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Macros For Lean Bulk

Macros for lean bulk how to gain muscle without gaining body fat.

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Bulking season is the best! You are intentionally eating more food therefore your performance in the gym is better, you feel great, and your strength is through the roof.

The problem with bulking, however, is that sometimes it’s hard to control how much fat you gain along with the muscle. 

This is where “lean bulking” comes in – a method of bulking where you are intentional about not gaining body fat.

In this blog post, we will discuss what your macros are and how you can optimize them for a lean bulk.

It is important to note that everyone’s body is different, so you may have to adjust these macros depending on your own needs.

But overall, these should give you a good starting point for your lean bulk!

Don’t want to mess with it? Get your lean bulking macros calculated by a registered dietitian

What are lean bulking macros?

A lean bulk is a type of bulking where you are intentional about not gaining any fat while simultaneously trying to gain as much muscle tissue as possible.

This sort of bulking differs significantly from a traditional bulk, which typically entails eating as much food as possible.

Your macros (short for macronutrients) are the amounts of protein, carbs, and fats that you need to eat.

These macros also encompass your calories because:

Protein breaks down into amino acids and provides 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrates breakdown into glucose and provide 4 calories per gram. Fats breakdown into fatty acids and provide 9 calorie per gram.
  • Protein and carbs have four calories per gram
  • Fat has nine calories per gram.

Think of a lean bulk as a combination of three foundational components:

  • Calories
  • Macros: Protein carbs and fats
  • Strength training 

You can have the best training program or the perfect diet, but if you are missing one of these, you will not reach your full potential.

Conversely, if your macros are spot on but everything else is a mess, you can still make great progress!

Summary: 

  • Control how much body fat you gain while bulking
  • Gain muscle tissue without putting on fat
  • Everyone’s body is different – customize your macros to fit you specifically
  • Get a good starting point for your lean bulk with these macros

How to calculate your lean bulk macros

How to calculate your lean bulk macros. Step one find your calories. Basal metabolic rate activity and goal. Step two find your protein. .72 g - 1.10 g of protein per pound. Step three carbs. 2.7 g - 4.5 g per pound of body weight.

To calculate your specific lean bulk macros, you must first find the number of calories you should be consuming per day.

From there, you will determine how many of those calories should come from protein, carbs, and fat.

Once you have both your daily calorie needs and your daily macro targets all that’s left is to find your favorite foods that fit those macros and get started on your lean bulk journey!

Step #1: Calories

The total caloric intake you need in a day is determined by your:

  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR) (1)
  • Activity level (2)
  • Goal (in this case, a lean bulk)

To find your BMR, use one of the many online calculators. I like this one from to use one from the National Institute of Health.

Once you have your BMR, you need to multiply it by an activity factor to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). (4)

This activity factor is determined by your lifestyle. Here are some examples:

  • If you have a sedentary job and don’t work out, your activity factor would be BMR x 1.20
  •  A light active lifestyle (you workout one to three times per week) would be BMR x 1.30
  •  A moderate active lifestyle (you workout three to five times per week) would be BMR x 1.40
  •  A very active lifestyle (you workout six to seven times per week) would be BMR x 1.50
  •  An extremely active lifestyle (you workout multiple times per day, have a physically demanding job, etc.) would be BMR x 1.75

The last step to finding your lean bulking calories is to add a calorie surplus. According to a review article published in the journal of Sports Medicine, “During the off-season, the diet should be slightly hyperenergetic (~15% increase in energy intake).” (5)

Your calorie surplus is the “bulk” aspect of the lean bulk calories. This is where a majority of your weight gain and muscle building will occur. With that being said this too can have a range anywhere between 5-15 %. 

how to calculate your lean bulking calories.

A good approach might be to gradually increase your calories. This would look like a 5% increase in total calories each month and starting with your maintenance calories.

Step #2: Protein

Protein is one of the most important macros for a lean bulk because it is responsible for repairing and muscle-building.

