How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lean Bulk? This is a common question & people who ask it are quite simply looking for the answer however, Calories and macronutrients are the food building blocks. They are the nutrients required by your body to help you live, stay healthy, build muscle, lose fat and help achieve your fitness goals.
Figuring out how many calories you’re supposed to eat to lean bulk can be confusing. There are a lot of things to take into consideration like your height, weight and age. . Below, I’ve created an easy way to learn how many calories should you eat if you are trying to lean bulk.
What is clean bulking?
In general, bulking is a sustained calorie surplus — in which you eat more calories than you burn — which leads to weight gain in the form of muscle or fat. This eating strategy is combined with high intensity resistance training to boost muscle and strength gains.
When following a clean bulk, also called a lean bulk, you tightly regulate your calorie surplus in an effort to prevent excessive fat gain.
The diet is mainly comprised of minimally processed whole foods. High calorie junk foods are limited to promote a leaner body composition.
Clean bulking is often utilized by athletes who desire to stay relatively lean in the off-season, such as mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, boxers, gymnasts, strength athletes, and physique athletes.
That said, this approach isn’t for everyone, as its associated weight gain tends to occur slower than it does with other bulking methods.
How does it compare with dirty bulking?
In opposition to clean bulking’s measured, slow approach is the dirty bulk.
Under this strategy, no foods are off-limits. Rather, you’re meant to pack on as much weight as possible regardless of any associated fat gain.
While a dirty bulk may be extremely effective for gaining muscle and strength quickly, its side effects include excess fat gain, feelings of sluggishness, and high cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Clean bulking promotes a controlled calorie surplus for building muscle while minimizing fat gain. Unlike with dirty bulking, you keep a tight leash on the types and amount of foods you eat.
How to start a clean bulk
The first step to starting a clean bulk is to establish your maintenance calories — the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Several online calculators can help you estimate this number.
You then tack on a 10–20% calorie surplus. For example, an average-sized, 175-pound (79-kg) man would add approximately 250–500 calories, while an average-sized, 135-pound (61-kg) woman would add about 200–400 calories.
From there, ensure a daily protein intake of 0.7–1 gram per pound of body weight (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) to support muscle gain. The rest of your daily calories are made up of carbs and fats, depending on your preference .
It may be helpful to track your intake using one of several smartphone apps.
Weigh yourself regularly to track your progress, shooting for a weight gain of 0.25–0.5% of your body weight per week.
For the same 175-pound (79-kg) man and 135-pound (61-kg) woman, this equals 0.4–0.8 pounds (0.2–0.4 kg) and 0.3–0.6 pounds (0.14–0.28 kg) of weight gain per week, respectively.
If the number on the scale isn’t moving, slowly bump up your weekly calorie intake by 100–200 calories.
How to determine calories for a lean bulk
Struggling to put on muscle in the gym? I hear you. It is a hard process that involves many aspects.
Firstly let’s look into the diet, the main foundation of muscle growth
Calories in vs calories out
In short, in order to put on muscle, you need to be consuming more calories than you are burning on a daily basis.
This is evident because when you are working out in the gym you are not putting on muscle, you are tearing away your muscle fibres. The other 23 hours of the day when you’re not training is when you are putting on muscle (Muscle Recovery).
In order for your muscles to grow, they need fuel (calories). The amount of calories required from person to person varies.
How to calculate your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR)
In order to determine your maintenance calories, you first need to determine your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to survive, breathe and think. This can be determined using the Mifflin St. Jeor equation:
Men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5
Women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161
An example of calculating your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Ben is 80kg, 185cm tall and 23 years old.
BMR = 10 x weight (80kg) + 6.25 x height (185cm) – 5 x age (23) + 5= 1846 calories.
How to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (calories)
Once you have worked out your BMR you can then use the Harris Benedict equation to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (calories).
Pick the category that suits your activity level per week:
- Sedentary: 15 minutes or less of daily exercise (anything goes) with a desk job | 12
- Lightly Active: 1-2 hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 13.5
- Moderately Active: 3-5 hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 15
- Very Active: 6-7 hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 16.5
- Extremely Active: 7+ hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 17+
Once you have this number simply multiply your body weight in kg by the category you picked.
An example of using the Harris Benedict equation
Ben is an 80kg male who goes to the gym for one hour, four times a week. He fits into the moderately active category.
Multiply 80kg by 15 = 1200 calories.
How to calculate your maintenance calories
Once you have your result from the Harris Benedict equation you can determine your maintenance calories.
Simply take your BMR, worked out above, and add your result from the Harris Benedict equation.
An example of calculating maintenance calories
Ben’s BMR is 1846 calories +1200 = 3046 is Ben’s maintenance calories.
How many calories over your maintenance do you need to lean bulk?
