Posted by Dayne Hudson in Muscle Building
Estimated reading time: 5mins
For resistance-trained individuals, research declares a calorie surplus is ideal for muscle growth; which is why it's advised that we implement one.
So, when people say they're going on a "clean bulk", they generally mean they're eating "clean" foods (aka wholefoods), thinking that despite eating in a calorie surplus, they won't gain weight.
But here's the scientific truth: a calorie surplus (and one not just in protein alone) will result in fat gain. We say not just a surplus in protein alone, because it's evident that overfeeding on carbohydrates and/or fat, results in more fat gain compared to overeating on protein. This is due to the amount of energy your body spends breaking down and digesting protein, otherwise referred to as the thermic effect of food.
So, we know we're going to gain some fat when trying to grow more muscle. So that puts an end to the pipe dream of no fat gained during a "bulk" for resistance-trained gym-goers.
Well, surely that's it then - let's just all eat fast food and go on a "dirty bulk" and grow the same amount of muscle, right?
No! And this is where the "Clean Bulk" ideology has some legs.
First of all, we need to ensure we're getting enough protein during a "bulk" when optimal muscle mass is the goal. Current recommendations are 1.6–2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day.
This is the first step, as "Dietary protein appears to have a protective effect against fat gain during times of energy surplus, especially when combined with resistance training."
Whilst our level of carbohydrates and fat (and how we work this out) is beyond the scope of this article, what food sources we obtain protein and fat from is of critical importance.
Research suggests that the "better" quality a fat source, the better chance it's likely to result in additional body fat; polyunsaturated fat is more likely to deliver gains in lean mass than saturated fat in normal-weight subjects.
Moreover, other research suggests omega 3 fatty acids bolsters the muscle growth response to nutritional stimuli and increases muscle gains in young and middle-aged males (who weren't training with weights). This is also the case in older adults. This gives us reason to ensure we're getting our fat sources from good quality options (salmon, olive oil, flax seeds, etc) as opposed to saturated fats all the time.
Where you get your protein from is important; high biological value protein sources high in leucine are suggested to maximise the rate of protein synthesis.
Take a look at these quality protein sources below:
|Protein Type||Protein Efficiency Ratio||Biological Value||Net Protein Utilization||Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score|
Table adapted from Sarwar et al (1997).
So, ensuring we get enough protein from these quality sources, including whey protein, is vital for optimal growth.
Moreover, quality protein and fat sources (whilst allowing for the sweet foods we love in moderation and for ultimate diet adherence) is important for ensuring we don't accumulate too much body fat. And so is one more thing:
Remember the days when we were told to "eat everything in sight" for muscle growth? "Eat big to get big!" some would preach from the gym floor.
But research suggests this isn't the case: we simply need a surplus of 360 - 480 calories only.
So, let's say Bulk Nutrients customer Thomas has a TDEE of 2000 calories; he'd need to eat 2360 - 480 calories per day for a "bulk" that allows for muscle growth and limited fat gain.
So, it boils down to this: a "Clean Bulk" in the context of growing muscle without any additional fat isn't realistic. However, a "Clean Bulk" in the context of gaining minimal fat via the quality of your fats and proteins is possible, in concert with a minimal surplus of only 360 - 480 calories.
It's critical to still enjoy the sweet foods you like in moderation for optimal dietary adherence, to ensure you can stick to the aforementioned quality sources of protein and fat.