3 science-based reasons not to dirty bulk

It's a pain in the ass to gain weight as a skinny guy...or so I've heard.

I've never had this problem, but there are thousands of guys who do.

Out of curiosity, I spent an hour scouring through forums and what I found was shocking...

Image by Jared

This is great advice... if you want to get fat as hell.

It's also terrible for your health.

Today, I'm going to explain why. 

I'll also share my top bulking tips for hard-gainers.

These methods will help you stay lean and build muscle without having to stuff your face. 

Let's dive in! 

*You can download my 21 favourite foods for bulking below:

What is a dirty bulk?

dirty bulk

Dirty bulking involves eating above a 20% calorie surplus.

Typically, you would eat in the range of 500-1000 calories above maintenance.

And because the calories are so high, a large amount of junk food is encouraged. 

The logic behind a dirty bulk is simple:

A calorie surplus is beneficial for muscle growth...

So more calories= better.

However, the human body doesn't quite work like that.

You see, there are definite limits to how much muscle you can gain naturally.

Several industry experts, such as Lyle McDonald, have theorised that this is around 1-2lb of muscle per month (for beginners & intermediate lifters).  

This equates to around 0.25-0.5lb of weight gain per week, aka a 5-10% surplus. 

See the problem?

Dirty bulking is roughly twice that amount.

Not only is this counter-productive for muscle building, it's also bad for your health.

It doesn't take a nutritionist to work that one out! 

3 Reasons you shouldn't dirty bulk 

If you're serious about longevity and health, there are a few things you should know about dirty bulking. 

Keep reading to find out what they are:

No#1 Micro-nutrient deficiencies

It's true, a dirty bulk isn't defined by what you eat but how much.

But there's a catch:

You can only eat so much 'clean' food until you  spew it all up on your nice rug.

Trust me, eating 4000 calories isn't as fun as it sounds...

I've been there! 

Eventually, you'll have to start eating junk food to meet your daily calories. 

This isn't ideal for several reasons.

But the biggest problem with eating a lot of  junk food is the lack of nutritional value.

Most foods recommended on a dirty bulk, such as pizza, and donuts are essentially empty calories.  

If 1/2 of your food intake is filled with foods like this, you'll end up with micro-nutrient deficiencies.

Micro-nutrients are essential for optimal regulation of hormones and even muscle growth.

Micro-nutrients are essential for optimal regulation of hormones and even muscle growth.

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If you lack micro-nutrients in your diet, you'll suffer numerous health effects; including lethargy, and low testosterone levels.

Key takeaway:

 -Dirty bulking promotes bad eating habits, which may cause micro-nutrient deficiencies.

No#2 Nutrient partitioning

dirty bulk

With the rise of' if it fits your macros' (IIFYM), many people have been swayed into thinking nutrition is ONLY calories in vs calories out.

That's false!

Here's the deal:

What you eat everyday will have an impact on your body composition. 

A recent review published in the university of Alabama found that macro-nutrients play a direct role in nutrient partitioning.

This is the process in which the calories you consume are divided; whether it be muscle growth, or fat gain. 

Different macro-nutrients interact with the body in unique ways; for instance, protein has a high thermic effect (15-30%) and burns a lot of calories.

On the other hand, dietary  fat is more readily stored as body fat.

Aside from calories, nutrient partitioning is also heavily influenced by bodyfat%.

If you're above 15% bodyfat you'll be primed for fat storage vs a lean guy who's 10%.

Key takeaway:

-Eating too much junk food has a negative effect on the ratio of fat:muscle gain.

No#3 Health risks 

Eating lots of junk food carries many risks in itself:

Research has found that risk-increasing foods are associated with a 2-fold increase of all-cause mortality rate

You're 2 times more likely to die prematurely eating junk food such as sweetened foods & drinks

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In addition to this, studies have also concluded that saturated fat is invariably linked to cardiovascular disease

Most energy dense foods included in dirty bulk meal plans are high in saturated fat and sugar.

Key takeaway:

-Eating large amounts of unhealthy foods is stressful on the heart and can shorten life-expectancy.

Are there any benefits to dirty bulking? 

Despite the negatives of dirty bulking, there are a few noteworthy benefits.

#1 Better recovery

It's undeniable that  a ultra-high calorie diet is better for recovery. 

Don't believe me?

Take a look at the typical day of eating for Micheal Phelps, an Olympic champion swimmer:

...That made me hungry 🙂

Obviously, you aren't Micheal Phelps, but the example still stands. 

Although, you don't gain more muscle from eating over a 10% surplus it could still be argued that it will indirectly result in more muscle gained.

The effect will be compounded even more if you eat a high carbohydrate diet...

Which have been shown to be highly anabolic for muscle growth.

#2 It's easier to gain weight (for skinny guys)

You probably saw this one coming..

But if you're a hard-gainer, it can be difficult to gain weight.

This is mostly due to a low appetite, rather than metabolism.

However, If you're very active outside of the gym, your TDEE will skyrocket. 

It's not uncommon to hear stories of ectomorphs stuffing down 3000 calories and still not budging the scale. 

In this scenario, a 100% clean diet would make gaining weight so much harder than it needs to be. 

The inclusion of junk food (and a higher surplus) would be beneficial.  

#3 Better strength gains

Gaining strength is much harder when you're sub 10% body fat.

Powerlifters and strongmen are very aware of this fact.

