8 Critical Diet Tips to a Successful Lean Bulk

Brad Dieter
Written By: Brad Dieter
December 12th, 2016
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
56.4K Reads
8 Critical Diet Tips to a Successful Lean Bulk
A lot of lifters don't obtain the physique they're hopeful for during bulking season. To make sure you do, check out these 8 diet tips for lean muscle gains!

Bulking is awesome.

I mean seriously, you skip the broccoli at dinner, ice cream is a staple, and you don’t feel like you are going to yell at someone for no good reason.

Now on the other side of the coin, some people completely miss the boat on bulking and fall on two different ends of what I like the call the “bulking spectrum”:

  1. You eat big some meals, eat like a rabbit the next, and just kind of half a** the whole thing and your biceps grow like maybe 28 nanometers in diameter. 
  2. Your diet consists of those special Oreos, protein shakes, Poptarts, and whatever else sounds good in ungodly quantities because, “I’m bulking bro”.

This dirty bulk usually translates into your body fat going from 8% to 16% in about 12 hours. OK, not really, but you get the point.

Both of these options don’t appeal to me so why don’t you just fall in the middle called, “Smart Bulking”.

Here are 8 tips to get you in that sweet spot:

1. Drink More Protein Shakes

Building muscle requires protein and higher protein intakes appear to be the best approach for getting swole. Roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight appears to be a really good starting point for optimizing muscle gain during a bulk.

Related: 5 Tips to a Successful Bulking Season

For some people downing 200-225 grams of protein from whole food sources is no sweat. Those people have jaws of iron (this must be where Alan Aragon got his jawline from) and are superior beings to me.

For us normal jawed people a solid whey protein can give us a much needed boost to your daily protein requirements and help you reach those targets.

M&S Athlete Taking a scoop of Prosupps Protein

2. Lose Your “Absession”

Hear me out. I mean I get it. Seeing all those ab striations in the mirror when you first wake up is as close to Nirvana as we are going to get, but if you want to really add on some serious size you need to quit “absessing”.

I can’t tell you how many times I see people in the 5-6% body fat range fail a bulk because they just don’t want to be up in the 8-9% range where training is better, sleep is better, and growth is better.

Also, I can pretty much guarantee that your sex life is not going to suffer if you go from 6%-8% body fat. If it does, well I would bet my life savings it is not related in any way to that body fat percentage. You might just need to work on your social/dating skills.

3. Skip the Fasted Life

Fasting is cool, biceps are cooler. What you need to do is write the word fasted on an index card and set it in front of you about a foot left of center. Then write the word “jacked” on another index card and set it in front of you about a foot right of center.

Spend a minute thinking about which one you want more, pick that card and put in on your mirror. Throw the other one in the trash.

Fun story and experiment aside let me tell you why you should skip the fasted life. It is super simple. The whole point of bulking is to build muscle. How do you do that? Increase your training volume and consume more calories.

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Fasting is a fast track to lower training volume and less food. Going into a workout well fed leads in longer training duration and higher training intensity, thus more volume. Eating more often typically allows you to consume more calories throughout a day/week than long periods of fasting.

4. Brain Over Brawn

Train smarter not harder. The best way to bulk is to accumulate a lot of training volume, typically dense volume, over an extended period of time. The key piece to this is being able to train for several months consistently. To do this you need to stay healthy.

Nothing sets a bulking/massing phase back quite like an injury does. If size is your main goal think really hard about your exercise selection. Do you really need to do max effort squatting and deadlifting 3 times a week? Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Focusing more on the exercises and set/rep schemes you know are ideal for hypertrophy and limiting the risk of injury during a bulk phase can be the best thing you do for your programming.

5. Sneak in Extra Volume

I can’t take credit for this idea as I initially heard it from the gains whisperer Bryan Krahn (you should go read his stuff after you finish this article). Sneaking in extra volume is a great way to get a little more out of your bulk than you might otherwise.

If you have a lagging body part (for me it is my shoulders) you can tack on an extra exercise that targets specifically that muscle as a “pump finisher” for every single training session. For example, during my next bulk I am likely going to add in some dense volume (i.e. 6x6) lateral raises at the end of every single session.

This is enough to eek out a bit more results without trashing that muscle group like a dedicated shoulder day would.

M&S Athletes Performing extra shoulder sets

6. Popping Bottles

This isn’t quite what you think it is referring to, it is just a play on words. Bulking is a calorie intensive process and sneaking in extra calories really helps.

One way to do this is to add an intra workout shake or drink, heck even Gatorade can work. Intra workout liquid calories typically don’t make you feel super full and can let you easily sneak in an extra 200-400 calories a day. That kind of calorie intake can go a long way in adding mass.

Related: Lean Bulking Machine - Maximize Lean Muscle Growth

7. Veggies Gotta Go

When you are trying to bulk and are having a hard time gaining you really need to think about your food choices. While veggies are healthy, nutritious choices for maintaining weight and optimizing health, they seriously detract from your ability to ingest a lot of calories.

If you are hitting a plateau during your bulk and half your plate consists of veggies or salad you should swap those for rice, potatoes, pasta, nuts, seeds, avocado, or something more calorie dense. You have your whole life to eat more veggies, when it is bulking time it is bulking time.

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8. Turn Off Netflix and Sleep

If you are trying to bulk and are binge watching The Walking Dead until two in the morning, you are leaving gains on the table. Seriously, just like you prioritize training and your food, set a sleep schedule and maximize those ZZZZZs.

If you are spending $300 dollars a month on fancy supplements and aren't sleeping enough you are basically tossing money down the toilet (alternatively, I can send you my address and you can send me the cash).