Guide to lean bulking


New Member
all of us of course doesn't want to get too fat because of a wrong way of doing a bulking cycle. we want to stay as lean AS POSSIBLE so we'll still look good without our clothes. ;)

is it OKAY when doing a "bulking cycle" to eat a little above maintainance during OFF days and do HIIT style cardio to lose SOME fat? or will it hinder maximum growth?

any guy out there who is dang big AND lean might want to give some tips. please do. :)
I'm not big but I am lean ;-)

I tried a lean bulk at 250 over maint and got zero gains last cycle. I'm back to 500 over maint and I'm gaining again. For some of us getting a little fat is the only way we can gain.
i'm neither big nor lean, but i know that i can't gain squat without gaining some fat. sad but true. of course i'm not 18 anymore, so that makes a big difference too.
yeah i know gaining muscle w/o gaining fat is impossible..sad

ectoman - how much weight did you put with 500 over maintenance? how was your diet on the off days? :)
skinnyman: I usually put on 3 lbs per cycle at 500 over maint. This is around a 2:1 LBM to fat. Not bad.I only have one off day because I do a 6 day split. I don't reduce calories on my off day and use it for carb loading.

Actually, 500 over maint is still really a 'lean bulk' compared to some of those monster 1000-2000 over maint bulks where you put on 15 pounds. I tried a monster bulk with poor results. Too much fat. So, I found my sweet spot that allows moderate growth and a little fat. For me, I like the slow and steady progress route.
I think this is largely determined by genetics and my body type. I've met a couple skinny people who thought they were ecto's but once they tried to bulk up, they gained a ton of fat, so probably were just endo's who barely ate anything. I can eat 1000 over maintenance and only gain 1-2 lbs a week, with very little fat gain, which I guess could be considered a blessing by some, but I gain muscle rather slowly, so I'm not sure it's a good thing.
so what do you guys think about my next plan? 500 over maintenance on WO days and 100 over maintenance on OFF days (cardio HIIT style or traditional 30 min cardio)
If you are doing cardio or HIIT on your off days, I would eat 250 over maintenance... but you can try 100 and see how it works for you. What sort of frequency and routine are you going to use?
Hi everybody,

I would like to share my approach to lean bulking which involves eating nothing on Sundays:

According to Lyle McDonald, a beginner can gain about 1kg of muslce a month. Unfortunately, this typically comes with 1kg of fat a month.
That is, the ratio would normally be 50/50.

Unfortunately I lost my exact recorded values, but if I remember correctly, I was able to considerably reduce the monthly fat gain.

6 days a week, I ate the same weighed meals every day and I added a whey protein shake on workout days (Mon, Wed, Fr). This was a calorie surplus.

Breakfast: Oates + 1L of Low fat milk + apple/banana alternating
Lunch: 100g tuna + 2 slices of German whole wheat bread purchased on amazon
Dinner: 6 whole eggs (although eggs are quite small where I’m from)
All day long: about 2,5 liters of whole milk.

I drank a ton of whole milk to get my calories during the day. I tried to never combine sugar and fat and for my morning oats I used low-fat milk instead. Takeaway: Combining simple carbs and fat is asking for fat gain.

On either Friday or Saturday night, I wouldn’t eat as clean and I’d eat out (Tacos etc.) but again, always trying to drink water, especially when I was eating or drinking something else fatty.

On Sunday I wouldn’t eat anything. Caffeine helped to mitigate the hunger and if it got bad I might have some almonds. Walking around or keeping busy otherwise helps a lot here. It has to be the 7th day of the week because otherwise you would be eating nothing on a gym day or you would be eating nothing the day after a gym day.

This guy here gave me the idea:

(the post refers to a muscle memory experiment in regaining muscle you once had, i.e. a quick bulk for regaining - it’s not about new gains)

Here is my reasoning for why it should work:

We know that:
3500 Kcal = 1 Pound
7700 Kcal = 1 Kg

… assuming my maintenance level is about 2700kcal and I achieve a 2000 kcal deficit in a day of fasting (and assuming this is pure fat loss), then I would lose about 0,2 -0,3 kg of fat.

The weight difference before and after the fast was greater due to difference in water weight and what you have in your stomach. But of the weight lost, theoretically, 0.2 -0.3kg should be fat. So, THEORETICALLY, this should translate to gaining 1kg of muscle in a month and close to no fat - contrary to Lyle McDonald’s assumption mentioned up top.

