You want to add muscle but are trying to determine which is the most effective process, bulking up or
First, let me define both of these phrases and terms. Bulking up refers to the process of eating well over
your maintenance level of calories (I would suggest 500+ calories). The idea here is to provide the body
with maximum nutrition to stimulate muscle growth, with excess fat accumulation an accepted and
necessary part of the process. On the other side, lean gains are increasing calories above maintenance
level as well, but not to the extent of a bulking phase. The goal here is to add just enough nutrition to
augment muscle growth, but with minimal fat accumulation. This method also requires continual
adjusting to keep calories levels over maintenance, as the metabolism increases with additional muscle
There are proponents of both. Those who prefer the bulking method reference the ability to
overwhelmingly add additional muscle mass and strength to their frame (plus who doesn’t enjoy eating
copious amounts of food?) By maximizing this growth process, they then will transition into a cutting, or
leaning out phase, with the goal of preserving this newly acquired mass. For the lean gains advocates,
while they don’t gain the same amount of overall size as within a bulk, they don’t accumulate the higher
bodyfat levels that accompany the bulk either.
So I’ll pose my question again, which is better?
My answer depends on your goals. If your goal is to just straight add size in a short amount of time, with
little care to fat accumulation, then bulking might be the best for you. An example of a few instances
where this might be the case is an athlete looking to gain size and strength (think lineman or shot
putter). However, if your goal is recomposition, which means increasing muscle mass at a lower bodyfat
level, then I believe lean gains are your best ticket.
Depending on what level you take recomposition too, whether getting ready for a physique competition
or just to improve body composition, your end goal is to have more muscle and less bodyfat then when
you started the process. In order to gain muscle mass (except for very new and untrained individuals)
you need to maintain a calorie surplus, so you will need to add some bodyfat to effectively build muscle
in both scenarios. However, the surplus with lean gains is only the amount required to add muscle
without the addition of excess bodyfat.
The reason why I say this is more effective, specifically to someone who is natural/not using exogenous
substances, is in order to lose bodyfat you must create a calorie deficit. When you are in this state, you
will lose muscle tissue. There are things to do to help limit this process, but the fact is, it will happen. If
you have an excess amount of bodyfat due to bulking (say 25lbs), by the time you finish the process of
dieting all this off, your net muscle mass result is less than if you had not added as much body mass (as
per in the lean gains method).
At the end of the day with recomposition, it is the net result, not the peak bodyweight, that makes the
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