265 Comments

  1. Wow! Andy, this article is amazing! So cool seeing the graphs of natural/drugged potential, as well as the graph comparing relaxed, slower, and lean bulks.

    I saw that Greg Nuckols recommended cutting at more like 20%. I’ve always had better success staying between 11–15%, as you mention. I’ve always wondered how genetics play into that. Sometimes I’ll run into guys who find it pretty hard keeping under 15%. I’ve been wondering if pushing their bulking ceiling higher is the right call.

    1. Hi Shane,
      Keeping the cut–bulk cycle between 10 and 20% is what I’d recommend.

      Environmental factors compounding bad habits is a big culprit here. I had a friend write about that here: here.

  2. Hi Andy , just reading this great article about bulking without getting fat . In this example given .

    “A 180 lb intermediate trainee, finished his cut to shreds, recently losing 0.75 lbs per week”. You suggest the following calculations
    • “So, increase caloric intake by 645 kcal per day (375 + 1.35*200) to give 2.7 lbs of body weight gain per month”.

    In this scenario are you saying to add all those calories (645 calories per day )immediately starting the bulk . Or does the trainee reach 645 calories per day after maintenance has been determined . This example you give is very similar to my situation and wanted to make sure I don’t get confused .
    Thanks again for all your knowledge .

    1. You could, but I typically suggest people do it in two jumps (two weeks apart) which can make the transition easier on the stomach.

  3. In the example above “A 160 lb lean, novice trainee, currently not gaining or losing any weight…a reasonable goal is to gain 1.5% of body weight, which is 2.4 lbs of muscle per month. So increase caloric intake by 480 kcal per day. (2.4 lbs*200 kcal)”

    Does this mean that the total bodyweight will be of 160 lbs + 2.4 lbs of muscle + 2.4lbs of body fat= 164.8 lbs?

    Or at least 164.8 lbs of total body weight is to be expected?

    1. Hi Zeus, thank you for asking. This should have been written more clearly:

      “A 160 lb lean, novice trainee, currently not gaining or losing any weight. This means that he is at approximately maintenance calories. According to our Muscle Growth Potential chart, a reasonable goal is to gain 1.5% of body weight as muscle growth, which is 2.4 lbs of muscle per month. So increase caloric intake by 480 kcal per day (2.4 lbs*200 kcal) to give 4.8 lbs of body weight gain per month.”

  4. Hey Andy! Does the recommendation stays the same for lean bulk (0.5-1%)for someone who is not natural and an intermediate trainee? If not what would would be the difference? Thanks in advance mate

  5. Hi Andy, really useful information! I have just a couple of questions:
    I lost about 80 pounds and I did weightlifting but never did a proper beginner routine, it was more about chasing the pump. I know it is more volume than the beginner routine. How to know if I’m still a beginner?
    Now that are I am quite lean and I’m going to start a slow bulk how much should I expect to gain considering I’ve been training for a year but never been in a bulk?

    1. Hi Lucio, firstly, congratulations on losing all that weight. You’re probably an intermediate trainee by now, so that puts your muscle growth potential in the 0.5-1% of body weight per month zone and I’d aim to gain 50-100% more than that in total so that you have enough of a surplus to fully support the growth.

  6. Andy,

    When you describe progression for the lean gains method stalling in the gym as the trigger to make a calorie increase, what sort of progression is that assuming? If a method of double progression were to hit a wall in multiple lifts, with all other factors being on point, would that be a sufficient signal to make an adjustment?

    Love the article!

    Chris

  7. Hi Andy,

    I had my First Cut ->Bulk Cycle (-3kg in 3 months -> +4.5kg in 6 months) and now I am back on a Cut. I gained weigth during the Bulk but now during my second Cut I am coming back to my initial weight when I started the Bulk respectively ended the first Cut. (I am kind of a “hardgainer”) I did have Strength gains and now trying to keep that strength during my Cut.
    Resulting from those lessons I have two questions and would be happy if you could answer them 🙂
    1. Did I have a suboptimal Bulk? (Started not that lean [~11%], Wrong training [a 3×10 selfmade bodybuilding routine]…I swear I followed the set up guide like a madman 🙂 )
    2. I would like to use creatine, which works very good for me, in 3 or so months of the upcoming 5-6months Bulk to boost muscle gain. What is your opinion on that?

    Many arigatos 🙂

    1. 1) It’s hard to tell from your figures you have given, but the way you can answer is this: if you didn’t gain muscle, then it was a suboptimal bulk and you did something wrong. In most cases the issue will be one of two things:
      • Lack of sufficient training stimulus.
      • Cut too hard after the bulk, lost muscle mass.

      2) Just take it all the time, 5g a day.

  8. When you move from a bulk back down to a cut, do you keep the protein the same and then cut the carbs/fat in a 70-30 split like you did when you increased for the bulking phase?

