Setting Calories for Lean Bulk

Time to discuss whats needed for Muscle Growth (lean bulk). 

Muscle growth is maximized only when we’re eating more calories than we burn.

A slight surplus of calories is necessary for LEAN Muscle growth.

Only a few hundred calories over maintenance are enough to maximize lean muscle growth. (See my article here on setting calories for Maintenance)

The thing is many people will disagree and  make the mistake of eating too much during a bulking phase.

They will end up gaining more fat than muscle.

Some believe this is necessary for max muscle gains and there is some truth to this to be honest.

The Problem 

More often than not these guys look worse at the end of the bulk than when they started.

They had the goal of putting on as much muscle as possible and losing the fat latter.

The problem is so much fat was gained during their bulk that they never quite loose it again.

The Best Approach for Muscle Growth

I believe we should strive for lean gains as much as we can while not compromising the rate at which we can gain muscle and strength.

Some fat gain should be allowed otherwise our progress would be significantly slower.

So how fast can we gain muscle?


The Alan Argon Model. ( Author of Girth Control and The Lean Muscle Diet) I highly recommend checking this gut out!

CategoryRate of Muscle Gain
Beginner1-1.5% total body weight per month
Intermediate0.5-1% total body weight per month
Advanced0.25-0.5% total body weight per month


**these values are for males, females would use roughly half of those values (e.g. 10-12 pounds in the first year of proper training). (Natural Lifters)

Please note These are averages and make a few assumptions about proper training and nutrition and such.

As well, age will interact with this; older individuals won’t gain as quickly and younger individuals may gain more quickly.

For example, it’s not unheard of for young high school kids to gain muscle very rapidly.

This is due to the fact testosterone levels are in their prime , puberty is the name of the game here.

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Setting A Calorie Surplus

In order to maximize muscle gain and minimize fat gain most people need to eat about 10% more than maintenance.

This is a great starting point for beginners and intermediates and based on their progress they should adjust their intake up and down to grow at the set rate.

You can work this out by using the equation below

(maintenance) x 1.1 = Calories needed for a lean bulk

If you’re not gaining weight at all or you’re barely gaining, then you need to increase your calories by 10%

if you see you’re gaining too fast and your waist is getting bigger, lower your calories by 10%


**Remember that is just an estimated starting point and numbers will typically have to be adjusted. 

**Again weight loss is not linear and you will zig-zag your way to the finish line.  (review the skill of tracking calories here)  


For Comprehensive Programs on setting calories for Muscle Growth and eating the foods you love while building a lean and fit body, check out True Will Programs.

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