Lean Bulk | Get Big and Stay Lean with 4 Simple Steps

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December 9, 2020 Guardian-Elite Fitness
Are you trying to build muscle mass, but don’t want to add on a ton of extra fat? It is possible to do so in moderation, using a lean bulk diet and meal plan.

Let’s start with what we know. Building muscle will require a caloric surplus. Meaning that you must be eating more calories than what you are currently expending or using for energy on a daily basis. This is so the body has additional nutrients and calories with which to build muscle.

However, there is one tiny catch: being in a calorie surplus means weight gain, and normally in the form of excess stored fat. There is a way to mitigate gaining fat while maximizing muscle growth.

This is called a “lean bulk”.

A lean bulk is how you can build muscle with less fat gain, so when cutting the remaining fat for that beach body you want, you’re left with a trim and muscular physique.

  • What is Lean Bulk?
  • How To Lean Bulk Properly
  • Lean Bulk Calculator
  • Macros for Lean Bulk
  • Diet For Lean Bulk
  • Supplements
  • Lean Bulk Meal Plan
  • Lean Bulk Workout Plan
  • Lean Bulk Results

What is Lean Bulk?

man with lean muscle
A lean bulk is a method of gaining maximum muscle mass with minimal fat gain.

It’s just not possible to gain muscle without gaining some fat in the process. However, the lean bulk method is the closest we can get to gaining muscle while gaining as little fat as possible.

A lean bulk then, is going to be eating in a caloric surplus for a sustained period of time.

The amount of fat gained while in a caloric surplus required for a bulk is determined by what foods we eat. The goal is that the excess calories taken in, are coming mostly from nutritious, healthy and whole foods.

Dirty Bulk
Any discussion about lean bulking wouldn’t be complete without mentioning dirty bulking. Basically, dirty bulking is eating in a caloric surplus without regard to what you’re eating.

The problem with dirty bulking is that when you’re done with your bulking phase, and have gained the muscle you want, you might also find that you’ve packed on more body fat than you want.

This means that the cutting phase–when you’re in a caloric deficit to lose body fat–will last much longer than it would have if you instead used a lean bulking plan.

Here are some examples of foods to avoid when bulking, so you don’t cross over into dirty bulk territory:

  • Highly processed foods like fired foods, prepackaged foods, sugary cereals, ice cream, cakes and cookies, i.e, “junk food”.
  • Processed meats
  • Saturated fats
  • Sugary drinks, excess alcohol and sodas

How To Lean Bulk Properly

A proper bulk consists of 4 simple steps:

  • Determine Total Daily Energy Expenditure using calculator (provided below)
  • Set macros using calculator (provided below)
  • Create a meal plan
  • Create a workout plan

Lean Bulk Calculator

man with lean physique
Forget trying to do a bunch of math to figure out how many calories you need, what your body mass index (BMI) is and how to calculate TDEE. You can do it all in one place, right in this post.

Below is a single lean bulk calculator to walk you through the entire process. Before you start filling in the calculator, read through the walk-through to figure out how it works and why you are putting in certain information.

The advantage to using this calculator is other online calculators only show you one metric, like BMI or TDEE. The Guardian-Elite Fitness calculator will break it all down for you. Here’s how it will work:

First, fill in the age, weight, gender and height information to the calculator. After you input this information, you’ll be given a BMI figure. See what the number means here.

Next the calculator will figure your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is used to figure your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. If you want to get really exact, choose the lean body mass formula and input current or starting body fat percentage.

Remember, your BMR is the energy your body needs in calories to perform its most basic functions. TDEE is the total daily energy your body needs accounting for any daily activity and exercise.

Choose your daily activity level, exercise frequency and intensity.

Lean Bulk Calories
Next you will choose a body composition goal. In this case, we want the goal to be weight gain.

The results you get will be in three catagories:

  • BMR calories
  • Base TDEE (Calories need to maintain your current weight)
  • Goal TDEE (Calories you need to lean bulk)

Macros for Lean Bulk

macros for lean bulk
Using all this information above gives you the big picture, now you need to know how to break down your lean bulk macros. Now we get to the lean bulk macro calculator. This will tell you exactly what amount of protein, carbs and fat you should be eating.

Lean Bulk Macros Ratio
First, choose either grams per body mass or Percentage of Totals. We suggest using the grams per body mass calculation.

The next important step is to choose your protein ratio and fat ratio. What’s left over will be given to carbs.

We suggest protein is figured at 1.1 grams per pound to 1.5 grams per pound bodyweight.

The default here is 1.1 grams per pound body weight.

Fat is set at .4 grams per pound bodyweight. This should be left as is.

Finally, enter the number of meals you will eat per day, followed by the number of snacks you plan to eat along with the snack portion size.

The results you get are calorie totals for

  • Daily Calories
  • Meals
  • Snack

These calorie totals are also broken down to a lean bulk macro ratio.

This will take all of the guess work out of your meals and how many calories you should be eating.

This lean bulk calculator is an incredibly powerful tool for figuring out from start to finish how you can implement the meal plan we will discuss below. Pick and choose the foods you want to eat and make the total calories and macros fit each meal.

Diet For Lean Bulk

Now that we know the lean bulk calories and our macros we can put together a full lean bulk diet plan. A lean bulk diet will mainly consist of whole foods, instead of pre-packaged processed food.

Lean Bulk Foods

  • Lean proteins
  • Healthy fats
  • Quality Carbs
  • Fruits and vegetables


In addition to the foods you will be eating, you will want to add supplements for protein intake and muscle building. The main goal of lean bulking is to build muscle mass. We want to make sure we are supplying our body with adequate amounts of protein to help build and maintain muscle mass. Below is what is recommended.

Ceatine Monohydrate

Creatine will help to increase muscle mass, strength and overall performance in the gym. In fact, studies have shown that creatine monohydrate is the “most effective nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training”.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is instrumental in helping to build muscle mass. Protein on it’s own builds things in the body, skin, organs, tendons, etc. Oh yes, and most importantly, muscle. Whey protein in particular is very good at this. See the whey protein we recommend below.

Lean Bulk Meal Plan

Your lean bulk meals should consist of one or more of the foods shown below, each meal, to build a full meal plan each day. Choose from the below:

lean bulk foods list

Lean Bulk Workout Plan

Our plan starts in the kitchen, but that’s not where it ends. If you want to build muscle you need to use all the additional calories you’re eating to start building some muscle. The best way to so this is to lift heavy, using mainly compound lifts.

Choose from one of the below for a lean bulk workout plan

Exercises for Biceps

Exercises for Legs

Exercises for Chest

Exercises for Back

Want a full workout plan using heavy weight? Learn about Stronglifts 5×5 and try the daily workouts listed.

StrongLifts 5×5: The Ultimate Beginners Workout Routine

Lean Bulk Results

A lean bulk, when done properly is a great way to pack on muscle mass without packing on a ton of excess body fat. As we’ve said before, some additional body fat is unavoidable, but the less the better when it comes time to cut using a low calorie diet. This way the cut time is shorter and you can see results quicker.

By knowing the daily calories you need to eat along with the macro ratios it will be much easier to hit your goals.