Diet & Nutrition 6 MIN READ 88 VIEWS August 2, 2022

Clean Bulking or Dirty Bulking: Choosing the Best Muscle Building Diet

Written By HealthKart

Dirty bulking
What is a Bulking Diet?
Similarities Between Clean Bulking and Dirty Bulking
Clean Bulking vs Dirty Bulking
How to Choose the Best Muscle Building Diet?
Clean Bulking Foods
Dirty Bulking Foods

For someone new to the bodybuilding world, bulking may simply mean the muscle-building phase. But there are two choices for getting those extra calories: clean bulking and dirty bulking. Which one is best for increasing muscle size? Which one will best fit your body-building goals? Let’s understand clean bulking vs dirty bulking, the pros and cons of both methods, and the best way to bulk up.

What is a Bulking Diet?

Bulking refers to building muscles. It comes from the gradual increase in the number of calories consumed during the day combined with intense weight training. The caloric surplus diet, thus, is the key to muscle building. The extra calories consumed are used by the body to build muscles.

But the source of extra calories decides if you are following a clean bulking diet or a dirty bulking diet.

Clean Bulking – This method concentrates on healthier food choices. The increased calories come from calorie-dense and nutrient-dense foods. Supported by intense weight training, clean bulking helps add weight and muscle mass in a slow, gradual manner. For clean bulking, a caloric surplus of around 500 calories per day is recommended. This primarily comes from a high protein diet. Clean bulking is also called lean bulking, as there is no increase in body fat.

Dirty Bulking – This bulking diet method is recommended for people who want a quick weight gain. As the name suggests, dirty bulking sources its extra calories from high-calorie foods, including junk foods and processed foods. An intense workout routine is a part of the bulking method but it promotes a quick weight gain with a much higher chance of gaining extra fat.

Similarities Between Clean Bulking and Dirty Bulking

The main similarities between the two bulking diets are as follows:

1. Calorie Surplus 

Both bulking diet methods focus on a calorie-surplus diet. A minimum of 500 extra calories per day are required to bulk up.

2. Exercise 

Intense weight training and body-building exercises are a part of both bulking diets. 

3. Weight Gain

Both methods support weight gain, whether from muscle building or fat accumulation. 

4. Cutting Phase 

Once the desired weight gain goals are achieved, both diets enter a cutting phase in which the increased calorie intake is reduced gradually.

Clean Bulking vs Dirty Bulking 

The two bulking diets are different in many ways. The differences between the two are enlisted below:

1. Food Choices

Clean bulking includes eating organic, local, and nutrient-dense whole foods. On the other hand, dirty bulking revolves around eating convenient, calorie-dense foods. It includes eating processed foods and junk foods.

2. Calorie Source

The hallmark of clean bulking is a high protein diet. The chunk of the additional calories is sourced through high-quality proteins. Furthermore, the diet is typically low in fats and carbohydrates. On the other hand, dirty bulk foods are typically high in fats and carbohydrates.

3. Type of Weight Gain 

While weight gain is common for both bulking diets, the type of weight gain is important. Clean bulking allows you to add lean muscle mass. It gives you a skinny, chiselled figure. On the other hand, dirty bulking confers a higher chance of gaining extra fat alongside gaining muscle mass.

4. Speed of Weight Gain 

Clean bulking is a slow and gradual process. On the other hand, dirty bulking posts quick results.

How to Choose the Best Muscle Building Diet?

If you want to gain muscle mass and contemplate between the two bulking diets – clean diet vs dirty bulking, listed below are the factors that will help you choose the best fit for your bodybuilding goals:  

1. Difficulty Level 

If convenience is what you are looking at, dirty bulking is the undisputed leader. With no complexity in making healthy food choices, dirty bulking allows you to eat without any form of restriction. 

On the other hand, clean bulking will require a great deal of effort and mindshare in making the right food choices. It will involve emphasising healthy, nutrient-dense foods and avoiding the easily available calorie-dense foods.

2. Muscle Growth

If combined with the right type and amount of exercise, both clean and dirty bulking diets aid in muscle growth.