The Academy of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram or 0.54-0.77 grams per pound. however, this recommendation does not take into consideration the need to maximize muscle.

For this reason, you may consider increasing your protein to 1.6 – 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram or about 0.72 g – 1.10 g of protein per pound. (5)

Below is a chart to see what the grams of protein should be based on a lower (0.54 g/lb) moderate (0.72 g/lb) and high (1.10 g/lb) protein intake.

Weight in poundsProtein (0.54g/lb)
Low
Protein (0.72g/lb)
Medium
Protein (1.10g/lb)
High
10054 g72 g110 g
11059 g 79 g 121 g
12065 g86 g132  g
13071 g94 g143 g
14076 g101 g154 g
15082 g108 g165 g
16087 g115 g176 g
17093 g122 g187 g
18098 g 129 g198 g
190103 g137 g209 g
200108 g144 g220 g
210113 g151 g231 g
220118 g158 g242 g

You can use these numbers as a good guideline for how many grams of protein you should be eating each day.

Step #3: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates play a critical role during lean bulk because they are the muscle’s preferred source of fuel.

During a bulk, you will be strength training which means your body will need more carbs to support your workouts and recovery.

The amount of carbohydrates you need per day is generally based on a percentage of your total daily calories.

For example, the USDA recommends that 45-65% of your calories come from carbohydrates. However, because you are working out carbohydrate needs are higher.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes consume 6-10 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight or 2.7 – 4.5 grams of carbohydrate. per pound of body weight. 

Below is a chart of the recommended carbohydrate intake for elite athletes:

Wight in pounds Carb (2.7 g/lb) Carb (4.5 g/kg)
100270 g450 g
110297 g495 g
120351 g540 g 
130378 g585 g
140405 g630 g
150432 g 675 g
160459 g720 g
170459 g765 g
180486 g810 g
190513 g855 g
200540 g900 g
210567 g945 g
220594 g990 g

Carbohydrate intake around and during your workout has been shown to be beneficial. Read more about intra-workout carbs

Step #4 Fats

Fats play a role in hormone production, joint health, and cell function. Fats are also a source of energy for the body.

Consuming a low-fat diet has been correlated to a reduced testosterone concentration. (>20% of your calories coming from fat) (7)

As many of us are aware, testosterone is a hormone that aids in recovery, and therefore it would not be beneficial to consume a low-fat diet during a lean bulk. 

With that being said, dietary fat can range from 20 – 40 % of total daily calories with no adverse effects on hormones. (8)

What foods to eat for a lean bulk

To maximize the amount of muscle you can gain while preventing fat gain, focus on nutrient-rich food sources. These include:

  •  Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and fish
  •  Eggs
  •  Low-fat dairy products
  •  Quinoa, rice, oats, and other whole grains
  •  Sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables
  •  Fruits
  •  Nuts and seeds
  •  Healthy oils such as olive oil

It can be hard to only eat nutrient-rich foods when trying to bulk up and gain muscle. For one, these types of foods are not always available. Secondly, they may not always taste the best. Finally, it can be hard to make sure you are getting enough calories and all the nutrients you need if you are only eating nutrient-rich foods.

That’s why it is also recommended to include some easier-to-digest and more calorie-dense foods in your diet as well. These foods can include:

  • Sports drinks
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit
  • Smoothies
  • Candy 

While you don’t want to make these highly processed foods the cornerstone of your diet, including them in moderation will help you reach your calorie goals while still allowing you to enjoy the foods you love.

What about supplements?

There are a few key supplements that can help you on your lean bulk journey. These include:

Protein powder: A protein supplement can help you reach your daily protein goals, especially if you are having trouble getting enough from food sources alone. Read more about whey protein powder vs plant-based protein powder.

Creatine: Creatine is a supplement that has been shown to increase strength and muscle mass. It can also help reduce fatigue, making it easier to push through tough workouts. (9)

Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can help increase energy levels and focus. This can be helpful when trying to stay on track with your workout plan. (10)

While supplements can be helpful, they should not be relied on as the only source of nutrients. The best way to get all the nutrients you need is through a well-rounded diet that includes whole foods.

