Painting of a man bulking up in the jungle.

What is Bulking?

If you’re trying to build muscle, you’ve probably heard about bulking. Bulking is a term used in weight-training circles that refers to intentionally eating in a calorie surplus to gain muscle mass. The goal is to provide your body with enough nutrients and energy to support muscle growth but not so many extra nutrients that it causes unnecessary fat gain.

Let’s delve deeper.

How to Bulk

To bulk, you need to start with resistance training. The whole purpose of bulking is to support muscle growth. Muscle growth starts with muscle stimulation.

Then, you need to consume more calories than you burn. Those extra calories are used to build muscle, or they’re stored as fat. Either way, they cause weight gain.

You don’t need to calculate your energy needs or count the calories you’re eating to get into a calorie surplus. Those things can help, but at the end of the day, all that matters is whether you have extra calories left over.

Before and after photo showing Grant's results from doing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program.

For a classic bulk, I recommend eating around 200-500 extra calories per day. That will have you gaining around 0.5–1 pound per week.

Weigh yourself every week. If you’re gaining weight too slowly, add another 200 calories to your diet. If you’re gaining weight too quickly, remove 100 calories. Keep weighing yourself and adjusting.

Do You Need to Bulk?

The benefit of bulking is that it allows you to become bigger than before. It allows you to build muscle with the extra energy you’re eating. It helps you turn food into muscle and strength.

Before and after photo of DB's results from doing body recomposition with the Bony to Beastly Program.

Most people don’t want to gain weight. They want to be strong and muscular, but they’re already plenty heavy. Their goal weight is lighter than they currently are. In that case, their extra energy can come from their body fat. They don’t need to bulk.

But if you want to weigh more than you currently do, there are only two ways to do it:

  • You could gain weight the normal way, eating in a calorie surplus without regard for whether you’re gaining muscle or fat.
  • You could bulk, emphasizing muscle growth and minimizing fat gain.

There’s no other way up. To gain weight, you have to gain weight. If you’re skinny and want to get bigger, you need to get your extra energy from food. If your goal is to gain muscle leanly, you need to bulk.

What Are the Downsides of Bulking?

Fat Gain

Bulking is a wonderful endeavour, but it isn’t perfect. One of the biggest risks is the potential for fat gain. When you consume excess calories, it’s easy for some of them to be stored as fat.

Even with a good bulk, it’s common to gain at least a little bit of fat. That fat isn’t always noticeable, but it’s almost always there. For example, consider a skinny guy who starts his bulk at 14% body fat and gains 20 pounds:

  • If he gains 18 pounds of muscle and 2 pounds of fat, he’s finishing at a lower body-fat percentage, and his fat gain won’t be noticeable, but he’s still carrying more fat than he started with.
  • Now imagine he gains 12 pounds of muscle and 8 pounds of fat. That’s fairly common. In this case, he’s finishing at a slightly higher body-fat percentage than when he started, which may even be noticeable.
Before and after photo of GK bulking leanly with the Bony to Beastly bulking program for skinny guys.

In either case, gaining fat doesn’t mean becoming fat. This guy is still well within the healthy body fat range, he will still look fairly lean, and he won’t have changed his propensity for storing fat. There’s no real damage here.

If you accumulate too much fat, take a break from bulking. You can keep lifting weights, using your gut to fuel your muscle growth. Or you could “cut,” eating in a calorie deficit to force your body to get energy from your body fat.

Digestive Struggles

Another risk of bulking is the potential for gastrointestinal issues. Consuming a lot of food can be tough on your digestive system. It’s important to gradually increase your calorie intake to give your body time to adjust.

If your digestive system is already finicky, try bulking at a slower pace with a smaller calorie surplus. Try eating more snacks instead of eating bigger meals. Build your diet out of foods you find easier to digest.


Some people find bulking rather stressful. Bulking means flirting with fat gain. There’s no way around it. It’s always a risk. Some people don’t like that risk.

If you’re naturally thin and lean, you probably don’t need to worry about it. You’ll still be naturally lean by the end of your bulk. Your genetics won’t change. Your health won’t suffer. The worst-case scenario is having to spend a few weeks cutting.

Still, if you have a history of disordered eating, bulking may not be the best choice for you. Bulking isn’t an excuse to eat a big rebound diet. It’s not an excuse to binge. It’s not even an excuse to eat junk food.

What are the Advantages of Bulking?

Size, Strength, Muscle, Power & Life

Bulking is by far the best way to get bigger. It’s much better than merely eating in a careless calorie surplus. You’ll gain far more muscle and far less fat by bulking, especially if you do it properly.

Bulking has a few other advantages, too:

  • It packs your muscles full of extra glycogen, making them look fuller and harder, and improving their performance.
  • It floods your body with nutrients. The extra food contains protein, carbs, fats, fibre, and micronutrients. Even better if that food is nutritious.
  • It gives you extra energy. When digesting extra food, you might feel sluggish. But that food will also give you more energy to lift, run, work, and play.


Bulking is intentionally eating in a calorie surplus to gain muscle mass. It’s especially effective for skinny people who are trying to get bigger. However, it can come with risks, including perpetual fullness and fat gain, especially if you’re too ambitious with your surplus.

Bulking can be healthy, provided 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).

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.

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