Photo of a lean and muscular man and woman who are lean bulking.

How to Do a Lean Bulk

Lean bulking is when you cautiously stalk muscle growth, sneaking up on it without attracting the attention of fat gain. Traditional bulking is somewhat similar. What makes lean bulking different is the emphasis on reducing fat gain rather than maximizing muscle growth.

Lean bulking offers a few advantages:

  • You’ll gain less fat.
  • You might not need to cut after your bulk.
  • A smaller calorie surplus is easier to eat and digest.

Let’s delve deeper.

The Difference Between a LEAN Bulk and a CLEAN Bulk

Clean bulking is very similar to lean bulking, just with a greater emphasis on moral purity. Instead of eating nutritious foods, you eat wholesome ones. Instead of trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, you shun the impure way of living.

The physical outcome is the same. You’ll build muscle leanly. The spiritual outcome couldn’t be more different. Lean bulking builds a stronger spirit, whereas clean bulking builds a more pious one.

How to Lean Bulk

With a traditional bulk, you try to line up your weight gain with your predicted rate of muscle growth. However, it’s impossible to know exactly how much muscle you can build. It’s impossible to eat a perfectly precise bulking diet. So lean bulkers play it safe. They err on the side of leanness. They gain weight more slowly.

Before and after photo of a skinny guy's results from lean bulking.

A lean bulk starts with hypertrophy trainingThe whole purpose of lean bulking is to gain muscle instead of fat. To do that, you have to start by stimulating muscle growth. Hypertrophy training is the best way to stimulate muscle growth.

Then, you need to consume more calories than you burn. We’re bulking, after all. That means we’re eating more energy than we’re burning. That extra energy can be used to build muscle.

After that, be active. Try to spend some time on your feet. Go on a 20–40 minute walk every day. If that becomes too easy, try doing cardio a 2–4 times per week. This will get your blood flowing, delivering nutrients to your growing muscles. It will also burn off visceral fat, which is the unhealthy fat that can accumulate around your organs.

Finally, you must rest. Getting enough good sleep can speed up your rate of muscle growth by around 30% while simultaneously reducing the amount of fat you gain. Give yourself at least 7 hours, and maybe as much as 9. Relax by dim light in the hour or two leading to your bedtime. Consider reading some dark fantasy in the fading light.

Determining Your Calorie Intake

When you’re doing a lean bulk, it can help to track your calories. Your calorie surplus is smaller, requiring a greater degree of precision. We’re affiliated with the MacroFactor app, made by the research reviewers at Stronger by Science. It’s the best calorie-tracking app for bulking, with the most evidence-based recommendations, a verified food database, and the most robust algorithm. If you want an extended free trial, you can use the code “b2b”.

For a lean bulk, I recommend eating around 200 extra calories per day. That will have you gaining around half a pound per week.

Weigh yourself every week and adjust accordingly. If you’re gaining weight too slowly, add another 150 calories to your diet. If you’re gaining weight too quickly, remove 100 calories. Keep weighing yourself and adjusting.

The Lean Bulking Diet

When you’re bulking, you should be getting the vast majority of your calories from nutritious foods. That’s true whether you’re bulking leanly or aggressively.

  1. Eat high-quality protein: Proteins are the stones that make up your castle of muscle. Calories give the masons the energy they need to build that castle. You need enough of both. When lean bulking, aim for at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Think of lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes, soy, whole grains, peas, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Eat healthy fats: Fat is a great source of calories, it can be rich in fat-soluble micronutrients, and it supports hormone production. Try to get most of your fats from nutritious sources like fatty fish, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives (and olive oil).
  3. Eat plenty of carbohydrates: Carbs can be a great energy source, they’re often high in fibre, and they can be packed full of micronutrients. Think of carbs like fruits, berries, vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes, squash, honey, and whole grains (like brown rice, corn, oats, and quinoa).
  4. Eat as much fibre as you can stomach: Fibre is fantastic for your health and digestion, and it helps you regulate your blood sugar and blood lipids. Many carbs are rich in fibre. So are many nuts and seeds.
  5. Eat some fermented foods: Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which can bulk up your gut microbiome, strengthening your digestive system. Think of foods like Greek yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut.
  6. Drink water, smoothies, fresh fruit juices, milk, milk alternatives, coffee, and tea.


Lean bulking is a slower, more cautious approach to bulking. The goal is to build muscle without gaining much, if any, fat. It’s especially effective for skinny-fat people who are trying to build muscle.

Lean bulking can be quite healthy, too, if you do it properly. It’s a great way to add muscle to your frame (which is healthy), it supports a more rigorous exercise routine (which is healthy), and it packs you full of nutrients, including fibre and micronutrients (which are healthy).

If you decide to do a lean bulk, it’s important to follow a good workout program, eat a nutritious diet, and live a healthy lifestyle. You may also want to track your calories, allowing you to eat in a smaller, more precise calorie surplus.

Image of the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program for skinny guys, showing the workout program, guide, and bulking recipe book.

Alright, that’s it for now. If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free muscle-building newsletterIf you want a full workout and diet program, including a 5-month workout routine, a diet guide, a bulking recipe book, tutorial videos teaching every lift, a community full of skinny dudes, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Program.

Shane Duquette

Shane has over 10 years of full-time experience helping over 10,000 skinny guys build muscle by lifting weights, eating a good bulking diet, and living a healthy lifestyle. He's the founder of Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlift.

Leave a Comment