Sample meal plan for a lean bulk

Now that we know how many calories and grams of each macronutrient we need, let’s put it all together in an example diet plan.

The goal of a lean bulk meal plan is to evenly distribute your calories and macros throughout the day.

For example, let’s say your calories are 2900 protein is 190 grams carbohydrates are 350 grams, and fats are 82 grams per day. Looking for more information on meal planning macros read the Meal Planning Macros blog

Assuming that we are eating 3 meals a day and two snacks the distribution could be like the following:

Meal CaloriesProtein CarbohydrateFats
Breakfasts75050 g70 g20 g
Lunch 75050 g70 g20 g
Dinner 75050 g70 g20 g
Snacks (2x)30020 g40 g12 g

Sample Lean Bulk Meal Plan: 

– Breakfast: Omelet with veggies, whole grain toast, and fruit

– Snack: Protein shake with milk and banana

– Lunch: Chicken salad with quinoa, avocado, and grilled vegetables

– Snack: Greek yogurt with berries and nuts – get 65 Macro Friendly Snacks

– Dinner: Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Breakfast ProteinCarbohydratesFats
Omelet with veggies, whole grain toast, and fruit3 whole eggs ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese½ cup egg whites Fruit, toast (X2) Eggs, Butter 
Lunch Protein CarbohydrateFats
Chicken salad with quinoa, avocado, and grilled vegetablesChicken & Quinoa Quinoa and grilled veggiesAvocado, olive oil. 
DinnerProteinProteinFats
Grilled Chicken Sandwich & Sweet potato fries Grilled chicken Bun and sweet potato fries Sauces, cheese
Snack #1Protein CarbohydrateFats
Greek yogurt with berries and nutsGreek yogurt Berries Nuts 
Snack #2Protein CarbohydrateFats
Protein Shake milk and banana peanut butter Protein shake and milkBananaPeanut butter 

Check out the 1900 Calorie Meal Plan and the 1800 Calorie High Protein Meal Plan.

Lean bulking tips 

While there is no set formula for lean bulking, there are a few general tips that can help you achieve your goals.

Tip #1: Make sure you are strength training regularly.

Strength training is a key part of any lean bulk diet. It is important because it is the signal to your body that you want to build muscle.

Aim for three to five strength training sessions per week. This can be a mix of weights and bodyweight exercises.

As you get stronger, make sure you are progressively challenging your muscles by increasing the weight or number of reps you are doing.

Tip #2: Track your macros intake.

One of the most important aspects of any lean bulk diet is tracking your macros. This means keeping track of the amount of protein, carbs, and fats you are eating each day.

This can be done by using a food journal or tracking app. This will help you make sure you are hitting your targets and not over or under-consuming any of the macros.

Read more about counting macros for beginners

Tip #3: Stay hydrated.

It is important to stay hydrated when trying to lean bulk. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, and decreased performance.

Aim to drink eight to ten glasses of water per day. You may need even more if you are sweating a lot during your workouts.

Tip #4: Include healthy fats in your diet.

Healthy fats are an important part of any diet, but they are especially important when trying to lean bulk. This is because they help with hormone production and energy levels.

Some good sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.

Tip #5: Take your time.

Gaining muscle takes time and patience. It is important to be patient and consistent with your workout routine and diet if you want to see results.

Rushing the process can lead to injuries and plateaus. So, take your time and enjoy the journey!

By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to a successful lean bulk. 

Frequently Ask Questions

Gaining muscle mass takes time and patience. If you are looking to do a Lean Bulk, make sure you focus on the core three:

  • Calories
  • Macros: protein, fat, and carb.
  • Strength training 

At this point, you should know the number of calories, grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that you need to have a successful lean bulk.

Now all you need to do is crush some weights and grow!

Thank you for reading!

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