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Most of us regard bulking as a guilty pleasure where the pleasure of eating anything in sight is accompanied by the guilt of watching our abs disappear into distant memory. Building your ideal physique usually involves two distinct cycles where bulking is one and the other is cutting. Bulking involves actively trying to put on weight by entering a caloric surplus – knowing your macros will be key to this process.

The caloric surplus is a critical component of the bulk because without it you will lack the energy and nutrition required to improve size and performance. However, the question of which approach to take to enter this caloric surplus still stands, do we go the clean bulking route or the dirty bulking route? We know which one sounds like more fun but read on to make sure you know which approach is best for you.

What is a clean bulk?

A clean bulk is driven by a two-prong goal which consists of adding as much lean muscle mass as possible while taking on minimal amounts of fat as possible in the process. Ultimately, calories may be calories but those consumed in a clean bulking diet are better at supporting bodily and cellular function than some of the empty calories consumed in dirty bulking.

What is a dirty bulk?

Want to have your cake and eat it? Well, when you’re dirty bulking you just about can. What distinguishes a dirty bulk from a clean bulk is that it follows more of a no-holds-barred approach, meaning the source of the extra calories is not restricted and to some extent, neither is the amount.

This pretty much means that if it’s edible it can be added to your diet. What it also means is that those following a dirty bulking approach usually end up consuming hundreds and sometimes thousands more calories than their clean bulking counterparts.

Each approach has its pros and cons. We’ll give you a rundown of them below so you can make an informed decision on which approach best suits your goals, and your temperament.

The clean bulk

Pros

  • Improve strength
  • Improve size
  • Enhance muscle mass
  • Minimal fat gain

Cons

  • Can cost more to maintain due to pricing of healthy foods
  • The strain and stress of managing a strict diet are still more present than in dirty bulking

The dirty bulk

Pros

  • Increase in size and strength
  • Less costly process than clean bulking
  • Offers a true mental and psychological break from a strict dieting regime

Cons

  • More excess fat will be gained and consequently harder to lose
  • The nutritious value of foods is all but ignored

The benefits of bulking

  • Social life

It can be a bit difficult to be around friends and family that don’t quite share the same focus and passion for fitness and health that you do. When you’re in the bulking phase you can be a bit more relaxed about what you eat and enjoy eating out comfortably without second guessing your choices.

  • Freedom

Any form of dieting can put a strain on you the mind and body over time, particularly when it comes to a caloric deficit. Entering into a bulking phase can be a welcome sense of freedom that will help you relax and get some much-needed relief from the stress and strain of the caloric deficit.

  • Add muscle mass

A caloric surplus and significant amount of protein is a necessity for packing on muscle and size which just so happens to be part and parcel of bulking.

  • Rebuilding muscle mass lost during caloric deficit and cardio

Especially if you’re a cardio bunny, you will be amazed at how much muscle mass your body loses during the process of maintaining your lithe and lean figure. Bulking will help you rebuild and restore muscle mass lost during excessive cardio and a prolonged caloric deficit.

  • Base metabolic rate adjustment

Finally, studies have shown that your BMR can actually increase as a result of the additional calories you’re consuming (Ravussin et al, 1985). Furthermore, if you’ve hit a wall when it comes to fat loss, a brief bulking phase can actually spark further fat loss by jumpstarting your metabolism again.

Which is better?

Both clean bulking and dirty bulking are effective at putting on mass. Depending on your preferences and budget, you will either opt for the one that takes more effort, costs more and yields high quality results (clean bulking) or the one that takes less effort and costs less but doesn’t yield the same quality of results (dirty bulking).

The long game

If you’re looking for more of a long term solution to your dieting that might require less fluctuations, you might want to read our blog about the various diets that so many around the world are trying. For example, flexible dieting is based on the notion that as long as meals and food are within your caloric budget for the day then you don’t have to restrict yourself like most other diets.

Reference:

Ravussin E, Schutz Y, Acheson KJ, Dusmet M, Bourquin L, Jéquier E, Short-term, mixed-diet overfeeding in man: no evidence for ‘luxuskonsumption, Am J Physiol., 1985 Nov;249(5 Pt 1):E470-7

Powerhouse is your dedicated partner in reaching your fitness goals. Our staff are well versed in everything to do with fitness, from supplements to exercise and dieting. For professional advice, quality equipment and first-rate supplements, get in touch today and have your best bulking season this year.

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