When you are entering a lean bulk, you want to consume enough calories to allow you to build muscle mass, but not enough to gain large amounts of fat in the process. Your macronutrient split can also play a role in the success of your lean bulk.
So what should your lean bulk macros be? In a lean bulk, you should consume roughly 10-20% more calories than your maintenance calories.
In order to maximize muscle gain while bulking, you should aim to consume at least 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. The rest of your calories will consist of a balanced amount of carbohydrates and fat.
If your goal during your lean bulk is to increase muscle mass without putting on a large amount of body fat, it is important that you do not overshoot your calorie target.
You should stick to a moderate calorie surplus as opposed to an aggressive one that may be more common in a dirty bulk.
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How Are Lean Bulk Macros Different from Bulking Macros?
It is important to acknowledge and understand the differences between a regular bulk and a lean bulk. Both of these bulking techniques will result in the end goal of weight gain, but with a few notable distinctions.
In particular, the calories that are consumed in a lean bulk might be slightly less than in a regular bulk in order to minimize any additional and unnecessary fat gain.
In addition to this, someone who is lean bulking might pay more attention to eating “clean” whole foods that are unprocessed in comparison to someone on a regular bulk who may not pay attention to food quality.
The macro split for a lean bulk may also be more focused on prioritizing protein in comparison to a regular bulk.
During a regular bulk, it may be more common for someone to freely consume calories while not paying as much attention to their macronutrient ratio. This can ultimately affect the success of a bulking phase.
- Related Article: How To Increase Protein Intake Without Increasing Fat
On the contrary, the quantity and quality of food that is consumed during a lean bulk will be of utmost importance in order to see the best results.
In the section below, I will discuss the optimal macronutrient split to follow during your lean bulk and how to calculate it based on your calorie intake.
How to Calculate Lean Bulk Macros: 4 Steps
The following steps that you will need to follow in order to calculate your macros for a lean bulk are:
- Establish your maintenance calories
- Establish your lean bulk calories
- Calculate your optimal protein intake
- Determine your ideal carbohydrate and fat ratio
1. Establish Your Maintenance Calories
The first thing that you must establish when you are embarking on a lean bulk is how many calories you need to maintain your weight.
The total number of calories that you burn in a day (your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE) depends on your basal metabolic rate, the calories that you burn through exercise and other movement, along with the thermic effect of your food (TEF).
For example, a 30-year-old, 145-pound female who is 5’4” tall and moderately active could determine her maintenance calories by using an online calculator such as this one here.
According to this calculator, the number of calories she must eat to maintain her weight is around 1996 per day.
2. Determine Your Lean Bulk Calories
After you have determined your maintenance calories, you will have to calculate how many more calories you will need to eat in order to lean bulk.
This is an important step, as a surplus that is too large will result in excess fat gain, whereas a surplus that is not large enough will result in less muscle gain.
Unlike a regular bulk or even a dirty bulk, the goal of a lean bulk is not to put on as much weight as possible with no regard for fat gain.
Therefore, the caloric surplus during a lean bulk should be milder in comparison to a regular or dirty bulk. An ideal caloric surplus for a lean bulk is roughly 10-20% more than your maintenance calories.
For example, if the woman in the above example were to calculate her lean bulk calories by adding an additional 10-20%, she would need to eat roughly 200-400 calories above her maintenance.
This means that her bulking calories would be approximately 2196-2396 calories per day.
- If you’re interested in lean bulks, you might want to do a mini cut as well.
3. Calculate Your Optimal Protein Intake
Once you have determined the number of calories that you need to eat during your lean bulk, determining your protein intake is the next most important step.
Ensuring that you are consuming an adequate amount of protein will be critical to building lean muscle mass during your lean bulk.
A recommended protein intake for building muscle is about 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This should work out to about 25-30% of total calorie intake.
If your goal is to lean bulk while adding minimal body fat, aim to stay at the high end of this recommendation at around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
This would mean that the woman in the example above would aim to consume around 150 grams of protein a day during her lean bulk.
If this woman chose a surplus of 2196 calories for her lean bulk, 150 grams of protein would be roughly 27% of her total caloric intake.
- Related Article: 50g Protein Meal: 15 Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
4. Calculate Your Ideal Carbohydrate and Fat Ratio
Once you have determined your optimal protein intake, you will be able to work out how many grams of carbohydrates and fat you will need to consume on your lean bulk.
A popular macro split to follow in order to attain a proper balance of all three macronutrients is roughly 45-50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein, and 20-25% fat.
How to Adjust Lean Bulk Macros As You Progress
It is important to remember that as you progress and gain weight on your lean bulk, you will need to adjust your calories and macros to account for the additional mass you have put on.
As you put on more muscle mass, the number of calories that your body needs to maintain your weight will increase. In turn, the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that you will need to consume in a bulking phase will also increase.
For example, if the woman discussed in the above sections were to gain a total of 15 pounds during her bulk, her maintenance calories would shift by about 133 calories for a total of 2129 calories.