There are different approaches to putting on muscle. You can do what is known as a “Dirty Bulk” which is eating everything in sight, however, I recommend a “Lean Bulk”. A lean bulk involves which is monitoring your macros to ensure you are gaining lean muscle tissue.
A good approach is to aim for 300-500 calories over your daily maintenance calories.
An example of calculating your total calorie needs
Ben requires a maintenance calorie intake of 3046 calories a day.
3046 + 300 = 3346. It’s OK to round here to make your next calculations easier. In this case, we’ll round up to 3350.
So Ben would have to consume a minimum of 3350 calories on a daily basis in order to be in a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than your body is burning per day).
How to calculate your macronutrient breakdown
Once you have your maintenance calorie intake number, you can work out what is known as your macronutrient breakdown. This will be breaking down 2800 calories into the three macronutrients:
- Protein (4 calories per gram)
- Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
- Fat (9 calories per gram)
Your macros: Protein
Protein is a key macronutrient that is a driver for muscle growth. In a study by Mannings (2011), he concluded that “a sedentary person needs to eat about 0.8g of protein per kg of body mass each day. Athletes, and people who want to build muscle, need about double this (1.2 – 1.7g of protein/kg of body mass).
I would suggest for males to go on to the higher end and females slightly less due to bone density and overall structure.
An example of calculating your protein nutrient breakdown
Ben is 80kg.
80kg x 1.7= 136 grams of protein required per day.
Calories for protein 136 x (4 calories) = 544 calories per day required.
Your macros: Fats
A good starting point for fat is between 0.15-0.25 of your daily calorie goal. Whether you want to be at 0.15 or 0.25 is a personal preference. If you are someone who puts on fat easily opt for 0.25. However, if you are someone who struggles to put on muscle go down to the lower range.
An example of calculating your fat nutrient breakdown
Let’s go in the middle here at 0.20 of the daily calorie goal.
Ben requires 3350 calories per day.
3350 calories divided by 5 = 670 calories.
As there are 9 calories in 1g of fat.
670 divided by 9 = 74g of fat.
Your macros: Carbohydrates
This is the body’s optimal energy source. There is a lot of negative thoughts about carbohydrates but when putting on muscle this macronutrient is essential.
The number of carbohydrates can now be worked out by adding the number of calories required from fat and protein.
An example of calculating your carbohydrate nutrient breakdown
First, we need to know his current total calories between protein and fat.
Ben’s protein requirement is 544 calories and fat requirement is 670 calories
544 + 760 = 1214
Now to determine your carbohydrates, subtract the above number from the total calories required to put on muscle.
Ben’s total calorie requirement is 3350.
3350 – 1214 = 2136 calories required from carbohydrates.
2136 divided by 4 = 534 grams of carbohydrates required each day.
Now, this number may seem high to many but people don’t realise that carbohydrates are your body’s number one source of energy.
What Are Lean Bulk Macros?
Macros is short for “macronutrients” (protein/fat/carbohydrates) so the term “lean bulk macros” refers to the composition of macronutrients you should be eating in order to maximize your strength gain – while minimizing fat gain.
For a lean bulk, you need to do 2 things:
- Consume 200-300 calories above maintenance – You can use an online calculator to determine your daily caloric needs. By eating about 200-300 calories above maintenance, you’ll be putting on about a pound every 2 weeks – which is perfect for gaining strength while minimizing fat gain.
- Consume 1g protein per pound of body weight – This ensures that your body has enough protein to quickly build muscle, even with a somewhat lower overall consumption of calories.
Let’s go over a brief example. Say you are a man of the age of 25, 6’ 3” tall, and weighing 175lbs, with a very active lifestyle (working out 6+ times per week).
You’ll need about 3,200 calories to maintain your current weight. That means that, during a lean bulk, you should be eating around 3,500 calories per day – 300 above “maintenance”.
In addition, you will need to consume 175 grams of protein per day. Because protein has 4 calories per gram, that means you’re eating 700 calories from protein, and must make up the rest of your caloric intake (2,800 calories) in carbohydrates and fats.
The ratio of carbs/protein/fat does not matter very much – but if you tend to do a lot of aerobic exercises in addition to your weightlifting, you should probably eat a larger ratio of carbs to fat.
This also doesn’t mean you can just start eating whatever you want. For a lean bulk to work, you need to consume high-quality sources of protein, whole grains, and healthy fats from sources like olive oil, salmon, avocados, eggs, and so on.
Understand Your Lean Bulk Macros – And Gain Muscle With Less Fat!
As long as you properly calculate your caloric needs, eat 200-300 calories above maintenance, and consume at least 1g protein per lb of body weight, you’re sure to be able to gain muscle without excess fat.
So do your own calculations now, and forget about “dirty bulking” – a lean bulk is the way to go, and the best way to avoid a prolonged “cutting” period, during which your strength may deteriorate.