  9. About 9 years ago, I lost 100 lbs. (275 > 175, 6 ft, currently 27 y/o) and in that time have also read about the various physiological changes my body makes to return to its set point. I just started powerlifting 3 months ago and have seen gains without much variation in my weight (175 > ~177-182). My best guess about my body right now is that I have a relatively higher BF pct than someone my height/age/activity level, mostly due to the massive weight loss, which likely also took muscle with it – I would put it at 25-30%. My primary goal with strength training is to make up for lost muscle and then build from there. It seems like I’m losing some BF and putting on some muscle, but reading your work and others suggests I could bulk better if I’m willing to take in more calories. I set pretty conservative macros for fear of my weight ballooning: 2000 calories at 175-180g protein. I try to get 40g fiber in a day, and have relatively even splits on carbs and fats.

    Is it appropriate to apply the slow bulk to someone who lost a lot of weight? For reference, I use this calculator [DELETED] Kevin Hall put together to construct my macros, and to adjust for weight loss adaptation I shift BMR down 500-700 to 1200 or so based on his Biggest Loser studies of BMR change.

    1. Hi Ronnie, thanks for the question.

      Adjust relative to your baseline intake and changes that are happening, don’t recalculate. See the first item in the FAQ for further explanation.

  10. Hey Andy thanks a lot for this article. I have one specific question. Lets say I calculated everything good and stuff. I was planing to go 9 months bulk then 3 months cut. Is there any benefit to longer bulks compared to lets say 3 cicles of 3 months bulk + 1 month cut. I am asking this cause lot of people suggesting long bulk cause of hormons and stuff. But i dont see them being specifict with calories. I would really love to hear your opinion. Thanks a lot

    1. Hi Milos. I think the calorie changes are implicit in their recommendations there. When switching from a cut to a bulk there it takes the body a while for the hormones to recover and get back to normal, which is where the growth really happens. Hence the recommendation for longer bulking periods.

      Let’s say on average then that it takes your hormones around 4 weeks to recover and for your body to be an ‘anabolic environment’, that’s a month you lose each time. Factoring that in, it’s probably better to have longer bulks than 3 months, 4-5 the minimum so that a decent level of measurable progress can be made.

  11. Brian N Phillips

    I have a question. Say for example, I am a complete beginner, starting at 8-10% body fat. I want to do lean gains and gain 24 lbs (2lbs/month) of muscle mass during my 1st year. What amount of glycogen and extra water weight accompanies a 1lb gain in muscle mass. When doing the calculations at 2500 kcal/lb muscle and 3500 kcal/lb fat, that doesn’t take into account glycogen/water/other lean body mass gains besides muscle gains, right? Don’t I have to take into account a gain in other lean body mass factors and not just arbitrarily only calculate the muscle gain? Thanks.

    1. Hi Brian, thanks for the question. There will be an initial jump in weight from an increase in gut content, water balance, and glycogen. Ignore that. Adjust from there.

  12. I am confused about the section titled, “The Importance of Starting Your Bulk When You Are Lean.” In the Lyle McDonald article you referenced, he says, “naturally lean (but NOT folks who have dieted to lean) individuals tend to gain more muscle and less fat when they overfeed and fatter individuals tend to gain more fat and less muscle when they overfeed.”

    Any idea what he means by “naturally lean”? That sentence seems to suggest that we can’t trick our bodies into efficiently partitioning calories by starting from a lean state, because leanness is just a genetic thing.

    1. Hi Pat, thanks for the question. Lyle is talking about the role of genetics in that sentence. You’ll see him talk about improving insulin sensitivity (and as a byproduct, improving p-ratio) later on in the article series if I remember correctly.

      Genetics will determine what we can do for the most part, which is why Lyle wrote it in that way I would imagine. We can’t change our genetics, we can just put the rest of the pieces together to do the best we can so that we maximize what is possible for us, as individuals.

    2. Is 1:1 the best ratio of muscle to fat gain we can expect even when bulking in the 8-15% body fat range? For all the talk about improving nutrient partitioning on a bulk that ratio still feels quite dreadful. Or does it only get worse on the fatter side of things?

      On the same subject, a recent study by Garthe et all seems to lend credence to the notion that a much better ratio of muscle to fat gain can be achieved and Lyle’s article on Muscle Gain Math from earlier this year puts it down at 3:1 best-case. In my experience a lot of research in the field of nutrition and exercise science seems rather divorced from reality, so I’d rather hear out someone speaking from experience. Are we undercutting our gains by bulking too slowly, expecting unrealistically low fat gain while only managing to slash our muscle gain instead?

      What’s your take on this?

    3. Are we undercutting our gains by bulking too slowly, expecting unrealistically low fat gain while only managing to slash our muscle gain instead?
      For many people, this is what happens, so I suggest people just set their bodyweight gain target at double their rate of realistic muscle gain. Some people do better. The factors that affect it are listed at the top of the article.


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