But to build muscles through weight training, a high intake of proteins and remaining caloric surplus is essential. Getting caloric surplus through dirty bulking is relatively easy. Therefore, it begins to show results quickly. 

Thus, to grow on a clean bulking diet, you need to eat healthy foods that will help you get bigger. Also, as clean bulking foods are low in fats, they reduce muscle protein synthesis. The results are, therefore, slow. So, to get bigger through a clean bulk diet, you’ll require more calories, more protein, and a good amount of healthy fats. 

In the end, regardless of whether you follow a clean bulking diet or a dirty bulking diet, eating sufficient proteins, remaining caloric surplus, and weight training enough will help yield results.

3. Fat Gain

Clean bulking concentrates on avoiding fat gain. So, if you are looking to stay lean, clean bulking is the go-to method of bulking up.

But if you are skinny and wish to gain weight, irrespective of the bulking diet you choose, you’ll gain some fat in the course of bulking to support your newly built muscles. 

On the other hand, if you already have excess fat to lose, clean bulking is what will be required to get a lean body. Remember, you cannot get lean and develop muscle mass by following a dirty bulking approach.

So, you can either follow a more aggressive dirty bulking diet and closely check your body composition or follow a well-calculated and thoughtful, clean bulking approach. In either case, you can switch to the cutting phase more often to avoid fat gain. But by doing so, you’ll delay your muscle-building results.

4. Nutrition and Health

Do you think dirty bulking is anywhere close to good health and nutrition? 

Including lots of processed and junk foods in the bulking diet will put your body at risk of developing other medical conditions. Convenient foods are typically low in micronutrients, leading to deficiency diseases. The high amounts of added sugar increase the risk of accumulating belly fat. The Omega 6 fatty oils found in processed foods increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory disorders, and autoimmune diseases.

While following a dirty bulking diet can help you gain muscle mass easily, it can have serious long-term implications. So, if you are looking at health, nutrition, and less muscle mass, stick to clean bulking.

5. Performance and Recovery

When it comes to performance and post-workout recovery, both clean and dirty bulking fare the same. Remaining caloric surplus, eating lots of proteins, and limiting fat gain ultimately lead to gaining muscle mass.

But the performance will begin to suffer if micronutrient deficiencies set in. Also, diet-related health problems directly affect overall health and performance. No wonder a clean bulking diet is the better choice.

6. Cost Involved

Dirty bulking involves eating mindlessly. This can be much less expensive than mindful eating. 

But developing medical conditions after years of dirty bulking can even out all savings. After all, health is wealth. On the other hand, one can always stick to affordable clean bulking. This will include low-cost bulking staple foods rather than expensive exotic fruits and vegetables that burn a hole in the pocket.

Clean Bulking Foods

When following clean bulking, foods to eat include:

  1. Lean proteins
  2. Healthy fats
  3. Legumes
  4. High-quality carbohydrates
  5. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, including non-starchy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and dark leafy greens
  6. Healthy beverages like juice, kombucha, etc.

However, one must avoid highly processed foods, saturated fats, and carbonated or sweetened beverages.

Dirty Bulking Foods

When dirty bulking, one can eat high-protein foods, protein powders /supplements, high-calorie mass gain powders, cereal bars, fruits and vegetables, high-carb dishes, junk foods like pizza or pasta, nuts, and nut butter. 


Clean bulking and dirty bulking, both have their pluses and minuses. Clean bulking can be the ideal way to gain muscle mass but the process is slow and lacks flexibility.

On the other hand, dirty bulking is an easy and effective way to gain weight quickly. But its downsides include unwanted fat gain and health risks associated with unhealthy and binge eating. The nutritional deficiency can have long-term health implications. 

Fitness enthusiasts feel that striking a balance between the two may be a healthier way to bulk up. Stick to nutrient-dense foods and restrict intake of calorie-dense foods. But whether it is clean or dirty bulking, remember to include adequate high-quality proteins and healthy fats to get a caloric surplus. Balance it wisely with good weight training and high-intensity workouts.

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