This would mean that her new lean bulk calories would also increase to roughly 2341-2554 calories.
If she were to stick to the milder caloric increase of 2341 calories per day and keep her same macro split of 45-50% carbs, 25-30% protein, and 20-25% fat, then her new macros would be the following:
- 263-293 grams of carbohydrates
- 146-176 grams of protein
- 52-65 grams of fat
As you can see, if the woman were to follow the guideline of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, she would still fall in the optimal range of protein intake if she were to consume 165 grams of protein, which would equal out to be about 28% of her total intake.
- Check Out: Body Recomposition Calculator: Lose Fat While Gaining Lean Muscle
Are Your Lean Bulk Macros the Same for Workout & Non-Workout Days?
While you are on a lean bulk, it is important to consider whether you want to change your macronutrient ratio for workout days and rest days or keep your macros consistent across your entire week.
As long as you stay consistent with your calorie surplus and macro split, you will see progress. shop.viavisolutions.com Therefore, it is not necessary to manipulate your macros depending on whether or not you train that day.
Keeping your macros consistent across your entire week can also help reduce any stress that you might experience while counting your macros. It may become confusing and tedious to have different macro targets for different days.
With that said, if manipulating your macros does not add any unwanted burden or stress, you can adjust your carb and fat intake slightly for a rest day while keeping your protein intake the same.
Since you will burn more energy on a day that you work out, your body will be able to utilize carbohydrates more efficiently in comparison to a rest day.
Therefore, on workout days, you want to keep your carbs high and your fat a bit lower. On a rest day, you can reduce your carbohydrate intake while increasing your fat macros.
It is important to remember that if you decide to adjust your carb and fat macros based on your workout schedule, they must still add up to the original calorie surplus that you calculated for yourself.
For example, the woman in the example above might have a macro split of 30% protein, 50% carbs, and 20% fat on her training days, which would work out to the following:
- 164 grams of protein
- 275 grams of carbs
- 49 grams of fat
On a rest day, she could shift her macro split to 30% protein, 45% carbs, and 25% fat, which would look like:
- 164 grams of protein
- 247 grams of carbs
- 61 grams of fat
Regardless of how much you choose to manipulate your carbohydrate and fat intake, it is best that you keep protein intake consistent regardless of whether it is a training day or a rest day.
Lean Bulking Macro Results: What Can You Expect?
If you have correctly calculated your lean bulk macros and have been consistent with your calorie intake, you should expect to see the addition of lean muscle mass without a large amount of body fat.
During a lean bulk, the sweet spot for weight gain is roughly 0.5-1 pound, or about 0.25-0.5% of your body weight per week. If you find you are putting on more weight than this in a week, you may want to take a look at reducing your bulking calories slightly.
Similarly, if your weight does not increase at this rate as the weeks progress, you may need to increase the number of calories you are eating.
Keep in mind that while some fat gain during a lean bulk is acceptable and inevitable, the goal is to increase muscle mass while putting on as little fat as possible during the process.
For this reason, keeping a balanced macronutrient ratio with an emphasis on optimal protein intake will be the most beneficial.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Carbs Should You Eat During a Lean Bulk?
During your lean bulk, the optimal amount of carbs to consume is about 45-50% of your total calorie intake. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy.
For this reason, it’s important to consume enough in order to optimize your workouts and maximize your muscle-building efforts.
How Much Fat Should You Eat During a Lean Bulk?
While fat is an essential nutrient that your body requires, it’s easy to overconsume calories from fat since it is more calorie-dense (9 cals per gram) compared to carbs and protein (4 cals per gram).
When calculating your macro split for your lean bulk, you should aim to have about 20-25% of your calories from fat.
How Much Protein Should You Eat During a Lean Bulk?
An optimal protein intake during your lean bulk is about 1 gram per pound of body weight, or roughly 25-30% of your total calorie intake.
Since the main premise behind a lean bulk is to build muscle mass with minimal fat gain, it is important to prioritize protein since it is critical in the muscle-building process.
Additional Macro Counting Resources
- Is It Better To Hit Your Macros or Calories? (What’s Best)
- How Many Calories Should You Eat on A Cheat Day? (Explained)
- Gaining Muscle Without Counting Calories or Macros (7 Tips)
- 50-30-20 Macros: What Is It, How It Works, & Sample Meals
- How Long Should You Bulk? 3 Factors To Consider
- Mass Gainer or Whey Protein For Skinny Guys: Which Is Best?
- Can You Get Abs While Bulking
Slater, G. J., Dieter, B. P., Marsh, D. J., Helms, E. R., Shaw, G., & Iraki, J. (2019). Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Frontiers in nutrition, 6, 131. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00131
Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review. Sports (Basel). 2019 Jun 26;7(7):154. doi: 10.3390/sports7070154. PMID: 31247944; PMCID: PMC6680710.
About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.
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