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How To Lean Bulk Without Counting Calories

Can you lean bulk without counting calories? To lean bulk without counting calories you would need to eat the same meals everyday which would be programmed at the start of the bulking phase. It wouldn’t be possible to lean bulk without tracking your calorie intake.

The purpose of a bulk is to eat in a calorie surplus to gain weight and build muscle. Traditionally, a bulk has been focused around putting on as much weight as possible in an off-season (a bulking and cutting season were used by bodybuilders to build muscle in the winter and then cut for a show in summer) with the idea that the majority of the weight gained will be muscle mass. 

With science constantly progressing at a faster rate we are now seeing studies that claim your body is only capable of building a certain amount of muscle mass in a given period of time (this is for someone training naturally without the assistance of performance enhancing drugs). If you are therefore putting on a lot of weight in a short space of time then it’s fair to assume that the majority of this is fat. 

As a result of this, a new approach to bulking has been popularized in the last decade, the lean bulk. This involves tracking calories and weight daily to ensure that weight gain is planned and systematic, weight gain on a lean bulk should be a slow gain to reduce excess body fat being put on.

What Is A Lean Bulk

As mentioned briefly above, a lean bulk is a fairly new approach to bulking that involves minimizing fat gain whilst maximizing muscle gain. 

This has become popular for two reasons, the less fat you gain on a bulk the easier it will be to diet down for a competition as you will have less fat to lose. The second reason is that society (both in general and with the emergence of social media) has become a lot more health and body conscious, people want to look fitter and healthier so when looking to build muscle they also want to do this with as little fat gained as possible. 

For both practical and aesthetic reasons a lean bulk is a very viable option that most people looking to build muscle should opt to take. The only thing to be aware of before starting a lean bulk is that it takes more tracking than a regular bulk in order to be successful. You will need to track calories as well as weight on a frequent basis to make sure you are still on track and not gaining weight too quickly, then make any adjustments if needed.

Once you get into the habit of tracking everything however, you will be much more capable of seeing how your body responds to a calorie surplus and should be able to maximize muscle gain very efficiently. It’s not to say this approach is better than a traditional bulk however, As it takes so much tracking to get right its not suitable for everyone and going down the route of simply eating in a constant calorie surplus will be a much better option for some people. 

Work Out Your Lean Bulk Calories

To start a successful lean bulk you will first need to allocate a week of initial tracking and monitoring of weight to assess what your maintenance calorie level should be. Use an online calculator that takes in account TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) to work out what your maintenance calories should be.

Your maintenance calories are simply how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis in order to maintain your current body weight. Most people will have a natural level that your body is comfortable maintaining based on your current diet, activity level and digestive system/metabolism.

Once you have this initial maintenance amount you will consume this amount for the first week and track your weight daily, a bathroom scale might not be the most accurate measure of your current weight but it will show you changes. If your weight stays consistent over this period then you know your maintenance amount of calories and can start on a lean bulk.

Now that you have your maintenance calories you are going to start with a cautious 200kcal surplus, you need to eat in a calorie surplus in order to build muscle however the more calories you consume is not directly proportionate to the amount of muscle you will gain, too high of a surplus will result in unwanted fat gain just like a very high calorie deficit would result in muscle loss as well as fat loss. Therefore you want to take the cautious approach with a lean bulk. 

Set An Initial Meal Plan

Now, you know what is required for a lean bulk (a small calorie surplus) and you could track your calories daily to make adjustments when needed however your reading this article to see how to do a lean bulk without counting calories.

This is a very difficult thing to do as the idea of a lean bulk is built around tracking food and weight to minimize fat gain, there is a way that you can do it however without counting calories daily and that is to make an initial meal plan and eat the same meals everyday.

This is a common eating routine that people don’t like as it removes choice from their diet and is hard to stick to unless you have a very strict mind set and are comfortable just following a set routine. If you don’t want to track calories however this is 100% the route that you will want to go down. 

Based on your maintenance macros with a 200kcal surplus you will set out an initial meal plan, it doesn’t matter how many meals or what foods you choose to include in this plan as long as the daily calories are your lean bulk amount. For macronutrient splits you can aim for the following:

  • 1g protein per pound of body weight
  • 0.45g fat per pound of body weight
  • The remaining calories are made up from carbohydrates

You should now have a meal plan that you can eat every day, the only thing you will need to track is weight. If your weight isn’t increasing over the period of a few weeks then it’s likely your body has got used to this and therefore you need to add another 200kcal into your surplus so just amend your daily meal plan to include the extra calories. 

As mentioned it will still take some counting of calories but this is going to be the best way to lean bulk without counting calories daily.

Track A Lean Bulk With A Bathroom Scale And Mirror

Another way of lean bulking without counting calories is to take advantage of a bathroom scale and use a mirror. You can eat whatever you want (to an extent, obviously aim for nutrient dense foods and not just multiple trips to Mcdonalds) but make sure you keep an eye on the bathroom scale. 

If you are gaining 1lb every few days then I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of it will be fat. Building muscle is a slow progress and therefore you need to check weight daily to make sure there aren’t rapid fluctuations, the best process however will be to take a weekly average. 

Weight can change daily due to a number of reasons; stress, water retention, digestion, bowel movement and multiple other bodily functions that can see weight fluctuate on a day to day basis. You therefore need to be taking a weekly average of all days and comparing your average week on week. If your weekly average is flying up then this is when you need to draw it in and slow down on the food as you won’t be lean bulking with rapid weight gain. 

Another simple way to test a lean bulk is to use a mirror and look at your physical changes. This is a lot harder to do than tracking weight as it’s harder to see physical changes in a short period of time, when starting a lean bulk however I would assume that you are already lean and that your abs a clearly visible? If this is the case then you just need to monitor the visibility of your abs, if you see them disappearing gradually then it’s a fair assessment that you are gaining fat not only too quickly but also gaining too much of it. 

It’s not scientific however these are methods that you can use to attempt a lean bulk without counting calories.

Do Cardio On A Lean Bulk

The final, though least likely way to lean bulk without counting calories is to up your daily cardio in order to burn fat and reduce the effects of a surplus. If you eat in a 200kcal surplus it’s not enough for you to gain significant amounts of fat, if however you are not counting calories and end up with a 1000kcal surplus everyday then you are much more likely to gain unwanted body fat. 

Without counting calories one way to combat any excess surplus of calories is to simply up your expenditure levels in order to use these calories as fuel. Adding daily cardio or some HIIT sessions into your workout routine is one way to burn more calories and reduce potential fat gained from excess calories. 

This is however the least effective method to lean bulk without counting calories as you won’t have a set target of how much you need to do in order to cancel out the excess calories

What Next

If you are looking to make changes to your physique by either losing body fat, building muscle or looking to maintain a lean physique then sign up to my weekly newsletter below. Each week I send out actionable tips to help you lose that extra 1lb of fat or build that extra 0.5lb of muscle mass on a weekly basis. 

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    Full guide to lean bulking without counting calories
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