consuming calorie-dense foods, packed with fats and sugars, might make you feel sluggish and lazy, affecting your energy levels despite your weight gain efforts.
Another side effect that you might experience is depression. A diet high in sugars and low in fiber can lead to mood swings and negative emotional states. It’s essential to get enough fiber and healthy fats in your diet, as they play a crucial role in maintaining your mental health and overall well-being.
A poor diet may also lead to sleep disturbances. Since you’re consuming predominantly processed foods and saturated fats in dirty bulking, it could affect your sleep, making you feel restless and uncomfortable at night.
Additionally, dirty bulking puts you at risk of consuming an excessive amount of junk food. These types of food contribute to the overall calorie count but offer very little nutritional value, only adding to your issues.
Keep in mind the following points while bulking:
- Prioritise healthy fats, such as nuts, avocado and oily fish, over saturated fats
- Incorporate enough fiber in your diet through whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Limit your sugar intake, especially from processed foods and beverages
- Maintain a balance between calorie intake and nutritional value
Remember, dirty bulking might initially seem like a quick way to gain weight, but it could have adverse effects on your physical and mental health. Consider these potential side effects and choose wisely between a clean or dirty bulk for your muscle-building goals.
Significance of Supplements in Dirty Bulking
In your dirty bulking journey, supplements play a crucial role in filling nutritional gaps. While you’re focusing on consuming excess calories for rapid muscle growth, sometimes the quality of food might not be ideal for providing essential vitamins and minerals, so adding supplements is essential.
When it comes to supplements, your top priority should be ensuring you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals are vital for various bodily functions like energy production, bone health, and immune system support. Some of the important vitamins you should look out for are:
- Vitamin D: Crucial for overall bone health and muscle function, Vitamin D also helps in maintaining a healthy immune system. Add some Vitamin D supplements to your dirty bulking routine to keep your body strong and healthy.
- Multivitamin: A good multivitamin can cover a wide range of essential micronutrients that you might miss in your diet. Including a daily multivitamin in your supplement stack ensures you’re well-equipped with all the necessary nutrients.
Next, you should focus on other supplements that can help enhance muscle recovery and performance during this phase. Some of these include:
- Whey Protein: While you’re mostly focused on consuming high amounts of calories, having a good protein source ensures that your muscles get adequate amino acids for repair and growth. Whey protein is an excellent choice due to its rapid absorption and complete amino acid profile.
- Creatine: A popular supplement among athletes, creatine has been proven to improve power output, muscle size, and overall performance. Adding creatine to your dirty bulking supplement stack can give you that extra edge during high-intensity workouts.
Incorporating supplements like vitamins, minerals, whey protein, and creatine will ensure that you’re not compromising on the nutritional aspect while working towards gaining muscle quickly. Prioritise these supplements to ensure optimal gains, improved performance, and sustained health in your dirty bulking journey.
How Do I Know How Many Calories I Need to Bulk?
Find Your TDEE
To determine how many calories you need to bulk up, you’ll first need to assess your current energy intake and expenditure.
Factors such as your body composition, activity level, and whether you’re a hard gainer or have a fast metabolism can influence this.
Start by figuring out your maintenance caloric intake, which is the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. You can calculate this using a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculator such as the one below.
The TDEE calculators take into account your age, height, weight, and activity level.
Once you’ve established your maintenance caloric level, it’s time to increase your caloric intake to promote muscle growth.
Generally, you’ll want to add around 200-500 calories to your maintenance level. And that will give you the amount you should aim for every day in order to bulk up.
How To Figure Out Your Macros?
Next, consider your macronutrient intake, as the proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you consume can impact your bulking process.
A typical macronutrient ratio for bulking might consist of about 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fats.
Keep an eye on your energy levels, gym performance, and any changes in your body composition. If you’re gaining too much fat, you might need to cut back on your caloric surplus or opt for a cleaner bulking method.
On the other hand, if you’re not making progress, you may need to increase your calorie intake further.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your blood sugar levels, especially if you’re consuming a high number of carbohydrates. High blood sugar can be detrimental to your overall health, so remember to choose complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbs and sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the risks of dirty bulking?
Dirty bulking comes with several risks you should be aware of. This approach to gaining weight and building muscle typically involves consuming unhealthy, highly processed foods, which can lead to unwanted fat gain.
You may also experience longer-term health issues, such as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
How does dirty bulking affect body composition?
When you dirty bulk, you are consuming excess calories and often less nutrients than if you were following a clean bulking diet.
This can result in a higher fat-to-muscle ratio, making it harder to achieve your desired physique. Keep in mind that the more fat you gain, the more difficult it will be to shed it during your cutting phase.
Can dirty bulking lead to health issues?
Yes, dirty bulking can lead to health issues due to the consumption of unhealthy, calorie-dense foods – think processed and sugary foods.
Possible health risks include high cholesterol, insulin resistance, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome.
By choosing a clean bulking approach, you’ll be fueling your body with nutrient-dense, high-quality foods that can help you avoid these issues.
What’s the difference between dirty and clean bulking?
The main difference between dirty and clean bulking lies in the quality of food you eat. Dirty bulking involves consuming calorie-dense, often unhealthy foods in order to gain weight quickly.
Clean bulking, on the other hand, focuses on eating nutritious, whole foods that provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs to build muscle and minimise fat gain.
How effective is a dirty bulk compared to a clean one?
For some individuals, dirty bulks may result in quicker weight gain and muscle growth due to the high caloric intake.
But it’s likely you’ll likely also gain more fat than you would with a clean bulk. In the long run, a clean bulk is generally more sustainable and healthier, allowing for more controlled and steady muscle growth, while minimising negative health impacts.
Is it better to dirty bulk when you’re skinny?
While dirty bulking might help you put on weight more rapidly when you’re skinny, this approach comes with its downfalls, particularly it may involve unhealthy food choices.
Instead, consider choosing a clean bulking approach, focusing on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, and a balance between carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.
This way, you’ll still gain weight but with a healthier body composition and fewer health risks.