On Monday’s I’d have less strength in the gym (due to being quite carb and energy depleted from Sunday) and I remember that I was still working to fix that..I do remember that having lunch time earlier (say 1pm instead of 4pm) did help. I work out from 9 to 10pm

So that’s it: How do you bulk with the least fat gain possible? I would say you need a fasting day (think of it as the opposite of a cheat day for when you are cutting. Side note: With IF and counting calories I can cut effectively whilst having a super cheat day once a week)

The only other 2 approaches I have heard of were
1) the Hodge Twins bulking while doing IF (intermittent fasting) (not an option for me since I need so many calories in a day that I couldn’t fit them into the IF eating window)


2) people doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) to burn fat while they bulk.
(While I don’t like fasting once a week, I don’t know if I could go an additional 3 times to the gym to do the HIIIT)

Please let me know if you

a) can elaborate on HIIT for lean bulking (on which days would one do HIIT?)
b) know another way of lean bulking
c) have tried any of the 3 methods and which worked best for you
d) have any other comments

...I am sceptical because I think you need some carbs for all meals so the protein gets absorbed properly but I guess that a self-experiment could resolve the issue.

You can eat protein and have it get absorbed/digested without eating carbs alongside it.

That won't magically allow you to bulk up without gaining fat though. You can't change your p-ratio without drugs.
Hi Totentanz,
Thank you for getting back to me :)

Okay, I just learnt what the p-ratio is :p

So, in your opinion, there are absolutely no steps that can be taken that would make a bulk leaner? (Assuming the same daily caloric surplus, of say, 500kcal)

Best wishes,
Hi Totentanz,
Thank you for getting back to me :)

Okay, I just learnt what the p-ratio is :p

So, in your opinion, there are absolutely no steps that can be taken that would make a bulk leaner? (Assuming the same daily caloric surplus, of say, 500kcal)

Best wishes,

You can optimize slightly just by timing your nutrition intake, but in general, all you can do is gain slower. Obviously if you gain too much weight, too quickly, the ratio of weight gained will be more fat than protein.

As to your PS question, yes p-ratio changes over time. It becomes worse as you get older and as you get larger as well.
I too am on the road to bulk up as lean as possible and have my bulk last for as long as possible and at least one full year. This is how I planned to do things in Theory:

Given that I am still at a beginner level I allow a weight gain of 1 kg per month, given that a beginner could gain 1 kg of muscle per month. BF% must not exceed 15% either.
Last year I shot up from around 13% BF to 21% BF in a bulk lasting a good 4 months, what followed was a grueling 4 month + cut to get back to 13%. I do not whish to do that again, that is why I choose not to let body fat exceed 15% by too much.
Weight is entirely managed in the kitchen as well, no sessions of cardio, HIIT, or whatever are used to control weight.

These are the rules:

When BF% <= 15
Allow 1kg of weight gain per month with a margin of 0,5kg on the upside, so 1,5 kg max weight gain a month.
When weigh increase => 1kg for the running month, drop back to maintenance calorie intake, but an additiional 0,5kg is increase is still OK
However, the absolute maximum for the next month should be respected in the next month. So not resets at the end of the month as that wouild allow for continous margin breaking.

When BF% > 15
Drop to maintenance calorie intake and in the next month start a minicut for the length of that month with the goal of losing max 2kg (roughly 2% BF)

How it works in practice so far:

month 1: within margin
month 2: broke margin half way the month, gained about 0,4 kg too much (maintained the rest of the time)
month 3: (july, started 29/6): broke margin already now on the fifth day (since only allowed to gain 0.5 kg now because of previous margin break)

weight gain is about 2,8 kg from the start (should have been at 2kg ideally)
BF% from 13% to 14% with the majority of this 1% in the last week!!

So weight gain seems to be a little quicker then planned for as wel as the increase in BF%. Over time, BF% increase seems to accelarate as well, maybe as body accustoms to caloric surplus (p-ratio?).
I hoped to avoid a minicut for as long as possible, but it seems that it will be needed sooner then expected.

So, if I continue the line of the scenario it seems like a 4 month bulk, should in this case be followed by a 1 month mini cut, but I will try to make it last longer. Since cutting half the weight gain every 4 months would mean that my size increase would be terribly grueling slow, even at a beginner stage.

How do I measure?
weight is measured daily fresh in the morning
BF% is measured at least weekly
girth is also measured at least weekly

Would like to see other experiences, or comments and remarks regarding my own plan.