That's why you see beasts like Eddie Hall rocking a high body fat %

This has to do with leverages.

Leverages are influenced by three factors:

  1. Anthropmetry 
  2. Form
  3. Body fat%

Obviously, you can't change your build...

If you have long arms then your shit out of luck when it comes to the bench press, and you'll have a much larger range of motion than Mr T-rex arms...

You can reduce the range of motion by creating a bigger arch, and using a wide grip (which is exactly what power lifters do on competition day). 

An alternative method, is gaining fat.

Yes you heard me correctly...gaining FAT.

If you're an 'abs year-round' kind of dude, this may send shivers down your spine.

But you need to hear it anyway...

The truth is:

As you gain fat in the upper back, glutes, and belly you reduce the distance between the bar and your torso...

This is the power of leverages. 

Obviously, you don't need to get super fat to reap the benefits of improved leverages...

But a dirty bulk will get you there much faster.

The 'clean bulk' solution

Ultimately, dirty bulking isn't worth it.

Sure you might get some nice recovery benefits, and you get to eat a lot...

But the impact on your health and the time it takes to get rid of the fat after make it an ineffective strategy for muscle building.

The solution?

Clean bulking.

What is clean bulking?

Clean bulking (also known as lean bulking), refers to eating at a smaller surplus.

This style of bulking is superior for the majority of you. 

Why clean bulking is better than dirty bulking

In my experience, there are 2 major reasons why lean bulking is better:

  1. You gain less fat
  2. It's much healthier

1. Less fat gain

A bit of extra fat gain is beneficial, but it's in your best interest to keep it to a minimum. 

Here's why:

Firstly, research has shown that testosterone levels plummet at higher body fat levels (15%+) which will have a negative effect on muscle growth. 

A high BF% kills testosterone! 

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Secondly, studies have found that new fat cells shrink but don't disappear. 

The problem with dirty bulking is that you accumulate more fat cells... 

And these fat cells act as a pathway for future fat storage.

Essentially making it easier to get fat on your next bulk. 

This is why lean bulking is preferable if you want to stay lean.

On a lean bulk, your rate of fat gain will be roughly half that of a dirty bulk.

2. It's healthier

Research has shown that bodyweight fluctuations are a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

This is one of my major gripes with dirty bulking.

You'll spend far too much time in a caloric deficit because of the huge amount of fat gained during the bulk.

And you'll lose too much muscle in the process to make it worth your while. 

Bulking tips for hard-gainers

If you have trouble gaining weight, it's very likely that you suffer from a low appetite. 

Here are my top tips for gaining weight:

Olive oil shots

Olive oil shots are an easy way to sneak in extra calories at the end of the day.

Olive oil shots are an easy way to sneak in extra calories at the end of the day. 

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Here's what you need:

  • Bottle of extra virgin olive oil
  • A small shot glass

Each shot is roughly 80-120 calories depending on the size. 

Benefits of drinking olive oil before bed

Olive oil is an extremely healthy source of unsaturated fat.

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    Studies have shown that it may reduce blood pressure because it's high in monounsaturated fat. 
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    Research has also concluded that olive oil improves fat oxidation rates and can even contribute to a healthier heart.
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    Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties due to it's high polyphenol count. It can help ward off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Energy dense foods

Energy dense foods are extremely high in calories, and in general don't fill you up as much.

You're probably wondering why:

Well, energy dense foods are typically high in fat. 

A gram of fat has 9 calories vs 4 calories from carbohydrates and protein.

Fat is also the least satiating macro nutrient. 

Energy dense foods also tend to be low in protein and fibre.

If you struggle with low appetite, I would recommend including some energy dense foods in your diet, such as:

  • White pasta
  • Rice
  • Granola
  • Avacado
  • Olive oil

High calorie snacks 

My typical advice for weight loss is a combination of intermittent fasting and a low frequency of meals. 

This is much more satiating.

However, I'd advise the opposite if you struggle to gain weight.

You're much better off eating small-medium sized meals frequently and adding high calorie snacks in-between meals.

Some examples of high calories snacks are:

  • Dark chocolate 
  • Nuts
  • Dates 

Liquid meals

dirty bulk

Liquid meals are a blessing from bodybuilding heaven.

  1. They're easy to drink on the go
  2. They aren't as filling as solid meals
  3. They're cheaper to make than mass gainers

All you need is:

  • A blender
  • Almond milk
  • A handful of high calorie foods
  • Some jazz (optional)

Here is my signature recipe for weight gain...


  • 100g oats
  • 30g peanut butter 
  • 10g honey 
  • 1 chopped bannana
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk

Calories- 855 

Time to prepare- 5-10mins 

Be creative with these!

I've tried all sorts of wacky combos that I should probably patent 😉 

Bonus: Bulking foods list 


So, is dirty bulking worth it?

In my opinion, it's not.

It does have minor benefits, such as increased recovery and strength gains for big lifts like the bench...

However, this extra strength/muscle growth will be lost during the long diet phase.

A much better solution, is to lean bulk and incorporate the bulking tips I gave above:

  1. Give olive oil shots a try
  2. Eat calorie dense foods
  3. Throw in snacks in-between meals
  4. Make liquid meals

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide...

Now, over to you!

Have you tried dirty bulking? If so, why do you prefer it over lean bulking? Let me know in the comments below...

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